Ben uploaded his video confession that afternoon with help from Drew and Penelope. It stayed online for three hours before Mack asked Drew to delete the website, the video and all social media sites associated with the campaign. But three hours was enough time for the news to spread, for trolls to comment and for anonymous Internet users to download the information and reupload it to other sites.
Mack took care of the copies quickly, like he was a grandmaster whack-a-mole champion of torrents and scrapers. Copies got taken down within an hour of publication and soon died off as Mack tracked the IP addresses of offenders and compelled their compliance in stopping the spread of the materials, a feat that is usually impossible for any digital material already on the Internet. But clearly, Mack could be very persuasive.
Ryder’s autopsy report had been leaked to the Times, who published the story immediately, claiming that Ryder had been “hopped up on drugs” at the time of his death and had been unfit to aid the Glacier Rescue team on that callout. But it wasn’t enough that he had died. According to the Times, he had endangered the other members of the group with his careless use of drugs, an opinion the newspaper published without interviewing any member of Glacier Rescue. There was no response from the Conway family, a result of being paid off, shamed, or otherwise silenced, some villagers speculated. They wondered who would pick up the Conway family’s side of the story anyway?
While the Times was focused on the smear campaign, the Pique chose to highlight Wade’s arrest, although no names were mentioned due to all parties being minors. The paper also included stories of survival and empowerment, and ways for victims of violence to get help and support.
The Glacier Rescue team’s effort to shut down the Times had made great progress and only a few advertisers remained after their campaign. However, the newspaper somehow survived without any difficulty. The Glacier Times had deeper pockets than anyone could have guessed. In addition, Sunny’s lawyer cousin from Vancouver had won an easy settlement for Sam from the paper after sending only one cease and desist letter. Sam donated the money to Glacier Rescue for their new helicopter, which Lorne named the Glacier Rescue Ryder, in honor of a much-beloved, lost member of the Glacier Rescue family.
The Internet had a mind of its own, however, and for a time, social media in Glacier Village was overwhelmed by kidnapping deniers, who argued that the entire incident was a hoax. That Ben had never even gone missing. That Glacier Rescue had killed Ryder as a means of inciting sympathy and raising funds, which had been immediately embezzled by Lorne. Protests and boycotts took place, impeding callouts and placing rescuers and those who needed help in precarious situations.
The Glacier Village Police Department closed their investigation of the incident without explanation, not that anyone expected one. Dan suspected that it had been unofficially closed almost from the start, but without additional proof, it was difficult to determine what had actually happened. Dan hadn’t responded when Sam had repeated Drew’s impression of the Black family’s influence in Glacier Village because he didn’t need to say anything. They had come to realize that there was a sliver of truth to Drew’s words. A truth that didn’t sit well with either of them and would likely represent a future challenge they would have to deal with. But after everything that had happened, they knew they would face that challenge as a team.
The day after The Angel of Karma posted Wesley’s video, the warrant to seize Trax had been withdrawn, as was the order to have him destroyed. Mack had been equally successful in getting copies of Wesley’s video deleted. But once word had spread across the village about what Wesley had done, he disappeared on a long, mysterious vacation to avoid criticism. No one knew where he had gone or when he would return.
Within a short period of time, Ben’s confession video and Wesley’s incident with Trax had mostly been forgotten, as though it was a line item in the history of Glacier Village that had been triple deleted.
And just days after she had left, Claudia arrived back in Glacier Village with Trax. He had escaped from her home three times and the third time, he had miraculously navigated through the city, over Lions Gate Bridge and on to the Sea To Sky Highway in West Vancouver before being caught. Claudia loved Trax, but she knew that he had already decided who he belonged with, that he had already chosen his human.
Trax’s nose twitched and his head cocked to the side as soon as Sam walked into Penelope’s house. The second he recognized her, he let out a loud whimper and jumped on her, leaping over her from side to side while she squirmed on the ground. Sam spent a few minutes trying to hug Trax, which was difficult because he was running around in circles repeatedly, his tail wildly swinging back and forth the entire time. William and Harry, not wanting to miss out on all the excitement, jumped into the middle of the reunion, joining Trax in smothering Sam with sloppy, wet dog kisses.
