“Steady on,” said Mr. Foyle, as if it were Sam herself who’d just nearly pitched down his front steps. “Not to worry,” he added, in a strangely thin, breathless voice that was anything but reassuring.
“Mr. Foyle, sir!” Sam loosened her hands from where they’d landed under his arm and on his waistcoat, but kept them out as she settled into a crouch beside him. Beneath his hat Mr. Foyle’s face was gray and his eyes seemed at once unclear and too bright. “Sir, you look absolutely terrible.”
“Well, thanks very much.” He closed his eyes briefly and let out a breath that ended in a cough which, though it was quiet, seemed to shake him all over.
“Have… have you a temperature?” Sam bit her lip. “It looks as if you had.”
“Not sure. “ He took hold of the railing. “Give me a hand up, would you?”
A woman carrying a shopping basket was watching them with curiosity as she came along the pavement. Sam tried to look nonchalant rather than concerned as she stood and held out her hand. “Certainly, sir.”
Mr. Foyle drew himself upright and let go of the railing to lift his hat as the lady came abreast of them. “Good morning.” He loosed his grasp on Sam, though not until he had his other hand back around the wrought iron of the rail. She could hear him breathing; it sounded rough, and quick, and much too shallow.
“Good morning,” said the shopping woman, nodding and then looking away with the air of having decided that they were in the midst of a minor mishap that should be politely ignored rather than an interesting crisis.
When she’d passed, Mr. Foyle slowly turned around. “Inside,” he said, with a tilt of his head to tell Sam to follow him.
"Yes, sir." Sam stepped back to let him pass, then almost ran into him when he stopped just beyond the swing of the door and put a hand on the wall.
"Sorry," said Mr. Foyle. "Must catch my breath. Sorry."
Sam pushed the door shut behind them. She ducked under Mr. Foyle’s arm, taking his weight over her shoulders and, with a blessed flash of memory from her first aid training, groped under his overcoat and jacket to get her hand on a belt loop. Now at least if he fell she'd have something to hold on to. "Sofa's just through here, isn't that right?"
Mr. Foyle coughed, a deep racking cough that she could feel shuddering through his chest, but didn't speak.
"Right," Sam said, her heart pounding in her throat. "Just a few steps, right? That's it. Here we are. Not much further. Slowly, now." Her legs cried out at the strain of bending to the sofa while supporting both their weights, but she managed it. "There. That'll be better. To catch your breath. Sir."
He sank back bonelessly into the sofa, crushing his hat until Sam caught it and set it aside. In the clearer light of the front room he looked more dreadful than ever, his whole face as white as his collar.
Collar. Right. "Sir, I'm going to unfasten your collar, so you, you can breathe better." Sam peeled off her driving gloves and leaned in to loosen Mr. Foyle's tie, then unbutton his collar, and, after a moment, his waistcoat as well. His skin felt hot even to the light brush of her fingers against his chin, and when she opened his waistcoat the shirt beneath was transparent with perspiration. Hesitantly, Sam touched the back of her hand to his forehead and frowned at the heat. "Sir? Can you tell me who your doctor is?"
"Mm," Mr. Foyle answered, not opening his eyes.
A steamer rug lay folded over the back of one of the armchairs; Sam spread it carefully over Mr. Foyle. A little color began to creep back into his face, but he didn't open his eyes. Sam gave it a full minute by the mantel clock before she went across to the telephone. There wasn't an address book on the surface of the desk, and she didn't dare start opening drawers. With another glance back at the sofa, she lifted the receiver and waited for the operator. "Hastings 715, please."
The call seemed to take an age to go through. Sam fidgeted, rocking from her heels to her toes. Finally, the phone began to ring on the other end, and a blessedly familiar "Milner here" came down the line.
"Oh, thank goodness I got you before you left home. It's Sam," she added belatedly. "Could you come round to Mr. Foyle's on your way to the station?"
"Of course. What's wrong? Are you all right?"
"I'm fine. I just, Mr. Foyle... Mr. Foyle could use your help."
"I can be there in twenty minutes. Do you need anything else? Anyone else, a constable?"
"No. No, thank you, just you." I think. She wanted to keep Milner on the line for the comfort of his voice, but it would only delay his arrival. "See you soon." They rang off and she went back to stand by Mr. Foyle. "Sir?" she asked, again, and finally was rewarded with a flutter of his eyelids.
"Sam?" he asked, in a hoarse but stronger voice. "What are you doing in my bedroom?"
"You're not in your bedroom, sir."
Mr. Foyle began to sit up straighter, grimaced, and pressed a hand to his temple as he squinted at the sitting room. "Oh... sorry… is it still Monday?"
"It's Monday morning, sir. You were coming out to the car and you... well, I think you... got a bit lightheaded, sir."
He nodded. Then he frowned. "Miss Stewart, I believe you're trying to be tactful with me."
"Because it's coming back that I more or less fainted in your arms twice in the space of ten minutes."
"I... don't think you were quite unconscious, sir. Certainly not the first time, and not for long, anyway. I did ring Milner. I didn't see an address book to find the name of your doctor and I thought you wouldn't like an ambulance."
"You thought right, since we're talking about a simple case of moving too fast with flu. I'm sorry, Sam, this isn’t quite what the MTC promised in their recruiting posters."
Sam laughed a little wildly with relief. "Not at all, sir, really, I'm glad I came by in time to, to be useful. How are you feeling?"
He tipped his head towards his shoulder in an abbreviated shrug. "Headache."
"Have you a thermometer?"
He nodded. "Bathroom cabinet, upstairs... you remember where that is?"
"Certainly. Be back in a tick." Sam tucked the blanket more firmly over his shoulder and trotted up the stairs. She collected the thermometer and looked for aspirin but found none.
"I don't suppose you could call off Milner," Mr. Foyle said as she came back to the sitting room.
"He'll be on his way." Sam took the thermometer out of its case, then looked up with a frown as Mr. Foyle coughed again. He turned his face courteously away, but she could see how his shoulders shook and how his hand settled on his chest after. "Does that hurt you, sir? It sounds as if it hurts."
"I'm not a car, Sam, you can't fiddle with my engine when you don't like the sound of it."
"No." He shook his head and rubbed his face. "I'm sorry. You're being very kind."
"Not at all, sir." Sam carefully shook down the thermometer and checked the time on the clock. "Here... oh, wait, what's your doctor's name?"
"I, ah. Haven't one at the moment. Dr. Forrest used to see Andrew and me, but he died in an air raid last year and I've not needed anyone, so."
It had been months since he’d spoken Andrew’s name in Sam’s hearing, and then it had been with an air of gentle apology. Now he let it fall seemingly without thought. Well, no need for him to think about it , Sam reminded herself, unsure whether it was the name itself or Mr. Foyle’s uncharacteristic lapse that made the knot of anxiety tighten in her chest. "Milner can probably suggest one." She held out the thermometer again.
"Sam, really, if you… or Milner… bring me some aspirin I can put myself to bed and be quite all right."
"We'll see about that," Sam said, in conscious imitation of the ward sister who'd looked after her at St. Mary’s. "Open, please."
Mr. Foyle gave her a look, but took the thermometer under his tongue.
"May I put the kettle on?" With his nodded approval, Sam went through to the kitchen, where she found the remains of a spartan supper but no indication of breakfast. She washed the single soup bowl and the cut-glass tumbler while the kettle tapped and creaked towards boiling. A knock at the front door nearly made her drop the bowl, but she managed to get it safely down on the drainboard and darted out through the sitting room.
"One more minute, sir," she told Mr. Foyle, then went to pull the door open for an out-of-breath Milner.
"What's wrong?" he asked.
Sam tugged him over the threshold. "It's Mr. Foyle. He's ill."
“What?” Milner stared at her, then looked to the stairs. “Is he in bed?”
"He ought to be. He almost fell down the front steps. He's a bit steadier now, I'm taking his temperature, but he has a fever and a terrible cough. Oh, I had better get the thermometer..." She led the way back to the sitting room. “Sir, Sergeant Milner’s here.” She checked the clock, then took the thermometer over to the window to read it.
“Morning,” Mr. Foyle said roughly, the word dissolving into a cough that he’d probably been holding back for some time.
“Mr. Foyle! Your temperature’s over a hundred and three. No wonder you fai-, ah, felt lightheaded.” Sam whirled around to see Mr. Foyle sinking deeper into the sofa and the rug with a look of embarrassment, and Milner standing shocked and uneasy in the doorway. “Milner, Mr. Foyle said his doctor’s not available; would you ring yours? He really ought to have a doctor,” Sam went on, when Milner looked even more uncomfortable.
“I’ve not seen a doctor since the Talbot Brothers case.” He touched his arm. “The one I used to see… his, ah. His wife was a friend of Jane’s.”
Mr. Foyle raised his eyebrows slightly. Sam held back a shiver at the fanciful sense of Jane Milner’s ghost passing through the room.
Milner swallowed. “Though I do agree with Sam, sir.” He took off his hat and fixed his steady gaze on Mr. Foyle. “You don’t look yourself.”
Mr. Foyle quirked his mouth, then looked to Sam when a faint hissing sound came from the kitchen.
“Oh! the kettle!” Sam darted towards the kitchen, came back to carefully put the thermometer down, and dashed out again. After a few moments of aimless cupboard-opening she was able to recall where Mr. Foyle kept things, and happily none of his arrangements had changed since the week she’d spent staying in his spare room. While she warmed the pot and measured leaves and let the kettle boil again, she could hear the regular murmur of Milner’s voice and the shorter bursts of Mr. Foyle’s, interspersed with coughs. He should have lemon and honey but of course there were no lemons to be had anywhere, and only a small, mostly empty pot of honey in the cabinet. Sam put it on the tray anyway, along with the teapot and three cups and the milk jug.
Milner had drawn an armchair closer to the sofa and was sitting very straight on the edge of it, his hat on his knee. “What about Davies, sir, the M.O.?”
“It’d be a change for him. Having a live patient,” Sam said as she poured.
“Fine. If it will set your mind – your minds - at rest.” Mr. Foyle pushed the rug off his chest in order to reach for the teacup Sam offered him, but when she made a noise of dismay and Milner half rose in protest, he pulled it up again as he settled back. "Worryguts, both of you,” he muttered, but there was a faint spark of his usual humor as he muttered it. Something in Milner relaxed just a fraction.
“Honey, sir? Are you sure? Well, it’s here, anyway.” Sam poured a cup for Milner and one for herself.
“I’ll phone the station, then.” Milner took his tea over to the desk. “It would be fastest for you to drive over for him while I’m ringing up, if you don’t mind.”
“Of course not.”
Mr. Foyle shook his head at her. “Drink your tea, Sam. Davies probably isn’t in yet.” He pressed two fingers to his forehead over his right eye, then lowered his hand and sat up straighter. Sam hid her frown in her cup.
“Brooke? Milner here. Can you tell me, has the M.O. come in? Right, when you see him, let him know that Miss Stewart will be round shortly; Mr. Foyle needs him. Yes, I’m with Mr. Foyle, but I’ll be in later this morning.”
Sam drank her tea quickly, then refilled Mr. Foyle’s cup before she looked for her driving gloves. She finally found them under the sofa, where she’d dropped them in her rush to loosen Mr. Foyle’s collar.
“Take Milner with you,” Mr. Foyle suggested. “ One of us ought to be on duty.”
Milner looked to Sam; she glanced at Mr. Foyle, then gave her head a tiny shake.
“Sam can run me back when she’s brought Davies,” Milner said. “Sir, if you could tell me what would be best for me to concentrate on today...?"
Mr. Foyle looked appraisingly at Milner, who held himself stiff under the scrutiny. “Right.”
Sam pulled on her gloves. “Right-o. Back directly, sir.” She gave Mr. Foyle a salute and was rewarded with a small amused smile, though he followed it with another shuddering cough.
“There’s a shortage of manpower. You know that better than anyone, Foyle.” Assistant Commissioner Rose narrowed his eyes. “We can’t dismiss an experienced constable because…”
“Because he’s disgraced his training, his uniform, and the law?” He kept his voice mild, but Rose was not deceived.
“I’m not saying we let it pass. Certainly Peters can’t continue in Hastings, and suspending him was entirely appropriate.”
He nodded slightly. “Glad you approve, sir.” He raised his eyes to the window behind Rose, and the strip of gummed tape that had started to pull away from the corner. The loose tail had lengthened in the week since his previous visit.
“But transferring him is a better course than prosecution, under the circumstances.”
“Well, it’s the course you favor, sir.”
Rose leaned forward, settling his immaculate elbows on his leather blotter. “You wouldn’t look very good if it was brought to trial. Infighting under your command, eh?”
“I didn’t look very good investigating my own detective sergeant on suspicion of murder.” He met the AC’s gaze. “Prosecution costs time, absolutely, but I had hoped my reports might defray that to some extent.”
“Why are you so dead set on this?”
“It was my failure that made it possible. I want to see it put right. There’s also the matter of morale for the local force, professional relations with wherever Peters might be sent, and Milner’s career going forward.”
Rose touched a file on his desk. “He’s quite capable, it seems.”
“He is, but something like this is a bad mark on a man’s record, and it should be resolved. Without stain on his character. And, respectfully, sir, while I do certainly appreciate the staff problem, it does seem unfair that the exigencies of wartime should benefit a dishonest man at the expense of a wounded veteran.” He raised his eyebrows slightly and let the uncomfortable silence settle into the room.
Finally, Rose sat back. “Couldn’t transfer anyone to replace him.”
“Wouldn’t expect it.”
“You don’t think being even more shorthanded will increase tensions?”
“I think that, with a cleared detective sergeant, I’ll manage very well.”
“I hope so, Foyle.”
“The bronchi are badly inflamed,” Dr. Davies said, ushering Sam and Milner back into the sitting room, “and there are considerable patches of consolidation throughout the lungs, especially in the lower lobes.”
Mr. Foyle pulled down one corner of his mouth and shrugged his waistcoat back over his shirtsleeves.
“Pneumonia?” Milner asked, before Sam could bring herself to voice the same fear. She looked up at him, taking in the extra tension in his jaw, then turned anxiously to the doctor.
Davies frowned critically at his patient. “It’s not pneumonia now but it’s a nearer matter than one likes to see. And bronchitis is no joke in itself, when it comes with this sort of fever. Mr. Foyle, your son’s not home, is he? And there’s no one who cooks for you, just a woman for the charing? Well, is there any friend whose household could look after you? You need at least a few days in bed, regular meals, inhalations for the congestion, and treatment to keep the fever down.”
Mr. Foyle shook his head slightly and kept buttoning his waistcoat. “I couldn’t impose. Look,” he stared up at the doctor from under his brows, “clearly setting out to the station this morning was a mistake, but I do think I can look after myself.”
“Mr. Foyle,” Dr. Davies said, with full Welsh gravity, “You are a sick man, and will be sicker if you don’t keep in bed. Doing for yourself is out of the question. You must either go to a friend or I shall find you a place in hospital.”
“No, that’s…” He sat back in frustration. “St. Mary’s and St. Luke’s both received large transfers from Hythe and Bexhill on Friday – it took three quarters of the constables to manage the traffic.” Mr. Foyle coughed. “They’ve no room for me.” He coughed again and reached for his now-cold cup of tea.
“I shall find something,” Dr. Davies said. “Possibly a nursing home, if the hospitals are full.”
Mr. Foyle rubbed a hand over his face. He looked so deeply uncomfortable, on top of exhausted and ill, that Sam impulsively turned towards the doctor. “Does it need to be anything special in the way of inhalations, or just steam? Because, well, I won’t have anything to do while Mr. Foyle’s off work, and my mother had pneumonia when I was seventeen so I was making steam inhalations for simply ages. Could probably do it in my sleep. In fact I imagine I have a few times! And I’m not much of a cook but I can manage powdered eggs, and broth, and tea and porridge and toast. Does he need trained nursing, or would that do?”
“Sam, I can’t let you…” Mr. Foyle protested.
“That would be most of it,” Dr. Davies said slowly. “And keeping track of his temperature, making sure the room’s kept warm, that sort of thing. But for you to stay alone...”
“I’m a sort of police employee; couldn’t we call it a temporary billet? Like a land girl!” Sam looked to Milner for support.
Milner turned his level gaze to the doctor. “You’re not saying he can’t get up at all.”
“Well, stairs would be risky, in view of the fainting…”
Mr. Foyle rolled his eyes. “...won’t happen again…” He drew on his jacket, but left his tie where it sat coiled beside him on the sofa.
“...but as long as there’s some help with washing, as necessary... if someone came in once or twice a day…”
“I could do that,” Milner said, adding diffidently to Mr. Foyle, “If you’d have me, sir.”
“I haven’t any objection to you, Milner. Or Sam. I just don’t see that it’s necessary.” Mr. Foyle swallowed back a cough.
“A hundred and three, sir,” Sam said, reproachfully.
He grimaced, and raised his eyes to the doctor. The two of them looked at each other for a long moment, and finally Mr. Foyle nodded. “If the two of you are quite sure,” he said, not looking at them.
“Quite sure,” Sam answered promptly.
Milner nodded. “Yes, sir.”
“Thank you,” he said quietly.
Sam hung up Mr. Foyle’s overcoat and hat while Milner and Davies discussed the car and Mr. Foyle, quieter even than usual, finished his tea. Dr. Davies could drive, so they finally settled it that he would drive himself and Milner back to the station and garage the car there, so Brooke and Milner could use it if necessary. Sam had Dr. Davies write out his instructions, and Mr. Foyle, after an argument of stares and monosyllables, suffered having Milner escort him up the stairs. The doctor followed when he was done, murmuring about proper elevation of the shoulders, and Milner returned to stand by Sam in the hall.
“You’ll be all right?” he asked.
“Absolutely.” Sam lifted her chin. “I’m just a bit shaken. Mr. Foyle’s never ill.”
