Thursday, 9 May 2013

Castaways!



Justice and Co. –Castaways!
Accustomed hitherto to great wealth and all the scientific equipment any band of Adventurers could have, CAPTAIN JUSTICE and his Comrades suddenly find themselves hurled from Space into an African jungle. . . .
Empty-handed, without food, weapons, or hope!
THE FIRST OF A NEW AND THRILLING SERIES
Complete: By MURRAY ROBERTS
Part 1 of 12
From The Modern Boy magazine, 7 July 1934, No. 335 Vol. 13. Contributed by Keith Hoyt, digitized by Doug Frizzle, April 2013.

The Man Who Never Forgot!
THERE is no doubt about it. Monsieur Xavier Kuponos was an exceedingly bad egg. A Greek by birth, and a cosmopolitan crook, he was one of the cleverest, most ruthless rogues that ever infested the Dark Continent of Africa. That wide-flung land of wealth and mystery, where European civilisation still wages constant warfare against primitive savagery, seems to possess a peculiar attraction for Kuponos' fellow countrymen, and many of these Greek merchants and traders are stout citizens. No one, however, could say that of Xavier Kuponos.
Captain Justice
Stalwart, handsome, and suave, a past-master at dealing with natives, this particular Greek was as bold and pitiless as a raiding tiger, and as wily as a jackal.
Government police and officials in all the colonies from the Mediterranean to Mozambique grew red in the face at mention of his name, which they reviled in English, Italian, French, Portuguese, and Arabic. It was rumoured that Kuponos dealt in illicit diamond buying, drugs, and ivory, and it was definitely known that he was the organiser of the greatest slave-dealing “ring" in Africa. Furthermore, as a gunrunner, the slippery Greek was in a class by himself.
Kuponos had spies and agents everywhere, black, white, and saddle-coloured, and as most of his sinister operations were carried out on swamp-ridden coasts or the sweltering borders of the Belgian Congo and Abyssinia, he proved as difficult to catch as an eel.
Money flowed into his coffers, and none of his allies dared betray him, for he could invent ways of punishing traitors that made even the native experts in torture sit up and take notice. And undoubtedly the man would have continued to prosper had not certain exasperated British officials adopted drastic measures.
They requested the assistance of that celebrated Gentleman Adventurer and confidential adviser to the British Government—Captain Justice.
The captain was enjoying a spell of well-earned leisure when the urgent appeal reached him.
According to his invariable custom, Justice first demanded a free hand, plenty of elbow-room, and no red tape, and, these being granted, he flew to Africa, crossing the Atlantic in his superb airship, the beautiful and amazing Flying Cloud.
There, assisted by Professor Flaznagel, the great scientist and inventor; Dr. O'Mally, his stout Irish second-in-command; Len Connor, his athletic young wireless operator; and the chirpy, red-haired, and resourceful young Midge, Captain Justice flung himself and all his power against the Greek arch-criminal.
Like Kuponos, the Gentleman Adventurer also possessed loyal and very efficient agents, and it was not long before he picked up the threads of the case. Those threads were speedily woven into a net from which there was no escape.
As a result, on a certain moonlight night when Xavier Kuponos was personally supervising the transhipment of a cargo of rifles and machine-guns for some Abyssinian customers, Captain Justice pounced. Like an avenging hawk, the Flying Cloud swooped upon the lonely stretch of beach in Eritrea, the Italian colony on the red-hot coast of the Red Sea, and the game was up.
The wonderful airship, practically invisible under the influence of Professor Flaznagel’s Q-ray, an invention that rendered her tranzelonite hull crystal-clear, landed unobserved in the wide back areas of the beach. A sudden blaze of searchlights dazzled Kuponos and his smugglers, and before the shock wore off, Justice's well-armed aircraftmen were swarming to the attack. Tear-gas grenades and the brisk rattle of machine-gun fire stampeded the Greek's black henchmen. The valuable cargo was abandoned—and Kuponos, for once, lost his head.
Blindly he fled—and suddenly found himself confronted by a lean, dapper man in white, with a neat torpedo beard, a sardonic smile, and the chilliest of steel-grey eyes. Both men struck at each other, but Kuponos, missing badly, overbalanced. When he woke up, he had a bandage round his head and handcuffs round his wrists. In this plight, the captured Greek was taken back to Egypt, where, after a sensational trial in Khartoum, he received sentence of fifteen years' hard labour. Xavier Kuponos was crushed. But before being led from the dock, he tore loose from his gaolers, and turned a swarthy, hate-distorted face upon Captain Justice, who had laid him by the heels.
"You win now, Captain Justice!" he shouted dramatically across the court. "But remember this—the prison that can hold Xavier Kuponos has not been built! One day I shall escape, and then—beware! I have planned a punishment for you more terrible than you could ever imagine!"
