The Long Way Home

Page 118

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“Maybe you’re drawn to the damned,” said Myrna.

“Maybe that’s why I’ve spent my life looking for murderers.”

“Have you ever been to Tabaquen?” she asked.

“Once. We arrested an old trapper for murder. He’d never been off the coast before. Never been off his trapline. He died in prison before the trial.”

“Poor man,” said Myrna. And Gamache nodded agreement.

He stared at the almost unnaturally smooth rocks gliding out of the water in great sheets.

“There’re those who seem to turn to the sea, always changing, always adapting. But never settling down. And those who turn to rocks and stones.” He waved toward the shoreline. “Solid but stuck.”

He looked at Myrna and smiled. “Sorry. I suspect that sounds romantic.”

“No, it doesn’t.”

Perhaps, Myrna thought, in Montréal, or Toronto, or New York, or London it would. But hanging over the rail, looking at the cold gray water, the hard gray stones, the thick gray clouds, it sounded about right.

She watched Armand. Was he of the sea or the stone? Was she?

*   *   *

Clara walked along the narrow corridor, adjusting her step to the growing and unpredictable swell. She was discovering that she was good on boats. As was Myrna.

Chartrand, on the other hand, was not.

He’d stayed in the Admiral’s Suite all morning. Clara had taken him some dry toast and tea. It was the first time she’d seen their “suite,” and it had shocked her. She’d been a little suspicious of Chartrand’s absence, wondering if he was faking it. But seeing the crummy, smelly, uncomfortable cabin, she knew only a man on his deathbed would choose to spend time there.

Chartrand had roused, seen her, and through bleary eyes had thanked her.

“You should go,” he said, trying to get up on an elbow. “I don’t want you seeing me like this.”

“And if I was sick?” she asked.

“I’d want to look after you,” he said, and his pale green pallor developed an orangish hue. Had Marcel Chartrand’s face been a color wheel, he’d have failed the exam.

They sat on the narrow bed and she’d gotten a cool cloth and a Gravol.

After a few minutes the drug kicked in and Clara could see his eyelids grow heavy, his breathing grow deeper, his skin less waxy.

She let him subside onto the bed and covered him with a blanket.

“Don’t go,” he whispered. Then shut his eyes.

She lingered for a moment at the door, before leaving.

*   *   *

The report on the substance in the buried container arrived that afternoon.

Gamache and Beauvoir read it with increasing puzzlement.

It wasn’t heroin after all. It wasn’t cocaine.

“How can this be?” Beauvoir asked, his brows drawn together. “Am I reading it right?”

Gamache had gone over the report two or three times himself. Quickly the first time, scanning the familiar form down to the pertinent line. And there he stopped, as though hitting a wall.

Then he went back and read more carefully. But the conclusion never changed.

The powdery substance in the container wasn’t a pharmaceutical. It was natural. But not the prettiest side of nature.

Asbestos.

The two men lifted their eyes from the screen and stared at each other.

“What does it mean?” asked Jean-Guy.

Gamache got to his feet. “See what you can find out about asbestos.”

“Right.”

Beauvoir excelled at finding facts. Tracking them down, analyzing them, putting them in their place. Not like an automaton, but a skilled and thoughtful investigator.

Gamache left Beauvoir on the laptop in the lounge and went to the communications office of the ship, where they printed out copies of the report. Then he went on deck and found Clara and Myrna on a bench, talking.

“Am I disturbing you?” he asked.

“No, but you look a little disturbed,” said Myrna, and patted the seat next to her.

He took it, and told them the latest findings.

“Asbestos?” said Clara. “Could it be natural? I mean, isn’t asbestos mined in Québec?”

“Oui. There’s a whole town called Asbestos,” Gamache confirmed. “Built around mining it. But that’s a long way off. This asbestos was found inside mailing tubes, like the one Peter’s canvases came in.”

“How’d it get there?” Clara asked.

“Where would you even get asbestos these days?” asked Myrna. “I thought it was all removed and destroyed decades ago.”

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