19635 words (78 minute read)

Chapter 1

Golden Gate Rescue

The Tracking Board’s 2016 Launch Pad Manuscript Competition

GOLDEN GATE RESCUE Series and Book Synopsis (single-spaced section)

It is a fact that half of the Marin County Search & Rescue Unit is staffed by volunteers aged 14 to 20 operating as special life saving crews under the auspices of the Sheriff’s Department. Golden Gate Rescue is the first volume in a fictional adventure series recounting the exploits of these younger SAR crews juxtaposed against normal high school lives. These heroes interact with other teens and adult teachers, parents, and SAR/police while living in one of America’s richest counties, both financially and environmentally. The action is set against a background of class and expectation conflict among privileged youth whose social and environmental values may differ from their parents’. Rescues take place on land and water, in the mountains and the city, the Bay Area an ideal backdrop for heroism, romance, and teen angst to exist side by side.

This first adventure introduces the characters from whose POV the action is narrated: Jake “Coop” Cooper, a senior at Tamalpais High in Mill Valley, deeply devoted to SAR despite his girlfriend and parents’ fervent desire that he buckle down and get into Princeton so he can have a financially successful career; Holly Halley, scholar/athlete and free spirit from a dysfunctional family, trying to stay true to herself and be appreciated for who she really is; and Drew Lee, math and computer science wiz, varsity tennis player, and SAR gear jockey, suffering from debilitating social anxiety but comfortable rappelling from a helicopter on a mountain rescue. Narrating for the adults are Sheriff’s Deputy Don MacLean, Captain of the SAR division and recently widowed father of emo-ravaged 14 year-old Tyler; Mr. Krakauer, the Tam High calculus teacher who is an SAR member and its school advisor, and Jacki Morgan, 27 year-old Tam High/U.C. Berkeley grad, a paramedic who, as a former SAR youth member, bridges many of the gaps among the other characters as she navigates the waters between them.

The action begins with Coop, Holly, and Drew being paged out of Mr. K’s class to help search for a missing hiker on the Coast Trail. They drive to the trail with Don and two other SAR adults, providing an opportunity to learn about them, along with their SAR equipment, training, strategies, and motivations. The first search is a fairly small and quick one; they rescue Susan, a missing hiker injured in a secluded location. They locate, medically stabilize, and carry her out to meet Jacki’s paramedic team. Both Susan and her wealthy sister Judith become SAR fans.

Back home, Coop gets the third degree about his SAR commitment by both his parents and his girlfriend, Jessica. He gets welcome, if unexpected, support from his little sister, Heather, who at 14 suddenly expresses her interest in SAR. In an ongoing comedic subplot, Susan, a hairdresser, offers to repay Drew’s efforts on her behalf by treating him to a new cut. She sends his anxiety into high gear, as her intimacy boundaries are pretty broad, and his stylish/ridiculous new cut attracts more attention at school than he wants. Soon the same cut is ubiquitous.

Trying to traverse the rocky patch, Coop agrees to spend more time with Jessica and focus on his lacrosse, evidenced by his excellent play in an rivalry game. Don attends with Tyler in hope of piquing his interest in sports, but Tyler feels he’s already compromised his anti-exercise stand by giving up his strident objections to joining SAR. Later that night, Jessica’s father doesn’t come home; Coop learns that it’s not the first time. Her parents’ marriage has been suffering, and Coop opens up, sharing the secret that his parents are not exclusive to one another.


Holly and Drew work together to develop better SAR mapping and reporting processes, and it’s timely, as Jessica’s father’s absence is upgraded to a missing person situation. His last cell phone activity is tracked to West Marin. The full unit gathers at a cold, misty site outside of Pt. Reyes. Judith shows up to provide much appreciated hot food and drinks for the team, but Don pays a price, as Judith’s attraction to her widowed “hero” manifests itself uncomfortably.

Back in Mill Valley, with Coop away, his school rival Todd pays Jessica a visit, doing his best to show off his willingness to be everything Coop is not. Todd does have strong skills in this regard – he’s an excellent student/athlete from a good family and has Ivy League secret society written all over him. He’s also a creep. Meanwhile, SAR begins the hunt for Mr. Hauser. This search is far more complicated than the one for Susan. Teams fan out from the location of his car in the parking lot, following full missing persons protocol. Conversations with Mr. Hauser’s workplace don’t back up his wife’s story that he was supposedly out with clients. So Drew and Coop determine they have implied permission to search Mr. Hauser’s car, where they find and hack his cell phone, discovering texts to a woman who must be his mistress. They obviously have no permission, implied or otherwise, to do this.

Letting only Holly in on the secret, they take the unorthodox step of contacting her, and she admits they had hiked to a remote location for a tryst, where she forgot her pack containing an incriminating journal and camera. The last she knew, he had gone to retrieve it. She describes an approximate location, fairly far from the search site, and they agree to maintain discretion in the matter. They use the information to give them a head start on the group; a stormy night fast approaching. After a search, they discover the secluded love nest, and nearby lies Mr. Hauser, suffering from exposure and extreme delirium. He has a dislocated knee, but worse than that, his blood pressure is extremely low. They bundle him up, treat him for shock, do what they can to immobilize the leg, and radio in for backup as night falls.

The rain comes and the temperature drops, and Mr. Hauser continues to worsen. Wondering what is going on with him, Coop acts on another hunch and searches the mistress’s pack, discovering an alarming collection of prescription drug bottles and an empty bourbon flask. After radioing Jacki, Holly determines that Mr. Hauser’s condition indicates a dangerous combination of drugs and alcohol, and that he requires medical attention faster than a carry out may be able to provide. As she conveys this information to Don, Mr. Hauser briefly breaks out of his delirium in excruciating pain, showing signs of a heart attack. Holly and Drew perform joint CPR as Don calls in a helicopter, hoping to get it to the coast as they try to walk the patient out to the beach. Don, Tyler, and Jacki race to Coop and his team, who perform CPR endlessly as the rain continues to soak and freeze both them and Mr. Hauser, who is in bad shape.

When Don and the crew arrive in the driving rain, Coop organizes everyone to carry Hauser out, setting up a lighted landing zone and loading him on a Life Flight to Marin General. Jessica is overjoyed with Coop (who withholds details for the time-being). Holly begins a flirtation with the new deputy. Tyler is welcomed into SAR after his first successful mission. Drew treats him to one of Susan’s signature haircuts, intended as a hazing ritual, but Tyler loves her edgy work, and she suggests he consider piercings and tattoos. Tyler thinks this is all excellent preparation for the rock band Don doesn’t know he’ll be joining in the next edition of Golden Gate Rescue!


GOLDEN GATE RESCUE (Volume 1 Excerpt – Double Spaced)

Chapter One


Jake Cooper ran the figures in his head again. He wasn’t sure he was doing this right.

He eyed his best friend, Andrew Lee, Tam High’s resident math wiz. Drew was apparently busy

doing the calculus quiz that Coop was supposed to be doing. Good enough. Coop glanced at

Mr. Krakauer, his A.P. calculus teacher, to determine the likelihood of catching hell. Mr. K

appeared deeply engaged with his tablet, doing something that was making the wave patterns on

the white board oscillate in an arrhythmic fashion. Coop had no clue what that was about, but

Mr. K seemed pretty focused, and when he got focused, he tended not to notice what was going

on around him.

To text or not to text? Texting was definitely considered a no-go in K’s class. He was

pretty old school, which Coop could dig. Yes, you could find the answer to pretty much any

question by doing a web search, but that didn’t mean you understood the underlying concept.

Coop respected that. He had no idea what the underlying concept was, but he respected it. So

maybe it would be easier to go old school himself. He tore a piece of paper out of the back of his

notebook and crumpled it as quietly as possible. Nobody seemed to notice the sound, masked as


it was by the whir of the fans on all the computers and servers that were in constant operation in

the advanced math classroom.

One last look at K, and Coop went for it. He reared back and chucked the paper missile

at Drew’s plus-sized noggin. It was a perfect throw, catching Drew flush on the left ear. Coop

snapped back to a studious pose, eyeing Mr. K, who was now eyeing him suspiciously.

“Damnit,” thought Coop. “I should have thrown that left-handed. There would have been way

less movement.” As a lacrosse player, Coop prided himself on being ambidextrous, and it was

true that he was just about as good with his left as his right for macro moves like throwing or

hitting. Not so hot for writing or eating, however, but he would work on that. Probably help his

creativity too, since it activated the right side of the brain, the creativity center.

“That was an evident loss of focus,” Coop thought, returning his attention to its original

subject. Drew was also looking at him. Perfect. K had returned to his tablet, and the wave

patterns were now moving at a constant rate.

Coop caught Drew’s eye, who gave him a look that said, “Why’d you paste me in the

head, dude?” Coop pointed to his wrist. There was nothing there, because no one in his

generation wore a wrist watch, because they all carried cell phones, but Coop figured Drew knew

by some collective unconscious that this meant Coop was trying to communicate the concept of

“time” to him. But time for what? Class wouldn’t be over for 27 minutes. That was self-

evident. All you had to do was look at the clock. The clock! Of course! Coop raised two

fingers, then reversed his hand and flashed a fist and his whole hand. 2:05. Drew nodded.

Coop checked Mr. K again, who was now watching him, bemused. Mr. K raised his

eyebrows as if to say, “Go on...”


Coop rolled his eyes and ceased attempting to be clandestine. He tapped two fingers

down briskly, and hoped Drew determined 2:05 am, but then Coop snapped his wrist back, his

fingers parted, wiggling in a walking gesture. He guessed that Drew would have to think about

that for a moment, but he’d figure out it meant, “Fall back,” or the end of Daylight Savings

Time. Coop then bounced his hand up and down, gesticulating rather broadly. Drew glanced at

Mr. K, who was beginning to look cross. Not only that, Coop realized that Drew was expressing

with his eyes that other students were now checking out Coop’s previously covert communiqué.