"Then I shan't try, Kuponos!" Justice retorted dryly, and, his work finished, he and his comrades returned to Justice Island.
"All bluff and baloney!" remarked Midge, referring to the Greek's wild threat. But in this case the youngster was wrong.
For within six weeks of the trial Captain Justice received news that the resolute smuggler-slaver had indeed escaped and got clear away into the mountains of Abyssinia! By then, however, the Gentleman Adventurer was busy with other affairs and had almost forgotten the enemy he had made.
But Xavier Kuponos had not forgotten Captain Justice. He never would! And several months later, when the captain returned to Africa, this time on pleasure bent, Kuponos smiled for the first time since breaking out of gaol!
Captain Justice's reasons for revisiting East Africa were twofold. In the light of after events, it seemed as if Fate, in her cruellest mood, had deliberately lured him back.
One reason was that Professor Flaznagel, in his highly eccentric way, had chanced to develop a sudden overwhelming desire to explore for radium in the high plateau country near the Sudan - Abyssinia - Kenya borders. The second reason was that young Midge and Len had long cherished the ambition to go on a big-game hunt and bag at least one lion and rhinoceros head, apiece.
Faint rumours, circulating through scientific channels, had reached Flaznagel that pitchblende deposits, fairly rich in radium, might be found in this secluded corner of Africa. And for the professor a rumour was sufficient. The peppery, indomitable old genius regarded gold, precious stones, or ivory with lofty disdain. But a rare mineral, or the mere whisper of its existence, drew him like a magnet, even unto the overheated wastes of this earth.
And, naturally, Justice & Co. had to accompany him.

RIFLES, scientific apparatus, and equipment were overhauled, and in due course, leaving their peaceful colony on Justice Island under the capable management of John Bigg, the little party set forth, Africa-bound. The Flying Cloud bore them to Khartoum. Then the dirigible sailed back for the island, with orders to return to the Sudan in two months to pick up the hunters again.
Thence Justice & Co., having bidden the airship's crew a hearty au revoir, voyaged up the White Nile in many craft, ranging from a trim stern-wheel steamer to a native dhow that possessed a positive genius for ramming its ungainly nose into every mudbank in the river. At Mongalla, the last town of any size on the Bahr-el-Jebel, they disembarked, hired a motley collection of native porters, cooks, servants, and guides, then turned eastwards and marched.
Of Xavier Kuponos and his threats of vengeance, never a thought crossed their minds. Justice, in his time, had made many enemies. One more or less troubled him not a jot!
Behold the comrades, then, towards the close of a broiling day about a week after leaving Mongalla, trudging slowly across a vast plain that sloped gradually to the feet of steep, rugged hills in the distance, where Professor Flaznagel hoped to do his own hunting.
It was a savage and desolate land; a dreary, eye-aching expanse of coarse grass-range, its arid monotony relieved only by occasional clumps of thorns, and greasy swamps that were the breeding-ground of countless mosquitoes and flies.
Dim blue dusk was creeping across from the high ridges back east; and the early moon, looming up like a colossal disc of pale copper, shed an eerie light upon the crests of fantastic mountains far away in the Abyssinian wilds. But, though evening was nigh, no cooling breeze tempered the air. Trekking through the moist, sticky heat was like marching through the hot-rooms of a Turkish bath.
Captain Justice, however, seemed his normal self as he swung along at the head of the column. His great strength and physical fitness apparently rendered him impervious to heat or cold. An alert, dapper figure in khaki, with pith-helmet tilted at a jaunty angle, and a cigar jutting from the corner of his mouth, he led the way, talking quietly to Len Connor.
Behind, strung out in ragged line, the native bearers plodded patiently under their loads, and four more carried Professor Flaznagel in a hammock lashed to two poles. Midge and Dr. O'Mally brought up the rear, wrangling amicably in the intervals of wiping their clammy faces and necks.
So far, alas, the hunters' luck had been poorish. There was no lack of ordinary game—small antelopes, oryx, and gazelles, chiefly, with here and there an aggressive family of wart-hogs. But lions, though plentiful and uproarious at night, were too elusive by day, and of Old Man Rhino not a trace could be found.
"I reckon the bloomin' lions must have heard I was coming after 'em and scooted!" Midge complained, squeezing gingerly past a thorn-bush on the trail and bumping into the jaded doctor. "Or else they've seen your face, fatness, and crawled away to die! Cheer up, doctor—you're puffing like a leaky kettle! How're you feeling? Warm?"
