Excerpt from Ragged Lake: A Frank Yakabuski Mystery by Ron Corbett

Looking for a new mystery series to sink your teeth into? Want to get into the spirit of Halloween with a chilling read? Get a taste of Ragged Lake, the first book to follow police detective Frank Yakabuski, with the excerpt below, then pick up a copy for HALF OFF with code SPOOKY50 until November 1, 2017 as part of our Spooktacular Sale!


While working one afternoon on the Northern Divide, a young tree-marker makes a grisly discovery: in a squatter’s cabin near an old mill town, a family has been murdered.

Frank Yakabuski, a police detective and former soldier, is sent to remote Ragged Lake, a nearly abandoned village, to investigate. Before long, he is fighting not only to solve the crime but also to stay alive and protect the few innocents left living in the desolate woods.

A richly atmospheric mystery with sweeping backdrops, explosive action, and memorable villains, Ragged Lake will keep you guessing — about the violent crime, the nature of family, and secret deeds done long ago on abandoned frontiers.

“Familiar ingredients rarely combined — a starkly etched natural setting, a gung-ho cop, a series of soulful flashbacks, a violent climax — are expertly blended and brought to a full rolling boil.” — Kirkus Reviews


Ragged Lake: A Frank Yakabuski Mystery by Ron Corbett


Yakabuski glassed the Mattamy. Still no lights. No sign of anyone moving inside. The tree-marker had another pair of binoculars and was watching possible approaches behind them — the shoreline of the lake, the lake itself. Yakabuski told him twice not to forget the lake. It would be smart to come in that way.

For the longest time no one spoke. O’Keefe had asked what he could do, and Yakabuski had told him to sit there and do nothing. A nerve in O’Keefe’s left cheek had started to twitch, and it wasn’t hard to figure out that the Sport was used to giving the orders. Saw a role for himself in any situation greater than that of passive observer.

When it looked like he was going to complain, Yakabuski said, “Absolutely nothing. I don’t want you even moving without checking with me first. Are we clear on that, Mr. O’Keefe?”

Both cheeks started twitching, but O’Keefe nodded his head and stared out at the Mattamy, wishing he had a pair of binoculars, but not saying anything.

They waited more than an hour before Yakabuski finally saw a man with long hair pass before a window of the lodge. It was not the sort of day when you would be happy about anything, so relief is the better word to describe how Yakabuski felt right then. Relief to know the bikers were inside the lodge. Not outside hunting them down. Relief that was pretty close to happiness.

The feeling lasted only seconds. As Yakabuski watched the Mattamy, the front door opened and Tommy Bangles walked outside. Yakabuski could see his face easily with the binoculars. Could almost count each teardrop tattoo. He had suspected, but now he knew.

Tommy Bangles unzipped his parka, pushed back his hair, and yelled out, “Yak! It’s been a while. Why don’t you come in for a beer?” He started laughing. Stared down at the body of Matt Downey and gave it a little push. “Take a shot at me right now and everyone in this lodge is dead,” he yelled, still looking at Downey. “Everyone with you is dead. They will be hunted down and quartered over a cook fire. Are we clear on that, Yak?”

Bangles raised his head and stared into the storm. Seemed to rise on the balls of his feet and cock his head. Then he turned to look at the front door of the Mattamy, gave a wave of his hand, and continued. “This is the drill, Yak.” When he said that, John Holly walked through the door, pushing Gaetan Tremblay in front of him. The old man’s hands were tied behind his back. His John Deere cap was missing and his head was bald except for wisps of grey hair around the edges that blew in the wind.

Bangles walked up to the old man and placed his hands upon his shoulders. Bent to talk to him, a gesture that seemed almost gentle. After talking a few seconds, Bangles braced the man and pushed him down, forcing him to his knees. Than he drew a handgun from the pocket of his parka, and walked behind him. Stroked the old man’s head, another oddly gentle gesture.

