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 (14 page)

BOOK: Devil's Pass
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At the top, the meter-high pile of rocks was obvious. There could be no doubt that it had been stacked by human hands. It was only about 400 meters off the old Canol Road, but with so few people going down the trail, this pile of rock could have remained undiscovered for decades, if not centuries. Only someone who knew it was there would have had a reason to go to it.

The rocks varied from baseball-sized to basketball-sized. Webb began dismantling the pile carefully, not knowing how far down he'd have to go to find the necklace, not knowing if the necklace was in a metal box or something else that could survive the elements. Something had to be there though. Why else would someone go to the trouble of piling the rocks in such a specific place?

After a while he stopped setting the rocks aside with any degree of care. There were just so many of them. He threw them to one side, not even bothering to see where they landed.

Any minute he expected to see a glint of gold or the shape of a box.

Ten minutes later came the moment of discovery. Followed immediately by confusion.

Whatever it was that was gleaming from between a couple of rocks wasn't a necklace. Not even close.

He pulled away another rock and saw that what he had uncovered was the handle of a knife. Leaving it where it was, he pulled away a few more rocks and saw something that sucked the breath out of him completely.

Ragged bits of faded green cloth covering what looked like bone.

He tossed aside a few more rocks and his fears were confirmed.

The rocks had concealed a human body, its flesh long since consumed by the elements. All that was left was skeletal, partially covered in what was barely recognizable as an army uniform. And the rusted blade of a knife was stuck between the ribs.

This was a burial mound. And judging by the position of the knife, there was no doubt the person had been murdered.

Webb was stunned.

Below the skull, Webb saw what he'd been looking for. Gold chain. Flesh decayed, but gold never tarnished. Attached to the gold chain was a thin heart-shaped ceramic pendant.

Gently, he lifted it over the skull and put it in his front pocket. After a moment, he decided to take the knife as well. He wondered why he was feeling so calm. Maybe because this didn't seem real. But it was real. And he'd have to report the body to Sylvain.

There was a military dog tag around the bones of the neck too. He took it as gently as he'd taken the pendant. The name on the tag was clearly etched, even though so much time had passed, because a military dog tag was meant to be able to identify the soldier for as long a possible.

Harlowe Gavin
.

Gavin.

He knew that name.

But another thought distracted Webb. How could his grandfather and Jake have known about the body? Unless one or both of them had put it there.

Was his grandfather a murderer?

Webb made a quick decision to hide the body again. He'd wrestle later with whether to tell anyone about it.

He began to stack the rocks again, covering the body as quickly as he could. He had just set down the final rock, when he heard a scuffle behind him.

He turned, half expecting to see the grizzly again.

There was a blur of motion, and Webb barely had time to register that someone was swinging the butt of a rifle toward his head.

Then came the
flash-bang
of impact again, and Webb fell backward onto the pile of rocks.

TWENTY-NINE

Webb woke, staring into the barrel of a rifle held by a man with a dirty bandage across his nose, and deep, dark bruises around his eyes.

Brent Melrose.

“I've been waiting for an opportunity like this,” Brent said, finger on the trigger, aiming down the rifle.

“That's the best you got?” Webb answered. No way was he going to let on that he felt like someone had dumped a bucket of ice water on him. He fought against shivering. This was real. This was scary.

“What?”

“Of course you've been waiting for an opportunity like this. Finding me alone. Otherwise you wouldn't be out here.”

If Webb was going to die in the next few seconds, he was not going to give Brent the satisfaction of seeing his fear. Webb had spent too much of his life being afraid. Fear had become such a good friend that he'd learned to embrace it and use it to motivate him.
That which does not kill us
makes us stronger.

Now, however, it looked like Webb wasn't going to have a chance to survive this and become stronger.

“I'd really like to pull this trigger,” Brent said. “Especially when you come up with smart-ass stuff like that. But I didn't walk eighty kilometers down the Canol to let you off that easy after everything you've done to me.”

He lowered the rifle.

