The Adventures Continue

Front Cover
TAC Table of Contents
Contact Information

By Stephen L. Brooks
Based on an idea by Ralph Schiller
Illustrated by Randy Garrett

After each of the previous stories I have requested ideas and suggestions from readers for future Lost Adventures. The following story is based on one of those suggestions. Ralph, in fact, contributed almost an entire plotline; it was my pleasure to simply flesh out his suggestions and turn them into fictional form.

There was, in fact, enough story to expand this tale from the usual short story length to that of a novella. Indeed, as Gary Grossman first revealed, there was a script with this title, whose author is at present unknown. The following story can be taken as a possible speculation as to what that script might have been like, and as a tribute to the unknown screenwriter.

For the sake of the story, I have taken some liberties with the legend which is at its core. Please pardon these variations to author's license.

By the way, the cliché lines and situations from the old B Westerns are used here deliberately, in homage to those great old Saturday matinees.

Halloween will be here before we know it, and we hope you enjoy this story in the spirit of the season.

Ramona, an American Indian guest at the dude ranch (Gloria Talbot)
Sandy Beckman, a tour guide (Gloria Winters - Penny in "Sky King")
Jerry Burke, a miner{Robert Lowery)
Craig Roberts, FBI agent (Tris Coffin)
Drake, foreman of miners (John Doucette)
Kendall, his chief henchman (Richard Reeves)
Jonesy, another henchman (Ben Welden)
John Cramer, friend of Perry White and owner of the dude ranch (John Eldredge)
Sheriff Mason (Stanley Andrews)
Doc Webster (Ed Cobb)

Jake, an old prospector (played by Clayton Moore in his prospector disguise)


Chapter I

Arizona is a state of contrasts. Great flatlands lie raw and parched, broken and cracked, lined like the skin of one who has lived over the millennia with only the merest ration of water to slake an unquenchable thirst. Mountains like great jagged teeth bite their way into the sky, guarding secrets entombed in them since before man ever trod upon this or any other land.

During the day, thin high light clouds float in a bright blue sky, the sun finding no shield to prevent it from burning and scorching whatever it finds below. Night, which descends seemingly in an instant, brings with it a low chill, as though to pay icy reparations for the fire that burned by day.

Man has often sought the secrets that lay buried beneath the earth. Some of those secrets, in the form of gold or silver or precious stones, have brought wealth to the seekers. Some of those secrets have brought death.

And some secrets were better left unknown.

One range of Arizona mountains which had fathered many a tale, told on moonless nights by ageless graybeards around crimson campfires, was the Superstition Mountains. Ill fortune, causeless deaths, and nameless specters were all part of their unfathomable history. Yet even the darkest tales often told of wealth hoarded under their selfish stones, if only one had courage enough to brave the phantoms of the past and find it.

It was here that a man once found such a treasure, and was said to have lost it, too. But still, so they say, his shade can be seen, searching for what was once his. And woe betide those who might come to find it, and wrest it from him.

Yet many came to do just that, even more than half a century after the miner had gone from this existence to the next.

In the mid-1950's many men thrust pick and shovel into the earth around and into the Superstition Mountains, hoping to find that lost mine. There was a large group of men, about a score or so, who had laid claim to a spot where they said the precious gold must be buried. And there were others as well, groups of twos and threes, or even hardy loners, toiling by themselves. All hoped to find a fortune hidden in the depths of the earth.

It was that brief moment before day became night, when the departing sun left only a bloody glow upon the horizon before taking even that as it seemed to sink below the edge of the world. The deep shadows, cloaking their own mysteries, spread to hide even more inside their darkness.

Two men, miners who sought the gold of the lost, dragged themselves out of the shaft they had dug. For months they had labored, burrowing into the bowels of the earth, testing the soil and rocks they exhumed, hoping for a glimpse of ore bearing even a small amount of yellow metal. They had left their dinner fire burning to help light their way out, Unattended, it was now merely a glow of embers.

They stretched as they emerged from the shaft, loosening limbs and joints which had been bent and twisted unnaturally for hours as they had tried a new vein. Each bore a sack of samples which they would test in the morning.

One of them, Curtis, carefully built up the fire, knowing it was on the brink of going out entirely. The new wood caught, and soon its warm glow beckoned them to it. Some of the shadows around them retreated, as the fire warned them back, but it also created new shadows of its own, painting their faces in crimson and black, twisting their features into ghoulish masks.

Curtis and his partner, Garvin, warmed themselves by the fire. The night chill was coming, and would soon pounce upon them with the suddenness of an animal of prey. They were still in their prime, mid-thirties, desert dust graying their clothes and hair. Neither man was particularly tall, but compact and strong, hardy enough for the rough work of the miner.

"First thing," Garvin said, "I'd better make a fresh pot of coffee." Curtis nodded his agreement and Garvin took their tall steel kettle and shook it. There wasn't much left, and what was there had to be stone cold. He poured it out on the ground, chuckling that the parched soil would welcome the drink, hot or cold. He rose and started for the nearby stream.

As he knelt at the stream he watched as the water filled the pot. They had gotten it in town, second-hand, and he remembered what the shopkeeper had said. The pot was antique, and had probably belonged to some forgotten miner from the previous century, now long departed to his reward. He thought of that old timer, the pot's previous owner, and fantasized him filling it some sixty or seventy years before, perhaps right at this same stream. It was as though that nameless toiler in the earth stood beside him, voicelessly expressing his approval or disproval at using his property.

The shadows were deep even here, and were blackening as he knelt. It seemed, in fact, a new shadow had crept up on him, and had stretched itself just a few feet from him. He shuddered, and not entirely with the approaching cold. The coffee pot filled, he rose and turned.

The pot fell from suddenly numb fingers at the sight his reason tried vainly to convince his eyes couldn't be there.

There was a faint glow in the shadows to his left. It was not the light of their fire, which was behind him and to his right. It was pale, faintly blue, and it had form.

There was a movement, what appeared to be a limb raised in warning gesture. The glowing form slowly seemed to come closer. Garvin's jaw had dropped open and the cry that strained to escape was noiseless. His eyes, already trained upon the vision, somehow grew even wider as he saw what appeared to be a man.

A man, dressed in clothing of a generation or more ago, ragged and bearded, gradually came toward him, shimmering with what seemed reflected moonlight, though there was no moon. The man spoke, a voice that ached with the effort it took to make itself audible. The words were some foreign tongue; German, Garvin thought.

Abandoning all memory of the coffee pot or why he was even at this spot, Garvin ran back to the fire, stumbling twice and picking himself up. He finally reached the camp and grabbed Curtis by the shoulder, crouching beside him. "I've seen him!"

Curtis frowned his confusion and stared his opinion that his friend had suddenly gone mad. "Seen who? What's wrong?"

"The ghost! The Dutch miner! I've seen his ghost!"

Curtis laughed raucously, laughter that the hills returned in mocking echo. "You're crazy."

Garvin pointed toward the stream. "He was at the stream! I tell you, I saw him! It was the ghost!"

Curtis stood and Garvin faced him. "There's no such thing as a ghost," Curtis shot the words back at him. He noticed Garvin was empty-handed. "Where's the coffee pot?"

Garvin noticed himself for the first time that his hands were empty. "Guess I left it back at the stream."

"Then go back and get it."

Garvin shook his head emphatically. "I'm not going back there. Not until morning."

"You yellow all of a sudden? I'll go and get it." Curtis strode off in the dark toward the stream. Garvin watched his partner as he melded into the night, hearing his boots scrape against the arid soil. The stride stopped, there was a shuffle of feet, and suddenly he heard Curtis' fleeing steps bringing him back.

Garvin didn't need any more incentive. He turned and ran as well, not heeding where he was going. He heard Curtis running at first behind him then catching up, until the two were far from their camp.

Three or four lights, red against the night, floated toward them. Garvin brought himself up, and Curtis skidded to a stop beside him a moment after. As the flames approached they could tell they were torches, carried by men. Real men, not specters. They looked like extras from the climax of an old Universal horror movie, who had lost their way to Frankenstein's Castle. One of them they both recognized: Drake, the foreman of a larger mining project not far from their own. The others, they figured, were some of his men.

Drake was a large, stocky man, bullet-headed with a retreating hairline. Just behind him towered Kendall, his right-hand man, who seemed a mountain unto himself. One or two others, of similar forbidding stature, stood behind them.

"What are you two doing here?"

Neither Curtis nor Garvin wanted to tell them.

Drake stepped closer, and Kendall sidled out from behind him, adding his imposing support. "I asked you a question."

"We... we were running," Curtis said.

"Running? Where?"

The two partners exchanged a glance that agreed to silence.

"You're snooping, aren't you?" Drake accused. "We've warned you and all the others around here to stay away from our digs."

"Yeah," said Kendall. "You might get hurt."

Drake studied them a moment, and an unpleasant smile curled his features. "Is it maybe because you saw something?"

"Did you see it too?" Garvin blurted out. Curtis elbowed him in the ribs.

"I don't know," Drake said, feigning comradeship. "What is it you saw?"

"Well," said Garvin, backing off, "you know there's stories about this place."

"Stories? What kind of stories?"

"You know. Legends. Stuff like that."

"You mean like --- ghost stories?"

Garvin hesitated before nodding cautiously.

Drake looked up at Kendall and winked. Suddenly both broke out in a laugh.

"You don't believe in ghosts, do you, Garvin?"

"But I saw him!" exclaimed Garvin.

Curtis doubled his fist at his side, tempted to use it on his partner.

The rest of Drake's men joined in the laughter. Garvin's face grew red as the fire from the torches, and he turned to Curtis for support that wasn't coming.

Drake stopped his laughter suddenly. The others quieted as well. "We heard you today," he said.

"What do you mean?" Curtis asked.

"We heard your tools on the other side of the wall of one of our shafts. You're getting close to our claim."

"Must be that new shaft," Curtis muttered.

"We warned you not to interfere with our work," Drake said. If he seemed dangerous before, it was only a prelude. "Keep away from our claim," he said. His eyes burnt with a cold fire.

"Why?" Curtis had never liked bullies.

Drake leaned in close, his cocked eyebrow darkening the menace of his crooked grin. "You'll find out."

Morning rose and its light shone upon Curtis and Garvin's camp. Usually the dawn found them already up, finishing breakfast and preparing for the day's work.

This day they still lay in their sleeping bags, motionless. The sun brought new warmth to the earth beneath them, but it could do nothing to warm these men.

If anyone had been around to try to rouse them, they would have failed. Nor, in checking, would they have found a pulse throbbing through the veins of either man.

Curtis and Garvin were dead.

* * *

It was several days later before the Sheriff allowed the routine activity of the area to resume. Word spread among the miners, the visitors and tourists who were in the area. The Sheriff, Burt Mason, and the coroner, Doc Webster, were silent, by mutual agreement. Even Tyler, who printed the town broadsheet, was denied any information for his newspaper. Tyler, being an enterprising sort and frustrated novelist, composed instead his own article, half editorial and half speculation, which only added to the mutterings among resident and visitor alike. The Sheriff considered ordering him to print a retraction but decided it wasn't worth the effort. Tyler was as cussed as a mule, when he made up his mind to something, and the Sheriff knew he'd have more luck convincing his office wall of anything as he would Tyler. Besides, the damage was already done, and a retraction wouldn't undo it.

