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A Song of Joy

(A Sergeant Garcia Story)

 

 

 

A thread of thought recently began on one of the Zorro lists about Garcia's inner sweet and kindly nature,  (For the best example of that, please watch "Señor China Boy" one of the last episodes of the series.  MaryAnn wrote a short vignette about Garcia's childhood and someone else mentioned, Keliana, I believe, how wonderful it would be if Garcia found love and happiness, just as many fiction writers (including yours truly) have done for Diego. 

That got the wheels turning and I began what I thought would be a short two or three chapter story about Demetrio Lopez Garcia.  It turned into ten chapters and it was a work that created itself.  What else could it do with such a sweet-natured and lovable character? 

I want to thank all of my friends on the GW Friendslist for their unfailing support and encouragement.   This story is a Song of Joy in more ways than one.

 

October, 2002

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Song of Joy

Chapter One

 

Sergeant Demetrio Lopez Garcia gazed ruefully at the dark storm clouds forming rapidly out of the west.  Lightning flashed and thunder rumbled.  The storm was coming in from the ocean; he could smell the salty tang in the wind preceding it.  He knew he would not make it to the way station before it hit.    Still, he nudged the gelding to a faster speed, hoping beyond hope that some kind of shelter might pop up soon.  The wind whipped even harder and blew his hat off, but he didn’t try to put it back on.  It would do no good, he thought.  The wind was like a mad thing, clawing at him with long cold fingers.  He was just thankful that the strap kept it from blowing away. 

The horse slowed again.  It had been a very long day and both man and beast were tired and hungry.  Garcia was on his way to meet a new comandante in Santa Barbara and accompany him to the Pueblo de Los Angeles.  He suspected that if he had not stopped to rest and then fallen asleep, he would have been at the way station by now, warm, dry and well fed.  He kicked his horse back into a trot.  The first raindrops peppered him in the face, propelled by the fierce wind.  He did his best to ignore it, continuing to nudge the tired horse.   Then, with the brightness of nearby lightning and a monstrous clap of thunder, the full force of the storm hit, the rain falling in torrential sheets that made watching the road in front of him impossible.  Garcia bent his head and looked at the ground, letting the horse slow to a walk.  This was a sure-footed beast, but he was not going to make the horse run where it could not see.  Besides, the dusty road was quickly turning into a muddy mire. 

Within moments he was soaked to the skin.   The hard wind made him shiver.  Another bolt of lightning flashed close by, striking the rock formation on the little rise to his right.  The gelding cried out in its fright and shied, its large hooves splashing up muddy clots that frightened it even more.  “Easy, my friend, easy,” Garcia said, patting the animal on the withers.  The horse still trembled, but he stopped prancing and walked more calmly along the now slippery road. 

The downpour seemed to continue for an eternity, but the portly sergeant knew that it really wasn’t and he soon began to see signs of the storm’s passing.  The thunder and lightning flashed and rumbled from his right now and with less severity, and the hard wind abated to the point that he could put his hat back on.   A small residue of water, trapped inside the hat slid down his face, but it seemed minor after the torrent that he had already been through.  Soon it had passed altogether, but a small breeze remained, letting the acting comandante know that he was far from being warm and dry.   During the storm the sun had lowered and was now just above the horizon, giving scant heat as the last of the storm clouds scudded toward the eastern hills. 

As the sky turned a deep rosy-red, Garcia saw something out of place.  It was an overturned carriage.  Turning his horse to the side of the road, he dismounted, wrapping the reins around one of the wheel spokes before examining the scene of the accident.  A slight whinny from a nearby thicket made him jerk up in alarm and grab the pistol that was in its saddle holster.  Carefully he made his way to the thicket, pausing and listening every few steps.  A soft moan made him stop just as he was about to pull aside a branch.  A horse snorted and then it was quiet. 

Garcia paused again, thinking of ghosts and spirits, but he resolutely grabbed the limb of a large bush and pulled it aside.  In the waning light he saw a horse, still partially in harness, standing head down, one leg held off the ground.  Instantly, the sergeant saw that the animal had broken its leg and would have to be put down.  He stepped into the thicket and approached the horse, cocking the pistol and raising it at an angle where death would be instantaneous when he fired.  He hated killing any animal, but he didn’t want the horse to suffer any more then it already had.

