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Blood-Flame For The Judu


A white judu ruled the jungle, and three men died. Carson Roberts stalked
their trail of blood—a trail that led to flaming doom at the hands of his best
friend and the girl he loved

THERE was no sound... no movement. Nothing of life showed in the vine-choked brownish gloom of impenetrable verdant undergrowth. Even the sluggish river which bore the Moshoma dugout seemed stilled, thick and currentless as the stinking muck of the stagnant jungle pool.

Slowly Carson Roberts let his uplifted hand of warning drop. But blue orbs searched the Congo jungle with keened wariness. He could detect nothing alien, but intuitive warning pulled at the nerves of his lean-jawed, whisker-stubbled face.

Burui, his Fulani boy, whispered uneasily. "Bwana, you... ugh!" The whisper was cut short by a hollow 'thock' of terrible driving velocity.

The stricken Nigerian reared convulsively, jerking upright to his full stature, and then toppling stiffly forward into the chocolate flow of the turgid stream. The dugout rolled threateningly. And even as Roberts' startled gaze caught sight of the bright red-feathered arrow nock pinned tight against Burui's ribs, a blaze of fire cut across his own breast bone. The dug-out rolled, and Roberts felt the uncomfortable slime of the tropical stream suck him deep down.

Instinctively the jungle-man drew his knees up tight against his arrow-gashed chest, wrapping his arms into a compact knot about the ball of his body. He sank like stone into the protective waters, but no outflung arm or trailing leg offered hold for the bone-cleaving jaws of crocodiles already jarring the stream with their threshing.

With the first touch of cold ooze bottom, Roberts unleashed his legs in a driving kick that sent him toward the far shore in a long low slant. Concussion pounded his ear drums as Burui's body was torn to bits by the blood-crazed crocs. Then Roberts' groping hands touched gnarled mangrove roots and he inched himself around the tree and into the slimy reeds of the marshy shore.

Lips writhed back in futile anger, Carson Roberts wormed furtively through the stinking muck. Burui was done, but the pang of loss was buried beneath surging rage against the hidden bowman. Squinting over his shoulder, Roberts suddenly noticed the bubbling wake knife through the water toward him. Others followed the blood- scent of his fresh wound, and the white man scrambled to his feet. Hunkered low, he scrambled for the comparative safety of higher ground where the crocs wouldn't follow. An arrow snapped into tree bark bare inches from his slime-plastered head, and Roberts dropped flat, wallowing feverishly aside into a matted creeper growth.

The arrow jutting from the mahogany bole caught his eye, and Roberts' lips pursed in a soundless whistle. Cautiously he reached up and wrenched the deadly missile free... a polished cedar shaft tipped with dyed turkey feather! And as though flaunting the fact that it was a white man's arrow, he saw a name stencilled in gold just behind the murderous steel barb—Wm. Stewart.

"I DON'T have to warn you that this mission is dangerous," the Governor General had said four weeks back. "Three men have gone into the lower Congo Basin... they haven't yet come out!" And Carson Roberts hadn't needed the Governor to warn him. The fact that Brad Filters, experienced deep-country man, hadn't made it was warning beyond the eloquence of ten thousand well-meant spoken words. Something strange and ominous was terrifying the Congo, something that had even the goudougoudou silenced.

Snarling, the white man snapped the murderous shaft in his fingers. The tiny, gold tracery glinted with treachery. Bill Stewart... former classmate and friend, now renegade murderer, and God only knew what more!

Thick hot silence hung like a sweltering blanket over the vast steaming jungle basin. Not a monkey cried out. No parrot screeched. But as his hand felt of his empty pistol holster, Carson Roberts knew well that the tense, brooding silence brooked ill for any who might be unwary enough to ignore its ominous warning.

Pushing his way back into the vine-twisted undergrowth, Roberts struck out savagely. A narrow game trail opened before him, and he fell into an easy, ground-covering jog. Somewhere down river would be the answer to the Governor's problem, and somewhere down river would be Burui's skulking slayer. Roberts grinned mirthlessly as he hurried toward that rendezvous. He was alone and unarmed, his weapons lying at the bottom of the river. But the jungle has many ways of taking life, and Carson Roberts was driven by a burning determination to utilize any and all of them.

The twisting game trail suddenly emptied into a treeless lawn that sloped down to the water. Beyond the stream, high shooting gray palms speared into the cloudy sky. And tending fish-traps along the far bank were nearly a dozen blacks. Carson Roberts faded back into the trees but not without being seen.

A tall, ochre-and-ashes-bedaubed black, naked but for an apron of leather thongs, suddenly grunted, his copper armlet glinting in the fading light as he gesticulated excitedly toward the open glade. Dark visages turned as the other natives stared.

"Stay clear, bwana!"...

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