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Page 22

No, Frère Mathieu had shoved that sheet of paper up his sleeve and curled himself around it.

What did this jumble of nonsense and neumes tell them? Not much, yet. Except that Frère Mathieu had died trying to protect it.

SEVEN

The chair beside Dom Philippe was empty.

It had been years, decades, since the abbot had looked to his right in the Chapter House and not seen Mathieu.

Now he didn’t look to his right. Instead, the abbot kept his steady eyes straight ahead. Looking into the faces of the community of Saint-Gilbert-Entre-les-Loups.

And they looked back at him.

Expecting answers.

Expecting information.

Expecting comfort.

Expecting him to say something. Anything.

To stand between them and their terror.

And still he stared. At a loss for words. He’d stored up so many, over the years. A warehouse full of thoughts and impressions, of emotions. Of things unsaid.

But now that he needed words, the warehouse was empty. Dark and cold.

Nothing left to say.

*   *   *

Chief Inspector Gamache leaned forward, his elbows on the worn wood desk. His hands casually holding each other.

He looked across at Beauvoir and Captain Charbonneau. Both men had their notebooks out and open and were ready to report to the Chief.

After the medical examination, Beauvoir and Charbonneau had interviewed the monks, fingerprinting them, getting initial statements. Reactions. Impressions. An idea of their movements.

While they did that, Chief Inspector Gamache had searched the dead man’s cell. It was almost exactly the same as the abbot’s. Same narrow bed. Same chest of drawers, only his altar was to a Saint Cecilia. Gamache had not heard of her, but he determined to look her up.

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There was a change of robes, of underwear, of shoes. A nightshirt. Books of prayers and the psalms. And nothing else. Not a single personal item. No photographs, no letters. No parents, no siblings. But then, perhaps God was his Father, and Mary his mother. And the monks his brothers. It was, after all, a large family.

But the office, the prior’s office, was a gold mine. Not, sadly, of clues to the case. There was no bloody stone. No threatening, signed letter. No murderer waiting to confess.

What Gamache did find in the prior’s desk were used quill pens and a bottle of open ink. He’d bagged and put them in the satchel along with the other evidence they’d collected.

It had seemed a major find. After all, that sheet of old paper that had fallen from the prior’s robes had been written with quill pen and ink. But the more the Chief thought about it the less certain he was that this would prove significant.

What were the chances the prior, the choirmaster, a world authority on Gregorian chant, would write something almost unintelligible? The abbot and the doctor had both been baffled by the Latin, and those neume things.

It seemed more the work of some unschooled, untrained amateur.

And it was written on very old paper. Vellum. Sheepskin. Stretched and dried, perhaps hundreds of years ago. There was plenty of paper, but no vellum in the prior’s desk.

Still, Gamache had been careful to bag and label the quills and ink. In case.

He also found scores. Sheets and sheets of sheet music.

Books filled with music, and histories of music. Learned papers on music. But while Frère Mathieu was Catholic in his belief, he was not small “c” catholic in his taste.

Only one thing interested him. Gregorian chant.

There was a simple cross on the wall, with the crucified Christ in agony. And below and surrounding that crucifix was a sea of music.

That was the passion of Brother Mathieu. Not Christ, but the chants he floated above. Christ might have called Frère Mathieu, but it was to the tune of a Gregorian chant.

Gamache had had no idea so much had been, or could be, written about plainchant. Though, to be fair, he’d given it no thought. Until now. The Chief had settled in behind the desk and while waiting for Beauvoir and Charbonneau to return, he’d begun reading.

Unlike the cell, which smelled of cleaning fluid, the office smelled of old socks and smelly shoes and dusty documents. It smelled human. The prior slept in his cell, but he lived here. And Armand Gamache began to see Frère Mathieu as simply Mathieu. A monk. A music director. Perhaps a genius. But mostly a man.

Charbonneau and Beauvoir eventually returned and the Chief turned his attention to them.

“What did you find?” Gamache looked at Charbonneau first.

“Nothing, patron. At least, I didn’t find the murder weapon.”

“I’m not surprised,” said the Chief, “but we had to try. When we get the coroner’s report we’ll know if it was a stone or something else. What about the monks?”

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