Spark of Revenge

Missing Scene

 

 

 

 

 

The sky was dark, with the air as dry as dusty bones.  What little bit of moonshine there had been had disappeared a long time ago, set behind hills that were as barren as a desert. 

Zorro eased Tornado quietly to the crest of a small rise overlooking the farm of Miguel Roverto.  His eyes caught movements in the orchard below.  It appeared as though someone was digging in the dry, hard earth.  There was scraping, panting and then the slight moaning of someone for whom there is no hope. Another figure came from a small lean to, hastily erected after a fire had burned down the modest ranch house.  Zorro recognized the first figure as Roverto and the second as Miguel's wife.  She handed her husband a dipper.  He took it, stared at it for a brief moment and then emptied it at the base of the nearest tree.  The soft sounds of a sleeping child in the throes of a nightmare came to the masked man’s ears, but he continued watching, not moving.  A slight breeze rustled his silken cape, but only slightly relieved the oppressive heat that remained from the day.  

Saying something to her husband, but receiving no response, Señora Roverto padded softly back to the makeshift shelter and ducked inside.  Soon the cries of the child softened.  Motioning to Tornado to stay behind, Zorro slipped softly down the hill.  By the time he had reached Miguel, the ranchero was back at work, digging furiously with a small rounded shovel.  His shirt was soaked in sweat and his breath ragged.  Leaning against a tree was a hoe.  Zorro picked it up and used it to scrape away the dirt that Miguel had managed to break away from the rock hard earth.  “You are trying to…” he began.

Startled, and without looking to see who it was, Miguel reached to one side for a weapon that wasn’t there.  When he couldn’t find anything, he swung his shovel up to protect himself from supposed enemies. 

“Whoa, Don Miguel,” Zorro said quickly, doing the same with the hoe handle.  The men stared at each other in the gloom for a moment. 

“I could not see you in the dark,” Miguel stammered, still obviously startled by Zorro’s sudden appearance. 

Not helping himself, Zorro chuckled softly.  “That is the general idea.”  The outlaw noticed a slight smile on the other man’s lips. 

“I thought you might be one of Don Hilario’s men, come to harass me,” Miguel added. 

“They have been coming to your land?” Zorro asked, suddenly alarmed at the implications of such acts.

“No, but there is the possibility.”  Miguel started digging again.  Zorro joined him, scraping the steel hard earth away as the landowner broke it up. 

“You are trying to dig for water,” Zorro stated.

“Yes, there is nothing else I can do.  I vowed that I would not let my trees die.  I have to do something.”

“Yes, but the job might be easier if there were many hands to help.”   Zorro looked over toward the little lean to.  I had been so hastily constructed that he couldn’t help but think that a good wind would blow it down. 

“Perhaps you are right, but everyone is so busy trying to keep their own lands from dying,” Miguel replied with a sigh.  With his sleeve, he wiped the sweat from his brow. 

Zorro undid the tie that held his cape and caught it as it slid off his shoulders.  He hung it from the limb of a nearby orange tree.  The skeletal limbs mocked both men.  “Your neighbors cannot be so busy that they would not come to help for an hour or so a day.  I think all you need to do is ask.” 

“I will think about what you say, Señor Zorro,” Miguel grunted as he continued digging. 

“What are you going to do about your house, Don Miguel?”

“I have built a shelter for now.  It is sufficient until the rains come and I can spare some time to go into the mountains for lumber.”

“You could rebuild now,” Zorro said softly.

“With Don Hilario’s vaqueros?” Miguel spat out.  “And with what money?" 

Zorro paused for a moment, considering how to make his offer to this man with such deep pride and fierce independence.  “The first time we get the rains and wind your little shelter will fall down.  What will protect your wife and child then?” Zorro asked evasively, trying to prepare the other man for his offer. 

Miguel turned briefly and looked at the tiny shelter.  Sighing, he said, “I know that, but I am doing the best that I can.  I was offered money.  Don Diego offered me money to rebuild.  I refused it.  I may not have anything to give to my son when I am gone, but I will also not leave him with debts.  I did appreciate the offer however.”

“I understand,” Zorro answered. 

“So how am I to rebuild then?” 

“With the money I carry in my sash, Don Miguel.”

“What?”

“I have enough for you to rebuild your house and to replant any trees that die because of this drought.”

