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”

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.”

Fox and Collie took a break and went over what they knew. Brendan Whitmore had likely committed suicide with the same agent that had been used by terrorists to murder Timothy Collier and the others in the village in Africa. He would have seen it has poetic justice given his lab had produced the substance.
“It also meant he had access to a sample of NAX13, a portion of which he used on himself and the remainder he saved for the woman who became Evangeline,” Fox concluded.
“We still don’t know how it was administered or by whom. We can tie Hamill to Nexus and the ticket but nothing else.” Toni was frustrated.
“He didn’t do it alone but he was involved,” Fox insisted. “Someone put the toxin in the water bottle in such a way that it didn’t take effect until she was on the bus.” He ran a hand through his hair. “I need to talk to Amelia Dinthorpe.”
Amelia was both confused and fascinated as Robbie Fox outlined what they had discovered. Evangeline was murdered by a nerve toxin of all things. Replaying the events on the bus in her mind, Amelia was awfully glad she had stuck to cardiac massage and fore sworn mouth to mouth. It was the current thinking in resuscitation and it had saved her from exposure to the deadly agent. She felt the same sense of thrill and chill that struck her when a bullet had parted her hair in the Middle East.
“It wasn’t any agent I was familiar with,” ventured Amelia.
Fox slid across the paperwork the Army had provided which detailed the characteristics of NAX13 and waited while Amelia read through them. The former doctor sighed.
“In one way it is good to know that she was beyond any saving. I can stop wondering what else I could have done.”
“I am seeking your opinion as one with medical knowledge,” Fox told her. “How was Evangeline poisoned?”
“Inhalation, ingestion or transdermally….skin contact. They are the traditional means of exposure.”
“We found just a trace of NAX13 in Ms Purdue’s water bottle so we are going with ingestion. I just can’t work out why a toxin that acts almost instantaneously took so long to have an effect.”
Amelia pondered the possibilities. She asked to see again the papers showing the chemical properties of the NAX13. While she was reading Collie arrived, having been dispatched by Fox to collect another article from the lab. It had already been swabbed and examined.
“You were correct sir, the lab found a bare trace of NAX13 inside and we have a possible match on the fingerprint,” Toni informed her boss as she deposited a plastic evidence bag on the table. Inside was a smooth metallic flask, wider mouthed but similar in appearance to Evangeline’s water bottle.
Amelia placed her hand out to examine the object. “May I?”
Fox nodded. “It matched the description of the ones that went missing from a lab at Whetton Hills where the NAX13 was manufactured. We found in a rubbish skip behind the Carrisbrooke Hotel.”
“That’s a special thermos used for storing samples in liquid nitrogen, like sperm for artificial insemination. They were keeping the toxin frozen for shipment,” Amelia mused. “Maybe they thought it was safer that way. The stuff is certainly deadly as a liquid or vapour. Mind you it melts at room temperature according to the specs you gave me so it seems a lot of bother.”
Amelia turned the flask over and a curious look passed over her face.
“I have an idea Inspector.”

I think I would like to read TNOTB too. I will get to that as soon I am done.
I love the description of the garden and the flowers Julie, thank you. I am lucky to live in an area that is very beautiful in autumn. I love all the colours at the moment and the different feel in the air. It was supposed to be sunny today but it isn’t, not cold though.
Now what were Fox and Collie up to…..

Spring and autumn are my favorite times of year. Spring with the new growth, the buds on the trees and the wonderful scents of mown grass and dark earth being turned over for planting – it really feels like a re-awakening. The autumn SHOULD therefore be a more gloomy time, as things are preparing to die off for the winter, but what I have found is that everything, before it dies, gives one last big burst of energy into making something beautiful. Whether it’s the glorious colors of the trees, or a late blooming, it seems wonderful to me. Plus the quality of the light that shifts in mid-August in this part of the world. That quality gets me every year, and the first day I see it is bitter-sweet. I know it’s a harbinger of the end of the year, yet it’s so beautiful on it’s own.

Now I see there’s a new installment! (I’m so glad we’re not getting this story in monthly installments of a magazine – I wouldn’t have the patience!

