En route to the cave, Chet told them the Killers usually split up between the cave and the canyon, and that they had knocked over Perdition’s bank a couple months ago, so they were flush with money. Po-Po noticed as they approached the cave that there were few tracks in the area, and more leading towards than away. More evidence that the cave wasn’t what Chet said it was.
The hand-dug cave mouth sat twenty feet up the side of a steep rock hill, so there was no way to see inside. It was also unlikely they’d get the wounded hostages up there easily. Po-Po searched the ground for a critter to recruit for reconnaissance, and found a lizard under a rock. Speaking to him using the spirits, and bribing him with a bit of food, he asked the lizard to run up and check out the cave. The lizard agreed.
The lizard returned with the report of a deserted, dark cave system, with litter, broken picks, crates, and bones. No people. The lizard said the cave was rumored to be haunted, and the lizard himself believed this to be true. The party decided to leave young Tommy guarding their hostages, and Jack, Bart, and Po-Po headed up to explore.
Darkness and silence enveloped them as they entered with a flickering torch. They heard what could have been a trick of the wind or low, menacing laughter. Jack went ahead to the edge of the torchlight, to be confronted by the angry spirit of an old prospector hanging down from the ceiling. “You’re not going to steal my gold!” he croaked. Jack responded like he normally does, by shooting at him. The spirit was unharmed, but disappeared for now.
They headed deeper into the caves, through a couple rooms of useless debris and scattered bones. Finally they came upon a rotting crate. Bart approached cautiously with his lock pick tools, but he didn’t need them. The lid swung open easily to reveal a pile of decayed clothing. Po-Po suddenly felt a presence behind him in the entrance to the room. He turned to see the wasted face of the prospector, who spat “You’ll never make it out alive!”
Just then, clawed skeletal hands reached up from the bottom of the crate at Bart’s throat. Bart dodged the arms and leapt back to see a full human skeleton emerge, followed by another set of arms climbing out. Po-Po said hello to his ghostly friend with his shotgun, which again did not injure the spirit, but did compel him to dissolve. Bart drew the emerged skeleton away from the crate, and Jack threw his torch into the old clothing, causing the chest to erupt in a ball of flame around the second skeleton. Bart took a slash on the face from the skeleton’s claws, but Po-Po tangled the undead in crawling vines, courtesy of the spirits. Bart shattered the horrible thing quickly.
Despite their now considerable wounds, and the presence of a taunting ghost, the party pushed deeper into the caves, driven by the promise of gold. They came upon a small tunnel and had to crawl for hundreds of feet in the close darkness. Jack, at the front, saw the spectral hand of the prospector reaching up through the tunnel floor ahead. At the end of the passage was a small burrow, where they found the skeletal last remains of the prospector in ragged clothes. His big find, a large chunk of gold, was long gone, but Bart thought to go through his clothes, and found his pockets full of gold nuggets. He was grabbing all he could carry when the ground started shaking, and they heard a howl of outrage from the spirit world. It was time to leave, quickly.
As they scrambled back through the passage, the prospector’s hand leapt through the floor numerous times to grab at the hearts of the intruders. Shootin’ Jack took two attacks from the ghostly hand, and his insides felt like cold death. He didn’t think he was going to make it. Finally, they fell out of the tunnel and bolted towards the exit. The evil presence of the spirit fell away as they approached the outside world, and they burst into the hot sunlight, lucky to still be alive.
Back down on the trail, they found Tommy nervously holding a gun on Chet and the other wounded killer, tied up on the ground. The third, unharmed prisoner had gotten away. Jack and Bart confronted Chet about lying that the cave was the Killers’ hideout, but Chet still insisted that they used it sometimes. No one believed him, and the boys came up with their own version of frontier justice: they dragged him up to the cave and pushed him in. Chet stood in the dark of the first cavern. “What do you want me to do?!?” he cried. “I want you to walk inside,” Jack responded, and shot the ground at the killer’s feet. Chet stumbled forward into the darkness, and they once again heard the sound of menacing laughter. Po-Po used the spirits to seal off the cavern entrance with vines, and as the party turned towards Perdition in the long shadows of the late afternoon, they heard Chet’s faint screams from deep inside the hill.