Part II: de Soto

Quietly, de Soto joined Diego de la Vega in the Los Angeles cemetery at the grave of Gilberto Risendo, Diego's long lost brother... and the man de Soto had killed. A silent moment went by as the two contemplated the Spanish Emissary and brother interred beneath the mound of dirt.

It was de Soto's conversational statement that finally broke the silence. “I'm surprised you chose not to bury him on your own property, next to your mother.”

Diego's head whipped up at the sound of a voice intruding on his private moment, but when he realized who had spoken, his grimace dissolved. “Ignacio,” he greeted. “Yes, my father and I discussed putting him next to Mother. But... this man was not Father and Mother's son, not my brother... not a de la Vega, in short. He was Emissary Risendo. Gilberto de la Vega is buried in our hearts.” A wry smile twisted his lips at the sappy image he'd just drawn. “We decided that burying him here would raise fewer awkward questions. Who he was in reality is nobody's business but our own.”

de Soto tried to be respectful by mirroring Diego's sorrowful pose. “That's true. Eccentric, but true.”

As if wanting to distract himself from reacting to such a negative description, Diego instantly asked, “Why are you here?” When de Soto didn't say more, the gentle caballero uncharacteristically allowed his tone to grow bitter. “Have you decided to regale me yet one more time with the story of how you killed my brother?”

But de Soto was hardly perturbed by Diego's unfriendly tone. “As you know, it was either kill your brother, or watch him kill you.” The Alcalde studied the imperturbable Diego. “Would you rather I had waited? Not fired at all?” When Diego still didn't respond, Ignacio added, “Never mind - it's not important, anyway. What is important is that I've watched you stand here like this at the same time, every day, for a month. And I'm glad it led me to you; I'd like to talk to you.”

“Really?” Diego seemed so surprised by this statement that his voice lost its unfriendly sound. “What do you need?”

Now that de Soto had been invited to begin, he wasted no time, instead confidently stating, “I know who you are.”

To Diego's acting credit, he only glanced at the Alcalde. “Who I am?”

Ignacio scowled at his companion's apparent confusion. “Don't play coy with me.”

Diego snorted, an oddly common noise for such a cultured man to make. “What are you talking about?”

So this was how it was going to be - he might have guessed. de Soto's sad sigh washed over the quiet grounds of the graveyard. “You of all people know what it means to make another man angry.”

Diego's own sigh mixed with Ignacio's. “Again, what do you mean?”

Ignacio's gaze raked over Diego standing serenely at his side. “I should think that was obvious... Zorro.”

The accusation had been a shock attempt on de Soto's part, but it clearly hadn't worked; the caballero was anything but shocked. In fact, he seemed sleepier now than he had been before, his familiar bland smile creeping slowly over his features. “You're dreaming again. I'm not Zorro. You of all people know I'm nothing like him.”

“True,” Ignacio conceded. “But then, you wouldn't be, would you?” His expression grew amazed as he considered how anyone could ever be clever enough to fool a de Soto. “Your disguise is perfect. It always has been. You had me fooled for two years. It would have fooled me for ten more... if I hadn't figured you out.”

“How did this supposed event occur?” Diego's mild interest would have convinced anyone of his innocence.

But de Soto wasn't just anyone. “It isn't important what happened, but how long I've known.”

Diego didn't take the bait that the Alcalde had left for him. He simply waited, and the silence of the graveyard grew to become an entity itself.

That silence finally wore on de Soto, who was never the most patient of men. Bending over slightly so that he could look Diego straight in the eye, he whispered, “I've known for a month.”

Diego's bland expression didn't even flicker.

At this non-reaction, de Soto determined to rush to the very heart of his confession. “I've decided to do nothing.”

That did it; Diego's bland veneer cracked just ever so slightly. “You've been thinking this way for a whole month... and decided to do nothing?”

de Soto bobbed his head once in confirmation.

The innocence gone now, Diego only looked confused. “You've always said that you would hang anyone that you even suspected of being Zorro. Though I'm not Zorro, why have you not tried to hang me?”

de Soto pensively assessed Diego standing so serenely beside him, realizing that this naive looking man was going to give nothing more away, no matter what he said. Saying nothing to persuade him otherwise, de Soto let the silence drag on for several moments, unbroken by anything more significant than the occasional bird cry, a barking dog, and the cluck of a chicken.

When that lack of noise had built to a level of strident intensity, de Soto at last quietly explained, “Zorro saved my life - and I saved yours. Now we're even.”

Without a backward glance, he walked away.

Go on to part 3.


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