The scene played out pretty much the same every morning. Neil Roberts stopped for coffee between 8-8:15 every day on his way to work. Sheila Priest ran through the basic questions that highlighted the only subtle changes in Neil’s daily routine. Today was going to be a bit different.
“They found the mayor’s truck this morning,” she said.
“What? Where?” he replied.
“Up by the zonalight mine site. Looks like he was hunting.”
“Who the hell hunts up by the zonalight mine? There must be some mistake. Any sign of Frank?”
“The Search and rescue guys were through this morning on their way out there. I heard the feds stopped them from going into the woods on account of the vermiculite,” a hint of agitation was raw in Sheila’s voice.
“You’re fucking kidding,” Neil was instantly pissed. A man was lost in the woods, maybe hurt, maybe dying. He’d been out there for three days and finally they figure our where and the feds are going to stop a search?
“Buck said they were going to have to wait until the feds can get proper containment suits for the volunteers, so they don’t get more contamination from the mine,” her tone turned flat. Neil grew more animated.
“You’re fucking kidding me! They filled this whole fucking town with asbestos! Killed off a bunch of people and pulled out before the cleanup was complete to leave the rest of us to deal with it,” he fumed.
“Now a man’s life is on the line and their going to develop a concern for our health? I’m calling fucking bullshit!”
“No kidding,” Sheila turned half her attention to the prayer group coming through the door for their Wednesday morning Bible study. Neil stormed out.
Seconds later his truck was careening up an old logging road at dangerously high speed. Driven by a combination of anger and urgency to beat the feds to the back side of the ridge the old zonalight mine was on. He knew he had to get their before they could set a full perimeter if he had any chance of getting into the area and looking for Buck.
More questions than answers ran through his mind. Why were the feds even here right now? The mine had been abandoned for years. The EPA clean up of the largest Superfund site in the United States was declared over two years ago. Buck had only been missing for three days. That’s awfully fast for them to get to bum-fuck Libby, Montana just to stop a bunch of mountain folks from searching for one of their own who had gone missing.
For that matter, how did the feds know where Buck was? When had they found the truck and set up the perimeter that stopped the search and rescue guys?
The truck came around a tight hairpin turn and nearly went over the edge of the steep logging road as Neil cranked the wheel and pounded the brakes. He was lucky to miss the tracker trailer sitting sideways across the road.
“Emergency Containment Command Center” was lettered on the side. Neil’s heart stopped pounding shortly after the truck stopped, he’d been through close calls before. Most of them more expected than this one. The rig had Oklahoma plates and before the dust from the truck settled, two men in containment suites with M-16 combat rifles came out the side door of the trailer and down the stairs. Neil knew instantly, he was in deep shit.