A soft sobbing noise to his left almost made him drop his weapon in surprise.  Jerking around, he saw a woman sitting on the ground, her back to a small tree, her water soaked clothing pasted to her slight frame, a frame that at once showed a well advanced pregnancy.  Lowering the pistol, Garcia smiled to reassure the woman and inclined his head.  “Señora, I am Sergeant Demetrio Lopez Garcia, acting comandante of the Pueblo de Los Angeles.  I will not hurt you.” 

“I . . . I cannot be sure.  I am alone, you are alone,” she stammered and then stopped, staring at him.  “You promise you won’t hurt me?”

“Of course I would not hurt you.  I am a man of honor, señora.  How could I hurt a helpless woman?” Garcia protested.   He looked over his shoulder at the horse and then back to the woman.  “I must shoot the horse, though, señora.  Perhaps you would rather wait outside of the thicket?   Please?” 

“Oh, I . . . no, Sergeant.  I will be all right.”

But Garcia didn’t think that she’d be all right.  Her eyes were large and filled with fear, like the frightened doe that is being hunted.  She drew in a deep breath and let it out in a great sigh.  The sergeant stuck the pistol in his sash and approached the woman.  She tried to cower back but the tree prevented her from doing so. 

“Please, señora, I promise.  I will not hurt you.  Did banditos attack your carriage?  Where is the driver?”

Her eyes were still filled with fear, but she took a deep breath and answered,  “No, no banditos.  It was the storm.  It frightened the horse and he bolted.  I think Ramon is dead.”

“Oh,” Garcia said in a small voice.  “I am sorry, señora.  Was Ramon . . . um . . . your husband?”

It was here that the woman gave him a wistful smile.  “No, Sergeant, he was the driver.  We were going to San Gabriel.”

“Oh, the mission?  It is a lovely place.  Perhaps I can escort you the rest of the way,” Garcia offered.  Then he looked puzzled.  “Why are you going there?”

She laughed this time, but it was not a happy laugh.  “It is a quiet place.  Not a very bad place to have a baby.”

“Oh, but your husband?” Garcia asked and then realized how deeply he was going into this woman’s private life.  He put his hand to his mouth in embarrassment.   “Oh, señora, I am sorry.  I did not mean to ask about private things.”

The woman’s eyes seemed to soften, but then it might be the waning light, Garcia thought.  He also thought that she was very lovely, even out here wet and muddy and bedraggled.  “No, Sergeant Garcia, that is all right.  I do not . . . I mean, he is….”  Her voice trailed off and she looked at the ground. 

The light was fading rapidly, but Garcia could see that she was unhappy.  Her husband must be dead, he thought.  “Oh, señora, I am so sorry for your loss,” Garcia said, pulling his hat off and holding it in one hand while he made the sign of the cross.   The woman smiled briefly and Garcia wondered what was so funny.  But he didn’t wish to pry.  “If you will let me help you, it still might be better for you to wait by the carriage.  Then I can take care of this unhappy business and we can find someplace for you to rest tonight.”

“It is all right, sergeant.  Really, it is.  Take care of the horse and then you can continue on your journey.  Someone will be along soon.  I will be all right.”

The killing of lame horses was a messy business.  Garcia certainly did not want the woman to have to witness it.  Why did she not let him help her?  Was she hurt?  Ah, that is it!  She is hurt! he deduced.  “Señora, as the acting comandante of the Pueblo de Los Angeles, I must insist that you not be here.  Here….”  And Garcia reached down and gently picked her up before she could say anything.   She gasped and tried to pull away from him, but he held on to her tightly, not wishing her to pull away, fall and hurt herself further.  

“What are you doing?” the woman cried out and hit him on the chest with her fist.  Garcia was shocked at the anguish that he heard in her voice.  “Please, don’t do anything to me,” she added. 

She began to cry, softly at first and then a little more loudly.  Garcia almost cried himself.  What could have happened to this woman that she would be so afraid of him?  No one was afraid of him, not even his own soldiers, not even banditos.  Closing her eyes, she lay her head against his chest, not in fatigue, he believed, but in resignation.  Again, he wondered what could have happened to the poor woman.  Carefully, he carried her to where his horse stood placidly grazing on a patch of coarse grass.  Gently he set her down on a log. 

