About the same time that Andy was meeting Ben but 50 miles east outside the tiny town of Portrero near the border the smugglers were sneaking around.
"Let's check inside. Toss me that pry bar." The man in the dirty yellow T-shirt leaned on the large crate as the second man in the new dark brown hat but equally dirty otherwise threw him the pry bar.
Dirty Shirt levered the pry bar under the lid to the crate and shoved hard. The lid came loose with a crack.
"Oh, yeah! This is a great shipment."
"So, how many is it this time?" asked Brown Hat.
"Must be 18 or 20."
"Put the lid on. We don't want any trouble."
The third man, spotlessly clean, came forward from the shadows. "Stop messing around and get this stuff into the van right now!" He turned and walked quickly to a black sports car and got into the driver's seat. Pulling out his cell phone he dialed and said only, "It's ready, check the website." A moment later his car shot down the dirt road and made a sharp right turn at the highway.
The other two jumped to obey looking as though they knew very well what would happen to them if they didn't.
When the third man was gone, Dirty Shirt asked, "Who would know if we pulled out two or three of these babies and stashed them in that shed up the trail? We could take them into town to a guy I know and make a few extra bucks on the side."
"Don't even think it!" Brown Hat demanded.
"Yeah, yeah. I was just making small talk. Just lift your end and let's get this loaded."
"I just don't want any trouble. He'll be back soon and I don't want to ever get on his bad side! Keep reminding yourself of Ricardo and what happened to him for double crossing Mr. Big." He patted his new brown hat as he spoke.
"Yeah, Ricardo. He got seriously dumped!" Said Dirty Shirt with an ugly grin.
The next day was a perfect day for sailing. The typical San Diego weather in early June is what locals refer to as June-Gloom, overcast and cool. Most of the low clouds had burnt off early this time leaving enough breeze to fill the sails but not enough to give the crew a heavy workout. The temperature was about seventy degrees, of course.
"Catch the end of that line will you, Danny?" Ben seemed to be an excellent sailor.
"You've had some practice, Ben," Andy said trying to break the ice.
"Not nearly enough but I really like sailing"
Andy turned away to watch the Point Loma peninsula glide by. The old white lighthouse could be seen clinging to the shore just before they rounded the tip of the peninsula. Andy and Carlotta had lived in a house for two years on this ocean side of the peninsula and the weather here is very different from downtown. It gets more rain and is much foggier and cool.
As they entered the harbor Steve called out, "We can tie up here for awhile and have dinner." He pointed to the restaurants along Shelter Island.
After dinner they sailed on the bay under the downtown skyline as the lights began to come on in the city creating a glittery glow over the harbor.
As everyone else seemed occupied, Ben and Andy had a chance to get to know each other some. They talked about the battered man and Ben wanted to hear more about the message left on the rock.
"'Find Jorgé' is all it said and it was very shaky like he just barely got it written before he passed out," Andy said.
"How do you like doing field work with your Aunt?" Ben changed the subject to lighten things up.
"I love it. I want to be a naturalist and work for the State Parks after college. It's never a dull minute. There's always something happening. I mean besides finding battered people," Andy replied.
Andy had been waiting for the question and after awhile Ben finally asked, "Are you and your aunt usually out in the desert alone at one in the morning?"
"Well, she studies tree frogs and since the frogs can't handle the heat they're active at night and the males call then especially in the spring during mating season. Its really beautiful on the desert at night," Andy replied, smiling.
Andy figured that explanation was certain to make Ben think they were a little weird so she was surprised, when he burst out laughing and asked for more information.
"But, why not take a few more people?"
"Well, a group of people make too much noise and you can imagine that it isn't something everyone wants to spend time doing. I mean would you really want to spend hours in an isolated desert canyon with someone who likes to record frog calls in the middle of the night?"
Andy was laughing too and was surprised when Ben said. "I did some field biology in a class at a museum last summer with a great teacher and I'm ready when you are. Why don't we discuss it over dinner some time soon?"
Suddenly the wind was up and everyone had to jump up and help with the sails.
"Watch the boom, Jamie!" Danny yelled as they tacked to avoid another sailboat.
Jamie ducked in time.
"Hey, look." Danny said pointing to a large speedboat with red lights flashing just leaving the harbor. "The Coast Guard is after someone."
"Maybe someone is in trouble out there." Jamie suggested.
"Or maybe they're after smugglers!" Danny added.
"There is always something to keep those guys busy," Ben said watching the boat disappear quickly past the tip of the Point Loma peninsula. 'Find Jorgé' was echoing in the back of everyone's thoughts.
Later, Lotta asked Anna Vargas to bring Jamie and Brandon up to the cabin for a few days.
"We could come Saturday." Anna replied.
"I'm off this Sunday," Steve said. "Ben and I could come up then and take everyone out to dinner. Ben was smiling at Andy.
Andy smiled and left it at that as they sailed into port in front of a glowing pink California sunset.
©Copyright - Ann Wellhouse 2015