It was Sunday, and for Captain Adam McCloud of the Scottish whale ship HARMONY, it was always the best day of the week, more than that really, the Sabbath was the most important day of the week. On his knees before his bunk, he prayed. He prayed for the souls of his men, for those who had come into the fold and for those who had yet to see the true way to salvation. He’d beg forgiveness for his blasphemy and cursing over the last week, for his lustful and impure thoughts. He’d pray for the heathens that he had saved, he’d pray for the ones he had yet to. There was a knock on his door, which he expected. “Enter,” he said in his most pious voice. A sailor came in and informed the captain that the men were assembled. McCloud nodded his head and with his bible in hand, he left the confines of his cabin and walked forward, the ship gently swaying at anchor and taking his place standing aft of the trypots, he looked out among the faces there. Fourteen men including the Eskimo, Keelut who had seen the error of his heathen ways and sought the Lord, good! Very good indeed! “It is good to see so many of you standing before me,” began McCloud. “Though for many of us far from our homes, we find the path to salvation is a difficult one, but with inner strength and the help of the Lord, I’m sure we shall prevail. Let us pray.” The fourteen men bowed their heads and clasped their hands in front of them and began to speak in one voice. “Our Father who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name, thy Kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” “Give us this day our daily bread. Forgive us our debts, as we have also forgiven our debtors.” “And lead us not into temptation but deliver us from the evil one.” “For thine is the Kingdom and the glory for ever and ever. Amen.” McCloud motioned for the men to be seated and standing above them cleared his throat and began. “I speak to you from the book of Matthew, chapter 8, verse 18. When Jesus saw the crowd around him, he gave orders to cross to the other side of the lake. Then a teacher of the law came to him and said, “Teacher, I will follow you wherever you go.” Jesus replied, “Foxes have holes and the birds have nests, but the son of man has no place to lay his head.” Another disciple said to him, “Lord, first let me go and bury my father.” But Jesus told him, “Follow me and let the dead bury their own dead.” McCloud stopped and looked at the men before him. “I speak here of what? I speak of the cost of following Jesus, our Savior…” The litany would last another two hours at least. First mate Charles Walters watched from the wheel situated aft. They had been in Greenland for two 212 months and in that time, Walters watched the master of the HARMONY go slowly insane. It had started simply enough, the captain reading the bible in his cabin, but as time went on he spent more time in the cabin with the book and bottles of brandy and began to speak of his intimacy with the Almighty and the futility of opposing the will of God. Walters wasn’t sure what had pushed his captain over the edge, it might have been all his time at sea, the loneliness of Greenland or the pressure of command. Whatever it was, it was putting them all in danger. In this environment the captain of all people needed to be in command of all his faculties and Walters was trying to figure how to stop what was happening and quickly, short of relieving the captain of command, which would endanger his career if he could not prove his accusations. There were no rules against finding religion. The only one who had any influence with the captain lately was that native, Keelut and Walters sure as hell didn’t trust that mangy son of a bitch. His conversion to Christianity was about as real as Father Christmas. Walters looked ashore, a trypot was smoking tended by some of the Eskimo women and another one was being prepared. On a rocky beach, some Eskimo men and whalers were butchering a couple of whales. The Eskimos were led by a resourceful hard working half breed, whose father was reputed to have been a whaling captain from years past which may have been true, not that Walters really cared as long as the work was done, 213 his chief concern was getting out of this place with or without his crazy captain. He heard McCloud’s voice rising forward. “…and as stated in Isaiah, chapter 53, verse 3. He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows, and familiar with suffering. Like one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not.” The captain’s voice became quieter and Walters turned away shaking his head. He could make no sense from the man’s ravings and doubted they made any sense to his ill collected congregation. By evening, most of them would be passed out from too much rum which for some strange reason, the captain cheerfully condoned, once telling Walters “that better a weakness for the drink than the flesh in such a sinful place as this,” whatever the hell that meant. The cook came on deck and careful to avoid the preaching captain, moved farther aft and after checking the direction of the wind, dumped a bucket of slop over the side. Wiping his hands on his shirt he walked toward Walters. “Good morning, Mr. Walters.” Walters nodded his head, “Good morning, Smith.” “Ahh, Mr. Walters, I was wondering if I…” began the cook, but stopping in midsentence. “Wondering what Smith?” “Well sir, if after dinner, I could go ashore to…maybe get some extra grub as it was, if it was alright.” 