The Return
                                                                   Chapter Nine

Bernardo saw the anger in Diego's eyes as Monastario carried Anna Maria into the sala passed them.  Forcefully Bernardo took hold of Diego to prevent his friend from doing anything foolish.  Now as Capitán Monastario carefully placed Anna Maria in a chair by the fireplace Diego pulled free of Bernardo's grip and rushed toward Monastario grabbing him by the throat.  This sudden violent action sent both men stumbling against the stone fireplace.  Swiftly Don Alejandro and Bernardo made their way toward the two men and tried to pry Diego's hands from the gasping commandante.

"Diego, come to your senses.  Please let go," pleaded Don Alejandro trying to get Diego's attention. "You are going to kill him."

"Diego," cried out Anna Maria breathlessly.   "Diego, he only meant to help me."

Diego released the hold he had on Monastario and stepped back the words his father spoke finally penetrating.  Diego looked past his father and Bernardo to Anna Maria her hands clenched in front of her as though in prayer.  Still dazed Anna Maria raised her head slowly till her eyes met Diego's with a weak smile on her face. Slowly Diego walked to Anna Maria and placed a hand on her face.  No longer was Diego filled with angry emotion but concern for his ailing wife.

Meanwhile Don Alejandro loosened Monastario's jacket collar while Bernardo brought a glass of wine.  Still coughing the commandante sat on the hearth his hands by his throat. Taking the glass from Bernardo, Monastario watched the tenderness shared between Diego and his wife.

"Everything is going to be fine.  Father has sent for the doctor and I am going to stay right here," he said his voice low.

"Diego, mi amor, you must listen to me.  Capitan Monastario was trying to help me.  You must not fight with him.  Please promise me this," she implored Diego.

"I am sorry," said Diego kissing Anna Maria on the hand.  "I promise there will be no violence...for now," he said turning toward Monastario who nodded in agreement.

Don Alejandro came up behind Diego and placed his hands firmly upon his son's shoulders, his eyes fixed on Monastario's face.  Don Alejandro had never hidden his dislike or disapproval of the commandante.  Like Diego the Don's first thought upon seeing Anna Maria in Monastario's arms was one of anger but studying the face of the man he detested he saw genuine concern for Anna Maria.  Lately the commandante had shown a different side of himself to his men and even to the people in the pueblo.  Had Monastario changed since his return or was this all part of his plan to lure Zorro into a trap?

Turning his thoughts to Diego and Anna Maria, Alejandro said, "Son, help Anna Maria to your room.  The doctor should be here soon."

Diego carried Anna Maria upstairs followed by his father and Bernardo.  Amalia had run ahead to turn down the bed and then she would wait with Anna Maria until the doctor arrived.  Left in the sala Monastario stood alone still shaken by Diego's attack.  Long ago he had shown the same emotion of anger and hatred toward the man who had slain his wife.  Walking to the window Monastario gazed out thinking of the child Anna Maria carried.  What would happen to them if he succeeded in taking his revenge on Diego? Bewildered by his feelings of doubt Monastario began to question the reasons behind his plans for vengeance.  There were many similarities between the de la Vega's and the Ramirez family.  After all Don Alejandro was a very rich and influential landowner but unlike Carlos Ramirez's son, Miguel, Diego had harmed no one deliberately not even as Zorro.  The commandante wondered if he had misplaced his desire for revenge.  Did he not really want Miguel Ramirez?  Leonar entered the sala and called out to Monastario.  When he did not turn and answer she made her way toward him.

"Enrique, thank goodness you are all right.  Don Alejandro told me what happened," she said excitedly taking his arm.

"Leonar," said Monastario turning to see the worry upon her face.

"Enrique, why did Diego attack you?" she said confused.

"Don Diego thought he had reason to believe that I had harmed the señora," he said softly. "I have done many things I am ashamed of but hurting her is not one of them."

"I believe you," she said squeezing his hand and smiling. "Come let us sit in the courtyard and I will have some refreshment brought."

There were many things Monastario needed to share with Leonar but he was not sure where to begin.  He was aware that as the governor's daughter she heard many of the things he had done in Los Angeles.  However there was so much more that he needed to tell her. Would Leonar be able to understand the things he had to say and forgive him or would he lose her?  This was the chance he would have to take because she deserved the truth.

Sitting in the courtyard surrounded by the beauty of the garden Monastario held Leonar's hand tightly and said, "Leonar, I care deeply for you but there are things you must know about me."

"I already told you I know the things you were responsible for and have put them in the past," said Leonar.

"Please you must listen.  Many years ago in Spain when I was a young officer I was married.  My wife died"

"I did not know," she said surprised by his words.  "What happened?"

"My wife was murdered but the man responsible went free.  His father was a man of great influence and he persuaded the courts to drop all charges.  There was nothing that I could do.  When I tried to fight back I was transferred and soon ended up in Los Angeles.  I am not proud of the person I became or the things I have done but...," he said unable to finish.

"I think it is time to put this all behind you," she said. "You have done a fine job as commandante since your return.  The pueblo is running smoothly and the people are happy.  It is time that you moved on with your life."

"Leonar, I did not return to Los Angeles to make up to the people for my tyranny but for revenge against one man," he said.

"Oh Enrique, is this still what you desire?" she asked as she stood.

