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Page 15

“… and blessed is the fruit of thy womb…”

Beauvoir also leaned closer and nodded. “His arms are wrapped around his stomach. Do you think he was in pain?”

Gamache stood up and absently brushed dirt from his knees.

“I’ll leave him to you, Inspector. Captain.”

The Chief Inspector retraced his steps, careful not to wander from the path he’d already created.

“Holy Mary, mother of God…”

The monks continued to repeat the Hail Mary.

How did they know when to stop, Gamache wondered. When was it enough?

He knew what his goal was. To find whoever had killed Frère Mathieu.

“… pray for us sinners…”

But what was theirs, these three black-robed figures?

“… now and at the hour of our death. Amen.”

FIVE

The Chief watched the monks for a few moments, then he turned and watched Beauvoir.

He’d put on weight, and while still lean he was no longer gaunt. Jean-Guy’s face had filled out and the shadows under his eyes had disappeared.

But more than the physical change, Beauvoir now seemed happy. Indeed, happier than Gamache had ever seen him. Not the feverish, giddy highs of the addict, but a settled calm. Gamache knew it was a long and treacherous road back, but Beauvoir was at least on it.

Gone were the mood swings, the irrational outbursts. The rage and the whining.

Gone were the pills. The OxyContin and Percocet. It was one of the terrible ironies that medications meant to relieve pain would finally cause so much.

God knew, thought Gamache as he watched his Inspector, Beauvoir had had genuine pain. Had needed those pills. But then he’d needed to stop.

And he had. With help. Gamache hoped it wasn’t too soon for his Inspector to be back on the job, but suspected what Beauvoir needed now was normalcy. To not be treated as though he was handicapped.

Still, Gamache knew Jean-Guy needed watching. For any cracks in the calm.

For now, though, Gamache turned away from the agents, knowing they had a job to do. And he turned away from the monks, knowing they also had their job.

And he had his.

Gamache looked around the garden.

It was the first chance he’d had to really take it in.

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It was square. Roughly forty feet by forty. Not meant for sports or large gatherings. The monks would not be playing soccer here.

Gamache noticed a wicker basket with gardening implements dropped on the ground. There was also a black medical bag, close to the praying monks.

He began to wander, looking at the perennials, at the herbs all marked and named.

Echinacea, meadowsweet, St. John’s wort, chamomile.

Gamache was no gardener, but he suspected these weren’t just herbs or flowers, but medicinal. He looked around again.

Everything here seemed to have a purpose. To be thought out.

Including, he suspected, the body.

There was a purpose to this murder. His job was to find it.

A curved stone bench sat under the maple in the center of the garden. Most of the tree’s autumn leaves had fallen. Most had been raked up, but some were scattered on the grass. And a few, like forlorn hope, clung to the mother tree.

In summer, in full leaf, there would be a magnificent canopy, throwing dappled light over the garden. Not much of this garden would be in full sun. Not much in complete shade.

The abbot’s garden had achieved a balance between light and dark.

But now, in autumn, it seemed to be dying.

But that too was the natural cycle. It would be deviant, abnormal, if all was in perpetual flower.

The walls were, Gamache guessed, at least ten feet high. No one climbed out of the garden. And the only way in was through the abbot’s bedroom. Through the secret door.

Gamache looked back at the monastery. No one inside the monastery could come into, or even see into, the abbot’s garden.

Did they even know it was here? Gamache wondered. Was that possible?

Was this not only a private garden, but a secret one?

*   *   *

Dom Philippe repeated the rosary.

“Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with thee.…”

His head was bowed but his eyes were open, just a slit. He watched the police officers in the garden. Bending over Mathieu. Taking his picture. Prodding him. How Mathieu, always so fastidious, so precise, would have hated this.

To die in the dirt.

“Holy Mary, mother of God…”

How could Mathieu be dead? Dom Philippe mouthed the rosary, trying to concentrate on the simple prayer. He said the words, and heard his brother monks beside him. Heard their familiar voices. Felt their shoulders against his.

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