Coop wasn’t through though. He kept bouncing his hand ridiculously, eyebrows lifted, trying to


* Drew *

“Jump.” No. “Leap?” Leap Year. OK, 2:05 am fall back daylight savings time in a

Leap Year.... Drew’s elation passed swiftly. What in the hell was Coop talking about? He felt

pretty good about the expression of the time, but was Coop talking about 2:05 a.m. on February

29, like Leap Day? Or was he telling him to remember that it was a Leap Year and Drew was

supposed to figure out the day in another way? Meanwhile, it looked like Coop was trying for

round four. Drew watched Coop make a fist palm down and extend his index and little finger,

then move his hand forward erratically. Drew grew more confused by the moment. Coop was

his best friend, but they had very different minds. Coop was a luddite, for example, but only

Drew would use a word like that. Coop preferred rubbing sticks together to make a fire, whereas

Drew would take the same amount of time to construct a solar powered microwave oven. Hence,

Coop played charades, while Drew sent texts.

Well, maybe not in Mr. K’s class. Drew checked out Mr. K checking out Coop, and he

wondered why he wasn’t doing anything about it. Coop wasn’t even trying to hide that he was


sending Drew a message. Drew stopped to think that he could just ignore Coop and hope that

Mr. K didn’t blame him for this madness. Maybe Mr. K was trying to figure it out too? Mr. K

had that problem-solving look on his face that he sometimes got when SAR had to do something

they weren’t prepared for, something that solved an unexpected problem. Mr. K was kind of a

MacGyver. Drew liked that a lot about Mr. K.

Normally, Calc was one of Drew’s favorite classes, behind the computer lab, of course.

He enjoyed the complicated math problems and how they could translate into everyday life in

ways no one else noticed. For most people, arithmetic was actually enough to get through life,

along with a little geometry and maybe the ability to work out square roots and a Pythagorean

theorem here and there, if you were trying to figure out the diagonal to size a rug or for a little

carpentry. For the most part, though, you didn’t need much more than arithmetic to get through

the day. But if you wanted to get to the Moon? Well that was a different thing entirely. And

Drew wanted to get to Mars. Or maybe to the bottom of the Marianas trench. There was weirder

stuff on the floor of Earth’s oceans than anywhere even vaguely reachable in space – at least as

far as we knew.

Drew shook his head to wrench his brain back into the present. He had to do that a lot.

His mind was always running off on some flight of imagination, often about adventures in space

or at the bottom of the ocean, but more often than that he was dreaming about being tied up and

spanked by Zoe McDonnell, the varsity basketball cheerleader. If you’re going to fantasize, go

big or go home. Sadly, on an actuarial basis, he felt he had a better chance of making it to Mars

than he did of getting to second base with Zoe, let alone getting her to indulge his amateur

BDSM fantasies. What he failed to realize, of course, was that if Zoe was at all likely to want to

tie someone up and discipline him or her, it was far more likely to be someone like Drew than


someone like Cooper. So he had that going for him, though he didn’t know it. He was still

trying to figure out what day Cooper was miming about, so he recited the old memory device,

“Thirty days hath September, April, June, and November...” Coop was still doing the thing with

the cow horns running around erratically. Or maybe not a cow, Drew thought...

* Holly *

“It’s a car!” shouted Holly Halley. Drew, Jake, Mr. K, and half the class turned to stare

at the tall blond sitting behind the Mime of AP Calc. She had been watching the entire time.

She was a sharp one, the girl they nicknamed “Long Haul.” She thought about that moniker

sometimes, and she knew it was meant to be a sort of pun on her name and appearance, like Tall

Holl-ee, so Long Haul, but she thought it had kind of a dirty undertone to it. What would a long

haul be if it were a sex act? Why did it make her think about blowjobs? Then again, why did

everything make her think about blowjobs these days? Because she so totally wanted to give

one. She hadn’t gone that far with a guy yet. It seemed like none of the other dudes compared

favorably to her SAR friends, and they were just that, friends. And colleagues, too. Could it get

any worse for your love life?

She’d done it with a girl, of course. Most of the girls she knew had at least made out with

a girl, and if you’re going to get that intimate, you might as well get in some practice at other

things. Part of it was being a swimmer and on the volleyball team. She knew a lot of lesbians or

bi-girls. She didn’t consider herself bi. She liked dudes. There was no question about that. But

girls were pretty and soft, or in the case of athletes, hard and sexy. She liked their bodies and

thought they were beautiful, and so, when she was 15, 16, she tried it out. It was generally nice,

although it had gotten a little weird once. She had gotten pretty close with Maria Sanchez, and

Maria had gotten a little addicted to her, and they wound up not really staying friends anymore,


but it wasn’t bad or anything. Still, she’d learned how to have an orgasm, and now that she was

good enough at it, she could take care of herself. And she felt confident that she’d be able to

make a guy feel good by letting him think he was making her feel good, when it fact, she knew

that as long as he didn’t come in 10 seconds or absolutely panic or something, she’d be able to

get off and enjoy it.

Now she wanted to play with a man’s body. She wanted to know what a hard cock felt

like. She wanted to know what razor stubble would feel like on her thighs. She wanted not to be

the biggest and the strongest. She didn’t want to be dominated so much as she didn’t want to

kick ass. She wanted to feel like a girl. She wanted to put a guy in her mouth. She wanted to

feel a guy inside her. Everybody thought she was the good girl, the 4.0 student, the girl next

door, the can’t miss at Stanford girl. And she was. She could be all those things and still want to

have really hot, nice sex.

What she really wanted was sex with Jake Cooper, that unwitting sex bomb that was

gesticulating wildly to Drew, who was super sweet and needed to get laid so bad that she was

almost willing to help him – except that he’d fall in love with her, and she wasn’t in love with

him, and then a perfectly great friendship would get all fucked up. That wasn’t the problem with

Jake. The problem with Jake was Jessica Hauser. They’d gone together since like the 7th grade.

Holly knew that Jake didn’t think about her the way he thought about Jessica. Holly was

convinced that Jake actually felt the way he did about Jessica out of force of habit. Jake was in

love with the mountains and saving lives. On that front, at least, Holly had Jessica beat. Holly

and Jake saved lives together. Which no doubt had something to do with these ridiculous hand

signals he was now sharing with the world. Which brought Holly out of her daydream and back

into the quiz she had forgotten she was taking and also Jake’s sign language about rappelling off


of something, then backstroking somewhere, and then getting in a car, and, what was he doing?

Drunk driving maybe? Oh, so that’s what this is all...

* Mr. K *

“All right, Mr. Cooper, that’s enough,” said Mr. K, glaring at his SAR protégé sternly.

“And you too, Ms. Halley. You’re supposed to be taking a quiz, not playing charades in my

class.” Holly blushed, as if she’d been caught in the act of something more embarrassing than

simply shouting out an answer during AP Calc. Mr. K wondered if there was something more.

What the hell had Jake been trying to convey? Was it the time of something? Like a late lunch

at Joe’s Taco Lounge off campus? Or, more likely, if he read it correctly, something early in the

morning, and if Holly were right, then something involving a drunk driver? Maybe he was he

trying to say the drunk drivers would be out at 2:05 a.m. on the night of daylight savings, which

was coming up in a couple of weeks, the Sunday after Halloween? But the drunk drivers were

out every night at 2:00 am. Just ask Sherriff Leo. Mr. K had been on enough SAR accident calls

to know what things looked like in the blue and red lights at 3:00 in the morning down a steep

hillside on Highway 1 to Stinson Beach. It was a good thing that kids didn’t generally get sent

on those types of calls...

* Coop *

Coop’s pager went off. He reached for his belt and grabbed it. It was from Deputy Don.

24-hour pack – sr. gather Tam High lot. He took a quick gander at the other SAR geeks in class.

Yep, Mr. K was checking his pager; Drew was on his phone. Coop turned around to see what

was going on with Long Haul, she of the large mouth that had just gotten him in trouble. She

had her cell phone in both hands and was already typing furiously on it. She looked up at him

and raised her eyebrows. He cocked his head to one side inquisitively. He had to admit that


Drew and LH would always know what was happening faster than he did, because they got

pages on their phones and could then cross reference that message with other Sheriff’s

Department information and hazard a guess at what was going on. Holly shrugged her

shoulders. Apparently she didn’t have any more information than he did.

Coop stood and strode to the back of the classroom, other students looking up briefly,

then returned to their quizzes. Holly was right on Coop’s tail. Drew took a few more minutes,

as he stopped first at Mr. K’s desk and dropped off his quiz. “Finished with more than 20

minutes to go,” Coop pointed out to Holly. She was retrieving her orange 24-hour pack with

“Halley” stenciled on it over her shoulder. She nodded. Mr. K was saying something to Drew,

something about not getting in a hurry. The SAR team could leave school on emergencies and

be given time to finish classroom work later. It was one of many ways Tam High supported the


“Dude is a serious mathlete,” Holly said. Coop nodded, then turned to grab his orange

pack, “Cooper, J.” stenciled on it. He shouldered it and grabbed the remaining orange pack –

“Lee,” and held onto it. Holly rested a hand on one of the lone 24-hour pack hanging on the

wall, this one a dirty yellow, “Krakauer” hand lettered on it. Mr. K followed Drew down the

aisle to the back of the room, both of them quiet. Coop tossed Drew his pack, and all three of the

young SAR vets turned to face Mr. K, Holly with her eyebrows raised. Mr. K shook his head,

and Holly let her hand fall away from the pack.

“My pager just said to authorize senior squad as ‘go’. That’s only the three of you right

now, so there’s no need for me to run all over the building, which I appreciate. Being you

advisor is trouble enough. Good luck, and be safe,” Mr. K said, the last part seriously.

