The next evening Luz messaged Ned. “Want to join us for an evening at the Belamosia Trailhead? The sky is supposed to be incredibly clear for this time of year!”
Ned readily agreed since he had slept almost all day and was now ready to continue with his mission. He checked in at the ranger station and was given an overnight camping pass. “We are working on a dig,” Raul said, eyeing Ned warily.
“George!” Luz called him over, “could you take a look at that pile of dirt over there? I think I’ve found somebody’s lost watch here.”
Ned agreed, wondering what he’d find. The evening sky was amazing, filled with almost as many visible stars as the desert, the air scented with an unfamiliar fragrance, and the calls of the birds. Ned began digging through the dirt, briefly forgetting his surroundings.
“Whatcha doin?” a woman approached Ned.
“Um, seeing what I can find.”
“Good idea. That’s what you’re here for, right?” the oddly clad woman said. “Never know what you’ll find under cover of darkness. There’s a lot of dirt to be found. Just be careful; the jungle is a dangerous place.”
Ned looked down at the ground briefly, hoping there were no spiders or snakes nearby. He looked up to thank the stranger, but she had disappeared. Carefully digging, Ned realized he had discovered an artifact. Here in the campground? What treasures lay further in the jungle? “Take a look at this, Luz,” Ned showed her.
“Wow! I’m impressed. You are lucky, George. Hey, Raul! Come check out what George found. This calls for a celebration–I’m going to break out the bottle of pure Selvadoradian Agave Nectar!”
The next morning, Ned climbed out of the tent. He didn’t remember much after stargazing, which had left him completely relaxed, and finishing off the bottle of pure Selvadoradian Agave Nectar. Nobody else was around, but Luz had scrawled a note, “You were still sacked out. Sorry I had to leave with the others, but I’ll be back when I can. xoxo.”
This seemed highly suspicious, and Ned considered the possibilities: they were making a business “transaction”; the dig piles had yielded an artifact; or Ned was being set up for something nefarious.
He wasn’t sure which–or any–of these was the true situation. For now, though, he’d be extremely cautious.
Ned looked around at the campsite. “Basil plants! Noxious elderberry! I can brew up a few jars of insect repellent liniment!” He quickly went to work; if the group hadn’t returned by the time he was finished, Ned would head back to the safe house — by a different route.