All's well that ends well

I was calmly ordering in the library the books Barcelo returned to me – and after all these weeks of his stay here it was quite a considerable pile – when I heard the loud crash and angry curses behind my back. It was my father, who rushed away from the secret passage, almost falling on the floor.

"I believe we should use these hidden passages with more discretion, Father," I noticed, grabbing his arm to help him regain the balance.

"I have just… stubbed my feet over some… needlework basket?..." he raised the guilty item and glanced at me with irritation: "Really, Diego, it is getting a little troublesome. You should speak with your wife and remind her that actually it is the hacienda that serves for living, not these corridors."

"Don't exaggerate, Father," I smiled to him. "What's wrong in a bit of eavesdropping? Rosa says it is her only entertainment now."

My father bridled a little and muttered something, but then looked at me more cautiously:

"I see that you are in an exquisite mood today, Diego."

"Why shouldn't I? We are done with that water intrigue… Rivera is dead and no one has to be afraid of his vengeance… And finally, Father, what would you think about organizing the nice good bye party for Capitán Barcelo?"

"And that is exactly what I wanted to talk with you about. Aren't you a little worried?" stated my father, sitting in the armchair. "Do you think he will just so simply leave?"

"Why not? His assignment finishes in a few days," I noticed innocently.

"Without any further attempt to catch Zorro? His time here is almost over and during the last few days he did nothing but sitting in the cuartel and filling in the reports."

"Well, he did have a lot of reports to prepare, issuing the charges against the magistrado and removing him from the office isn't as simple as arresting some vaquero for the drunken brawl… And I am sure he wants to leave the archives in the perfect order. After all, he was rather disappointed with the state of the documentation under the rules of our brave sergeant," I chuckled recalling Monastario's reports that disappeared so mysteriously.

"It is not funny, Diego!" my father waved his hand impatiently when I wanted to pour him some Madeira. "He hunted… Zorro with unusual determination, desperation even… He used every means available, set one trap after another… And now he is so quiet… Aren't you afraid he may be up to something?"

For a moment I sat in silence. That was the question I have asked myself very often during the last few days. After arresting Damián Peraza and sending both him and Guinassi to Monterey, Capitán Barcelo behaved so… calmly. One could be surprised with it. I wasn't.

Was I flattering myself thinking that I know Capitán Barcelo so well?

"No, Father. I don't think he is up to something," I replied finally.

"You think he doesn't want to catch the Fox anymore?" my father raised at me curious sight.

"I think that he lost his initial ardor for this task," I smiled to him and added after a while: "Father, Barcelo will never admit openly that he changed his mind… even a bit… He said once that he may be defeated but he will not resign. So… it seems he just lets himself be defeated."

My father looked at me with a shadow of doubt in his face, yet finally he decided to trust my judgment.

"All right then. In such case we may organize this party for him," he said graciously, "to sweeten the bitterness of the defeat. Besides, Rosa will have some entertainment. I have got the bad feelings about her interest in these passages…" he finished with a sigh, and could do nothing but agree.

The evening for Barcelo's party was more than perfect, warm, but not stuffy, with cool evening breezes playing with the Chinese lanterns we hung among the flowers on the patio. Carmelita was delighted as a child, running around and clasping her hands. Rosa of course behaved much calmer, but I could see she enjoyed the evening too.

Unfortunately, there were two guests who didn't seem to equally admire the lights and flowers. To tell the truth, they didn't seem to notice them at all. The first one was Barcelo, surprisingly gloomy as for the main hero of the evening. However, at the beginning of the reception I had no occasion to ask him about the reason of his dejection, as he was occupied with receiving compliments and wishes from the other dons. The second sad guest was Sergeant Garcia staying alone in the corner with rather unsure expression. I neared to him, handing him the glass he gladly accepted.

"So, Sergeant, when the capitán leaves, all the responsibilities will be again at your shoulders…" I noticed to remind him that all the excitement around the brave capitán will soon be over… and the citizens of Los Angeles will come back to their good, old acting commandante.

