Judy Bolton Days

Judy Bolton Days
First annual in 1991!

Thursday, June 21, 2012



 All chapters through chapter 11 are now available on this alternate site:

THE QUEST OF THE GOLDEN DRAGON https://sites.google.com/site/rickbrantfanfiction/dragon


Chapter Eleven: IN THE CAVES OF WAR
     A stir of excitement crept into Rick Brant’s blood as they entered the labyrinth of caves on Coastwatchers Hill. The native boys led the way through a concrete bunker entrance, each holding a flashlight. Thrilled at the idea of such a marvelous tool, they flashed them about the cave, darting here to there as quick as lightning.

     Jimmy and Scotty followed behind them with the lanterns and Rick took up the rear, his spine tingling as he looked around in wonder.

     He had parked the jeep in a short dead end cave a couple dozen yards down the hillside, then they had stolen through the jungle bush over to this entrance which the native boys claimed led into the main chambers of the underground.

     The floor was soft with ash and it was dry and spacious within. The flashing light beams exposed the height of the walls and ceilings, which appeared to be fifteen feet or so. They were, for the most, shored up by thick wooden beams and the enhancement of the caves by the Japanese was obviously an engineering marvel. It was much cooler in the caves, but very dark. Rick wondered how the kanaka boys played inside here without light.

     A moment later his question was answered.

     The older boy, whose name they had learned was Chtupa, aimed his flashlight beam at the ground and started chattering expressively.

      “Torches!” Rick exclaimed, looking at the wooden club-like items on the floor next to a bunch of wooden crates filled with supply items.

     “They used them in here during the occupation,” Jimmy said, after Chtupa had stopped speaking. “The kids use them now. Everything they need is here – fuel, tar, pitch, wooden matches. Ha! Instant underground playground!”

     “All kids love caves,” Scotty remarked, holding his lantern high as he peered around. “And it’s roomy in here. Nice. I wonder if there are bats?”

     Jimmy asked the boys the question as they moved along and the younger boy, Butubu, answered with a waving of his arms, flashlight beam swirling crazily.

     “He says there are a lot of them,” Jimmy translated. “Hundreds. Thousands. But you don’t see them very often. There are even big furry ones, like flying foxes. Of those he is afraid.”

     Rick shuddered. “I don’t blame him. We heard about those down in New Caledonia. Let’s hope we don’t run into any!”

     The cave floor was well-trod, as if thousands of men had made their way back and forth across it. Other tunnels led off here and there, winding away into darkness, Some had stairs cut into them, leading up and down to different levels. Trash of all kinds was strewn along the way, individual pieces here and there and crates filled with it stacked haphazardly along the sides.

     “They left quite a mess,” Rick commented.

     Jimmy nodded. “There were over a hundred thousand men in these caves at the height of the occupation. It’s staggering to think how they fed them, kept them clean and safe, and doctored them. Especially when they were so cramped in here for such a long time.”

     “It had to be sheer insanity,” Scotty said. “And they probably weren’t concerned with taking proper care of anyone.” Then, raising his lantern, he added, “Lookit! We’re coming to a big cavern now.”

     The native boys’ lights showed the tunnel ending and a large cavern ahead. They quickened their pace and surged on, Chtupa and Butubu talking in excited animation. Rick realized that the young boys found no reason to be quiet in the eerie caves.

     “This is the main big cave in this area of the underground,” Jimmy told them as they stepped into it. “It must have been a command post. The boys say it’s filled with radio equipment and other electronic equipment, and lots of munitions.”

     They found this to be true as they looked around, aiming the flashlight beams and raising the lanterns. There was a central area of desks, counters and alcoves filled with radio and other electronics equipment. Desk drawers were open, some broken and hanging. Chairs were tipped over and much of the equipment was strewn around. Beyond this area was a galley with all the usual appliances and rows of tables and chairs, like a cafeteria, all of it in similar disarray.

     “You could seat several hundred people here,” Scotty said, raising his lantern high. The rows of tables seemed to go on forever.

     Rick shuddered, feeling a chill creep up his spine. He could feel the ghosts of war all around them. It boggled his mind that this underground had been teeming with such an astounding number of men caught up in the most vile of activity during the war and that now, only a few years later, it was completely empty and devoid of any kind of human activity. Just a few kids coming in now and then to play, and a crazy old man who had made it his home.

     He drew his lips into a tight line. “Tell the boys to take us to the madman’s cave.”

