The Long Way Home

Page 110

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“Merde,” said Myrna, then turned to Chartrand. “Sorry.”

“This isn’t the airport,” said Gamache, looking around.

Their pilot was dumping their bags on the tarmac.

“The airport’s big,” said Gamache. “It lands jets. This’s…”

He turned around. River, forest, river.

“This’s…”

“You’re welcome,” said the pilot, tossing the last bag onto the pile.

“Seriously,” said Gamache. “Where are we?”

The pilot pointed. There, on the horizon, was a dot. And as they watched, it grew. And took shape. Ship shape.

“The Loup de Mer. She docks there.” He pointed to a pier half a kilometer away. “This’s an old cargo runway. Better hurry.”

“Tabarnac,” said Myrna, as she picked up her bag.

“Merde,” said Chartrand.

They hurried across the rough landing strip, pausing to watch the plane rumble down the runway and lift off. From the ground it looked strangely graceful, as though something awkward was freed.

The plane, and the boy inside, seemed made for the skies and not really of this earth.

The plane bobbed and banked and flew into the sun. And disappeared.

Then they turned their backs on it and walked toward the pier, where the Loup de Mer was just arriving.

The Seawolf.

Gamache, who knew the coast well, wondered if Clara had any idea what they were in for.

THIRTY-FOUR

There were two cabins left. The Admiral’s Suite and the Captain’s Suite.

It was decided the women would take the Captain’s Suite, while the three men would stay together in the Admiral’s Suite, since it would be the larger of the cabins.

They showed Peter’s photo to the harbormaster, to the ticket agent, to the head steward, to some woman they thought was an employee but turned out to be a fellow passenger.

None of them recognized Peter.

“Maybe he didn’t take the boat,” said Myrna. “I don’t think we specifically asked that pilot if he did.”

Clara thought about that, holding her bag in one hand and Peter’s now quite worn photo in the other. Myrna had promised not to show the old photograph from the yearbook anymore.

“Still, the pilot recognized him from that,” said Myrna. “Though I don’t know how. Most of his face is hidden by smoke.”

Except, thought Gamache, that one sharp eye. Not an artist’s eye, but a cunning, assessing eye. His mother’s eye.

Something was bothering Gamache about that whole exchange with the young pilot. And maybe Myrna had hit upon it. It seemed strange that this kid, who admitted to considering his passengers produce, should recognize Peter from that old yearbook photo.

Still, he’d also recognized Clara, so maybe the young man had an eye for faces.

“I think if anyone’s going to recognize him”—Clara held up the recent photograph of Peter—“it’ll be an employee who saw him wandering the ship every day. Not the captain, and not the harbormaster.”

“Good point,” said Gamache.

And Clara was right. While the steward who showed the women to the Captain’s Suite didn’t recognize it, the fellow with the men did.

“He had a single berth,” the steward said. “Kept to himself.”

“How come you remember him?” Jean-Guy asked as they followed him down the dim, narrow corridor. This was definitely not the Queen Mary.

“I watched him.”

“Why?” asked Beauvoir.

“Afraid he’d jump.”

That stopped them in the middle of the corridor.

“What do you mean?” Gamache asked.

“People do,” explained the young steward. He was small, lithe. With a thick Spanish accent. “Especially the quiet ones. He was quiet. Stuck to himself.”

They continued on their way along the corridor, and then, to their surprise, down two flights of stairs.

“Most passengers are excited to be under way. They talk to each other. Get to know each other. There isn’t a lot to do so they start hanging out together. Your guy didn’t. He was different.”

“Do you think he was considering jumping?” asked Gamache.

“Naw. He was okay. Just different.”

That word, over and over. Peter Morrow, who’d struggled to conform all his life, was different after all.

“Where did he get off?” Jean-Guy asked.

“Can’t remember.”

They’d arrived at the Admiral’s Suite. The steward opened the door, his hand resting, palm up.

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