"Warm!" O'Mally mopped his glistening bald head. "Bedad, 'tis all very fine for Justice, who's all wire and whipcord. But for an Irish gentleman with good meat on his bones this heat is more trying than your impudence, ye clumsy, insolent pipsqueak! By the beard of St. Patrick, I'm not warm—I'm baked! If we don't make camp soon, 'tis meself will sit down and frizzle!"
"Good! Roast pork for supper, then!" retorted Midge, ducking hurriedly. "Still, never mind! The captain's sure to call a halt soon, and— Great Scott! What's that?
Listen—listen! Gosh, it's—"
Midge stopped. Everyone stopped, petrified with astonishment. The natives dropped their loads, Justice jerked up his head, Len fumbled for his glasses. Through the sudden silence dinned that most unexpected of all sounds in a stark wilderness— the heavy droning roar of a powerful aeroplane!

In the Circle of Fires!
THERE she comes!" It was Justice who sang out sharply, his brows knitted in a slight frown. Instantly all eyes followed the direction of his upflung hand.
Out of the north the great plane came, a burly, tri-motored passenger-ship, sleekly silver against a patch of lemon-hued sky. The last level rays of the dying sun tipped its upper wings with fire, but in the tricky light the shadow beneath the lower wings made it difficult to discern the mysterious craft's number and markings, even with binoculars. What its pilot or pilots were doing out in this back o' beyond, hundreds of miles from the fringes of civilisation. Justice & Co. could not so much as guess.
Steadily the aeroplane boomed towards them—then, swerving suddenly, it circled twice above the little party on the open plain. Midge and Len waved their handkerchiefs, while the natives huddled together uneasily. But either the ground dusk was too dense for the pilot to see or his attention was elsewhere, for no answer came to the friendly signals. Climbing again, the machine swung away. And at last only the muffled grumbling of the engines floated back as a spreading bank of night - clouds swallowed it up.
"Well, that's a blessed knock-out!" exclaimed Midge, breaking a long pause. "Fancy spotting a huge plane like that out in this giddy wilderness! Wonder what the pilot's up to? We're too far east for him to be a regular mail or passenger flier. Golly, p'r'aps the blinkin' Abyssinians are starting an air force on their little own!"
"More likely some fellows starting a new east to west trip across the continent," said the less-imaginative Len. "It's funny, though, the way they wasted time buzzing over us. What do you think, captain?'' Justice shrugged.
"There might be a dozen reasons for the plane's presence out here, lad. I don't know. What does interest me, though," he added quietly, is why that plane is sailing without regulation markings. Hang it, the light's not so bad as all that, but though I stared hard, I couldn't see a single number or badge anywhere."
Justice stroked his torpedo beard, then shrugged again.
"However, I suppose it's no business of ours, and the plane certainly isn't in any trouble. Let's make camp."
And he turned to give the order to his head man, a stalwart Shilluk warrior, whom Midge had re-christened Cherry Blossom.
Right willingly the bearers fell to work. Tents were erected, food-boxes opened, cooking utensils rattled cheerfully. The tropical twilight deepened swiftly to full dusk, and the natives yelled lustily while they worked to scare the leopards away. But presently a ring of blazing fires made that precaution unnecessary; and soon the moon was high in the sky, transforming the ugly plain into a silvery fairyland, weirdly beautiful.
Over the meal, what little talk there was centred upon the strange aeroplane. But the explorers were too tired to indulge in much fruitless speculation. Mosquitoes were beginning to whine viciously, and from somewhere in the direction of the hills a pair of roving lions roared hungrily at intervals. The black and muscular Cherry Blossom, after a muttered conference with his fellows, suddenly spoke up, promising good hunting on the morrow.
Thus encouraged, Justice & Co. turned in. Fires were heaped up, night guards were posted. A slumbrous silence settled gradually over the lonely camp, broken only by those ominous sounds from the hills.
What exactly jerked Captain Justice from the depths of dreamless sleep at last he did not for the moment know.
But suddenly he found himself sitting bolt upright under the mosquito netting, every muscle and nerve in his body braced ready for action. There was a queer prickling sensation at the nape of his neck, his heart throbbed violently under the shock of sudden awakening. All the adventurer's instincts warned him that danger was near. A lurking peril, very close at hand, threatened the camp!
In the darkness, Justice gripped the bolstered revolver lying beside him. He drew out the weapon. The safety-catch slid back noiselessly under the pressure of his thumb.
Then abruptly he sprang upright, casting aside the mosquito net as a sound, faint but unmistakable, burst upon his straining ears.
"An aeroplane!”
Justice stiffened, listening intently. A murmur of seared native voices outside mingled with a low, sonorous drone in the skies.