“Always, Mr. K. See you when we get back,” replied Drew.


“I was almost finished, Mr. K,” said Holly. Cooper bet that she was. Holly was super

smart, especially at STEM stuff. Drew and she could run rings around him when it came to

pretty much anything academic. Cooper was less than halfway through the quiz and would most

likely take advantage of the rules just a little bit by doing a refresher on limits tonight. He

figured that what was important is that he learn the stuff, not that he test well.

“I’m sure you were, Holly. You and Coop can finish tomorrow. 22 minutes left. Just

remember, no reviewing,” smiled Mr. K.

Coop stared at the ceiling uncomfortably. Mr. K was a total mind reader. He continued,

“Integrity is doing the right thing when nobody’s looking, remember.” Coop sighed to himself,

thinking that the upside was that he didn’t have any Calc homework for the evening.

The three walked out of Calculus and down the hall, remaining as silent as possible,

Classes were in session, and part of the arrangement they had with Tamalpais High School was

that they could leave class and roam the halls as long as they were quiet and had general

permission from Mr. K, Principal Logan, or Vice-Principal Rosenberg. They pushed through the

crash doors at the south end of the school and walked into a beautiful early fall morning in Mill

Valley. A Chevy Suburban Marin County Sheriff’s Department rig emblazoned with the Search

& Rescue logo awaited them in the parking lot. Coop got in the front passenger seat, Holly and

Drew joined two other SAR members in the back of the outfit, and they headed out to save a life.


Chapter Two

* Don *

“Two minutes,” said Don MacLean, as Coop slammed the Suburban door, adjusted his

24-hour pack on his lap, and unzipped the main compartment. “Do you figure that’s about

average for getting out of there?” Don put the SUV in gear and headed onto Miller Ave. He

eyed his charges in the rear view mirror. Micah Nickols and Geri Walker had moved to the rear

bench, allowing Holly and Andrew easier access to the middle-row seats. They too had their 24-

hour packs on their laps and were unzipping them and looking through the contents.

“Better than average,” Coop replied. “We were all in Mr. K’s classroom when the call

came in, so we had our packs right there, we didn’t have to wait for administrative clearance, and

we didn’t have to round up any of the other kids, since it was senior rescue only. I’d say that’s

actually about as fast as we can get out.” As he was talking, Coop wrestled himself out of his

Tam High Lacrosse hoodie and peeled off his t-shirt, rolling them up into neat cylinders to be

replaced in his pack. Checking the rear view again, Don saw Drew and Holly following suit.

His gaze lingered on Holly’s sports bra for several moments longer than appropriate, and then it

shifted to her face where her eyes focused directly on his, a tiny smile playing at the corners of


her mouth. His face flushed involuntarily, and he reflexively made a show of looking for traffic

out his window and then leaning forward to peer past Coop. He sensed, rather than saw, her

donning her day-glow yellow t-shirt with the SAR logo on the front breast and Mountain Rescue

artwork on the back. He couldn’t stop his eyes from returning to the mirror, and she was still

looking at him, the same bemused look on her face.

Micah and Geri both were attired in standard yellow SAR t-shirts over cargo pants and

hiking boots. Don, as a Sheriff’s Deputy, wore his SAR-duty uniform consisting of a tan open-

collared shirt with the MCSD logo, a brightly colored rendering of the Golden Gate Bridge set

against a sunset over the Marin Headlands, on one shoulder, the SAR logo on the other, which

depicted a silhouette of three rescuers engaged in a stretcher carry-out in the mountains, and a

Sheriff’s star on one breast pocket with a MacLEAN patch above the other; he also had on

heavy, forest green trousers and black combat boots.

He pressed a boot down and accelerated onto the Pacific Coast Highway, aka Highway 1,

one of the oldest roads in California that traced the western edge of the continent, including the

Golden Gate Bridge itself. They were headed to one of the more remote parts of Marin County;

although, for being only minutes from San Francisco, a great deal of Marin was surprisingly

remote. He gave a quiet thanks for his job – for Don it was a nearly daily gratitude – and for

where he plied his trade. Marin had access to everything you could ever want for outdoor sports,

from rivers and lakes to the Pacific Ocean, from fantastic hiking and mountain biking trails,

forests, and wilderness to deltas, beaches, and mountains, there was something for everyone, and

potential danger for all of them. Marin SAR was as good as it got in California, but it was the

only one that did so as an all volunteer organization recruiting half its members from local high

schools and junior colleges. He was extraordinarily proud of all of them, especially the kids.


“What’s the mission, Captain?” Holly asked him. He looked in the mirror again and saw

that her face was composed and serious, as if she wanted to convey to him that there was nothing

for him to be embarrassed about. That was exactly the kind of stuff he was always talking about,

how mature these kids were.

“We got a missing hiker at Bass Lake,” Don replied, keeping his voice intentionally

casual. “Whew,” he thought, “that’s still uncomfortable.” He unbuttoned his shirt pocket and

removed a small notepad. “Female,” he continued. “Caucasian. Age 45. Name is Susan

Anderson. Lives in Bolinas. Last heard from yesterday on the phone at noon by her sister who

lives in Inverness. Said she was going for a hike up to Bass Lake. Said she’d call yesterday

when she got home; sister didn’t get a call. Didn’t answer repeateds. Sister went to the house

this morning to check and found a note on the door that indicated someone had gone there this

morning for a meeting and hadn’t seen her either and left a note to reschedule.” Don handed the

note pad to Coop, whose own notebook was already out....

* Coop *

Coop copied the vitals from Don’s notebook. This was a far better way of spending an

afternoon than in AP Calc, regardless of how much he liked Mr. K. This would have been good

practice for some of the new recruits that had only come in about a month ago, during which

time they had been annoyingly (although happily, from the point of view of public health) light

on missions. Most of summer had been pretty solid, but fall was not off to a great start. Part of

it was perhaps that people just weren’t doing as much stupid stuff, but that seemed odd given that

as far as he knew the world hadn’t gotten any smarter during the last month of summer.

Certainly, people were still drinking, which added a lot to the SAR duties, and old folks were

still walking out their homes under the influence of dementia or other mental issues. It was


really surprising how often that actually happened. Until Coop became an SAR member, he

would never have guessed the Sheriff’s Office received something like a dozen calls a year

brought by worried friends or family about someone just wandering off. Folks were certainly

recreating as much as ever. No, there had just been an uncommon run of good luck, so it was

bound to end sooner or later.

“Where do we start?” Holly asked Don.

“Are we going straight to the Bass Lake parking lot, or do you think start off at the

L.O.P.?” Drew asked simultaneously.

“Great minds,” grinned Don. Holly and Andrew rolled their eyes and performed an

elaborate fist-bump. Coop ignored them. He figured the Last Observed Position would be

considered the house, but it wasn’t necessarily. People could phone from someplace entirely

different from where they said they were, so it made sense to try to verify first if that was, in fact,

where she had been last.

“We’ll go direct to Bass Lake,” Don said. “HQ sent a deputy to Anderson’s house to

meet with the sister and make sure everything was kosher there. Nothing out of the ordinary. So

he took the sister and went to the lot, and the MP’s car was there.” Coop hadn’t thought about

the rest of the Sheriff’s Department. He finished copying out the information and handed Don’s

notepad to Drew, who simply took a picture of the page with his phone and handed it to Holly,

who followed suit, passing it back to Geri. Coop settled back in his seat and relaxed. It was an

hour drive to Bass Lake. He closed his eyes.


Chapter Three

* Holly *

Don turned left at the old white church at the end of the Bolinas Lagoon. There had been

no sign indicating that Bolinas lay in this direction, because the odd residents of that odd little

town had been tearing them down since the early 1970s. Holly looked out at the diverse, marine

wetlands that abutted one of the most exclusive pieces of real estate in California, and by that

measure, she supposed, the world. So much of Marin County could be summed up in the view

she beheld at that very moment. Mt. Tamalpais, the highest peak in the Marin Hills and for

which the Mill Valley high school was named, rose in the background.

They had driven one of America’s most twisting roads from there through Stinson Beach,

a small, popular weekend getaway from San Francisco. Stinson Beach consisted of two parts:

the eastern half held the town proper and the public beach; the western half consisted of a private

spit of beach and a triple-lagoon-facing enclave of super-exclusive homes. Seadrift had been

developed in the late 1950s, in large measure by dredging an artificial lagoon into the middle of

the spit and using the fill to build out the various lots (or dumping it into the natural Bolinas


Lagoon). Since that time, there had been an ongoing battle between the very, very rich and the

ultra-green, both of which enjoyed particularly high concentrations in Marin in general.

While the former were easily found in Seadrift, if not actually reached due to its gated

security, the latter existed, but often could neither be found nor reached, in the town of Bolinas

that occupied the western shore of Bolinas Lagoon and had its own beach facing south across the

Pacific Ocean to San Francisco. The actual distance between Seadrift and Bolinas was an

estuary narrow enough for the residents of the two communities to hold an annual 4th of July tug

of war over it. The philosophical difference could hardly have been wider. Bolinas was the

town that didn’t want to be found, where the residents tore down the “Entering” sign within

hours of its being erected for decades until the Highway Department simply gave up making

them. Bolinas was populated in large measure by trust fund refugees from the 1960s for whom

truly heroic intakes of LSD and other mood altering substances had resulted in the creation of a

town that looked, smelled, and acted like a 365 day a year Grateful Dead show. It had of late

begun to change some, but it was among the last refuges of the lost children of that era.

