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Fiction Police Procedural

Cape Rage

by (author) Ron Corbett

Penguin Publishing Group
Initial publish date
Mar 2024
Police Procedural, Crime, Nature & the Environment
  • Hardback

    Publish Date
    Mar 2024
    List Price

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Danny Barrett is caught between a family of criminals and the psychopath who is tracking them in the latest novel of the series the New York Times calls, "Dynamite."

The FBI has a hundred undercover agents who can work in the city, but Danny Barrett is the one they call when they need someone to investigate crimes in the wilderness.

This case is a particularly difficult one. For more than a century the Danby family have ruled as kings in their corner of the Pacific Northwest. The Feds were mostly willing to look the other way while the family smuggled everything from liquor to cigarettes across the border, but lately things have taken a darker turn.

A recent bank robbery in Seattle looks like it may have been committed by the Danbys, but there's no way the FBI can get any locals to turn against them. Only Danny Barrett has what it takes to get inside the organization and shut them down.

But before Danny can do that he's going to have to contend with Henry Carter, a former in-law and current psychopath. The Danbys thought they left Henry for dead in the deepest part of the woods, but he's coming back. He'll go to hell to get his revenge, and he's willing to take the whole family with him.

About the author

Ron Corbett is a writer, journalist, and broadcaster whose writing has won numerous prizes, including two National Newspaper Awards. Previously, he published the books The Last Guide and A Grand Adventure. Corbett has taught journalism at Carleton University and has worked for the Ottawa Citizen, the Ottawa Sun, and CHUM Radio. He lives in Manotick, Ontario.

Ron Corbett's profile page

Excerpt: Cape Rage (by (author) Ron Corbett)


The two men sitting across the table from me hated each other. That was easy to tell. One wanted me there and one didn't. That was just as plain.

Frank Gardner was old-school FBI and dressed the part: cheap blue suit that didn't fit well, shoulders too tight, cut too long. Gray hair in a brush cut probably as short as the settings on a home-barber shear could go. What looked like permanent, indigo-colored chin stubble.

I would have guessed him to be midfifties, but fit as hell, with a chest and arms you only get from going to a gym a few times a week. When I walked into the FBI office in Seattle, Gardner stared at me the way you'd stare at an ex-spouse entering a courtroom.

Jason Hart, sitting the other side of a desk from both of us, was everything Frank Gardner wasn't. He had blond hair running past his collar, feathered and layered the way no home-barber shear could do it. No chin stubble. Wore a dark-gray suit with a checked pattern so subtle you almost had to be standing on top of the guy to see it. He looked to be in his early forties and smelled of cologne, talc, success and a thousand other things Frank Gardner would never have or be.

Jason Hart was Frank Gardner's boss.

That would have been enough right there for a lot of men to hate each other, but it always seemed like there was something else to it. Should have thought more about it at the time. Easy to say today. Doubt if you'll find anyone to argue with you.

But there was a lot to consider that morning, and career-related hatred between FBI agents wasn't on my list. The request for me to be seconded to Hart's task force had come in two days earlier, and it was my first trip in Seattle. I was thinking about that. The window of Hart's office looked out on Elliott Bay and the sky was the electric-blue color you get sometimes after a good hard rain, a sky that should have had rainbows and water droplets falling from trees beneath it; but it hadn't rained in Seattle for eight days and that sky looked restless and mean, a sky that probably wasn't doing anyone any good.

The FBI agent who'd picked me up at the airport had talked about little else. Look at the sky. No rain for eight days. Talked about it in a breathless, childish way. He was a short man who wore a salt-stained trench coat, even though it wasn't that cold, and besides the weather he only talked about one other thing. As he was putting my bag in the trunk of his sedan, he asked, "What are you here for, Pete Flarety or the Danbys?"

When I answered "Danbys," he groaned and said, "Good luck, pal. That family is a piece of work." Then he started taking about the weather.

What I was thinking about most that morning, though, was the CCTV tape I'd just watched. The tape had shown a bank robbery three days earlier at a Wells Fargo in San Francisco; the last two and a half minutes of it anyway, when the robbery went south after a robber accidentally set off a tear gas cannister inside the bank.

We were silent a long time after that tape finished: Gardner looking at me with a sneer on his face; Hart fidgeting with one of the brightly colored file folders on his desk; me staring out at that hopped-up, neon sky.

It was Hart who spoke first.

"Want to see it again?"


