Normally death came at night, taking a person in their sleep, stopping their heart or tickling them awake, leading them to the bathroom with a splitting headache before pouncing and flooding their brain with blood. It waits in alleys and metro stops. After the sun goes down plugs are pulled by white-clad guardians and death is invited into an antiseptic room. But in the country death comes, uninvited, during the day. It takes fishermen in their longboats. It grabs children by the ankles as they swim. In winter it calls them down a slope too steep for their budding skills, and crosses their skies at the tips. It waits along the shore where snow met ice not long ago but now, unseen by sparkling eyes, a little water touches the shore, and the skater makes a circle slightly larger than intended. Death stands in the woods with a bow and arrow at dawn and dusk. And it tugs cars off the road in broad daylight, the tires spinning furiously on ice or snow, or bright autumn leaves.
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Gamache nodded. It was what made his job so fascinating, and so difficult. How the same person could be both kind and cruel, compassionate and wretched. Unraveling a murder was more about getting to know the people than the evidence. People who were contrary and contradictory, and who often didn't even know themselves.
I just sit where I'm put, composed of stone and wishful thinking: that the deity who kills for pleasure will also heal, that in the midst of your nightmare, the final one, a kind lion will come with bandages in her mouth and the soft body of a woman, and lick you clean of fever, and pick your soul up gently by the nape of the neck and caress you into darkness and paradise.
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Beauvoir was quiet, watching the Chief, taking in the gleam in his eye, the enthusiasm as he described what he'd found. Not the physical landscape, but the emotional. The intellectual. Many might have thought the Chief Inspector was a hunter. He tracked down killers. But Jean Guy knew he wasn't that. Chief Inspector Gama he was an explorer by nature. He was never happier than when he was pushing the boundaries, exploring the internal terrain. Areas even the person themselves hadn't explored. Had never examined. Probably because it was too scary.
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All Armand's life Honore had lived in light. Unchallenged... Armand put out his hand, and touched the door. The last room, the last door [in the longhouse]. The last territory to explore didn't hold monstrous hate or bitterness or rancid resentments. It held love. Blinding, beautiful love.
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Eventually he'd let the answering machine take over and had hidden in his studio. Where he's hidden all his life. From the monster. He could feel itin their bedroom now. He could feel its tail swishing by him. Feel its hot, fetid breath. All his life he knew if he was quiet enough, small enough, it wouldnn't see him. If he didn't make a fuss, didn't speak up, it wouldn't hear him, wouldn't hurt him. If he was beyond criticism and hid his cruelty with a smile and good deeds, it wouldn't devour him. By now he realized there was no hiding. It would always be there, and always find him. He was the monster.
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A lot of what we know to be history isn't... it serves a purpose. Events are exaggerated, heroes fabricated, goals are rewritten to appear more noble than they actually were. All to manipulate public opinion, to manufacture a common purpose or enemy. And the cornerstone of a really great movement? A powerful symbol. Take away or tarnish that and everything starts to crumble, everything's questioned.
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The reason Armand Gamache could go there was because it wasn't totally foreign to him. He knew it because he'd seen his own burned terrain, he'd walked off the familiar and comfortable path inside his own head and heart and seen what festered in the dark. And one day Jean Guy Beauvoir would look at his own monsters, and then be able to recognize others. And maybe this was the day and this was the case. He hoped so.
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The bistro was his secret weapon in tracking down murderers. Not just in Three Pines, but in every town and village in Quebec. First he found a comfortable cafe or brasserie, or bistro, then he found the murderer. Because Armand Gamache knew something many of his colleagues never figured out. Murder was deeply human, the murdered and the murderer. To describe the murderer as a monstrosity, a grotesque, was to give him an unfair advantage. No. Murderers were human, and at the root of each murder was an emotion. Warped, no doubt. Twisted and ugly. But an emotion. And one so powerful it had driven a man to make a ghost. Gamache's job was to collect the evidence, but also to collect the emotions. And the only way he knew to do that was do get to know the people. To watch and listen. To pay attention, and the best way to do that was in a deceptively casual way in a deceptively casual setting. Like the bistro.
