“The first was Mr. Tesuipp, in 1880. He emerged from the desert near Alice Springs, laden with gold dust and claimed that he’d found a rich vein. He was delirious, though, and the notes and maps found on his body were rambling and indecipherable. The authorities were able to confirm that he’d headed north from Melbourne intent on mining alluvial gold in the Arltunga, but little else.”

“Yeah, I’ve heard that bloody story before.”

“And what about Roy Blakeslee, who was prospecting the same general area two decades later and wandered into a telegraph station, delirious and dying, with nearly twenty kilos of gold-laced quartz on his body? Or Sarah Chalmsford-Ennis, who disappeared on a hiking trip in ’87 and somehow came out of the desert with a hunk of lapis lazuli? They couldn’t get an intelligible word out of her before she slipped into a coma and they pulled the plug. There are half a dozen more stories we could link to it.”

“You’re saying they all found the same motherlode?”

“I’m saying it’s possible.”

“And I’m saying it killed them to a one. Maybe that ought to be taken as a sign.”