The young woman walked down the narrow street, distracted. She ambled almost as she considered the urgent need that pressed down on her like a millstone. As she neared her flat, she bumped into a man coming out of the flat two doors down. He shoved her rudely aside and ran down the street without a word….
“Bloody hell,” the man snarled as he stared at the woman seated across from him at the kitchen table. She had lowered her face and was crying. He stood up and faced her.
“You…I can’t…” He poured his untouched tea into the sink before dropping the cup on the counter where it shattered. He glared at her before turning away; striding quickly to the front door.
“I’m sorry, Giada…if that’s your name…” he sighed; a regret rather than angry disappointment in a way.
“Please? Dennis?” She called after him but he had already walked out; the front door open as the evening breeze swept into the flat with a rustle of curtains and rush of hot air. She stared at the open doorway before lowering her head onto her arms on the table as she wept.
“What? Who’s there?” The flat had grown dark, and with a waning moon, there was almost no light other than the slight backlit doorway where a figure stood. She squinted, but almost as quickly as her vision began to focus she felt a sharp pain in her shoulder. She went to scream, but a large hand clamped over her mouth; stifling her cry as she fell into darkness.
Detective Chief Superintendent Christopher Foyle had just hung up the phone when he heard a familiar voice.
“Sir? I was wondering if that ham that was confiscated…?” Sam stood in the doorway of Foyle’s office. He looked up and half-frowned; displaying that ability to prevent anyone from knowing his mood until he chose to reveal it.
“You know very well that is evidence in an ongoing investigation…the black market? And as such cannot be used for any other purpose?”
“Oh, yes sir. It’s just a shame that it will spoil while the case continues.”
“Hungry are you?” He suppressed a grin.
“Oh no sir…Well, as a matter of fact, yes. But it’s not for me. The church was wanting to put on a party for the children and…”
“Well, as much as I like children, Sam, my hands are tied in the matter.”
“Yes sir!” Sam practically stood at attention. She was tempted to snap a salute, but thought better of it.
“Sir?” The tall man stood next to Sam and waited.
“Milner? I don’t suppose you’re here to petition for the ham as well?”
“No, sir,” Sergeant Milner said with a grin before straightening a bit.
“The call that came in. The victim is alive, but there’s something you need to see, sir.”
“Well, then. We best be off.” He grabbed his hat and looked at his watch.
“I’m sorry about the ham,” he said as his gaze looked past the two and down the hall toward the room where the evidence was being stored. He laughed softly.
“We can grab a bite to eat later.” Sam frowned a bit, not wanting of course to show any displeasure, but entirely unsuccessful in the attempt.
“Not to worry, Sam. Sister Margaret Mary already has the ham in a safe place. Constable Clark took a photograph of the evidence and it’s in a file; safe and sound as well.” Milner and Sam looked at each other before stepping back as Foyle walked past them; a grin already widening on his face.
Milner had walked to the front door of the flat where he was greeted by two constables. Foyle was about to advise Sam to stay in the car when she stepped past him and stood behind Milner.
“There’s been a rash of burglaries in the neighborhood. Maybe that’s what happened here?” One man said as the other nodded.
“Right…we’ll take it from here, Constable. Would you mind waiting here for a few minutes? I’ll back straightaway and we can talk more about the goings on here.” Milner used his hand in a wide sweep to indicate the row of flats. A moment later he and Foyle and Sam were all standing in the foyer as the doctor greeted Foyle with a hand shake.
“Dr. McTavish, sir. You must be Detective Chief Superintendent Foyle? I’m glad you’re here. I’m puzzled about this, and I suppose you’re the one to talk with? Nothing to be alarmed about at the moment; everything…she… everything is alright...
“You say she’s alright?” Milner asked the doctor. He nodded, looking distracted.
“The attacker must have been in a very big hurry. Between his haste and the darkness of the room he missed the mark…thankfully. Her clothing surprisingly deflected the knife blow and it glanced off her left shoulder. Still a nasty gash, but nothing that can’t be fixed. That’s not why I’m concerned.”