"Really? Most people want to see it again. You don't get camera angles like that very often."

"What happened to that second guard was an execution. Don't know why anyone would want to see it again."

"Squeamish?" asked Gardner.

"No. Just don't like snuff films."

"Squeamish. That's what this job needs. Glad we sent for you."

"Frank, ease up," said Hart, and he leaned across his desk to open a file. "The guy's right. We've gotten too used to seeing that damn tape. I don't want to see it again either." He leaned back in his chair. "So . . . what do you think?"

He crossed his fingers and cupped his hands under his chin. Like an attentive student waiting for the answer to a clever question. Maybe he had seen that tape too many times.

"Professional crew. They didn't hesitate with the second guard. One or two makes no difference in Washington?"


"Woman is different. That's how you were able to ID the crew?"

"Tess Danby. She doesn't fade into the woodwork, does she? Did you get the material we sent to Detroit, about the family?"

"Got it last night."

"All three-Ambrose, Finn and Tess?"


"Any questions?"

"It's quite the family. How long has your investigation been running?"

"Eighteen months."

"How close are you?"

"Until the bank robbery, not that close. We have paperwork that might get Ambrose and Finn, financial irregularities, some dirty money. The Danbys make most of their money running contraband out of Cape Rage. They've been doing it since Prohibition, from on an island in the Strait that the family bought back in the '30s. But those aren't the crimes we want them for. We have eight unsolved homicides and scores of armed robberies in the Pacific Northwest linked to the Danbys. This task force was set up to clear those cases."

"The background material you sent on the robbery has it as four robbers, but you only sent three jackets. You can't identify the fourth robber?" I asked.

"Close, hotshot," laughed Gardner. "Real fuckin' close."

"Frank, please," said Hart, flashing Gardner an angry look. "All of the robbers have been identified. The reason we only sent three files is because the fourth is dead."


"The Danbys shot him after the robbery; on their way back to Cape Rage."

"How do you know that?"

"Confirmed in a wiretap. Not our case. Danby associate. We also have witnesses to an argument between Finn Danby and his sister where he's referred to in the past tense. And he never came back to Danby Island after the robbery, which rather proves it."

"He lived on the island?"

"He did. Tess Danby's husband-guy's name was Henry Carter."

"Why did they kill him?"

"Working theory is this was a once-in-a-lifetime score, and Ambrose didn't want to split it with a son-in-law. Or maybe it was Tess's idea. She gets bored easily, as you would have seen in her file, Mr. Barrett."

Gardner laughed when Hart said "Mr. Barrett" and his boss gave him another nasty look-but it was still as nasty as a man with feathered hair and a gray-checked suit could muster. Gardner laughed a few more times before saying, "This is a joke. Are we really supposed to call this guy Barrett?"

"That's his operational name, Frank."

"Not his real name. This guy can't even play straight with us, the people he fuckin' works for?"

I turned to Gardner with what I hoped was a look of great weariness upon my face. People in my line of work don't have a lot of fans. I get called in when cases have stalled or are about to go bust. The agents already working those cases don't usually like the help. I've almost come to expect a bit of hostility, and I'm not above responding in kind.

"I don't work for you," I said to Gardner. "It was your boss who put in a request with the Detroit police. That's who I work for. And you're calling me Barrett because I know men in the ground today who are there because some local suit got the names mixed up. I will never be anything but Danny Barrett to you."

He wasn't ruffled. "Professional spook. Your family must be proud," he sneered.

"Frank, we've gone over this a thousand times," Hart almost yelled. Then he looked embarrassed at almost yelling, looked at me and said, "There's been some disagreement . . . internally . . . about your vocation and its . . . necessity."

"Debate away. I don't need to be here."

"I'm glad you are. I'll make sure Frank plays nice, don't worry about that. I'm the boss, just like you said. Frank, explain it to him."

I was startled. Hart couldn't pull off the look, but his voice dropped about an octave when he said Frank, explain it to him and there was some sand and grit to it suddenly, something menacing and surprisingly competent. Gardner still gave his head a slow shake-the recalcitrant puppy being brought to heel-but eventually he got around to telling me why Hart put in the request, and why I was in Seattle.

"We need corroborating evidence that the Danbys were the ones who robbed that bank," he began. "Our lawyers don't think the security tape will be enough. They think that without corroborating evidence the tape would be ruled inadmissible at trial. Because of the ongoing investigation into the Danbys that is being conducted by this office, the robbery case has been transferred from San Francisco to Seattle and is the reason we have requested your services, Mr. Barrett."

