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“I found some more chocolate-covered blueberries and brought them back to my cell. I’ll save some for you.”

*   *   *

“I miss you,” Armand wrote. “Sleep tight, mon coeur.”

*   *   *

“I miss you,” Jean-Guy wrote. “Merde! All the chocolates are gone! How did that happen?”

Then he rolled over, the BlackBerry held lightly in his hand. But not before typing, in the darkness, his final message of the day.

“Je t’aime.”

He carefully wrapped the chocolates and put them in the nightstand drawer. For Annie. He closed his eyes, and slept soundly.

*   *   *

“Je t’aime,” Gamache typed and placed the BlackBerry on the table by the bed.

*   *   *

Chief Inspector Gamache woke up. It was still dark, and not even the predawn birds were singing. His bed was warm around his body, but if he moved his legs even a millimeter they were in frigid territory.

His nose felt chilled. But the rest of him was toasty warm.

He checked the time.

Ten past four.

Had something awoken him? Some sound?

He lay there, listening. Imagining the monks in their tiny cells, all around him. Like bees in a honeycomb.

Were they asleep? Or was at least one of them awake? Lying only feet from Gamache. Not allowed to sleep. The noise too great in his head. The sounds and sights of a murder too disturbing.

For one of the monks, there would almost certainly never again be a quiet night’s sleep.

Unless …

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Gamache sat up in bed. He knew only two things could give a killer a good night’s sleep. If he had no conscience. Or if he had a conscience, and that conscience had been an accomplice. Whispering to the killer, giving him the idea.

How could a man, a monk, convince himself that murder wasn’t a crime, and wasn’t even a sin? How could he be asleep, while the Chief Inspector was awake? There was only one answer. If this was a justified death.

An Old Testament death.

By stoning.

An eye for an eye.

Perhaps the murderer had believed he was doing the right thing. If not in the eyes of man, then in the eyes of God. Perhaps that was the tension Gamache was feeling in the abbey. Not that a murder had happened, but that the police might discover who did it.

Over dinner, that monk had accused the abbot of poor judgment. Not in failing to prevent a murder, but in calling in the Sûreté. Was there both a vow and a conspiracy of silence?

The Chief Inspector was wide awake now. Alert.

He swung his legs out of bed and found his slippers, then putting on his dressing gown he grabbed a flashlight and reading glasses and left his cell. He paused for a moment in the middle of the long corridor. Looking this way and that. Keeping the flashlight off.

The hall was lined with doors on either side, each into a cell. No light shone under the cracks. And no sound escaped either.

It was dark and silent.

Gamache had been in fun houses with his kids, many times. Seen the hall of distorted mirrors, seen the optical illusions, where a room appeared tilted but wasn’t. He’d also been in those deprivation rooms in the fun houses, where neither light nor sound penetrated.

He remembered Annie holding tight to his hand, and Daniel, invisible in the dark, calling for his daddy, until Gamache had found his little boy and held him. That, more than any of the other fun house effects, had terrified his children and they’d clung to him until he’d gotten them out.

That’s what the abbey of Saint-Gilbert-Entre-les-Loups felt like. A place of distortion and even deprivation. Of great silence and greater darkness. Where whispers became shouts. Where monks murdered, and the natural world was locked out, as though it was at fault.

The brothers had lived in the abbey so long they’d grown used to it. Accepted the distortion as normal.

The Chief took a deep breath and cautioned himself. It was equally possible he was imagining things, allowing the darkness and silence to get under his skin. It was completely possible the monks weren’t the ones with the distorted perception, but that he was.

After a moment Gamache grew used to the lack of light and sight and sounds.

It’s not threatening, he said to himself as he made his way toward the Blessed Chapel. It’s not threatening. It’s just extreme peace.

He smiled at the thought. Had peace and quiet become so rare that when finally found they could be mistaken for something grotesque and unnatural? It would appear so.

The Chief felt along the stone wall until he reached the door into the Blessed Chapel. He opened it, then gently closed the heavy wooden door behind him.