"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?"
"It wouldn't have killed Monty. I'd have thrown myself on top of him and let you dig the wall off me." She smiled faintly. "I know who's important around here."
"Very funny." He shook his head. "Except you're not joking."
"No." She rubbed her eyes. "She had a rosary in her hand, Boyd. She must have grabbed it when the quake started. But it didn't help her, did it?"
"I guess not."
"She couldn't have been over sixteen, and she was pregnant."
"Yeah." She gently tugged on Monty's leash. "We'll be back in a little while."
"You're not listening. I'm in charge of this search, Sarah. I want you to rest. We've probably found all the live ones. I'm expecting the order to pull out tomorrow. The Russian team can finish searching for the dead."
"All the more reason to work harder until the order comes. None of the Russians' dogs has Monty's nose. You know he's incredible."
"You're not so bad yourself. Do you know the other members of the team are making bets on whether or not you can actually read that dog's mind?" "That's pretty dumb. They're all close to their own dogs. They know that when you live with an animal, you get to learn how to read them."
"Not like you."
"Why are we talking about this? The important thing is Monty is unique. He's found survivors before when everyone had given up hope. He may find more today."
"It's not likely."
She walked away.
"I mean it, Sarah."
She glanced back over her shoulder. "And how long has it been since you slept, Boyd?"
"That's none of your damn business."
"Do as I say and not as I do? I'll see you in a couple of hours." She could hear him swearing behind her as she picked her way through the rubble toward the line of mobile homes at the bottom of the hill. Boyd Medford was a good guy, a fine team leader, and everything he said made sense. But there were times when she couldn't be sensible. Too many dead. Too few survivors. Oh, God, too many bodies...
Did that poor girl have time to pray for her own life and the life of her child before she had been crushed? Probably not. Earthquakes took only a heartbeat to destroy. Maybe she should hope that death had come quickly and the girl had not suffered.
Monty pressed against her legs. Sad.
"Me too." She opened the door of the mobile home for Monty. "It happens. Maybe next time it won't be that way."
She filled up Monty's water dish. "Drink, boy."
Sad. He lay down in front of the metal dish.
He'd drink soon, but she'd wait for an hour or two before she tried to feed him. He was too upset to eat. He never got used to finding the dead.
Excerpted from The Search by Iris Johansen. Copyright © 2000 by Iris Johansen. Excerpted by permission of Bantam, a division of Random House LLC. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.