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In book 7 of the series, Harmony and the entire search and rescue team is called out on a rescue involving eight teens. Initially it is assumed that they had simply become disoriented and had wandered off in the wrong direction, but when the team finds a campsite in disarray as well as the bloody body of one of the teens, they realize there is more going on than they initially suspected.
Join Harmony, Houston, and the search and rescue gang as they race against time to save as many of the teens as they can.
Release date: March 14, 2023
Publisher: Kathi Daley Books
Print pages: 138
Reader says this book is...: entertaining story (1) escapist/easy read (1) heartwarming (1)
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With eighteen hours of sunlight in August, the days are long in Rescue, which I guessed
helped to equal out the short days experienced in December when dark skies made up twenty-
one of the twenty-four hours in any given day. As a lifelong resident of this Northern Alaska
town, I’m used to both the abnormally long and short days. But with a full-time job, volunteer
duties at the local animal shelter, and six dogs, four cats, eight rabbits, and a blind mule to take
care of, if given a choice, I supposed I’d take the long days over the short ones.
Of course, my role as a member of Rescue, Alaska’s search and rescue team generally
became more demanding during the summer when groups from the lower forty-eight descended
on the area for an outback adventure. I tried to be mentally prepared for last-minute disruptions
in my everyday life, but on this particular day, the call came early. Really, really early.
“Hello,” I said, my voice still groggy with sleep.
“Harmony, it’s Jake.” Jake Cartwright was my best friend and brother-in-law. My only
family since my sister, Val, died during the execution of a rescue when I was seventeen.
“I’m assuming, due to the god-awful hour of your call, that we have a rescue.”
“We do,” Jake confirmed. “Eight teens from Fairbanks headed out on a backpacking trip nine
days ago. They were due to return in seven days. None have been seen or heard from since they
left. I realize that it’s possible the group simply became distracted and lost track of the number of
days they’d been away, but the parents of these eight teens have organized and are demanding
that we look for them.”
“Houston?” I asked about Police Chief Hank Houston of Rescue, Alaska’s police force.
“He’s on his way over. I’m not sure if this will turn out to be a police matter, but he offered
to help, and I’m inclined to let him. Landon and Wyatt are on their way as well.” Landon
Stanford and Wyatt Forrester were longtime members of the team. “We’re hoping to head out
within the hour. Can you get here?”
I thought about the animals I needed to feed and let out. “I’ll try. I’m getting up now. I have
to see to the animals, so I doubt I can make it in an hour, but I’ll hurry.”
“Just get here when you can.”
Rolling out of bed, I began to dress in layers. At this time of the year, temperatures up on the
mountain can vary by as much as forty degrees in a single twenty-four-hour period. I decided to
let the dogs out to run while I attended to the animals in the barn. Usually, I liked to take the
dogs for a nice long hike in the mornings, but there simply wouldn’t be time this morning.
Perhaps I’d call my good friend, Harley Medford, and ask him if he would be willing to stop by
and take the dogs for a stroll down to the lake this afternoon. Harley was an actor with a
successful career who spent half his time in Los Angeles and the other half here in Rescue. He
had a dog named Brando who came over to play with my pack on a regular basis, so all my dogs,
even my very protective wolf hybrid, Denali, should be fine with his presence in the event I
couldn’t make it home in a reasonable amount of time.
Once I’d fed the animals that lived in the barn, I called the dogs in and fed them. Next came
the cats, and once they were settled, I washed up a bit, called my search and rescue dog, Yukon,
grabbed my backpack and rifle, and Yukon and I headed out for what I hoped would be an
uncomplicated rescue. In my experience, while the vast majority of the rescues we were called
out on worked out just fine, the rescues after an exceptionally harsh winter and late thaw led to
the most dangerous situations. The runoff caused by melting snow generally means avalanches,
dangerously full rivers, and unstable glaciers that could give way if an inexperienced or
uninformed hiker attempted to cross them.
