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A Good Work

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Sam refused to dishonor her uniform by slouching, but she couldn’t help trailing her fingers wistfully along the stone balustrade as she climbed the steps to the Hastings Police Station for the last time.  

“Hello, Sergeant,” she said to Rivers.  “Did my father go back to the hotel?”

“He’s still back in Mr. Milner’s office, Miss Stewart.”  He looked at her with a kindly expression that already seemed to be relegating her to the company of little girls who’d mislaid their mothers.  “You certainly have brightened up the place; can’t say I blame your people for wanting you with them.”

Brightened up the place.  Sam wanted to spit; instead, she smiled a small ladylike smile - best to get back in practice -and answered.  “Thank you, sergeant. It’s been a privilege to work with you.”  She took a moment to steel herself, then drew the keys to the Wolseley from the pocket of her jacket.  “I suppose I should leave these with you.”

“Very good, Miss.”  He took the keys and hung them in the lock-box behind the counter, and that was that.

You’re still an officer, Sam told herself, as she marched down the corridor to Milner’s office.  Or nearly, anyway.  Officers do not cry when they’re reassigned.  And I’ll treat this as a reassignment.  Not… anything else.  It was just as well, really, that Mr. Foyle had needed to rush off with the RAF officer.  If there’d been time for a proper good-bye she might have disgraced herself by getting tearful.  And this way she could at least imagine that he might have said… not “well done, thou good and faithful servant” but perhaps “sorry to lose you, Sam,” or “won’t be easy filling your shoes.”  

Dad was holding the broken statuette again, or maybe still.  He looked up when she tapped on the doorframe, then dropped his eyes back to the figure in his hands.  “Such a waste,” he murmured.  “Such a waste.”

Not the only thing that is.  “Sorry,” she said, knowing it sounded too breezey but unable to care.  “I’m ready now.”  Ready as I’m going to be.  “I suppose it’ll be best to walk back to the Royal and have the taxi go by my lodgings on the way to the station.  My case is in the front hall; it won’t take a moment to grab it.” 

He nodded, and regretfully put the little dancer down to pick up his hat.  “Is Mr. Foyle…?”

“He’s gone on to the, the victim’s workplace,” Sam answered.  Dad winced a little at the word ‘victim,’ and she winced a little seeing him wince.  Oh, it was going to be grim being home.

They walked in silence down the corridor, through the swing doors, through the lobby (Rivers was on the ‘phone, which was just as well) and out the front door.  Sam kept her chin up and her eyes fixed ahead.

As they started towards the shore, Dad drew an audible breath, held it for a moment, and then spoke.  “Samantha… you said, the other night, that you’ve done more than drive.”  He sounded very measured.  “What sorts of things have they had you do?”

Knock out a draft evader.  Bandage bombing victims and soldiers from Dunkirk. Get pinched by a murderer.  “It’s nothing I’ve had to do, exactly.”  Behind her back she clasped one hand around the opposite wrist as she tried to find a safe path between too much disclosure and too little.  “Mr. Foyle hasn’t ever asked.  But when I see something I can do, I lend a hand, and it helps, really helps.  When he has to question someone, for example, if it’s a woman I can sit with her first and help her calm down so she can talk sensibly to Mr. Foyle or Mil- Mr. Milner.  My first aid training’s been very useful, since sometimes we’ve been… after a bomb, we’ve been first on the scene.”  Dad and Mother didn’t know about the bomb at the Bell and it was going to stay that way.  “Or when they’re inside somewhere and I’m with the car, I can see who leaves and which way they go.  Just being another pair of eyes, and pair of hands, does matter.”  She looked over at Dad.  He was studying the pavement before them with a familiar look of stern concentration that meant he was mulling something over.  A wild shiver of hope buzzed up her spine.  Dear God, she thought, and then clamped down on the thought before it could spin out into a bargain, or even a plea.  

“Hm,” Dad said.

“Mr. Foyle and Mr. Reid - he’s the superintendent for the uniformed side of things - they run the station on very strict lines.  I probably heard worse language when I climbed trees behind the smithy back at home.  I’ve never heard Mr. Foyle curse and he doesn’t even smoke.”    

Dad pursed his lips.  “Is he a churchgoer?”

“I’ve not been so forward as to ask,” Sam retorted.  Her father blinked and she looked at her shoes.  Left, right.  Left, right.  “I saw him at the National Day of Prayer, and St. Clements is just down the road from his house, so I expect he attends there.  I’m usually at Holy Trinity.”

“Of course.”  He smiled slightly, the patient smile that made her want to throw things.  “And do you know his wife?”

