By IRC Round Robin
Submitted July 1998
Summary: This "enhanced" IRC round robin (the story has been added to and edited off-line) continues the "SoulMates Chronicles." The setting is late 18th century Cuba, where H.G. Wells discovers that the local slave traders have an implacable enemy — the Sea Hawk!
An "Enhanced" IRC Round Robin by Lansbury <Lansbury1@aol.com>, Mackteach <Mackteach@aol.com>, chrispat <email@example.com>, Demi <Demi22@aol.com> and peabody <no address available>
Carlos/The Sea Hawk/Clark
Lolita/The Sea Hawk/Lois
Dona Marta De la Fuenta Vasquez/Martha
Don Juan De la Fuenta Vasquez/Jonathan
H.G. Wells sat at his desk looking down at the journal in front of him. The memories were still fresh in his mind of the beautiful Lolita, the handsome Carlos and the tropical island of Cuba.
'Ah, Cuba,' he thought. The seaward isle, located just south of the Tropic of Cancer in the Caribbean Sea, was still a colony of Spain in the eighteenth century. Its citizenry spoke Spanish and their ways of living reflected the Spanish background.
One aspect of that way of life which many in that time took exception to was the import of Black Africans. They had been first brought to Cuba in 1522, mainly to work on the sugar plantations and in the tobacco fields. Since the island was close to the new nation of the United States of America it was also a stopover for some of the slave vessels headed there.
Slavery! Just the thought of it now made his heart ache for the humans who were taken from their homes, to never return. The Sea Hawk had also detested slavery and took special issue with it. This incarnation of one of the souls he was tracking saw it as a personal affront to humanity and, Wells had learned through his observations, had pledged to free as many of the captives and destroy as many slave vessels as possible.
He leaned back into his chair. "Now, where do I begin?" he said aloud, not expecting to get a response. In a flash of inspiration his eyes started to glaze over as he began to write in his journal.
"I, H. G. Wells, found myself transported in an instant through time, back to the year 1793…"
Wells quickly removed himself from the time machine. He pulled it out of sight and covered it with leafy branches for safekeeping. "There, that should do for now! I wonder where exactly my two soul mates might be?"
He took the Soul Tracker from the inside pocket of his black suit coat. Holding it in front of him he began turning, scanning the beautiful island. A small golden light began to pulsate on the Soul Tracker as it located one of the souls he had set it to find. "Ah, wonderful! That didn't take long at all."
Without hesitating, Wells moved to the center of the dirt road and held up both arms.
A black-lacquered carriage pulled by two white horses came to a sudden stop in front of him, missing him by only a few feet. The driver, being an expert at the reins, avoided the collision without bringing harm to his passengers or to the little man standing in front of the carriage.
Wells stood in the middle of the road with the horses snorting their disapproval at being abruptly stopped. He shouted above the heads of the beasts at the people staring down at him. A beautiful raven-haired woman with dark, inquisitive eyes stood up to look at the person who had stopped their carriage, only to be pulled back into her seat by a regal older woman sitting next to her. "Lolita, be careful! He is a stranger. He may be a bandit. We know nothing of him."
Wells heard the younger woman laugh softly at the words of the older lady. "Mama, I don't think we have anything to fear from this man. He is not dressed as a bandit and he is no bigger than Carlos when he was but twelve."
Before she could make any further comment, Wells spoke. "Please excuse the interruption of your journey, but I am in a spot of trouble. Would you mind helping me? Perhaps give me a lift to the nearest, ah… hacienda? It seems as if my horse has thrown me and I am now without transportation."
The younger woman looked at her mother expectantly, waiting for her to make a decision. "Mama, Papa would never pass a person in need on the roadway without stopping to offer assistance. We have Pedro here to protect us if the need should arise."
"You are right, my daughter. Juan would offer his help and in his name I will do the same. Besides, this man looks harmless."
Without hesitation, the older woman stood up in the carriage and ordered the driver to make room for him on the front seat beside him. "Senor, you are more than welcome to join us as we are returning to our home. There you will receive what you need to continue with your travels."
Wells walked to the side of the black carriage and looked up at the lady. He removed his hat, placed it on his chest, and gave a slight bow. "Thank you, kind lady, for your most gracious offer. Allow me to introduce myself. I am H.G. Wells, a writer and traveler."
The older woman smiled serenely at him. "No thanks are necessary, Senor Wells. I am Dona Marta De la Fuenta Vasquez, and this is my daughter, Lolita."
Lolita nodded her greeting, a soft smile playing on her lips at Wells' impeccable manners. Her instincts had been right about this stranger. They had nothing to fear from him. Beyond that, she felt an immediate connection with the little Englishman. "Senor Wells."
Wells bowed slightly again. Behind her natural beauty and grace, Wells had recognized the intelligence and natural curiosity that marked the soul of Lois Lane. "Senorita Loi… er, Lolita."
His attention returned to Dona Marta. "As Lolita has reminded me, my husband, Don Juan, would have done the same, and in his name I am most honored to help someone who is in need."
Wells, with no help from the driver, struggled to make his way into the carriage, stumbling before he was finally seated beside him. One glance from the driver let him know he was not happy with the intrusion, but would tolerate him on the seat.
They were quickly on their way again and the new passenger was soon forgotten as mother and daughter began to talk.
Wells took the opportunity to study the countryside. The green rolling hills were covered with a luscious rug of green even as the warm earthy brown of the road led towards a sprawling ranch house. Wells had recognized the souls of Lois Lane and Martha Kent. Apparently, as when he had met Lulu and The Lone Rider, Lois was the daughter of Martha and, he assumed, Jonathan Kent. He smiled at the variations on the same theme that occurred. He was curious to see how the other souls intertwined with Lois and Clark manifested themselves in this lifetime.
As the carriage passed through the gates that marked the beginning of their property, Dona Marta turned to her daughter. "Now, Lolita, *promise* me you will be polite to our visitor. This Alexei Alexandrovich has become quite the influence in the short time he has been on our island. Your father has some business to discuss with him."
Lolita sighed in exasperation. "I will, Mama. It's just that I don't know *why* I can't be out riding my horse or out on the sea."
Dona Marta gazed sternly, but fondly, at her only child. "I know, querida. I know that it is in your blood, but even as a sea hawk must be landlocked once in a while, so too must you attend to your duties and responsibilities." She patted Lolita's hand. "Besides, with the recent activities of the Sea Hawk, you know Papa doesn't like you out at sea."
'The Sea Hawk?' Wells thought. 'Well, well. As always, a secret identity makes its appearance.'
Lolita smiled at her mother's last statement. "That's only because he can't join me out at sea himself. You forget that he told me about his days on shipboard."
'Not all of them, my darling daughter,' Dona Marta thought. She sighed, partly in relief that her husband's secret was still a secret, and partly because of the fond memories that came to her. "And how I regret that he did. Filling your head full of ideas. I still remember when you were seven years old and announced that you were going to be a swashbuckling pirate!" She shook her head in mock distress.
Lolita smiled, wishing that she could tell her mother exactly how much of a swashbuckler she had become. Instead, she smiled softly and reminded her, "Mama. You know that if it weren't for Papa's adventures, you would never have met him."
Her mother smiled. "Yes, and those were some of the happiest days of my life. Falling in love with your father… marrying him… having you." She cast a loving smile on her daughter. "I thank God every day for the two of you in my life."
Lolita leaned over and kissed her mother's cheek. "I know, Mama. I know." Her gaze grew thoughtful. "But yet, I can't help but wonder if there isn't more to Papa's stories than just two youths off to see the world…" Her voice trailed off as she thought of her own adventures, adventures that would surely outrage her mother if she ever knew. Lolita's heart had skipped a beat when her mother had mentioned a sea hawk earlier. She wondered just how much her mother had guessed or actually knew.