By the time I arrived at Neverland, the bar owned by Jake, which doubled as the headquarters
for our search and rescue team, the other members of the team had already arrived. Jake handed
me a photo of the group who were missing that had been posted on social media as the friends
prepared to head out for their hike. Once everyone had been given a chance to study the photo,
he jumped into his overview.
“Eight teenagers, four boys and four girls, left for a backpacking trip nine days ago. They
were due to return to Fairbanks two days ago but never showed up,” Jake began. “The photo I
have passed out was taken as the group prepared to set out. We assume that someone the group
met at the trailhead shot the photo, but at this point, we don’t know who snapped it. We do know
that the photo was posted to Brit Johnson’s social media accounts just as the group prepared to
enter the wilderness area. Brit is the dark-haired girl with the green sweatshirt in the center.
She’s seventeen years old, a high school senior, and a long-distance runner. I spoke to her
mother, who informed me that while Brit has limited experience backpacking, she’s spent
considerable time running on her own and is both cautious and resourceful.
“I remember reading about her,” Wyatt said. “She completed a hundred-mile run this past
“A hundred miles all at once?” I asked as my mind refused to consider such a possibility.
“A hundred miles all at once,” Wyatt confirmed. “Well, at least a hundred miles over the
course of a day or perhaps a weekend. I’m sure the athletes have to stop to fuel and rehydrate.”
“I remember reading that the athletes run the hundred-mile races in around thirteen hours,”
Dani Mathews, our helicopter pilot, said. “I’m sure some do it quicker, while others take longer,
but it’s still an amazing feat.”
“I like to think that I’m in decent shape, but I’m pretty sure I couldn’t run a hundred miles if
my life depended on it,” I added.
“If your life depended on it, you’d be able to go further than you might think,” Wyatt said.
“Who’s the boy with the blond hair and blue shirt standing next to Brit?” I asked.
“He looks familiar,” Landon jumped in.
“His name is Braydon Justice,” Jake provided. “He’s eighteen and graduated from high
school this past June. He was the star quarterback for his team in Fairbanks.”
“I recognize the name. Braydon scored a scholarship to UCLA,” Landon shared. “I read
about him in the newspaper. There was a feature about how he underwent a series of surgeries to
repair damage caused by a hereditary heart defect so he’d be eligible to play. He’s a real success
“Getting into UCLA on a football scholarship is no easy feat,” I agreed. “Who is the girl
standing next to him?”
Jake answered. “The girl with the red hair standing to Braydon’s left is Carrie Preston. She’s
the youngest at sixteen, is in advanced placement classes, and will be a high school senior next
year. She’s also the current girlfriend of Carter Harding, the boy to her left. Seventeen-year-old
Carter will also be a senior next year.”
“And the boy to Brit’s right?” I asked.
“Pete Pinewood. He graduated with Braydon and is planning to attend Cal Poly in the fall.
The girl next to him is Talia Thomas. She’s the only teen who doesn’t live in Fairbanks and is
the cousin of Logan Burge, the tall boy standing to her right.”
“And where does Talia live?” I asked.
“San Francisco,” Jake answered. “From what I was able to gather, Logan and his family
moved to Alaska from San Francisco a few years ago.”
“And the girl standing to Logan’s right?” I asked.
“The girl to Logan’s right is Alice Covington. Alice is Logan’s girlfriend, who I believe is
also seventeen. I know Alice currently lives in Fairbanks, but it seems to me that she recently
moved to Alaska. I believe she may be from Portland originally, but I’m not a hundred percent
sure about that.”
“I think what’s important in all of this is that we find these teens,” Dani said. “I guess having
a background is important to a point, but I feel like we’re wasting time going over so many
“I agree,” Wyatt said. “We need to hit the trail and find these teens before something happens
“Given the way this whole thing unfolded, I assume we don’t have anything with a scent to
follow,” I stated.
