BRITISH COMICS

(Rover Homepage)

SIX MEN HEAR THE WHISPER

First episode taken from The Rover issue: 1573 August 20th 1955.

THE THRILLING STORY OF SIX MEN WITH A STRANGE MISSION. THEY MUST FOLLOW A DANGER TRAIL AND THEIR ONLY GUIDE IS AN UNKNOWN VOICE!

A VOICE FROM NOWHERE.

The London Amateur Athletics Association Championships were being held at the White City Stadium, on a perfect July afternoon. The great crowd was hushed as the runners lined up for the 880 yards race. All except one, an Australian, were British, so there was not much doubt as to where the title would go, but the eyes of the knowledgeable ones were on number 3, a lean rangy man a little older than the other competitors. He wore glasses, but it was not this which had attracted the attention of the crowd. In spite of the fact that he was not yet thirty, he was Dr John Tennant, one of the world’s leading experts in tropical diseases, and the discoverer of an entirely new treatment for malaria.  The announcements had been made. The runners were on their marks in readiness for the crack of the pistol. It was one of the tense moments that John Tennant enjoyed. It was such a complete contrast to his life in laboratory or consulting-room.

Now he was not battling with germs, but with well trained men who would strain every nerve and sinew to reach the tape before him. The “ready” signal came, and Horton, of Achilles Club, bounded from his mark and was twenty yards away before he realised that the race had not begun. It was a false start. They were on their marks for the second time and it was then that Dr John Tennant heard a voice saying: “Don’t run, Doctor Tennant! You are wanted—something much more important. Come to Manaos! Come to Manaos! Many lives depend on it!” The young doctor who had been concentrating on getting off his mark as quickly as possible, found himself glancing round to see who had spoken to him. It was certainly not Watkins, of the London A.C., who was next to him. It flashed through his mind that the voice came from right inside his ear, almost as though he had been holding a telephone to his head. “Stop, Tennant! Don’t waste time,” came the imperative voice from somewhere within range of Dr Tennant’s consciousness. “You are endangering the lives of thousands every minute you delay. Go to Manaos, in Brazil!” Bang! The starter’s gun cracked and everyone except John Tennant leapt forward as though hurled from a spring-board. The race was on—except for John Tennant. He had straightened up and was listening to that mysterious voice which seemed to come from nowhere: “You are wanted in South America. John Tennant! Go to Manaos. The life of the true people depends on it. Hurry!” The other runners were fifty yards down the track. A buzz of excitement ran through the crowd when they saw who had been left behind. Officials were crowding round. Jim Warder, Tennant’s best friend, ran over and gripped him by the arm. “Anything wrong, John? What happened? Why didn’t you start?” he gasped. John Tennant drew a hand across his eyes. Coolly and collectively he was considering his condition. He had no fever, he felt no sign of illness, and his head was quite clear, yet as sure as he was at the White City he heard that voice. He knew that it had not been his imagination. “I’m not running today,” said John Tennant. “Let’s get back to the dressing-room.” He saw that the Achilles man was winning. The crowd was so intent on the runners that nobody saw the two men walk quickly off the track and into the tunnel to the dressing-room. Even the officials were needed elsewhere and had no time to ask for an explanation of the amazing behaviour of the man who had been expected to win the race. “What on earth was the matter?” asked Jim Warder, when they were in the dressing-room. “Did you suddenly feel faint?” “Something like that,” agreed Tennant, as he reached for his clothes. “Where is Manaos? It is somewhere in Brazil, isn’t it?” “What? Eh—what did you say?” Warder stared at him as though he feared for his friend’s sanity. “What’s that got to do with you not running? Are you sure you feel all right?” “Of course I’m all right!” snapped the doctor, as he hurried into his clothes. “Let’s me get out of here before the others come back. Is Manaos in Brazil?” “Y-yes, I’m sure it is. It’s somewhere up the Amazon—a long way up the Amazon River. It’s a town in the jungle—a city surrounded by jungle. I’ve read about it, and—” “How does one get there?” asked the man who had discovered a new cure for malaria. “Come on, let’s go out to my car. We’ll call at a travel agency. Something has turned up. I’ve been intending to take a holiday. Maybe I’ll go to Manaos.” In the evening papers it was said that Dr John Tennant had refused to give any explanation of his behaviour at the White City that afternoon.