John Cramer, owner of a dude ranch just outside of town, was particularly interested in Tyler's article. He bought an extra copy of the paper and mailed it to a friend back east.

Sandy Beckman enjoyed her job as a tour guide. In her khaki uniform, her long blond hair coiled beneath a denim cap, she led visitors through the mountains, telling tales true and tall about the men and women who had lived there. The legends of the Old West had always fascinated her. As a girl, she had joined her brothers at the movies, especially on Saturdays, to watch Buck and Tim, Roy and Gene, Hoppy and Durango rid the West of bad guys. Now, leading groups of tourists through the storied Superstition Mountains, she had what she felt was a stepping stone to her dream job. She hoped one day to move to Tombstone, and tell the story of the Earp brothers and the gunfight at the OK Corral.

It was the last tour of the day, and near dusk. They had gotten off the bus to walk through the mountains, to experience their awful majesty close up. She always smiled at the reactions of the tourists, who had perhaps only seen scenery such as this on a movie screen. Some, perhaps, had only seen it on a tiny TV screen. The plains and mountains of the West never failed to awe those seeing them live for the first time.

They had reached her favorite part of the tour: the area that was believed to be near the location of the Lost Dutchman Mine. As she had many times, she told the story. Though she almost always used the same words, she never tired of the tale. When they came upon camps of men, situated not far from the monstrous mountains where the mine was believed to have been, she explained that even today there were those who searched for the gold of the Lost Dutchman mine.

Though she had been warned, she always took them near one particular mining camp; the one run by Drake. She never stayed there long; just so people could see a large operation at work.

The shadows were deepening, and she was coming to the climax of her talk. She smiled. She always liked the last tour of the day, for darkness was best for this final legend of the hills.

"And as men still dig into the earth for the gold they believe is to be found there, some say they have seen the ghost of the Lost Dutchman, seeking his mine. Some have even seen him today." She smiled, pointing to a shadowy recess of rock. "Perhaps he is lurking there, watching us now!"

Johnny shivered. He liked ghost stories, even though they frightened him. The tour was moving on, returning to the bus. He started to follow his mom and dad but stopped as his shoelace came undone. He knelt to re-tie it. That was the trouble with sneakers: they always gave you far more shoelace than you needed, and it came untied so easily.

He looked around him, especially looking into the recess where Miss Beckman had pointed. His parents, not noticing he was behind them, had gone on. He had to hurry, finish tying his shoe and run to catch up.

What was that in the shadow? It seemed like a shimmer of light, dull and slightly bluish. His face went white as it moved, emerging from the shadow and stalking toward him. It was an old man, like the old sidekicks he had seen in the westerns on Saturday mornings. But he glowed with a light that surrounded him. Then he realized what it was, and sprang to his feet, stumbling at first, and then running as fast as he could to catch his parents.

Miss Beckman was with them; his parents had evidently just noticed his absence, and were asking her to hold up the bus. They were relieved when they saw him, but alarmed at his obvious fright.

"I saw him!" he exclaimed, once he caught his breath.

"Saw who?" his father asked.

"The ghost! The ghost of the Dutchman!"

* * *

The men working under Drake labored in shifts. There were plenty of them to split the work; nearly two dozen, including himself, Kendall, and Jonesy, his two chief aids. Jonesy was a shorter version of Drake, though what hair he had once had was long gone. They all did their part, taking their turns in the mine.

Drake spotted Burke, one of the men, on his off-duty time reading the paper. It was a few days old; Drake recognized the headline. He went over to talk to him.

"What're you doing reading stale news for?"

Burke was mid-thirties, rugged, square-jawed. Like all of them, he wore earth as an accessory to his clothing and an adornment to his hair. His face had been unwashed and unshaven for a few days, as well.

"Just looking at this article on the two miners again," Burke said. "Shame about them."

Drake snatched the paper from his hand. "Yeah. A low-down, rotten, dirty shame. What's that got to do with you?"

"Nothing. What's it got to do with you?"

Drake hauled back to backhand him, and decided against it. "Nothing. I ain't got nothing to do with it. And I don't want you readin' about it, either." He tossed the paper into the fire, where it caught and crumpled up into itself as it was consumed.

Burke stood up and faced him. "I just thought it was interesting."

"Well, the only thing you're supposed to find interesting around here is work. Keep your mind on that, and you'll stay healthy."

Burke looked like he was going to say something but didn't. He strode off.

"Where are you going?"

"I'm taking a walk. Don't worry, I'll be back in time for my shift."

Drake watched him go. He frowned at Burke's receding back.

* * *

A hill, a dwarf among giants, stood opposite the Drake mine. There wasn't much up there: some shrubs, a few good sized rocks, and a single tree. There was a deep notch in the tree, made deeper by someone working at it with a knife.

A note was placed in that notch, just deeply enough not to be seen unless someone was looking for it.

Later that day, someone did indeed come looking for it, and found it.

After it had been read and memorized, it was burned and its ashes flew with the wind.

Chapter II

The central tower of the Daily Planet Building rose like a spear of truth over the city of Metropolis. The job of reporting the news of the world was an endless one, and because of its several editions someone was always on duty in each of its main offices.

Sometimes editor Perry White found his task so all-involving that he didn't take time to go home. Instead he would take his room at the Press Club, just a few blocks from his offices, and spend the night there. This had been one of those times.

Therefore, Perry expected to be in and at his desk ahead of anyone except those who were concluding their shifts. Perry was wrong.

Sitting at her desk, in the hall to the left of his door, was Miss Bacharach. He tried to cover his surprise with bluster, but he knew he didn't fool her. Didn't the woman ever sleep? Didn't she have a home or apartment to go back to? This wasn't the first instance that this had happened, but it still befuddled him every time.

Miss Bacharach wasn't the most comely of women, but she was certainly one of the most efficient. She had a short pile of notes for him, records of calls, and a stack of mail. As the work of the newspaper never ended, the work of the mailroom often extended to past the time most of the staff had gone home. Taken in whole, the business of a newspaper was information; and information came in many forms, and knew nothing of clocks and calendars. Perry took the notes and envelopes into his office with him.

He put the notes of calls aside for the moment and sorted through the mail. Much of it was routine correspondence, which would be answered in its turn. One of the envelopes was a little larger than the others, and a bit thick. Extra postage had been added to make certain it reached him. He checked the return address and flicked his eyebrows in surprise. It was from John Cramer, a friend who ran a dude ranch in Arizona. He hadn't heard from Cramer in some time, and on a rare whim took his letter opener to it immediately.

It was a copy of The Chronicle, the broadside paper put out in the town nearest Cramer's ranch. His friend had included a note with it.


Thought you might be interested in our local murder investigation. Just to show you that major crimes don't just happen in big cities like Metropolis.


Perry read the article, which took up much of The Chronicle's one and only page. There was an angle to the story which piqued his interest, and he pressed an intercom button.

"Miss Bacharach, send Clark Kent and Lois Lane in here as soon as they get in. Better have young Olsen come too."

"Yes, Mr. White."

Perry took a cigar from his pocket, cut off the end, and lit it. He sat back a moment and puffed before setting it in his ashtray to go through the rest of the mail. He would get a lot of work done before his three star reporters got in.

About a half hour later there was a knock on the door and Clark Kent half entered, holding the door for Lois and Jimmy, before following them in.

"You wanted to see us, Chief?" Kent asked.

"Yes. I got a copy of an Arizona newspaper from a friend of mine out there. Two miners have been found dead, under mysterious circumstances, and the coroner has declared it a double murder."

"Do they have any leads?" Clark asked.

"No. And there's more to it. Ever hear of the Lost Dutchman Mine?"

"It's an old legend, isn't it?" Lois said.

"I think I remember something of it," Clark said, nodding. "He was a prospector, just before the turn of the century, and he supposedly found a rich vein of gold ore."

"Golly," said Jimmy. "Do you think the two miners found it and were killed so somebody could jump their claim?"

Clark smiled. "Maybe you've watched too many westerns, Jimmy."

"No,' said Perry, "as much as it hurts me to admit it, Olsen might be right. Anyway, there's definitely something mysterious going on there." Perry harrumphed. "Some even claim to have seen the ghost of the Dutchman in the area."

"Did you say 'ghost'?" Jimmy stammered.

"Don't get all excited, Olsen," Perry said. "I don't know what they saw, but it wasn't a ghost."

"Do you want us to follow this story, Chief?" Clark asked.

"Yes. This afternoon there will be tickets for the three of you to fly to Phoenix. My friend John Cramer will meet you there. You'll be staying at his dude ranch. I suggest you go home and pack, and come back here to pick up your tickets. You'll be booked on a flight that leaves early this evening."

"All right, Chief. Come on," he added to his colleagues.

* * *

Jimmy sat by the window of the plane, next to Clark. Lois sat behind them. The plane had taken off, and was just banking toward the West. As it was spring, the evening was still light with a gently lowering sun.

But Jimmy saw ahead the edge of a dark sky. It was as though half of the earth was covered by some gigantic shell, lined in black, and their plane was headed into it. He felt as though they were being swallowed by that darkness.

Even with the interior lights of the plane, it was growing dark; and the mood darkened with it. The atmosphere was ideal for hearing stories of benighted legends.

"Mr. Kent?"


"Tell me more about the legend of the Lost Dutchman."

"I remember reading about the mine; I think it was in one of Frank Dobie's books. There was a man named Weiss, either a German or a Dutchman; the stories vary. He is said to have saved the life of a Mexican, named Peralta. In return, Peralta gave him a map to the mine. He searched for the mine, and some say he found it. The vein was rich enough to make many men wealthy.

"But the mine was in Apache territory, and though he had been warned by them several times, Weiss continued to work the mine. Then one day the Apaches attacked him, and he barely escaped with his life. He abandoned the mine, and never went back. He returned to his cabin to live out his days. He had a half-breed maid, named Julia Thomas. And some say that, on his deathbed, he gave her the secret of the mine."

"But what about the ghost?"

Clark nodded. "That's also part of the legend. A curse supposedly rests on the mine, and any who seek it. They say there are guardians of the mine, perhaps even the ghost of the Dutchman himself. There have, in fact, within the last twenty or thirty years, been deaths blamed on the mine. They say it's the Ghost, defending the secret of the Lost Mine."

Jimmy shivered.

Clark smiled. "The story didn't frighten you, did it, Jimmy?"

Jimmy stammered. "N-no, not at all, Mr. Kent."

"Because, you know, there are no ghosts."

Jimmy grinned sheepishly. "I know that." He frowned thoughtfully. "But Mr. Kent..."

"Yes, Jimmy?"

"If they didn't see the Dutchman's ghost, what did they see?"

Clark shook his head, his gaze seeking the answer from somewhere beyond the confines of the aircraft. "I don't know, Jim; I don't know."

