Jones noticed how Saldivar sometimes gravitated to an "off group," perhaps at lunch, when "you could see him entertaining two or three people you really didn't want to be around. He did have some leadership-type skills among the bottom feeders."
In high school, Saldivar was asked to list his plans, and he went all over the map: maybe industrial engineering, maybe working with machine tools, maybe studying math, or maybe enlisting in the military, then going to college.
This much he sensed: "I'd rather work alone because I am easily disrupted." He saw himself as an employee, not a boss. "I won't argue back." "I'm never in charge." He preferred working "with things" instead of people. If events didn't go his way, he would not get angry, he said, but would "simply accept the fact that I was denied of something and let it be."
He got a part-time job at a Vons supermarket and tried to impress his friends by sneaking out six-packs of a new product, super-caffeinated Jolt cola. He told classmates that he could not make graduation because of a conflict with a Vons training program in butchering. In reality, he had not completed his assignments in an English composition class.
Even after a warning that he might fail, he didn't do all the work.
So he did fail, and he did not graduate.
It was 1987. While others went on to college, he stayed at Vons. His oldest friend began suggesting he try something else. Carlos DeLeon's mother used to baby-sit Efren. Carlos had enrolled in a trade school in North Hollywood.
"I was happily working at Vons," as Saldivar told it, "and he comes over, 'Efren, Efren, want to join?' And I would turn him down.
"The third time he came in, he showed up in uniform, you know, with stethoscope, badge and patch.
"And I go, 'Damn, that looks cool. I'll join whatever it is.' "
Saldivar entered the College of Medical and Dental Careers in May 1988, and also obtained his high school equivalency certificate. He finished his 1,200 hours of training by Feb. 10, 1989. So what if the diploma spelled his name "Efrin Saldibar." He had a job waiting down the foothills, in Glendale, 15 minutes from home.
THE SAME DAY Eleanora Schlegel was found dead in her bed, Jose Alfaro Sr. arrived at the hospital.
Alfaro grew up in the Philippines, where he fought in World War II and survived the Bataan Death March, when Japanese soldiers led American and Filipino prisoners on a trek that killed thousands.
He drove a bus in the Philippines until emphysema forced his retirement. In 1992, he followed his children to the United States. The government was offering instant citizenship to Filipino veterans who had helped the Allied cause.
By 1997, Alfaro was 82 and living in a nursing home, battling pulmonary and arterial disease. When he was admitted to Glendale Adventist on Jan. 2, he had severe pneumonia. His family asked that no heroic measures be taken.
Two days later, Alfaro died. Time: 9:10 p.m.
SALDIVAR WAS 19 when he got his own uniform and stethoscope.
He slipped needles into patients' arteries to be sure they had enough oxygen in their blood. He put them through exercises to get them breathing normally after they came out of anesthesia. He helped insert breathing tubes down the throats of patients in respiratory distress and adjusted the ventilators that kept others alive.
However flippant his reason for becoming a respiratory therapist, Saldivar learned how exhilarating the work could be. People would come in wheezing, and he'd suction their airways, administer sprays and sit beside them "talking to them, you know, while the medication takes effect and they start opening up."
The pay wasn't bad, either--twice the $9 an hour he had made at Vons.
He once had envisioned himself tending machines in a factory, and in a sense he was. His hospital job was punch-the-clock shift work. He didn't mind working nights, even the graveyard shift, which went overnight to 7 a.m. That was where he settled. "Mornings for me," he said, "are sleep."
He once said he'd "rather work alone," and he almost did. On graveyard, only two respiratory therapists were on duty. Their patients were everywhere in the hospital, and the two had the run of the place. An assignment board told them which patients needed what therapies, and they might treat 20 a shift.
They also helped when nurses called a Code Blue emergency, or when heart monitors or respirators signaled trouble. There were frantic nights when three people died, or more. "A lot of people died," Saldivar said.
Other nights were uneventful--as quiet, indeed, as a graveyard.
It was a good shift for moonlighting. Saldivar got extra work at Methodist Hospital of Southern California in Arcadia, then at Glendale Memorial. He worked part time for Schaefer Ambulance Service, then at convalescent homes and Pacifica Hospital of the Valley. Some co-workers thought he was less than diligent, but he might have been simply tired. By most accounts, he was competent.