Colleen’s lip trembled slightly, then her chin puckered and her eyes narrowed. She looked down and her lank hair fell like curtains, hiding her face. What escaped was a sob.
“Nobody. Likes. Me. Here,” she gasped, fighting to thrust each word out. Shaking and crying, she brought her hands up to her face, to hide the tears that were too obvious. She looked, Gamache realized, exactly as she’d looked a few days earlier. On that very spot. Eventually the sobbing died down and quietly Gamache handed her his handkerchief.
“Merci,” she sputtered, between ragged gasps.
“People like you, Colleen.”
She raised her eyes to his.
“I watch and listen,” he continued. “I read people. It’s what I do for a living. Are you listening?”
“Those young women like you. If one good thing’s come of all this pain, it’s that you’ve found some real friends here.”
“Suppose,” said Colleen, again looking down. Then Gamache understood.
“How old are you?”
“I have a daughter, you know. Annie. She’s twenty-six. Married now, but much as she loves her husband he wasn’t her first love. She met him one summer when she worked at a golf course. They were both caddies.”
Colleen’s eyes were on the ground, her sneakered feet toeing the grass.
“Annie used to try to caddy in a foursome with Jonathan, but he wasn’t interested. He had his own friends he hung around with and every night Annie would come home in tears. Even asked if I could speak to him, maybe show him my gun.”
She smiled a little.
Gamache’s own smile faded. “I think it was the most painful time of her life, and I think she’d say the same thing. It’s terrible to love someone so completely and know they don’t feel the same. It’s very lonely.”
Colleen nodded and dropped her head again, crying quietly into the balled-up handkerchief. Gamache waited until she’d calmed. She offered him back the soggy square of cotton, but he declined.
“He loves someone else. He was always following her around, wanting to know all about her. Where she was from, what her home was like. All the things I wanted him to ask me, he was asking her.”
“Best not to torture yourself with it,” he said, gently but firmly. He was lucky, he knew. He’d married his first love. But he’d seen what unrequited love could do.
She sighed so hard Gamache expected to see the petals of the dying flowers flutter away.
After the young gardener left Gamache strolled back toward the terrasse, intending to go to the library for lunch and a meeting with his team. But partway there he caught sight of Peter Morrow standing on the wharf, staring at the lake.
He had a question for Peter. A question he wanted to ask the man in private.
Changing course he made for the dock, but as he did so he saw Peter reach back and fling something into the lake. A moment later he heard a plop and two rings appeared on the calm surface. Peter turned abruptly and marched off the dock, his feet thudding on the wood. Head down, he didn’t even notice Gamache until he was almost upon the Chief Inspector.
“Oh, it’s you,” said Peter, startled and not particularly pleased. Gamache noticed the ill-shaven face, the crumpled and partly tucked shirt, the stains on the slacks. Peter’s courtesy and attire were equally ragged.
“Are you all right?”
“Just fine.” The sarcasm was impossible to miss.
“You seem haggard.”
“I just lost my sister, what do you expect?”
“You’re quite right,” said Gamache. “It was a thoughtless comment.”
Peter seemed to relax.
“No, I’m sorry.” He brought his hand up and it scraped along his sandpaper face. He seemed surprised not to feel the usual clean shave. “It’s a difficult time.”
“What did you throw into the lake?”
It was meant to help break the tension but it had the opposite effect. Peter’s guard was up again as he turned angry eyes on Gamache.
“Do you have to know everything? Can’t some things be private around you? Or maybe your father never taught you manners.”
He stomped away toward the Manoir then abruptly changed direction. Gamache saw why. Thomas Morrow came thundering out of the lodge, crossed the stone terrasse and hit the lawn running.
“What’ve you done with them? Peter, I’m going to kill you.”
Peter started running and then the chase was on. It was clear the Morrows made no habit of running and the sight of two men in late middle age inelegantly chasing each other around a manicured lawn at this Australian-rules reunion might have been funny had one not clearly been intent upon harm and the other not been terrified.