The two boys stopped to rest by a small creek. Looking around, Paul noticed an opening, partially concealed with some tree branches and pieces of rough wood, in the slope just above them.
“I think that’s some kind of mine,” he said. “Let’s see what’s inside.”
They quickly climbed through the underbrush and pulled aside the branches. It was the entrance of an old mine. Without a moment’s hesitation, Paul and Jonas clambered in, and Jonas turned on the flashlight. The passageway snaked deeper into the mine and looked as if it would collapse at any moment. Some of the wooden supports had buckled. Small pebbles and pieces of crumbled rock covered the ground. The walls were damp and water trickled down them every few feet. The boys hurried down the passage, which eventually opened out into an enormous cavern. Jonas waved the flashlight around, and both he and Paul were astonished at what they saw.
Scores of paintings were stacked against the mine walls, along with rolled-up carpets, tapestries and Greek and Roman statues. Wooden boxes and crates were piled everywhere—their half-open lids revealed sparkling necklaces, bracelets, gold and silver figurines and finely crafted clocks. Jonas picked out a blue crystal the size of his thumb. He held it up in the air and shone the flashlight directly at it.
“This is unusual,” he remarked. “It must be worth a lot.”
“Are you kidding? All this stuff is worth a fortune,” said Paul, turning around to look at another box of treasure.
As he stepped back, however, there was an ominous solitary click, which echoed throughout the cavern.
“Oh, my God,” Paul cried, as a thin wisp of smoke drifted up beside the paintings. “I must have tripped a wire!”
“What?” said Jonas.
“Booby trap! Run!” Paul shouted.
The boys sprinted along the passageway and had just reached the entrance when the mine exploded behind them.
You can learn more about The Doomsday Mask and the historical background and inspiration behind the novel on my website.