All Things Mysterious Volume Fifty-Four
Lieutenant Jones Isn't Always Right
The screech of the parrot! The monkey's incessant chatter! The hard snap of the crocodile's jaws!
Lieutenant Jones wasn't expecting this! He'd been lounging in a hammock in Vancouver, British Columbia, cold drink in one hand, intriguing international woman of mystery in the other, really enjoying life for the first time in a long while when he felt the familiar tingle that meant a mission was at hand. Before he disappeared into time and space he managed a quick farewell to the girl, saying, 'Got to run, Giselle—duty caaaaallllllls' as he faded from view.
This time, when he re-materialized, he was in exactly the same position but in a much different place--stretched out along the bottom of a canoe floating down a river!
Hoisting himself up to a sitting position, he took stock of the situation. He was in a canoe and floating down a river. That pretty much summed it up. First thing to do was ascertain just what river he was floating down. Looking around, he saw nothing but deep jungle, the occasional plume of smoke, and now and then an animal. Wild, not domestic. He must be on the Amazon!
‘Yes, it’s the Amazon,’ the voice said. Had he said that out loud? With a start, Lieutenant Jones realized that he wasn’t alone in the boat! And it was someone he knew!
‘Well, if it isn’t Mr. Worthington-Proudfoot! Fancy meeting you here!’
‘Please call me Abner, Lieutenant. May I call you Lieutenant?’
‘You may. May I ask why you are in this canoe?’
‘Can you keep a secret?’
With a pained look in his eye, the Lieutenant replied, ‘You wound me, sir. Discretion is a large part of my milieu.’
‘In that case, sir, I will confide in you. In this jungle lurks a fountain of youth! A real one!’
‘Pshaw!’ scoffed the Lieutenant.
‘Have you ever heard of the noted Amazonian tribal leader M’Bulu?’
‘I cannot say that I have, sir.’
‘He lays claim to four hundred and fifty years of life! And the reason is a small stream of youth water upon his land.’
‘Rot. Men have been searching for that magic elixir for millennia, and no one has yet found it and no one ever will.’
‘I beg to differ, sir. As we speak, Mr. M’Bulu is awaiting us deep in the heart of the jungle where he will show us, and allow us to sample, this ninth wonder of the world!’
Lieutenant Jones pondered this. ‘Interesting. We shall see.’
The bark canoe drifted silently up the river and presently the two men saw a native on the bank improbably carrying what appeared to be a shrunken head. They paddled with their hands up to the shore and waded through the water & pebbles & rocks, pulling the vessel behind them and up onto the land. The native stood imperiously looking down at them as they struggled with the boat. Then he spoke. ‘You come. To M’Bulu. You not make trouble. If trouble--’ he shook the shrunken head at them. Lt. Jones and Worthington-Proudfoot looked at each other. Message received!
Then, a trek through the jungle. Worthington-Proudfoot nervously looked around him, wondering how in the heck they were going to find their canoe again to get out of here once they had found the fountain. The Lieutenant, being a trained agent of danger, was already mentally marking the trail and had noticed that they were making a large circle and would likely end up only a few dozen yards from where they started! Interesting that they would go to the trouble of such a ruse!
They came upon a clearing and both men were thinking the same thing--it was just like a scene out of an old motion picture. A bonfire, a caldron, more shrunken heads on pikes, painted natives dancing around the fire, it was all there. Hoping their heads wouldn’t be shrunk more than they already were, Worthington-Proudfoot and the Lieutenant were hustled past the bubbling caldron and over to the largest tent. Their native escort knocked on the flap and received a grunt in reply. Scooching under the edge, the three men thus stood in front of the Great Leader, M’Bulu. The escort maintained a stone face but the two Westerners had to use the utmost concentration to stifle their laughter. A comically wizened old man wearing ludicrously over-the-top war paint and a huge feathered headdress sat cross-legged on the ground, mumbling. If he’d been ingesting this alleged youth formula it evidently didn’t work very well! At a gesture, the two interlopers sat on the ground also and waited for M’Bulu to speak. In impeccable English he said, ‘Gentlemen, I desire finance from the West in order to market my discovery in return for which you shall both have eternal youth. I have had overtures from a Mr. Kirkaby in the past, but he is missing and presumed eaten.’
Worthington-Proudfoot spoke. ‘It sounds a proper investment opportunity, but before we can proceed, there must be a demonstration that the formula works.’
‘Hala! Mata! Ooby-Dooby!’ exclaimed the tribal leader. In an instant two warriors appeared. Tall, muscular and apparently in their twenties, they stood, silently, just inside the tent flap.
‘Both of these men have seen forty-four years of the yellowing.’
Worthington-Proudfoot looked at the Lieutenant, puzzled. ‘The year of the yellowing comes around every six years,’ said the latter.
Worthington-Proudfoot gaped in amazement. He stammered, ‘Th-these men are 264 years old?’
Lt. Jones casually strolled up to one of the warriors and politely said, ‘Open your mouth, please.’ He peered into the man’s mouth for a few moments and then said, ‘This man is not 264 years old. He approximately one-eighth that old. And he could use some mints’ As Worthington-Proudfoot struggled with the mental arithmetic, the Lieutenant marched up to the old man, passing the braves, one of whom was still opened wide, and said, ‘You, sir, are a fraud.’
‘I will prove it to you!’ And with that, in a flash the old man was out of the tent and over to the caldron from which he proceeded to scoop some of the contents out with his cupped hands and drink deeply, splashing some of it over his head and neck as well.
The Lieutenant watched bemusedly. ‘Worthington-Proudfoot,’ he said, ‘You can tell someone’s age very accurately by the condition of their teeth. That is why I knew the claims of advanced age for those men in the tent were nonsense.’
‘Astounding, Jones! Utterly astounding!’ gushed Worthington-Proudfoot.
A cry came from behind them. Not a cry of despair or warning or distress, but a cry much like….
In front of the caldron sat an infant no older than a few months. Beside him was a huge feathered headdress. The Lieutenant and Worthington-Proudfoot gaped in amazement at the sight right before their eyes. Then, from the big tent came a cough. The men whirled, and there were the two warriors from before. One of them, broadly smiling, removed his dentures and held them up in the firelight.
And now, run through the jungle with Lieutenant Jones, Worthington-Proudfoot, Livingstone, Stanley, lions, tigers, and bears, oh my!:::
Sent into the steaming Colombian jungle to investigate a murder, Luke Carlton stumbles on a diabolical plot that will endanger London and millions of lives!
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As the official coroner of Laos, Dr. Siri doesn't like his job and wants to retire (again). But one more time into the breach; the good doctor is sent into the remote Laotian jungle to a remote cabin where the bodies are starting to accumulate. Why?