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Page 31

It felt fresh and light and welcoming.

“May I help you?” a young receptionist asked.

“We were looking for two of your guests. Messieurs Marois and Castonguay.”

“They’re in the living room,” she said, smiling, and led them off to the right.

The two Sûreté officers knew perfectly well where it was, having been in it many times before. But they let the receptionist do her job.

After offering them coffee, which was declined, she left them at the door to the living room. Gamache took in the room. It too was open and bright with floor-to-ceiling windows looking down on the village below. A log fire was laid, but not lit and flowers sat in vases on occasional tables. The room was both modern in its furniture and traditional in details and design. They’d done a sympathetic job of bringing the grand old ruin into the twenty-first century.

“Bonjour.” François Marois rose from one of the Eames chairs and put down a copy of that day’s Le Devoir.

André Castonguay looked over from the easy chair where he was reading the New York Times. He too rose as the two officers entered the room.

Gamache, of course, already knew Monsieur Marois, having spoken with him the night before at the vernissage. But the other man was a stranger to him, known only by reputation. Castonguay stood and Gamache saw a tall man, a little bleary perhaps from celebrating the night before. His face was puffy, and ruddy from tiny broken blood vessels in his nose and cheeks.

“I hadn’t expected to see you here,” said Gamache, walking forward and shaking hands with Marois as though greeting a fellow guest.

“Nor I you,” said Marois. “André, this is Chief Inspector Gamache, of the Sûreté du Québec. Do you know my colleague André Castonguay?”

“Only by reputation. A very good reputation. The Galerie Castonguay is renowned. You represent some fine artists.”

“I’m glad you think so, Chief Inspector,” said Castonguay.

Beauvoir was introduced. He bristled and took an immediate dislike to the man. He’d in fact disliked the man before even hearing the dismissive remark made to the Chief. Any owner of a high-end art gallery was immediately suspect, of arrogance if not murder. Jean Guy Beauvoir had little tolerance for either.

But Gamache didn’t seem put out. Indeed, he seemed almost pleased with André Castonguay’s response. And Beauvoir noticed something else.

Castonguay had begun to relax, to grow more sure of himself. He’d pushed this police officer and he hadn’t pushed back. Clearly Castonguay felt himself the better man.

Beauvoir smiled slightly and lowered his head so Castonguay wouldn’t see.

“Your man took our names and addresses,” said Castonguay, taking the large easy chair by the fireplace. “Our home addresses as well as business. Does this mean we’re suspects?”

“Mais, non, monsieur,” said Gamache, sitting on the sofa opposite him. Beauvoir stood off to the side and Monsieur Marois took up a position at the mantelpiece. “I hope we haven’t inconvenienced you.”

Gamache looked concerned, contrite even. André Castonguay relaxed more. It was clear he was used to commanding a room. Getting his way.

Jean Guy Beauvoir watched as the Chief Inspector appeared to acquiesce to Castonguay. To bow before the stronger personality. Not mince, exactly. That would be too obviously a conceit. But to cede the space.

“Bon,” said Castonguay. “I’m glad we got that straight. You didn’t inconvenience us. We were planning to stay a few days anyway.”

We, thought Beauvoir and looked over at François Marois. The men would be about the same age, Beauvoir guessed. Castonguay’s hair was thick and white. Marois was balding, gray and trimmed. Both men were well groomed and well dressed.

“Here’s my card, Chief Inspector.” Castonguay handed Gamache a business card.

“Do you specialize in modern art?” Gamache asked, crossing his legs as though settling in for a nice chat.

Beauvoir, who knew Gamache better than most, watched with interest and some amusement. Castonguay was being wooed. And it was working. He clearly regarded Chief Inspector Gamache as one step up from the beasts. An evolved creature who walked upright but didn’t have much of a frontal lobe. Beauvoir could guess what Castonguay thought of him. The missing link, if that.

He longed to say something intelligent, something clever and knowledgeable. Or, failing that, something so shockingly, violently rude this smug man would no longer believe he was in charge of anything.

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