Bury Your Dead (Chief Inspector Armand Gamache #6)

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05.03.2019

“Could someone have hated him enough to kill?” asked Gamache.

“There’re a lot of reasons for murder, Chief Inspector, as you know.”

“Actually, mon Père, I’ve found there’s only one. Beneath all the justifications, all the psychology, all the motives given, like revenge or greed or jealousy, there lies the real reason.”

“And what’s that?”

“Fear. Fear of losing what you have or not getting what you want.”

“And yet, fear of eternal damnation doesn’t stop them.”

“No. Neither does fear of getting caught. Because they don’t believe in either.”

“You think it’s not possible to believe in God and commit murder?”

The priest was staring at Gamache now, his face relaxed, amused even. His eyes calm, his voice light. Then why was he clutching his cassock in his fist?

“Depends on the God you believe in,” said Gamache.

“There is only one God, Chief Inspector.”

“Perhaps, but all sorts of humans who see imperfectly. Even God. Especially God.”

The priest smiled and nodded but his hand tensed even more.

“I’m afraid we’ve wandered off topic,” said Gamache. “My fault. It was foolish of me to debate faith with such a celebrated priest. I am sorry, mon Père. We were talking about Augustin Renaud and you were saying he was dismissed as crazy, but in your view he was quite sane. How did you know him?”

“I found him in the basement of the chapel to St. Joseph. He was digging.”

“He’d just started digging?”

“I told you he was monomaniacal. He lost all judgment when it came to Champlain. But he actually found something.”

“What?”

“Some old coins from the 1620s and two coffins. One was very plain and semi-collapsed, but the other was lead-lined. Our theory is that Champlain, like other dignitaries, would have been buried in a lead-lined coffin.”

“And this was where the original chapel stood, before the fire.”

“You’re not quite as ignorant as you pretend, Chief Inspector.”

“Oh, my ignorance knows no bounds, Father.”

“The dig was immediately shut down by the city. It was unauthorized and considered akin to grave robbing. But then Renaud went to the media and made a huge stink. Champlain finally found, the tabloids declared, but uptight, regulation-bound bureaucrats had stopped the excavation. The media decided to portray it as a David and Goliath fight. Little old Augustin Renaud, valiantly struggling to find the man symbolic of French Québec, and the official archeologists and politicians stopping him.”

“Serge Croix must have loved that,” said Gamache.

Père Sébastien chuckled. “The Chief Archeologist was livid. I had him in here dozens of times over that period, ranting and raving. It wasn’t clear how much of his anger was directed at Renaud personally and how much was fear that Renaud might be right, and maybe this little amateur archeologist would make the biggest discovery of anyone’s career.”

“Champlain.”

“The Father of Québec.”

“But why is it important? Why’re so many people so passionate about where Champlain might be buried?”

“Aren’t you?”

“I’m curious, absolutely. And if he was found I’d visit the site and read everything I could about the discovery, but I don’t take it personally.”

“You think not? I wonder if that’s true. I see a lot of people who don’t realize they have a belief, a faith, until they’re dying, and then they discover it buried deep inside them. There all along.”

“But Champlain was a man, not a faith.”

“Perhaps at first, but he’s become more than that, to some. Come with me.”

Père Sébastien stood, bobbed briefly toward the gold crucifix at the altar and hurried out of the vast church. Gamache followed. Up wooden stairs, through back halls and finally into a cramped office, piled high with books and papers. And on the wall two reproductions. One of Christ, crucified, the other of Champlain.

The priest cleared magazines off two chairs and they sat.

“Champlain was a remarkable man, you know, and yet we know almost nothing about him. Even his birthday is a mystery. We don’t even know what he looked like. This painting? Does it look familiar?”

He motioned to the one on the wall. It was the image of Champlain every Quebecker knew, every Canadian knew. It showed a man about thirty wearing a green doublet, a lace collar, white gloves and a sword and hilt. His hair was in the style of the 1600s, long, dark and slightly curled. He had a trim beard and moustache. It was a handsome, intelligent face, a lean, athletic face with large, thoughtful eyes.