The Murder Stone

It was an art, this building of log homes. But what guided the keen
eyes and rough hands of these men wasn’t aesthetics
but the certainty that winter’s bite would kill whoever
was inside if they didn’t choose the logs wisely. A
coureur du bois could contemplate the stripped trunk
of a massive tree for hours, as though deciphering it.

For there was something unnatural about the Manoir
Bellechasse from the very beginning. It was
staggeringly beautiful, the stripped logs golden and
glowing. It was made of wood and wattle and sat right
at the water’s edge. It commanded Lac Massawippi,
as the Robber Barons commanded everything. These
captains of industry couldn’t seem to help it.
therestisthewest:Blowing Rock, NC http://www.spiritfeather.com/

But the Bellechasse remained. It changed hands over
the generations and slowly the stunned and stuffed
heads of long-dead deer and moose and even a rare
cougar disappeared from the log walls and were
tossed into the attic.As the fortunes of its creators waned, so went the
lodge. It sat abandoned for many years, far too big for
a single family and too remote for a hotel. Just as the
forest was emboldened enough to reclaim its own,
someone bought the place.

He always lingered in Three Pines. He wandered
slowly by the perennial beds of roses and lilies and
thrusting bold foxglove. He helped kids spot frogs at
the pond on the green. He sat on warm fieldstone
walls and watched the old village go about its
business. It added hours to his day and made him the
last courier back to the terminal. He knew what he held in his hand now was that, and
more. It wasn’t, perhaps, total telepathy that informed
his certainty, but also an unconscious ability to read
handwriting. Not simply the words, but the thrust
behind them. The simple, mundane three-line address
on the envelope told him more than where to deliver
the letter. The hand was old, he could tell, and infirm.
Crippled not just by age, but by rage. No good would
come from this thing he held. And he suddenly wanted
to be rid of it.

Without a view of the
mountains or the lake or the perennial gardens lush
with fresh peonies and first-bloom roses. He’d saved
for months, wanting that visit to be special.
And while Gamache and Reine-Marie had certainly
changed, marrying, having two children and now a
granddaughter and another grandchild on the way,
Clementine Dubois never seemed to age or diminish.
And neither did her love, the Manoir. It was as though
the two were one, both kind and loving, comforting
and welcoming. And mysteriously and delightfully
unchanging in a world that seemed to change so fast.
And not always for the better.

woodendreams:(by Jordan Ek)
‘In fact, this whole family asked for free
upgrades. Arrived in Mercedes and BMWs and
asked for upgrades.’ She smiled. Not meanly, but with
some bafflement that people who had so much
wanted more.‘

We like to leave it up to the fates,’ he said. She examined his face to see if he was joking, but though the probably wasn’t. ‘We’re perfectly happy with what we’re given.’

And Clementine Dubois knew the truth of it. She felt
the same. Every morning she woke up, a bit surprised
to see another day, and always surprised to be here,
in this old lodge, by the sparkling shores of this
freshwater lake, surrounded by forests and streams,
gardens and guests. It was her home, and guests
were like family. Though Madame Dubois knew, from
bitter experience, you can’t always choose, or like,
your family.

One day rolled gently into the next as the Gamaches
swam in Lac Massawippi and went for leisurely walks
through the fragrant woods. They read and chatted
amicably with the other guests and slowly got to know
them.
Up until a few days ago they’d never met the Finneys,
but now they were cordial companions at the isolated
lodge. Like experienced travellers on a cruise, the
guests were neither too remote nor too familiar. They
didn’t even know what the others did for a living, which
was fine with Armand Gamache.

infinite-paradox:by Chen Qu

She seemed an alien in
this place, certainly not someone in her natural
habitat. Gamache supposed her to be in her late
fifties, early sixties, though she was clearly trying to
pass for considerably less. Funny, he thought, how
dyed hair, heavy make-up and young clothes actually
made a person look older.
They walked on to the lawn, Sandra’s heels aerating
the grass, and paused, as though expecting
applause. But the only sound Gamache could hear
came from the bee, whose wings were making a
muffled raspberry sound in the rose.

But the maitre d’ never seemed to run. He gave
everyone his time, as though they were the only ones
in the auberge, without seeming to ignore or miss any
of the other guests. It was a particular gift of the very
best maitre d’s, and the Manoir Bellechasse was
famous for having only the best.
‘Some fathers teach their sons to hunt or fish. Mine
would bring me into the woods and teach me about
the weather,’ he’d explained one day while showing
Gamache and Reine-Marie the barometric device
and the old glass bell jar, with water up the spout.
‘Now I’m teaching them.’ Pierre Patenaude had
waved in the direction of the young staff. Gamache
hoped they were paying attention.
There was no television at the Bellechasse and even
the radio was patchy, so Environment Canada
forecasts weren’t available. Just Patenaude and his
near mythical ability to foretell the weather. Each
morning when they arrived for breakfast the forecast
would be tacked outside the dining-room door. For a
nation addicted to the weather, he gave them their fix.
Now Patenaude looked out into the calm day.