"It is a plane! Another? Or the same one?” he muttered, hastily pulling on his knee-boots, without which it is asking for trouble to venture out into an African night. "My great James, what the dickens—"
By this time the camp was fully aroused. Louder and louder boomed the roar of the plane—and lower, till the earth shook to the reverberations. Justice thrust his head through the tent-flap. He could see the machine plainly now, blue-white in the moonlight—that same big, tri-motored passenger-carrier he had seen earlier on!
Straight for the tents it was heading, at less than five hundred feet above the desolate plain. The captain, puzzled and more than a trifle alarmed, reached behind him for his glasses.
And it was at that moment that one of the camp sentries screamed in mortal terror.
High-pitched and vibrant, startling as the explosion of a shell, the native's shriek rang out, rising even above the blast of the aero-engines. During the nerve-racking moment that followed, Justice could scarce believe his own eyes.
It was a raid!

MEN suddenly were all around the camp—lithe, naked figures, ebony Goliaths who had crept patiently, cunningly upon their drowsy prey. Slender spear-blades and polished knobkerries glimmered in the firelight, beady eyes shone as the deadly marauders closed in, throwing up their long, striped shields, and drowning the cries of the bearers with strident yells. The gallant Shilluk, Cherry Blossom, sprang to meet them. He was stunned, bowled over, and trampled on before he could strike a blow.
Panic and pandemonium raged within the circle of fires!
In that first split-second that seemed an eternity, Justice saw Dr. O'Mally burst from his tent like an enraged bull. Midge, following pluckily, was collared and whisked away. Len drove his fist into a bare black chest and dodged a knobkerry stroke. Professor Flaznagel's tent had collapsed, imprisoning the old scientist. Next instant Justice's tent also toppled under the impact of brawny fighting-men charging in from behind.
On hands and knees, the adventurer was flung forward, deafened by the yells and screeches, the sound of blows, the harsh bellow of the circling plane. He had the wit to wriggle aside the moment he struck the ground, however, and a snarling raider tripped over him. Whirling savagely at bay, the captain lashed out at a malevolent black face, and kicked a third enemy's legs from under him. Then he stooped swiftly, whipping up his fallen revolver.
It was knocked from his grasp. As the glinting barrel swung up, a spear-handle cracked across Justice's wrist, numbing it. He ducked a second stroke, sidestepped, snatched up the gun again in his left hand, and fought clear. Out of the corner of his eye he saw O'Mally and Len suddenly swamped by their sinewy attackers, while the surviving bearers cringed in a heap before the menace of dashing spears.
At that, fighting-mad, Justice smashed, hacked, and kicked his way out of the scrimmage, fierce and quick-footed as a panther. Blows rained upon him out of the fireshot gloom, yet by some miracle of ability he contrived to escape the worst. With beard bristling, grey eyes flashing, he tore free, made a break for the open—then faltered badly, gasping at what he saw.
The giant aeroplane had landed. It was taxiing steadily across the grass plain towards the camp, its propellers idling in glittering arcs. For a moment the sight, the certain knowledge that the aviator was in league with wild tribesmen, staggered Justice—and that brief hesitation proved disastrous. Before he could snap into action again, something whizzed accurately through the air.
It was a knobkerry, skilfully flung by a long, black arm. And it landed squarely! A terrific blow on the head spun Justice round. He buckled at the knees, lurched forward, and sank into the depths of darkest oblivion. The next Captain Justice knew, he was lying hunched up in what appeared to be a small canvas chair. His impressions, emotions, were vague and disjointed.
A deep, agonising ache racked his head, his limbs felt stiff and cramped. Astonishingly, too, he experienced a mystifying sensation of speed, so strong as to make his sluggish brain whirl afresh.
In his ears throbbed a rhythmic, roaring sound, and the chair and the floor on which his feet rested quivered. By an effort he succeeded in opening his eyes, and squinted groggily around. There was an uncurtained window on his right. Through this he caught a sudden astounding glimpse of the dawn, breaking over shadowy hills behind and below him. Dawn! Justice strove to shake off the lethargy that gripped him.
"Dawn?" he muttered incredulously, then gave a convulsive start as a familiar voice called to him, as from afar.
"Captain! Skipper! Are you all right? Thank goodness you've come to!"
Heedless of excruciating pain, Justice turned his head sharply. His jaw hardened, and a dull flame of anger showed in his eyes. For there, in another chair on his left, huddled a red-haired, snub-nosed youngster, with ugly bruises on his freckled face, and cords tightly knotted about his wrists and ankles.
"Midge!"
Justice gazed weakly past his youthful comrade. He saw then that they were in the cabin of a plane, speeding through the dawn; saw, too, that the rest of his friends were in the same grim plight. The top of Len Connor's fair head just showed above the back of a third seat, while Dr. O'Mally's limp bulk filled a fourth. Both were insensible. And farther up, nearest the door, slumped Professor Flaznagel, his bearded chin sunk upon his breast, his horn-rimmed spectacles dangling from one ear.