Dona Marta looked anxiously at her beautiful daughter. 'It's time to tell her the truth,' she thought. 'I must tell Juan.'
Wells turned in his seat and cleared his throat. "Excuse me, Dona Marta. I couldn't help but hear. The Sea Hawk? Should I be worried about him as I continue my travels?"
Lolita smiled. "Unless you are a slave trader, Senor Wells, the Sea Hawk will not bother you."
"My daughter is right, Senor Wells. The Sea Hawk has made it a personal mission to stop as many of the slave ships that he can from completing their ungodly route."
Wells smiled. "So, the Sea Hawk is a defender of the weak and the oppressed?"
Dona Marta further explained. "Many would call the Sea Hawk a vigilante, and one that ignores our constabulary." As she saw Lolita about to protest, she turned to her daughter. "Now, mi hija, you know that there are many on the island that do not believe, as we do, that there is anything immoral about slavery and the trading of humans."
Lolita sighed. "Yes, Mama. I know. I am just glad that our family does not share this belief. I cannot comprehend the owning of another person. Where is the truth and justice in that?" Her eyes blazed with anger. "The slave traders will have to answer to a higher authority eventually. But, for now, the Sea Hawk will do what must be done."
The three of them fell silent as they lost themselves in their individual thoughts. As the carriage slowed to a halt at the main house, Dona Marta adjusted her countenance. "Here we are. Now, Lolita. Remember."
Their foreman, Carlos, stepped forward to assist the two women from the carriage. As he held Lolita's hand, a small jolt of electricity passed between them. Their eyes locked for a moment.
"Thank you, Carlos."
"My pleasure, Senorita 'Lita."
A soft smile played upon both their lips.
Lolita and Carlos had known each other all their lives. Carlos and his family had been employed by Don Juan's family for generations, but over the years and generations the line separating employer and employee had blurred between the two families. In fact, Don Juan and Carlos' father, Simon Montoya, had served on the same ship during their youth, sharing adventures and bonding to the extent that Don Juan considered Simon his brother in spirit. Each was godfather to the other's child, a position that brought along with it a great deal of trust, respect, and honor. Carlos was, for all practical purposes, considered by Juan and Marta a member of their extended family.
What the exact nature of Juan's and Simon's adventures at sea had been, neither Carlos nor Lolita had ever been able to discover. When they were children and asked, a conspiratorial look and smile was always exchanged between their fathers. "Just doing what men our age did, eh, Simon?" was all the answer that they ever got.
As his father before him, Simon had been foreman of the hacienda and upon his death, Don Juan had named Carlos to replace him, entrusting Carlos with the well-being and health of their home and those who lived on the hacienda. Don Juan did not believe in slavery, and therefore employed many of the townspeople, having them work on the hacienda during the day and returning to their own families at dusk.
It was a huge responsibility and one that Carlos never took for granted. Under first his father's, and then Don Juan's tutelage, Carlos had learned everything that the two friends could teach him. >From Simon, Carlos had learned how to defend himself and the hacienda, as well as all the little details that went into overseeing the daily activities at the hacienda. From Don Juan, Carlos had learned how to keep accurate books and ledgers, how to deal with merchants, and how to trust in his instincts. From both men, Carlos had learned about honor, truth, and justice. Both Simon and Don Juan had watched with pleasure and pride as the young man channeled his youthful energy into his studies.
Everyone loved Carlos. He was a hard-working, dependable man. He didn't drink and he didn't swear. And, unlike some of their other employees, he didn't indulge in the local "scenery" down at Senora Gonzalez's cantina.
Don Juan, especially, had been pleased that his daughter, Lolita, had found a friend in Carlos. Unlike many of his peers of the time, Don Juan believed that education should not be restricted to the male members of the aristocracy, that knowledge was important to a person's self-worth.
And so Lolita took her lessons side-by-side with Carlos. Lolita had followed Carlos everywhere, doing what he did whether it was mucking out the stables or tending to a sick horse. And, from the tutor that Dona Marta had employed, Carlos learned the same subjects that Lolita did, sitting next to her and forming a life-long friendship.
Where Carlos excelled in geography, mathematics and the sciences, Lolita's forte was languages and the arts, especially writing. The tutor had once told the Don and Dona that Lolita had a talent for writing, for telling a tale so vividly that the reader or listener was immediately drawn into the imaginary world that Lolita had created.
He had also commented that Carlos hung on every word that Lolita spoke, willingly giving his assistance when needed. That comment had brought a smile to the Don's and Dona's lips. Dona Marta and Don Juan had always harbored a secret dream that Carlos and Lolita would fall in love and marry each other, further strengthening the bond and closeness between the two families.
Carlos looked from the two women to the small, strangely dressed man standing now beside the carriage. "Dona Marta, who is your traveling companion? I don't recall ever seeing him on the island."
"He is someone we met on the road, Carlos. He said his horse threw him and ran away. I could not leave him along the roadside for bandits to find him—he looked so helpless. See that he gets what he needs to continue on with his journey."
Carlos turned to Wells as the two ladies walked into the house, approaching him with an outstretched hand of welcome. Wells took the hand and was amazed at the gentle strength he felt in the handshake. "As you heard from Dona Marta, everyone calls me Carlos. I would be honored if you would do the same. Now, Senor, what should I call you?"
Wells looked as the smile playing around the mouth of the tall, dark, handsome young man. It moved with lightning speed to his eyes, eyes which, for all the world, were the same as Clark Kent's.
"I am H. G. Wells. You could say I am a writer and explorer-at-large."
With his free hand he waved it in a half-circle to emphasize his statement. Carlos gave a loud laugh and slapped Wells on the back, sending the little man flying forward. Carlos immediately caught him before Wells lost his balance. "Forgive me, Senor Wells, I did not mean to hurt you. I sometimes don't know my own strength."
"That's quite all right, my boy. No harm was done. You are a very solidly-built young man," Wells said as he straightened his black suit coat.
"Where are you from, Senor Wells? From your speech, I detect an English accent."
"Quiet right. I am from London to be exact. Have you ever been to England, Carlos?"
"No, but my father had been there once as a young man. When I was a child, he would tell me tales of street after street lined with stones, and each filled with tall buildings. He delighted in telling stories of the many different kinds of shops you have there. I loved to sit and listen as he described the sights, sounds and smells of your city."
Wells could tell by the tone of his voice it wasn't just stories of England Carlos enjoyed, but that he loved to hear his father's stories of any kind. "Where is your father? I would like to meet him. Much has changed in England over the last twenty years."
Carlos stood still for a brief moment, facing the direction of the ocean close by. "My father is dead," he said quietly. "It has been some time now, but I like to think of him being out to sea. He loved the time he spent on the sea and it brought him great joy."
Wells was touched by the young man's love for his father. Softly he said, "I am sure you gave him more joy and happiness than any voyage he ever took."
Carlos gave Wells a searching look which went past his outer trappings and which seemed to go straight into his soul. He nodded approvingly at what he saw. "That is very kind of you to say so. I like you, Senor Wells. I sense you are a person of integrity, and I envy you the opportunity of exploring the world."
Gesturing towards the house, he motioned for Wells to enter. "Now, why don't I see to your needs. May I offer you something to drink?"
"Yes, thank you, Carlos I would love to have a touch of brandy to ease my parched throat."
"Certainly," said Carlos as he led Wells towards the front salon.
