Porter Wilson all but swooned. Winnie and Elizabeth exchanged glances. If they’d only realized it was so easy. But then Porter’s face clouded again as the reality sunk in.
This might not be an improvement. They’d gone from no police to now two forces occupying their building.
Not to mention the body.
“I wonder if I could leave Henri with you while I go into the basement?”
“Absolutely,” said Winnie, taking the leash. Gamache also gave her some biscuits for Henri, patted him, told him to be a gentleman, then left.
“I don’t like this,” he heard Porter say just as the door closed. He suspected he was meant to hear it. But, then, he didn’t much like it either.
A uniformed officer was waiting for him in the corridor and together they made their way through the warren of hallways and staircases. Gamache had to admit he was completely lost, and suspected the officer was too. Boxes full of books and papers lined the linoleum floors, elaborate stairways led to grotty washrooms and deserted offices. They came to two huge wooden doors and opening them they walked into a spectacular double-height ballroom that led into an equally spectacular twin. Both empty except for a few ladders and the ubiquitous boxes of books. He opened one of them. More leather-bound volumes. He knew if he picked one up he would be well and truly lost, so he ignored it and instead followed the increasingly frustrated officer down another corridor.
“Never seen anything like it,” said the officer. “All this beautiful space, gone to waste. Doesn’t seem right. What’re they doing with this great building? Shouldn’t it be used for something worthwhile?”
“I don’t know. But there must be something someone could use it for.”
“Someone is using it.”
Gamache stopped. “Excusez-moi?”
“Les têtes carré,” the young officer explained.
The square heads.
“You will treat these people with respect,” said Gamache. “They’re no more tête carré than you and I are frogs.” His voice was hard, sharp. The officer stiffened.
“I meant no harm.”
“Is that really true?” Gamache stared at the young officer, who stared back. Finally Gamache smiled a little. “You won’t solve this crime by insulting these people, or mocking them. Don’t be blinded.”
They walked on, down endless hallways, past some magnificent rooms and past some dreary rooms, all empty. As though the Literary and Historical Society was in full retreat, regrouping into that one splendid library where General Wolfe watched over them.
“Over here, sir. I think I’ve found it.”
They went down some steps and found a uniformed officer standing bored guard over a trap door. On seeing the Chief Inspector he stood straighter. Gamache nodded and watched his young guide leap down the metal ladder.
Gamache hadn’t been prepared for this.
At the bottom the officer stared up, waiting, his face going from eager to questioning. What could be keeping this man? Then he remembered. He walked a few rungs up the ladder and extended his hand.
“It’s all right, sir,” he said quietly. “I won’t let you fall.”
Gamache looked at the hand. “I believe you.” He carefully descended and took the strong young hand in his.
Jean-Guy Beauvoir sat by the fire, a beer and a steak sandwich in front of him. Peter and Clara had joined him and Myrna and Gabri sat on the sofa facing the fireplace.
It was Beauvoir’s first time back in Three Pines since they’d arrested Olivier Brulé for the murder of the Hermit, Jakob. He looked into the huge, open fire and remembered loosening the bricks at the back and sticking his arm all the way in, right up to his shoulder and rummaging around. Afraid of what he might feel, or what might feel him. Was there a rat’s nest back there? Mice? Spiders? Maybe snakes.
As much as he declared himself to be rationality itself, the truth was, he had an active and untamed imagination. His hand brushed something soft and rough. He’d stiffened and stopped. His heart pounding and his imagination in overdrive, he forced his hand back. It closed around the thing, and he’d brought it out.
Around him the Sûreté team had clustered, watching. Chief Inspector Gamache, Agent Isabelle Lacoste and the trainee, Agent Paul Morin.
Slowly he dragged the thing out from its hiding place behind the fire. It was a small, coarse burlap sack, tied with twine. He’d placed it on the very table where his beer and sandwich now sat. And he’d gone in again, finding something else hidden back there. A simple, elegant, beautiful candelabra. A menorah, actually. Centuries old, perhaps thousands of years, the experts later said.