Bergdahl’s eyes shone brightly in the flickering light of the match he struck. He raised the match and lit his cigarette, his blue gaze fixed down the darkened tunnel where the last remnants of smoke and dust settled after Isberg’s latest successful blast.
“That damn Swede will give ol’ Jessie a run for his money,” Bergdahl started with a
smirk as he pulled the cigarette from his mouth.
Toby did not answer. He turned his head slightly as he heard Tin pick up a shovel. As if it had been a signal, Toby began gingerly shoving at an empty ore cart, the carbide lamp on his hard hat picking out the damp, greasy rails before him.
“Damn Swede,” Isberg chuckled under his breath as he shouldered a pick and moved
briskly around Bergdahl. Isberg’s eyes shone with laughter as the light from Toby’s lamp caught them.
“Why does he call you that?” Toby wondered amid the rasp of the wheels against the
rail as Isberg fell into step with him.
Isberg chuckled again—his laugh carrying the same lilt that shaped the hopefulness of
his voice. “He is a son of Norway,” Gunnar confided, his eyes still smiling. “They chafe. It is their national lot.” Gunnar fell silent as he and Toby moved further down the tunnel.
“A son of Norway will always harass a son of Sverige.” Gunnar shot Toby a lopsided smile as he shouldered the pick higher. “But his rants are—“ Gunnar hesitated as he placed a hand on the ore cart—stopping it before he stooped to clear some debris from the track. The rock banged and rankled as it settled in to the bottom of the cart. Gunnar straightened, still smiling. “Impotent.”
It was the wrong thing to say.
Toby startled; behind him, it was unmistakably a growl from Bergdahl. He had roughly
flung his cigarette aside and was striding, his eyes flashing angrily, toward Isberg.
“Gunnar!” Toby yelped as Nils shoved at him, knocking him off balance and swinging back his pick. Gunnar spun, his eyes wide as the light from his lamp caught the glistening metal edge of the pick hoisted high.
“Toby…,” Gunnar breathed.
“What’s happened?” Tin started in a shout as he picked his way quickly back down the
tunnel, the light from his lamp twisting chaotically as he approached the pool of light where Toby and Gunnar had their lamps trained down on Nils Bergdahl who writhed, screaming, his leg pinned between two ore carts. Tin’s shovel rang against the tunnel floor and he slipped, his hand flying out and catching at the forward ore cart—moving it slightly and eliciting a howl of pain from the wounded Bergdahl.
Bergdahl’s blood shone stickily in the lamplight. Gunnar had hacked and torn madly at the sleeve of his own coat, he and Toby quickly turning it into a tourniquet to stem the blood that flowed from Bergdahl’s mangled leg. Nils howled, his hands scrabbling madly at the wound as Toby fought to restrain him—desperate to give Gunnar a chance to secure the tourniquet. Toby looked up, meeting Tin’s startled gaze.
“Help me, boss,” Toby faltered, his heart hammering in his own chest as adrenalin
pumped through him.
Tin dropped beside the three and made a grab for the cart to push it away.
“Not yet, boss,” Gunnar warned him. “I don’t want to tear his leg away,” he
continued darkly. Tin looked down. The blood had thickened, quickly freezing against the cold metal of the cart.
“Oh, God,” Tin started, his voice catching.
“Hot water,” Gunnar continued as he tossed his head in the direction of the alcove.
“The kettle should still be hot—“
“It’s tea—“ Toby started.
Gunnar met his gaze grimly. “Is better.”
Tin scrambled to his feet, making for the alcove.
Bergdahl began to quiet as shock spread through him.
“Förlorat blod,” Gunnar muttered.
“What?” Toby asked.
Gunnar tightened the tourniquet. “Lost blood,” he said again in English. “We must warm
him.” Isberg watched as Toby drew back abruptly, his fingers working madly through the buttons of his coat and then through his heavy woolen shirt beneath. He shivered slightly, his skin pimpling in the cold as he tore open Nils’ coat and shirt before he dropped forward, wrapping Nils within his clothes.
“C’m on, Nils,” Toby whispered as he struggled to cradle Nils closer. He shifted,
breathing warm breath against Nils’ neck.
Gunnar watched the blue eyes beneath Toby flutter insensately.
“Han håller på att förlora..,” Gunnar breathed. He felt Tin arrive above him, the
kettle held tightly in his hand.
“Han kommer inte att förlora,” Tin replied grimly. Gunnar started. He looked up at
Tin. “Get back,” Tin warned quickly.
“Here,” Gunnar directed.
Tin nodded darkly.
The wounded man was beyond protesting.
“Shut down,” Tin said again, his voice steady as Shen’s hand hesitated above the
straight key. Tin was looking down at the message Shen had translated from the
Tin took a breath. “Accident.”
Shen tapped the word.
“Man down,” Tin continued.
Shen tapped the word. His fingers hovered expectantly above the device.
The straight key clicked a terse reply.
Tin shook his head. “Shen,” he said quietly, “Send LEG BROKE.”
The telegraph clicked as the connections were made and broken.
Tin nodded succinctly. “ Three hour delay. Apologies.” He hesitated. “T. Hansen.”
Tin watched silently as the straight key bounced his words through the lines that ran down the mountain. They waited. Tin chewed at his bottom lip. The contraption hummed and bounced suddenly. Shen’s pencil flew across the paper.
THREE HOUR DELAY APPROVED. D. KILLIAN, MGR.
Shen glanced up at Tin who let out an audible sigh of relief. He smiled weakly at
Shen. “Thank you, Shen,” he said, his voice weary.
“It is well, Tin,” Shen replied quietly. He turned as Yu appeared at the door, his
dark eyes fixed on the two of them.
“He rests, Tin,” Yu started quietly. “Toby is with him.” Tin looked down at the mug
of hot coffee that came toward him. “We will keep them,” Yu continued as Tin
took the proffered mug. “The doctor will come.”
“Thank you,” Tin whispered as his eyes closed against the welcoming steam and he took a sip.
The telegraph abruptly sprang to life, and Shen turned automatically, beginning
to take down the message. As the contraption ceased, his brow furrowed at the paper and his hand hesitated on the pencil. Tin lowered his mug as Shen turned back toward him, proffering the paper.
“We must meet the tram,” Shen said quietly as he rose from the chair.
Tin stared down at the message in his hand.
© 2011 A.K. Marshall