Here the darkness and silence were so deep he had the unpleasant sensation of both floating and falling.
Gamache switched on his powerful flashlight. The beam cut through the darkness and rested on the altar, on the benches, on the stone columns. This wasn’t simply an early morning stroll by a sleepless man. There was a goal. And he found it easily, on the eastern wall of the chapel.
His light shone on the huge plaque, illuminating the story of Saint Gilbert.
Gamache smoothed his free hand over the plaque. Looking for the catch, the handle, into the Chapter House. Finally he found it by depressing the illustration of two sleeping wolves, etched into the top left corner of the plaque. The stone door opened and Gamache shone his flashlight in.
It was a small, rectangular room, with neither windows nor chairs, though a stone bench ran around the wall. The room was completely bare, barren.
After shining the flashlight into the corners to be certain, Gamache left and replaced the door. As the sleeping wolves popped back into place, the Chief put on his glasses and leaned forward, to read the inscription on the plaque. The life of Gilbert of Sempringham.
Saint Gilbert did not seem to be the patron saint of anything. Nor were any miracles mentioned. The only thing this man seemed to have done was create an order, name it after himself, and die at the staggering age of 106, in 1189.
One hundred and six years of age. Gamache wondered if that could possibly be true, but suspected it probably was. After all, if whoever made this plaque had wanted to lie, or exaggerate, surely they’d choose something more worthy than Gilbert’s age. His accomplishments, for example.
If anything was going to put the Chief Inspector to sleep it would be reading about the life of Saint Gilbert.
Why, he wondered, would anyone choose to join this order?
Then he remembered the music, the Gregorian chants. Frère Luc had described them as unique. And yet this plaque mentioned nothing at all about music or chanting. It didn’t appear to be a vocation of Saint Gilbert’s. In 106 years, not once did Gilbert of Sempringham feel a song coming on.
Gamache scanned the plaque again, for something subtle. Something he might have missed.
He moved the bright circle of light slowly over the engraved words, squinting, looking at the plaque this way and that. In case some symbol was etched lightly into the bronze. Or worn down over the centuries. A staff. A treble clef. A neume.
But there was nothing, absolutely nothing, to suggest the Gilbertines were renowned for anything, including Gregorian chants.
But there was one illustration. The sleeping wolves, curled together, intertwined.
Wolves, thought the Chief, stepping back from the wall and slipping his glasses back into his dressing gown pocket. Wolves. What did he know about wolves in the bible? What was their symbolism?
There were Romulus and Remus. They were saved by a she-wolf. Suckled. But that was Roman mythology, not the bible.
Most biblical imagery was more benign. Sheep, fish. But, of course, “benign” depended on your perspective. The sheep and fish were generally killed. No, wolves were more aggressive. If anything, they did the killing.
It was a strange image to have not only on this plaque but in the very name of the monastery. Saint-Gilbert-Entre-les-Loups. Saint Gilbert-Among-the-Wolves.
Especially odd given the banal, though interminable, life of Saint Gilbert. How could he possibly be associated with wolves?
The only thing that came to mind was “a wolf in sheep’s clothing.” But was that even from the bible? Gamache thought it was, but now he wondered.
A wolf in sheep’s clothing.
Perhaps the monks of this abbey were sheep. A humble role. Just following the rules. Just following the shepherd. Working and praying and singing. Hoping for peace and quiet, to be left alone behind their locked door. To go about the business of praising God.
Except for one. Was there a wolf in the fold? Wearing a long black robe, with a white cowl and a rope around his middle. Was he the murderer, or the victim? Had the wolf killed the monk, or had the monk killed the wolf?
Gamache turned back to the plaque. He realized he hadn’t actually read it all. He’d skimmed over the footnote at the very bottom. How important, after all, could a footnote be, to a man whose entire life was a footnote? He’d read it quickly. Something about an archbishop. But now he knelt, almost getting onto his hands and knees, to get a better look at the words. Taking out his reading glasses once again, he leaned toward the bronze afterthought.
It explained that Gilbert had been a friend to the archbishop of Canterbury, and had come to his aid. Gamache stared at it, trying to find the significance. After all, why mention this?