* * *

It was a long flight, and they slept the night through. Dawn had risen as they neared Arizona. A hot breakfast was served on the plane, and all three partook hungrily. Just after the food trays were cleared, the announcement was given of their approach to the airport.

They landed at Phoenix and collected their bags. Clark said their ride would probably be waiting for them in the taxi circle, so they headed there. Perry had described John Cramer to them, but there was no one there who fit the description.

Jimmy looked up and down at the various taxis and limo services waiting for customers and one vehicle stood out from the rest. It was a buckboard, right out of an old western. A man stood beside it who appeared to be looking for someone, and when he noticed Jimmy and his companions he came towards them.

He was about six feet, black hair, with thick dark brows. He wore a dark red shirt, black vest, and jeans. "Are you from the Daily Planet?" he asked. His accent seemed to have been born in old Virginia.

"Yes," Clark said, introducing Lois, Jim, and himself. "Are you from John Cramer's ranch?"

"Yep. I'm here to pick you up. Come on."

The buckboard had a single bench up front for the driver and another behind it with a back. The driver lifted their luggage into the space behind the rear seat and helped Lois up. Jimmy climbed in beside her, and Clark rode shotgun.

The man clucked to the horses and they started forward. Soon they were away from the airport and on to the open road. It was designated a highway, but was still little more than a dirt road, albeit wider than some. There were still many such which were now major thoroughfares but were once little more than Indian trails. The road stretched far; nothing to see for miles and miles but miles and miles. The scenery on either side stole their breaths. Wide prairie ended at the feet of distant mountains, some of which were only grey blurred boundaries at the horizon.

"I'm sorry," Clark said to the driver, "I didn't catch your name."

"That's because I didn't give it," the driver answered in his drawl.

Clark nodded and decided to let it go. "Have you worked for Mr. Cramer long?"

"A few years."

Clark paused, waiting for a shoe that didn't drop. "Are you a cowboy?"

The driver nodded decisively once. "Come from a line of cowboys."

"Though you're not from Arizona."

"My family's from Virginia."

"I thought I recognized the accent. So you came out here from Virginia?"

The driver was silent a long moment. "One thing about you reporters," he said.

"What's that?"

"You sure do ask a lotta questions."

Clark, though he had learned little, decided he had asked enough of them and was quiet for the rest of the trip.

After about an hour or so, the driver turned off the highway onto a single dirt track that led to their left. And, after another half hour or so, Clark could see the gates of the ranch ahead of them. The driver picked up speed a little bit at this point, though the horses also probably recognized that they were nearing home and the knowledge gave an added burst to their speed.

A couple of hands waved at the driver as they passed through the gate. The driver nodded back to them and steered the horses right up to the main ranch house. A tall, distinguished, white-haired gentleman wearing a brown Stetson stood on the porch waiting for them. He waved his hat as they neared the house.

Clark got down first and helped Lois descend, as Jimmy hopped down on his own. The man stepped down from the porch and came over.

"You're Mr. Kent?" he asked, extending his hand.

Clark shook with him and said, "Yes. And this is Miss Lane and Mr. Olsen."

"I'm John Cramer." He shook with each of them in turn. "Welcome to the Circle C."

"Golly," said Jimmy as he looked around. "This looks like the real thing. At least, just like it looks in the movies."

Cramer grinned. "It is the real thing, Mr. Olsen. And all my guests get to have a chance at being real cowhands."

"Remember, Jimmy," Clark admonished him, "we're here on assignment."

Jimmy moped and dragged a shoe in the dirt. "But jeepers, Mr. Kent, this might be my only chance like this."

Cramer took him by the shoulder. "Maybe you can still find time to ride and do some chores."

"That depends on how this story turns out," Clark said.

Lois was looking around too. "How many guests do you have staying now, Mr. Cramer?"

"Oh, quite a few, Miss Lane. Why?"

"Well, it's just that I don't see very many around."

"Oh, some are trying their hand at riding broncs, over yonder. Once you're settled you can take a look for yourselves." He turned to Jimmy. "Maybe even try a ride, too."

"That's a good idea," said Clark. "Why don't we all get settled and meet at the corral?"

The driver and one of the other hands led them to their bunkhouses. There were a group of buildings for men and another for women. Each had a bathroom, and Jimmy excused himself and went in with his bag. Clark wondered what that was about, but just shrugged as he picked a bunk that didn't appear to be taken and slid his suitcase under it. He waited for Jimmy a couple of minutes, but soon gave up and took a walk outside.

The corral was easy to find, for there was a lot of whooping and hollering coming from that direction. He started towards it leisurely, quickening his pace as the skill of the riders drew his interest.

All in the crowd wore various versions of cowboy regalia, and Clark stood there in his grey double-breasted suit and fedora. Some glances and whispered comments came his way, but he ignored them for the spectacle in the corral.

A man who was obviously a professional was riding a bronc, and staying on tenaciously. One hand gripped the saddle horn, and the other was raised to the sky. The horse tried his best to unseat his pesky rider, but had little success. Finally the horse gave one last buck, and the cowboy spilled to the dirt, recovering with a shoulder roll that took him out of reach of the stamping hooves as wranglers took the reins and led the stallion off.

Someone tapped him on the shoulder and Clark turned to see Jimmy, in plaid flannel shirt and jeans, a wide studded belt, an oversize bandana, and a tall ten gallon hat.

"Well," Clark said, "if it isn't Tex Olsen."

Jimmy hiked up his jeans and said "Howdy, Mr. Kent," in the closest he could come to a Texas drawl.

Clark chuckled, and then noticed someone else coming from another bunk house and threw back his head and laughed.

Lois was wearing nearly the same outfit as Jimmy. Clark had to admit silently, however, that she filled hers out to greater advantage.

"Well, what have we here?" he said. "Hello Dale; how's Roy?"

"Very funny, Mr. Kent," Lois responded acidly. She looked him up and down. "You've got no room to talk, since you're the one who looks out of place."

Clark inclined his head and nodded. "I guess you're right. Where did you get the duds?"

Lois smiled. "Jimmy and I did some shopping before we collected our tickets. There's a store in Metropolis that specializes in outdoor and Western gear. Guess we should have invited you along."

"And spoiled the surprise?" Clark said. "I wouldn't have missed this for anything."

Their attention was drawn back to the corral, where another horse struggled impatiently in the chute, a slim rider in buckskin and denim settling atop him. The wide brim of a black hat hid the rider's features. The rider took the classic stance, nodded, and the wranglers released the bronc.

At the first buck of the wild horse the hat leaped off and a mass of long luxurious black hair flew free. A certain roundness beneath the buckskin vest formed a second clue.

It was a Hobson's Choice as to which grew wider: Jimmy's eyes or his mouth. Finally he managed to blurt, "It's a girl!"

Clark had already made the observation silently, but confirmed his young friend's deduction. "It certainly is."

Lois gave a disapproving glance to both of them, especially Clark, shook her head, and muttered "Men!"

Clark smiled as he peeked at Lois out of the corner of his eye. What, was Lois jealous?

The girl rode well, keeping her seat for nearly as long as the cowhand who had preceded her, missing only by a few seconds. In fact, when she did clear the saddle and land in the dirt, rolling as he had to avoid flying hooves, it almost seemed to be of her own volition, and not that of her erstwhile mount.

Jimmy watched as she retrieved her hat from a wrangler, dusted it off by beating it against her thigh a couple of times, and headed for the fence. Disdaining the gate, she was over the fence in a fraction of a moment and stepped away, stopping to replace and adjust her hat.

"I've got to meet her," Jimmy said.

"Oh really?" Clark smiled.

Jimmy reddened. "I want to interview her," he improvised. "You know, for The Planet. It might make an interesting story."

Clark glanced at Lois, who was also grinning. Neither bought his alibi.

"Go ahead, Jimmy," Lois said. "We'll catch up to you later."

Jimmy's grin covered most of his face as he adjusted his jeans, his hat, and his bandana before trotting after the girl who was striding away purposefully.

Clark watched Jimmy pursue and catch her. Ah, youth, he thought. As he turned his attention back to the corral he caught a glimpse of a figure to his left, at the corner of the fence. He was a tall, slender rod of a man with premature grey hair and a trim moustache. Like most of the others he wore Western regalia, but Clark recognized him.

The man must have sensed Clark's gaze. He turned and met it, only to give the slightest of negative shakes to his head and turn immediately away; a sure indicator that he didn't want Clark to acknowledge him.

"Who is it, Clark?" Lois asked.

"Hmmm? Oh. It's okay, Lois. I thought it was someone I knew."

* * *

When Jimmy caught up to the girl, all he could manage to say was "Hey, wait!" The fact that she actually stopped was enough of a surprise that he was stuck for anything to say further.

She was about his height, beautiful, with a smooth nut-brown complexion and fathomless dark eyes that had just a hint of almond shape. Under her brown buckskin vest she wore a long sleeved tan shirt with the cuffs rolled slightly back, exposing her dark forearms. She stood waiting, appraising him as she expected him to say something more. When nothing followed, she turned and started away again.

"Hey, wait!" he called out again.

She stopped and studied him. "Is that all you can say?" she asked, the hint of a smile in her ebony eyes.

"No. I mean, of course I can say more than that."

She stood with her hands on her hips. "Well? What do you want to say?"

"Well, I... What's your name, for a start?"

"Ramona," she answered, the ironic smile reaching her deep red lips.

"Hi," he said. "I'm Jimmy Olsen. Cub... I mean feature reporter on the Metropolis Daily Planet. I saw you ride that bronc."

"Did you?"

"Yeah. Wow, you were swell."

"Thank you." The smile flashed wider for an instant.

"I'd like to do a story about you for my paper."

"I don't do newspaper interviews," she said, her manner suddenly distant.

"But I think my readers would find it... I mean you... fascinating: a girl like you, riding bucking broncos. Where did you learn to ride like that?"

"My people are born knowing how to ride," she said.

"Your people? Oh, of course; you're an Indian."

"You're quite brilliant, Mr. Olsen."

"Please, call me Jimmy."

"All right, Jimmy. Clever deduction you made. Maybe you should be a detective instead of a reporter."

Jimmy grinned sheepishly. "Well, I always liked a good mystery story."

"Good. Then just think of me as one of your mysteries."


Jimmy recognized Clark's voice, and wasn't too happy about it. He turned and reluctantly said, "Yes, Mr. Kent?"

"Mr. Cramer wants to see us in his office."

"Okay. I'll be right there." Jimmy felt like a kid who had been called in for dinner. He turned back to Ramona. "I thought... well, maybe we could go riding some time."

The smile was mocking, except in the eyes, which were growing friendly. "I don't think you could keep up with me."

"I might surprise you."

"You'd better go with your friend. He's waiting."

Jimmy dragged a shoe in the dust. "All right. But let me know it you change your mind."

Jimmy turned and walked to meet Clark, and didn't see the look she now gave him.

* * *

John Cramer's office was a wooden cabin, similar to those that formed the bunkhouses for the guests. It resembled the old line shacks that figured in so many western movies, and Jimmy felt like he was a player in a Saturday matinee. They had eaten dinner in Cramer's quarters, which were adjoining the office. Unmarried, he lived a Spartan existence and the furniture was simple but functional. Dinner was roast beef, from cattle that had been raised right on the ranch itself. Baked potatoes and vegetables, also grown on the land, completed their meal.

