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Page 16

Clara nodded.

“From when to when?” Gamache asked.

“From around seven thirty this morning until they returned about eight thirty.” Clara looked at Peter.

“That’s right,” said Peter.

“And when you got back, what did you see?” Gamache turned to Peter and Olivier.

“We got out of the car and since we knew Clara was in the garden we decided to just walk around there.” Peter pointed to the corner of the house, where an old lilac held on to the last flowers of the season.

“I was following Peter when he suddenly stopped,” said Olivier.

“I noticed something red on the ground as we came around the house,” Peter picked up the story. “I think I assumed it was one of the poppies, fallen over. But it was too big. So I slowed down and looked over. That’s when I saw it was a woman.”

“What did you do?”

“I thought it was one of the guests who might’ve had too much to drink and passed out,” said Peter. “Slept it off in our garden. But then I could see that her eyes were open and her head—”

He tilted his, but of course he couldn’t achieve that angle. No living person could. It was a feat reserved for the dead.

“And you?” Gamache asked Olivier.

“I asked Clara to call the police,” he said. “Then I called Gabri.”

“You say you have guests?” Gamache asked. “People from the party?”

Gabri nodded. “A couple of the artists who came down from Montréal for the party decided to stay at the B and B. A few are also staying up at the inn and spa.”

“Was this a last-minute booking?”

“At the B and B it was. They made it sometime during the party.”

Gamache nodded and turning away he gestured toward Agent Isabelle Lacoste, who quickly joined him, listened as the Chief murmured instructions, then walked rapidly away. She spoke to two young Sûreté agents, who nodded and left.

It always fascinated Clara to see how easily Gamache took command, and how naturally people took his orders. Never barked, never shouted, never harsh. Always put in the most calm, even courteous manner. His orders were couched almost as requests. And yet not a person mistook them for that.

Gamache turned back to give the four friends his full attention. “Did any of you touch the body?”

They looked at each other, shaking their heads, then back to the Chief.

“No,” said Peter. He was feeling more certain now. The ground had firmed up, filled in with facts. With straightforward questions and clear answers.

Nothing to be afraid of.

“Do you mind?” Gamache started walking toward the Adirondack. Even had they minded, it wouldn’t have mattered. He was going there and they were welcome to join him.

“Before they came back, when you were sitting here alone, you didn’t notice anything strange?” he asked as they walked. It seemed obvious that had Clara seen a body in her garden she’d have said something earlier. But it wasn’t just the body he wanted to know about. This was Clara’s garden, she knew it well, intimately. Perhaps something else was wrong. A plant broken, a shrub disturbed.

Some detail his investigators might miss. Something so subtle she herself might have missed it, until he asked her directly.

And, to her credit, she didn’t come back with a smart-ass reply.

But Gabri did. “Like the body?”

“No,” said the Chief, as they arrived at the chair. He turned and surveyed the garden from there. It was true that at this angle the dead woman was hidden by the flower beds. “I mean something else.”

He turned thoughtful eyes on Clara.

“Is there anything unusual about your garden this morning?” He shot a warning glance at Gabri, who put a finger to his mouth. “Anything small? Some detail off?”

Clara looked around. The back lawn was dotted with large flower beds. Some round, some oblong. Tall trees along the riverbank threw dappled shade, but most of it was in bright noonday sun. Clara scanned her garden, as did the others.

Was there something different? It was so hard to tell now, what with all the people, the newspapers, the activity, the yellow police tape. The newspapers. The body. The newspapers.

Everything was different.

She turned back to Gamache, her eyes asking for help.

Gamache hated to give it, hated to suggest in case he led her to see something that wasn’t really there.

“It’s possible the murderer hid back here,” he finally said. “Waiting.”

He left it at that. And he could see Clara understood. She turned back to her garden. Had a man intent on murder waited here? In her private sanctuary?

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