The Return
                                                                                    Chapter One

The wedding was a joyous event for all who attended.  Following the ceremony the celebration continued at the de la Vega hacienda.  The beautiful decorated lanterns were lit casting their light over the different colors and scents of the bougainvillea, azaleas, and hibiscus plants that filled the patio.  The wine flowed freely and there was a great abundance of food.  Ladies and gentlemen in brightly colored clothes danced to the rhythmic music while others remained deep in conversation.  Don Alejandro was pleased that everything had gone well for it was truly a memorable evening.

Slowly a man entered through the main gate to the patio.  Still wearing his hat and carrying a sword the soldier in his finest dress uniform stood observing the merrymaking about him. The passive look on his face and in his manner was in total opposition to those around him. One by one the guests turned in his direction.  The music stopped and the voices became silent.  It seemed almost an impossibility that this man had returned but there he stood. Don Alejandro was visibly upset seeing this scoundrel at his gate on such a happy occasion.  Why was this man not in Spain rotting away in jail?  Quickly Don Alejandro and Bernardo made their way to the entrance.

In a raised voice Don Alejandro said, "I thought we had seen the last of you and your tyranny in California."

"Tyranny, my good man you are mistaken," he said with a wicked look upon his face. "Nothing could be further from the truth."

Don Alejandro, the Governor and his daughter, Leonar were astonished by this intrusion. How was it possible that Capitán Enrique Monastario had returned to California?  He should have been in jail for all his criminal acts against the people of California.

"What is the truth Capitán Monastario?" asked Don Alejandro. "Why have you returned?"

"I have been completely exonerated by the Spanish courts of all charges against me.
My commission has been reinstated and once again I have been assigned to the cuartel as commandante," he said almost laughing.

Sergeant Garcia and Corporal Reyes exchanged astonished looks. They believed that they had seen the last of this malevolent person.  Could this be true?  The Spanish government had reassigned Monastario to the cuartel.  Coming forward the two soldiers met the cold stare of the 'new commandante'.

"Sir, do you have the necessary papers to take over the command?" asked Garcia standing at attention.

"Of course," said Monastario reaching into his jacket. "I am sure you will find that they are all in order Sergeant."

After carefully examining the documents, Garcia looked about him.  He could see the anxious looks on the people as they waited for him to speak.  If only the papers had not been genuine.  He had no choice but to salute the new commandante.

"Capitán Monastario," Sergeant Garcia said in his best military manner, "Corporal Reyes and I are at your command.  Would you like to have us escort you back to the garrison?"

"Very well Sergeant," Monastario said turning to face Don Alejandro.  "I am sorry that I missed Don Diego.  Please send my best wishes to him and his bride.  I am sure I will see them soon."

Taking Leonar's hand in his Monastario bowed and brushed his lips gently across her hand  and said,  "Señorita, as always a pleasure to see you and his Excellency."

Looking into his blue eyes Leonar could feel the heat rise within her till her cheeks blushed. Releasing her hand,she felt her emotions stirred by this handsome and charming man.  It was hard to believe he had done all the things said about him.

Sergeant Garcia and Corporal Reyes having made their excuses to their host picked up their belongings and headed for the gate with the commandante.  Monastario could not help the smile that crossed his face riding toward the cuartel.  Not only had he upset the wedding celebration but it would be interesting to see how long it would take Diego to make his way to Los Angeles after being told of his presence.  The cat and mouse game had begun.  This time he would be the winner and Don Diego would be made to suffer as he had.  Once again a spiteful smile crossed his face for he knew he would take much enjoyment in this.

Many times in the past Don Diego had made him look foolish but it was the last time which bothered him the most.  He had been unable to prove to the Viceroy that Don Diego was Zorro.  Instead he found himself and the crooked lawyer, Licenciado Pina under arrest.  The commandante would never forget the indignities that he faced on board ship.  The chains, food and dungeon like atmosphere of the hold he had been kept in until reaching Spain.  If it had not been for Monastario's contacts in high places in government he would probably still be sitting in a Spanish jail.  Pina was blamed for everything that had taken place in the pueblo de Los Angeles while Monastario had been cleared of any wrong doings.  Monastario would take back all that he lost and much more thus becoming the richest and most powerful man in California.

In their room at the hacienda Anna Maria lay with Diego's arms around her.  She felt safe and secure in their love for each other.  Diego was a caring and loving man. As she touched the cross about his neck as he slept she wondered how his secret identity would affect their lives.  For a moment she felt frightened but the feel of him beside her with his face so near pushed all thoughts from her mind.  She caressed his face with her fingers.  Blinking his eyes he slowly began to awake and saw Anna Maria's beautiful face beside him.  As their lips met the warmth of their bodies made the desire within him grow.  They felt so loved in each other's arms.  Soon the passion that burned was all consuming.  Happiness was no longer a distant dream.