"Billions!" exclaimed Thomason, one of the three treasure hunters who had inadvertently ended up at the home of miners Bill and Jack.
The unexpected guests had just divulged the existence of a hidden underground ancient city of gold and were now in full reveal mode.
They told Jack and Bill that they had been trying to get the gold out of the city for years. They needed help but couldn't get it. Someone was always trying to rob them.
They even offered the whole city to the Smithsonian Institute for five million dollars but were offered only one and half million instead. A rip-off according to Mr. White who refused to have anything more to do with the Smithsonian.
Shocked by what just transpired, Bill softly asked if this place was really here in Death Valley.
"Right here in the Panamint Mountains!" said Thomason. "My partner found it by accident. He was prospecting down on the lower edge of the range near Wingate Pass. He was working in the bottom of an old abandoned shaft when the bottom of the shaft fell out and landed him in a tunnel."
Thomason and his partner had been exploring the tunnel since.
"It's a natural tunnel like a big cave. It's over twenty miles long. It leads all through a great underground city; through the treasure vaults, the royal palace, and the council chambers; and it connects to a series of beautiful galleries with stone arches in the east slope of the Panamint Mountains."
Describing the arches as "great big windows in the sides of the mountain" that looked down on Death Valley, they believed that those entrances were used to land boats by the ancients.
"Boats in Death Valley?", Bill uttered in astonishment.
Although they knew Death Valley was once a lake, perhaps thousands, maybe even millions of years ago, Jack and Bill had a hard time digesting what they were hearing.
Thomason went on to say, "The ancient people who built the city in the caverns under the mountains lived on in their treasure houses long after the lake in the valley had dried up. How long. We don't know. But the people we found in the cavern have been dead for thousands of years. Why those mummies alone are worth a million dollars!"
White, barely able to contain himself, exclaimed, " Gold! Gold spears! Gold shields! Gold statues! Jewelry! Thick gold bands on their arms! I found them! I fell into the underground city."
"There was this enormous room; big as this canon. A hundred men were in it. Some were sitting around a polished table that was inlaid with gold and precious stones. Men stood around the walls of the room carrying shields and spears of solid gold," said White.
"All of the men--more than a hundred men--had on leather aprons, the finest kind of leather, soft and full of gold ornaments and jewels. They sat there and stood there with all that wealth around them. They are still there. They are all dead! And the gold, all that gold and all those gems and jewels are all around them. All that gold and jewelry!"
Thomason believes that all those ancient men must of been having a meeting when they were suddenly killed somehow. He wasn't sure because they didn't take the time to really examine the mummies. They were more interested in the treasure. But the people all looked like perfect mummies.
Bill, unconvinced, asked if it was dark in there.
"Black dark", said White.
White, who had been using candles to navigate the cold pitch dark, accidentally stumbled over a lever in the council revealing the ancients system for lighting and cooking.
"What I fell over was a rock lever that turned on the gas and my candle set the gas off."
It was then that they came face to face with a room full of mummies, a polished table and a statue of solid gold that he measured to be eighty-nine feet and six inches by way of his sextant.
But what became much more enticing was the discovery of numerous treasure rooms hidden by the walls of the main chamber. The doors were cut into the solid rock of the walls.
"The doors are big slabs of rock hung on hinges you can't see. A big rock bar lets down across them. I tried to lift up the bars and couldn't move them. I fooled around trying to get the doors open."
White fumbled with the door for about an hour until he finally came across a small latch on the door bar allowing it to swing up.
"Those people knew about counter-weights and all those great big rock doors with their barlocks-- they must weigh hundreds of tons--are all balanced so you can move them with your little finger, if you find the right place," explained White.
Inside the treasure room they found gold bars and precious stones. The gold bars were stacked like bricks against the walls while the jewels were in bins that had been cut into the walls.
"There was so much gold and jewelry in that place that the people there had stone wheelbarrows to move the treasure around, " said White.
"Wheelbarrows?" Jack asked. "Wheelbarrows a million years old?"
Thomason chipped in that they didn't know how old the wheelbarrows were but they were indeed there.
"Stone wheelbarrows," Jack responded in amazement. "Those dead men must have been very powerful men. Only very strong men could push around a stone wheelbarrow loaded with gold bars. Those wheelbarrows must of weighed a ton without a load in them."
Thomason and White agreed that they were impossibly heavy but White was quite sure how they were able to move them. He believed that the wheelbarrows were balanced, just like the heavy rock slab doors, that even a small child could have moved these wheelbarrows.
"Instead of having the wheel out in the front so that a man has to pick up all the weight with his back, these wise old people put the wheel almost in the middle and arranged the leverage of the shafts so that a child could put in a balanced load and wheel the barrow around."
Jack, unsure if he could handle much more, left the table, spit his chew out the door and offered up some coffee to the group. Bill stared at Thomason and White for a bit and finally asked them how many times they had been in that tunnel of gold.
"I've been in there three times," said White. "That's counting the first time I fell in. Fred's been in there twice; and my wife went part way in the last time we was in."
Mrs. White assured Jack and Bill that she too thought the men's story about a hidden city of gold was pure imagination. That was until she went in.
"I thought my husband was romancing when he came home and told me about what he found in the mountains. He always was a romancer. One of the reasons I married him was because he was such a romancer. I was sure he was just romancing about this city he said he'd found. I didn't believe it until they took me into it. It's a little hard to believe, don't you think?"
Bill agreed and asked the men if they had ever taken anything out of the cave.
"Twice," said Thomason.
In two of the trips, Thomason and White had filled their pockets with gems and each carried out one gold bar. The first time they left their loot with a friend while they fetched a government official to prove their story. But when they had returned, their friend was gone, along with their treasure.
In the second trip, they decided to bury the treasure close to the shaft entrance before bringing some university officials and experts from the Southwest Museum to verify their discovery. When they returned, a violent storm had swept through the region while they were gone, burying the location of the shaft entrance. They have been unable to find it since.
"An now you can't get into your treasure tunnel. It's lost again. That's sure too bad," said Bill.
But Thomason and White were grinning from ear to ear because Jack and Bill had forgotten one important point.
Next article: The existence of the city of gold and Death Valley Scotty collide.