Night had dropped upon them, and Jimmy saw only a velvet black outside, dotted with more stars than he had ever seen in the skies of Metropolis. Cramer had taken them into his office after dinner to fill them in on the mysterious occurrences fantastically reported in the town paper.

"Actually, more of what Tyler printed in the paper is true than some folks around here want to admit," Cramer began. "The figure of an old miner has been seen in the hills. You're familiar with the legend of the Lost Dutchman mine?"

Clark and Lois nodded. "Mr. Kent told me about it on the plane," Jimmy said.

"Some believe it's the ghost of the Dutchman himself, looking for his lost mine." Cramer glanced at the window to be certain no one was listening. "Tourists have seen him, and so have some of the miners working in the area."

"You don't believe it's a ghost, do you?" asked Clark.

Cramer shrugged. "I was born and raised out here, and have seen some strange things. An old Indian woman who helped raise me told me some tales that were even stranger."

"Legends and folklore, of course," Clark said.

"Yep. But Mr. Kent, you know yourself there is a basis in fact for most every legend or tale of folklore that was ever told around a campfire."

Clark reluctantly gave an acquiescent nod.

"Then I'm obliged to believe most anything," Cramer said.

"What about the two dead miners?" Clark asked. "Was that part true?"

"Yep. They were found not far from their claim."


"That's what the coroner said."

"Y-you think they were killed by the g-ghost?" Jimmy said.

"That's nonsense," Clark said.

"I'm not so sure," Cramer said. "It's not just a few crackpots and town drunks who have seen him. The tourists and miners who have seen him make quite credible witnesses."

Jimmy cried sharply and stared at the window. The others followed his gaze.

Something was at the window, and peered in at them.

A moment later it was gone.

"It's the ghost!" Jimmy cried.

Cramer had been the last to look, but had seen the face. He laughed. "That's just old Jake," he said. He rose from his chair and opened the outer door. "Come on in, Jake."

An old man came in, shoulders broad but bent, his gray hair and beard in bad need of grooming. His clothes looked like he not only slept in them but lived in them. His hat appeared to have seen its way through the last half dozen wars, its front brim turned up against the battered crown.

"Jake's an old timer who's been around these parts as long as anybody remembers," said Cramer, introducing the trio from Metropolis.

Jake came up on Jimmy and scowled at him. "I heard that crack about the ghost, you young whippersnapper."

Jimmy tried to cover his nervousness and embarrassment with a chuckle. "He looks like Gabby Hayes," he said. No one else laughed.

Jake glared at him even harder and, dismissing him, turned to Cramer. "What's this I hear about a girl riding a bronc?"

"That's right," said Cramer. "Stayed on a pretty long time, too."

"I think she could have stayed on longer," Jimmy added.

Jake glared at him once again, sniffed his disgust, snarled "Bah!" at the lot of them, spat tobacco juice in the corner and went out, letting the rickety screen door slam behind him.

Cramer chuckled after his departed visitor. "Jake doesn't like women," he explained. He turned to Lois. "You'll have to excuse him, Miss Lane."

Lois smiled. "Of course. Actually, I think he's quite the colorful character. Even kinda cute."

Clark observed her with an inquisitive brow raised. She responded with a coquettish smile. Clark cleared his throat and checked his watch. "Hmm. It's past your bedtime, junior," he said to Jimmy.

Jimmy suddenly realized he was pretty tired. "Yeah, I guess we all should get some sleep." He rose and the others also stood.
"You're right, young man," Cramer said. "All of you should get to bed. We rise up pretty early around here."

"Sounds like a good idea," Clark said. He shook Cramer's hand. "Thank you again for your hospitality, and we'll see you in the morning."

Cramer stood thinking for a few moments after they were gone. He stepped out on the porch and searched the night until he saw Jake, lingering near the corner of the house. He gave the old timer a nod, and the prospector shambled off into the darkness.


Chapter III

When the sun was still just a suggestion at horizon's edge the clatter of a cook's triangle and the slamming open of the bunkhouse doors, with cries from cowhands who had already risen and dressed, awoke the guests to the infant morning.

Clark and Jimmy rose and took their turn with the others in their bunkhouse, using the one rest room. They were about to get in line with the others for chow when the cowhand from Virginia who had met them the day before called their names.

"Mr. Cramer wants you and Miss Lane to have breakfast with him in his cabin."

Several pairs of eyes from among the guests watched them as they followed the cowhand. There were a few murmurs about special treatment which they didn't hear. Lois was already out and waiting for them, and the three went to Cramer's cabin. Cramer was waiting for them. They went again to his small dining area and sat down to a huge breakfast of scrambled eggs, thick slices of ham, heavy biscuits the size of baseballs, and coffee so strong it could power a DC-10.

Cramer finally sat back, satisfied. His plate was so clean one would think he hadn't had anything to eat. But Clark had marveled at the heaps of eggs, two big slices of ham, and half dozen biscuits their host had consumed. Cramer was of an average build, no significant trace of fat on him. The ranch life must work off all he ate.

Cramer patted his stomach with both palms. "Well, let's say we walk off our breakfast. I want to take you around the place. Show you the mines, too."

"The Lost Dutchman Mine?" Jimmy asked.

Cramer chuckled. "Son, no one knows where that is. But a lotta folks have tried to find it. There's one particularly big project going on I want to show you about. If anybody has a chance of finding the Dutchman's mine, I guess they do."

Cramer took them around back where a Jeep was waiting. "Perry didn't tell me if any of you could ride, so I thought we'd go around in this."

Jimmy was excited at seeing it. "Jeepers. Is this just like the ones the soldiers used in the war?"

"That's right, young man," Cramer said. "And you'd be surprised how much modern ranching is done now in vehicles like this."

Jimmy was disappointed. "I was hoping to ride one of the horses in the corral."

"You'll get your chance," Cramer said.

"That's right," said Clark. "Remember, Jim, we're here on assignment; not a vacation."

"It's a big spread," Cramer said, "especially since we're going out to the mines. So we'll ride some and walk some."

They piled into the Jeep, Jimmy crying shotgun this time, and Lois and Clark sat in the back.

Cramer showed them the fields that were set aside for a garden, raising the few vegetables that grew in the arid soil. Cramer parked the Jeep and they walked around the area as he pointed out points of interest. Man-made irrigation helped keep the field moist, and several hardy plants raised themselves proudly, displaying their fruit. Next were the cattle lands, where the herd grazed and fatted themselves, some serving to feed the visitors to the ranch and others to be led to town in the cattle drive that climaxed the regular two-week stay of the dude ranch hands. Again they parked the Jeep and walked, as the motor noise might have stampeded the animals.

One of the cows stared directly at Lois as it chewed its cud.

"Go ahead, Miss Lane," Cramer encouraged her.

Lois gingerly approached the cow, which seemed to be waiting for her. She put out a hand and stroked an ear. It sighed a contented "moo."

"You've made a friend, Lois," Clark teased.

"I've always had a way with animals," she said. She came back, dusting her hands together.

They walked around the herd a bit more before returning to the Jeep.

The land was large, and stretched pretty far. Cramer told the joke about the Texas rancher who went east and was bragging about the size of his ranch. When asked whereabouts in Texas was his ranch, the rancher replied: "Son, my ranch isn't in Texas; Texas is on my ranch."

The Jeep was approaching the hills, and Clark used his Telescopic Vision to search the foothills. He saw several mines, most placed a good deal apart, but several clustered close together. Most of them seemed to be run by two or three men each. One, however, had a crew of a score or so of men working it. Some were lounging outside as the other shift worked in the tunnels. It was toward this camp that Cramer now steered the Jeep.

They walked the rest of the way to the site. A bullet-headed man had his hat off and was wiping his brow with a large bandana. He peered narrowly at the four visitors coming toward him. His scowl said he didn't like company, and it spoke correctly.

Cramer led his guests right up to him. "Drake, this is Mr. Kent, Miss Lane, and Mr. Olsen. They're staying at the ranch."

Drake replaced his hat and stuffed his bandana in a pocket of his plaid shirt. The squint through which he studied them wasn't caused by the bright sun. "You don't usually bring your dudes out here for a visit," he said. "What gives?"

"Oh, these are special guests," Cramer said. "A friend of mine from back east sent them here."

Clark decided to test the waters. "Actually, Mr. Drake, we're reporters."


"Yes. We're here to do a story on Mr. Cramer's ranch."

Drake stepped a little closer to Clark. "Are you sure that's all you're here for?"

Clark flinched only a little, for Lois' sake. "Well, we also hear there's been some mysterious deaths around here." He added innocently, "You wouldn't know anything about it that we could use in our story, would you?"

"I got nothin' to say to no nosy reporters," Cramer growled.

A second man who seemed a smaller edition of his boss came up. "Trouble, boss?" he asked, eying the four.

"Nothin' I can't handle, Jonesy," he said. "Cramer, I thought we had an agreement. I don't mess with your business as long as you don't mess in mine."

Cramer stood up to him. "I'm just giving them a tour of the country," he said. "They were interested in the Lost Dutchman Mine, so I thought I'd show them a modern mining operation."

Drake gave a nod that showed he wasn't buying any of it. "Mining hasn't changed since a hundred years ago. Men go into the ground, they dig, and hopefully they come up with something worth digging for. End of story." He turned to Clark. "Think that's worth printing in your newspaper, Kent?"

Clark shrugged. "I'd like to know more."

"Well, you ain't gettin' more. Now hop back in that Jeep over there and get outta here."

Cramer decided on the better part of valor. "Guess this was a mistake after all. Come on, folks." He led them back to the Jeep.

Clark gave a last glance as they returned to their vehicle: a glance aided by Super Vision. There was definitely something in the ore of this site. It wasn't gold. He'd have to make a return trip to find out. That is, a return trip as Superman.

* * *

Burke watched the four go. This was his break time, and he took a stroll. He had an errand to run as well. He hadn't gotten far when a figure jumped out at him from behind a tree.

"Hi, Jerry," she said.

Burke glanced about him. "You gave me a start, Sandy."

Sandy Beckman smiled. "Good. I like to surprise you." She came toward him.

Burke backed off a little. "I told you before it's not safe for you to be seen with me."

"How could it not be safe?" she said.

"Drake might not like it."

"If you're afraid of what your boss might say about you hanging around with me, then quit him and get a better job."

"It's not that easy. Besides, I'm not afraid of him so much as I'm afraid for you."

"Yeah, I've heard that one in the movies too. Why should your boss object to you seeing me?"'

"Just listen to what I say, all right? I don't want you getting hurt."

"I'm just a tour guide," she said. "I take people past the mining operations to give them an idea of what it's like. It's my job."

"Yeah, but the boss doesn't like people getting too close to what we're doing."

"And what are you doing, Jerry? Why is it so secret?"

"I can't tell you."

"Then I was right. It is a secret."