"Yes, Don Diego, and it will be hard to stand up to his example… The capitán was so… effective, with pursuing the bandits, and the discipline in the cuartel, and… everything…" there was very little enthusiasm on his face as he spoke and finally he gave up the compliments and confessed with a sigh: "I must admit, Don Diego, in spite of all this I am glad he is leaving. I didn't feel very comfortable in his presence. Especially after he wanted to put me before the firing squad for treason."

"Yes, such incidents may change the mutual relations…" I nodded seriously my head.

"Senoras, senores, may I raise the toast to our esteemed guest, Capitán Barcelo," I heard the voice of my father. "Capitán, you were one of the most memorable guests we had in our pueblo. You brought us many important lessons that will serve as valuable leads, helping us in future… to save our security."

Strange, but it seemed as if my father has acquired my ability of telling truth deep from his heart… with making the impression he speaks about something absolutely different…

Barcelo thanked him for the toast, but didn't give the speech everyone expected. Instead, he just walked toward me and the sergeant, staying quietly by us.

"You seem a bit downcast, Capitán," I noticed handing him the glass.

Before he managed to reply, Don Nacho Torres raised the next toast.

"Capitán, we will remember you as the example of determination and devotion to duty. We will long remain grateful for all the services you rendered to our pueblo, especially, for preventing the intrigue, aimed at the most respected citizens of this pueblo," he referred to the latest events.

Well, praising the last of Barcelo's achievement should cheer him up a little… but although he raised his glass and smiled, he muttered to me ironically:

"And for not catching the Fox, too. That is what everyone here is the most grateful, I assume."

"You really are downcast, Capitán," I commented. "Tell me…"

"I wonder why this Guinassi decided to testify against his accomplices," interrupted me Don Nacho, nearing to us.

"Remorse, I guess," I said quickly trying to cut this subject, but Don Nacho decided to pursue it further:

"I would rather say Zorro had something to do with it. Do you remember how he appeared when they were moving the camp? This cheater must have felt scared and…" finally he noticed my desperate signs, but looked at Barcelo not abashed even a little.

"Well, I am sorry, Capitán, but no one can deny that there are plenty things we owe to the Fox…"

"This time you owe it rather to Don Diego," Barcelo cut him off quietly and I choked with my wine. Just as Sergeant Garcia.

Don Nacho looked at the capitán expectantly and he explained:

"Guinassi told me that they never intended to prolong their intrigue so much as they did. They only wanted to sign the agreement, collect the money and disappear. Had it not been for Don Diego, who was so inquisitive and mistrustful, forcing them to all these tests… they would have succeeded."

"But what were they counting on when their initial plan failed?" asked Don Nacho, raising to me his glass with appreciative smile.

"They were just playing on time… I am not sure, but it seemed that they were counting on that Rivera to… well, to threaten you somehow, Don Diego," stated the capitán.

They were rather counting for winning Zorro's cooperation, that way or another… but no one will ever get to know it. These are the matters between me and Damián Peraza.

"Luckily they didn't manage," said Rosa slipping her hand behind my arm. "Luckily for us, that… Guinassi just wasn't able to bear the remorse… or the fear any longer."

That is what my wife said and that is the official version. I smiled confirmatively hoping to finish finally that discussion, when Don Ignatio, Rosa's father joined our little circle:

"But it failed so little for the misfortune to happen! This Rivera could have killed you both, while he should have been already under arrest!" he exclaimed throwing an accusatory glance on the capitán.

Don Ignatio is the perfect father-in-law. Always on my side, always ready to protect me… Only that he has an awful timing.

"But it finished luckily," I quickly chimed in, "thanks to Peraza's intervention."

"That is the thing I cannot understand!" exclaimed Don Nacho. "Why the respected magistrado took part in such mean intrigue!"

