Foyle's Army

Detective Superintendant Foyle tackles his most perplexing murder case when a member of the local Home Guard is found dead.

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1. Chapter One

At four o'clock on a quiet Wednesday afternoon in July 1942, I was sat in Hastings police station,  reading the latest news from El Alamein in my copy of the Daily Express, when Detective Chief Superintendent Foyle appeared from his office.

“Milner,” he said. “We have a case.” Leaving the  paper behind, I followed Foyle out into the vestibule where Sam Stewart, Foyle's driver, was waiting for us. Foyle told her the name of a seaside resort a few miles along the coast, then filled us in on the few sketchy details of the case as we walked to the car. “The local rector was taking a walk through the woods to visit one of his parishioners when he came across the body,” explained Foyle. “The vicar recognised him because he'd seen him parading in the church hall with the local Home Guard platoon, and hurried back to the church to raise the alarm.”

 

            Forty five minutes later a constable led Foyle and I through the woods to where the dead man lay in his singlet and long johns. I bent down to examine more closely.

            “He was lying face down when the rector found him,” the constable explained. “The rector rolled him over to ascertain the man’s condition before fetching help.”

            “I know this man,” Foyle stated. “Terence Fairweather. We were at Hendon together.”

            “He's one of us?” I asked. A woodpecker tapped on the bark of a nearby tree, oblivious to our activity.

            “Was,” Foyle replied. “He was a top-class detective and would have gone far. If he heard a piece of gossip, he always knew just how to convert it into solid evidence. A rare skill, which he chose to misuse.”

            “How?” To say I was intrigued would be an understatement.

            “He decided to use the evidence he had gleaned to supplement his income by resorting to blackmail. He was caught, sacked from the Force and imprisoned. I heard he'd been released a while back and wondered what he would do next.”

            Foyle and I rolled the body back over. There was evidence of a heavy blow to the back of the victim’s head. “Looks like he was hit with the butt end of a rifle,” I observed. Foyle nodded.

            As we stood up, a glint of white in the undergrowth caught my attention.

            “Sir! Look at this!”

            I picked up an opened envelope with a  London postmark and addressed to “Captain G. Mainwaring, Walmington-on-Sea, Sussex.” I removed the contents and read them. The letter was from a woman called Fiona Grey, who had evidently had a liaison with the intended recipient of the  letter earlier in the war.

             Further examination of the woods revealed no further clues, so we returned to our car, where Sam was waiting patiently. “Take us into the town, Sam,” asked Foyle as we embarked. “I think I'd like to interview the vicar next.” She started the engine and drove off.

            “Look at that cottage, sir,” Sam exclaimed delightedly a few minutes later as we approached a crossroads on the edge of the village. “Thatch roof, rose trellises, the lot. Don't you think that's just what we're fighting for?” Foyle and I glanced out of the window. An elderly man in Home Guard uniform and two elderly women were taking tea on the lawn.

            “Stop the car, Sam,” instructed Foyle. “Perhaps this gentleman can tell us more about our friend Fairweather.” Foyle and I stepped out of the car and walked up the path towards the cottage.

            “Excuse me, Mr...” began Foyle.

            “Godfrey, Charles Godfrey,” beamed the elderly man with a smile like an Ovaltine baby.

            “My name’s Foyle, I’m a policeman,” explained Foyle, “and this is Sergeant Milner. We'd like to ask you a few questions.”

            “Why don't you join us for tea?” asked Godfrey politely. “My sister Dolly makes lovely upside-down cakes.” We thanked him, took a slice of cake each and sat down, though I found myself wondering what ingredients Miss Godfrey used in her cakes, as I hadn't seen a pineapple for over three years.

            “I see you are in the Home Guard,” began Foyle as Godfrey passed him a plate. “What can you tell me about a man called Fairweather?”

            “He only joined us a few weeks ago,” replied Godfrey, pouring the tea into dainty china cups. “I think he said he'd come from London. He was rather a rough man. Quite impolite. I don't like that very much.”

            “Mr. Fairweather has been found murdered in Croft's Wood,” explained Foyle. “He appears to have been struck with a rifle butt.”

            Godfrey was silent for a moment. “We were all up in Croft's Wood last night,” he explained. “There had been a sighting of a parachute coming down in the woods. We divided into pairs to search the woods. I was with Fairweather. After a while I told him I needed to be excused. I don't like the woods very much. There are no conveniences. When I came back, he had gone. I never saw him again. At eleven o'clock Captain Mainwaring sounded his whistle and took us back to the church hall. It was only then that we realised Fairweather was missing. As his cottage is close to Croft's Wood, we decided he must have gone home.”

            “Did you find the parachute?” I asked.

            Godfrey shook his head. “No, but we found one of my sister Dolly's table cloths.”

            “I'd taken it outside to shake the crumbs off,” explained Dolly, “and the wind snatched it out of my hands.” Almost on cue, there was a sudden gust which had us all grabbing our plates, as a Spitfire took off from the nearby aerodrome.

            “So it was a false alarm?” I asked, when the turbulent air had subsided. Godfrey nodded.

            “It would seem you were the last person to see Fairweather alive,” commented Foyle. “May we see your rifle?”

            “Oh dear,” muttered Godfrey. “That will be rather difficult. You see, I don't carry one. I'm a medical orderly.”

            Foyle rose to leave. “Thank you for your time, Mr. Godfrey.”

 

            “Do you think he did it?” I asked Foyle as Sam drove us into the town.

            “I don't think so,” replied Foyle. “He seems so gentle and innocent. But you never can tell.”

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