Holly’s grandmother had been just such a child. Her Bobo was one of the lucky ones

whose mind hadn’t been addled by the excesses of the age, but rather opened by them. She had

come to San Francisco in the Summer of Love, 1967, from Florida, of mixed Seminole and

Scandinavian ancestry. There she had fallen in love with the scion of a one of the oldest families

in Marin County, Thomas Kent, the family that put the “Kent” in “Kentfield” and that had, in

fact, owned and developed Seadrift. According to Bobo, Thomas Kent was the love her life, a

handsome, kind, artistic, forward thinking man. He was an early breed of environmentalist, and

was a member of Marin’s Explorer Post 74, the first such entity to allow women into its ranks

and the predecessor of the organization of which Holly was now a proud member.


Bobo hadn’t known Thomas was rich until well after they were married. As it turned out,

the Kent family was not pleased with Thomas’s choice of a hippy “half-breed,” and they were

not welcoming to his wife nor approving of his daughter Skyla. When Thomas was killed in a

car accident when Skyla was five, the Kent’s chose to have nothing further to do with mother or

daughter. Having cut off relations with her Florida family years earlier, Bobo raised Skyla by

herself in a beach house in Bolinas, living off Thomas’s estate, most of which was held in real

property, although there were other assets.

For many years the Kents had tried to buy Bobo out of Thomas’s properties, but she

refused to speak with them. She lived a very Bohemian lifestyle, and Skyla was raised in a

world of art, poetry, music, and philosophy, but without material trappings. As a child, Skyla

could not have been happier running naked on Bolinas Beach, and undoubtedly throughout the

rest of the town, but by the time she was a high school student in Mill Valley during the Reagan

years, Skyla came to resent her mother’s choices, especially when she saw how her cousins

named Kent lived. Skyla changed her name to Linda and entered into a decades-long

philosophical battle with Bobo, which she thought she had won when she married Edward Hally,

a USC MBA who voted Republican.

Holly’s father left Linda/Skyla and her five years ago for his secretary and now Holly had

two toddler stepsiblings living in Los Altos. Linda had been crushed, and as if nothing had ever

come between them, Bobo had been there. Holly had always had a good relationship with Bobo,

and it was a source of much joy that her mother was on her way to enjoying one as well, even if

Linda was something of a slow learner when it came to jettisoning many of the belief systems

and traits she had developed as one of the prototypical Mill Valley soccer moms.


Holley wasn’t familiar with anyone named Susan Anderson, but she guessed that Bobo

would be. She hoped Bobo wasn’t close with her. If Marin SAR was looking for someone, there

was only about a 50% chance he or she would be found alive....

* Don *

The asphalt on Mesa Road turned abruptly to gravel as the Suburban neared its

destination. Bass Lake had long been a beautiful location and a wonderful hike that attracted

mostly locals, including Don, although he had grown up in Novato and spent more time either on

the Delta or out near Tomales Bay. When smart phones changed hiking forever, Yelp got wind

of it and GPS apps showed you not only how to get to Bolinas but then to the Palomarin

Trailhead and people started posting pictures of the rope swing and, well, Bass Lake went to hell

in a bucket (to quote fellow Marinite Bob Weir). Over the past couple of years it had become,

unfortunately, a common location for SAR missions. On any given weekend, some drunken fool

broke an ankle or cracked a noggin on a rock in the lake or fell asleep on a patch of the recently

ubiquitous poison oak and had to be dragged out. There was very little searching, but a fair

amount of rescuing, frequently of the type of person it wasn’t particularly rewarding to rescue.

Pulling into the parking lot near the trailhead, Don poked Coop in the ribs to wake him

up. Drew was glued to his cell phone, as he had been for most of the ride out, and Holly was

wool gathering. Geri and Micah both seemed to have caught forty winks as well. Here were

four cars in the lot, including a Sheriff’s Department Crown Victoria. Don picked up the radio

handset and called in, “Marin SD, Marin SD, this is Satellite Three, come in...”

The radio crackled and the dispatcher responded immediately, “Satellite Three, this is

Marin SD, what’s your 20?”


Don replied, “We’re out here at the Palomarin Trailhead on that MP and I see you got a

squad car here, does he know we’re comin’, over?”

“Satellite Three that’s affirm, she’s there with the MP’s sister and she knows you’re due

there pretty soon. You made good time, over...”

“That’s affirm, Dispatch, and thanks for the head’s up, I’m guessing she started on down

the trail, so we’ll gear up and follow. Copy? Over...”

“I copy Satellite Three, I’ll let her know you’re coming,”

“10-4, Dispatch, Satellite Three out.” Don parked the Suburban next to the Crown Vic,

and everyone got out of the rig. Don walked around back and opened the rear door. He had

heard there was a new female deputy on duty, but he hadn’t met her yet. He was a little

surprised that she would be out here alone. Hoffman tended to start his newbies on the Sir

Frances Drake corridor from San Rafael out through San Anselmo and Ross through San

Geronimo and on out to Point Reyes. He’d have figured her to be in closer to 101, but it didn’t

matter. She was here now.

Don started unloading equipment from the back. Geri and Micah helped out, first

grabbing the 24-hour packs, and then pulling additional light equipment. They were hoping that

this would be a pretty easy search. The hike was pretty straightforward, so if she hadn’t had

something totally weird happen, she was liable to be within a couple hours hike from the parking

lot. If she couldn’t be found on that initial pass, then most likely Don would need to call in a full

response and get everyone out here working. On the one hand, he hoped that wouldn’t be

necessary. On the other, he was eager to give his newest trainees a little real life experience,

including one he had a particular interest in seeing succeed in SAR, his fifteen year old son,



* Drew *

Drew unlaced his tennis shoes and pulled them off, then dropped his jeans and stood on

them while he pulled off his gym socks. He reached in his pack and grabbed a pair of merino

hiking socks designed to wick away moisture and prevent blisters and put them on, followed by

his dark brown hemp cargo pants. As soon as he put on his Keen Medium Cut Gypsum hiking

boots, he felt ready to go. He grabbed a lightweight fleece from his bag and began transferring

the contents of the pockets of his jeans that he wanted into his hiking pants and rolled his jeans,

stashing them back in his pack. “What boots are you wearing today, Coop?” Drew asked. Coop

was the Imelda Marcos of hiking boots. Drew felt sure that Coop had about a dozen pairs that he

wore with some frequency.

Drew looked at his buddy, who was still standing on his jeans, pulling on his Lincoln

green Carhartt hunting pants. “I got my old Zig-Zag’s on here,” Coop replied, referring to the

Danner midweights clipped to the outside of his bag. “I could go with those. But I got a new

pair of Merrell Trail Gloves in here I’ve been thinking about trying out. Whatya think?”

“Totally go with the Trail Gloves, dude. I’ve done this hike in flip-flops. Unless she fell

off a cliff, you’re not gonna need anything heavier than that, and if you do, we’ll be coming back

for equipment anyway,” Drew advised.

“Roger that,” Coop said, pulling the low cut lightweight hikers out of his pack.

Drew looked through the Suburban’s windows and saw no one on the passenger side.

“Hey Haul, are you decent?” he called.

Holly stood up and adjusted the red SAR baseball cap she had put on, ponytail looped

through the size adjustment hole in back. “I’m downright excellent,” she smiled.


“Yes you are,” thought Drew. He began checking his pack for gear for the quick search

he presumed would be coming.

* Coop *

“Hey Cap,” Coop called, “What’s the plan? Quick search?”

“Let’s gather up and get a game plan,” Don answered. The three teenagers, now dressed

the part, joined the adults who had unloaded the Suburban and we getting the gear organized.

“OK, one at a time, what’s your take? Coop?” he asked.

Coop was glad to be asked. He was the Youth Leader, but he didn’t necessarily feel like

he was obviously the YL, and he wasn’t that confident how significant it even was to be the YL

at this time. When he first joined SAR, three years ago, he was a freshman, and his YL was Bob

Frankel. Bob was in his second year at the post, and he’d be Coop’s YL for another year, so it

seemed like Bob was always the YL. Bob joined SAR when he was only 13. He got in so young

because his big brother Dave was YL at the time. So Bob just seemed like the man. He had a

ton of time in the field, and he knew he wanted it to be his field. He was in the Forestry

Department at the University of Montana now, and his SAR experiences were continuing there

and would be a part of his life always.

Coop didn’t know how long he’d be in SAR. If it were up to his parents, this would be

his last year. Frank and Nancy were certainly proud of him and what he’d achieved, but it

sometimes came at a cost. SAR wasn’t like other extracurricular activities. You didn’t win or

lose based on how good you were or how hard you worked. Granted, you were better at it if you

worked hard at it, if you were dedicated, but the way you measured success in SAR was tricky to

define. One obvious definition was whether or not you saved lives. Coop had done that.

Several times. Once even pretty much all by himself, because the guy was actually drowning,


and Coop was the one who went in the water and pulled him out. But a lot of that was luck. The

hiker’s bad luck and stupidity. Coop’s good luck in being in the right place at the right time to

be able to help him, and, of course, having prepared sufficiently to pull it off. But lots of other

SAR people might not get that same chance, even though they showed up and worked every bit

as hard as he did.

So that was another way of measuring success. Showing up and doing the work. It was a

measure of dedication, integrity, and compassion. People who were part of SAR, who were

really a part of it, like at least four of the people with him right now (this was his first time

working with Micah, but hey, he’s here), showed that kind of grit. They were worthwhile, good

people. The important question then became, “What’s that worth?”

Unfortunately, being a good person didn’t get you into Princeton.

Coop didn’t even know if he wanted to go to Princeton. He wasn’t even sure exactly how

important college was going to be for him. Maybe really important. Maybe not necessarily.

