An Affair of Honor

The Missing Scene

 

 

Speculating is wonderful; speculating with such a wonderful character is even more wonderful.  I love this episode, I love everything about it, but it really needed to be at least an hour long to fill in the gaps in plot.  I had a great deal of fun with this and I hope you have fun reading it.  November, 2001. 

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  Missing Scene/ Affair of Honor

   

Exasperated, Diego followed the sergeant out of the patio.  Although Garcia had said that his horse was lame, the animal seemed to be comfortable enough.  There was no favoring of any foot.  

Garcia was going through the motions of the manner of his horse’s limp.  “Which foot, Sergeant?” Diego asked.  

“This one,” Garcia said pointing to his own leg.  

“No, I mean the horse,” Diego said, wishing to get this over with.  If he was to get into the pueblo and take care of Avila, then get back, get ready for the ‘duel’ and return to town before noon, he would need to leave soon.  

“Oh!  That one,” Garcia said, pointing to the horse’s front left leg.  

Nodding, Diego bent over and picked up the horse’s hoof, trying to see what the problem might be.  There still seemed to be nothing wrong.  But just as he was about to report that to the sergeant, he heard a slight noise behind him, then he felt the explosion of something hitting his head.  Then he felt nothing….

 

The morning sun hit him in the face.  Diego opened his eyes and immediately shut them again.  The world seemed to be tilting crazily and his stomach with it.  The sun’s rays were like hot pokers stabbing into his head, making it pound even more painfully.  The throbbing matched the beating of his heart and he groaned.  Sitting quietly for a moment, he tried to remember what had happened.  He felt the foul taste of the cloth that had been forced between his teeth.  Ropes cut cruelly into his wrists, numbing his fingers and causing them to tingle and burn.  What, by all that’s holy, has happened to me? he thought, trying to remember.   

Diego ignored the insistent nausea, and the pounding in his head.   Zorro!  He was supposed to go out as Zorro.  Why? As he took deep breaths, his rebellious stomach settled somewhat and his mind traveled the paths of his recent memory.  Señor Avila!  That was it!  I was supposed to go into the pueblo and ‘discourage’ Señor Avila from fighting this duel of extortion.  He shifted his body out of the glare of the sun that persisted in shining through the cracks in the adobe.   Better, much better.  It even felt cooler out of the sun’s heat.  

But what happened?  I never went into the pueblo, he thought, looking down at the same clothes he was wearing last night.  He racked his brain for more memories.  Horses.  But what about horses?  Sergeant Garcia and Corporal Reyes came with horses.  Diego struggled with the ropes binding his wrists.  Sharp pain told him that such an action was futile.  Sergeant Garcia wanted me to look at his horse.  Lame, he said.  But…  

But the horse had not been lame and before he could say anything, he had been hit over the head.   That was it!  He would have laughed if the situation weren’t so terribly desperate.   The sergeant had thought, by getting him temporarily out of the way, to stop the duel.  Diego groaned.  Little did the well-meaning sergeant know, that if he could not be there to fight the duel, his father would.  

Damn, he thought, struggling again.  If I cannot get loose, Father might possibly die trying to uphold the family’s honor.  Honor, he thought morosely.  At what point did honor become foolish pride.  In his father’s case, there was no point.  The honor must be maintained at all costs.  He felt something trickling down his hands and realized that all he was accomplishing struggling against the bonds was useless injury.  He tried calling over the foul gag, but what little noise he could make was hardly making it past the cloth.  

Think!  Think!  What can I do? There has to be something!  Desperately, Diego looked around the dim room.  He was in the woodshed, the building where wood was stored up for the cook.  If there had been need for more wood for the morning meal, he would have been found by now.  The position of the rays of the sun through the cracks and the heat in the building told him that dawn had been several hours earlier.   That meant only a few hours before the noon hour!  Slowly Diego eased himself upright, careful not to lose his balance and fall over, since his feet were tied together at the ankles.  Using a pile of freshly cut logs and branches behind him as leverage, he finally was able to stand up.   He fought the returning dizziness for a moment before the world stood still once more.  Looking around he saw an ax hanging high on the wall.  In despair, he realized that it was much too high for him to kick it down, even if his feet were loose.  

