Chelsea whimpered disapprovingly but she moved. Dane knew she knew what he did, but they could at least locate the other bodies. They slowly went down the remains of the corridor and by the time they reached the end of the void space, they'd planted three more flags where Chelsea had tapped her paw.
Dane finally turned her around and led her out, handing her up to rescuers who helped them out of the shaft.
“The woman's going to be all right,” one of them told Dane, slapping him on the back. “Couple of broken bones and a knock on the head, but otherwise she's going to be fine.”
Dane nodded. There was a lighter mood in the air. Fifteen bodies and one survivor, but that one was what everyone here had worked for. The reality of the dead would come home to all later, when they were in bed and their mind played back the crushed and mutilated bodies.
Dane shook hands and walked out of the wreckage. He gratefully accepted a cup of coffee from a Red Cross worker, but only after getting a bowl of water for Chelsea and watching her loudly slurp it up.
Dane removed his glasses and ran a dirty hand across his face. The headache wasn't as bad now.
Dane didn't even turn his head. “Mister Freed,” he said.
“I wasn't sure you heard me before you went into the building,” Freed began.
“You want me to help you with a rescue,” Dane said.
“You don't seem very concerned,” Dane said, finally looking at the other man. “Or in much of a rush.”
“Time is of the essence,” Freed said, somewhat taken aback by Dane's comments.
“Isn't it always?” Chelsea pressed her head against Dane's leg and his hand automatically began scratching behind her ears. “I work through FEMA,” Dane said, referring to the Federal Emergency Management Agency. “They contact me, fly me to the site, and then we get to work.”
“This doesn't fall under FEMA's jurisdiction,” Freed said.
“Everything in the States' falls--” Dane paused. “All right, why don't you just tell me what the situation is and why you want my help?”
“A plane has crashed and we need your help in finding survivors.”
Dane frowned. “I haven't heard of any plane crash on the news. And besides, Chelsea's a search dog, not a tracking dog.”
“The plane went down in Southeast Asia,” Freed said, “and it's not Chelsea we want. It's you.”
Dane slowly went to one knee and ran his hand through Chelsea's coat, from the nape of her neck to the root of her tail. It comforted him as much as it did her and right now he needed the comfort.
“The plane went down yesterday,” Freed continued. “We don't have much time.”
“Surely you have people closer,” Dane said.
Freed ignored that statement. “I have a limousine waiting and a private jet at the airfield. All I ask is that you go with me to California and listen to an offer. You say no, I'll fly you back wherever you like. Plus you get ten thousand dollars just for going to California.”
After a few moments, Dane finally spoke. “I don't understand. Why do you want me?”
“I think you do understand, Mister Dane. Because you're the only person we know of who ever came out of there alive.”
“Where--” Dane began, but Freed answered the question before it was asked.
“Cambodia. North-central Cambodia.”
The Lear Jet was two hours out of Washington. Only one man was in the passenger compartment, lounging in a deep leather chair. A single overhead light glowed over his head, otherwise it was dark in the cabin. He had long wavy hair that had turned completely white. His face was well tanned, the lines hard, as if cut from stone. Much had happened but one could still recognize the young marine gunner who had looked out over the ocean after Flight 19 had disappeared so many years ago, listened to the disappearance of the USS Scorpion and the SR-71 and sent a special forces reconnaissance team deep into Cambodia.
A fax machine