Chapter Nine

Governor Rico was sitting in front of his desk, trying to organize a huge
pile of documents the last commandante had left.  As he was sorting out the
files, something caught his eye.  A document he saw was written by Capitan
Monastario.  It stated that he once suspect Don Diego de la vega for being

" What in the devil? That could not be possible." Rico thought with
amusement, " Diego is the last person that can be suspected as Zorro."
Smiling to himself, his mind slowly drifted back to the day of Zorro's
pardon.  " That man, why does he seem to be so familiar? " Rico thought
aloud, " Have I met him somewhere?" As he was thinking, he heard a loud
commotion outside his office.

" Sergeant Garcia!"

The door banged open, in came the plump sergeant ready at service.

Looking confused as he stumbled in, he said, " You called, Your Excellency?"

" Obviously, I did."  Rico said impatiently, " What is causing the commotion
outside, Sergeant?"

Surprised, he replied, " Why Your Excellency, today is the day Zorro duels
with the man that was going to kill you last time!"  Now it's Rico's turn to
look surprised, " What duel?" he asked.  " Yesterday, a man came in the
pueblo and posted a message for Zorro, saying he was to come to the plaza
exactly at noon today to fight for his honor, also to do a fair exchange."  "
What is this fair exchange?"  Sergeant Garcia replied, " Well, it's to change
this, and also with that, and…" Governor Rico raised up his eyebrows,
Sergeant Garcia lowered his head with a sigh and said, " I do not know, Your
Excellency."  Rico rolled his eyes and said, " Alright, that would be all for
you now, you may be excused."

" Gracias, Your Excellency. "  He was about to turn and leave, but he thought
of something he just have to ask.  " Excuse me, may I be permitted a

Governor Rico said, " But of course Sergeant, what is it you have in mind?"

Uncomfortably, he asked, " May I know why the man was going to murder Your

" Well Sergeant, I'm also confused with that, I do not know what that man has
to do against me."

" Oh, I see, it's a good thing Zorro saved you from the shot, you could have
been hurt very badly."

Smiling, Rico replied, " I know, Gracias for your concern, sergeant."  " As a
soldier, it is my duty to know that my upper officers are well."  " I
understand."  Sergeant Garcia asked again, " Are you still going to give the
pardon to Zorro?"

" Si, I will.  I believe the man behind the mask deserves it." Governor Rico
replied.  Sergeant Garcia looked satisfied at the answer; he didn't want to
the masked man to suffer more.  Saluting to Rico, he left the office, leaving
Rico concentrating in his organizations.

Mean while, Desoto was at his camp, polishing his sabre that's already
shinning like the evil fangs of a devil.  " Today is the day, today is the
day I destroy de la vega from my life and become the most best swordsman of
all California."  He smiled at the thought; not noticing Paco was staring at

" Well, what do you think Paco? Are you as excited as I am? " Not waiting for
an answer, he continued, " I shall split that de la vega into bits.  I want
him to suffer, to suffer like I had done for eight years."

Paco remain standing where he was, how he wants so badly to leave his heinous
master, how he wants to start a new life without Desoto in it, but so far to
him, there was no hope for him.

Looking at his watch, it was twenty minutes until noon, he yelled at Paco. "
Paco! Saddle the horses, it's time for my revenge." Just thinking about
killing de la vega made him grin with glee.  He walked towards the place
where Bernado was kept for the night.

" Well, well, I can see that you are still alive."  He smirked.

Bernado feared this man, what he had done to him many years ago had never
left his heart, at last he leads a normal life with Don Diego, he just has to
show up to his face.

" In no time, I shall beat your sly master, I will make no mercy.  He thinks
he's an expert with a blade, we shall see.  After my eight years of practice,
I shall best him." Laughing, he left bernado.

" All you do is think about your stupido revenge, you never thought of how
cunning my young friend had become also in the past eight years," Bernado
thought, " You don't even stand a chance."

" Paco! Put him in a sack and tie him on one of the horses, it's time we ride
to the miserable pueblo.

Obeying orders, Paco tied Bernado onto the horse and finished with the

' The horses are ready, Patron."