“The vehicles the teens arrived in are still parked at the trailhead,” Jake answered. “It’s been
over a week since they were in the vehicles, and there will be a lot of different scents for the
dogs to sort through, but I thought we’d go ahead and expose the dogs to the car interiors all the
“How do you plan to execute the rescue?” Hank, who’d been listening quietly to this point,
Jake responded. “I’ll take Sitka and follow the marked trail that the backpackers would likely
have taken when they left the parking area. You and Kojak can take the trail to the north, which
parallels the main trail, and Harmony and Yukon can take the trail to the south, which parallels
the main trail. Landon will go with Harmony, and Wyatt will go with you. Dani will head up for
a birdseye view.”
“And Jordan?” Dani asked. “Will she be joining us?”
“Jordan is on call should we need her,” Jake informed the group. Jordan Fairchild was Jake’s
girlfriend, a doctor, and a search and rescue volunteer. “As always, Sarge will be manning the
radio and making any corrections that are needed as we progress. Any other questions before we
No one had any questions, so everyone other than Dani, who headed toward the airport,
headed toward the vehicles that would take us to the parking area where the eight backpackers
had entered the wilderness area. Jake wanted me to try to psychically connect with one of the
teens, which is an ability that I consider both a gift and a curse, so he suggested that Yukon and I
drive to the trailhead with him and Sitka in his truck. Wyatt and Landon rode along with Houston
“Are you getting anything?” Jake asked as we sped along the deserted highway.
I’d closed my eyes and had been focusing in on each of the eight teens, one at a time. “No. I
might do better having just one teen to focus on.” I opened my eyes and looked at the photo. In
order for me to connect, the individual I hoped to merge with psychically needed to be both alive
and conscious. The individual also needed to be in a heightened state of awareness. In the
beginning, I was only able to connect with those who were either terrified or in a great deal of
pain, but my gift seemed to have grown, and recently, I’d been able to connect with select
individuals I’d chosen who weren’t necessarily under distress. “While any one of the teens could
be injured and therefore susceptible to my ability to home in on them due to their pain, it seems
more likely that one of the girls, perhaps Talia, who doesn’t live in the area, would be frightened
enough for me to pick up on.”
I closed my eyes and pictured the girl. I tried to “see” her in my mind. After ten minutes
without success, I decided to move on to Alice. Alice, with the pretty blond hair and bright blue
eyes, had only recently moved to Alaska, so I expected that the experience of being lost in the
Alaskan wilderness might be frightening enough for me to pick up on.
“Any luck?” Jake asked.
I could feel his impatience, which wasn’t helping.
“No. I’m not getting anything. Are you sure these teens are lost? Maybe they were just
having a good time and chose not to return when they’d arranged to.”
“I suppose that’s a real possibility. All the teens, other than Carrie, are either seventeen or
eighteen. I suspect they are used to making their own decisions rather than checking in with their
parents over every little thing.” He took a breath as he turned from the highway onto the
groomed dirt road that led to the parking area and trailhead. “The thing is that unless these teens
turn up or find a way to contact someone outside the group, all we can do is consider them as
missing and look for them.”
I knew Jake was right, but it seemed odd that no one was coming through. “I tried and failed
to connect with both Talia and Alice. I’ll try either Carrie or Brit when we take a break.”
“If the teens are in trouble, I wouldn’t discount the fear the guys might experience just
because they’re guys,” Jake said. “Maybe try Logan. He has his cousin and his girlfriend with
him, and I’d be willing to bet that he feels responsible for both of them. If the group is in trouble,
chances are he’s feeling the stress of the whole thing.”
“Okay. Do you want me to do it now or when we take a break?”
Jake parked the truck and prepared to exit the vehicle. “Take ten minutes to try while we
expose the dogs to the cars, and then if you don’t get anything, you can try again when we take a
break, providing, of course, that we don’t find the group in the meantime.”
I got out of the truck, looked around for a quiet place to work, and then sat down on a rock.