Carlos was secretly glad to take him into the salon. He wanted to be close by if he were needed to throw a certain Russian out on his ear. Earlier, he had greeted Alexei Alexandrovich and led him into the house. Carlos had felt an instant dislike of the man. He had a feeling that Alexandrovich made his fortune in an illegal manner. He just needed to find proof of the illegal dealings of this slick weasel to put him in a dark dungeon where he belonged.
The two women refreshed and tidied themselves. Dona Marta studied herself in the looking glass for a moment before deciding that she and Lolita were presentable. "Come, Lolita. We cannot keep our guest waiting."
Lolit looked like she was going to her execution. "He calls himself a nobleman, Mama. Carlos has more honor and nobility in his hand than this Russian does in his entire body."
Wells and Carlos stood beneath the staircase near the entrance of the salon, the main room. Dona Marta and Lolita descended the stairs and passed through the doors to the salon without observing them. Wells could not help but hear what was being said in the room in front of them. He was a little surprised that Carlos let him remain as a witness to what was about to transpire.
"Carlos, perhaps I should take my brandy and retire to another part of the house?"
"Shhh!" was the only sound that came from Carlos.
Wells knew in a flash something important was about to take place, and came to stand closer to Carlos. They both listened intently as the conversation began.
As Dona Marta and Lolita entered the salon, a distinguished looking gentleman rose to his feet and slowly regarded the two women, his thoughts going over the plan he was about to set in motion.
No one could ever accuse Alexei Alexandrovich of a lack of self-importance. He was Russian, one of the "exiled" Russians whose bloodline was currently not in favor with the Emperor. Luckily, no one in Cuba had discovered exactly how "unfavored" his family was. Alexei Alexandrovich had passed himself off as a wealthy noble when in actuality he had no title, no land, no family to speak of. He had made his way to the Americas, intent on making his fortune, returning to Russia in triumph, and building his own army to overthrow the Emperor. Lofty plans for a man, but Alexei Alexandrovich did not think of himself as a "mere" man. He thought of himself as the savior of Mother Russia, possibly the world.
He had spent his monies creating an aura of nobility about himself, and, he silently rejoiced, these "peasants" had fallen for his charade. He had been welcomed into the homes of the landed gentry, had charmed his way into the right social circles, and had quickly amassed a great deal of wealth.
He laughed to himself, 'If only these wretched people knew exactly *how* I made my money.' He already had most of the storekeepers in town under his control. He knew that there were some among the aristocracy of Cuba that would condone the practice of slavery. But he also knew that there was one person, one who held a great deal of respect among the people, both wealthy and poor, who would not. He had to neutralize Don Juan De La Fuenta Vasquez in some way. His devious mind had concocted the perfect plan.
In spite of his charm, in spite of his air of sophistication, there was one thing that eluded Alexei Alexandrovich. Respectability. The working-class Cubans feared him. The wealthy landowners tolerated him as a "foreign oddity." Thanks to his coin and a few ladies from Senora Gonzalez's establishment, he knew what was said about him. And how many secretly hoped that the Sea Hawk would rid their island of his presence.
He would teach them. He would teach them all. He would gain respectability, by force if necessary. And how better than to *marry* respectability? He would marry the lovely Lolita and, as an added bonus, gain some leverage and control over Don Juan. The hacienda would be the perfect hiding place from which to oversee his illegal activities. And who would question the comings and goings of Lolita's husband, the son-in-law of Don Juan?
Dona Marta extended her hand. "Senor Alexandrovich, I am so sorry to have kept you waiting, but here we are… at last."
Alexei Alexandrovich bowed and kissed her hand. "Your apology is accepted, Dona Marta. I've come to expect rudeness in this backward community." His attention turned to Lolita. "And this must be your lovely daughter."
Lolita glared at him. That snide remark had not gone unnoticed, and she had to bite her tongue to keep from uttering a sharp retort. Her mother frowned at her warningly, but went on with the introduction. "Yes. This is our daughter, Lolita."
Lolita nodded, but stayed near the door. There was no way she was going to let him kiss her hand. She had to admit to herself that he was a handsome man, but she could sense something repellent about him. An aura of evil?
She shook her head. This was no time to be fanciful. Her father was counting on Alexandrovich to invest some much needed money into the family estate. She gritted her teeth and greeted him politely, "Senor Alexandrovich."
Alexei smiled. "She has a fire in her. I *like* that!" His powerful voice echoed in the dining room, and Lolita couldn't help but feel a cool shiver of dread pass through her body.
She narrowed her eyes only slightly and inclined her head, hoping that it would be respect which was conveyed, rather than the icy disgust she was feeling.
"Senor, you are welcome in our hacienda. What is ours is yours." Dona Marta warmly nodded and tossed her daughter a quick, warning glance before continuing. "But I know you will be anxious to discuss business…"
"Yes. Where is your husband?" Alexei's tone changed as the subject of business came up, and Dona Marta had to quell her angry retort. Little did he know that in most matters, including the business of the hacienda, she and Juan participated equally. He would know soon enough. She decided to bide her time, and smiled instead.
Carlos led Wells to an alcove near the salon as they watched Dona Marta and Alexei leave the room. "I must hear what Alexandrovich wants from Don Juan. He is like a father to me. I cannot stand by while I know what an evil…" He stopped as he realized what he was about to say.
Wells put his hand on the young man's forearm. "You told me you sensed I was a man of integrity. I, too, sense that you are a man of loyalty and truth. One who could not and would not stand idly by as his friends or loved ones are about to be hurt in any way. I would venture to say you would not even stand by to see a stranger harmed without coming to his aid."
Carlos looked at this man, who seemed to know him all to well. He stared a few seconds, looking deeply into the eyes of the older man. "Senor, have we met before, you and I? I cannot help but get the impression we should be more than mere acquaintances."
Wells, too, looked into the eyes of man before him. He thought of the saying, "A person's eyes are the window to his soul." For the second time in the course of a hour, he had the most uncanny feeling. For all intents and purposes, he was gazing into the eyes of Clark Kent.
A deep sigh came from Carlos. "Maybe you and I have met in another place and time," he said, but before Wells could reply, Carlos laid a hand on his shoulder. "I am going to trust you. Come, let us follow where the Dona leads."
They came to a stop outside Don Juan's study. A small gust of wind prevented the door from completely closing and they both listened to what was being said.
Marta led Alexei into her husband's study. Don Juan rose as they entered and offered his hand to Alexei. "It is very good to see you again, my friend," Alexei said as he took the outstretched hand of Don Juan.
"I am honored to have you visit my home. Sit… sit," Don Juan told the younger man. As the Russian sat in the chair in front of the tall, older man, Don Juan stated, "I have heard rumors in the town square of an assault on one of your vessels by the Sea Hawk."
"Yes, that black pirate did seize one of my vessels and relieved me of my cargo set for the Americas."
"Perhaps such cargo was never meant to reach its destination," replied the Don in a voice just short of anger. His tone left no doubt where he stood in the matter of human cargo.
To stop the argument the Don knew would follow, he looked at both Alexei and his wife. "But let us not speak of things before you have quenched your thirst. Surely my beautiful Marta has offered you some refreshments? Bring him some wine, Marta."
Marta did not miss her husband's comments. She too hated this concept that so many had embraced. She looked lovingly at her husband and felt a great sense of pride that he did not defer to the wealthy Alexei.
"No, No! Please don't go to any trouble. A nice cool glass of water would be most appreciated."
Dona Marta, ever the gracious hostess, went to the cabinet and poured her husband's visitor a tall glass of water. She placed it on the small table in front of him. She moved across the sitting area and sat down on the settee opposite her husband's chair.
Alexei looked at Don Juan and back to the water but chose to keep his eyes focused only on the Don as he talked. "What we are about to discuss is not a subject meant for the delicate ears of the Dona. Perhaps she would be more comfortable in the kitchen, or sitting in her parlor, needle-pointing?"
