VALLEY of the CROEN
By LEE TARBELL
There was a mysterious golden statue that always pointed one way—and it led to sudden death in the valley where flying disks landed.
Like a lodestone drawn to a magnet, the tiny golden statue leaped from his hand and darted toward its huge counterpart.
They say cross-eyed men are bad luck. He stood there, in my doorway, eyeing me up and down with those in-focused black eyes.
His face was hideous even if the eyes had been normal. He was slashed with a wide cicatrice of livid scar tissue from one cheekbone across his nose and down to the button of his jaw on the other side.
He was big, and he looked like bad news to me. I inadvertently moved the door as if to close it, then he spoke:
"You Keele, the mining man?"
I nodded, wondering at the mild voice from the huge battered figure.
"Been looking for you. I've run across something I wouldn't tell just anyone. But I've heard of you, that you are on the level. Here in Korea, you're known already."
I still didn't step back and swing the door wide. But he had aroused my curiosity as well as my natural desire to acquire things. I had made two fortunes and lost both in mining ventures. My present not small income came from an emerald mine in the Andes. It had been a very dirty and very sick Indio who had led me to that emerald mine. You never know!
"I'm pretty busy, could you give me some idea...." I hedged. It doesn't do to seem too anxious or eager in any business deal. Too, the sight of his burly figure, even without the nightmare face, was not exactly reassuring. That bulge under the native quilted coat, I knew was nothing but a gun too big for even his bulges to conceal completely. But a man needed a gun, here. Especially if he had something valuable, such as the whereabouts of gold.
He grinned, and the white, even teeth, and the wrinkles around his eyes took away the sense of impending catastrophe brought by those crossed eyes. I stepped back then, and he walked in. I sat down at my desk. He sat down across from me, and fumbled in one pocket. He lay on the desk an object in wrappings of dirty rags. These he peeled off slowly, his eyes seeming to dart here and there, never looking where they should. As he peeled, he talked:
"I just landed off a ship from Fusan, up-coast. Y' ever been in Fusan?"
I shook my head, watching his fingers work at the knots of the strings around his mysterious object.
"Korea is a funny place. As long as people have been living here, you'd think it would be settled. But it isn't! There're immense forests, great mountains, where no man has gone, places no one enters. They're so dumb they don't even have compasses; they get lost! Think my compass is magic, wonder how I know where to go next, and not get lost. Superstitious, scared to go into the great, dark, damp forests. Scared of the mountains no one has ever climbed. That kind of country is a prospector's meat!"
I nodded. He had the wrappings off, and I leaned forward, a little breathless at the beauty of the thing in his hand....