The Long Way Home

Page 90

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“The portrait you sent,” he said. “Do you have the yearbook?”

“Yes, it’s on the table here. Pretty awful. I mean, I think the painting’s probably brilliant, but what it says about the man? It’s a self-portrait, isn’t it?”

“Oui,” said Gamache. “Can you find it again, please, and look at the signature?”

“You mean it’s not by Professor Norman?” she said.

“Just tell me what you see.”

He heard vague sounds as she put the phone down and did as he’d asked. Then she was back.

“Norman,” she read.

“Look closer.”

“I’m sorry, Armand. It still says Norman. Just a moment.”

He heard more sounds, then silence. Then footsteps and a crackle as the phone was picked up.

“I got my device. Hold on, I’m bringing up the camera and the photographs. I can zoom in.”

He waited.

“Oh.” Was all he heard. And all he needed to hear.

“What did you want to tell me?” he asked.

It took Reine-Marie a moment to tear her eyes, and her mind, away from what she’d just seen.

She lowered the device, dropping the madman to her lap.

“Professor Norman taught art theory at the college,” she said. “But according to Professor Massey, he didn’t teach the traditional theories about perspective and aesthetics and the nature of art. He taught his own theories.”

“Yes,” said Gamache. “About the place of a muse in an artist’s life.”

“But Professor Norman wasn’t advising the students to get a muse,” she said. “He was teaching them about the tenth muse.”

Armand drew his brows together, trying to remember.

“The tenth muse? I thought there were just the nine sisters.”

“There’s a theory that a tenth muse existed,” said Reine-Marie. “That’s the theory Professor Norman was teaching. Armand, none of the original muses represented painting or sculpture.”

“But they must have,” he said.

She shook her head, even though he couldn’t see her. “No. Poetry, dance, history even. The word ‘museum’ comes from ‘muse.’ ‘Music’ and even ‘amuse’ come from the word ‘muse.’ But there was no muse for art itself.”

“Hardly seems possible,” he said, though he believed her.

“Professor Massey admitted he couldn’t remember the details, if he ever knew them, but he did know that Professor Norman’s theory was that there was in fact a muse for art. The tenth muse. And to be a successful artist you needed to find her.”

“Are you saying that Norman believed this tenth muse actually exists? Is living somewhere?”

“I’m not saying it. Professor Massey wasn’t even saying it. But Sébastien Norman was apparently teaching it to his students. But there’s something else. Something Ruth said.”

“I’m ready,” he said, and sounded so stoic Reine-Marie smiled.

“She quoted Degas saying the muses work all day and get together to dance all night.”

“Nice image.”

“Ruth wondered what it would be like to be standing in the forest, watching. Eternally excluded.”

Another image sprang to mind. Of a shadowy figure. Among the trees. Longing to belong.

Instead she was rejected.

And eventually that pain turned to bitterness, and the bitterness turned to anger, and the anger became rage.

Until that rage became madness.

And the madness became a portrait.

Gamache dropped his eyes to the image on his device. Now, because of the angle, the face appeared to be shrieking at Gamache’s chest. His breast pocket.

Where the small book sat. The book about the balm. Of Gilead.

That made the wounded whole.

Had the tenth muse, and the pursuit of her, driven Professor Norman mad? Or was he already mad, and she was his salvation? His balm.

Would she make him whole?

Gamache stared at that distorted face.

If ever there was a sin-sick soul, this was it.

TWENTY-EIGHT

“That was Reine-Marie,” Gamache said when he got back to the group in Chartrand’s office. Peter’s canvases were now rolled up and sitting civilly on the desk.

“What is it?” asked Clara, seeing his face.

“She sent this.” Gamache handed her the device. “From your yearbook.”

“Am I going to want to see it?” Clara made a face. “I wasn’t always the elegant woman I am today.”

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