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 (7 page)

BOOK: Devil's Pass
5.25Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

The kid on the bike had stayed behind Webb the entire time he trudged up the path, reporting Webb's progress on his walkie-talkie every thirty seconds. Webb hadn't seen any sense in trying to shut him up. What was he going to do, turn and hurt the kid if he didn't?

Not Webb's style.

Besides, Webb could see some humor in the situation as the kid kept repeating the same message.

“This is Corey. Come in?”
Crackle, crackle, pause
. “Yeah, he's still headed your way. Out.”

“This is Corey. Come in?”
Crackle, crackle, pause
. “Yeah, he's still headed your way. Out.”

“This is Corey. Come in?”
Crackle, crackle, pause
. “Yeah, he's still headed your way. Out.”

As Webb came to the end of the path, he took his backpack off and leaned it against a tree. He walked toward Brent's truck. Slowly.

“See what you did to my face?” Brent asked.

“I thought it was all a misunderstanding. You fell into the luggage. Isn't that what you said at the station?”

“The cop was right. That was crap,” Brent said. When he breathed, a strange whistling sound came from his nose. It looked—and sounded—painful.

He was swaying some, and Webb hoped he wasn't too drunk to listen to sense. He held up his iPod, switched it to record video and pointed it at Brent.

“Four thirty-five,” Webb said clearly. “Standing here on—” Webb turned to the kid on the bike. “What's this road?”

“Don't know. Down at the corner, though, if you turn toward the river, that's where the school principal lives. Does that help?”

“Standing just down from the principal's house,” Webb said. “Just for the record, we've got full video happening here.”

“Put that away,” Brent said. “Or I'll rip it out of your hands.”

“Not too interested in that,” Webb answered.

Brent took a lumbering step toward Webb. “I said give it to me. It's payback time.”

Brent charged.

It didn't take much effort to step aside. Brent's momentum took him past Webb like a bull missing a matador. Difference was, Webb wasn't using a red cape and didn't have a short stabbing sword to finish Brent off when he got tired.

Webb kept the camera on Brent. He had lots of memory left. Could probably video the next half hour if he had too.

Brent swung around, grunted and charged again, swinging his arms in a futile attempt to wrap them around Webb.

Webb could have tripped him but just let him go past again.

Brent almost fell into his truck but caught his balance in time.

“How about we just call this quits,” Webb said. “You have better things to do. Same with me.”

“And let people talk about how some long-haired-musician type busted my nose and got away with it?”

Brent obviously thought he was clever, charging again as he finished speaking. Like Webb would be so dazzled by his insult, he'd forget to notice. Thing was, Webb had his eyes on the center of Brent's chest. Anybody can fake moves, but no matter how good the fake, the center of the chest was where the body went. Another thing he had learned the hard way.

Brent blew past Webb and took a few more steps to stop. Already getting tired.

He leaned on his knees, near Webb's backpack.

“Look at this,” he said. “Somebody left something behind.”

Clever, Webb thought, as Brent hefted the backpack and said, “What a shame we need to see what's inside.”

Really clever.

Brent lifted the flap and turned the pack upside down, like he was expecting Webb to get mad.

What Brent didn't expect were rocks. A lot of them, each about the size of a fist.

“Rocks?” Brent was dumbfounded. “Rocks?”

Webb almost laughed. Brent had successfully identified the dull round objects polished smooth by centuries in the river.

“Rocks,” Brent said one more time. “What kind of idiot carries rocks in his backpack?” He grinned and picked one up in his right hand. “But thanks,” he said. “You're making it too easy.”

He fired the rock at Webb's head. Webb ducked.

There was a crash as glass shattered. To Webb, it was a very satisfying sound. The rock must have hit the only glass nearby—the side window of Brent's truck, which was directly behind Webb.

Webb didn't turn to admire the damage though. Not when Brent had a pile of rocks within reach.

Besides, it wasn't necessary. The expression on Brent's face—or what Webb could see beyond the bandages—said it all. Horror and rage. Obviously the sound of broken glass had been a lot less satisfying to Brent than to Webb.

