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Chapter One



A light mantle of snow transformed the austere coal camp of Eagle, West Virginia, into an eerily beautiful night landscape. Blanketing the grimy coal dust that coated everything, the snowfall seemed to put away the stresses of life. The Great Depression, over a year old, that wore on everyone, might be easily forgotten in the tranquil, Christmas card scene.

But Jim Shupe was not so easily fooled.

Surrounded by his telephones, employee charts, and maps, he would be the only man to know if something went wrong. And the silence was weighing on him. Even though he should have felt relieved to draw such easy Sunday duty, he felt a brooding evil in the stillness. If something went wrong, it would happen when he least expected it. Would he hear it? See it? Feel it?

As he sat in his warm office high above the labyrinth of mine tunnels deep in the earth below, he tried to tune in the few sounds outside—the howl of a December wind, the flap of loose telephone wires, the drone of the mine ventilation fan. As dispatcher, he was more accustomed to the hubbub of weekdays when he had to keep track of the myriad rail movements in the beehive of activity below.

Then his door sprang open. He jumped up, his heart pounding.

In the open doorway stood the Colonel, glaring at him as he stamped muddy snow from his boots.

The old man's square, ruddy face under his coal-black hardhat looked like a box sitting upon the larger carton of wide shoulders and stocky green coveralls. The Colonel was wide-awake and ready for work. The old guy had a reputation for showing up anywhere, anytime, especially when least expected. But what had he found? What had gone wrong? What had brought out the Colonel so late at night?

It was amazing how stealthy the old man could be. Jim hadn't heard the Colonel's big, new 1930 Buick drive up. That usually meant a surprise inspection, which threw into question all of his activities as dispatcher. . . .






The mystery surrounding a man sealed into a West Virginia coal mine horrifies the public and threatens the entire state's mining industry. Investigator Josh Draper and delectable sidekick Annie McBride risk their lives to unravel the mystery. A walloping who-dun-it, interlaced with sharply etched portraits of the state and her people. "After reading this novel, I can say it now is at the top of my list of all time favorites." - MCCOA's Book Review




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