Anger rose in the Dona at the demeaning tone of Alexei's remarks. 'How dare he think I am a brainless fool?' she thought indignantly. She was about to tell him of all her responsibilities here at the hacienda, but decided against it after looking at her husband.
Without giving Don Juan a chance to answer, Marta rose and placed one hand on her husband's arm. "It is all right, my husband. I will retire so that you and Alexei may discuss the future of our home." She gave him a reassuring glance as she left.
Dona Marta came face to face with Carlos and Wells as she left the room. "Carlos, have you been here the whole time, listening?" she questioned him.
Without waiting for an answer, she walked over to him and placed a hand on the side of his face. "Thank you, my son, for caring what happens to us. Alexei is a man we may need to fear. But it scares me to think what he is truly after. My darkest fear is that he is not only after the properties of Don Juan but after our…"
She stopped as they heard the conversation begin again in the study. "I must go to Lolita. Stay and watch over my Juan, Carlos. He may need you."
"I will not leave. That you can be assured of, Dona Marta."
Satisfied that Juan would be safe, with a nod to Wells, Dona Marta left.
Alexei picked up the glass and took a sip of the water. "Don Juan, I am a man who knows what he wants, and you have something that I want."
Juan prepared himself for what was to come next. He knew Alexandrovich had the means of taking his family home of many generations. He had lain awake nights with this shame. But the words he expected to hear did not come and, first in complete shock and then anger, he heard Alexei's offer.
"The one thing I want is your daughter, Don Juan. If she marries me, I will give you the money you need."
Juan stood up straight, his eyes burning with anger. "My daughter is not for sale, Alexandrovich!"
Alexei took another drink from his glass. Smiling smugly, he ran his finger along the rim of the glass. "Everyone has a price, Don Juan. Even you. I know that in spite of your best efforts, you have had some… difficulty… in keeping up with the rising prices at the stores."
Don Juan shrugged. "A temporary condition. My foreman, Carlos, and I have talked to the store owners…"
"Who have agreed to extend you credit. Yes, I know."
Don Juan looked at him in surprise, before quickly settling his face to a more neutral gaze. "As I have said, Senor, a temporary condition."
Alexei waved his hand in the air as if to dismiss the notion. "There is talk in the town that unless the Sea Hawk stops stealing from the stores, prices will continue to rise. If that happens, your 'credit' will soon reach its limit."
Don Juan said nothing as Alexei continued. His voice turned low and dangerous. "Don Juan, I know that you have worked hard for your wealth, and that your family has lived for many years on this same land. It would be a shame to not pass on this heritage to your daughter… and her husband."
Don Juan looked at Alexei and saw the evil glint in his eyes. "Diablo!" he spat out.
Alexei smirked and settled back into his chair. Swirling the water in his glass, he stared at Don Juan. "Think about it, Don Juan. Poor Lolita… penniless… forced to work… in Senora Gonzalez's 'house'."
Wells and Carlos did not hear or see Lolita as she listened from the patio. Carlos' only reaction to the news was one word which spoke volumes. "Never!"
Entering the salon, Lolita reached for the brandy bottle. The liquid fire burned her throat, but did nothing to extinguish the anger that was building inside her. How dare he? The audacity of that… that… The words escaped her for a moment. Then one jumped to the forefront. She smiled as she uttered it, thinking that it was so fitting and so descriptive of Alexei. "Pendejo," she muttered.
"Lita!" She quickly turned around, her cheeks flushing with embarrassment as she saw that her mother had heard her utter the expletive.
Lolita stood straight. "I only said aloud what we were both thinking, Mama."
Marta walked towards her and led her away from the study door, leaving it slightly ajar so she could hear if Juan needed her. "I understand, querida. But we may need this man's assistance if we are to save our home."
"I'd rather marry the town drunk than that blackheart! There must be another way." An idea sprang to her mind. "Mama, I must go on an errand. Will you make my excuses to Papa and our guest?"
"Li-ta! What do you have in mind? I have seen this look on your face before. Although, it has been several years since you and Carlos decided to run Jefe Pedro's underwear up the flagpole in the town square."
Lolita smiled briefly at the memory. Carlos had always gone along with her schemes. Reluctantly, many a time, but always willing to be talked into helping her. Her face grew serious as she realized that this time it wasn't just a practical joke that she was thinking of. And no one, not even her parents or best friend, the people that she loved, could ever know about this.
"Mama. Trust me when I say that this is something that I must do. Alone!" Her eyes pleaded with her mother to understand.
Marta searched her daughter's eyes and saw a maturity and responsibility that went far beyond Lolita's years. It was almost as if she had found her calling. Her destiny. She sent a silent prayer to the Blessed Mother to watch over her daughter, just as she had many times before.
"Do what you must." As Lolita turned to leave, her mother's voice stopped her. "But first, you must make your excuses to your father and our guest."
If not always the perfect child, Lolita was an obedient daughter most of the time. She straightened her back and knocked on the door. At her father's reply of "Enter," she took a deep breath and calmly entered the study. "Papa…"
Her voice faded as she entered the room. Marta left to find Carlos. She had seen the seriousness in Lolita's eyes. She knew what her daughter was going to do. She again sent a silent prayer toward heaven.
Keeping her eyes focused on her father, Lolita began, "Papa, forgive me for the interruption. I must run an errand for Mama. I should return shortly, but did want to extend my farewells to Senor Alexandrovich." She inclined her head towards Alexei.
Alexei studied her through half-closed eyelids. She was a beauty, and he was determined to have her. He smiled, a smile that only extended as far as the edges of his mouth. He noticed Lolita's slight shiver, mistaking it for excitement. "Take your time, my dear. Your father and I have… much… to discuss."
Lolita looked steadily at Alexei for a long moment. The phrase "snake in the grass" leapt into her mind. Keeping her face neutral, she nodded to the men. "Papa. Senor." She kept the door slightly ajar as she left the room. She left the main house in the direction of the stables.
Alexei rolled the glass between his hands. "Now, Don Juan. Where were we?"
"My daughter is not my property, Senor. I have no more right to sell her than I do the air that we breathe. She is not a prize thoroughbred to be sold to the highest bidder."
Carlos turned to Wells. "I must go. But you are welcome to be my guest tonight in my humble home here on Don Juan's property. You have been most helpful in my quest of knowledge this afternoon. I appreciate your being here with me."
Wells was touched by the young man's offer and by his words. "I will be happy to accept the offer of a night's lodging. Is there anything else I can do to help you? I will be very discreet and not reveal any information I might uncover."
Carlos held up his hand and shook his head gesturing he would not need any further assistance "I must go to the stables. Anyone here will guide you toward my home."
Wells watched as he disappeared out of sight and began to follow.
Carlos paused at the stable door and looked about. He turned at the sound of footsteps, frowning slightly as he watched the hacienda's guest walk toward him. "Senor Wells, this is not the way to my house."
"Well, yes, my boy, I know that. But, you see, I think that I may be of assistance."
Carlos looked at him skeptically. Catching his look, Wells smiled. "Do not always believe what you see, Carlos. Often, you must look beyond the exterior to see the person." He paused for a moment. "It's almost like donning a… disguise."
At Carlos's look of surprise, Wells knew that he had assumed correctly. Along with what Dona Marta and Lolita had told him in the carriage, he had heard the conversation in Don Juan's study about the Sea Hawk. He had also heard Carlos' gasp of surprise and mutterings, "Stealing? How is that possible? I was dealing with that slave ship at the time…" Wells was convinced that he was indeed looking at the incarnation of Clark Kent's soul.