The doctor shook his head slightly; looking a bit confounded. He used his hand in a broad gesture to invite the three into the parlor where the girl sat. Her shoulder had been dressed and she was wearing a clean blouse. Her slacks bore only a bit of blood from the wound. Nothing remarkable at all as far as they could see.
“This is Giada Parnetti,” the doctor spoke almost in a whisper; quiet not for the sake of the patient but instead for the two officers standing at the front door of the house. He half-smiled and used his eyes to glance at the two as if to say, ‘shhh.’ Milner picked up on the signal and went to the doorway.
“Okay, men? Would you look around the back entrance to see if there’s any evidence of whoever did this?”
“We just did, sir.”
“Look again, men.” He didn’t leave any room for interpretation since it wasn’t a suggestion at all. The two nodded silently and stepped out to make the walk around the back of the row of flats.
“Doctor?” Foyle stood at the archway leading from the hall to the parlor.
“What is it that warrants such secrecy?” At the word of secrecy the woman turned her head, stifling a gasp.
“As I said, the wound was a bit nasty but not serious enough for worry. It’s the girl herself.” At the word ‘girl’ the doctor squinted a bit and tilted his head. Foyle’s eyes darted back and forth between the doctor and the young woman across the room. He joined the doctor in gesture as his head tilted slightly.
“Sir?” Sam stepped up close and practically whispered,
“Do you see, sir?” She focused on the girl, who by now was practically cowering from them, and not at all because of her injury. Sam walked up and leaned close to her and grabbed her hand gently.
“It’s going to be alright.” She half-smiled before turning back with the same expression as if to ask, ‘it will be, won’t it, sir?’ Foyle nodded slightly and stepped closer.
“Let’s introduce ourselves, shall we? I’m Detective Chief Superintendent Foyle. This young lady is my driver, Samantha Stewart. And the gentleman standing by the front door is Detective Inspector Milner. If we are to get to the bottom of why you were attacked, I suppose we should at least know who you are, yes?” His face was almost dead-pan, but the look in his eyes gave the girl reason to believe he was as trustworthy as she hoped. She spoke, but continued to look away.
“My name is George….Parnetti…” She stifled another gasp before continuing.
“I…I don’t know what to say?” She looked around and up into Sam’s eyes, seeking some sort of absolution.
“You’re a young man, yes?” Foyle asked with little change in inflection. George nodded as tears began to spill onto the armrest of the chair.
“And you dressed….in order to avoid conscription?” The words seemed more like a description than an accusation.
“No…no sir,” George said meekly. He pointed to the slacks he wore, lifting up the leg hem slightly to reveal an ankle formed from wood and hardware. Foyle frowned and turned away to collect his thoughts. Milner looked down at his own leg and shook his head at the uncomfortable feeling of identifying with the young man while feeling very awkward and perhaps even a bit repulsed. The young man continued to cry softly but handed Sam papers from the purse on his lap. Sam avoided the temptation of glancing at the papers and handed them to Foyle. He looked at them.
“Served in North Africa…I see.” He kept his gaze down and a bit away from the young man as he continued.
“Do you suppose the attack had anything to do with this?” He didn’t need to elaborate. The young man shook his head and spoke.
“I…I don’t think so….” The expression on his face did nothing to reinforce his words, prompting Foyle to speak once again.
“Does…anyone know about this?” His words were clipped and professional. He shook his head no, but Sam’s understanding nod cause him to relax.
“My lo....lover….” He lowered his head and gasped. Sam put her hand on his shoulder. Normally Foyle would have asked Sam not to get that close that fast, but her presence seemed to put the young man at greater ease than if it had been him and Milner alone. George lifted his head.
“You don’t think?” He looked past Foyle to the doorway, as if Dennis would walk in any minute; spotting Milner’s awkward stare instead.