Diego looked around some more, trying to find another way.  The door!  Maybe if he could work the latch, he could get out and find someone to untie him.  Carefully, he shuffled over to the door and turned around.  His numb fingers could barely feel the latch, much less work it, but he persisted.  The heat climbed in the small room, becoming almost unbearable.  Flies buzzed around his face, a slight rustling told him of mice and snakes trying to find places that were cooler.  

The gag was well named and he had to swallow several times to control the urges of his rebellious stomach.  He continued to move his fingers, trying to get a grip on the leather latch.  There was a slight shifting and a rasping of the leather against the wooden beam holding the door shut.  Move fingers!  Get it!  That’s it . . . more, more.  Get a hold of the leather.  Yes! he encouraged himself.   Then the leather thong slipped.  Cursing silently, he felt the sting of sweat rolling in his eyes.  Again!  Get it this time! he ordered his fingers.  A slight feeling told him that he had the piece of leather between his fingers once more.  Pulling and tugging, he moaned behind the gag, feeling the horrific minutes slipping away.  Was his father already going into town, expecting him to be there?  Santa Maria, Holy Mother of God!  Help me get out of this.  Tug, pull.  

Suddenly the small board lifted out of its cradle and the door creaked open slightly.  He pushed against it and lost his balance, falling backward to the ground.  He landed heavily and felt the pain and nausea returning threefold.  Groaning, he opened his eyes and gazed up at the crystal clear blue sky, a sky that seemed to be dancing and spinning in some kind of an unholy dance.

“Ai, Don Diego!” a voice, a blessed angelic voice called out.  “Whatever happened to you?”

Trying to speak, Diego again struggled against his bonds.  Juanita’s face suddenly came into view.  Her eyes were filled with fear and concern.   She worked the foul gag off and then began working on the ropes binding his feet.  

“Juanita, has my father left for the pueblo yet?” he asked desperately, fearing her answer. 

“Sí, patrón, he left not over an hour ago,” she said, working with frustrating slowness.  “He seemed worried.  I understand why now.” 

“Get a knife, Juanita.  Get a knife and cut the ropes tying my hands together,” he ordered, sitting up.    

“But what happened?  Why did someone tie you up like this, Don Diego?” she asked as she pulled her vegetable knife from the pocket of her apron.  It was sharpened to cut the squash and dried beef and it quickly sliced through the ropes around his swollen wrists.  Diego grabbed it away from her and slashed the ropes at his ankles.  

“It would seem that someone thought that by incapacitating me, they would stop the duel,” he said tersely.  

“But Don Alejandro…” 

“Exactly, Juanita,” he answered, both of them knowing how his father would react.  “Have Jorge saddle my horse, quickly!” he ordered, having to keep up pretenses while wishing he could just rush to the secret room and change immediately.  As the cook scurried to do his bidding, he stood up, pausing a minute, having to wait for his equilibrium to regulate itself.  Everything in his body seemed to beat in time with the pounding in his head.  Then he followed after her, arriving at the stable just in time to see a peon leading his horse into the courtyard. 

“Hurry!” he ordered, grabbing the gelding’s bridle from its peg and pulling it over the horse’s head.  The stable boy was just carrying the saddle over when he finished.  “Quickly!” he cried out, frustrated.  The saddle was soon cinched.  Gathering the reins and a fistful of mane, Diego swung on, and kicking the horse’s flanks, galloped out of the stable yard and toward the pueblo.  As soon as he was able, Diego turned toward the secret cave.  He had no hat and the sun beat down mercilessly, making his head pound even more.  Within minutes he was in the cool dimness of Zorro’s lair.  He immediately began feeling better.  Leaping off the gelding, he took the steps three at a time to the tiny room where the costume of the night hung, oblivious to the emergency that had arisen.