"Greed, I suppose," Barcelo shrugged his shoulders. "He was not the man we all thought him to be."

No, he wasn't. But not in the way everyone here believes. Yet the people are always so eager… to judge.

"He was a good magistrado, before this affair started," I reminded them quietly.

"Stop excusing him, Diego," Rosa's father interrupted me. "You two had a bone to pick with each other from the beginning. There was no friendship between you."

"That doesn't mean he wasn't the good magistrado," I repeated stubbornly.

"Maybe, but I am not such forgiving Christian as you, Diego," Don Nacho shrugged his shoulders, the tone of his voice indicating that he has rather little respect for Christian values on this occasion. "That man wanted to cheat us all, and I am glad that he is going to spend the next part of his life in prison."

"Actually, he is not," muttered gloomily Barcelo.

So, he heard it. That must be the reason of his bad mood.

"What do you mean, Capitán?" asked Don Nacho.

"I received today the news from Monterey… As soon as Peraza got there, the governor intervened… Well, not exactly the governor himself, but some relative of his… son of his brother… or sister, I don't know!" bridled angrily Barcelo. "Anyway, someone the governor is very attached to. He stood up for Peraza, and this scoundrel was discreetly released. There won't be even a trial," the capitán waved wearily his hand.

"What?" Don Ignatio almost jumped. "To simply let go… such rascal? Diego, can you imagine? On what world are we living?"

"I have no idea," I replied with my eyes round with innocent astonishment.

"At least he will not dare to show himself in California anymore," concluded Barcelo. "That is a good point. He immediately left Monterey. I heard he went east, to the Americanos. He should find the luck there, they do appreciate people with the initiative!" the capitán snorted with irony.

"Yes, Capitán, the most important is that the intrigue was exposed and no one fell victim to the deception," I said calmingly, hoping finally to cheer him a little.

"All's well that ends well," added Sergeant Garcia with content smile. During our short conversation he refilled his glass a few times and now his previous dejection disappeared without the trace. "And in this case everything ended the best it could, don't you think, Capitán?" he smiled warmly to Barcelo, unaware of the dark clouds gathering in the eyes of his superior.

"And what exactly do you mean by that, Sergeant?" Barcelo asked with dangerous politeness.

"Oh, well, Capitán, the evil ones were defeated and the good one managed to… ah!" he jumped, grimacing with pain when I kicked his ankle, "I mean that… I don't mean of course that Zorro is good, I only wanted to say… say that it is good when…"

"When the good people like us can enjoy such pleasurable evening in a nice company," I finished smoothly for him.

"Yes, Don Diego. Exactly. That's what I just intended to say," he looked at me with gratitude.

Yet Barcelo definitely wasn't in a good mood tonight.

"Oh, please, Sergeant. I know you are not the only one here who enjoys the failure of my assignment," he bridled with irritation.

"Don't say so, Capitán," I started to console him – though I was definitely the one enjoying the failure of his assignment. Yet before I managed to continue, Don Ignatio chimed in:

"And don't give up. It is not too late to try for the last time, Capitán!"

I felt Rosa's hand strengthening the grasp on my arm, as she casted an anxious glance on her father. I pretended to be oblivious, but had rather bad premonitions about the direction my esteemed father-in-law was driving at.

"What do you want me to do, Senor?" asked Barcelo in a tired voice. "I have tried everything. I am just… out of ideas."

"Well, I will give you one!" replied merrily Don Ignatio, satisfied that he can preach the brave capitán. "Why not take a few peons and put them in prison on some absurd charge? El Zorro will come to rescue them! He always does! And you will have a possibility to set a nice trap."

"Father!" exclaimed Rosa with indignation and Don Nacho echoed her:

"How can you even say such thing, Ignacio! Imprison innocent people!..."

"Oh, we will compensate them all the inconveniences. Generously. And you, Capitán, will arrange it in the way it would look convincing enough, yet no harm would happen to anyone…"

Barcelo's eyes glittered for a moment and I hardy suppressed the impulse to hide the face in my hand. Of course, I will have to ride and free them, even knowing the trap. El Zorro always does. He couldn't fail the scared people waiting for his help.

