The Return
                                                                Chapter Twelve

Leonar had risen early that particular morning in anticipation of the arrival of the commandante with whom she was to ride that afternoon.  Her emotions soared as she thought of the handsome young officer but there was many unresolved obstacles their relationship faced.  Could Monastario confront his past and together build a new life with Leonar?  There was no easy answer to this question only time held the answer.

Once dressed Leonar left her room and walked down the staircase to the sala where she was pleasantly surprised to see Miguel Ramirez with Don Alejandro.  A year before Don Miguel and Leonar had become acquainted at a party given in Monterey.  The young don had been so taken with the beauty of the area that he purchased a rancho a short distance from Monterey and his friendship with the governor's lovely daughter had grown.  Many believed that this  young caballero made an excellent suitor for Leonar and expected the governor to make an announcement of their betrothal.

"Ah Leonar, what a delightful surprise.  I had no idea that you had not returned to Monterey," said Don Miguel raising her hand to his lips.  "When I saw your father before I left Monterey he mentioned your stay at the de la Vegas but said your return was eminent."

"Don Alejandro was gracious enough to extend my invitation to visit.  I could not refuse such a delightful request," Leonar smiled happily.  "I was not aware that you knew the de la Vegas."

"Leonar, Don Miguel has come to Los Angeles to see me on business," said Don Alejandro noticing the familiarity between the two.  "Don Miquel's father and I are old friends.  Perhaps after breakfast you would like to show him the rancho.  I was hoping Diego would do this but I do not wish to take him away from Anna Maria since she has not been feeling well."

"What a wonderful ideal.  Don Miguel and I have much to catch up on.   I would be pleased to show him around," she said taking Miguel by the arm.  Don Alejandro smiled at the thought of Leonar and Miguel.  A match between Don Carlos' son and Leonar would be far more desirable then the commandante.

After breakfast Leonar and Don Miguel drove out to see the vast holdings that made up the de la Vega rancho. The land with its sprawling mountains, hills and trees was breathtaking.  Don Miguel was envious of this lifestyle and hoped his rancho would grow to possess all the fine qualities of this property.  Only then would he take a beautiful wife, such as Leonar, to grace his house and bring him the riches and power he desired.  Before returning to the hacienda Don Miguel and Leonar dismounted the carriage near the lake. It had been a long, hot morning and the horses needed sometime to rest before continuing on to the hacienda.  While the horses grazed near the water's edge Don Miguel and Leonar took a stroll while getting reacquainted.

Don Miguel came to California to start a new life with the help of his father but the young don had found it hard to change his old ways.  Handsome and charming but still wild and reckless, Miguel had changed little from the time he had left Spain.  Traveling from one city to the other Miguel had finally settled down in Monterey.  It was a beautiful city and offered much the same life that he had in Spain.  He had met the lovely daughter of the governor but his roving eye had kept him from making any commitment except to his rancho.  In a letter sent by Don Carlos to his son, the older don spoke of his friendship with Don Alejandro de la Vega from the Pueblo de Los Angeles.  Don Carlos told his son that Don Alejandro could offer the advice and experience necessary to build Miguel's rancho into one of the finest in northern California.

At the lake Miguel spoke to Leonar, "What a pleasant surprise finding you at the de la Vegas, Leonar.  I am so happy that you had the opportunity to show me around the rancho.  Your presence is most enjoyable," said Don Miguel.

"I am sure Don Alejandro would have been more informative but I agree it was nice spending the morning together.  I did not realize how much I missed home until I saw you," she said pensively.

"Have you been enjoying your stay in Los Angeles?" asked Don Miguel.

"Si, I only wish my father could have spent some time relaxing at the hacienda with us before traveling back to Monterey and work," said Leonar.

"I am sure your father misses you very much. Do you have plans to stay here much longer?  If not it would be pleasant to share your company on the return journey to Monterey," added Don Miguel as he moved closer to Leonar.

"Gracias Don Miguel but I promised Anna Maria I would stay a little longer at the hacienda.  We are having a wonderful visit and I am sure my father will understand," smiled Leonar.

"Well I for one will miss your presence and look forward to your hasty return to Monterey," said Don Miguel holding her hand in his.  "Monterey has been very dull without your beauty to enhance it."

"You are most kind, " replied Leonar.  The last few hours she spent with Don Miguel only heightened her awareness that her life had taken a different turn and that the commandante held the answer to her happiness.  She anxiously looked forward to her return to the hacienda and seeing the handsome officer who had won her heart.  There were still problems that she and Capitan Monastario would have to face but Leonar was sure their feelings were strong enough to overcome anything.

