And his address? 1809 rue des Jardins. 1809. Not a time then, but a street number. Were they to meet there first then head to the Lit and His?
There were a few other names in Renaud’s diary, mostly, it seemed, officials he was arguing with or editors who’d turned down his manuscripts. Serge Croix, the Chief Archeologist, was mentioned a few times, always with the word merde as though his name was hyphenated. Serge Croix-Merde.
Booksellers, mostly used, figured large in Augustin Renaud’s life. It seemed if he had a relationship with anyone it was with them. Gamache jotted down their names then looked at his watch.
It was almost midnight, and Beauvoir was sitting on a plastic garden chair in Ruth’s kitchen. He’d never been in her home before. Gamache had, a few times, but Beauvoir had always begged off those interviews.
He disliked the wretched old poet immensely which was why he was there.
“OK, dick-head, talk.”
Ruth sat across from him, a pot of watery tea on the white pre-formed table, and one cup. Her thin arms were strapped across her chest, as though trying to keep her innards in. But not her heart, Beauvoir knew. That had escaped years before, like the duck. In time all things fled Ruth.
He needed to talk to someone, but someone without a heart, without compassion. Someone who didn’t care.
“You know what happened?” he asked.
“I read the papers you know.”
“It wasn’t all in the papers.”
There was a pause. “Go on.” Her voice was hard, unfeeling. Perfect.
“I was sitting in the Chief’s office—”
“I’m bored already. Is this going to be a long story?”
Beauvoir glared at her. “The call came at 11:18 in the morning.”
She snorted. “Exactly?”
He met her eyes. “Exactly.”
He saw again the Chief’s corner office. It was early December and Montreal was cold and gray through the windows. They’d been discussing a difficult case in Gaspé when the Chief’s secretary opened the door. She had a call. It was the Inspector in Ste-Agathe. There’d been a shooting. An agent down and one missing.
But he wasn’t missing, he was on the phone asking to speak to the Chief.
Things happened quickly after that, and yet seemed to go on forever.
Agents poured in, the tactical teams were alerted. Satellites, imaging, analysis. Tracing. All swung into action. Within moments there was a near frenzy of activity visible through the large window in the Chief’s office. All going to a protocol Chief Inspector Gamache had designed.
But in his office there was quiet. Calm.
“I’m sorry, I’m so sorry,” Agent Morin said, when connected to the Chief.
“It’s not your fault. Are you hurt?” Gamache had asked.
By now Beauvoir was listening on the other line. For reasons he didn’t yet understand they’d so far been unable to trace the call and the man who held Agent Morin and had shot the other agent seemed unconcerned. He’d handed the phone back to the young agent but not before making something clear.
He would neither let Morin go, nor would he kill him. Instead, he’d bind the young agent and leave him there.
“Thank you,” said Gamache.
Through the glass Beauvoir could see agents at computers, recording, listening in, pin-pointing the location of the call. He could even see their fingers flying over the keys.
They’d know where Agent Morin was being held within moments. But Beauvoir felt a little uneasy. Why was it taking so long? This should be almost instantaneous.
“You’ll follow me, I know you will,” the farmer was saying. “So I need you not to.”
“I won’t,” lied Gamache.
“Maybe,” the man said in his broad country accent. “But I can’t risk it.”
Something stirred inside Beauvoir and he looked at Gamache. The Chief was standing, staring ahead, concentrating, listening, thinking. Trying not to make a mistake.
“What have you done?” Gamache asked, his voice hard, unyielding.
There was a pause. “I’ve tied your agent up and attached something to him.”
“It’s something I made myself.” The man’s voice was defensive, weak, explaining. It was a fearful voice and that meant unpredictable and that meant trouble. The worst possible hostage-taker to deal with, they could panic at any moment. Their reason had fled and they were going on nerves not judgment.
“What is it?” Gamache asked.
Beauvoir knew what the Chief was doing. He was trying to become the sturdy center, the thing a weak, fearful man would move toward. Something firm, solid, predictable. Strong.