I am not angry at Don Ignatio. I know he did it for me. He became worried with the accusations Barcelo's made under my address… and decided that only the capture of the masked bandit can definitely clear me from all suspicions.

But it means only I will have to ride… risk once again, when I already thought the happy end of this adventure is so near… Risk so… senselessly, fighting the man I respect…

Rosa kept squeezing my arm, but she didn't dare to oppose her father. Don Nacho shook his head with obvious disapproval, yet the decision belonged to Barcelo, and its result seemed rather clear. Shouldn't the good officer use all the means necessary to catch the bandit?

"So? What say you, Capitán? You can take a few of the peons from my rancho, if you want," Don Ignatio urged him, eager to help in the military action.

But Barcelo didn't reply immediately. He didn't reply for so long that we all looked at him expectantly and the silence got rather uncomfortable.

"Uugh.. well… thank you, Don Ignatio, but no. I don't think I will do it," he finally stuttered out, looking at the ground under his feet.

Then, feeling he needs to explain himself, he looked at us almost shyly and continued:

"Now I realize that the chase after that man made me do things I would earlier never approve… For Heaven's sake, I even arranged the robbery!" he bridled with sudden anger. "And now, put innocent people under arrest? Because I know he will come and help them?" he looked at us incredulously and finished so quietly that it was almost the whisper: "So who would be the bandit then?"

No one dared to break the silence that fell after his words. He just looked at us for a few seconds, then absently rubbed his temple, turned on the spot and left.

I believe I really know well Capitán Barcelo. After all, the best way to get to know the man is to learn what kind of books he prefers. And it just happens so, that all the books he appreciated were also my favorite ones.

After the party at the hacienda I knew that Capitán Barcelo won't bother the Fox anymore… unless of course the Fox enters his way too ostensively. Yet, I thought that after all that Capitán Barcelo and el Zorro had come through, it would be rather rude to let him leave without farewell, so on the evening before his departure I rode to the pueblo in the black attire and sneaked behind the tavern.

The yard was dark and quiet, but not so dark that I couldn't see the lonely silhouette of Private Sanchez sitting on some old barrel, looking wistfully at the brightened windows of Carmelita's quarters.

Wordlessly, I stepped out of the shadows and sat near him.

After the moment of silence he turned to me the pitiful sight, looking exactly as young as he really was.

"She is so excited with the travel that she hardly noticed me saying good bye…" he confessed sadly.

I only nodded and after a while he added:

"I wouldn't have much chance for a girl from such family as hers anyway, would I?"

"No. No, you wouldn't," I admitted gently with regret.

He just sighed and I looked for the words to hearten him.

"Such things just happen, my young friend, and we can only accept them… There are plenty beautiful girls in the word… and many of them will break your heart, before you find that one for you."

Of course he wasn't consoled. There are no words to console the boy losing his sweetheart.

"One for me? And what if she happens to be… unattainable, too rich, too noble, bound with someone else… How will I know that she is the only one?" he asked a bit bitterly. I guess he heard that Carmelita is to be engaged just after her return to Santa Barbara.

"You know," I replied after a moment, smiling, "it is the best to leave such things for women to decide. If a girl makes up her mind that she is the one for you, no obstacles will be undefeatable."

He smiled a little too and I thought he will be fine. With time, of course.

"Well, my friend, if you have taken your good bye, it will be the best if you leave this place. Now it is my turn," I concluded our conversation.

Miguel nodded and jumped off the barrel, disappearing somewhere in the darkness. Then I climbed to Barcelo's balcony and politely knocked into the frame.

He was in his room, occupied by packing his belongings. When he saw me in the window he raised high his eyebrows, though I knew he wasn't surprised at all.

"Are you sure you didn't mistake the windows?" he asked ironically.

