Deadly Lode (Trace Brandon Book 1)

BOOK: Deadly Lode (Trace Brandon Book 1)
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Deadly Lode

 

 

 

 

 

 

DEADLY LODE

A Novel

*********************

 

Randall Reneau

 

 

This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are products of the author
'
s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events or locales or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.

Copyright
©
2012 by Randall Reneau

All rights reserve
d
, including the right to reproduce this book or portions thereof in any form whatsoever.

First paperback edition September 2012

For additional information, please visit our website at:
http://randall-reneau.com/

Manufactured in the United States of America

10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1

ISBN:
978
-
1479131792

ISBN: 1479131792
(e-book)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This book is for
L
ynne, Aimee
,
and Lacey
.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Acknowledgements

A very special thank you to Ken Hodgson for
reading the manuscript and for
his encouragement, enthusiasm
,
and long
-
standing friendship.
Also
,
thanks to Sheldon Russell for
read
ing
the manuscript and providing a much
-
appreciated quote.

 

 

 

 

P
relude

S
triking
a
match with
the tip of
his
blackened
thumb
nail, the
dynamiter
knelt down and
lit
the fuse.
H
e watched the a
crid white smoke
stream
from the
combustible
cord
.
Satisfied
the fuse
was burning properly, he yelled,
"
F
ire in the hole
!
"
A
nd
haul
ed
ass
back down the drift
. Thirty seconds later the blast
shook
the
mine, sending
dust roiling out the mine portal.

In
the summer of
1891
,
near the small town of Winthrop, Washington,
the
Sullivan
gold and copper mine
operat
ed
a
round the clock
.
M
ine manager Tom Delany
worked long hours
in
the small log cabin
that
serv
ed
as
both
his
office and quarters
.
As he flipped-
through the
latest
assays
, a
broad grin broke out on his face.
The a
ssays
were good, damned good.
The ore
was averaging nearly three
-
quarters of an ounce
gold
per ton
and
1.5 percent
copper
.

The
only
bad news in the assays continued to be the
high levels of
pitchblende
, a
uranium
mineral discovered
about a hundred years earlier
. The
heavy
,
dark mineral
had no known economic value
,
and h
ad to be separated from the gold and copper ore
.
A major
pain in the
butt
,
and an added expense.
Shaking his head,
Tom
noted
that
every single assay
contained
uranium, often
running as high
as
10 percent
.


Jesus Maria,

Tom
said
,
to himself
.

I
f they ever figure out a use for this damn stuff, somebody could make a fortune.

Uranium aside,
he
knew
the Sullivan
was a damned good
gold and copper
mine
,
and the assays on his desk proved it. He
planned
to
bring his wife out
from back east
, bu
y a house in nearby Winthrop
,
and
finish out his career
working
at the
mine
.

G
lanc
ing
up from the assay reports
and looking out
his office
window
,
Tom
saw his day
-
shift
foreman,
B
ig Jim Maclean
,
striding
toward
the office.
Big
Jim
was
gesturing with his hands
and looked to be talking to himself.

"
Damn, this can

t be good
,
"
Tom
thought
,
as
B
ig Jim burst through the door.


Boss, two more men are down
,
and I mean
down
!

Big Jim
boomed
,
while parking his huge frame into a not
-
quite
-
big
-
enough chair.

Puking their guts out
, they are,
down on level two.


What in the hell is going on?

Tom
asked
, shaking his head in disbelief.

This is getting to be a full
-
time problem
.


By
God
,
I have nary a clue, Tom
.
I

ve
checked the mess
hall
provisions and
chewed out t
he cook
, but
everything seems according to Hoyle.
It cain

t be the damn water
,
either
. W
e all
drink the
same
water out of
Montana
C
reek
. It

s got t
o
be something in the mine,
cause the topside folks are fit as a fiddle.


Any unusual odors in the mine?

Tom asked
, thinking there could be some kind of mine gas present
.


You mean other than
from
miners
that don

t bath
e
real regular and
fart more or less continually
?
Or
the
m
damn fumes from the
dynamite
?

Tom laughed
.

Y
eah, other than th
ose
.


I

ll tell you
what the miners think
,
Tom
. T
hey think
the damned mine is cursed.


Curse
d
, my ass
.
Look, Jim,
I don

t put any stock in such nonsense
.

Tom replied
, then added under his breath
.

O
f course
,
neither
did
the fellow who stole the Hope Diamond.


Hope
,
what
?


Never mind, Jim. We

ve got to figure out what in the hell is going on here.

 

 

They needn

t
have
worried. The
mine would
soon
face a
tougher
problem
than sick miners.
It
would
come to be known as
the
G
reat
F
inancial
Panic
of
1892
.
By
1893
,
the financial backers
of the Sullivan Mine
went bust
,
the mine
closed
,
and talk of a curse was soon forgotten.

*****

 

O
n
the morning of
June
23
,
1946
,
e
verything at the abandoned Sullivan Mine
appeared normal.
Montana Creek gurgled along, the birds sang
,
and the insects buzzed.
A
t a little past three in the afternoon,
the birds quit singing
,
and the insects quit buzzing. The quake hit with megaton force.
In seconds, the
rocky slope above the mine
avalanched down the hill
-
side, burying the
mine
portal under tons of rock and debris.
Sealed and hidden,
o
nly the
pitchblende
remained at work, slowly decaying
and emitting i
t
's
deadly radiation
.

S
ignificant events
often
begin modestly
,
and so it was with the
great
flood of
2003
. The National Weather Service proclaimed the northern Cascade
R
ange winter snowfall as an all
-
time record. Even grizzled high
-
country trappers said they
could not recall
, or even heard tell of
,
anything like the prodigious snow
-
pack now awaiting the spring thaw.

It began
simply and gently
. A
warm zephyr
followed by
a drop in pressure
cau
s
ed
the deer to
snort and
shake their heads
.
T
he
rain
began
to fall,
gently at first
like
a lover
caressing a new partner
;
t
easing, advancing
,
then
climaxing in a torrent
that
consum
ed
everything in
its path.

The snow began to
liquefy
,
first into
rivulets
like so many veins on the back of an old man

s hand
. T
he
n
coalescing
into
an
arterial flow
, s
welling streams and drainages
with a volume
of water
not see
n
since the retreat of the
Q
uaternary
ice
.
T
he deluge continued
for days
,
funneling
huge volumes of water, rock
,
and debris
down canyons
,
r
eshaping
the topography.

Montana
Creek
, now a raging torrent, began to eat away at the
talus from
the
old
landslide
,
rock and debris
sli
p
ping
inexorably
into the
muddy waters
,
no match for
the
abrasive
mixture
.

G
reat
chunks of loose rock and soil
broke away and disappeared into the morass.
Little by little,
a str
ucture
,
not of nature but of man
,
began to
emerge
. Sections of
square
-
cut
timbers and pieces of worn
steel
rail were uncovered and
pulled
into the torrent.

BOOK: Deadly Lode (Trace Brandon Book 1)
9.3Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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