Zorro and the Little DevilPeter David
Zorro and the Little Devil
by Peter David
“Deigo and the Baron”
Hieronymus Karl Friedrich
Zorro created by Johnston McCulley
Published under license from Zorro Productions, Inc.
ZORRO ® & © Published 2018 Zorro Productions, Inc. All Rights Reserved.
ZORRO Registered Trademark & Copyright 2018 Zorro Productions, Inc. All Rights Reserved.
Published by Bold Venture Press
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“Zorro and the Little Devil”
By Peter David
Under cover of night, a wicked pirate crew landed on the California shores, infiltrating Reina de los Angeles. Their sadistic leader, Diabolito, would resort to murder to claim a fortune. Then, the masked horseman Zorro rode once more — to challenge a swordsman who might be his superior!
“Diego and the Baron”
By Hieronymus Karl Friedrich von Münchausen
An absolutely true short story of young Don Diego de la Vega, written by Baron Munchausen!
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Zorro and the Little Devil
Don Alejandro the Hero
Don Alejandro slowly made his way through the marketplace of Reina de Los Angeles and realized this was something he should be doing more often. The grocers and marketers whom he passed were quick to hail him by name. Some would even bow in his presence to convey their respect for him. Indeed, why should they not respect him? Alejandro was the oldest and most powerful Don in the district. With a few well-chosen words and commands, he could bring a hammer of tragedy down upon the heads of any of these poor folks.
Indeed, in his lifetime Don Alejandro had met other Dons who would do that very thing. Why? For spite. For showing off their strength in order to amuse themselves. But Don Alejandro was not the sort of man who engaged in such frivolous displays of puissance simply because he could. He cared very much about the peasants and the things that transpired among them.
Furthermore, Alejandro had reason, as other Dons had, to not beat down upon those who were less than him. For everyone in Los Angeles knew the same thing: there was a masked avenger who rode up and down Camino Royale, watching out for the business and affairs of the peasants and poor individuals who populated the region.
All men knew that if they were to act like cads to the powerless, a masked rider would inevitably, invariably take issue with their actions and wreak a horrible vengeance upon him. They might be lashed; they might find themselves punctured with the tip of a sword; and most significantly, they might wind up with three quick slashes upon their foreheads that represented the letter “Z.”
A “Z” that stood for Zorro — the Fox!
But such was not an event about which Don Alejandro had to be concerned, for he was one of the few who were aware that Zorro was none other than Don Diego de la Vega — his supposed wastrel of a son — who affected the pose of a dandy and a poet.
The sham was excellent because, for most people the character he played was so convincing, it did not occur to any of the people Diego could possibly walk in the same boots as did the formidable Senor Zorro, the so-called Curse of Capistrano.
As Don Alejandro sniffed at some bundled flowers displayed in a vase, he realized that — to some degree — he was jealous of Diego. Diego had chosen the role of hero and savior to the people. Did that not, in many ways, make him superior to his father? Even framing the thought made Don Alejandro feel foolish and petty, and yet he could not help himself. People would speak of Don Alejandro with admiration and respect, but when the name of Senor Zorro crossed their lips, their tones switched over to adoration and love. The name of Don Alejandro meant they knew who the true power was in the land, but they simply could not get enough of Zorro.
According to Bernardo, Diego’s servant who frequented such places as taverns and bars, peasants would constantly be talking and arguing about whatever had been Zorro’s latest feat. One would have him down in San Diego, while another placed him at Capistrano, while a third swore he had been down the road supping with Fray Felipe, the elderly and perpetually gracious monk. The fact Zorro could not possibly be in two, let alone three, places simultaneously never deterred their speculations. As far as the peasants were concerned, Zorro was omnipresent, likely hiding in plain sight right there at the bar and eavesdropping on all of them. It was absurd, but the absurdity did nothing to deter the discussion.
Don Alejandro smiled, amused at his foolish jealousy of his own son. Diego had taken many severe risks in his masked adventures. Whatever adoration he now received from the crowds had been rightfully earned. His father had no reason whatsoever to envy him.
He passed a butcher shop and paused. For some reason he realized he was in the mood for veal that evening, and the butcher had a nice slab of it hanging by his window. He began to move toward it when a woman blocked his path. Her eyes caught Don Alejandro’s for a moment, and then she smiled broadly.
A young woman she most definitely was not. Nor, however, had she aged sufficiently to send all trace of her lovely appearance skittering away. She appeared to be in her early 40s at most. She had a beautiful smile, a pair of deep-brown eyes, and thick curly hair that caressed her head and cascaded down and around her shoulders. She sported a lovely bonnet laced with blue flowers. She was wearing a gorgeous green dress, trimmed with lace and was delicately clutching a handbag with both her hands.