Burke cursed himself for having been tricked into confirming her suspicions. "All I can tell you is that we'd better not see each other where Drake might spot us. It might be dangerous."


"Some of these men are really hard cases."

She smiled. "Maybe, but I know you're one of the good guys."

"Drake doesn't have to spot you," a gruff voice said. "I already did."

Burke turned. Kendall, Drake's man-mountain of a henchman, stepped out from concealment.

Burke stood between Kendall and Sandy. She didn't cling to him for protection, and in fact stepped out from behind him a little to stare back defiantly at Kendall.

"Listen to what he says, sister," Kendall said. "Stay away from our mine if you know what's good for ya." He glared at Burke. "And don't expect this guy to protect ya." He waved his arm. "Come on, Burke; your break is over."

Burke gave Sandy a glance of warning and concerned affection, jerked his head to send her off, and followed Kendall back to the mine.

Sandy returned to her tour station. There was a new group that would soon be ready to go out.

But she had been right: there was evidently some mystery about the mining operations Jerry Burke was working for. What was it? And how did such a nice guy get caught up with that rough crowd?

* * *

When they returned to the ranch house the three from Metropolis stood on the porch for a few minutes. Clark wanted an excuse to get away from his two friends: he had some investigating to do, and he didn't want them around. He knew their penchant from getting into trouble. Not to mention their mutual suspicions of his secret identity.

"I think I'll go talk to some of the guests," Lois said. "Maybe I can find out
if anyone has seen this so-called ghost."

"Good idea," agreed Clark. "I think I'll do some scouting around myself."

"You want to come with me, Jimmy?" Lois asked.

"No, I don't think so."

Clark was worried a moment that his young friend would want to come with him. But then he saw a certain rider lead her horse from the stable and swing into the saddle. As she trotted her horse toward the ranch gate he smiled.

"I think I'll get a horse and take a ride," Jimmy said. "After all, it's a dude ranch, isn't it?"

"Have fun, Jimmy," Clark said, giving him an encouraging shove. He and Lois exchanged grins at Jimmy's enthusiastic jog to the stables. "I think Jimmy's got it bad this time," he said.

"Looks like," Lois said. She saw a group of guests headed for a roping exhibition and started after them to catch up.

Clark was left alone. He looked about him and walked slowly at first, and then with purpose as he neared some rocks. As he ducked behind them he removed his glasses and loosened his tie.

* * *

Sheriff Mason was a tall rangy fellow who had looked sixty even when he was only forty. Thinning gray hair and a thick white handlebar of a moustache made him look every bit the seasoned range rider he had always been.

He sat at his desk in his office, his heavy brows knitted in thought. Usually his job was little more than breaking up the occasional bar fight, or jailing someone for drunk and disorderly. Those miners, especially the ones in that Drake outfit, could get mighty rowdy. But now there were two mysterious deaths to investigate: deaths that the coroner had ruled as murder, but with no visible cause of death. And no clue as to the killer.

A whoosh and a thud outside his office caught his attention. He heard boots tread the boardwalk in front of his office. There was nothing unusual about that; but there was something unusual about the owner of this particular pair of red boots. His muscular frame was clothed in tight-fitting royal blue, and a scarlet cape hung from his shoulders. He knew immediately who this had to be.


"Yes. Are you the sheriff?" asked the Man of Tomorrow in the deeper voice he used for his costumed persona.

Mason rose. "Yeah, that's me. I never thought I'd ever meet you." He extended his hand, which Superman shook with controlled firmness. The sheriff sighed. "And boy, could I use your help."

"I heard about the ghost sightings in Metropolis," Superman said, "and my curiosity was aroused. And now two men have been murdered, and I'm sure it wasn't done by a ghost."

"I don't think so either, but there isn't a mark on either of the men and no trace of poison in their bodies. Their death is a mystery."

"A mystery I'd like to help you solve," offered Superman.

"Like I said, I can use all the help I can get." Mason shook his head and cast his eyes down. They seemed to see something far distant from the oaken floor of his office. "If I didn't know better than to believe in such things," he mused, "I'd say myself that they were killed by a ghost."

* * *

Ramona was already way ahead when Jimmy had passed the gate and left the ranch, but he could see her figure in the distance and urged his horse to follow. She was headed for the hills, and it seemed to him she might even be headed for the mines. He wondered what business she might have with the miners. Especially that Drake crew. He hoped she wasn't going there.

She came to a hill near the mines and started her horse upward. He seemed to know the way, and Jimmy deduced that she had evidently done this before. As she reached the summit he came to the base and with some prodding and encouragement he got his own mount to climb the hill.

Ramona was waiting for him, and spun about to face him, drawing a gun from a side holster as she did. She leveled it at him, recognized him, and eased the already cocked hammer forward. "Oh, it's you."

Jimmy saw nothing but the bore of the .45 Colt she still held steadily. "The view is really something up here, isn't it?" he managed.

"Why did you follow me?" Her manner was far from friendly.

"I thought if I caught up to you we might ride back together."

She looked him over. "I didn't think you could ride that well." She lowered the gun, holding it at her side. "I should have given you more credit."

Jimmy relaxed a little now that he wasn't covered. He noticed for the first time the binoculars hanging from their strap around her neck. She must have been looking at something down at the mine. He wondered what it might be.

"I had an uncle who owned a horse farm. He gave me riding lessons when I was twelve. I guess it's something you don't forget."

Ramona turned toward the mines, which they could see from the vantage point of the hill. "Even so," she said, still looking down at the mine, "riding in the hills around here can be dangerous."

"Then I'm here to protect you," Jimmy said. Then he grinned. "Of course, you're the one with the gun. Do you know how to use it?"

Ramona studied him a moment, then indicated the single tree on the hill. "Do you see that knothole?"

Jimmy could barely see it but said, "Yes."

She drilled it with one shot. Then she tossed it to Jimmy.

He caught it awkwardly and fumbled with it. It was a lot heavier than he thought it would be. "I never shot one of these in my life." He handed it back to her, afraid it might accidentally go off.

She took her Peacemaker and holstered it. She actually smiled at him, for the first time. "So maybe I'll have to protect you." She went over to the tree and fingered the hole her slug had made. Her back to him, she also surreptitiously brushed a narrow notch in one of the branches. Jimmy thought she might actually be looking for something else. She crouched low and went to the edge of the hill, looking one last time through the binoculars at the mine. Then she backed away from the edge and rose, saying: "Come. It's time we went back."

* * *

Drake lifted his head sharply at the sound of the shot. Kendall and Jonesy were with him, and had heard it as well. Burke was just coming out of the mine for some air and curiosity drew him toward the group.

"Wonder what that was," Drake said.

"It was only one shot," Kendall said. "Probably somebody shooting at a jackrabbit."

"I'm not so sure," Drake said. "One of you ride up there and take a look around."

"I'll go," Burke said. He started toward the horses.

Kendall's huge hand gripped his shoulder. "You stay here," he said. "I'll go."

Burke turned and balled a fist, cocking it.

"You think you can take me," Kendall said, stepping back and readying himself, "go ahead and try."

"Take it easy," Drake said, getting between them. "Burke, you go ahead. Tell us what you find."

Kendall scowled at Burke, whose sidewise smile mocked him. Burke went over to the corral and mounted an already saddled horse. When he was gone, Kendall turned to his boss.

"Why'd ya let him go?"

"I been thinkin' about him. Something ain't quite right about that guy."

"Then why'd ya let him go?"

Drake frowned at the bigger man. "I got my reasons. And you don't need to ask what they are."

* * *

Burke rode up the slope of the hill and pulled his horse to a stop at the summit. He dismounted and looked around. Stepping to the edge that faced away from the mine he saw two riders headed back to Cramer's ranch. He stood and watched them for a moment or two, then went to the tree. He saw the bullet hole in the knot and smiled. That was the shot they had heard.

Then he felt for a spot on a branch of the tree: a fork, in which a notch had been cut. He retrieved a small piece of paper from it, read it, and taking out a lighter, set fire to it, dropping it to the ground. From a pocket he took a small notebook and pencil stub and wrote a note of his own, folding it and hiding it in the notch. He returned to his horse, mounted, and rode back down. Drake and his two cronies were still huddled in conference. The meeting of minds broke up as he approached them.

"I saw a kid and an Indian girl, riding back to the dude ranch. Probably a couple of love birds out for a ride. Maybe the guy was showing off his shooting. There's a knothole with a slug in it."

"Okay," Drake said. "Go back to work."

Burke nodded and went back into the mine.

"Do ya think that's all it was?" Jonesy said.

"Not by a long shot," Drake answered. "There's more to this. Kendall, keep your eye on Burke. And there's another thing you can handle, too."

* * *

Jimmy was enjoying the night air. He stood on the wooden deck outside of the bunkhouse and stared up at the sky. The stars were many and bright, brighter and larger than he had ever seen before. A shining full moon added its glow. Jimmy wished Ramona were there, to share it with him.

A shadow moved at the corner of the bunkhouse. Jimmy started, as the shadow took the form of a slightly crouched figure, battered and ancient. The figure came into the moonlight and Jimmy exhaled a deep sigh of relief when he recognized him.

"Oh, it's just you, Jake."

"I didn't scare ya, young feller, comin' up on ya like that, did I?"

"No. No, of course not." Jimmy didn't like to lie, but he didn't want to admit his fear to the old codger either.

"Did ya think I was the Dutchman's ghost or somethin'?"

Jimmy forced a chuckle. "No. In fact, I'm sorry for before when I called you a ghost."

"That's all right, young feller. I can see why you'd get the two of us confused." The darkness hid the twinkle in the old man's sharp blue eyes.

"Yeah. Sure." Jimmy tried to laugh it off again.

"Well, it's late." Jake slapped him on the back. "You'd better turn in before the ghost gets ya. Good night." Jake was absorbed by the shadows as if he had vanished.

Jimmy went back inside and got in bed. He was soon sound asleep.

But it was not a peaceful sleep. Images of an old man, an old prospector, haunted his dreams. The face of someone resembling Jake, yet not quite, drifted closer, closer, his gnarled hand reaching out to grab him.

Jimmy bolted upright, crying out. The sweat ran cold down his back, and he shivered in the cool night air. Clark, in the cot next to him, responded.

"Jimmy, what is it?"

Several of the others awoke as well, some complaining about his calling out in the middle of the night, spoiling their sleep.

Clark took Jimmy outside, so they could talk away from the others. "What is it, Jimmy?"

"The ghost of the Dutchman. I saw him, Mr. Kent!"

"It was just a dream, Jimmy."

Jimmy shivered again in the cold. "But it seemed so real!"

"A lot of dreams do, but when you wake up you know they were just your imagination playing tricks on you."

"What's wrong?" another voice said.

Jimmy turned and saw Ramona coming toward them. She had an Indian blanket wrapped around her for warmth.

"Jimmy had a nightmare," Clark explained.

Ramona placed a hand on Jimmy's shoulder. "Are you all right now?"

Jimmy grinned. Her hand was quietly soothing. "Yeah. I'm okay now."

Clark cleared his throat.

