The Bistro

The Bistro

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Join us here in The Bistro for a discussion on the entire Gamache series. Feel free to ask or answer any questions about any of the books or the series as a whole.

Discussion on “The Bistro”

Yummmmmmm – I love the way Beauvoir orders food. Never mind the veggies, meat and potatoes – fried, preferably! Add a glass of red wine, and a fireside – what more do you want?

Maybe something happened during the recent turmoil…not sure. Just don’t want anyone to think we aren’t listening. It can be horrid to post and get overlooked or feel ignored.
Return to warm weather here…winter seems to have gone on holiday. It certainly isn’t hanging out here.

Hmmmm – as I read the first page, besides the jumble, I think we have lost the discussions of the earlier books – I think this starts up while we were discussing The Long Way Home… I wouldn’t be terribly surprised to find that there just wasn’t room for everything. I kind of “dipped in” here and there – page 5, page 15, etc., and it all seems to be later stuff. So, either it is REALLY mixed up, or we’ve just lost the early stuff…

I know what you mean, Anna – I’m going to go back and take a look too. Maybe post something at the beginning of how we’ve been just adding to the end rather than answer individual posts, and maybe we can get to see some of the new things people post.

I just had cause to look back at the posts on page one of the Bistro. I discovered some people appear to have posted there recently but I am not sure as the dates of our posts seem mixed up…start in April, jump to October. Is anyone else experiencing that. I wasn’t sure whether to respond to people who have posted there because I am not sure whether the posts are jumbled.
To anyone who has written lately please tag on the end of the posts here and we will say hi. Don’t want anyone to think no-one is listening. I will go back and read from the beginning but it is a bit muddled. Something like this post. I am tired I fear.

Thank you all. I am glad you enjoyed it. Hugs back to you Nancy and Cathryne, Barbara and Julie. Feels like I finished a marathon as the story took longer than I thought but characters will have their say regardless of any other plans!
I love that photo Julie. How clever to find it. Exactly right.
Don’t worry Cathryne about the reference. I hope it wasn’t too cheesy.
The good news is that my books have been percolating away while I wrote Evangeline and I got stuck into the edit of two and a smidge of three last night. It is necessary to take a break from a novel as you go back with completely different eyes. I have a much better read on one of the subplots as I have been doing buckets of research involving books with over 600 pages that I have been munching through. I don’t try to write police procedural so with their hyper accurate details but I do like to be as realistic as my imagination will allow…leaves room for a degree of license.
I am so happy that kept us amused and filled a little of the time before AGR is published.

Well Done. I enjoyed every word. Thank you Anna. Not only are you a gifted person, but generous as well.

Hear, hear! The amount of time this took away from your serious writing, not to mention the care of your mum and dad, and all the other things on your plate is really something I ought to feel bad about. But…. the result was certainly worth it! Loved every word! Early on, loved the Fox and Collie image

I knew the way the toxin was administered, but never got really close to figuring out who and why – brilliant! Agatha Christie would be proud, indeed.

Ah ha! The truth at last! Very cleverly done. I think Agatha Christie would be nodding with pleasure at your elegant solution. I’m already looking forward to another Fox and Collie mystery. Don’t laugh, but it took me a while to get the Fox and Hounds reference! All the better when the penny finally dropped.
Your story was just the distraction and fun that I needed, thank you! You really are very talented and, just as important, willing to put in the effort to make it all work. I hope it is giving you as much pleasure as it is giving us!

Thank you, thank you, Anna! I marvel at your amazing imagination and enjoyed every bit of the story. You certainly have a bright future in writing!

Therese, Freddie, Julie, Frank Hamill and Marcus Collier were deposited with the custody sergeant at the local police station. Fox was less certain that Doreen was part of the plot. It was likely that Frank had kept her in the dark. She was busy making hurried calls to Kenmore and Associates. There were a few missing parts but Marcus was able and willing to fill in those details. The one person they hadn’t been able to tie to the Whitmore was Therese Longley.
“She was a childhood friend of Timothy’s. Therese met Brendan at Timothy’s funeral and they stayed in touch. I am not very comfortable with the thought that Brendan recruited her but then he didn’t tell me who his helpers were going to be. He set it up so none of us really knew who else would be involved except where necessary.”
“Who gave the NAX13 to Freddie?” asked Fox.
“I don’t know for sure but I suspect Brendan did that directly and instructed him on what to do. He wouldn’t have left the handling of a dangerous chemical to chance. Freddie played around with liquid nitrogen in his cooking. It is quite trendy with chefs, all that experimental molecular stuff. Maybe that is why Brendan chose him. Or it could be because he knew he could really trust him. Freddie had quite the crush until Julian came along.”

