I agree, wrote Gamache. But we need to consider other possibilities, sir. Including that this is all part of a well-organized plan.
A plan? To alert every cop in North America? An agent’s been killed, another kidnapped. Pretty crappy plan, wouldn’t you say?
Gamache stared at the screen then typed. This farmer isn’t who he appears to be. We’d have found him by now. We’d have found Agent Morin. Something is going on.
Your panicking isn’t going to help, Chief Inspector. Follow orders.
He isn’t panicking, wrote Beauvoir. What he says makes sense.
Enough. Chief Inspector Gamache, stay focused. We’ll get Agent Morin back.
Chief Inspector Gamache watched the flashing cursor then looked over his screen. Francoeur was staring at him. Not angrily. Indeed, there seemed compassion in his stare, as though he had some idea how Gamache must be feeling.
And he might have. Gamache only wished the Chief Superintendent knew what he was thinking.
This was wrong. There were eighteen hours left to find Agent Morin and they were no closer. No ordinary farmer could bring all the resources and technology of the Sûreté to a halt. Therefore, this was no ordinary farmer.
Gamache nodded to the Chief Superintendent, who gave the Chief Inspector a grateful smile. This was not the time for the two leaders to clash and while Chief Superintendent Francoeur outranked Gamache, the Chief Inspector was the more respected.
No, a rift right now would be a disaster.
But so was ignoring what seemed to Gamache obvious. They were being led away from the truth. And with each passing minute they were getting further from it. From Agent Morin. From whatever larger plan was at work.
Gamache smiled back and paused. Should he do it? If he did, there was no going back. Careers and lives might be ruined. He stared through the window.
“You have a dog, don’t you sir?”
“Yes. Henri. Also a foundling, like Bois.”
“Funny how they get under your skin. I think there’s something special about the ones we rescue.”
“Yes,” said Gamache decisively. He sat forward, jotted a note longhand and made eye contact with Inspector Beauvoir who got up, filled a pitcher with fresh water and wandered into the Chief’s office, under the gaze of Chief Superintendent Francoeur.
Jean-Guy Beauvoir picked up the note and closed his hand over it.
Gamache’s feet were growing numb with cold as he stared at the Literary and Historical Society. Beside him Henri was lifting first one paw then another. The snow and ice were so cold it actually, and ironically, burned.
Why was he still investigating the Renaud case? Was this his private misdirection? Was he trying to take his mind off something he might otherwise have to see? And hear? And feel? Was his whole career like that? Replacing one ghost with a fresher one? Racing one step ahead of his memory?
He yanked open the heavy wooden door and entered the Literary and Historical Society, where the Anglos kept and filed and numbered all their ghosts.
In the library Mr. Blake was just pouring himself a cup of tea and taking a cookie from the blue and white china plate on the long wooden table. He looked at Gamache and indicated the pot. Gamache nodded and by the time he’d taken off his coat and rubbed Henri’s feet warm and dry there was a cup of tea and a cookie on the table for him.
Mr. Blake had gone back to reading and Gamache decided he might as well too. For the next hour he collected books, sipped the tea, nibbled his cookie and read, sometimes making notes.
“What’re you reading?” Mr. Blake lowered his book, a slim volume on grasses in the Outer Hebrides. “Is it about the Renaud case?”
Armand Gamache marked his page with a slip of paper and looked across the sitting area to the elderly man, perfectly attired in gray flannels, a shirt, tie, sweater and jacket.
“No, I thought I’d give that a rest for an hour or so. This,” he held up the book, “is just a curiosity of mine. It’s about Bougainville.”
Mr. Blake leaned forward. “As in bougainvillea? The flowering plant?”
They both imagined the exuberant, colorful plant, so common in the tropics.
“You’re interested in botany too?” asked Mr. Blake.
“No, I’m interested in the Plains of Abraham.”
“Not much bougainvillea there.”
Gamache laughed. “Too true. But Bougainville was.”
“There,” said Gamache. “At the Battle of the Plains of Abraham.”
“Are we talking about the same man?” Mr. Blake asked. “The navigator? The one who brought bougainvillea back on one of his voyages?”