Clara leaned forward. “Did you fly my husband? Peter Morrow?”
“Désolé, lady,” said the pilot, who was perfectly bilingual and seemed to speak in a mixture of both languages. Frenglish. “I don’t remember names. Just luggage. And fruit. Now, lemons—”
“He’d have gone to Tabaquen,” Clara quickly cut in. “Tall guy. English.”
The pilot shook his head. “Means nothing to me.”
Myrna pulled out her device and after a few clicks she handed it to Clara, who hesitated for a moment.
“Oh, what the hell,” she said. “We’re all going to die anyway.”
She showed the photo to the pilot, and when he stopped laughing he pointed. “Is that you?”
“That’s not important. You recognize the man?”
“Yeah. Tall, old. English.”
“Old?” said Clara.
“That might not be the most important thing he’s said,” said Myrna. “We all look old to him. He’s barely begun to rot.”
The plane gave a little shudder, as though nudged.
“Oh, Christ, here it comes,” said Jean-Guy.
“What’s that?” asked Clara.
“What?” demanded Myrna, looking frantically out the window where Clara was pointing.
“That’s the supply ship,” said the pilot.
“The one the artists take?” Clara asked.
Below them was the river, and on it they saw a ship. From above it looked like a cigar.
“How long does it take for the ship to get to Tabaquen?” she asked.
“From Sept-Îles?” The pilot considered. “About a day, maybe two. Depends on the weather.”
“Take us there.”
“Clara?” asked Myrna.
“Clara?” asked Gamache.
“If Peter took the boat, we will too.”
“Clara?” asked Jean-Guy.
“But Peter’s not still on it,” said Myrna.
“I know that. But there’s a reason he took it.”
“Maybe,” said Myrna. “But there’s a reason we shouldn’t. Wouldn’t it be best to get to Tabaquen as fast as we can?”
“Why?” asked Clara.
“To find Peter.”
“And suppose he got off the ship?” asked Clara. “Suppose he never made it? No. We need to retrace his steps, as closely as we can.”
Beauvoir turned to Gamache. Their noses almost touched, so tight was the squeeze. And there was no mistaking the glare in Beauvoir’s eyes. The desperation.
The joke was over. They’d had their fun. They’d let Clara lead them around.
But now it was time to take charge.
“Patron.” Beauvoir’s voice was filled with warning.
“Clara’s in charge, Jean-Guy,” said Gamache, his voice barely heard above the wail of the engines.
“We can fly to this village, find out what happened to Peter, and be home before the ship gets halfway there,” said Beauvoir. “Don’t you want that?”
Gamache looked down at the ship, so small in the huge river. “We gave Clara our word.” He turned back to Jean-Guy. “Besides, she might be right. She has been so far.”
Beauvoir took in the Chief’s deep brown eyes, the lines of his face. The deep scar by his temple. The hair almost completely gray now.
“Are you afraid?” Beauvoir asked.
“Of being in charge again? Of being responsible?”
There is a balm in Gilead … The book in Gamache’s pocket dug into his side. A thorn. Not letting him forget.… to cure a sin-sick soul.
“We’re here to support Clara, nothing more,” Gamache repeated. “If I have to step in, I will. But not before.”
As Jean-Guy turned away, Gamache saw in those familiar eyes something unfamiliar.
* * *
The plane didn’t so much land as run out of air. It hit the tarmac with a thump and skidded to a stop.
“Phew,” said the immortal pilot with a grin. “Almost bruised the bananas.”
Myrna laughed, the heady amusement of one spared from certain death.
They climbed out of the tin can and stood on the runway. And looked at the river. The plane had come to a halt within meters of the St. Lawrence.
“Tabarnac,” said Chartrand, then turned to the women. “Sorry.”