“Do you know a man named Norman?”
“Look, you want the place or not?”
The landlady locked up.
“Did he say why he was here?” Clara tried one more time as they stood outside the door.
“Oh, sure, we had long discussions over fondue and white wine.”
She looked at Clara with distaste. “I don’t know why he was here. I don’t care. He paid cash.”
“Did he tell you where he was going, when he left?” Clara persevered in the face of obvious defeat.
“I didn’t ask, he didn’t tell.”
And that was that.
Then they went back to the brasserie, to cleanse their palates with burgers.
“What next?” Clara asked.
“Reine-Marie should be at your college in Toronto,” Gamache said, looking at his watch. “She’ll let us know what she finds out.”
“And until then?” Myrna asked.
“There is one thing we can do, I suppose,” said Clara, shooting a glance at Gamache. “We could show Peter’s paintings to Marcel.”
Clara turned to Myrna and laid a hand on the rolled-up canvas.
“What do they tell you?”
Myrna noticed the protective action. “I take it you don’t want my opinion as an art critic.”
“Since you happen to think I’m a genius, I think your expertise in that area is unquestioned. But no, it’s the other I want.”
Myrna studied her friend for a moment. “They tell me that Peter was deeply troubled.”
“Do you think he’d lost his mind?” Clara asked.
“I think,” said Myrna slowly, “that Peter could afford to lose some of his mind. It wouldn’t necessarily be a bad thing.”
Myrna smiled then. Just a little.
“Right,” said Clara, getting up and grabbing the scrolled paintings. “Let’s go.”
She marched away like a Crimean war general leading a futile charge.
She headed up the hill to the Galerie Gagnon, leaving the others, and the bill, behind.
“She has flair, I’ll give her that,” said Jean-Guy, hurriedly taking a last huge bite of his hamburger. Gamache, paying, knew that “flair” was not one of Beauvoir’s compliments.
And now they stood over the table as Marcel Chartrand unrolled the canvases.
The one on top was of the lips.
Gamache studied the curator as Chartrand studied the painting. But study, Gamache realized, was the wrong word. Chartrand was absorbing it. Trying not to think about the painting, but to experience it. In fact, the other man’s eyes were almost closed.
Chartrand tilted his head a little this way. Then that.
And then a slight smile formed. His trained eye had seen the painted lips.
For the painting was smile-up. It was the giddy, laughing perspective.
“It’s a bit of a mess,” Chartrand said. “Here and here.” He waved his hands over the canvas. “It looks like Peter was just filling in gaps, not sure what to do. There’s no cohesion. But there is, I have to admit, a certain”—he searched for the word—“buoyancy.”
Clara reached out and slowly turned Peter’s painting. Like the rotation of the earth. Around. Slowly around. Until day became night. Smiles became frowns. Laughter became sorrow. Sky became water.
That was all Chartrand said, and needed to say. His expression said the rest. His body, in its sudden tension, spoke.
Gamache felt his phone vibrate in his pocket. Excusing himself, he stepped out the back door.
“Oui. We’re in the airport lounge, catching the next flight back to Montréal. I wanted to give you a quick call.”
“How’d it go?”
“I’m not really sure.”
She filled him in on their visit to the art college and Professor Massey. And Professor Norman.
“So he was from Québec,” said Armand. “But they don’t know where?”
“The office is looking,” she said. “The registrar is a bit overwhelmed right now. Getting ready for her own vacation, but I think I convinced her to look for Professor Norman’s dossier. The old files aren’t on computer, so she’ll have to go through them manually.”
“And she’s willing to do it?”
“Fortunately you only really need that one kidney, right, Armand?”
He grimaced. “As long as that’s the only body part you offered her.”