“Well, it’s something to consider. How did he react when you told him?” Foyle tilted his head in question once again; a kind man asking an awkward question in the midst of a very difficult situation.
“He was angry….no….not angry. He was hurt. He left last evening after I told him. I had fallen asleep at the table….you don’t think he….” he stammered. Sam redoubled her efforts and rubbed the young man’s shoulder until an awkward discovery caused her to pull her hand back in embarrassment. He looked up and glanced at his shoulder; the sheer fabric of the blouse barely hid the brassiere underneath.
“We have to consider all possibilities…” Foyle’s voice trailed off as he thought of the confusion that everyone was feeling. And then Sam spoke; perhaps overstepping once again. Bu she’d found out that sometimes it’s better to ask for forgiveness than permission.
“Don’t you worry. We’ll get to the bottom of this.” She smiled until she saw Foyle’s frown.
“Sorry, Sir.” She stepped back, pulling away from the frightened young man.
“His name is Dennis… Flight Lieutenant Dennis Hewitt…” He put his head down once again and began to sob. Foyle nodded at Sam and she stepped close once again and placed her hand on his shoulder; rubbing the young man’s neck while saying softly,
“Don’t you worry.”
“Aren’t you going to arrest him?” Milner asked. Sam looked in the rear-view mirror and frowned.
“No…I don’t think that would accomplish anything, and he’s already been through enough for one day. What is needed at this point is to stay focused. Either he was attacked because of his habits or not. If his…if the Flight Lieutenant isn’t responsible then someone else is. We need to find out who knows this young man and do they know his secret. Or not?” Foyle turned his head sideways a bit and watched the landscape go by as the car sped down the road.
“You say she was attacked?” The young man sat across from Milner and Foyle. Sam leaned a bit against the wall by the door.
“She?” Milner asked; his left eyebrow lifting slightly. Hewitt shifted uncomfortably in his chair and sighed.
“He lied to me.”
“I understand you were quite angry?” Foyle asked. Hewitt turned to him; his face was darkening and he lowered his gaze in embarrassment.
“Do you know how humiliating it was to find out the woman I’d fallen in love with was a man? No, I don’t suppose you can.”
“Were you angry enough to try to kill him?”
“Yes…for a few minutes. When I got outside and walked around it all seemed so distant. Like someone else’s dream… But no….I wasn’t angry enough to hurt him.” He stared at Milner and sighed.
“I understand.” Milner had gone through a long estrangement with his first wife. When she was murdered, he had even been falsely accused. But he understood betrayal. The confusion and sadness of what could have been? And the feeling of loss even after years of bitterness; that he still loved her even if they had fallen out of love.
“I didn’t go back. I couldn’t….after walking around for a while I went straightaway to the pub. Ask anyone there.”
“We will. I advise you not to leave the station until this matter is cleared up.” With that, Foyle and Milner stood up and all three were in the car on the way back to the station.
“Sir?” Sam looked into the mirror with a pleading frown.
“If it’s about the case, Sam, you know already not to ask.”
“Yes sir. It’s just….”
“Go ahead.” Foyle knew better than to expect Sam to keep quiet and he discovered only after a few years that her observations, while occasionally hasty, were often insightful as well.
“I …I don’t think the Flight Lieutenant did it.” She cringed at an anticipated rebuke. Foyle half-frowned.
“And why is that, Detective Chief Superintendent Stewart?” He grinned and nodded. While he could be grim on occasion, he was never dismissive and could be known to express gratitude. She sighed and shrugged her shoulders; sending the car only a bit to the left.
“Sorry sir. I think he’s still in love with her.” She winced once again. Milner’s eyes widened in surprise but Foyle’s face was deadpan until he spoke.
“I think you’re right. That certainly doesn’t preclude any irrational behavior on his part; he still could have attacked her…him…” Foyle paused before continuing.
“But I agree. The wound was intentional but poorly thought out. Whoever did this did it in haste. If Hewitt had done the attack he would have done it ….” He paused and Milner picked it up.
