Books were everywhere in their large apartment. Histories, biographies, novels, studies on Quebec antiques, poetry. Placed in orderly bookcases. Just about every table had at least one book on it, and oftern several magazines. And the weekend newspapers were scattered on the coffee table in the living room, in front of the fireplace. If a visitor was the observant type, and made it further into the apartment to Gamache's study, he might see the story the books in there told.
Normally death came at night, taking a person in their sleep, stopping their heart or tickling them awake, leading them to the bathroom with a splitting headache before pouncing and flooding their brain with blood. It waits in alleys and metro stops. After the sun goes down plugs are pulled by white-clad guardians and death is invited into an antiseptic room.But in the country death comes, uninvited, during the day. It takes fishermen in their longboats. It grabs children by the ankles as they swim. In winter it calls them down a slope too steep for their budding skills, and crosses their skies at the tips. It waits along the shore where snow met ice not long ago but now, unseen by sparkling eyes, a little water touches the shore, and the skater makes a circle slightly larger than intended. Death stands in the woods with a bow and arrow at dawn and dusk. And it tugs cars off the road in broad daylight, the tires spinning furiously on ice or snow, or bright autumn leaves.
Wait, Armand, he heard behind him but kept walking, ignoring the calls. Then he remembered what Emile had meant to him and still did. Did this one bad thing wipe everything else out?That was the danger. Not that betrayals happened, not that cruel things happened, but that they could outweigh all the good. That we could forget the good and only remember the bad.But not today. Gamache stopped.
And what else did you find?''God' he said simple. 'In a diner.''What was he eating?'The question was so unexpected Gamache hesitated then laughed.'Lemon meringue pie.''And how do you know He was God?'...'I don't,' he admitted. 'He might have been just a fisherman. He was certainly dressed like one. But he looked across the room at me with such tenderness, such love, I was staggered...then he turned back to me with the most radiant smile I'd ever seen. I was filled with joy.
How did you know He was God?' Gamache asked.'When does a bush that burns become a Burning Bush?' Em asked and Gamache nodded. 'My despair disappeared. The grief remained, of course, but I knew then that the world wasn't a dark and desperate place. I was so relieved. In that moment I found hope. This strnager with the sign had given it to me. It sounds ridiculous, I know, but suddenly the gloom was lifted.'She paused a moment, remembering, a smile on her face.
Clara shrugged and immediately knew her betrayal of Peter. In one easy movement she'd distanced herself from his bad behavior, even thought she herself was responsible for it. Just before everyone had arrived, she'd told Peter about her adventure with Gamache. Animated and excited she'd gabbled on about her box and the woods and the exhilarating climb up the ladder to the blind. But her wall of words hid from her a growing quietude. She failed to notice his silence, his distance, until it was too late and he'd retreated all the way to his icy island. She hated that place. From it he stood and stared, judged, and lobbed shards of sarcasm.'You and your hero solve Jane's death?''I thought you'd be pleased,' she half lied. She actually hadn't thought at all, and if she had, she probably could have predicted his reaction. But since he was comfortably on his Inuk island, she'd retreat to hers, equipped with righteous indignation and warmed by moral certitude. She threw great logs of 'I'm right, you're an unfeeling bastard' onto the fire and felt secure and comforted.
To be silent. In hopes of not offending, in hopes of being accepted. But what happened to people who never spoke, never raised their voices? Kept everything inside?Gamache knew what happened. Everything they swallowed, every word, thought, feeling rattled around inside, hollowing the person out. And into that chasm they stuffed their words, their rage.
Eventually he'd let the answering machine take over and had hidden in his studio. Where he's hidden all his life. From the monster. He could feel itin their bedroom now. He could feel its tail swishing by him. Feel its hot, fetid breath.All his life he knew if he was quiet enough, small enough, it wouldnn't see him. If he didn't make a fuss, didn't speak up, it wouldn't hear him, wouldn't hurt him. If he was beyond criticism and hid his cruelty with a smile and good deeds, it wouldn't devour him. By now he realized there was no hiding. It would always be there, and always find him. He was the monster.
Gamache watched the old poet. He knew what was looming behind the Mountain. What crushed all before it. The thing the Hermit most feared. The Mountain most feared.Conscience....Which is why, Gamache knew, it was vital to be aware of actions in the present. Because the present became the past, and the past grew. And got up, and followed you.And found you ...Who wouldn't be afraid of this?
They'd crossed over to that continent where grieving parents lived. It looked the same as the rest of the world, but wasn't. Colors bled pale. Music was just notes. Books no longer transported or comforted, not fully. Never again. Food was nutrition, little more. Breaths were sighs. And they knew something the rest didn't. They knew how lucky the rest of the world was.
Gamache nodded. It was what made his job so fascinating, and so difficult. How the same person could be both kind and cruel, compassionate and wretched. Unraveling a murder was more about getting to know the people than the evidence. People who were contrary and contradictory, and who often didn't even know themselves.
The bistro was his secret weapon in tracking down murderers. Not just in Three Pines, but in every town and village in Quebec. First he found a comfortable café or brasserie, or bistro, then he found the murderer. Because Armand Gamache knew something many of his colleagues never figured out. Murder was deeply human, the murdered and the murderer. To describe the murderer as a monstrosity, a grotesque, was to give him an unfair advantage. No. Murderers were human, and at the root of each murder was an emotion. Warped, no doubt. Twisted and ugly. But an emotion. And one so powerful it had driven a man to make a ghost.Gamache's job was to collect the evidence, but also to collect the emotions. And the only way he knew to do that was do get to know the people. To watch and listen. To pay attention, and the best way to do that was in a deceptively casual way in a deceptively casual setting.Like the bistro.
I just sit where I'm put, composedof stone and wishful thinking:that the deity who kills for pleasurewill also heal,that in the midst of your nightmare,the final one, a kind lionwill come with bandages in her mouthand the soft body of a woman,and lick you clean of fever, and pick your soul up gently by the nape of the neckand caress you into darkness and paradise.
When Olivier had been taken away Gamache had sat back down and stared at the sack. what could be worse than Chaos, Despair, War?What would even the Mountain flee from? Gamache had given it a lot of thought.What haunted people even, perhaps especially, on their deathbed? What chased them, tortured them and brought some of them to their knees? And Gamache thought he had the answer.Regret. Regret for things said, for things done, and not done. Regret for the people they might have been. And failed to be.Finally, when he was alone, the Chief Inspector had opened the sack and looking inside had realize he'd been wrong. The worst thing of all wasn't regret.