Excavating for a mine

"Not so many shadows to hide in after all," said Jimmy.  His voice sounded dull, and when I glanced over at him I could see that hope was draining out of his face.  I couldn't blame him, we'd come this far and now it looked like it was all going to end badly after all.  Well, Ben and I always knew that it might come to this, but I guess with this being Jimmy's first time and all he was expecting a little more glory and a few less guts.

"Never mind," I said.  "This gives Ben less time to bleed to death on us.  He and I have a pact you know.  First one of us to die gets to haunt the other, and you know what Ben's like.  He's lying back there right now working out exactly when his ghost is going to show up and scare the wits out of me.  And I'll bet you a dollar it'll be when I'm with a woman."  Jimmy's face had whitened, if that was possible, at the mention of Ben's impending demise, but by the time I'd finished talking he had half a smile back again.  "Come on," I said, taking a quick decision.  "We're going to be better off inside the mine than outside; they'd be mad to go charging in without looking around a little first.  They won't look far, as they'll be worried how far ahead we are, but we'll do better if they go past us without knowing."

We walked in, the smell of the horses still unpleasantly strong, and I wondered how long the sharp-shooters had been stationed out here.  We were definitely walking on something that wasn't carpet for all it was pretending hard.  This tunnel was low and narrow, and I had a feeling that it wasn't the main entrance.  The thing with mines was that you needed to get everything you were digging up out of them, and lugging it around was hard and heavy work, so you didn't want a twisty little tunnel with sharp edges and tight corners for that.  The daylight behind us faded fast, but then there was a pale glow up ahead of us that suggested to me that the main tunnel might not be that far away.

"Did you remember seeing any traps on the way in?" I asked Jimmy.  He stopped to think, so I clipped him round the back of the head.  "Think and walk," I advised.  "The good Marshal's not stopping for a chat when he thinks of something witty to say."

"The map seemed kind of straight for a bit," said Jimmy.  "I can get it out and look at it."

"No, we'll need light won't we?  And we're not hidden yet."

A few minutes later we reached the main shaft; the ceiling was nearly ten feet high and the walls were probably as far apart as well.  And Blessed Mother, there were the corroded but still functional rails for the mine carts.  Because platinum, as everyone knows, is bloody heavy metal.

I turned back to point them out to Jimmy, and my eyes stared into darkness.  Then Jimmy stepped forward and looked at me, his eyes quizzical.

"Seen a ghost?" he said, and then his face fell.  I almost nodded, just to see if he'd fill his boots, but then I thought of the Marshal.

"Not yet," I said.  "But I am seeing darkness where I ought to be seeing light."

And there it was, the perfect place to hide and wait, a tiny little spur of a tunnel that ran briefly parallel alongside the one we'd just walked down.  At the far end was an old tree stump with a couple of planks perched on it and two three-legged stools that had probably belonged to milk-maids once.  It had no way out if we were discovered, but I was pretty sure that we wouldn't be.  This was somewhere the miners had come to slack off when they had a moment, and why would Marshal Jenkins have been exploring the mine when all he wanted to do was hide his loot here?

"We'll wait in here," I said.  "It's a good place, and we can follow the noise and light when it turns up."

"Don't the French have a phrase for that?" asked Jimmy, and I chuckled.

"Ask Ben," I said.  "He'll have an answer for you."

"Say," said Jimmy, his voice almost a whisper now.  "What did happen in that bank with you and Ben?  Where he suggested that you set fire to the money to create a diversion."

"He set fire to the money," I said.  "It caused a diversion."

Jimmy looked at me, and I was kind of glad I couldn't see his face now, as I could almost hear the hero-worship in his voice, and if there's one thing I've never wanted to be, it's a hero's sidekick.  And since there's no way Ben would agree to being anything but the hero, there was no way I was having any heroics.  "So what happened then?" he asked.  I held up a hand, and we heard the voices of the Marshal and his men coming down the tunnel parallel to ours.

The End

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