     Jimmy addressed the boys in their native tongue and they both responded eagerly with pidgin commands that even Scotty and Rick could understand as ‘Come this way!’ and ‘Follow me!’

     “We have to go carefully now and watch our step,” Jimmy advised, as they followed the boys to even darker regions. “They buried explosive mines in some of these caves near the end of the war in case the enemy crept in. Chtupa says that every now and then someone steps on one and sets it off, resulting in injury or death.”

     “Oh, great!” rapped Scotty with a sharp voice. “Next they’ll tell us that the place is filled with dinosaurs!”

     “So what’s one more danger?” Rick chuckled. “Just watch those big clodhopper feet of yours.”

     Scotty’s voice fell to a hissing whisper. “Don’t worry about me,” he gloated. “I learned how to do a toe dance in a minefield during the war. It’s you guys who don’t have any experience!”

     They moved on into a smaller cave that led slightly upward. Off of it were many small caves filled with caches of arms and other munitions, and what looked like aircraft parts and shipping supplies. There was an infirmary in one cave, completely set up with medical equipment and supplies, a machine shop in another, and vast areas of sleeping quarters.

     But they didn’t stop long to linger in these lonely, haunted places. They briefly checked them out and then moved on, watching their step in the booby-trapped labyrinth. At length they followed Chtupa and Butubu up a set of stairs cut into the floor of an ascending cave and they came upon a holding area, a large cavern filled with cells, some made of wood, others metal bars. The cells loomed on as far as they could see in their meager light.

     “We should have taken torches,” Scotty grunted. “This place is too big and too weird to have such little light.”

     “It’s totally creepy,” Jimmy muttered, following the young native boys down the rows of cells. “I can’t imagine being imprisoned in this horrible place!”

     “It had to be a nightmare,” Rick agreed, trying not to peer into the empty cells but unable to control his curiosity. “This place reeks of death and anguish.”

     Scotty made a sympathetic gesture. “You said it, man. It’s so thick you can cut it with a knife.”

     The native boys led them down an aisle off a row of cells and it brought them into a low-ceilinged cave with what turned out to be just one cell in it, room-sized and filled with odd pieces of furniture.

     Chtupa had quite a bit to say about it.

     “This is the old Chinese man’s house,” Jimmy said, following him. “He lives in here and it looks like he’s made it pretty comfortable.”

     They flashed their lights through the bars into the cell and the glow helped to illuminate it. Inside was a bed topped with an array of blankets, two desks, a couple chairs, and a chest-like wardrobe. The iron-barred door was ajar and Rick pulled it open, causing it to squeal loudly in the intense quiet of the caves.

     “He must have dragged all this furniture in here to have a cozy nook for himself,” Rick mused. His keen eyes gazed around as they all stepped into the cell. “Not bad considering it’s in the caves of war inside a mountain on a jungle island!”

     “Let’s look for a sign of my dad and Dr. Warren,” he added.

     Scotty opened the wardrobe and saw a few pieces of ragged clothing hanging over the bar. Below were boxes of ammunition and ammunition belts, and he eagerly picked them up exclaiming happily.

     Chtupa grabbed him by the arm and pointed to the wall next to the big chest, saying, “Coocoo man’s shootem guns belongem him!”

     Scotty moved closer to see several rifles leaning against the wall and three revolvers set on a low bench beside them.

     “All right! Found the guns and ammo, chums!” he shouted back to the others. “At least now we’ll be armed if those tong idiots try to come after us.”

     Setting his lantern on the floor, he squatted down and began inspecting the firearms.

     There was an oil lamp on one of the desks and a torch jammed into a holder on the wall. Rick sparked a wooden match and lighted them both, bathing the cell in light. The place was filled with all kinds of useless items a madman might gather, including weapons and electronics parts, journals and books, dishes, bowls, and glasses, and many items that must have been personal belongings of the soldiers. They were stacked on surfaces, shoved into overflowing boxes and crates, and leaning against the walls.

     “The old guy sure is a packrat,” Jimmy said, looking through books and journals. “These are all wartime records in Japanese. Not very interesting reading, that’s for sure.”

     “Probably the only kind of books they allowed in here,” Rick chuckled, pulling open a desk drawer. “I doubt if the Japs actually supplied their troops with a lending library.”

     He looked in all the drawers in one desk but found nothing of any interest, then hurried over to the other.

     “There must be something here somewhere to give us a clue to the old man’s identity,” he said. “Something to hook him up with Dad and Dr. Warren.”