ON SAFARI.

It was the end of the road, but there was a single track which ran almost to the mountains of the moon, in Uganda. It was here that hunters had to leave the comfort of their jeeps and rely on their own two feet to take them through the jungle. There were four jeeps laden with equipment, camping kit and supplies for there were five wealthy Americans on this safari, and money had been no object to them. That was why they had hired Robert MacDonald, the finest hunter in Africa. He was to guide them to the big game which they wished to shoot, and to protect them against the hazards of the journey. It was he who had hired the fifty native porters who waited to carry the contents of the jeeps the rest of the way. “This is going to take some time,” said Robert MacDonald to Clive Beecham, the oldest and most sensible member of the party. “There is no need for you all to stand around here in the sun. About half a mile from here there are the Oringa Falls. I suggest that you take a stroll through the forest and have a look whilst I get the porters under way. Kilwa will show you the way. Leave everything just as it is and I will attend to it.” He was a short, thickset man with a face the colour of mahogany. To look at him in his shabby shorts and shirt nobody would have guesses that he was acknowledged as the greatest hunter in all Africa. To him the jungle was an open book, and he knew the animals which lived there better than he knew people. In addition to which he was rated as one of the three best shots in the world. Such was his reputation in East Africa that the Americans had considered themselves very lucky to be able to hire him. “Sure we’ll do that!” drawled Beecham. “I’ll take my cine-camera.” He herded the others into the shade, and Kilwa in spotless white, pointed out the track that they were to take. They could already hear the sound of the falls. Robert MacDonald waited until they had gone, then mopped his forehead. He was glad that he had got rid of his clients for a while. It was always a noisy, complicated business unloading from jeeps on to the heads of native porters. He needed a cool head and no distractions. “Now, Nkala,” he said to the head man, “we will get that jeep unloaded first.” It contained the personal baggage of the five sportsmen, and privately, MacDonald considered they had brought enough for twenty. But he was being paid £500 per head on condition they got a lion and an elephant apiece. He did not argue about hiring a few extra porters. The natives swarmed over the jeep, lifting out the expensive pigskin cases. Robert MacDonald stepped back into the shade and reached for his pipe. It was then that something said in his ear: “Don’t waste time here, MacDonald! You’re wanted in Brazil—in Manaos—the most important safari you’ll ever be on. Come to Manaos. Many lives depend on it.” The white hunter turned sharply, expecting to find someone beside him, but there was no one near him. All the porters were gathered round the jeep, and his clients had disappeared from view. Yet the voice had been clear enough. MacDonald rubbed his chin. “Have I been in the sun too long?” he wondered. “A nice thing if I go down with sunstroke for the first time in my life!” “It is not sunstroke,” the same voice informed him. “I am calling you—to Manaos in Brazil. You can fly to Para.” “But what on earth for?” asked the white hunter, then realised that he was talking to himself. “The true people need you,” something told him. “There are others who will need your aid to get to them. Will you waste time fulfilling the whims of these rich idlers when you can save a nation by coming to Manaos?” A squabble had broken out amongst the porters over the loads which each would carry. Robert MacDonald dived into the fray to settle things. He could always handle natives in the right way. He had a natural gift. Once more he dodged back into the shade, and the voice said: “What are you waiting for? You have plenty of money. You don’t need the money from these men. You don’t like any of them except Beecham. Let them find their own lions and elephants. Take one of the jeeps and return to Nairobi. You are wanted in Manaos!” The white hunter took off his hat and again mopped his forehead. He wondered if he ought to take some quinine, in case a fever was coming on. Instead, he took a thermometer from its case and stuck it into his mouth. He waited a minute then examined it. His temperature was normal. He had no fever. “There is a plane to Cape Town from Nairobi at ten tomorrow morning,” the voice told him. Robert MacDonald pulled on his hat more firmly and walked back to the empty jeep in which the sportsmen had travelled. He pressed the starter button and there was immediate response. It was as he backed the jeep round that Nkala came running across to him, eyes wide with alarm. “Bwana! Where do you go, Bwana?” he gasped. “Back to Nairobi!” called MacDonald, as he engaged the gear and shot away down the road in the direction from which they had come. He consoled himself with the thought that the Americans had everything they needed. If they could not look after themselves it was too bad, and in any case he had not yet received any payment from them.