Fox and Collie took Amelia to their favourite pub for dinner as thanks for her part in solving the murder. She laughed when she saw the name of the detectives preferred haunt.
“The Fox and Hounds! How appropriate.”
Collie didn’t blink. “Really? In what way?”

“The toxin that killed Evangeline acts rapidly which means she ingested it on the bus but there was no way anyone had access to her water bottle, the source of the toxin, during the morning she died,” Fox summarised. “That was the ingenious part of Whitmore’s plan, delaying the activity of the NAX13 so he could protect you all from suspicion. I daresay Mr Whitmore was hopeful that Evangline’s death would have been deemed non-suspicious, which it possibly might by a lesser pathologist, one unaware of the existence of the nerve agent and unfamiliar with its presentation. There we were in luck. Dr Ngige is both thorough and well informed having heard about the NAX13 from an equally excellent pathologist, the one who had examined Brendan Whitmore.”
“We have Ms Dinthorpe to thank for working out exactly how Evangeline was murdered,” Fox informed the room. “Whitmore’s death also gave us some clues. He used his own suicide as a trial run, I suspect to ensure that the delivery method would work. What he couldn’t know was that NAX13 would be implicated in his death given it was a toxin that so few people knew about. He didn’t foresee that the pathologist who examined him would be so unhappy that a man with a healthy heart and brain had died without obvious cause that he would keep digging until he found one. Do you want to explain your theory Amelia?”
“Certainly Inspector although I don’t think I am telling this group anything they don’t already know. NAX13 freezes and melts at the same temperature as water but its density is slightly lower and its heat of evaporation is higher. All are important for the method of delivery. When Whitmore died he was drinking scotch and ice, just as you did with Evangeline Therese. The police recovered a thermos perfect for transporting specimens in liquid nitrogen. Frozen NAX13 would certainly be safer to carry around than the liquid form which would be rapidly fatal if spilled on skin or allowed to evaporate. Even better if the toxin is frozen and encased in water as an extra barrier.”
“The poison was in the ice?” exclaimed Doreen Hamill which suggested to Fox that she was more intelligent than she looked and possibly not aware of the plot to kill Evangeline.
“Yes,” said Amelia. “It is my suspicion that Brendan Whitmore created ice cubes with a miniscule amount of NAX13 at the core. The toxin has a lower density than either water or scotch. When the ice melted the toxin would have floated to the top of either drink and thus been consumed. The greater heat of evaporation of the NAX13 means it was less likely to turn into a vapour quickly at cold temperatures, as when mixed with ice water so would be unlikely to present a risk to anyone else in the bus. In fact the amount of NAX13 used was probably so small it was swallowed by Evangeline in one gulp.
Fox nodded. “Dr Ngige concurs. There was only a molecular trace of NAX13 in the water bottle, not even enough to be a threat. Mr Whitmore would not have wanted anyone else to be at risk from the agent. I suspect there was only one ice cube involved and we know how that came to be in Ms Purdue’s ice cube tray, or rather Freddie and Julian’s.”
There were tears in Freddie’s eyes but he didn’t confirm or deny the accusation. He was tougher than Collie would have credited. She thought he would be confessing like a Catholic at Easter.
“The ice tray in Evangeline’s hotel freezer compartment was empty when we recovered it. It had her fingerprints but also a set belonging to Freddie. The ice tray in the boys room was also empty and had an identical set of prints, the victim’s and Freddie’s. There is not much ice in those little trays is there?” Collie said conversationally.
Julian made an attempt at an explanation. “Evangeline ran out of ice when she was making drinks. We offered to swap her tray with our full one.”
“Of course you did. Very chivalrous,” Collie commended him. “It was also a very convenient way to slip the doctored ice cube into Evangeline’s room. Afterwards you dumped the thermos in a rubbish skip behind the hotel. You cleaned the outside but Freddie must have slipped and left a fingerprint just inside the flask which you overlooked. I am surprised you weren’t wearing gloves.”
“I was,” Freddie said in a small voice. He was obviously exhausted from hiding his guilt. “Brendan’s instructions said to use the thick rubber ones as protection from the liquid nitrogen but they made me clumsy. I got scared that I would drop the ice cube’s little holder and that it would smash and leak toxin or something. I took them off.”
Julian nudged him to make him stop. “We would like our lawyer now, Calli Wong.”