"Oh, I'm sorry," Jimmy said, remembering his manners. "Ramona, this is Mr. Kent. He's a reporter for the Daily Planet, too."

"Glad to meet you, Mr. Kent," Ramona said, shaking his hand.

"My pleasure," Clark said. "If I may ask, what are you doing out here?"

"Oh, I couldn't sleep. Thought maybe a walk might help."

"I see. Jimmy, are you all right now?"

Jimmy was looking at Ramona as he answered. "Sure. I'm fine now, Mr. Kent."

"Then maybe I'll go back inside," Clark said. "If you'll excuse me?" He slipped back into the bunkhouse.

"Ramona, could you stay with me a few minutes?" Jimmy asked. "I mean, I'm not ready to go back to sleep, and you say you're not sleepy either."

Ramona smiled. "You want me to protect you from your nightmares?"

"No. But there are a lot of stars out here. Maybe we can just sit out here and look at them a while until we get sleepy?"

"All right. I'll stay a little while."

They sat on a bench nearby, and Ramona spread her blanket to cover the both of them. They sat there a long time, enjoying the silence, counting the stars, picking out constellations, until it grew late and Ramona made her way back. Jimmy smiled as he watched her go. He was in love.

* * *

Clark didn't go back to sleep. Instead he changed to his Superman costume, and flew to the mine site. Landing out of earshot, he made his way quickly but quietly to the Drake mine.

The miners were all in their tents asleep. He paused a moment or two to be certain he wouldn't be heard and entered the mine.

He went deep into it, to the end of the newest tunnel. He thrust his hand into the wall and bore like a powerful drill into the living rock. He took out a few samples of ore from within. His eyes, tuned for seeing in the dark, could also detect and identify the material contained in the ore. Focusing his vision, probing with a power beyond any ordinary microscope, he studied the substance in the samples he found.

It wasn't gold. His eyes probed deeper, down into the molecular level, and then grew wide as he recognized the element that he saw.

No, it wasn't gold that the Drake crew was mining here. It was something far more valuable, especially in this era.

He now had one piece of the puzzle, but what was the rest?


Chapter IV

Sandy Beckman rode her horse out of town and toward the mountains. Night was coming, the sky a deep shade of purple before becoming an even deeper black. Only the stars lighted her way.

She had been surprised when she received the note. She had flirted with Jerry Burke because she thought he seemed a nice guy, too nice a guy to be hanging out with Drake's rough crowd. He had always held her off, as though he was afraid to get close to her. But he had written a note to her, to meet her at a spot near the mines, and she was coming to meet him.

She reached the place and reined in her horse. She looked about for a moment before slowly dismounting. She patted her horse's neck and searched the darkness. There was no one there but her. She must be early, she decided.

It was a lonely place, where large boulders like the abandoned playthings of some giant child formed a sort of natural fortress. They had taken the shape of an unfinished circular wall, and she sought shelter against the cold wind which was building in force.

She sat inside of it, on a stone seat. She looked again, wondering where Jerry was, why he hadn't yet come. She pulled back the sleeve of her shirt and checked her wristwatch. It was a good sports watch with a leather band; she saved her more girly watch for dress. The dial was luminous, and showed nearly ten minutes past the time they were supposed to meet.

Part of the darkness moved, and she trained her eyes toward it. A figure was coming toward her. It was a glint of gray in the dark. It seemed too short to be Jerry, but distances were deceiving. Her eyes had become adjusted to the night, and as the figure drew closer she saw it wasn't Jerry Burke. She thought it looked a bit like Old Jake, but there was something strange about him. She suddenly realized the reason why she could see him so clearly: there was something glowing about it, a pale luminescence which it seemed to carry about it like an aura.

* * *

Sandy was found the next morning, lying within the circle of rocks which had been her last shelter. At first the coroner thought it had been exposure, but the tests he ran proved otherwise. It was another strange death, just like that of the miners a couple of weeks before.

And more than one of the miners in the area said they had awaken to a strange sound and seen what looked like the Dutchman's ghost. The coroner didn't believe in ghosts, but something strange was definitely happening around the mining camps. He pulled the sheet
over Sandy Beckman's body thoughtfully, and stroked his chin as he stood over her.

There was a knock at his door. "Come in," he said. Sheriff Mason entered the office and called the coroner's name. "I'm back here." Mason entered the back room where autopsies were performed.

"Did you find anything, doc?"

Doc Webster shook his gray head and scratched his moustache. "It's a mystery, just like the others. Awful shame, a young girl like that."

"It's terrible. I've spent most of the morning writing a letter to her family. Haven't had to do something like that since the war, for some of the boys lost under my command."

"But at least they died fighting for something. This girl just got her life taken from her for no reason."

Mason shook his head. "There's a reason. I just haven't figured it out yet."
Doc Webster peered intently into the sheriff's eyes. "Well I hope you figure it out before somebody else dies."

Mason looked down upon the shrouded form on the table. "I hope so too, doc, I hope so too."

* * *

After dark, another figure stole through the shadows outside of Doc Webster's place. He came to the window of the autopsy room. He opened a jackknife and used it to pry open the latch of the window. Cautiously he lifted it and stood waiting and listening. Deep silence answered. Slowly, quietly, he crept through the window and took out a pocket flashlight, playing its pencil-thin beam around the room until he found what he sought.

He went over to the table where her shrouded body lay, and gently pulled back the cover from her face. He gazed down on her, brows knit in an anger that was darker than the night outside. He swore one word: "Revenge."

* * *

Clark came outside after breakfast and saw the man he recognized walking off toward one of the outlying buildings. He followed and easily caught up to him.

"Craig," he said, quietly but loud enough that the other man stopped and turned to face him. Craig waited silently, looking resigned to his cover being blown, even by a friend. "I'm guessing by your presence that some crime against the country is being done here."

"Oh?" said Craig Roberts, Clark's friend from the FBI.

"Yes. Or why else would you be here?"

"Maybe I'm on vacation." Craig said.

"All right, but if so why the secrecy? Why don't you want to be recognized?"

Roberts didn't answer.

"You don't have to be furtive with me, Craig, we're old friends."

Roberts sighed, looked about him, and made certain they were alone. "All right, Clark. I'm here incognito. That's all I can tell you."

A third party was coming toward them, striding with purpose. Clark recognized her, and the determined look on her face. He whispered to his friend, "That's Lois Lane. I've told you about her."

Roberts nodded. "Oh yeah. Let me handle her."

"So, he turned out to be your old friend after all?" Lois said to Clark.

Roberts extended his hand. "Yes. I'm Doug Harmon, an old friend of Clark's."

Lois shook his hand. "You didn't seem to know him when he first spotted you the other day."

"I didn't recognize Clark until just now. It's been so long since we've seen each other," he said.

Clark could see the suspicion on Lois' face, beneath the friendly smile. "What brings you out here, Lois?"

"Mr. Cramer just got a call from Sheriff Mason. There's been another death: a young girl who is one of the tour guides."

"That's terrible," Clark said. "Maybe I ought to ride into town and talk to him. That's why the chief sent us out here."

"Right, Mr. Kent. He sent us out here, not just you. Besides, the sheriff's taking the trip out here anyway. He wants to talk to all the guests at the ranch. He's coming this afternoon."

Clark glanced at Roberts, who was showing intense interest. "Then I guess we'll all wait and hear what he has to say."

* * *

The largest building on the ranch was a huge barn that was mostly used for square dances and other social events for the visitors. That afternoon all of the guests were gathered there as Sheriff Mason addressed them.

He told them about the finding of Sandy Beckman, and expressed his sadness at the tragedy. But her death had also strengthened his determination. "I'm going to do my best to find out who is behind these murders, and bring them to justice."

One of the guests asked, "Is there any truth to the rumor that the Dutchman's ghost was seen near where she died?"

Mason looked directly at the questioner. "There were a couple of miners who claimed to have seen something --- or someone. Just what or who they saw hasn't been confirmed."

Jimmy noticed one of the guests eying Old Jake, who was standing in a corner with his arms folded. He wondered if the guest had the same suspicion that he did: that the seemingly harmless old man knew more about this than his manner seemed to reveal. Old Jake felt Jimmy's gaze, and turned his own glare on the young reporter.

"An inquest will be made," the sheriff was continuing, "just as there was for the first two. But to tell the truth, I don't think we'll have any better leads than we do now."

Clark glanced over to Roberts, and knew that his friend was itching to help the sheriff any way he could, but dared not to because of his cover. Unless, of course, he had already revealed himself to the sheriff. It must be something deep, Clark thought, if he wasn't willing to share the information with him.

"The main thing I came here to say," the sheriff concluded, "is that I want all of you to stay within the ranch grounds. Don't go near the mining country, and stay away from the mountains." He put his Stetson back on. "I'm going back to town and issuing a curfew for everyone there. Anyone caught out after dark will end up in the hoosegow."

Cramer walked the Sheriff to his truck and most of the guests returned about their business. Jimmy and Lois stood off to one corner.

"There's got to be something really serious behind this, Jimmy," Lois said.

"I'll bet there is."

"My guess is that those two miners and that poor girl found out something that they shouldn't have," Lois continued, "and they were killed to keep them quiet."

"I think you're right, Miss Lane," Jimmy agreed, "and I think I know what it is."

"You do? What is it, Jimmy?"

"Well, you remember that ride I had with Ramona the other day?"

"Yes, to the hill overlooking the mine."

"Ramona was using binoculars to watch the mine. It's like she was spying on it for some reason."

"Then you think whatever's going on has something to do with one of the mines?"

"Ahuh. And it's the big one that fellow Drake runs."

Jake came over to them, and Lois was visibly annoyed at apparently being overheard. "You two talking about the mine?"

"Yes," Lois said. "The old Dutchman's mine. I'm sure you know the whole story."

"I know some things you won't find in the books about it. They say the place was cursed by the Apaches, that it's death to any whites who dare to trespass on their land. And the Apaches still claim those mountains as part of their land."

"Then why haven't all of the miners died mysteriously, all at once?" Lois said. She glanced over and saw Jimmy nod at her logic, though she could also see that he held the old prospector in awe.

"What? Well, you just think you're so smart 'cause you're a female..."

"And you're just trying to scare us off," Lois said.

Jake's thick gray brows shadowed his eyes, but couldn't hide the silver blue glare he shot at Lois. "Danged smart-alleky women," he said, sauntering out.

They chuckled at his retreating back and Jimmy said, "Come on, Miss Lane, I'll show you the spot where Ramona was looking."

"You'd better not go," a voice said. Ramona had overheard and stood between them and the door.

"You said it was dangerous before," Jimmy said, "but nothing happened."

"And it's still dangerous," Ramona insisted.

"How do you know? What's this all about?" Lois demanded.

Ramona stood, firmly silent.

"If you think it's too dangerous," Jimmy said, indicating the Colt .45 at her hip, "why not come along? Remember, you said you'd protect me."

"The best protection I can give you," Ramona said, "is to warn you again not to go."

"If you're not coming," Lois said, "then we're going without you. Come on, Jimmy."

Ramona was stubborn, but she'd never seen such determination as these two.

