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Phin Chase was in the wrong place at the wrong time.
Now he's witness to a murder, and he must run fast and far to escape the Sleepers—the secretive, powerful organization responsible for the crime. With only his own wits to rely on, Phin hops a train to flee his small town. But there's a mysterious man on his trail—a man with a horse that tracks like a bloodhound. He could be working for the Sleepers . . . or he could be working against them. ...
Phin Chase was in the wrong place at the wrong time.
Now he's witness to a murder, and he must run fast and far to escape the Sleepers—the secretive, powerful organization responsible for the crime. With only his own wits to rely on, Phin hops a train to flee his small town. But there's a mysterious man on his trail—a man with a horse that tracks like a bloodhound. He could be working for the Sleepers . . . or he could be working against them. But Phin can't risk finding out.
Even if Phin manages to turn the tables on his pursuer, neither hunter nor quarry can imagine what will happen when they inevitably collide.
Phin surfaced from the book with a start and sat listening; for what, he wasn't sure.
It was hours later, the lamp pale and unneeded, the sky blue, with a glowing red-orange streak at the horizon. Engelbreit was sleeping late this morning. Dawn usually found him up and breakfasting, then off to the mine to meet the incoming shift. In these troubled times it was best to be on hand early, to smell out whatever mischief had brewed overnight.
But Engelbreit was only just stirring in his blankets. That must be the sound that had startled Phin. Then why was he still listening? Why was he thinking of his mother?
He glanced down at the great poem he'd been so deep in moments ago. They'd never shared Leaves of Grass. It was two weeks after her death that he'd discovered Engelbreit and his books.
There were twenty-two of them on the shelf next to the table. Four had to do with coal and engineering, but there were novels, history, and poetry, too. Engelbreit wouldn't loan them. He'd caught Phin reading a novel left on the bench outside his door. "Come anytime," he'd said. "If I'm asleep, don't wake me. Just light the lamp and read."
For ten months now Phin had come almost every night. It felt more like home than the empty room behind Murray's Tavern. He missed her less here, and more. Isn't this beautiful? he kept wanting to ask her; or What do you think? And he'd look up from the page and remember.
But this wasn't one of those times. He didn't feel sorrowful, just-uneasy.
He leaned to blow out the lamp as Engelbreit rose, shoved his feet into his boots, and openedthe front door wide. The sun was just coming up.
Engelbreit went out, dipped water from the barrel, and washed his face and hands. He came back in, leaving the door open. It was early autumn. The breeze brought a spicy smell from beyond the coalfields.
"Do you ever sleep, boy?" He rubbed his palms over his face; broad, bearded, maned like a lion. His calm blue eyes looked curiously at Phin, who shrugged. Sleep was hard to come by at a saloon. Sometimes he slept in the early morning, when things got quiet, or he'd slip away to the stable and bed down in the hay. Engelbreit didn't know that, and he didn't know much about Engelbreit. What they spoke of when they got the chance was books, and they didn't get the chance often.
Engelbreit drove his men like a demon, so the talk ran at Murray's. Phin had seen him come home, this demon, as soaked with sweat as any black-faced miner; throw himself on the bed and lie there wide-eyed, too exhausted to sleep. He'd seen him at his figures, shaking his head. The numbers didn't come out right. Working like a demon wasn't enough, for him or anyone else these days.
Engelbreit bent to kindle a fire in the stove. The sun struck a golden spear through the doorway. "Have some breakfast, since you're here?"
Just then a shadow crossed the sunbeam on the floor, then two more shadows. Shoulders. Hats. Like dark dolls the shapes lengthened over the clean-swept boards. Phin looked around.
Ned Plume came first, walking straight to the door with a revolver in his hand. He carried it down by his side, casual as a man with a dinner pail. He was tall and straight and his shoulders swung easily. The two behind were nervous and had been drinking.
There was time for one word. "Sleepers," Phin said, and Engelbreit turned from his breakfast.
