“Just watch your back, Tarzan. I’ve seen the way he looks at you.”
Tarzan didn’t need Cody to tell him whom he was talking about. Tarzan had seen Wanaga’s glares. There’d been a number of vicious incidents when the pair had got too close. Shoving and barging each other around, coming close to blows. Until a guard arrived with a prod and both got a heavy dose. No pissing around. Work!
From Wanaga’s attitude, Cody was only surprised things hadn’t got worse. And his isolation only piqued the slave-catcher’s temper.
“Everyone here hates his guts .. for selling them into this ……. No one has any time for him …..”
Responsible for the men getting taken. Separated from families and condemned to slaving away.
They hated him, wouldn’t talk to him. It was clear, though, that the big evil-tempered brute had them worried. The others were farmers. They didn’t get into fights.
“I doubt anyone would come to your help. He frightens them. But they are more terrified of guards coming with their prods.”
Life was certainly harsh. The prods were out for the slightest excuse. Any sign of trouble. If Wanaga attacked and was getting the better of Tarzan, Cody’s bets were on the other men looking the other way. The men resented this life. They hatred the former slave-catcher for getting them into this. But life was menacing. The men were under pressure, constantly living on their nerves. Brutal punishment was a perpetual threat.
Every day there was that punishment parade. The punishments promised for failing to reach the daily quota .. publicly administered at the end of every day. Miss your quota …. Your arse got it. Everyone made to watch. It no longer embarrassed. But it hurt. And was still hurting as the pressure piled up the next day. Making the men watch reinforced the perpetual threat. Next day, just a little slip-up ….. they could be on the receiving end.
In fact, Tarzan himself was on tenterhooks whether his backside was up for another dose of that strap. The workload for the slaves was intense, pitiless. Achieving the day’s quota meant not a moment’s break could be lost. Tarzan had been assigned the job of hauling the sacks of raw beans back. Only way he could stay out of trouble …. he had to run between the gangs of men spread all over the island. Getting his cart loaded with a dozen sacks and then struggle back. Fighting the weight. Struggling against the crippling humidity back to the camp. A full cart was heavy. Get a wheel stuck in a rut and it was almost impossible to break it free. Wasting valuable time.
And it was every man for himself. The slaves gathering the pods dared only hand over a sack when it was full. If that meant Tarzan had to wait till the last minute .. or had to make up for lost time .. that was not their problem. Today, end of the day, his last run, Tarzan had sweated his way back to the camp hauling his hefty load. And he’d got in minutes after the gong had announced the end of work. Late. Failed to deliver his quota within time. If Whitney had noticed, it would be Tarzan’s bare backside under that strap again.
“They hate Wanaga …..”
Cody reminded Tarzan to stay out of the ex-slave-catcher’s way.
“The others, though ….. you’ll get no help from them. Hell, they’re scared shitless.”
The previous day Cody too had been made to whip down his shorts and take five. Five. Breath-taking. Eye-stinging. He’d made damn-sure today he had made his quota in time.
“No wonder the older inmates go around like ghosts. They’ve been worked into the ground. Some of them look like they’ll not last out.”
That was the reason they had been brought in .. a fresh batch of slaves with the strength to keep up the relentless place. Under these merciless conditions ….. men didn’t last long. Worn into the ground.
And just that was the problem with Tarzan’s escape plan ……