Anna, how I would love a Fox and Collie series! I think for just dashing this off to amuse us, it’s a very good story all round! A nice big edit after you’ve finished the second of the Cove series would do it, I’m sure…

I am thinking of rereading, but just TNOTB, as I don’t really have time for more this summer – I need to reread Emma with an eye to leading a discussion in early August. Rereading brings out so much, though…

I am anxiously awaiting to see what the next recipe will be. I got Louise’s newsletter last night and am once again reminded of her amazing strength. I’ll miss her doing a full tour, but I certainly understand.

Our winter here has been cold and wet, but so far, the spring has been glorious. We’re experiencing our third sunny day in a row with temperatures around 70 degrees, which is my perfect temperature! It feels nice to go out without a jacket and feel the sun on my face for a bit before it becomes too hot and punishing! We actually found we had too much bedding last night for comfortable sleep, so I’ve taken off the big blanket – I’m sure it will come back before we change to summer sleeping arrangements, but for now, it’s nice to have a lighter covering!

I completely missed our crocuses this year, as it was always so dark and gloomy and wet, I didn’t feel like going out to look at them… they finish by early February, and then we move into the bluebell stage. Weeds seem to be choking them out, though, so they’re not as plentiful as before – too bad, I used to love seeing them. Even our forsythia has finished blooming already, and the hyacinths by the back door, though at least I got to see them whenever I got home from somewhere. I love their scent wafting in the door as you enter. We have the odd daffodil and tulip that will come up next, but they are dying away, too… fewer each year. Ah well – our dogwood trees have come back from a devastating prune a few years ago, so we could get close enough to the house to paint it. They’ve just started flowering again last year, and I’m hoping they’ll be lovely this year, too. Cherry blossoms of our neighbors are all done, but the apple blossoms are yet to come, and the many beautiful magnolia trees in our neighborhood should be blooming soon. I love the spring flowers. Our neighborhood is filled with rhododendrons, too, which are glorious to see! By summer, things calm down a bit and we are not so colorful in every garden, but the spring is beautiful here!

I would need to rewrite it for that but perhaps the first in the Fox and Collie mysteries.
Beautiful autumn weather here with cool nights followed by sunshine and a light breeze. How is spring for those in the north.
New recipe next week. I am tempted to do a reread but I would never finish the writing! Is anyone else rereading? Was it you Cathryne? Any new thoughts or insights?
In some respects it does feel as though the world is heading for a great reckoning.

Once they heard all that Marcus had to say, Fox told Collie to release the tour bus after lunch, apart from the six key suspects who were cooling their heels in the lounge room while a search was undertaken of their luggage. A constable had also taken samples of their fingerprints. Marcus was taken to a separate room to wait while Fox and Collie spoke with Frank Hamill. Faced with documentation showing his link to Nexus and the admission by Marcus that the charity was Whitmore’s baby, Hamill admitted he knew the man.
“I have known Brendan since University. He called on me at times to help with his business but he soon outgrew the services of my small accounting firm.
Fox peered at Hamill who looked like what he was, a bookish accountant. He was also a key figure in their murder investigation. Frank Hamill had registered Nexus in Switzerland.
“Did you send Ms Purdue the prize letter?”
“Nexus did. It is a real charity. Of course Evangeline hadn’t bought a ticket in one of our lotteries but she was happy to take the prize opportunity. When she registered with the tour they sent notification to Nexus, which was normal when the prize was claimed.”
“Then you let everyone know it was time to take a holiday?”
“Everyone Inspector? I don’t know what you mean. I booked the holiday for my wife and myself.”
“You didn’t kill Evangeline by yourself.”
“I didn’t kill anyone. I was with my wife the entire tour apart from bathroom breaks.”
From what Fox and Collie discovered that was true, but Hamill had already admitted his involvement through Nexus and his association with Whitmore. While neither connection was illegal, conspiracy to commit murder certainly was.
“If you didn’t kill Evangeline why did you have Nexus send her the trip as a prize?”
“Brendan asked me to. When we set up the charity he said that there would be times when I would be given the names of people who deserved a holiday and I should send them a prize voucher. I received Evangeline’s name in an email from Brendan’s lawyer saying he had been asked to pass it to me.”