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To be silent. In hopes of not offending, in hopes of being accepted. But what happened to people who never spoke, never raised their voices? Kept everything inside? Gamache knew what happened. Everything they swallowed, every word, thought, feeling rattled around inside, hollowing the person out. And into that chasm they stuffed their words, their rage.
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Beauvoir left their home wanting to call his wife and tell her how much he loved her, and then tell her what he believed in, and his fears and hopes and disappointments. To talk about something real and meaningful. He dialed his cell phone and got her. But the words got caught somewhere south of his throat. Instead he told her the weather had cleared, and she told him about the movie she'd rented. Then they both hung up.
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I respect people who have such passion. Emile was saying. "I don't. I have a lot of interests, some I'm passionate about, but not to the exclusion of everything else. I sometimes wonder if that's necessary for geniuses to accomplish what they must, a singularity of purpose. We mere mortals just get in the way. Relationships are messy, distracting. He travels the fastest who travels alone, quoted Gamache. You sound as though you don't believe it. It depends where you're going, but no, I don't. I think you might go far fast, but eventually you'll stall. We need other people... We all need help.
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Clara shrugged and immediately knew her betrayal of Peter. In one easy movement she'd distanced herself from his bad behavior, even thought she herself was responsible for it. Just before everyone had arrived, she'd told Peter about her adventure with Gamache. Animated and excited she'd gabbled on about her box and the woods and the exhilarating climb up the ladder to the blind. But her wall of words hid from her a growing quietude. She failed to notice his silence, his distance, until it was too late and he'd retreated all the way to his icy island. She hated that place. From it he stood and stared, judged, and lobbed shards of sarcasm. 'You and your hero solve Jane's death?' 'I thought you'd be pleased, ' she half lied. She actually hadn't thought at all, and if she had, she probably could have predicted his reaction. But since he was comfortably on his Inuk island, she'd retreat to hers, equipped with righteous indignation and warmed by moral certitude. She threw great logs of 'I'm right, you're an unfeeling bastard' onto the fire and felt secure and comforted.
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They'd crossed over to that continent where grieving parents lived. It looked the same as the rest of the world, but wasn't. Colors bled pale. Music was just notes. Books no longer transported or comforted, not fully. Never again. Food was nutrition, little more. Breaths were sighs. And they knew something the rest didn't. They knew how lucky the rest of the world was.
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Grief was dagger-shaped and sharp and pointed inward. It was made of fresh loss and old sorrow. Rendered and forged and sometimes polished. Irene Finney had taken her daughter's death and to that sorrow she'd added a long life of entitlement and disappointment, of privilege and pride. And the dagger she'd fashioned was taking a brief break from slashing her insides, and was now pointed outward.
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As the boys screamed and hauled off handfuls of mulch, Olivier had slowly, deliberately, gently taken Gabri's hand and held it before gracefully lifting it to his lips. The boys had watched, momentarily stunned, as Olivier had kissed Gabri's manure-stained hand with his manure-stained lips. The boys had seemed petrified by this act of love and defiance. But just for a moment. Their hatred triumphed and soon their attack had re-doubled.
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Gamache watched the old poet. He knew what was looming behind the Mountain. What crushed all before it. The thing the Hermit most feared. The Mountain most feared. Conscience... Which is why, Gamache knew, it was vital to be aware of actions in the present. Because the present became the past, and the past grew. And got up, and followed you. And found you... Who wouldn't be afraid of this?
Houses are like people, Agent Lemieux. They have secrets. I'll tell you something I've learned.' Armand Gamache dropped his voice so that Agent Lemieux had to strain to hear. 'Do you know what makes us sick, Agent Lemieux?' Lemieux shook his head. Then out of the darkness and stillness he heard the answer. 'It's our secrets that make us sick.
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And Beauvoir knew then the man was a saint. He's been touched by any number of medical men and women. All healers, all well intentioned, some kind, some rough. All made it clear they wanted him to live, but none had made him feel that his life was precious, was worth saving, was worth something.
