Andy pulled on the emergency brake automatically and Danny grabbed a flashlight and the half-empty water bottle, just in case. They jumped out to see what could be done, which wasn't much. They needed to get help fast!
Danny couldn't get any service on the cell phone so they opted to head for the nearest ranger cabin. Fortunately, Tim Blain, the Coyote Canyon ranger was home when they banged on his door.
"Lotta and Andy! And Danny, too! Jeez! Isn't it kind of late even for you night owls to drop in?" Tim said, stifling a yawn. "You look terrible! What's happening?" he asked, coming quickly alert.
"Tim, am I glad you didn't go into town this weekend!" Lotta burst out.
"My wife went in and stayed over at her mom's place but I needed to work on my jeep." Tim said.
"There's a guy in the ditch not far from here in really bad shape." Andy interrupted.
"Let me get my holster and you can tell me the rest on the way. We'll take the jeep." Tim was still in uniform. When the rangers live out here they end up on call a lot of the time. This job attracts people who are ready and willing to help at all hours.
"He was still breathing when we left him." They jumped into Tim's jeep and headed back up the canyon as Andy related the story. "The guy looks really bad!"
"Let me guess, an undocumented worker lost his way in the heat without water?" Tim suggested.
"That's what I thought too at first but this guy looks to have run into something worse like maybe he fell off a cliff. He isn't conscious." Andy put in.
"Hold on Andy. I want to radio in and get some back-up. Borrego, this is six X-ray one zero five." Tim said clearly into the mic of his radio.
"X-ray 105, this is Borrego." The dispatcher is always on duty at the Anza-Borrego Desert State Park Headquarters. She sounded sleepy but snapped awake as Tim told her the story.
"Roger, 105. I'll get the copter in and see who's available to give you assistance from here, 10-4"
It would take awhile for the helicopter from the Brawley hospital to get there but at least there would be several of them to wait with the barely breathing man.
Tim signaled the helicopter pilot onto a fairly clear spot in the sand. The blades created a mini-sandstorm as the copter landed. It had taken almost an hour for them to arrive and by that time there were two sheriff's cars, an ambulance, three Highway Patrol cruisers and a Border Patrol SUV plus several rangers and the head ranger, Jeanette Rodriguez.
It was a circus with photographers, detectives and the TV-10 news helicopter trying to land. The area was roped off with orange police tape and was as bright as daylight with all the patrol car disco lights going at once.
Lotta, Andy and Danny were asked to wait and then ignored. After a long while a patrolman came over to where they were sitting on some rocks at the edge of the darkness and took prints of their shoes. They hadn't found any other prints and there was some talk that the man might have been thrown out of a vehicle.
One of the officers made a copy of the treads from Tim's Jeep and said they would need tread imprints from Lotta's truck. Danny took pictures of everything, too. Including the tread marks from the other vehicles that were at the scene.
When an officer finally interviewed them he was impatient and did not seem to believe their story about studying the frogs.
"Just what are you doing out here in the middle of the night, anyway?" The officer demanded..
"I'm doing my research for my Ph.D. on frogs," Lotta responded with a smile. "These are my niece and nephew, Andy Watkins and Danny Montrose."
"Just what kind of frogs are you referring to?" He asked rudely looking around as if he thought she couldn't possibly be telling the truth. "Looks pretty dry out here to me for frogs."
"Tree frogs. They live farther up in these canyons where there's water most of the year." Danny replied.
At that point Tim walked up and introduced himself.
"I'm Tim Blain. I'm the Coyote Canyon ranger and I've known Carlotta Montrose, Andy and Danny a long time. Lotta comes out here regularly to research the wildlife in these canyons."
Another man walked over. "Hi! I'm Sheriff Sadler," He held out his hand to Lotta and smiled. "All of you have had quite a night out." He seemed very understanding. "I'm sure you are more than ready to head home but we need to get scene-of-the-crime information from you before we can clear you to leave, if you don't mind."
"He was just laying in the ditch like that when we found him. We tried not to disturb the area but we had to check to see if he was alive." Andy said.
"That's fine. If you don't mind, Officer Jamison here will take it all down, politely," He shot a stern look at the officer, "and then you can go home. Be sure to leave a phone number where we can reach you if we need more information. Thanks for all your help."
"We're glad to help," Andy said and Danny and Lotta nodded. They were tired but still jittery after what they had seen laying in the dry desert wash.
"Well, ok." Officer Jamison said grudgingly as the sheriff walked away. "I need to take down your story and they'll be typing it up to have you sign it later, probably tomorrow. Let's start with your names and addresses."
Danny, Lotta and Andy gave him all the details they could remember.
As they were telling their story the Life-Flight helicopter took off with the battered man and headed for a hospital in Brawley. He was definitely in bad shape but not from dehydration or a fall.
Someone had left him for dead!
©Copyright - Ann Wellhouse 2015