Wells tried to catch Carlos's eye. "That *is* what you are about to do, isn't it, Carlos? Don a disguise? Perhaps as… the Sea Hawk?"
When Carlos didn't answer him, Wells continued. "As you yourself have said, you can trust me."
Carlos made a decision and pulled Wells into the stable with him. Speaking in hushed tones as they walked to the far side of the stables, Carlos explained. "Don Juan has been like a second father to me. He and my father taught me to stand up for my beliefs as much as possible. I have always found it difficult to walk away or ignore someone who needed help."
He smiled slightly. "Especially when that person was Lolita. She followed me everywhere when we were children, but I never minded that. All she had to do was ask me for help, and I would do everything I could to help her."
He looked at Wells, the earnestness and sincerity in his eyes speaking volumes. "When the slave ships became more frequent, I could no longer ignore my heart, my beliefs. I could no longer remain uninvolved. I had to do something. But what? It couldn't be known that the foreman of Don Juan's hacienda was taking matters into his own hands. I would sooner die than bring shame on Don Juan and his family. So, I became the Sea Hawk. I have done what I can to stop this particular inhumanity."
His gaze lowered. "The Sea Hawk has been called a hero by some, a lawless vigilante by others. If anyone… especially the Don and Dona… were to discover my secret…" His voice trailed off.
"Then, all that you have, all that you love would be lost to you forever." Wells finished Carlos's thoughts. Carlos' shoulders slumped in assent.
'How like Clark he is,' Wells thought, 'in both character and beliefs.' Wells cleared his throat. "Clar— er, Carlos, believe me when I say this: have a noble heart, a noble soul. What you are doing is the right thing, the just thing. Don Juan and Dona Marta would not only understand what you do, they would approve."
At Wells' words, Carlos' shoulders began to straighten. His head raised in surprise at his next words. "Even Lolita would approve."
"How can you be so sure?"
"I have seen many things in my travels, seen many people, known many causes. There is nothing more honorable than righting what is wrong. Believe me, my boy, when I say this. You were born to do this. This is your destiny."
Carlos looked at Wells, determination and certainty springing into his eyes. "You are right, Senor Wells. This *is* a job for the Sea Hawk!" He went to the back of the stables and began to change into his disguise.
"That's the ticket!" Wells said enthusiastically, his fist pumping in the air. As he saw Carlos disappear into the shadows at the back of the stable, he left in search of Dona Marta.
Wells saw her approaching the stables. "Ah, excuse me? Dona Marta?"
Slightly startled, Dona Marta stopped at the sound of his voice. Placing a smile on her face, she turned. "Ah, Senor Wells. Has Carlos seen to your needs?"
Wells stood before her and noticed her eyes darting about. He cleared his throat and caught her attention. "Yes, quite. A remarkable young man, that Carlos." As she nodded her agreement and began to move away, he hastened to add, "By the by…"
Dona Marta again turned her attention to him. "Yes, Senor?"
"Dona, would you mind terribly if I spoke to you on a rather… um, delicate matter?"
Dona Marta frowned at his choice of words. "Delicate?"
"Yes. Concerning… the Sea Hawk." Wells gauged her reaction.
Her eyes widened in surprise and understanding. Recovering, she moved to link her arm through his. "Perhaps it would be best if we spoke in the main house."
Wells allowed her to lead him away from the stable, relieved that Carlos' secret was protected. Turning back for a moment, his eyebrow arched as he saw Lolita slip into the stable through a side door.
"Oh, my word…" he whispered. He sensed Dona Marta about to turn back and look. Turning to Dona Marta he smiled, "So, tell me, madam, what other stories have you heard about the Sea Hawk?" Their voices lowered as they entered the main house.
<chrispat> Carlos was just reaching for the trademark plumed hat, mask and cape of the Sea Hawk when he heard someone in the stables. He walked forward stealthily and hid in the shadows as Lolita entered. Some instinct made him hide deeper in the shadows as she went to the tack room.
She opened a tack box and then a hidden bottom to the tack box. She pulled out the full coat, gauntlets, a plumed hat… but first, the mask.
Carlos was about to reveal his presence when, to his stunned amazement, she started to remove her clothing. His face was burning with shame, but he couldn't tear his eyes away from the sight of her graceful body. He had spent many long nights tossing and turning in restless sleep as his dreams had pictured a similar scene. He closed his eyes for a moment and pinched himself, but when he opened them, she was still there. This was no dream.
After a moment, he managed to turn away. An endless few minutes later, he heard her talking to her horse, and turned back to see a masked stranger buckling on a sword. If he hadn't heard her voice, he would never have guessed she was female, let alone his Lolita. What on earth was she doing, and where was she going, dressed as a man?
He watched as she swung nimbly into the saddle and rode off. As soon as she was out of sight, he hastily snatched up his sword and bridled Don Juan's prized stallion. Stuffing his own hat, cloak and mask into a bag, and without taking time for a saddle, he took off in pursuit.
In the early dusk of the warm evening he followed her, being careful to stay far enough behind so she wouldn't be alerted to his presence. Carlos was shocked when her horse turned to go down the long roadway which led to Alexei Alexandrovich's home. He paused just long enough to open the bag he had quickly put his disguise. He quickly donned the mask, cape and plumed hat as he kept Lolita in sight.
'What is she up to now?' he thought as he watched her tie her horse out of sight of the huge mansion. Carlos hid in the tall bushes and watched as she crossed the lawn and crept slowly towards an open window on the side of the house. Just as she was about to climb into the window there was a sound as two workers came from a wagon parked near the rear of the house. She quickly hid in the shrubs nearby.
Carlos at that moment chose to quickly make his way towards her hiding spot. He reached her as the men entered the house. A wave of anger swept over him as he placed a hand on her arm. "Lolita! What in heaven's name are you doing?" His anger was about to get the best of him when he said, "Why are you dressed as you are?"
Seeing only the mask, Lolita demanded, "Who are you, and why have you followed me?" Her eyes grew large as recognition came to her at the same time it came to him. In an instant everything came into focus.
"No, nooo…" they stumbled with the words. "You can't be! You can't be the…" Each was pointing at the other.
Carlos recovered first. "Yes, Lolita. I am the Sea Hawk. I have known for a while someone was out there pretending to be the Sea Hawk, but I would never have guessed it was you."
Carlos smiled at Lolita. "This explains the Sea Hawk being seen both at sea and on land at the same time. I had often wondered about that, and had just assumed that they were exaggerations. But then again, there were too many sightings, too many different stories for it to be just an exaggeration."
"The Sea Hawk? Is it true, Carlos? *You* are the Sea Hawk?"
He smiled at the stunned look on her face and began to softly chuckle. Lolita couldn't help the soft smile that came to her face as she remembered her mother's words from earlier. "It appears that, at this moment, *both* Sea Hawks are landlocked."
She knew they both had questions and wasn't surprised at his next words. "So, what are we doing here?"
She looked into his eyes. In the moonlight, Lolita saw the usual respect that he always had for her. Beyond that, she saw something else. She didn't want to think about what that "something else" could be. At least, not right now.
She smiled tightly. "There is no 'we' in this, Carlos. *I* have to do this alone."
She turned away from him, intent on entering the mansion. His grip tightened on her arm. She turned back to him as she spoke. "Don't you know, 'Lita? There has *always* been a 'we.' You have been my best friend all my life. Let us do this together."
"No. I must do this alone, I have used the name of the Sea Hawk before and—"
Carlos's eyes shone with suppressed anger. He interrupted Lolita's explanation. "I know what he wants, 'Lita. And I know why you have to do this. I cannot let him do this." The anger in his eyes dissipated, replaced with a look of determination and stubbornness that matched her own.
