N W VANCE

The Ghost Of The Lost Dutchman’s Mine

The great cities of Chicago and Los Angeles are about to be destroyed! Afghan rebels are resolute on their destruction while laying waste to a large portion of the United States.
The CDC in Atlanta is informed of numerous deaths relating to radiation poisoning spanning several states. In their inability to link these deaths and illnesses to a common source, they enlist the aid of an ex-Navy Seal, Jack Turner, and an ultra top-secret agency, Wildfire. Turner’s partner, Holly Cavanaugh, is sent to Superstition Mountain to investigate a reported radioactive hot spot. In her investigation, she discovers the lost Dutchman’s mine and a large source of U233 and with Turner’s tenacity for getting at the truth, he unearths the terrorists’ plan to convert the U233 into a fine powder, spread it across two freighters loaded with twenty-five tons of fertilizer and then detonating the ships killing millions of people. The radioactive powder would be sent thousands of feet into the air and drift eastward irradiating much of the United States. Army special forces are sent to secure an Afghan safe house in Chicago without confrontation, but lost many men in a vicious fire fight on the Afghan safe house in Los Angeles before securing it. The US Coast Guard boards and secures the tramp freighter in Chicago while Navy Seals board the Los Angeles freighter and discover the timer is already set for detonation and counting down with fifteen minutes remaining.
With the countdown progressing, Turner locates the timing device and discovers there are ten wires leading from a sealed container—cut any wire except the correct one and the device will detonate. With the timer relentlessly counting down, Turner determines which wire is to be cut and disarms the device with only one second left.