“I know. I can’t remember him ever being off sick.” Milner shook his head. "He's been working much too hard."
"He always works hard,” Sam countered. “You both do.”
Milner let out a tight little sigh. "Not like... since Christmas. All the things I usually do, after a murder case, that's fallen to him. And what with Peters..."
Sam winced. The matter of Constable Peters had been pressing hard on Mr. Foyle, it was true, as well as on the entire station, now short yet another man. And though Mr. Foyle would never say anything specific about his meetings with the Assistant Commissioner, the fact that he'd gone to London three times since the New Year didn't exactly suggest cheerful discussions. "Peters," she agreed, grimly. “But, Milner, that’s not your fault.”
“Isn’t it?” His thin lips went even thinner.
Sam put a hand on his arm. “No.” Mr. Foyle coughed somewhere overhead, and Milner frowned harder. Sam tightened her hand. “It’s not pneumonia,” she reminded him. “That’s good, isn’t it?”
“Yes. You’re right, yes.” Milner nodded and put on his hat as the doctor came downstairs. “I’ll call in tonight on my way home, but ring the station if you need anything at all.”
“I will. “
“Right, Miss Stewart, “said Dr. Davies. “I think he’ll sleep for a bit now. I gave him a dose of aspirin, which should help. You’ll need to get some more - soluble, if you can find it. The more fluids he drinks, the better.”
Sam held herself at attention. “Very good, Doctor. I’ll see to it.”
“I’ll come tomorrow to see how he’s getting on.”
“Thank you.” Sam handed over the keys to the Wolseley. “The clutch is ever so slightly stiff at the top, but only at the top, which can be surprising. Right, goodbye. Goodbye.” She locked the door behind them and stood in the suddenly quiet hall. Feeling as if she were playing house, Sam unpinned her hat, took off her jacket, and turned up the sleeves of her blouse.
“Well,” she said aloud. “I suppose the first thing is food.”
It was like being a constable again, he thought, with the station as his beat. Watch the landscape; watch the people; track the currents to see if they changed. Sergeant Brooke had done - did - well overseeing the constables, but he lacked the authority of his predecessor’s age, and the benefit of long experience of the men under him. Foyle had some of the experience, and at moments he felt every day of the age. What he lacked was time.
He missed Hugh Reid with more than the usual fervor, albeit without the old touch of envy that Hugh had been released to more direct war work. The administrative logic that a Detective Chief Superintendent could carry the work of a uniformed CS as well as his own seemed particularly hollow now.
Milner haunted the corridors, nervous as a cat, craving something to do but all too aware of his own disqualification for the most pressing tasks. The constables treated him with nervous deference, Brooke with careful collegiality. Only Sam seemed to find no difficulty. She chattered as easily as ever to both Brooke and Milner, and with only a slight increase in formal coolness to the constables. He knew, from her tentative questions (now always carefully timed for when the car was in motion, not parked in the high street) about the nature of Peters’ offence and likely punishment, that it was not ignorance that made her so. It was assurance that justice would be done and the station’s work would recover its old ease, and he tried to see her confidence as a bolster to his own bruised supply.
At the station Mr. Foyle took his lunch at one, but he’d had no breakfast to speak of, so Sam brought up a tray at noon. The door to his room was ajar, which was lucky, since she had no place to put the tray down. Must bring up a chair or something. “Mr. Foyle?” she called softly. “Are you awake?”
“Yes, come in.” He was sitting up in bed, wearing blue-and-white striped flannel pajamas. His hair was rumpled and his eyes had that odd feverish lack of focus, but he was only pale, not ashen as he’d been before. “Sam, it’s very good of you to, well, all this,” he gestured with the red cloth-bound book in his hand, “but isn’t it going to make trouble for you? Worry people?”
“I jolly well know what scriptures I’ll quote to my father if he objects. I meant it, sir, about having nothing to do. If I weren’t here I’d be getting up to no good in the Parade. Much better to be useful.”
Mr. Foyle twisted a corner of his mouth, but took the tray onto his lap. “I feel a fraud being waited on.”
“Well, I must say, sir, you don’t look a fraud, and you certainly don’t sound it.” Sam drew a buff envelope from under her arm. “Constable Studdock brought this from Sergeant Milner, and Mrs. Hawkins came with your clean laundry and has gone out to do the marketing. I took your ration book from your overcoat, I hope that’s all right.”
“It’s only porridge, I’m afraid, but I put dried apples in,” Sam said, as Mr. Foyle tentatively picked up his spoon.
Sam glanced around the room, taking in the light blue wallpaper and the solid dark-wood furniture. “I don’t suppose you have such a thing as a breakfast tray in the house? The sort with legs, you know. I didn’t find one in the kitchen.”
“Airing cupboard. Very bottom.” Mr. Foyle took a long drink of water.
“Did I put in too much salt, sir?”
“No, it’s fine. Just,” he shook his head slightly, eyes still cast down, “not terribly hungry.”
“Would you rather a sandwich? Cheese, or spam?”
His eyebrows drew closer together. “No, no.”
“Do try to eat a bit, sir. To keep…”
“Does Milner want a reply?” he interrupted, taking up the envelope.
“I’m not sure. The constable didn’t say.”
“You’d better bring me a pen,” Mr. Foyle coughed, “and some notepaper, in case.”
“Yes, sir. Would you like anything else? The newspaper, or the wireless?”
“No. Thank you.” He gave her a firm nod and opened Milner’s note with the same air of you are dismissed that he used in his office.
Sam checked the airing cupboard and sure enough, at the bottom, entangled with a worn attaché case and a boy scout sleeping roll, she found a dusty white wicker breakfast tray. It must have been Mrs. Foyle’s, she thought, with a pang. She carried it carefully down to the kitchen, then washed her hands and collected a pen, notepaper, and blotting paper from the desk.
Mr. Foyle hadn’t made much progress on the porridge; he seemed more interested in the file he’d spread out on the green chenille counterpane. Sam put the writing things on the table by his bed, next to an etched glass carafe and tumbler, and a christening photograph of a tiny Andrew in his mother’s arms. Seeing the carafe was more than half empty, she took it to the bathroom to fill it at the tap. “Will you have anything to send back, sir?” she asked, when she returned.
“No, it’s not pressing, and Milner says he’ll call about six.” He coughed again, steadying the tray with the hand not pressed in a fist to his lips.
Sam took a step closer to the bed. “Could I make you some tea, or Bovril, or something?”
“No, no.” He turned over a page of typescript.
“Only it would help your cough, sir.”
Mr. Foyle put his hands down on either side of the tray and fixed her with a stare. “Sam.”
“I am in bed. I am eating. I am... supervised. Davies’ instructions are, for the moment, fulfilled, and I am fine, and could there be rather less fuss, please.”
Sam swallowed. “Absolutely, sir.”
“Have Mrs. Hawkins make up Andrew’s room for you; it’s warmer than the spare room,” he went on, more gently, as he returned to the file.
“Yes, sir. I’ll, um, I’ll come back for the tray, shall I?” Sam retreated rapidly to the hall. Oh, for something simple, like a three-point turn in a London alley, or a bust fuel pipe. She let out a sigh, then went back to the airing cupboard to look for linens, not wanting to trouble Mrs. Hawkins with bed-making. When she’d collected sheets and pillowslips, she turned to the middle bedroom and, purposefully not hesitating, pushed open the door.
Andrew’s room had only a very, very faint scent of him, or rather of his tangy shaving soap. For the most part it smelled, like any shut-up room, of dust and furniture polish and still air. A narrow brass bed with a cheerful red quilt stood against the left-hand wall with a bedside table and a glass-shaded lamp. Ranged around an old-fashioned braided rug were a bureau, a bookcase, and, under the single window, a small desk. Without even putting down her armful of linens, Sam went to the bookcase.
The top two shelves held heavy, serious-looking volumes with titles about Constitution and Rule of Law. The lower shelves held a jumble of books, all more brightly colored than the university reading on the top. Sam knelt down to look more closely. Several volumes of Beatrix Potter; When We Were Very Young; a complete Sherlock Holmes; some E. Nesbit; Swallows and Amazons; half a dozen beautifully illustrated fairytale picture books; two books about fishing and a Book of Common Prayer, all looking as if they came straight from the shop; and at the end of the bottom shelf, three sets of Meccano and two jigsaws.
Something made a space between the Meccano and the jigsaws. Sam balanced the linens on her lap and lifted up the jigsaws to find three more books, slim ones. A.E. Housman, and Edna St. Vincent Millay, and Vachel Lindsay.
The sea air, and Andrew’s hand in hers, and the smell of his shaving soap and the wool of his uniform and her own perfume - she’d still had perfume - and his voice in her ear and his lips…
Sam put the jigsaws down abruptly. Her face felt hot and her breath came too fast. It was a long time ago, she told herself sternly. More than a year. It was just a wartime thing. Like Joe. Just, with Andrew I was the one who thought… who wanted… more.
She gathered herself and went to make up the bed. Think about something else. Think about films - but not Gone With the Wind with Andrew. Think about food - but not tea with Andrew. Think about the Russian front. Think about barrage balloons. Think about needlework, and music lessons, and polishing silver.
Think about becoming a nun.
Sam put a dining chair in the upstairs hall for parking trays, and one in Mr. Foyle’s room, near the door, so she could sit down and not hover. (Hovering, it appeared, was nearly as grave a sin as fussing.) She sat down at Mr. Foyle’s dining table with paper, ruler, and pencil to make herself charts for temperature readings, medicine, and meals. She cleaned the wicker breakfast tray, washed the lunch dishes, singed the quarter-chicken Mrs. Hawkins had bought and started it roasting in the oven, and put away the rest of the marketing. She examined the cookware, selected a heavy saucepan as the best option for making a steam inhalation, and started the water heating.
After that, her efficiency lagged. When she went hunting for brown paper to make a cone for the steam, little bits of Andrew kept popping up to surprise her: baby dishes that could only have been his stacked in the back of a cabinet, a date in his handwriting on a jam label, his Debden address tucked in the blotter on the desk. None were as painfully evocative as his room, but all struck harder than she thought they should. When she had to give up on brown paper and tested a cone of newspaper, the paper quickly collapsed and the ink melted in the heat, turning the steam an evil color and leaving black smears all over her blouse. She had to rinse the saucepan and start again. Then, once the clean water boiled, she had to make one trip up the stairs with the breakfast tray and clean bath towels, followed by a second more cautious trip carrying the covered saucepan swathed in tea towels. At least the actual steam inhalation went all right, and Mr. Foyle sounded the better for it, though he was very prickly about Sam’s efforts to arrange the towels.
Sam shredded the roast chicken, started soup from the bones, and put the meat in the refrigerator for the next day. She put the wireless on softly while she washed and chopped vegetables, mixed up a pint of household milk, and checked to be sure she could see how to do the blackout on all the ground-floor windows. The thin winter daylight had already started to fade, and she found herself yawning as she put carrots and potatoes in the soup. Come on, Stewart, this will never do. She made herself a cup of tea from the morning’s leaves, not strong but very hot, which helped, and trotting upstairs to do the blackout there and look in on Mr. Foyle (frowning drowsily over Milner’s papers) made her feel more lively. Still, she was grateful when she heard Milner’s knock and could open the door to the cold, fresh evening air.
“Sam, how are you? How is he?” Milner asked, taking off his hat. “What…?” He looked with concern at the smudges on her blouse.
“Oh. I had a mishap with the newspaper. It’s all right. I’ll just need to wash it out tonight. His temperature’s down to a hundred and one. I think he spent most of the afternoon dozing over that file you sent.”
“Good.” A nervous grin flashed across Milner’s face. “It was the most tedious one I could lay my hands on.”
Sam covered a startled laugh with her hand. “Sergeant!”
He ducked his head. “But as soon as I handed it to Studdock I started to worry that Mr. Foyle would find something pressing in it.”
“Not so far. Look, could I ask you to take his supper up? I’ve got to pop back to my lodgings for a few things and I’d like to be out before my landlady gets home from her shift. Easier to leave a note than to answer questions.”
“Of course.” Milner followed her through to the kitchen “Ah. Just don’t have anything brimful on the tray. I limp a bit on stairs.” He looked away.
“Oh.” Sam paused in ladling soup into a bowl. “Would you rather not?”
“No, just… don’t want to look careless. Not in front of Mr. Foyle.”
“At the moment I think he’d prefer careless to careful, when it comes to himself. He keeps complaining that I fuss.” Sam let out a sigh as she arranged toast on a plate. “My mother always seems to think I don’t fuss enough.” She put a saucepan lid over the bowl to keep it hot, filled a tumbler three-quarters full of milk, and tucked a serviette under the cutlery. She measured a dose of aspirin into another glass, but didn’t add the water. “There, I think that’s everything.”
“Let me guess,” said Milner. “Coq au vin without the vin?”
Sam smiled. “Very little coq, this time, I’m afraid, but the stock is good and strong and there are plenty of potatoes.” She handed him the tray and held the doors for him going through to the hall. “I put a chair in the hall so there’s a spot to put the tray down while you open his door. I shouldn’t be more than an hour, possibly less.”
“Take your time. Edith’s matron is always at the nurses not to skimp on their walks.” He gave her a nod and started climbing the stairs, a little unevenly, it was true, but steadily. Sam buttoned her jacket, pinned on her hat, and let herself out.
Even days after his last journey the London dust stuck in his throat; the London chill clung to his bones. Again and again he turned his thoughts to the business before him, and again and again he found himself pondering unrelated scenes: Edith Ashford in his sitting room, or Mrs. Summersgill in her shop, or Milner, months earlier, his eyes clear but grieved as he said “No, it won’t trouble anyone if I’m late, sir. I should tell you that Jane’s not coming back; we’ve agreed to divorce.”
“You know him,” the women all had said, some as a criticism, some as an accusation, and in his mind now there rang the response he’d barely kept from hurling at Sam when she questioned him outside the Spread Eagle: don’t you know me? Don’t you remember when Andrew was the last to see Connie Dewars? Don’t you know by now what this job demands, what I have to put aside, what I have to do because no one else will?
He had one packet of Aspro left; he stirred it into a glass of water with the end of his pen, drank it off, and walked the corridors again. Winborn and Turner by the cells, Norrell in the canteen (must watch him, he’d been thick with Peters), Page at the front with Brooke and Sam, Goodsell in with Milner making a report on illegal gambling. The constables all nodded respectfully. Brooke gave him his post (three civil defense bulletins, five committee notices, and, God help him, a thick envelope from the internal inquiries department). Sam popped up eagerly, then sat down resigned when he had to tell her he didn’t need the car. Milner froze, stopping Goodsell in mid-sentence until Foyle shook his head and motioned for them to get on with it. His diffidence rasped on Foyle like a starched shirt over sunburned flesh, the more so because he knew he should be able to ease it but it only seemed to worsen.
There was another answer to the challenge, a harder one that repeated with the pulsing of the headache over his right eye: do I know him?
Bomb! was Sam’s first thought, followed by ow! when she tried to roll out of bed and struck a wall. That woke her enough to remember that she was at Mr. Foyle’s, and to realize that there was neither smoke nor fire. She felt certain that there had been some sudden noise, but now only silence pressed on her ears. Blinking, she settled back in the middle of the bed. The luminous dial of her alarm-clock showed a few minutes after midnight.
In the front bedroom Mr. Foyle coughed. Coughed again. And again, loud and harsh and painful to hear. Sam drew a long, grateful breath herself, pushing away the unwelcome memory of her anthrax, and shut her eyes. Probably he coughed before and that’s what woke me, she thought, but the sleep-dim memory of some other sound danced tauntingly in the back of her mind. Go back to sleep, Sam told herself, but when the coughing started once more she pushed back the bedclothes and got up. She couldn’t lay hands on her slippers or her dressing gown, so she put on her shoes over bare feet, buttoned her uniform jacket over her nightgown, grabbed her torch, and stumbled into the hall. All was quiet again, but a thin line of light showed under Mr. Foyle’s door. Sam crept up to it, listened for a moment, then, when she heard faint sounds of movement, knocked. “Sir?”
“All right…” The hoarse words dissolved into more coughing.
“I’m opening the door, sir,” Sam said, more boldly than she felt, and turned the knob.
Mr. Foyle stood by his bed, one hand on the bedside table, the other on his chest as he coughed. Broken glass glittered on the floor. That’s what woke me. Sam switched off her torch.
“Sorry,” Mr. Foyle croaked out. “All right. Just dropped…” he motioned at the shards, and Sam recognized them as the remains of his carafe and water glass. “Go back to bed, I’ll…”
“No! I mean, I have shoes on, sir, and you haven’t.” Sam looked him over with an anxious eye. His eyes were as bright as the broken glass, and little tremors of chill kept going through him as she watched. “Were you cut?”
He shook his head, breathing carefully in a way that reminded Sam of her own illness and the struggle to find a way to get air through her aching chest. Her heart clenched. It’s only bronchitis. Coughs are always worst in the night. Somehow the truths did not comfort her.
“It’s cold, sir,” she said, stepping carefully through the debris. “Get under the covers and I’ll bring you something to drink.”
Mr. Foyle sat down and frowned up at her, not with disapproval but with confusion. “Sorry,” he said again. “Was dreaming, I think.” He did not protest when Sam arranged his pillows in her best imitation of what the nurses at St. Mary’s had done to help her breathe more easily, nor when she motioned for him to lie back. “Did he tell you?”
“Who, sir?” Sam straightened the bedclothes and tucked the sheet in firmly down the side. “Andrew? Tell me what?”
“What? No.” He turned away with a new round of coughing. “Milner,” he managed, between the ugly spasms. “Not divorced.”