Justice licked his parched lips.
"Midge!" he repeated thickly, and struggled to rise. But the effort proved too much. Before he could speak again, the hot flood of pain flowed stronger through his head, and swept him away into the darkness once more.
And the passenger plane flew on.

“Now the Lesson Begins!"
WHEN next the famous adventurer recovered consciousness, his waking thought was that someone had clapped him into a roaring furnace-room. The blinding glare of tropical sunlight scorched his eyes the instant they fluttered open, and instinctively he jerked his head to the left. Again the vibrant beat of motors burred in his ears, and again the first person he saw was Midge. But now dawn had given place to full daylight, and the aeroplane's cabin was like a stifling oven.
Beads of sweat glistened on Midge's face. The diminutive youngster, whose appetite was as magnificent as his courage, looked weak with hunger and thirst. Nevertheless, he greeted Justice with something like his old irrepressible grin, and bobbed his head forward. Justice's eyes shifted in obedience to the gesture. With a deep sigh of thankfulness, he perceived that O'Mally, Len, and the professor had also regained their senses.
But they were still prisoners. And all save Flaznagel, whose feet were bare, and Midge, who had wriggled into a khaki jacket before quitting his tent, were clad, only in thin pyjamas and unlaced boots. They had been kidnapped. Captured by black raiders in the age-old wilderness, then spirited away in a highly up-to-date aeroplane. It was incredible, nightmarish, but true!
Yet why? What was behind this amazing attack in which primitive savagery and modern science had joined forces? Justice, hardened to danger though he was, could not repress a shiver.
His second spell of stupor, however, seemed to have done the tough adventurer more good than harm. The pain no longer filled his head entirely, but was concentrated in one big burning bruise above the right temple.
Vainly he wrestled with the cords that bit into his wrists. The bonds held tight.
"Well? What's happened, boy?" he asked Midge at last, speaking in a low, repressed voice.
The drooping youngster sighed and growled.
"Those blighted black niggers nobbled us all right last night!" he snorted. "Golly, they stamped us and our bearers out flat! May their rabbits die! You—you were the last to go down! I tried to get to you, but some grinning black Carnera was sitting on me, the beastly chunk of coal-tar!"
Tears of anger glimmered on Midge's lashes at the memory.
"The brutes rounded up poor old Cherry Blossom & Co.," he mourned. "Then they hustled us along to this bloomin' plane. You and the others were all K.O.'d by then, and I didn't see much myself. All I know is that there are two white swabs up there in the cockpit, but both had helmets and goggles on. The blacks were under orders to capture us alive, and they hove us into here. Then the plane took off.
"We've been flying all night and ever since. And not a bite to eat or a drop to drink, the rotters!" snapped Midge. "Blowed if I know where we are now, skipper, 'cept that we've been heading west or sou'-west pretty steadily. We did stop for petrol once, soon after you woke up the first time, though I've no idea where. Some bush trading post, I fancy. But I couldn't see a thing, and I—I couldn't move about to help anyone!"
"But who are these blackguards who've snared us?" spluttered O'Mally, puffing out his hot, mottled cheeks. "Bedad, let me get my hands on 'em, an' by the black bull o’ Tyrone I'll skin 'em alive, so I will!"
"Hallo, fatness! Nice to hear your sweet foghorn voice again!" chirped Midge, in a grand effort to keep his pecker up. "How you blowing, Len? What-cheer, Professor Whiskers! Never say die, old hoss!"
But the poor old professor was past saying anything; and Justice, after another stern but unavailing tussle with his bonds, relaxed and fell to whipping his scattered wits into line. The sun, pouring in on him, was a sheer molten torment. He blinked up at its position, and made a rough guess at the time.
"The devils! Wonder what the game is?" he grunted.
Well over ten hours had elapsed since the raid—ten hours of headlong flying with only one break! And goodness only knew where the plane was now! French territory? Deep in the heart of the Congo? Justice gave it up.
By pressing hard on the floor, he managed to rise clumsily and prop himself against the window, screwing up his eyes in the white glare. But a searching scrutiny of the landscape below only served to increase his perplexity and rage. The change that had come over the scene since he last recalled it was amazing.
Gone now were all traces of the drear Sudanese plateau, with its gaunt hills and the Abyssinian heights on the horizon. Beneath him, as he peered down, rolled league upon shimmering league of brilliant close-matted jungle, of tangled streams, mighty forests, and mangrove swamps.
It was like flying across an endless, intricate, and gaudy carpet. All the hues of the rainbow were there, from the shiny emerald green of forest foliage to the dull darkness of rotting marshes and the rusty brown of natural, rock-ribbed clearings. Occasional patches of shallow water flashed like mirrors and were gone, their surfaces dotted with wild fowl, their reedy banks the haunt of crocodiles and mosquitoes, as Justice knew too well.
