"As the last students were beginning to finish their tests Andy and Danny arrived. They had taken the trolley to the college to save time. They were planning to pick up a new cat carrier since Andy had taken in another stray and they now had two cats: Purrsey and Tayti.
"Go over to my office and wait. This won't take much longer." Lotta suggested.
"As Andy opened the door to her aunt's office the phone rang and Andy answered it. It was Tony Ramirez calling. She was Lotta's roommate at college and still kept in touch.
"Andy, long time no see, or hear for that matter. What's up?"
"Not much but you called here remember?" Andy shot back smiling. Tony was always fun to be around.
"I just thought you guys might like to try the new Thai restaurant that's opened up in North Park." Tony giggled.
"You are not going to talk me into the fire Thai again are you? My mouth hasn't recovered since you claimed hot Thai was equivalent to hot Mex and my tongue nearly fell off! Thai food is hottest."
"No you can choose the cool stuff if you're such a wimp." Tony does not eat hot food at all but enjoys getting others to do it. "I just would like to get together, no ulterior motives, honest"
"Danny's here to stay part of the summer with us."
"I haven't seen Danny in years. Is he still a cute little studious kid who hates girls?" Tony baby-sat when Danny was about nine and on another one of his lengthy visits due to deployments of Lotta's brother Sam and his wife Lonelle who are both lawyers in the US Airforce.
"Actually, he's thirteen now. Let me check with Aunt Lotta when she finally lets her students leave after another killer final exam. We're going up to the cabin soon so we'll have to get together before we go."
Hanging up the phone Andy thought about making the trip to the Laguna Mountains. The Lagunas were totally different from the desert below. The oaks would be in full leaf by this time and probably blooming and the pines would be green again after several years of the drought that had caused severe beetle infestations.
The mountains were never as quiet as the desert with all those leaves rustling everywhere in the slightest puff of breeze. But, looking out over the meadows at grazing deer, listening to the woodpeckers chattering like monkeys in the tangled branches overhead it was not hard to appreciate why most people like the mountains better than the wide open desert spaces that go on forever. There was also the heat.
Every day it was getting hotter and hotter now as summer approached. The daytime temperatures could be over 100 degrees on the desert. This time of year the only time to be on the desert was at night – but that is one of the best times anyway.
Lotta arrived at her office and they walked to the truck to do some shopping.
"Whoever Jorgè is he had better be in out of the heat and soon!" Andy said and they all agreed.
"Danny, you don't seem to have many clothes with you." Andy commented when they arrive home with their packages.
"Oh, I've got another T-shirt stuffed in somewhere with the computer and photography stuff. Wait untill you see this cool adapter Dad got me so I can take pictures through my telescope. If we would have had this in the desert with us I could have gotten great pictures of that truck that drove down the canyon just before we found our battered man." Danny grinned.
They decided to spend the rest of the evening on the town being tourists and took off for pizza at an ancient restaurant on India Street in the heart of Little Italy near downtown San Diego.
"This pizza tastes different."
"It took me awhile to get used to it too," Andy said, "but, now I really like it."
"Its kind of traditional Italian made with olive oil and has a little mint in it, I think. Do you like it?" Lotta asked.
"It's good. When are we going out to the desert?"
"As soon as we go up to the cabin. I figured we'd spend a couple of days in town and then pack up the animals and go. I have to grade my finals and turn in the grades. Do you want some dessert?"
"Do they put olive oil on it?"
Afterwards, they walked along Pacific Highway to look at the cruise liners and the sailing ship, the Star of India, and the giant Midway aircraft carrier. The crowds were filling in all the spaces on the sidewalk as the evening sun came and went behind fluffy white spring clouds in this scenic tourist town. The harbor water was glassy with reflections of the sailboats and wharf rippling below them.
Andy was nearly pushed into Anna Vargas and the two Vargas kids, Jamie and Brandon, by a couple of grinning skate boarders. Anna works in the Mayor's office and her husband Steve works with the coroner and has a lot of contacts in the local law enforcement. The Vargas' were playing tour guide to a friend of theirs. Andy had met the Vargas' last year when a student of Lotta's was abducted.
"Nice to see you again, Andy. Danny! I didn't recognize you. This is Ben Johnson. Ben is considering UCSD for college so he's doing an internship at the Veterans Hospital for the summer and staying with us. Do you remember him from our party last year?"
Anna Vargas is the type of person that always wants people to get together and have a good time. They throw fun parties because they live on one of the bluffs above the beach that San Diego is famous for.
"Nice to meet you."
Steve Vargas had seen the paper and knew that Andy, Lotta and Danny had found the battered man. "The man you found in the desert is still in a coma and no one has come forward to ID him yet. He has a very serious contusion and he had green feathers on his clothes." Steve informed them.
"Why can't they make him come out of a coma?" Jamie Vargas had a natural interest in medicine.
"We don't know how exactly," Dr Steve Vargas was right at home with this topic. "We've learned quite a bit over the years and can often do things that help but a coma is strange. Lots of people come right out of them and some languish for months or even years."
"How bad of a head injury do you have to have to go into a coma?" Danny liked gory details.
"Sometimes it doesn't take much at all. They've found recently that even slight brain injuries cause the brain to use calories at a slower rate. We usually advise coaches not to send players back into a game if they have even had a small knock on the head. The brain seems to have a hard time defending itself against another injury for awhile after the first one."
"So if this guy had been hit several times he was in really bad shape," Danny was getting into this.
Anna Vargas had heard it all before from Steve and took Brandon, who was 7, onboard the Star of India for the tour but Danny and Jamie were ready for all the details.
"What do they know about that guy besides being messed up?" Andy was born curious.
"We figure he was a foreign national being used as a mule by smugglers, that means . . ." Steve said.
"He was carrying something illegal across the border, right?" Jamie cut in.
"Has anyone identified him?" Jamie wanted to know.
"I don't know if we'll ever get a name for him unless he wakes up as who ever might come forward could feel the police would give them a hard time as well."
"But, he may have family in the area. They should put an artist's drawing in the paper," Jamie suggested.
"He's at Mercy Hospital and when a doctor I know did his rounds there today he said there was a guard on his room," Steve added lowering his voice.
"Cool! A guard. They may think those guys will return to try to silence him again," Danny suggested.
"It could also be that the police are waiting to see if he comes out of his coma before they go for more publicity." Ben seemed nice and had a friendly smile.
"They are taking no chances." Steve said. "The police chief said he was obviously involved in criminal activity."
"He left a message, you know." Andy added.
"No I hadn't heard about that," Steve was very interested.
"Find Jorgè!" Andy said, dramatically.
"It was written in his own blood on the boulder next to him in the ditch," Danny added.
"Wow!" Jamie was impressed.
"That wasn't in the paper," Ben sounded like he had been following the story closely.
"No. For some reason the police haven't released that information," Danny said.
"I wonder why they haven't?" Jamie asked.
"Maybe they are trying to protect this Jorgé guy," Ben suggested. "Maybe they don't want the smugglers to know they know about him."
"Maybe he's the one who left this guy in the ditch!" Andy suggested.
Anna and Brandon came off the the Star of India.
"Lotta, we're taking Ben sailing tomorrow why don't you and Andy and Danny come too? It would be fun for Jamie because Brandon is bringing a friend already," Steve suggested after talking privately with Anna.
"Sounds fun. What do you think, Ben?" Andy asked diplomatically.
"That'd be great," Ben said with a big smile for Andy.
©Copyright - Ann Wellhouse 2015