“Shh.” Sam put out a hand but didn’t quite dare to rest it on his back. He was throwing off heat like an engine with a leaky radiator, but his teeth kept chattering. Aspirin, I have to get some aspirin in him, and something for the cough. “I don’t remember what exactly he said to me, or when, but I thought he was divorced. We all did. It doesn’t matter, though, sir, it wasn’t him. It was that Harry, from the garage, who’d killed Grace Phillips as well.” She watched with concern as he rubbed his chest. “I need to go downstairs for some things; will you be all right?”
Mr. Foyle nodded, not meeting her eyes, his face still creased with concentration, or pain.
“Five minutes,” Sam promised. Torch in hand, she took the stairs at a run and propped the hall door open to speed her return journey. She barked her shin on something in the sitting room and stubbed her toe on the cooker in the kitchen, but she only gasped out “Blast!” and kept moving.
Mug. Spoon. Honey. Aspirin. Dustpan. Oh, Lord, he’s coughing again. Oh, Lord, what do I do. Whiskey will help. There’s some in the sitting room. Where in the sitting room? Sideboard. Decanter. No hand for the torch. Spoon and aspirin in one pocket, honey in the other, mug handle over my fingers. Oh, dear Lord, stop the coughing, please stop the coughing, he’s not going to be able to breathe.
Sam toiled up the stairs and back to the bedroom. Mr. Foyle hadn’t moved except to rub at his side rather than the center of his chest. Sam dropped the dustpan to the floor, put down her various other supplies on the dresser, opened the nearly-empty pot of honey, splashed in a clumsy few ounces of whiskey, and stirred vigorously.
“Here, sir, this will help.” She waited, worrying at her lip with her teeth, while Mr. Foyle coughed, then gave him a spoonful. “Try to swallow it slowly, in small bits, I mean.”
He nodded. Sam watched him closely, and when he’d swallowed it all she gave him another spoonful. He drew a cautious deeper breath and some of the strain went out of his face. He nodded again.
“Good,” Sam said, feeling the sympathetic tightness ease in her own chest. She put the honey on the table and smoothed the counterpane on the edge of the bed, then knelt down with the dustpan to sweep up the broken glass. There clearly hadn’t been much water left to be spilled, which was good, and Mr. Foyle didn’t cough once while she was sweeping, which was even better. She took the mug to the bathroom for water to mix up the aspirin powder, added a little more whiskey and honey, and handed it to Mr. Foyle. “Drink all this, now.”
He was still shivering intermittently, but he was steady enough now to raise his eyebrows in amused resignation before taking the mug carefully in both hands.
Sam sat down in her chair near the door. Her own hands, she noticed suddenly, were trembling, and her leg hurt dreadfully where she’d banged it in the sitting room. She clasped her hands, trying to still them, but that only made it worse. When she looked up, Mr. Foyle was watching her over the mug.
“Sorry it’s not hot,” she said.
He shook his head. “No,no.” He sipped the medicine. “Sorry I woke you.”
“That’s why I’m here, sir.” She should probably take his temperature, Sam thought, but it was so nice to sit down. As she relaxed into the welcome silence, the trembling eased, and sleepiness crept over her like a tide. She straightened up, fighting it off. “I’ll find a jug or something, something not so breakable, so you’ll have water.”
“One in the spare room. Put the hall light on,” he added, as she stood up. “Can’t h-have you…” he coughed, briefly, and took a drink. “...breaking your neck on the stairs.”
“No, sir,” Sam agreed, warmed by the familiar chiding. She easily found the white china jug, though her own oddly-dressed reflection startled her when she saw it in the spare-room mirror. Filling the jug and collecting the thermometer took only a few moments. When she returned to the front bedroom, Mr. Foyle had finished the aspirin and settled himself back on the pillows.
“Sam,” he murmured, when he saw her shaking down the thermometer. “Doesn’t matter.”
“It might. Please? It would… it would put my mind at rest,” she added, half pleading and half teasing.
Mr. Foyle tipped his head back and let out a soft puff of a laugh. “Well, then.” He held out his hand for the thermometer and put it under his tongue.
Sam set the water in easy reach, and the whiskey and honey. “You can have more of this,” she told him, “if you, if the cough troubles you again.” She fiddled a little with the counterpane, making sure it lay straight, until Mr. Foyle cleared his throat. When she met his eyes, he looked pointedly at her chair and then back at her. “Sorry, sir. I don’t mean to hover, really.”
His face softened slightly and he nodded, then smoothed the counterpane with his own hand as if to say it’s fine. Then his mouth tightened around the thermometer and his eyes fixed hers, saying, as clearly as print, don’t fuss.
Sam sighed and sat down obediently to watch Mr. Foyle’s clock for the remaining minutes.
“Well?” he asked when she read the thermometer.
“Just over a hundred and one point five. Not so bad, even if it’s off a bit from the cold water you had.” Sam cast about for how to phrase what she wanted to ask, finally settling on “Are you quite comfortable now, Mr. Foyle?”
He shut his eyes and nodded. “Yes, Sam. Thank you.” He looked up at her. “Now go back to bed.”
“Yes, sir.” She put the thermometer back in the case and set it down on the dresser. “But do shout if you want more water, or another blanket, or...”
“Goodnight, Sam,” he said firmly, and turned out his light.
I'm writing to let you know that your father's been taken ill; it's not terribly serious and he didn't ask me to write, but I thought you’d want to be told. The doctor says it's bronchitis and he should be better in a week or so.
Sam laid down the pen and studied her words. Since waking she’d gone back and forth half a dozen times about writing to Andrew, and half a dozen more on what to say if she did. The nastier part of her kept suggesting the sorts of treacle-sweet, stabby things that women on Lyminster Ladies’ Aid committees would say to each other - this is properly your job but never mind I’m happy to do it since you’re so busy. A differently nasty part wanted to make him feel the horrible squirming guilt she did when her father wrote about Mummy having a particularly low spell. In fairness to Andrew, though, he probably couldn’t feel that because he wouldn’t feel the shameful relief at being elsewhere. The logical part of her kept wondering if it wasn’t an over-reaction to write at all. It was all very complicated.
However, her two straightforward, factual sentences seemed unexceptionable. Sam was aware of a slight feeling of priggish self-satisfaction - I’m writing to you promptly even though you wouldn’t do the same for me - but she hoped none of that showed. Really, it was as much for Mr. Foyle as for Andrew; it would please Mr. Foyle so much to get a letter, and perhaps even make him a little less prickly.
She folded the note, addressed the envelope, licked the flap and the stamp, and shrugged on her uniform jacket. As she did up the buttons she listened for any sound from the first floor, and heard the rise and fall of Dr. Davies’ voice and the creak and splash of Milner pouring out Mr. Foyle’s shaving water in the bathroom. She slipped out the front door and ran hatless down to the pillar box on the corner. With the envelope poised on the edge of the slot she breathed a childish prayer - Oh Lord God, let this be the right thing. Then she let the letter go and ran back to the house.
Milner was halfway down the stairs when she she came in. He rapidly limped the rest of the way and beckoned her over to a box he’d set on the hall table. “I was out with Edie last night,” he explained, a bit shyly, “after I’d been here, and was telling her about...” He tilted his head towards the stairs. “So when I took her back to St. Mary’s, she ran in and borrowed a few things to make it easier on you.” He opened the box to show her a spirit lamp, a bottle of spirit, and an enamel pot-and-cone inhalation set.
Sam picked up the spirit lamp, checked that it was empty, and then hugged it to her chest. “Paul Milner, I could kiss you. And Miss Ashford. I won’t,” she added, laughing as Milner gave her a sidelong glance. “But honestly, I don’t know how to thank you. I was dreading hauling more boiling water upstairs.”
“I’ll tell Edie, though maybe not in quite those words.” Milner pulled aside some of the cardboard packing. “There’s mentholatum and friar’s balsam as well, if that’s wanted.”
“Thank you.” Sam gave the spirit lamp an affectionate pat, then put it down hastily as the doctor approached.
“Do what you can to keep the aspirin doses regular, Miss Stewart, especially in the evening. The cough may still wake him but if we can keep the fever down he’ll get more rest. The whiskey and honey were good thinking. I’ll send along something stronger, in case, but once the consolidation starts breaking up he shouldn’t need it.”
“Yes, Doctor. Anything else?”
“Keep up the steam and fluids, and don’t stint yourself on food or sleep.” Davies pulled on his overcoat, then took up his bag again and put on his hat. “You’re doing well. I’ll be back tomorrow.”
Milner hung back a little as Davies went out, and told her quietly, “You remember, call the station if you need anything.”
“I will. Do I look so fragile?”
“You look a little tired, that’s all.”
“Today will be easier,” Sam assured him. She saw him out, hung up her jacket, and went back to the kitchen to cook breakfast. She put her own on the tray alongside Mr. Foyle’s, and when she went upstairs she paused in what she was resolutely trying to call her room before knocking with her toe on Mr. Foyle’s doorjamb.
“Do you mind if I eat mine in here, sir? I promise I won’t jaw at you.” Sam set the tray down for Mr. Foyle and took her own plate off it. “I have a book.”
“Don’t mind.” He shook his head with a little upside-down smile. “And Davies says I’m not likely to infect you.”
Sam blinked at him as she sat down. “Were you worried about that, sir? I imagine if I was going to get the germ I’d have picked it up wherever you did. I have been most everyplace you have.”
“Mm.” Mr Foyle unfolded his serviette and uncovered his plate of scrambled powdered egg and toast.
“Except up to London, of course. Those last two times. You should have let me...”
“What are you reading?” Mr. Foyle asked, as he took up his fork and opened his own book.
“Oh. You’ll laugh at me, sir.” Sam turned the book so he could see the spine. “Death ‘twixt Wind and Water. It’s, it’s a murder mystery.”
He raised an eyebrow. “Don’t get enough of that in the job?”
“Well, it happens quite differently in books. And the police don’t always come into it much, and when they do they’re often quite silly and don’t seem to have any regulations at all. These aren’t bad that way, though.” Sam picked up her toast. “What about you, sir?”
“H.G. Wells. The Invisible Man.”
“That seems a bit of a busman’s holiday itself.” Sam grinned. “Mysterious guests and unsolved thefts?”
Mr. Foyle coughed, then half-smiled and tipped his head. “Mm, and human nature.”
Sam wanted to ask more questions at that, but remembering her promise, she bent her head over her breakfast and her novel.
Tuesday was easier. With some meat cooked ahead Sam could get the meals together more quickly, and with the hospital equipment doing the steam inhalations went much more smoothly. At times Mr. Foyle still bristled under her attentions, but Sam discovered that as long as she could keep from asking about how he felt, she could do a fair bit for him.
Ask Mr. Foyle if he was cold, and he would grumble, but put an additional blanket on the foot of the bed and he merely raised a skeptical eyebrow. Ask if he was thirsty, and he would say no, but leave a hot drink on the bedside table and, though he might look askance, he would not tell her to take it away, and more often than not he would drink at least some.
Tuesday night, no more glass broke, but even though Sam woke Mr. Foyle for a dose of aspirin before she went to bed herself at ten, his temperature was over a hundred and two when his coughing woke them both at quarter past three. He’d been so restless that half the bedclothes were on the floor; Sam tucked him back in and gave him Dr. Davies’ cough syrup and aspirin in hot water and watched him anxiously for twenty minutes after he fell back to sleep.
Wednesday passed in peaceful routine, and by the afternoon it even seemed that Mr. Foyle’s cough was loosening a bit, but Sam prepared for the night as if for battle, setting a well-shaded lamp burning in Mr. Foyle’s room, leaving the bathroom light on, dressing in her long underwear under her nightgown and setting her alarm for midnight to wake him for more aspirin.
Sam was out of bed and pulling on her dressing gown before she realized the sound that had woken her came not from Mr. Foyle’s room, but from downstairs. She stuck her stocking feet into her slippers and opened her door. Two dim bars of light fell across the stair head, one narrow from Mr. Foyle’s room and one wider from the bath. The snick of the front door’s latch sounded loudly in the quiet house, almost as loudly as the cautious footsteps that followed.
Burglar, or something worse? Sam cast about for some kind of weapon, finally settling on the frying pan she’d left on the hall chair, after bringing it up in an attempt to keep their supper of powdered-egg-omelette hot. Now, hit the intruder and run out for help, or hit him and retreat to protect Mr. Foyle? She hefted the frying pan, grateful that she’d managed not to get grease on the handle, and took a step closer to the stairs. The footsteps stopped, and she drew breath, then held it when they started again. A bit of shadow solidified and advanced.
“Look,” Sam said, wishing her voice sounded steadier and deeper “Don’t come any further, because I’m armed.”
The shadow stopped. “Sam?” A match hissed and sparked. “What are you doing here?” Andrew asked.
At the sound of his voice all the fear went out of Sam, and for an instant she felt bright and warm and glad. Then the sense of his words sank in, and echoed with the words burned in her memory: someone else… begin again… don’t think badly. “What am I doing here?” It came out more loudly than she meant; Sam dropped her voice to a fierce whisper. “What are you doing here? You’re meant to be in Debden!”
“I got your letter. About Dad.” The flickering light made his dark eyes cavernous and unreadable.
“Oh.” Sam couldn’t find anything else to say.
“Is he in hospital?”
“What? No!” Sam motioned towards Mr. Foyle’s room with the frying pan, then hastily set it down. “He just, it’s because he’s not to get his own meals. And the steam inhalations. Are why I’m here. I did tell you it wasn’t serious,” she added.
“Not terribly serious,” Andrew said. “Which… ow!” The match guttered against his fingers, and he winced as it went out. “Bugger. Sorry.”
Sam blinked and waited for her eyes to adjust to the dimness.
“...which could mean anything, depending on who’s saying it.”
“Well. It was me saying it,” Sam retorted.
“Right. Of course. But if it was what Dad had told you...”
“I should have had the doctor write you. I’m sorry,” Sam said formally.
“No! You… Sam. You have nothing to be sorry for.” Andrew came up the last few steps into the pale wash of light from the bath. He looked tired, but less worn out than the last time Sam had seen him, immediately after his breakdown and immediately before he left for Debden. He also looked sharply older somehow, broader in the shoulder but thinner in the face. No less handsome, unfortunately. “I’m sorry I scared you, creeping in like that.”
“I’m sorry I scared you, with the letter.” He was wearing his flight jacket. She could smell the leather. It made her heart jump as if nothing had changed.
“Is it… can I…?” He motioned towards his father’s door.
“Of course.” Sam stepped back, then, when Andrew hesitated, led the way. On the threshold she could feel him tense, and hear the sharp breath he drew as he took in the room, and at the center, Mr. Foyle, lying pale and rumpled and unshaven on his pillows.
“When?” Andrew asked, his whisper hardly audible over Mr. Foyle’s rough breathing.
“The week-end, I think,” Sam answered softly, her eyes automatically checking everything: Water in the glass. Cough mix in reach. Bedclothes quite straight, he’s not been too restless. “He was his usual self on Friday but when I came on Monday he was very poorly indeed.”
“Christ.” Andrew’s voice trembled.
Sam made fists in the pockets of her dressing gown, though whether to keep from hitting him or embracing him, she wasn’t quite sure. “I’ll make some tea,” she said. “There’s a chair by the door, move it if you like.”
It was just exhaustion and the chill of the kitchen that made her eyes water. Certainly nothing else, Sam told herself, as she watched the gas flame.
As Sam carried the tray upstairs with tea for Andrew and a mug of hot water for herself, Mr. Foyle began to cough, thickly at first but then with the painful barking sound that meant he’d go on coughing until he sat up and had something to soothe his throat and chest. Sam quickened her steps.
“Dad!” Andrew’s voice, urgent and anxious. I should have told him what to do. Warned him how terrible it sounds. But there, in the pause between coughs, she could hear water splashing into a glass and the clatter of a spoon. “No, don’t talk, here.”
Quiet. Sam’s shoulders relaxed, and she put the tray down on the chair in the upstairs hall.
“Andrew? What…” Mr. Foyle let out a shaky breath, clearly fighting back another cough. “When...?”
“Just now. Sam wrote to me. Have some more of this.”
A pause, the sound of pouring again, another pause. “Shouldn’t have worried you.”
”Dad.” A clink, probably the water glass going down. “I’m glad she did. But it’s very early and I’ll be here for three days, so go back to sleep.”
“Long leave… going back to ops?”
“No. Going back to instructing at Debden. I promise. D’you want…?”
“Right.” A creak of bedsprings. “Bloody hell, Dad, you’re like a furnace.”
“Am not, you’re frozen. Did you walk from Debden?”
“Train as far as Ashford, then I hitched on a lorry. Only walked the last few miles. Should you have some aspirin?”
“Had some… midnight.”
“Not time yet, then. Let me turn the pillows for you. It always helped me sleep when you did that.”
You’re eavesdropping. Sam gave herself a little shake. She filled Andrew’s mug and brought it into the bedroom, walking as softly as possible. Andrew was sitting on the edge of the bed, holding his father’s hand. Sam almost backed straight out again when she saw the naked fear and affection on Andrew’s face. It seemed indecent to intrude on that.
As if he felt her eyes on him, Andrew looked up. Hoping she wasn’t blushing as much as she felt she was, Sam pointed to the mug and held it out towards him. He nodded, and made to rise, but she waved him down and brought it to him. He smiled in thanks and took a grateful sip. Sam stood at his elbow and they both gazed down at Mr. Foyle.
He looked very worn, the lines around his mouth and on his forehead deeper than usual. Will Andrew lose his hair that way, when he’s older? Sam wondered, letting her eyes wander to the back of Andrew’s head. His isn’t as curly as Mr. Foyle’s; perhaps he takes after his mother that way. Though even if he did lose his hair like Mr. Foyle I shouldn’t mind. It’s much nicer than losing it back to front like my father or Uncle Aubrey. It’s rather nice to have an idea of what someone will look like years on. Or it would be. If he were my boyfriend. Which of course he’s not.
