II. Dave Lewis, 1899
Dave Lewis was not a particularly agreeable man. Most of the miners didn’t like him but that suited him just fine. He didn’t like them so he didn’t lose any sleep. If his parents hadn’t up and died when he was seven he wouldn’t be stuck working in the mines anyway. His one personality talent his father bestowed on him was the ability to grovel and suck up when needed to and he had rose in rank to pit boss. From his momma he was blessed him with a good sense of reality. This was as far as he expected to climb the ladder. He was keenly aware of his limits. That didn’t keep him from daydreaming about making it rich and settling somewhere on a ranch where he could grow fruit trees. Lots of fruit trees. Far away from the dry, dusty high mountain desert he was presently stuck in.
It was in a moment of one of those reveries that Sing Lee came into the office.
“Boss sir,” Sing said, “the devil has come back.”
Dave blinked as he came back to reality.
“Accident will happen,” Sing said excitedly.
“Lee,” Dave drawled, “you don’t believe in that superstitious hocus pocus like your fellow countrymen, do you?”
Sing nodded his head. “All I know, when the devil appears accidents happen. Whatever you want to call it. But when he appears bad things happen.” He chose his words carefully and tried to say it in the best English he could.
Dave studied the nervous miner. “Right,” he folded his arms and thought the situation over. “I suppose none of your crew are willing to work today because of this? That’s convenient.”
Sing licked his lips and looked at the door. He’d prefer to leave the premises and head to the nearest saloon. If something bad was going to happen to him he’d rather be numb with liquor.
“Fine,” Dave said angrily and grabbed his hat. “Show me where the devil appeared this time.”
“Where else? Where he always shows. Near Number 4 entry.” Sing edged toward the door.
Dave looked Sing up and down. “Fine, go ahead and run away. I suppose I will find him myself. If he does exist.” Sing didn’t hear the jab at the end because he was already out the door and down the road.
Dave shook his head and walked out of the office. The morning sun was bright and he squinted as he looked around. “Silly stupid superstitions. My crew will not fall behind because of some stupid notions.” All he could see were Chinese miners scrambling frantically until he caught sight of the foreman. “Ed,” he called out. “We have a problem today.” He would hand this problem to the foreman and make his way to the nearest saloon. If none of his miners were going to work he surely wasn’t going to waste a day in the office.
Ed Thomas looked over his papers and sauntered to Dave. He had no use for Dave since all he did was complain and try to get out of work. That’s probably why he called him over now. “What’s up?”
Dave grabbed Ed’s arm and led him to the edge of the building out of sight. “The Chinese refuse to work today.”
Ed sighed long and loud. “Dave, you know we need to meet quota. You have to get your workers to work. Get them in that mine.”
“They saw the,” Dave took a deep breath, “the devil again.”
Ed looked at him. “Oh, criminy. That’s all we need. They probably will work themselves up now and get in an accident. All these devil and accident sightings are starting to bother the white miners.” He looked around at the miners scrambling. “Okay, here’s what we are going to do. We are going to go look for this devil ourselves and put an end to the nonsense.”
Dave nodded his head until the last part. He didn’t believe in ghosts or devils as the Chinese called it but he didn’t want to go hunting one. Especially not with Ed Thomas. As far as he was concerned, he had done his duty. He told Ed the quota wouldn’t be met. It was Ed’s problem now. Except Ed didn’t see it that way and dragged him with him to find toward entry number four.
They stood guard outside the abandoned Number 4 entry. But neither man one was sure what to look for so they weren’t sure if they had already seen something suspicious. What does a devil even look like? How would they know if they saw it? Does it look like a man or just a wisp of wind?
After a couple of hours Dave was certain they were wasting their time and Ed was still hoping to find some kind of reasonable explanation. He couldn’t have the Chinese miners not work because of no good reason. There had to be some kind of reasonable, sensible explanation.
Then Ed saw it.
A Chinese man carrying a big bag of something over his shoulder. He walked slowly burdened by his heavy load. Based on his clothes Ed could tell he was definitely Chinese. The closer Ed looked though the more he realized it wasn’t a man. Features were missing. Details of his face. Plus, the man didn’t actually look like he was walking. It looked like he was floating. Ed’s mouth went dry and he nudged Dave.
