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Page 38

Then waited for the inexplicable to happen. Or not.

“Merde,” he mumbled. Still, all was not completely lost. He had his BlackBerry.

Opening the door to the prior’s office, he looked out. No one coming.

Then he sat and, using his thumbs, laboriously typed a message. Where once his emails had been single words and symbols, now they were whole sentences. He wrote “you” instead of “u.” He never used the punctuation for a smile or a wink, preferring to make it clear, in language, how he felt.

It wasn’t hard. With Annie. His feelings were always clear, and very simple.

He was happy. He loved her. He missed her.

Besides, even had he wanted to use contractions and symbols, none had yet been invented to convey his feelings. Even words couldn’t do it. But they were the best Jean-Guy had.

Every letter, every space, brought him closer to her and gave him not just pleasure, but joy.

Annie would see what he’d created, for her. What he’d written.

He loved her, he wrote. He missed her, he wrote.

And she wrote to him. Not simply in reply, but her own messages. About her day. So full. But still empty, without him.

She was having dinner with her mother, but would wait until he and her father returned so they could tell them together.

Hurry home, she wrote. I miss you, she wrote. I love you, she wrote.

And he felt her presence. And he felt her absence.

*   *   *

“So you came to the monastery of Saint-Gilbert,” said Gamache.

“Well, that’s the short version,” said Frère Luc. “Nothing with the Church is ever short.”

He was relaxed, but having, with that question, strayed slightly from the discussion of music, Luc appeared to grow more guarded.

“And the long version?”

“It actually took a while to find out who’d produced the recording. I thought they must have been an order somewhere in Europe.”

“And even so, you’d have been willing to go there?”

“If the woman you loved lived in France, would you have gone?”

Gamache laughed. The young monk had got him. A direct and accurate hit.

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“My wife,” said the Chief. “And I’d have gone to Hell to get her.”

“I hope that wasn’t necessary.”

“Well, Hochelaga-Maisonneuve. But you had to search?”

“All I had was the CD, but it doesn’t say anything on it. I have it in my cell still, somewhere.”

Gamache had the CD. He’d bought it over a year ago. And he too had searched for the liner notes, to find out who the monks were. But there were none. Just a list of the chants. The CD cover showed simply monks in profile. Walking. It was stylized, seeming at once very abstract and very traditional. There were no credits. The CD didn’t even have a name.

It looked, and was, amateurish. The sound echoey and tinny.

“So how did you find out who it was?”

“Like everyone else, I found out on the radio, when those reporters tracked them down. I couldn’t believe it. Everyone in my monastery was shocked. Not just because they were Québécois, but mostly because they were Gilbertines. They’re not listed among the living orders. According to Church records, they died out, or were killed off, four hundred years ago. There are no more Gilbertine monasteries. Or so everyone thought.”

“But how did you come to join them?” Gamache persisted. He could get the history lesson later.

“Father Abbot visited my monastery and heard me sing.…” Frère Luc suddenly looked quite bashful.

“Go on,” said Gamache.

“Well, I have an unusual singing voice. A strange timber.”

“And what effect does that have?”

“It means I can sing with virtually any choir, and fit in.”

“You harmonize well?”

“We sing in plainchant, which means we all sing the same note at the same time. But with different voices. We don’t actually harmonize, but we need to be in harmony when we sing.”

Gamache thought about that distinction for a moment, then nodded.

“I am the harmony.”

It was such an extraordinary thing to say that the Chief merely stared at this young monk, with the simple robes. And the grandiose statement.

“Pardon? I don’t understand what that means.”

“Don’t get me wrong, the choir doesn’t need me. The CD proves that.”

“Then what did you mean?” It seemed to the Chief a little late for humility.

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