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.“It’s going to be a letdown,” I warned him.“Your big tipper was murdered shortly after he left Mickey’s.We figured out he’d been there ’cause his stomach contents matched your menu on Game Night.”Brown’s mouth fell open.“His stomach contents? But that was more than fifty years ago…” He paused and then murmured, “My God, the frozen man in the paper…”“Yeah.I’m sorry.”He stood up, bracing himself on the back of the chair, suddenly looking much older, and absentmindedly reached for his wallet.“I am, too.”I reached out and grabbed his forearm.“The meal’s on us, Mr.Brown.Least we can do.”He blinked a couple of times and looked at me.“Oh… thanks.It’s funny, but it’s not like that photograph brought back old memories.I mean, it did, but I’ll never forget that man.I saw that picture and it was like seeing my own father or something.” He paused and shook his head.“My father wasn’t any great shakes—I guess maybe that’s why.At that age, boys like to find someone to look up to, you know? What was his name?”I didn’t hesitate.“Jean Deschamps.”Arvin Brown nodded.“Thanks,” he said vaguely, and wandered out into the snow.We watched him through the window as he stood motionless for a minute or so, letting a dusting of flakes settle onto his white hair.Then he walked carefully over to a large, new, fully equipped Suburban and climbed inside.“I guess he took Deschamps’s example to heart,” Sammie said softly, as he soundlessly drove away.Chapter 13THE NEXT MORNING WAS ENOUGH TO MAKE A skier’s heart swell.The storm had left behind a thick mantle of snow on the mountains and a sky of cobalt blue.It was calm, giving the illusion of warmth, and aside from a glare off the earth’s sparkling blanket that made dark glasses a medical necessity, it was embracingly beautiful—offering a rare moment in which the world feels safe and serene, and one’s mental state as sharp as the surrounding frozen air.Unfortunately, the magic of such glimpses of perfection is that they rarely last for long.I hadn’t been standing in the Commodore’s rear parking lot for more than three minutes, watching the frozen white geometry of the large pond and distant hills beyond, before Willy Kunkle walked up behind me, heading for the car, and growled, “It’s just you and me—Sammie got yanked to do something for Auerbach.Christ, I hate days like today.You think you’ll go blind.”I turned away from the scenery and followed him without a word.The reasonable first stop on our list was the Green Mountain Inn, in the middle of Stowe village.Directly across the street from where a slow-moving and quirky trolley service had once delivered skiers from Waterbury in the 1930s—covering ten miles in an hour—the inn had become as much an institution as the church and the town hall down the street.It had also grown with the town, and now was so large that the word “inn” seemed as disingenuous as an elephant hiding behind a fire hydrant.Nevertheless, it was inviting and carefully appointed, filled with small luxuries designed to win a frazzled traveler’s gratitude.Willy and I were brought back to some considerably less appealing offices and wasted an hour talking to people who had no idea how to help us.I had higher expectations during our drive out of town to the Summit View bed-and-breakfast.Ever since meeting Arvin Brown—and all through a dream-filled, restless night populated by dapper old gangsters and eager, bright-eyed urchins—I couldn’t shake the notion of some odd momentum growing, as if Deschamps and Mickey and Brown and the elegant, nameless Spaniard were all links in a chain designed to lead us to the truth.Many times I’d looked into the inert faces of dead people, wishful that beyond what forensic science might interpret there’d be something less tangible but more revealing that would make everything clear.It reminded me of the beliefs of early scientists who experimented with the eyeballs of murder victims, hoping to see the imprinted images of their killers.Nevertheless, watching Jean Deschamps’s relatively young face, literally frozen in time, and now knowing he’d swept a white-haired, wrinkled Arvin Brown off his feet as a child, I was imbued with a sense of loosening a knot in time, and thereby altering the future, if only by a fraction.It never occurred to me to tell any of this to Willy, but as we approached the Summit View, I wished there was a way I could share my optimism.As Brown had foretold, it was a jewel box of a building—an excess of architectural flourishes that no one in his right mind could afford nowadays.It was a miracle, in fact, that it hadn’t been whittled down like so many of its brethren, streamlined by a practical generation driven by time and money concerns to judge half a wooden Victorian wedding cake as better than none at all.Not that my appreciation wasn’t heightened by the fresh icing of snow, the shimmering blue dome overhead, and the clear-cut backdrop of Mount Mansfield’s strangely haunting supine profile.A round-faced, middle-aged woman came out onto the porch as we extricated ourselves from the car, and waved to us cheerfully.“Good morning.Welcome.”“God,” Willy murmured as I waved back with a smile.“Are you here for a meal?” she asked as we drew nearer.“If so, we’d be delighted to have you.But if you’re looking for a room, I’m afraid we’re all booked at the moment.” She kept her eyes firmly fixed on Willy, whose appearance didn’t seem to pass her private muster.As he often did, he picked up on this immediately.“We’re cops,” he said shortly.“And we already ate [ Pobierz całość w formacie PDF ]