The night had spread quickly, and the darkness shadowed Colton from sight as he urged his mare onto the rough dirt road. The mine lay in ruins behind him, and Colton's body still trembled with exertion and fear. The only thought that provided him solace was the realization that everything was over. Every step Cole had taken since the explosion on the steam boat, every action, every word that left his lips had been spoken and done to bring him to Magruder. And now Thomas Magruder was dead, crushed and rotting in the mine he had lived and slaughtered to find.
The cold evening wind nipped sharply at Cole's face, and he gritted his teeth against the frigid misery. He rotated his horse so she faced the entrance to the canyon, the quickest way back to Clay Allison's camp. He was anxious to return to the camp as quickly as possible, to make sure the members of the Resistance and Soapy- especially Soapy- were relatively uninjured. Cole could still remember finding the safecracker near the railroad tracks, face contorted with pain, breaths erratic and laborious. Cole could still feel the warm blood that gushed from where Soapy's fingers had once been, onto Colton's own hand. The very memory of Soapy's condition sent tremors of terror up Cole's spine.
He grimaced, and forced the thought from his mind. He couldn't afford to think about Soapy's plight right now; he had to focus on getting back to the Resistance's camp and avoiding the bandits, mountain lions, and whatever else lurked in the crevices of the canyon.
Colton jerked sharply on the reins, and spurred the horse into the mouth of the canyon, fading into the dawning night.
Magruder was laughing. He was laughing against the burning pain that seared his skin, and against the rivers of blood that ran down his face. He was laughing against the abysmal darkness, and at the demon that had entrapped him there. Magruder was laughing Hell, a feat he could only accomplish when all sense of reality had abandoned him. The wall that he was bound to was wrought with the skulls and screams of the damned, but it bothered him not. He had disassociated himself from the torturous nightmare that consumed his soul, and took no more notice of his surroundings. And therefore, he didn't notice that man that materialized before him, until the man lay one cold, skeletal hand on his shoulder.
Magruder cut his laughter short, and his head snapped back to look the man in the face. He squinted in confusion, his brow furrowed. Then, as recognition dawned on him, Magruder let out a monstrous roar. "Let me out! Release me, you sorry asshole! I'll kill you, I'll tear you apart with my bare hands-" Magruder's threats faltered, and he coughed violently. The coughs wracked his body violently, sending a searing pain up his arms.
The man crouched before Magruder and looked the broken man in the eye. "Thomas," his voice soft and sly, "How would you like to live again?"
Magruder started at the man in momentary shock, mouthing words that he never spoke. Then a grin cracked across his face, and his laughter resumed, more boisterous and demented then it had been before, as it echoed through the caverns and caves of Hell.