Disclaimer: I do not own Zorro.
Author's note: This fic was inspired by a PM conversation about Sergeant Garcia with IcyWaters. It was originally supposed to be a humorous piece, but the plot and characters kind of got away from me.
On a moonless night, two brothers shared what little light and warmth came from a small campfire. They didn't seem to mind, as their laughter filled the air.
The elder stood and lifted a flask toward his brother. "Didn't I tell you, Gilberto? Didn't I say? 'Los Angeles is where it's at,' I said. 'That is where we will get rich.' Didn't I say so? Well, didn't I?"
"Sí, you told me, Joaquin." Gilberto hefted a sack from a chest that sat near him and tossed it in the air. A grin split his face when he caught it. "Listen to the sound of those coins. And this is only the beginning!"
The two brothers shared another laugh.
Joaquin took a drink from the flask. "Ah Gilberto. It was so easy. Didn't I tell you it would be?"
"That's right mi hermano. You said since they'd never seen us and never heard of us they'd practically give us their money." The grin faded from the younger man's face. "Too bad we had to kill that niño though. We should pray for him."
"Sí. I don't like having to kill little kids." Joaquin joined Gilberto on his knees in front of the fire. Both men crossed themselves and bowed their heads.
Behind them in the shadow of the rocks, Zorro shook his head at the incongruous behavior the two bandidos. Everything he'd learned of these two at the scene of their crime showed them to be ruthless cutthroats. Still, just because they hadn't wanted to kill little Julio didn't change the fact that the boy was dead.
And that more people would soon join them if something wasn't done about it tonight.
Keeping to the shadows, he moved silent as a wraith to where the two horses were hobbled. A glance toward the brothers showed they were done with their prayer and were eating. His grin as he loosened the cinch on both saddles could be called devilish. 'That will be the last meal you have as free men,' he thought as he made his way back into the rocks.
He picked up a stone, weighing it in his hand. These bandidos thought they could use fear of the unknown to operate? He grinned again. The fox would show them just how it was done. It was time for a game of hide and seek.
Just as he was about to throw the stone, he heard the sound of hooves close-by. Gilberto and Joaquin heard it as well and jumped to their feet. Gilberto picked up a pistol and Joaquin drew his sword, both scanning the area in their alarm.
Zorro flattened himself against the rock he was hiding behind, praying the shadows would keep him hidden. His hand crept to his whip as he listened hard.
"Who goes there?" Joaquin's voice was loud, almost right next to Zorro.
He kept quiet and still. This could work to his advantage. If the man would walk just a little closer...and before whoever was out there got caught by these ruthless outlaws.
"It is I, Sergeant Demetrio Lopez Garcia acting commandante of the Pueblo de Los Angeles." The booming bass voice nearly caused Zorro to groan. "It is dangerous for you to be out camping mi amigos. There are dangerous bandits in the area. They are killers."
"Oh really?" Zorro heard the sound of Joaquin's boots walking away from him. "I had not heard."
"Sí." Zorro inched around the rock as Gilberto spoke. "I am glad that you have warned us. We wouldn't want to be killed."
The familiar rotund form of Garcia met his eyes. The acting commandante looked pleased with himself as he spoke with the two brothers. "Oh it is my duty to warn you." A frown creased the sergeant's face. "It is also my duty to ask you what your business in Los Angeles is."
The two brothers looked at each other. They shared a laugh. Joaquin said, "But, Sergeant, we are not in Los Angeles."
"Oh yes, that is true."
Gilberto walked over to Garcia and gave his arm a pat. "So you have done your duty and can be on your way, yes?"
"Sí." Garcia beamed. Then he frowned again. "I mean no. Just because we are not in the pueblo itself does not mean I do not need to know your business. Especially since you are out here by yourselves and I have never seen you before." The sergeant's eyes fell on the chest near Gilberto. "Oh, and I will need to inspect your lugg—wait a moment. That is the Delgado brand on that chest."
The fat sergeant looked between the two brothers, then back at the chest. The wheels turning in his head were obvious for anyone to see. "You are the bandidos that killed them!"
Joaquin laughed and held his sword toward the sergeant. "That's right."
"What are you going to do about it?" Gilberto added, pistol held toward Garcia's gut.
"I must ask you to throw down your weapons and surrender yourselves."