Coop had a really big problem. Coop didn’t know what he wanted to do with his life. He knew

how he felt, which was that he felt good when he was outside, in the freezing rain, wearing a

slicker and mountain boots trudging through a burn looking for any sign of a camper who got

turned around in the forest and didn’t get back to his camp. Finding that guy, and splinting the

compound fracture of his tibia, and treating him for shock, and getting him loaded on a stretcher,

and carrying him out, and saving his life... That was what made Coop happy. Happier than

scoring the winning goal in lacrosse, although that was pretty awesome. Happier even than

being with the most beautiful, smartest (well, tied) girl in school. Happier even that making love

to Jessica, which really, really was awesome. But it didn’t define who he was. And that was

scary, because if SAR really made him happy and SAR was what he wanted to do, then he


wasn’t going to get into Princeton, and he didn’t need to go to college, period, and he didn’t have

to do all the things that you do to make a lot of money if you’re not born with it. And not

making a lot of money wasn’t an option for Jessica or for his parents.

“I figure it’s likely that she’s either not here at all or that she’s not far off the trail. We all

know this hike pretty well, and you can go a lot of places, but if she was just out for exercise,

then she’d most likely just go straight to the lake and back. She can’t really get too lost, because

there’s nowhere to go with the Pacific providing a pretty massive boundary. You walk into

civilization if you go too far south, and you hit the road if you go too far east. So I’m guessing

her plan was to go to the lake, maybe hang out for a few, maybe get a swim in, and then hike

back to the car and go home. So I say we just all go straight in, quick search style, break into

teams of two once when we can’t see the ocean anymore and once again at the lake, and that we

find her and figure out what happened.”

“OK, anybody else got anything more? Micah?” asked Don.

“What about the deputy that’s already out there? Should we try to work her into this

thing?” Micah responded.

“Damn,” thought Coop. “I should have mentioned the deputy.”

“I think so,” Don said. “Holly?”

“Yeah, maybe we put a couple out really quick, sort of have a pair get to the lake as fast

as they can, sort of with the idea that they’ll look for the Deputy, who is probably moving pretty

slow if she knew we were on our way,” Holly added.

“Geri?” Don inquired.

Geri said, “That sounds good to me. I’m not very fast, I must say. I vote not me for one

of the two runners.”


“I’ll do it,” said Drew and Holly at the same moment.

“Jinx!” They went through the elaborate fist bump ritual again. Coop ignored them


“OK, I like this plan,” interjected Coop. “Holly and Drew go double-time straight to the

lake unless they find the deputy or the MP, in which case they radio in their 20. Otherwise, if

they make it to the lake and nobody’s been there at all, I think we should revisit our position at

that time, and I think the four left behinds go ahead and do a fairly solid job of the section here

between the trail head and the terminator horizon line where you lose sight of the ocean. Cool?”

“Let’s do it,” Don says. “Let’s go search and rescue.”


Chapter Four

* Holly *

Holly and Drew set off at a trot as the others finished organizing the gear, determining

what to bring initially. Both of them were in good shape, but Drew was the better runner. He

raced back and forth for hours on a tennis court every week – time Holly generally spent in a

pool. He could take her in the 100 meters on land, but in the water she would absolutely wax

him. Nonetheless, Holly found herself leading. It wasn’t like they were racing, or really even

trying to run fast. They were just covering ground quickly and efficiently, taking care not

misstep on the rock-strewn trail, keeping away from the poison oak that lined the way. It

wouldn’t get on their skin, not in hiking boots and long pants, but if it got on their clothes they

could get it on their hands, which that meant they could get it on their faces, or worse yet, on the

victim – all of which was to be avoided.

Out front, Holly felt a little odd climbing the first small hill after the stairs from the

trailhead ended. She led Drew down into a bottom and across a short wooden bridge that

spanned a dry runoff stream, then past a sign at the trail fork – left indicating the way to

Palomarin Beach, right into the shadows of a stand of tall eucalyptus trees on the Coast Trail to


Bass Lake and beyond. When they ran laps in SAR training on a track, geared up pretty much as

they presently were, either Coop or Drew usually took the lead. She thought of it as a boy thing.

Those two were about as good as it got when it came to not being overtly sexist, but even they

exhibited seemingly built in habits that could take generations to breed out, if ever. So what was

she doing leading the way? Was Drew trying intentionally to get past what would generally be

considered unconscious sexism? Might the wonders of evolution never cease?

Thick, invasive, nonnative vegetation she recognized as hypericum calycinum, a ground

cover with yellow flowers, thrived in the damp beneath the eucalyptus. Coming out of the grove,

the trail straightened through a damp canyon and was flat for twenty yards or so, framed by

broom and sage. She scanned the path ahead and, finding it free of obstacles, ventured a glance

over her shoulder, an encouraging, friendly smile on her face. She didn’t catch Drew’s eye,

however. His gaze was lowered, and not quite at the ground in front of his feet. She could

almost swear he was locked on....

Drew suddenly glanced up, caught her looking at him, flushed, and stumbled over his

own feet. He caught himself before going down and then made a show of swiveling his head as

if to see the invisible object that must have tripped him. Then he made another of show of

looking intently at the sky and the trees and anything but what was right in front of him.

“He was staring at my ass!” Holly realized, returning her eyes to the trail. She felt her

cheeks reddening too, and a small smile played on her lips. She had recently added a new pair of

olive Prana Halle climbing pants to her 24-hour pack, leaving her sturdy, versatile Marmot

Lobos at home for later in the year or for when she could expect to be out for a longer time. The

Halles were lighter, flexible, and more breathable. She had also noticed they made her butt look

cute in the changing room mirror, so she bought them, even though she generally didn’t like


pants with shallow pockets. She had recognized at the time that two years earlier she would

never have made an equipment decision based on fashion, just as she wouldn’t have been caught

dead in the new purple Salomon Ellipse GTX hiking shoes she was sporting. They matched her

new pants well, however, creating an outfit she could have worn to, say, an out door concert just

as easily as for this type of an easy hike.

Holly readjusted the pack on her shoulders, allowing her to perform an unobtrusive but

effective little hip shimmy in the direction of the closet Neanderthal behind her. She picked up

the pace and called back over her shoulder, “Doing all right back there?”


“Super!” Drew squeaked, his voice betraying his embarrassment at having been totally

busted checking out his colleague’s derriere. Drew was flummoxed at his own behavior. What

was going on with him? First the little BDSM fantasy during a Calc quiz, and now this. He had

been late to find girls interesting, at least in “that” way. He had always liked some girls, usually

the types that shared his interests, but there weren’t that many of them. Some girls liked tennis

and video games, and Drew was happy to hang out with them; he had never been interested in

them the same as his buddies were, however.

His big sister Nana’s friends had always treated him the same way she had – like a little

dweeb. Nana graduated before his freshman year, which he figured was a good thing, because

she was popular and ran with the in crowd, just as she was now doing at UCLA as a 5th year

senior, something he couldn’t believe his parents had allowed. He would never have imagined

they would have said yes to her taking more than four years to get her bachelor’s degree. It

wasn’t like she’d taken a year to go be in the Peace Corps or do cancer research or anything.

She’d just taken every winter off and traveled.


Something had changed for him as well in the last year, he reflected, forcing his

unconscious stare away from Holly’s cute butt. It wasn’t just Holly. She was just the most

surprising example of his new fascination with girls because they had been buddies for such a

long time, and he’d never felt anything different for her than he did for his guy friends. It wasn’t

actually so much that he felt different about her now, he had to admit. She was still the same

awesome, smart, cool SAR partner she’d always been. It was just that now he was kind of

obsessed with seeing her naked. He was obsessed with seeing a lot of girls naked, come to think

of it. Holly was just unexpected, that was all.

Drew consciously unglued his eyes from Holly’s butt for a moment to take a look up

ahead. They had covered a lot of ground while he had been wool gathering, as it were. Coming

out of the first canyon, they had jogged at a steady pace through four switchbacks up the first big

hill, a gain of about 400 feet in elevation. The thick coyote brush, California coffeeberry, and

bush lupines lining the trail had given way to small trees – Douglas fir, mostly. He had mostly

missed the dramatic Coast Trail view west to the Farallones and south to San Francisco and

Montara Mountain. He’d seen it before, which did not entirely account for his distraction.

Once they crested this first, sundrenched hill, the trail would take a dramatic right hand

turn and head sharply downward into an increasingly wooded, darker section with more broken

terrain. The ocean would disappear from view, and they’d strike deeper inland. Before that,

Drew thought they should check in with the others. Sweat ran down his face, and his shirt was

soaked under his armpits and over his shoulders and lower back where the pack rode. It was

time to hydrate and report.

“Want to take a knee up ahead?” he called out to Holly, taking great care to modulate his

voice to avoid any appearance of being out of breath. She didn’t look back at him, but gave a


thumbs up and increased her pace up the final stretch to the top of the hill. Drew kicked into a

higher gear himself, not to be outdone. Heading uphill ahead of him, Holly’s backside had

stayed right at eye level. While enjoyable in the moment, Drew looked forward to being on level

ground and pulling it together, free of the welcome but embarrassing distraction. At the top of

the hill the trail widened into an dirt circle many hikers had rested at over the years. A couple of

logs, each big enough to seat two or three people, crouched in small clearings on either side of

the path. Holly slung her pack off her shoulder and sat down on the end of the one on the left,

and Drew purposefully dropped his pack by the one on the right, keeping his back to her as he

unhooked his canteen and took a refreshing pull. He unzipped the top pouch of his pack to grab

his walkie-talkie, turned it on, and fiddled with the squelch before finally facing her.

Holly looked at him from under her eyebrows, a bemused expression on her face. She

pulled a small notebook and pen from the breast pocket of the unbuttoned denim shirt she wore

tied at the waist over her SAR T-shirt, looked pointedly at her watch, and made a note of location

and time, then pulled a bottle of water from her pack, taking a long swallow. Drew sat down and

triggered the button on the handheld. “Come in, Geronimo,” he intoned. “This is Cassidy. Do

you read?”


“Roger, Cassidy, this is Geronimo, read you loud and clear. Over,” Don responded.

