Meant to dominate the village below. But while Three Pines survived the recessions, the depressions, the wars, this turreted eyesore fell into disrepair, attracting only sorrow.
Instead of a trophy, when villagers looked up what they saw was a shadow, a sigh on the hill.
But no longer. Now it was an elegant and gleaming country inn.
But sometimes, at certain angles, in a certain light Gamache could still see the sorrow in the place. And just at dusk, in the breeze, he thought he could hear the sigh.
In Gamache’s breast pocket was the list of guests Clara and Peter had invited from Montréal. Was the murderer’s name among them?
Or was the murderer not a guest at all, but someone already here?
Beside him Beauvoir gave a start. He tried not to show it, but this old home, despite the facelift, still gave Beauvoir a chill.
Dominique Gilbert appeared around the side of the inn. She was wearing jodhpurs and a black velvet riding hat. In her hand she carried a leather crop. She was about to either go for a ride, or direct a Mack Sennett short.
She smiled when she recognized them, and put out her hand.
“Chief Inspector.” She shook his hand then turned to Beauvoir and shook his. Then her smile faded.
“So it’s true about the body in Clara’s garden?”
She removed her hat to show brown hair flattened to her skull by perspiration. Dominique Gilbert was in her late forties, tall and slender. A refugee, along with her husband, Marc, from the city. They’d made their bundle and escaped.
Her fellow executives at the bank had predicted they wouldn’t last a winter. But they were now into their second year and showed no sign of regretting their decision to buy the old wreck and turn it into an inviting inn and spa.
“It’s true, I’m afraid,” said Gamache.
“May I use your phone?” Inspector Beauvoir asked. Despite knowing perfectly well it wouldn’t work, he’d been trying to call the forensics team on his cell phone.
“Merde,” he’d muttered, “it’s like going back to the dark ages here.”
“Help yourself.” Dominique pointed into the house. “You don’t even have to wind it up anymore.”
But her humor was lost on the Inspector, who strode in, still punching re-dial on his cell.
“I hear some of the guests at the party stayed with you last night?” said Gamache, standing on the verandah.
“A few. Some booked, some were last minute.”
“A bit too much to drink?”
“Are they still here?”
“They’ve been dragging themselves out of bed for the past couple of hours. Your agent asked them not to leave Three Pines, but most could barely leave their beds. They’re not in any danger of fleeing. Crawling, perhaps, but not fleeing.”
“Where is my agent?” Gamache looked around. When he’d learned some of the guests had stayed over, he’d directed Agent Lacoste to send out two junior agents. One to guard the B and B, the other to come here.
“He’s around back with the horses.”
“Is that right?” said Gamache. “Guarding them?”
“As you know, Chief Inspector, our horses aren’t exactly flight risks either.”
He did know. One of the first things Dominique had done when moving here was to buy horses. The fulfillment of a childhood dream.
But instead of Black Beauty, Flicka, Pegasus, Dominique had found four broken-down old plugs. Ruined animals, bound for the slaughterhouse.
Indeed, one looked more like a moose than a horse.
But such was the nature of dreams. They were not always recognizable, at first.
“They’ll be right up to take the car away,” said Beauvoir, returning. Gamache noticed Beauvoir still held his cell phone in his hand. A pacifier.
“A few of the hardier guests wanted to go riding,” Dominique explained. “I was just about to take them. Your agent said it would be OK. At first he was unsure but once he saw the horses he relented. I guess he realized they wouldn’t exactly make for the border. I hope I haven’t gotten him into trouble.”
“Not at all,” said Gamache but Beauvoir looked as though that wouldn’t have been his answer.
As they walked across the grass toward the barn they could see people and animals inside. All in shadow, silhouettes cut and pasted there.
And among them the outline of a young Sûreté agent in uniform. Slender. Awkward, even at a distance.
Chief Inspector Gamache felt his heart suddenly pound and the blood rush to his core. In an instant he felt light-headed and he wondered if he might pass out. His hands went cold. He wondered if Jean Guy Beauvoir had noticed this sudden reaction, this unexpected spasm. As another young agent came to mind. Came to life. For an instant.