“Who was that?” asked our new friend as the taxi sped away.
Panda had run to the edge of the street to get a better look. “I know who I hope it wasn’t,” I said. “We had issues with some men in a taxi like that when we were in Tokyo for the Olympics.” The gray cat looked interested. “Wait, was that you guys who were in the paper for helping the Tokyo police capture a ring of gold thieves?”
Before I could answer, Panda returned. “I don’t think they saw me,” he said breathlessly. “But they looked like the men in the orange jackets from Tokyo!” The gray cat and I exchanged glances. “Uh-oh,” our new friend said. “You guys had better get out of here!” We agreed, and after paying for our food we said goodbye to the cat and went back to the pier.
At the pier we went to the same place we had sat before, to think about and discuss this new dilemma. None of the fishermen seemed to notice us, so we were able to talk freely. Unbeknownst to us, however, a seagull was eavesdropping. “I heard they’re from Tokyo,” the gull said, as if he had been part of the conversation the whole time. “Escaped convicts is what I heard.”
Just then we heard a startled cry and looked up to see Panda, who had apparently lost his balance on the railing. He was falling off the pier! “Panda!” we shouted in alarm, but it was too late. He was out of sight!
Panda told me later that he landed on one of the planks about halfway down. There was a friendly pigeon sitting there, who asked if he was all right. “Good thing you’re a stuffed animal,” the pigeon said in a friendly tone. “Nice hoodie! Is that a real pocket?” Panda answered that yes, he was all right, and yes, it was a real pocket. The pigeon nodded approvingly. Then he asked, “Not to be nosy, but how are you going to get back up there?”
Before he could answer, our seagull friend had swooped down and picked up Panda in his beak. In no time Panda was safely back on the pier! “Thanks, Bro,” Panda said as the seagull carefully set him down next to me on the rough wood planks. “No problem,” answered our friend. “Now I think you guys had better get off this pier and try to stay out of sight. You never know where those ex-cons are going to turn up next!”
We decided to take the gull up on his suggestion. For a little while we hid under the pier, scanning the beach for any sight of the men with the orange jackets. It was then that we heard a familiar voice.
“You guys see anything?” Imagine our surprise when we saw our penguin friend hiding behind one of the other pylons! We were both startled and relieved. “Where did you come from?” we asked in unison. The penguin laughed. “Well, originally from the south pole,” he replied. “But more recently from Tokyo.”
We listened intently as the penguins told us their story over a cup of delicious coffee. “We got a job with the Tokyo police department after you guys left,” one of them explained. “They were so impressed with our undercover skills that they wanted us to keep helping them. And then the men in the orange jackets escaped from jail so the police sent us to find them.” We were impressed. “So you followed them all the way to Cayucos, California?” Panda asked, incredulous. The penguins nodded. “That about sums it up,” they replied. “They’re running a fish stealing ring now. We know where they are, but we just have to catch them.”
“I know!” Panda suggested. “We can dig a hole in the sand and wait for them to fall in it!” The penguins shook their heads. “Umm…no,” was their response.
“Or we can have a picnic on the beach and lure them with the smell of our barbeque!” I offered. The penguins looked skeptical. “Do you guys even know how to barbeque?” they asked.
“Let’s go surfing,” Panda said, changing the subject. I agreed, even though I made it clear that I was not getting on a surf board. The penguins had things to do, so they didn’t come with us. “You guys have fun,” they said. “We’ll be in touch if we find the men in the orange jackets.”
Since I didn’t want to get on a surfboard, Panda convinced me to ride the waves in our travel tunnel. We had a blast! But finally it was time to settle down and think about the men and the fish stealing ring. “If you were running a fish stealing ring, where would you go?” Panda asked, hopping out to get back on his surfboard.
“That’s easy,” I replied from inside the travel tunnel. “I’d go to the wharf where the fishing boats come in. I’d wait until the fishermen emptied all of their nets and then I would strike!”
“That’s a great idea!” Panda exclaimed. We parked our travel tunnel on the beach and went to the wharf, where the fishermen had just come in with their catch. Our seagull friends and the penguins were already there. “Yep, this is only half of the catch,” the head penguin said. “They’ve already taken off with the rest. They were last seen in a boat heading toward Morro Bay!”
It was then that one of the seagulls got an idea. “I think we could catch them if we had a big enough net,” he said. “I know where there is one, too!” We followed him to where the net was and assessed the situation. “We need somebody to drop the net on them,” Panda said, and the gull nodded. “I’ll get my friends to help!”
It was starting to get dark by the time all the seagulls arrived. They managed to get the net in their beaks and flew over the water to where the penguins had tracked the boat belonging to the thieves.
We all cheered from the shore as the seagulls let the net fall on the men in the orange jackets!
We joined the Coast Guard as they went out to place the thieves under arrest. “Great job, guys!” the Coast Guard commander said heartily. “We couldn’t have done it without you!” Our penguin friends accepted their thanks modestly. “We were happy to be able to help,” they replied. The rest of us agreed. It had been great helping capture the men in orange jackets for the second time.
After we all had a delicious snack at the Sea Shanty, it was time to go our separate ways. The penguins decided to stay a couple of days to tour the central California coastline, but we were ready for a nap on our nice, warm bed.
We decided to wait until we were rested up before telling Mom all about our latest adventure.