Chapter Two: Nootau
A Sharp Bite
The winter had been harsher than in years past and Ahanu needed a new jacket, some gloves, and shoes that didn't have holes. Nootau had wanted to get him those things. Had them sitting on the table at home. It was the least he could do. If it weren't for him, Ahanu would've never been sent to Camp Stone.
Nootau dug at the hiding spot by the post. A wooden box—with Indian carvings, one the walkers made to earn their keep—had been shoved into the hole. A piece of twine wrapped around it dozens of times before being tied off in an angry knot.
A shiver ran through Nootau. His mouth dried like the plains under a hot day before a hunt. His hands shook. The thrum of his heartbeat echoed in the night.
Whatever it was, Ahanu obviously worried over it being found.
Which makes it all the more important.
A few quick cuts from his knife and Nootau had the box open, looking at the contents, confused by the envelopes waiting inside. He ripped them open. Accounts, pictures, a medical sample, and several sheets of paper with notes from Ahanu had been shoved into the envelopes. The writing drew Nootau's attention first.
I have caught the unsavory attention of one of the newly rotated guards. The others say to ignore it but my skin burns with repulsion every time he's near. I hope he bores of me quickly.
The guard is a cocky bastard, and has been running his mouth. Even the other guards have told him to shut up a time or two. Why do people always talk so much? Don't they know how to enjoy the pauses in life? This one does not. Unfortunately he's made a few friends. They have cornered a couple of the prisoners a time or two. Their behavior escalating each time. The warden looks the other way.
I have managed to avoid his "attentions" but he has made examples of prisoners who engage his temper. I fear what will happen if he gets the run of camp.
Evil has come to Camp Stone.
As Nootau read, the urgency of Ahanu's writing increased. Fear seeped into the notes. The guard and his posse changing routines, workloads, food, all sorts of things he shouldn't be able to do. Then disappearances started. Someone who had been 'sick' and under isolation in the infirmary. A prisoner who lodged a complaint with the warden. The guard's behavior grew increasingly abrasive and hostile toward the prisoners—like "a lord over his serfs."
One of his lackeys tried to frighten Ahanu, and that mistake lead to Ahanu acquiring pictures and account information.
Nootau glanced over them. Fury filled his heart. Maladies such as these ate the spirits of the men who fed it, turning them into monsters. Real monsters. The kind of sickness festering in the camp was a scandal in the making. Something Camp Stone wouldn't want making the world reports—which was exactly what Ahanu wanted to do.
A slow coil of dread filled Nootau's middle, his heart heavy.
My dear friend, what did you do?
* * * * *
Kill. Kill. Death to all who stood in his way. Nootau shook himself to clear his head. Not all the humans deserved death. Just the bad men in uniforms.
Nootau barred his teeth and growled. Blood dripped from his muzzle. Part of him wanted more. To tear the bastards apart. But another strong, foreign voice said to stop. Nootau howled. He would not stop until the grounds wept red. Only humans thought in terms of mercy. And Nootau was no human. Tonight he had chosen wolf.
Wolf who hunted their prey. Fearful creatures like the men in front of him. They needed to hurt. But not just hurt. Feel pain. Excruciating agony deep in their bones. Like he did. Like his Ahanu had. And the others.
Prey like them poached. Didn't deserve their soiled gains. Bad men. Uniforms bad men.
Prey bad men die.
Nootau jumped again, grabbing hold of a uniformed arm. A scream filled the air and prey struggled, pulled, and yelled. But prey could not escape. He held on, shook his muzzle back and forth. Fabric ripped. A whimper escaped prey. Nootau adjusted his bite, kicking prey with a back paw. The smell of urine flooded the air. Nootau huffed, letting prey go.
Bad man wriggled around, trying to escape. Prey too stupid and slow to get away. Nootau pounced. His claws shredded fabric. More whimpers escaped prey. The scent of fresh blood intermingled with the urine.
Prey. Hunt. Kill.
Bad man die. All the bad men must bleed.
A bang, followed by a sharp bite in his hindquarters made Nootau yelp. He turned, growling. New bad man held something in hands. It banged again, another sharp bite got Nootau in his front. His ears went back and his growl got louder.
Nootau backed away. The bites hurt. Made it hard to move.
New bad man shouted, looking over his shoulder. Nootau turned tail and ran. Shouts followed him. More bangs. Another bite. Nootau didn't look behind him. He'd come back, but he hurt too much to go after the men right now.
The fence came into view. All he had to do was get under it. Get under it and hide.
Nootau wriggled under. He whined. Dirt covered his snout. The bites stung. Blood. His blood tainted the air.
As he clawed his way out from under the fence Nootau scented something familiar. Something soft lay bundled near by. He pushed his muzzle against it and breathed in. The odor sparked in his mind. He knew this smell.
Carefully Nootau picked up the soft bundle between his teeth.
He'd remember the smell eventually. Until then he had to hide.