The big man looked at the brothers and their weapons pointed at him. His fierce countenance faded as he swallowed nervously. "...Please?"
Zorro put his head in his hands a moment, then tensed and got ready to spring. Leave it to Garcia...
To his astonishment, the two men threw their weapons in the dirt at Garcia's feet. "That's not fair," Gilberto complained. "Saying please like that."
"Sí. How are we supposed to get rich now? Well? What are you waiting for? Aren't you going to tie us up so we can't get away?"
"What?" Garcia stared at first Joaquin and then at Gilberto. "You mean you're just giving up?" Then he seemed to realize what he was saying puffed out his chest. "I mean, of course you are! Turn around you two and let me tie you up."
Zorro could only watch in silent amazement as Garcia proceeded to arrest the bandidos. There was a moment of hectic confusion as the saddles came loose, dropping both outlaws into the dirt, but soon they were mounted and headed toward the pueblo with Garcia leading the way.
This had to be a trick. That was the only explanation for what the scene he just witnessed.
When he deemed them far enough ahead, he whistled for Tornado and rode after them. He'd never forgive himself if anything happened to the sergeant.
All the way to the quartel the brothers didn't try anything. When Garcia took them inside, Zorro climbed to the roof and flattened himself on it to watch. Still nothing. Joaquin and Gilberto allowed themselves to be locked in a cell, though there was a bit of grumbling.
Thoroughly confused, the fox slipped away and directed Tornado home.
He found Bernardo waiting for him in the secret room at the top of the stairs. Zorro pulled his hat and mask off as the mute asked through gestures how it went.
"How did it go? I'll tell you how it went. Our good friend Sergeant Garcia captured them." Off came the gloves next and he handed the items to his servant and friend with a raised eyebrow.
Bernardo paused, confusion on his expressive face. Then he brightened and held up a finger to signify an idea. He pointed at Diego and then made the sign for 'help'. Diego shook his head.
"No. No, one might argue that I was a hindrance, at least for a short time."
Bernardo frowned at him. Then he shrugged and spread his hands, the meaning of 'then how in the world?' clear.
"I do not know." Diego untied his cloak and hung it on a peg before unbuttoning his shirt. "Sergeant Garcia simply rode up and without drawing his sword or firing a shot captured them." At Bernardo's skeptic look he added, "It's true. With one little 'please', they gave themselves up."
Diego paused to watch Bernardo sign some more and shook his head. "Yes, I think you are right. It is some kind of trick." He shrugged. "Whatever it is, they allowed themselves to be locked up. I followed to make certain."
He nodded as Bernardo mimed drinking. "Sí, tomorrow I will go into town and have a drink with my good friend Sergeant Garcia. No doubt he will be eager to tell me of his latest achievement. And anything else that may be of interest. Now, let's get to bed."
Early the next morning, or rather later that same morning, Diego and Bernardo rode into town. "There is Sergeant Garcia now," Diego murmured. He gestured with his chin toward the quartel gates where the portly sergeant was just exiting. Diego dismounted. "When we get inside the tavern, I want you to go and see if you can find anything out."
Bernardo nodded as he climbed out of the saddle and stood near the head of his horse, gently petting the bay's nose.
Sergeant Garcia reached them at that moment. "Oh Don Diego! And hello little one." He waved his pudgy fingers at Bernardo who waved back. "What brings you to the pueblo at such an early hour?"
Diego heaved a long suffering sigh. "I simply couldn't get to sleep last night and when I finally did, I had a terrible dream that I was being chased by bandits who wanted to kill me." He gave a delicate shudder. "I could not shake the feeling that they were going to get to me in the hacienda so I rode into town. You know how isolated it can be there."
Just as expected, the kind-hearted sergeant patted Diego on the shoulder. "I am sorry Don Diego. I knew I should not have told you about the Delgado murders. But," he brightened, "you do not have to worry because the outlaws responsible for such a horrible act have been captured."
Diego affected a surprised look. "What? Are you certain?"
"Of course I am certain. I caught them myself."
"All by yourself?"
"Well! This calls for a celebration." Diego gave a flourished bow. "Please, allow me to buy you a drink."
"Gracias Don Diego!"
Diego grinned as he followed Garcia into the tavern and sat at a table with the large man. After ordering wine for them both, he leaned closer to his friend. "So, you said you captured the murderers of Franco, Maria and Julio Delgado?"