“Arrgghhh!” Brent dropped his head and charged at Webb again.

Webb began to feel cold rage engulf him, the cold rage that sustained him whenever his stepfather had hurt him. It was a horrible feeling, being certain that, if given the chance, he would take Brent's truck and drive over Brent without any remorse or regrets. Just the way he knew that, if given the chance, he would hurt Elliott in ways far worse than anything Elliott had ever done to him.

As Brent charged, Webb stepped aside again, but this time left his leg in the way. Brent, blinded by alcohol, anger and bandages, tripped and fell forward, his head thunking into the side of the truck's door.

Webb was surprised that Brent didn't just drop. Instead, he wheeled in a tight circle, as if one of his feet was nailed to the ground, holding his head with both hands.

The head-shaped dent in Brent's door was impressive.

“Come in, come in.” Corey spoke into the walkie-talkie. Excited. “Everybody, get here as fast as you can. You have to see this. Brent Melrose is beating the crap out of his own truck.”

Webb grabbed a rock and, filled with rage, was ready to move in on Brent and smash him in the head. He stopped when he noticed Sylvain heading toward them in the police truck with his blue-and-reds flashing.

Webb dropped the rock and concentrated on letting his sanity return.


About half an hour later, Webb walked back into The Northern with his backpack on.

Joey gave him a big grin. “Heard about you and Brent Melrose. Heard he lost a fight with his truck.”

Small town. News traveled fast. But really, it was no different than being in a big city where a small group of people all knew each other. If someone got busted or beat up, everyone knew about it right away.

“It was a nice truck,” Webb said. “Now, not so nice.”

“He's not going to quit,” Joey said.

“I'll be away,” Webb said. “I'm not worried.”

Webb pointed at all the gear Joey had set aside for him. “Thanks for your help.”

“Sure,” Joey said. “All together, it costs—”

“Sorry,” Webb interrupted him. “First we need to weigh something. You got bathroom scales?”

Joey was obviously puzzled, but he pointed Webb to the household goods aisle.

Webb set a brand-new bathroom scale on the floor and pulled his boots off. “Don't want to get it dirty,” he told Joey.

In his socks, with his backpack on, Webb stepped on the scale and noted the weight. He'd refilled his pack with rocks after his encounter with Brent.

Then he took the backpack off and weighed himself again. The difference was fifty-four pounds.

“All I'm going to allow myself is fifty-four pounds,” Webb said to Joey. “So if the gear you put together weighs more than that, we need to pull out what's least important.”

Joey still looked puzzled, so Webb explained. “I spent an hour walking around with rocks in my pack to find out how much I could carry without hurting myself. I don't want to carry any more than that out there on the trail. I'll be walking for at least a week, and I'm not into unnecessary pain.”

Joey grinned. “Okay, now I'm impressed. Most people start with too much and either throw it away on the trail or stagger around out there, wrecking their backs and feet. Let's start filling your backpack and see what will fit.”

“Hang on,” Webb said. He reached into the backpack and lifted out two of the bigger rocks. He hefted them, comparing the weight in his mind to the weight of his guitar. Seemed about the same. Not quite enough.

“Have a bag?” he asked Joey.

“Sure.” Joey didn't ask why, just watched.

Webb put a few more rocks in the bag and lifted it, closing his eyes and imagining his guitar.

Much closer. He set the bag on scale. The rocks weighed sixteen pounds. He thought he might be off by a few pounds either way, but close enough.

“Thirty-eight pounds,” Webb said. “That's all I can take. Forgot about my guitar.”

“You're taking a guitar on the trail?”

“Yeah.” And plenty of guitar strings. Busting a string and not having a replacement would have been disaster. Fortunately, the strings didn't weigh much.

“Sixteen pounds of gear is a lot to give up for a guitar,” Joey said.

Webb thought about what the guitar represented to him, and what he'd had to do to have the freedom to play it.

“It might be for some people,” he said. “But I'm good with it.”


In his hotel room, Webb took a small plastic bag and put some wooden matches in it. He slipped the sealed bag of matches into his money belt.