     “No sign of a struggle in here,” Jimmy was saying. “Of course, hard to really tell, it’s such a mess. If the tong captured them in here – well, it doesn’t show. They could have come upon them anywhere in these caves.”

     Rick had been looking through the second old wooden desk but had not found anything but odds and ends office supplies and pages of correspondences that probably would have proved interesting to him had they not been in Japanese. He slammed shut the last drawer and grunted in discouragement when Butubu came over to him. The boy set his flashlight down on the desktop and said in a very proud and grand manner:

     “Watchem dis fella!”

     The boy pushed at a piece of the wooden trim along the bottom of the desk’s top where it overlapped the front, and a hidden door popped out above the row of drawers, exposing a cavity. The seam had cleverly been hidden in the scrollwork design in that area and Rick would never have noticed it without intense scrutiny.

     Butubu thrust his hand into the dark space and pulled out a bright object. Grinning widely with great importance, he displayed it to Rick in his palm.

     The boy chuckled, “Howzabouts, mon?”

     Rick gasped. Butubu held in his hand a small golden dragon similar to the one he had received in the package from the black schooner at Lateela Island. It shone warmly in the lantern glow and lights glinted and danced upon it from the flickering torch on the cave wall.

     Chtupa saw the golden dragon and scurried over to his brother, exclaiming in a know-it-all manner to Jimmy about the sudden appearing object.

     “It’s another dragon, Rick!” he cried, rushing over to look at it as Butubu proudly showed it off. “Chtupa says it belongs to the old Chinese man. He sometimes shows it to them, but always makes sure to put it back in the secret compartment afterward.”

     Rick took the dragon from the boy’s hand and turned it over in his. A flush of excitement leaped into his cheeks. “It’s exactly the same as mine! Do you know what this means, Jimmy? The old madman has got to be Johnny Fang! Who else would have one of these dragons but the leader of the tong himself who had been to the lost island and seen the treasure in person?”

     Jimmy stood there with his mouth agape. “Then it’s true. Oh man, man …. he didn’t die on Palua Pae! Somehow he survived and got off the island, took one of these dragons with him from the treasure trove.”

     Scotty had risen to his feet to watch the intense scene unfold. “Johnny Fang went nuts on that island, but got here to Rabaul somehow and came up to these caves to live. During the war he hid away in the farthest reaches of them, I’ll bet. But since then he’s taken over this cell and is not only the madman of Coastwatchers Hill, but also the king of the whole darn hill, too!”

     “And then dad and Dr. Warren came here to get him, for whatever their reason is,” Rick continued. “And they took him away with them. Or the tong followed and got them all.”

     Rick tossed the golden icon to Jimmy, who caught it firmly in hand.

     “You keep it,” he told him. “It belongs to your grandfather. Hopefully we’ll be meeting up with him soon.”

     Scotty pulled an old shirt from the wardrobe and began cleaning the guns. “Now if we only had a clue to where they went from here!”

     Rick playfully roughed up Butubu’s mop of curly hair. “I think this little guy here got that clue for us. This whole mystery started out with the golden dragon and that’s where it will end, on that lost island in that big cavern of light beyond the big golden dragon, the keeper of the treasure of Palua Pae.

     “I’m betting everything on it,” he continued resolutely. “Dad and Dr. Warren and Johnny Fang either went there on their own or they were abducted by the tong and taken there. We need to get out to that island quick. And I mean like … tomorrow!”

     “Then let’s get going,” Jimmy said, pocketing the dragon, which had caused an undercurrent of stirring emotion in him. “We can be in Storms End by morning and out to the island by late afternoon maybe, or the very next day.”

     “You mean if we can get a boat to take us out there,” Scotty reminded him.

     Jimmy grunted. “Puh! Don’t worry, we’ll get one. We could get a hundred. All I have to do is announce that I know the way to Palua Pae, and they’ll be lining up begging for the chance!”

     Just then, Chtupa grabbed Jimmy by the leg and let out a frightened whisper, pointing out the cell door down the aisleway into the large cavern.

     Everyone immediately tensed as Jimmy looked and, with a startled note in his voice, breathed a ragged, “Lights coming!”

     “Oh, cripes,” Scotty groaned. “It’s gotta be the tong guys … again!”

     Rick growled in frustration. “It’s like having monkeys on our backs!”