Riding swiftly over the land which made up the de la Vega property Monastario tried to keep his mind from wandering and thinking of the evil that Ramirez had done.  There was nothing he could do to save his wife from Don Miguel's vicious attack but he must be in time to rescue Leonar.  Would Ramirez be bold enough to harm the daughter of the governor knowing that Alejandro knew they were together?  This was not a chance he was willing to take.  Miguel had already been responsible for the deaths of one, maybe two women that he was aware.  This caballero could easily fool anyone with his charm and good looks but inwardly he was a sinister and savage individual.  Nearing the lake Capitan Monastario brought his horse to a slow gait when he caught sight of a buggy and horses. Carefully he dismounted and cautiously made his way to where he could make out two people standing.  The commandante stepped from behind a tree and slowly approached.

Leonar surprised by the arrival of the commandante called out to him, "Enrique, what are you doing here?"

Turning around Don Miguel could see the hate in Monastario's eyes as he came near. Quickly he pulled Leonar in front of him as Monastario drew his sword.  Reaching for a pistol in his waist band Miguel pointed it directly at the commandante.

"Well, well, well. Enrique Monastario I thought I would never have this pleasure," said Don Miguel with a laugh. "I knew you had been sent to a distant post but not California."

"Let her go Ramirez and we can settle this between us," said Monastario tensely. "Your father can not protect you now."

"Miguel, please you are hurting me.  Let go of me," she said frightened. "Enrique, what is happening?"

"This is the man who murdered my wife," said Monastario his sword raised.  "Let Leonar go, Ramirez.  There is no where to run my men are everywhere."

"Si, but they are not here.  They shall arrive too late to help you," he replied with an evil grin. "Leonar, I am truly sorry that you have become involved in this but I am afraid I am left without a choice.  It is my life or both of yours and I think you know what my decision must be," said Don Miguel pushing Leonar aside and taking aim at the commandante.

Leonar shouted 'no' when the gun exploded but it was too late. The commandante dropped his sword and stumbled forward clutching his chest.  Leonar ran to Monastario's side and bent down.  She could see his face twisted with pain and his blood soaked shirt. Looking up at Don Miguel she could only ask, "Why?"

"I should have done this long ago before he married the woman that was to be mine.  Now he will die and it will all be over...that is once I take care of you."  Walking toward her as she crouched by Monastario, Miguel suddenly stopped and turned to see a dark rider coming close.  Picking up the commandante's sword Miguel prepared to meet Zorro.

"Senor Zorro," cried Leonar as the rider dismounted.

"Well, you are the famous bandito I have heard so much about," said Don Miguel.

"Si and you are the killer of defenseless women," said Zorro his blade at the ready.

Viciously Miguel yielded his sword slashing at the black willowy figure but his hate was no match for the skill and determination of Zorro.  Leonar watched frightened as the two swords came crashing together.  Zorro pushed his opponent back and with one lunge his blade found a target.  Miguel dropped to his knees grabbing his arm while his sword fell to the ground.

"Please help me," called out Leonar. "The commandante has been shot. He is bleeding badly."

"Are you all right," Zorro said bending down beside Leonar.

"Si but Capitan Monastario is not," said Leonar covered with blood.

Zorro could see at once that if he did not get Monastario help soon it would be too late. "We must get back to the de la Vega hacienda at once or the commandante will die," he told Leonar.

As Zorro helped Monastario to his feet Sergeant Garcia and his men rode up.

"Zorro," called out Garcia surprised. "Commandante."

"No Sergeant," said Leonar standing in front of Zorro to protect him. "Don Miguel shot the capitan and Zorro saved me from him.  You must let us go to the de la Vega hacienda now or the commandante may die.  Please."

"Garcia, it is true," said the commandante trying to hold back the pain.

Garcia took but a moment and said to his men, "Help Zorro get the commandante into the carriage and then take Don Miguel into the pueblo.  Send the doctor to the de la Vega rancho at once.  I will ride along with the buggy."

Once in the carriage the occupants followed by Garcia headed off toward the hacienda. Leonar held the injured man in her arms as she tried to keep pressure on the wound to stop the bleeding.  The wheels pounded faster over the road as Zorro urged the horses on. Thoughts of Monastario filled Zorro's mind as he remembered all the men who discovered his secret identity had died. Would this be the case or would they be in time to save Monastario's life? The horses continued to speed toward the hacienda and the fate of Zorro and Monastario remained unknown.


The Return