"Oh yes, Don Diego." Garcia shook his head. "It is a sad thing. I am glad they were caught before they could hurt anyone else."
Diego gave a solemn nod. "I am glad that you were able to catch them. All by yourself, you said?"
Garcia took a large drink of his wine before answering. "Yes, that is right."
"How did you manage that?"
"Did you defeat them with your sword?" Diego gave an eager grin. "I bet you did. I bet you brandished your saber and struck them down!"
"Uh, well, no I..."
"No? Well then you must used your pistol. You shot them. Or threatened to shoot them."
Again Sergeant Garcia shook his head.
Diego pouted. "Oh come now Sergeant, I'm your friend. There's no need to be modest."
"To be honest Don Diego I..." Garcia gave the tavern a surreptitious look, then leaned closer to Diego. "I have a certain power."
"You have a certain power." Diego leaned back in his chair and folded his arms across his chest. "Really, Sergeant, if you can't tell me, just say so."
"But I did tell you Don Diego." Garcia winced and lowered his voice. "It is true. I have a power. The bandidos told me."
Just as he thought. Some kind of trick. Diego fought to keep the elation from his expression. "The bandidos told you. The same bandidos that murdered a family for their valuables. Sergeant-"
"It is true I tell you. All I have to do is say "please" and any outlaw will give themselves up to me."
"All you have to do is say "please"." Diego raised an eyebrow.
Sergeant Garcia nodded even as he held his hands up to show caution. "Sí, but please Don Diego keep your voice down. It would not do for my secret to get out. You see there are rules. It can only work at a certain time. Also it will only work one more time, so I have to make it count."
"I think I am beginning to see," Diego murmured. "I suppose these bandidos told you just when and where you need to use this power of yours, eh?"
The look of surprise on Garcia's face was as comical as it was expected. Diego fought to keep the smile off his own face even as Garcia confirmed. "Sí! How did you know?"
"A wild guess, nothing more. And as another guess, these bandidos happen to know of another gang of outlaws in the area and they want you to take all of your lancers with you to see you exercise this power, right?"
To his astonishment, Sergeant Garcia laughed. "What an imagination you have Don Diego. No, I will use my power to capture Zorro tonight."
Diego sat with his mouth open just staring at the beaming sergeant. He closed his mouth and straightened in his seat. "You are going to capture Zorro. Tonight."
"The bandidos told you this."
The sergeant nodded again.
Diego's mind raced. Why would the bandidos send Garcia after Zorro? Was it some kind of trap for the kindly sergeant? Unless... "You will be taking all of your lancers to see you capture Zorro?"
"Oh no, Don Diego. They will see it when I bring him back." Garcia chuckled.
"How do you know Zorro will even ride tonight?" He needed more information. Maybe Bernardo had found something.
"Because he will have to. It is the second night of the new moon and it is my destiny to capture him on the road just outside of the San Gabriel Mission. Joaquin told me that it was imperative that I get there five minutes before midnight or my power would fade."
It was sounding more and more like a trap for Sergeant Garcia. Had this been planned from the beginning? But why Sergeant Garcia? Diego shook his head and dropped a coin on the table to pay for the drinks. "Well Sergeant, I am grateful you captured the fiends. Now I shall be able to sleep." He smiled and lifted his tankard. "Good luck in capturing Zorro!"
"Gracias Don Diego, but I will not need luck." The portly sergeant returned his toast.
The smile dropped from Diego's face as he left the tavern, his thoughts a whirl. He found Bernardo standing near the horses. The mute shook his head and shrugged to indicate he hadn't heard or seen anything. Diego looked around before saying in a low voice, "I think Sergeant Garcia is in much danger."
Bernardo made the sign of the "Z" with his finger.
Diego nodded. "Yes, Bernardo. Zorro rides tonight."
"I can't understand it Bernardo." Zorro stood next to Tornado's head as he looked at his friend. "You are certain you checked everywhere? And you saw nothing?"
Bernardo nodded, then spread his hands.
"Neither did I, and it is almost five minutes to midnight." Zorro sighed and rubbed Tornado's neck. His instincts were telling him that something was going to happen tonight. Had he miscalculated? Was something going to happen at the quartel instead? But why would Joaquin and Gilberto give Garcia such detailed instructions?
