Read Devil's Pass Online

Authors: Sigmund Brouwer

Tags: #General, #Performing Arts, #Family, #Juvenile Fiction, #Mysteries & Detective Stories, #JUV031040, #Music, #JUV013000, #JUV028000

Devil's Pass

BOOK: Devil's Pass
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SIGMUND BROUWER

DEVIL'S

PASS

ORCA BOOK PUBLISHERS

Copyright © 2012 Sigmund Brouwer

All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording or by any information storage and retrieval system now known or to be invented, without permission in writing from the publisher.

Library and Archives Canada Cataloguing in Publication

Brouwer, Sigmund, 1959-
Devil's pass [electronic resource] / Sigmund Brouwer.

(Seven (the series))

Electronic monograph.
Issued also in print format.
ISBN
978-1-55469-939-1 (
PDF
).--
ISBN
978-1-55469-940-7 (
EPUB
)

I. Title. II. Series: Seven the series (Online)
PS
8553.
R
68467
D
47 2012        j
C813'.54        C2012-902583-6

First published in the United States, 2012
Library of Congress Control Number:
2012938220

Summary:
Webb, a young street musician, faces grizzly bears and a madman on the Canol Trail when he tries to fulfill a request in his late grandfather's will.

Orca Book Publishers gratefully acknowledges the support for its publishing programs provided by the following agencies: the Government of Canada through the Canada Book Fund and the Canada Council for the Arts, and the Province of British Columbia through the BC Arts Council and the Book Publishing Tax Credit.

Design by Teresa Bubela
Cover photography by Terry Parker
Author photo by Reba Baskett
Lyrics to “Monsters” courtesy of Drew Ramsey/Cindy Morgan/Chris Wild,
Green Bike Music (ASCAP)

ORCA BOOK PUBLISHERS
PO
Box 5626, Stn. B
Victoria,
BC
Canada
V
8
R
6
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4
         
ORCA BOOK PUBLISHERS
         
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Box 468
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www.orcabook.com

15   14   13   12   •   4   3   2   1

First, to Alasdair Veitch: You are a great trail guide,
an amazing biologist and one of the few who has walked
every step of the Canol Trail—thanks for your help with
the story. And to Michael Duclos, the principal
at Mackenzie Mountain School in Norman Wells,
and to the students there too—thanks for making me
feel at home in the Arctic.

CONTENTS

PART ONE

ONE

TWO

THREE

FOUR

FIVE

SIX

SEVEN

EIGHT

NINE

TEN

ELEVEN

TWELVE

THIRTEEN

FOURTEEN

FIFTEEN

PART TWO

SIXTEEN

SEVENTEEN

EIGHTEEN

NINETEEN

TWENTY

TWENTY-ONE

TWENTY-TWO

TWENTY-THREE

TWENTY-FOUR

TWENTY- FIVE

TWENTY-SIX

TWENTY-SEVEN

TWENTY-EIGHT

TWENTY-NINE

THIRTY

THIRTY-ONE

THIRTY-TWO

THIRTY-THREE

PART THREE

THIRTY-FOUR

THIRTY-FIVE

THIRTY-SIX

THIRTY-SEVEN

ACKNOWLEDGMENTS

PART

ONE

THIS IS NO PICNIC

Working and living conditions on this job are as difficult as those encountered on any construction job ever done in the United States or foreign Territory. Men hired for this job will be required to work and live under the most extreme conditions imaginable. Temperature will range from 90 degrees above zero to 70 degrees below zero. Men will have to fight swamps, rivers, ice and cold. Mosquitos, flies and gnats will not only be annoying, but will cause bodily harm. If you are not prepared to work under these and similar conditions,
DO NOT APPLY
.

(On a sign from the construction
company building the Canol Trail, 1942.)

ONE

NOW

Beneath the vintage black Rolling Stones T-shirt he had found at a thrift store, Webb was wearing a money belt stuffed with $2,000 in prepaid bank cards. It was a lot of money for a seventeen-year-old who worked nights as a dishwasher. The belt cut into his skin as he sat against a building on a sidewalk in downtown Yellowknife, but Jim Webb didn't feel the pain.

Not with a Gibson J-45 acoustic guitar in his hands and a mournful riff pouring from his soul as he played “House of the Rising Sun,” humming along to the words in his head. Webb was killing time before he had to catch a cab out to the airport. Playing a guitar in a hotel room drew loud, angry knocks on the wall from the other guests, but playing on the street drew cash. That was one reason for the acoustic guitar—it was uncomplicated. Electric guitars needed amps and cords. The other reason was the sound. Just Webb and his guitar and his voice. What people heard was all up to him, and there was a purity in that kind of responsibility that gave him satisfaction.

Already half a dozen people had stopped to give him the small half-friendly smiles that he saw all the time—smiles that asked, “If you're that good, why are you sitting on a sidewalk with an open guitar case in front of you, waiting for money to be tossed in your direction like you're a monkey dancing at the end of a chain?”

