But this little home had always felt strangely innocent. And very peaceful.
Dr. Gilbert poured them glasses of spring water and made sandwiches with tomatoes still warm from his garden.
Gamache spread the map of Paris on the table, smoothing it with his large hand.
“So, what do you want, Armand?” Dr. Gilbert asked for the third time.
“When you went to Paris, after you left your wife, where did you go?”
“I’ve told you that before. Weren’t you paying attention?”
“I was, mon ami,” said Gamache soothingly. “But I’d like to see again.”
Gilbert’s eyes filled with suspicion. “Don’t waste my time, Armand. I have better things to do than repeat myself. There’s manure to spread.”
Some considered Vincent Gilbert a saint. Some, like Beauvoir, considered him an asshole. The residents of Three Pines had compromised and called him the “asshole saint.”
“But that doesn’t mean he isn’t still a saint,” Gamache had said. “Most saints were assholes. In fact, if he wasn’t one that would disqualify him completely.”
The Chief had walked away with a smile, knowing he’d completely messed with Beauvoir’s mind.
“Asshole,” Beauvoir had hissed.
“I heard that,” said Gamache, not turning back.
And now Jean-Guy looked at the two men. Gilbert elderly, imperious, thin and weathered, with sharp eyes and a temperament quick to take offense. And Gamache, twenty years younger, larger, calmer.
Jean-Guy Beauvoir had seen great kindness in Gilbert, and ruthlessness in Gamache. Neither man, Beauvoir was pretty sure, was a saint.
“Show me on the map exactly where you stayed in Paris,” said Gamache, paying absolutely no attention to Gilbert’s little tantrum.
“Fine,” the doctor huffed. “It was here.” His fingernail, black-rimmed with earth, fell on the map.
They bent over to examine the spot, like scientists over a litmus test. Then Gamache straightened up.
“Did you ever talk about your time in Paris with Peter Morrow?” he asked.
“Not specifically, no,” said Gilbert. “But he might’ve heard me talking about it. Why?”
“Because he’s missing.”
“I thought Clara sent him away.”
“She did, but they made a date to meet up exactly a year later. That was a few weeks ago. He never showed.”
Vincent Gilbert was obviously surprised.
“He loved Clara. I miss a lot in life,” said Gilbert. “But I have a nose for love.”
“Like a truffle pig,” said Beauvoir, then regretted it when he saw the asshole saint’s reaction.
Then, unexpectedly, Gilbert smiled. “Exactly. I can smell it. Love has an aroma all its own, you know.”
Beauvoir looked at Gilbert, amazed by what he’d just heard.
Maybe, he thought, this man was—
“Smells like compost,” said Gilbert.
—an asshole after all.
Armand Gamache swayed on his horse/moose and thought about their visit to Vincent Gilbert. And Paris.
His Paris. Gilbert’s Paris. Peter’s Paris. And as he thought, the cool forest receded and the gnarled old tree trunks metamorphosed. They shifted and reformed until they were no longer impenetrable woods but a grand Parisian boulevard. Gamache was riding down the middle of a wide street, lined with magnificent buildings. Some Haussmann, some art nouveau, some beaux arts. He rode past parks and small cafés and great monuments.
He turned his horse/moose down boulevard du Montparnasse. Past the red awnings, past Parisians reading at round marble-topped tables. Past La Coupole, La Rotonde, Le Select—cafés where Hemingway and Man Ray lived and drank. Where centuries of writers and artists debated and inspired each other. And some never left. Off to his left Gamache could just see the Cimetière du Montparnasse, where Baudelaire lay and Sartre and Simone de Beauvoir would spend eternity under a single slab, in the company of The Kiss, the glorious sculpture by Brancusi.
And in the near distance, beyond the cemetery, the hideous Tour Montparnasse rose as a kind of warning against the modern belief that it was possible to improve on perfection.
Gamache and Beauvoir clopped past the past. Beyond the long-dead artists and writers. Beyond Montparnasse. To the neighborhood Peter Morrow had chosen to stay. So close to such an explosion of creativity.
But a world away.
They turned onto rue de Vaugirard. And the charm slowly, slowly dissipated. The City of Light faded and became just another city. At times lovely. Lively. But not the Paris of Manet and Picasso and Rodin.