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She and Rita worked quickly as a team. Within fifteen minutes they’d managed to position three of the four jacks and squeeze between two walls then position the fourth jack and to slowly lift some of the wreckage away. All around them wood and metal and adobe shifted and moaned. It was hard to see as this part of the building was in shadows. But they’d grabbed flashlights and had them on the ground pointed into the ruins. In another fifteen minutes, Bette could see more of Harlan’s body. He was pinned against two thick beams.
“Are you in pain?” she asked.
He tried to smile. “Hurts less than this morning.”
As they worked, Bette kept scanning the area for Doyle, calling his name. But there was no answer from him and not indication of where he might be trapped. Finally, they had Harlan free, and she and Rita pulled him out of the wreckage and over to the path. He was bleeding from the head and nose, his hands were cut and torn, but in moments he began to move his lower legs and to flex his ankles.
“Did you see Doyle?” Bette asked, but there was little hope in her heart.
“We found the quad.” Harlan reached in his pocket and pulled out a drive. “At least I got this out of the camera before the tremor hit.”
Bette stared at the drive in his hand. “But why didn’t you just come out right away? The delay cost you.”
Harlan shook his head. “The tremor hit.”
“But you…” Bette frowned.
“I’m sorry you lost the quad. I know it was expensive.”
“The quad?” Bette’s mouth hung open. “Harlan, I don’t care about the damn drone. I care about Ryan. Did you see where he fell?”
Harlan wiped his mouth. He was sweating, and Bette could smell that same rancid stink she’d smelled on him earlier that morning.
“Harlan, did you see where he fell?” she repeated more frantically.
Harlan shook his head. “We got separated climbing back out. Then the tremor hit. Did you feel it?” He looked at her with dazed eyes. “I felt them with me, Bette, just before it hit. Felt them watching me.” He grimaced as he tried to sit up, but then fell back and rubbed his shoulder. “I told them I was sorry. But I had to get those shots. We have to tell the world what happened to them.”
Bette caught Rita’s gaze. She looked confused and fearful. She glanced down at Harlan again, noticed he seemed to be pushing his shoulder back into place, as if he’d dislocated it in the accident.
“Harlan, where’s Doyle?” Bette asked.
Harlan peered up at her. “They have him now.”
Rita stood up and backed away; Bette’s eyes grew wide
Suddenly, a dark shadow passed overhead. Bette looked up and noticed black clouds swirling, and in the far distance, lighting flashed against a dark winter sky.
The storm would be on them in moments.