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Gracie turned on her headlamp...


            ...then crouching down, wrapped her gloved fingers around the metal railing of the litter.

            Opposite her, Lenny did the same.

            “Lift on three,” Gracie said. “One, two, three.”

            The rescuers stood up, lifting the basket off the ground.

            The weight of the litter settled onto Gracie’s hips. They would ache later, but it was better than having her knuckles drag on the ground by the end of the operation.

            She and Lenny shortened the straps attached to the litter so that, in spite of the disparity in their heights, the litter would stay relatively level.

            “Main line, ready?" Ralph asked over the radio.

            "Main line’s ready," Warren’s low voice answered.

            "Belay, ready?"

            "Belay ready," Carrie squeaked.

            "Edge, ready?"

            "Edge ready." Jon. Steady, reassuring.

            Gracie took in a slow, deep breath.

            "Litter ready?"

            "Litter ready," she said.

            "Move the litter into position." 

            With Kurt helping, Gracie and Lenny crab-walked the litter to the edge of the cliff, positioning it so they faced each other.

            The bottom of the litter hung out over the edge.

            Ralph blew three whistle blasts, then said into the radio, "Down slow."

            With her heart thudding in her chest, Gracie took a deep breath and stepped down into the darkness.

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