Olivier’s voice stopped. The story stopped.
“Go on,” whispered Gamache.
“What about the boy?” asked Gabri. “He’s not in the carvings anymore. Where’d he go?”
“He buried himself in the forest, knowing the Mountain would find the villagers.”
“He betrayed them too? His own family? His friends?” asked Beauvoir.
Olivier nodded. “But there was something else.”
“Something was behind the Mountain. Something driving it on. Something that terrified even the Mountain.”
“Worse than Chaos? Worse than death?” asked Gabri.
“Worse than anything.”
“What was it?” Gamache asked.
“I don’t know. The Hermit died before we got that far. But I think he carved it.”
“What do you mean?” asked Beauvoir.
“There was something in a canvas sack that he never showed me. But he saw me looking at it. I couldn’t help myself. He’d laugh and say one day he’d show it to me.”
“And when you found the Hermit dead?” asked Gamache.
“It was gone.”
“Why didn’t you tell us this before?” snapped Beauvoir.
“Because then I’d have to admit everything. That I knew him, that I’d taken the carvings and sold them. It was his way of ensuring I’d come back, you know. Parceling out bits of his treasure.”
“A pusher to an addict,” said Gabri, with no rancor, but with no surprise either.
Everyone turned to Gamache.
“Who?” Gabri asked.
“It’s an opera, by Rimsky-Korsakov. It tells the story of the Thousand and One Nights.”
They looked blank.
“The king would take a wife at night and kill her in the morning,” said the Chief Inspector. “One night he chose Sheherazade. She knew his habits and knew she was in trouble so she came up with a plan.”
“Kill the king?” asked Gabri.
“Better. Every night she told him a story, but left it unfinished. If he wanted to know the ending he had to keep her alive.”
“Was the Hermit doing it to save his life?” asked Beauvoir, confused.
“In a way, I suppose,” said the Chief. “Like the Mountain, he longed for company, and perhaps he knew Olivier well enough to realize the only way to get him to keep coming back was to promise more.”
“That’s not fair. You make me sound like a whore. I did more than take his things. I helped him garden and brought supplies. He got a lot out of it.”
“He did. But so did you.” Gamache folded his large hands together and looked at Olivier. “Who was the dead man?”
“He made me promise.”
“And secrets are important to you. I understand that. You’ve been a good friend to the Hermit. But you have to tell us now.”
“He was from Czechoslovakia,” said Olivier at last. “His name was Jakob. I never knew his last name. He came here just as the Berlin wall was falling. I don’t think we understood how chaotic it was. I remember thinking how exciting it must have been for the people. To finally have freedom. But he described something else. Every system they knew collapsed. It was lawless. Nothing worked. The phones, the rail service. Planes fell out of the air. He said it was horrible. But it was also a perfect time to run. To get out.”
“He brought everything in that cabin with him?”
Olivier nodded. “For American money, hard currency he called it, you could arrange anything. He had contacts with antiques dealers here so he sold them some of his stuff and used the money to bribe officials in Czechoslovakia. To get his things out. He put them on a container ship and got them to the Port of Montreal. Then he put them all in storage and waited.”
“To find a home.”
“He first went to the Queen Charlotte Islands, didn’t he?” said Gamache. After a pause Olivier nodded. “But he didn’t stay there,” Gamache continued. “He wanted peace and quiet, but the protests began and people came from all over the world. So he left. Came back here. Close to his treasures. And he decided to find a place in Quebec. In the woods here.”
Again Olivier nodded.
“Why Three Pines?” Beauvoir asked.
Olivier shook his head, “I don’t know. I asked, but he wouldn’t tell me.”
“Then what happened?” Gamache asked.