The Long Way Home

Page 101

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“And what questions are those?” Gamache asked.

“Was it really a cult? Did No Man leave voluntarily or was he kicked out of his own community? Where did he go?”

“Good questions, but who would we ask?” Gamache zipped up his case and turned to face Beauvoir.

Jean-Guy considered. They seemed to have hit a dead end.

“Are we so sure No Man really did leave?” Beauvoir asked.

Gamache gave one curt nod. “Captain Nadeau is looking into that. They’re bringing in sniffer dogs.”

“For corpses?”

Gamache nodded again. He wasn’t sure if they’d find anything. And if they did, whether the body would be ten years old, or ten weeks.

Like Beauvoir, he also found it curious that Marcel Chartrand wanted to take them away from Baie-Saint-Paul. They could have stayed above the Galerie for another night. They were already settled in. Surely it was easier, even for Chartrand, to stay.

And yet the gallery owner wanted to move them to a remote home.

Beauvoir was right. There were questions to be asked here. But Gamache suspected most of the answers could be found with Chartrand.

THIRTY-ONE

After stopping for groceries, they drove up the coast highway, the road following the hills and rock cuts and cliffs.

Marcel Chartrand was ahead of them in his van, while Clara drove the others in the car.

Chartrand’s turn signal went on after a few miles. Instead of turning left, away from the river, he was signaling right. But there didn’t seem to be any “right” to be had. Just a cliff. But they went around a corner and there was a spit of land jutting into the river. And on it a cluster of brightly painted, cheerful homes.

“Once belonged to one family,” Marcel explained as he came over to meet them. “All daughters. None married. They built their homes together.”

The houses were modest in size, painted bright red and blue and yellow. Lighthouses, it seemed, in the gray landscape. The style of each house was similar, but slightly different, with swooping dormers and fieldstone chimneys and wooden porches. The roofs were sheet metal and looked like silver fish scales. They caught the fading light and turned soft blues and pinks.

“Does it have a name?” Myrna asked.

“The community? No. No name.”

“No Name,” Myrna repeated.

“Who lives here now?” Clara asked, following Chartrand to the home nearest the river.

“Those places belong to summer people.” He pointed to the other two houses. “I’m the only one who lives here year-round.”

“Does it ever get lonely?” Myrna asked.

“Sometimes. But what compensation.”

His arm swept in an arc, taking in the trees and rocks and cliffs and great dome of sky. And the dark river. Marcel Chartrand was staring as though each was a close friend.

But none had a heartbeat, thought Myrna. It was no doubt glorious, but was it really compensation?

“I bought the place twenty-five years ago. Had been on the market for years, since the last sister died. No one else wanted it. It was derelict by then, of course.”

Chartrand swung the door open and they entered.

They found themselves in a low living room, with wooden floors and beams. It would have felt claustrophobic, but Chartrand had used a traditional milk wash to paint the beams and the plaster walls white.

The result was a welcoming, homey feel. Two armchairs and an old sofa were arranged around the large open fireplace. Windows on either side looked out onto the St. Lawrence.

Once settled into their rooms, they poured drinks then gathered in the kitchen to make a meal of pasta, garlic butter baguette and chicory salad.

“You met No Man,” Gamache said to Chartrand as he made the salad and Chartrand set the table. “You’re the only one here who has—”

“That’s not strictly true,” said Chartrand. “Clara, you knew him.”

“I guess I did,” she said. “I keep forgetting. It was so long ago and I didn’t take his course. I’d see him in the hallway, but that was all. Barely recognized him from that self-portrait in the yearbook, but I guess that was the fashion at the time. Everyone wanted to look tortured.”

“They might have wanted to look it, but Norman actually was,” said Myrna.

“But you lectured at the art colony,” said Gamache, getting back to Chartrand. “Did it strike you as a cult?”

Chartrand stopped what he was doing and thought. “I don’t think so. But what would a cult look like? Would you necessarily know?”

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