Lolita sighed. "All right." They stood up, Lolita drawing her sword from its scabbard as he also drew his.
Carlos stood back, a bit awed. If he hadn't believed it before, he believed it now. Lolita *was* the other Sea Hawk. And he had no doubt that she could take care of herself, just fine.
"…and so, you see, it is important that no one know who the Sea Hawk is. After all, there are many that still hold to the idea that women are weak and helpless. I have suspected for a long while that she is the Sea Hawk. But today, when I looked into her eyes …"
Dona Marta's voice faltered as she remembered the look of grim determination she had seen in her daughter. "I was sure of it. She has always had a strong sense of honor and justice, as well as an independent streak in her, one that both her father and I encouraged and allowed her to indulge to a large extent. I just pray that no harm comes to her."
Dona Marta clasped her hands tightly together, her eyes pleading with Wells. "I trust you, Senor Wells, although we have only known you for a short time. I know that Lolita trusts you as well."
Wells didn't speak as he digested the information that Dona Marta had just disclosed to him. There were *two* Sea Hawks! 'My word,' he thought, This is quite a revelation.' As he thought about it, the more he realized that many of the same qualities that Clark Kent's soul had were shared by Lois Lane's. They both, in their own ways, fought for truth and justice. They both, again in their own ways, tried to help the weak and oppressed. It seemed inevitable that, in at least one incarnation' a secret identity would be used by both.
Dona Marta's voice broke into his musings. "Oh, my dear, I am quite sorry. Please forgive my lapse of attention." He patted her clenched hands. "Rest assured, Dona Marta, Lolita's secret is safe with me."
Reassured, she smiled. "Somehow, Senor, I knew you would say that."
Their attention was caught by raised voices in the main study. "Never, Alexei! I'll burn this hacienda and the land before I let it fall into your evil hands!"
Decorum pushed aside, Dona Marta and Wells entered the study. "Juan?" Dona Marta stopped abruptly and gasped.
Alexei stood over Juan, a dagger at his throat. He turned and bowed in mock politeness to Marta. "Your pardon, Dona Marta. Your husband and I are having a slight… disagreement."
Wells stepped in front of Dona Marta. "Unhand him, you scoundrel!"
Alexei guffawed. "Or what, little man? I don't know who you are, nor do I care." He turned his cold stare back to Don Juan. "Still won't agree?"
Don Juan stared back at him, refusing to bow before him. "Never."
"Well, perhaps we can find another way to… convince… you of my sincerity." Releasing Don Juan, he stepped back and pulled a gun from his waistband. Dona Marta and Wells rushed to Juan's side.
"Juan?" "Don Juan?" they both asked.
Don Juan gestured that he was all right. The three of them turned to face Alexei.
Aiming the pistol at them, Alexei smiled a tight, feral smile. "Shall we take a short carriage ride? I do so want to treat you to some of my special brand of hospitality." He stared at Wells. "You too, little man. I can't have you running off and alerting the authorities, now can I?"
The smile faded and he stepped aside. Don Juan escorted Dona Marta from the room, followed by Wells and Alexei behind them, the revolver aimed at their backs.
Carlos thought that Lolita would attempt to enter through one of the French doors that opened onto the airy courtyard, so he was surprised to see her circle around to the trellis at the side of the house. He followed closely behind her, careful to stay in the sheltering shadows of the house.
Even though it was night, he watched, amazed as she scrambled nimbly up the trellis, unencumbered by the sword in her hand. He followed more slowly, trying not to make any noise that might betray their presence by disturbing the vines that clung to the wooden latticework.
Carlos had little difficulty moving up the trellis; he was strong and well-built. Concentrating on finding handholds and moving silently, he failed to notice a protruding nail.
The sound of fabric tearing seemed to reverberate loudly, at least to his startled ears, splitting the silent evening just as the nail had split his shirt. Lolita looked down, having heard the soft sound of fabric tearing. She motioned him to stop, at least for a moment, to see if the noise brought any curious occupants running to investigate the source.
Lolita had always thought of Carlos as her confidante, partner in juvenile adventures, and now, her best friend. She'd recognized that he was attractive, but she'd never quite realized just *how* attractive she found him until this moment. Looking down at the expanse of chest the errant nail had exposed, she found she was having a hard time keeping her mind on the mission she needed to complete.
Carlos was having similar problems looking up at Lolita, her slim figure covered but not completely concealed by the mannish clothes that she wore.
As she reached the top of the balcony, Lolita pulled herself free of the trellis, turned, and grabbed Carlos by the shoulder. She pulled with all her might and he came over onto the balcony with a sudden force that knocked them both off their feet.
Carlos reached for her and pulled her to him as they fell. For an instant, they were eye to eye and chest to chest. He could feel her firm, round breasts rub against his bare chest. His arms encircled her as they lay on the balcony floor, both speechless, lost for words for the first time in their lives.
The moment was broken when Lolita lifted from him and started to rise. "We had better hurry and search for the proof that Alexei has been stealing from my parents."
Carlos loosened his hold on her only to pull her back against him. Placing his lips on hers, he kissed her.
At first, she was shocked and tried to resist, but then a small sound escaped from her, coming from deep within her soul. The sounds of pure sensual pleasure could be heard from both of them as the kiss deepened. Time stood still; neither was aware of anything on this planet except the feeling and urges which the kiss had kindled. Carlos shuddered as he felt Lolita's hands move across his bare chest.
Carlos broke off the kiss and whispered, "I have wanted to do that for such a long time, mi corazon."
"I love you, 'Lita. I've loved you for a long time."
Lolita raised her hand and cupped the side of his face. "And I love you too, mi amor. But, now is *not* the time to declare our love for each other. We have to get inside this pescado's house."
They smiled at each other for a moment longer before Lolita's attention was drawn away by the sound of carriage wheels approaching the mansion. Catching Lolita's reaction, Carlos loosened his embrace and they both scrambled to their knees and looked over the balcony edge.
Lolita gasped as she saw Alexei approach the house on horseback, leading a carriage. Her parents were in the carriage, bound and gagged. "Madre de Dios! The bastard has Mama and Papa!"
"Not only that. He has Senor Wells, also!" Lolita directed her gaze to where Carlos was pointing and saw the little man in the peculiar clothing that she and her mother had assisted earlier in the day. He,too, was bound and gagged.
Carlos felt the anger rise in him until he thought it would turn him into a crazed person. Glancing at Lolita, he heard the barely contained anger in her voice as she muttered under her breath, stood and strode inside the room. Carlos followed, stopping just inside the balcony doors. He looked around at the ornately decorated room before locking gazes with her.
They immediately noticed the change in the other. She was no longer *his* Lolita, and he was no longer *her* Carlos. They had become partners in stopping the evil Alexei. They were the Sea Hawks.
"We need to find something… anything… that proves he is deceitful…" they said in unison.
"Papers…" he said.
"…or documents," Lolita finished.
They both smiled at how easily they completed each other's thoughts.
She shuffled some more papers and opened the desk drawer. "Aha!" she said as she removed the bottom panel of the drawer.
"What?" he quizzed.
She gestured to him. "Look at this." She drew some papers from their hiding place.
Carlos came to stand next to her and looked at the papers. "This is a ledger sheet. I recognize some of the names. These are all store proprietors. They all do business with Don Juan."
Carlos looked at Lolita. "For the last few months, prices have been going up for their goods. They said it was because of the Sea Hawk's thievery."
Both Sea Hawks shook their heads.
Lolita's eyes blazed with anger. "I don't steal from my own people, nor do you. I only attack those that need it. Especially the slave ships."
Carlos smiled brightly. "That I can understand. We both abhor slavery. As do your parents."