CARTIER QUITS.

A Timber drive was under way in Quebec, in Canada. On the Gatineau River a raft of over a thousand logs was approaching the dangerous Petawago Rapids. The crew of lumberjacks were all experienced men, and were concentrating on preventing the logs from piling up. If they remained stretched out in a long narrow formation they would shoot the rapids without difficulty, but if they wedged across the river they would jam together and choke themselves to a standstill. That would mean using explosives to break the block, and a lot of valuable timber would be lost. The red-shirted lumberjacks ran across the floating, spinning logs with amazing skill. Armed with their long peavies, they were whirled downriver. Their nailed boots gave them grip, but only their uncanny sense of balance prevented them from being thrown into the river and crushed to death by the timber. It was an expert specialized job, and most of the men were French-Canadians. Cleverest of them all, and top man of the outfit, was little Jacques Cartier. Only five feet tall, he was as strong as a lion and as agile as a cat. He could do things that no other man dared attempt. He seemed to know what the river currents were going to do in advance. There was nothing that he did not know about rafts or canoes, and he was utterly fearless. Out in the centre of the river something happened. Two logs came in contact with a sunken rock, wedged, and others arrived on top of them. In a matter of moments there was a pile of timber twenty feet high. “Cartier! Cartier! Where’s Cartier?” arose the cry, and the little French-Canadian was seen running across the river, stepping from one drifting log to another. He hardly ever walked. He always ran. The blockage was mounting higher and higher. Jacques Cartier studied it for a moment, then started to climb up it and thrust with his long peavy. What he did nobody could see, but the big jam began to break up, and the logs commenced to roll back into the river. Cartier went with them, leaping from one to another to avoid being crushed, and occasionally pausing to give another prod with his peavy. With a final crash and splash the blockage collapsed, and the logs flowed on smoothly towards the top of the rapids. Jacques Cartier stood on one floating log and seemed lost in thought. Something was happening to him. A voice was speaking to him, yet there was nobody near him and the roar of the falls should have drowned all voices. Yet he could distinctly hear the words: “Stop this, Jacques Cartier, and go to South America! Go to Manaos—you are needed! Many lives depend on it. Only you can help. Come, please, Jacques Cartier!” The French-Canadian looked around him. He was alone drifting swiftly on a log towards the top of the rapids, over which many logs were already plunging. Normally, he would have started across the other logs towards either bank long before this, but he was so surprised by this mystery that he hesitated. “Come to Manaos!” repeated the mysterious voice, which he now fancied came from within his own head. “It will be to your advantage as well as the greatest adventure of your life. You will not lose by it. Manaos—in Brazil. Come quickly and you will meet others. Come quickly!” “Cartier! Cartier, look out!” came the shouts from men farther back and along the bank, for they thought he was going over the edge to certain death. The man they called King of the River jerked his head up and became aware of his danger. He spun the log to one side with a quick twist of his feet, and like a cat bounded on to another. The force of his arrival carried it over against a third log, and in a moment he was on this, but again only for a fraction of time. Running across the spinning logs, he made a final leap on to the bank just as the raft was about to take the final plunge. He stood there mopping his brow, and when his friends came running up he was propping his peavy against a tree. He looked so strange that someone said: “What’s wrong with you, Jacques? Feeling ill?” “I am all right, but I quit!” snapped the French-Canadian, tightening his belt. “Quit!” they stared at him aghast. “But—But—” “I quit! I go to Quebec!” said Jacques Cartier. “You scared? Did you get scared out there?” asked somebody else. Jacques Cartier looked at them coldly. “Mebbe I was, Mebbe I wasn’t, but I go to Quebec and then to Brazil!” he grunted, as he turned away.

