The Long Way Home

Page 9

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But for now they were safe. On the porch. Annie saw the rectangle of light through the sitting room window. Where her father and Jean-Guy sat. Also safe.

For now.

No, she warned herself. No. There is no threat.

She wondered when she’d actually believe it. And she wondered if her mother believed it.

“Can you see Dad on the village green doing the sun salutation every morning?”

Reine-Marie laughed. The funny thing was, she could see it. It wouldn’t be pretty, but she could imagine Armand doing it.

“Is he really okay?” Annie asked.

Reine-Marie turned in her seat to look at the porch light above the door. What had started as a gentle tapping of moth wings against the bulb had turned into near frantic beating as the moth rammed itself against the hot light on the cool night. It was getting on her nerves.

She turned back to Annie. She knew what her daughter was asking. Annie could see her father’s physical improvements—what concerned her now was what was unseen.

“He sees Myrna once a week,” said Reine-Marie. “That helps.”

“Myrna?” asked Annie. “Myrna?” She gestured toward the “financial district” of Three Pines, which was made up of the general store, the bakery, the bistro, and Myrna’s New and Used Bookstore.

Reine-Marie realized her daughter only knew Myrna from the shop. In fact, she only knew all the villagers from their lives here, not from their lives before. Annie had no idea that the large black woman who sold used books and helped them in the garden was Dr. Landers, a retired psychologist.

Reine-Marie now wondered how newcomers would view her and Armand. The middle-aged couple in the white clapboard house.

Would they be the slightly loopy villagers who made bouquets of weeds? Who sat on their porch with their day-old La Presse newspaper? Perhaps they’d only be known as Henri’s parents.

Would newcomers to Three Pines ever know that she’d once been a senior librarian at the Bibliothèque nationale du Québec?

Would it matter?

And Armand?

What life would a new villager think he’d left behind? A career in journalism perhaps, writing for the intellectual and almost indecipherable daily Le Devoir. Would they think he’d passed his days wearing a pilled cardigan and writing long op-ed pieces on politics?

The more astute might guess that he’d been a professor at the Université de Montréal. The kindly one who was passionate about history and geography and what happened when the two collided.

Would someone new to Three Pines ever suspect that the man tossing the ball to the shepherd, or sipping Scotch in the bistro, had once been the most celebrated cop in Québec? In Canada? Would they guess, could they guess, that the large man doing the sun salutation each morning had once hunted murderers for a living?

Reine-Marie hoped not.

She dared to think that that was behind them. Those lives now lived only in memory. They roamed the mountains that surrounded the village, but had no place here. Had no place now. Chief Inspector Gamache, the head of homicide for the Sûreté du Québec, had done his job. It was someone else’s turn.

But her heart tightened as Reine-Marie remembered the door to the sitting room closing. And clicking.

The moth still fluttered around the light, butting and bumping against the bulb. Was it warmth it wanted, Reine-Marie wondered, was it light the moth sought?

Does it hurt? Reine-Marie wondered. The singeing of the wings, the little legs, like threads, landing on the white-hot glass, then pushing away. Does it hurt that the light doesn’t give the moth what it so desperately desires?

She got up and turned the porch light off, and after a few moments the beating of the wings stopped and Reine-Marie returned to her peaceful seat.

It was quiet now, and dark. Except for the buttery light from the sitting room window. As the silence grew, Reine-Marie wondered if she’d done the moth a favor. Had she saved its life, but taken away its purpose?

And then the beating started again. Flitting, desperate. Tiny, delicate, insistent. The moth had moved down the porch. Now it was beating against the window of the room where Armand and Jean-Guy sat.

It had found its light. It would never give up. It couldn’t.

Reine-Marie got up, watched by her daughter, and turned the porch light back on. It was in the moth’s nature to do what it was doing. And Reine-Marie could not stop it, no matter how much she might want to.

*   *   *

“How’s Annie?” Gamache asked. “She looks happy.”

Armand smiled as he thought of his daughter, and remembered dancing with her on the village green at her wedding to Jean-Guy.

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