     They quickly turned off the lanterns and flashlights but it was impossible to put out the torch without some kind of extinguisher, and there was no time to look for one now. Several lights could be seen bobbing their way down toward them.

     Two things happened at the same time in the rush of confusion. First, Scotty threw one of the rifles at Rick who barely caught it due to the suddenness of the movement.

     “Use it,” Scotty rapped, rushing up to the front bars with a rifle of his own.” These babies are fresh and loaded!”

     And, as Rick clambered up to the front of the cell, the two native boys began jabbering excitedly and pulling at Jimmy. They literally dragged him over to the wardrobe by the cave’s wall.

     “Hey, we can get out of here!” Rick vaguely heard Jimmy hiss as he and Scotty both pulled the triggers.

Ping! Ping! Ping! Ping!

     The gunfire cracked out in high-pitched screeches and echoed wildly in the caves like booms of thunder. The lights ahead, flashlights and torches, fell to the ground. Rick heard Scotty grunt in satisfaction, then he shot a quick glance behind at Jimmy who was, along with the boys, pushing aside the wardrobe.

     “Rick! Scotty! We can get out of here. There’s a secret passage to some other caves. Come on!”

     Rick had just turned back to look out toward the big cavern when return fire rained out at them. Bullets pinged off the cave walls and nipped by in the air, one twanging as it hit an iron bar on the front of the cell. A wild roar of echoes filled the caves and Scotty stooped down, firing back.

     “They found a secret passageway”, Scotty hissed over to Rick. “Take that rifle with you and go! I’ll follow up the rear.”

     “I’m not leaving you here alone!” Rick threw back at him.

     Scotty growled. “Get your butt outta here, buddy, before I beat you over the head with this rifle’s butt!”

     “Okay! Okay!”

     Rick nerved himself for the effort of leaving Scotty behind and, clutching the rifle, swooped around to find Jimmy and the boys gone. There was a gaping dark hole in the wall where the wardrobe had stood.

     Jimmy popped his head out of the darkness. “Come on, Rick! We got the extra guns and lights. Just get that lantern there.”

     Rick bounded over, picked up the lantern by its handle, and rushed dead on into the black hole as Jimmy pressed up against the stone wall to give him room.

     “Go on,” he urged to Rick, who could see the native boys ahead with the flashlights. “I’ll get Scotty.”

     “Good luck,” Rick harrumphed, darting forward. “He probably thinks he’s still shooting at Japs!”

     He ran on toward the boys with his senses reeling. A broken cry came to his lips and he wanted to turn around and go back into the cell and fight whatever enemy was upon them. The truth struck him hard. He couldn’t bear leaving Scotty behind, facing such danger alone.

     He tried to grasp on to saner thoughts. Scotty was an experienced fighter. He had made it through the war here in the South Pacific without even being wounded.  He’d take care of himself. Meanwhile, these young boys …

     Right. He had to get them out of here to safety!

     Chtupa and Butubu were loaded down with lights and revolvers. Jimmy had to have the third rifle, and that made Rick feel a little better. But he could still hear the roar and rumble of gunfire from back in the cell, and the horror of the situation began to appall him. They could all be killed in this dark labyrinth of terror, left here to rot and none of them ever seen again!

     “Bosh!” Rick told himself out loud. “No time for that kind of thinking now!”

     In a flash he had stooped down and struck a match. He lighted the lanterns as the boys cried out and gestured forward frantically.

     “Okay. I know we gotta go. Here, give me those guns. Each of you take a lantern and a flashlight. We’ll get the heck outta here, brotha kiddos!”

     Somehow they understood him. Rick jumped back up to his feet, belted the three revolvers. He followed behind the boys as they ran ahead jabbering excitedly in their native tongue that he couldn’t understand one word of.

     The cave they were in was roomy enough but it twisted and turned like a coiled snake. It was quiet behind them now. Rick couldn’t help but wonder what had happened to stop the gunfire. Were Scotty and Jimmy out of the madman’s cell and on their way in the tunnel? Were they okay, had they been wounded? Or worse ….?

     He steeled himself again not to think about it and watched the flashlight beams and the lantern glow light up the cave ahead, wishing he knew where it led to. But if the boys had known about it, he reasoned, they must have been in it before and would know where it went. Hopefully outside and, he thought, real quick!

     A moment later he could hear running footsteps coming from behind. He turned and his heart began to hammer in anticipation. Was it Scotty and Jimmy? Was it … the tong members?

