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 (6 page)

BOOK: Devil's Pass
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“I'm sure you are,” Devine answered DJ. “But actually,
I'm
not going to tell you anything.” He paused. “Your
grandfather
is. I'm going to play a video your grandfather made.”

The lawyer walked over to a television in a big cabinet. He turned to face the six grandsons. “I was in the room when your grandfather recorded this. I think
all
of you will be at least a little surprised by what he has to say.”

He turned the
TV
on and there was Webb's grandpa.

“I'm not sure why I have to be wearing makeup,” David McLean said, turning to face somebody off camera. “This is my will, not some late-night talk show…and it's certainly not a
live
taping.”

Someone in the room with his grandpa laughed.

“Good morning…or afternoon, boys,” he began. “If you are watching this, I must be dead, although on this fine afternoon I feel very much alive. I want to start off by saying that I don't want you to be too sad. I had a good life and I wouldn't change a minute of it. That said, I still hope that you are at least a little sad and that you miss having me around. After all, I was one
spectacular
grandpa!”

His cousins started laughing, and Webb joined in. It felt good. He didn't laugh much anymore.

“And you were simply the best grandsons a man could ever have. I want you to know that of all the joys in my life, you were among my greatest. From the first time I met each of you to the last moments I spent with you—and of course I don't know what those last moments were, but I know they were wonderful—I want to thank you all for being part of my life. A very big, special, wonderful, warm part of my life.”

The old man took a sip of water. Webb noticed his hand shaking. He must have been nervous.

“I wanted to record this rather than just have my lawyer read it out to you. Hello, Johnnie.”

“Hello, Davie,” Devine replied.

“Johnnie, I hope you appreciate that twenty-year-old bottle of Scotch I left you,” his grandpa said. “And you better not have had more than one snort of it before the reading of my will! But knowing you the way I do, I suspect you would have had two.”

“He did know me well,” Devine said.

“I just wanted—needed—to say goodbye to all of you boys in person, or at least as in person as this allows.” On the television screen, David took another sip from his glass. His hand was still shaking.

Webb found that significant. He'd never seen his grandpa nervous. David McLean had lived into his nineties, strong and healthy. His hands had never shaken before.

“Life is an interesting journey,” David said from the television, “one that seldom takes you where you think you might be going. Certainly I never expected that I was going to become an old man. In fact, there were more than a few times when I was a boy that I didn't believe I was going to live to see another day, never mind live long enough to grow old.”

This was a man who'd been a pilot in World War II, been shot at over France, had had adventures all over the world. Webb knew that the man on the television screen was not exaggerating.

“But I did live a long and wonderful life. I was blessed to meet the love of my life, your grandmother Vera. It is so sad that she passed on before any of you had a chance to meet her. I know people never speak ill of the dead—and I'm counting on you all to keep up that tradition with me—but your grandmother was simply the most
perfect
woman in the world.”

Webb's own mother—David's daughter, Charlotte—was close to perfect too. At least she had been when Webb's dad was alive. He bit back a heavy sigh, thinking of his mother outside the lawyer's office. So close. But truly, so far away.

“Her only flaw,” David continued, “as far as I can see, was being foolish enough to marry me. She gave me not only a happy life, but four daughters…four amazing daughters. I just wish she could have been there to watch them grow into the four wonderful women who became your mothers.”

Webb's grandmother had died when the girls were young—the youngest, Aunt Vicky, was only four at the time. David McLean had raised the girls on his own. Webb wished his mother had followed that same path when his dad had died when Webb was ten.

“I was always comforted by the thought that I believed she was watching them too,” David said from the television. “Sitting up there in heaven or wherever. I guess as you're hearing this, I have an answer to that question. I pray that I'm with her now.”

He raised his glass again and toasted his grandsons. “Being both father and mother to my girls meant that I was always running fast to try and do everything. Sometimes the need to earn a living got in the way of me being there for my daughters. There were too many school plays, violin recitals and soccer games that I never got to. And that was why I made a point to be there for almost every one of your games and school events and concerts. This was both a promise I made and a complete joy. You boys, you wonderful, incredible, lovely boys have been such a blessing…seven blessings. Some blessings come later than others.”

Seven? Webb squinted, as if looking harder at the screen would help his hearing. Six. There were six grandsons. Obviously a mistake, but he didn't give it much thought because he wanted to give his grandpa his full attention.

“But I didn't bring you here simply to tell you how much I loved you all. Being part of your lives was one of the greatest achievements of my life, and I wouldn't trade it for anything, but being there for all your big moments meant that I couldn't be elsewhere. I've done a lot, but it doesn't seem that time is going to permit me the luxury of doing everything I wished for. So, I have some requests, some
last
requests. In the possession of my lawyer are some envelopes. One for each of you.”

Webb glanced at Mr. Devine, who stood at the side of the room holding envelopes fanned out like playing cards.

“Each of these requests, these tasks,” David continued, “has been specifically selected for you to fulfill. All of the things you will need to complete your task will be provided—money, tickets, guides. Everything. I am not asking any of you to do anything stupid or unnecessarily reckless—certainly nothing as stupid or reckless as I did at your ages. Your parents may be worried, but I have no doubts. Just as I have no doubts that you will all become fine young men. I am sad that I will not be there to watch you all grow into the incredible men I know you will become. But I don't need to be there to know that will happen. I am so certain of that. As certain as I am that I will be there with you as you complete my last requests, as you continue your life journeys.”

