In recent days, she had begun to strike in the bailiwick of Don Hidalgo. Fearing that his own ill-gotten gains would fall prey to La Tesoro, the corrupt Hidalgo ordered a massive manhunt for the marauder. But as yet, his troops had found no sign of her. The Don ought not to be surprised by the failure of his men...for months, they had been incapable of capturing the Queen of Swords, the vigilante who had been combating his schemes. Who was he to expect that they could now catch another woman of mystery?
And although the Queen of Swords had no intention of ever helping Hidalgo, neither could she ignore the threat of La Tesoro. For this bandit was no "Robin Hood"...she did not steal from the wicked rich and share with the downtrodden poor. No, she stole from one and all, and she kept her booty for herself. That made her a criminal, and the Queen was dedicated to battling crime in all of its forms.
Unfortunately, despite her own best efforts, the Queen had been unable to track down the bandit queen. La Tesoro knew how to elude her pursuers better than anyone.
After a night of fruitless searching, the Queen returns to the hacienda of Tessa Alvarado, her alter ego. But once inside, she discovers her beloved servant, Marta, bound and gagged. Before she can make a move to free her, a voice drifts out of the shadows.
"You need not worry about her, she is unharmed. I simply wished to ensure that she would not warn you of my presence."
Stepping into the light of the room's lanterns, La Tesoro places her hands upon her hips. The Queen draws her blade, but the bandit does not move.
"At first, I thought to amuse myself by merely robbing the great Queen of Swords behind her back," continued the intruder, her words laced with an air of smugness. "Oh, yes...I know it is you, Senorita Alvarado, behind that mask. I had heard of your exploits, and I made it my mission to learn all that I could about you. I knew, for instance, that you could not be a mere colonial. No, you had to be a Spaniard, trained in the arts of battle, such as myself. That meant that you were a woman of title, with wealth. From that understanding, it did not take me long to discern your true identity. You really ought to be more careful, dear."
The Queen eyed her rival intently. La Tesoro was garbed in black silk and leather, much as she herself was, with a domino mask to hide her identity. A sword in its scabbard hung from her waist.
The bandit continued, "You have many fine things in this home, Tessa Alvarado. It shall be my pleasure to take them as my own."
At last, the Queen of Swords spoke.
"Your mistake, thief, was in remaining here for me. You should have looted my home while you could. You won't have the chance now. Now, surrender...or draw your sword!"
A small smile crossed La Tesoro's lips.
"I fear that I am not as well-versed in swordplay as you are, dear Queen. But I wouldn't want to disappoint you."
With that, she draws her sword and lunges at the Queen. The two women duel, their steel blades flashing. But as the battle wears on, La Tesoro's words prove true...she is no match for the Queen with a blade. Strangely enough, the bandit appears untroubled by this. Then, with a flourish, the Queen knock's her rivals sword from her hand. The blade spins through the air, until it lodges into a wooden beam. Without any apparent trace of fear, La Tesoro drops to her knees.
"I am disarmed, O Queen," she says, in a tone literally dripping with sarcasm. "Run me through!"
"I won't kill an unarmed prisoner, bandit," responds the Queen. "On your feet."
"Ah, but then we are at an impasse," counters the thief. "For if I am turned over to the authorities, I will have no recourse but to barter for my release with Don Hidalgo. And what do I have to offer him, but the secret identity of the woman whom he hates most of all, eh, Senorita Alvarado?"
The Queen remains in stony silence for several long moments before speaking.
"What is it that you want of me, La Tesoro?"
Getting to her feet, her face a mixture of triumph and anticipation, La Tesoro says, "I desire a true challenge, such as I have not yet found here in the New World! You and I, in combat as nature intended. If you win, I turn over all of the wealth I have ... acquired ... to you to do with as you please. Feed the peasants, build churches, do as your fancy strikes you. And I leave California forever."
"And if you win?" asks the Queen.
La Tesoro smiles as she says, "Then I have my way here in California, with no interference from you. Should you oppose me, Tessa Alvarado will find her neck in Don Hidalgo's noose by dawn of the next day."
Without a moment's hesitation, the Queen sheaths her sword, unbuckles the scabbard, and throws it to the far side of the room. The time for words has passed.
Both women begin to circle one another, slowly drawing closer, closer. Finally, they come near enough to one another to strike. Both crash together, each struggling to gain the leverage to throw the other to the floor. When that proves futile for both of them, La Tesoro throws a punch that cracks sharply across the Queen's jaw. But the Queen quickly counters with a fist of her own to her rival's face. The two women then begin to trade punches to the head and body.
Seeking to end this stalemate, La Tesoro's hands dart out; grabbing the Queen's mask, she twists it so that the holes are no longer over her eyes. Effectively blinded by her own mask, the Queen is disorientated long enough for her opponent to grab her by the hair. Yanking the Queen by her mane, La Tesoro drags her stumbling across the floor, until she rams the Queen's head into the unyielding stone wall.
Struck senseless, the Queen of Swords crumples to the floor. La Tesoro sits astride her prone rival's body, and wraps her hands around the Queen's throat. The Queen gasps for precious air as La Tesoro chokes the life from her, struggling to escape the death grip. But struggling proves futile, and before long, the Queen is unconscious.
When she awakens, she finds herself bound alongside Marta. She sees La Tesoro placing the last of Tessa Alvarado's heirloom jewels in a sack.
Realizing that the Queen has regained consciousness, the bandit addresses her, "Ah, welcome back to the land of the waking, O Queen! You may tell Senorita Alvarado that she has exquisite taste in jewelry. I thank you for our little contest...I have not enjoyed myself so since my last sojourn to France! We will have to play again sometime, I think."
"You're a dangerous woman, La Tesoro," says the Queen.
"Perhaps. Or perhaps I'm merely a player who chooses to gamble in the riskier games of Life. At any rate, I imagine you'll be relieved to know that I've had my fill of this region...for now. There's plenty of gold down south in Mexico just ripe for the taking. But perhaps we will see each other again someday, O Queen...!" And with a giggle, La Tesoro melts into the darkness of night.
It doesn't take the Queen of Swords long to free herself from her bonds, and to untie Marta. But there isn't much else she can do except hope that La Tesoro is a woman of her word, and that the Tessa Alvarado's secret remains a secret.
And until the day when La Tesoro returns, the Queen will pass the time by improving her hand-to-hand fighting skills....