Mounting the horse, they all rode into the pueblo.

In the plaza, people were already gathering around, trying to find a good
spot to watch the duel.  Watching the fox duel is full of excitement, but now
it's not against the soldiers, it was against an unknown man.  Anna Maria
walked out of the inn, where she was having lunch with her servant; she
couldn't eat a bite, all she can think was Zorro.  Don Alejandro caught a
sight of her and walked towards her.

' Buenas tardes, My child." Don Alejandro greeted her.

Trying to give him a smile, which she failed replied, " Good to see you, Don
Alejandro, are you here to watch the duel as well?"  " Si, I just heard about
the news when I came into town this morning looking for Diego.  Have you seen
him?"  Shaking her head, " No, I have not seen him since yesterday, do you
suppose he will be coming?"  Don Alejandro shook his head sadly and said, "
That would be quite impossible, my dear. Diego dislikes anything that has to
do with swordplay and violence, there is no way he is going to come."

" I see, I'll see you in a moment Don Alejandro." Anna Maria replied.

" Until then."

Just as the two of them are going to part, people were yelling.

Don Alejandro mummers, " What in heavens?" He looked over at the place where
the people were gathered at, He caught a glimpse of three horses.

Anna Maria also glanced that way, " Who are they?"

" I believe that is the man that's going to fight with Zorro, the one at the
very front."  Anna Maria looked on, hoping to see his face.

A peon dared to walk up and ask, " Senor! Are you the one that's going to
fight against Zorro today?"

Desoto stared at the peon, twisting his mustache he replied impertinently, "
Si, I'm the man!"

People were chattering and talking the moment they heard the reply, because
Bernado was in a sack, he was not noticed.

He rode into the pueblo and headed to the plaza.  Noticing that Zorro was not
there, he did not bother dismounting.  Peons and peasents ran into the plaza,
Don's and Dona's rode into the pueblo in coaches and carriages.  This duel
aroused much attention and they were all looking forward at this event.  Anna
Maria looked on with disgusted, " What do they think this is? " She thought,
" A great event?"  She can feel anger rising upon her, but as a lady, she
calmed herself quickly and walked towards the crowd.

Desoto looked around impatiently, " Is he going to come or not?" He thought,
thinking that de la vega may had just backed out.

Just then, someone shout out, " Look! There's Zorro!"

Everyone looked towards where the peon was pointing.  Indeed, a man entirely
clad in black, a dark cape billowed about him as he rode his great stallion
into the plaza. The people noticed that there was no smile on his face as he
usually does.  He stopped in front of the plaza and dismounted.  Everyone
gasped with surprise, his right arm was resting on a sling.  Zorro decided to
give his arm a rest before any excitement.

Desoto grinned wickedly as he dismounted as well.  Seeing his opponent still
injured, he thought about how easy it would be to finish him.

" So, El Zorro, you had arrived."  Desoto smirked.
Ignoring the remark, he said sternly, " Where is he?"

" Where is who? " Desoto replied sarcastically.

This was really getting him, " You know clearly what I am talking about
Desoto, where is he?" He repeated with anger.

Don Alejandro arrived just in time when Zorro appeared.  He went to Anna
Maria's side and asked, " Who is he asking of?"

Anna Maria looked on, " I..I do not know, there seems to be a conflict
between the two men."  Alejandro nodded and looked on.

" Oooh, now I remember what you are talking about, you will not have him
until we are finished, El Zorro."

" Let me see him."

" I just said, you will no…"

" LET ME SEE HIM!" Zorro bellowed.  Everyone was quiet, they had never seen
their dark hero speak in such a way.  It was clear to them that there is
something going on and Zorro was not all that please.

" Very well." Desoto said, rolling his eyes, " Paco! Bring out the man!"
Paco dismounted and untied the sack, out came Bernado!

The crowd cried out, Bernado? What has Bernado have to do with this?  Don
Alejandro's eye's almost popped out when he saw Bernado sitting there dazed.

" Madre de dios!" Don Alejandro gasped. " This cannot be! That means.."