On the television screen, he lifted up his glass again.

“A final toast. To the best grandsons a man could ever have. I love you all so much. Good luck.”

The video ended and his grandpa was gone.

ELEVEN

NOW

It didn't make Webb feel any better that Sylvain had been correct in saying it wouldn't take long for Brent Melrose to find him.

When a kid on a mountain bike approached Webb on the path through the trees, Webb was thinking about bears. And how all his previous ideas about cleverly climbing a nearby tree to escape a bear were not so clever after all.

First of all, Webb knew that grizzlies can't climb trees, but black bears can.

That was good. If you have a choice between out-climbing a grizzly or out-climbing a black bear, it's the grizzly you want to out-climb. Grizzlies are huge—not that black bears are tiny—and more unpredictable and bad tempered.

Webb also knew that if you're attacked by a female grizzly it's better to play dead. But with male grizzlies, you are supposed to fight like crazy and hope for the best. Hit them on the nose, scream and kick. Prove to the male that messing with you is a mistake.

As if a 150-pound human is going to make a 600-pound grizzly think that it's a mistake to get into a fight. Sure. And Elvis is still eating donuts, and the Toronto Maple Leafs are going to win a Stanley Cup one day.

But second—and to Webb, this was the crucial issue—how do you know whether you are being attacked by a male or female grizzly? Yes, if the grizzly is with a couple of cubs, go ahead and assume it's female. Other than that, how are you going to know? Wait until you are on the ground trapped underneath it and then reach down and see if there's anything to grab?

Like that would put a male grizzly in a better mood.

All Webb's research about bears in the north, at least when it came to trees, had been wasted though.

Norman Wells wasn't very far south of the tree line, the point in the Arctic where trees won't grow.

The spruce trees on the path were barely higher than his head, and the trunks of the trees were skinnier than his arms. Climbing to the top would only put him at the perfect level for a bear to chomp on his butt.

Turns out, too, that Webb should have been more worried about the kid on the mountain bike.

The kid, who looked about twelve, stopped in front of Webb. Short dark hair. Freckles. Jeans. Blue hoodie. And attitude.

“Hey,” Webb said. He shifted his pack on his back.

It still felt a little heavy. He had gone down to the Mackenzie River and put rocks into his backpack earlier. He had started with the backpack half full and had been taking them out, one at a time, dropping them along the road as he walked the streets of Norman Wells.

“You the guy who just landed here with a guitar?” the kid said.

“Strictly speaking, the plane landed. I was on it.”

“With a guitar?”

“With a guitar,” Webb said.

“Good. You just made me a hundred bucks.”

The kid turned his bike around and pedaled about twenty steps back up the trail. Then he stopped the bike and faced Webb again. He pulled a walkie-talkie off his belt, held it to his mouth and stared at Webb while he clicked the side button.

Webb heard the chime, and then the kid said, “Found him. On the path. Headed toward Raven Road.” He released the button.

The walkie-talkie crackled. “Keep him in sight. I'm driving that way.” A man's voice.

“You're kidding me,” Webb said. “You're a bounty hunter?”

“Hundred bucks,” the kid said. “Not gonna turn that down.”

His walkie-talkie crackled again. A kid's voice this time. “Joey, remember our deal. Whoever finds him splits with the others.”

Then another kid's voice. “Yeah, man. That's like thirty bucks each.”

“Three of you,” Webb said.

“Brent Melrose, he's someone you don't mess with. It was either take the money or always be on the run in this town. Nothing personal, you know.”

“Makes me feel a lot better,” Webb said.

At the airport, he'd been able to surprise Melrose, who was so much bigger than him that surprise was about the only weapon Webb had.

And now that element of surprise was gone.

Still, better to see the fight coming than to get stabbed in the back.

Webb wondered if it would be better to take the fight to the woods instead of the road. He stepped off the path into boggy ground. Branches tore at his backpack. The trees were short and skinny but close together. No way to run from a bear in this stuff, and, as a predator, Melrose was worse than a bear. The thickness of the bush also made it a bad place to fight.

Webb heard the walkie-talkie chime again, then the first kid's voice. “He's in the trees.”

“Follow him,” came the reply. “Let me know where he is at all times. He's going to have to come out somewhere.”

This was true, but Webb had a rough idea of the layout of the town in his head. When he'd jumped off the truck, he'd known he wasn't in the wilderness. This area was framed by the streets of Norman Wells.

Moving through the bush was loud and progress was slow. The kid on the bike would have no trouble following, and Webb wouldn't be able to escape.

Webb took a deep breath and turned back to the path.

When he got there, the kid gave him a respectful distance.

“Don't worry,” Webb told the kid, “I'm not going to do anything to you.”

Webb could have reversed direction and gone back to where he'd jumped out of the truck, maybe get some help from passing traffic, but it would only have been relative safety. Because, until Webb got out of Norman Wells, it seemed like Melrose was going to find him.

So Webb continued walking in the opposite direction. He was going to face Brent alone and get this over with.

That was the one good thing about having a stepfather who tortured you. Soon enough, pain didn't bother you that much.

TWELVE

The path twisted and turned through the short spruce trees and came out on a quiet road, where Brent Melrose was leaning against a black truck with beefed-up tires. He took a swig from a bottle of beer.

BOOK: Devil's Pass
12.36Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
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