And then it was time for her to leave. After saying good-bye to Émile she turned to her husband. Tall, solid, a man who preferred good books and long walks to any other activity, he looked more like a distinguished professor in his mid-fifties than the head of the most prestigious hom icide unit in Canada. The Sûreté du Québec. He walked her to her car, scraping the morning ice from the windshield.
You dont have to go, you know, he said, smiling down at her as they stood in the brittle, new day. Henri sat in a snow bank nearby and watched.
I know. But you and Émile need time together. I could see how you were looking at each other.
The longing? laughed the Chief Inspector. Id hoped wed been more discreet.
A wife always knows. She smiled, looking into his deep brown eyes. He wore a hat, but still she could see his graying hair, and the slight curl where it came out from under the fabric. And his beard. Shed slowly become used to the beard. For years hed had a moustache, but just lately, since it happened, hed grown the trim beard.
She paused. Should she say it? It was never far from her mind now, from her mouth. The words she knew were useless, if any words could be described as that. Certainly she knew they could not make the thing happen. If they could she would surround him with them, encase him with her words.
Come home when you can, she said instead, her voice light.
He kissed her. I will. In a few days, a week at the most. Call me when you get there.
Daccord. She got into the car.
Je taime, he said, putting his gloved hand into the window to touch her shoulder.
Watch out, her mind screamed. Be safe. Come home with me. Be careful, be careful, be careful.
She put her own gloved hand over his. Je taime.
And then she was gone, back to Montreal, glancing in the rear-view mirror to see him standing on the deserted early morning street, Henri naturally at his side. Both watching her, until she disappeared.
The Chief Inspector continued to stare even after shed turned the corner. Then he picked up a shovel and slowly cleared the nights fluffy snowfall from the front steps. Resting for a moment, his arms crossed over the handle of the shovel, he marveled at the beauty as the first light hit the new snow. It looked more pale blue than white, and here and there it sparkled like tiny prisms where the flakes had drifted and collected, then caught, remade, and returned the light. Like something alive and giddy.
Life in the old walled city was like that. Both gentle and dynamic, ancient and vibrant.
Picking up a handful of snow, the Chief Inspector mashed it into a ball in his fist. Henri immediately stood, his tail going so hard his entire rear swayed. His eyes burning into the ball.
Gamache tossed it into the air and the dog leapt, his mouth closing over the snowball, and chomping down. Landing on all fours Henri was once again surprised that the thing that had been so solid had suddenly disappeared.
Gone, so quickly.
But next time would be different.
Gamache chuckled. He might be right.
Just then Émile stepped out from his doorway, bundled in an immense winter coat against the biting February cold.
Ready? The elderly man clamped a toque onto his head, pulling it down so that it covered his ears and forehead, and put on thick mitts, like boxing gloves.
For what? A siege?
For breakfast, mon vieux. Come along, before someone gets the last croissant.
He knew how to motivate his former subordinate. Hardly pausing for Gamache to replace the shovel, Émile headed off up the snowy street. Around them the other residents of Quebec City were waking up. Coming out into the tender morning light to shovel, to scrape the snow from their cars, to walk to the boulangerie for their morning baguette and café.
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