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"Call 9-1-1!" Kristen Turner yelled at the gathering crowd.
A piercing scream wasn't all that unusual at the Tradewinds Bar and Grill late at night, except this scream had come from a gray-haired woman in a flowered muumuu, and the paunchy older gentleman beside her was flailing about, his face as red-and-purple-mottled as a Maui sunset.
The man was choking.
Kristen knew how to do the Heimlichin theorybut getting her arms around this nice, but rather barrel-chested man, might be tough.
Before she could move behind him, a tall, dark-haired man swooped in, wrapped his long, muscular arms around the man and administered the Heimlich so perfectly, the chunk of BBQ chicken wing flew out of the older man's throat and landed on the table.
The crowd applauded and whistled, but the mystery hero slowly lowered the older man to the floor and put his ear to the man's chest.
The older man's eyes were closed and the mystery man began performing CPR on him. He gave four harsh pumps to the man's chest, and then held the man's nose shut and breathed into his mouth a couple of times. Another four strong pushes on the chest, and another set of mouth-to-mouths.
Oblivious to the crowd around him, the guy worked tirelessly. Kristen could see beads of sweat rolling down his temple as he put everything he had into saving the other man's life.
The wail of sirens approached and then paramedics elbowed their way through the crowd and knelt beside the fallen man. But just as they got out their equipment, the mystery hero stopped pumping and the older man drew in a quick breath and opened his eyes. The wife was hysterical as she hugged her husband. One of the paramedics eased her away while the other examined her husband.
They put on a blood-pressure cuff and stuck some round pads, attached to wires, on his chest and started an IV, but. .the old man was already conscious and talking. If it hadn't been for the mystery man this night might have turned out quite differently.
Hairs on Kristen's arms stood up and the goose bumps made her shiver.
The wife asked about the mystery man, wanted to thank him, and everyone looked around, but he'd disappeared.
The older gentleman was rolled away on a gurney, his wife trotting alongside him, holding his hand, and the rest of the customers went back to their tables and drinks. The Beach Boys' "Surfin' Safari" boomed through the speakers, and some tables raised their glasses in a toast to the "stranger who saved the day."
Rubbing her arms, Kristen leaned in the doorway and stared after the ambulance as it drove away. Then she scanned the road both ways and the area all around the Tradewinds. But there was no sign of the mystery man, as she'd begun thinking of him. Who did that kind of thing in this day and age? Didn't the guy want his fifteen minutes of fame?
It seemed not. The mystery man must subscribe to the comic-book code of life, where, once a hero saves the day, he flies off into the night and no one ever knows his true identity.
With a shout, Luke shot up from his bed, blinking in the darkness until he found the green glow of the clock. 1:00 a.m. He pressed his palms to his eyes and swiped his hands through his sweat-soaked hair.
Another damned nightmare.
So much for getting any more sleep tonight.
Luke got out of bed, dropped to his stomach and counted out fifty push-ups. Then he rolled to his back, laced his fingers behind his head and did fifty crunches. After that, fifty lunges. But the images from his nightmare didn't go away.
After a hot shower, he stepped into his jeans and padded out to the kitchen. He opened the fridge, grabbed the white carton of leftover sesame chicken and the chopsticks, and carried them out of the condo. He rode the elevator down and crossed Kihei Road to a picnic table on Kamaole Beach.
The ocean breeze cooled his dampened face and body, and the constant crash of the waves calmed his thoughts. His buddy John, back at Fort Sam Houston, had been half-right. Maui was peaceful, all right. The air here was soft, and perfumed with the sweet fragrance of tropical flowers. The palm trees swayed, and the ocean sparkled with moonlight. But the calm and quiet hadn't stopped the nightmares.
Not yet, anyway.
He'd only been here a few days. John had generously lent him the use of his condo for the rest of Luke's leave. Surely three more weeks of living on this island paradise would be enough to get his head straight.
A dog whined and Luke glanced in the direction of the sound. A scruffy mutt the size of a shepherd sat on his haunches staring at him. "What are you looking at?"
As if he'd understood perfectly, the dog made a point of glancing down at Luke's Chinese food, and his tongue came out and licked his muzzle.
Aah. The guy was hungry. Okay, boy. Luke really didn't want the rest. He set the carton down a few feet in front of him and before he'd even straightened up, the dog had lapped up what was left. He licked the container clean and then lay down with a loud sigh.
Luke bent down to retrieve the carton, turned to pitch it into the trash receptacle and stopped midpitch. Standing across the grassy slope, under the streetlight was a young woman, small and slim and wearing a white T-shirt and cutoffs. She tugged off her helmet and Luke's heart literally jumped.
It was the girl, the waitress from the bar tonight. Had she followed him?
She crouched down to chain her bike to the rack, straightened and toed off her sneakers and then skipped down to the surf.
Her straight blond hair lifted in the gentle wind and Luke caught his breath when she raised her face and arms to the full moon, blew it a kiss and then twirled. Her smile put the moon's glow to shame.
Before he could fully admire her slim legs she ran into the ocean. He jumped up to stop her, thinking she was crazy or suicidal. Who did that at two-thirty in the morning? But she darted back up to dry land as the waves crashed around her.
Frolicking. There was no other word for it. She was frolicking in the moonlit sea. Her laughter carried to him across the breeze and made his chest tighten. Such joy. If only she could bottle that up, he'd buy a case.
What was she doing? Was dancing in the ocean her own personal remedy for insomnia?
Maybe he was still dreaming. Wouldn't that be cool? To be having this kind of dream and be getting a good night's sleep while he was at it?
Not possible. His psyche could never conjure up someone so unusual. He held still, cloaked in the darkness of the tree cover, wondering what she'd do next.
As she headed back toward her bike, he swallowed and hoped she wouldn't see him. But she was still twenty yards or more away and walked past without noticing him. Reaching her bike, she unlocked the chain, and then walked it across the street and into the foyer of his condo building.
They were neighbors?
Luke got up and headed over to the condo. The dog trotted after him and tried to slip inside the lobby door as Luke opened it.
"Hold on there, mutt." Luke closed the door with both of them still outside. But under the bright lobby lights shining through the glass Luke saw what looked like blood, still wet, all over the dog's left side. "What the
" He squatted to get a closer look and the dog sat, panting up at him trustingly.
Luke's shoulders slumped. The mutt had been scraped by something. A car, a boulder, something rough. He checked for broken ribs and didn't feel any, but the dog could have internal injuries. Still, even if he knew where a vet's office was, it probably wouldn't be open at two-thirty in the morning. There were gauze and bandages in the condo
He let out an audible sigh, opened the door and ushered the dog inside the lobby and up the elevator to his condo. He'd take him to a vet first thing tomorrow.