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Silver Bullet -- Alma and Stasi

One of the things I enjoyed the most about writing in Silver Bullet is the growing friendship between Alma and Stasi. I thought I'd share a little piece of it, a scene I particularly like as the team goes out to investigate a reportedly haunted silver mine. I'd love to hear what you think!

The sun was barely creeping over the horizon down in the valley when they headed out to Alma's pickup truck.

"Stasi should ride in the cab with you," Mitch said to Alma, looking dubiously at Stasi's coat. "Lewis and I will ride in the back."

"It's what I have," Stasi said sharply. Her long black wool overcoat wasn't as warm as the heavy parkas Alma and Lewis wore, or the battered leather flight jacket Mitch wore over layered sweaters. And no, her black wool slacks weren't as warm as flannel-lined jeans over longjohns, but she certainly didn't own any. This was her only winter coat, and perfectly suitable to city streets. Her life didn't usually involve tramping around a wilderness.

"We can all fit in the cab," Lewis said.

"Four of us?" Alma said.

"We'll ride in the back," Mitch said. There was no way three were fitting in the cab if one of them was Mitch, much less four. "Unless you want me to drive."

"I'm driving," Alma said.

"We know." Lewis grinned. "Ok. Mitch and I will be gentlemen and freeze in the bed of the truck."

Stasi felt she needed to make a point. "I would…."

"Don't be silly," Alma said briskly, getting in on the driver’s side. "You were kind enough to say you'd come along on this expedition, and you're not a flyer so of course you don't have heavy clothes. You'll ride in the front with me and these two excuses can sit in the back."

"Then we get the thermos," Mitch said, claiming the pack with the coffee and snacks.

The sun made patterns through the leafless trees, the sky a clear winter blue. The storm had blown itself out to the east, and the roads weren't too bad. Alma was a very careful driver and the pickup had chains that crunched on the occasional patch of snow on the road. Through town the main roads were completely plowed, but as they got up into the mountains there were still patches of ice in the lee of outcroppings where the sun rarely touched the road in winter. Above, ponderosa pines carried the snow load on their broad branches between high peaks.

"What desolate country," Stasi said at last.

Alma didn't look away from the road, but she smiled. "I was just thinking how beautiful it is. To each their own."

"I didn't mean to be insulting," Stasi said.

"You weren't." Alma downshifted, going up the grade. "Different people love different things. Me, I can't stand cities. I'm a country girl at heart."

"Were you born here?" Stasi asked.

"I was born in Kansas," Alma said. Her blond hair had escaped from her hat, curling behind her ears. "My dad was a cavalry trooper and my mom died when I was born. I grew up in forts all over the west." She gave Stasi a sideways smile. "You know that little kid in Westerns who always runs in yelling that there's a stampede or an Indian attack or something? That's me. We were here in Colorado for almost six years when I was a kid and I loved it. So when Gil and I came back to the States after the war, he wanted a good place to start a business, and I wanted to come home. It worked out real well for both of us."

"He wanted to make you happy," Stasi said.

"And it made him happy too. Gil liked it here." Alma's voice was even. "But it's not for everybody. And that's ok. I'm glad Jerry's had this job in New York for the fall. Colorado Springs was my dream, not his. It's good for him to get out in his world again. If it's not your world either, that's ok too."

"Darling, I have no idea," Stasi said. It had been so long since she'd even considered what she might want as opposed to the merely possible. Choosing was a luxury she'd left behind a long time ago. But it had been months since anything terrible happened. That did tend to give one perspective. Though one could hardly count on a streak like that to hold. "So if you grew up here," she said, "You know all about the haunted mine."

Alma shrugged. "A little bit about it. It wasn't famous or anything. There are a lot of abandoned mines around here."


"They found gold and silver in Colorado about a hundred years ago. You can guess there was a big rush and boom, but a lot of the deposits were shallow and small and the mines petered out pretty quickly. The Silver Bullet mine was one of those. It was only open about twenty years and was played out by the time I moved here in '97. I'd guess it closed down in '92 or '93? Anyway, back in the eighties there was a cave-in and a couple of men were killed. When I was a kid the whole place was deserted. The mining company still owned it, but it wasn't worth anything. About ten years ago the State of Colorado seized it for back taxes — the mining company hadn't paid anything in decades, so it's state land now."

"Killed in a cave in," Stasi mused. "I suppose. But you'd think the miners would haunt the owners or something if they wanted revenge. In my experience ghosts rarely sit around deserted buildings out in the middle of nowhere. They want to haunt people. It's fairly pointless to haunt somewhere no one ever goes. It's like picketing."

"Picketing?" Alma looked confused.

"Darling, when you plan a demonstration you want the people you're demonstrating against to see it. There's not much point in marching around a field somewhere with signs!"

"I suppose not," Alma said. "I guess I didn't think ghosts had much choice."

"Oh they do," Stasi said. "Most ghosts haunt the place they used to live, either because they like it or because that's where their family is. Sometimes they haunt the place they died if it's a good way to get back at the ones who killed them — battlefields and prisons and dungeons and the like. But who in the world haunts a Woolworth's, even if they did drop dead there? If this place is as deserted as you say, I can't imagine why any self-respecting ghost would be there. Did you actually see a ghost?"

"I didn't," Alma said. She shrugged. "It was one of those things. Older kids at school dared each other to go up there. They said there were mysterious lights at the minehead."

"Ghost lights," Stasi said. "Or maybe just lights?"

"It could be," Alma allowed. "They might have seen a night watchman with a lantern."

"But why would there be a night watchman on an abandoned building?"

"And then there's Rayburn's story about lightning flashes out of a clear sky," Alma said. "Which may be connected or maybe not."

Stasi shook her head. "I don't claim that I know everything there is to know about the Dead, but I have never seen a ghost be able to affect things more than a few feet away. If Mr. Rayburn was flying over in an airplane five thousand feet up…." She broke off. "I can't imagine what could do that."

"Neither can I," Alma said. "But we'd better find out."