by Joseph J. Swope

Paperback(First Printing ed.)

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Disturbed is set in the Coal Region of Northeast Pennsylvania, a grimly haunted region with a bloody history of conflict between oppressed miners and wealthy coal barons. Many believe that even today, the ghosts of the Molly Maguires – a secret Irish organization that waged war against oppressive labor practices in the 19th Century – still roam the landscape. Into this setting arrives Jonah Frost, a young man with a history of mental illness. Little does he know his new home is inhabited by its former resident, hell-bent on continuing her life’s vendetta. Even as Jonah attempts to forge a new life and friendships, he must battle both his own demons and those from beyond the grave.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781684330560
Publisher: Black Rose Writing
Publication date: 05/17/2018
Edition description: First Printing ed.
Pages: 270
Product dimensions: 6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 0.61(d)

About the Author

Joseph J. Swope is an award-winning author, public relations professional, and university adjunct faculty member. He has lived and worked in Pennsylvania his entire career, which spans more than 35 years in both corporate and non-profit settings. Disturbed is his third book and first novel.

Read an Excerpt


July 1987

Sarah Frost sat down on the rocking chair in her living room and picked up her well-worn Bible. She was 43, pregnant with her first child. After years of being unable to conceive, she did so after her and her husband, Robert, had given up all hope of having children.

The Lord has His own plan, Sarah thought, in His own time.

Sarah considered her pregnancy a gift from God. And as such, she began to read the Bible fervently, reciting it aloud each evening to her and her unborn child. She was now in her third trimester, and she was sure he — yes, the baby was a boy — could hear her.

"Let's see what we'll read today," Sarah said, opening the Bible at random. She didn't believe that, of course. She was sure God directed her hand to the page He needed to reveal to her a deeper truth.

"Here we go, the Book of Jonah," she said. "From the Old Testament."

She started reading softly and fervently, rubbing her belly lovingly as she did so.

The word of the Lord came to Jonah the son of Amittai saying, "Arise, go to Nineveh the great city and cry against it, for their wickedness has come up before Me."

But Jonah rose up to flee to Tarshish from the presence of the Lord. So he went down to Joppa, found a ship which was going to Tarshish, paid the fare and went down into it to go with them to Tarshish from the presence of the Lord.

The Lord hurled a great wind on the sea and there was a great storm on the sea so that the ship was about to break up. Then the sailors became afraid and every man cried to his god, and they threw the cargo which was in the ship into the sea to lighten it for them. But Jonah had gone below into the hold of the ship, lain down and fallen sound asleep. So the captain approached him and said, "How is it that you are sleeping? Get up, call on your god. Perhaps your god will be concerned about us so that we will not perish."

Each man said to his mate, "Come, let us cast lots so we may learn on whose account this calamity has struck us." So they cast lots and the lot fell on Jonah. Then they said to him, "Tell us, now! On whose account has this calamity struck us? What is your occupation? And where do you come from? What is your country? From what people are you?"

He said to them, "I am a Hebrew, and I fear the Lord God of heaven who made the sea and the dry land."

Then the men became extremely frightened and they said to him, "How could you do this?" For the men knew that he was fleeing from the presence of the Lord, because he had told them. So they said to him, "What should we do to you that the sea may become calm for us?" — for the sea was becoming increasingly stormy.

He said to them, "Pick me up and throw me into the sea. Then the sea will become calm for you, for I know that on account of me this great storm has come upon you."

However, the men rowed desperately to return to land but they could not, for the sea was becoming even stormier against them. Then they called on the Lord and said, "We earnestly pray, O Lord, do not let us perish on account of this man's life and do not put innocent blood on us; for You, O Lord, have done as You have pleased."

So they picked up Jonah, threw him into the sea, and the sea stopped its raging. Then the men feared the Lord greatly, and they offered a sacrifice to the Lord and made vows.