214 Oh yeah, thought Walters, this place was just brimming over with fresh vegetables and eggs. He knew the cook had a woman ashore and just said, “Yeah, but make sure you’re onboard before breakfast, the steward can’t cook to save his arse.” “Aye sir, thank’ee,” said Smith and went below to prepare lunch for the crew aboard. Walters sighed and turned his attention back to the beach, maybe Smith had the right idea, go ashore and get some extra grub. From the shore Peter watched the HARMONY at anchor. The size of the vessel never ceased to amaze him, the tall masts and the rigging or the fact that his father had been captain of such a ship. To him it was quite remarkable that men could build such things. The thing Peter and others found annoying was the presence of Keelut on the whale ship and the influence he seemed to have over Captain McCloud. It had been two years since Keelut had disappeared and Allawah had become Peter’s wife. In that time, things had changed. Their small band which had numbered eleven now numbered thirty and Peter was now their leader. He and Allawah had a son whom they named Tah. Over time they continued their usual hunts and when an opportunity presented itself, such as now, they worked for the whalemen. And so it was when the HARMONY dropped anchor, causing excitement at first and then dread when they 215 saw Keelut. Those who remembered him or had heard stories about him feared the worst. Keelut ignored Peter and went through a less competent man when he gave instructions from the outsiders to the Inuit, knowing well that if there were any mistakes Peter would be blamed, regardless if he knew something or not. As Peter’s English was limited at that time (something he and Ahnah decided they would correct very quickly), he had little in the way of any recourse, and endured the insults of Captain McCloud when things did not go his way. Peter knew his people depended on him and couldn’t let his personal feelings interfere the work, the band needed it. Allawah was afraid and though Sedna hadn’t said anything, he knew she was worried. Ahnah also remained quiet but kept her wits about her. If Keelut was near, bad things were sure to follow. Peter sighed and turned his attention to the task at hand, butchering two whales on the black gravel shore. The men were all good with a knife, but even with ten men on one and twelve on the other, they were still going to be busy for quite a few hours. It wasn’t bad though, the men laughed and joked, took time to smoke and if they had it, an occasional nip from the bottle. The water off the beach was red with blood, the whale flesh cut into strips that could be managed the woman cut them into smaller pieces and threw the blubber into the boiling trypots, stirring them like witches in a Greek tragedy. Peter looked at the ship once more before returning to 216 work. Ahnah had told him their destinies involved such a ship, the questions were which one and when? “The time draws near when we must reluctantly finish our service. I’ll finish from the book from which we started, Matthew, chapter 18, verse 10. See that you do not look down on one of these little ones. For I tell you that their angels in heaven always see the face of my Father in heaven.” “What do you think? If a man owns a hundred sheep, and one of them wanders away, will he not leave the ninety-nine on the hills and go to look for the one that wandered off? And if he finds it, I tell you the truth, he is happier about that one sheep than about the ninety-nine that did not wander off. In the same way your Father in heaven is not willing that any of these little ones should be lost.” McCloud stopped for a moment to allow the men some time for private meditation. After five minutes, the master/minister of the HARMONY raised his head. “That concludes today’s service. I hope this leaves you with your souls more refreshed, your thoughts more serene. Go with the Lord and ask for his guidance in all things, peace be with you.” The Sunday service aboard the HARMONY was finished. The men melted away in silence, some to attend various duties required of them, others to share a drink in the forecastle. McCloud stood on deck and breathed the air, Keelut stood near him like a faithful dog waiting to please his master. “Good words Captain,” said the Eskimo. 