"Well, it's been great fun, but I think we'll head home now." Lotta said.
"Say, before you drive up the grade would you mind taking a note to Tom Douglass? He's in his own truck without a radio and we haven't heard from him on the cell phone for awhile. It must not transmit from there. He was patrolling out along Pegleg Road near the airport." Sheriff Sadler suggested.
"Sure." They were all wide-awake even though it was very late. No one minded being included in the follow up action. They watched the tow truck haul away the smashed vehicle and then left.
On the way over to the Borrego Springs airport everyone needed to let off some steam.
"I can't believe that guy just ran off into the desert." Jason exclaimed.
"Do you think that was Juan?" Danny asked.
"It was definitely someone who had done something more serious than import parrots." Jin suggested.
"It'll be 110 in the shade out here tomorrow." Andy added.
"Yeah but there's plenty of water around right now. The washes will be dry again soon but there will be pools here and there on the large boulders for awhile after this rainstorm." Jason voiced.
"He seemed to be running in the direction of Rockhouse Canyon." Andy said. "It has steep walls in places so there will be some shade. It's near an earthquake fault so it's really rocky in there. He won't be able to run very fast until he gets pretty far into the canyon where it gets wider"
As they got closer to the airport they could begin to see the outline of the planes lined up on one end of the runway in the dim moonlight. Borrego has a nice single-runway airport. Mostly small planes fly out of there but Sun Air flies 17-seaters to nearby towns, San Diego, Palm Springs, etc.
"Look! There's a truck pulled off behind that clump of creosote bush." Danny pointed.
"The door is open but I don't see anyone around," Trevor observed.
As they drove up Andy began to get a bad feeling.
"Tom?" She called jumping out of the truck.
"Over here," a thin voice answered.
"I'm okay. He came out of nowhere and that's all I remember. Must have given me a knock on the head. I was just coming around when you guys drove up." Tom said rubbing the back of his head and sitting up.
"How come he didn't take your truck?" Danny asked.
"I think I had the keys in my hand when he hit me. They must be on the ground around here somewhere." Tom said beginning to stand up.
"Tom, you better stay down for a few more minutes." Andy suggested. "Steve Vargas was just telling us that people who get a head injury need to be careful for awhile."
"There's a flashlight in the SUV. I'll get it." Danny said.
In a few minutes they located Tom's keys and helped him into the truck to be more comfortable.
As Tom called Sheriff Sadler, his cell phone worked fine, they looked around in the soft wet sand for footprints.
"Here's some." Trevor was very good at tracking.
"They seem to head toward the airport." Danny aimed the flashlight beam along a line of footprints. "He was running, see how far apart the prints are?"
"If he was trying to steal the truck, do you think he would try to take a plane?" Jamie asked.
Trevor and Jason took off following the prints toward the east end of the airport about 50 yards away.
"Hey you guys, listen to this!" Tom called the others over. "Sadler says that the van Larry was driving took a turn too fast near here and smashed right into a boulder! When Tim and the others drove up the driver was gone! They had no idea which direction he went because the ditch was running with rainwater and he apparently ran down it. They're on their way over here because they think the guy that hit me is Larry."
"Look! Here come the police cars." Danny directed everyone's attention to a line of headlights heading their way.
The officers piled out of their vehicles. As soon as they heard Tom's story they ran in the direction that the others had gone.
Lotta, Jin and Danny said they would stay with Tom. Ben and Andy decided to drive the truck onto the tarmac. They could see people running toward the planes and someone was heading toward the small building that acts as a control tower and waiting room. The man slid behind the building as the truck's headlights landed on him. They could not identify him but he was not in a uniform and was not Trevor or Jason. Ben stopped the truck but left the headlights on.
"Hey! Over here! Quick!" Ben yelled to three officers to his right.
Tim ran up breathless and Andy explained what she had seen.
They lost him among the planes in the dark for awhile. Tim found him huddled behind some fuel drums.
"Don't come any closer or I light this match," Larry threatened as he pulled off the lid of one of the fuel drums. Tim walked toward him and Larry lit a match. Everyone stumbled backward trying to get out of the way, holding their breath, expecting a huge explosion!
Apparently they don't store fuel that way anymore. It's all underground now so the drums were empty. Everyone took a breath again.
Tim ran up and grabbed Larry. He struggled for a while but finally gave up when the other officers closed in.
"Okay, guys, I am going home. I've had enough excitement."
"That was cool, Andy. Anytime you need us to help just call," Trevor laughed as he stepped into the truck.
"Yeah, this is much better than cleaning animal pens," Jason grinned slamming the door.
The only thing left to do was call Sharon back and give her the juicy ending.
"Everything is okay now, Sam. Danny really helped by spotting the vans with his scope and taking the pictures that eventually linked it all together for evidence at the trial." In the middle of the party a week later, Sam called. He had been watching the desert action on the evening news.
"No, it's still alright that he stays the summer." Lotta said.
"No, you don't have to come home. The rest of them are all in jail now and probably will be for some time. Here's Andy. She'll give you all the details. I have to get back to the Bar-B-Que."
"Well, you know, Fina is funny." Andy began with the cabin intruder story. "She'll bark her head off at some innocent delivery person or the SDGE person but when there is a real burglar she gets very quiet slinking around the edges until she can get in close enough to him. Then she comes on like the Fourth of July scaring the daylights out of him. She doesn't bite. She just looked so ferocious the intruder made a quick exit."
"We found out that Larry used the excuse that he didn't have a choice." She continued. "He claimed that Juan had threatened Lynn and the kids and that was why he made this one run. As soon as Sheriff Sadler showed him the pictures that Danny had taken in Sentenac Canyon that first night, with one very clear shot of Larry's face, he broke down and confessed.
