That job completed, he extracted a large leather pouch from the plane. It was this which contained the stuff Doc had told Johnny he might need. After one look at the pouch contents, Johnny chuckled.

"Doc foresees about everything!" he declared.

Johnny thrust a rather unusual pistol inside his shirt. This weapon was in reality a wonderfully compact machine gun—undoubtedly the smallest and most efficient killing mechanism in existence.

The unique weapon was the invention of Doc Savage. They were manufactured secretly for him. Only his five friends and aids were supplied with them.

Johnny left the plane.

* * *

THE swamp was an indescribable tangle. Vines and creepers made a more impenetrable mass than any barbed-wire entanglement Johnny had encountered in the War. The gray, scaly moss hung so thick at times that it seemed he was entirely bundled up in the horsehairlike stuff.

In the next hour, Johnny made less than a mile.

"I can see why a criminal fleeing into this district would be safe!" he muttered. "Nobody could get in to grab him!"

Johnny was aware, however, that there must be secret trails through the morass—trails known only to the evil, ignorant colony, the offspring of criminals, who had spent their lives here. The little monkey men!

It was dark. Although moonlight pressed brightly upon the top of the jungle mat, few of the beams penetrated to the treacherous mess of foul water, mud, roots, and creepers that formed the earth.

Johnny came to higher ground. He listened. Owls were making quite a racket. Somewhere near, a hideous bawling arose. Johnny knew what it was—alligators!

He wet his lips. The 'gators had a grisly way of grabbing a man's leg, then whirling over and over until the leg was torn completely off.

Then, in the neighborhood, Johnny heard a sound which gave him a distinct start.

Apparently it was a child sobbing. He strained his ears. It was a child sobbing!

Puzzled, wary, Johnny made for the sound. The ground became higher. He reached a small glade.

Huddled in the middle of the glade, as if seeking the moonlight, was a small boy. The tot could not be more than four. He was scared. An owl hooted stentoriously at the glade edge, and the little boy emitted a series of squawls. He could not have made a bigger racket were he being devoured alive.

There seemed to be no one else near.

Johnny advanced.

The little boy saw him. His sobbing stopped. He raced for Johnny, stubby legs churning through the rank weeds.

"Ise losted!" he proclaimed in a small and trembling voice.

"That's tough, skipper!" Johnny chuckled. "What'd you do—go rabbit huntin' and follow the rabbit off?"

"How did oo know?" the tot inquired blankly.

Johnny grinned widely. "That's the way little boys usually get lost."

However, Johnny was wishing heartily the little boy had never heard of a rabbit hunt. Finding him, complicated things. Johnny, of course, would have to see his charge home.

Racking his brain, Johnny recalled having noted the light of a house a mile or two distant, just before he landed his plane. He decided to take the shaver there. He set out, the small boy riding his shoulder.

They had covered most of a mile when affairs took a surprising turn.

A flashlight sprayed against Johnny and the tot.

"There he is!" bellowed a coarse voice. "It's what I told you! That dirty, voodoo worshippin' swamp man kidnaped him! Lucky we happened onto him before he got away with the kid!"

"Daddy!" cried the tot at the coarse voice.

"Put the kid down!" snarled a second man behind the flashlight.

Johnny lowered the child. The shaver ran for his father.

Johnny started to explain. He was not given time.

"Teach 'im to go kidnapin' kids!" bellowed the coarse voice. "Kill 'im! Blow his head off!"

A shotgun loosened a terrific gush of flame almost in Johnny's face.

* * *

Chapter X. VOODOO'S DOMAIN

JOHNNY thought faster than the man with the gun—by about eighteen inches. The shotgun charge missed him that much. With a bound, he was out of the flashlight glare.

The flash stabbed wildly in pursuit of him. In his excitement, the man who held it let his finger slip off the button. Darkness clapped down.

It was the rush of sepia blackness that gave Johnny his big idea. He was thinking.

Why was this father so enraged and so certain his small son had been kidnaped? What had caused him to leap to the conclusion so swiftly? Why had he been determined to slay Johnny without waiting for an explanation?

What made the enraged man act as if Johnny was a foul rat, to be scotched without mercy?

The wrathful father had mistaken Johnny for one of the villainous swamp denizens—a voodoo worshiper. Certain obscene rites of the voodoo fiends usually involved the blood from a human sacrifice—a child!

The father thought his tot was being seized for a hideous voodoo ceremony!

Johnny's keen brain raced. He saw suddenly that this situation was made to his order.

He darted forward. He scooped up the small boy. He sprang into the brush. The father dared not shoot, even should he have had the chance, for fear of hitting his offspring.

The shaver was quiet. He seemed to be enjoying the excitement. This was not to Johnny's liking.

"Bellow for your dad, skipper!" he commanded. "Make him think I'm eating your ears off!"

Obediently, the boy let out a piercing howl for "Daddy!"

"He's over there!" shouted the frenzied father. "Follow him! Don't let the voodoo devil get away with my son!"

Johnny put on speed.

"Kinda onery to fool your old man like this," he told the shaver. "But maybe it'll teach him not to be so sudden on the trigger. If I had jumped a little less quick, the world would have lost its second best geologist."

Johnny was careful to make considerable racket, and not go so swiftly that his pursuers would lose track of him. Abruptly sighting the lights of several houses, he swung to one side. Evidently what he had seen was a trading post, where the swamp dwellers bartered muskrat skins, moss, fish, and crabs for their few necessities.

A few minutes later, he stopped his dawdling. He put every ounce of effort into racing through the swamp with the small boy.

For bloodhounds were now on his trail! Evidently they had been secured from the trading post. His trailers gained rapidly!

"This isn't quite so funny!" Johnny muttered. If those enraged pursuers caught him, he was certain to be shot or hanged without delay. Johnny looked exactly like one of the fiendish swamp denizens, and as such would be considered lower than a rat.

Mile after mile, Johnny plunged ahead. His legs ached. Each breath felt as if a mowing machine-sickle was being sawed up and down his throat. A lesser man than Johnny would have collapsed long ago, for Johnny's remarkable physical quality was his endurance. Ordinarily, he was tireless. But carrying the shaver and outrunning the bloodhound pack was taxing even his abilities.

He reached a break in the jungle where moonlight poured down like transparent silver.

Suddenly a man appeared before him. The fellow jabbed out a long-barreled squirrel rifle.

"Who yo' be?" he rumbled.

* * *

JOHNNY carefully kept his face expressionless. This was exactly what he had been hoping for! The man was one of the yellowish-brown, monkeylike swamp clan!

True, the fellow was the largest of the tribe Johnny had seen. And he had a somewhat more intelligent face than usual. A good muscular development showed under the torn sleeves of his shirt.

×