“Pardon?” asked Inspector Beauvoir.
“The victim was the abbot’s right-hand man. It seems likely he and the abbot had regularly scheduled meetings, like we do.”
Beauvoir nodded. He and the Chief met every morning at eight, to go over the previous day and to review all the homicide cases currently being investigated by Gamache’s department.
But it was just possible a monastery wasn’t quite the same as the homicide department of the Sûreté. And it was just possible the abbot wasn’t quite the same as the Chief Inspector.
Still, it seemed a good bet the abbot and prior would have held regular meetings.
“That would mean,” said Beauvoir, “that the abbot wanted to talk to the prior about something other than normal monastery business.”
“It could. Or that it was urgent. Unexpected. Something had suddenly come up.”
“Then why not ask to see the prior right away?” asked Beauvoir. “Why wait until after the eleven o’clock mass?”
Gamache thought about that. “Good question.”
“So, if the prior didn’t return to his office after Lauds, where did he go?”
“Maybe he went straight to the garden,” said Charbonneau.
“Possibly,” the Chief said.
“Then wouldn’t Frère Simon, the abbot’s secretary, have seen him?” asked Beauvoir. “Or passed him in the corridor?”
“Maybe he did,” said the Chief. He lowered his voice and stage-whispered to Beauvoir. “Maybe he lied to you.”
Beauvoir stage-whispered back, “A religious? Lie? Someone’s going to Hell.” He looked at Gamache with exaggerated concern, then smiled.
Gamache smiled back and rubbed his face. They were collecting a lot of facts. And probably more than a few lies.
“Frère Simon’s name keeps coming up,” said Gamache. “What do we know about his movements this morning?”
“Well, this is what he says,” Beauvoir flipped a few pages in his notebook and stopped. “Right after Lauds, at quarter past eight, he returned to the abbot’s office. There the abbot asked him to make an appointment for after the eleven o’clock mass with the prior. The abbot left to look at the geothermal and Frère Simon left to do his job at the animal place. On his way he stopped by here, looked in. No prior. So he went away.”
“Was he surprised?” asked Gamache.
“Didn’t seem surprised or concerned. The prior, like the abbot, pretty much came and went as he liked.”
Gamache thought about that for a moment. “What did Frère Simon do then?”
“He worked for twenty minutes or so with the animals, then returned to the abbot’s office to work in the garden. That’s when he found the body.”
“Do we know for sure Frère Simon went to the animalerie?” asked the Chief.
Beauvoir nodded. “His story checks. Other monks saw him there.”
“Could he have left earlier?” asked Gamache. “Say at half past eight?”
“I wondered the same thing,” Beauvoir smiled. “The other monks working there say it’s possible. They were all busy with their own chores. But it’d be hard for Brother Simon to do what he had to do in so short a time. And all his chores were done.”
“What were they?” asked Gamache.
“He let the chickens out of their cages and gave them all fresh food and water. Then he cleaned the cages. Not the sort of thing you can pretend to do.”
Gamache made a few notes, nodding to himself. “The door to the abbot’s office was locked when we arrived. Is it usually?”
The men looked at each other. “I don’t know, patron,” said Beauvoir, making a note. “I’ll find out.”
It was clearly important. If it was usually locked then someone had had to let the prior in.
“Anything else?” asked Gamache, looking from Beauvoir to Charbonneau and back again.
“Nothing,” said Beauvoir, “except that I tried to hook up this piece of shit and of course, it doesn’t work.” He waved a disgusted hand at the satellite dish they’d lugged all that way from Montréal.
Gamache took a deep breath. That was always a blow to a remote investigation. They brought state-of-the-art equipment into primitive surroundings, and then were surprised when it didn’t work.
“I’ll keep trying,” said Beauvoir. “There’s no telecommunication tower, so our cell phones won’t work either, but we can still get text on our BlackBerrys.”