And the Lord appointed a great fish to swallow Jonah, and Jonah was in the stomach of the fish three days and three nights.

Then Jonah prayed to the Lord his God from the stomach of the fish, and he said,

"I called out of my distress to the Lord, And He answered me. I cried for help from the depth of Sheol; You heard my voice.

"For You had cast me into the deep, Into the heart of the seas, And the current engulfed me. All Your breakers and billows passed over me.

"So I said, 'I have been expelled from Your sight. Nevertheless I will look again toward Your holy temple.' "Water encompassed me to the point of death. The great deep engulfed me, Weeds were wrapped around my head. "I descended to the roots of the mountains. The earth with its bars was around me forever, But You have brought up my life from the pit, O Lord my God.

"While I was fainting away, I remembered the Lord, And my prayer came to You, Into Your holy temple. "Those who regard vain idols Forsake their faithfulness, But I will sacrifice to You With the voice of thanksgiving. That which I have vowed I will pay. Salvation is from the Lord."

Then the Lord commanded the fish, and it vomited Jonah up onto the dry land.

Sarah felt a warm glow at the end of the verses. She could tell her child was particularly attentive and content. Suddenly, inspiration struck her.

That's why God led me to this passage, she thought.

"Robert," she said, as her husband came into the room. "I think we should name our son Jonah."

"Jonah," he repeated. "That's quite biblical."

He looked down at the book on his wife's lap.

"Of course it is," he said. "Jonah is a fine name. Jonah Frost has a nice ring to it."

"What do you think?" Sarah persisted.

Her husband pondered the idea for moment more. Then, he smiled at his wife.

"Jonah it is," he finally said. "Let's hope life doesn't swallow him the same way the whale did his namesake."

"Oh Robert," Sarah said, stroking her husband's hand softly. "You're quite silly. But thank you. I love you."

"I love you, too, my dear," he said. "Why don't you get some rest? You look a bit tired."

Sarah agreed and sat back in the chair, closing her eyes. Sleep would arrive soon.


November 2006

"Mr. Peterson, you're going to have to return to your room," Alexandra Rodriguez, registered nurse, said to the elderly man walking down the hall with his hospital gown wide open in the back.

"I'm not sure who you are speaking to, ma'am," the patient responded. "My name is Abraham Lincoln. I have an urgent need to travel to Gettysburg as soon as possible. Can you please call my carriage?"

Alexandra, better known as Alex, contained her smirk as best she could.

"I'm afraid that trip is going to have to wait," Alex said. "Let's get you back to your bed."

"But I have a speech to give," the patient objected. "I worked on it all last night. We're in the middle of a war, don't you know? This is no time to lay in bed! The nation is depending on me."

"We'll talk about that tomorrow," Alex acknowledged, "when you're feeling more yourself."

"When I'm feeling myself?" the patient continued to protest. "Just who do you think you are speaking to? I am the 16th President of the United States."

"Well, Mr. President," Alex responded, "we're still going to have to get you back to your room."

The nurse gently helped the white-haired man back where he belonged. Mr. Peterson, aka Abraham Lincoln, wasn't pleased, but finally acquiesced.

Pleasant Valley Hospital and Medical Center was a mid-sized regional hospital serving Central Pennsylvania. Its emergency department was busy day and night, but psychiatric patients drew special attention. Few of the medical staff — more accustomed to dealing with lacerations, fractures and other physical trauma — preferred dealing with the unruly and cluttered minds of the mentally ill, whose symptoms were both confounding and unpredictable. Alex was one of the rare nurses who felt comfortable in this section of the department, thanks in part to a two-year stint in the psychiatric ward before transferring to emergency. Alex had a rare gift in dealing with these patients, one she had retained even though she had opted to move to a side of nursing with more hands-on medical practice.

But even her considerable skills were challenged on this day.

Earlier that morning, a 350-pound woman had run down the hall wearing nothing but black mesh panties. When the 130-pound nurse recognized the mismatch, Alex promptly called security for help. The officer arrived less than a minute later without warning of the situation.

