Heaven’s Keep

Red Knife

Thunder Bay

Copper River

Mercy Falls

Blood Hollow

The Devil’s Bed

Purgatory Ridge

Boundary Waters

Iron Lake

For Sarah Branham, my champion

In terms of the despiritualization of the universe, the

mental process works so that it becomes virtuous to

destroy the planet.

—Russell Means


The Vermilion One Mine and the Ladyslipper Mine, which appear in this work, are fictitious. There are, however, real mines that are very similar in their design, scope, and history, and I’ve used elements of these actual places in the construction of this story. But I want to stress to anyone familiar with the remarkable area we call the Iron Range that I have taken liberties with fact in both geography and geology.

I’m extremely grateful to James Pointer of the Soudan Underground Mine State Park for the gift of his time and his knowledge. The morning I spent with him half a mile underground continues to be a remarkable memory for me. I’ve done my best to give readers the same sense of admiration that he gave me for the enterprise of the men who spent their lives working in near dark conditions to wrest iron from the earth. If you’re ever in northern Minnesota, I can’t recommend highly enough a tour of the Soudan Mine, which is operated by the state of Minnesota. I guarantee you’ll never take fresh air and sunlight for granted again.

I also want to thank the staff of the Minnesota Discovery Center (formerly known as Ironworld), particularly those in the Research Center, who helped me locate a wealth of information in the archives. This resource is invaluable to all of us for a continued understanding and appreciation of the rich culture and history of the Iron Range.

I’m indebted to Dr. Garry Peterson, Chief Medical Examiner Emeritus of Hennepin County, Minnesota, for his help in understanding death, its aftermath, and the clues that bodies, no matter how ancient, can offer in unraveling the mystery of murder.

Finally, for their warm hospitality, a big thanks to all the staff at the wonderful little coffee shop called The Java Train, where the bulk of this novel was written.



Some nights, Corcoran O’Connor dreams his father’s death.

Although the dream differs in the details, it always follows the same general pattern: His father falls from a great height. Sometimes he stumbles backward over a precipice, his face an explosion of surprise. Or he’s climbing a high, flat face of rock and, just as he reaches for the top, loses his grip and, in falling, appears both perplexed and angry. Or he steps into an empty elevator shaft, expecting a floor that is not there, and looks skyward with astonishment as the darkness swallows him.

In the dream Cork is always a boy. He’s always very near and reaches out to save his father, but his arm is too short, his hand too small. Always, his father is lost to him, and Cork stands alone and heartbroken.

If that was all of it, if that was the end of the nightmare, it probably wouldn’t haunt him in quite the way that it does. But the true end is a horrific vision that jars Cork awake every time. In the dream, he relives the dream, and in that dream revisited something changes. Not only is he near his father as the end occurs but he also stands outside the dream watching it unfold, a distanced witness to himself and to all that unfolds. And what he sees from that uninvolved perspective delivers a horrible shock. For his hand, in reaching out, not only fails to save his father. It is his small hand, in fact, that shoves him to his death.


That early June day began with one of the worst wounds Cork O’Connor had ever seen. It was nearly three miles long, a mile wide, and more than five hundred feet deep. It bled iron.

From behind the window glass of the fourth-floor conference room in the Great North Mining Company’s office complex, Cork looked down at the Ladyslipper Mine, one of the largest open-pit iron ore excavations in the world. It was a landscape of devastation, of wide plateaus and steep terraces and broad canyons, all of it the color of coagulating blood. He watched as far below him the jaws of an electric power shovel gobbled eighty tons of rock and spit the rubble into a dump truck the size of a house and with wheels twice as tall as a man. The gargantuan machine crawled away up an incline that cut along the side of the pit, and immediately another just like it took its place, waiting to be filled. The work reminded him of insects feeding on the cavity of a dead body.

At the distant end of the mine, poised at the very lip of the pit itself, stood the town of Granger. The new town of Granger. Thirty years earlier, Great North had moved the entire community, buildings and all, a mile south

Вы читаете Vermilion Drift
Добавить отзыв


Вы можете отметить интересные вам фрагменты текста, которые будут доступны по уникальной ссылке в адресной строке браузера.

Отметить Добавить цитату