Men Not Afraid: Camp Hayes

  1. Chapter 9: King Solomin’s Mines
  2. Men Not Afraid
  3. Chapter 11: Bats!

Laura and Sam went to meet Mahoney at the market as planned. The market was distinguished by two features. It was colorful and noisy and crowded, as most markets are. The smell of fish permeated the air throughout the market stalls even beyond the fishermen’s stalls, as in any port market. There were many languages shouted and whispered throughout: English, Spanish, and a language neither of the sisters understood but recognized as the indigenous language of Mexican America. But there were no white children and very few white women.

“This is still the frontier,” said Laura.

“It seems so,” said Sam. “Well, as soon as Roger arrives we’ll be prepared enough for it. I think we’re the only whites here without rifles on our backs.”

“Mr. Colt shall have to keep the peace until then,” said Laura. “Still, I am surprised by the prevalence of firearms: they are supposed to be useless in most of the San Diego region, especially near the ki mines.”

“Perhaps the San Diego dead zones get bigger the further you are from them,” said Sam.

“Like the time we were in Eire and I used Morphincant on a mob of six…”

“And by the time it reached the newspapers you had put the entire village to sleep. I would keep my Colt and Marlin well at hand as we head inland towards the mines, Laura.”

“We will need some more cartridges, then,” said Laura, “and I will need some spellings: hemp rope, incense. And… I think this may be a long journey, Sam. I had an odd dream last night.”

Sam looked at her thoughtfully. “Well,” Sam said, “then we should add food to our shopping list. We’ll want to stock up on dried fruit and jerky.”

“My dreams usually mean we just end up carrying a lot of extra junk around,” Laura said.

“Yes,” said Sam, smiling, “I’ll make you carry it then.”

They went through the market and picked up “camp rations”, as cured foods were called here. Cartridges were more expensive here than they expected. “It always is in the barbaries,” said Sam. But they purchased fifty cartridges of .45 Colt. Laura also stockpiled four chips of soap.

“Mahoney!” cried Sam, “finally, there he is.”

First Officer Roger Mahoney came through the crowd with their two rifles on his back and Sam’s sword by his side. The rifles were identical Marlin’s, the ‘49 model. They had long octagonal barrels and lever actions. The sword, of course, was the Incan that Sam had last taken out on the moon.

“Well!” said Mahoney. “You two are out of place here.”

“No women, we noticed,” said Sam.

“You’re also the only two clean people here,” said Mahoney. “Here, take these,” he handed them the rifles, “and here are your cleaning kits,” he handed them two leather pouches, “and your sword, Captain Smith.”

“Thanks, Roger,” said Laura.

“So where will you be going,” he asked.

“An inland slave camp, Camp Hayes.”


“We’re calling ourselves journalists,” said Sam. “There’s a coach that goes every morning, with the camp’s overseers and clients, we’ll take that.”

“I was all for riding out secretly, but without a guide, you know Sam would get us lost”, said Laura. “All we really want to do is get in, get the girl, and get out.”

“And hope Florida doesn’t extradite,” said Sam.

“You’ll be able to contact us if you do get lost, right? Through Daltrey?” asked Mahoney.

“Yes, I’ve got a bit of John’s hair, and he’s got a bit of mine. It’s all very romantic, sigh. It takes a couple of hours, though, so don’t expect a magic telegraph anytime soon.”

“Don’t worry,” said Sam, “we’ll be in and out in a couple of days.”

Laura patted her sister on the back.

“Promises, promises,” she said.

They rode to Camp Hayes as planned. They remained the only women in sight, but the obviousness of their rifles ensured that it wasn’t a problem. “They dress like men anyway, so who cares,” was one comment that was supposed to have been out of earshot.

The trip to the camps was just over a half day. They crossed hot marsh and sparse forest before reaching the desert; and then they kept on going. “Like the moon, but less life,” joked Sam. But there was brilliance in the desert as well. First cacti, and then brilliant flowers and bush, and then just cacti again, until the next flowering patch.

They stopped inside a ravine, sheer rock on both sides of the coach.