Coop, Gina, Micah, and he were at the corner of the first of four switchbacks leading up the

initial ascent into the Bass Lake recreation area. They had proceeded at a fairly consistent walk,

using all of their senses, remaining quiet, and becoming as immersed in the environment as

circumstances allowed. At first, the primary smells and sounds had been of the ocean, the dull

roar of the tide crashing against the cliff face beneath the parking lot, and the salty tang of sea


spray slowly fading into the distance as the sound of their boots first became loudly noticeable,

and then dissipated into white noise as their ears became attuned to their surroundings. Then, the

scent of sage and eucalyptus rose on a light breeze, and birdsong filled the air.

Coop had taken the lead, focusing on the near range on the left side of the trail, followed

by Gina, who watched the right, then Micah checking out the distance view to the left, and Don

brought up the rear and observed the distant right. This had been the initial theory Coop had

suggested, and although it was difficult to stay totally on task while keeping track of footing and

direction, they mostly kept to it. SAR often required attention to minute detail. If an MP had

gotten far afield or was unconscious or even dead, it was often only a small clue – a torn bit of

clothing, an out of place trampled plant, or even a piece of litter (although there was gratefully

little of that in most of the trail areas of Marin), that could lead a searcher in the right direction

and ultimately result in a save, or at least a discovery. Even after over two decades in the

business, however, Don remained surprised at how many searches ended unresolved, how many

MPs simply vanished never to be found or at least not for many, many years.

Don listened to the handset, the crew bunching up, and instinctively opening canteens.

One of the first rules of searching was to drink water whenever the opportunity arose. Better to

have to pee from time to time than to get dehydrated, which could lead to headaches, dizziness,

and, most importantly, loss of focus.

“10-4, Geronimo, this is Cassidy reading you, over,” Drew’s voice crackled over the air.

“Where you at, Cassidy. Over,” Don replied. The radio names weren’t absolutely

necessary, but everyone in SAR enjoyed the tradition. It had started years earlier, sometime in

the 80s, when the crew was beginning to grow in size again after several years of dwindling

membership and loss of funding, and they discovered a problem keeping the members straight


from among four Kevins and three Jen/Jennifers, and multiple Joneses, Coopers, Millers, and

Andersons. Getting your first handle was an important rite of passage, because you knew then

that you were actually a member of the team – you were going to be out on a real mission, and

you were going equipped. It was also a somewhat dreaded tradition, because the team leader

could give pretty silly names if he or she wanted, and you weren’t allowed to change until the

next year, and even then you could only ditch your old name, you couldn’t pick a new one.

Don’s handle Geronimo was simple enough – it was because he was the chief. As a

result, all of the senior staff, along with the Youth Leader (as an honor), had some sort of Native

American name. Cooper was Tonto. The youth crewmembers were supposed to be named after

cowboys, but in practice, a lot of them had Wild West outlaw names. Hence, Drew’s handle was

short for Butch Cassidy.

Drew’s voice came back across the airwaves, “We’re on the Coast Trail at the rest stop at

the top of the hill. Just checking in. Nothing to report yet, over.”

“Copy your nothing, Cassidy. We got a whole lot of the same, over,” Don responded,

pinching his canteen between his elbow and side with his radio hand while unscrewing the top as

he spoke. He took as slug of water.

“Roger that, Geronimo. We’ll keep going and let you know if...,” Drew’s voice trailed

off. A distant, muddled, female voice could be heard briefly in the background.

“What was that, Cassidy? Did not copy that last, over,” Don barked.


Holly heard them before she saw them. She had been checking her map coordinates and

compass bearings and noting them down. Even though they knew the Coast Trail well, they kept

careful track of location as standard operating procedure and best practices for times when they


might not know an area as well as this one, and for purposes of later reporting. Exact GPS

coordinates were also helpful to have if a rescue went on after dark and a helicopter needed to be

brought in to carry out an MP or crew, so the team was trained to get in the habit of making notes

of locations whenever the opportunity arose. She had noted down the coordinates of the

trailhead, Lat. 37o 56’ 3.27” N, Lgt. 122o 44’ 50.79” W, and was calculating their location north

and east of there when a clattering of rocks and footfalls rose from downhill in front of them.

A smiling, attractive Sheriff’s Deputy in patrol uniform rounded a slight bend and gave a

brief wave at Holly. She was of mixed ethnicity, her complexion enviably smooth and

somewhere between café au lait and lait au café, long dark hair pulled back severely and piled in

a bun. It looked like there might be a lot of it when it came down, Holly imagined. The deputy

was tall, at least as tall as Holly, and athletic, managing to make the khaki striped pants and dark

brown open collar shirt with the usual logos look good, despite wearing the standard, heavy,

black duty belt with holster, cuffs, flashlight, pepper spray, taser, ammo, knife, and baton. She

also had a radio clipped to her left epaulet.

Another woman followed directly behind her – tall, florid, middle aged, grim-faced, and

dressed like the kind of Marin County birder who purchased very expensive, very traditional

East Coast hiking clothes made by companies that had been around for at least a century, but

who had worn those clothes well and hard over many years, indicating a serious lifestyle choice,

not a fashion statement. “Tough birds,” Holly’s grandma jokingly called them, and her paternal

grandmother had been one of them. This one wore a floppy hat and moved with an experienced,

confident gait on the rocky trail.

“SAR?” called out the Deputy.


“Affirmative, Deputy,” Holly responded, tucking her notebook back into her shirt pocket.

The Deputy held her hand out politely, and Holly shook it firmly. “My name is Holly Halley,

and this is my partner, Drew Lee.”

Drew gave them a polite nod, then continued his report on the handheld, “Hang on a

second, Geronimo, we just ran into the MP’s sister and Deputy...”

“Quandry,” the Deputy finished, confirming the name on the patch stitched over her

breast pocket. “Michele Quandry. And this is Judith Anderson, Susan’s sister.” Holly

immediately liked Quandry, if only because, unlike Drew, who couldn’t really be blamed, she

had been careful to humanize the victim by referring to her by first name, as if she were a mutual

friend known to all who they were going to meet for a social engagement any minute from them.

Very thoughtful.

“Ms. Anderson,” said both Holly and Drew at the same time, both stepping forward with

hands politely extended, their training when faced with a family member of a missing person

kicking in perfectly. As was frequently the case, it didn’t matter.

“This is what my tax dollars pay for?” asked Ms. Anderson in a combination of fear,

confusion and judgment. She ignored their outstretched hands. “This is all I get? A couple of

children? They said they were sending out the Search & Rescue, not the kiddie scouts!” She

appeared understandably frantic, on the one hand, but also unreasonably rude, on the other.

Drew and Holly let their hands drop, and Drew stepped back, lifting the radio to his ear

again. This one was all Holly’s. “We’re not alone, ma’am. There are four more members not

far behind us, carrying out a more careful search. We’re the advance team that was sent ahead to

find you and the Deputy,” she stated, gently.

“You’re supposed to be finding my sister, not me,” Judith snapped.


“We’ll do our best, ma’am,” Holly replied, remembering not to promise a family member

anything, but also making sure to keep her in as positive a state as possible. “Have you seen

anyone else so far?” she asked Deputy Quandry.

“No one at all so far, not even tourists, but we were only a little ways up the road when

we heard you back here. What’s your plan, again?” Michele asked. Drew had politely turned his

back to the group and was reporting to Don in hushed tones.

“You there,” Judith snapped at Drew. “Whom are you talking to? Is that your boss?

Give that radio to me; I want to talk to him.” Drew turned back to face her but involuntarily

stepped back protectively as she clutched at him with a claw-like hand.

Michele gently raised her own left hand in the air, fingers spread wide. “That won’t be

necessary, Ms. Anderson,” she said. “We’ve got this under control.” Judith let her hand drop

and glowered at her sister’s would-be rescuers. “Why don’t you two stick to your plan and keep

bookin’ up to the lake,” Michele continued. “We’ll take a little breather here and wait for your

captain. We looked pretty carefully on our walk up to here, so I think it’s safe for them to come

on up directly while you keep going. Good?”

“Perfect,” Drew squeaked, evidently relieved to have an excuse to get away from Ms.

Anderson’s grasp, causing a smile to play across Holly’s lips. She grabbed her backpack and

slung it over her shoulders as Drew parroted Deputy Quandry’s directive-in-the-form-of-a-

suggestion back to Don.

“We’re using channel seven,” Holly informed Michele. I’m sure Deputy MacLean will

be up with the rest of our squad quickly, and we’ll report back from Bass Lake just as soon as we

get there.”


“Nice meeting you,” Drew stuttered somewhat stupidly, causing Holly to grin again and

shake her head gently at Michele, an action not lost on the apparently never-less-amused Ms.



“What up, Cap?” Coop asked, as Don turned back to the group.

“They ran into our Deputy and the MP’s sister. We’re going to head up to the top of the

hill double-time and get more information from them while Holly and Drew keep going to the

lake on the quick search.”

Coop nodded. His plan was remaining in play. He lifted his 24-hour pack onto his

shoulders. The others did the same, and soon they were trotting up the trail, no longer

conducting a visual sweep of the surroundings, but just heading for crest of the hill at speed.

Coop began running scenarios in his mind, as he was wont to do. First, there was the issue of the

Deputy. There was often a little weirdness working with members of the “regular” law

enforcement community, just as most people had stilted communications at best with law

enforcement under even the most normal of circumstances. Although most of the men and

women who wore a badge wouldn’t have wanted it this way, it was inherent in the nature of the

relationship they had to the community that often distanced them from everyone else in day-to-

day communication. He thought about the very words that were fundamental to the unequal

footing between the camps – one group was supposed to “serve” the other, and yet that group

was made up of “authority figures” that, quite literally, “policed” the public’s activities, and were

expected to “protect” them, a paternalistic role that was exacerbated when you were a kid rather

than a taxpayer. Granted, as a white kid in Mill Valley, Jake didn’t face the same issues a Latino


did in Marin City – neither cop nor suspect much feared being shot on a routine stop on Miller

Avenue. That didn’t mean there wasn’t still the potential for conflict, however.