But even more arresting than this colourful, sinister spectacle were the mountains—looming up to form a gargantuan rampart on the right.
In tier after tier of serried ledges and snarling crags they towered, so high as to cast a broad band of indigo shadow across the miles of jungle below. Like many mountain ranges in Central Africa, no rolling foothills nestled at their base. The gigantic masses rose sheer and majestic from the bush, spanning the sky in breathtaking grandeur.
Justice drew a deep breath. Sailor, aviator, world-wanderer, his knowledge of all countries was almost encyclopedic. Yet, though he had trekked over most of the known, and many of the unexplored, regions of Africa, this much was certain; never once had he roved in the vicinity of this tremendous, jungle-fringed range.
"Well, wherever we are, lads, we're right in the darkest backblocks of Darkest Africa!" he announced at length, with the ghost of a smile touching his lips. "And—"
Then the captain checked abruptly. His comrades exchanged startled glances. For suddenly the mysterious plane swung off its straight, smooth course, sank lower, and began to cruise in a wide circle in the shadow of the mountains.
Simultaneously the door of the pilot's cockpit slid back, and for the first time Justice & Co. saw one of their captors. A man entered the cabin. He paused there, resting a hand on the revolver at his hip while he smiled down at his captives. The kidnapper was a tall, wiry fellow, broad-shouldered, slender-waisted, and clad in soiled white linen flying kit. His helmet and goggles were thrown back to reveal a lean, olive-hued face, topped by a fringe of black curls. Justice took one look at him. On the instant his mind flashed back to a scene in a Khartoum courthouse, many months before.
"Xavier Kuponos, the Greek!" Justice said softly; and his muscles swelled and grew taut.
Understanding dawned on Justice & Co. like a great light.
Xavier Kuponos, the ex-convict, the Greek smuggler-slaver! So this was the explanation of the mystery—the reason for the savage outrage on the plain. Kuponos had sworn to square accounts; to mete out a punishment more terrible than Justice could imagine! Involuntarily the adventurer and his comrades braced themselves for the ordeal they knew was coming.
The atmosphere within the cabin became charged with electricity. Kuponos was a handsome enough man in his swarthy, flamboyant way, and might have been handsomer still but for his close-set, tawny eyes. They were the keynote to his crooked nature—hard, cunning, infinitely evil.
"Kuponos! And, like a fool, I'd forgotten the beggar!" Justice groaned inwardly.
Still smiling, but without a word, the Greek closed the cockpit door behind him, muffling the clamour of the motors somewhat. His narrowed eyes travelled slowly over the tense prisoners, and the smile deepened. Then he faced Captain Justice, inclining his curly head.
"So! Good-morning, captain!" His English was softly accented. "You recognise me, I see!"
"Congratulations!" Justice replied sardonically. "But do you imagine you are going to get away with this business, you renegade?"
"I think so!" Kuponos nodded, though his colour rose at the biting epithet. "Yes, I think so, my captain! You see, you haven't your so-famous Flying Cloud and all your brave men behind you now. And if you are banking on being traced by the Sudanese police—pray forget it. You won't be!"
The suave villain made a gesture towards the window.
"At this moment," he purred, "you are something over a thousand miles from your last night's camping ground. Wonderful are the ways of aviation, are they not? Alas! I cannot tell you precisely where you are, so you must simply take my word. Then again, all traces of your recent camp have been removed, as well as your devoted bearers. Indeed, they have been removed to places where they will neither talk nor search for you, but simply work! You may trust my faithful black slave-raiders for that!"
Kuponos grinned, his nostrils dilating.
"In a word, Captain Justice," he drawled, "you are lost to your friends on Justice Island for good!"
"But—but this is monstrous!" Professor Flaznagel sat up, wrathfully blinking his short-sighted old eyes. "You utter rascal, how dare you!" he boomed, with a pompousness that was truly sublime in the circumstances. "Are you aware that I am Professor Flaznagel? And that you have seriously interrupted me in a most important task? Confound it, I demand—I insist that you take us back immediately! Bless my soul!"
"Bah!" Angered by what he thought was a futile exhibition of bluff, Kuponos half raised his hand to strike the lion-hearted old scientist. At the last moment, however, he recovered himself, laughing quietly.
"Insist, away, dodderer!" he sneered.
Then sharply the Greek wheeled on Justice once more.
"Enough of this!" he rapped. "You're not in civilisation now, but in primitive Africa! Justice, I swore I'd teach you what it means to fight Xavier Kuponos in his own territory, and now the lesson begins. A slow and terrible fate, you hound! One that you cannot escape! And the slower the better!"
