It was a gold brick. Not a whole gold brick, and not real gold, but that was its color, and most of it was intact, if covered with a bit of moss. It had been put on the table in front of me next to a copy of The Alpine Uproar. Then there were two bricks. The second one was almost, but not quite, in mint condition and the lettering stamped into it said LIVERMORE. They were presented to me at a Thursday night signing (not, alas, at Seattle Mystery, but occasionally I’m forced to go to other venues and in doing so, I always get lost). That very day the bricks had been brought back from the REAL Alpine—or what’s left of it.
And that’s a story in itself. In recent years, a growing number of people have been searching for any viable remains of the small logging community that was active in the first half of the last century. Only recently have these foraging folks discovered bits and pieces of cornerstones, crockery, other household items—and bricks. I take no credit for their interest. Most have been railroad buffs who’ve followed the Great Northern Railway’s route through the Cascades and over Stevens Pass. I’ve never set foot in what once was home to my grandparents, my parents, many other relatives and family friends. But over the years I heard so much about Alpine that I decided to revive it for the Emma Lord series.
Those bricks suddenly brought Alpine much closer and more real. My father ran the boiler at the mill and that’s where those bricks had come from. By coincidence, I was wearing his Operating Engineers Union pin at the signing. After my dad died in 1970, my husband, Dave, had a jeweler set the pin in a silver ship’s wheel and put on a necklace chain—Dad was also a sea-going man.
I’m not the sentimental type. But as far as I’m concerned, those bricks might as well be real gold.