"North" by Joseph Fick

Chapter 34 Lak’s Camp p410~418

Keelut was disappointed when he arrived at Lak’s
camp. He expected a hero’s welcome, a man to be hailed
for his great achievement but that was not to be. While it
was true he came back, it would be Lak who would
decide if his information was of any use. Besides, no one
in camp was more important than Lak. It was something
everyone in camp knew, it was something Keelut was
learning.
Inside the shelter sat the brigand leader and his
second, Ogwah, who did not speak. Lak accepted Keelut’s
stolen gift of the long glass without comment and asked
the returning Inuit what he knew.
“They are planning to go further into the darkness,
they say they look for the big fish but I think this is a
lie.”
“Why?” asked Lak.
Keelut shrugged his shoulders, “They carry dogs, more
dogs than any whale ship would carry maybe they go
over the ice. I think they are looking for something, not
fish though…something of value to them, I think maybe
treasure.”
Lak snorted. “There is nothing where they go, what
could be of value to the outsiders in such a place?”
“I do not know Lak, but there must be something for
them to come all this way,” said Keelut. “One thing I
learned around the outsiders is that they will suffer in
the worst places for things of value, money value.”
The concept of course was not new to Lak, it was how
he lived his life. “Tell me of the ship,” said Lak.
“The ship is in good condition and well stocked with
provisions. Besides the dogs they also carry trade goods
that can be used to your advantage.”
“Are they armed?” asked the renegade leader.
Keelut shook his head, “Not that I could see. Most
ships carry a few guns for hunting when they are near
land, I don’t imagine they have any more than 3 or 4
guns at the most, no match for us.”
“Who is the leader aboard the ship?”
“One called Mason and another called MacDonald, I
could see weakness in them, they are not men such as
you and I.”
“Yes,” said Lak in a neutral tone. Already he suspected
such men would be the opposite of what Keelut spoke of,
Lak would be a fool if he believed otherwise. He knew
nothing of the large sailing ships but he could readily
understand that those in charge of such would be far
from weak. As for them not being like Keelut, that was
something he could believe. “Yes,” said Lak, “I could see
difficulty in such a thing.”
“There is one among them called Dunn, who I heard
lived with the Inuit and spoke our words but I believe
this not. My time around him, proved to me he was
ignorant of our speech and ways,” said Keelut.
“And the men who work the ship?” asked Lak wanting
to finish his questioning with this foolish waste of life.
“What of them?”
“Young, lacking experience, I saw them as clumsy and
frightened children, nothing for you to worry about.”
Lak smiled, “Show me the map.”
Keelut spread out the chart he had stolen, pointing to
the pencil marks Mason had made. “They hope to sail up
here and into what they call the Lincoln Sea. If they can’t
get there, then they will stop at this place,” said Keelut
pointing to Ellesmere Island.
Lak nodded, he was familiar with these places, but for
the life of him, he couldn’t figure out what was so
important that far up. He himself couldn’t think of
anything that might justify the presence of a whaling
ship that wasn’t whaling.
“We are finished for now, Keelut. You have done well.
Get something to eat.”
Keelut smiled at Lak’s praise and left to fill his belly.
When he was a good distance away, Lak turned to
Ogwah. “Now tell me your thoughts, your face hides
little.”
The other man thought for a few minutes before he
spoke. “Men aboard whale ships are not soft, experience
or not, their work toughens them faster than others.
Keelut is underrating them.”
“I agree, but why is this ship going to the great ice sea?
There is no reason to,” said Lak.
Ogwah shook his head, “I have no thoughts on this, but
whatever the reason, they will have guns and men who
know how to use them, of that, I’m sure.”
“Yes,” said Lak, “but how many?”
Ogwah just shrugged his shoulders, he didn’t know.
“How many guns at the post?”
“My count was twenty, what I could see,” said Ogwah.
“And there is food, drink, traps and dogs,” said Lak.
“Yes,” said Ogwah, “enough for us.”
Lak looked at the chart again and pointed to a spot on
the map, past the Kane Basin where the chart narrowed.
“Tell Thah to take 25 men and those two fools that came
with Keelut, load up their sleds with food, guns, umiaks
and extra dogs. They will travel to here and wait. I want
them to leave tonight.”
Ogwah nodded, “And what of Keelut?”
“For now,” said Lak, “he’ll stay with us, he still has
use.”
Ogwah left without another word.
Keelut found Jenson and Smith and was happy. He
could impress them with his importance and he would
have someone to bully for awhile. “Find me drink,” he
said sitting down close to a
fire.
Jenson looked at him and shook his head. “Find it
yourself.”
Keelut stared at the man he had brought to this place
in an evil way. “Find me drink,” he said again.
“And I said find it yourself,” replied Jenson.
Keelut turned to see Smith, “Get me some food!” he
ordered.
“Tobias, stay where’s you are,” said Jenson harshly.
Seeing that all was in his control he faced Keelut and
grinned. “Ya see Keelut, things ‘ave changed since you
been gone. You better get used to that.”
Thah came for Jenson and Smith, “Come, we leave
tonight,” was all he said.
Jenson nodded his head, “Yes Keelut, things have
indeed changed.” And grabbing what they had, Jenson
and Smith departed, leaving Keelut alone with his hate
and anger, so many people to return…favors to. Jenson
and Smith had just made his ever growing list.
Outside, Jenson and Smith were each paired off with
another Eskimo and sled. Jenson saw furs, rifles and
strangely enough, three native canoes. Where ever they
were going, certainly involved water.
“Where are we going?” asked Jenson.
