“I’m sure Peter’s fine,” Morrow had said, a smile on his face that only managed to look condescending. “You know him. He’s gone off to paint and lost track of the time.”
Myrna said nothing, she simply observed Thomas Morrow. He was in his early sixties, she guessed. He sat with his legs splayed open, inviting the women to stare at his crotch. His suit was beautifully cut and his tie was silk. His back was to the view, which meant his visitors saw him against the backdrop of the huge black towers around him and the glittering great lake beyond.
He was like a monarch, surrounding himself with the symbols of power, hoping to disguise his own weakness.
Clara kept her temper. “I’m sure you’re right, but I’m really just interested in knowing if you saw him when he was here.”
Thomas shook his head. “But I wouldn’t expect him to get in touch. No art on my walls.”
He pointed with some pride to the bank of photographs. Not of family or friends, but of business triumphs. Golfing trophies. Famous people he’d met.
“He was probably going to shows and checking out galleries,” said Thomas Morrow. “Have you asked the galleries?”
“That’s a good idea,” said Clara with a tight smile. “Thank you.”
Morrow got up and walked to the door. “I’m glad I could help.”
And that was that.
“We could’ve done that over the phone,” said Myrna as they walked out into the blast furnace of the Toronto summer. The heat shimmered off the buildings and bounced off concrete and drilled into the pavement, which gave off the scent of melting asphalt in the heavy, humid air.
Myrna found it strangely calming. Her mother’s and grandmother’s comfort smells were cut grass and fresh baking and the subtle scent of line-dried sheets. For Myrna’s generation the smells that calmed were manufactured. Melting asphalt meant summer. VapoRub meant winter, and being cared for. There were Tang and gas fumes and long-gone photocopy ink.
All comforted her, for reasons that beggared understanding, because they had nothing to do with understanding.
After years in Three Pines, her comfort scents were evolving. She still loved the smell of VapoRub, but now she also appreciated the delicate scent of worms after a rain.
“I wanted to be able to watch him,” said Clara as they waited at a corner with a crowd of other perspiring people for the light to turn. “To see if he was lying, or holding something back.”
“And was he? Do you think he saw Peter, or spoke to him?”
“I don’t think so.”
Myrna thought about it. “Why did he say that about his walls?”
She could see the imposing façade of the Royal York up ahead. A massive anachronism at the foot of the modern city. And she could almost taste the beer she’d soon be drinking.
“Who knows why the Morrows say anything,” said Clara, pausing just outside the door of the old hotel. The doorman, perspiring in his uniform, had one hand on the handle, ready to yank it open.
“I guess it was a swipe at Peter,” said Myrna. “Saying he was more interested in art than in his brother.”
“And he’d have been right,” said Clara.
“Let’s get a beer,” said Myrna, and headed straight for the bar.
Reine-Marie tucked the heavy book under her arm and stepped into the glare of the day.
“Inside or out, ma belle?” Olivier asked.
She looked around and decided a table on the terrasse, under one of the large Campari umbrellas, would be perfect.
Olivier returned a few minutes later with a tall ginger beer, already beading in the heat, and a bowl of assorted nuts.
“Parfait,” said Reine-Marie. “Merci.”
She took a sip and opened the book, only looking up twenty minutes later when a head dropped into her lap.
She kneaded his extravagant ears, and felt a kiss on the top of her head.
“I hope that’s you, Sergio.”
“Sorry, only me,” said Armand with a laugh.
He pulled up a chair and nodded to Olivier, who disappeared inside.
“The History of Scotland,” Gamache read the cover of Reine-Marie’s book. “A sudden passion?”
“Why Dumfries, Armand?” Reine-Marie asked.
“I’ve been trying to figure that out as well. Went on the Internet to look it up.”
“Did you find anything?”
“Not really,” he admitted. “I printed out some of what I found.” He put the sheets on the table. “You?”