Bodies are piling up in the Burbank hills. Burned, slashed, painted
with ritual designs. The L.A. Police are stumped—even Ben Spencer,
veteran sleuth of the Kink Squad sees no pattern in the bizarre
slayings. So K'ing and Sun Lee start taking Southern California apart.
When they put the pieces together, it all points to Death Valley—and
Kak Nan Kang.
Last in the series.
The boy could not say. The man dared not guess. The Master was
silent. K'ing rode with the sound, with the flood.
Presently the sound subsided, and K'ing was left as if on the bank of
a wild, secluded stream, beaten and bent with the force of the world's
waters, yet alive, breathing, awake. About him he seemed to see shards
of every civilization that had ever commanded men's allegiance on this
earth: the waters, it seemed, had gone back from whence they came—
into the earth, into the air, he did not know where— and in their wake
they had left a telling message. K'ing sat calmly on the hill. K'ing
rose painfully from the dry river bank. The breeze of morning waved his
black hair. He looked about him.
The sand was full of gold. Bracelets and earrings and amulets beyond
price; vessels of every shape and size; crowns and scepters and
tabernacles inlaid with precious stones. All broken beyond repair. The
remnants of Atlantis, of the Ninth Dynasty, of El Dorado in a thousand
lands, lay strewn about the caked sand of the riverbank, glittering
still, mocking, worthless at last. K'ing looked about him, unsure
whether to cry or laugh.
For he knew that this was only the surface of it.
For every ounce of gold that lay here abandoned, a pound of flesh had
been taken. For every bauble a human life had gone. He was filled with
an unutterable sadness, a crisp, biting sense of futility that cut to
his heart with a poignancy that the rushing flood had been powerless to
evoke. He sat down on the riverbank and his eyes were moist.
Suddenly, above him, he heard the sound of rushing again. But this
time the sound was of wings. The beating of wings so large they could
encompass the earth, the mighty, deathless ride of a bird that could
swallow the world. K'ing looked up. In the air above him, silhouetted
against a fiercely burning sun, hovered a huge black bird. A hawk, or a
vulture, he could not be sure.
K'ing rose as if in unconscious obeisance and stared at the great
And the creature spoke. It spoke a language that K'ing had never
heard before, and yet the boy understood. He listened attentively as
the bird told a sorrowful tale of the Indian people who had once
inhabited this land: how they had become mighty in war and in wealth,
until every living creature from coast to coast had acknowledged them
as Masters; how then the power that they had gained eventually proved
their undoing. For they had sought to regulate the lives not only of
the other men with whom they shared the land, but even of the animals
and plants of the earth, whose land it originally had been. When they
tried to extend their dominion over the great birds of prey who
inhabited the mountain crags, the birds revolted and attacked the
people. In one awful night every man, woman and child of the tribe was
blinded; their eyes torn out by the vengeful birds of prey. Soon after
that the people had disappeared, wandering sightless out into the
desert, and were never heard from again.
K'ing could not tell whether the tale was meant as a warning or a
threat, but his unasked question was soon answered. With a horrible
shriek the bird uttered his name, and then, before K'ing could protest,
dropped a glittering object on the sand some yards away from the
mystified young man.
Then the bird was gone.
K'ing went to the object, leaned over, picked it up. It was a
burnished silver frame, and in the center an oval mirror flashed in the
sunshine. K'ing turned the strange object over in his hands and then,
as if compelled by a force he did not understand, brought the
reflective surface around to face him. What he saw made him drop the
heavy object in horror and disgust.
From out of the smoky glass stared a familiar face. It was his face,
the face of Chong Fei K'ing. And yet it had no eyes! The eyes had been
ripped out, just like the eyes of the unfortunate people of the tale,
and in their place stood two hollow bloody sockets. K'ing stared at the
reflection in awe, fascinated and repelled at once.