     The suspense was killing him. He followed the boys around another turning and then threw himself against the wall, rifle aimed in the ready. Chtupa and Butubu, having heard the onrushing efforts behind, followed suit and pressed back too, aiming their flashlight beams back the way they had just come, big-eyed fearful expressions on their young faces.

     The next moment, Rick let out a sigh of relief.  Scotty and Jimmy came crashing around the corner looking like a couple of French Foreign Legion gangbusters.

     “Ah … light!” Scotty cried, eyeing the flashlights and lantern greedily. “Running in a cave in the dark is not easy, chums. I ran into the wall so many times I feel like I just went ten rounds with the World Champ!”

     “Are you guys okay?” Rick asked.

     Jimmy nodded. “Not a scratch! Just a lot of bumps from bangin’ in the dark. We staved them off pretty good and were able to pull the wardrobe back in place. It might take them a few minutes to find the passage.”

     “That must be why the madman chose that cell to live in,” Scotty said, breathing heavily. “It had a secret way out.”

     “I wonder if they used it when your dad and his friend came here to see him?” Jimmy said to Rick. “It’s possible they could have escaped the tong.”

     Rick shrugged, relieved to have his friends back with him. Both okay and in one piece. “I guess we won’t know the answer to that until we meet up with them. Come on, let’s go!”

     Chtupa and Butubu had been nervously standing by during this exchange and Jimmy, after taking one of their flashlights, helped them lead the way again down the twists and turns.

     “This cave leads to a big cavern,” Jimmy said after conversing with the boys a couple minutes. “These kids have been there only once, the day the old man showed them the trolley and gave them a ride. That cave leads outside nearby where we parked the jeep.”

     “Perfect!” Rick cheered. “Great! We can jump in the jeep and get the heck out of here.”

     “The trolleys must’ve been used to haul stuff in and out of here,” Scotty reasoned. “What a production, building an underground like this!”

     “It was nothing to the Japanese,” Jimmy said. “Remember, they wanted to take over the whole world. It was utterly mad, the idea. But digging these caves was part of the plan and served its purpose.”

     They rounded another corner and then the native boys stopped dead, looking ahead at two branching tunnels and making cries of consternation.

     Jimmy groaned. “They don’t remember which way to go!”

     He questioned them as they all stood there uncertainly, but the boys could do little more than fidget nervously and groan in confusion.

     Jimmy shrugged as he turned back to Rick and Scotty. “Sorry, they just don’t remember.”

     Rick grunted, He looked back behind them and then he heard the dread noise he’d been listening for the last few minutes – angry voices and running footsteps. He moved ahead of the others and took the flashlight from Chtupa. “Those guys are coming after us. We’ve got to make a choice. I’ll do it! Let’s take the cave on the left!”

     A moment later they were rushing down the passage, all in a frenzy now, hoping they had chosen the right way and that the tong hoodlums would take the other way and not catch up with them.

     It was like rushing headlong into some strange surreal nightmare. The flashlight beams zigzagged about like lightning strikes, the glowing orbs from the lanterns swayed in big circles up and around the cave walls. Suddenly the grade began to ascend and then turned into steps cut into the stone, and all five of them were huffing and puffing as they clambered upward, ears straining to listen for noise from behind.

     Chtupa began to wail and grabbed Jimmy by the arm, a flood of words bursting from him in agonizing distress.

     “Darn it!” Jimmy let out. “He doesn’t remember stairs! The way the madman took them was all flat, he says. No up and no down!”

     Rick felt a sickening sense of disappointment. His voice hardened as he spoke. “We went the wrong way! Too late now to turn back. We’ll just have to follow this route and see where it takes us.”

     Still in the lead, he reached what appeared to be a top step and flashed his light ahead to see a vague murkiness. He stepped tentatively forward, to see if the ground was solid beneath his feet, and the others crowded up behind him, lanterns and flashlights lighting up the space before them.

     “It must be a really big cavern,” Scotty whispered as the lights darted about. “You can’t see any walls or ceiling.”

     And then, a roar came from up above like sudden thunder. A thousand screeching, crying voices descended upon them accompanied by a beating of wings that struck chills up and down their spines as they gaped above in horror.

     Like a thick cloud falling heavily from the sky, it was suddenly upon them. Dozens, scores, hundreds of beating wings, glistening gleaming eyes, open mouths with jagged fang-like teeth, all harshly profiled in horror by the flickering lights.

