Myrna looked over at Clara. She was staring straight ahead, concentrating on the windy road. Trying to keep them on track.
Trying not to go over the edge.
Myrna leaned back in her seat and took a deep breath. And calmed herself by looking at the stars. Or at the lights of the village. She couldn’t quite tell which was which. And it didn’t matter. Both were calming.
As they got closer, the lights of Baie-Saint-Paul grew brighter and the stars dimmed. Then they were back at La Muse bistro. It was now nine in the evening and they were starving. They ordered dinner, and while Myrna stayed at their table, the other three walked up and down the streets, checking at the auberges and B and Bs to see if there were any cancellations.
There were not.
They returned just as their dinners arrived.
Steak frites all around, the steaks char-grilled and thick. The fries thin and seasoned.
Beauvoir, while no fan of sleeping in cars, wasn’t really worried. This was the great benefit of seeing worse. Fewer things worried him now.
“What next?” he asked as he took a forkful of tender steak and melting garlic butter.
“We know for sure Peter was here,” said Clara. “Now we need to know if he’s still here, and if not, where he went.”
By “what next” Jean-Guy had meant “what’s for dessert,” but he was happy to talk about the case. For case this was, in his mind. And, he could see, in the Chief’s as well.
There’d been no mistaking the look in Gamache’s eye as he’d surveyed the cliff. Once their awe had passed, the Chief’s brain had kicked in.
Where could a body be? If a person fell? If a person was pushed?
Where would he end up?
When the meal was over and their coffees had arrived, Gamache turned to Clara.
“Would you like to hear what I think?”
She studied him for a moment. “Probably not, judging by your face.”
Gamache gave a curt nod of agreement. “I think we should speak to the local police. Get them involved.”
“In finding out where Peter might be staying?”
“In finding out where Peter might be,” said Gamache, his voice low, but firm. His eyes not leaving Clara.
Her face paled as his meaning sunk in.
“You think he’s dead?”
“I think he came here and painted those pictures. I think he mailed them to Bean. And then disappeared. That was months ago.”
Gamache was quiet for a moment. He looked down at his espresso, the crème caramel brown on top. Then he met her eyes once again.
“The woods are thick here,” he said.
Clara grew very, very still. “You don’t think we’ll ever find him.”
“It was months ago, Clara,” he repeated. “I hope I’m wrong. I hope we find him in a cabin somewhere. His beard bushy and his clothes covered in paint. Surrounded by canvases.” He held her eyes. “I hope.”
Clara looked over to Jean-Guy, who was also watching her. His face both boyish and grim.
Then to Myrna. Optimistic, hopeful, buoyant Myrna. She looked sad.
“You agree,” said Clara. She could see it in Myrna’s face.
“You must’ve known it was a possibility, Clara. You admitted you might not like what you find.”
“I thought I might find Peter happy on his own,” she said. “I thought I might even find him with another woman.” She looked around the table, at their faces. “But I always thought I’d find him. Alive.”
She was challenging them now. Daring them to argue with her.
When none did, she got up. “And I still do.”
Clara walked out of La Muse.
“Should we go after her?” Jean-Guy asked.
“No, give her time,” said Myrna.
Beauvoir watched as Clara walked up the road, her head down, like a torpedo. Tourists stepped out of her way just in time. And then she disappeared from view.
Beauvoir got up and wandered around the brasserie. There were paintings on the walls, with price tags slightly askew. From years of dusting. They were pretty landscapes, but in Charlevoix a painting needed to be more than that to sell.
If he hadn’t looked into the windows of the Galerie Gagnon, Jean-Guy might have thought these were quite good. But he had looked. And now he knew the difference. Part of him regretted that. He might now like better things, but he also liked fewer.
“Look who I found.”
Beauvoir heard Clara’s voice across the brasserie, heard the triumph, and turned quickly.
The man who’d spoken to them earlier at La Muse was standing beside her.