Mr. Foyle coughed and Andrew made a movement for the water on the bedside table. Mr. Foyle’s eyes opened a crack, then fully when he saw Sam as well. “No, no,” he murmured. She saw his hand tighten on Andrew’s before letting it go. “Go to bed, both of you.”
“When I’ve finished my tea,” Andrew said. “You’re in the spare room?” he asked Sam.
“I put her in yours,” Mr. Foyle said. “Warmer. And, didn’t expect you.” He turned his head to cough.
Andrew drew the counterpane a little higher over his father. “I don’t think you should talk.”
Mr. Foyle pulled a long-suffering face.
“If you don’t mind the spare room just for tonight, we can switch in the morning,” Sam said. “It’s made up, and I can put in a hot water bottle.”
“The spare room is fine. And I don’t need a hot water bottle.”
Mr. Foyle looked to Sam. “I think what my son meant to say was ‘thank you, a hot water bottle would be very nice.’” He leaned on his elbow to drink some water (shooting Andrew a look when he tried to get it for him) and then settled back with a sigh. Andrew flushed; Sam could see his ears go pink.
“That’s all right,” Sam answered automatically. “The teapot’s in the hall, if you want more. And there’s another bottle of cough syrup on the dresser.”
“Sam.” Andrew put a hand on her sleeve as she began to turn away. When she looked at him, he said again, “Thank you,” with a weight far beyond tea and hot water bottles, and with the deep warmth that made her memories at once so sweet and so painful.
For an aching instant she stood with his hand on her arm and her eyes locked in his, and then she pulled away. “Goodnight, sir,” she said, much too loud. “Goodnight, Andrew.” She didn’t hear an answer; she hardly knew how she got out of the room.
Andrew thoughtless, Andrew selfish, Andrew cruel, those were all terrible, but Andrew being kind hurt a thousand times more.
Sam had planned to wear her uniform again on Thursday, but both her blouses wanted washing and keeping her jacket on would rapidly become too hot with all the trips up and down stairs. She put on a cream blouse with a round collar, her green cardigan, and a navy skirt, but pinned her hair up as usual. She had lipstick on half her mouth before she stopped to think. It’s not as if Andrew doesn’t know how I can look. And it’s not as if he didn’t just see me utterly bedraggled in my nightie and dressing gown. And it’s not as if... She frowned at herself in her hand mirror. But it seems such a waste to wash it off. And it does really look rather nice. Maybe it will make me feel better. She made up the rest of her mouth.
Mr. Foyle’s door was open just a crack, and the spare-room door open wide. Sam checked the spare room first, and found Andrew fast asleep, hugging the hot water bottle like a teddy bear. He wore only a singlet for a shirt, but the cuff of a set of dark-blue flannel pajamas showed where one foot protruded from the bedclothes. His mouth was open, but he wasn’t snoring; in fact, she had to watch for several seconds to see him breathe. Sam turned abruptly away and tiptoed down to the other end of the hall to see Mr. Foyle. He, too, was sleeping soundly, his breathing hoarse but regular. The water jug was full; Andrew must have seen to that before he went to bed.
Better do porridge for breakfast, she thought, as she opened the blackout curtains in the sitting room. There probably aren’t enough dried eggs for three. There’s Mr. Foyle’s bacon ration, I could split that between them. Bacon and porridge isn’t bacon and eggs but it’s nicer than porridge alone. And while Milner and the doctor are in I can go down to the shops and get my own ration for the week, and have my bacon at lunch. Sam stopped short on the threshold of the kitchen as she realized that she wouldn’t have to wait; she could go to the shop now to get a good spot in the queue, if she wanted. Andrew was upstairs; he could see to Mr. Foyle.
Andrew was upstairs.
I’m being soppy. She turned towards the hall. Then, making a face at her own foolishness, she turned back to the kitchen.
The porridge oats had just gone in and she was washing the frying pan when there came a knock at the front door, followed by a ring at the bell. Sam turned down the flame under the porridge and scurried to the door, drying her hands as she went. It was too early for the doctor and though Milner might be early he’d never ring the bell for fear of disturbing Mr. Foyle. The bell rang again as Sam came into the hall. “Oh, stop it, you’ll wake them both,” she pleaded aloud as she snapped back the lock, and then hissed “What do you want?” as she hauled the door open.
A broad-shouldered man in American khaki stood on the step. His eyes popped when he saw her and he whipped off his cap. “Oh, God. I’m so sorry, ma’am, I must have made a mistake. I’m looking for Christopher Foyle.”
“Captain… Captain Kieffer?” Sam came out onto the step, half-closing the door behind her.
“Yes, ma’am, have we met? Oh, wait, it’s Miss Stewart, isn’t it? I’m really sorry. Could you point me towards Christopher’s place?”
“It’s here. I mean, you’re here. I don’t live here. I’m staying at the moment, I mean, but not…” She let out a breath and twisted the tea-towel in her hands. “This is Mr. Foyle’s house, but he’s ill and asleep and so’s his son – not ill, I mean, but asleep – and may I take a message or could you call back later?”
Sam threw an agonized glance towards the first floor. Why must Americans be so loud? “Look, could you come through to the kitchen? Just be quiet in the hall, please.”
Captain Kieffer nodded, and was obediently silent while Sam ushered him through the sitting room to the kitchen. She turned up the gas under the porridge, gave it a stir, and went back to washing the frying pan. “We can talk in here – quietly,” she explained. “You see, Mr. Foyle’s room is just over the door, and Andrew – that’s his son – is sleeping at the head of the stairs and he only came in at three this morning and I don’t know when he got to sleep.” She pressed her lips together. Stop it. Don’t worry about him. Don’t think about him at all.
“Sure. Is he home because of Christopher? How bad is Christopher?”
Sam pulled herself up to her full height. “Captain, if you have any police business you should go down to the station, and if you have any personal business with Mr. Foyle, I must ask you to please leave a note and I will pass it along as soon as possible.”
“Whoa.” The Captain held up his hands. “Miss Stewart, I’m sorry,” he said seriously. “I can see how pushy I must sound to you. Christopher – Mr. Foyle – and I have gotten together occasionally since the party you were nice enough to attend last spring. We went fishing a few times in the summer and fall, and had a couple drinks this winter. We got to talking about Massachusetts – where I’m from in the States – and I promised to get him a book about freshwater fishing there. My wife finally found one and sent it over, and today was the first chance I had to drop it off.” He unbuttoned a pocket and pulled out a slim blue volume. “I’d like to write him a note, if you could give me a piece of paper.”
“Oh. Of course.” Sam let out a sigh. She went to Mr. Foyle’s desk for paper and pencil and was turning back to the kitchen when she heard steps on the stairs.
“Sam?” Andrew called softly, his voice rough with sleep. “Is that the doctor?”
“No, it’s a friend of Mr. Foyle’s,” Sam answered, hating how her heart jumped. “You can go back to bed.”
Andrew came through into the sitting room, yawning, carrying the teapot. “No, I need to wake up… at least for a while… can’t get my days and nights switched.” He had no dressing gown but he’d draped a blanket over his shoulders and had shoved his feet into a pair of unlaced plimsolls. “I can smell that you’re cooking – I’ll make the tea. Oh. Hello.” He stopped short when he saw Captain Kieffer.
“Hi,” said the Captain.
“Andrew, this is Captain Kieffer of the American corps of engineers. Captain, this is Flight Lieutenant Foyle, Mr. Foyle’s son.” She handed Captain Kieffer the paper and pencil.
“Captain,” said Andrew, somehow managing to come to attention.
“Lieutenant. It’s a pleasure to meet you. Sorry to barge in – I hope I didn’t wake you up, you or your dad. I was telling Miss Stewart that I finally got a chance to bring over a book I’ve been promising him.”
“Oh, that’s kind of you, Captain. Something to read would be good for him. He’s stuck in bed at the moment.”
To his credit, Captain Kieffer asked no more questions. He simply wrote a sentence on the notepaper, signed his name, and handed paper and book to Andrew, saying “I hope he’ll let me know if there’s anything I can do for him.”
“Thank you, Captain. I’m sure my father will appreciate that very much.”
“Miss Stewart. Sorry, again. “
“That’s all right, Captain. Good morning.” Sam studied the porridge so she wouldn’t have to look – at either of them, but especially at Andrew’s blasted strong arms and rumpled hair.
“Dad is a dark horse,” Andrew said cheerfully when he returned from showing the Captain out. “Making friends with the Yanks!”
“I’m sorry I didn’t get to the door before he rang the bell twice,” Sam said, still not trusting herself to look at him. “Did it wake you?”
“I think I was half-awake already. It’s a luxury not to have reveille. And I did sleep a bit on the train. Do you need this burner or shall I put the kettle on it?”
“The porridge is ready, I can keep it hot in the oven. Put the kettle here and I’ll do the bacon on the other.”
“Don’t spend any of your ration or Dad’s on me,” Andrew said. “Porridge is plenty.” He rinsed the teapot, then ran water into the kettle. In a different, more hesitant voice, he asked, “Sam?”
“What if we give half to Mr. Foyle, and you and I split half?” Sam said, stirring porridge for all she was worth.
“I’m sorry I caught you by surprise. Last night. I should have written that I was coming.”
“It’s all right.” She couldn’t pretend the porridge needed more stirring; she scraped the spoon and put the pot in the oven, then took the frying pan from the drainboard and dodged around Andrew to get the bacon from the larder.
“And I imagine you…” he trailed off into an uncomfortable almost-chuckle. “... really don’t want to see me.”
I wish I knew. In the privacy of the larder Sam let her shoulders droop and rested her forehead for a moment on the edge of a shelf. All I know is you decided you didn’t want to see me. She let out a breath, straightened up, and unwrapped the little lump of bacon. “I’d rather not talk about it.” There. That didn’t sound so bad. With her face composed she came back out. “Make the tea, please. Well, make tea for the two of you, I’ve already taken too much of Mr. Foyle’s ration.”
Andrew rattled the caddy. “I’ll make tea for all of us. If any giving-up needs doing while I’m home, I’ll be the one to do it.”
Just cook the bacon. Don’t look, don’t answer, for God’s sake don’t think about anything but the bacon. She held in her elbow so she wouldn’t brush against Andrew as he put the kettle on and set the pot ready nearby. He did it all as neatly as Mr. Foyle might have, but with a suppressed energy very different from his father’s steadiness. “The doctor comes around eight,” Sam said. “Sergeant Milner sometimes a bit before.”
“Dad’s not been trying to keep working, has he?” Andrew started putting together a tray for the tea.
“No - well, not much. The sergeant’s been helping him shave and things. Mostly standing by in case he gets lightheaded.” Sam almost smiled at the memory of Milner and the tedious file, but decided it might be too difficult to explain to Andrew.
“Brave man, the sergeant.”
“He is,” Sam agreed, thinking of him on the stairs with the tray, and then, with belated admiration, on the stairs with Mr. Foyle. And coming steadily through the station hallway past the critical eyes of the uniformed constables, day after day until one of them actually framed him for murder. “Very.”
“Are...” Andrew broke off as a board creaked overhead. “I’ll go look in on Dad. And get dressed. Here’s the tea cozy.” His blanket caught at her heels as he passed.
Sam looked after him for a long moment, then dragged her attention back to the bacon.
He must have washed and dressed with military speed, because in a matter of minutes she heard steps on the stairs and then the kitchen door swung open.
Stop saying my name. “Bacon’s almost done.”
“Dad asked if you’d come up for a minute.” Andrew had his blues on, though not the jacket, and he’d turned up his sleeves. The picture came strongly to Sam’s mind of his blue jacket and her green MTC one hanging up side by side. Stop it. “I can finish the bacon,” he said. “Um, a minute more?”
“Maybe two…” Sam shook the pan. “No more than that.”
“Right.” Andrew took her place at the stove and studied the bacon intently. Sam smoothed her skirt and trotted upstairs. In Mr. Foyle’s room the blackout curtains were thrown back, but rather than sitting up waiting for her, Mr. Foyle was lying down with his eyes closed.
Sam tapped on the doorjamb. “You wanted to see me, sir?” she asked, when he stirred.
“Yes, thanks. Sit?” Mr. Foyle shifted on the pillows, but didn’t sit up, and motioned at the chair Andrew had pulled up to the bed. He fixed her with a tired, feverish gaze. “Sam, is it all right for you, being here with Andrew home?”
“Of course, sir.” Sam lifted her chin. “It was a long time ago.”
A corner of his mouth curled up. “Not very,” said Mr. Foyle, his roughened voice very gentle.
Sam looked at her hands. “It’s up to you, sir,” she said, when she could be sure her own voice would stay even. “If it’s still useful to have another pair of hands I’ll stay, but of course I’ll clear out if you’d rather just have Andrew.” She raised her eyes and pushed her face into a smile. “He may fuss you less, after all.”
Mr. Foyle gave a rattling cough that might have started as a laugh. “He’s done a university course in fussing. And he’s always been a rotten cook, even before rationing, so I’d be quite grateful if you...” He coughed again.
“That’s settled, then.” Sam stood up. “I’ll go get your breakfast.”
“Would you…” He cleared his throat.
“Start that thing going?” He nodded at the spirit lamp.
“Of course,” Sam answered, trying to cover her surprise. She filled the pot of the inhalator from the water jug, then lit the spirit lamp and set the pot over it to heat. “It’ll be ready in ten or fifteen minutes.”
Mr. Foyle nodded, his eyes closing again. Safely unobserved, Sam let herself frown and clasp her hands in front of a growing weight, like a lump of ice, in the pit of her stomach. She remembered enough from her mother’s illness to understand that the change in his cough meant the congestion in his lungs was starting to break up, and that it was a good thing, but she didn’t like the weariness that seemed to pin him down on the bed, nor the smudges of unhealthy color on his cheeks, nor the fact that he’d all but asked for an inhalation. I’ll be glad when the doctor comes.
“I’m only tired, Sam, don’t stand about and fret,” Mr. Foyle said, without opening his eyes.
“I don’t fret, sir,” Sam retorted.
His eyebrows and one corner of his mouth went up, and he turned his head slightly on the pillow.
“I worry. It’s quite different.” She emptied the jug into his water glass. “I’ll send Andrew up, and Milner and the doctor should be here soon.”
“...like bank holiday on Brighton pier…” Mr. Foyle muttered, then coughed.
Sam winced at the sound, but said only, “It won’t be for long, sir,” and went quietly out.
Dr. Davies tapped his pen thoughtfully on Sam’s charts. “It’s most common for the temperature to decrease gradually over a matter of days. In some cases, however, the fever stays up or even rises before breaking rather dramatically, and it seems Mr. Foyle’s is going to be one of those.”
“What they used to call a crisis,” Andrew said. With only two chairs left at the dining table, he’d insisted on Sam and the doctor taking them, and was leaning against the sideboard, his arms crossed, his mouth very tight.
The doctor nodded. “Yes. Convenient in novels; rather trying in life, for all concerned. It doesn’t mean a quicker recovery, necessarily, since it’s still important for the patient to avoid getting chilled or overtaxing the chest while the congestion clears.”
“That’ll be a nightmare with Dad. We’ll have to find a burly constable to sit on him.”
Sam could hear the nerves under Andrew’s light tone, but still she gritted her teeth. “Is there any way to know when there’s going to be a crisis? How far off it is, I mean? And is it dangerous?”
“Only the risks of the fever itself, especially if it spikes, the usual…” Davies blinked and seemed to suddenly recall that he wasn’t giving a lecture. “Ah. I hope, given the pattern thus far, that his fever will break in the next twenty-four hours.”
Sam nodded. “What should I… should we… do for him?” she asked levelly.
“He may be restless or confused at times; keeping him quiet and comfortable will be the main thing. Don’t worry about meals if he doesn’t want them, but keep up the drinks and aspirin. If his temperature stays high even with the aspirin, you could try sponging him down but it’s important not to let him be chilled; start with his face and hands and only go on if he tolerates that without shivering.”
Sam nodded, and scribbled notes in pencil at the bottom of her now slightly dog-eared sheet of instructions. She could feel Andrew looking over her shoulder; she tensed, but kept writing.
“What about his chest?” Andrew asked.
“The cough sounds very nasty, I know, but the inflammation is improving and he’s started to shift the congestion. If he’s too tired for the regular inhalations, take the cone off the inhalation set and keep water boiling to humidify the room; you know how to raise him up with the pillows,” Davies added to Sam.
Andrew put a hand down on the table and looked at Davies over Sam’s head. “And if his fever doesn’t break by morning?”
“If it doesn’t, he’ll need… he’ll be better off in hospital. Miss Stewart’s looked after him extremely well, Lieutenant Foyle, and I don’t mind telling you that without her he’d have gone into pneumonia days ago. But the fever is wearing him down.”
“I can see that.” Andrew let out a breath. “All of that,” he added, more softly, touching the papers with a finger. “Thank you.” He shook Davies’ hand and followed him into the hall.
Sam let her pencil fall and bent over her notes, closing her eyes. I changed my mind, sir, it’s not all right being here. It’s not all right at all. But neither are you. She straightened up and started filling in the meal chart.
The front door shut behind Milner and Davies, and Andrew came back to the sitting room. Sam’s shoulders tightened, but she kept writing.
“Sam. I don’t know how to… You’ve been working like a navvy.” Andrew picked up the rest of her charts and ruffled the pages.
“Does that surprise you?” Sam pushed her chair back and stood up. “You asked me to look after him.”
Andrew’s face went still as a photograph.
“Something else I took more seriously than you did.” She could feel her heart beating in her throat.
He swallowed. “I… it wasn’t… never mind. You’ve every reason to…”
Sam broke in, her words like bullets of ice in her mouth. “Am I expected to be grateful for your permission to be angry?”
“No. I don’t expect anything.”
“Well. Clearly.” Sam snatched the papers from him.
He looked down, then raised his eyes. “I’m sorry.”
“How does that do me a dashed bit of good, Andrew?” Her voice caught on his name. She hugged her notes to her blouse and looked away.