" That means it's possible for Diego being the man behind the mask."  Anna
Maria finished for him.

Don Alejandro looked at her with surprised, " How did you..?" Anna Maria
looked at him, with sparkling tears in her lovely brown eyes, " I saw Diego
wearing the exact necklace I given to Zorro, there was no other made."

Don Alejandro looked on as dazed as Bernado.

Desoto pushed Bernado to Zorro, he caught his friend before he landed on the
hard ground.

" Are you alright my friend?" Zorro asked, fearing that his friend has been
hurt, he was relieved when Bernado shook his head, " Go wait for me by
Tornado's side." He said, Bernado nodded and walked over to the stallion,
feeling the numbness of his legs.

" Now, I had returned your little friend, it's time for you to take of your
mask."  Desoto said.

Zorro glared at him, " This was not part of the agreement."  " Ha. If you
want that idiot mute servant to be dragged off with me to Spain forever, that
can be arranged."  Knowing that he had no choice, Zorro pushed his hat onto
his back. He slowly untied the mask, taking a deep breath, he slid the fabric
off his face and let it drop to the ground.  Everyone gasped with
astonishment, under the mask revealed the handsome face of the usually weak
and coward scholar they all knew.  " This cannot be true…" Don Alejandro
gasped, " this cannot be possible! My own cowardly son is Zorro?  This cannot
be…" Ricardo and Sergeant Garcia was gapping besides Anna Maria. Ricardo had
known his friend for a long time, he knew that it cannot be possible for
Diego to be Zorro.

" Diego! Get out of there before you get hurt! Let Zorro deal with this!"
Ricardo called, he may be a practical joker, but he feared that his friend
would be killed.

Anna Maria just looked on as if nothing amazed her.

Diego paid no attention to the crowd, if he survives from this, he could
explain, later.

" Well, well.  You are finally revealed de la vega.  Now it's time for my
revenge! He drew his sword and was in position.  Diego calmly ripped of his
sling and toss it one the ground.  He unsheathed his sabre given from Sir
Kendall, the blade made of steel shinned like the rays of the sun, as if it's
ready to meet anyone.

They glared at each other and walked around in circles. Neither of them is
willing to attack first.  " If he wants me, he's going to have to attack
first." Diego thought.

Suddenly, Desoto was about to thrust the sword into Diego's heart, but he was
to fast for him, he brought his sword up mid air and pushed the thrust away,
nearly making Desoto losing his grip.

" I see you still have some surprises up your sleeve, de la vega."  Desoto
sneered, crushed by the idea knowing Diego will not be easy to defeat as he
thought it  should be.

Diego smiled for the first time he arrived, " As usual." He replied, knowing
that his opponent is panicking, he relaxed a little, just enough to rest his
throbbing arm.  He can feel the wound re-open again, pray that he could end
this quickly, he concentrated more.  Desoto advanced toward him, their swords
clash and locked.  Diego's grin reflected no strain in holding the smaller
man back, but he can feel the pain shooting up against his arm.  He tried to
ignore the pain, after a moment, he pushed Desoto, throwing him off balance.

" Please," Diego said admonished," I was hoping that my return would be met
with more effort." Trying to make the man mad, he succeeded.  " Oh? You want
more effort? I'll give it to you!"  Desoto advanced even for further, causing
Diego slightly bumping against a woman in the crowd.

" Pardon me, senorita, I fear this man is trying to give me distraction."
Diego said with a grin.  Don Alejandro chuckled at the remark.  He studied
the way his son was fighting.  He found grace and swiftness in every thrust
and slash, he moves so quickly Desoto often almost lose his guard.  " My son,
how I misunderstood you…." He thought in shame.  He looked at the woman his
son loved, he could see fear in her eyes.  He patted her shoulder as to give
her comfort, she glanced up and gave him a faint smile.  " You do not have to
worry my child, Diego knows what he's doing."  Anna Maria replied trembling,
" I know, but he's wounded, I'm afraid if anything happens…."  A tear rolled
down her cheek.  She didn't even bother to wipe it off as she kept her eyes
on the man she loved.

