“Why?” Porter had whispered.
“How would I know?” said Winnie. “Those books are so old I don’t think anyone’s ever cataloged them. In fact, they were earmarked for the next sale, before it was canceled.”
Porter had glanced at the large, quiet man on the leather sofa below.
Elizabeth was pretty sure Porter hadn’t recognized him. She was certain Winnie hadn’t. But she had.
And now, as she watched the local police inspector shake hands and walk away she again examined the large man with the dog and remembered the last time she’d seen him on a street.
She’d been watching the CBC along with the rest of the province, indeed the rest of the country. It was even, she’d learned later, broadcast on CNN around the world.
She’d seen him then. In uniform, without the beard, his face bruised, his Sûreté du Québec officer’s hat not quite hiding the ugly scar. His dress coat warm but surely not warm enough to keep out the bitter day. He’d walked slowly, limping slightly, at the head of the long, long solemn column of men and women in uniform. A near endless cortege of officers from Québec, from Canada, from the States and England and France. And at the head, their commander. The man who’d led them, but didn’t follow them all the way. Not into death. Not quite.
And that image that appeared on front pages of newspapers, on covers of magazines from Paris Match to Maclean’s to Newsweek and People.
Of the Chief Inspector, his eyes momentarily closed, his face tipped slightly upward, a grimace, a moment of private agony made public. It was almost too much to bear.
She’d told no one who the quiet man reading in their library was, but that was about to change. Putting her coat on again she walked carefully down the icy steps and along the street to catch him up. He was moving along rue Ste-Anne, the dog on a leash beside him.
“Pardon,” she called. “Excusez-moi.” He was some distance ahead, weaving in and out of the happy tourists and weekend revelers. He turned left onto rue Ste-Ursule. She picked up her pace. At the corner she saw him half a block ahead. “Bonjour.” She raised her voice and waved but his back was to her, and if he heard he would very probably think she was calling to someone else.
He was nearing rue St-Louis and the throng heading to the Ice Palace. She’d almost certainly lose him among the thousands of people.
It wasn’t said as loudly as all her other cries but it stopped the large man dead in his tracks. His back was to her, and she noticed some people giving him nasty looks as they suddenly had to swing around to avoid him on the narrow sidewalk.
He turned back. She was afraid he would look annoyed, but instead his face was mild, inquisitive. He quickly scanned the faces and came to rest on her standing stock-still half a block away. He smiled and together they closed the gap.
“Désolé,” she said, reaching out to him. “I’m sorry to disturb you.”
“Not at all.”
There was an awkward silence. He didn’t comment on the fact she knew who he was. That much was obvious and like her, he clearly felt no need to waste time with the obvious.
“I know you from the library, don’t I?” he said. “What can I do for you?”
They were at the busy corner of St-Louis and Ste-Ursule. Families were trying to squeeze by. It didn’t take much to clog the narrow artery.
She hesitated. Gamache looked round and motioned down the street, against the river of people.
“Would you like a coffee? I suspect you could use something.”
She smiled for the first time that day, and sighed. “Oui, s’il vous plaît.”
They fought their way a block down, finally stopping in front of the smallest building on the street. It was whitewashed, with a brilliant red metal roof and above it a sign. Aux Anciens Canadienes.
“It’s a bit of a tourist trap but at this time of day it might be quiet,” he said in English, opening the door. They found themselves in the not unusual situation in Québec where, to be polite, the French person was speaking English and, to be polite, the English spoke French. They stepped into the dark, intimate restaurant, the oldest in the province with its low ceiling and stone walls and original beams.
“Perhaps,” Gamache suggested when they were seated and the waiter had taken their orders, “we should also choose a language.”
Elizabeth laughed and nodded.
“How’s English?” he asked. She hadn’t been this close to him before. He was in his mid-fifties, she knew from the reports. He was solid, comfortably built, but it was his eyes that caught her. They were deep brown, and calm.