Turned slowly. It was already too late. His eyes were fearless, and Plume raised the gun and fired. Red blossomed on Engelbreit's shirt and he fell back. When his head struck the iron stove, the look in his eyes didn't change. He was already gone.
Phin had seen dead men. In coal country in 1875, you did.
But Engelbreit. The sun through the open doorway, bright rose of red on his shirt. Engelbreit's calm eyes-The next shot would slam into Phin. He refused to turn and see it. Engelbreit's face would be his last sight on earth-
Footsteps, a rustle of clothing. Hands grabbed his upper arms, hard and hot as iron from the forge. He was jerked around to face Ned Plume.
The morning light gilded Plume's face. He looked handsome and noble, like a dime-novel hero, as he raised his gun again.
Phin swooped out of his body to a high corner of the ceiling. He saw the gun leveled at him, a shabby boy with a mended tear in the top of his cap. The boy looked calm, as detached as Engelbreit. Plume squared his jaw, squared it again, and his knuckle whitened on the trigger.
Abruptly he dropped his gun hand to his side. "This one I can't do."
Phin fell back into his body, a shrinking prison of fear. "He knows something," said the man holding him. " 'Sleepers,' he said."
But everyone knew the Sleepers. You pretended not to, but you did. And working at Murray's-an Irish tavern, in an Irish mine town-you'd have to be blind and deaf not to. The Sleepers-Molly Maguires, Ancient Order of Hibernians, to give them their other names-were the Irish defense force. Or they were a band of thugs; opinion was divided, even among the Irish.
Phin knew about the secret passwords and handshakes; about the coffin notices, threats with black coffins drawn on them to scare off oppressive bosses. He knew about the body masters who headed each local group. He knew about the gunmen. But everyone was aware of those things. He'd known everything, and nothing; certainly nothing worth dying for, until now.
"You do it," Plume said. The hands holding Phin jerked. Plume laughed. "Not so easy, is it? But here's a plan-"
"Who is the kid?" a voice outside asked.Chase EPB. Copyright (c) by Jessie Haas . Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.
Posted June 5, 2014
Posted January 28, 2013
Posted July 30, 2012
Posted February 16, 2010
"Chase," by Jessie Haas, disappoints by perpetuating anti-labor and anti-Irish myths: e.g., saying the Molly Maguires and a respectable Irish society--the Ancient Order of Hibernians--are identical. That assertion is traceable to mine owners and their associates. Owners repeated slanders and unfounded accusations to stoke anti-labor feeling and fear in the coalfields. Many innocent workers were jailed, harassed, killed, framed, throughout the United States by such tactics.
To preempt and dodge historical criticism, Haas writes in the afterward (p. 246 ff.) that charges ranging from murder to mayhem against Irish miners may have been based on mine owner "propaganda." "Or they may be true," but "remain impossible to prove" "because of the group's secrecy" --begging the question of the existence of the Molly Maguires, still disputed. Haas bases a book, aimed at students, on admittedly improvable assumptions.
If Haas attempted to correct the record, some of this looseness with facts could be overlooked. For example, if she seriously disputed the veracity of the mine owners' Pinkerton agents, whose hearsay evidence, sometimes given in court against miners, is at least partially responsible for biased accounts passing as history.
Haas says that "unfair" mine bosses "frequently" received hand-written death threats and "if the boss didn't leave, he was murdered." How does she know that? Only a small number of these notes have been found, and we have no direct proof of who wrote them. It was this sort of hearsay "evidence" that Clarence Darrow later destroyed in court, leading to acquittal of the accused in a case also involving Pinkerton detectives against union miners in the west. History shows the number bosses killed by coal miners was miniscule compared to miners killed or murdered in the anthracite region by mine owners.
Haas' argument that the history of the anthracite region remains unclear is untrue. Scholarship, including oral histories, repeatedly shows that mine owners' actions were at the root of problems in the coalfields: hence Theodore Roosevelt's threat to J. P. Morgan of a federal takeover of coal mines if Morgan refused to negotiate with the union (see Anthracite Strike of 1902).
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Posted October 8, 2009
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Posted July 28, 2010
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