"Absolutely," I smiled. "I only came to bid a farewell with you, Capitán."

"Did you come here to mock me in the eve of my departure? If so, you are pushing your luck, Fox."

"I am not mocking you. I appreciate you both as the honorable man and as the officer devoted to his duty," I bowed to him seriously.

Barcelo smiled a bit reluctantly.

"Not all officers take gratefully the praises of the outlaws, but thank you. I cannot deny I appreciate you too. I appreciate your bravery and determination. Pity, that you hide yourself behind that mask… like a ruffian."

"Capitán, if all the officials were like you, it would be very possible that we could meet in the same uniforms," I chuckled realizing, that it was indeed probable. If I had finished my school, it would be expected that I spent some time in the army. "But as I had a choice between staying idly in the face of injustice or getting myself killed in some desperate charge, I gladly chose the third option."

Barcelo looked at me a little surprised, as if he for the first time realized that sometimes the circumstances make us choose different… types of clothing. Like the uniform. Or the mask.

He shook his head and smiled gently, his eyes shining with the idea of correcting the wrong:

"I know your intentions are good and you are… the noble man. So, prove it to everyone. Show your face. I warrant you a fair trial, it is more than likely you will be acquitted and able to fight openly for what you believe in…" he finished almost pleadingly and impatiently waited for my answer.

"I cannot, Capitán. I am afraid I am needed in that attire," I laughed gently to soften my refusal.

Nevertheless Barcelo's smile faded.

"This attire? It is the costume of the bandit! You are the man of tricks and shadows, whereas the division between right and wrong is… should be clear," he grimaced a little and I knew this small correction cost him a lot. "Show your face and start to live… like a decent man," he appealed once again, this time a bit harsher.

"No, Capitán," I shook my head. "Who knows what the future brings? Maybe something that will require… crossing this clear division? It would be better then, if no decent man has to do it, only the… bandit… who will later return into shadows."

Barcelo's sight darkened a little and I could clearly see the disappointment in his face.

"Well, Fox, so pray that our paths will not cross again," he said threateningly. "Because… in spite of all the.. respect I have for you… if that is your decision, my duty would be to see to that the justice would be made upon you."

Justice. Yes, this all started with the justice; that's why I put on the black attire and that is why I am not going to resign form it.

"Justice sometimes is… complicated," I replied wryly, more to myself than to him.

"That's what you keep saying," he replied striving to seem oblivious. "But these are only words. I don't deny that you are outspoken," he smirked with irony, "however, you won't convince me. No matter how noble your intentions were, you have chosen the wrong way."

I was very glad I was wearing the mask. Right now, my expression must have been a bit pitiful.

But what did I expect? That he will congratulate me? Why should I care for his... recognition in the first place? I have never been hungry for compliments, on the contrary, as Diego I didn't mind my friends think low of me.

And yet... I cared. This time it was not about Diego's play, this time it was about the real me. And he was my friend. I cared for his opinion.

Well, it seems that no one can win on all battles.

"Good luck, Capitán. Whatever the future brings," I said, sneaking out to the balcony.

"I would be careful with that wish on your place. Who knows what kind of assignments I will have in future," he replied challengingly... and that challenge reminded me of something. Something, that my friend from Monterey wrote me about.

I peeked once again into the room.

"Capitán… People say you have been asked if you want to prolong your assignment here and you refused. I wonder why. Have you perhaps decided that… getting rid of such ruffian like me… who has choosen the wrong way... is not neccessarily your idea of justice?"

Oh, well. I hit the point. All the nostalgia disappeared from Barcelo's face, as he stared at me for a while, getting more and more red with fury. He definitely was not the man easily admitting he changed his judgment.

For a moment he vainly searched for words to express his indignation and finally replied in the way definitely not befitting to the high rank officer from noble family:

"Just go to hell, you black bastard!" he shouted and slammed the window.

