“Found ’em,” said a voice behind Gamache. When the Chief turned, Beauvoir smiled and nodded toward the altar and the monks. “No need to thank me.”
Beauvoir looked relieved and Gamache smiled, relieved himself.
Jean-Guy stopped beside the Chief Inspector and looked at his watch. “Five o’clock service.”
Gamache shook his head and almost groaned. He’d been a fool. Any Québécois who’d been born before the Church fell from favor knew there was a service at five in the afternoon and that any monk alive would make his way there.
It didn’t explain where the monks had been, but it did explain why they’d returned.
“Where’s Captain Charbonneau?” Gamache asked.
“Down there.” Beauvoir pointed across the chapel, through the monks and to the far end.
“Stay here,” said the Chief and began to move in that direction when the far door opened and the Sûreté officer appeared. Charbonneau looked, thought Gamache, exactly as he must have looked when he’d arrived in the chapel.
Perplexed, alert, suspicious.
And finally, amazed.
Captain Charbonneau saw Gamache and nodded, then briskly made his way along the wall, skirting the monks but keeping his eyes on them.
They were taking their places along the wooden benches, two rows on either side of the altar.
The last man took his place.
The abbot, thought Gamache. He looked like all the others, in simple robes with a rope around his slender middle, but still the Chief knew it was Dom Philippe. Some mannerism, some movement. Something distinguished him from the rest.
“Chief,” said Charbonneau quietly when he arrived at Gamache’s side. “Where did they come from?”
“Over there,” said Gamache, pointing off to the side. There was no door visible, just a stone wall, and the Captain looked back to Gamache, who didn’t explain. Couldn’t explain.
“We need to get out of here,” said Beauvoir. He took a step toward the monks, but the Chief stopped him.
“Wait a moment.”
As the abbot took his place the singing died. The monks continued standing. Absolutely motionless. Facing each other.
The Sûreté agents also stood, facing the monks. Waiting for a signal from Gamache. He was staring at the monks, at the abbot. His eyes sharp. Then he made up his mind.
“Get the body of Frère Mathieu, please.”
Beauvoir looked confused, but left with Charbonneau and returned with the stretcher.
The monks remained motionless, apparently oblivious to the men standing together in the aisle. Staring at them.
Then the monks, in a single synchronized movement, removed their hoods but continued to stare straight ahead.
No, Gamache realized. They weren’t staring. Their eyes were closed.
They were praying. Silently.
“Come with me,” Gamache whispered, and led them down the very center of the chapel. He walked slowly.
The monks, even in a trance, could not fail to hear them approaching. Their feet on the floor. How disconcerting this must be for them, the Chief Inspector thought.
Since the walls were raised more than three hundred years ago, their services had been undisturbed. The same ritual, the same routine. Familiar, comfortable. Predictable. Private. They had never heard a sound during a service they themselves had not produced.
Until this very moment.
The world had found them, and slipped through a crack in their thick walls. A crack produced by a crime. But Gamache knew he was not the one violating the sanctity and privacy of their lives. The murderer had done that.
That vicious act in the garden this morning had summoned up a whole host of things. Including a Chief Inspector of homicide.
He took the two stone steps up and stood between the rows.
The Chief gestured to Beauvoir and Charbonneau to lower the body to the slate floor, in front of the altar.
Then silence again descended.
Gamache studied the rows of monks, to see if any of them were peeking. Sure enough, one was.
The abbot’s secretary. Frère Simon. His heavy face stern, even in repose. And his eyes not quite shut. This man’s mind was not entirely on prayer, not entirely with God. As Gamache watched, Brother Simon’s eyes closed completely.
A mistake, Gamache knew. Had Frère Simon stayed as he was, Gamache might have had his suspicions but could not have been certain.
But that tiny flutter had betrayed him, as surely as if Frère Simon had screamed.
Here was a community of men who communicated all day, every day. Just not with words. The smallest gesture took on a meaning and significance that would be lost in the hurly-burly of the outside world.