“Without you?” asked Gamache, turning now to look the angry man straight in the face. “I have no idea. Have you?”
Peter made fists of his hands.
“What became of Lillian after art college?” the Chief asked.
“She wasn’t much of an artist, but she was, as it turned out, a very good critic. She got a job at one of the weekly papers in Montréal and worked her way up until finally she was doing reviews in La Presse.”
Gamache raised his brows again. “La Presse? I read the reviews in there. I don’t remember a Lillian Dyson by-line. Did she have a nom de plume?”
“No,” said Peter. “She worked there years ago, decades ago now, when we were all starting out. This would’ve been twenty years ago or more.”
“And then what?”
“We didn’t keep in touch,” said Peter. “Only ever saw her at some vernissages and even then Clara and I avoided her. Were cordial when there was no option, but we preferred not to be around her.”
“But do you know what happened to her? You say she stopped working at La Presse twenty years ago. What did she do?”
“I heard she’d moved to New York. I think she realized the climate wasn’t right for her here.”
Peter smiled. “No. More a foul odor. By climate I mean the artistic climate. As a critic she hadn’t made many friends.”
“I suppose that’s the price of being a critic.”
But Peter sounded unconvinced.
“What is it?” the Chief pressed.
“There’re lots of critics, most are respected by the community. They’re fair, constructive. Very few are mean-spirited.”
“And Lillian Dyson?”
“She was mean-spirited. Her reviews could be clear, thoughtful, constructive and even glowing. But every now and then she’d let loose a real stinker. It was amusing at first, but grew less and less fun when it became clear her targets were random. And the attacks vicious. Like the one on Clara. Unfair.”
He seemed, Gamache noticed, to have already floated right past his own role in it.
“Did she ever review one of your shows?”
Peter nodded. “But she liked it.” His cheeks reddened. “I’ve always suspected she wrote a glowing review just to piss off Clara. Hoping to drive a wedge between us. She assumed since she was so petty and jealous Clara would be too.”
“Clara? Don’t get me wrong, she can be maddening. Annoying, impatient, sometimes insecure. But she’s only ever happy for other people. Happy for me.”
“And are you happy for her?”
“Of course I am. She deserves all the success she gets.”
It was a lie. Not that she deserved her success. Gamache knew that to be true. As did Peter. But both men also knew he was far from happy about it.
Gamache had asked not because he didn’t know the answer, but because he wanted to see if Peter would lie to him.
He had. And if he’d lie about that, what else had he lied about?
* * *
Gamache, Beauvoir and the Morrows sat down to lunch in the garden. The forensics team, on the other side of the tall perennial beds, were drinking lemonade and eating an assortment of sandwiches from the bistro, but Olivier had prepared something special for Beauvoir to take back for the four of them. And so the Inspector had returned with a chilled cucumber soup with mint and melon, a sliced tomato and basil salad drizzled with balsamic, and cold poached salmon.
It was an idyllic setting disturbed every now and then by a homicide investigator walking by, or appearing in a nearby flower bed.
Gamache had placed Peter and Clara with their backs to the activity. Only he and Beauvoir could see, but he realized it was a conceit. The Morrows knew perfectly well that the gentle scene they looked upon, the river, the late spring flowers, the quiet forest, wasn’t the whole picture.
And if they’d forgotten, the conversation would remind them.
“When was the last time you heard from Lillian?” Gamache asked, as he took a forkful of pink salmon and added a dab of mayonnaise. His voice was soft, his eyes thoughtful. His face kind.
But Clara wasn’t fooled. Gamache might be courteous, might be kind, but he made a living looking for killers. And you don’t do that by being just nice.
“Years ago,” said Clara.
She took a sip of the cold, refreshing soup. She wondered if she really should be quite this hungry. And, oddly, when the body had been an anonymous woman Clara had lost her appetite. Now that it was Lillian she was ravenous.