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Page 48

“Welcome to the bench,” said Ruth. “You’re early. I’d have thought it would take another ten years. But here you are.”

And for a moment Ruth looked exactly like Clara’s portrait. Embittered, disappointed. Sitting in the sun but remembering, reviewing, replaying every insult. Every unkind word, bringing them out and examining them like disappointing birthday gifts.

Oh, no no no, thought Clara. Still the dead one lay moaning. Is this how it starts?

She watched as Ruth again pelted a bird with a chunk of inedible bread.

Clara got up to leave.

“Hope takes its place among the modern masters.”

Clara turned back to Ruth, looking at her, the sun just catching her rheumy eyes.

“That’s what the New York Times said,” said Ruth. “And the London Times said, Clara Morrow’s art makes rejoicing cool again. Don’t forget, Clara,” she whispered.

Ruth turned away again and sat ramrod straight, alone with her thoughts and her heavy, stone bread. Glancing, occasionally, into the empty sky.

EIGHT

Gabri put a lemonade in front of Beauvoir and a glass of iced tea in front of the Chief Inspector. A wedge of lemon sat on each rim and the glasses were already perspiring in the warm afternoon.

“Do you want to make a reservation at the B and B?” Gabri asked. “There’s plenty of room, if you’d like.”

“We’ll discuss it. Merci, patron,” said Beauvoir with a small smile. He still didn’t feel comfortable making friends with suspects, but he couldn’t seem to help it. They got up his nose, to be sure. But they also got under his skin.

Gabri left and the men drank in silence for a moment.

Beauvoir had arrived at the bistro first and gone directly to the bathroom. He’d splashed cool water on his face and wished he could take a pill. But he’d promised himself to wait until bedtime for the next one, to help him sleep.

By the time he returned to the table the Chief was there.

“Any luck?” he asked Gamache.

“The dealers admitted they knew Lillian Dyson, though claim not to know her well.”

“Do you believe them?”

It was always the question. Who do you believe? And how do you decide?

Gamache thought about it, then shook his head. “I don’t know. I thought I knew the art world, but I realize now I only saw what they wanted me—what they want everyone—to see. The art. The galleries. But there’s so much more going on behind.” Gamache leaned toward Beauvoir. “For instance, André Castonguay owns a prestigious gallery. Shows artists’ works. Represents artists. But François Marois? What does he have?”

Beauvoir was quiet, watching the Chief, taking in the gleam in his eye, the enthusiasm as he described what he’d found. Not the physical landscape, but the emotional. The intellectual.

Many might have thought the Chief Inspector was a hunter. He tracked down killers. But Jean Guy knew he wasn’t that. Chief Inspector Gamache was an explorer by nature. He was never happier than when he was pushing the boundaries, exploring the internal terrain. Areas even the person themselves hadn’t explored. Had never examined. Probably because it was too scary.

Gamache went there. To the end of the known world, and beyond. Into the dark, hidden places. He looked into the crevices, where the worst things hid.

And Jean Guy Beauvoir followed.

“What François Marois has,” Gamache continued, holding Beauvoir’s eyes, “is the artists. But even more than that, what he really has is information. He knows people. The buyers, the artists. He knows how to navigate a complex world of money and ego and perception. Marois hoards what he knows. I think he only lets it out when it either suits his purposes or he has no choice.”

“Or when he’s trapped in a lie,” said Beauvoir. “As you trapped him this afternoon.”

“But how much more does he know that he isn’t telling?” asked Gamache, not expecting an answer from Beauvoir, and not getting one.

Beauvoir glanced at the menu but without interest.

“Have you chosen?” Gabri asked, his pen at the ready.

Beauvoir closed the menu and handed it to Gabri. “Nothing, thanks.”

“I’m fine, merci, patron,” said the Chief, handing the menu back and watching Clara leave Ruth and walk toward Myrna’s bookstore.

*   *   *

Clara hugged her friend and felt the thick rolls of Myrna under the brilliant yellow caftan.

Finally they pulled apart and Myrna looked at her friend.

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