“This is Camp Hayes, ladies. You’re welcome to keep on: we’ll be back to the coast tomorrow morning.”

“Thanks for your concern,” said Laura, “we’ll be getting out here anyway.”

“Suit yourself. There’s usually another coach come by every third or fourth afternoon or so.”

Sam, Laura, and two others got off the coach; the other three passengers continued on, some moving off of the outboard and inside the coach now that there was room.

“Maybe we should try and interview some of them,” whispered Laura, “keep up the pretense.”

“I don’t think they’re paying any attention to us,” said Sam, “they probably just expect us to get lost and never be seen again.”

“Did you bring your compass?” joked Laura.

“Genuine Girl Guide,” said Sam. “Let’s go.”

“Something’s missing,” said Laura. “Something very important. Where’s the camp?”

The two men had stepped into a crack in the rock. Sam and Laura climbed around and up the dusty rock. It was hot and the air was stifling. There was not a trace of human life anywhere except the rapidly departing stagecoach.

“Hmph,” said Laura.

“Well,” said Sam, “we’re reporters. Let’s follow the administrators and ask them where in this annex of Hades the camp is.”

They climbed back down the rock, and walked through the sliver in the rock face. The air went from dusty hot to cool and dry almost immediately. Sunlight filtered in from the sliver, and from some tiny cracks above. Still, it was very bright outside, so it took a few seconds for their eyes to adjust to the lessened light inside the cave. As their eyes adjusted, they slowly took in a wooden sign, poorly hand-painted, with words and an arrow on it.

The sign said “Camp Hais”. The arrow pointed down.

“I think I should light the lantern,” said Laura.

“This is horrible,” said Sam. “It can’t be right.”

“I don’t think there is much doubt, Sam. The camp is here somewhere, and it is not outside.”

“Very well. Have you checked if this is a dead zone?”

“We are on top of a working ki mine. Use your sword.”

Laura unscrewed the button at the base of her lamp and poured oil into it from a glass vial she took out of her pouch. Then she dropped a lever on the lamp so that the glass container lifted up, pulled a match from her pouch, and struck it. The match flared up smokily; she lit the lamp’s wick and tossed the match to the ground. The cave was covered in empty boxes and old newspapers from Los Angeles. A ladder in the center of the room led down into a dark hole. Sam took the lantern and climbed down first.

Twenty or so feet down they dropped onto some railway tracks. They could hear the drip, drip of water at an unknown distance. Then the clanking of metal on metal started up, also far away. The walls of the tunnel were rough-hewn, and the tunnel itself twisted downwards at a steep grade in both directions.

“This way,” said Sam. “That metal noise—I’m assuming the cart riding on these rails—seems to be coming from the south.”

The noise stopped after a few minutes. They followed the tunnel for half an hour or so, around one extreme twist and finally in the distance they saw light.

“Another lantern,” said Sam.

“Remember, we’re reporters,” said Laura.

“So we don’t need to sneak?” replied Sam.

“Not yet.”

There was one man inside of an alcove at the source of the light. The alcove was tiny, just barely carved out of the rock, but it was set up as an office, with a small desk and a little metal filing cabinet. It was one of the mining engineers from the coach.

There you are. We waited a bit for you, figured you must have changed your mind and gone back with the coach. Sorry you had to walk down this far.”

“”So are we,” said Laura. “We didn’t expect the camp to be underground.”

“Sure, it’s much nicer for the workers. They don’t have to walk so far when they start working.”

“They must be very appreciative,” said Laura.

“Oh, they are,” he said, “there are always troublemakers, but for the most part they’re okay.”

“Do you have any trouble-makers to interview? That always makes good press,” said Sam.

“Yes, the heroic conditions under which you extract the mine from the earth,” added Laura.

“It must be quite a job keeping everything lined up,” said Sam.

“Oh, it is indeed,” he beamed, “but nothing I can’t handle. But… you can’t possibly be thinking of going into the slave quarters?”

“Why not?” asked Laura. “how better to get the point across than to observe things first-hand?”

“You just can’t go into the slave quarters, that’s against the rules.”