217 McCloud smiled. “I thank you Keelut, but I am only a humble messenger, they are not my words but those of better men then I. It gladdens me that you take them to heart.” “Words that foolish men ignore, I not foolish, Captain.” “No my friend, you are not. Sometimes I think you are the only one that truly understands me. You are definitely a gift from God, proof that the heathen can cast away their dealings with the Devil and be civilized and accept the true gospel as it were.” “I…” Keelut stopped for a moment to think of the proper word, “grateful Captain McCloud for your…kindness.” “It is no less than what you deserve my friend, no less. Now, I’m afraid I must retire to my cabin for some…private meditation. I’ll see you tomorrow morning my good friend Keelut.” The master of the HARMONY retired to his cabin. With his back turned, slumped over and tired, McCloud could not see Keelut smile. Private meditation meant the afternoon with a bottle of whiskey. The captain’s habits suited the Inuit man fine. One of the boats was going ashore and Keelut jumped aboard without asking permission, knowing none of the men in the boat wished to incur McCloud’s wrath. On Sundays he was a lamb, but come Monday morning he’d be a lion with a great hangover, and at such a time it was unwise for anyone to approach the ship’s master with any problem regardless of how important they thought it 218 was. Ignoring the looks of those in the boat, Keelut seated himself and with no more to take on, the men at the oars started to pull towards the shore. Walters watched as the Eskimo jumped into the boat, wondering what he was up to. The mate had been able to observe the man for quite some time and knew this one enjoyed planting the seeds of discontent standing back and watching his handiwork grow. It was something he enjoyed, the misfortune of others. It was pointless to try to talk to McCloud about any of his suspicions, as far as he was concerned the Inuit could do no wrong. Now Walters was concerned about what kind of trouble the bastard intended to stir up on the beach. Keelut turned and looked back at the ship, he could see Walters and he smiled. The first mate had no control over him. Keelut would do what he wanted to do no matter how much the first mate might object, he had the protection of McCloud, at least for a little while. After Keelut had abandoned his wife two years before, he made his way to the coast and after three weeks of searching, found the HARMONY and after impressing the captain with his ability to toad to him, he was allowed to stay. They sailed to the Atlantic and to the coast of Africa where they hunted, finally coming back to Greenland on the last leg of their journey home. Now it was time for Keelut to decide what he was about to do next as he had no desire to go to Scotland. To him the whites weren’t really hard to figure out, he wanted the same things they did and the less he had to work to get it, 219 the better. McCloud thought him useful as a liaison between the crew and the Eskimos and the idea that Keelut had embraced Christianity only improved his standing with the captain, though he hadn’t fooled Walters, not that it really mattered. He’d learned what he needed to know aboard the HARMONY but to accomplish his plan he would have to go elsewhere and from listening to others he now had some idea about the next phase. As the boat ground against the black gravel shore, Keelut jumped out. He saw Peter skinning a whale with the others and grinned, glad to see his former friend at labor. Served him right for taking his wife! It never occurred to Keelut that he had abandoned her in the first place, if he thought of Allawah at all, it was remembering that she never had food ready when he wanted it and there wasn’t much of it when she did serve it up, if she had been a worse wife he wouldn’t even have had that. He also saw Ahnah sweating near one of the trypots, he ignored her. Bitch! She would learn what an important man he was, what he had become, more important than that wife stealing brother of hers, she would see. There was a tent farther up the beach and Keelut made his way to it, with little care of who saw him or what they might think. He was above other people, Inuit and outsiders. Entering the canvas and wood structure, he found three men sitting on crates passing around a bottle of rum. By the looks of them, the three men 220 contained within would never be considered with overachievers in any group, even the description of underachievers might be considered generous. The man farthest from the entrance was Morton Jenson, a black bearded and foul man, whom few people would ever consider befriending. His ugliness spread to all aspects of his life, he never smiled. The man on his right, Tobias Smith was a thin man with equally thinning hair and missing teeth. His company was limited to those who would accept him for their own sport and amusement. The third man was small and round with a mop of red hair and a ridiculous short moustache and a face scarred by acne, his name was Deacon Rodgers. “Bout time you fuckin’ showed up!” slurred Jenson, trying to take the lead of the group. Keelut gave him a cold stare and Jenson said no more. The Eskimo took the bottle from Rodgers and took a healthy drink, after which he wiped his mouth and boxed Rodgers in the head, simply because he was the closest. “You listen to me,” he growled, “You want a good life? You listen to me!” the three men in the tent looked at their