The bleached-white skull of a moon shot out from between
the clouds, lancing the night sky with a single beam of
light. The sudden brightness revealed a man squatting on
his haunches, a dog at his side. They had been on the
rocky ledge overlooking the ocean for more than two hours.
The rain lashed the wind-sculpted bluffs as it had all
evening, a storm with blinding bolts of lightning followed
by earthshaking thunder. Neither man nor dog even
flinched. They possessed the gift of supreme
concentration, the ability to focus on their task
regardless of the conditions. The man came by it
naturally, calling on some inner source of strength that
had always been a mystery to others.
He had trained the dog to home in on his objective and
ignore everything around him. Now they were out for the
Thunder boomed an ominous warning, and with a final flash
of light on the turbulent sea and its scudding whitecaps,
the moon disappeared behind a bank of churning clouds. The
wind rose, howling along the volcanic cliffs and valleys.
Chain lightning arced across the sky and seared the tops
of the wind-whipped palms.
"There for a second, I thought it was going to clear,"
Greg Braxton said to the greyhound at his side. "That
would have ruined all our fun."
Dodger gazed at his master through the pelting rain. His
fawn-colored coat was soaked to a deep mahogany. Rivulets
of water cascaded off his ears and sluiced down his sleek
back to pool around his haunches.
"It's not going to get much rougher," Greg told the dog.
"We might as well go for it."
Though his legs ached from being in one position for so
long, Greg instructed his mind to ignore the pain. With a
flick of his wrist, he signaled for Dodger to rise. The
greyhound shifted to his feet, steadier on all four than
Greg was on two. Still, it had to be hard on the dog. This
was by far the most difficult exercise he'd put him
through, but it was necessary. Soon they would fly to the
mainland for certification. Before Dodger could qualify as
a disaster dog, he'd have to pass a grueling test that
even the most highly trained dogs often failed.
"Search," Greg commanded, turning up his palm.
Like an eagle, Dodger soared off the cornice and landed on
the boulder below. He pivoted, whirling to the right, then
bounded effortlessly over jagged rocks and loose slag. One
misstep and Dodger would plummet to the base of the cliff,
where the savage riptide would drag him out to sea.
Greg followed, lightning--nature's flashlight--guiding
him. Scrambling to keep up with the dog, he hobbled over
the rough boulders, scythes of wind-driven rain slashing
at him. Despite the rocky terrain, leafy ferns had taken
root, making the rocks dangerously slippery.
"Dodger! Where are you going?"
The dog veered sharply to the left, not to the right where
Greg had planted the vial. It was hidden so carefully in a
lava rock crevice that he doubted he could find it again.
The vial of scent had been distilled from a cadaver and
was used to train disaster dogs.
Pseudo-corpse was expensive as hell. So what does Dodger
do? Runs away from the "body in a bottle." Greg took a
second to catch his breath. Okay, this is what happens
when you let a dog's mournful eyes get to you. Dodger had
been born to race--and trained like a robot to chase a
mechanical rabbit. Maybe the greyhound couldn't be
Greg turned to go back to the camp. Three sharp barks
pierced the air, all but lost to the wind and the rain.
"What in hell was that? Couldn't be a signal!" Above the
drumbeat of the rain and the wind scouring the volcanic
ridges, three sharp barks rang out again. "Christ! It is a
Greg sprinted across the jumbled remnants of the age-old
lava flow. The rain flew sideways in the wind, blasting
his face like bullets and funneling down his chin into his
slicker. He finally found Dodger. "What do you see, boy?"
The dog peered down the sheer drop, one foot raised,
pointing like a retriever. Good, Greg thought, at least he
had learned to point out targets even if he couldn't
locate the vial of pseudo-corpse. Lightning flashed,
momentarily flooding the area with an eerie violet-white
"No way!" Greg muttered, spotting the car at the base of
His mind must be playing a trick on him. It was too much
like another night when he'd looked down from a road and
had seen a car at the bottom of an embankment. Of course,
it hadn't been raining that night, and he hadn't been
alone. The Mani Search and Rescue Team had been with him.
But they'd been too late.
Greg mentally gave himself a hard shake. That was then and
this is now. He yanked out the flashlight fastened to his
belt and concentrated the beam on the rocky beach below.
The tunnel of light stabbed through the darkness and hit a
"Where'n hell did it come from?"
Greg had chosen this remote spot because the road ended a
mile behind him. The Hana side of Maui was rain forest,
and what passed for a road washed out whenever the
Pineapple Express blew in and drenched the Hawaiian
Islands. The road had been impassable for the better part
of the day, but some fool had ventured out. Was the fool
He put his finger in the air and twirled it as if starting
the Indy. Dodger responded to the signal and sprinted down
the steep ravine. As the dog vaulted over the rocks, Greg
calculated his chances of bringing anyone up the
embankment. He had some gear back at the camp, but not
Summoning help was out of the question. The crack rescue
team in Kihei would need a helicopter to get to this
remote site. Sure as hell, the chopper would be grounded
by the weather. There was a police substation back in
Hana, but the road had been closed by the storm.
Dodger was almost near enough now to determine if the
person inside was alive or dead. Greg couldn't help
thinking this was a good test. Part of the canine
certification exam would be to find a body underwater.
Body gases lifted off the water at the spot where a person
went down. One whiff and a trained dog could pinpoint the
location and determine if the victim was dead or alive.
Tonight there's more than enough water to call this an
aquatic test. He shielded his brow from the rain and
squinted into the tunnel of light. Dodger barked once,
then waited exactly five heartbeats before barking again.
"How could anyone have survived that fall?"
Greg charged over the rocks, leaping across several small
boulders until he reached the pup tent where he'd set up
camp earlier. Inside was a small emergency kit, a length
of rope, and heavy-duty gloves. The bare essentials were
all he'd been able to bring on his motorcycle. He brought
them out of habit, never expecting to need them.
"Let's hope this rope is long enough," he mumbled to him
self as he dashed back to the bluff. "Or else you're a
He secured the rope around the largest boulder he could
find. He yanked on his gloves and repelled down the
treacherous embankment much faster than was safe. His
boots slammed down on the boulder at the base of the steep
ravine. Waves that usually rolled onto the peaceful shore
now pummeled the beach, blasting the rocks with blinding
clouds of spray and flinging chains of seaweed into the
"Good work, boy," he yelled to Dodger over the thunderous
As he opened the door, he saw the interior of the car was
dry and dark, but a flare of lightning revealed a woman
slumped sideways from the driver's seat to the passenger
side of the car. She was slight with a wild mane of blonde
corkscrew curls that hung to her shoulders. He reached for
her wrist and immediately found a strong pulse.
Greg pulled out his flashlight to determine the extent of
her injuries and didn't see anything more serious than a
few bruises. She'd collapsed facedown, and in the clusters
of wild curls he saw a little blood seeping from the back
of her head.
"A head injury," he said over his shoulder to Dodger.
"Doesn't look bad, though."
He stood there a moment, the rain drumming across his back
and splashing into the car. The storm was moving inland;
he imagined the thunderheads stacked like pyramids against
the buttress of Haleakala. The dormant volcano blocked
tropical storms, making this side of the island a rain
Great. He could count on this ravine being under water
when the runoff from Haleakala became a flash flood. How
long did he have? Not more than a few minutes, half an
hour at most.
"We don't have any choice," he said to himself, but Dodger
answered with a sympathetic whine. "We have to move her."
He gently turned the woman to face him, then checked again
to see if she had any serious injuries. She might have
internal injuries, but he doubted it. How lucky could