I sneaked down chuckling. Maybe he didn't congratulate me, but he couldn't deny that there are different... shades in life...

On the next day, Capitán Barcelo left the pueblo, farewelled by me and Sergeant Garcia with both recognition and relief. Slowly, the other things that got so complicated in the past few weeks began to straighten.

My father's bad premonitions concerning Rosa's interest in the secret passages fulfilled: one day she demanded the corridors to be cleaned, saying that she is tired with brushing her dresses from dust and cobwebs. My father was a little indignant, confiding to me – when she left us alone of course – that the passages served well to all our ancestors and no one ever complained to their condition. I waited calmly until he finished and then reminded him about the one thing that really mattered here - that there are only three people on whom actually this task could fall upon. On the next day, my father and I rode for a few days to the cattle market in San Diego and when I saw the passages after the return I must admit that the result was impressive. I even found a few new loopholes that could turn out to be quite useful in the future. However, judging from Bernardo's facial expression, if he could speak, he wouldn't say a word to me for a month at least…

Three weeks after Barcelo's departure the new magistrado, Senor Alvaro Rojas, took his office. His served many years on the same position in San Francisco, but at the autumn – late autumn – of his life he wanted to enjoy a peace of some smaller pueblo. If I had to describe him shortly, I would have to say that he was one of the most boring persons I have ever met. From time to time he visited our hacienda, as my father was indiscreet enough to mention once in his presence that I enjoy playing chess. I do, but Magistrado Rojas had the ability to make dull all the entertainment he took part in, the chess match including. So, I occasionally spent a long evening playing chess with him in the silence broken only by the wax dripping from the candles, with nostalgia recalling the different hobby of the previous magistrado.

I don't know what happened to Damián, how and where he decided to settle his life when he was free from his past. A few weeks after these events I only received a letter from him, short, rather cold and casual greetings wishing luck for me and happy delivery for my wife, possibly resulting in the birth of the healthy son, who would continue the de la Vega name and merits, as well as the other "family traditions worthy to be preserved".

Friends from Mexico sent me the news about Guilermo Guinassi. Thanks to his repentance that helped to prevent the intrigue aimed at the wealthiest citizens of Los Angeles, he was soon freed from all the charges. Then he decided to apply for the position at the Universidad de Mexico. The hearing went at first not to his favor, until he, nervous and abashed, searching through his documents for the proofs of his experience, strew all his papers in front of the commission. Then, the physicist accidentally present there, to Guinassi's confusion, took great interest in the schemes of his alleged water machine. Muttering something about vibrations and da Vinci's experiments with receiving the sounds from remote ships, he decided to take a closer look at this idea, employing Guinassi as his assistant.

As for Guinassi's workers, Jaimé didn't score Maria which cost him ten pesos lost to his friend. When he was a bit too persistent in the last day of their stay in Los Angeles, Private Sanchez threw him rather decisively out of the tavern. Maria was more than impressed and I – as I happened accidentally to be there – was more than happy to play for them a few melodies, suitable to dance.

One night from the cemetery mysteriously disappeared the grave that for a few hours was said to belong to the Fox and then just stood nameless. No one in the pueblo seemed to notice it or comment in any way.

As all the things turned out so lucky and calm, the Fox hadn't many reasons to ride. I could spend most of my days and nights as any decent and inconspicuous ranchero. Of course, I appreciated the peace and quiet after the storm that rolled over my head. Of course.

"Enjoy your boredom, Diego, till you can," whispered Rosa with rather sinister smile.

The white horse I bought for Rosa turned out to be the most vicious and sneaky beast I have seen. Usually he behaved like an angel, the sweetest and loveliest animal ever, shaking the snowy mane and fawning to everyone at the hacienda. Yet, when he was left alone with me, he immediately stopped his tricks, as if he felt that he doesn't have to hide his real nature from me. But when he met Tornado…

I took him a few times to a small meadow in front of my cave, where I could train him unnoticed. That was where he and my black friend met and for the first time I saw two animals so honestly hating each other. After the first glance and sniff they exchanged, they immediately started to fight, the white one throwing himself at the bigger and older stallion with admirable courage and my Tornado – replying him with an equal relentlessness. Separating the biting horses is not the pleasurable task, so the only thing I could do was to ensure they never meet again.