Desoto slashed left to right, but his long limbs moved more slowly the
Diego's and each blow was easily parried.  Diego managed to defend himself
against every blow from Desoto, his smile had not wavered a bit.  Beads of
sweat was rolling down Desoto's forehead and his chest heaved with the
exertion of maintaining the attack.  Diego, on the other hand, looked as
fresh as if he wasn't even moving.  He suddenly figured it out, he was the
one that was doing all the attacking, Diego was only pushing away his slashes
against him.

" You mock me!"  Desoto roared as he lunged.  Diego simply stepped to the
right.  " Your mind is much faster then your blade, Senor." Diego said with
glee.  But as he was about to turn and face the other way, Desoto's fists met
his right shoulders.  Diego gasped with pain as he grasped his right arm.
The people cried out with fear, Anna Maria's heart was thumping like mad, she
rushed over to him and asked, " Diego! Are you alright?"  Giving her a weak
smile he replied, " I'm alright, go back or you will get hurt."  Anna Maria
obeyed and went back to Don Alejandro's said.  " Please Dear Lord, protect
him." She prayed.

Red blood was trickling down his arm and appeared on the ground.  The people
noticed it.  A peasent woman had kneeled down and pray.  Diego was touched by
the woman's reaction, he can't give up.  He stood up facing Desoto.

" Why, you are not giving up?" Desoto said with glee.

Diego stared hard at him and replied, " Not over my dead body."  He switched
his blade to his left hand.  Don Alejandro looked on with pride, no one in
California could fence with his left hand as well as his son.  He took a
quick step forward him and started to attack quickly.  His slashes flashed
like the lighting of the sky, Desoto was tired and hot, he had no energy left
for this, but he will not give up after these long years.  With anger he
thrust his sword heavily to Diego's chest, " Prepare to die!' He yelled out,
Diego, as swiftly as a hawk, caught the sabre with his, brought his sword
diagonally down and turned his blade in a circle, Desoto's sword was send
flying through the sky.  Diego pressed his sword dangerously close to
Desoto's throat and said, " As you were saying?"

Desoto glared at him, but he was afraid that Diego was really going to kill

" I yield!!!!!"  He cried.  Diego said calmly, " Next time you choose an
opponent, please do not choose someone that had practiced with a garrison of
soldiers for nearly eight years.  He winked at Sergeant Garcia, causing him
to blush into shades of red.

" Well done, Senor de la vega." A new voice appeared, it was Governor Rico, "
This man is under your hands now."  Diego lowered his sword and replied, "
This man is not worth to kill, Your excellency."  " No wonder he's called
Zorro." Rico thought, " He's different among all the caballero's I've met."

" Very well, then what do you want me to do, Diego?"

" Send him back to Spain the first boat that sails."  He simply replied.

" That could be arranged." Governor Rico replied, " Sergeant Garcia! Arrested
this man!"  The plump man came as fast as he could and yelled at his men, "
Lancers! Take this man!"  The lancers surround Desoto and leading him into
the cuartel.  Desoto slowly reached into him pocket and took out a pistol.

Anna Maria called out with fear, " Diego! Look out!"

Diego turned to see what's going on but he was to late.  The bullet was shot
right into his chest.  He stumbled and clutched his chest.  Fresh blood
started to ozz out the wound, causing blood on his open lips as well.

" No!" Anna Maria screamed and rushed towards to Diego, " Get the doctor,
hurry!"  Don Alejandro rushed to the doctors as Bernado came quickly to aid
his friend.  Desoto laughed heartily and hardly felt a thing when three
bullets became part of his body.

Diego moaned with pain as Bernado was removing the bullet. He had done this
many times. The bullet was out in no time, but because the pain was so great,
Diego fell into coma.

" Hurry! We must bring him back to the hacienda! " Anna Maria cried out.  Her
face was streamed with tears as Ricardo and Sergeant Garcia gently carried
Diego into a carriage one of the Don's had offered.

Anna Maria sat by Diego, she held his hand as they rode back to the hacienda,
"You cannot die Diego, you cannot leave me here with no explanation." She
said trembling, as more tears trickled down her flushed cheek " Please Diego,