There was a feverish light now in the Greek renegade's eyes as he pointed to the window again, and the snarl of the engines made a fitting accompaniment to his words.
"You see this country?" he cried fiercely. "Look at it, fools—one of the great, untrodden wastes of Africa! Unknown—prehistoric! I myself have never explored it, though I have heard tales of it from my black allies that would make you shudder.
"I know something about the natives and wild beasts down there—but you're going to find out for yourselves. Indeed, I fancy you'll be the first white man ever actually to set foot on it. I'm going to land you in its midst, without food, weapons, or hope! Justice, you've found a new territory, but one thing is sure—you'll never get out! You can die in it—or live in it, if you can!"

Into the Void!
A STUNNED silence followed the rogue's outburst as slowly the hideous meaning of the sentence sank into five stricken minds. Midge found his tongue first.
"H'm! Sounds pretty sweet, Mister Greasy!" jeered the plucky lad. "But how d'you reckon to land a heavy plane in that tangle of bush below?"
Kuponos' reply came swiftly. "I'm not landing the plane—I'm landing you!" he gloated. "You cub, you're going to step out of this cabin in midair!"
"Why, you—you— By St. Patrick!" O'Mally exploded, the blood draining from his rubicund cheeks. "Let me get at ye, ye vile, curly haired poodle, and I'll tear ye into bits! May all the imps—"
But Kuponos ignored the raging Irishman. He was enjoying the expression on Captain Justice's pale, hard face.
"Ay, that's your reward for interference, man!" continued the Greek. "I'm going to—what's your English word?—maroon you in wildest Africa! And, believe me, Justice, no one but the blacks will ever find you. That's an original punishment you never imagined, eh?"
Justice, coldly defiant as ever, curled his lip.
"It's a punishment that will be over quickly, anyway," he shrugged. "Carry on, renegade! The blacks will be welcome to me—after I've stepped off this plane, you cowardly hound!"
But Xavier Kuponos, it seemed, had another and still more surprising card up his sleeve.
"No, Justice, you don't shorten it that way!" he laughed. "There's going to be nothing quick about your fate, my friend. You're going to hit the ground alive!"
To the increased astonishment of all, the Greek suddenly whipped out a knife, severed Midge's wrist-cords, then covered the boy with his revolver.
"Under your seat, cub," he said softly, "is a parachute, ready in its pack. The same applies to you others! Put yours on, boy—now! Untie your ankles, then release your friends. And do it smartly, too, or your dear leader loses a toe to begin with!"
Kuponos held the whip-hand! Stiffly, helplessly, Midge rose. He could do nothing else, for already the revolver was pointing steadily at Captain Justice. Like one in a dream, the boy harnessed himself into the parachute straps. He glanced wistfully at the Greek's weapon, miserably at Len, then began to untie his chum's hands.
One after the other, O'Mally, Flaznagel, and Justice were similarly released, and, under the threat of Kuponos' revolver, they donned their parachutes. Justice, despite his steel nerves, turned almost sick with apprehension, not for himself, but on his friends' account.
Marooned amid jungle and colossal mountains! Even a rank tenderfoot could have had no difficulty in picturing the ghastly fate in store for the doomed five.
Captain Justice knew from experience that their chances of escape were practically nil. No white man, forced to exist under worse handicaps than the natives themselves, could hope to live long in that scorching death-trap. They would live just long enough to taste its worst horrors!
Dully he became aware that Kuponos was speaking again,
"Captain Justice, you've been a great man in your way. You've been head of your own organisation, ruler of your own island-kingdom. You see, Xavier Kuponos knows all about you. You've enjoyed riches and comfort; you've had the assistance of this Flaznagel, who is a fool, but a clever fool, and he has backed you up with all the resources of science.
"Stout followers, the finest airship in the world, laboratories, workshops, weapons—you've had them all. Now you're losing them all! You ruined my own organisation; I've spent my last cent on this, my revenge. But I'll live to build up my power again. You won't!"
Smiling, covering the despairing captives warily, Kuponos backed to the cabin door. Even then Justice could hardly grasp that the man was a maniac who seriously intended to go right through with his fearful revenge. But Kuponos threw back a switch—and the door opened. It was a sliding-door. It glided slowly back on rollers into the curved thickness of the fuselage.
"Well, my interfering friends, who leads the way?"
Justice, after a haggard glance at the reeling landscape, spoke in a harsh, strained voice:
"Listen, Kuponos! You've got me, I know. But my friends—give them a bare chance, at least! Two of them are boys, and—"
The heroic captain could have bitten out his tongue next instant. His gallant plea added the last exquisite drop to the Greek's cup of triumph.
"Ha, you ask favours now!" he cried. "Well, good-bye, fools—and good hunting! The boys shall go first!"