After a refreshing swim and gin and tonics on the
dock the Gamaches showered then joined the other
guests in the dining room for dinner. Candles glowed
inside hurricane lamps and each table was adorned
with simple bouquets of old English roses. More
exuberant arrangements stood on the mantelpiece,
great exclamations of peony and lilac, of baby blue
delphinium and bleeding hearts, arching and aching.

Finally, when they could eat no more, the cheese cart
arrived burdened with a selection of local cheeses
made by the monks in the nearby Benedictine abbey
of Saint-Benoit-du-Lac. The brothers led a
contemplative life, raising animals, making cheese
and singing Gregorian chants of such beauty that they
had, ironically for men who’d deliberately retreated
from the world, become world-famous.
Enjoying the fromage bleu Armand Gamache looked
across the lake in the slowly fading glow, as though a
day of such beauty was reluctant to end.

A single light
could be seen. A cottage. Instead of being invasive,
breaking the unspoiled wilderness, it was welcoming.
Gamache imagined a family sitting on the dock
watching for shooting stars, or in their rustic living
room, playing gin rummy, or Scrabble, or cribbage, by
propane lamps. Of course they’d have electricity, but
it was his fantasy, and in it people in the deep woods
of Quebec lived by gas the family felt about each other.


She saw his hesitation and laughed again. ‘Forgive
me, monsieur. Each day I’m with my family I regress a
decade. I now feel like an awkward teenager. Needy
and sneaking smokes in the garden.

Then he laughed at himself. Seeing things not there,
hearing words unspoken. He’d come to the Manoir
Bellechasse to turn that off, to relax and not look for
the stain on the carpet, the knife in the bush, or the
back. To stop noticing the malevolent inflections that
rode into polite conversation on the backs of
reasonable words. And the feelings flattened and
folded and turned into something else, like emotional
origami. Made to look pretty, but disguising
something not at all attractive.
It was bad enough that he’d taken to watching old
movies and wondering whether the elderly people in
the background were still alive. And how they died.
But when he started looking at people in the street
and noticing the skull beneath the skin it was time for
a break.
‘Poverty can grind a person down,’ said Gamache
quietly. ‘But so can privilege.’

Pierre sometimes felt like an emergency room
physician. People streamed through his door,
casualties of city life, lugging a heavy world behind
them. Broken by too many demands, too little time,
too many bills, emails, meetings, calls to return, too
little thanks and too much, way too much, pressure.
He remembered his own father coming home from
the office, drawn, worn down.
It wasn’t servile work they did at the Manoir
Bellechasse, Pierre knew. It was noble and crucial.
They put people back together. Though some, he
knew, were more broken than others.
Not everyone was made for this work.

‘I‘It’s just a plant,’ repeated Mariana. ‘Don’t be foolish.’
Ingenious, thought Gamache. It doesn’t dare show
itself for what it really is, for fear of being killed. What
had Thomas just said?
Things aren’t as they seem. He was beginning to
believe it.

Pierre Patenaude stood at the door of the kitchen. It
was clean and orderly, everything in its place. The
glasses lined up, the silverware in its sleeves, the
bone china carefully stacked with fine tissue between
each plate. He’d learned that from his mother. She’d
taught him that order was freedom. To live in chaos
was to live in a prison. Order freed the mind for other
things. Even as a child
Pierre knew he was being groomed. Trimmed and
shaped, buffed and burnished.
Would his father be disappointed in him? Being just a
maitre d’? But he thought not. His father had wanted
only one thing for him. To be happy.

Julia Martin sat at the vanity and took off her single
string of pearls. Simple, elegant, a gift from her father
for her eighteenth birthday.
‘A lady is always understated, Julia,’ he’d said. ‘A
lady never shows off. She always puts others at ease.
Remember that.’

‘You humiliated me in front of everyone,’ she said,
transferring her hunger to eat into a hunger to hurt. He
didn’t turn round. She knew she should let it go, but it
was too late. She’d chewed the insult over, torn it
apart and swallowed it. The insult was part of her now.
‘Why do you always do it? And over a pear? Why
couldn’t you just agree with me for once?’
She looked out into the perennial garden and noticed
if she squinted just so she could believe herself back
home in their little village of Three Pines. It wasn’t
actually all that far away. Just over the mountain
range. But it seemed very distant indeed just now.
Each summer morning at home she’d pour a cup of
coffee then walk barefoot down to the Riviere Bella
Bella behind their house, sniffing roses and phlox and
lilies as she passed. Sitting on a bench in the soft sun
she’d sip her coffee and stare into the gently flowing
river, mesmerized by the water, glowing gold and
silver in the sunshine. It was a quiet,
uneventful life. It suited them.

shaktilover:Good morning.  :)