Alejandro realized he was continuing to stare at her, which was most certainly not a gentlemanly thing to be doing. She didn’t seem to mind it, though. Determined to maintain proper behavior, he removed his large sombrero and swept it downward in a gesture of greeting. She smiled and curtsied slightly in a most ladylike manner.
And suddenly, before Don Alejandro could say or do anything, some peasant thief darted in front of the woman and snatched her bag from her grasp. She let out a startled cry but that did nothing to stop the thief and he dashed right toward Don Alejandro without slowing.
Don Alejandro’s hand immediately moved toward the sword that was dangling from his hip, but he was not quick enough. The thief reached him and then bolted past. Realizing the thief was in danger of making his getaway, his eyes darted around for something he could use to impede the thief in his flight. His gaze fell upon the perfect item: an overripe melon sitting invitingly on the table of a vendor. Immediately Don Alejandro’s hand snatched out. He cradled it for an instant, getting a feeling for its weight and mentally making adjustments, and then he flung the melon after the departing thief.
When he was a youth, he often liked to take small rocks and hurl them at passing ducks or swans that would splash by in the waters of a lake. It
was not the most generous of pastimes, but there it was. He had grown out of it, but he’d been sure his aim was just as good as it was in his childhood years.
As it so happened, it was. The melon hit the fleeing man squarely on the head and knocked him flat.
Immediately Don Alejandro was after him. The thief scrambled to his feet, saw that the speeding oldster was almost upon him, and did the only thing he could think of: he yanked out his own sword.
It was very different from Don Alejandro’s. The Don’s was a stainless saber, but the thief had pulled out a cutlass which was not even in a sheathe; instead he had it tucked into his belt. He adopted a defensive posture while he held out the stolen bag with his free left hand. “Come and get it!” he said challengingly.
Don Alejandro’s eyes narrowed. “You will address me as Senor, if you please.”
For response the other man did nothing but chortle and then he lunged forward at the Don.
He obviously expected Don Alejandro to back up, to yield ground. Alejandro did no such thing. Instead he maintained his stance right where it was and brushed aside the initial thrust as if a small child had delivered it. Angry over the lack of give in Alejandro’s body, the man howled in fury and continued his assault.
The attacks and defenses by the thief and by Don Alejandro could not have been more different. Alejandro immediately analyzed the man’s combat style and was able to dissect it within seconds. The man was attempting no thrusts, no engagement in any classic manners. Instead he was swinging his cutlass back and forth, from side to side, as if he were a pendulum in a grandfather’s clock. It was supremely easy for Alejandro to stay out of the man’s way. He scarcely even needed to use his sword to block; he timed the man’s swings and managed to avoid him with body movement alone.
“Fight, damn you!” the man howled.
“As you wish,” replied Don Alejandro. His sword lashed out, momentarily paralyzing the man’s swings, and then the Don stepped forward and covered the distance between himself and his opponent with one fast move. He yanked the bag out of the man’s hand and tossed it over his shoulder without even bothering to glance in the direction of his target. Yet it landed squarely in the woman’s outstretched arms as if it had eyes and charted its own course.
“Now to you,” said Alejandro, and he began his genuine attack. It was relentless and the man kept backing up and backing up. All the blood drained from the thief’s face, which had become ghastly white. And then he did the last thing that a gentleman such as Don Alejandro would expect him to do.
He ran away.
The man spun on his heel and proceeded to high tail it out of the vicinity. His legs pumped furiously as he made his way through and out of the marketplace.
“Coward!” shouted Don Alejandro, but there was nothing further for him to do. His opponent had thoroughly vacated the area, and for all the youth Don Alejandro may have displayed in his fencing battle, his legs could not overcome his old age. He simply wasn’t built for an extended race after a younger foe. Once upon a time, yes, but not now.
So all he could do was let out a low, frustrated sigh as his former challenger sped into the distance. Then he was startled as there was a sudden gripping of his elbow. But there was no need for surprise, for it was merely the woman whose bag he had rescued.
“You were wonderful, Senor!” she said eagerly, and squeezed both of her arms around his left one. Fortunately it left his right hand free so that he was able to slide his sword back into the scabbard.
He then bowed a half bow. “My only regret is that the miscreant managed to get away.”
“He is a pathetic individual,” she said, “attempting to survive from one day to the next by stealing bags from women. He is to be pitied more than anything, Senor.”
“You are most generous of spirit, Senorita.”
She laughed at that. “Senora … please. The days of my being a Senorita are long past. I am Maria Garcia Lopez.”
Once more he bowed, taking her free left hand and kissing it gently. “Don Alejandro de la Vega at your service, Senora.”
“A Don, taking the time to aid me,” she said. “I am most flattered.”
“Merely watching out for the health of others. In fact, I am concerned the man may return; allow me to walk you to your abode.”