Webb realized his hands and feet were bound with zip ties. At least Brent hadn't thought to tie his hands behind him. Still, the distance between him and Brent was at least a meter. Even if he could somehow lurch to his feet and spring forward, he didn't have a chance of taking Brent by surprise.

Behind Webb was the edge of the cliff overlooking the river. Falling from it probably wouldn't kill him, because there was a lot of bush growing off the sides of it. But no way could Webb jump, fall through the bush, land and hop away with his ankles bound together before Brent either walked to the edge of the cliff and shot him like a fish in a barrel, or made his leisurely way down and recaptured him. Or maybe Brent wouldn't even have to finish him off. The river was swollen and raging from the recent rains. Chances were that Webb's fall would take him into the water.

“She left me, you know,” Brent said. “Told me she didn't deserve to be hit.” He grinned a horrible grin. “Funny thing is, that's the last thing I heard you say to her at the airport. Guess I know who to blame, don't I? Made me want to kill you even before you broke my nose and made a fool of me. So after you left in the helicopter, I took a boat across the river and drove an
ATV
as far up the Canol as I could. Had to stop at Dodo Canyon—no machines can make it through there. Then I started walking. I knew you'd be on the trail headed this way to Mile 108 for the flight back to Norman Wells. All I had to do was get there before you did. Wasn't that hard for me. I was motivated. I really wanted to kill you.”

Brent hefted his rifle and pointed it at Webb. The black hole at the end of the barrel was terrifying.

Brent grinned and lowered the rifle. “I was waiting outside your tent, looking for the perfect chance to do something, when you made it easy for me by slipping out when everyone was asleep. From the trail, I could hear you crashing through the bushes down below, and I didn't want to follow because the mud would leave another set of tracks. I was wondering what to do, when I heard you coming back up through the trees. Don't know why you did all that fancy stuff of setting up another trail, but you made this so simple. So there's no proof I was here and no proof I followed you.”

Webb didn't like hearing that.

Brent was obviously crazy. If he preferred having Webb tied up and helpless over shooting him, it could only be because he had worse things in mind than a quick bullet to the head. Webb didn't want to imagine what those things could be.

“When I'm finished with you, you can go back to your camp,” Brent said. “I don't have to kill you. I'll just disappear for a while. You can say whatever you like, but it will be your word against mine, because no one is going to see me but you.”

Your word against mine
. The same threat that Elliott always used again Webb.

If Webb thought it would do any good to beg, he would have been tempted. But a person didn't walk 80 kilometers through remote wilderness to track someone down just to change his mind when the other person pleaded for mercy.

“You took my girlfriend,” Brent said. “So I'm going to take away what made her like you. Your music.”

Brent put the rifle down and, quick as a snake, grabbed Webb's wrists and yanked him forward onto his belly.

Then Brent stood on Webb's forearms, pinning him in place.

“Let me tell you what I'm going to do,” Brent said. “Just 'cause I've had a lot of time to think about how good it will feel to tell you what I'm going to do. I'm going to take away your music by breaking your fingers, one at a time. I'm going to break them so bad, no chance you'll ever be able to play guitar again.”

He laughed. “I thought maybe I'd bend your fingers and break them that way, but we've got this pile of rocks here. I'm sure I'll find one the perfect size. It's going to be fun smashing your fingers one by one. All you'll have left inside the skin is little pieces of bone.”

Webb squirmed hard, but it was useless. Brent was simply too big.

The pain of Brent's weight on his arms was almost beyond what Webb could bear. He let out a muffled groan at the thought of a rock crushing his fingers.

Then without warning, Brent stepped aside and the pain was gone.

“Don't move,” Brent said. Fear filled his voice.

Webb lifted his head. Coming out of the trees, its massive head swinging from side to side, was a grizzly with a white patch of fur just below the shoulders. The one Webb had scared away the day before.

It must have been drawn by the commotion. It paused and stared at them, so close that Webb could smell the bear's intense odor. It smelled like the doorways in the city where homeless men urinated. But way worse.