Zorro heard the other man suck in a quick breath and then release it slowly.   The outlaw heard a quick sobbing sigh behind him and realized that Señora Roverto was listening to the conversation as well.  “No, I will not be in debt to you any more than I will be in debt to Don Diego,” Miguel answered tersely.  “But I appreciate your offer, Señor Zorro.”

Ah, the stubbornness of some men, Zorro thought morosely.  Trying to help some people was like trying to turn the tide with your hands.  He sighed and wondered how he could convince the man to take the money he had brought with him.  Looking toward the little shelter, he saw Señora Roverto staring at him, a tear running down her cheek. 

Continuing to scrape the dirt aside, he knew he had to figure out some way to get past the man’s stubborn pride.  Miguel would not take charity, not even from him.  He would not incur a debt, even if it meant losing his land.  What to do?   Then a quick thought occurred to the Zorro.  “But I am not just giving it to you, and I do not expect the money back.”  He paused to let his statement sink in.  “I almost hesitate to make this proposition….”

“What do you mean?” Miguel asked, curiosity tingeing his voice.

“I wish to become a partner in your business.”

The surprise was palpable in the landowner’s voice.  “What?”  Miguel stopped digging and ogled at him.   Zorro could almost read his thoughts and was hard pressed to keep from laughing at the other man’s puzzled expression.  What would an outlaw want with part ownership of an orchard, the other man’s face said?

“There are times when I have need to help others who are even worse off than you,” Zorro explained.   “And the only thing that can help them is food.  It is an awkward thing sometimes for an outlaw to grow food, you know,” he said with a wry smile.   “But you grow food.  If you accepted my offer, you could rebuild your home, build a new and bigger storage shed and buy new trees to replace the ones that have died.  I would think that you would have enough to plant even more trees and thereby build up your orchards.”

“Are you serious, Señor Zorro?”

“I am very serious.  There will be times during the harvest when I will come by for my percentage of your increase.  And if, for some reason, I have no need for the crops, then you can sell my portion and either give it to Padre Felipe for the poor, or use it to expand your orchard even more.” 

“It does not seem very fair to you.” 

“But it is more than fair, Don Miguel.  You are a hard worker, more determined to succeed than half of the hacendados in the area.   And if a certain outlaw falls on hard times, then I know where to come for help.” 

“You are joking, yes?”

“No, Miguel, I am not.  I feel I am making a very good investment.  I cannot lose.” 

“How much do you feel is fair to give me for this investment?” Miguel asked hesitantly.

“Two thousand pesos.”

“Santa Maria!  You are right, that would be more than enough to replace what I have lost.”

“Then you will accept it?”

“Sí, Señor Zorro.  And know that I will work hard to protect your investment,” Miguel said happily. 

“And promise me that you will call on your neighbors for help in building your new well.  This is hard work,” Zorro said with a laugh.  He straightened up, stretching the sore muscles of his back, for they had continued to dig and scrape earth during the entire conversation.  He pulled out the pouch containing the money and handed it to Miguel.  For a moment, the landowner just stared at the heavy little burlap sack. 

Zorro felt a presence next to him and turned in time to see Miguel’s wife stand on her tiptoes and give him a quick kiss.  “Graciás, Señor Zorro.  You are most kind.”   The tears running down her cheeks reflected the light of the stars overhead. 

“Hmm, I do expect a basket of oranges at harvest,” Zorro said, slightly embarrassed by the woman’s display of emotion. 

“Of course, and they will be the best,” Miguel said happily. 

“I have to go, but remember, if you ask, you will find you have more than enough help to build your well, Don Miguel.”

“If we are partners, Señor Zorro, you must stop calling me Don Miguel.”

“Agreed,” Zorro said, laughing, then he sobered quickly.  “And promise me that if Don Hilario offers his help again, you will at least consider it.  In his own way, he was trying to show concern.”

“I will at least consider it, Señor Zorro,” Miguel conceded, reluctantly.

Zorro nodded.  He whistled for Tornado and was rewarded with the beat of hooves and the pattering of gravel and rocks falling down the hill.  Soon the pitch-black stallion was pawing the ground in front of him.  Throwing his cape over his shoulders, Zorro vaulted onto Tornado’s back.  “Adios, Miguel, Señora Roverto.”  Wheeling the stallion around he galloped back up the hill and toward home. 

Later, as Diego slipped into bed, he felt the inner happiness of one who has done good and helped another.  Sleep came quickly and it was peaceful and contented. 

 

 

 

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