A grey area existed between Search & Rescue, a volunteer organization, and professional

cops who are naturally took charge of situations, and defensiveness or superiority over turf could

come into play. That even happened to a lesser extent with fire fighters, but the tradition of

volunteers in that community made it less of an issue, and they also generally didn’t have the

power to cuff you. It was better with the Sheriff’s Department, because SAR was actually a part

of their office. It would be interesting to see how naturally this new deputy eased into things.

Having Don around would help immensely in that regard. The real conflict tended to show up

when the police were involved, especially in the bigger towns like San Rafael or Novato. There

cops tended to have a lot of attitude toward youth SAR members, and for their part, the youth

crew knew in their bones they were often better trained at what they’d been called in to do than

the department that had called them, but try telling that to the flatfoot on the street.

There was also the issue of the MP’s family members, if they were involved. There was

almost always some kind of drama, and it took empathy and experience to navigate each

individual situation. Some of them tended to act like they needed to protect you, because you

were a kid. Some of them had no respect at all, for the same reason. Regardless of the age of the

searcher, some were demanding, while others were clingy and seemingly in as much need of

time and attention as the missing person herself. It was one of the subtle aspects of being in SAR

that Jake treasured but that wasn’t often discussed, though he knew it was an open secret among

experienced youth members – they learned how to act like and handle adults, even their parents,

much better than their peers.


“Did Drew have any information on the MP’s sister, Cap?” Coop puffed as he picked up

a little speed to catch up with Don, who was beginning to leave the rest of them behind from his

position out front. Don could really double-time it for an old fart, Jake grinned to himself.

“Sounds like she might be a touch old bird,” Don responded effortlessly. “You know

how Drew can get kinda shy and tongue tied when he’s in a potential conflict situation?”

“Yup,” said Coop.

“He sounded like that.”

“Marvelous,” Coop puffed, taking time to appreciate the view of the Pacific from the Sunset

district of San Francisco all the way out to the great white shark fields of the Farallon Islands as

they made the final left hand fishhook turn up the hill. They never got old, the views of or from

San Francisco, whether bay or ocean, they were all spectacular. He had done a little travelling in

his life, not a huge amount, but so far he had never known of a city as beautiful as his, let alone

as close to all the amazing natural wonders of the surrounding area, from mountains to beaches

and virtually everything in between.

When he shifted his gaze back to the trail ahead, he could see figures outlined against the

sky. Time to suit up for public relations.


Chapter Five


Drew replayed the scenario in his head as he ran up the trail. Was there anything he

could have done to make the MP’s sister more comfortable? It was in Drew’s conflict-averse

nature to deconstruct and question such interactions, but it was also good training, because you

learned all these skills, all life skills really, by trial and error and practice. The process of going

through such things over and over used to be painful for Drew, and it had kept him from

engaging in it much when he was younger, which exacerbated his natural shyness. He had

learned through practice in SAR the utility of going ahead and doing the whole replay thing, but

now he was careful to do it once, thoroughly, creating or reemphasizing a lesson from it in a

sound bite he could repeat as a mantra for a few minutes, and then treating the event as

something he no longer had any control over (because he didn’t), and then letting it go. He

wasn’t perfect at it, but just remembering to try and then seeing some success in the effort had

been enormously empowering for him.

He had taken the lead on this leg of the journey, and by mutual, wordless agreement with

Holly, they were now going at a run. There was something about Ms. Anderson that made him

want to put some distance behind him, but he also felt in his gut that the MP, Susan, he reminded


himself was her name, was most likely somewhere around the lake itself if she was anywhere on

the trail at all. It just stood to reason that there was more traffic on the stretch of the Coast Trail

to and from the lake than beyond it. The trail continued past Bass Lake to Alamere Falls, a spot

that not many tourists knew to visit, which was nice for the locals. Beyond there the trail

descended again through Douglas fir to a tricky downhill scramble across a talus slope to a beach

only accessible at low tide, except by the Coast Trail. As a result, virtually all the traffic on the

trail came and went from the Palomarin trailhead where they had parked.

They were getting closer, covering territory at a cross-country runner clip, which was

impressive given their load and the significant rise they had encountered after the initial downhill

jaunt from the point they left the deputy. Drew looked back quickly, and Holly was right behind

him, her breathing controlled. She nodded at him with determination. They ignored the small

paths heading off either side of the trail into the small pools dotted around the lake. They would

have to cover each of these carefully if Drew’s hunch was wrong. He hoped it wasn’t, because

that type of search would require a full response; they’d need dozens of sets of boots on the

ground. Passing the sign pointing toward Mud Lake, a hike Drew had never bothered to take,

they finally descended through an alder wood, and the birdsong grew loud and cheerful. The

light changed as the trees began thinning, and he could smell the algae and moss aroma of a

mountain lake in summer, and suddenly, the trail widened and they broke through the last of the

trees into a flat open meadow abutting the smooth, watery blue gem he knew well.

Drew slowed up, puffing heavily. He pulled a bandana from a deep cargo pocket and

began mopping his face and neck. Holly dropped her pack next to a tree stump and put her

hands on her knees, breathing heavily. Drew pulled out his canteen and took a long draught.


“That’s by far the fastest I’ve ever made it up here,” Holly panted, running her fingers

through her hair and wiping sweat from her face with her sleeves.

“Totally,” Drew agreed, taking several more deep breaths and another drink. Holly

pulled out her water bottle and poured a splash over the back of her neck before taking a long


“For a minute I thought you were trying to ditch me,” she teased.

“I could hear you gaining on me the whole time,” he grinned back. “I had to put the

pedal to the metal to stay out front.”

“Yeah, right. Well, I gotta give Jake credit for the training regimen. No way I could

have done that last year, and I thought I was in pretty good shape.”

“You were. You are, I mean. In shape. It’s just different doing it with the pack on,


“That’s what I meant, Andrew,” Holly laughed at her goofball buddy.

“Right. Right,” he responded. “I just hope we were right that she’s gotta be around here,

or that was a hell of a lot of wasted effort!”

“Totes. What’s next?”

Drew took a long look around and noticed a couple having a picnic on the far shore of the

lake, which was really only the size of a large pond, but surprisingly deep. There was no one

else there on a weekday early in the school year, a rarity that might help to explain the missing

hiker’s absence. “We should go ask them if they’ve seen anything. Then we just start looking

methodically, I guess. Maybe start out on the way to Alamere Falls for a little bit while

everybody else catches up?” he suggested.


“You just keep thinkin’, Butch. That’s what you’re good at,” she deadpanned. Drew

rolled his eyes.

“How long you been saving that gem up?” he asked.

“Since you got your handle. And since you and Jake made me watch Butch Cassidy and

the Sundance Kid with you instead of Divergent. I doubt I’ll ever get that stupid “raindrops”

song out of my head.”

“It’s a classic,” he insisted.

“I liked it when they got shot at the end, and Robert Redford was cute. But really, the

music was totally stupid, you have to admit that.”

“I admit nothing, Sundance.”

“Now that’s what you’re really good at,” she smiled. “Come on. Let’s go ask those folks

if they’ve seen anything.”


“Have you seen anything?” Judith asked Don abruptly before he had even reached the top

of the hill where she frantically awaited his arrival. Don looked quickly over her shoulder to see

the new deputy looking back at him with an understanding, patient, and tolerant look on her face.

She gave Don a quick, almost imperceptible nod, and he was as comfortable as if he’d worked

with her for years, knowing now that she had been dealing with this woman for some time, that

the sister was a royal pain in the tuckus, and that this behavior resulted from an unfortunately

poorly socialized reaction to very real fear, a reaction that should be honored and not taken

personally. Don thought further and just as rapidly that this was a great deal to convey with a

single nod, especially to someone you had never met before. He liked the deputy immediately.


Don turned his attention back to Judith, arranging his face in the softly determined look

he had carefully cultivated for these purposes. Some might think this approach failed to be

genuine, but Don had long ago given up on the notion that people in his position need always be

brutally frank. The taxpayers funded his departments, and it was perfectly all right, as far as he

was concerned, to make them feel good about the way their tax dollars were spent, because, for

the most part, those dollars were well spent. He extended his hand in a firm, comforting

handshake. “I’m Deputy MacLean, ma’am. Don MacLean. Like the “American Pie” singer,

only with an extra ‘a.’ Very sorry to hear about your sister. We’ll do everything we can to find


Judith softened somewhat. Don’s “American Pie” reference never failed to disarm Baby

Boomers. It put them at ease, because it wasn’t typically official cop-talk, it humanized him, it

dated him, it allowed him to trade on the warm fuzzy feeling many people had for the song (even

if they thought it was tripe), and it forced them to think about something other that what they

were preparing to say in the moment, which usually had the effect of shutting them up. In this

case, it didn’t go that far.

“Yes, well, I suppose you think he’s Irish and you’re Scottish, but that’s a myth,” Judith

said, apropos of nothing.

“No ma’am, I believe that makes him a rock star and me a civil servant,” Don replied,

“but it’s not a trade I’d be willing to make. Now, I’m sure you’ve already briefed the deputy

here fully, but I think it would be helpful if you went back through things from the beginning.”

He shifted his gaze to Quandry, taking in her nametag. “Nice to meet you, Deputy Quandry.”

Michele shook his hand. “Likewise.”

“You two just met?” Judith exclaimed.


Quandry nodded. “It’s my first day, Ms. Anderson.”