Peter tried to keep his voice as civil as hers, and felt
he’d achieved that perfect balance of courtesy and
contempt. So subtle it was impossible to challenge,
so obvious it was impossible to miss.
Across the scorching terrasse Julia felt her feet begin
to burn in their thin sandals on the hot stones.
The tractor beam? No, not that. The shields. Peter
went through life with his shields raised, repulsing
attack by food or beverage, or people. Clara
wondered whether there was a tiny Scottish voice in
his head right now screaming, ‘Cap’n, the shields are
down. I canna git them up.
Gamache nodded and putting his hands behind his
back he looked out to the far shore, and waited. He
knew Peter Morrow. Knew him to be a decent and
kind man, who loved his wife more than anything in
the world. But he also knew Peter’s ego was almost
as large as his love. And that was enormous.
‘What?’ Peter laughed, after the silence had stretched
beyond his breaking.
‘You’re used to being the successful one,’ said
Gamache simply. No use pretending. ‘It would be
natural to feel a little …’ he searched for the right
word, the kind word, ‘murderous.’‘I’m not at all like him,’ snapped Peter in a tone so
unlike him it surprised the others.
‘You didn’t like your father?’ Gamache asked. It
seemed a safe guess.
‘I liked him about as much as he liked me. Isn’t that
how it normally works? You get what you give? That’s
what he always said. And he gave nothing.’
There was silence then.

‘Nothing gets by Thomas, I’m guessing,’ said
Gamache.
‘He’s the original recycler,’ agreed Peter. ‘He collects
conversations and events then uses them years later,
against you. Recycle, retaliate, repulse. Nothing’s
ever wasted with our Thomas.’

The storm moved on, to terrorize other creatures
deeper in the forest. And the Gamaches returned to
bed, throwing open their windows for the cool breeze
the storm had left as an apology.
In the morning the power was restored, though the sun
wasn’t. It was overcast and drizzly. The Gamaches
rose late to the seductive aromas of Canadian back
bacon, coffee and mud. The smell of the Quebec
countryside after a heavy rain.
letsbuildahome-fr:A Supercell Thunderstorm Cloud Over Montana© Sean R. Heavey
All returned to normal and within minutes the
Gamaches were in their wicker rocking chairs in the
screen porch. There was something deeply peaceful
about a rainy summer day. Outside the rain was soft
and steady and refreshing after the terrible heat and
humidity. The lake was dull and small squalls could be
seen marking the surface.
But he knew something else.
If it was murder, someone in this room almost
certainly did it. He never let that overwhelm his
compassion, but neither did he let his compassion
blind him.
‘You’re right,’ he said quietly. He turned sombre,
kindly eyes on her. ‘There’s a woman over there who
was alive hours ago. It might be an accident, it might
be murder, but either way, this isn’t the time or place
for laughter. Not yet.’
‘I’m sorry.’
‘You’re too young to be hardened and cynical. So am
I.’ He smiled. ‘It’s no shame to be sensitive. In fact, it’s
our greatest advantage.’
‘Yes sir.’ The young agent could have kicked herself.
She was naturally sensitive but had thought she
should hide it, that a certain cavalier attitude would
impress this famous head of homicide. She was
wrong.

That’s where Chief Inspector Gamache could be
found.He stepped into the beyond, and found the monsters
hidden deep inside all the reasonable, gentle,
laughing people. He went where even they were
afraid to go. Armand Gamache followed slimy trails,
deep into a person’s psyche, and there, huddled and
barely human, he found the murderer.

Armand Gamache knew something most other
investigators at the famed Surete du Quebec never
quite grasped. 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 murderer.

bad enough at the best of times, and this was far from
the best of times. A room full of grief was even worse
than a room full of anger. Anger a person got used to,
met most days, learned to absorb or ignore. Or walk
away from. But there was no hiding from grief. It would
find you, eventually. It was the thing we most feared.
Not loss, not sorrow. But what happened when you
rendered those things down. They gave us grief.

Irene Finney slowed as she approached. She wasn’t
a woman who understood the void, who’d given it any
thought. But she knew, too late, she should have. She
knew then that the void wasn’t empty at all. Even now,
steps away, she could hear the whisper. The void
wanted to know something.
What do you believe?
That’s what filled the void. The question and the
answer.

She turned and watched the Chief Inspector for a moment,
his strong face in profile. At rest, but watchful.
There was an old-world courtliness about him that
made her feel she was in the company of her
grandfather, though he was only twenty years older
than her, if that.
Jean Guy Beauvoir already suspected most
Anglos were nuts. And now a Bean to prove it. Who
called their child after a legume?

You have a rule against murder?’ he asked.
‘I do. When my husband and I bought the Bellechasse
we made a deal with the forest. Any death that wasn’t
natural wasn’t allowed. Mice are caught alive and
released. Birds are fed in the winter and even the
squirrels and chipmunks are welcome. There’s no
hunting, not even fishing. The pact we made was that
everything that stepped foot on this land would be
safe.’
‘An extravagant promise,’ said Gamache.
‘Perhaps.’ She managed a small smile. ‘But we
meant it. Nothing would deliberately die at our hands,
or the hands of anyone living here. We have an attic
filled with reminders of what happens when creatures
turn against each other. It scared that poor child half to
death and well it should scare us all. But we’ve grown
used to it, we tolerate the taking of lives. But it’s not
allowed here. You must find out who did this. Because
I know one thing for sure. If a person would kill once,
they’d kill again.’