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 (17 page)

BOOK: Devil's Pass
2.67Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

“Jake Rundell,” she said. “David McLean. Ray Daley. And my daddy.”

“You went to an air show in Las Vegas,” Webb said. “You wanted to ask my grandfather and Jake Rundell and Ray Daley if they knew anything at all about your father.”

“I did,” she said. “Ray Daley spent hours with me, talking about my father. He promised he'd do what he could. But I never heard from him.”

Webb remembered the young woman on the movie screen in Arizona. Then, as now, there was a sadness in her eyes that was impossible to miss.

“Ray Daley loved to gamble,” Webb said. All of what he was about to tell Ruby had been waiting for him in a letter at the lawyer's office on his return from Norman Wells. “He wasn't good at it. Trouble was, he had a habit of pretending his name was Harlowe Gavin. They looked a lot alike, and he'd gotten away with it many times. Your father and Ray were sent to the Arctic to fly in and out of Alaska during the building of the Canol Road, and Ray kept gambling at the work camps, using your father's name. He gambled with the wrong set of men, and they paid someone in the camp to make an example of Ray. Except the person they sent went to the real Harlowe Gavin, took him up the trail, away from one of the work sites, and—”

Webb couldn't say the words.

“Took my daddy's life,” Ruby Gavin finished for him.

“With his own knife, a knife my grandfather had given him when their air force careers took them on different paths.”

When Webb thought of the lonely pile of rocks and of a man buried there for sixty years and the little girl waiting for her daddy to come home to this small town, he had to turn his head and blink away tears before continuing.

“Ray knew they'd kill him next if they found out what happened. He took your father's paycheck too, and signed up for a flight to Whitehorse, pretending to be your dad. The work camp had thousands of military and thousands of workers, and it was easy to take advantage of the confusion. He cashed in the paycheck and bought a train ticket under your father's name, and made sure people knew he got on the train. He jumped off just as it was leaving, and made his way back to the camp. And when the army went looking for your father, they tracked down where the paycheck had been cashed.”

“But you weren't born for fifty years after that,” Ruby said. “You show up out of nowhere and tell me this. I want to believe it so badly. But I don't know who you are.”

“A good man's grandson. Ray Daley lived with his secret for a long time, but in the end, he had to tell someone before he died. A few months back, on his deathbed, he made a phone call to Jake Rundell and confessed.”

“I should have heard about it from Jake then,” she said. “Not you.”

“Jake didn't want to believe Ray. The four of them had all been so close. Ray was old and not everything he said made sense.”

“Alzheimer's?” Ruby Gavin asked.

Webb nodded. “Jake wasn't going to go to the authorities and damage Ray's reputation unless he was convinced it had happened the way Ray said it had. He called my grandfather for advice. They decided to send someone for proof. Me.”

“You. All the way to the Arctic?”

“My grandfather had his reasons.”

“I'd like to thank your grandfather,” Ruby said.

“He was the kind of guy who didn't need thanks,” Webb said.


“I miss him,” Webb said. He wanted to go now. He couldn't bear the sorrow he was feeling for this woman. He couldn't bear his own sorrow. He stood.

“I expect you'll hear something official from the police,” Webb said. “My grandfather's lawyer, he made an arrangement. He wasn't going to release any information to the police until I had a chance to come down here first and tell you myself.”

“Makes me want to start dancing,” Ruby said. “I'm calling everyone I know. Harlowe Gavin didn't run out on his family.”

She pointed at the Methodist church. “We're going to have his funeral right there. If you're not shy with that guitar, maybe you can play a song for him.”

Webb was about to say he'd be gone by then, but he made the mistake of looking directly at Ruby and seeing a little girl instead of an old woman.

“Sure,” Webb said. “I might have a song or two for him.”


Back at the Main Street Cafe and armed with coffee and a cinnamon bun the size of a loaf of bread, Webb opened the FedEx package.

He slid the contents onto the table. There was a note on Devine's stationery, an envelope with his grandfather's handwriting on the outside and a thin legal-sized folder. The note had simple instructions:
your grandfather's letter before looking inside the folder

Webb shook his head and grinned in admiration at his grandfather. He'd been larger than life in life, and now, even in death, he still managed to be as large as possible.

Webb took a bite out of the cinnamon bun and a sip of coffee. He suspected this was going to be the last letter from Grandpa. He was in no hurry to read it, because then all of it would be over.

Another bite of cinnamon bun, and another sip of coffee. Finally, he opened the envelope from his grandpa and pulled out the letter.

First things first, Webby. I've been saving a surprise for you. I've paid for you to have a week's worth of studio time in Nashville with a great producer. Get some of your songs on iTunes, okay? I know you've got the talent, and more importantly, I know you want it bad enough to achieve your dreams in the music world. When the songs get out there, I know the world's going to come calling for you.