However, though I admired the spirit of the young horse, I was a little anxious about his violence. So I had to ride him a few times before I decided if he is the safe mount for Rosa. Besides, I just couldn't resist showing off such beautiful animal at the pueblo. Now, without Capitán Barcelo's perceptive sight, I didn't have to mask myself so carefully – after all, the de la Vegas always were the good riders. So, I enjoyed the appreciative glances when one day I rode on him to the tavern.

"Ha, that horse, Don Diego!" exclaimed merrily Sergeant Garcia, staying in front of the tavern with rolls of paper under his arm. "So he is mature enough to carry the rider already!"

He reached to pat the animal's nose but quickly moved it back when the young stallion bared his impressive teeth in a quick snap.

"For short distances, yes," I replied pulling the horse aside. "But tell me, what are you doing, my friend?" I ask pointing at the papers he kept.

"Oh, these – these are the wanted posters for Zorro. The magistrado – I mean the former magistrado asked to take them off, but now his decision was declared void, so…"

"But it is only two thousand pesos," I noticed a little disappointed.

"Yes… now we do not have such resources as Capitán Barcelo," replied Sergeant Garcia a bit vaguely, pinning the posters on his usual place on the tavern's wall.

"It is so good that the things are again as they used to be, Don Diego," he sighed satisfied looking at his work.

I smiled and nodded, but before I managed to invite him for some refreshments – well, wine – the postman approached us, handing me the letter from Monterey.

"A letter from the Capitán? What does he write?" asked curiously Sergeant Garcia, seeing the military seal on the envelope.

I opened the letter smiling. I have so many times thought about this moment and here it is. Zorro's secret is safe and Diego de la Vega can enjoy the letters form Capitán Barcelo.

I quickly skimmed the letter… and froze for a moment.

No, it was not what I longed for.

"He took a leave, a prolonged, six-month leave, and went to Spain to his family," I replied to the sergeant, who was waiting for the answer.

"Nice! He deserves a leave after all he came through in Los Angeles!" pleased the Sergeant and added, "Strange that his family lives in Europe, whereas he serves here, don't you think, Don Diego?"

"Oh, true. That is why during the leave he is going to sell his house in Madrid, finish his business and take his family to California, as they will settle here."

"Nice!" exclaimed the Sergeant once more, a bit less cheerfully than before, but added bravely: "Perhaps we will meet again sometime? I must say that in spite of everything I got to like him."

"He likes you too, Sergeant. In fact, he writes also about you," I said slowly.

"About me?" this time there was nothing cheerful in the sergeant's voice. "And what does he write?"

"He is worried he may have displeasing news for you and asks me to prepare you for it."

"What… what kind of news?" stuttered the sergeant looking at me with anxiety.

"Concerning the fact, that you are so used to being an acting commandante here, my dear Sergeant," I explained lightly. "He noticed how you appreciated your position."

"And… and they are moving me somewhere? After so many years?" the sergeant asked incredulously.

"No, they are not moving you, my friend… It is Barcelo. After his leave he is taking the position of the commandante in Los Angeles. Permanently."

I finally raised my eyes on the sergeant and when our sight met, I knew that our feelings to the news are fully mutual.

"Ah," said the sergeant.

"Exactly," I replied.

Life is complicated.

The end

That is how this story comes to the end.

I am very grateful to everyone who devoted the time for reading it – and especially to these, who left the reviews. Each comment gives me the inspiration and encouragement to writing more.

As you see, even if this story is ended, the whole thread isn't closed. With time, the last continuation from this… reality will appear.

After all, Don Alejandro must finally get these grandchildren... :)

Thank you