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Bernardo was flabbergasted as he heard the conversation between Corporal Reyes and Sergeant Garcia.  So that’s what happened to Don Diego, he thought.  He had to get back out to the hacienda as soon as possible.  Don Alejandro’s life may depend on it.  Running out of the cuartel, he saw that there were very few people in the plaza.  He couldn’t take the carriage horses . . . they were exhausted, worn by the rush into the pueblo.  Don Cornelio’s horse was tethered in front of the tavern.  Looking around him, Bernardo saw no one watching him.  Untying the horse, the mozo mounted and kicked the animal into a gallop.   It was a fast horse and made good time, but as he rushed into the stable yard and jumped off, he saw the door of the woodshed already open.  Don Diego was already free.

Hurrying into the kitchen, he motioned to the cook.  She tried to sign to him, but her fingers could not form the way his could and he was unable to understand her.  Thankfully, she also spoke.  “Don Diego left just a little while ago.  I am surprised you did not see him.” 

Perhaps he was still in the secret cave, Bernardo thought and rushed up to the bedroom.  The black clothing was gone, and when he ran down the steps, he saw only the palomino gelding.   Tornado was not there.  He only hoped that his patrón had no lasting effects from being hit over the head.  What was even more important, he hoped that Zorro got to the tavern in time to save Don Alejandro.

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Zorro rushed down the steps and almost leaped into the saddle, grateful that the stallion still had his tack on.  Tornado snorted, but didn’t complain at the rough treatment he received as Zorro hurriedly guided him out of the cave and up the steep incline of the nearest hill.  The wind whistled under the brim of his hat and caused the cape to snap behind them as they flew along the dusty roads into Los Angeles.  Zorro only hoped that he was not too late.  His head still throbbed, but even that was easing as purpose overcame physical discomfort.  He rushed into the streets leading into the plaza, only barely avoiding the stands of peons selling their wares.  He pulled Tornado to quick halt just outside the back gate of the tavern.  Climbing to the wall, he saw in horror Avila’s sword point at his father’s throat.  He also saw the cuts to his father’s arm and his anger blossomed dangerously.  Quickly squelching it as counter productive, he took a deep breath and called out, “Señor!” leaping down from the wall at the same time….  

The fight was fast and furious, but it was quickly obvious, that while Avila was very good, he just did not have the ability to control this duel.  Zorro danced this way and that, his saber flashing in a dangerous blur.  The cocky assurance on his opponent’s face had quickly changed to frustration, as Avila tried continuously to gain an advantage.  Despite the headache, despite the slight nausea that persisted, despite all of that, Zorro had purpose, deep and abiding purpose.  There were several times when the duel could have officially ended, but the dark clad man wanted this fighter for money-- this extortionist to feel the same humiliation that his father had felt.   This would be no fight to the death, only a fight of absolute and total supremacy.  Avila would know exactly who he was fighting when the duel was finished.  During one such moment, when he had stripped his opponent of his sword, and dumped the flowerpot on Avila’s head, Zorro smiled brightly.  It was a smile of satisfaction for him, but a cold and deadly one for the man lying on the ground covered with dirt and half dead flowers.  

For a moment, Zorro thought that his father would refuse to hand Avila his sword, but his authoritarian demand cut through Father’s anger and the fight resumed.  Finally it was over, his final threat having been given to the defeated man spluttering in the fountain, honor assuaged on all fronts.  When Garcia and Reyes approached, demanding his surrender, Zorro was still feeling the euphoria of the occasion.   He smiled and bowed to them, supposedly signaling submission, but then he snatched his cape, leaped to the carriage, then to the wall and onto Tornado’s back. 

As he dashed out of the pueblo, he felt the rush of the moment fade, consciousness of the pounding in his head return and he knew that he needed to get home.  It would not be hard to pretend to have been hurt, thus offering excuse for not being at the duel. 

When his father returned home, his arm bandaged and a great smile on his face, he found Diego in the sala, a cold cloth on his forehead.  “I tried to get into the pueblo after Juanita untied me, but the pain was too much,” Diego explained for anyone nearby to hear.  “I even had trouble staying on my horse’s back.” 

When they were alone, Diego smiled slightly, took the fresh cloth that Bernardo held out for him, and said, “I would thank the good sergeant for this wonderful alibi, if my head was not hurting so much.”

   

 

 

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