Carlos studied the ledgers and charts before turning his gaze on his beloved Lolita. "According to these, store owners have had to pay 'protection money' to Alexandrovich. If they were unable to pay, their homes were foreclosed."
He put the papers on the desk. "So *that's* how he makes his money."
A particular paper caught Lolita's eye. She picked it up and read from the list. "300 this cargo… 100 males… 100 females… 100 children…" Her eyes widened in shock. "Carlos! The slave ships. *Alexei* is using the protection money he has acquired to finance the fitting of the slave ships!"
Carlos nodded his agreement. "That would make sense. Remember how our fathers would tell us how much it cost to outfit a ship? And the slave ships that the Sea Hawk…" He paused and smiled softly at Lolita before continuing. "That is, you and I, have stopped from reaching their destination…"
"…are much bigger than the ships Papa described." The female Sea Hawk indulged her need to reach out and caress his face. "The Sea Hawk is very smart."
He held her hand to his face. "And as brave as she is beautiful." He turned his head to kiss her palm. She shivered slightly from his touch. Reluctantly, she removed her hand from his hold.
Gathering up the papers, she turned and handed them to Carlos. "Here. These must get to the proper authorities, so Alexei can be arrested and brought to justice."
As Carlos opened his mouth to protest, she hastened to add, "And, of the two of us, you were always the swifter rider." Lolita smiled. "I remember wondering if you could really fly."
Carlos chuckled. "It would be appropriate for a Sea Hawk, wouldn't it? One problem, mi amor: Jefe Pedro *disapproves* of what the Sea Hawk does. How can we get him here without revealing my identity?"
Her smile brightened with a sudden thought. "Jefe Pedro will come quicker if he is in pursuit of the Sea Hawk. Especially if he is at the receiving end of the Sea Hawk's brand of… humor."
Understanding brought a wider smile to Carlos's face. "I'm sure he will. If nothing else, to join the rogue in a good laugh."
He found a satchel bag and stuffed the papers into them. Slinging it across his shoulders, he leaned in and kissed her gently. Growing serious, Carlos cautioned her. "Be careful, prometida. Stay safe for me."
Lolita nodded, her face solemn. "You also, querido. We have much to talk about."
Carlos walked towards the balcony and the trellis. Looking back toward the female Sea Hawk one last time, he blew her a kiss, smiled, and went over the side.
She came out onto the balcony and watched Carlos carefully steal away from the compound. Satisfied that he was safely away, she turned her thoughts to her parents and Wells. Alexei wouldn't dare to kill them. They were the leverage he needed to make her bend to his will.
She smiled grimly. She would never do that. Picking up her sword, she went to the door of the study. Opening it a crack, she listened for a moment. She heard voices downstairs. Stealthily, she made her way along the upper hallway and toward the winding staircase. Her sword drawn, she shrank against the wall as she heard Alexei's voice.
"We'll just see how long Lolita holds out once she knows that you are my 'guests.' "
Alexei closed the door of the room that he had spoken into, locking it. Pocketing the key, he went out the front door. Reaching the foot of the stairs, the Sea Hawk heard the retreating hoof beats of Alexei's horse.
Lolita went to the door of the room she had seen him exit and tried the door knob. As she thought, it was locked. Reaching into the sash at her waistband, she pulled out a small dagger. Inserting the tip into the door's lock, she twisted the dagger until she heard the lock click. Smiling in satisfaction, she opened the door.
She ran towards the three people, a lump rising in her throat. Disguising her voice, she addressed them, "Don't be afraid, Don Juan, Dona Marta, Senor Wells. I am the Sea Hawk. I'm here to rescue you."
Dona Marta closed her eyes in relief. Wells and Don Juan stared at their rescuer. Lolita paused for a moment as her eyes locked with Wells, a look of recognition passing between them. Slightly frowning as she used her dagger, the Sea Hawk made quick work of their bindings. They went toward the door, but stopped as they heard a voice.
"I forgot. Don Juan—"
Alexei reentered the room and stopped. Anger quickly replaced surprise as he saw his "guests" unbound. He turned and faced the focus of his anger. "The Sea Hawk, I presume?" With a flourish, he bowed slightly. "An honor."
Keeping her voice pitched low and dangerous, the Sea Hawk answered. "And the pleasure will be in seeing you brought to justice. You are through, Alexei Alexandrovich. The proof to bring you down is now in the possession of Jefe Pedro."
Alexei blazed in anger. "*If* I am caught. I have enough money to leave this backward island. And there are other islands, other places that I can use as my base of operations." He eyed the sword in the Sea Hawk's hand. "Tell me, are you as good with that sword as they say you are?"
The Sea Hawk grinned dangerously. "Why don't we step into the courtyard and find out?"
Dona Marta spoke out. "No! Lo—" Wells placed a hand on her arm as she caught herself before she exposed her daughter's identity. The Sea Hawk whirled to face Dona Marta. Alexei looked at Dona Marta and saw the fear and concern in her eyes. His eyes widened in surprise as what she had almost said registered.
"Lo?" He turned back to the Sea Hawk. "Lolita? *You* are the Sea Hawk?" He began to laugh. "Oh, this is too good!"
"Don't think that because I'm a woman that I won't defeat you, Alexei."
Alexei stood with his shoulders thrown back. "How dare you talk to me like that? You. A mere woman."
"This 'mere woman' will see you rot in the town jail for the rest of your miserable life."
"Over my dead body," he sneered.
"If you prefer." She walked over to the fireplace and removed one of the swords from its setting.
Tossing it to Alexei, she watched as he deftly caught it. "Shall we take this outside?"
Alexei bowed and stepped aside. "Ladies first."
"Don't think of me as a 'lady' right now, Alexei. Think of me as the Sea Hawk." She stood tall before him, proudly ready to do battle.
"Then to hell with formalities!" With that, Alexei lunged forward, his stroke swiftly parried by Lolita.
Dona Marta screamed and hid her face in Don Juan's shoulder. Wells stood near the couple, watching and memorizing every detail. He heard Don Juan comfort his wife.
Don Juan patted her shoulder and whispered, "Don't worry, mi vida. Lolita will win."
Dona Marta raised her head, her eyes bright with tears. "How can you be so calm?"
Don Juan kissed her forehead. "Because, my love, *I* taught her how to fight with a sword."
Dona Marta and Wells both looked at her husband incredulously. "You did?"
He nodded. "When Carlos's father taught him, 'Lita begged me to teach her as well. I decided that 'Lita should be able to defend herself as well as be defended."
Dona Marta smiled an almost predatory smile. "He doesn't have a chance, does he?"
"Not a one. Shall I pour you a brandy?" he asked her calmly. Marta relaxed and accepted the brandy that Juan offered her. Don Juan turned to Wells. "Senor?" he offered.
The clanging of the swords echoed behind them. Don Juan studied the two combatants for a moment. "'Lita!"
Keeping her focus on Alexei, she answered. "Yes, Papa?"
"Keep your guard up, remember what I taught you."
Lolita grunted. "Yes, Papa." She again pressed her attack, forcing Alexei to retreat into the foyer. Lolita followed him.
Dona Marta and Don Juan followed at a more leisurely pace. Wells stood in the doorway of the study.
Alexei reached for the candelabra that sat on the end of the banister and threw it at Lolita. As she ducked, Alexei ran into the courtyard. Lolita followed. The sword fight continued. Wells joined Dona Marta and Don Juan on the patio as they watched the two combatants.
Sweat poured down Alexei's face, a look of desperation beginning to appear. Lolita, grim and determined, concentrated, a slight grin on her face. Finally, she saw the opening she had been looking for. With a quick flick of her wrist, she disarmed Alexei and brought her sword point to his neck, forcing him down to one knee.