When Olivier had been taken away Gamache had sat back down and stared at the sack. what could be worse than Chaos, Despair, War? What would even the Mountain flee from? Gamache had given it a lot of thought. What haunted people even, perhaps especially, on their deathbed? What chased them, tortured them and brought some of them to their knees? And Gamache thought he had the answer. Regret. Regret for things said, for things done, and not done. Regret for the people they might have been. And failed to be. Finally, when he was alone, the Chief Inspector had opened the sack and looking inside had realize he'd been wrong. The worst thing of all wasn't regret.
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The shepherd looked in his direction. Gone to the wrong house, thought Gamache, not altogether surprised. While Henri had a huge heart, he had quite a modest brain. His head was taken up almost entirely by his ears. In fact, his head seemed simply a sort of mount for those ears. Fortunately Henri didn't really need his head. He kept all the important things in his heart.
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She knew that kindness kills. All her life she'd suspected this and so she'd only ever been cold and cruel. She'd faced kindness with cutting remarks. She'd curled her lips at smiling faces. She'd twisted every thoughtful, considerate act into an assault. Everyone who was nice to her, who was compassionate and loving, she rebuffed. Because she'd loved them. Loved them with all her heart, and wouldn't see them hurt. Because she'd known all her life that the surest way to hurt someone, to maim and cripple them, was to be kind. If people were exposed, they die. Best to teach them to be armored, even if it meant she herself was forever alone. Sealed off from human touch.
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Murder was deeply human. A person was killed and a person killed. And what powered the final thrust wasn't a whim, wasn't an event. It was an emotion. Something once healthy and human had become wretched and bloated and finally buried. But not put to rest. It lay there, often for decades, feeding on itself, growing and gnawing, grim and full of grievance. Until it finally broke free of all human restraint. Not conscience, not fear, not social convention could contain it. When that happened, all hell broke loose. And a man became a monster.
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I saw a lot of men die there. Most men. Do you know what killed them?'... 'Despair, ' said Finney. 'They believed themselves to be prisoners. I lived with those men, ate the same maggot-infested food, slept in the same beds, did the same back-breaking work. But they died and I lived. Do you know why?' 'You were free.' 'I was free. Milton was right... the mind is its own place. I was never a prisoner. Not then, not now.
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But you knew what would happen. Why would you choose to walk right into a situation where you know the person is going to be hurtful? It kills me to see you do that, and you do it all the time. It's like a form of insanity. - Peter Morrow You call it insanity, I call it optimism. - Clara Morrow
the most devastating thing Finney could have said. Not that Peter was hated by his father. But that he'd been loved all along. He'd interpreted kindness as cruelty, generosity as meanness, support as tethers. How horrible to have been offered love, and to have chosen hate instead. He'd turned heaven into hell.
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Three Pines wasn't on any tourist map, being too far off any main or even secondary road. Like Narnia, it was generally found unexpectedly and with a degree of surprise that such an elderly village should have been hiding in this valley all along. Anyone fortunate enough to find it once usually found their way back.
Wait, Armand, he heard behind him but kept walking, ignoring the calls. Then he remembered what Emile had meant to him and still did. Did this one bad thing wipe everything else out? That was the danger. Not that betrayals happened, not that cruel things happened, but that they could outweigh all the good. That we could forget the good and only remember the bad. But not today. Gamache stopped.
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After spending most of her life scanning the horizon for slights and threats, genuine and imagined, she knew the real threat to her happiness came not from the dot in the distance, but from looking for it. Expecting it. Waiting for it. And in some cases, creating it. Her father had jokingly accused her of living in the wreckage of her future. Until one day she'd looked deep into his eyes and saw he wasn't joking. He was warning her.
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But there was no hiding from Conscience. Not in new homes and new cars. In travel. In meditation or frantic activity. In children, in good works. On tiptoes or bended knee. In a big career. Or a small cabin. It would find you. The past always did. Which was why... it was vital to be aware of actions in the present. Because the present became the past, and the past grew. And got up, and followed you. And found you... Who wouldn't be afraid of this?
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