Dr. Ross gestured for me to stand still, then slowly crept up to the pile of shattered palm-wood that had once served as the portico to the mess-hall. Knees akimbo, his coat of snow-white adventuring-chinchilla trailing across the ground, he moved his large frame to the locus of the hissing as silently as an erudite dust-mote and, with sudden motion, heaved several large planks aside. He looked down in shock.
‘Holy shit, in the name of Honest Iago get your ass over here!’
There, wheezing and holding a terrible, sucking wound in his chest, lay a British left-tenant in the muddy earth, shattered wood surrounding his red uniform and pale body.
‘By God I’m…’ at this he ejected forth heavy blood-sputum, indicating to us that he might not be wholly well, ’… bloody glad to see you lot. They came in the night, they…’
At this the man descended into a prolonged coughing fit, red foam flecking his mouth. Dr. Ross glanced at me, concern highlighted in his usually-impassive features. He quickly constructed a poultice from several blades of grass, a handful of red soil and the soldier’s soiled left sock, affixing the wondrous healing-device to the soldier’s splintered rib-cage; he then produced an ebony pocket-flask, dribbled a few drops of the purest Hennessey onto the wounded man’s lips and firmly slapped him across the face with the back-side of his hand.
‘There – via my intricate knowledge of both the teachings of Hippocrates and the best battle-surgeons of to-day, I’ve done what Western Medicine can. Now tell me, bitch, what the fuck happened here?’
The left-tenant sighed and, with vigour already returning to his cheeks, laid before us the outpost’s strange tale.
‘Several weeks ago we began losing patrols in the jungle. At first we assumed the usual state of affairs: men getting lost amidst the trees and taking forest-nymphs as brides – a common plague in these sensual, sub-tropical regions I’m afraid.’
He pulled forth a stained pamphlet from his breast-pocket and handed it to me. I glanced at its pithy cover: Her Imperial Majesty, the Colonial Asiatics, and YOU: A Primer for Soldiers of the British Empire Regarding Their Dealings with the Sub-Human Races, then put the educative guide away as the man continued his story.
‘But in due time we began to come across the bodies of the missing men, stripped of their sweet-meats and left in the heated sun; in addition, our men were reporting sighting of emerald-scaled persons flitting amongst the brush – with this knowledge, we suspected something might be amiss; thus, we sent messages downstream to Head-Quarters containing this information along with the customary requests for additional gin-supplies.’
Dr. Ross stood silently contemplating the import of this news; concurrently, I deduced that this information might be related to our own mission investigating the carnivorous Lizard-Men terrorizing this very same outpost. The soldier, strengthened by another administration of Hennessey and back-hand, carried on:
‘Then last night, under the grin of the full Moon, these cold-blooded dæmons overran our defenses; they must have known our movements well, as they chose the evening Buggering-Hour, when our most able-bodied troops were pre-occupied with their soldierly duties. The outpost was ruined, our men carried away into the velvet folds of darkness-’ The good Doctor rolled his eyes under his sun-glasses at the left-tenant’s poetic cliches ‘ – and I was left behind only because I had the good luck for the mess-hall to collapse, aflame, atop my already-grievously-wounded self. As I’ve lain here, extracting smouldering splinters from my surely-infected legs, I’ve been thanking the Blessed Maker for my excellent Fortune; and then you showed up! The famous Rick Ross, Professor of Logic…’
‘Philology, actually; Logic is just a side-hobby.’
‘Oh yes, Sir, I meant-’
Suddenly, with a thump, a chiseled stone battle-ax was protruding from the lucky left-tenant’s chest!
The both of us, the learned Doctor and myself, turned to see two snarling Lizard-Men standing several paces away – so they did exist!
Tune in next week for Part Four of The Saga of Rick Ross: The Lizard-Men of Borneo!