“She must have been, I suppose,” said Clara. “But I didn’t invite her.”
“Who is she?” asked Gabri.
“Did you get a look at her?” Gamache persisted, not quite ready to answer the question.
“After we called the police I went back into the garden, to look,” said Clara.
“I had to know if I knew her. See if she was a friend or neighbor.”
“She wasn’t,” said Gabri. “I was preparing breakfast for our B and B guests when Olivier called to tell me what had happened.”
“So you came over?” asked Gamache.
“Wouldn’t you?” asked the large man.
“I’m a homicide detective,” said Gamache. “I sort of have to. You don’t.”
“I’m a nosy son-of-a-bitch,” said Gabri. “I sort of have to too. And like Clara, I needed to see if we knew her.”
“Did you tell anyone else?” asked Gamache. “Did anyone else come into the garden to look?”
They shook their heads.
“So you all took a good look, and none of you recognized her?”
“Who was she?” asked Clara again.
“We don’t know,” admitted Gamache. “She fell on her purse and Dr. Harris doesn’t want to move her yet. We’ll find out soon enough.”
Gabri hesitated then turned to Olivier. “Doesn’t she remind you of something?”
Olivier was silent, but Peter wasn’t.
“The witch is dead?”
“Peter,” said Clara quickly. “The woman was killed and left in our garden. What a terrible thing to say.”
“I’m sorry,” said Peter, shocked at himself. “But she does look like the Wicked Witch of the West, with her red shoes sticking out like that.”
“We’re not saying she is,” Gabri hurried to say. “But you can’t deny in that get-up she doesn’t look like anyone from Kansas.”
Clara rolled her eyes and shaking her head she muttered, “Jesus.”
But Gamache had to admit, he and his team had talked about the same thing. Not that the dead woman reminded them of the Wicked Witch, but that she clearly was not dressed for a barbeque in the country.
“I didn’t see her last night,” said Peter.
“And we’d remember,” said Olivier, speaking at last. “She’d be hard to miss.”
Gamache nodded. He’d appreciated that as well. The dead woman would have stood out in that brilliant red dress. Everything about the woman screamed “look at me.”
He looked back at her and searched his memory. Had he seen anyone in a bright red dress at the Musée last night? Perhaps she’d come straight from there, as presumably many guests did. But none came to mind. Most of the women, with the notable exception of Myrna, wore more muted colors.
Then he had a thought.
“Excusez-moi,” he said and walking swiftly back across the lawn he spoke to Beauvoir briefly then returned more slowly, thinking.
“I read the report on the drive down, but I’d like to hear from you myself how she was found.”
“Peter and Olivier saw her first,” said Clara. “I was sitting in that chair.” She waved toward the yellow Adirondack chair, one of two. A coffee mug still sat on the wooden arm. “While the guys went to Knowlton to pick up the papers. I was waiting for them.”
“Why?” asked the Chief Inspector.
“Ahh, of course. And that would explain—” He waved toward the stack of papers sitting on the grass, within the yellow police cordon.
Clara looked at them too. She wished she could say she’d forgotten all about the reviews in the shock of the discovery, but she hadn’t. The New York Times, the Toronto Globe and Mail and the London Times were piled on the ground where Peter had dropped them.
Beyond her reach.
Gamache looked at Clara, puzzled. “But if you were that anxious, why not just go online? The reviews would’ve been up hours ago, non?”
It was the same question Peter had asked her. And Olivier. How to explain it?
“Because I wanted to feel the newspaper in my hands,” she said. “I wanted to read my reviews the same way I read reviews of all the artists I love. Holding the paper. Smelling it. Turning the pages. All my life I’ve dreamed of this. It seemed worth the extra hour’s wait.”
“So you were alone in the garden for about an hour this morning?”