The Long Way Home

Page 21

“You don’t really think I’m going to help you find him, just to take him back there?” she asked. Her tone remained personable. A slight note of disapproval, but that was all. “Peter could have been one of the great painters of his generation, you know. Had he lived in New York or Paris or even here in Montréal. Where he could grow as an artist, get to know other painters, network with gallery owners and patrons. An artist needs stimulation, support. She knew that, and she took him as far from culture as she could. She buried him and his talent.”

All this Madame Finney patiently explained to Gamache. Simply stating facts that should have been obvious, had the large man in front of her not been slightly dim, and dull, and also buried in Three Pines.

“If Peter’s finally escaped,” she said, “I won’t help you find him.”

Gamache nodded and broke eye contact to look at her walls. There he found immediate comfort in the images of rural Québec. The craggy, sinuous, rugged landscapes he knew so well.

“A remarkable collection,” he congratulated her. And his admiration was sincere. Madame Finney had an eye for art.

“Thank you.” She inclined her head slightly, acknowledging the compliment and the truth. “Peter used to sit in front of them for hours as a child.”

“But you’ve put up none of his own works.”

“No. He hasn’t yet earned the right to be hung beside them.” She tilted her head toward the wall. “One day perhaps.”

“And what would he have to do to earn a spot?” Gamache asked.

“Ah, the age-old question, Chief Inspector? Where does genius come from?”

“Was that what I was asking?”

“Of course you were. I don’t surround myself with mediocrity. When Peter paints a masterpiece I’ll hang it. With the others.”

The works on the wall had taken on a different complexion. A. Y. Jackson, Emily Carr, Tom Thomson. They seemed imprisoned. Hung until dead. As a reminder to a disappointing son. Peter had sat in front of them as a boy, and dreamed of one day joining them. Gamache could almost see the boy, in proper shorts and immaculate hair, sitting cross-legged on the carpet. Staring up at these works of genius. And longing to create a painting so fine it would warrant space in his mother’s home.

And failing.

The walls, the works, now seemed to close in on Gamache and he wanted to leave. But couldn’t. Not yet.

Madame Finney glared at him. How many had looked into those eyes, Gamache wondered. Within sight of the guillotine, the smoldering stake, the noose.

“All the works on your walls are landscapes,” Gamache pointed out, his eyes not leaving hers. “Most painted in Québec villages. These artists found inspiration there, were able to create their best works there. Are you suggesting that muses are confined to large cities? That creation isn’t possible in the countryside?”

“Don’t try to make a fool of me,” she snapped, the veneer cracking. “Every artist is different. I’m his mother. I know Peter. Some might thrive in the middle of nowhere, but Peter needs stimulation. She knew that, and she deliberately isolated him. Crippled him, instead of supporting and encouraging him and his art.”

“As you do?” Gamache asked.

Monsieur Finney’s pilgrim eyes came to an abrupt halt and he stared at the Chief. There was silence.

“I believe I’ve been more supportive of my son than your own parents were of you,” Madame Finney said.

“My parents didn’t have the chance, madame, as you know. They died when I was a child.”

Her eyes never left his face. “I can’t help but wonder how they’d have felt about your choice of career. A police officer.” She shook her head in disappointment. “And one whose own colleagues tried to murder him. That can’t be considered a success. In fact, weren’t you actually shot by one of your own inspectors? That is what happened, isn’t it?”

“Irene,” said Monsieur Finney, a warning in the normally docile voice.

“To be fair, madame, I also shot one of my colleagues. Perhaps it was karma.”

“Killed him, as I remember.” She glared at Gamache. “In the woods, outside that village. I’m surprised it doesn’t haunt you every time you walk by. Unless, of course, you’re proud of what you did.”

How did this happen? Gamache wondered. He was in the cave after all. Dragged there by a smiling, twinkling creature. And eviscerated.

And she wasn’t finished with him yet.

“I wonder how your mother and father would have felt about your decision to quit. To run away and hide in that village. Peter’s off painting, you say? At least he’s still trying.”

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