Sam looked over at her boss in the passenger seat. He was staring out the window, contemplating the scenery.
"Usually, sir, this is how you act before you've caught the criminal." She glanced in her rear view mirror to see the constables with the prisoner in the car behind. "I know this wasn't a big case."
"No. It was a squalid little domestic made worse by the fact that it had been going on for years and this was the first time anyone thought to report it." Christopher Foyle cocked his head to one side and resumed his staring.
"Of course, you're worried about Sergeant Milner, I know."
He hung his head and turned back to her. "I'm sure he'll be fine. I know he'll pass along his doctor's instructions if they affect the job in any way."
"Did you listen to the radio last night? The BBC said the Channel Islands are in the hands of the Germans."
Foyle said, "Yes, I heard.
Sam racked her brains and finally said, "Perhaps if you were to share the problem, I could help. Does it have anything to do with that wretched invasion committee?"
Foyle's lips turned up in a small smile. "It does. The vicar has not been as helpful as we thought he would be. Most of the big things are either already finished or will be completed within the next few weeks, but food storage and distribution if there's an invasion was his bailiwick and nothing's been organized. And the news from the Channel Islands does move our timetable up a bit."
Sam said, "I thought his wife was away until mid-July, helping her niece with a new baby."
"She is. I believe Mrs. Silsby was hoping to see her son before his deployment, too."
Foyle peered at her. "I don't follow you."
Sam said, "I assume you asked the vicar because the church organizes jumble sales and harvest competitions and such."
"Except he doesn't, you see. He helps people with deaths and big events in their lives and gives sermons and runs deacons meetings, but the cleaning rota or the white elephant? That's his wife. In the case of some widowed vicars it might be a daughter, and at least one friend of my father's has an aunt -- or is it a sister…?"
Foyle interrupted, "I see your point. We haven't gotten a straight answer because he has no answer to give."
"Yes. I assume he's lacking curates, too, with the war."
Foyle said, "The young one's now an army chaplain. The older one is now a vicar himself at a small parish north of here. I believe he has a sister."
Sam nodded. "Well he'd need someone. Has the committee given any direction in this or has it all been left to the vicar?"
"We thought asking each parishioner to donate one ration per month to the general fund -- meat, lard, cheese, milk or egg powder, possibly a tin of fruit or vegetables. Rotate it through the alphabet so no one's always short of the same item. Perhaps request part of the harvest from people's vegetable gardens. I know most of my neighbors are growing beans. I've been told that they're easy to dry."
"Forgive me, sir, but your committee hasn't thought things through."
Foyle said, "Would you care to give me an example?"
"Dried beans need soaking and cooking. Will there be time for that if we're invaded? And I assume by meat ration, you mean bacon? Or were you planning to preserve meat yourselves? And where's the sugar?" Sam asked indignantly.
"Sugar is hardly a necessity."
"But it is, sir," Sam said. "Most of the supplies you're talking about can't be used without cooking. In the case of meat, even preserved meat, you'll have to rotate through it because it will go off within a year. Don't the local women put up vegetables and fruit?"
Foyle said, "Well, yes, Mrs. Quaife has won the preserved fruit competition for her damson preserves for the past three years. And Mrs. Delman's golden plum jam won last year's jam division."
"You see, sir, sugar," Sam said. "It's an excellent preserving agent. Why else would we continue to import it when other foodstuffs are more practical?" She gestured at the road. "Is anyone organizing a bramble picking expedition? Maybe the parish children could do it, but it would still need someone to organize preserving the fruits."
"With sugar. I see."
"You know, I only take breakfasts and Sunday lunch at my boarding house. We had rabbit last Sunday."
"Was it good?"
Sam glanced at him. "Excellent, sir, for rabbit. But the point is, there's someone raising rabbits. Perhaps, if there's an invasion, his or her patriotism might be appealed to and that would take care of fresh meat without needing a ration. Better that than those bunnies become hasenpfeffer."
Foyle's lips twitched in amusement.
Sam gestured to her right. "I've never been down that road. Looks deserted."
"Yes, that farm was abandoned after the great flu. There was no one left to work it."
"Sad, that." She thought for a moment. "Did they have orchards?"
"I believe so -- good peaches, several varieties of plum, quince."
"Quince. That would be very good." She caught his look of interest. "Unlike most apples, they're self pollinating, and they're high enough in pectin that commercial pectin wouldn't be required if one were to make jam."