FROM THE FOUR CORNERS.

Dr John Tennant stepped ashore at Manaos like a man in a dream. He still did not know why he was there, or why he had chosen to take an Amazon cruise for his holiday. He had discovered that there was an English steamship line which ran a direct service to Para and up the mighty Amazon and the River Negro as far as the amazing city that was Manaos. He had booked a passage on that, but whereas most of the passengers had return tickets, and intended to sleep aboard the vessel at Manaos. John Tennant had only a single ticket. The heat was overpowering when he took a taxi to a hotel in the centre of one of the strangest cities in the world. He knew by now that although it was a modern city with paved roads, electric lights, buses, an opera house, cathedral, cinemas, and everything else that a city can offer, it had no communication with the outside world except by air or the river. There were no roads or railways leading to Manaos. A mile outside, the dense jungle shut it in on all sides. If a man walked three miles from the centre of the city the chances were that he would never be seen again. Yet something—that mysterious voice—had brought Dr John tenant all the way from England. Many times he had told himself that he had imagined the call, but his trained medical mind told him that this was not so. The voice had been real, and it had been insistent. He was needed here in Manaos for some reason connected with the fate of many people. The hotel was the only one suitable for a visitor like himself, and he was not surprised to find it crowded, but what did surprise him was to see a strange little man with a brown, Mongolian face at the reception desk. He was no more than four-feet ten, very sturdy, and dressed in thick garments totally unsuitable for the tropics. In broken English he was trying to explain to the clerk that he had booked a room in the hotel, and that his name was Tashi. “Senor Tashi!” muttered the clerk, whose English was very scanty. “Senor Tashi!” He looked down his book, but the little Asiatic touched him on the arm and exclaimed: “No, Senor Tashi—Me Sherpa Tashi!” Dr Tennant, who was standing right behind him, had another look at the speaker, a surprised look and saw that indeed he was one of that famous race of mountaineers who come from Nepal, at the foot of the Himalayas. “The gentleman’s name is Tashi, without any Senor,” Tennant explained to the clerk, and looked at the list of bookings. “Here you are, Tashi—booked from Karachi by cable last month. “Yes, that is so, sir, thank you!” beamed the Sherpa. “My English, she is not very good.” John Tennant introduced himself to the Sherpa, who held out his hand, and they shook. A few moments later they were led to their respective rooms, and Tennant noticed that the Sherpa carried all his belongings in a ruck-sack on his back. “Why in the world should a man from the Himalayas be here in the middle of Brazil?” marvelled John Tennant, when his bags were carried up for him. Then he thought to himself: “But why am I here? It’s just as strange.” After a bath to cool himself down, he changed into clean clothing, then decided to see something of the city. As the lift came to his floor for him, someone else came out of a room at the other end of the corridor and called: “Wait, please! I’m coming down.” He sprinted towards the lift, a short, thickset man with a brick-red face. Tennant held the lift for him, and they grinned to one another. “You British?” asked the doctor. “Yes, I’m from Africa,” said the other, as the lift carried them downwards. “Name of MacDonald. Do you know anything about this place?” “Nothing. I only came off the Orantic an hour ago. I’m on holiday—” explained the doctor. “And I—” The man with the red face frowned. “I hardly know why I’m here.” He looked at the visiting card which Tennant had given him. “A medical man, eh? Just what I need! Do you believe in telepathy?” The lift stopped at the ground floor and they got out into the palm-shaped hall. A tall, lean, obvious American with horn-rimmed spectacles and a Palm Beach suit had just arrived and was signing in. “Telepathy, you mean communication between minds?” said John Tennant. “I hardly know. There have been many examples of people receiving messages from someone they knew far away.” “Yes, I know that,” growled Robert MacDonald, as they watched the American’s baggage being taken to the lift, “but have you ever heard of anyone fool enough to drop what they were doing and bolt off to a country thousands of miles away just because they fancied they had heard a voice calling them to come?” John Tennant became rigid. He stared, and then burst out: “Yes, me! That’s why I’m here. I was at a sports meeting in London when a voice in my ear told me—almost commanded me—to come to Manaos. I was in need of a holiday and came on a steamer.” “Remarkable!” exploded MacDonald. “The very same thing happened to me in East Africa—in Uganda. I was out in the jungle with some clients on safari when this voice told me to come here!” They continued to stare at one another, then from behind them there broke in a voice with an American accent. “Excuse me, gentlemen, but I could not help overhearing what you were saying.” It was the American newcomer who had passed on his way to the lift. “My name is Miles Greet, of New York, and I had the same experience. I was sitting in my Wall Street office one day when a voice ordered me to fly here. I’ve just arrived. What’s it all about? It’s uncanny!” “Yes, it’s uncanny, but there must be some reason for it,” replied Tennant. “I think we had better get together somewhere and discuss this.” They moved into an inner lounge where the shades had been drawn to keep out the hot sun. They thought they had the place to themselves until they saw the Sherpa sitting in a corner. He looked lost and miserable, but when he sighted John Tennant he smiled and came over. “Please, Sahib,” he said, “nobody here speak my English. Can you please ask someone why I am here? Who send for me all the way from Nepal? Someone speak in my ear to come when I was half-way up mountain. Was it you! Who send for me? Perhaps the Sahib find out for me.” They looked at him, then at each other. It was the American who gripped the Sherpa by the elbow and led him towards a table. “So you’re another of us! Come into the circle and let’s talk this over. We’ve all had a ‘call’ to come here from different parts of the world. Why?”