Clark had seen the whole thing, how neither of the warnings had prevented them from leaving. He wasn't surprised. He'd seen this happen many times before: they would be warned not to do a certain thing, or go a certain place. But they were Lois and Jimmy, so of course they go.

As usual, he would have to protect them; but he needed to know just what he was protecting them from first.

* * *

At the mine, Burke saw Drake having a smoke and strode angrily toward him.

Drake glowered at the taller man. "Yeah? What is it?"

"I just heard there's been another death. It was Sandy Beckman, the young tour guide."

"Yeah. A shame, isn't it? I hear she was sweet on you."

Burke reddened, not entirely with anger. "A schoolgirl crush, that was all."

"Yeah? Kendall said he saw you two together a couple of days ago, and you both looked pretty cozy."

Burke balled a fist, and fought himself from using it on Drake. "It was all one-sided," he said, not sure himself if that was entirely true. "I tried to discourage her. She was a sweet kid, and deserved somebody other than the likes of me."

"So if she didn't mean anything to you, why're you all bent outta shape over her? Or is there more to it than that?"

"She was a nice kid, that's all. Why did she have to get killed?"

"You think I had anything to do with it?" Drake seemed to grow an extra inch.

"I don't know," Burke answered. "I do know you didn't like her leading her tourists around the mine."

"Yeah? What about it? I own the claim. When she brings people here, it's trespassing."

Yeah," retorted Burke. "And I guess it's all right to shoot trespassers."

"I didn't hear nothin' about her being shot."

"Yeah, I know," Burke said. "It's just another one of those mysterious deaths." Burke fumed a moment, waiting futilely for Drake to answer. "By the way," he said, "speaking of Kendall, where is he?"

"What about him?"

"I noticed him sneaking out of camp last night."

"Probably went out on an errand," Drake said. He pointed behind Burke. "Why don't you ask him yourself?"

Burke turned to see Kendall looming behind him. "What about it, Kendall? Where were you last night?"

Kendall grinned, baring bestial teeth. "A gentleman doesn't tell."

Burke shrugged. "What's a gentleman got to do with you?"

"Okay. I was with a young lady last night."

Burke felt a chill shoot up his spine. Both fists now doubled at his sides.

"Did ya know your girl was two-timing ya? With me?"

Burke's right crashed against Kendall's lantern jaw, but the big man took it. Burke weighed in, landing another right and a left before Kendall struck back. It was vicious, but it was quick. Burke soon lay stunned on the ground. Kendall knelt over him, a massive right raised to finish him.

"That's enough," Drake said. "I've got a better plan."

Burke managed to sit up, resting on his bent elbows.

"You know," Drake said, "you seem awfully curious about things that ain't none of your business. And you know I don't like nosy people." He told Kendall and Jonesy to tie him up. When his wrists and ankles were tightly bound, he addressed him again. "The soil samples say there's a big deposit just beyond that next wall, in that new shaft. To get to it we'll have to blast." He took a drag on his cigarette and grinned. "Burke, I'll let you sit right next to the dynamite to make sure it goes off all right."

* * *

Lois was no expert on a horse, but the filly she rode was a climber, and she followed Jimmy to the top of the hill. Jimmy had borrowed a pair of binoculars, and when they dismounted they went to the edge that fronted the Drake mine and looked down at it. Jimmy let Lois use the glasses first.

"And you say you saw Ramona looking at the mine through binoculars when you followed her?"

"That's right, Miss Lane."

"Do you know what she was looking for?"

Jimmy shook his head. "No. I have no idea why she was keeping watch on the mine. But you know, if our theory is right, and she's stumbled onto something they're doing that's crooked, she might be in danger next."

"No, you two are the ones in danger now," a growling voice said. They turned and saw Kendall come from behind the rocks. In one hand he held a .38 on them, and in the other a scrap of paper that looked like it had been torn from a pocket notebook. "I found the note Burke left for your girlfriend." He snorted. "Your other girlfriend, that is." He glanced at the note. "I wonder how long this has been going on?"

"Girlfriend?" Jimmy said. "You mean Ramona?"

"Don't play dumb."

"I'm not playing dumb," Jimmy said. "This is natural. I mean..."

Kendall gestured with his revolver. "Come on, you two. I left my horse down below, and climbed up." He grinned at Lois. "I guess I'll ride back with you." He swung up on Lois's filly, keeping his gun level.

He covered them as Jimmy mounted his horse, and then pulled Lois up in front of him. They rode down and he directed Jimmy to the spot where his horse was. He made Lois get down and ride his horse, as the three rode to the mining camp.

Ramona had stayed in the background, and had not gone up the hill, but she could see the top from her vantage point, and saw Kendall take Lois and Jimmy prisoner. With her binoculars, she could also see that Kendall had intercepted a message intended for her. She got on her horse and rode back to the ranch, heels urging her ride to a desperate speed.

She reached the women's bunkhouse and leaped from the saddle. Craig Roberts was standing outside the men's bunkhouse, and thankfully he was alone. She signaled to him and went to a pre-arranged spot.

Clark saw them as he emerged from the bunkhouse. He followed from a distance as they went into one of the small shacks on the property. He took a position outside, and leaning against the wall trained his Super Hearing to eavesdrop.

"Lois and Jimmy have been captured," she told him, "and Gary's latest message was found by Kendall."

"Then his cover was blown?" Craig said.

"That's what it looks like."

Craig's eyes were windows to the thoughts behind them. "I could call for reinforcements, but that will take time."

Clark knew that time was something they didn't have. This fellow Gary was evidently working on the case with Craig and Ramona, and had been found out. And now Lois and Jimmy were also in danger! He glanced left and right, removed his glasses, and ducked for cover. A moment later he emerged as Superman.

The door to the cabin was closed but he threw it open, standing at the threshold, a brilliant sun at his back, and the prairie wind lifting his scarlet cape like a wing. "Perhaps I could be of help?" asked the Man of Tomorrow.

"Superman!" exclaimed Craig. "You're worth a hundred men. Let me tell you what this is about.

"A group of men, led by a man called Drake, are working for a foreign power. A plentiful source of an element used in atomic weapons has been found in the hills, and they're mining it for the enemy."

"I had an opportunity to analyze some of the ore with my Super Vision. I thought it was linked to this."

"The Government couldn't dispute Drake's claim to this vein because it was registered before we knew of its value. After that, we dared not do anything openly in the interest of national security."

"You mean if the story got out," asked Superman, "it would tip off the enemy too soon?"

"That's right," Craig acknowledged. "But now that they've added murder and kidnapping to their crimes, they've forced our hand."

Superman held up a hand for silence, as his Super Hearing had detected the scrape of a boot outside. He slid over to the doorway and peered around the corner. A furtive figure faded from view.

"Is it a spy?" Ramona asked.

"It was old Jake," Superman said.

"Do you think he heard us?" Craig asked.

Superman shook his head, debating whether to follow him. "I don't know."

"He's just a harmless old coot," Ramona said. "He's not important."

"Ramona's right," Craig said. "We'd better make some plans."

Superman hesitated a moment before coming inside. The three of them
conferred for some time.

Jake made his way toward the mine.


Chapter V

It was a situation they had faced many times before: Lois and Jimmy were tied up, and someone was preparing a cluster of dynamite sticks to blow them up. This time, however, they were not alone. A third man, whom they had recognized as one of Drake's crew, was tied beside them. Jimmy wondered what the man had done to get him in trouble with his boss, but he decided now was not the time to ask.

Drake and Kendall were training their revolvers on them while Jonesy and a few others were preparing the dynamite bundle that was wedged in the wall just behind the captives. They set the fuses and started trailing out the line. They fed it from a coil. It was obvious they were going to make sure there was a long distance between themselves and the explosion.

"Soon," Drake said, his smile displaying relish at the thought, "soon you'll join the others who were too nosy to live." Drake whispered something to Jonesy, they compared watches, and the latter went off. The others also sprinted out, trailing the line behind them. Drake gave a nod to Kendall and they followed.

The three were left alone. Jimmy spoke up.

"I know you're one of Drake's men. How did you get in trouble?"

Burke strained at his bonds, to no avail. "It's because I'm really not one of them, and Drake figured it out."

"What do you mean?" Lois asked.

"My name's not really Burke. It's Gary Allen. I do investigative work, mostly undercover, for the Federal Government."

"What were you investigating?" Lois said. "Just what's going on here?"

The question was left unanswered as a strange moon-gray glow appeared out of a side tunnel. As it drew closer, they recognized it.

"It's the ghost!" cried Jimmy. "They say people see him just before they... before they die!"

The Ghost cackled to them in some foreign tongue, laughed hideously, and ran out of the tunnel like some crazed thing.

Even without having seen the ghost, all three knew they had but a few moments left.

* * *

Drake and his men were upon a ridge several hundred yards from the mine. The line was connected to the blast box. All was ready.

Drake checked his watch. It was time.

The box rested on a rock, so it was easier to reach. He took the handles in his hands.

* * *

Jimmy's eyes grew wide. "Look!"

The Ghost was running back, pursued by a second figure. They were nearly identical, save for the eerie glow of the Ghost. The second figure leaped on the Ghost, and the two went to the floor. They rolled, and the Ghost came on top. He swung a hard right, and his double struck back, nearly knocking him off. The double grappled and twisted, spilling him off entirely, and climbing on top of him. He swung a left and a right.

"Gosh!" said Jimmy. "There's not one ghost, but two!"

"Whoever they are," Allen said, "they're both doomed like us!"

The fight continued, becoming more desperate on both sides.

* * *

Drake thrust down on the plunger.

Nothing happened.

One of his men checked the connections again, pronounced them all right, and drew the handle back up for his boss.

Drake pushed it home again, even harder than before.

Still there was no explosion.

"I'll go check it out," Kendall said. A couple of others volunteered to join him, and they jogged down the hill toward the mine.

"One of you fouled up," Drake accused, "and bungled the job. When I find out which one it was..." He gripped his revolver butt menacingly.

"Don't blame your men, Drake," a voice announced with authority.

All spun at the sound to see a mightily muscled figure, clad in deep blue, a shield upon his chest, and a scarlet cape riding the wind.

"Superman!" cried Drake, as if no one knew.

Two others came up behind the Man of Tomorrow: Craig Roberts and Ramona. They also looked like they meant business.

Drake worried only a moment. His whole gang, nearly two dozen, was behind him. Even Superman couldn't handle that many at one time. "Rush 'em!" he ordered.

Superman caught the first two, one in each hand, and threw them back at the others. The collision knocked several down. But these men were tough, and as they started to get up Superman waded into them. He knew when to use his Super Strength, and when to hold back. These men were traitors to his country, and in old West parlance, "needed killing"; but it was not a fate for him to give. He punched and pushed, chopped and tossed; but none would die at his hands.

Some feared to tangle with Superman, and thought the two with him were better prey. Two men took on Craig Roberts, but the FBI man had plenty of training in hand-to-hand combat, and knocked the first one down just as the second came at him. He ducked the first swing of his second opponent, and landed an uppercut that lifted him and dropped him on the ground. By then the first traitor had regained his feet, and grabbed Roberts from behind, gripping both of his wrists and holding them tightly. The second man recovered slowly, but came back for vengeance. As the first man held Roberts, he shot a hard right into the agent's mid-section, doubling him over. He brought his fist back for a second blow but suddenly his arm was gripped from behind, and he felt himself flying through the air.