Then he practiced packing and repacking all his gear. The Wi-Fi connection gave him good access to the Internet on his iPod, and he'd just finished reading an article on hiking that advised putting all the heavy stuff as close to the bottom of the backpack as possible. The article also said that keeping some matches dry was a cheap insurance policy.

After the tenth time he refilled his backpack, he realized he was doing it out of nervousness, so he moved to a chair in the corner and picked up his guitar.

He didn't start playing but just held it because it made him feel better.

He began to mentally poke at his nervousness, in the same way he used his tongue to poke at the hole where his tooth used to be.

Was he nervous because he'd be walking a trail in one of the most remote spots in the world? No, he told himself. Knowing that George had lied to try and protect him from Brent gave Webb a sense of comfort. He could trust the older man; the guide would be there to help.

Was he nervous because of Brent?

He gave that serious thought. If the man had actually killed and buried two men out in the wilderness, any rational person would be afraid of Brent. But there was no reason to be afraid tonight.

Sylvain had locked Brent up for the night, at least, expecting that Brent's lawyer would not be able to get him out until sometime the next day. By then, Webb would have left Norman Wells, safe from the guy Sylvain had called a psycho. Webb had a lot of experience with psychos.

When he was fourteen, his stepfather had come home unexpectedly, catching Webb in front of the television, playing his guitar in sync with the Rolling Stones on a music video.

Elliott turned the television off and faced Webb. The silence—after the loud music from the television—seemed to echo in the room.

“I told Charlotte that I forgot my wallet,” Elliott said. “Can't pay for dinner without it. I left her there at the restaurant and told her I'd be right back.”

Third anniversary. Dinner at a fancy restaurant. Webb was old enough not to need a babysitter, and he had expected them to be gone for hours.

Standing in front of the couch, guitar in his hands, Webb glanced out the front window at the darkness.

“I parked down the street,” Elliott said. “Headlights would have been obvious. Didn't want you slipping away as I came up the driveway.”

Because that's exactly what Webb would have done: slip out the back door, into the backyard and through the gate near where Niblet was buried. Instead, Elliott had caught Webb watching MTV. The Rolling Stones. Long-haired musicians who had definitely taken drugs.

“Nothing to say?” Elliott asked.

It had ripped out Webb's heart to bury his beagle. Maybe once a month, Elliott had found an excuse to make Webb kneel on rice grains to protect Niblet. Elliott had not once hurt the dog. Webb had never given Elliott reason to. In the end, a stomach virus had taken Niblet.

“Nothing to say?” Elliott repeated.

Webb reached down. Picked up the remote. Clicked on the television again. Mick Jagger answered Elliott instead. The music was satisfyingly loud. And there was a great closeup of Mick and his thick long hair. A combination sure to irritate Elliott. Much as it hurt not to have Niblet waiting at the gate anymore, Elliott no longer had a hold over Webb.

Can't get no satisfaction.

Keith Richards was Webb's guitar hero. The opening of “Satisfaction” was just a three-note guitar riff. Then some bass. Then drums and acoustic guitar. But the three-note riff drove that song, made it what it was. Webb could play all of it now. But never at home.

Can't get no satisfaction.

Elliott gave his cold smile. He briefly turned his back to Webb to unplug the television, and then in the new silence, through the cold smile that did not waver, he said, “Drop your guitar. Sit on the couch. Take off the sock on your right foot.”

“Niblet is gone,” Webb said. “You can't do anything to me now or I'll report it.”

“Not once did I hurt your dog,” Elliott said. “I just want us to be a happy family. All of us. You. Me. And Charlotte. I really want her to remain happy.”

Webb felt like he couldn't breathe, and that sudden weakness took away his ability to speak.

Webb sat on the couch and did as commanded.

Webb felt that horrible blackness again, the feeling of sinking into mud he'd felt years earlier when Elliott first made him kneel on rice. Elliott wasn't making a threat about his mom, was he? It was just Webb's imagination, his fear rising like this because he loved his mom so much. Right?

BOOK: Devil's Pass
5.25Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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