"Get out of there, Sarah," Boyd yelled from outside the house. "That wall is going to tumble any minute."
"Monty's found something." Sarah carefully moved over to the pile of rubble where the golden retriever was standing. "Be still, boy. Be very still."
"How do I know?" Monty always hoped it would be a child. He loved kids and all these lost and hurt children nearly killed him. They nearly killed her too, Sarah thought wearily. Finding the children and the old people were always the most painful. So few survived these catastrophes. The earth trembled and the walls fell and life was snuffed out as if it had never been.
"Okay." She absently patted Monty's head as she gazed at the rubble. The second story of the small house had caved in, and chances of anyone being alive beneath the wreckage were minimal. She could hear no groans or weeping. It wouldn't be responsible of her to bring anyone else from the search and rescue team into the building. She should get out herself.
What the hell? Stop wasting time. She knew she wasn't going to leave until she investigated more closely. She reached for a stool and tossed it aside. "Go to Boyd, Monty."
The retriever sat down and looked at her.
"I keep telling you that you're supposed to be a professional. That means you obey orders, dammit."
She tossed a cushion to one side and tugged at the easy chair. Jesus, it was heavy. "You can't help me now."
"Get out of there, Sarah," Boyd yelled. "That's an order. It's been four days. You know you probably won't find anyone alive."
"We found that man in Tegucigalpa alive after twelve days. Call Monty, will you, Boyd?"
Monty didn't move. She hadn't thought he would, but there was always a chance. "Stupid dog."
"If you're going to stay there, I'm coming in to help you," Boyd said.
"No, I'll be out in a minute." Sarah glanced warily at the south wall, then tugged at the mattress until she got it to one side. "I'm just looking around."
"I'll give you three minutes."
She pulled frantically at the carved headboard.
"Shh." She finally heaved the headboard to one side.
And then she saw the hand.
Such a small, delicate hand, clutching a rosary . . .
"A survivor?" Boyd asked as Sarah walked out of the house. "Do we need to send in a team?"
She numbly shook her head. "Dead. A teenage girl. Two days, maybe. Don't risk anyone's neck. Just mark the site." She snapped on Monty's leash. "I'm going back to the trailer. I've got to get Monty out of here. You know how upset he gets. I'll be back in a couple of hours."
"Yeah, it's only your dog that's upset." Boyd's tone dripped sarcasm. "That's why you're shaking like a leaf."
"I don't want to see you take a step out of that trailer until tomorrow morning. You've gone without sleep for thirty-six hours. You know exhausted workers are a hazard to themselves and the people they're trying to help. You were incredibly stupid to run that risk. You're usually smarter than that."
"Monty was sure there was someone--" Why was she arguing? He was right. The only way to stay alive in situations like this was to stick to the rules and not act on impulse. She should have gone by the book. "I'm sorry, Boyd."
"You should be." He scowled. "You're one of my best people, and I won't have you thrown off the team because you're thinking with your heart instead of your head. You endangered not only yourself but your dog. What would you have done if that wall had fallen and killed Monty?"
Excerpted from The Search by Iris Johansen Copyright© 2000 by Iris Johansen. Excerpted by permission of Bantam, a division of Random House, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Southern Gothic fantasy with a contemporary flare set in Savannah
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