Zorro - The Legend Through The Years

   Zorro Runs The Gauntlet
   by Johnston McCulley

Bernardo drives Don Diego home in his carriage as Don Diego reclines lazily inside the carriage.  Suddenly, Bernardo pulls up sharply to avoid hitting some people who are wailing in the road in front of a hut.  Don Diego asks the people what has happened.  A girl approaches and says that she is Inez Feliz and that her uncle, Pedro Feliz, used to work for Don Alejandro.  Inez informs Diego that she and her uncle have been renting a piece of land, but that her uncle has become sick and that they have no longer been able to pay the rent.  Juan Ruiz, the magistrado, confiscated all of their sheep and goats, evicted them from their hut, and ordered them to leave Los Angeles immediately.  The family is in despair because they don't know what to do. Castro's eyes bulged and a cry of fear bubbled from his lips.
Don Diego asks why Ruiz would show such a lack of mercy to the family.  Inez replies that Ruiz had ordered her to serve him as a maid in his home, but since the padre told her that it would be very bad for her to agree to do so, she refused.  Don Diego gives the owner of the hut a gold coin as payment for caring for Inez and her uncle and gives Inez another coin to use for food.  As Don Diego's carriage leaves, Don Diego decides that Zorro will ride.

That night, Zorro approaches a trader named Marcos Castro and asks him to perform a service.  Zorro wants Castro to pick up Inez and her uncle and take them to San Fernando.  Zorro gives Castro some money to pay for the service and warns him to tell nobody of the request.  Zorro will deliver Inez and her uncle to Castro shortly after Castro's caravan leaves Los Angeles.  Since Castro had lost heavily at cards that day and has need of the reward money for Zorro's capture, he decides to betray Zorro and immediately goes to Capitan Ortega to tell him about the plan.  Ortega orders soldiers to station themselves at intervals along the road so that they will be able to attack Zorro wherever he enters the road with Inez and her uncle.  Ortega also orders that Inez and her uncle be brought to the cuartel to be tortured as he believes that they will have information about Zorrro.

Later, when Zorro approaches the hut in which Inez and her uncle were staying, he hears a soldier speaking to the occupants and learns that Inez and her uncle have been taken back to the pueblo to be tortured.  Zorro races back to his horse and rides towards the pueblo.  As he continues along the road, he meets each soldier in turn who is stationed along the road and fights as he rides.  Zorro wounds many of them as he continues to ride towards the pueblo.  Zorro is determined to immediately stop the torture of Inez and her uncle.  Zorro arrives at the cuartel and enters the torture room.  Zorro finds Capitan Ortega and the magistrado, Ruiz, torturing Inez and her uncle.  Pedro Ruiz is propped against a wall, and Inez's back is bare and covered with welts.  Zorro forces Ortega and Ruiz to approach the shackles and has Inez fasten the shackles.  Zorro lashes both men with his whip.  Zorro makes his escape and returns home.

The next day, Don Alejandro and Don Diego enter the presidio to visit Ortega and Ruiz.  Don Alejandro informs the men that he will be taking Inez and her uncle out to his property where they will work for him.  Since Inez and Pedro Ruiz will have a place to live, Ortega and Ruiz can no longer force them from the pueblo.

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