"North" by Joseph Fick

Chapter 47 Questions and Answers p523~528

Wacha didn’t know where he was. He couldn’t move his
hands or his feet and there was a hood over his head. He
was in pain. His arms, his legs, his back…in fact, he
couldn’t think of a single place on his body that didn’t
hurt, it all hurt.
Goodman wasn’t with him, he was pretty sure about
that but where was he? It wasn’t biting cold and he could
feel the heat of a fire, hear it crackling as it burned. He
knew there was at least one other person around him,
maybe more than one. He heard some noise, like
someone entering wherever he was, again he didn’t know,
it could’ve been more than one. He heard a chuckle that
lacked any merriment. It was a low sinister sound and
Wacha, though he would hate to admit it, was frightened.
The hood on his head was yanked off and Wacha looked
up, his eyes adjusting from the blackness that had
surrounded him to the burning kerosine lamps that
seemed to be burning very bright and the faces he now
found himself looking at, one of which he had hoped he
would never see again… Keelut.
“Hello Wacha, I’ve not seen you in a long time.”
“Not long enough, Keelut,” said the bound man.
Keelut sneered and kicked the captive man in the
stomach, once, twice, three times hard. Wacha coughed
and grimaced in pain.
Thah squatted down. “Where are the outsiders going?”
he asked.
“I don’t know,” said Wacha.
Keelut kicked him again. “Answer him!”
“Where are the outsiders going?” asked Thah again.
Wacha looked at the questioning man. Thah shrugged
his shoulders, “He’ll continue,” he said motioning his
head towards Keelut, “until I tell him to stop or until you
tell me what I want to know, it really amounts to the
same thing.”
Keelut slapped Wacha hard, enjoying the pain and fear
the helpless man was experiencing.
“Where are the outsiders going?” asked Thah for a
third time. Wacha shook his head, refusing to answer.
Thah respected the old hunter, he wasn’t about to make
it easy for them but the young renegade had little time
and certainly no patience for children’s games.
“Work on him,” he told Keelut. “Gag him and I don’t
want this to take all night!”
Keelut nodded and Thah left the shelter to examine the
items they had seized from Wacha’s sled. The rifle was a
good one, brand new. There was also plenty of
ammunition. They had also recovered a drawing from the
other man after they had killed him. Thah, smiled, it was
stained with his blood. It showed what looked like the
supply depots the men from the ship had set up, with an
arrow pointing after the last one and the letters NP
crudely scrawled. He knew what they meant, he had
heard others speak of those two letters when he himself
had worked in Canada and through the idle talk of
others, he knew this was a place that the outsiders had
not yet reached. “Why the North Pole?” he asked himself.
What was so important there? He quickly walked back to
where Wacha was being held. Upon entering, he saw that
the Inuit had been gagged and obviously was having a
rough time of it. The man had been stripped to the waist,
there was fresh blood on his back and chest and his face
was heavily bruised from the beatings that Keelut was so
fond of administering.
“Keelut,” he said to the man with an evil grin who
continued to slap their prisoner. “Keelut!” he said again,
louder so as to be heard. The Eskimo turned to face the
voice speaking his name. Thah looked at Wacha and
nodded his head in approval. “Leave him for a short
period and come with me.” Keelut gave him a
questioning look but shrugged his shoulders and walked
out with Thah.
They left the small shelter and walked away far
enough so they would not be heard by the others. “Have
you ever been this way before?” asked Thah. Keelut
shook his head which didn’t surprise Thah. From what
he had heard and witnessed, Keelut was far from the
great hunter he liked to pretend he was. “What do the
outsiders value among all other things?”
Keelut shrugged his shoulders. “They all like money.
With money you can buy drink, a woman.”
Thah nodded. A simple answer from a simple mind but
it was an answer that Thah knew to be correct. He knew
that the outsiders valued gold and silver, the coins made
of it, the paper which it represented. He knew they liked
the pretty stones of different colors that sparkled. He had
seen men kill each other for such things. They did so, not
for the beauty of the objects mentioned but because of
what they represented, money. For that they would lie,
cheat, steal and risk their lives for it.
“Go back inside,” said Thah. “I want to know why they
are here.”
Keelut looked at Thah and knitted his brow. “You don’t
want to know where?”
Thah looked at the Inuit steady and hard. “Find out
why.”
“If you are holding back on me…” began Keelut.
“Just do it!” said Thah in a voice that indicated their
conversation was over.
Keelut nodded. “I’ve got work to do,” he said and
walked back to where Wacha was waiting. Within a
minute Thah could hear the sounds which indicated the
beating had commenced.
Thah waited. He didn’t think that it would take much
time to get the answers he wanted after the care Keelut
had been so generous with before. Thirty minutes later
he was motioned into the tent that contained their
unfortunate prisoner.
Wacha certainly didn’t resemble the man that Thah
had seen earlier. He was breathing heavily, his swollen
face a mask of blood and his mouth open gasping for
breath through broken teeth, the rest of his body, bruised
and cut. Thah knelt before him and asked him gently,
“Why are the outsiders here?”
“You will kill me,” answered Wacha, struggling to
breathe and speak.
Thah shook his head. “I will not kill you, I speak the
truth. Just tell me why the outsiders are here and you
will be taken care of.”
Wacha nodded his head, he wanted the pain to stop. He
coughed up some blood and spoke in almost a whisper.
“They talk of dead whales…a place where whales die,” he
paused for a moment. “It is…in the far place…important
to them…dead whales…” his voice trailed.
Thah smiled and gave Wacha’s face a light slap. “That’s
good my friend, very good.” He stood up. “And you see,
we do not lie, we speak the truth.” He walked to where
Keelut was standing and said in a low voice, “Cut his
throat.”
The other smiled and Thah walked into the night air.

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