“There would have either been premeditation with better planning or in a fit of passion at the moment.”
“Not quickly and in the dark?” Sam asked.
“Not in the dark. Whoever did this wanted to kill, but not for personal reasons.”
“The rash of burglaries? What if the girl somehow is connected?” Sam completely avoided the expected description and continued?
“What if she’s still in danger?”
“I suppose we should make sure that can’t happen.” Foyle nodded and half-smiled.
“A guard at the door, sir?” Sam posited. Milner shook his head.
“More like a cat waiting patiently in the larder for the mouse.” He smiled; his normal dolor replaced with a bit of self-assured ease.
“Patiently, yes.” Foyle nodded as the car pulled up to the station.
“Sir?” Milner stood at the doorway of Foyle’s office.
“Progress, Sir?” Foyle allowed himself a relaxed grin; his ease owing to the confidence he had in Milner and the rest of the officers.
“Henderson caught the man trying to sneak back into the flat. The handyman who frequents the neighborhood had been copying keys and going in to steal while the flats were left for the day. Jacobsen says that they found a great deal of loot in the man’s house. The chap copped to it after Henderson nearly twisted his arm off when he wouldn’t let go of the knife.
“Well. That’s the end of that, then, yes?” Milner asked. Foyle grinned in expectation.
“What about…you know…isn’t that illegal?” Milner grew red with embarrassment. As if he couldn’t get redder, he followed Foyle’s gaze down to his leg….the artificial limb that one time had been a burden and even a curse.
“It seems that there’s been enough sacrifice, don’t you think?” Foyle looked into Milner’s eyes and saw a glint of recognition. Milner remembered what he had witnessed with George only days before and his near bravado turned to embarrassed regret.
“I suppose, sir!” Foyle smiled at him; not with a shaming accusation, but with a kind gratitude that reminded Milner of how much the young man had given for his country. How much they both had given for their country. Foyle put his head down, turning his attention to the pile of paperwork on his desk.
“Sir?” Milner spoke again and Foyle lifted his head; his expression one of question. Milner half-smiled.
“Thank you, Mr. Foyle.”
“You’re quite welcome, Detective Inspector.”
Sam stood in the doorway of the bedroom on the second floor of the flat. A slight looking young man was going through a pile of clothing on the bed. He turned and noticed Sam and his face reddened.
“I’m off….My grandmother says she’s got room for me….she’s in Queensland…Australia…you know?”
“Oh…yes…I have a distant cousin in Cairns. What will you do there?” Sam stepped closer. The young man stepped back in response, bumping into the chest of drawers.
“I don’t know. I don’t suppose they have need of an ordinance specialist in her store.” He laughed nervously.
“Oh…a store…that’s wonderful. I bet you’ll fit right in?” Sam smiled and the young man returned the favor with a frown.
“I don’t think so. It’s a dress shop. Hardly a place for me.” He lowered his head; the shame of the past several days seemed to weigh him down.
“I don’t suppose ….your young man….?” As soon as Sam spoke she regretted her words.
“No…even if he wanted to….he can’t….no one can…” George shook his head and Sam followed the gesture with a head shake of her own.
“No…I’m sorry…really,” she begged. The young man nodded in appreciation. As he packed, he shoved the dresses and blouses and such aside on the bed, picking out the frustrating choices of pants and shirts. Sam stepped forward and pulled the young man into a soft hug before leading him out into the hallway. She pointed to some clothing draped over a side table next to the door; two dresses and a skirt.
“I knew you’d be moving…” She paused at the unfairness of life.
“They don’t fit me anymore. Practically new.” He put his head down and tears came to his eyes.
“I’m sorry, dear….Giada? Maybe someday?” Sam hugged the young man before heading to the stairwell.
“Someday!” She gave thumbs up and was happily surprised when the slight young man seemed to turn all at once into a very awkward girl dressed in ill-fitting men’s clothing. The girl smiled back and gave the thumbs up and spoke once again.
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