Second thing: Webby, if you are reading this in Devine's office, it means that you found nothing in the Arctic, and that poor Ray Daley was a delusional old man.

But if you're reading this after talking to Ruby Gavin, that means you found the remains of her father. I didn't want you to get this letter and the folder until you learned the price she had to pay for the secret that was buried for so long.

Webby, secrets are such a heavy burden; they can destroy lives. Ray was never the same after the war, and if you are in Tennessee as you read this, now we know why. The secret was destroying him too.

What about your secret, Webby?

It worried me greatly, watching you change in the years after your mother married Elliott Skinner. You were once so open and affectionate and joyful, like that beagle of yours. Nibbles? Or maybe it was Niblet.

Slowly you became tougher and colder. I'd ask your mother about it, but Charlotte always kept a bright face, said things were great at home.

Let me ask you this, Webby. Who sent the letter to your principal telling her to look in your locker for marijuana? Don't be surprised I know about this. I've been worried about you for years, and I've tried to let very little escape me when it comes to your life.

Here's my guess. I think you sent the letter. I think you were looking for the perfect excuse to get out of the house without forcing your mother to wonder if the real reason was Elliott.

Remember that day you asked me to co-sign a loan for a J-45? It got me to wondering why you'd need another guitar, because I knew nothing was more important to you than the guitar your dad left you when he died. That's when I decided I would do what I could to find out about Elliott.

I went to your mother, and she said Elliott never hurt her or hurt you. When I said I didn't believe her, she admitted that she always felt afraid around him, even though she couldn't explain it in a way that didn't make her sound crazy, and that it was slowly making her feel smaller and smaller. She said it broke her heart when you left the house after telling Elliott you never wanted to talk to her again. But at the same time, she felt that somehow it was safer for you not to be living at home.

Webby, that's not how people should live. In fear.

The folder should help. Read it, and then let Devine advise you on the best way to use what's in the folder. Do it on your terms. Not Elliott's.

Webb wanted to throw his coffee mug through the front window of the restaurant. He hadn't told Elliott he never wanted to talk to his mother again. Elliott had made sure Webb stayed away from her and then lied about it.

He fought the rage, and finally, he slowly and calmly put the letter back into the envelope. It was the only way to control himself, because if he gave in to his emotions in the slightest, the dam would break and he'd go berserk right there in the Main Street Cafe.

His growing feeling of cold rage told Webb that his grandfather was right. He was becoming Elliott. He had wanted to run over Brent in Norman Wells, he'd wanted to smash Fritz in the head with a rock. Normal humans don't respond like that.

Webb forced himself to sip his coffee until the feeling subsided.

Then he opened the folder. It contained two pages. The first page was a letter from a private investigation firm, stating that the summary that followed was based on factual evidence that could be backed up in court.

The second page was the summary of the investigation into the events that led to the dishonorable discharge of Elliott McLuhan Skinner from the Canadian Armed Forces.


But Elliott Skinner had presented himself as a soldier honorably discharged, and built up his security firm on that reputation.

Webb read the second page three times. Phrases had been highlighted.
Dishonorable discharge based
on overly harsh discipline with recruits. Anger management
issues with inappropriate responses to anyone
who challenged his authority. Dishonorable discharge
hidden by altered computer records and false references. Confirmed assessment as a borderline psychopath,
according to the PCL-R testing standards.

Webb didn't care what PCL-R stood for, but felt an amazing relief that the secret didn't need to remain hidden. That someone else—someone who would be believed—could confirm what had been happening. Webb closed the folder and stared at it so long that the waitress came over and asked if anything was the matter.

Webb told her no.

He put the note and the letter from his grandfather and the folder from the private investigator back into the FedEx package and put the package into his guitar case.

He stepped outside into the heat. He sat on a bench on the sidewalk and looked at the sky as if he could peer into heaven and see his grandfather.

Then he took out his phone and dialed a number that he had not dialed in a long, long time.

When the person on the other end answered, he began to cry.

“Mom,” he said. “I want to come home.”


Many thanks to Eric Walters for giving me the chance to be involved in this great project. Thanks also to editor Sarah Harvey for providing encouragement and insight and to Andrew Wooldridge and everyone else at Orca. It's so fun and rewarding to work with the team. And thank you to Canadian North airlines for all their help with my travels to the North and their support for literacy for the students in the Northwest Arctic. Thanks as well to Drew Ramsey and Ram Bam Thank You Ma'am, BMI, for production of the song “Monsters,” which can be heard at
or on iTunes.

is the bestselling author of books for both children and adults, including
Rock & Roll Literacy
and titles in the Orca Echoes, Orca Currents and Orca Sports series. Visit
for more information about Sigmund's presentations. Sigmund and his family divide their time between Eagleville, Tennessee, and Red Deer, Alberta.

BOOK: Devil's Pass
2.67Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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