Those looks never bothered him. Nothing bothered him when he had a guitar in his hands. For Webb, there was no rush like it. Playing guitar, hearing guitar, feeling the strings against the callouses on his fingers and thumb, watching people watch him as he played. All of it. No other way to describe it except as the coolest feeling in the world. Instead it was how he felt when the guitar was back in the case that worried him.

This was why he wasn't napping in the hotel half a block away, where he'd been forced to stay when yesterday's flight to Norman Wells had been grounded by thick fog.

Besides, Webb didn't want to get used to comfort. At the end of the trip, he fully expected to be back in Toronto, where he needed every bit of change that found its way to the bottom of his guitar case. Washing dishes until 3:00
AM
at minimum wage wasn't enough to keep him from starving.

For now, he was happy. Yesterday's fog had cleared. The midday sun was bright, and heat radiated from the concrete, adding a sense of well-being to the joy he took in playing the chords in perfect tempo and perfect rhythm. He had the guitar strung with a combo of steel strings and nylon. Not a lot of musicians did it this way, but there was a subtleness to the variation in sound that gave Webb a lot of satisfaction.

A middle-aged man with a face gray from too much booze and not enough sun wandered down the sidewalk and stopped to join the small crowd. He looked at Webb with amazement.

This wasn't a “Can you be as good as I think you are?” look. No, it was a look that Webb knew, a look that said, “I haven't seen you here before and what are doing in my territory?”

It was obvious to Webb that the man wasn't one of the herd of life's mortgage holders. Living on the streets put unmistakable grime into every stitch of what you wore because it was all you wore, all the time. Unmistakable by look and unmistakable by odor. Street bums were the same everywhere. But then, so were all the suits Webb saw in Toronto every day. The man's face wrinkled into a grin, showing broken teeth. He had lumpy ears, probably from nights spent outside in the winter, drunk. His ears must have frozen at least a couple of times. Webb had seen that before, and how grown men cried out as their ears began to thaw.

The man sat beside Webb along the wall. Like they were already street buddies. The man lifted his hands and whirled them in time with the music, as if he were the conductor responsible for Webb's dexterity.

Webb smelled the booze and figured that was what made the man so chummy. It didn't bother Webb. People did what they had to do to get by. Besides, the guy looked like he panhandled plenty, and he could have told Webb to move out of his territory. That had happened a lot in Toronto. Webb had lived on the streets for a while too, before realizing that between a dishwashing job at night and playing music on the streets during the day he could make just enough money to live in a room at a boardinghouse.

People in front of them frowned because the street bum was a distraction. They wanted the music.

Webb eased the riff down some. Didn't want the guitar to drown out the vocals as he began to sing.

Oh, Mother, tell your children
Not to do what I have done.
Spend your lives in sin and misery
In the house of the rising sun.

Webb liked the Rolling Stones' version of “House of the Rising Sun” better than the Animals' version, even though the Animals' version was the famous one. He liked both of them better than Dylan's version. Sure, people might wonder how and why a seventeen-year-old knew about stuff like this, knew that “House of the Rising Sun” was a ballad a couple hundred years old. But all that mattered to Webb was playing a chord in the third chorus exactly the way Keith Richards had done it. He didn't care if people thought he was weird for caring about how blues had evolved into rock and roll. One of his dreams was to someday record his own version of this song.

Webb had his eyes closed as he finished. He felt a shadow across his face and looked up to see a very, very attractive woman leaning over to drop a twenty in his guitar case.

Very, very attractive. Really hot, in fact.

Brunette hair, shoulder length. Great smile. Jeans and a form-fitting hoodie. College-aged, but not the college type. Someone he'd never have a chance with.

He'd seen her the day before at the Edmonton airport, boarding his Canadian North flight a few people ahead of him in line. It was a flight with a stopover in Yellowknife on the way to Norman Wells; from there it would go on to Inuvik, just south of the Arctic Ocean. He'd seen her getting off the plane in Yellowknife and had walked behind her on the runway, the massive engines of the jets winding down into silence.

He'd seen her in line at the counter, rebooking her next flight to Norman Wells as he waited to do the same thing, all of them learning that because the fog was even worse in Norman Wells, they'd have to wait until the next day to fly. Canadian North had helped book hotel rooms for everyone in downtown Yellowknife, a ten-minute shuttle ride away. The hot woman had been at the front and Webb at the back. She'd been in line ahead of him in the hotel lobby too, checking in for the overnight stay.

He didn't remember her just because she was very, very attractive. It was because he'd noticed the trace of a bruise on her cheekbone. The bruise, which reached up almost to her left eye, looked old, but her makeup couldn't quite hide it.

The bruise had made him hyperaware of the guy who had stood close beside her everywhere: in line in Edmonton boarding the plane, in Yellowknife at the ticket counter, in the hotel lobby the day before. A black-haired guy with broad shoulders and big hands, in jeans and a jacket with the name of an oil company on it. He vibrated with animal awareness and aggression and looked to be a few years older than the woman. Webb knew about those kinds of guys too. If you didn't watch for them, you didn't survive long on the streets.

BOOK: Devil's Pass
7.92Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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