     Chtupa and Butubu started screaming and the older boys’ shouts weren’t far from different as they all cowered and stooped and swung and cried out at the flying menace from the unfathomable heights of the cavern.

     “Bats!” Scotty shouted, flailing at them with his rifle. “There must be thousands of them!”

     “They’re monsters, big as small dogs!” Rick yelled. “Jeez! Big and ugly and …. furry!”

     “The flying foxes!” Jimmy cried out, trying to protect Chtupa and Butubu as he himself was being attacked by several of the crazed beasts.

     Rick was gasping, half stupefied from this latest horror. He fell down to one knee and raised his rifle into the air, claws and beating wings and screeching cries all around him.

     “Cower down! I’m shooting!”

     He cried it out and let go a barrage of fire that echoed down upon them like pulsating thunder and caused the beating of wings and snapping of jaws and banshee cries to increase even more. The noise only served to frighten the already crazed monster bats.

     But they did rise up above the boys a little in their terror, and Scotty and Jimmy rushed from behind, grabbing Rick and the younger boys and pulling them on ahead. They ran and stumbled on, trying to direct the lights and find a way out of this cave from hell without tripping and falling down.

     “Good thinking, Rick,” Scotty grunted. “That scared them off a bit, those suckers! What a bunch of ugly customers!”

     “A bunch?” Rick let out a nervous laugh. “If there’s one, there’s a darn million! Oh, cripes now, Scotty. They’re comin’ back down!”

     “Jimmy, you go ahead with the kids,” Scotty shouted. “Rick and I will shoot up these creepy flying French poodles!”

     “They’re a heck of a lot uglier than that,” Rick snapped, dropping down to a shooting position. He forced a laugh. “And there ain’t nothin’ French that’s ugly like these things are!”

     Scotty dropped down next to him. “You’re right! Flying New Guinea poodles, then. I wish I could shoot every darn one of them down into a nice big pile!”

     In unison their rifles cracked numerous times, the loud reports echoing and reverberating throughout the big dark cavern. The big bats screeched and cried and beat their way back upward to the dark depths. Rick and Scotty then swooped around and began running stooped over toward the lights, now about thirty feet away. They caught up with Jimmy and the boys as they were running into a smaller cave that branched off ahead from the murky cavern.

     “Whew!” Rick wanted to lean against the wall for a breather but he didn’t dare stop. “Those hairy things are awful!”

     “You bet!” Jimmy tossed back. “And they bite, too. Vampire bats! They like to get your blood.”

     “Yechhhh!” Scotty made a sound of disgust. “Anybody get bitten?”

     But, fortunately, no one had, and they hurried on ahead, lights flashing to lead the way. Suddenly from behind, they heard shouts and yells coming from the big cavern, then gunfire, as if in a repeat performance of what they had just gone through in there themselves.

     “The tong!” Rick exclaimed. “They’re right behind us. Now it’s their turn with those bats!”

     “Come on, let’s vamanoose!” Scotty commanded, running ahead to take the lead. “Those suckers will be on top of us in a minute or two. Let’s get …”

     Scotty’ mouth dropped open as the lights began to shine ahead on objects that seemed to be floating in mid-air.

     “Hey, slow down, everybody,” he muttered, barring the way as he grabbed the lantern Chtupa was carrying. “What in the crazy heck is that up ahead?”

     He raised the lantern and stepped slowly on. The light glinted off of what looked like white sticks suspended weirdly in the air about twenty feet ahead.

     “What are they?” Rick wondered, following behind and squinting his eyes in an attempt to see better.

     “There’s more on the ground, too,” Jimmy pointed out as the cave broadened on each side. “Piles of them. White sticks … or tubes … or …”

     “Bones!” Rick gasped.

     Little Butubu screamed as they all realized at the same moment what was up ahead, and Chtupa shouted:

     “Dem bones! Dem bones! Skelton fella. Lots much!”

     Like a blurry picture suddenly coming into focus, they could now see the horror this cave was filled with. Skeletons. Hundreds and hundreds of them as far as the eye could see. They were hanging from the ceiling in rows and rows with bent broken necks. They were piled on the ground along the sides in huge rolling mounds.

     Astonished, they stopped dead in their tracks and gaped ahead,

     “Oh man, Scotty,” Rick said, feeling as if he’d just had the breath knocked out of him. “I think we just found all those prisoners of war that never made it back home to America from the war here in the South Pacific!”
     Chapter 12 to come soon!