The Long Way Home

Page 76

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“When was it done?” Gamache asked.

“1917. The year he died,” said Chartrand.

“In the war?” asked Jean-Guy, who’d wandered over to join them.

“No,” said the gallery owner. “In an accident.”

Now Gamache straightened up and looked at Chartrand. “Do you believe that?”

“I want to. It would be horrible to think otherwise.”

Jean-Guy looked from Chartrand to Gamache. “There’s a question?”

“A small one,” said Gamache, walking back to the sofa, as though not wanting the painting to overhear their conversation.

“What question?”

“Tom Thomson painted mostly landscapes,” Chartrand explained. “His favorite subject was Algonquin Park, in Ontario. He seemed to like his solitude. He’d canoe and camp by himself, then trek out with the most wonderful paintings.”

He gestured toward the small one on his wall.

“Was he famous?” asked Beauvoir.

“No,” said Chartrand. “Not at the time. Not many knew him. Other painters, but not the public. Not yet.”

“It took his death for him to come to their attention,” said Gamache.

“Lucky for whoever had his paintings,” said Beauvoir.

“Lucky for his gallery owner,” Chartrand agreed.

“So what’s the mystery? How’d he die?”

“The official cause was drowning,” said Gamache. “But there was some question. Rumors persist even now that he was either murdered or killed himself.”

“Why would he do that?” Beauvoir asked.

They were sitting down, Gamache and Beauvoir on a sofa, Chartrand on his chair facing the empty fireplace.

“The theory is that Thomson was despondent because he wasn’t getting any recognition for his work,” said Chartrand.

“And the murder theory?” asked Beauvoir.

“Perhaps another artist, jealous of his talents,” said Chartrand.

“Or someone who owned a lot of his works,” said Gamache, looking directly at their host.

“Like his gallery owner?” Chartrand smiled in what appeared to be genuine amusement. “We are greedy, feral people. We love to screw both the artist and our clients. We’d do anything to acquire what we want. But perhaps not murder.”

Though Beauvoir and Gamache knew that was not true.

“Who’re you talking about?”

Clara and Myrna had been across the room admiring a Jean Paul Lemieux, but now Clara sat on the sofa opposite Gamache.

“Tom Thomson.” Chartrand waved toward the small painting, like a window on the wall that looked into another time, another world. But one not so unlike Charlevoix.

“Désolé,” said Gamache quietly, not taking his eyes off Clara. “That was insensitive.”

“Désolé?” asked Chartrand. He looked from one to the other, perplexed by the sudden intensity of emotion. “Why would it be upsetting?”

“My own husband is missing. That’s why we’re here.” Clara turned to Gamache. “Didn’t you ask him about Peter when you went to the gallery?”

“It was closed,” said Gamache. “I thought you discussed it when you called him up.”

“Why would I? I thought you’d already asked him and he didn’t know Peter.”

“Peter?” asked Chartrand, looking from one to the other.

“My husband. Peter Morrow.”

“Your husband’s Peter Morrow?” said Chartrand.

“You knew him?” Gamache asked.

“Bien sûr,” said Chartrand.

“Him or his art?” asked Myrna.

“Him, the man. He spent many hours in the gallery.”

Clara was stunned into silence, momentarily. And then questions jumbled together in her brain, and created a logjam. None able to escape. But finally, one popped out.

“When was this?”

Chartrand thought. “In April, I guess. Maybe a little later.”

“Did he stay with you?” asked Clara.

“Non. He rented a cabin down the road.”

“Is he still there?” She stood up as though about to leave.

Chartrand shook his head. “No. He left. I haven’t seen him in months. I’m sorry.”

“Where did he go?” Clara asked.

Chartrand faced her. “I don’t know.”

“When was the last time you saw him?” Gamache asked.

Chartrand thought about that. “It’s now early August. He left before the summer. In late spring, I think.”

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