Once I was settled, I closed my eyes. Jake had taken Yukon with him, so I didn’t have him to
keep an eye on. Since Jake suggested I start with Logan, I pictured the teen in my mind. While I
hadn’t been able to make the sort of connection I usually did, I was able to pick up a glimmer of
something. What that something was, I couldn’t be sure, but at least I felt that I’d gotten closer
than I had with the others I’d tried to connect with.
“Anything I can do to help?” Houston asked as he sat down beside me.
I opened my eyes. “Where’s Kojak?”
“Jake has all three dogs and is feeding them scents. He asked me to let you know that we’ll
be ready to head out in a couple minutes.”
“I feel like I got close to a connection with Logan but not close enough to provide any sort of
help in terms of narrowing down a location. I’m not sure why the signal was so weak. To be
honest, I’m not even sure it was Logan I came close to connecting with. It may have been one of
the others who simply piggybacked onto my intention.”
“How’s your head?” he asked.
Houston knew better than most how intentionally trying to mentally merge with the victims I
was trying to connect with messed with my head, causing severe headaches I could barely
tolerate at times.
“I’m okay. I think I’m actually getting better at making a connection without the pain. It’s
almost like my ability is a muscle I’ve been working and developing.”
He stood up, took my hand in his, and pulled me to my feet. “I’m happy to hear that. I’ve
always hated to see you in so much pain.”
Houston and I had a long and complicated relationship. He’d been with me through good
times and bad, and he’d been one of my chief supporters when it came to my gift and the
evolution of that gift. Initially, all I’d been able to muster was a one-way link to victims I was
meant to help rescue, but lately, my abilities had developed into much more.
“Are you still having the nightmares?” he asked.
“No, not since the kidnapping.”
Two months ago, my gift had caused Houston to become a victim rather than a rescuer due to
his proximity to me. He’d been seriously injured, but in the weeks after the incident, his body
had healed, and it seemed that his mind had found peace as well. Of course, even though
Houston was better, I still found it hard to forgive myself for the part I’d played in his near death.
When he’d taken some time away from Alaska immediately following the ordeal, I’d been afraid
that he wouldn’t return, and if he had chosen to leave the tiny town where I’d lived my entire
life, I wouldn’t have blamed him. But a few weeks ago, Houston showed up at Neverland
looking healthy and tanned. By all appearances, it seemed like he’d picked up right where he’d
“Have you connected at all since then?” he wondered.
I shook my head. “No. I guess not.” I looked him in the eye. “The experience we went
through was intense. I think that subconsciously, or maybe even consciously, I’ve been avoiding
anything that might cause a repeat.” I took a breath. “Don’t tell Jake this, but when he called and
asked me to help today, the first thing I felt was terror. But then I thought about it and realized
that these teens might really be in trouble, and if I could help, then I needed to try to do so.”
He squeezed my hand. “I understand how you feel. It took me a while to get over all the
conflicting emotions I needed to sort through after our adventure. But I think I’m mostly past it.
Sometimes all you can do is force yourself to forge ahead.”
I gave Houston a hug as Jake walked up with all three dogs.
“I guess we’re ready,” he said. “Any luck?”
“Not really,” I answered and then shared with him the experience that I’d had.
“Okay, then we’ll head out according to the plan. Make sure your radio is on channel two.
The less accessed trails your team and Houston’s team are going to head out on remain parallel
to the main trail for the first couple of miles. About three miles in, the trail to the left heads up to
Sequin Lake. If we haven’t found the teens or at least picked up their trail at that point, I guess
we’ll need to discuss a strategy, but I’m thinking that unless we find evidence to suggest that the
teens didn’t stick to their plan, we’ll all change course and meet up at Glacier Lake.”
“Do we know where the teens were headed after Glacier Lake?” I asked Jake.
“The worried mother I spoke to said that Brit told her they were heading to Glacier Lake for
three nights, then they planned to camp at Aloha Lake for two nights, and then circle around and
hit Sapphire Lake on the way out. My plan is for us to make the loop, keeping our eyes open for
places where the teen’s plan may have deviated along the way.”
