Zorro Hunts A Jackal
By Johnston McCulley 1933
Page 2 of 8
Then he turned his back without another word, and started around the plaza, strolling toward a row of poor huts past which he was compelled to go to get to his father’s house.
He looked ahead, and saw a man sitting on a rough bench in the shade beside a hut—a massive man with a huge paunch, with one good eye and a green patch over the empty socket of the other. He was a retired pirate—and he also pretended to be a reformed one—Bardoso by name.
This Bardoso blinked his good eye rapidly when he beheld Don Diego’s approach, for Don Diego was not beyond stopping for a friendly chat. “The attraction of opposites,” said the wise Franciscans.
Don Diego did slacken pace as he came near, and finally he stopped in the shade beside the hut.
“Retain your present seat on the bench, good Bardoso,” Don Diego ordered. “If that jug beside you is empty, mayhap you could not rise anyhow. —I have just witnessed a disgraceful brawl on the other side of the plaza.”
“I heard the disturbance, Don Diego.”
“It seems that a horse dealer, Felipe Garzo by name, loves to swindle natives and beat them.”
“He appears to make a business of it.” Bardoso replied. “It is in my mind, Don Diego, that you have no love for gossip or rumor, being a true caballero in all things. Yet you may find some amusement in it.”
“This Felipe Garzo gives out publicly that he is a rough man, a buyer and breaker of horses. Yet he does not appear to be rough. He walks with a certain amount of grace, using the balls of his feet, I have noted. His hands are well kept, the fingers long and tapered, his wrist that of a man skilled in the use of blade. A pirate notices such things.”
“I noticed such myself, good Bardoso.”
“And I have done some speculation regarding him, Don Diego, putting together fragments of information and kneading them into a surmise. My conclusion is that the fellow is a jackal.”
“Ah! And the lion for whom he finds prey—?”
“Is Capitán Torello, commanding officer at our presidio, and the governor’s representative here in Reina de Los Angeles—if you care to call him a lion.”
“Interesting!” Don Diego commented.
“As is well known, Capitán Torello is eager to capture Señor Zorro, friend of the oppressed, or to see him slain. There is a rich reward offered by the governor. But how can Capitán Torello capture or slay Señor Zorro if the latter remains in his fox’s den, wherever it is?”
“I am quite sure that it would be impossible,” Don Diego said.
“So, this Señor Zorro must be drawn out of his den. There must be a decoy. Something must happen to make Zorro want to ride again, and use his whip and blade. So the jackal comes to town, pretending to be what he is not; and he beats and swindles natives—a thing likely to bring Señor Zorro out into the open. Pitfalls have been prepared for him, no doubt.”
“No doubt,” Don Diego agreed.
Let us assume that Señor Zorro wishes to punish this Felipe Garzo. He discovers that he is dealing with an expert swordsman instead of a lout. If he dies on the point of a blade, there is an end of Zorro! If he wins, perhaps others will be near to have at him and make a capture. For the jackal is watched always, as he walks abroad, by those who are prepared to rush to his assistance.”
“A pretty plot,” Don Diego said, yawning.
“Capitán Torello believes that the capture or slaying of Señor Zorro will mean reward and promotion for him. He thinks this Zorro is a man of quality, a caballero who plays at highwayman, and that his defeat would humble a proud family already in the ill grace of the governor, but too powerful for the governor to affront openly.”
Don Diego met Bardoso’s good eye with two good ones of his own. “Conversation is such tiresome stuff,” he commented. “Bardoso, I recall that I asked you to procure for me a certain drug, you being a clandestine dealer in chemicals and nostrums.”
“I have what you require, Don Diego.”
Bring it to my house after nightfall. Bernardo, my servant, will be in the patio.”
“I shall obey, Don Diego.”
Then Don Diego walked on, past the row of humble huts and toward his father’s splendid house.
A native shuffled from the patch of shade beside one of the huts—a giant of a native, who towered above the others in the town. He was a Cocopah, who had been named José by the Franciscans, and was a man of influence among his kind.
José of the Cocopahs backed away slightly, and stood with bowed head as Don Diego approached. Don Diego was looking straight forward, and his nose seemed to be tilted a trifle, as though the presence of the native offended him. He brushed his nostrils with his perfumed handkerchief again.
But, as he passed José of the Cocopahs, the corner of Don Diego’s mouth twisted slightly, and whispered words came forth:
“Zorro rides tonight! The hacienda trail !“