"Well? What are you waiting for? Finish me!" Alexei's eyes stared at Lolita with hatred and contempt.
Dona Marta looked toward the gates at the sound of hoof beats. "The Sea Hawk!?!?!" she exclaimed. All eyes turned to the entrance of the courtyard.
"Two?" Alexei gasped.
Lolita grinned tightly. "Don't you know, Alexei? Sea hawks may swoop down on their prey individually, but they always travel in pairs."
Keeping her sword point at Alexei's neck, Lolita watched as the Sea Hawk, cape flying in the wind, came thundering into the courtyard. He dismounted and quickly assessed the situation. He saw the grim satisfaction in Lolita's eyes. Looking directly at her, his voice was slow and steady.
"Jefe Pedro and the constabulary are behind me. They have the proof they need." He grinned widely. "He would have been here sooner, but he had to retrieve his underwear from the flagpole." He chuckled softly as he saw her smile. Their gazes locked and for what seemed an eternity, no one moved.
Hearing the Sea Hawk's words, Dona Marta and Don Juan smiled as they recognized who was behind the mask of the male Sea Hawk. Don Juan whispered to his wife, "It's almost like old times, eh, Marta?"
Smiling up at her husband, Dona Marta whispered back, "Almost." They both turned their attention back to Lolita, Carlos, and Alexei.
Lolita pressed the sword point into Alexei's flesh, causing him to yelp in pain. She turned back to look at the Sea Hawk.
He held out his hand. "'Lita…" he softly whispered.
Turning back to Alexei once more, the female Hawk removed her sword from Alexei's neck. "I don't kill, Alexei. And I don't steal from my people. That's not the way *I* work." She looked again at Carlos, a smile coming to her face. "That's not the way *we* work."
Sheathing her sword, Lolita turned and walked back toward her parents. Her mother's sudden gasp alerted her.
Before she could throw her dagger, she watched as Alexei crumpled to the ground, a dagger dropping from his soon-lifeless hand, another one in his shoulder and a third one protruding from his chest. She knew that the dagger in Alexei's shoulder was Carlos'. As she recognized the hilt of the dagger in Alexei's chest, she whirled around and ran into her father's arms.
Don Juan held Lolita tightly to him for a moment before holding her at arm's length. He looked at his daughter, love and respect shining in his eyes. "I couldn't let him kill my daughter."
The hoof beats got louder. "Now, get out of here, before Jefe Pedro is forced to arrest *one* of the Sea Hawks."
Quickly embracing first her mother, then her father, she ran toward the side of the house and the shadows.
She stopped and turned. "Yes, Papa?"
"Remind me to tell you and Carlos about my *other* adventures with his father."
Lolita grinned and blew her parents a kiss before disappearing into the night and shadows.
Dona Marta looked at her husband. "Are you going to tell her?"
Don Juan warmly embraced his wife. "That in our youth, Simon and I were the secret guardians of this town and of our beautiful island? That Simon was my brother in every sense of the word except by blood? That he was the most noble and honorable man that I ever knew? Yes, mi amor, I will tell her. And Carlos. They both have a right to know."
Dona Marta smiled. "I think they love each other. As I went back to the main house with Senor Wells, Jaime, the new stableboy, told me he saw Carlos racing out of the ranch on our prize stallion. Bareback."
Don Juan laughed. "Calm, steady, dependable, never-out-of-control Carlos! The only time he is not himself is when he is with Lolita… not even when he is in disguise as the Sea Hawk. I know Simon would be proud of the man he has grown up to be. Nothing would make me prouder than to call him son."
"From your lips to God's ears, my husband."
They both smiled as they watched Carlos stride toward them. He had removed the plumed hat and mask that identified him as the Sea Hawk. The cape was held loosely in his hand, its edge dragging in the dirt of the courtyard. For now, he was Carlos, their trusted foreman — and the man in love with their daughter. "Are you both all right?"
"Yes, Carlos. We are."
Don Juan saw the unspoken questions and concern in the young man's eyes and chuckled as he watched Carlos look around. He clamped his hand on his shoulder. "Why don't you head home? I'm sure that what you are looking for is safe and waiting for you there."
Carlos looked from Don Juan to Dona Marta. He saw no censure, no disapproval. Only warmth and love and acceptance. His handsome features broke into a wide grin. "Yes, Don Juan. I will head back to the hacienda right away."
As he headed for his horse, he heard Dona Marta speak to Don Juan. "Juan? I believe you will be resuming more of the day-to-day supervision of the hacienda."
"Why do you say that, mi corazon?"
Happiness and laughter echoed in her reply. "I suspect Carlos will be spending less time being landlocked."
Carlos grinned as he got on his horse and headed toward the hacienda. Toward Lolita. Toward his destiny.
Wells moved to stand in the dark shadows of a tall tree in the courtyard. He watched as the older couple nodded approvingly while speaking to Carlos. Unable to hear what was being said, he could tell the older couple were relieved to have the truth finally out in the open. Wells smiled to himself and gave his surroundings one more glance before returning to his time machine. As he was about to turn, a small hand touched his shoulder.
"Senor Wells? It is I, Lolita."
Wells jumped at the touch of her hand and the sound of her voice. He whispered, "Lolita? What are you doing here, my dear? You should be on your way to your hacienda."
Lolita grinned at the little man's questions. Ever since meeting him, she'd had the strangest sensation that she had met him before, but she just couldn't recall where or when. In fact, it was right on the tip of her tongue now. Staring into his eyes, the memory was about to come into focus, but faded in a flash as he continued, "Dear child, are you harmed in anyway? Should I get the Don and Dona to come to you?"
Lolita shook her head to clear her thoughts at the sound of concern in his voice. "No, I am perfectly fine. The world has never seemed more promising as it does at this moment. Carlos has declared his love, and *we*, together, have vanquished Alexei. My family's property is saved and I am in hopes that Alexei's shipping business will soon fail, also."
Wells smiled. "You have been very busy in the last several hours."
"Yes, it has been a busy time. A life-altering time for all I love. Who would have thought that in less than twenty-four hours so many changes would have taken place."
Wells nodded and smiled. "Ah, but they have been good changes, haven't they?"
"Yes, they have. That is why I wanted to speak to you. In some unknown way, I feel you have helped in bringing about the changes. I have known many people longer in my life, but only a few of them have touched it as I feel you have."
Wells felt a lump begin to form in his throat as he spoke once more. "You and Carlos are two very special people. I have been only an observer here. It was all your own doing. Both of you were meeting the challenge and fighting for your destiny. In fact, it is *I* who want to thank you for letting me be a part of your lives."
Lolita took a step forward and leaned in to give Wells a kiss on the cheek. "You, too, are a very special man, Senor Wells. I am honored to have made your acquaintance. Now I must go. As you just said, my destiny awaits me at the hacienda."
She turned to leave but stopped. "There will be a wedding soon at the church near my home." With a smile, she continued, "Knowing my parents, it will be a grand celebration. All the townspeople will be invited, and I would like for you to be there, too."
Without giving him time to answer, she disappeared into the shadows.
Wells stood looking up into the heavens filled with brilliant stars. He loved the feel of the gentle warm winds coming off the ocean. One word could be heard as he, too, disappeared into the shadows. "Perhaps."
H. G. Wells closed the journal, took off his glasses and sat forward at his desk. A satisfied smile was on his face as he placed the journal inside the middle drawer and locked it.
He rose and walked to the front door of his home. Stepping out into the cool evening, he stood and looked up into the clear star-filled heavens.
"Ahhh! Tomorrow will be another adventure."