“Holy Hecuba,” Judith muttered. “First they send 21 Jump Street and now it’s The

Rookies. No wonder Susan’s still missing.”

“Begging your pardon, Ms. Anderson, but I’m not a rookie. I’ve got three years with the

Alameda County Sheriff’s Department, and I was an Army MP before that.” Judith started to

speak, but she hesitated for a moment, and Don decided that continuing her education was a

meritorious use of time and energy at that moment.

Continuing in his most reasonable, conciliatory tone, Don chose his words for maximum

effect. “I use 21 Jump Street and The Rookies as comparisons all the time too, Ms. Anderson.

Great shows,” he stated, playing a little dumb, as he was fully aware of her sarcastic intention.

He gestured toward Coop. “This is Youth Leader Jake Cooper. Consider yourself fortunate that

this is the first time you’re meeting him or any of his crew, because if you had met him before, it

would probably mean that something pretty bad had happened, but even then I’m selling him

short, because you should know him, and if you had already, there’d be no one else you’d rather

see at this very moment than him. 21 Jump Street is a good comparison, because Jake and his

whole team are superstars.

“Jake’s been with Marin Search & Rescue more than five years; Marin SAR was formed

by community college-aged kids out of an old Explorer Post back in the late 60s because they

wanted to admit women, and so they had to leave that organization and come up with a reason

for being. Search and Rescue is that reason, and Jake is a fully qualified and certified member of

the Mountain Rescue Association, which means he has what it takes to make alpine rescues in

any weather on mountains, ice and snow pack, and on rock faces; he’s a certified member of the

Marin Water Rescue team with both SCUBA and EMT training; he’s qualified to respond to


downed aircraft emergencies; and he’s qualified on our Urban SAR team is well, so police

departments all over the county and state call on him or his buddies to help investigate crimes,

almost every day. Youth members like Jake were responsible for the vast majority of rescues

Marin SAR has made over the past 30 years, and I’m proud to state that we’re one of the very

best if not the best SAR in the state of California, and this is a very large and populous state with

a lot of places to get lost. Your sister’s in as good a hands as there are, Ms. Anderson. If we

can’t find her, either she or someone else doesn’t want her to be found.”

Both Judith and Coop looked equally gob smacked – Judith because she hadn’t expected

to hear those words from Don, and Coop because he hadn’t expected Don to say them. Don

didn’t usually adopt praise as his first line of training. As they all awaited Judith’s response,

Coop’s radio squawked. He grabbed it and thumbed the switch, “This is Tonto, over.”

“Tonto, this is Sundance, do you copy?” Holly’s voice came back. Don noted a hint of

excitement in it, and he studied Coop for any evidence that he caught it as well, but Coop was

uncharacteristically stoical. Maybe Don’s speech had gotten to him.

“Copy Sundance. What do you have?”

“Can you ask Ms. Anderson where Susan went to college, please? Over.”

Coop looked up to see if Judith had overheard. Everyone studied her.

“Julliard,” Judith answered, uncharacteristically quietly. Don wondered why. From their

brief interaction, he would have thought Judith would have trumpeted that fact. Maybe this

Susan was really famous or something, and they kept information about her under wraps. It

wouldn’t be a first. Marin didn’t lack for big time musicians and even some movie stars.

“Julliard, Sundance. The performing arts school. Why? Over.”


“I know what Julliard is, Jake.” No way was Holly going to let that one get by. Don

grinned. Coop wisely remained silent.

“We found a Dartmouth blanket near the north-northwest bank of the lake. We just

wondered if it might be Susan’s.” Holly’s disappointment was evident.

“I went to Dartmouth,” Judith exclaimed excitedly, and to everyone’s surprise. “That’s

my blanket. I left it in her car after a hike over a month ago!”

Coop thumbed the handheld again, “I think that’s a hit, Sundance. It could be somebody

else’s blanket, but Ms. Anderson can confirm for sure when we get there, so for now let’s treat it

as evidence that Susan was there. We’re coming up straight on. We’ll set a new perimeter

centered on the blanket when we get there.”

Judith gave Coop a searching look. She remained quiet for once. Don recognized that

she wasn’t a bad person. She was just scared. But she now knew that Coop knew what he was

doing. Things would hopefully get better starting from here.


Chapter Six


Holly signed off with Coop and gave Drew a smile. They had learned nothing from the

young couple lying in the sun near the lake. They had only been there for an hour or so, and had

been delighted by the unusual emptiness of the area, even for a weekday. They had swum in the

lake, swinging off a heavy rope tied to a tree nearby, and had then both laid down to relax, each

wearing headphones. They had yet to break into their meager picnic and, unsurprisingly, had

heard nothing out of the ordinary. While Holly was talking with them, Drew had wandered off

to look at the rope swing, and while scanning the water, had caught a glimpse of something. He

had called out to her, and when she joined him, he pointed to a section of rocky beach nearly a

hundred yards away.

“I don’t see anything,” she said, squinting despite enjoying hawk-like vision.

“Over there, where the grass runs along the beach? Do you see that little green triangle

sticking out about halfway between that mossy log and the leaning tree?” he asked.

Holly took a moment, staring along the sightline he pointed out and then, indeed, she

thought she saw the patch of grass he was pointing out. “Yeah, OK. I’m there. What am I

looking for?” she asked, believing he was orienting her gaze.


“You’re looking at it,” he said. “God abhors a straight line. That triangle looks like a

perfect 90-degree angle to me. I don’t think that’s grass.”

Holly looked at him oddly, then gazed back where he was looking. A shiver ran up her

spine. “Totally,” she said. “Let’s go check it out.” They had sprinted around to the spot, and

there near the lake’s edge, still a bit dewy in the shade and a bit crumpled, lay a Dartmouth

blanket, forest green and nearly invisible from any distance. Alongside a nearby tree sat a

reusable Whole Foods canvas bag containing a towel, book, cell phone, and the detritus of a light

repast, next to a pair of hiking shoes with socks stuffed inside them. Holly had called it in

immediately to confirm, but they both felt certain they were onto something.

“I still can’t believe you saw that, Drew,” Holly repeated for the third time. “That was

super observant.”

Drew shrugged humbly. “It just seemed out of place.”

“Bitchin’,” Holly said. “Don always says that careful observation and good thinking

results in more rescues than all the equipment in the world.”

“Yeah, well I like the equipment, and we haven’t found her yet,” Drew responded.

“She went that way,” Holly said, pointing to a break in the surrounding alders. She

started walking. Drew followed behind, uncomplaining.

“How do you know?” he asked.

“Because that’s where I’d go if I needed to pee,” she responded simply. He shrugged and

nodded his head in acknowledgement of the simple logic.

At the edge of the wood they both began calling out loudly, together, “SOOO-suuun!

SOOO-suuun!” They waited ten seconds, then did it again. They entered the woods, Drew


following Holly on the line she felt most likely, stopping every ten or so yards and repeating the

call. After their fourth try, they heard a weak response.

“I’m here.... Help.”

Holly and Drew raced deeper into the cool, shadowed woods, hesitating briefly once to

call out and once again hearing a response that guided them behind a brush thicket where they

were met with the sight of a disheveled and yet somehow still stylish woman lying on her side,

shivering, her arms folded across her chest. She looked at them with a familiar expression of

gratitude, embarrassment, and pain. “Thank God you found me,” she uttered, heaving a sigh,

closing her eyes, and letting her head fall back on the ground.

Holly and Drew both slung their packs off. Drew immediately grabbed his radio to call

the others. Holly unstrapped a lightweight waterproof blanket from the bottom of her pack and

unrolled it as she gently approached Susan, speaking in reassuring tones, “Susan? Are you

Susan? Everything’s going to be OK. We’re here to help.”

Susan looked up and smiled. “Thank God. Yes, I’m Susan. I feel like an idiot.” She

laid her head back down, clearly exhausted.

Holly surveyed her quickly. Her left arm was badly bruised and scraped. She cradled it

against her body with her right; Holly guessed it was probably broken. Her left leg was also

contused, the ankle black and swollen. Susan’s shorts were unbuttoned and unzipped. She had

obviously pulled them up as far as she could manage with her injuries, but she had not made it

quite as far as decency might dictate. Holly quickly draped the blanket over her and began

treating her for shock, as Drew informed the team about their discovery.



The radio squawked in Coop’s hand. They were walking rapidly into the alder grove,

approaching Bass Lake. A palpable excitement was in the air. He was bringing up the rear, so

he pulled off to the side of the trail and stopped. He pushed the handset hard against his ear and

listened for a moment, then whispered said, “Roger that. Good work. Be right there.” He ran

ahead full speed. At the sound of his approaching steps, the others stopped and turned around,

looking at him expectantly.

Coop nodded with professional satisfaction at Judith. “They found her, ma’am. She’s

hurt, but she’s going to be all right.”

“Oh thank God,” Judith breathed. Then, totally unexpectedly, she hugged Don and laid a

massive kiss on his cheek. Coop couldn’t help himself. He guffawed. Judith wasn’t fazed at all,

because she was already heading back down the trail, through the woods at full, and surprisingly

fast, speed. The others took off after her, their air of professionalism lightening as it always did

when a mission turned out well.

Suddenly Coop had another thought, and he stopped and called out, “Micah! Gina!”

They stopped and turned around, as did Don. “We gotta go back for the gear. We’re going to

have to take her out on a stretcher. Don tossed an appreciative thumbs up at him and ran after

Judith. Micah and Geri walked back toward Coop, smiling ruefully.

“I wish I could be there when that woman sees her sister,” said Geri. “She was so


“I wish I could be there when that woman sees Holly and Drew,” said Micah. “She was

pretty rough on them, it sounded like. Cap got in her face like I ain’t seen before.”

Coop nodded, grinning. “I wish I could see her face when she gets there and her sister is

already medically stabilized. She owes them an apology.”