Devil’s Chair is the third in the Crisis Series by G. R. Daniels, available at Amazon Books, Kobo and other sites. In this novel, Graham Carde comes into his own. In The Russian Crisis and Crisis in the Cold, Carde is the caretaker of the Georgian Bay island property of Jackson Phillips, founder of a military software company in Toronto. He’s also a friend of Phillips. In this thriller, Carde witnesses a strange ritualistic drowning in the frigid waters of Lake Superior, largest of the Great Lakes. Bizarrely, he seems the only one really upset by the murder and determined to get justice for the victim. Before his probe is over, his life and others are threatened by the deadly mysteries hidden in the dark forest of northern Ontario.
Devil’s Chair exists; it is a tiny part of an island that looks like an eons-old volcano. I kayaked to it once and stepped out of my craft into the warm waters that cover the islet. One step, however, and you can slip into 30 feet of the coldest water you have ever felt. An amazing setting for an exciting novel by a favourite author. Hope you enjoy Chapter 1 of Devil’s Chair.
The man was lifted by his arms from the canoe by two others who had paddled the craft until it grounded in the shallow water. His hands were bound behind him and he shuffled as the men pulled him toward the waiting group. There were two women and three more men standing in the shadow of the rough pinnacle that formed a side of the islet. One man was taller than the rest, his bald head gleaming in the August sun. He raised his arms as the prisoner was brought before him.
One of the captors spoke for perhaps a minute. The other then made a brief comment. The tall man raised his arms over his head and he shouted something unintelligible. The prisoner’s knees weakened and he would have collapsed but for the men who held him up. When the prisoner recovered enough to stand on his own, he was released. It looked like his legs were tied together too.
One of the women stepped forward with what looked like a tool belt in her hands. She fastened it around the prisoner with a buckle as the others held him still. The belt sagged heavily around the man’s waist as if it were weighted. She clipped or tied a rope to the belt and retained a loop of the rope.
The two women and four of the five men formed an arc while the bald man remained in his place. The human arc began to push the prisoner through the shallow water away from the rock pinnacle. The prisoner tried to struggle against his bonds and to resist those pushing him backward. Inexorably, he was forced across the islet.
The arc pushed until, suddenly, the prisoner, with a brief scream, disappeared as if he had dropped into a hole. The arc of people turned and walked slowly back through the shallow water to the bald man standing tall against the dark brown rock of the Devils’ Chair. The woman with the rope played it out behind her as it grew taut.
A half hour before the sinister scene played out, Graham Carde had lain on the ground just inside the tree line bordering a short stretch of sand beach on Lake Superior. He had rested the 300 mm lens of his Nikon D850 digital camera on a mini-tripod to wait for a cow moose and calf he had glimpsed earlier to come to drink the cold water from the lake. It was 3 p.m. and the sun was beginning to lose some of the heat it had been blasting down for most of the day. Anyone who thought Canada was a cold country should come north at the end of August, Carde thought to himself.
Movement to his left had caught his eye. There were three kayaks – a double and a single – and a canoe closing in on a small islet that was part of Devil’s Chair Island about a hundred metres across the water from his hide on the shore of Cape Gargantua.
Graham liked this spot because of the view of the unique island. The north end of Devil’s Chair Island rose from this largest of the Great Lakes like a tiny volcano. Separated from the forested part of the island by a strip of water, the top of this conical structure looked like a volcanic peak. It had been round and hollow eons ago but had eroded until only two sides of the cone remained above water.
The bottom of the cone was covered by water only a few centimetres deep. Although this feature of Devil’s Chair was bounded on several sides by the deep waters of the lake that remained frigid all year, the shallow water within the cone was heated by the sun to above body temperature. One could step out of a boat into a spa. ‘Indians’ had been doing this for thousands of years, leaving tobacco behind in a niche of the chair-like pinnacle of rock as offerings to spirits.
Carde had quickly considered his options after watching the scene begin to unfold. He had assumed, originally, that the kayaks and the canoe were occupied by tourists coming to see the unusual island. It was a publicized feature of Lake Superior Provincial Park, one of a number of large parks along the shores of the Great Lakes. There weren’t that many tourists since Devil’s Chair Island was far from any roads and accessible only with a boat in the remote northeastern region of the biggest Great Lake.
When Carde saw, through his long lens, the unfolding of the bizarre tableau, he thought of his gun, left a few metres away in the pup tent at his campsite. But, the firearm was a Mossberg Shockwave Raptor, a short shotgun carried only to frighten off aggressive bears. It was useless at long range and, if the people in those boats were armed, firing the shotgun would only bring attention and possibly death to Carde as well as to the hapless prisoner.
Carde knew what had happened to the man who had vanished. The arc of people had pushed him off the islet into at least ten metres of frigid water. He would drown in minutes in water that remained near freezing through the year. Carde had capsized his kayak in those waters several times and knew the agonizing burning of his skin as he was plunged into that unforgiving lake. His hands had not been bound and he hadn’t been wearing a weighted belt and escaped hyperthermia only by quick action in each case.
Carde had been taking photos as fast as he could and switched to video near the end of the episode. With his lens, he could fill the frame with the arc of killers and their bald leader in his rocky setting.
As he watched the people climb back into their respective craft, he noticed another boat. It was much farther away, in a passage called Tugboat Channel between the much larger Hursley Island and the mainland. It was a green bowrider moving at a good clip toward Devil’s Island. Carde hoped it was a Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry patrol boat.
The motorboat approached the paddlers without hesitation, slowing to avoid rocking the kayaks and the canoe moving together just off the islet. Through his lens, Carde watched as two men in the bowrider waved to the bald man in the single person kayak. A woman in the rear seat
of a double kayak handed the end of the loop of rope to the passenger in the bowrider. Carde could only assume the other end was tied to the drowned man. The bowrider left the paddlers and headed away at slow speed. As Carde kept watch, the bowrider rounded the end of the island and made for the open lake beyond as the paddlers made their ways toward Tugboat Channel.
In a few minutes, Carde had the area to himself again. As he lay still, thinking about what he had witnessed, the cow moose and her calf wandered out of the forest only ten metres down the stretch of beach. They drank lake water. Carde took several shots with his Nikon as he struggled with his thoughts.