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Page 35

“Still,” he said. “What could you hope to do about it?”

“Well,” said Marois, “not much. But I at least wanted to see where she’d been hiding all these years. I was curious.”

“Is that all?”

“Have you never wanted to visit Giverny to see where Monet painted, or go to Winslow Homer’s studio in Prouts Neck? Or see where Shakespeare and Victor Hugo wrote?”

“You’re quite right,” admitted Gamache. “Madame Gamache and I have visited the homes of many of our favorite artists and writers and poets.”

“Why?”

Gamache paused for a few moments, considering. “Because they seem magical.”

André Castonguay snorted. Beauvoir bristled, embarrassed for the Chief Inspector. It was a ridiculous answer. Perhaps even weak. To admit to a murder suspect he might believe in magic.

But Marois sat still, staring at the Chief Inspector. Finally he nodded, slightly and slowly. It might have even been, Beauvoir thought, a slight tremble.

“C’est ça,” said Marois at last. “Magic. I hadn’t planned to come, but when I saw her works at the vernissage I wanted to see the village that had produced such magic.”

They talked for a few more minutes, about their movements. Who they saw, who they spoke to. But like everyone else, it was unremarkable.

Chief Inspector Gamache and Inspector Beauvoir left the two men sitting in the bright living room of the inn and spa and went looking for the other guests. Within an hour they’d interviewed them all.

None knew the dead woman. None saw anything suspicious or helpful.

As they walked back down the hill into Three Pines, Gamache thought of their interviews and what François Marois had said.

But there was more to Three Pines than magic. Something monstrous had roamed the village green, had eaten the food and danced among them. Something dark had joined the party that night.

And produced not magic but murder.

SIX

Out the window of her bookstore Myrna could see Armand Gamache and Jean Guy Beauvoir walking down the dirt road into the village.

Then she turned back to her shop, with its wooden shelves filled with new and used books, the wide plank pine floors. Sitting on the sofa beside the window and facing the woodstove was Clara.

She’d arrived a few minutes earlier clutching her haul of newspapers to her breasts, like an immigrant at Ellis Island clinging to something ragged and precious.

Myrna wondered if what Clara held was really that important.

She was under no illusion. Myrna knew exactly what was in those papers. The judgment of others. The views of the outside world. What they saw when they saw Clara’s art.

And Myrna knew even more. She knew what those beer-sodden pages said.

She too had gotten up early that morning, dragged her weary ass out of bed, trudged to the bathroom. Showered, brushed her teeth, put on fresh clothes. And in the light of the new day she’d gotten into her car and driven to Knowlton.

For the papers. She could have simply downloaded them from the various websites, but if Clara wanted to read them as newspapers, then so did Myrna.

She didn’t care how the world saw Clara’s art. Myrna knew it was genius.

But she cared about Clara.

And now her friend sat like a lump on the sofa while she sat in the armchair facing her.

“Beer?” Myrna offered, pointing to the stack of newspapers.

“No thank you,” smiled Clara. “I have my own.” She pointed to her sodden chest.

“You must be every man’s dream,” laughed Myrna. “Finally, a woman made entirely of beer and croissants.”

“A wet dream, certainly,” agreed Clara, smiling.

“Have you had a chance to read them?”

Myrna didn’t need to point again to the reeking papers, they both knew what she meant.

“No. Something keeps getting in the way.”

“Something?” asked Myrna.

“Some fucking body,” said Clara, then tried to rein herself in. “God, Myrna, I don’t know what’s wrong with me. I should be upset, devastated that this has happened. I should feel horrible for poor Lillian, but you know what I keep thinking? The only thing I keep thinking?”

“That she ruined your big day.” It was a statement. And it was true. She had. Lillian herself, it must be admitted, had not had a great day either. But that discussion would come later.

Clara stared at Myrna, searching for censure.

“What’s wrong with me?”

“There’s nothing wrong with you,” said Myrna, leaning toward her friend. “I’d feel the same way. Everyone would. We just may not admit it.” She smiled. “If it had been me lying back there—” But Myrna got no further. Clara burst in.

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