“What rules?”

“The rules of propriety,” he said. “Ladies, this is no place for women, and that is certainly no place for women. Don’t they have cooking sections in your newspaper?”


Laura put her hand on Sam’s shoulder, to stop her from speaking.

“No,” she said, “he’s right.” She nodded at him, and he nodded back. “You will see us leave now, and you will not see us again.”

He walked something invisible walk back up the tracks. Laura put her finger to her lips and motioned for Sam to follow. Sam held the lantern high and they walked further into the darkness.

“I thought you said we were going to leave,” asked Sam quietly.

“I didn’t tell him we were going to leave,” Laura whispered. “I told him he was going to see us leave. There’s a difference.”

“Only, it seems, when I’m around you,” she whispered back.

They followed the tracks. Occasionally Asian miners came up pumping a railcart loaded with rocks. The miners paid no attention to the women.

“Is this more of your magic?” asked Sam.

“No, I think they just don’t care,” said Laura.

Where the tunnel broke off, there were three signs: to the left was “Los Angeles, 125 miles”; straight ahead were “the mines”; off a bit to the right was “miners holes”. Straight down, though there was no hole, was “hades”.

“That’s a tough choice,” muttered Sam.

They walked towards the miners holes. The walls first became damp, and then water began to drip from the cave’s roof. They passed more people, all of them Asian, as many women and children as grown men. Now Sam and Laura weren’t ignored. They were eyed suspiciously and often with outright hostility.

“Okay, Sam, this one’s up to you,” said Laura. “How do we find Kuong Mai?”

Sam pulled a yellowed photograph out of her own pouch.

“This is her. Now we just ask until we find her.”

Unfortunately few of the miners wanted to talk to the two white women in the mines. None of them spoke English and most seemed to claim not to speak anything at all, at least until they were out of earshot of Sam and Laura.

“Can’t you make them like us,” asked Sam.

“Afraid not, sister. You’ll just have to use your natural charm.”

“Maybe I’ll try chocolate instead.”

She offered a chip of sweet waxed chocolate to the next unattended child they saw. She also offered a chip to Laura and took a piece herself. They ate the candy together by lantern light in the mines.

Sam made funny faces. Laura just rolled her eyes. The child brightened. He was at most six years old. When Sam showed him the photograph, he took them, hand in hand, down the twisting cavern halls, past bedrolls and water pots (catching water from the dripping walls) and chamber pots next to deep holes.

And many, many more people. Their skin was pale in the lantern and torch-light. Finally, the boy cried out:

“Lady Kuong,” he said. “Lady Kuong!”

Sam compared the faces in the cavern with the face on the photograph.

“There,” she said, and pointed. “Kuong Mai.”

“Don’t be so rude,” said Laura to Sam. Then she turned to Kuong Mai. “Come with us. Your mother, Zhuong, sent us.”

“We have come to take you out,” said Sam.

The crowd murmured. Sam took the woman by the hand.

The crowd surged with them as they led Kuong Mai out.

“I’m leading a general rebellion, mom would be proud,” said Sam.

“These are hardly rebels,” said Laura, “and we can’t take everyone. “The authorities will hunt us down and hang us! Even if we make it back to Florida it will still be thievery as far as the law cares.”

“Yeah? Can they trail us to the moon? Have they already set up the noose on the white shores?” asked Sam. “That argument wouldn’t have worked two weeks ago. It certainly won’t now.”

“Okay, okay, we get everyone out. Any idea how?”

“Wait,” said Sam. “Listen. What’s that?”

They heard the unmistakable sound of gunfire.

“Must be one of the trouble-makers he was talking about,” said Sam.

“Good thing what’s-his-name keeps them in line,” replied Laura. She took her own rifle from her shoulder. “It also must mean we can use ours.”

“Perhaps we should wait a bit, just in—”

The gunfire stopped, and a low rumble took its place. Dust blew down around them. Darkness immediately. And then, as the dust settled from around the lantern, silence.

  1. Chapter 9: King Solomin’s Mines
  2. Men Not Afraid
  3. Chapter 11: Bats!