“It’s a one-hour drill, Yak,” he shouted. “I think I’m being generous.” With that, Bangles’ hand twitched almost imperceptibly and Tremblay pitched forward. The old man fell with drill-parade precision, his two legs flipping up at a forty-five-degree angle so precise it looked geometric. Then the old man’s legs lost inertia, collapsed to the snow, and the symmetry was lost.

Bangles gave a little salute with his gun hand and strode back inside the lodge. Holly followed him.

* * *

The tree-marker was in shock. Yakabuski wasn’t sure about O’Keefe. It was hard to tell with him.

“You can’t lose it, gentlemen,” he hissed. “Cannot lose it. That’s what they’re hoping for. You cannot give them an easy win.”

He put his arm on the tree-marker’s back to make sure the boy did not rise and do something foolish.

“Can’t lose it, gentlemen,” he said one more time. “We can’t make it easy for these bastards. I’m not going to let you make it easy.”

No one spoke for a moment, and then O’Keefe asked, “What did he mean, it’s a one-hour drill?”

“He means we have one hour before he brings someone else onto that porch.”

“One hour?”

“Fifty-five minutes now.”

Yakabuski laid out his plan. The tree-marker didn’t understand how the cop’s instructions could be so detailed, how he could not ask any questions, or hesitate even once, everything said in a low whisper that did not change pitch so much as half a tone, that did not inflect or add drama, that could have been reciting the best way to reach a nearby grocery. When Yakabuski finished talking, he began to crawl away, leaving the tree-marker and the Sport hiding behind the snowdrift.

* * *

Yakabuski had seen a one-hour drill once before. In a farmhouse in the Laurentians. It was the sort of drill used by bikers and criminals for the most part, not so much by warlords and mercenaries. In war zones, you played for some distant endgame, with politics thrown into the mix, so there were advantages to holding onto a captive, sometimes for years, before you executed them.

Bikers either were interested in retribution and intimidation or needed to know something right away. So everything was a little hopped up. In that farmhouse in the Laurentians, seven men were locked in a bedroom. They were the fullpatch members of the Sherbrooke Popeyes chapter, and after numerous transgressions and outright breaches of the Popeyes’ code of conduct (all seven were intravenous drug users), Papa Paquette had issued a cull order against the chapter.

They could have been lined up and shot together, but Papa wanted to know where they had been buying their heroin, so the one-hour drill was held, one man brought out of the room every hour.

The executions happened in the living room of the farmhouse, a dump of a room with overstuffed furniture and overflowing ashtrays, a lacquered pine floor that had long ago lost its sheen. Each man was forced to kneel before Papa on the dung-coloured floor. Late afternoon sunlight through the spruce and red pine that surrounded the farmhouse cast long thin shadows across the floor. Each man pled for his life, had walked into the room believing he could strike a deal with Paquette, that his life mattered, that God would make an exception — believing this even though the dead bodies of the men who had gone before were lying by the kitchen door, stacked like cord wood, waiting to be weighted down and thrown into the lake.

Not one of the captured men had known the supplier; the only one who had was the head of the Sherbrooke chapter, who had been tipped off about the cull order and had flown to Mexico the day before.

Yakabuski had sat in that living room for all seven executions. It was the crime that would send Paquette away for life when Yakabuski, sitting behind a green screen with his voice altered, testified via video about what he had seen. Not that any of the precautions had made a difference. Paquette had known his true name and identity within six hours of being arrested.

During cross-examination, Yakabuski was asked repeatedly, by Papa’s lawyer and then by each lawyer for each of the six men charged with him, how he could have sat there and  done nothing during the Sherbrooke Cull. As though they would have done something different, would have stood up in the middle of that farmhouse living room and said, “I’m a cop, I can’t let this continue.”

It was a stupid argument and Yakabuski had said as much on the stand, careful to let only a little of his anger show — not the seething anger he felt when he heard the question, for it was one of the few good questions any of the lawyers had to ask.

