The Cruelest Month

Page 116

Gamache put down the books and thought a bit, then he picked one up again and looked for the missing cheerleader. Jeanne Potvin. Was it possible? Was it that easy?

‘Fucking frogs,’ said Beauvoir a few minutes later, shuffling into the living room. ‘We just get rid of Nichol and now the frogs start acting up. Still, they’re better-looking and less slimy. What’re you reading?’

‘Those yearbooks Agent Lacoste brought back. Tea?’

Beauvoir nodded and wiped a hand across his eyes. ‘Don’t suppose she brought back any Sports Illustrated?’

‘Sorry, old son. But I did find something in this one. Our missing cheerleader. You’ll never guess.’

‘Jeanne?’ Beauvoir got up and took the book from Gamache. He scanned the page until he found a picture of Jeanne Potvin. Then he looked at Gamache, taking a sip of tea and watching him over the rim of the mug.

‘I’m glad it was your hunch and not mine. Not exactly caul-worthy.’

Jeanne Potvin, the missing cheerleader, was black.

‘Well, it was worth a try,’ said Beauvoir, not trying very hard to hide his amusement. Picking up The Dictionary of Magical Places he started flipping through it.

‘There’s an interesting section on caves in France in there.’

‘Oh boy.’ Beauvoir looked at the pictures for a while. Stone circles, old houses, mountains. There was even a magical tree. A ginkgo. ‘Do you believe in this stuff?’

Gamache looked at Beauvoir over his half-moon glasses. The younger man’s hair was disheveled and he had a small shadow of beard. He brought his hand up to his own face and felt it rough. He then brought his hand to his head and felt the telltale ends there. What little hair he had was standing on end. They must look a fright.

‘Frogs get you too?’ Jeanne Chauvet wandered into the room in her dressing gown. ‘Is there more?’ She nodded to the tea.

‘Always more,’ Gamache smiled and poured the rest for her. She took the tea and was amazed to discover that even at almost three in the morning he smelled just a little of sandalwood and rosewater. It felt peaceful.

‘We were just talking about magic,’ said Gamache, sitting down once Jeanne had taken a seat.

‘I asked if he believed in these things.’ Beauvoir tapped the book Myrna had given them.

‘You don’t?’ asked Jeanne.

‘Not a bit.’

He looked over at the chief who’d snorted.

‘Sorry,’ Gamache apologized. ‘It got away from me.’

Beauvoir, who knew nothing got away from the chief unless he wanted it to, scowled.

‘Well, really.’ Gamache sat forward. ‘Who has his lucky belt? And his lucky coin? And his lucky meal before each hockey game?’ Gamache turned to Jeanne. ‘He’ll only eat Italian poutine with his left hand.’

‘We beat the Montreal Metro police drug squad in hockey. I scored a hat trick, and that night I’d eaten Italian poutine with my left hand.’

‘Makes sense to me,’ said Jeanne.

‘Every time we get on a plane you have to sit in seat 5A. And you have to listen to the safety announcements all the way through. If I interrupt you you pay no attention.’

‘That’s not magic, that’s common sense.’

‘Seat 5A?’

‘It’s a comfortable seat. OK, it’s my favorite. If I sit there the plane won’t crash.’

‘Do the pilots know? Maybe they should sit there,’ said Jeanne. ‘If it’ll make you feel better, everyone has their superstitions. It’s called magical thinking. If I do this, that will happen, even if the two aren’t connected. If I step on a crack it’ll break my mother’s back. Or walk under a ladder, or break a mirror. We’re taught early to believe in magic then spend the rest of our lives being punished for it. Did you know most astronauts take some sort of talisman with them into space to keep them safe? These are scientists.’

Beauvoir got up. ‘I’m going to try to get some sleep. Want the book?’ He offered it to Gamache who shook his head.

‘I’ve already looked at it. Quite interesting.’

Beauvoir clumped up the stairs and when he was gone Jeanne turned to Gamache. ‘You asked why I came here and I said it was for a rest, and that was true, but not the whole truth. I’d been sent a brochure but it wasn’t until yesterday when I saw the others Gabri had that I realized mine was different. Here.’

She pulled two shiny brochures for the B. & B. out of her dressing gown pocket and handed them to Gamache. He stared at them. On the front were photographs of the B. & B. and Three Pines. The brochures were identical. Except for one thing. Across the top of the one mailed to Jeanne Chauvet was typed, Where lay lines meet – Easter Special.

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