Soon Jean-Guy would be more than an honorary member of this family.
But even as he thought that he heard a low whisper. Suppose they aren’t happy about that? What would happen then?
But that was inconceivable, and he shoved the unworthy thought away.
He also realized, for the first time in more than a decade together, why the Chief smelled of sandalwood and rosewater. The sandalwood was his own cologne. The rosewater came from Madame Gamache, as they’d pressed together. The Chief carried her scent, like an aura. Mixed with his own.
Beauvoir then took a long, slow, deep breath. And smiled. There was the slightest hint of citron. Annie. For a moment he was fearful her father would also smell it, but realized it was a private scent. He wondered if Annie now smelled a little of Old Spice.
They’d arrived at the airport before noon and had gone straight to the Sûreté du Québec hangar. There they’d found their pilot plotting the course. She was used to taking them into remote spots. Landing on dirt roads and ice roads and no roads.
“I see we actually have a landing strip today,” she said, climbing into the pilot’s seat.
“Sorry about that,” said Gamache. “Feel free to ditch in the lake if you’d prefer.”
The pilot laughed. “Wouldn’t be the first time.”
Gamache and Beauvoir had talked about the case, shouting at each other over the engines of the small Cessna. But eventually the Chief looked out the window and lapsed into silence. Though Beauvoir noticed that he’d put small earplugs in and was listening to music. And Beauvoir could guess which music. There was the trace of a smile on Chief Inspector Gamache’s face.
Beauvoir turned and looked out his own small window. It was a brilliantly clear day in mid-September and he could see the towns and villages below. Then the villages got smaller, and sparser. The Cessna banked to the left and Beauvoir could see that the pilot was following a winding river. North.
Further and further north they flew. Each man lost in his own thoughts. Looking at the earth below, as all sign of civilization disappeared and there was only forest. And water. In the bright sunshine the water wasn’t blue, but strips and patches of gold and dazzling white. They followed one of the golden ribbons, deeper into the forest. Deep into Québec. Toward a body.
As they flew, the dark forest began to change. At first it was just a tree here and there. Then more and more. Until finally the entire forest was shades of yellow and red and orange, and the dark, dark green of the evergreens.
Autumn came earlier here. The further north, the earlier the fall. The longer the fall, the greater the fall.
And then the plane started its descent. Down, down, down. It looked as though it would plunge into the water. But instead it leveled off and skimmed the surface, to land at a dirt airstrip.
And now Chief Inspector Gamache, Inspector Beauvoir, Captain Charbonneau, and the boatman were bouncing across that lake. The boat banked to the right slightly and Beauvoir saw the Chief’s face change. From thoughtful to wonderment.
Gamache leaned forward, his eyes shining.
Beauvoir shifted in his seat and looked.
They’d turned into a large bay. There, at the end, was their destination.
And even Beauvoir felt a frisson of excitement. Millions had searched for this place. Looking all over the world for the reclusive men who lived here. When they’d finally been found, in remotest Québec, thousands had traveled here, desperate to meet the men inside. This same boatman might have even been hired to take tourists down this same lake.
If Beauvoir was a hunter, and Gamache an explorer, the men and women who came here were pilgrims. Desperate to be given what they believed these men had.
But it would have been for nothing.
All were turned away at the gate.
Beauvoir realized he’d seen this view before. In photographs. What they now saw had become a popular poster and was, somewhat disingenuously, used by Tourisme Québec to promote the province.
A place no one was allowed to visit was used to lure visitors.
Beauvoir also leaned forward. At the very end of the bay a fortress stood, like a rock cut. Its steeple rose as though propelled from the earth, the result of some seismic event. Off to the sides were wings. Or arms. Open in benediction, or invitation. A harbor. A safe embrace in the wilderness.
This was the near mythical monastery of Saint-Gilbert-Entre-les-Loups. The home of two dozen cloistered, contemplative monks. Who had built their abbey as far from civilization as they could get.
It had taken hundreds of years for civilization to find them, but the silent monks had had the last word.