The Return
                                                                    Chapter Seven

Diego entered the hacienda having left Anna Maria to rest in their room.  There he found Bernardo standing alone in the sala.  The growing tension between Diego and Monastario had caused a great deal of agitation in the young don.  Angry and pacing the floor Bernardo listened carefully to Diego who spoke of his earlier encounter with Monastario. Aware that Diego had already decided his course of action Bernardo walked over to the cabinet and opened the door.  Stepping into the secret passage Diego smiled to Bernardo who seemed to read his every thought.  Once his transformation was almost complete Diego sent Bernardo to ready Tornado knowing that Zorro would have to press the black horse hard to get ahead of the commandante before he could reach Los Angeles and the cuartel filled with lancers.

"Adios mi amigo," called Zorro to Bernardo as he vanished from the cave.

Zorro hastily maneuvered Tornado over the rough terrain to the top of a ridge above which the commandante would pass.  From this vantage point Zorro could view the entire area spread out before him.  Concealing himself behind a rock he waited  with a rope readied in his hands. Soon Monastario passed beneath the stone wall where Zorro was hidden.  Having crept to the edge of the rocks Zorro stood and tossed his lasso encircling the surprised officer.  Caught off guard Monastario was pulled from his horse to the ground by the tightening rope about his arms.  Leaping from the rocks above with his sword in hand Zorro stood in front of the shaken commandante as he struggled to remove the rope which temporarily bound him.

"Well it looks like we are alone once more, eh commandante," Zorro said with a mischievous twinkle in his eyes.

"What do you want?" asked Monastario angrily standing and brushing the dust from his uniform.

"We could start by discussing your relationship with Leonar once again and then go on from there," said Zorro his sword pointed at the commandante.

With hate in his eyes Monastario replied, "I have told you before we will not discuss the lady."

"All right then we will go on," replied Zorro letting his black cape drop to the ground.

"We have nothing left to say.  It is time that we crossed swords, de la Vega," said Monastario as he lunged at his opponent his sword drawn.  Swiftly the man in black stepped aside avoiding the point of the weapon.  Both men were greatly skilled and each had a score to settle; one for justice the other revenge.

"You have been trained well in Spain in the use of the sword," Monastario said pushing Zorro back with his forceful thrusts determined to put an end to his opponent.  "Fight well for I plan to kill you."

With their swords locked together Zorro uttered, "If you are certain of my identity why have you not acted before?"

"Because I wanted you to suffer just as I did," he said vengefully disengaging his sword. "Now I will take pleasure in your demise myself, Señor Zorro."

Zorro took the offensive and with every move he pushed Monastario further back until with a twist of his wrist the sword flew out of the commandante's hand.  The masked man's face and voice turned serious as he pushed Monastario against the stone wall with the cold steel of his blade against his throat. 

"Well commandante I seem to have the advantage.  Now you will listen to what I have to say or I will...," turning his head Zorro heard riders coming toward them.  "This is not the end. We will meet again...very soon," said Zorro.  The arrival of a patrol led by Sergeant Garcia sent Zorro scrambling for cover.

"Then you will be mine," said Monastario watching with contempt as Zorro made his escape.

The sight of the two men surprised Sergeant Garcia and his men allowing Zorro to disappear among the rocks.  Garcia and his lancers chased after Zorro but Monastario knew it was useless.  This time would be no different then any other attempt to capture this illusive outlaw.  When Garcia and his men returned they brought with them only the commandante's horse.

"Capitán Monastario are you all right?" asked Garcia.

"Sí, I am fine," said Monastario mounting his horse. "Let us return to the cuartel."

Later that evening alone in his office Monastario sat watching the flickering candle on his desk.  Given his sinister past could Leonar understand and forgive him?  Could he be the man he once was long ago in Spain?  Then there was his meeting with 'Zorro'.  For so long he waited for the moment when their swords met and revenge was his...but always there was something to hinder the final outcome.  Slamming his fist on his desk top Monastario stood and walked out the front door to the courtyard of the cuartel trying to empty the thoughts that cluttered his mind.

"Pardon, mi Capitán," said Sergeant Garcia. "The guards have been changed and the patrol has returned with nothing to report.  Do you have any further orders, sir."

"No Sergeant, you may go," said Monastario politely.

Garcia and his men had come to accept the gracious behavior of their commandante.  The cuartel was running smoothly and the people of the pueblo were happy.  Then what was Zorro doing with the commandante this afternoon?  If Zorro only rode to prevent an injustice what business did he have with Monastario?  Putting aside these thoughts Garcia raised his hand in a salute and continued on his way to the tavern where he was to take supper with Corporal Reyes.

At the the de la Vega rancho Diego watched as Anna Maria slept peacefully in their bed.  Diego was happy that his beautiful wife was not aware of his adventure this afternoon.  She looked so serene that for a moment he wished the situation had been resolved.  Leaving Anna Maria to sleep Diego left the room bound for his father's study. 

"Father, I was hoping you would be here," said Diego.

"My son, you look troubled," said Don Alejandro unsettled.  "Is everything all right with Anna Maria?"

"Sí, she is resting but I would like to speak with you if you are not busy."

"There is always time for you son.  What is the problem?"

"I met with Monastario this afternoon as Zorro," he said hesitantly.  "He knows of my life in Spain and that I am Zorro but his has shared this information with no one not even his soldiers.

"Son, it is obvious what he wants.  He will not be satisfied until he can take his vengeance on you.  He will taunt you till he gets what he wants"

"Monastario said as much this afternoon," said Diego.  "I had the opportunity to end all of this but I did not."

"You are a fine young man and I am proud of you," said his father with a smile.  "When the time comes you will do the right thing."

"Why have I not taken advantage of the opportunities I have had?" he said looking at his father.  "What is the right thing?"

"You will know my son," he said embracing Diego.

"What are you two handsome gentlemen discussing so quietly?" said Anna Maria entering the room.

Walking to her side Diego asked, "Are you feeling better now that you have rested?"

"Sí, I am but if I feel ill again I will see the doctor.   For now I am fine," she said taking Diego's arm.

"Since you are feeling better I think we should go in for supper," Alejandro said as he took Anna Maria's other arm.   "I think we will all feel better after we have eaten," he said smiling to his son.