“Then why didn’t he stay?” Clara asked.
“Maybe the hole was too big,” said Myrna.
“Maybe his courage failed,” said Reine-Marie.
“Maybe while LaPorte was Dr. Gilbert’s answer, it wasn’t Peter’s,” said Jean-Guy. “His was somewhere else.”
Gamache nodded. He had a call in to the Sûreté in Paris, asking them to visit LaPorte with Peter Morrow’s picture and the dates. To confirm what they suspected. Peter had been there.
And Peter had left there.
“Anyone else hungry?” Myrna asked. “Who has the time?”
She couldn’t read her watch in the dark. The sun had set as they’d listened to Armand. So absorbed were they that they hadn’t noticed the darkness. Or their hunger. But now they did.
“Almost ten,” said Beauvoir, whose watch illuminated. “Will Olivier and Gabri still be serving?”
By now they were making their way out of Clara’s back garden, toward the bistro. It was a pleasant evening and they could see late diners lingering over dessert and coffee on the terrasse.
“Quid pro quo,” said Clara. “We’ll feed them information and they’ll feed us food.”
Quid pro quo was a specialty of Olivier’s Bistro.
They took a table inside, tucked into a corner. Far from the other diners. Gabri and Olivier were able to join them, happy to be off their feet.
Ruth joined them, limping in with Rosa from the bookstore.
“Can I close it now?” she demanded.
Myrna turned her head and whispered to Clara, “Jesus, I’d forgotten about her.”
“Who knew she’d even open the bookstore,” said Clara under her breath, “never mind not burn it down.”
“We just got back,” Myrna looked Ruth in the eye and lied. “Thank you for looking after the store.”
“Rosa did most of the business.”
“‘The’ business or ‘her’ business?” Gabri asked.
Myrna and Clara exchanged worried glances. It was a good question and an important distinction.
“A few people came in,” said Ruth, ignoring the question. “Bought books and guides to Paris. I quadrupled the price. What’s for dinner?”
She picked up Jean-Guy’s drink out of habit, then realizing it was just a Coke she quickly snatched up Myrna’s Scotch just before Myrna got to it.
“It’s good to have you back,” Ruth said.
“Are you talking to me or the drink?” Myrna asked, and once again Ruth looked at her as though for the first time.
“The drink, of course.”
They ordered dinner, then Gamache looked at Clara.
And so, as they shared an assortment of starters, Clara told them about their meeting with Thomas Morrow and dinner with Marianna and Bean.
“Is Bean a boy or a girl?” Jean-Guy asked. “It must be obvious by now.”
He’d met the Morrow family a few years earlier and had been struck, once again, by how crazy the English had become. Insular and inbred, he suspected. He decided he should count their fingers from now on. He looked at Ruth and wondered how many toes she had. Then he wondered if cloven hooves even had toes.
“Still can’t tell,” admitted Clara. “But Bean seems happy, though clearly the artistic gene didn’t pass to him. Or her.”
“Why d’you say that?” Gabri asked, dipping char-grilled calamari into a delicate garlic aioli.
“Peter taught Bean the color wheel. Bean did a few paintings and put them up on the bedroom walls. They were pretty awful.”
“Most masterpieces are, at first,” said Ruth. “Yours look like a dog’s breakfast. That’s a compliment.”
Clara laughed. Ruth was right, on both counts. It was a compliment. And her paintings started off a real mess. The worse her paintings looked at first, the better they seemed to turn out.
“You too?” she asked Ruth. “How do your poems start out?”
“They start as a lump in the throat,” she said.
“Isn’t that normally just a cocktail olive lodged there?” Olivier asked.
“Once,” Ruth admitted. “Wrote quite a good poem before I coughed it up.”
“A poem begins as a lump in the throat?” Gamache asked Ruth. The elderly woman held his eyes for a moment before dropping them to her drink.
Clara was quiet, thinking. She finally nodded.
“For me too. The first go-round is all emotion just shot onto the canvas. Like a cannon.”