THE SIXTH MAN.

They had discussed the amazing circumstances for half an hour without coming to any conclusion, and Dr Tennant was in the middle of a scientific explanation of telepathy when he broke off in the middle of a sentence. Once again he had heard that mysterious voice in his ear or within his head. “You are in Manaos,” said the voice, “but you are not all present. Two more are to come. There is a man in the hotel called Cartier. Find him, and when the sixth man arrives I will tell you where you are to go.” The voice stopped. John tenant looked up, and saw that the other three were looking bewildered. “Sorry, I didn’t hear what you were saying, Tennant,” burst out Robert MacDonald. “Fact is I heard that voice again, and it said—” “That there was a man in the hotel called Cartier and that we must find him!” interrupted Miles Greet. “Yes, so you heard the voice message?” gasped the doctor. “Yes, Sahib, so did I, there is someone still to come,” put in Sherpa Tashi. There was silence. This was stranger than ever. Somewhere there was an unknown being who could send messages to them wherever they were, either singly or collectively. They received these messages as one received a wireless message. “And we are going to be told what we have to do next,” carried on John Tennant. “The sooner all six of us are together the better. Wait here. I’m going to inquire whether there is anyone called cattier staying in the hotel.” He left them, and returned five minutes later with a short cat-like little man with broad shoulders and crisp black hair. He had bronzed skin and his clothing was that of a lumberjack. “Mr Jacques Cartier, of Canada, introduced the doctor. “He was in his room, wondering what to do next. He arrived yesterday from Canada having received a similar call to our own. There is not the slightest doubt that we have been called together for some unusual reason, something connected with the True People. Does anyone here know of these True People?” They all shook their heads, and Cartier told how he had quitted his job in the Canadian forest and spent all his savings on plane fares to Para and thence to Manaos.  “Yer’ much I would like to know what happens next, m’sieurs!” he murmured. “It is strange. Me, I am a river man, a lumberjack. Here we have a doctor, a hunter from Africa who knows the jungle, and a professional mountaineer from the greatest range of mountains in the world. Ver’ much I would like to know what you are, M’sieur?” He looked at the American. Miles Greet grinned. “Well, I can’t claim to be any good at anything much. I can shoot a bit, ride a bit, but nothing very good. I’m not an expert like you others and not a skilled professional man. The only claim I’ve got to being unusual is that I’m a millionaire. If any dough is wanted for anything. I guess I can provide it!” It was useful to know that they had large funds at their disposal if needed! As there were no sense in sitting there idly they hired a car and drove round the city to see the sights. They stopped at several places for refreshments and everywhere asked if anyone had heard of a tribe or community called the True People. Nobody had heard of them. It was nightfall when they got back to their hotel, and the first thing they did was to inquire at the desk whether there was any unusual newcomer. They were told that nobody had arrived at the hotel since Miles Greet, so they were still without the sixth member of their party, and they had been told that nothing would happen until he arrived. They dined together and Miles Greet insisted on paying for everything. Afterwards, they went up to his suite, where they sat on the balcony in the cool