It took him ten more minutes to explain the FBI's plan. He must have used six or seven sneers in the telling, saving the biggest for his close, which he probably had rehearsed in his mind, and went like this, said without pause or hesitation: "So that's pretty much it-we need you to go to Cape Rage and get hired by the Danbys; we need you to get over to Danby Island and find evidence that will link the Danbys to the bank robbery in San Francisco; if you get on that island, by the way, you'll be the first cop to ever see it, and congratulations to you; once you're on the island and have secured the corroborating evidence we need you to get that intel to the operation commander-that will be me-then we need you to be ready and prepared to assist the operational commander in any way he deems necessary when we come over to that island and shut the motherfuckers down."

The last words came out in a rush, the syllables smashing into each other like boxcars in a train wreck, and when he was done, Gardner laughed, and sneered, and asked, "What do you say, Barrett? Want the job?"

Maybe it was the laugh. Maybe it was not wanting to give a sneer-freak the last sneer. I've thought about it a thousand times and I'm not sure why I didn't take more time with my answer that morning; why I didn't take another look at that mean, restless sky outside Hart's window and ask myself what sort of story comes with a sky like that?

Instead, I looked at Gardner, shrugged my shoulders and asked, "Is that all?"

That is one beginning for this story. There is another: three days earlier, when Henry Carter awakes on a patch of fern moss and finds himself staring at high cirrus clouds. He hears the one-note trilling of a cardinal. The spinning of car wheels. Feels the moss beneath him turn warm and wet, as he bleeds out.

In time, the cardinal flies away, the car wheels fade, and after that comes a great silence, a muteness broad and deep enough for him to tumble into. He spins in the silence a long time, what seems like days, until a foul smell comes over him and he reawakens.

He rolled when he was shot, and he is grateful he isn't face down. He lifts his head and sees blood pooling around his waist. It is starting to discolor. The reason for the smell. He lays his head down and goes back to watching clouds.

He doesn't spend time thinking about the betrayal. Not right away. It happened. He should have seen it coming. He doesn't allow more than that, not until the last minutes before he loses consciousness a second time, when he remembers her face.

The way she looked when he saw her last. Surprised. But not as surprised as she should have been. Questioning. But not in a good way. Wondering whether she should run. Whether that was the smart play and whether she had the time for it.

He knew the look.

When he reawakens, the air has chilled and there are black dots in front of the clouds, as though they have mottled. He wonders what would cause a thing like that, but no answer comes to him.

His father had an expression for her. He remembers that. "Tess Danby ain't no hand-upper, son." When he asked his father what that meant, he'd answered, "Means that gal is a great many things, Henry, but one thing she'll never be is any help to a man when he's down."

Funny. Is that funny now?

He ponders the question for the rest of the day, until the wind gathers strength and the late-afternoon gnats come and then are blown away; until the shadows climb down from the upper branches of the trees and begin to lie for the night; until the last of the day's light fades, glimmer by glimmer, from the forest floor. Just before the world goes dark, Henry Carter decides the question doesn't matter much-Tess Danby isn't there now-and it would be right and proper, an action befitting the facts, to kill his wife if he ever has the chance.


The next morning, I was on a Greyhound to Cape Rage. It was the milk run, stopping eight times before I got off, another eight after that before the bus reached its destination of Vancouver. We stopped at Everett and Mount Vernon, at Bellingham and Ferndale; stopped at a railway switching yard in the foothills of the Cascade Range where two young line workers jumped off and the bus stayed parked just long enough for the driver to have a cigarette.

We stopped at the Lummi Indian Reservation, where half the bus got up and walked off, each person carrying shopping bags, or children's toys, one old man carrying a wooden kayak paddle. It was at Lummi that I first saw Cape Rage. It looked like a distant white hill at the southern tip of the Strait of Georgia, the San Juan Islands in the foreground, each island with second-growth Douglas fir, the tree line of each looking roughly the same, almost too uniform to be natural, and in the shadows cast by Cape Rage those islands looked like boats making their way out to sea.

When the bus left the reservation, I put my duffel behind my head and resumed thinking about the work ahead. I had the three back seats, the ones that don't recline and nobody ever wants, but I can stretch out on those seats if I'm traveling solo and the bus isn't full. Which they never are anymore. Lot of days, I worry about Greyhound.