How could he have sat there and done nothing? Even though it was seven bikers who were killed, each one deserving to have that as his final chapter, and even though he had been trained in the Third Battalion for just such situations — human shields and civilian executions being the norm for a while in Bosnia and Afghanistan — the question wouldn’t disappear the way logic said it should.

Yakabuski ran a little faster through the snowstorm. Logic would be no help to him that morning if he were late. He knew the next person to be executed was not a biker but an elderly Cree woman, widowed for less than an hour.

* * *

Yakabuski had been surprised to find her at the end of his run. Sitting in her Morris chair, rocking back and forth, a pair of old binoculars in her lap. She had been watching what was happening at the Mattamy and knew he was coming.

Bangles should have gone and collected her. Or killed her where she lived. Yakabuski ran the entire distance, not knowing if he was wasting his time, and when he reached the cabin, he was panting and couldn’t speak for a minute.

Finally, he said, “We need your help, Madame.”

“You will need my gun?”


“Should I get dressed?”


She didn’t say anything more. Pulled her gnome-like body up and out of the Morris chair, padded in her woollen socks to the closet, and took out the shotgun Yakabuski had seen there the day before.

Anita Diamond slid her child-sized feet into a pair of mukluks and took down her parka. As she was doing all this, she listened to Yakabuski explain what they needed to do, already knowing for the most part what he was going to say. Not the details. Not names and places. But what had happened, what needed to be done now — in every way that mattered, she knew.

The tough days had returned. It was a simple enough story to understand. Returned along with the tough decisions that always accompanied the tough days. As she put on her coat, Diamond remembered a cousin who had been making the fall migration down the Francis River one year, leaving the summer fishing beds, going to the inland village of Kashawana. His three sons went with him in the sixteen-foot locked-oar skiff. Halfway home, a rogue wave capsized the boat.

Her cousin had been the last boat out that season. There was no one coming behind them. And there was a six-day hike ahead of them to reach Kashawana. In the fast-moving river, her cousin rescued one son, then a second, but when he swam for the third boy, his dry-goods sack popped up from the river, directly in front of him. Without that bag — which  had their fresh water, kindling, flint and food — they would likely die before reaching Kashawana. He reached for it. Knowing it needed to be done. Trusting there would be time to rescue his last son.

But there hadn’t been. Her cousin had watched the boy drift away, listening to him call his father’s name until the boy’s voice could no longer be heard. Her cousin’s heart became so heavy, he had trouble walking to Kashawana. Needed to be supported by his other sons every step of the six-day hike.

The day they reached the village, her cousin killed himself with his favourite hunting rifle. Diamond believed her cousin had known what he was going to do as soon as he grabbed the dry-goods bag. On a good day, she believes the young boy knew as well.

She zipped up her parka, put a toque on her head, pulled the hood of her parka over the toque, and hoisted the shotgun over her shoulders. She looked at Yakabuski and nodded.

“Thank you, Madame,” he said.

“There is no need,” she answered.

* * *

O’Keefe and the tree-marker were crouched behind the snowdrift staring at their watches when Roselyn Tremblay was brought outside. Unlike her husband, the old woman had her arms free. She walked unescorted with short, purposeful steps to where her husband lay. She knelt and turned over his body, held his hands and bent to kiss his face. She paused here, then leaned back and raised her head to the storm.

Behind the old woman were Bangles and Holly. Bangles had a smile on his face. Holly now wore a black balaclava against the storm.

“You just cost me money, Yak,” Bangles yelled. “I bet John here that you would have the balls to come in before we killed this old woman.”

Tremblay did not flinch when Bangles said it. Bangles’ smile grew larger. He looked over at Holly, pointed the gun at the old woman’s head as if to say, “Will you look at that?” and continued talking.

“Yeah, I thought you had the balls. But you’re a cowardly bohunk dick, aren’t you, darliiin? You’d let us kill your own mother if it meant you could save your ass. What do the men standing beside you think about that, Yak? Do they want this old woman to die?”