“Señora, please believe me.  I would not harm you.  I could not harm any woman,” Garcia said plaintively.  “I promise, by all the Saints.”   He heard her sniff, as though she was trying to compose herself.  He added, “I knew you were hurt and I didn’t want you near when I . . . that is to say when….   Señora, it is a messy business, the killing of lame horses.  I did not want you to see it.”  The shadows hid most of her features, but he saw her eyes gazing at him, large and almost luminous.  They were like deep blue pools and Garcia wondered how someone could have eyes like that.  He found his cheeks growing warm at his thoughts.  She is a married woman, he reminded himself.  But then he also remembered that her husband was dead.

“Hurt?” she asked. 

“Sí,” Garcia said.  “You did not move from your spot and . . . and….   And, you are hurt?”

She said nothing for a moment.  “Sí, Sergeant,” she said softly.  “And I believe you.”

Garcia’s heart leaped with joy.   “Gracias, señora,” he said.  “I will be right back.  You will be all right?”

“Yes.”

Garcia first checked around the carriage for Ramon and finally found him.  The driver was, indeed, dead.   The sergeant then made his way back to the injured horse.  It was a little more difficult in the dark, but his aim was true and soon he had finished the unpleasant task.  He quickly made his way back to the woman.  She had not moved from her spot. 

“Do you think you can ride my horse?” he asked.

“Sí, I believe so,” she answered. 

Carefully, he picked her up again and placed her on his gelding.  She took a moment to arrange her skirts and settle into the large saddle.  “I am ready, Sergeant,” she finally said. 

“You are comfortable?”

“Sí, Sergeant.”  She laughed softly.  “I am as comfortable as I can be, considering.”

Garcia thought about her comment for a moment and then it dawned on him.  “Oh,” he said.  “Please let me know if you become uncomfortable.”

Laughing, the woman said, “I will.”

Taking the reins, Garcia walked out to the road, hoping that he would soon find a ranch house or some kind of shelter.  This business of walking was not to his liking.  Not to his liking at all.

As though reading his mind, the woman said, “There was a small abandoned house up the road, I think.  Not too far.”

“Ah, gracias, señora, that would be most welcome,” Garcia responded.  As he walked he began singing short little ditties that told of the sea, the sky and the land.  Then he sang a few of the less bawdy soldier’s ballads, including the one about a lost love.  Finally, he stopped and looked back at the woman on his horse. “Are you all right, señora?” he asked. 

“Yes, Sergeant, I am fine.”  There was a pause.  Finally, “I appreciate what you are doing.”

“Oh, señora, it is nothing, really it is,” he responded quickly.  “I could not leave you out here alone as you told me to.”

“But I am sure you have some duty to fulfill,” she said.

“Sí, but a comandante can certainly take care of himself more easily than a woman with child can.”

After a short silence, the woman murmured, “Some would.”

Garcia looked over his shoulder, but could not really see her face well in the darkness.  “Some would what?” he asked, puzzled. 

“Leave me alone,” she said softly. 

Garcia protested, “Oh, surely not!  What true honorable man would do that?”

Again there was silence for a few minutes.  Ai, such a woman of mystery, so sad and with so much fear and hurt inside, Garcia thought.  Aloud, he said, “Señora, are you truly all right?”

She sighed.  “Yes, and do not mind what I said.  You are right.  A true, honorable man would not do such a thing.”

They walked along for some time, each one thinking his or her own thoughts.  Garcia thought about the sad woman behind him on his horse and remembered his own childhood, one that included the hurt of those who cruelly taunted and bullied him, simply because he was fat.  He sighed, feeling a touch of sadness within himself as he remembered.  Somehow he wanted to hold this woman close to him, and comfort her, somewhat the way his own mother did when he was sad and upset.  And he also wanted to hold and comfort her in a different way.

He began to sing again, this time a little melody that his mother had once sung to him, a song about birds in the sky.  As he finished a large and swollen moon rose in the east, illuminating the road.  A few clouds remaining from the storm scudded across the bright celestial sphere.  Garcia sang a quick ballad about Zorro then he let his voice rest, preferring to pay more attention for signs of shelter. 

“Sergeant, you have a beautiful voice.  Truly a gift from God,” the woman told him. 

“Gracias, señora.  It is something I enjoy.”

“I am Isadora Maria Perdiz,” said the woman on the horse.  Her voice was soft and there was no fear in it. 

Garcia was glad for her trust.  Isadora.  He was reminded of an exceptional friend from long ago, someone who made him feel special.  But no, this woman could not be the girl who had befriended him so many years ago.  Dora would be older, he thought.  And she would have known him, surely.  “Gracias, señora,” was all he said, still feeling a warmth inside at her disclosure. 

 

 

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