Fengbo eased himself into a dock near a large building that squatted above the dock like a malignant toad glaring down at the world. As the wind shifted, it carried the stench of filth and human suffering to us.
“Why are we here?” I asked. “Is this where we’ll find Gao?”
“No,” Fengbo answered, and his voice was filled with bitterness. “This is where you will find our brethren. Mouth-speakers who resist.”
“How many will we find, Fengbo?” Liu asked.
“I am not certain,” the ship replied. “Last week, I was forced to deliver twenty-three men. There is no way to determine how many have been killed and eaten.”
“We’ll find out,” I muttered.
Together, Liu and I left the ship.
As we climbed the long path that led from the dock to the front of the prison, I asked in a low voice, “Where the hell are the guards?”
“There are none for these places,” Liu answered. “At least not outside. There are not enough to pose a threat. The only guards we will find will be equal parts, jailer and butcher. They are more concerned with the preparation of meat than they are about caring for their prisoners.
I shook my head, and a moment later, we reached the main entrance. It was open a fraction, and I saw a single guard sitting with his back to the door. He was sitting on the ground, both boots off as he examined his feet.
I drew my knife and slid the door open. Without a sound, I crept up behind the man, covered his mouth with one hand, and then slipped the blade between his ribs.
I laid the dead man down, and Liu and I stepped through the secondary entrance to find a man before us. His face was composed, despite the fact that he knelt upon chains, that his legs were secured in a brace, and his arms outstretched on a pole, suspended by his thumbs.
He looked at us, and Liu whispered, “Brothers.”
The man’s eyes widened. “Brother.”
We freed him from his bonds, and I asked, “How many are still alive?”
“Perhaps ten,” he answered.
“Take him to Fengbo,” I told Liu. “I’ll gather the others.”
“Alone?” the stranger asked.
“Aye,” I nodded and drew my Colts.
With the .44s in my hands, I went looking for our brothers.