“I suppose it doesn’t,” he said, very softly.
“It only makes it…” she broke off at the sound of Mr. Foyle coughing. She stared at the ceiling until it stopped.
“Sam.” Andrew had come much closer.
She pulled back. “Don’t.”
“What would make it easier?”
Hating you. Hating you would make it ever so much easier. “Someone should look in on him,” she said, ignoring the question.
“I’ll make him some baked custard for lunch. You and I can, can have sandwiches. There’s some cheese left.”
“He needs us both today.” Sam swallowed hard and turned to look at him. “I think we agree on that.”
Andrew nodded. He looked at her for a long moment. “Do you want to sit with him, and I’ll wash up from breakfast?”
“You go up. The stove’s still hot, I’ll do the custard before it cools. Save fuel.”
“All right,” he said again.
Silence stretched between them. “Right,” Sam said at last. She put the charts down on the dining table and turned to the kitchen. After a moment she heard the hall door, and then Andrew’s steps on the stairs.
It was cold in the kitchen, but not cold enough. Sam opened the window and put her face out in the brisk wind until her eyes stopped burning.
“‘...in other parts, compared to ours, fish do differ much in their bigness, and shape, and other ways, and so do trouts; it is well known that in the Lake Lemon (the Lake of Geneva), there are trouts taken of three cubits long, as is affirmed by Gesner, a writer of good credit.’” Andrew looked up from the book, his face going guarded when he saw Sam in the doorway.
“Sleeping?” Sam asked softly, nodding towards Mr. Foyle, who lay with his face turned away.
“Off and on. Pretty restless. He seems quieter when…” Andrew raised the book.
“That’s good.” Sam watched Mr. Foyle stir uneasily on the pillows. “Can I get you anything? Either of you?”
“More water - he’s thirsty when he’s awake.”
Sam nodded and stepped carefully past Andrew to take the jug from the bedside table. As she filled it at the bathroom tap she thought wistfully of lemonade and orange squash and all the refreshing drinks she used to make for Mummy. Stupid war. When she returned, Andrew had put the book aside and was shaking down the thermometer under Mr. Foyle’s glassy stare.
“Over the bed,” Mr. Foyle rasped wearily. “Won’t break if…”
“I’m not going to drop it, Dad.” Andrew frowned at the little tube, then shook it again, stiffly, as if he were hammering a nail.
Sam put the jug down. “You have to sort of… flick your wrist. Can I…?”
He thrust it ungraciously at her. She demonstrated, over the foot of the bed, feeling smug for a moment and then ashamed. Perhaps Andrew did as well, because when she tried to hand the thermometer back he nodded at his father and said “Go on,” with apologetic roughness.
“Three minutes, sir,” Sam said, trying not to frown at how docilely Mr. Foyle opened his mouth. The room felt suffocating, even though it was no warmer than it had been the day before. She stood back and plaited her fingers. Andrew picked up the book again.
“‘There is also in Kent near to Canterbury, a trout: (called there a Fordidge trout) a trout (that bears the name of the town, where it is usually caught) that is accounted the rarest of fish, many of them near the bigness of a salmon…’”
When the time was up Andrew gave Mr. Foyle a drink of water, then joined Sam at the window where she’d gone to read the thermometer. “A hundred and three?” He sounded shaken.
“Under,” Sam said. “Just, but under, see?”
“Has it been…?”
“It was higher, the first day. But never when he’s had aspirin.”
“He had some an hour ago.”
“We’ll sponge him down. Like the doctor said.” She waited for Mr. Foyle to call them worryguts and tell them not to fuss, but his eyes were closed again. “I’ll get a bowl and flannel. It’ll be all right,” she said, not sure who she most wanted to reassure.
It hurt with a hot, angry ache to see how gently Andrew bathed Mr. Foyle’s face, but she couldn’t look away. “Have you had to do that before? For anyone, I mean?”
He shook his head, moving the cloth carefully over his father’s jaw. “Not really. Brought a cold flannel to a friend with hangover, that sort of thing.”
“You’re good at it,” she said quietly.
Andrew didn’t look at her. “He’s said ‘Peter’ a couple times - is that the sergeant?”
“No, his name’s Paul. I don’t know any… oh. There was a Constable Peters.” Blast him.
“Mr. Foyle had to dismiss him just before Christmas, for... interference in a case.”
“Oh, Dad.” Andrew wrung out the flannel in the bowl. “Dream about trout, why can’t you.” His face was painfully tender. Sam crossed her arms tightly over her chest.
He had forgotten what he must do, but the urgency of the need thrummed in his mind. He had to find Milner. Or was it Andrew? Something to do with a constable, or a commissioner, or was it both? Elizabeth was part of it somehow, terrible in her sorrow, terrible in the aching pity and the distant anger she raised in him.
He almost welcomed the cough; when it came he could not think, and afterwards, for a little, his chest felt lighter. Andrew was there, and then Sam, and then both of them together. He knew there was some reason that should not be so, but he could not remember it. The failure rankled.
He dreamed, and knew he dreamed, but knowing did not lessen his confusion when the floor of the station turned to black, sucking mud at his feet, or a faceless Chief Constable loomed over his bed, or Milner, in RAF blues, turned to him with tormented eyes and said “I disgust you.”
“No,” he said, in the dream, but he must have spoken aloud because Andrew answered.
Sam said, “It’s too cold. I’ll get some hot.”
He opened his eyes to see why her bright voice was so heavy, and Andrew’s so gruff, and everything came back: the Jane Milner case finished, Milner cleared and Peters suspended and the whole business in the hands of the AC. Drawing breath to explain made him cough, and cough, until Andrew slid an arm under his shoulders and eased him upright. His head spun, even with Andrew bearing his weight, but the coughing stopped.
“Get you ill,” he protested, when Andrew leaned in close. His own voice sounded thin and far away. Andrew’s hair was soft as Rosalind’s against his cheek.
Andrew just said “Shh,” and held him steady while Sam turned the pillows.
You’re meant to be a driver , he wanted to tease her, but he only murmured, “Sorry,” as she helped Andrew to settle him back.
“It couldn’t matter less, sir, really.” She smiled, though her eyes were dark. “Just rest.”
“No,” he began, but his eyes wouldn’t stay open. One pair of hands smoothed the bedclothes over him; another bathed his hands and his face with a damp flannel. He could not tell which were Sam’s and which were Andrew’s.
He dreamed of Elizabeth, somehow still nineteen, still in the green dress she’d had that last summer, but wearing Jane Milner’s red hat as she stood in his doorway saying those things that would once have been air and water to him and were now wormwood. I was wrong; I love you; Take me back.
He dreamed of a brick in his hand.
A hoarse shout, and then a scramble, and Andrew’s rising voice. “Dad. Wake up. It’s me, it’s Andrew, Dad, it’s all right. SAM!”
The bottle of spirit nearly slipped out of Sam’s hand, but she got it down and with a single motion spun around and darted across the room.
“Get out,” Mr. Foyle growled, fighting with surprising strength as Andrew tried to keep him on the bed. His eyes were open but unseeing.
“Mr. Foyle. Mr. Foyle, sir, listen to me.” Sam caught his arm. “Sir, please wake up. Please.”
He tried to shake her off. “Can’t go back… ”
Andrew made a noise like all the air going out of him. “Dad. Dad. You’re home. You’re in Hastings, you’re home. Dad. I need you to wake up.” His voice went tight and high. “Dad.”
Under their hands Mr. Foyle stilled. “...Andrew?”
“What…” He coughed.
“Just a dream,” Andrew said. He rested his palm against Mr. Foyle’s forehead. “Shh, steady.”
Sam got the flannel from the bowl on the bedside table and held it carefully to the back of Mr. Foyle’s neck. “Sorry, sir,” she said, when he gasped and coughed again.
“...no…” He nudged her arm when she began to pull away. “Good.”
“Say if it gets too cold.” She turned down his collar to keep it from getting damp, though the heat of his skin would probably have dried it rapidly.
“Here, Dad.” Andrew reached around her for the water glass and held it to his father’s lips. “Slowly,” he cautioned.
“Sorry,” Sam murmured, to Andrew this time, as she bumped against him.
“It’s all right.”
“‘I care not, I, to fish in seas,
Fresh rivers best my mind do please,
Whose sweet calm course I contemplate,
And seek in life to imitate...’”
“Here.” Andrew handed Sam a mug. “One spoonful of dried milk, is that right?”
Sam stared for a moment. “Yes. Thanks.” She took a sip. “He’s been quieter.”
There was the stove, and there were the stairs, and there was the sickroom. There was food none of them could eat, and page after page from The Compleat Angler that none of them comprehended. There was Mr. Foyle, hot and restless, muttering and coughing in his uneasy sleep. There was Andrew, pacing in stocking feet so he wouldn’t make noise, fiddling with the knobs of the dresser, watching his father with a pilot’s intensity. There was the waiting.
Around blackout time Andrew fell asleep sitting up by the bed, his head canted at an uncomfortable angle, one hand hanging limp. Sam lifted it carefully into his lap and kept reading. Her eyes felt sandy and her throat grew dry, but Mr. Foyle was quiet and quiet was good. And Andrew needed the sleep.
She stood as long as she could, then leaned against the wall, and finally on the dresser, keeping her place in the book with one hand and propping her head up with the other. “‘...You are to note, that there are twelve kinds of artificial made flies to angle with upon the top of the water, (note by the way, that the fittest season of using these is in a blustering windy day, when the waters are so troubled that the natural fly cannot be seen, or rest upon...’”
“Sam.” Andrew’s voice creaked from disuse. “ Sam.”
She looked up, blinking. For a moment her eyes wouldn’t focus. “What? I mean…” She pushed off the dresser and stumbled across the room.
“I think he’s cooler.” Andrew shifted to sit on the edge of the bed. “Did you sponge him off while I was asleep?”
“No, he was quiet, so I just...” She trailed off when she saw Mr. Foyle, his face damp with sweat but relaxed. His breathing was slow and deep, with only a little rasp at the bottom.
Andrew felt his father’s forehead, first with his palm, then the back of his hand. “I think he’s cooler,” he said again. “Do you?”
Sam touched Mr. Foyle’s hand, and then, hesitantly, his face. “I do. I really do.” The thermometer was on the bedside table; Sam snatched it and shook it down. “Here, under his arm… it’s not as accurate, but…”
Andrew nodded, folding down the sheet and unbuttoning Mr. Foyle’s pajamas. “God, he’s sweat buckets...”
“Shhh. Can you, over his shoulder… yes, good, now hold his arm there and I’ll hold this… can you pull up the sheet?”
It was a very long five minutes, the three of them pressed together, Sam’s own heartbeat loud in her ears, clashing with Andrew’s quick, nervous breaths and Mr. Foyle’s blessedly steady ones. Oh, please, Sam thought. Please. Finally, she could check the reading.
“Ninety-nine.” She shut her eyes for a moment. “Thank God.”
Andrew drooped against her back, a warm, solid weight. “Yes,” he agreed. And then, much more softly. “Yeah.”
Sam took his hand where it rested on Mr. Foyle’s arm and gave it a quick, firm squeeze. For one more breath she let herself keep the contact, then straightened her back and took her hand away.
“Oh.” Andrew drew back at once. “Sorry, I…. Sorry.”
“Shh,” she said again, moving to put the thermometer away. “We should try not to wake him.”
“But I think we, we could change at least the top sheet without disturbing him; I’ll look for a clean one.”
“Back in a tick.” She cast one more relieved glance at Mr. Foyle, nodded to Andrew without looking at him, and fled.
Sam woke up slowly to the deep gray haze of sunlight falling on blackout curtains, and could not at first remember where she was. Not Lyminster. Not her lodgings. Not Uncle Aubrey’s. She stretched beneath the covers and found herself still half-dressed in a blouse and petticoat. What…? she thought, and then sat up with a jerk as the past days snapped into focus. Mr. Foyle. Andrew.
Her clock showed half-ten. The whole house seemed quiet as a church, which could be either very good or very bad. Sam rolled out of bed and picked up yesterday’s skirt where she’d dropped it on the rug. She’d slept so heavily that her hands were clumsy doing up buttons and laces, but she went as fast as she could.
When she opened her door she could hear a faint noise of conversation from the street through the open front door. Mr. Foyle’s door was open as well. Sam stepped closer.
Someone had opened the furthest window at the top. A notebook lay on the chair pulled up by the bed. And in the bed, sitting up, in fresh pajamas, with papers spread on the breakfast tray before him and a mug in his hand, was Mr. Foyle.
“Morning, Sam.” He gave her a little smile. “Sleep well?” His voice was hoarse but strong. For the first time all week, his color was right, and his eyes were sharp as ever.
A weight Sam had forgotten was there suddenly lifted off her chest. “You look splendid, sir.”
“Mm.” He bent his head, half-embarrassed, half-disparaging. “Not a widespread opinion, but thank you. Apparently today I shall be allowed to have a bath and, in the afternoon, if I am very good and don’t get excited, to read something fewer than nine months out of date.” He tapped a disdainful finger on the typescript in front of him.
Sam laughed. “You may have to resign yourself to just a little more fuss, sir. Did you get breakfast?”
“In a manner of speaking. Milner and Andrew… possibly even less than the sum of their parts, in a kitchen.”
“We’ll have lunch early.” Sam pondered the larder. “I don’t know what we’ll have, but I’ll come up with something decent. Decent-ish.”
The front door shut. “Sam?” Andrew called up the stairs. “Did I wake you?” He jogged up behind her. “Caught the postman, Dad,” he said to his father.
“You should have,” Sam said. She thought maybe she didn’t really want to be beaming at Andrew, but she couldn’t stop. “It’s the middle of the morning, you idiot!”
“Dad and I agreed you should have your sleep out. The doctor’s been, and between dire cautions about overexertion and relapse, was about as pleased as I think he’s capable of being.”
“Alarmist,” Mr. Foyle muttered.
“Well, Dad, maybe you should have a regular doctor,” Andrew teased. “If you don’t want to be stuck with whoever your sergeant can scare up.”
“Get out, both of you,” Mr. Foyle said, without heat. “Leave it,” he added, when Andrew moved towards the window. “I am allowed half an hour; it’s only been twenty minutes.”
“And you’ll wait for one of us to come back and won’t get up to shut it yourself?”
“Wouldn’t hurt me if I did, but no, Sister Foyle, I won’t.”
Sam clapped both hands over her mouth to keep back the giggles.
“You’re bloody impossible, Dad.” Andrew grinned. “I’ve missed you.”
Mr. Foyle ducked his head, smiling. “Well.”
Sam found two tins of salmon on the very top shelf of the larder, and they ate the lot with jacket potatoes and a great deal of laughter over nothing very much. The Foyles kept chaffing each other as if she weren’t there, or rather, as if she ought to be there, the way that, after the first night of a visit, her cousins used to forget to treat her as company and would get up to their usual raucousness. Mr. Foyle, of course, was never raucous, but he was animated and quick with a wry word or a keen look, and Andrew was almost giddy. He laughed like a little boy, his mouth open wide, his hair falling towards his eyes. Sam had to laugh herself, watching him, and then try hard not to when either of them appealed to her to join in an eyeroll or a headshake at the other. She didn’t even try not to laugh, though, while Andrew described his journey down as a joke on himself, culminating with meeting Sam and the frying pan at the head of the stairs.
“You were lucky not to be knocked out.” Mr. Foyle tipped his head towards Sam. “This one’s a dead shot with blunt objects.”
“...Spanners?” Andrew asked.
Mr. Foyle looked back to her. “You never told him about…?”
Sam widened her eyes in innocence. “Discuss a case with someone outside the force, sir?”
“Ohh, got him. Caught in your own net, Dad.” Andrew grinned.
Mr. Foyle coughed and mock-glared at him.
“You have to tell me now.” Andrew looked between them expectantly.
“Right,” said Mr. Foyle. “First day. Down at the net huts. Left Sam with the car, went to meet a man doing business in draft evasion. Conversation went poorly; man took off. I pelted after him, thinking ‘there’s ten days’ work gone,’ came around a corner to find him neatly laid out on the shingle, Sam standing over him with a bin lid and a face like she thought she’d be arrested.” He crinkled his eyes at Sam before he coughed.
“I didn’t think I’d be arrested,” Sam protested. “I just… was remembering about fifty speeches I’d been given about insubordination and, well, things.”
“Did he give you that look?” Andrew asked confidentially. “The ‘well, it appears God protects the simple after all’ look?”
“That one’s reserved for you,” Mr. Foyle said.
Sam leaned closer to Andrew. “More the ‘that was unexpected; is it going to get worse?’ look.”
“I am here,” Mr. Foyle objected. His voice thinned on the last word and he grimaced in irritation.
Andrew thumped his leg through the bedclothes. “And… I expect this to be my only opportunity to ever say this to you… you’re talking too much. Finish your tea while we do the washing up and then I’ll run your bath, all right?” Andrew began to collect plates on the tray.
Mr. Foyle sighed. “Yes, nanny. Thank you, Sam,” he added, when she poured out the the last of the tea for him.
“Should I worry that I’ve been demoted from ‘Sister?’” Andrew asked, as they carried the dishes downstairs.
“I think it’s a what-do-you-call, an opposites sort of thing. Like golf scores. Good to be lower.” Sam elbowed the doors open and held them for Andrew. “Wash or dry?”
“I don’t care. What do you like better?”
“Wash. Closest a girl can get to a manicure, these days.” Sam put down the teapot and turned up her sleeves.
Andrew laughed and rummaged in a drawer for tea towels. “Fair enough. If a chap’s opinion matters, you’re not suffering for lack, though.”
“Thanks.” Sam smiled as she pulled down the soap flakes. “Oh, the ones draped over the kitchen chairs are clean, I’d just used them as potholders.”