"Another project for the local Guides or Scouts, it sounds like. We have several old orchards on the outskirts where a farm is no longer fully viable."
Sam said, "I assume, sir, that there are multiple storage sites being contemplated. I mean just dropping it all in the church could be a problem if it takes a direct hit."
Foyle said, "Yes, well, give us some credit. The Town Hall, the school, the castle, even the police station will have a share in the storage."
"Very good, sir," Sam said meekly. "Has anyone spoken to the Methodists?"
He turned to stare at her.
She said, "It's just I noticed that the Methodist church is fairly well attended, and with their circuits and all, they might be able to coordinate more widely than just the town."
"I can see that we hadn't looked at all the aspects very well."
"No, sir." There was a long pause. "The vicar's wife should be back soon."
"Next week, I think."
"We'll need straw to store some things. Vinegar for pickling. And it would be a good idea to hold preserving parties at the church or school with an understanding that some portion of the food put up would go into the general storage. That Mrs. Quaife could be put in charge of the fruits, perhaps. And didn't the Royal Navy use preserved cabbage to prevent scurvy before they started buying limes?"
Foyle said, "I believe so."
"We wouldn't even need glass jars for that, just crocks with heavy lids. It wouldn't taste good without cooking, but it wouldn't require it." She thought for a moment. "Will fuel be rationed this winter?"
"I don't know. I haven't heard of anything coming down the pike. If it is, it's likely to be coal for heating rather than gas for cooking."
"Good. That will make a difference. Perhaps you could also talk to the vicar's wife about second-hand clothing and mending parties. People could make rag rugs or draught excluders from anything too far gone to repair."
"Or you could organize it. It's your idea, and you seem to understand how it should be run."
Sam said, "I don't think I've met the vicar's wife. Wouldn't want to step on toes, sir. Still, it's always easier to heat one area than many, and if we can't afford new clothes, maybe we can at least get something new to us."
Foyle said, "It would be a good way to stop rumors, too. The vicar's wife could make certain that everyone heard the real story at the meetings."
"It would make everyone feel as if we're pulling together for the war effort. As long as nothing interferes with choir practice, everything should run tickety-boo." Sam sighed. "Is sulfur still available? I'm sure some of the local farms have drying sheds for currants or those peaches you mentioned."
Foyle pulled out his notebook and pen, and made some notes.
"Sir, are you growing anything?"
Foyle said, "Not especially. Don't have the time or the knack. Horseradish. A few herb plants. There's a rose bush in the back garden my wife planted when we moved in, but that's not really food. There's a pear tree at the back, too."
"Well, you can make a pear sauce like an apple sauce to put up. I could teach you, sir. And rose hips are very nutritious. They'll prevent scurvy, too."
"Really. I'll make certain to harvest the hips, then, though I admit I've never made jam."
Sam said, "In that case, sir, you could just dry them for a tisane."
"I'll do that."
They made the turn to get to the police station.
"Mister Foyle, did it really not occur to anyone to ask the local women to serve on the committee?"
"My understanding is that Lady Mary Benford was invited as a local landowner, and the headmistress of Saint Clement was discussed as a possibility. But, you know, I wasn't supposed to be on the committee originally. They wanted someone higher ranking, like the chief constable for Sussex."
Sam said, "If it's not out of line…"
"Please go ahead, Sam."
"Then you should bally well push for that headmistress to be part of the committee and have her organize the women's auxiliary committee."
"Beginning with enlisting the vicar's wife and the wife of the Methodist minister?"
Sam smiled. "Exactly, sir. This is housewifery. It may be on a grand scale, but it's the skills we've been taught, do you see?"
"I do see, Sam. And thank you. Shall I put you down for organizing the brambling expeditions? We'll need several. Gooseberries and currants ripen separately from the brambles I believe. And, of course, the drying and storage will need organizing."
"Oh. Yes, sir. Of course, sir."
He smiled quietly at seeing her discomfited. "I'll certainly make certain to add sugar to our list of donated rations, too."
"Will you need me any further today?"
Foyle glanced at his watch. It was already five-fifteen. "Your landlady doesn't let you cook after six?"
"That's right, sir."
"I'll walk home this evening, then. I appreciate your suggestions. If there is an invasion, we've been told we're to hold out for seven days. This could give us a chance to do just that."
She saluted him. "Thank you, sir."
"Good night, Sam."