A New Beginning
Juan Hernandez began working for
the de la Vega family when Don Alejandro was a young boy. Now the
family kept old Juan busy tending the vegetable garden a short distance
from the main house. The day of the kidnapping Juan was filling a
small straw basket with fresh picked apples from the orchard when a
stranger rode up and handed him a note.
"Old one," said the man on horseback. "Take this note to the de la Vegas and hurry."
a peso to the old man the stranger then turned his horse and rode off
toward the hills behind the hacienda. Juan dropped the basket of
apples he held to pick up the coin that lay at his feet then hurried to
the main house. Juan ambled over the patio tiles toward the house with
the note tightly clasped in his hand. Suddenly he heard voices on the
landing above and looked up to see Don Alejandro, Don Diego and Capitan
Monastario in conversation.
"Don Alejandro...Don Diego, I have something for you," called Juan waving the note in his hand.
three men scurried down the stairs and Juan handed the note to the
young don who with shaking hands unfolded the paper. Silently Diego
read the words written by Quintana in which he boasted of the
kidnapping of his baby daughter and Leonar. Crumbling the note in his
hand Diego looked at his father and the commandante. Diego asked Juan
a few questions but unfortunately the old man was not much help. Diego
thanked Juan for bringing the note to their attention so quickly and
watched as he left the patio. Don Alejandro and the commandante could
wait no longer and urged Diego to tell them what was written in the
"We have your child and the governor's daughter,"
Diego said opening the crumbled paper and reading the demands. "It is
not our intention to harm them but if you do not pay the ransom you
will never see either of them again. We want 25,000 pesos. Do not
send soldiers or that black devil called Zorro or there will be no
further instructions and your loved ones will die."
obvious the reason for the kidnapping was money and revenge, but the
note gave no indication of where Pablo and Quintana were hiding or
where to deliver the ransom. If the baby and Leonar were to be
returned unharmed Diego and Monastario would have to work together and
follow future directions carefully for any move out of the ordinary
would bring death. The three men stared at each other unable to speak.
we must do something," said Don Alejandro forcefully. "To wait for
another note and do nothing...well this is intolerable."
you heard the note," pleaded Diego. "If we do anything they will harm
the baby and Leonar. We must wait until we have a plan. We need
something to show us the way."
"For once I must agree with Don
Diego," said Monastario. "We do not know where they are hiding and if
we stumble upon them they could do harm to Leonar and the child before
we could stop them."
"For now the soldiers and Zorro would do
more harm then good," Diego said looking at the crumbled paper. "We
must return to the sala and tell the others. Perhaps they may have
"Diego," called out Anna Maria as the three men entered the sala. "What has happened?"
"Mi amor, come we will talk on the patio," replied Diego. "Father please tell Don Grigorio and Padre Felipe about the note."
"Note...what note?" asked Anna Maria as Diego took her arm and led her into the garden.
please tell me quickly," Anna Maria said looking into Diego's face.
"Did the note say when Maria Isabella and Leonar would be returned?"
note did not say," answered Diego. "For now we must gather 25,000
pesos for the ransom and wait until instructions are sent. The problem
is that I do not trust these men. I remember how evil they were...but
do not worry, mi amor, I promise no harm will come to our child or
"I have faith in you, Diego, and I do believe," said
Anna Maria bravely. "I must go to Eduardo...please do not let the
commandante do anything foolish."
"For once I believe he is
going to use good judgment. Nothing would be accomplished riding off
in every direction. Once we receive the instructions we will set a
plan in motion. Ah...Padre Felipe are you leaving?"
"Si, my son
I must return to the mission but I will be here tomorrow. I pray that
during the time I am gone you have some good news. May God watch over
At the mission the Indians were working in the
orchards. This year there would be a fine crop of oranges for the
weather had been good. In the tower Luis waited to ring the early
evening bell when he saw the travelers riding toward the sanctuary.
After getting the attention of the Indians below Luis pointed to the
newcomers. Dropping their tools the men hurried toward the sanctuary.
"Buenas noches," said one of the Indians. "The mission priest
is not here but he shall be returning shortly. Do you wish to wait?"
"Si, we have been riding most of the day and we are hungry. The women could use a quiet place to rest too," said Quintana.
of the men will see to your horses," said the Indian. "Por favor,
follow me into the mission. Our women will bring food and wine, then
they will show you to a place where you may rest."
"Gracias," said Quintana.
three men surrounded Leonar as she carried Maria Isabella. As they
walked Pablo reminded Leonar to say nothing or she and the child would
suffer. In the kitchen the travelers took seats around a large table
which was covered with fresh fruit and drink. Eagerly they accepted
the food placed before them, hungry from the long ride. After
quenching their thirst and hunger the Indians showed them to rooms
where they might rest. Outside Leonar's room Pablo found a chair and
placed it near Leonar's door. With Paco's wife in the room with
Leonar, Pablo was assured his prisoners would not escape.
said Melita laying her baby in one of the cribs provided by the
Indians. Why are you here? Mi esposo, Arturo, promised much money but
he did not explain where it was coming from."
"Pablo and the
other man Quintana kidnapped me and the baby," said Leonar
tearfully. They are holding us for ransom. I do not know how your
husband or the other man are involved but they are."
"Ah mi dios," Melita said her hands covering her mouth. "What has Arturo involved us in? "
please help us?" pleaded Leonar. "Perhaps you can get word to Don
Diego de la Vega or the commandante in the pueblo de Los Angeles?"
"Senorita...I do not know. I love Arturo and I...I am sorry. The baby...she is hungry, let me have her."
by Melita's words, Leonar tried to hide her disappointment. With the
baby in her arms she sadly looked at Melita. If nothing else, at least
Leonar did not have to worry about the baby. Melita was a good woman
and she cared for Maria Isabella as if she were her own. Leonar
believed that Melita had not been involved in the kidnapping, but now
that Melita was aware of what happened, could Leonar depend on her for
As Padre Felipe headed toward the mission his thoughts
were of the boy who once attended the church school. Diego de la Vega
was a fine young man with a strong backbone who possessed the great
love and kindness of his mother along with the solid but intense
character of his father. Now exhausted from the long day, Padre Felipe
was anxious for nightly prayers to begin. The padre pulled the
carriage to a stop in front of the mission church where one of the
Indians took the horse's reins. The padre stepped down but before
entering the church the Indian informed him of the visitors. Curious
Padre Felipe made his way to the rooms where the travelers were resting
and soon became a captive himself.