Thah waved his arm in a general direction, “There,”
said the Eskimo turning his attention to loading his sled.
“Is this what Lak was talking about?” asked Jenson.
Thah shrugged his shoulders. “Lak say go, so we go. I
guess, maybe.”
Jenson nodded and tried to put on a military air like
his old sergeants used to do when he was in the army.
“Right then,” he said, standing a little straighter, placing
his hands on his hips. “We got the guns then?”
Thah nodded, “Twenty-two guns.”
Jenson nodded with approval, “Good and what about
the…the…ahh…” he pointed at the boats.
“Umiak,” said Thah.
“Yeah, yeah the umiaks,” said Jenson, “Why we taking
them?”
“I will tell you of Lak’s words after first camp.”
“Uhmm…very well…ahh…Thah, carry on,” said Jenson
in what he hoped sounded like a commanding tone, after
all he was in charge, or at least he thought he was. Lak’s
instructions to Thah were simple. Allow the Englishman
his illusion and guide him. Thah knew where they were
going and what they had to do.
An hour later, Thah, Jenson 14 sleds, 3 umiaks and 26
men disappeared into the darkness.
The dogs were barking again. Johanson sighed, always
the God damned dogs. Grabbing his wooden club and
scratching his crotch, he walked outside into the nipping
air. Outside, he picked up a handful of snow and gravel
and threw it at the noisy animals. “Shut up!” he yelled,
“Sons of bitches, shut up!” He spit some phlegm into the
snow and wiped his nose. There was an odd feeling in the
air that was so cold, though Johanson couldn’t say
exactly what it was. The trader heard a growl to his left
and slowly turning, came to face that which he feared. A
business partner he had cheated years before, a man
with a wife and son whom he lost because of the trader’s
lies and treachery, a man he had hoped dead but was
resurrected with fear, one he wished he would never see
again, after a few minutes, he found his voice.
“Hello Lak,” said the Dane.
The Eskimo was sitting on a barrel smoking a cigar,
painful flashes of memory, a laughing young girl and
crying baby, gunshots in the darkness, a cruel laugh, the
sound of dogs being driven away from a barren spot in
the world. “I’ve not seen you for many winters Lars. This
place is bigger.”
“Ja, well, business has been good,” said the bald man.
The Eskimo grinned, “You always knew how to make
money, no matter what the cost, right Lars?”
Johanson could see he was surrounded, the chances of
him walking away unscathed were not good. He tried to
put up a front. “You’ve made a name for yourself Lak, a
big name around here and up and down the coast.”
Lak, cigar clenched between his teeth stared at the
dirty snow at the bottom of the barrel, “I never wanted a
name you pushed that on me. I just wanted my wife and
child.”
“Now look, what happened was a long time ago,
nothing can be changed, it’s best forgotten.”
“My son would have his own family now had he lived,
but the life of an Inuit never concerned you very much
did it Lars?” The Eskimo slid off the barrel and walked
over to the trader with a noticeable limp. “And I know. I
never forgot how you left me for dead, stole my dogs and
rifle, denied my wife medicine for her sickness and cast
my infant son to the snows, I never forgot.”
Johanson was sweating heavily and began to shake,
the bandit leader continued. “Oh, I know how they died,
you couldn’t expect me to survive and not find out why
they didn’t that’s a foolish mistake.”
“Look, whatever you want, it’s yours…please!” said the
trader on his knees. “I’m begging you, don’t kill me,
please!”
The Eskimo found it somewhat amusing that the Dane
was giving him permission to take what he wanted as if
he cared about such a transgression and looked at the
man groveling at his feet, once he might have felt pity,
but those days were long past, now…
“I’m not going to kill you Johanson,” he said and with
his rifle in hand, squeezed the trigger putting a round
above the man’s right knee. The trader cried out in pain
and clutched his wounded limb. “No, I’m not going to kill
you I’d rather watch you suffer.” Pulling the trigger he
destroyed the Dane’s left knee, causing the man to
scream in agony. “Bind his wounds,” ordered Lak. “I don’t
want him to bleed to death.” Two men held down his
arms, while two other women attended to his injuries.
“As for whatever I want, I don’t need your permission for
that, you should know that.” Another shot into the
trader’s left elbow, shattered it, rendering his arm
useless another shot into the right elbow accomplished a
similar effect. His wounds were bound and the glassy
eyed trader, surrounded by dirty snow and blood was
propped up against a rock, the Eskimo squatting before
him.
“You took all from me,” said the Inuit leader, “now I
take all from you!” He stood up and spoke to Ogwah,
“Take it all,” he said. “And what you can’t carry, burn.”
Johanson watched as the men destroyed his years of
work and carried away everything they could lay their
hands on. Kerosene, flour, furs…it mattered little if they
needed the items they took away, there was a certain joy
to just having them in their possession.
The Eskimo girls that worked for him were hustled
away, whimpering for mercy at the thought of so many
men.
“How many rifles?” asked Lak.
Ogwah looked up from his counting, “I see 56 guns.”
Lak nodded his head in approval, “And ammunition?”
“Plenty,” answered his second, “at least 100 rounds per
rifle, and…” said Ogwah gesturing to three more wooden
boxes, “something else.”
“What is it?” asked Lak.
Ogwah smiled, “Dynamite, he had it hidden in the
back.”
Lak smiled. “Let’s get ready to leave, we have far to
travel.”
The renegades grinned, for they knew this was only a
small bit of a larger prize which they were being offered.
They left Lars Johanson, in shock, unable to move,
bleeding in the snow. His life slowly slipping away as the
cold seeped in. True to his word, Lak did not kill him.

コメントを残す


%d人のブロガーが「いいね」をつけました。