He nodded and flipped one over his shoulder, then stationed himself beside her with another ready in his hands. “Did they give you a strong line in the MTC about insubordination?”
“Well, discipline is what they liked to talk about, mostly, though knowing one’s place as a miserable worm came up pretty sharply. Why?”
“Thinking about what odd jobs so many wartime things are. And how the training doesn’t always fit at all. When you’re in a plane you’re absolutely on your own, most of the time, the only one who sees the situation, the only one who can respond. You’ve got to think for yourself. But there’s the discipline bit, the just-follow-orders, salute-and-shut-up. Ties you in knots.” He took the tumbler Sam passed him and rubbed it carefully. “You’re on your own in a car even more, really. We’ve got radios, at least sometimes.”
Sam rubbed the dishcloth over a plate. “When I first learned, I remember thinking, you can be alone in a car in a way you can’t anywhere else. But it’s not like an airplane; you can pull over to talk to someone, if you need to.”
“If there’s anyone about.” Andrew set the tumbler aside and reached for the plate as Sam finished with it. “Roads are as empty as the shops. I was lucky I found the lorry the other night.”
“Mm.” They were moving easily side by side now, nothing like the morning before. Sam noticed it and tried to forget she’d noticed. “Do you still fly, as an instructor?”
“A bit. In these terrible lumbering crates. We try to get them soloing as soon as we can, though, which means me shouting at the side of the air strip and waving my hands like a madman. Actually, I’m probably the RAF edition of your awful Mrs. Bradley.”
“You’re not nearly round enough, sorry,” Sam said, and they both laughed.
Sam wondered once or twice if she should offer again to leave, but there still seemed to be more than enough for both of them to do: the sitting room, somehow, looked as if a hurricane had been through, and she kept finding mugs and tea towels in odd places. A few times Andrew asked if she wouldn’t like to sit down and read while he did this or that, and once Mr. Foyle scolded her to “let this one make himself useful” with a jerk of his head towards Andrew. (Then he went on “or I could get my own…” to which Sam and Andrew answered in unison, “NO.”) But neither of them seemed in any way inclined to suggest she go home.
Strangely, as they went about the business of the day, Sam found herself thinking of Joe. Not his startled face when she’d told him she couldn’t say yes, not the visits he’d (so kindly, so exhaustingly) continued during her convalescence, not the few awkward times they’d tried going out “just as friends,” but the walks and the dances and the nights at the pictures. They’d had such fun at first. They’d had such fun right along, as long as they were doing things, but having him with her for ordinary chores like queuing at the shops, or turning in salvage, had been awkward and wearing. She’d put it down, at the time, to Joe being an American and her feeling an obligation to explain or sometimes defend British ways of doing things, but she wondered, now, if it hadn’t been something both smaller and more significant, something about them not being able to be at ease with each other. Well, about me not being able to be at ease with him. It was impossible to imagine coming home to Joe and simply being home, not being on company manners.
Late in the afternoon, when the house was tidy and Mr. Foyle was sleeping, Sam took the opportunity to wash out her blouses and a few other things in the basement laundry sink. Andrew had the wireless on in the sitting room when she came upstairs; there was an organ programme finishing. Sam stopped short in the doorway as the familiar chords swept her abruptly back to a hundred services in Lyminster.
Lilies at the altar rail, or irises, or white chrysanthemums. Black veils in the pews, and Daddy in his black stole, and candles, candles everywhere, somehow only heightening the dark. Her own gloved hands on the hymn book, her series of black dresses (first short, then longer, always mysteriously scratchy), her own small voice over St. Stephens’ reedy organ and the thin drone of people too stunned and sad to sing. “The day thou gavest, Lord, is ended/ The darkness falls at thy behest…”
“Turn that off,” Sam snapped. “Switch it off.”
Andrew stared at her for an instant, then bolted from his chair and lunged for the switch. “What is it? What’s wrong?” He took a cautious step towards her, his hands up as if she were a startled horse that might shy.
It was only when she tried to speak that Sam realized she was crying. “Lyminster,” she managed, in a pitiful squeak. ”Funerals.” She pressed a hand over her mouth and shut her eyes, trying to push the tears back.
“Oh, Sam. Sam.” Sympathy was deep in his voice. She felt rather than heard him cross the room to stand closer.
“Always…. had to be there. Sing when no one else could. Vicar’s daughter.”
Andrew put a handkerchief in her free hand. “That sounds awful.”
“I’m sorry,” Sam gulped out. “So silly.”
“You’re not silly,” Andrew said firmly. “What you are is exhausted.” He took her very gently by the elbow and guided her to one of the armchairs.
“I can’t be. You let me sleep for a-absolutely ages.” She tried to steady her breathing but it kept breaking into ridiculous hiccuping sobs.
“After how many nights when you were getting up to look after Dad?” He went to the sideboard and came back with a generous measure of whiskey. “Have a good swallow of that.”
Sam coughed on the fumes, but obediently swallowed, and then let out a shaky sigh.
“There aren’t going to be any funerals, you know.” He crouched beside the chair to look up into her face, all earnestness.
“We’re in the middle of a war, Andrew, there’s nothing but funerals.” Fresh tears brimmed over.
“Not here. Not from this house. Dad’s not going to die, and you’re not going to die, and I’m not going to die, and your brave Sergeant Milner isn’t going to die.”
She so wanted it to be true that she sobbed again, and then once more, because it was so childish. “Andrew.”
“Well. I can offer you very good odds on none of us dying today, how’s that? Rational enough?”
Sam mopped her eyes. “I’d settle for just not having to sing the, the... blasted hymn.”
“I’ll cut it out of the hymn books.” Andrew made a chopping gesture.
“What, all of them?”
“It might take a while. But I’m sure I could break in to St. Clement’s and have theirs sorted before morning.”
Sam gave a watery giggle. “The ridiculous part is… my father always wants it because, no, it really is funny… because he says it’s not depressing.”
“Well.” Andrew cocked his head. “Compared to Lyminster… sorry, that was dreadful.”
“No…” Sam laughed again, a little more easily. “It might be true. Lyminster is pretty dreadful.”
“Have another sip,” he urged. “Better?”
“Better.” Sam swirled the liquor in the glass. “Thanks.”
“Don’t mention it.” He smiled hesitantly.
Sam smiled back, then turned away to blow her nose. Andrew got up and settled himself on the sofa, near enough for conversation but far enough that she didn’t have to look at him. The silence felt unfamiliar, but not uncomfortable.
“Why… why did you call him ‘my sergeant Milner?’” Sam asked, after a minute.
“Well, as much as anyone at the station. It’s not as if we’re…” She looked at Andrew. “You never thought me and Milner…!”
Andrew gave a tiny shrug. “You seem… fond of him.”
“I am fond of him, but not walking-out fond. Anyway, he’s walking out with a nurse. She got me the spirit lamp and inhalator. And he’s… Milner.”
“Indisputably,” said Andrew, with a twist of his mouth that made him, for an instant, very like his father.
“What about you?” Sam asked, regretting it almost before the question was past her lips.
“Me?” Andrew was looking away.
“Your young lady.”
He shook his head. “No one now.”
“Oh.” Sam wondered if her tears would rise up again, but nothing happened. Maybe it was the whiskey, or maybe she really was exhausted. Or maybe I’m over him? That would be best, to be over him.
Andrew clapped his hands on his knees. “Look, Dad thinks I’m a complete incompetent at cooking, but I’m really not so bad when I keep my mind on the job. Would you trust me to make us bangers and mash? I’ll shout for you if I get out of my depth.”
“Oh. All right. I may not be any help if I have much more of this.” Sam raised the glass. “You gave me a frightful lot.”
“Have all you want.”
“It’ll be a waste of Mr. Foyle’s...”
“Serve him right, silly bugger.” Andrew cast a wry, warm glance at the ceiling as he got up.
“Thank you,” Sam said again.
Andrew opened his mouth, shut it, and then nodded. “Not at all.” He went through to the kitchen.
He talked to himself while he cooked; Sam couldn’t catch the words, but the rhythm was soothing. Perhaps it was only the whiskey, or the after-crying calm, but she felt very cozy, there in the sitting room, with supper on the way and the curtains drawn and the knowledge of Andrew in the kitchen and Mr. Foyle upstairs. Sometimes, when she was three or four years old, her father had taken her with him when he went to pay calls in the parish, and if she fell asleep in the car coming home she would wake up draped against his shoulder, his cheek on her hair, as he carried her to bed.
It felt like that.
“You can get up tomorrow, sir,” Sam said patiently as she dried the inhalation set. As Saturday wore on it became increasingly clear that Andrew’s earlier remark about needing someone to sit on Mr. Foyle to keep him resting was not nearly as fanciful as it had sounded at the time.
“Sam, I don’t think lying on the sofa would be ‘getting up’ in any meaningful sense.” Mr. Foyle looked hopeful. “Particularly as I’m sure the two of you will pile me with every blanket in the house.”
“It’s the stairs the doctor doesn’t want you doing.” Sam carefully did not laugh at Mr. Foyle’s disgusted expression. “But if you wrap up well I don’t see why you couldn’t sit up in a chair for a bit. By the window, even, if you like.”
“Oh, with a new comic book, perhaps?”
Sam did have to smile at that, though she tried to hide it by looking down.
“Sorry.” Mr. Foyle sighed. “Feel a bit… cooped up.”
“Don’t be sorry, sir. If you want the truth, I’m jolly glad you’re in a state to be bored.”
He tilted his head in embarrassed acknowledgement. “Andrew still on the phone about trains?”
“Yes, I don’t think it’s going very well. He may have to get the bus to Brighton and go from there.”
Mr. Foyle frowned. “Did the post come?”
“Only a parish circular and some sort of charity appeal. Is there something you expected?”
“Just an outside chance.” He shook his head. “Right, in the bookcase in the sitting room, second shelf, there’s a novel called The Good Earth by Pearl Buck. I’d like that, please, and some more writing paper, if there is any.”
Sam put her hand on the chair, ready to move it. “Would you like to sit by the window, though?”
“I’ll wait. Like to watch when Andrew goes, if I can’t see him off properly.”
Sam nodded sympathetically, but said “You’re getting better, sir. I think that’s the send-off he wants.”
Mr. Foyle twitched his mouth to one side and looked away. “Mm. Sam.”
“It was… very kind of you. To write to him. Thank you.”
“Not at all, sir.”
“If you’d asked, I’d’ve told you not to trouble him, which I imagine is at least part of why you didn’t ask. But, you didn’t, and I’m very glad to see him, and I appreciate something of what it must have cost you.”
“It… it was rather dreadful at first, sir, but I was glad not to be on my own on Thursday. And yesterday… and today… have been fine. More than fine.”
“Good.” He smiled.
Sam smiled back. “I’ll get those things for you.”
In the sitting room Andrew was leaning back in a chair, the telephone receiver clamped between his ear and his shoulder. “...have the schedule,” he said. “What I’m wondering about is the relation between the schedule and the reality.” All right? he mouthed at Sam.
She nodded and pointed at the desk, then the bookshelf. He nodded his comprehension.
“I understand. Is it likely to be any better from Eastbourne? Or Brighton? Yes, certainly, I can wait while you ask.” He rolled his eyes.
The doorbell rang as she came through the hall. “I’ll get it!” she called, mostly to Andrew, but extra loudly for Mr. Foyle’s benefit. It proved to be Captain Kieffer, hat already off this time, with a brown paper bag in his arms and a sheet of Mr. Foyle’s writing in his hand.
“Hi, Miss Stewart. Is the Lieutenant still here? He hasn’t had to leave yet?”
“He’s trying to sort out the trains. Come in,” she added, stepping back to make room.
“I’ve got an invitation this time, sorta.” He brandished the note. “Christopher wrote asking if anyone from the base was going up to London - there’s nothing today but some guys are running up tomorrow, and there’d be room in the jeep.”
“Oh! I’m not sure… Andrew?” She pushed open the sitting room door.
He got up, pointing apologetically at the phone when he saw Kieffer.
“What time are you due back in Debden? The Captain says you can have a seat in a jeep that’s going up to London tomorrow at…”
“Oh-nine-thirty,” Kieffer supplied. “Could pick you up downtown.”
“Really? Captain, that would be bloody… sorry, absolutely brilliant.”
“Sure. My guys are going anyway, no skin off their noses to take you too.”
“Thank you so much. I’ve worked out something else. Thanks, yes, goodbye,” Andrew said rapidly into the phone, and put down the receiver. “You’re a brick, Captain.”
“Don’t mention it. Uh, if that’s a good thing…?”
“Yes. Um, a ‘good guy,” you might say, I think.”
A thump, like a stomped foot, sounded from the head of the stairs. “SAM!” Mr. Foyle called hoarsely, with a tone that suggested it wasn’t for the first time.
“You’re not supposed to be out of bed!” Andrew shouted.
“Yes, fine, just send John up, would you?” Mr. Foyle coughed.
“Jesus, Christopher.” Kieffer put his hat on the hat rack. “That sounds lousy. You said you were better.”
“Actually, changed my mind. Throw him out.”
Andrew brushed past Sam and the Captain to storm up the stairs. “Dad. Bed. Now. You haven’t even got your slippers on, you B. F., are you trying to undo everything...” The chivvying proceeded rapidly back to the front bedroom.
“Let me give you this.” Captain Kieffer held out the bag to Sam. “Nothing needs to go in the fridge - if Christopher even has one, they don’t seem popular over here - but it all goes in the kitchen. The C-rations are terrible but I figure’d it’d be a load off the Lieutenant’s mind to know his dad has something that doesn’t take cooking.”
Sam felt as if her eyes might fall right out of her head, or her arms drop out of their sockets. The bag was packed with tins. “Orange juice!”
“And a few other things. Just sorry I couldn’t do anything to help sooner.”
“That’s fine, Captain, this is… so generous.”
“Well, I expect Christopher to share with you two, not hog it all for himself.” He grinned
Andrew stuck his head around the turn in the stairs. “The world’s worst convalescent would like a word, if you’ve a few minutes to step up, Captain.”
“Sure, glad to. Um, I’ll take up a couple of these, if that’s okay…” He pulled a pair of tins of orange juice from the bag, hung up his overcoat, and followed Andrew. Sam put down the bag in the sitting room, then brought up the rear.
Mr. Foyle was back in bed, working his arms out of his dressing gown, looking both slightly chastened and slightly rebellious. Sam was glad to see that he’d at least put on his dressing gown when he got up. “John, Andrew says you could offer him a lift for tomorrow.”
“Yeah, if the timing’s good for him it’s all set. You up to having a visitor, or should I buzz off?”
“I should very much like a visitor. How long can you stay?”
Kieffer shrugged. “‘Til the nurses,” he winked at Sam, “throw me out, or you get tired of me. Or five-thirty, whatever comes first.”
“Very good. Andrew, Sam, I know you won’t leave me on my own, pair of mother hens that you are, but since John’s here, and Andrew doesn’t have to go until tomorrow, why don’t you go out for tea? Neither of you’ve seen the light of day since Wednesday - longer for Sam. Air’ll do you good.”
They both froze as if in a game of statues.
“Do you…” Andrew started.
“If you’d…” Sam said at the same moment
“No, my fault…”
They stared at each other for a moment. Well, Sam thought, her heart going oddly fast, it could hardly be worse than that first time. “That sounds lovely.”
“Yes,” Andrew agreed immediately.
“Right.” Mr. Foyle nodded. “Take the ten-shilling note from my overcoat pocket, and if there’s anything resembling a cream tea this side of Bexhill, I expect you to find it.”
“Spit if you need to,” Kieffer said, settling back in the chair. “I’m un-disgustable.”
“Must make life easier in camp. I’m not.” Foyle took a drink. The orange juice burned the cracks in his still-dry lips, but it tasted good. “Thanks for this. Quite a treat.”
“Sure. Wish I’d had some on me the other day.”
He shook his head, dismissing the implicit sympathy. “I’ve enjoyed the book.”
“Good. Maybe sometime I can show you the real thing.” Kieffer’s eyes twinkled. “And maybe some sights around Boston.”
“What, Lexington and Concord?”
“Not Con-Cord, Christopher, it’s Concord. Like what that old King William did here.”
“I shall try to remember. And won’t wear anything red.” Foyle cocked his head as an idea came to him. “How far is it from Massachusetts to, um, Michigan?”
Kieffer puffed out his cheeks. “Almost halfway across the country. Why?”
“Thought I might visit. After the war.”
“Finally gonna learn to drive? Detroit’s the place, if you are.”
“It is an… automotive interest. In a manner of speaking.”
“Fine, don’t tell me.”
“I will. When it comes to it. Engineering might be involved.”
“Now you’re just teasing.”
“You take it well.” Foyle smiled.
Kieffer grinned back at him. “Sorry work was tying you up over Christmas,” he said, more seriously. “I heard about the woman killed downtown. She related to your sergeant?”
Foyle put his glass down. “Not exactly.” His chest felt suddenly heavy again.
“Sorry. Don’t mean to bring up…”
“His wife,” Foyle said, looking away.
“His ex-wife, we all thought, except as it turns out they weren’t actually divorced. And as it turns out, at least one of my constables was nursing a grudge against Milner to the point that he falsified evidence.”
“Hell of a Christmas.”
“Yes. Though Milner ended up cleared, so.”
“I mean for you. Blockhead,” Kieffer added. “That man’s your good right arm, your friend, and you had to investigate him? And it turned out he’d been lying to you? For…?”
“A year.” Foyle coughed. It went into an embarrassingly lengthy spasm that made his eyes water.
Kieffer politely studied the wallpaper for a few moments, then asked, “It help if someone pounds on your back?”
“Scoot up.” Kieffer put one broad, warm hand on his shoulder and thumped him firmly over the ribs, several times on each side. “Okay?”
“Yes.” Foyle drew an easier breath. “Thanks.” The phantom weight that had crept up alongside the congestion was still there, but it was lighter.
