As the years passed, the cho’er-ja koe’kro became less dependent on the outside world, developing ways of growing and gathering food from the Earth’s interior. Meanwhile, their bodies adapted to the dark: to change physically, becoming more bestial, shunning sunlight.
Far below the budding mining town, and hidden within Six-Mile Valley by the eons of time, shifted sands and regenerating sage brush, the ruins of their abandoned above-ground din’ee lay decayed and fallen. As for the valley it remained shunned and unsettled by the Paiute and Shoshone tribes, but it soon became well populated by White settlers, expanding into Nevada.
The cho’er-ja koe’kro transformed the caverns into a semblance of those buildings they long ago had abandoned; upper reaches lines with shaped stone, similar to the ruins. But as they drove passages deeper and deeper, the stone work fell away to a more primitive design, finally ending in rooms crudely hacked from the surrounding stone.
Howard spread the map out across his small desk and weighted down the corners. Next, using the stub of the only pencil he had, he marked each place a missing person had last been seen, then he stood, studying the results.
“Nothing,” he grumbled, though he still couldn’t remove himself from the thought that each disappearance might be related.
Marshal Howard needed a drink, so he rolled up the map, set it aside and headed out the door and into the street. He noted that the shadows were growing longer in the east and that nighttime would soon be over the town.
“Well, howdy there, Marshal,” came the genial address of Territorial Enterprise newspaper hack and chief freeholder of The Monumental Liars Club, Sam Clemens, “Anything worth gossiping about?”
“Nope, not yet,” Harold smiled.
“Lemme buy you a drink anyway, my good man,” Clemens offered as he got up and took a seat across from the law officer.
Slowly, Clemens drew out the concerns of the law man, until Howard was explaining the details leading up too each disappearance. Finally, Clemens took a gulp of his drink, brushed the damp from his mustache and quipped, “Do be disheartened, lots of things disappear in this God-forsaken land – gold and silver, water, people and eventually even virtue. Most can be found again – save for virtue.”
The pair nursed their glasses for about two hours. By then Clemens was regaling Howard with tall-tales of his youth spent in Missouri. Eventually, Howard pushed back his chair from the corner table, excused himself and strode out onto the wooden walk way leaving the news man to find someone else to share his verbal conjuring with.