feet. “What you think, huh? You think you know more than Keelut, huh? My father a chief, I tell you many times!” “Yeah, yeah we know Keelut,” said Jenson sheepishly, “but how’s come you ain’t chief now?” 221 “I tell you dumb ass! How many times I tell you? Because that son bitch Peter, he steal my wife, my people. I tell you many times, he bad!” “Yeah, Keelut we knows that but how’s can we help? Nobody trusts us for nothing,” said Smith. “Yes, but I trust you,” said Keelut, “No mate or captain but the son of a chief, that’s better!” “Yeah,” said Rodgers, “that’s like a prince or a king of sorts.” “So, we’s gonna be like royalty?” said Smith. Keelut nodded his head. He wasn’t quite sure of the meaning of “royalty” but it didn’t matter, these men were easy to understand and lie to. “Drink my friends,” said Keelut, “I have something for you, a gift from one friend to another.” The men smiled, they liked presents, they liked Keelut. He knew their true worth, yes he did, their true worth. It was getting dark and Ahnah was tired. Rendering whale fat into oil wasn’t easy but it was work and it kept the band busy. They were grateful for it and Peter’s leadership over the last two years, under which all seemed to have benefited. They had food and for the most part the group was strong and healthy. Allawah was happy and content and Sedna enjoyed playing with little Tah, there were lots of smiles and giggles. Everything seemed fine until they saw Keelut. For the last two months, the Inuit were uneasy, too many bad memories, far too many associated with Keelut. 222 There were two pots of clean water from which to wash up. The women gathered around one and stripping off their tops, washed the grime off their naked arms and upper bodies from the day’s toil. Some of the women were looking forward to spending time with the whalemen, others like Ahnah only wished to spend the evening with their families. Finishing her washing, Ahnah began to walk back to the tupiq she shared with her mother, Peter, Allawah and little Tah. She hummed a tune she had heard somewhere, probably from a sailor or at the trading post. Her mind was on other things when a body stepped out in front of her, she recognized the person as one of those who followed Keelut, the man with the dark beard who never smiled and this time was no exception, he looked as grim as ever. She tried to go around him but another man on her left grabbed her arm, the thin one with missing teeth, on her right was the one with red hair, the air around them stank of cheap rum. The girl was dragged to a point farther away from the camp and work area, one that was secluded and offered…privacy. Keelut stepped out of the shadows, “You have a problem Ahnah,” he said addressing her in their native tongue. Ahnah glared at him, “You better call off your dogs Keelut, Peter will not like this!” Keelut smiled and shook his head. “Peter, Peter. Do you think I’m afraid of him, huh? Is that what you think? I’m afraid of that wife stealing brother of yours?” 223 Ahnah spit in his face. “YOU deserted your wife, YOU deserted your people. You could never be the leader your father was or that Peter is!” Keelut’s hand came up quickly and slapped her face hard, grateful that the other three men could not understand their conversation. Ahnah could taste the coppery blood in her mouth Keelut smiled and looked at his followers. “My gift to you,” was all he said. Jenson nodded and he began to lick Ahnah’s face. She found him repulsive and raised her knee to his groin causing the unhappy man to collapse like a sack of potatoes. She twisted away from Smith’s grip and reaching for her “ulu”, a razor sharp, general all purpose cutting tool, she lashed out, slashing Jenson’s face as he began to stand. “Fucking bitch!” he growled, “hold her down!” He touched his face his hand was wet with warm blood. He pulled out his knife. “An eye for an eye, McCloud could appreciate that!” and he slashed Ahnah’s face, the blade crossing her left cheek to the bridge of her nose, cutting it deeply. Her scream stifled by a mitten stuffed into her mouth. While Smith and Rodgers held her arms down, Jenson ran his hands under her top and painfully pinched her nipples, causing the bearded man to grin for the first time and to her it looked demonic, a bloody face and an evil grin, eyes that betrayed the darkness of the man’s soul. Removing his hands from her breasts, he yanked down her trousers, in two swift movements. Using his own weight to pin her legs down as she 224 struggled, he loosened his own pants and with some difficulty pulled them half way down, exposing his rear to the night air as he forced himself inside of her. Tears ran from her eyes, the pain and humiliation the girl felt was more than she ever thought possible. Keelut watched as each of the three men each took a turn satisfying their own savage sexual urges. He cared little for Ahnah’s suffering, it served her right. Let the men have their fun, Keelut enjoyed what he saw, yes, it served her right indeed. When they were finished, they left her lying on the dirty hard ground crying, in