Maryse drove them into the Laurentians, where her parents lived. The “small place” had three guest rooms, because General Langlais and his wife remained hopeful and ready to host both their children at once. They arrived in the early evening. Jack and Emily stood by the van while Hilda ran up the steps into the arms of Madame Langlais. While she was hugging Maryse’s father, Jacques slipped out from behind their host to embrace his wife.
“You’re early,” he said.
“Long story,” said Maryse. “What’s it like at home?”
“Still two or three paparazzi at the gate,” said Jacques as they walked into the house. “As long as the newspapers and magazines are still buying pictures, there’ll be someone there.”
Hilda turned to Jack and Emily. “I’m sorry. General Langlais, these are my friends, Jack Rathburn and –”
“We heard. Emily Hampstead. What an honour.” He came down to shake their hands.
“Enchantée, m’sieur le Général.”
“Tutoyons-nous,” he said. “Maryse and Hilda have grown up and so have their friends.” He shook Jack’s hand. “Jean-Paul.”
“And call me Louise,” said Madame Langlais from the porch. “Come settle into your rooms.” She led them into the house. Maryse briefed Jacques on their adventure in Québec City as they went to their room.
There were woods and sky everywhere out the windows upstairs, and a cozy feel to the small, well-appointed rooms. After stowing their things and washing up, they gathered on the shaded back patio.
The bomb blast at the Québécois Parliament knocked coverage of Emily’s escape off the Canadian press. To the amazement of Hilda and her friends, the police in Québec City managed to divert attention away from the triggerman, simply including him in the quartet of suspects they arrested over the next four days. Because the bomb squad cleared the scene early, Hilda was out of view before the press gathered.
The blast was worldwide news for a week. In the United States, however, a school shooting in Minnesota and a devastating hurricane in Florida put the bombing on page 2 of the newspapers after only a day. It only made TV news that same night.
Marcel Bertrand himself came the third morning, accompanied by a court reporter and a notary, so he could take a fully admissible statement on the spot. He seemed satisfied that they would be safe with the Langlais’.
“I don’t know how you did it, Marcel,” said Jack as they were leaving. “But thanks for keeping Hilda and Emily out of the media.”
“That is selfish on my part. Paparazzi make our work harder. No one seemed to realize that there was a triggerman, so I wasn’t going to volunteer the information. It can come out in the trial after the noise dies down.”
“There is so much speculation about motive. Which one is it?”
“The triggerman is the leader of a small white supremacist group from Trois-Rivières. He had been on our radar there, so we recognized him immediately. No one has taken credit for the attack, so we are not sure what he was targeting: blacks, immigrants, Jews, Métis or the government in general. It will come out when he finally starts talking.”
Jacques rode with Jack and Hilda every day, letting Maryse and Emily disappear ahead of them. Sitting on the 700-m (2300-ft) contour line, the Langlais cottage provided a challenging ride in any direction. The scenery was stupendous, with each ride a panoply of views of mountains, lakes, the Saint Lawrence seaway and the Gaspé to the southeast.
Wednesday evening, they were relaxing after dinner, all seven of them feeling good about the fresh air, the good food and company.
“It’s too bad that we have to move on,” said Emily. “I have enjoyed Québec, and especially this place, more than any place I have ever visited.”
“I’m glad, Emily,” said Louise. “And you are always welcome back, alone or with company.”
“How are you planning to reach the Gaspé?” asked Jean-Paul, unfolding a map of the Gaspésie and lower Québec.
“There doesn’t seem to be any way to cross without going back to Québec City, so I guess we go there and take the ferry to Lévis.”
“I know you don’t like to backtrack.” Jean-Paul put his finger on Beaupré. “You could go Montmorency Falls and up the north shore. That’s a must-see sight. I have a friend who has a secluded place on the river just outside of Beaupré, who would be happy to ferry you across to the south shore. Less exposure to crowds and puts you farther east on the Route Verte.”
“That would be awesome!” exclaimed Emily.
“It does seem like a wonderful option,” said Hilda, “and I would welcome less exposure as long as the brouhaha has not completely died down.”
“Do you want to call him tomorrow?” asked Jack. “We could leave later tomorrow.”
“I called him back on Sunday to ask him about it. He’s excited to be in on the escape plan.”
“Not to insult anyone, but what about leaks?” asked Jack.
“Don’t worry, Jack. It’s not his first extraction; he was SAS before he retired. Ran a couple of forays into East Germany for us when we were in Kaiserslautern.”
“I take it this isn’t a ferry ride,” said Emily. “What’s SAS?”
“Special Air Service, the British Special Forces. He has a boat he uses for fishing. Lots of room for the bikes on the fantail, and it can run around the Gaspé to PEI and back if he needs to.”
“Fantastic. Where does he suggest putting us on the south shore?” asked Hilda, looking at the map.
“It’s 90 km to his house from here, so he would propose that you spend tomorrow night as their guests, then let him put you ashore in Rivière-Ouelle, about 80 km down river from his pier, but almost a two-day ride from Lévis. There’s plenty of good camping there, and it’s out of the way: just one private pier. He can put you within a couple of hundred metres of the Route Verte, close to the campgrounds.”
“It sounds like a plan,” said Hilda. Jack and Emily nodded. “Thank you.”
“Did you get all your things from our house?” asked Jacques.
“Yes. Maryse suggested being prepared to continue without returning, depending on the publicity.”
“Except I didn’t get Jean-Pierre’s info,” said Emily. Everyone else grinned. “Did you tell him that we stayed with you?”
“Yes. I’ll send you both an introduction by email,” said Maryse. “That way you’ll have my contact data and his.”
Emily did a Schwarzenegger imitation, “I’ll be back!” That got another round of laughter.
“You are planning to take the train from Campbellton, non?” asked Maryse.
“Yes. There isn’t time to ride all the way to Charlottesville.”
Maryse looked at Jacques, who nodded. “Campbellton to Montréal is a 12-hour overnight train with a very tight connection to the Amtrak train,” she said. “Plan on spending your last day in Canada with us and catch the Amtrak train the next morning.”
Jack, Hilda and Emily looked at each other. “That’s very kind, Maryse. We accept!”
“Good. Let us know when you get to Campbellton. You can book a sleeper car and leave that same night, if you like.”
They turned in after that. Emily’s phone dinged as she closed her door. It was Maryse’s email to Jean-Pierre and her. She only got her shoes and blouse off when the phone dinged again. Jean-Pierre sent a picture and noted how pleased he was to “meet” Emily. His mother had told him about their adventures, so he hoped that he could meet her in person soon. The photo showed a slim sandy-haired bicyclist standing by his road bike (a Stevens, she noted), in a BMO team kit, with his helmet hanging on the right handlebar. She sent a picture back (in bicycle kit without helmet) and reciprocated the feelings. If he was anything like Jacques and Maryse, he had to be a great guy. She really did want to meet him. She went to bed with a big smile on her face.
Jack and Hilda checked their phones for news. The hate-groups were still echoing the Stormfront’s postings about Hilda, but the tone had shifted into general complaining about blacks and immigrants, without mentioning her specifically. Emily’s escape was still sports page news, focusing on background and whether she would return to racing or pursue a career in international intrigue.
“It seems the pundits can’t leave it alone, can they?” said Hilda.
“Nope, but at least she’s off front page and not making the evening TV news.”
Relaxed and feeling relatively safe, they plugged in their phones and turned out the light. They had other things to do before sleeping…
Until next time,
Smooth roads and tailwinds,