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A Short Story Complete on This Page
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Pete Jared had just made the amazing
discovery that it was safer to kill a man
in a city of several millions than on an
Arctic beach. When he had killed in the city
he had immediately lost himself among the
teeming humans. But up here in the Arctic a
single man stood out like a mountain on a
By nature Pete Jared was predatory. He
saw something he needed to satisfy hunger,
bodily comfort or vanity, and he took it.
When the police broke up the Whispering
Dutton gang, and gangster began to shoot
gangster to insure silence, Pete had headed for
the Arctic. He reasoned, soundly, that this was
the last thing police and gangsters expected
him to do. For the first time in his life he
understood the term, “struggle to survive.”
The first year he learned a lot about furs
and the setting of traps. The second year he
learned Old Man Barton was running the
nciiesi trap une uu ur iruige ui me aiuu.
Ocean. That was the line he wanted. He laid
his plans carefully — then shot Barton. He
had an idea a gesture towards complete frank
ness would save him. He planned to mush to
the Eskimo village at Tracy Bay. When the
plane came to pick up a fur shipment he would
take passage to Fort Yukon and tell his story.
W’ell, Pete hadn’t supposed there was a
human being within a hundred miles when he
fired the shot. But when he instinctively
looked around’— as men do at such times —
three Eskimos were watching from a ridge a
quarter of a mile away. And there might be
more below the ridge. Pete stifled an impulse
to kill the three. A man couldn’t kill a tribe
and hope to escape.
“Stupid Eskimos." Pete said. “I can shut
them up. They’re ignorant and superstitious.’’
He smiled mirthlessly as an idea came to his
cold, searching brain. He had it! A natural!
A bullet had destroyed Dutton's vocal
organs. At best he could whisper his words of
command. Hence, his nickname. Every man
in his mob became a lip reader. Lip reading
had helped Pete out of several tight spots in
the past. Yes, up here, it was a natural. He
took his binoculars from the case and studied
the Eskimos. The old one’s name was Ookpik.
Ookpik means white owl, which is endowed
Old Ookpik, an educated Eskimo, was doing
great work for his people. He kept them from
drinking, from marrying the whites and from
eating too much white man’s grub. He had
instilled in them a profound respect for the
white man’s law, and this kept the reckless
young men in check. He insisted the white
man’s law was just, and that in the long run
■ a>' a
justice prevailed. To the south there were
deputy United States marshals who hoped no
slip in white man’s justice would ever raise
doubt in the minds of Ookpik’s young men.
“Ookpik, eh?” There was contempt in Pete
Jared's voice. “He’s an old crook. He’s got
his people believing he can get word to the
marshals without using radio, mukluk tele
graph or the United States mail. Bunk.” He
returned the binoculars to the case and walked
over to the Eskimos.
The younger men looked worried, but
Ookpik was almost casual. “You savvy me?”
Jared said harshly. “I man with big ears.
Whenever men talk about me, 1 hear. If I in
Nome or Fairbanks, and you talk about me,
“You lie," Ookpik declared.
“I lie, eh? Just now this young man say,
‘Ookpik, we come to warn our friend Barton;
we think Pete Jared kil! him for his trap line.
We come too late. Now what?’ And then you,
Ookpik, say, ‘When plane comes we tell pilot
Pete kill Barton.’ ”
Pete Jared had reported the conversation
verbatim. The younger men were frightened
stiff. For all their education, superstition was
close to the surface. Ookpik was puzzled and
Jared followed his advantage. “If you ever
tell white man or Eskimo I kill Barton, 1 hear,
and I kill you,’’ he threatened. “When plane
comes to Tracy Bay. if you write letter or
talk to pilot I kill you. You keep away from
postoffice and pilot.”
The men nodded that they understood. Pete
Jared returned to his camp, packed his outfit
on the backs of his husky dogs and started
for Tracy Bay. He mushed fast, hoping to
arrive well ahead of the three Eskimos.
Ookpik and his companions arrived at the
trading post two days after Jared. A week
later the plane set down on the bay ice. The
pilot, carrying a small pouch of mail, climbed
out. He nodded cheerfully at the natives
clustered around the plane, called some by
name then said, "Hello, Jared.”
“Can you fly me back to Fort Yukon?"
Jared asked. “I got in a jam with Old Man
Barton. He took a ample of pot shots at me
and I had to kill him. 1 want to report to the
loo bad. Sure, I’ll make room for you,
the pilot answered. "You’re taking the wise
course.” Then he saw1 the chief. "Hello
Ookpik. how's tricks?”
“I’m what you say, (iner’n frog’s hair," the
Jared followed the pilot to the trading
post. The half-breed trader looked through
the mail. There was none for Jared. Jared
saw the ten letters constituting the out
going mail. None was addressed to the mar
shal, or anyone else in Fort Yukon. He
watched the natives carry baled fur to the
plane. Ookpik and his two companions had no
part in the loading, nor did they speak to the
pilot. Jared smiled grimly. There was some
thing to this white owl business after all.
Ookpik was wise enough to know when to
keep his mouth shut. Jared felt a sense of
relief when the plane took off.
The marshal was at the airport when the
plane landed. He asked the pilot a routine
question: "Any trouble up that way?"
“Pete Jared’s here to tell you a story,” the
There was nothing shifty-eyed about Jared.
His unwavering eyes dripped with honesty as
he told his story. “I don’t like trouble,” he
concluded, “and I came out here to tell w hat
happened and ask your advice.”
“There’ll be a hearing,” the marshal an
swered, “and if the coroner’s jury is convinced
the story is true, you’ll be exonerated. Stick
“Think I’ll buy myself a white man's meal,”
He was eating a thick steak when the mar
shal came into the restaurant. Somehow his
appetite vanished and the steak lost its savor.
“We’re holding you for Barton’s murder,” the
marshal said. “Wait. Save your protests for
the trial. But if you’re curious about certain
angles — come along.”
The marshal drove him out to tne nangar ana
led him to the plane’s tail surface. For the
first time he noticed the fabric was covered
with a scrawled message. The marshal pointed,
eyeing him curiously, and Jared read:
“My dear friend:
Jared listens with
a long ear. I speak
with a long tongue.
Three of us saw him
kill old Barton. If we
speak Jared will kill
us. But we will speak
when you send for us.
There must be law.
Remember us to our
Father in Heaven.
Your brother —
“It’s an old Eskimo
custom, Jared, this
writing of messages on
plane surfaces.” the
“but a logical way of exchanging messages be
tween friend and friend in a land of great dis
tances lacking paper, envelopes and stamps.'
Ookpik was (^ff a stupid Eskimo.
That was why Jared, the gangster,
was soswe he Could outsmart him ^
by Fs£nk Richardson Pierce v
/ Illustrated by Paul Meylan
- -jt ^ ^
"If you over tell any man I v
killed Barton, I'll kill you" V