Quick as lightning, the muscular rogue pounced. He snatched Midge off the floor, and hurled the boy neck and crop out into empty space. Midge vanished!
Down and down he plunged, turning head over heels, while a whistling wind and the bawl of the engines rang in his ears. The lad had made chute jumps before, and even as he fell, the horrible thought pierced his mind that Kuponos had thrown him to his death already—that the parachute would fail to function! Everything whirled around him. Desperately he yanked at the rip-cord, and—
A sob of relief burst from his tightly strained lips. There came a loud rustling report from somewhere, then a heavy jerk. Midge felt a cold empty sensation around his waistline, as though he had left the major portion of his stomach a long way behind. Then he flashed a hasty glance upwards, and "Saved!" he muttered. Above his red head a graceful yellow canopy gleamed in the sun. The parachute had opened.
And Midge's fervent exclamation was repeated still more fervently by his friends aloft, who had passed through agonies until the parachute opened. Kuponos continued to laugh.
"You cur!" Furiously Len Connor made a belated effort to tackle the Greek, but his legs were cramped and he stumbled. Before he could recover, a hand of steel gripped his arm. Kuponos pulled. Len, like Midge, took a swift and sudden header into the void.
His parachute also opened—Kuponos meant that none of his foes should meet a mercifully quick end. And Professor Flaznagel went next.
"Count five, professor! Then jerk the thumb-ring!" Justice cried hoarsely. And a moment later, without a chance to say farewell, the old scientist hurtled through the door.
O'Mally and Captain Justice looked at each other steadfastly then. Their hands met, tightened strongly, fell apart. In silence the stout Irishman hobbled to the door, heavy jaw out thrust.
“Keep your paws off me, ye smirkin' blackguard!" he growled at Kuponos; and then, calmly, disdainfully, the staunch doctor jumped. He hurtled down, his parachute gushed open—and Justice squared his shoulders. It was his turn at last.
But before the Greek would permit him to leap and get it over, the aeroplane took a final swing, so that the captain had one more glance at his comrades suspended in midair. For a long moment he stared deep into Kuponos' yellow-flecked eyes, and the Greek cringed involuntarily. Another moment, however, and the Greek jerked his thumb downwards.
"Empty-handed, my friend!" he jeered. "Now let's see how the brave, ever resourceful Captain Justice fights the jungle empty-handed! Good-bye, my captain! Good-bye!"
"No! It's au revoir!" rapped Justice significantly and he meant it. Without a tremor, he sprang out after his companions—and the victorious crook's shrill cackle of laughter followed him down.
Six seconds later, five laden parachutes, like great shining toadstools, drifted sluggishly earthwards. Xavier Kuponos' aeroplane dipped in a last derisive salute; then banked and headed back on its return course, leaving Justice & Co. to the mercy of the jungle.
"And that's that! So-long, Greasy, and I hope all your engines conk out!"
Midge, hanging in his harness, sighed and bit his lip deeply. He turned his eyes upon the wilderness below, only to turn them away again hastily. As a last act of defiance, he thumbed his snub nose aggressively at the retreating plane, and, to reassure himself, carefully counted the other parachute's dotting the cloudless sky. All safe, so far, but—Midge forced a wry grin.
"Sensational defeat of Captain Justice—I don't bloomin' well think!" he grunted. "Sufferin' cats, we're certainly strung-up, fed-up, and far from home; and I'm so hungry I could gnaw these straps! But, lumme, while there's life, there's hope! And I'll bet myself a nine-course feed that the skipper gets us out of this mess somehow! And then—" Midge's freckled young face took on a malevolent scowl.
"Then, Mister Xavier Kuponos, we'll jolly well find you again, and rub your Grecian snout in the mud, if we have to walk back, clean across Africa!"
An encouraging hail from Len floated faintly to Midge's ears, and he waved back. Slowly, inexorably, the parachutes, with Captain Justice & Co. beneath them, continued their descent into the primeval jungle.
Xavier Kuponos had carried out his threat!

Marooned in Darkest Africa, the hardest fight of Captain Justice's career is at handa fight for existence against all the dangers of the jungle! It's going to be a great fight. Don't miss the opening round in Next Saturday's issue! [Part 2 of 12]

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As an armed forces brat, we lived in Rockcliff (Ottawa), Namao (Edmonton), Southport (Portage La Prairie), Manitoba, and Dad retired to St. Margaret's Bay, NS.
Working with the Federal Govenment for 25 years, Canadian Hydrographic Service, mostly. Now married to Gail Kelly, with two grown children, Luke and Denyse. Retired to my woodlot at Stillwater Lake, NS, on the rainy days I study the life and work of A. Hyatt Verrill 1871-1954.