“I’m afraid that’s not possible, my dear Don.”
His brows furrowed. “You have no home?”
“Oh, I do, back in Spain,” she assured him. “I came to Los Angeles as a surprise to visit my sister. Except, as it turned out, I was the one to be surprised, for my sister is elsewhere, visiting relatives in Mexico. I left my bags at a nearby bar and am now looking for somewhere to reside. A simple room in a tavern will suit me … ”
“Nonsense!” said Don Alejandro. “There are no quarters in the vicinity that would be suitable for you, lest you decide to hie yourself to a nunnery or some other church-related place. Allow me to make an offer for you instead: My hacienda is quite large and has a multitude of spare rooms. You and your duenna could easily … ”
She laughed extremely loudly at that. “A duenna? Senor, do I look like some virginal maiden who is concerned about maintaining her honor? I am already married and widowed. No, Senor, I have no questions about your proper behavior for a female houseguest, if you are not worried about word spreading, over you taking in a female cohabitant.”
“Not in the least,” he assured her. “The name of de la Vega is most highly honored hereabouts. No one would dare to question me in terms of proper treatment of a lady.”
“I should not think so. But what of your wife?”
Slowly he sadly shook his head. “My wife is long passed. Not a day goes by where I do not dwell on our life together, as tragically aborted as it was. It is an experience that not only I have had to endure, but my son as well. He was married to the sweetest thing, but a savage fever left him bereft of her very early into their wedded bliss. He also resides with me at the hacienda.”
“Really? I look forward to meeting him. What’s his name?”
“Diego,” he said. “He has the demeanor of a mild poet, but let us just say there are hidden depths to the lad.”
Fray for a Fray
It had been a blessedly peaceful day for Fray Felipe, which was curious considering he had been expecting more excitement. But it seemed excitement had chosen to pass him by.
He had some visitors during the course of the afternoon — decent people who swung by to donate money to the church, which Fray Felipe was always certain to give to those who required it. For just as the well-off knew the Fray was a good person to be given money, there were likewise those who struggled, who knew the Fray was a good source for financial aid when they were in dire straits. They would always swear a promise they would eventually pay the Fray back, but Felipe never counted on repayment nor insisted it was a requirement. Since he himself was sworn to pursue a life of poverty, he never really had much use for coinage beyond having it to dispense to others.
There was a knock at the door this day and the Fray went to the front and opened it. A man was standing there. He was somewhat disheveled and clearly down on his luck. “May I come in, Fray?”
“Of course,” said Felipe, stepping back so that the man could enter the small building.
The man’s eye wandered toward a corner. Another hooded Fray was sitting there, slowly perusing the pages of a prayer book. “Who is he?” asked the man.
“Merely a brother. He is studying. Do not concern yourself with him. So,” said Felipe and he brought his hands together and rubbed them briskly as if he was preparing to deal cards, “how may I be of service to you, my son?”
That was when the man reached into the folds of his jacket and extracted a pistol. He aimed it at the Fray and when he spoke, his voice was quavering. “Give me all your money. Now … Now,” he raised his voice when the Fray did not immediately obey his instructions.
The shouted order did nothin
g to spur the Fray. “Put the gun down, my son, or it will be put down for you.”
“And who will do that?” demanded the man. “You?”
“No,” said Fray Felipe.
And that was when the sharp crack of a whip tore through the air. Before he could react in the slightest manner, the would-be thief’s eyes widened as a bullwhip lash wrapped itself around his wrist. He let out a yell and his hand was yanked to the right.
The pistol flew out of his paralyzed hand, skidded across the floor, and landed at the feet of the other Fray. He was standing now, holding the handle of the whip. He pushed back his hood and a masked face was revealed to be smiling broadly. A sombrero was hanging around his throat on a black cord.
“Zorro!” the man gasped.
“Quite right,” replied Senor Zorro. The whip was still looped around the man’s wrist. Even as Zorro kicked the gun away, he yanked upon it again and sent the man tumbling to the floor. He landed heavily and cried out, having quite thoroughly banged up his knees. “And you would be — ?”
“Miguel!” The man was lying on the floor, making no move to scramble toward his fallen gun. “I am Miguel!”
Senor Zorro flipped his lash slightly and it unwrapped itself from around Miguel’s wrist. “You have made a name for yourself up and down the road, Miguel. A thief of church funds. Quite a reputation indeed.”
“I am not dangerous! I swear!”
“Your gun would seem to indicate differently.”
“It is not loaded! It is never loaded! See for yourself!”
Intrigued by the man’s protest, Zorro walked over to the gun and lifted it. He stared down the barrel and saw that the man was quite correct. There was no bullet within. It was a useless piece of metal and wood. “Interesting. Why?”