Chasing down a ghost
“Tarzan,” the chief said pensively. “Your name is known.”
That wasn’t unexpected. In the jungle everywhere Tarzan went .. new locations .. tribes had heard of his reputation.
The chief was still assessing Tarzan through his eyes. Eyeing him from the tip of his head down to his knees in the dirt. As if his gaze could reveal the true identity of the man he had kneeling before him.
“Many have heard of me,” Tarzan answered back. Haughtily.
Tarzan had no reason to hide his fame. Besides, knowing his identity didn’t seem to soften the chief’s harsh stare. The way he had been treated since his capture, Tarzan wasn’t in the mood for a friendly shake of hands. Being friendly didn’t seem to be on the cards.
“Can’t return the favour. Who are YOU?”
The chief visibly bristled at the tone of the retort. But confident of his power over his prisoner he chose to ignore Tarzan’s impudence.
“We had one here .. before ….. “ the chief spoke recalling …..”He talked of you. Of your fame. He praise one the jungle called Tarzan ….”
“You have the advantage over me. You are … who?”
Tarzan was ignoring the chief too. He had questions. Tarzan wanted answers.
“What tribe are you? What do you want with Tarzan?”
They were talking at cross-purposes. Tarzan was itching to get to his feet. Talk eye-to-eye. But the grip digging into his shoulder was not having that.
The chief nodded slowly .. as if to himself. Looking down on his prisoner. Frowning .. he was thinking. The captive’s answer had confirmed this was the Tarzan spoken of. His gaze narrowed, thinking, wondering .. not for one second letting Tarzan’s eyes escape .. burrowing deep into Tarzan’s identity through his eyes.
“That one before .. King of the jungle, he called you …..”
Tarzan lifted his chest. His chest rose as firmly he gave back his strength of purpose to this unknown chief. Saying the man they called Tarzan was not to be messed around.
“Some call me that. And YOU? You are what? Chief of what tribe?”
Still insisting on answers.
“Have you no answers? For one they call King of the jungle?”
Tarzan saw the chief’s body freeze. Muscles in his shoulders went rigid. Down by his head he spotted the chief’s muscular forearms going taut. The fists clenched. Not liking Tarzan’s attitude. Irritated with his prisoner’s insolence. His lack of deference. For talking back.
For a seeming eternity the chief stared down intently into Tarzan’s face. Despite the threat of bunched fists near his head, Tarzan returned his gaze with a strong undaunted look. Giving out his own message. Not going to be threatened. His gaze giving back as firmly as the chief’s eyes bored into his face. Dug into his soul.
Suddenly the chief snapped out of this battle of wills.
His head indicated Wright. Addressing the priest.
“Keep extracting. Milk him dry. Prepare the warriors’ brew.”
The chief’s eyes again flashed over Wright. Hot and sweaty, sore and raw. But still looking angry as hell.
“They have the milk of strength. Let them celebrate.”
The chief’s gaze returned to Tarzan .. on his knees before him .. but staring back proud, defiant. Looking strong. The chief frowned at such insolent strength of mind. His head cocked to one side .. trying to work something out in his head. Make connections. He nodded to himself. He’d worked it out.
He snapped at the warriors guarding Tarzan.
“This one .. keep a close eye this one.”
And turning to the priest he added.
“As soon as possible .. return.”
The chief’s eyes again scoured Tarzan stuck down on his knees. Assessing him from his head down the length of a muscular defiant body.
“We have an opportunity here. One we must grab.”
His eyes returned to Tarzan. Looking down on him. Returning the strength of will being thrown up at him. Curious his look bored down into Tarzan’s strong gaze. Into his eyes and beyond.
“Tarzan, eh? King of the jungle?”
Thoughtful but decided. The chief continued nodding to himself.
“Tarzan? Yes. I’ve heard speak of you.”