“I get hundreds a month, from all over the world.”
“So you turned her down? But maybe her work was good,” suggested the Chief Inspector and was treated to another withering look.
“If she was any good I’d have heard of her by now. She wasn’t exactly a bright young thing. Most artists, if they’re going to do anything good, have done it by the time they’re in their thirties.”
“But not always,” persisted Gamache. “Clara Morrow’s the same age as Madame Dyson, and she’s only now being discovered.”
“Not by me. I still say her work stinks,” said Castonguay.
Gamache turned to François Marois. “And you, monsieur? How well did you know Lillian Dyson?”
“Not well. I’d seen her at vernissages in the last few months and knew who she was.”
“How did you know?”
“It’s a fairly small artistic community in Montréal. A lot of low-level, leisure artists. Quite a few of medium talent. Those who have the odd show. Who haven’t made a splash but are good, journeymen artists. Like Peter Morrow. Then there are a very few great artists. Like Clara Morrow.”
“And where did Lillian Dyson fit in there?”
“I don’t know,” admitted Marois. “Like André, she asked me to look at her portfolio but I just couldn’t agree. Too many other calls on my time.”
“Why did you decide to stay in Three Pines last night?” Gamache asked.
“As I told you before, it was a last-minute decision. I wanted to see where Clara creates her works.”
“Yes, you did,” said Gamache. “But you didn’t tell me to what end.”
“Does there have to be an end?” asked Marois. “Isn’t just seeing enough?”
“For most people, perhaps, but not for you, I suspect.”
Marois’s sharp eyes held Gamache. None too pleased.
“Look, Clara Morrow’s standing at a cross-roads,” said the art dealer. “She has to make a decision. She was just handed a phenomenal opportunity, so far the critics adore her, but tomorrow they’ll adore someone else. She needs someone to guide her. A mentor.”
Gamache looked bemused. “A mentor?”
He left it hanging there.
There was a long, charged, silence.
“Yes,” said Marois, his gracious manner enveloping him again. “I’m near the end of my career, I know that. I can guide one, perhaps two more remarkable artists. I need to choose carefully. I have no time to waste. I’ve spent the past year looking for that one artist, perhaps my last. Gone to hundreds of vernissages worldwide. Only to find Clara Morrow right here.”
The distinguished art dealer looked around. At the broken-down horse in the field, saved from slaughter. At the trees and at the forest.
“In my own backyard.”
“In the middle of nowhere, you mean,” said Castonguay, and went back to staring with displeasure at the scene.
“It’s clear Clara’s a remarkable artist,” said Marois, ignoring the gallery owner. “But the very gifts that make her that also make her unable to navigate the art world.”
“You might be underestimating Clara Morrow,” said Gamache.
“I might, but you might be underestimating the art world. Don’t be fooled by the veneer of civility and creativity. It’s a vicious place, filled with insecure and greedy people. Fear and greed, that’s what shows up at vernissages. There’s a lot of money at stake. Fortunes. And a lot of egos involved. Volatile combination.”
Marois stole a quick glance at Castonguay, then back to the Chief Inspector.
“I know my way around. I can take them to the top.”
“Them?” asked Castonguay.
Gamache had assumed the gallery owner had lost interest and was barely listening, but he now realized Castonguay had been following the conversation very closely. And Gamache quietly warned himself not to underestimate either the venality of the art world, or this haughty man.
Marois turned his full attention on Castonguay, clearly surprised as well that he’d been paying attention.
“What do you mean?” demanded Castonguay.
“I mean both the Morrows. I want to take them both on.”
Castonguay’s eyes widened and his lips narrowed, and when he spoke his voice was raised. “You talk about greed. Why would you take both? You don’t even like his paintings.”
“And you do?”
“I think they’re far better than his wife’s. You can have Clara, and I’ll take Peter.”