"Oh my God!" the security officer cringed when he assessed the problem. "It's 7:15 in the morning. Couldn't you have least bought me coffee first?"

Alex laughed.

"No time for coffee," she said. "She's all yours."

"Oh no," the officer responded. "You're helping with this one."

Together, Alex and the security officer finally wrestled the patient back into her bed. When the patient continued to be uncooperative, the nurse was forced to use restraints to make future escapes unlikely. Alex then returned to the nurse's station to work on the endless required documentation. Shortly thereafter, an elderly woman shuffled up to her and leaned menacingly over the counter.

"The devil shoved his cock all the way down your throat," the woman screamed, her face contorting in a mask of demonic terror, "and you liked it."

"OK, Mrs. Ellison," Alex said calmly. "Let's get you back to your room."

When the nurse returned, the other nurse in the section looked over at her.

"Did you like it?" she asked, a sly smile crossing her face.

"Didn't sound like I had much choice."

Suddenly, the emergency department loudspeaker roared through the halls.

"Ambulance coming in," the nurse supervisor announced. "Psych patient said to be extremely disturbed."

"Oh great," she muttered underneath her breath. "Another one. Is it a full moon?"

The ambulance pulled into the bay two minutes later, with a police cruiser on its tail. The crew pulled the stretcher out of the back of the medical vehicle. As they did, two officers departed their patrol car and stayed warily nearby.

The patient's hands were handcuffed to the stretcher, his feet shackled. He shook his head in agitation, and occasionally tested his restraints, to no avail. Periodically, he would scream angrily and unintelligibly.

The ambulance workers wheeled the patient into the emergency department, past the "normal" patient rooms toward the back of the building. The rooms in the psych unit were sparse: no cords, no computers, no medical equipment, nothing that would allow the disturbed patient to harm himself or others. The paint was a neutral something — gray, beige, off-white — depending on the viewer. By the time the patient had reached his designated room, he was somewhat calmer, apparently resigned to his fate — for the moment. Alex knew a situation like this was potentially volatile and could change in an instant.

"Nineteen-year-old male," the paramedic said to Alex outside the patient's room. "Police received a 9-1-1 call at his parent's home, where he had become violent and incoherent. Injured his mother. Father said he has a history of mental illness."

"Do we know his med history?" she asked.

"Father either didn't know or was too distraught to remember," the paramedic answered. "Patient hasn't been living at home. The mom was in pretty bad shape. I didn't get much information."

"Where's the mom?" the nurse queried.

"She came in on a separate ambulance a little while ago," the paramedic answered. "I don't know her condition."

"OK," Alex said. "I'll check her status later."

Nurse Alex walked into Jonah's room. The patient was surrounded by two police officers and the ambulance staff outside of the paramedic.

"Hello," she said, "My name is Alexandra. I'm going to be your nurse tonight. Do you know your name?"

Alex never gave psychiatric patients her last name for safety reasons. Even her hospital identification only revealed her first. She studied her patient carefully.

Sweat drenched the patient's forehead. He appeared to think hard. Then, with concentration, he finally looked up.

"Jonah," he finally stammered.

"Do you have a last name?"


The nurse frowned at Jonah, who forced a smirk.


"Jonah Frost," Alex repeated. "Jonah, are you calm enough that we can take you out of these restraints?"

Jonah thought for a moment. The ambulance personnel and police officers looked at the nurse doubtfully. The patient worked visibly to calm down.

"Yes, I'm OK," he finally answered.

Alex looked at Jonah earnestly.

"I'm going to let you out of your restraints," she said, "but you're going to have stay calm or you're going right back into them. You understand? Security guards and police officers are all around you. It will do you no good to start acting up."

Jonah nodded blankly, but seemed to look past the nurse. He finally focused enough to spot the beefy men surrounding him.

