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Page 27

Please, thought Olivier. Give me the finger. Say something rude. Call me a fag, a queer. Dick-head.

“I know you say that, but I don’t really think you have.” He watched Ruth, but spoke to Clara. “Let it go, I mean.”

Ruth looked at Olivier. Hesitated. And waved.

Olivier paused, then nodded. Turning back to Clara he gave her a weary smile.

“Thank you for listening. If you ever want to talk about Lillian, or anything, you know where to find me.”

He waved, not toward the bistro, but toward Gabri, who was busy ignoring customers and chatting away with a friend. Olivier watched him with a smile.

Yes, thought Clara. Gabri is his home.

She picked up her sodden newspapers and began to walk across the village green when Olivier called after her. She turned and he caught up with her.

“Here. You spilled yours.” He held out his shandy.

“No, that’s OK. I’ll get something at Myrna’s.”

“Please?” he asked.

She looked at the partly drunk shandy, then at him. His kind, beseeching eyes. And she took the glass.

“Merci, mon beau Olivier.”

As she approached the village shops she thought about what Olivier had said.

And wondered if he was right. Maybe they hadn’t forgiven him.

Just then two men came out of the bistro and made their way slowly up rue du Moulin, toward the inn and spa at the top of the hill. She turned to watch them, surprised. That they were there. And that they were together.

Then her gaze shifted. To her own home. And a solitary figure standing by the corner of the house. Also watching the two men.

It was Chief Inspector Gamache.

*   *   *

Gamache watched François Marois and André Castonguay slowly make their way up the hill.

They didn’t seem in conversation, but they did seem companionable. Comfortable.

Had it always been so? Gamache wondered. Or had it been different decades ago, when both were young turks just starting out. Fighting for territory, fighting for influence, fighting for artists.

Perhaps the two men had always liked and respected each other. But Gamache doubted that. They were both too powerful, too ambitious. Had too much ego. And too much was at stake. They could be civil, could even be gracious. But they almost certainly were not friends.

And yet here they were, like old combatants, climbing the hill together.

As he watched, Gamache became aware of a familiar scent. Turning slightly he saw he was standing beside a gnarled old lilac bush at the corner of Peter and Clara’s home.

It looked delicate, fragile, but Gamache knew lilacs were in fact long lived. They survived storms and droughts, biting winters and late frosts. They flourished and bloomed where other more apparently robust plants died.

The village of Three Pines, he noticed, was dotted with lilac bushes. Not the new hybrids with double blooms and vibrant colors. These were the soft purples and whites of his grandmother’s garden. When had they been young? Had doughboys returning from Vimy and Flanders and Passchendaele marched past these same bushes? Had they breathed in the scent and known, at last, they were home? At peace.

He looked back in time to see the two elderly men turn as one into the entrance to the inn and spa, and disappear inside.

“Chief.” Inspector Beauvoir walked toward him from Peter and Clara’s back garden. “The Crime Scene team’s just finishing up and Lacoste’s back from the bistro. As you thought, Gabri and Olivier weren’t in the place thirty seconds before they announced what had happened.”

“And?”

“And nothing. Lacoste says everyone behaved as you’d expect. Curious, upset, worried for their own safety, but not personally upset. No one seemed to know the dead woman. Lacoste spent some time going from table to table after that, showing the photo of the dead woman and describing her. No one remembers seeing her at the barbeque.”

Gamache was disappointed but not surprised. He had a growing suspicion that this woman was not meant to be seen. Not alive, anyway.

“Lacoste’s setting up the Incident Room in the old railway station.”

“Bon.” Gamache began walking across the village green and Beauvoir fell into step beside him. “I wonder if we should make it a permanent detachment.”

Beauvoir laughed. “Why not just move the whole homicide department down here? By the way, we found Madame Dyson’s car. Looks like she drove herself. It’s just up there.” Beauvoir pointed up rue du Moulin. “Want to see it?”

“Absolument.”

The two men changed direction and walked up the dirt road, in the footsteps of the two older men moments before. Once they’d crested the hill Gamache could see a gray Toyota parked on the side of the road a hundred yards further along.

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