Webb saw the rifle on the ground. Out of Brent's reach.

Brent dove for the rifle. The sudden movement drew the bear into a charge. With a horrible roar, it lunged forward, jaws open wide.

But Brent was too late. The bear was on both of them.

Webb was blinded by the raking slash of a paw across his face.

Brent screamed.

Webb instinctively pushed backward and over the cliff. Anything to get away from the bear.

Something thumped the back of his head as he fell, and once again, he blacked out.

THIRTY

THEN

In the air-conditioned storage unit, the black-and-white images thrown by the projector had begun with vintage airplanes swooping and looping in a clear sky.

The image had shifted as the camera panned from the sky to the ground, where it focused on a grinning man in a New York Yankees ball cap.

“Talk to us,” came the voice of the person holding the camera.

“That's Grandpa Jake,” Jana whispered.

“Hey,” the man in the cap said into the camera. “I'm Ray Daley, and we're at the 1961 Vintage Air Show in Las Vegas, Nevada. Above us, David McLean is wowing the crowds in his P-51 Mustang Fighter, showing some of the moves that made him such an amazing pilot when he fought against the Germans only twenty years ago.”

The camera zoomed upward again, showing the shiny wings of a plane with a propeller on the nose. A smoke trail showed where it had just done two loops.

Then the camera went back to Ray Daley. His face, of course, was twenty years older than his face in the photo Jana had shown Webb earlier, but he was still recognizable.

“Hello? Jake Rundell?”

A woman's voice came from outside the camera's range. The camera shifted earthward again.

The woman looked like a college girl. Her hair was in a style that Webb remembered from watching Ginger on reruns of
Gilligan's Island
.

“Hello, beautiful!” Ray moved into view, putting his arm on the girl's shoulders and grinning again. “Where you from?”

“Near Nashville, Tennessee,” she answered. Her southern drawl was obvious. “A town called Eagleville.”

“Come all that ways to see some World War Two pilot heroes, have you?” Ray asked. “Well you don't need to look any further than Jake Rundell and Ray Daley. Stick with us, and we'll show you a good time at the casinos.”

“That's exactly why I came all this way,” the young woman said, her face serious. “To see the two of you. And David McLean. My name is Ruby Gavin and I—”

“Jake!” Ray shouted and pointed. “Dave's plane. He's in trouble!”

The camera abruptly swung upward to the P-51 Mustang as it did a turning twist, spewing white smoke. The camera stayed on the fighter plane for about ten seconds, long enough to establish that the rolling moves of the plane were part of the show and that there was nothing wrong with the plane.

When the camera swung back to the ground again, Ray Daley was leading the young woman away and had already managed to reach the front row of spectators at the bleachers.

The screen went dark for a moment, but the film reel kept turning. A couple of seconds later, a young girl waved at the camera before jumping off a diving board into a backyard swimming pool.

“That's my mom,” Jan said above the clatter of the projector.

The rest of the reel took about eight minutes, and showed nothing more than kids having fun at a swimming pool. Then, without warning, the images stopped, and Webb heard the film flap.

He switched on the lights. The take-up reel was still turning, and the end of the film was making the flapping sound. The empty front reel was spinning but slowing down.

“That's it?” Webb asked.

“Ten minutes,” Jana said. “That's all you could get on a reel. Want me to play it again?”

Webb shook his head.

“Time,” Webb said, “to open the envelope.”

That's where he found a bunch of bank cards, with a yellow sticky note saying the cards held $2,000 in Canadian funds. He also found instructions on how to book flights for the open-ended tickets inside. He was to fly to Norman Wells, in the Northwest Territories, by way of Edmonton, with a stop in Yellowknife.

There were also two more letters. One for him from his grandpa. And one from Jake Rundell to Jim Webb.

THIRTY-ONE

NOW

Webb woke up only because something was pulling hard at the skin of his exposed leg. Something sharp.

BOOK: Devil's Pass
11.25Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
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