Kieffer poured him more orange juice and sat down again. “A year,” he repeated. “Jesus.”
“I don’t think he meant to lie. He was…” Foyle frowned, remembering Edith Ashford’s frightened face. “He lied to himself as much as…”
“Still lied. I’m not saying it’s a mortal sin, I’m just saying it’s gotta hurt. I’m sure the bent constable hurts too, but not like getting jerked around by a friend.”
Foyle glared at him. “I’m the superintendent, John. I can’t be friends with…”
“Bullshit. Christopher.” Kieffer stared back, unperturbed, until Foyle dropped his eyes.
“Does anyone ever tell you, John, that you’re extremely bloody opinionated?”
“All the time.” He grinned.
Foyle picked up his orange juice again. “Well.”
“I liked meeting your son,” Kieffer said. “Young for a lieutenant, isn’t he?”
“Over here it’s LEF-tenant, as you know perfectly well by this time. And not so very, in the RAF.”
“No, no. He’s an instructor now, thank God, not flying operations, so I can relax a bit as long as that lasts.”
“Up in London?”
“Far side of London. Far side of the moon, with transport the way it is. Thanks again, by the way.”
“Don’t mention it. And he and Miss Stewart…?”
“Well, your guess is as good as mine. They walked out a bit… behind my back… but after he’d been transferred up to Debden he took up with some other girl and threw Sam over. By letter, no less. Really, it was too good to be true that he stuck to her as long as he did; his romances tend to last as long as fairground goldfish.”
“That explains the chill in the kitchen last time I was over. Seemed to be getting warmer today, though. Even before you kicked them out together.”
Foyle shrugged innocently. Kieffer snorted. Foyle let the corner of his mouth curl up. “Don’t know what you’re laughing at,” he murmured into his glass.
Sam and Andrew ended up in St. Leonards, at a tea shop which boasted rock cakes and mock cream to go with sandwiches of pickle on national loaf and tea that tasted as if the leaves had been used three times already. The national loaf seemed more sawdusty than usual, and they both kept fidgeting. All the ease they had found with each other back at the house seemed to be gone.
Sam broke off in the midst of a stilted attempt to tell the story of the black-market turkey and said, “I want to apologize.”
Andrew looked up from his sandwich. “Not about yesterday. Don’t think about it.”
“No. Thursday morning. What I said, about… about that day at the airfield. It wasn’t true. I didn’t even think of that, when I offered to stay with Mr. Foyle. I only said it to…” She ran a finger along the rim of her saucer. “To hurt you. It was badly done; I’m sorry.”
“You were right, though. About me not taking things seriously.” Andrew bent his head. “I deserved that.”
“That’s what I thought then. But…” Sam sighed. “I could believe it when I could think of you as some sort of… playboy airman, charming and selfish and, and spotty. But when you’re here, in front of me, being kind and careful and…” She spread her hands helplessly. “What happened, Andrew?”
He looked awkwardly away.
“I mean, I know you met someone else. But I… was it… could I have done something…”
“Sam. No. No.” He put his hand down near hers on the table. “It was nothing you did. Or didn’t do. It was… look, the bad images come from somewhere, and I lived down to them, it’s simple as that.”
“Except you’re not. Not selfish. A selfish man wouldn’t have let me sleep late, or cooked the supper, or been… like you were… yesterday.” Sam fiddled again with her teacup. “Or the day before.”
Andrew snorted quietly. “I was a useless wreck Thursday.”
“You weren’t, though.”
“Selfish people aren’t like that with their parents. I know,” she finished, in a lower voice.
“It’s not selfish to want to be something other than a nurse and companion for your mother.”
“Selfish people also don’t remember the life stories of people they walked out with years ago.”
Andrew concentrated very hard on stirring his tea. “You weren’t just someone I walked out with.”
“Neither were you.”
Andrew’s eyes flashed up to meet hers for an instant, then went back to his cup.
Sam studied him across the table. At some point in the past days, perhaps in the long hours in Mr. Foyle’s room or perhaps in the quiet domestic chores, she’d grown comfortable with him. Or at least I’ve stopped flinching every time he comes within arm’s length of me . But it was all surface, or it might be. The past was still a mystery. Like a bomb in a suitcase, Sam thought, with an uncomfortable quiver in her stomach at the memory of the Bexhill depot where she’d been trapped with one.
But I’m not trapped. She chewed reflectively on her last bite of sandwich. I’m not waiting for Mr. Foyle to come get me out. I can walk out myself.
Or open the suitcase. She leaned forward.
“What happened?” Sam asked, again. “Really.”
“Really?” Andrew shifted in his chair. “She was a WAAF. Kate. Blonde. Tiny. Bubbly. She drove me to some recruitment events in Cambridge, trying to get the chaps coming out with war degrees. And… one night… we stopped for a meal… and things sort of… took off.”
“Things like clothes?” Sam kept her voice even.
“No. Never like that. Just conversation and...” Andrew twisted a corner of his mouth.
Kissing, Sam finished silently. “Was it… very nice ?”
Andrew gave a short, mirthless laugh. “It… it was a relief, at first, to tell someone how unhappy I was, but then I… just felt as trapped as ever. More, since she was there on the training base, popping up every time I turned around. Finally she got fed up.”
Trapped. Sam clenched her hands under the table. “Unhappy like… “ She lowered her voice. “...like the night you were AWOL?”
Andrew shook his head. Then he shrugged. “It was… I don’t know. Not so bad in one way. Worse in another. It wasn’t sharp like that. But it went on and on and I didn’t know how to… lying was all I could think of to do and I got so tired.”
“You could have told me,” she said, very quietly.
“I’d hurt you enough. It seemed like… I don’t know. I kept thinking about Rex - you remember Rex?”
“He was such a damn good friend. And I couldn’t even do right by him. He insisted it wasn’t true, but I remember… the look on his face, sometimes, just for an instant, like something I’d said had gone through him like a knife and I couldn’t even think what or why. And I thought, if I can’t even be someone’s best friend, what business have I with a girl? Particularly a… really brilliant girl.” He folded the edge of the tablecloth. “And then, Kate was just there, and.. well. I knew I didn’t have any business with you if I could do that.”
“You could have told me,” Sam said again. “If… you wanted… if she wasn’t…” She couldn’t seem to say what she meant.
“Said, ‘Hello, I’ve been unfaithful, do forgive me?’”
“Well, I’d have liked the choice,” Sam answered. “To not-forgive you myself, rather than having it done for me. Rather than being… returned, like a… prize, or a knighthood, or something. Rather than being thrown over for my own protection.” She sat back in her chair and looked him for a long moment. “You blasted, self-important prig.”
Andrew, astonishingly, laughed, a real laugh this time. “I remember you calling me that with oil all over your face. You were right then. And you’re right now.” He leaned forward. “If I’ve been… confusingly un-priggish… these last few days, I’m glad. But it doesn’t mean I was anything but a fool before.” He looked at her very seriously. “I was self-important. I was dishonest, not just about Kate, but about myself. I treated you very badly, Sam, and I wish I could take it back, and I… I know it doesn’t help, but I’m sorry.”
Sam had to look away and blink at the ceiling. “It does help,” she said said, after a moment. “When you apologize for that part. For what really happened. What really hurt.”
“Being shut out,” he said. “Being lied to.”
“I’m sorry,” he said again.
He smiled a little bit.
“Are you still… unhappy?” Sam asked.
“No. Not that way. And if I am again, at least I know… I got through. That it’s possible to get through. Hell or high water,” he added in an undertone.
She picked up her teacup. “Are you still a fool?”
He looked thoughtful. “I don’t know. I think I take myself less seriously. Teaching can do a lot to take a person down a peg or two. Or twelve. Oxford and flying ops… both sort of give a chap an idea he’s something rather special. And they’re both unusual. But they’re not… separate from all other human experience.” His eyes went far away. “Some people… veterans of the last war… talk about it being like that. Cut off from everything else. Flying ops isn’t like that, though. It’s bloody awful sometimes but it’s not… alien.”
“What you were saying the other day. About… being alone in a car, or a plane. About insubordination. That’s the sort of thing you started thinking.”
“Yeah. It seems absurdly obvious, I know, but once I realized that… well, I don’t know if I was able to realize it because I wasn’t so unhappy, or I stopped being so unhappy because I realized it. Been a lot better as an instructor since I stopped thinking the new boys couldn’t ever understand what I…” He shrugged.
“What you’d been through.” Sam lifted her hand, then put it down on the tablecloth. “It’s not obvious, I don’t think. I never thought of my work being anything like yours. Even a bit.”
He shrugged. “Well. Thanks for letting me run on about it.” He let out a breath. “What, um. You don’t need to tell me, of course, but how’ve… what have you been up to?”
Sam felt suddenly wrongfooted, but also oddly reassured, as if she’d been untangling wires around a stick of dynamite and his hand had appeared to help steady her own. “Well,” she said. I’ll cut this wire, then. “The Americans came, and I had a marriage proposal, and then I had anthrax. Other than that it was all very much the same as before.”
Andrew’s face went from wry amusement to surprise to incredulity. “What?” His eyes darted to her hands, then up again.
“I said no. He was… is… an American. Very nice. Just, not what I wanted.”
He nodded, then shook his head. “No… I mean… anthrax?”
“Yes. There was… there was an outbreak among cattle on a farm where a murder suspect lived, and I cut my hand on some barbed wire.” Out of habit she reached for the scar on her wrist. She stopped herself, but Andrew’s eyes were already there. “It’s best to get it that way, actually, through the skin. If you breathe it in it’s worse.”
“My God, Sam, that’s awful.” His hand started across the table towards hers, then drew back.
“I’m fine now. It was August.” Sam put her hands in her lap and looked at her plate.
“How did… were you in hospital?”
“I wasn’t badly ill the entire time. The scabs could have been infectious, so they needed to keep me until those came off.” She shrugged. “It was a bit lucky, in a way. It made me sure about how I’d answered Joe. If I wasn’t glad to see him when I was ill…” The picture came to her, suddenly and strongly, of Andrew there in the ward, watching her as he’d watched his father, reaching out with something like that anxious tenderness to give her a drink. Somehow just the image soothed the ache that so often came with the memories of those long hours. “Well. That said something.”
Andrew nodded. “Yeah.” He studied her as if drinking in her face. “You’re a very wise person, Sam.”
“What?” She stopped in the act of reaching for her rock cake. “You’re making fun of me.”
“No. It’s true.”
“Well, you’re off your head, but thank you.”
The quiet between them was not oppressive now. Sam picked up her cake. The mock cream tasted strongly of margarine, but it wasn’t too bad.
“It’s been strange,” Andrew said, playing with his last bite of sandwich. “How it hasn’t felt strange having you at home with Dad and me.”
“For me, too. It not feeling strange to be there, I mean. Yesterday I kept wondering if I should offer to leave but… I didn’t want to go.”
“I’m glad. “
Sam smiled. “I’m glad you don’t have to go yet.”
He smiled back. “How’s the rock cake?”
“All right. Better than the sandwiches,” she added, in an undertone.
The wind blew sharply when they came out of the tea shop, and without discussing it they turned inland to walk back by the most sheltered route, keeping close together. Their steps matched easily. Their hands kept nearly touching, but neither of them quite dared to bridge the gap. The gray winter day could hardly have been more different from the golden September evening he’d walked her home from the pictures, and the two of them were different as well, but the vibration in the air between them, the flutter in her chest and the little sideways smile Andrew gave her when their eyes met, were all the same.
They found Captain Kieffer standing at the foot of the steps, smoking, dropping his ashes carefully on a chipped plate he held in his free hand. He greeted them cheerfully. “Hey. Christopher started looking tired and I wasn’t about to light this up in his room, so I came out.” He stubbed out his cigarette and put the plate down on the step. “ Did you kids have a nice time?”
Andrew looked to Sam. “Did you have a nice time, Miss Stewart?” His mouth laughed, but his eyes were serious.
Sam considered equally seriously. “I did, Flight Lieutenant Foyle. Thank you.”
“Good.” Andrew grinned. “I mean, I’m glad.”
“Did you?” she asked, still grave.
“Good.” Sam let herself smile.
“Well, I should be getting back to base,” Captain Kieffer said, very heartily, even for an American. Andrew’s eyes sparked, and Sam felt herself blush.
“Are you sure you can’t stay, Captain?” Andrew said politely. “Supper will probably be fairly depressing, but there’s some Glenlivet…”
“No, duty calls, you know how it is. Remember, oh-nine-thirty tomorrow. Where High Street comes into Parade. Kid named Bradford’ll be driving. Glad I could meet you, Lieutenant.” Kieffer put out his hand. “Stay safe up there.”
Andrew took it. “Thank you. I’m pleased to have met you as well. And thank you for organizing the lift.”
“Don’t mention it.” Kieffer pulled on his cap.
“Won’t you come up to say goodbye to Dad?” Andrew asked.
“Nah, I’ll look him up sometime soon. Miss Stewart, good to see you again.”
“And you, Captain.”
He nodded, straightened his overcoat, and ambled down Steep Lane. Andrew picked up the impromptu ashtray and Sam opened the door.
“I’d like to run up and see Dad,” Andrew said, with a sheepish look. “Mother hen that I am. I’ll take care of this after.”
“I’ll take it,” Sam said. “And put our depressing supper in the oven. Though really, Captain Kieffer couldn’t mind it as much as we do, since he hasn’t been eating it since 1940.”
“Exotic Woolton Pie. Food of the savage isle.” Andrew laughed.
Sam laughed too. They were standing very close, there at the foot of the stairs. Andrew’s eyes were bright but it was his mouth that Sam couldn’t stop looking at.
“I’ll… I’ll just… put it in, then,” she said, her own lips feeling suddenly clumsy.
“Right. Thank you. I’ll just be…”
“Yes.” She took a step back, but she watched him up the stairs before she turned to the kitchen and let her face break into a smile again.
They let Mr. Foyle get out of bed for supper. He dutifully layered on socks and slippers, and only offered a token grumble when Sam suggested he should have a scarf to fill in the gap at the front of his dressing gown. Andrew moved two more chairs into the front bedroom, and brought up an end table from the sitting room. It wasn’t big enough for them to eat off it, but they could at least have a place to put the serving dish and their glasses while they balanced plates on their laps.
When Sam came in with the Woolton pie, Mr. Foyle and Andrew stood up as if they were at a dinner party, and she were a fashionably tardy duchess. Sam nearly looked over her shoulder to see what important person had materialized behind her. Mr. Foyle’s mouth curled in warm amusement even as one eyebrow went up at the angle that meant think that through, Sam.
She looked down at the casserole dish, then back at him, hoping her face showed enough you’re welcome and I was glad to and not too much well, don’t do it again. From the rueful tilt of Mr. Foyle’s head, though, and the way his eyes crinkled, she could tell he’d understood everything.
“Please,” he said, his voice nearly clear now, “sit down.” He drew back the chair beside him for her. Andrew came forward to take the pie. Her fingers brushed against his and they grinned at each other for a moment.
They were all less exuberant than they had been on Friday, but Sam still enjoyed watching Andrew and Mr. Foyle together, seeing the deep affection and the teasing, hearing the half-explained stories. Some she could decipher: “We’d have starved those first six months if it weren’t for Carlo,” Andrew said, and she remembered Carlo Lucciano asking after Andrew and thumping Mr. Foyle on the back in a familiar way that not even Mr. Reid would have dared. Others, like mentions of an Uncle Charles, she couldn’t, but filed away in her mind.
Mr. Foyle seemed stronger than he’d been that morning, despite the excitements of the day. His cough sounded easier as well as quieter, and it came more rarely, even when he was talking. Andrew made wary noises when Mr. Foyle spoke of going to the station on Monday, but Sam just nodded and privately resolved to run the heating in the Wolseley and make sure there was an umbrella in the back in case of rain. She felt eager to be behind the wheel again, but the thought of being back in her own digs, doing her own small chores and cooking only for herself, gave her a twinge.
Her eyes kept going to Andrew’s hands, or his lips. Or his eyes, though when their eyes met she felt as if she must be blushing down to her fingertips. Several times they had to wrench the conversation back to general topics when, in the midst of stories from training or school, they skirted up against something that made Sam stutter to a stop or made Andrew’s eyes say to hers there’s more I’d say to you. Mr. Foyle missed none of it, Sam felt sure, but his face, when she caught him watching them, looked content, and possibly a very little bit pleased.
Sam could have sat there all night, but she excused herself early to let the Foyles have a little of Andrew’s precious leave to themselves. She got out her mystery novel and lay on her bed, thinking of it, for the first time in days, as Andrew’s bed, wondering if it were the same bed he’d had when he first came out of the cot, wondering what he’d thought about when trying to fall asleep, in the same hours that she’d spent planning a future as a great actress, or a spy, or in a dramatic wimple and habit.
She had planned to talk more with Andrew after he left Mr. Foyle for the night, but she fell asleep fully dressed on top of the covers. She woke up briefly when the house was dark and quiet, and stumbled to the bathroom to clean her teeth before changing into her nightgown and crawling into bed properly. She woke up for good at seven, realizing by contrast how truly tired she had been, not so much by the work of the past week, but by the worry of Mr. Foyle’s illness and the strangeness - and then the even stranger not-strangeness - of being in a house with Andrew.
She washed up very quietly, ears straining for any movement from the other bedrooms, but none came. Which is good, Sam told herself firmly. Andrew’s tired too. She dressed carefully in her navy skirt and cream blouse with her newer cardigan, the red one, buttoned over the top. She combed out her hair and pulled it back in the front with combs, but stopped herself short of putting on lipstick. Now, breakfast? Or what? Sam trailed a finger aimlessly over Andrew’s bookshelf, pausing on the Sherlock Holmes. Her eyes fell on the prayerbook and, with a jolt, she recalled that it was Sunday. She glanced at her clock: twenty minutes to eight. Sam took the prayerbook, tiptoed down the stairs for her overcoat, and left a note tucked into the frame of the hall mirror.
