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Cora Everill was halfway to the path out of town when the explosion belched forth from the Cerro Muerte mine. A shockwave rippled the ground beneath her feet, causing her to stumble into Elmer. He gritted his teeth in pain but made no complaint, simply steadying her as they both looked back at the mine. An enormous plume of rock dust had been flung into the air and was slowly drifting toward them.
“You think Deke made it out?” Cora asked.
“Darlin’, I don’t even know if we’ve made it out yet. C’mon, we gotta go.” He tugged at her arm.
“Easy for you to say! I’m the one carrying half our house here.” Cora sniffed. “Not quite the carriage and dresses you promised me, Elmer.”
“I’d carry it if I could. You know that. I’d carry you. But I’m barely walking right now, and even that’s only because I’m more afraid of what’s behind us than I am of falling off of this mountain.
“You can drop the pack if you want to. It’s just stuff. As long as you and me get out, we’ll be okay.”
“Aw, Elmer. It ain’t that bad. I’m just complaining.”
“Once we get to Contrition, I’ll find some kinda work and we’ll get back on our feet. There’ll be dresses for you yet, Cora. You’ll see.”
“Elmer, we still owe the bank—”
“Doesn’t matter! So long as we got each other, we’ll work it out.”
Cora cast another look back at the town. “Are we…are we really the only ones left?”
“Yeah, I think so. Weren’t that many of us to begin with. I saw Deke shoot Ray down, and I know Deke and Taylor were in the mine when I left. Ain’t seen Porfirio in days, and I couldn’t rouse neither Miz Blaumer nor Father McCaig when I shouted. All three of them could be out ahead of us, I suppose.” Elmer didn’t sound particularly hopeful.
“Elmer, look! Someone’s coming from the mine!”
“Cora, get down!” Elmer hissed, but they’d already been spotted. The distant figure broke into a slow trot, quickly covering the ground toward them. As the space between them closed, they recognized Deke. He was shirtless, bleeding and filthy, but he had a smile on his face.
“Elmer! Cora! Ain’t you both a sight for sore eyes?”
“Deke!” exclaimed Cora. “What happened?”
“Bit of a long story, that. But short version is that everything got fixed.”
“And the mine?”
“Mine’s staying closed. For a good long while.”
“Shame about the silver,” Cora sighed. “That woulda been nice.”
“Deke,” Elmer asked. “How’d you make it out?”
“More poorly than I’da liked. Charge went off sooner’n I expected, and I woke up to find myself lying outside, chucked out with the rest of the rubble. But I’m walking away from it, so I’ll count it as a success.”
“Did you find Taylor?”
“Not precisely,” Deke said. “But close enough.”
“Deke,” Cora said again. “What happened?”
Deke sighed. “I’ll tell you as best as I can. You got a spare shirt that might fit me in there? We got a long walk to Contrition.”
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