Dave turned and took a moment to process what he saw. He must have arrived at the same conclusion as Ed because he stood up and turned to run. Ed grabbed him and pulled him down. They looked at each other slowly then back at the figure.
The ghost reached the entry and looked around and then slipped inside.
“What do we do now?” Dave asked assuming Ed would say something logical like seal the entry way. Close it up. Blast it if necessary.
“C’mon,” Ed said and pulled Dave up. “Let’s see where he’s going.”
“What?” Dave cried. “Why?” Any pretense of bravery he had displayed with Sing Lee in the office had gone. He should have followed Sing to the saloon.
Ed couldn’t explain he just knew they needed to follow the ghost. “C’mon,” he said again and pulled Dave to the entry. They walked in and looked around. “Where did he go?”
“I don’t care!” Dave hollered. “Maybe he just hovers around the entry. Obviously we missed him, let’s go.”
Before they could make their escape though the ghost appeared in a nearby tunnel and looked at them before ducking around the corner. “I think he wants us to follow him,” Ed said.
“What do you mean, he wants us to follow him?”
“C’mon,” Ed said again and pulled his unwilling partner.
They lit a lantern and followed the ghost through a series of turns and twists. Deeper and deeper they went in the mine. Ed taking note of markers and signs still hanging from when the mine was worked as a trail to get back out. He really didn’t want to join the ghost as a ghost himself.
Until at last they found a small opening and tripped over something. When Ed held the lantern so they could see Dave let out a cry. The remnants of a body lay on the floor. A big, heavy gunny sack sat next to it. Dave kicked the bag and it broke open. Coins spilled out. This turn of events made Dave forget about the ghost hunt and he became excited. He knelt down and looked at them. “Silver. These are silver coins.” He inspected a handful. “It looks like none of them are dated after 1885.”
Ed knelt down and looked at the body. “I think this is the fella the ghost belongs to.”
With the mention of the word ghost, Dave jumped again. “Do you think he’ll be mad?”
Ed shrugged his shoulders. “Maybe he wanted us to find it.”
Dave thought about it. “Yeah, yeah, nobody deserves this more than me,” he looked at Ed, “and you. We split this 50-50.”
Ed picked up a coin. “1885, you say? You don’t suppose this has anything to do with the riot?”
Dave shrugged his shoulders. “Maybe. I hear there a lot going on that day. Maybe someone came in here to hide.”
Ed thought for a moment. “I don’t know, maybe we should report it. This is mine property.”
Dave laughed. “We are mine property. What has the company ever given us besides a bad back, bad eyesight, and a short life? No sir, we don’t report it. We take it. Take it for ourselves.”
Ed looked around. “I don’t know.”
“C’mon,” Dave used a softer voice. “Think of it, no more dark tunnels. We can be up in the sunshine. We can move somewhere where things grow. Things like fruit trees. Doesn’t that sound better than wasting away in these mines?”
Ed thought about it for a moment. “Well, I guess if no one has missed him so far there is no harm in keeping the coins for ourselves.”
Dave about jumped for joy. “That’s the ticket! Now you’re thinking,” he was already trying to think of a way to get the whole share instead of this 50-50 nonsense. But first things first.
“It’s still light outside,” Dave said coming up with a plan. “Too many witnesses. We wouldn’t get any of this out safe. We need to come back when it’s dark.” The thought of being rich totally eliminated any feeling of fear of the ghost. “How about we meet at the entry at ten o’clock tonight?”
Ed listened to the plan and ran his fingers through his hair.
“C’mon Ed,” Dave went for the sale. “Imagine no more mine. This is our ticket out of here.”
Suddenly, Ed decided to be disloyal for the first time in his life. “Fine, tonight at ten.”
Dave nodded excitedly.
To be safe they rolled a large boulder in front of the tunnel just in case someone happened to take a leisurely stroll down the abandoned mine tunnel in the next seven hours. Then they made their way out of the mine Dave taking particular attention on the direction. He very well planned on coming later but much earlier than ten. Ed was much more suited to the life of a miner than he was. Dave had no doubt Ed would be fine. Probably mad, but that wouldn’t be his problem. He would be sitting under his fruit trees while that chump Ed would be toiling away. Life was good.
He just didn’t realize it would be so short.
III. Quong Fat, 1885
IV. Ed Thomas, 1899
V. K.J. Malone, 1924…coming October 31