He landed hard for the second time in as many minutes. He looked up to see the slim, seemingly harmless, Ramona standing over him, half crouched as though daring him to rise. He did, and charged her. She neatly side-stepped, chopping down with the edge of her hand, and he lost consciousness.

Roberts meanwhile had freed himself, and was wearing out his opponent. One final punch sent him down and out.

More came at them, and Ramona displayed skills in Oriental martial arts which were totally unknown to these American thugs. Roberts knew something of it as well, and between the two of them they put out of commission about half a dozen.

Drake, the leader, had stayed back. He saw each of his men fall, heaps of them lying on the rocky ground. The biggest heap, of course, lay around Superman. But the others were bad to mess with as well.

Superman was still busy. A couple of hardy - or perhaps fool-hardy - souls had revived and drew their guns.

The Man of Steel sighed. Every gunsel seemed to think his weapon carried the bullet that would kill him, even when they had seen others try and fail. He decided to let them try their luck before decking them again.

Roberts and Ramona, finished with their share of the fight, strode toward Drake. The traitor drew his gun. He knew better than to fire at Superman, but these two could go down.

Roberts was in the lead, placing himself between Drake and Ramona. As Drake fired he dodged. It wasn't, however, a full miss. The bullet caught him in the arm, and Roberts clutched the wound tightly.

Drake's smile was more of a sneer as he turned his weapon on Ramona. A swift kick from her knocked the gun out of his hand.

Superman started forward but stopped when he saw Roberts down and the dark fire in Ramona's eyes as she addressed him, keeping her gaze on Drake.

"May I?"

Superman smiled and stepped aside. "Ladies first."

Ramona doubled both fists and took a fighting stance.

Drake felt better. He wasn't afraid of being punched by a girl.

But her sudden kick that struck him deeply in his ample midsection dropped him to his knees.

But he wasn't done yet. He suddenly grabbed Ramona's ankle and jerked it toward him, spilling her over and dragging her closer. A second gun appeared in his hand, and he aimed it point blank at the girl. He fired.

A blur passed between Drake and Ramona.

The young Indian woman was unhurt.

Superman held up something small and dull grey in his hand. "Looking for this?" It was the bullet, which he had caught before it could strike Ramona.

Rising up, Ramona shot the edge of her hand at Drake's neck, and he struggled for breath. Superman grabbed him by the collar and lifted him in the air. He drew back his fist for a finishing blow, but realized it was unnecessary. Windless words tried vainly to be heard from Drake's throat.

"I think he's trying to say he surrenders," Roberts said.

"Yes," said Superman, folding his arms and grinning approvingly at Ramona, "I think he is."

The criminals subdued, Ramona checked Roberts' arm. It was a flesh wound, and she quickly bound it to staunch the bleeding.

Roberts looked about. "I don't see Kendall."

Superman nodded. "There's some more missing too, and I think I know where they are. If you two will guard our prisoners, I've got one more stop to make. Excuse me?"

Both agreed and Superman leaped toward the mine.

* * *

Back in the mine, the fight between the two ghosts was finally over too. A lot of the phosphorescence of the one had rubbed off onto the other, and it was hard to tell in the dark cavern which one was the victor. But one of them lay defeated, and the other stood triumphantly over him.

Before that mystery was solved, there was a roar from the rocky wall, as of some great drill burrowing through, and suddenly the wall exploded as Superman burst in upon them.

"Hurry up and untie us, Superman!" Jimmy shouted. "That dynamite will explode any moment!"

Superman grinned. "I already took care of that. A little bit of the heat of my X-Ray Vision cut the line between the dynamite and the blast box some time ago. But I know you two expect me to make a dramatic entrance, and I didn't want to disappoint you."

He pulled apart the ropes that bound them and all three began massaging their wrists.

A groan was heard from the tunnel, and Jimmy saw the standing ghost sink to the ground, felled by a gun wielded by a big man who had sneaked up behind him. Kendall and a couple of men strode into the cavern.

Kendall was evidently of the same ilk as his boss's other men, and aimed his gun at Superman.

Before he could fire, Allen jumped him and gripped his gun wrist. They wrestled, Allen managing to smash Kendall's hand against the wall until he dropped the gun. Allen threw a right that knocked Kendall back.

Superman stepped forward, and quickly dispatched the other two. He turned to Kendall.

"Hold on, Superman," Allen said. "I'm not finished with him yet."

Kendall glared at Allen and, figuring he could easily beat him again, launched himself at the Government man. Allen took the first two blows that Kendall swung, somehow staying on his feet, then drove in. He sent a quick right and left into Kendall's body, and a third to his jaw. Kendall staggered back, but came forward again. He grabbed Allen around the body, in a tight bear hug which they could see was crushing the air from Allen's lungs, perhaps cracking a rib as well. His arms pinned, Allen head-butted Kendall, stunning him enough that he broke free.

Allen really went to work this time, and Kendall for perhaps the first time in his life found himself on the defensive in a fight. He went down, tried to regain his feet only to be knocked down again. Allen picked him up by the collar and swung one last powerhouse blow before dropping him. Kendall lay still, beaten soundly.

Allen stood over him. "That was for Sandy Beckman."

One of the figures in the tunnel rose, rubbed the back of his head, shook it to clear it, and pulled the other figure to his feet. He came forward, half-dragging his captive, and was finally close enough to be recognized.

"That's not a ghost," Lois said. "That's Jake!"

Jake saw the panting Kendall lying on the floor. "Is that the buzzard who slugged me?"

"Yeah," said Jimmy. "Mr. Allen took care of him."

Jake stuck out his hand and Allen shook it. "Much obliged," the old codger said.

"My pleasure."

"Looks like it was some scrap. I had one of my own." Jake shook the "Ghost." "Haven't had a fight like that in years." He shoved the Ghost down to sit beside Kendall, and stretched his suspender straps. "I surprised myself that I still had it in me."


"Well then, if you're not the ghost," said Jimmy, "who is he?"

Jake squatted on his heels beside the "Ghost" and pulled off the imposter's wig and whiskers.

"It's Jonesy," said Allen. "I kinda suspected him."

Jimmy shook his head. "I still don't understand." He turned to Superman. "What was this all about?"

"You'll have all the explanations necessary soon, Jimmy," said Superman.

* * *

They were all gathered in Cramer's office. Doc Webster had treated and bandaged Craig's gunshot wound, and the FBI agent now carried his arm in a sling. He had just about finished briefing the reporters on the real story behind the mining. In addition, he introduced Gary Allen as a special investigator who was working with him on the case.

"But what would make someone betray his country like that?" Lois asked.

"Greed," Allen said. "These men were all career criminals. The enemy promised them money, power, whatever they wanted. Truth is, once they were through with these men they would be tossed aside like anything else that has no more use."

"Why did they use the ghost?" Clark asked, already knowing the answer.

"To scare away other miners and anybody else who got too nosy. If that didn't work, they resorted to murder."

"How did they kill?" Clark asked. "There wasn't any trace of a wound or poison."

"They caught their victims and injected them with a substance that was lethal but left no trace."

"There are several natural poisons which are like that," Ramona said.

"They used a blowgun to shoot a tiny poisoned dart." Allen said. "Then they removed the dart, so it wouldn't be found."

"Why didn't the coroner notice the needle marks?" Lois asked.

"Doc Webster just found the answer to that," Roberts said. "They were injected just within the hairline on the back of the neck. The hair covered the needle mark."

"But what part did old Jake play in it?" Lois asked.

"Yeah," said Jimmy. "The old guy sure gave that fake ghost quite a beating. Glad he was on our side."

"I've had my own suspicions about goings on around here," Cramer said. "I asked Jake to keep an eye on things for me. Guess it's a good thing he did."

Jake came forward. "So you don't think I'm the ghost of the Dutchman anymore, young fella?"

"No," Jimmy said. "And thanks for getting the real ghost."

"Bah, he wasn't no real ghost. And it's hombres like that who give real ghosts a bad name."

Jimmy's eyes grew wide, before he finally laughed with the rest of them.

Craig called Ramona over. "And Jimmy, I thought you might like to be formally introduced to Ramona Littletree, a Navajo who also happens to be one of the best Federal Marshals in the territory."

She came over to Jimmy and the latter was speechless.

"Jimmy, I think you still owe me that ride."

"Golly. Sure, if you still want to."

Craig smiled. "Just don't get fresh with her, Jimmy, or she'll use some of the judo moves on you that she did on those traitors."

Jimmy stopped, looking at Ramona with some trepidation.

Ramona smiled. "Don't worry, Jimmy. I'll be gentle with you."

All laughed, even Jimmy, as they walked out to the corral.

"Just one thing," Lois said. "Clark, how did Superman know we were out here?"

Clark tipped his glasses. "Well Lois, I happened to tell Superman about our assignment and I guess he decided to come along, staying in the background until he was needed."

Lois shrugged. "I should have known. He always seems to find us when we're in trouble."

* * *

They were on the crest of the hill overlooking the scene of their adventure. Their horses tethered behind them, Jimmy and Ramona sat looking down on the valley and its fabled mine.

"I always knew there wasn't a ghost," Jimmy said.

Ramona smiled ironically. "Really?"

"Sure. But Miss Lane and Mr. Kent like to look out for me, so sometimes I pretend I'm scared."

"I see. So you're really a lot braver than you seem."

"Of course. Why, it takes more than a ghost to scare me."

Ramona was sitting on his left side, and he was turned toward her. Slowly, she reached behind him and tapped him on his right shoulder.

Jimmy abruptly spun around with a startled cry.

Ramona laughed.

Jimmy covered his embarrassment with a chuckle. "Aw, I knew it was you all the time."

She suddenly bent close and gave him a quick kiss.

Jimmy turned red.

"I guess we'd better be going back," she said, smiling.

"Yeah, I guess so."

"If you're ever in Arizona again, We'll have to have another ride."

"Just promise me there will be no foreign agents next time."

"Okay," she said standing up as he also got to his feet. "Maybe next time they'll be counterfeiters."

Jimmy grinned as he held her horse for her to mount.

* * *

They were all on the plane flying back to Metropolis. Clark and Lois had a seat together. Jimmy sat across the aisle.

"So that was your friend Craig Roberts after all," Lois said.

"Yes. He didn't want to let on we knew each other because he was working undercover."

"You've mentioned him before but this is the first time I met him."

"I'm going to keep in touch with Gary Allen too," Clark said. "I have a hunch we may be seeing him again."

Jimmy had been thinking and he suddenly seemed to realize something weird. He asked, "Mr. Kent, what did you say the name of the Dutchman was?"

"Jacob Weiss. Why, Jim?"

"Nothing," Jimmy said with a shudder. "Except I found out that it's old Jake's name too."


 "Like The Only Real Magic -- The Magic Of Knowledge"