Gone to early communion at St. Clements. Back by 9.
Sam felt undressed walking into a church without a hat on, but the elderly sidesman who held the door for her simply nodded a good morning and advised her to sit well to the front on the north side. Choosing a row separate from any of the half-dozen people already seated, she made a little bob to the altar, then stepped into the pew to kneel down on a threadbare cushion and breathe in the familiar church smell of damp and stone, wood and beeswax. Mr. Ellis came out of the sacristy arranging his stole, and Sam scrambled to sit up and get Andrew’s prayerbook open to the right page. She couldn’t help lingering on the flyleaf, however, and the inscription To Andrew H. Foyle on his confirmation, from his affectionate godfather Charles Howard. She smiled. There’s ‘Uncle Charles,’ then.
Mr. Ellis read the service well. The small congregation spoke the responses hesitantly at first, their voices jangling, then slowly falling into a more confident unison. Sam let the words wash over her, not trying to stop her mind from dwelling on whatever phrases caught and echoed.
Look mercifully upon our infirmities. She thought of Mr. Foyle, crumpling gray-faced on the doorstep; Andrew, sobbing the night he’d gone AWOL; herself, reeling into St. Mary’s. She thought of Mr. Foyle smiling down at her in the ward, and watching Andrew in the mirror as they drove to the airfield. She thought of Andrew bathing Mr. Foyle’s face, and taking her arm in the sitting room. She thought of the tea shop.
Grant that we may ever hereafter serve and please thee in newness of life. It was a new year; soon it would be spring again. Things would be growing, seeds sprouting for the first time, and bulbs that had seemed dead in the autumn putting out new shoots.
God is not unrighteous, that he will forget your works, and labor that proceedeth of love. Love. Such a little word. Such a slippery thing. The old questions: did she love Mummy? had she loved Joe? And the new: did she love Andrew?
Sam went forward to kneel at the altar rail. The dry bread; the sweet wine; preserve thy body and soul unto everlasting life. Tears gathered in her eyes, though she could not have said why. With small motions she made the sign of the cross over her heart, and returned to her pew to kneel again. Members incorporate... mystical body... blessed company... holy fellowship… peace. She put her face on her clasped hands as she whispered "Amen," and kept it there until she could be sure that any chatter in the porch had ended.
The sunlight dazzled her after the dimness of the church. She stood blinking on the step until her vision cleared, and she saw Andrew standing just inside the churchyard. A line of the final collect came back to her fully: assist us with thy grace, that we may continue in holy fellowship. She drew a long breath. Continue, she thought. Not begin.
He had his kit bag over one shoulder, and his flight jacket hanging open over his blues. “Hello,” he said, as she came down the path.
They grinned rather foolishly at each other. “Walk me down?” Andrew asked.
“All right.” She fell into step beside him, her heart going fast.
“Here, I'll carry that." He took the prayerbook and started to loosen the top of his bag. "Just don't forget to take it back."
"It's yours, actually."
He shook his head as he put it away. "Can tell how much I use it, I suppose. Do you always go to communion?”
“No. Hardly ever, actually, since I’ve been in Hastings. I go to Matins sometimes. Always had to go to everything in Lyminster, of course.”
Sam nodded. “Today I wanted… to be quiet a bit, I suppose. And to give thanks,” she finished, rather awkwardly. It sounded Sunday-Schoolish said out loud, but Andrew nodded and brushed his elbow against hers in an understanding way.
“You’ll find Dad up and about when you get home; he seems perfectly steady, even on the stairs. Still sounds wretched when he coughs, but I don’t suppose anyone will be able to convince him to take another day.”
Home. Something in her chest gave a little skip that he called it that for her. “Not likely. Sergeant Milner will help me keep him from overdoing, though. And he really is better.”
“I know.” Andrew went quiet. Sam watched him from the corner of her eye. At the end of the street he burst out, “I can’t believe the last thing I said to you was to tell you to look after Dad. That was rotten.”
“You didn’t tell, you asked.” Sam elbowed him back. “And it was a lovely thing to say. Giving me something I could do, and something to think about other than you going away, was exactly right. It stopped me crying, didn’t it?”
He frowned. “Suppose so. I’m sorry, though.”
Sam walked backwards for a few steps so she could look at Andrew. “Let’s make a rule. No more apologies for anything from before. Pre-1943 accounts to be considered settled.”
He started to smile. “And post-1943 accounts?”
“A great long unspotted page.”
“All right. Shake on it?”
Sam pulled off her glove. “Shake.”
It seemed very natural, after the handshake, to take off her other glove and put that hand in Andrew’s so that they could walk side by side with hands still clasped. He kept looking at her, then looking away when she looked at him. Then he would look back at her and she’d look away.
“Do you have to teach on Sundays?” Sam asked.
“Not classroom instruction. Practice flights sometimes. Tonight I’ll probably have to mark a whole stack of basic diagrams for the other instructors, as penance for being away in the middle of the session.” He tipped his head back as a burst of wind, cold but sweet, came up from the sea to flap the strings of his kit bag and the skirts of Sam’s coat. “Very cheap penance,” he added. His fingers tightened on hers, and Sam turned towards him, but he only gave her that sideways smile and kept walking.
It couldn’t have been much past nine when they reached the Parade, but Sam didn’t have a watch, and the church bells wouldn’t chime. And individual Americans - or, at least, Joe, and it seemed Captain Kieffer as well - had a tendency to be inconveniently early. “Andrew.” Sam looked up into his expectant, uncertain face. “Do you want to kiss me?”
His hand shifted to close around her arm, not hard, but eagerly, as a breathless laugh bubbled out of him. “Like blazes.”
She laughed back at him a little wildly. “Oh, good. Good. Wait, though.” Sam placed her hand in the center of his chest before he could bend closer. “Do you think we can we make it different? This time?”
“I don’t know,” Andrew said. He covered her hand with his own. “There’s a lot I don’t know. But I think… I hope… I’m different. And you’re different - not that you were anything but wonderful before. But you’re older too, and surer.”
“I don’t know about wonderful,” Sam said. “Or surer. I don’t know if I want to, to marry you one day. I don’t know if being together so far apart makes any more sense than it did a year ago. I just know it’s been… sort of marvelous… living with you, these last few days. Sort of marvelous how we work together. Is that enough?”
Andrew’s eyes grew soft. “I’d like to find out. If you’ll risk it with me.”
“Together,” Andrew agreed. He brought his hand very carefully up to her cheek.
Sam leaned into the touch, then, when he started to lower his head, rose onto her toes and kissed him first. He made a startled, pleased sound against her lips and let his kit bag fall to bring his other hand to rest at the small of her back.
His mouth was firm and soft at once. It felt entirely new, and yet it was not strange, to be kissing Andrew as if there were nothing else in the world. He tasted faintly sweet, not from tooth powder but from something that could only be him. In the center of her chest and the depths of her stomach she had a sudden feeling of, not exactly hollowness, but glorious space, like the summer sky, like a cathedral. She pressed in closer and his arms tightened around her.
“Can you feel my heart beating?” he whispered, resting his forehead on hers.
“I don’t know if I feel yours or mine.”
“Maybe they’re the same.”
“Poet.” Sam curled a hand around his jaw and pulled his lips to hers again.
He drew back just far enough to murmur, “Only when I’m with you,” then kissed her.
They never heard the jeep. The first they knew of it was a young American voice calling out “Hey! You Foyle?”
Andrew started, and Sam put her face on his shoulder, blushing but not nearly as embarrassed as she thought she perhaps should be. Up with the lark, to bed with the WREN. She bit her lip to keep from laughing. Andrew kept his arm firmly around her as he answered. “Yes. Sorry. Bradford?”
Sam turned to look. There were three of them, two stocky and one slim, all with that unnatural polish Americans seemed to have. “That’s me. Don’t be sorry for being lucky,” the soldier at the wheel said. He nodded at Sam. “Hi, ma’am. Sorry we gotta take him.”
“That’s all right,” Sam answered. “Not your fault.” She looked at Andrew, trying to fix every bit of his face in her mind. “Write when you can,” she said softly.
She let her hand rest over his wings. “And you be careful, in those crates.”
He nudged her. “You be careful, chasing those murderers.”
“Your father looks after me.”
“He’d better.” Andrew grinned but his eyes had an intensity that made her breathless.
“I know.” He bent and kissed her, quickly but thoroughly.
Sam clung to him for an instant, then made herself step back. “Go on, then,” she told him, her voice only a little thick.
“Right.” He nodded, swung his bag on his shoulder, and clambered into the back of the jeep. The driver raised a hand to Sam and pulled away. Andrew twisted in his seat so their eyes could stay on each other until the car turned back up the High and disappeared.
“Sir.” Milner blinked in surprise. “Is Sam…?”
“Gone to church.” Foyle held the door open. He felt glad of the familiar armor of belt and braces and waistcoat, and self-conscious of how glad he was, in the wind off the street, of the invalidish scarf he’d let Andrew press on him. “Come in,” he said, echoing Milner’s hesitant smile. “I just finished breakfast; would you like some tea?”
“No. Thank you, sir. I won’t take much of your time.” Milner took off his hat. “You’re looking very much better.”
Foyle bit back the irritable reply that came to the tip of his tongue. “I’ve not thanked you properly for this week,” he answered instead, leading the way into the sitting room. “It was very kind of you. Sit down?”
Milner sat, nervously, on the edge of the sofa. Where Elizabeth had sat. "I want to apologize, Mr. Foyle. You told me once how vital it was that we be able to trust one another and when I lied to you, I damaged that trust. I destroyed it."
Foyle drew as deep a breath as he dared. “Well. As I recall, in the same conversation I told you it didn’t matter what went on in your personal life, so. Details of your marriage…” He tilted his head and pulled down the corners of his mouth. “...rather personal. Fair assumption that it wasn’t my business. Not fair for me to imply it was. Owe you an apology for that.”
“In ordinary times I’d agree with you, sir, but things aren’t ordinary. The job’s not ordinary. The requirements can’t be ordinary.” Milner’s voice was steady, but his fingers were crumpling the brim of his hat. “I owe it to you to explain. Or at least try. What I thought about my marriage… the separation… wasn’t rational. You can’t imagine…”
Milner’s hands stilled, and he looked up like a man facing a gun.
He took a step away, watching his own feet on the hearth rug, feeling for the words he needed. “The… luckiest thing that’s ever happened in my life is that the… first woman I asked to marry me… said no.”
Milner put his hat down beside him on the sofa. The clock ticked.
Foyle trailed a finger along the edge of the mantle. “Was… very unhappy. At the time. Enlisted. Went to France. Came home. Met and… married. Someone else.” He didn’t have to look at Rosalind’s picture; he could feel Milner’s eyes going there. “Years… decades… later, saw the first woman again. She told me… she’d been wrong. Made a mistake. Asked if…” He turned up his palm and twisted his mouth.
“If?” Milner asked in a whisper.
“We could… be together. Try again.” He looked at Milner; Milner looked back, barely breathing, his thin lips parted. “Like something out of Grimm’s fairy tales. To get what you wanted, when you… not only don’t want it any more, but when it…”
“Yes.” Now he did look to the familiar image of Rosalind’s face. “And I didn’t have to fear… what you did.” He touched the frame. “It’s... not that I can’t imagine. It’s that I can. Better than I like.” He dropped his head, then looked back at Milner. “I wasn’t fair to you. I’m sorry.”
“You were very fair, sir. Anyone else…”
“I don’t mean about the murder.”
Something in Milner’s pale eyes, and some tautness in his sharp-edged face, slipped away. Foyle felt his own jaw relax in response. “Thank you, Mr. Foyle,” Milner said.
“Well.” He moved his hand to the hem of his scarf. He felt a warning pinprick in the back of his throat, and sat down in his armchair to take a sip of tea before it could expand into an itch. His traitorous lungs rebelled all the same, and he had to turn away, coughing.
“Sir,” Milner said, in a tone between scolding and sympathy.
Foyle shook his head, forcing his breathing to slow. “Sounds worse than it is. Just bloody tiresome.”
Milner went to the table and came back with the teapot. “That’s bad enough.” He poured. “Brooke and I could manage for another day, you know.”
“I know you could. Not sure I could take another day shut up in the house.” He picked up his cup, nodding in thanks.
Milner’s smile was small but real, and warm. “Yes, sir.”
“May ask you to do the telephoning for me, though,” he admitted.
“Of course. You… don’t have to be dropping to let us help, sir.” Milner sat down at the near end of the sofa, elbows on his knees. “I know I’m being insubordinate, and I won’t mention it again, but… please do remember that.”
“In ordinary times,” he began, “I’d agree about the insubordination. But as the times are anything but ordinary, I think that all I can say is… I shall try my best to remember. And thank you.” He looked down at his palm and made a wry face.
“I’ll risk it, sir.” Milner put out his hand.
“Wash afterwards, then,” Foyle told him, as their hands clasped. “I’m not having you or Sam ill.”
Milner smiled again. “Understood.”
He nodded. “Change your mind about tea?”
“If I could, sir.”
As Sam let herself in to the house she could hear Mr. Foyle on the phone in the sitting room, his voice as strong as ever. “And yesterday? ….right. No, that’s all. I’ll be in tomorrow… yes. Yes. Thank you, Brooke… Sergeant. That will be all.” The receiver went down with a clatter. “Sam?”
“Morning, sir,” she called, as she hung up her coat. “Did Andrew get you breakfast?”
“No,” he answered, coming to meet her. “I made some for myself, though, and for him. Didn’t look like you’d had anything.” He looked very much himself again, neatly though casually dressed in trousers and shirtsleeves and a loose-fitting waistcoat. His only concession to convalescence was a scarf in fine blue-gray wool wrapped close around his throat and hanging down in front to keep his chest warm. “Not like you to miss a meal.” His sharp eyes flicked over her, coming up less concerned, but still unsatisfied.
“I was going to communion, sir. It’s… my father’s a bit High about communion,” Sam explained. “I couldn’t feel right eating just before, even though I don’t usually fast like he does. I’m not getting ill,” she added.
He quirked his mouth. “That’s what I said a week ago.” He tilted his head towards the table. “Come on.”
Sam felt suddenly a guest in the now-familiar room as he waved her into a chair and set the toast and jam and the teapot ready to hand. “Sir, I can…”
“Yes, and you have been. Let me.” He smiled as he turned to go to the kitchen, and looked for a moment so much like Andrew that Sam felt quite dizzy.
I have to tell him, she thought, pouring herself tea. Those months of sneaking about didn’t help, last time.
“The American bacon’s all right,” Mr. Foyle said, returning with a plate in one hand and a glass of golden orange juice in the other. “Eggs’ve gone a bit dry, sorry. You should take some things from that bag John brought. There’s far more than I need.”
Sam held the glass as reverently as the chalice at communion, and sniffed at the surface. “I couldn’t take the juice, sir, my landlady would think I’d black-marketed it. Or that I’d got myself in trouble.” She took a sip and sighed happily. “Oh, that’s lovely. You should have some, sir, it’d be very good for you.”
“I did.” He sat down across from her and poured himself more tea. “Can stop keeping notes on me now, Sam.”
“Yes, sir,” Sam answered, not at all penitently. She cut off a bit of the thin, crisp bacon. “Were you on the phone with Brookie?”
Mr. Foyle nodded. “He claims the station’s still standing. No more than the usual petty thefts and disturbances. Apparently there’s a mountain of paperwork waiting for me, but Milner’s held the fort.”
“Of course he has.”
“And I’m slated for three committee meetings, and a call over to Hythe, and one to Brighton.” He sighed. “So I’m afraid it doesn't seem I’ll be able to spare you this week, but what would you say to having the next as a holiday?"
"That's very kind of you, sir.” Sam felt she should probably demur, and had it been for the coming week she would have, but next... “I should like that."
"I'd send you to the seaside, but, well." He raised one corner of his mouth, and Sam laughed. "Go to stay with your uncle in Levenham. Or go up to your parents', let them look after you a bit."
Sam knew exactly where she wanted to go, but it was going to be a leap to say it. “You needn’t worry about me, Mr. Foyle, but thank you.”
“Turnabout’s fair play, I think.” He looked at her seriously. “Needn’t worry about me, either.”
Sam raised her chin. “Well. I think we’ll both be worrying anyway, at least for a bit. Should we pretend not to, or could we agree to, to forgive each other for it?”
His startled chuckle turned into a chesty cough. Sam frowned at him and he nodded ruefully. “Right.” He took a sip of his tea. “Probably should take the second option.”
“Probably,” Sam agreed. They studied each other across the table. “Forgive me?” Sam asked, in a smaller voice.
“Yes.” He ducked his head. “Forgive me?”
“Yes, sir.” Sam looked away. “Just. Please don’t frighten us like that again, sir.” She lifted her eyes in time to see his face softening in the way it sometimes did when he looked at Andrew.
“I’m very sorry for that, Sam.”
“I know. “ Sam straightened her shoulders and applied herself to the bacon and eggs. The mantle clock ticked in the friendly silence.
“‘Us?’” Mr. Foyle asked mildly.
“Everyone, sir,” Sam retorted, knowing her smile was giving her away. “Milner, and probably Brookie, and Captain Kieffer, and… Andrew and me.” She put down her knife and fork. “I wouldn’t say we’ve sorted everything out, sir, but we’ve made rather a good start. To be going on with.”
“Can’t always sort everything out,” he told her. “I never did. What’s important is that you can work at it together. Be on the same side.”
“That’s like what Andrew said. When I…” Sam blushed. “That we could find out together.”
“Is that what you want?”
“It is, sir. It’s a bit frightening, but it feels… comfortable. At the same time. Does that sound strange?”
“Not at all, Sam.” Mr. Foyle smiled at her. “Not at all.”