In return for her help with Trax, Sam promised to help Claudia in her lab at the University of British Columbia the following summer, giving her the opportunity to learn how to play with DNA and visit the big city.
Looking at Trax, Sam knew that everything she, Penelope, Dr. Chow and Claudia had done to save him had been worth it.
Sam picked up her hot chocolate and scrutinized the whipped cream as she spun the cup around.
“I’m calling this one ‘Abstraction,’” Cara said with a grin from behind the counter.
“It’s too pretty to drink,” Sam said with a shake of her head.
Cara picked up a spoon and stirred the drink before Sam could react. “Don’t start posting all of my art on social media now,” she said with a giggle. Sam laughed, took a sip and walked to the table by the window.
“Oh my goodness, Sam. How do you just drop a bombshell on me like that and walk away?” Penelope asked as Sam took a seat at the table.
“It’s only dinner, Pips.”
“Only dinner? Dinner with the B’s is not only dinner! What should I wear? Should I bring something? I mean what do you bring to people who have everything? Do we arrive a little early? Or right on time? For sure, not a minute late. No way. That would be so rude. Imagine showing up late and being all—”
“Sorry. I’m just so excited. Mr. and Mrs. B are such nice people.”
“So, Ben and I are thinking that with the fresh dump of snow, since he can’t go boarding or skiing yet, that maybe we’d go tobogganing tomorrow morning. Cara has got the day off too. You guys in?” Drew asked.
“You can’t take him out while his leg is broken! What if something happens? What if he falls and it breaks again but in a much worse way? What if he will never be able to walk again in his life? Do you want his disability hanging over your head for the rest of your life, Drew?” Penelope grew upset with all the negative possibilities.
“It’s really okay, Nelly. I’ll be careful,” Ben said to comfort her.
Penelope gave Ben a stern look, but when he smiled and shook his head at her, she relented. “Yes, you will be careful, Ben. I’ll make sure of that. How about you, Sam?”
“I’m sorry, guys. I can’t tomorrow. But if you’re all up for late night drinks, we could meet here again tomorrow night. Otherwise I’m free on Sunday. Just text me.” Sam rose to leave. She had big plans for the next day and she needed to get an early night’s sleep.
Sam closed her eyes and leaned back, letting the warmth of the sun radiate through her body. It had been cloudy all morning during the hike up Mount Deeman. But as she sat at the bottom of White Fang to take a break and have a snack, the clouds had dissipated.
She looked out over the vista of white-capped peaks in front of her and held out a slice of apple for Trax, whose curled tail swayed back and forth with happiness. Sam took a deep breath of the cool, crisp air and the serenity of the mountain filled her lungs and flowed through her body. This was the place.
From her backpack, she pulled out the urn and poured out a handful of ashes. With a teardrop and a smile, she scattered the ashes at the same spot where she and her mom had shared a set of crampons so many years ago.
“Here Dad, your turn,” Sam said, offering him the urn. Dan took a small handful, opened his palm and watched as the wind carried the ashes away down the slope.
“Want to have a bite before we head back down, Sam? I’ve got some freshly steamed wontons.” Sam groaned before he could reach into his pocket, but she couldn’t stop a tiny giggle from escaping.
“One sec, Dad. I just want to take a short trip up to the peak of White Fang.”
Sam put on her mom’s old crampons, climbed up the short ice wall and scattered more ashes at the highest point.
There was a long list of amazing spots associated with rich wonderful memories and Sam planned to visit them all to share those moments with her mom one last time. As she looked down at her dad and Trax, she knew exactly who she would bring on those special trips.
“Okay Sam?” Dan called as he squinted to look up at her with the bright, warm sun at her back.
Sam looked at her dad, Trax and the sea of white peaks surrounding her, spotting Black Mountain, Mount Blue and Glacier Village in the distance. She smiled widely, took a deep breath and said, “I’m ready now.”
Thank you for taking the time to read the Samantha Shepherd mystery series. I hope you’ve enjoyed the story. If you have a moment, and you enjoyed Fool’s Bluff, please leave a review on GoodReads or Amazon. Your review will help other mystery lovers discover my book. I would be most grateful!