Larry told them that the birds were smuggled in a black row boat to remote sites along the coast avoiding the Coast Guard by running with no lights on moonless nights. Then they were trucked to Maria's place and Larry's house until they could be transported inland. He even told them when the next boatload was due and the Coast Guard has planned to intercept them."
"There was more contraband still in the ravine Larry's house when the deputies searched there later: lots of stuff besides parrots, too. The outlaws had seen me by the road near Maria's house the day we picked up Maria. They figured Maria's house wasn't safe especially after Louis was arrested at Bernice's ranch."
"Larry needed a computer system to keep track of the shipments and to advertise for buyers through email. He says its Juan who ran off into the desert."
"Lynn and the kids have gone to live with her mother for the time being until everything settles down. The police have the computer now and Lynn is ready to testify, too."
"We'll stay in town a few days but it really is fine now. Richard agreed to give custody of Jorgé to Julie. Your friend Justin Hollister is going to represent Jorgé at his immigration hearing so he can stay here to finish school."
"Now, I really have to go, too, because the Bar-B-Q is in full swing and Maria has made some great food that everyone else is gobbling up without me. Call us next week. Bye."
"Here you are, " Ben opened the door to the spare room where Andy was calling from to avoid the noisy party. He was obviously having a good time.
"Sam saw the headlines and had to have the long version."
"Well, the long version better include Maria being partnered by Bernice to cook at the café. They are going to start serving Mexican food along with the burgers and malts and Bernice has invited everyone out to have a grand re-opening in two weeks. Hope you won't mind my company." He said with a grin.
That was something Andy certainly wasn't going to mind.
"Squawk! Squawk! B'good! B'good!" Chester the parrot was staying with Lotta and Andy while Sophie Kassas and her husband visited relatives in Greece. Sophie had been delighted when the Sheriff brought the parrot over.
Apparently Chester was driving everyone at the station crazy so they were very happy to have Mrs. Kassas hang on to the 'evidence'. Having him as a next door neighbor would be entertaining. His vocabulary seemed to be huge if not very clean. He had to be kept in the back room because Fina did not like it when he was around the puppies.
For once though, Fina was being polite to Chester as everyone was making over the puppies. They had their eyes open and were incredibly cute. No one could resist them. They were so beautiful that it looked like it would not be any trouble finding homes for them.
"Kenny we have to have this little black one with the funny speckles of white on his nose." Tony was holding the runt of the litter that was not a bit small now. She was the last to be born and they had named her Starburst because of the funny markings on her nose.
"Dad, how about it? Could we have one?" Danny had asked hopefully over the phone when Sam called. Lotta had held her breath as she listened to their conversation on the speaker. Sam must have been feeling pretty good after successfully concluding the government business.
"Danny, how about if we buy a house? You seem to have made lots of friends that will probably want to visit and it's time that we get out of that little condo. I just got promoted."
Danny was ecstatic. "That would be great!"
"When we get back next week we can all look for a place and you can have a puppy." Danny ran outside to tell Jamie who was in the process of begging Steve Vargas for a puppy, too.
Ben and Andy went outside to join the party.
"It looks like everyone is having a great time." Andy said observing the back porch that was serving as a dance floor.
Ben and Andy wandered over to the food table to fill their plates with carne asada that was being dished up by Bernice. Jorgé was grabbing a handful of chips while he talked about his plans for the future now that his immigration status was clearing up. He was a great looking guy when he was not covered in duct tape!
"Jorgé, I heard you just got your SAT scores back. How did it go?' Andy asked.
"I did okay on the English language test, which I was really sweating, and scored in the 96th percentile in math." He replied.
"Congratulations. Do you know where you want to apply next fall?" He would be a senior in high school next year.
"I'm applying to several colleges and it will depend on where I can get the best scholarships." Jorgé wandered off to dance.
Bernie Bennett was dancing too and someone had put on some old Rasta music. He looked liked he had grown up on a dance floor. He even seemed to be singing along with the music which as weird to watch.
Tony and Ken and several relatives were here at the party and seemed to be having a great time.
Danny was talking with Trevor and making plans to acquire more animals.
"Trevor, when are we going to finish the goat pens?" Danny asked. "It looks like my folks and I are moving into a house and maybe Dad will consent to a house in the country so I can have some goats too."
"Why don't you and Jamie come out tomorrow." Trevor suggested. "You and your family should look for a place out near Descanso. If you had an acre or so Jason and I could teach you how to raise a dairy cow." Danny's Dad was in for more surprises than just a new puppy!
A few minutes later Tom Douglass phoned, "We found Juan the next day. The circling vultures showed us where to look.
This time because of the rain there was plenty of water out there so he managed to survive - barely. The 110-degree heat was getting to him fast after that snake venom swelled up his ankle so he couldn't climb around on all those boulders in Rockhouse Canyon.
He didn't put up a fight. He'll spend some time in the hospital that's for sure and then in prison. They still can't find Officer Jamison. It's a mystery."
Andy wandered over to look at the canyon that borders Lotta's yard. There was no fence and the wood deck ended in the native plants at the edge of the canyon. She noticed a skunk trotting down the little trail that winds around to the bottom of the canyon. As the skunk walked by, a snake uncoiled and silently disappeared into the underbrush.
The California Quail were having a drink at the pond. A marine layer was beginning to move in over the western horizon. It was time to just enjoy the beauty of San Diego now that the smugglers were rounded up and Jorjé was found - until the next adventure...
©Copyright - Ann Wellhouse 2015