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“Vin, wait! Don’t!” Chris’s warning shout had come too late and both men instinctively cowered, falling back, as the thunder of falling masonry filled their ears and the choking dust rose in a dense cloud, that showered them with stones and fine debris as it fell to earth once more. Coughing and spitting cement dust, Ezra shook his head and brushed the particles of brick dust and assorted detritus from his shoulders and sleeves before staring in stunned bewilderment at the scene before him. He felt Chris grip his jacket sleeve, the pilot equally shaken and for the moment, no more able to function than the Southerner.

“Jesus!” Ezra moved slowly forward finally coaxing his limbs to respond and tried to remember where he had last seen Vin, but the landscape had changed in the violent upheaval of alternately shifting and collapsing masonry and the spot where Tanner had sprinted in response to the little girl’s cry was now buried under several tons of brick.

“Oh, my God,” he breathed, “Vin’s under there.” Chris jerked savagely at his arm, pulling him along. “Well, don’t just stand there! Do something!” Ezra stumbled across the uneven ground, his mind screaming denial as his logical mind argued the futility of any intervention. Outwardly composed, he joined Larabee in a frantic scramble to clear the debris, afraid of what they might find, equally afraid of what they might not while through his brain ran a repetitive litany that matched the speed of his movements. He’s alive, he’s alive, he’s alive

“Come on, lad. Leave it to them ‘at knows what to do, now,” urged a kindly voice, “Tha’s more like to do ‘arm than good.”

Chris turned, his expression one of bewildered surprise then he nodded slowly as he first deciphered then accepted what the elderly gentleman was saying. He was loathe to stand back but there was truth in the fact that excavation and rescue from such unstable sites was no task for the unskilled.

Miraculously aid seemed to have appeared from nowhere and now the area was cordoned off and an army of volunteer workers were rapidly clearing the debris. A mug of steaming liquid was thrust into his hand and he took it with all the animation of a zombie, raising the mug to his lips and barely tasting the overly-sugared, tannin-rich brew of tea that would normally have left him gagging.

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