"There are things that have been set in motion and I am not sure they can be changed or that I want to change them.  Can you understand this?" he said standing in front of her his eyes pleading.

"Maybe.  I am not sure.  I sense there is more you have to tell me but I do not think this is the time," she said sadly.  "We will speak again after we find out about Anna Maria."

Watching the couple below on the patio Diego thought of what might have happened if his earlier outburst had not been restrained.  Would he have killed the commandante?  Diego found Monastario to be a great adversary but even as Zorro he had never harmed him. Why?  This particular thought had plagued Diego for days.  Like Leonar did he see something in the commandante that was worth saving?  Joining Diego by the balcony rail Bernardo and Don Alejandro waited for the doctor to finish examining Anna Maria. Silently the three men stood observing the couple below puzzled by the touching scene between Monastario and Leonar.  What could Monastario have told Leonar?  The door opened to Anna Maria's room and the men turned quickly.  Don Alejandro placed a supportive arm around his son who stood expressionless as the doctor slowly approached. Dr. Avila smiled as he stood facing Diego.

"Anna Maria is just fine, Diego.  You have nothing to worry about.  She has been asking for you.  Go to her." 

Turning to Don Alejandro the doctor said, "Alejandro, my good friend, come I have some grand news to share with you. Walk me out to my carriage."  Bernardo followed closely behind carrying the doctor's bag.

"Mi amor, I am so glad you are all right," said Diego sitting on the bed beside Anna Maria.

"I am fine.  I am sorry that I have made everyone worry," she said placing her arms around his neck and holding him close.

"I am just happy you are well," he said relieved.

Leaning back and looking at Diego she said, "I did not wish to worry you when I went into the pueblo this morning to see the doctor."

"It is all right," said Diego.

"There is something I would like to share with you.  The reason I have been ill is because we are going to have a child, " she said eagerly waiting for his response.

"A child," he repeated. "This is wonderful," he said touching her face affectionately. "I love you very much."

"And I love you with all my heart, Señor de la Vega," she said putting her arms around him.

Don Alejandro was relieved that Anna Maria was well and delighted that he soon was to be a grandfather.  Once again the happy sounds of a child would fill the hacienda.  He looked happily at Bernardo who shook his head and smiled.  At the bottom of the stairs the men were met by Leonar and the commandante.

"Is the señora well, doctor?" said Capitan Monastario anxiously.

"Sí, she will be fine.  She just needs to rest," said Dr. Avila. "Excuse me I must return to the pueblo." Don Alejandro continued to escort Dr. Avila to his carriage while Bernardo ran ahead and placed the doctor's bag in the carriage.  Returning to the courtyard Alejandro was surprised to hear Diego call out to Monastario.

"Capitán, Anna Maria wishes to see you," said Diego.

Monastario released Leonar's hand and smiled to her before climbing the stairs to Diego who waited in front of his bedroom door and said,  "Don Diego, after you."

"No, I will not be joining you.  Anna Maria wishes to see you alone.  Please, you may go in," said Diego.

With some hesitation Monastario walked through the door to Anna Maria who was sitting comfortably in a chair.  Her invitation had surprised him and made him feel like a small child about to be reprimanded by a parent.  Nervously he stood before Anna Maria.

"Capitán, thank you for coming," she said.

"I am glad you and the child are all right," said Monastario. "I did not mean to cause you any suffering."

"I know that.  Please will you not have a seat," she asked.  "I wish to speak to you about Diego."

"Señora, do not concern yourself with this," he said sitting in a chair next to Anna Maria.

"How can I not be concerned?  Diego is my husband.  He is not your enemy.  Please do not settle your differences with force."

"I cannot promise you that.  There is much history between Don Diego and myself or should I say Zorro and myself.  I am sorry," he said knowing that he was upsetting her.

"Diego is a good man," she said taking his hand. "You have suffered much and I am sorry for your loss but this hate for Diego is not right.  He has done you no harm.  He has only tried to make things right.  Can you not see this." Just for a moment she thought her words had reached him.

"I wish I could say the words you need to hear but...," taking his hand from hers he rose and walked toward the door.

There had to be something she could do.  She could not lose Diego.  Stopping at the door Monastario turned to look at Anna Maria but without another word left.  Making his way past Diego without acknowledging him the commandante left the hacienda soon after seeing Leonar.  Diego entered his bedroom and Anna Maria ran into his arms.  He held her tight almost afraid to ask what had upset her.

"Diego, you must not meet with the commandante," she said her heart pounding. "There are things you do not know."

"Anna Maria, I am aware of many things about our good commandante but it does not matter.  We must meet and settle our differences.  Either with words or swords," he said his lips touching hers.  "We will finish our business tonight.  There is nothing more to say except I love you," once again she felt the tenderness of his kiss.

In the pueblo it was business as usual for Sergeant Garcia.  The coach from San Francisco had just arrived with it's lone passenger.  Sgt. Garcia approached the well dressed gentleman and said, "Sir, I am Sergeant Demetrio Lopez Garcia.  Welcome to Los Angeles. Will you be staying long in our pueblo?"

"No, Sergeant," said the traveler. "Just until my business is concluded."

"Very well sir," said Garcia. "May I ask your name?"

"Of course," he said. "I am Don Miguel Ramirez."