And then died again.
The shock was so great it threw Gamache off for a moment. He almost swayed on his feet but when it cleared he found his body still moving forward. His face still relaxed. Nothing to betray what had just happened. This grand mal of emotion.
Except a very, very slight tremor in his right hand, which he now closed into a fist.
The young agent’s silhouette broke away from the rest and came into the sunshine. And became whole. Handsome face eager, and worried, he hurried over to them.
“Sir,” he said, and saluted the Chief Inspector, who waved him to drop the salute. “I came to just see,” the agent blurted out. “To make sure it would be OK if they rode the horses. I didn’t mean to leave the place unguarded.”
The young agent had never met Chief Inspector Gamache before. He’d obviously seen him at a distance. As had most of the province. On news programs, in interviews, in photographs in the newspaper. In the televised funeral cortege for the agents who had died. Under Gamache’s command, just six months earlier.
The agent had even attended one of the Chief’s lectures at the academy.
But now, as he looked at the Chief Inspector, all those other images disappeared. To be replaced by a leaked video of that police action, where so many had died. No one should have ever seen those images, but millions had, as it went viral on the Internet. It was difficult to see the Chief Inspector now, with his jagged scar, and not also see that video.
But here was the man in person. The famed head of the famed homicide department. He was so close that the young agent could even smell the Chief Inspector’s scent. A very slight hint of sandalwood and something else. Rose water. The agent looked into Gamache’s deep brown eyes and realized they were unlike any he’d seen. He’d been stared at by many senior officers. In fact, everyone was senior to him. But he’d never had quite this experience before.
The Chief Inspector’s gaze was intelligent, thoughtful, searching.
But where others were cynical and censorious at their center, Chief Inspector Gamache’s eyes were something else.
They were kind.
Now, finally the agent was face-to-face with this famous man and where had the Chief found him? In a barn. Smelling of horse shit and feeding carrots to what looked like a moose. Saddling horses for murder suspects.
He waited for the wrath. For the curt correction.
But instead, Chief Inspector Gamache did the unthinkable.
He put out his hand.
The young agent stared at it for a moment. And noticed the very, very slight tremble. Then he took it and felt it strong and firm.
“Chief Inspector Gamache,” the large man said.
“Oui, patron. Agent Yves Rousseau of the Cowansville detachment.”
“All quiet here?”
“Yessir. I’m sorry. I probably shouldn’t have allowed them to go riding.”
Gamache smiled. “You have no right to stop them. Besides, I don’t think they’ll get far.”
The three Sûreté officers looked over at the two women and Dominique, each leading a clopping horse from the barn.
Gamache turned his gaze back to the agent in front of him. Young, eager.
“Did you get their names and addresses?”
“Yessir. And cross checked with their ID. I got everyone’s information.”
He unclicked his pocket, to get at his notebook.
“Perhaps you can take it to the Incident Room,” said Gamache, “and give it to Agent Lacoste.”
“Right,” said Rousseau, writing that down.
Jean Guy Beauvoir inwardly groaned. Here we go again, he thought. He’s going to invite this kid to join the investigation. Does he never learn?
Armand Gamache smiled and nodded to Agent Rousseau, then turned and walked back toward the inn, leaving two surprised men behind him. Rousseau that he’d been spoken to so civilly and Beauvoir that Gamache hadn’t done what he’d done on almost every investigation in the past. Invited one of the young, local agents to join them.
Beauvoir knew he should be happy. Relieved.
Then why did he feel so sad?
* * *
Once inside the inn and spa, Chief Inspector Gamache was again taken by how attractive it had become. Cool and calm. The old Victorian wreck had been lovingly restored. The stained-glass lintels cleaned and repaired, so that the sun shone emerald and ruby and sapphire on the polished black and white tiles of the entry hall. It was circular, with a wide mahogany stairway sweeping up.
A large floral arrangement of lilac and Solomon’s Seal and apple boughs stood on the gleaming wood table in the center of the hall.