of the evening, overlooking the darkened park below. The only sound they could hear was the rustling of the wind in the trees, and the distant hoot of a steamer on the river. Miles Greet smoked a cigar, and MacDonald a pipe. The others did not smoke. For the most part they sat there in silence, a doctor from London, a hunter from Africa, a mountaineer from far Nepal, a river-man from Canada, and a millionaire from New York, all drawn to this remote corner of the world by means which they did not understand. “It seems obvious that we’re going to be asked to go somewhere or do something,” suddenly said John Tennant. “It looks as though we’ve been picked for our specialized knowledge, which means that the going will be pretty tough. I for one am anxious for the fun to begin. I’d hate to think I came all this way for nothing.” The others agreed. They were all eager to know what they were going to be asked to do. They all felt certain that when the time came they would receive further messages. The unknown being who had brought them together from the four corners of the earth obviously had an intriguing task for them and they were impatient to know what it was. Talk stopped again. Each man felt that the less they talked, and the more they left their minds a blank, the easier it would be for another message to come to them. It was a rustling in the trees beyond the balcony that disturbed them. Some of these trees grew to a great height, but only their outlines could be seen in the darkness. The rustling grew louder, and branches creaked. Miles Greet looked somewhat alarmed. “Sounds as though something’s swinging from tree to tree,” he muttered. Before anyone could reply, something landed in the nearest tree, then launched itself into the air directly for the balcony. There was the hard slap of hands on the stout balcony rail, and as they leapt to their feet in alarm they saw that the hands were large in size, deeply bronzed, and enormously powerful. The hands gripped and heaved, and over the top of the rail came the most powerfully built man they had ever seen. He was well over six feet in height, with a massive torso, mighty limbs, and muscles which bulged under his bronzed, satin-like skin every time he stirred. His face was the colour of mahogany, although his eyes were blue, and his thick head of hair had been bleached by tropical suns. The balcony creaked beneath his weight as he moved towards them smiling. “I hope I didn’t frighten you, gentlemen,” he said, “but I saw you from a distant tree-top and guessed you were the ones I had to meet here. My name is Morgyn. “Morgyn the Mighty!” muttered Doctor Tennant, who had heard of this remarkable person. “The strongest man in the world.” Morgyn shrugged his enormous shoulders. His only garment was a leopard skin, and he was barefooted. “That remains to be proved,” he murmured. “Am I right in guessing that you are the other five men who received a call to come here to Manaos?” “Yes, and the same happened to you?” asked Miles Greet, getting over the shock of this sudden appearance. “It did,” said Morgyn. “I was 500 miles north of here, in the Venezuelan jungle, when the call came to me. I have obeyed it out of curiosity. Have you yet learned why we’ve been brought together?” They shook their heads. “That is what we are waiting to hear,” growled MacDonald. “Now that you have come we should not have to wait long. I’ve a feeling that whoever is responsible for this business knows everything that we do. He will know that the six of us are together.

 

SIX MEN HEAR THE WHISPER 10 episodes appeared in The Rover issues 1573 – 1582 (1955)

© D. C. Thomson & Co Ltd 

Vic Whittle 2004