Vaguely, in the back of Gamache’s mind, he wondered why the hostage-taker hadn’t asked about the condition of the officer he’d shot. He’d seemed so upset, and yet never asked. Perhaps, thought the Chief, he didn’t want to know. He seemed a man best suited to hiding from the truth.
There was a pause and Gamache thought maybe the man would do as he’d asked. If he could just get Agent Morin safely away they would find this man. Gamache had no doubt of that.
But Armand Gamache had already made his first mistake.
Beauvoir drifted back to sleep and in his sleep he replaced the receiver, got in the car with the Chief and raced up to Ste-Agathe. They found where Morin was being held and rescued him. Safe and sound. No one hurt, no one killed.
That was Beauvoir’s dream. That was always his dream.
Armand Gamache picked up the ball and chucked it for Henri. He knew the dog would happily do this all day and all night, and it held its attractions for Gamache. A simple, repetitive activity.
His feet crunched on the pathway and his breath puffed in the crisp, dark air. He could just see Henri ahead and hear the slight wind knocking the bare branches together, like the fingers of skeletons. And he could hear the young voice talking, always talking.
Paul Morin told him about his first swimming lesson in the cold Rivière Yamaska and losing his trunks to some bullies. He heard about the summer the family went whale watching in Tadoussac and how much Morin loved fishing, about the death of Morin’s grandmother, about the new apartment in Granby he and Suzanne had rented and the paint colors she’d chosen. He heard about the minutiae of the young agent’s life.
And as Morin talked Gamache saw again what had happened. All the images he kept locked away during the day he let out at night. He had to. He’d tried to keep them in, behind the groaning door but they’d pounded and pressed, hammering away until he had no choice.
And so every night he and Henri and Agent Morin went for a walk. Henri chasing his ball, Gamache being chased. At the end of the hour Gamache, Henri, the Chuck-it and Agent Morin walked back along Grande Allée, the bars and restaurants closed. Even the drunk college students gone. All gone. All quiet.
And Gamache invited, asked, begged Agent Morin to be quiet too. Now. Please. But while he became a whisper, the young voice was never totally hushed.
Gamache awoke to the welcome smell of strong coffee. After showering he joined Émile for breakfast.
The elderly man poured Gamache a cup as they sat at the long wooden table. In the center was a plate of flaky croissants, honey and jams and some sliced fruit.
“Did you see this?” Émile put the morning copy of Le Soleil in front of Gamache. The Chief sipped and read the headline.
AUGUSTIN RENAUD MURDERED WHILE DIGGING FOR CHAMPLAIN
He skimmed the story. He knew enough not to be dismissive of media reports. They often got hold of people and information the police themselves might not have found. But there was nothing new there. Mostly a recap of Renaud’s startling hobby of looking for Champlain and the ancillary benefits of pissing people off. There were quotes from the Chief Archeologist of Québec, Serge Croix, speaking glowingly of Renaud’s achievements which, everyone knew, amounted to putting holes in the old city and perhaps spoiling some legitimate digs. There was no respect lost between Croix and Renaud, though you’d never know it by the tribute in today’s paper.
Except the reporter had been smart enough to also gather Croix’s previous comments about Renaud. And not just Croix but a host of other Champlain experts, historians and archeologists. All dismissive of Renaud, all derisive, all mocking his amateur status, while he was alive.
Without a doubt, Augustin Renaud alive had become a bit of a buffoon. And yet, reading the papers, there emerged today another Augustin Renaud. Not just dead, but something else. There seemed an affection for him as for a beloved, but nutty, uncle. Renaud was misguided, perhaps, but passionate. A man who loved his home, loved his city, loved his country. Québec. Loved and lived history, to the exclusion of all else, including it seemed, his sanity.
He was a harmless eccentric, one of many in Québec, and the province was the poorer for having lost him.
That was the dead Augustin Renaud. Finally respected.
The paper, Gamache was relieved to see, had been careful to simply report on where the body was found. While they mentioned it was a respected Anglophone institution they left it at that. There was no suggestion of Anglo involvement, of conspiracy, of political or linguistic motivation behind the crime.
But Gamache suspected the tabloids would be less reticent.