shock and bleeding. Keelut urinated on her before he left and Jenson splashed her with some rum, laughing at the young girl’s misfortune. A dumb ass native, who the hell cares? When Ahnah didn’t return Peter went out to look for her. He checked the other shelters wondering where she might be. All were polite, but each group of people he spoke to said the same thing, they had not seen Ahnah since she had finished working with the others at the trypots. Her brother thought this most strange as she always came back when she was finished, Peter was beginning to worry. She did not socialize with the outsiders but he thought he’d better check and see if they had seen her and after talking to some of the men he had worked with earlier that day, he was beginning to fear the worst. He wandered to the far tents, there was no one around and looking about he came upon what he 225 first thought was a large bundle of foul smelling rags. When it moaned, he realized he had found his sister. The sight of her brought Peter’s anger to a head he knew who was responsible for this terrible act. He picked up Ahnah who just whimpered and carried her home. Putting her in the care of Sedna and Allawah, Peter grabbed his rifle and set off to look for Keelut, caring little about any objections the outsiders might have about Peter killing their favorite Eskimo, but like two years before he had disappeared and in the wake of the disappearance there was only hurt. Sedna, with tears running down her face, used a damp cloth cleaned her daughter’s wounds as best she could. Walters from the HARMONY arrived but just shook his head there was nothing he could do to alter the terrible assault the girl had suffered and little he could do for the face except stitch it up, which he did after knocking Ahnah out with half a bottle of brandy. Finishing his crude surgery, Walters stepped outside the tupiq where Peter was waiting with murder in his eyes. Walters couldn’t blame him. “I’m sorry Peter, I did the best I could, I wish it could be more,” said Walters. Peter nodded his head, “Keelut, three men,” he said doing his best to control his anger. “Yes,” said Walters, “three of the crew, Rodgers, Jenson and Smith are missing and nobody has seen Keelut, since he came ashore earlier.” 226 “Umiak gone,” said Peter referring to one of the native canoes. “And I think I know who took it,” said Walters. “What the hell is happening!?” shouted McCloud walking up on Peter and Walters, angry that his private “meditation” had been disturbed and that he had been called to leave the ship for some trivial reason, his breath reeking of whiskey, his gait unsteady. “An Eskimo girl was cut and raped,” said Walters, “we aren’t completely sure yet but some of our men might be responsible.” “Might be?” asked McCloud, “so we don’t know?” “Ahnah say three men and Keelut,” said Peter, aware of what McCloud thought of him and not caring. “We go on the word of a native girl?” said McCloud with some astonishment, “No real proof, I can’t really see how we can convict these men until…” Walters turned on McCloud, fury in his eyes, “The girl was abused in one of the worst ways a woman could be and left for dead. She says three of our men our responsible, four if you include that son of a bitch, Keelut!” McCloud looked baffled, “I can’t believe Keelut would have anything to do with this! How do we know the girl herself isn’t responsible for this? We all know how they throw themselves at a sailor for a spoon or a button.” Peter felt his rage increase he brought up his rifle and pulled the hammer back pointing it at McCloud’s head. “You or them?” said Peter. 227 McCloud looked offended, “How dare you threaten me, you unbelieving heathen! This is ridiculous! I’ll have you thrashed, you insolent scoundrel.” Peter eased the hammer of the weapon down and in one quick movement knocked McCloud out with the butt of his weapon. “I think we’re finished here,” said Walters, who though surprised as any (with the possible exception of Captain McCloud of course) at Peter’s action, recovered quickly and called some men over to carry the preaching captain back to the ship. Peter entered the tupiq without another word. McCloud awoke the next morning in pain. Worse from the drink and bruised from Peter’s rifle butt, he was in a foul mood when he came up on deck and looking ashore, didn’t improve it in any way. He was surprised by what he saw or rather, what he didn’t see. The beach was deserted. The trypots and dead whale carcasses were there, but except for the smoke from a couple of smoldering fires, the Eskimos were gone. McCloud approached Walters, who was standing aft looking over the rail, seeing the same thing. “Where are they?!” demanded McCloud, he wanted that God damned Peter. He would teach that bastard who was boss! Rebellious native, he’d never had a problem with Keelut, and for him to make those accusations! “Gone,” said Walters. “I can see that, where?” asked McCloud. 228 Walters shrugged his shoulders and walked away leaving his captain alone on the fantail facing an equally lonely stretch of land. Chapter