“It was a very clever plan in every regard but then Brendan Whitmore was an intelligent man,” Fox said looking around the room. They had tied the boys and Hamill to Whitmore but neither Mrs Hamill or Therese looked surprised by the name. “He had to be in order to enact his meticulous scheme from beyond the grave. Of course he also required a lot of help, but that was not difficult to acquire. Whitmore was a gregarious man, kind to his friends and generous with his considerable wealth. It also wasn’t hard to find people who despised Evangeline Purdue, otherwise known as Marissa Collier, nee Brownlea. Two years ago she was going by the name Mrs Maya Hall and working at Whitmore’s factory. Now she is dead and I think we know how and why.” Fox paused briefly and considered the latter. Money was the simple explanation but he was actually lying when he said he understood the reason behind her actions. “Freddie called Evangeline a very nasty woman. Marcus Collier, who was married to her, described his ex wife as a psychopath. Maybe she was that. It would explain how she could steal samples of a material she knew to be a highly toxic from Whitmore’s company and sell it to a terrorist group to be used against innocent men, women and children. And she did so knowing her own son would be endangered. Whitmore confirmed this through his own private investigations. I think he was horrified that a product he helped create had been used to kill. Even more so because NAX13 had taken the life of his friend Marcus’s only child. Unable to live with that knowledge, he took his own life and in doing so practised the means by which he would take revenge on the perpetrator of that horrific act. Evangeline Purdue died because of what she did but also because she stirred anger and loathing in people prepared to act on those emotions.”
Collie took up the narrative. “Evangeline Purdue received the bus tour as a prize in the mail from the Nexus charity. She probably assumed her details were entered automatically when she purchased something or she was so greedy she didn’t care why she had been chosen or whether it was a mistake. Nexus was established by Whitmore with the help of his lawyers and his old friend Frank Hamill.”
“Helping a friend is not a crime,” interjected Hamill.
Collie ignored him. “When Evangeline claimed the prize the tour company notified Nexus which is how Frank knew she would be part of this group. Frank also notified Whitmore’s law firm as he had been instructed to do when this whole plan was begun. We spoke to the firm, Kenmore and Associates. They were less than helpful but a warrant freed up their records. One of the associates, Calli Wong, emailed the details of which tour Evangeline would be on to three other people, Therese, Freddie and Julian, and they subsequently booked places on the same trip.”
Therese and Freddie were both looking green. Collie hoped they weren’t going to be sick. She really hated mess.