It was possible that both he and Bernardo had missed something in their search. In the dark, with no moon, it wouldn't take a large group to ambush the sergeant.
He put a hand on Bernardo's shoulder before mounting Tornado. "I'm going to see if I can get him to chase me into the mission. You go on ahead and alert Padre Felipe. Indicate that you are being chased by bandits. Whoever set this up clearly wanted Sergeant Garcia alone so if there are a lot of people they may stop their attack."
Zorro watched as the mute mounted and rode toward the mission, before urging Tornado toward the road. He grinned in spite of himself as he caught sight of the Sergeant. Tornado danced beneath him, picking up on his master's excitement. Even though the chase would be short, it would be exhilarating.
"Sergeant Garcia!" he called, "What brings you out on such a night?"
"Señor Zorro!" Though he couldn't see it, Zorro could imagine the look of astonishment on the portly sergeant's face. "They were right! Turn yourself in!"
Zorro laughed. "You'll have to catch me first Sergeant!" He wheeled Tornado around and with no urging the stallion leapt forward to begin the chase.
"Please!" Garcia shouted after him.
An icy chill ran down his spine. It was a reasonable request. Zorro pulled on the reins. Tornado snorted in displeasure as he was brought to a stop. "I'm sorry boy, but it is the rules."
Zorro dismounted and stood next to Tornado as Garcia rode up. At the same time, a group of Indians led by Padre Felipe and Bernardo came from the other direction carrying torches. Zorro noted them in his mind, but his eyes were on Sergeant Garcia.
"Well," he asked, "you have me. Aren't you going to tie me up?"
"What is going on here?" Padre Felipe interrupted, coming to stand between Zorro and Garcia.
"Please Padre, do not interfere. I have captured Zorro." The sergeant dismounted and walked towards them. "Er, I have captured you, right? It is not a trick?"
Zorro nodded. "That's right." He held out his hands to be tied. Several gasps and murmurs of dismay reached his ears in a distant way. He wondered why he was so cold as the sergeant bound him.
"Señor Zorro," the priest protested, "surely there is some mistake. You cannot be just giving yourself up."
"There is no mistake."
Garcia gently pushed Padre Felipe aside. "And now I must unmask you, Señor Zorro." Zorro nodded, unable to speak through his chattering teeth. The cold was getting so much worse now.
The soldier reached up and pulled the mask down. There was a collective gasp. "Don Diego!"
"Please sergeant, can't we go to the quartel now. It's very cold." Diego was shivering.
"Don Diego!" The sergeant reached out and shook his shoulder.
"Why are you shaking me. I've given myself up. Please, I just want to get somewhere warm. It is very cold." He sneezed. His throat ached from the yelling. He had been yelling, right? "And I need some dry clothes." For some reason, he was wet. And it was getting darker...
"Don Diego please wake up!"
Diego groaned as his eyes fluttered open. He found himself staring into the concerned visage of Sergeant Garcia. Snatches of the dream raced across his mind and he tried to sit up. Slowly, reality returned. He realized that his throat hurt and that he was soaked.
"Oh thank heaven you are alright, Don Diego." The sergeant helped him to sit up. "When you did not surface, I was certain we had lost you. And then you were not breathing..." Garcia paused and cleared his throat. "Don Diego, next time you want to go after bandidos...Please do not."
Memories assailed Diego at Garcia's words.
The Delgado murders.
Tracking the bandits.
Not being able to find them as Zorro.
Overhearing them bragging in the pueblo about no one knowing them.
Having no time to change into the fox for fear of losing them, sending Bernardo to get the lancers.
Being caught, tied up and dumped in the lake.
Diego stared at the sergeant. "You saved me?"
Garcia looked uncomfortable. "Sí. You scared me Don Diego. You were not breathing, and even after you expelled all that water and were breathing again you would not wake up."
"I'm sorry Sergeant." He tried to smile. "I promise I will leave all the outlaw chasing to you and to Zorro."
It must have worked, because Garcia smiled back and patted his shoulder.
"I suppose they got away," Diego said after a moment.
"Oh no, Don Diego." To his surprise, Garcia gave him a grim look. "Corporal Reyes, and Privates Delgado and Ibarra caught them. With their pistols."
Diego relaxed against his friend as all the tension drained from his body, leaving him feeling weak and lethargic. "I had the strangest dream, Sergeant."
"Yes, I dreamed I was Zorro."