The Long Way Home

Page 48

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Clara opened her eyes and looked at her audience, still and quiet.

“And then Chief Dan George opens his eyes and sits up. He looks at Dustin Hoffman and says, ‘Sometimes the magic works. Sometimes it doesn’t.’”

After a stunned silence, Myrna and Armand started laughing.

“That’s what Peter’s travels remind me of,” said Clara.

“Keeps coming up, doesn’t it? This idea of magic,” said Myrna. “We wondered last night if Peter might’ve gone back to the college hoping to recapture the magic of his youth. And now we’re talking about it again, at LaPorte.”

“I think we’re talking about it because we believe in it, not because Peter does.”

“And yet something happened to him,” said Gamache, getting up. “Judging by your description of his new paintings. Something changed him. Not in Paris perhaps, but somewhere, something happened to change his painting so completely.”

“Where’re you going?”

“To call Scotland.”

He left them in the back garden and walked slowly home, thinking about Peter and Paris. And Peter’s flight across Europe. Because that’s how it appeared to Gamache. After pursuing many people over many decades, he recognized the difference between fleeing and seeking.

This seemed like flight to Gamache. Paris to Florence to Venice to Scotland.

That was a lot of travel for a stationary man.

Why did people flee? Gamache asked himself as he nodded to neighbors and raised his hand to return a wave. They fled because they were in danger.

Had Peter left LaPorte so quickly for reasons that had more to do with saving his body than his soul?

As he walked home across the village green, Gamache worried that Peter hadn’t run fast enough or far enough. Or maybe he’d run smack into Samarra.

SIXTEEN

“Eh?”

“I asked if there were any artist colonies in your area, sir.”

“Wur yur, colonnades air?”

“Eh?”

Gamache stood in his study, phone gripped to his ear, as though pressing it harder to his head might make the conversation easier to understand.

It did not.

He’d bypassed the Chief Constable of Police Scotland. He’d bypassed the assistants and the directors. He knew from experience that as well informed and well meaning as those senior officers might be, the people who really knew the community were the ones who protected it every day.

So he’d called through to the Dumfries detachment directly and introduced himself. That had taken a few minutes, until the person at the other end was satisfied he was neither a victim of crime, nor a criminal.

It seemed when speaking English, his accent, combined with the Scottish ear, was producing a sort of white noise of nonsense.

In Dumfries, Constable Stuart tried to be patient. He looked out the window of the police station, at the whitewashed buildings. At the gray stone buildings. At the redbrick Victorian buildings. At the tall clock tower at the far end of the market square. At the people rushing by, the cold rain driving them toward the pubs and shops.

And he tried to be patient.

He tried to figure out what this man was going on about. A colonnade? Why call the police to ask about that? Then he thought he heard something about artists, but that was equally ridiculous. Again, why call the police to discuss art?

He wondered if this man might be off his head, but he sounded calm and rational and even a bit exasperated himself.

Constable Stuart became more alert when he made out the word “homicide,” but when he asked if this man was calling to report one, he got the only clear answer so far.

No.

“Then what, may I ask, are you wanting?”

He heard a long, long sigh down the phone line.

“Mon dieu,” he also heard.

“Did you say ‘Mon dieu’?” he asked. “Do you speak French?”

“Oui,” said Gamache. “Do you?” He asked that in French and was rewarded with a laugh.

“Oh, aye. Je parle français.”

And finally the two men could communicate. In French. Thanks to Constable Stuart’s affair with a Frenchwoman who was now his wife. She’d eventually learned English and he’d learned French.

Gamache explained that he was the former Chief Inspector of homicide for the Sûreté du Québec, in Canada, and he needed Constable Stuart’s help. But not with a murder case. This was a private enquiry. Trying to find a missing friend. An artist. He’d been traced to the Dumfries area in the early winter. Gamache gave Constable Stuart the dates when Peter was there. But Gamache didn’t know where he went, what he did, or why Peter was even there. He wondered if there was an artist colony, or something that might draw a painter to the area.

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