Bangles placed his gun on the back of Tremblay’s head. Like her husband, her head was uncovered, so her hair blew freely, coiled around the handgun like strands of seaweed in a strong current. No one on the porch moved. It seemed for a second as though they were posing for a photo.

* * *

“Are we really going to let this happen?” The tree-marker looked at the man crouched next to him.

O’Keefe kept his eyes trained on the porch. “You heard what the cop said.”

“I also heard him say he’d be back.”

“You heard him say he’d try to be back. He warned us he might not get back in time.”

“I don’t know if I can do this.”

“You’re going to have to do this, kid.”

“Would you shoot me if I couldn’t?”

“I might.”

“Why would you do a thing like that?”

“To keep you from surrendering. To keep you from giving away our position. Because I don’t know you that well. Take your pick.”

“Shouldn’t surrendering be my call?”

“Almost never.”

“How can you do it? Watch and do nothing?”

“Might not be that hard. It’s doing nothing. Just like you said.”

The tree-marker thought it took courage for him to keep watching. Then thought it was something perverse and maybe it had nothing to do with courage. He was just starting to work his way through a mental list of all the ways courage and perversity were different when Bangles’ hand twitched.

Nothing more than that. Roselyn Tremblay fell over the body of her dead husband. A short woman, she was left perched on his chest, like a teeter-totter, rocking back and forth in the wind, her small feet kicking up drifts of snow you could almost see in the storm.

The tree-marker turned his head and threw up.

Bangles stood over Roselyn Tremblay’s body and after staring for a few seconds laughed, lifted his head, and shouted, “You’re a fuckin’ coward, Yak.”

His parka was unzipped and he was wearing long underwear underneath, red, no sweater, his upper chest exposed. He was hopped-up on adrenaline or something more synthetic, the tree-marker thought, hoping it was synthetic, that it was unnatural, because a man standing in a storm like this, killing and laughing and not seeming to notice the elements,

was just not right.

“I don’t know why I’m surprised. Papa said you were a sneak-up-on-you-in-the-middle-of-the-night coward. Said he would have respected you if you’d brought him down like a man, drawn a weapon and stood in front of him. But it’s always a trick with you, isn’t it?”

Even from a distance, the tree-marker noticed Bangles’ body change right then. Saw it tense and become rigid. Saw the man’s mouth open and close a few times, and then Bangles spun around, moving in a 360-degree arc, scanning the countryside, as if such a thing could be possible in this storm.

“You mother-fuckin’ bohunk bastard. You’re not even there, are you? Always fuckin’ games with you, Yak.”

Bangles was kicking the body of Matt Downey as he screamed, full-throttle kicks that lifted the young cop’s body several inches off the ground each time, kicked and kicked until Downey was off the porch. Then he grabbed Holly by the arm and the two men ran inside.

The sound of gunfire crossed the distance from the lodge to the tree-marker and O’Keefe. They watched as Bangles and Holly reappeared on the porch, dragging the body of the prisoner from the freezer. After that, the body of the cook. After that, the body of the bartender. Holly dragged each man’s body across the porch and threw it off to land on the one before, Bangles kicking the bodies as they were dragged and making the job more difficult than it needed to be, kicking and stomping and swearing. The tree-marker and O’Keefe could see that Holly was frightened, keeping his distance, positioning himself on the porch so he could jump clear of it with one running step if needed.

“Fuckin’ bohunk bastard. You get half a fuckin’ hour for the waitress, Yak. Half a fuckin’ hour. Then we start the cook fires and hunt you down.” He turned and stormed back into the lodge, kicking at the bodies of Roselyn and Gaetan Tremblay before entering — though not with enough force to fling them off the porch. As though something inside him had been sated. Or the old couple belonged there. It was difficult to tell.


To keep reading, get a copy of Ragged Lake here!

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1 comment

  • If you want to understand the mind of a convicted DUI and continues the behavior then by all means, buy the book

    John Owen on

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