Collie spoke to the hotel where the tour stayed for the two nights before Evangeline died. The Carrisbrooke had CCTV footage of the third floor where their victim had been staying and the digital images were emailed to Toni. It took a while to go through them but it was fruitful in its own way.
By early evening Fox and Collie had tracked down enough information to piece together most of the story. They entered the sitting room where the tour guests were waiting. Amelia Dinthorpe was sitting by the fireplace reading. She looked up and nodded at the detectives. The Hamills were occupied with a game of cards at a table by the bookcase. Therese and the boys were seated in a cluster of armchairs next to the window sipping on gin and tonics. They looked tired, which was not surprising thought Toni, the events of the preceding two days were likely weighing upon them. The police officers settled themselves upon a couple of straight backed chairs which they moved into the centre of the room and cast their gaze upon the remaining suspects.
“It is getting late so we thought it might be easier to talk to you all together given what we now know,” Fox announced. Julian and Freddie both looked particularly uncomfortable at that pronouncement but Collie began the conversation with Therese.
“It appears that you were the closest to Evangeline on the tour Miss Longley.”
Therese was wide eyed. “Really? I suppose I tried to be nice to her but then I try to be nice to everyone.”
“The afternoon before she died you all returned to the hotel from the day’s activities at half past three. What did you do in the hours before the buffet dinner?”
Fox watched Therese’s reaction to Collie’s question. She wasn’t a seasoned liar and it was easy to note the twitching of her eye muscles and the small anxious movements of her hands and fingers.
“I ironed some clothes to wear to dinner and took a shower.”
After some deliberation Therese added a little more detail.
“I also connected my tablet to the hotel wifi to check my emails and write one to an old friend.”
“Even a long newsy email wouldn’t fill all the hours in question Therese. I suggest you tell us about the hour or so you spent in Evangeline’s room….or perhaps we can ask the boys?” Collie suggested. A sharp intake of breath from Freddie had Toni making a mental bet on who would crack first. “We have footage from the hotel camera’s showing you entering her room shortly after four and leaving about sixty minutes later.”
Therese glanced briefly at Freddie and Julian before answering.
“Of course, that was the afternoon she invited me over for coffee. I thought it was the night before.”
“Was that usual, that you and the victim would have coffee together?” Toni had chosen her words carefully. Therese flinched when she heard Evangeline referred to as the ‘victim’.
“No. That was the only time. We were both traveling alone so it was nice to have a bit of quiet company.”
“You didn’t think to invite Amelia, seeing as she was also on her own? Or were you and Evangeline particular friends?”
Therese seemed a bit taken aback, possibly not sure what Toni was suggesting.
“No…ah…it was Evangeline’s idea. Perhaps she felt Amelia wasn’t that fond of her so she only asked me.”
“I wasn’t at all fond of her,” Amelia interjected quietly.
“And I really don’t think it was Evangeline’s idea,” countered Collie, “Everyone we spoke to seemed to agree that she had little time for female company, quiet or otherwise. On the video Ms Purdue looked quite surprised when she opened the door, like she wasn’t actually expecting you. I can bring up the footage on my computer and show you if you wish.”
“Why did you go to Ms Purdue’s room Therese’s?” Fox pressed more sternly.
The young woman was pale. “Just for someone to talk to. We had a drink in the end. She kept a bottle of scotch in her bag.”
“How do you like your scotch?” asked Collie. “With water or with ice? You don’t look the straight up type.”
“Ice,” squeaked Therese.
“What time did the boys join you?” Fox inquired pleasantly. When Freddie and Julian looked like protesting, Fox added, “I am presuming that is the innocent explanation for how their fingerprints came to appear in Ms Purdue’s room.”
After a moment Julian nodded his head slightly and Therese looked up at Fox.
“I suggested to Evangeline that they would liven up the party and I knocked on the connecting door.”
Collie spoke with a sharp edge to her voice. “What did you do at this party?”
Therese finally looked frightened. They were not treating her as the naive young woman she had first appeared to be.
“Nothing much. We had a couple of drinks and a chat. Evangeline was full of stories about being an actress and all the famous people she had met. It was all rubbish but she could be entertaining.”
Fox cast his passive eye over the boys. “Scotch and ice for you both was it?”
Freddie shrugged but there was a slight tremor in his voice. “She was offering and it was cheaper than tapping into the minibar. It’s not my preferred, more of a G and T man,” he said picking up glass on the table. They both stared at the telltale ring of liquid left behind where the condensation had pooled. Freddie’s hand shook and he could not meet Fox’s eyes.
“Most of what we have heard about Evangeline has been less than flattering,” Collie said. “I am having trouble picturing her at this little party. Was she a good hostess? Generous with the drinks…or did you help yourselves to her scotch and ice?”
Therese shrugged. “Therese made the drinks. I guess she was a little stingy with the scotch but that was fair, it was her bottle.”
Unexpectedly, Frank Hamill’s voice erupted from the side of the room. “Really officers, I am not sure what you are getting at. The young people sound like they were being kind to Ms Purdue, trying to draw her out and involve her more with the group. She died on the bus the next day. Are you implying they somehow poisoned her scotch? Is that what she was drinking on the bus?”
Fox shook his head but kept his gaze on Therese and the boys. “ No. Scotch is not what we found in the bottle.”

Amelia outlined her thoughts on how the killer might have done the deed.
“But they would need access to Evangeline’s room,” Amelia finished.
“From what we know, Evangeline was in her room up until the moment she left it to go to the bus,” commented Toni Collie. “Certainly no-one saw her at breakfast that morning. One of the hotel porters met her at the room and escorted her down with her bags.”
“So it was done the night before, while we were all at the buffet,” Amelia thought out loud.
“Who left the dinner before Evangeline?” asked Collie.
“We all left together after Sherry finished giving her usual evening speech outlining the next day’s events. Nice girl but she does like the sound of her own voice. I went in the lift up to my room with Evangeline, Therese, Freddie and Julian. We were all on the same floor.”
Collie looked thoughtful. “Do you happen to remember who was next to Evangeline?”
“Freddie and Julian. Therese was next to me across the hall. Why?”
“I was just wondering if the rooms connected?”
Amelia nodded. “Sure. It was one of those twin door arrangements so each party would have to undo one door from inside their own rooms. You would need a key to get into Evangeline’s room, well one of the credit card thingys they call keys. They don’t even have your room number on those cards so it’s easy to mix them up.”
There was an easier way thought Collie. “Or you could just score an invite to Evangeline’s room. She was fairly friendly with the men by all accounts.”
“You might look a bit odd turning up to an assignation with a thermos flask in tow,” Amelia pointed out.
Fox tapped the table thoughtfully. “This story is one of many moving parts.”

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