Timothy Kildare, née Collier, was listed as one of two aid workers who died in the NAX13 attack in Africa. Fox had not made the connection immediately and the Army had not figured it out at all. It was only after they had identified Evangeline as Marissa that the police tracked her marriage to Collier and the birth of their son. Timothy had ultimately been adopted by Marcus’s sister and her husband, Ralph Kildare. They were lucky the records had been computerized. In the old days the connection would have taken days, if not weeks to uncover.
“Brendan and I discussed at length my fears for Timothy given the known terrorist activity in the region where he was working. When Brendan was convincing Adam that they needed to destroy the NAX13 he actually used Timothy as an example. What if such a chemical was used there, he said. Marissa overhead the discussion and, in her inevitable twisted style she must have got the idea to do exactly what we all feared. Brendan was devastated when he learned what had happened to Timothy,” Marcus admitted. “Almost as wretched as I was. We both felt responsible.”
Neither Fox nor Collie had to point out that it was hardly their fault that a normal conversation could lead anyone to sell a nerve agent to terrorists. It took a twisted mind to do what Marissa had done and risk her son in the process.
“She was a psychopath,” Marcus said, as if he had read their minds. “When Brendan worked out what had happened, he set a plan in motion to find Marissa and take revenge, for all of us. He gave the money to an old friend, he didn’t tell me who, to set up Nexus and had private detectives track down Marissa under her new name.”

Thanks Peg. Nice to see you posting. Hope all is well in Wiscosin as we await A Great Reckoning…the novel and not a judgement per se! Anybody been basting a turkey from the first recipe?
Don’t worry Julie, the big reveal is almost upon us. Has to be as I topped 10000 words. Really it was going to be a short story…..

Phew! At least three new suspects! Hahaha – we’re going in the wrong direction, as I don’t think we’ve definitively cleared anyone yet. Yikes! As bugs bunny used to say “The plot sickens!”

“Do you think she knew you worked for Whitmore when she took the job?”
“Probably. She seemed to keep better track of me than I did of her and it would suit her perverse mind to take advantage of my life, to somehow mess it up.”
“You think that is what she was doing? Taking revenge on you?”
Marcus shook his head. “No, she was making money. Any negative effect on me was just happy sideline.”
“What did she do to make money?”
“She groomed Adam Rockwell, Brendan’s right hand man and head of scientific developments. He and Brendan worked closely and quite secretively on new pesticides that were more effective and less toxic, to boost crops in the developing world. One of the compounds they developed was very effective but toxic to humans, a nerve agent. Brendan ordered all of the compound and any records to be destroyed but Adam kept samples. He thought he could improve it, make it less toxic. When Marissa came along and worked her way into Adam’s trust he must have told her what he was doing. He was not a bad guy and I am sure he never intended for Marissa to use the situation to her own advantage. She took some of the samples Adam had hidden and found a buyer.”
The agent had found its way into some very bad hands. Brendan Whitmore worked it out when he heard about the tragedy in Africa, recognizing the pattern of death from what had happened to their trial animals.
“Marissa disappeared before the Army showed up and the factory had been cleansed. The Army were so thorough they established that a couple of the vacuum flasks used to hold certain types of chemicals was missing from the inventory but that was put down to an auditing issue. Brendan became profoundly depressed, worried that whoever had their hands on the NAX13 would manufacture more of it. Even when there was no evidence that they had, he continued to slump. He couldn’t get away from the fact that a compound from his factory had killed children. He loved children.”
“But Whitmore never married or had kids of his own?”
Collier shook his head again.
“But you did, have a child I mean,” Fox clarified. “You and Marissa.”
“My sister raised him. Timothy was a lovely boy, not like his mother at all.”
“And she killed him?”

Happy Easter. I was a bit out of touch as I was in Perth for the weekend. We have Good Friday and Easter Monday as holidays so everybody travels. I hope everyone is well?
I will be excited to hear your DNA results Barbara! Although I was reading an article about police agencies trying to access DNA results from Ancestry.com for criminal cases even though it’s not the same testing. Might be a story in that.
Speaking of stories…more to come!

Barbara, wouldn’t yours and your sister’s be the same? There’s probably something I’m not understanding… but how exciting! Do they say how long it takes to analyze? I’d be on tenterhooks now…

I didn’t understand either. But it seems that sibs wouldn’t be the same just as we have different color hair and eyes the geographical areas we will show as being from will differ, maybe. It seems this is different from determining if two people are child and parent. It will take 6-8 weeks. It has given us something to laugh about and make silly jokes. It’s great being two older women together. We probably sound like we did when we were home alone watching TV as preteens and teens.

