Written by argonaut :: [Wednesday, 19 October 2005 10:59] Last updated by :: [Thursday, 15 May 2014 16:24]
Alejandro Murrieta gazed morosely through the tiny square window in the rear wall of his cell. Blazing sunlight beat down on the parched prison-yard where six of Captain Love’s soldiers stood at attention, their rifles over their shoulders.
Alejandro turned around. A grill of thick iron bars separated his cell from a small, shabby office. Through the closed door of an adjoining room came the chaff and laughter of half a dozen off-duty soldiers playing cards. The office was sparsely furnished with an ancient desk, a few dilapidated chairs, and a battered wooden bench; yellowing papers were tacked to the walls.
And from a row of pegs in the opposite wall hung the mask, the cape, the hat, and the sword that Alejandro had worn – was it truly no more than a few hours ago? – as Zorro.
Alejandro Murrieta was the second man to bear the name of Zorro; and he reflected bitterly on the contrast between himself and his predecessor. Don Diego de la Vega – the first Zorro – had fought for years to free Mexico from Spanish rule, and he had lived to see his labors crowned with success.
He, Alejandro, was Don Diego’s pupil; he had worn the mask of Zorro for scarcely a week; and here he was, a prisoner on Don Rafael Montero’s estate.
Meanwhile, Don Rafael and Captain Love were transporting a fortune in gold bullion from the El Dorado mine. Alejandro knew that as soon as the last bar of gold had been taken away, Don Rafael intended to blow up the mine, along with the dozens of peons who toiled there. He knew that Captain Love would return to question him – possibly to torture him – undoubtedly to have him shot. But worst of all, he reflected, he would never again see the lovely Elena …
A strange sound, like the groaning of a stone mill wheel, made him turn around. His eyes widened in astonishment as he saw the wall of his cell bulging inward. A vertical crack spread along the bulge from floor to ceiling; and then, amid a loud clatter of falling masonry and the dust of crumbling plaster, the wall burst open. Shafts of sunlight pierced the gloom of the cell through a cloud of whitish dust; and outlined against them was a figure, dark against the glare outside, but unmistakably female. Alejandro blinked as his eyes grew accustomed to the light; he saw the lustrous raven hair, the sparkling black eyes, the exquisite lips, the alabaster complexion of …
“Elena?” He stared, uncomprehending. “But – the soldiers?”
Smiling mischievously, Elena put one finger to her lips and pointed to the prison-yard behind her, where Captain Love’s soldiers lay unconscious in a heap, their rifles – bent double or broken in two – scattered over the desiccated ground.
“It is the hour of siesta,” she said, winking. “It is cruel of Captain Love to make his men stand in the midday sun, is it not?”
“But – this is … impossible!”
“Not so impossible, my love,” Elena replied. Her petticoats rustled as she strode to the other side of the cell. “What does the English poet say? ‘Stone walls do not a prison make …”
She grasped two of the vertical bars with her dainty hands.
“… nor iron bars a cage’.” And with what seemed like the gentlest of tugs, she snapped the massive iron bars from their stone frame as if they were no more than so many sticks of peppermint candy.
Releasing her hold on the heavy grill – which fell to the floor with a resounding clang – Elena strode into the office. She took down Alejandro’s sword and used it to pluck the mask, the cape, the hat from the pegs where they hung and fling them back toward the cell.
“Quickly, put these on,” she said. “We have much to do, and little time.”
At that moment, the door to the adjoining room burst open and six soldiers rushed into the office with drawn swords. They stopped, gawking at the iron lattice lying on the floor and at the lovely dark-haired young woman who confronted them with cool self-assurance. Her lips curled in a mocking smile, she held out the sword with the grace and confidence of a practiced fencer. Bewildered, hesitant, the soldiers stepped forward …
Alejandro watched, transfixed. Only that morning – just before his capture – he had crossed swords with Elena in the stable of Don Rafael’s estate, and he knew that she was a formidable swordswoman. But never had he seen swordplay such as this – not even from his teacher Don Diego. So swiftly did she parry and riposte that it seemed as if six arms grew from her shoulder; and her flashing sword reflected glints of light like the flicker of summer lightning.
Within a few heartbeats, it was over. Six soldiers gaped foolishly at their empty hands as six swords flew upward, then fell to the floor with a clatter. Smirking, Elena made a few swift passes with her sword, slicing through the suspenders of the soldiers’ uniforms, cutting the waistbands … and a moment later, six pairs of trousers had fallen around six pairs of ankles.
Meanwhile, Alejandro had put on the accoutrements of Zorro. He stood beside Elena now, nodding his approval of her skill. “Not bad,” he remarked judiciously.
Elena looked at him with shining eyes; she drew her lips together, and for a moment Alejandro thought that she was about to bestow a kiss. But instead, she placed her hands upon her hips and began to inhale. Her bosom rose alluringly as she inhaled more and more deeply; and then she blew a thin jet of air into the room.
It was as if a miniature tornado had burst into the shabbly little office. The few pieces of decrepit furniture rose from the floor and began spinning around in mid-air, the rickety chairs breaking into kindling as they collided with the desk. The wind tore the papers from the walls and sent them whirling about the room. And the soldiers, still struggling to pull up their trousers, were hurled against the walls, wide-eyed with terror, gasping for breath.
Elena stopped. The whirlwind subsided as quickly as it had sprung up. The furniture crashed to the floor amid a gentle drift of paper. The soldiers slumped to the floor, unconscious.
Elena took Alejandro by the hand and hurried outside. “Quickly,” she said, as Alejandro stood blinking in the midday glare. “We have not a moment to lose.” She placed one arm around Alejandro’s shoulders; stooping, she put her other arm behind his knees; and then she stood upright, holding him in her arms as easily as if he weighed nothing at all. She stood for an instant on tip-toe, then slowly rose straight up into the air.
“Elena,” gasped Alejandro. “Your strength … your speed … you can fly … How are these things possible?”
“Later, my love,” she replied. “We must save those poor people at the El Dorado mine. Then I will tell you how I came to be so strong and so … vigorous.”
Alejandro raised an eyebrow. “Vigorous?”
Elena blushed. “Si – vigorous.”
They were now several hundred feet above the guardhouse. Elena gazed down at the tiny prison-yard. “My step-father would be very disappointed if he were to come back and find that you were gone,” she remarked. “Let us leave him your calling card.”
She narrowed her eyes. Heat rippled the air in front of her face. She turned her head to the right, then to the left, then to the right again. Looking down, Alejandro saw that she had scorched the letter “Z” in three broad swaths upon the dry ground. Elena began to pirouette slowly in mid-air, gazing into the far distance, seeking her bearings; then, still cradling Alejandro in her arms, she flew off toward the north-west.
Accustomed though he was to leaping across rooftops, Alejandro had never before experienced such a vertiginous height. Closing his eyes, he strove to overcome a wave of faintness that threatened to engulf him. “Are you all right, my love?” Elena murmured solicitously.
“Si,” he replied. “I merely felt – dizzy for a moment.”
“I understand.” She smiled. “Sometimes I have that effect.”
[ FADE OUT ]