She turned and started walking rapidly toward the quai, but before she did she looked back and said, “And I am reason enough, Armand, for a man to give up everything.”
“Huh,” said Gamache.
The sun was setting and their passage so far had been fairly smooth. The storm predicted by the pilot was ahead of them.
At the sound of Gamache’s grunt, Jean-Guy shifted his gaze to the Chief. Beauvoir had been looking at the window. Not through it, but at it. At his own reflection.
“What is it?” Beauvoir asked.
Gamache looked from his device to Beauvoir. It was difficult not to be distracted by the sou’wester. The hat sat at a jaunty angle, manipulated, shifted, arranged over the past half hour to appear as though Jean-Guy had simply grabbed it off a peg and crammed it onto his head as the skipper cried, “Thar she blows.”
“Very you, matey.”
“Have you ever been to sea, Billy?” Beauvoir leered at Gamache.
“What is it with you and elderly women anyway?” Gamache asked.
Beauvoir took the hat off and placed it on his knee.
“I think they know I don’t see them as elderly. Just people.”
And Gamache knew it was true.
“Just as I’ll never see Annie as old. Even though we will be. One day.”
And Gamache hoped that too was true. He looked at Beauvoir, beside him on the bench, and saw him decades from now. Sitting with Annie on the sofa. In what would be their home, their dwelling place, in Three Pines. Reading. Old and gray and by the fire. Annie and Jean-Guy. And their children. And grandchildren.
The days of their togetherness.
Just as he and Reine-Marie were having theirs. Until this.
Beauvoir gestured toward the device in Gamache’s hand. “What is it?”
“You were reading a message?” Beauvoir suggested.
“Ah, oui. From the Sûreté in Baie-Saint-Paul. The sniffer dogs found something.”
Beauvoir shifted on the hard bench so that he was looking directly at the Chief.
“No, not yet. It was a metal box, with cardboard rolls inside, like the one that Peter’s canvases came in. They were empty. Except for some powder.”
“Captain Nadeau’s having it tested.”
Gamache looked at the windows, wet with spray. It was dark now, and all he could see was the lit bow of the Loup de Mer. “Was the commune really a meth lab? Was the art a cover to distribute drugs?”
“We already know that heroin and cocaine come into Québec by boat,” said Beauvoir. “It’s almost impossible to stop.”
Gamache nodded. “Suppose it gets off-loaded in Baie-Saint-Paul, taken to No Man’s community in the woods—”
“That would explain why it was in the woods,” said Beauvoir. “And not overlooking the river, where the other artists’ colonies set up. They didn’t want a view, what they wanted was privacy, and warning if anyone approached.”
“No Man cuts and packages. Luc Vachon sends them south. Disguised as No Man’s paintings. Rolled into those tubes.”
The St. Lawrence, while a lifeline, was also a supply line. For all sorts of illegal activity, including hard drugs.
“Maybe it was No Man himself who started the rumors it was a cult,” said Beauvoir. “To keep the curious away. But then that cop starts paying attention to them, and No Man closes up shop and moves even further away. To Tabaquen. More remote. More privacy. Less scrutiny.”
Gamache shifted, uncomfortable on the hard bench.
He was under no illusion. If that’s what No Man was about in Tabaquen, they were in for a world of trouble when they arrived.
His fears, illusions while in Three Pines, were taking form. Taking shape. And coming closer. This was what happened when you ventured into the real world.
A brave man in a brave country. It was easy to be brave, when the country was also brave. But what happened if it wasn’t? If it was corrupt, and grotesque, and greedy, and violent?
And what happened if it was waiting for them? Knowing they were coming?
“And Chartrand?” asked Beauvoir. “How does he fit in?”
“A respected gallery owner with connections worldwide? Beyond reproach?” asked Gamache. “Who’s better placed to coordinate the operation?”
That explained Chartrand, but what about Professor Massey?
What role did he play in this? He must have some involvement, otherwise he wouldn’t have gone all the way to Tabaquen.