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P R O L O G U E

1870—Superstition Mountain

It started with a slight vibration from deep within the earth, growing stronger by the minute. Small rocks and debris came crashing down the sides of the canyon wall making way for larger and larger rocks as the tremors increased in strength. Debris hit the flat ledge sending a thick cloud of dust bellowing into the air obscuring the ribbons of reds, yellows, and blues spreading across the sky from the rising sun as it crested the mountain.
Dutch lay sleeping while Mattie, a stiff necked, cantankerous, stubborn, and ornery excuse for a mule, grazed quietly on a small patch of grass she found growing along the side of the trail when she first felt it. As small pebbles began striking her on her back, she nervously tried to alert Dutch of the impending danger. Most animals are keenly aware of approaching peril, and Mattie was no exception as she nuzzled Dutch’s face. Startling him from a deep sleep, he gently reached up and stroked her neck lovingly.
“What’s wrong, girl? What’s got you so riled up?” Dutch asked. “Whatdaya hear?”
It was then he felt it. It started with a slight tremble in the ground, not much at first, but it was there nonetheless—and growing stronger. Loose rock and debris began sliding down the inclines and rock faces, landing all around Dutch and Mattie. Dutch jumped up, grabbed Mattie’s reigns and hurried toward a large rock outcropping for cover. Dutch and Mattie No sooner reached the safety of the overhang than the ground shook with such violence; Dutch was slammed against the rock face, knocking him unconscious. He awoke later covered with a thick layer of dust and Mattie shaking him side to side with her muzzle.
Reaching up and putting his hand on the side of Mattie’s head, Dutch sputtered out, “You alright, girl?”
Mattie responded by tossing her head back and letting out a loud bray.
“Yeah, I’m ok, too. That was a rough one, wasn’t it old girl.” It was then he saw they were trapped. The rockslide had deposited debris around them leaving only a small opening allowing a thin stream of light through the thick cloud of dust. “Looks like we’re in the ol’ outhouse hole, Mattie. The only thing that saved us was this here rock outcropping above us.”
With that said, Mattie pushed Dutch toward the opening.
“Alright already!” Dutch groused. “I’ll get us out of this dag gum mess.”
Roughly two hours had passed when Dutch finally had an opening large enough for the two of them to get through. Once outside, he saw the ledge where he and Mattie had set up camp the night before was all but gone. All that remained of the massive ledge was a ten-foot section extending along the face of the rock wall. The ledge, still connected to the main trail, was strewn with dozens of small boulders that he and Mattie would have to negotiate around if they were to get down the mountain.
Slowly, as Dutch began rolling rocks off the trail and he and Mattie began working their way down, he said, gasping for air, “I don’t know about you Mattie, but after moving all that rock, I’m plum tuckered out.”
Sitting down with his back against a large rock, Dutch quickly dozed off as the sun warmed his face. When he awoke, it was late afternoon and the sun was behind him. Dutch continued to sit there looking at the rock face when he saw a small mouse scurrying back and forth. Suddenly the mouse disappeared from view. Dutch leaned to the side for a better view of where the mouse had disappeared when he saw it, a four foot wide opening ten feet above the trail. Off to the side, Dutch saw to his amazement, a set of ready-made steps leading up to the opening. A few of the steps were missing and several boulders had to be removed, but at his age, it would make it a lot easier than scaling the side of the rock face. As Dutch began to climb the stone steps, he began pushing rocks off the side, watching them roll down and off the rock ledge to the canyon below.
“Mattie,” Dutch called back down, “I’m getting too damn old for this.”
His breath was now coming in short gasps as he rolled the last of the boulders away and watched them drop off the side of the cliff into a cloud of dust. Finally, reaching the opening, he peered inside and, with his torch held as high as he could, found it difficult to believe what he was seeing.
“This can’t be,” he murmured to himself and looked down at Mattie.
Dutch poked his head back through the opening for a second look and blinked hard. Inside the cave, he saw stacks of gold bars and what looked to be bulging leather bags. Along the wall and neatly placed, sat various pieces of mining equipment. Because of the dry climate, most of the equipment was nearly rust free and as clean as if it were brand new.
“Mattie,” he said slowly, “if I’m sleepin, please, don’t wake me.”
With torch in hand, Dutch crawled through the opening, and began to explore the interior of the cave examining its contents. In front of one of three stacks of gold bars, he dropped to his knees and held one of the bars, marveling at how shiny it glowed in the torch light.
“This must be pure gold,” he thought to himself, as the light gleamed off its surface.
Dutch then slowly got up, walked over to one of the stacks of hand size leather pouches, and carefully opened one. Pouring some of its gleaming contents into his hand, he found it was pure gold dust. Never had he seen so much gold in his life. Pouring the contents back into the pouch, Dutch sat down while tears of joy ran down his face.
“Ain’t that the purtiest sight you ever see’d?” Dutch said to himself, unable to control his tears.
Dutch stuffed four of the pouches in his pocket and crawled back down to where Mattie was patiently waiting.
“Mattie, why don’t you and me go into town with some of this here gold and buy me a plate loaded with steak and you a great big bag of oats?”
Dutch, used scrub brush to conceal the mine opening from prying eyes and with the four pouches of gold dust, headed into town to file his claim, get a nice hot bath, and that thick steak he had been dreaming about for so long.
“What the hell’d you do—rob a bank or something?” Lester Barnes, the local assayer and land registrar asked eyeing the gold dust.
“Nope. Nut’in like that. I jest got lucky with a good vein I guess.”
“It surely looks like you hit something alright. This gold is almost pure. I’ve never seen anything like it. You could almost go a whole year on what you have here.”
“Mebbe so, but right now, I needs to file my claim ‘for some claim jumper moves in on me.”
For weeks, Dutch lived in the finest hotel, ate steak each night, and treated Mattie to a large bag of oats every morning and evening. What gave Dutch the most pleasure though, was buying every pretty girl he met all the trinkets and ready-made store bought clothes she wanted. Finally, with his gold running low, he decided it was time to head back to the mine with Mattie and a load of supplies.
Not trusting anyone, Dutch would travel for a few hours, hide behind some rocks and watch for anyone who might be following him. Even though he was satisfied that he was alone, Dutch would continue repeating the same procedure further along the trail. This cat and mouse game continued until he reached the mine, and even then, he continued to keep a suspicious eye out for anyone who might have been tracking him.
Dutch began to explore the area in and around the mine entrance and found what appeared to be a dried up stream emerging from the rock face. The stream appeared as if it traveled around fifty yards or so before dropping one hundred and fifty yards below to the canyon floor and into a dried up lakebed. Near the edge of the cliff, Dutch found a massive pile of discarded melted ore and tailings from a sluice. The melted ore he guessed was the waste from the oven that was used in the smelting of the gold ore into the bullion found in the cave. Digging into the pile of rubble, Dutch found nothing but a lot of lead and a strange metal he’d never before seen.
At night, he would look out his tent at an eerie glow emanating from the pile of slag. In his mind, he told himself this must be the ghosts of the men who originally worked the mine. At first, it scared him, but when he realized that the ghosts never left the pile of rocks, he figured they were just watching him.
When he began working the mine, Dutch found where someone had excavated gold from two significant veins extending deep into the rock. He also found large veins of what looked to him to be lead and some other type of ore that appeared to be the same strange ore he found in the pile of tailings. With so much gold, between the processed bars and the pouches, Dutch rather quickly lost interest in actually working the mine.
“How stupid can I be,” he said, cursing to himself. “I have all this gold, and here I am, digging up more rock. I need to be enjoying what I have. I think it’s about time to take some of this gold and do the things I have always wanted to do.” Gently stroking Mattie’s neck, Dutch looked at her large dark eyes and quietly told her, “It’s time we plan to leave girl.”
Just then, a wave of nausea flowed over him and he doubled over and violently vomited. Eventually, realization set in that this was becoming a common occurrence.
“We have to get away from here for a while,” Dutch told Mattie as he ran his hand through his hair, not noticing the clump that fell away. “I think this place is cursed.”
Having collected his gear, Dutch took hold of Mattie’s reins, stroked the side of her neck, and said, “Let’s get outta here, girl. These ghosts don’t appear to like us none. We have enough gold to last a long time.”
Just before leaving, Dutch used a piece of rawhide and sketched a map showing the location of the mine. Very carefully, he drew reference to existing landmarks such as Weavers Needle and the Military Trail. Finally, with everything ready and enough gold in his saddle bags, Dutch lit the end of a stick of dynamite and tossed it above the opening bringing down a small landslide sealing the mine against claim jumpers and thieves.
For three days, Mattie carried Dutch with him growing weaker and weaker as each day passed. Finally, with his strength about gone, he and Mattie stopped at a boarding house in Phoenix where he was met by the owner and proprietor, Julia Thomas.
Julia took one look at Dutch and without any concern for herself, helped him into a room where he could lie down and rest.
“Goodness, what’s happened to you?” she asked with a growing concern.
Barely able to speak and not knowing where he was, Dutch whispered, “The ghosts are killing me and want to steal my gold.” For the next several hours, she looked after him, gently washing the soil from his body. She put liniment on the numerous open sores that festered along his legs and torso after which, he fell into a deep sleep. When he finally awoke, Julia proffered a bowl of chicken soup, but he was too weak to hold the bowl. Gently, she put an extra pillow behind his head and tenderly spoon-fed him some of the rich broth.
Knowing he was dying, Dutch wriggled a weak, bony finger toward Julia indicating he wanted her to come closer. When she did, Dutch told her of his notes, his map, and the remaining gold.
“Take it please. All I ask is for you to see that I get a proper burial, a tombstone, and someone to take good care of Mattie.”
Julia Thomas, her eyes welling with tears, quietly nodded her assent.

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