Sam stopped short, though they were in the middle of crossing the street to the hotel. “Daddy.”  She was too frustrated - too angry - to regret letting the childish name slip out.  They complain you don’t tell them things but they don’t remember a thing you do tell them.  “I told you ages ago.  He’s a widower.”

The pastoral expression slipped away and her father stared at her with a depth of shock that seemed out of all proportion to the notice of a stranger’s past loss.  “When?”

A car horn blared and they scrambled for the opposite pavement.  Dad motioned towards a wrought-iron bench on the broad veranda, and they sat down.

“Well, he never talks about it, but I asked Sergeant Rivers, who’s organized the desk at the station nearly for ever, and he says it was about five years back.  She got typhoid and…” Sam abruptly decided, looking at Dad’s face, not to share the wrenching specifics Sergeant Rivers had mentioned, and finished a bit limply, “died.”

Dad shook his head slowly.  “Typhoid!  But I’m sure I would have recalled…”

“I don’t think I wrote about that.  But I know I wrote about his wife being dead.  When I told you about the watercolors in his office and his front hall.  I may have said it was more recent than that, but I am sure I said it.  Maybe it was a letter to Mu- Mother, but I know you share them.”  Dad still looked so distressed that Sam’s irritation melted away.  She put a hand on his arm.  “It doesn’t matter, anyway.”

“I’m afraid it does, Samantha.  I’ve been very…”  Dad shook his head.  “I spoke as if he should feel sorry for me doing without you, when not only is his son in the forces but… oh, dear.”  His voice dropped.  “Oh, dear me, that was poorly done.”

“He is very compassionate,” Sam said hesitantly.  “Very strict, but very fair, and never unsympathetic.  And he wouldn’t assume you knew about his wife, anyway, I don’t think.”  She quailed a little, though, thinking of a few wry comments Mr. Foyle had made about her own tendency to chatter.  

“Yes,” Dad said quietly.  “Compassionate.  Yes, I can see that.”

“Crime is horrible,” Sam said, after a moment, “but isn’t it better that there should be good people working to stop it?  And doesn’t that… matter, as much as making munitions or nursing casualties?  To keep the wheels turning, keep… the things that make us us and not Nazis?”

Dad turned to her very seriously.  “And that’s what you’re doing?”

Yes.  Maybe.  I hope.  Yes.  Sam looked at her hands, glad that the leather driving gloves meant he couldn’t see how tightly she was clenching them.  “That’s what Mr. Foyle’s doing.  I’m just helping.  But I am helping.” As much as any one flirtatious pilot is helping, she thought, with a sharp recollection of Andrew Foyle’s smug face and smooth, easy compliments. Probably.  There was so much more she wanted to say - about the man in Whitehall Mr. Foyle wouldn’t let off despite his important war job, about the young fisherman he’d released to help bring men back from Dunkirk, about poor Mr. Lucciano who’d told her to take care of Mr. Foyle - but she held her tongue and kept her feet still and her back straight. 

She waited.  Like Mr. Foyle.

“‘Why trouble ye the woman,’” Dad said, as if to himself, after a long pause.  “‘for she hath wrought a good work.’”

It took a moment, but Sam managed to place the quotation.  “I haven’t got any ointment,” she said.  

“I think you might, for those people you spoke of.  Samantha, dear.”  Dad put a hand over hers.  “You really want to stay.”

“I do, Dad.”  I have a vocation, she might have said, but she couldn’t be sure if she meant it or if it just seemed something that might sway him.  “Very much.”

“I understand better now.”  His hand tightened; her heart seemed to stop.  “What you're involved in.  Why you want to be.  You’re needed,” he said, echoing Mr. Foyle’s words.

She looked down.  “Yes.  I know Mummy…”

“Here,” Dad finished.

Her head flew up and she stared at him, not daring to believe it.  “Really?  You really…?”  When he nodded she let out a yelp and flung her arms around him, heedless of the fact he was wearing his collar.  “Truly?” 

“Truly,” he answered, his voice muffled in her cap.  “My dear…”

“Sorry.”  She pulled back.  “Sorry, I know it’s not seemly when you’re in clericals, but I’m… thank you.  Thank you, Daddy,” Sam repeated, clutching his hand and feeling her face might split for grinning.

“You have grown up, Samantha.”  He cupped her face in his hand for a moment, the way he used to before kissing her goodnight or when telling her to be a good helpful girl to her aunt when she went on a visit.  “I'm sorry I didn't see it before.”

She ducked her head.  "Thanks," she said again.

"I’ll get my suitcase, and perhaps you could help me find a taxi.”  He smiled, gently, the real smile now and not the professional one.  “So we can both get back to work.”