Carefully, the restraints were removed. Over the next few minutes, the ambulance crew and police left the hospital, turning Jonah over to the care of the emergency department. The police noted they would likely return after they completed their investigation. Hospital security stayed nearby, alert and ready to pounce.

"We're going to have you change into a hospital gown," Alex said to Jonah, and as she explained this, hospital security came back into the room. "We need you to take off your clothes and give them to us. We're going to put them into this bag and keep them safe for you."

Alex quickly perused Jonah's attire. His plaid button-down shirt was torn and flecked with blood. His jeans were dirty and ripped. His shoes were dark and stained.

"I'm going to leave the room," the nurse said. "You can give your clothes to the guard."

As Alex turned toward the door, she made eye contact with the guards.

"We're going to need to keep these clothes as possible evidence," she said softly. The guards nodded.

A few minutes later, the door opened and Alex reentered the room. At the same time, the security guards left. One of them took the bag of clothing and ran it through the metal detector before tagging the bag with identification. He placed the bag in a locked compartment to be processed later. The other guard stayed close to Jonah's room, relatively inconspicuous but never losing his view of the nurse or her patient.

Back in the room, Alex was still negotiating her way around Jonah's confused mind.

"Security is going to check to make sure you're not hiding anything dangerous," she explained to him. "They're just going to run the wand across your body."

The guard who had tagged Jonah's clothing had returned to the area and now re-entered the room. He approached Jonah with an electronic wand. Jonah jumped back, confused and suspicious. The guard paused, assessing whether the patient was becoming a renewed threat.

"He's not going to hurt you," Alex assured him. Jonah looked at the nurse doubtfully, but finally nodded his assent.

The guard ran the wand up and down the front and back of Jonah's body then between his legs, working carefully in an effort not to aggravate him. The scan was clear. The guard then subtly double-checked the entire room, making sure nothing was available for Jonah to hurt himself or others. He nodded to the nurse, and began heading toward the door.

"I'll be right outside if you need me," he told Alex.

The nurse then began her standard assessment. Her previous work with psych patients and her uncanny ability to relate to them had gained the awe and respect of other nurses. An assessment of a mentally ill patient, something that may have flummoxed another nurse, came naturally to Alex.

"Do you think you could give me a urine sample?" she asked.

Jonah looked at her blankly.

"Really?" he finally asked.

"Really," Alex said matter-of-factly.

Jonah paused for a long moment, then finally nodded his head affirmatively. He took the container from the nurse, walked into the rest room and emerged a few minutes later.

"Happy?" he asked as he handed the jar back to the nurse.

Alex labeled the sample as Jonah sat back down on the bed.

"Are you having any thoughts about harming yourself?" Alex asked.

"No," Jonah said, looking past Alex into the corner of the room. "But she wants me to."

"Who's she?" Alex asked, turning her head and seeing no one behind her.

"Don't you see her?" Jonah asked, slightly more agitated. "She's right there, crouching in the corner of the room. An old woman."

Alex again did a quick glance over her shoulder and saw nothing but walls behind her.

Hallucinations, she thought. Check.

"Are you having any thoughts about harming others?" the nurse persisted.

"No, but I already hurt my mother," Jonah said. "And she's telling me I shouldn't trust you."

He suddenly looked past the nurse with an agitated expression on his face.

"Shut the fuck up!" Jonah screamed. "She's talking. I'm trying to listen to her."

Alex paused and waited for Jonah to fix his attention on her again.

Command auditory hallucinations, she noted.

She glanced toward the door to the room. I may need security after all, she thought. She was happy to see one the guards at the door, watching the scene carefully.

"Do you take any medications?" Alex asked.

"I don't know." Jonah answered dismissively.

"Have you taken any medications recently?" Alex persisted.


Excerpted from "Disturbed"
by .
Copyright © 2018 Joseph J. Swope.
Excerpted by permission of Black Rose Writing.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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