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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4. Chapter Four

          “Jones, send the men in here,” Mainwaring commanded. Jones saluted, marched out of the external door, realised his mistake, turned, re-entered and left the office by the correct door. “In the office, at the double!” he commanded.

            The entire platoon marched into the office en masse, squashing Foyle and I against a wall and knocking Mainwaring to the floor.

            “I really meant one at a time,” commented Foyle, as Mainwaring picked himself up, his hat and glasses askew. “I'll start with the Scotsman.”

            “Everyone except Fraser, back out of the office, at the double,” commanded Jones.

            “Can you tell me about last night?” Foyle asked Fraser when the other men had left.

            “It was a dark and stormy night,” Fraser began dramatically, his eyes rolling. “We'd gone into the woods and divided into pairs to search for a parachute. The wind was howling through the trees. Howling d'you hear, howling. Jones and I got separated from each other. All of a sudden, there was a terrible scream like a banshee's wail that made my hair stand on end. I ran as fast as I could to where I'd heard the awful noise come from. Nothing could have prepared me for what I saw.”

            “Fairweather was dead?” asked Foyle.

            “No,” replied Fraser. “Private Pike had got his foot stuck down a rabbit hole.”

            “What happened next?” I asked.

            “While we were extracting Private Pike's foot from the hole, I noticed a table cloth flapping in the wind and we realised that was what Mrs. Fox had seen, so we went home. Five hours in the woods looking for a table cloth! What a waste of time! It was folly, sheer folly!”

            “What's that in your breast pocket?” I asked the Scotsman, on noticing what looked to be the edge of an envelope identical to the other two protruding from Fraser's breast pocket.

            “It's nothing, nothing at all,” proclaimed Fraser with too much indignation.

            “You won't mind us having a look, then,” countered Foyle, Reluctantly, Fraser handed the envelope over. It was identical to the other two envelopes and was addressed in the same writing. Foyle pulled out a page from an accounts book.

            “You are an undertaker, I see,” he commented.

           “Funeral director, if you don’t mind,” Fraser interrupted him. Foyle ignored the interruption.

           “These fees seem remarkably steep, particularly given the recorded outgoings.” He turned the paper over and noticed writing on the reverse side. “I still have another page, which I will give to the Chamber of Commerce, unless you pay me twenty gold sovereigns.”

            “Fairweather came over to my shop on Monday evening while I was completing my accounts,” explained Fraser. “He'd brought with him a particularly fine bottle of whisky he invited me to share. I left the ledger open on the desk and went to get some glasses. When we'd drunk half the bottle, he made his excuses and left. Last night as I arrived on parade, he handed me yon envelope. I realised he must hae torn the pages out when my back was turned. I told him he wouldnae get his hands on my gold, but I didnae kill him.”

            “Thank you, Private Fraser,” said Foyle. “Send the next one in.”

            The next man to enter wore a grey suit and a trilby and had a thin black moustache. He entered the office rather nervously.

            “What is your name?” asked Foyle.

            “Joe Walker,” the man replied in a broad Cockney accent. “Wholesale retailer of essential supplies. Is there anything I can get for you?” 

            “Mr. Walker,” Foyle asked. “Where were you yesterday evening?”

            “I was obtaining essential supplies,” Walker replied.

            “Can anyone confirm where you were?”

            I realised Walker was in a tight spot. From what he had already divulged, I surmised that not all his activities were legal. Foyle came to the same conclusion.

            “I am only interested in the murder of Terence Fairweather,” explained Foyle. “Any other activity you divulge to me remains in this office.”

            “I should point out,” Mainwaring commented, “that I do not condone this man's activities.”

            “Oh,” said Walker, indicating the gas mask case that hung around his neck. “I'll take these bottles of whisky back then.”

            “Where were you last night?” I asked, anxious to get the interview back on track.

            “It's like this,” Walker explained. “I'd been up to Mr Blewitt's yesterday afternoon and was walking back through the woods when I found a parachute caught in a tree.”

            “A parachute?” echoed Mainwaring and Foyle in unison. “One of ours or one of theirs?”

            “What difference does it make?” asked Walker.

            “Ours are white, theirs are cream,” explained Wilson.

            “It is vital we know,” Foyle demanded. “Where is the parachute now?”

            “I took it to a man I know last night,” replied Walker. “To have it made into eight dozen pairs.”

            “Pairs of what?”

            “Silk knickers.”

            “What happened to the knickers?” asked Mainwaring.

            “I do wish you wouldn't use that word,” commented Wilson, uneasily.

            “Bloomers, then,” responded Mainwaring crossly.

            “I collected them first thing this morning and sold them all. Eight bob each. You didn't want some for Mrs Mainwaring, did you?”
            “Elizabeth? No, no, not her sort of thing at all” murmured Mainwaring.

            “Do you know who you sold them to?” I asked.

            Walker thought for a moment. “I don't normally keep records, see. But there was Mrs Farley at number 18 Pier Street,” he began as he reeled off a list of names and addresses from memory and Foyle wrote them down. “There were others,” he concluded, “but I can't remember them all.”

            “These should do,” replied Foyle. “We only need to see one pair. Captain Mainwaring, can your men help us find them?” I found myself wondering how much help they would really be.

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