The loop Jake described was about fifteen miles from start to finish. Doable in a day without
heavy backpacks containing camping equipment as long as the weather held, which, based on the
sunny sky overhead, it appeared that it just might.
“It doesn’t look as if anyone has accessed this trail since the last rain,” Landon said after the
larger group had broken up and everyone headed down the paths assigned to them. While we
were spread out a little bit, we were all headed toward Glacier Lake, the first lake the group
planned to stop and camp at.
“The trail is tellingly free of footprints,” I agreed. “The reality is that the group likely
accessed Glacier Lake via the trail Jake is walking, but I understand why he thought it might be
beneficial to spread out a bit. At least in the beginning.”
“The snowmelt was late this year. There likely haven’t been a lot of campers up this way.
Maybe day hikers, but with the nighttime temperatures, I doubt there have been a lot of folks
looking for an overnight adventure.”
I glanced at Yukon, who was walking ahead of us but hadn’t once alerted he’d found
anything. “I wonder why this particular group came all the way up here if they wanted to go
camping. I would understand if a group of seasoned backpackers wanted to make the trip, but it
seems to me that a group of teens would be more likely to head to the beach for a post-
Landon picked up a colorful rock, looked it over closely, and then tossed it away. “Chances
are a single teen had an interest in a backcountry trip and convinced the others. It is nice and
quiet up here. The daytime temperatures have been close to perfect for strenuous hiking, and
while the nights have been cold, they haven’t been so cold that a good night’s sleep wouldn’t be
possible with a heavy-duty sleeping bag and a sturdy tent.”
“I guess that’s true. I’ve camped up here myself in the past, and it is nice and quiet.”
“Did you come alone?” Landon asked.
“No, not alone. I came a few times with Jake and Val before she died, and I’ve been once or
twice with just Jake since then. I dated this guy from Canada for a while, and we spent two
weeks up here in late May one year.”
“Late May sounds cold.”
“It was, but I have arctic gear, and so did he. It was actually kind of romantic. In a way, it felt
like we were the only two people on earth.”
“I haven’t personally been up here that early in the season, but if you don’t mind trudging
through snow that has yet to melt and have access to really good equipment, I can see how being
up here all alone would be nice. Dangerous for the novice backpacker, but nice all the same.”
“There can be a problem with avalanches at this time of the year.” I agreed. “I remember this
one rescue the team went out on the spring before Val died,” I began.
“Jake to the rescue crew,” Jake said over the radio, interrupting our conversation.
“Harmony, Yukon, and Landon here,” I responded.
“Sitka and I are approaching the trail that heads up to Glacier Lake. Have you found any
evidence that the group took either parallel trail or headed off in a different direction than the
itinerary provided to me by Brit’s mother?”
Houston and I each reported that our teams hadn’t found any indication that anyone had
accessed the less-used parallel trails in recent weeks.
“Okay, then let’s all meet up at Glacier Lake. If the teens stopped and camped there, the dogs
might be able to pick up a scent even if they’ve since moved on. I’m heading up now and should
be there in about twenty minutes.”
“We’re right behind you,” I said.
“Yeah, us as well,” Houston parroted.
I glanced at Landon. “I have a bad feeling about things.”
“A bad feeling?” he asked. “Do you sense something specific?”
I paused and then answered. “No, not really. It’s just a gut instinct that seems to be telling me
that all is not well with the group as we all hoped.”
“Then I guess we’d better pick up the pace.”
I agreed, and we headed out slightly faster than we’d been walking. By the time Landon,
Yukon, and I arrived at Glacier Lake, Houston, Kojak, and Wyatt had joined Jake and Sitka.
“Oh my,” I said, coming to a complete standstill. “What happened here?”
“I’m not sure,” Jake said. “But based on the look of things, I’m going to go out on a limb and
say that it wasn’t anything good.”
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