The Return
                                                                                Chapter Five

The bright stars and light of the full moon lit up the evening sky over the de la Vega rancho.  Diego and Don Alejandro sat on the patio after supper a box of cigars and a bottle of brandy before them enjoying the calm night air.  Bernardo listened as the men spoke of the hours Leonar spent that afternoon with Monastario over the family's objections.  Diego and his father disliked the brash young officer and were distressed by the strong feelings Leonar had shown this man. Could the commandante be capable of genuine affection for Leonar or was he only pretending to get at the de la Vega's?

"Son, have you made any decisions regarding the commandante?" asked Don Alejandro.

"Anna Maria and I are concerned by Monastario's attention to Leonar.  Tonight I plan on paying the commandante a surprise visit.  It will be interesting to see his reaction to Zorro," Diego said smiling broadly.

"Diego, this is not a game.  If Monastario discovered your fencing ability while in Spain and can prove you are may be in grave danger.  He could easily have you arrested and this time you will not have the Viceroy to protect you," he said looking seriously at Diego.

"I understand this but there is no other way," he said to his father and Bernardo.  Bernardo only shook his head  as Diego continued to speak. "I must learn what Monastario has planned."

Meanwhile sitting quietly by the fire in the sala Anna Maria and Leonar continued to speak of the wedding and the happiness Anna Maria felt.  Unfortunately the subject of the commandante and Leonar's feelings were about to creep into the conversation.

"Diego is a wonderful man," said Leonar. "You both seem very happy together."

"Si, we are," said Anna Maria smiling happily to Leonar. "Diego is a wonderful husband and friend."

"I am happy for you both," Leonar said smiling. "I hope you will accept the feelings I have for...but I fear I have upset Don Alejandro and Diego."

"Leonar, if you are referring to the commandante then I cannot say I will," she said honestly. "There are things about him that concern me.  Capitán Monastario has given Diego and Don Alejandro much cause to be worried for you."

"Anna Maria, I am a grown woman.  I am aware of the Capitan's  past deeds.  My father felt the need to impart this information to me before his return to Monterey," she said sadly. "I care for this man and he has been very kind and caring to me.  I really believe he has changed and that there is a good side.  Please allow me to make this decision for myself.  Do not interfere."

Anna Maria was disturbed by her friend's feelings but she knew no one could tell Leonar how or what to think. Right or wrong the decision was hers but could Anna Maria stand by while her friend was hurt by this ruthless and deceitful man?

Later that evening after retiring to their room Anna Maria embraced her husband. Zorro's ride to the cuartel to see Monastario weighed heavy in her heart.  She wished she could prevent him from leaving...but she could not.  Taking her face in his hands he kissed her only to turn and disappear through the secret passage.  Anna Maria felt as though she would stop breathing.  She despised the hours of waiting.  Opening the balcony doors Anna Maria stood staring out into the darkness and prayed.

In the cave Bernardo saddled Tornado for the trip to the cuartel then waited in the secret room to help Diego dress.  Smiling as Diego appeared Bernardo thought of the many times he had helped Diego to change into the black costume before him.  Their relationship was more than master/servant...theirs was a loving bond between friends. After changing Zorro patted Bernardo on the arm before making his way through the dark cave to Tornado.  Bernardo trailed Zorro with a lantern and at the entrance of the cave lowered his eyes as the masked rider disappeared into the night.

Under cover of darkness the black horse and rider rode swiftly through the hills to the pueblo.  The cuartel was quiet except for one or two guards idly carrying out their duty. Zorro lifted himself through the open window of the commandante's bedroom window and entered. Silently he moved to the bed where the commandante peacefully slept and slid his sword from its scabbard.  For a moment looking down at the commandante Zorro thought how easy it would be to put an end to this worthless fellow...but he could not bring himself to take another's life no matter how miserable in this manner.  

Placing the point of his sword on Monastario's chest and applying just enough pressure to wake the commandante Zorro said, "Wake up my friend.  We need to talk."

Startled Monastario said, "Zorro, what do you want?"

"Mi Capitán, welcome back to California," he said his face coming alive.  "It is so good to see you again."

Feeling the pain of the point of the sword upon his chest Monastario snarled, "Why did you not kill me when you had the chance?  I would not have wasted the opportunity."

"Sí, I believe you you would have but I am not you," smiled Zorro.  "That makes 'you' a very lucky man. Do you not agree?"

"Give me my sword and I will show you what I agree too," he said angrily looking at the masked man before him.

"That is not why I am here this evening. You have taken quite an interest in the Governor's daughter.  She is not your kind commandante."

"This is none of your business.  I will see whom ever I please."

Pressing his sword a little deeper Zorro reminded the commandante of his past. "You have much to regret.  If you wish to get to know this woman I suggest you leave your past and deceitful behavior behind.  Hurt her and you will answer to me."

"I will not be threatened by you.  My business is mine," an evil laugh crossed his lips. "You do not frighten me."

Zorro lifted his sword from the commandante's chest.  "Remember what I said or I will be back to see you and next time my sword may not be so kind."

"Next time I will be prepared and we can settle things between us," Monastario said full of rage.

Zorro moved to the window and whistled for Tornado as Monastario added, "Until next time de la Vega."

Turning Zorro raised his sword and bowed.  Laughing he climbed out the window to his waiting horse.  As Zorro passed through the vines which covered the cave's entrance he found Bernardo waiting for him.  Bernardo gave a sigh of relief as the man in black dismounted his horse.

"Bernardo, as ever my faithful friend.  I think things went rather well this evening.  Take care of Tornado for me.  I must go to Anna Maria."  Taking Tornado's reins Bernardo smiled as he watched Zorro move down the passageway.

Without changing his clothes the masked man entered to find the room empty.  Noticing the door open to the balcony he slipped across the room.  There stood Anna Maria looking beautiful with the moonlight shining on her.  Quietly he stepped behind her placing his gloved hands around her waist.  Surprised Anna Maria quickly turned to face the man she fell in love with.

"I am so glad to see you, mi carino," her heart raced as they embraced.

"There was nothing to worry about. Everything went well.  The commandante and I had a few things to clear up," Zorro said as he kissed her.  Taking her hand he led her back into their room where he discarded his hat, mask and scarf along with his cape.  As they fell to the floor he moved closer to Anna Maria.  Diego watched as Anna Maria removed her dressing gown and climbed into bed.  Leaning over the lamp near the bed he blew out the candle.  After undressing he followed Anna Maria to bed.  The heat of the evening filled the room as their passion ignited within them.

Outside the hacienda hidden by the trees, a soldier sat upon his horse his cold blue eyes never leaving the balcony.  There was no mistaking the beautiful lady or her dark companion.  Laughing to himself he headed for the pueblo with the knowledge that soon he would take his revenge against this man who cloaked himself in black.