I like that image of you two getting along like teenagers again… I kept on thinking about that DNA thing and probably came to that same conclusion – that even though you’ll have the same ancestry, some traits are passed down and are dominant in one and not in the other, so it will be with which ancestors contributed how much to each sister. It will be fascinating to compare them! 6 to 8 weeks seems like such a long time, but I know it will go by in the blink of an eye.

The DNA kits have been received by Ancestry. At first they emailed that 2 had been checked in. Didn’t say which ones and I sent 3 at the same time. Finally the 3rd was checked in. I am still excitedly awaiting the results. I wonder how much they will differ. Sam’s (Hubby), Carol’s (my sister) and mine.

Millie, I don’t want you to harm your eyes, but I do miss your postings hope all is well.
As always, good thoughts to you.

Ditto, ditto, ditto! I think of you often, Millie, wondering how you are getting along and how you are feeling about the surgery now that it’s done.

Cathryne, asthma attacks in children are frightening. I’m so glad all worked out well. After reading your post I spent some time recalling my trip to Ireland. The countryside was beautiful and the people were very friendly. I always like to leave the shops and walk into neighborhoods and meet the people. If I see someone in their yard, I’ll stop and talk to them. I find people willing to talk to the strange tourist. It is a wonder that no one has ever thought me lost from my group or in need of help. I am an elderly woman with white, white hair so I would understand. We were not allowed to leave the tour bus in Northern Ireland – a real disappointment. Hope your family enjoys Ireland as much as I did.

Lunch was just being served in the dining room when a constable interrupted the interview in the library. Fox allowed the boys to join the rest of the tour group, for now. Things were finally starting to happen. The constable informed them that a flask had been found in a dumpster behind the Eden Hotel where the tour group had stayed the night before Evangeline died. A very special kind of flask as it turned out and it contained traces of NAX13. There were no fingerprints on the outside of the container, it had been carefully wiped clean, but there was a partial print just inside the rim. It was been processed as a matter of urgency. The second breakthrough was also down to fingerprints. A match from a long ago arrest in a domestic violence dispute.
The constable had a third piece of information to impart. An inquiry into Nexus that Collie had initiated had returned an interesting result. The charity was mysterious but well financed. It had only been established for a couple of years and appeared to be concerned with raising money for children’s services in developing countries. Management of the organization was hidden behind layers of shelf companies but when Nexus had been registered in Switzerland one person’s name had popped up.
“So, what’s the plan boss?” Toni asked.
Before Fox could answer, another constable approached with a man dressed in cord pants and a checked shirt. The Inspector recognized him from the Whitmore file but Marcus Collier appeared older than the photo Fox had seen.there were grey streaks in his short brown hair and lines around his drooping green eyes.
The constable who escorted Collier from Whetton Hills rustled up a pot of tea and sandwiches for Whitmore’s former assistant. He drank the tea but the sandwiches sat untouched at his elbow while he stared at the postmortem photo of the victim.
“She hasn’t aged well but then neither have I,” was Marcus’s first comment.
Fox studied the other man’s tired appearance and the nervous way he twisted the gold ring on his left hand.
“She died with the name Evangeline Purdue but it was not the one she was born with,” commented Fox.
Collier snorted. “Marisa changed her name the way I change my socks. She called herself Maya Hall when she worked at the factory. I didn’t even know it was her until she had been there a year and by then it was too late. We just didn’t know what she had done.”
Marissa Brownlea had been born in London where she was cautioned for shop lifting as a teenager. She escaped with a warning and had become a secretary and an actress. She married Marcus Collier briefly in her twenties.
“It is embarrassing to admit it but she beat me regularly, with her fists, lamps, ornaments, whatever came to hand. I ended it when she attacked me with a knife. I was hospitalized and she was arrested but I still felt sorry for her somehow. She agreed to a divorce and I agreed not to pursue the charges.”
Fox nodded at the wedding band on Collier’s hand. “Did you remarry?”
Marcus shook his head. “No. I never wanted to. The ring helped with that, although you would be astonished as to how it attracts some women rather than putting them off.”
“What happened to Marissa?”
“She changed her name, as I said, maybe to hide her past. She had some minor roles in TV soaps and continued some secretarial work. She contacted me at times, when she needed money. Then I lost track of her until a few years ago when she turned up at the factory as a Personal Assistant to the chief scientist. I didn’t have much to do with the factory but Brendan hosted parties for the workers at various times. Imagine my surprise to encounter Marissa, calling herself the widowed Mrs Maya Hall at a work Christmas do.”

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