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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2. Chapter Two

          Sam drove us along the main street of the village, past the greengrocer's shop, the undertaker's, the butcher's and the bank to the church hall. The tall, bespectacled vicar and a verger with a face like a sour prune were standing outside as Sam parked.

            “Ah, Reverend Farthing,” Foyle introduced himself again. “My name is Foyle. I'm a policeman. I need to speak to you about Mr Fairweather.”

            “If you must,” agreed the vicar grudgingly, leading us into his office. “It's a terrible thing.  After working on my sermon, I was walking through the woods to visit Mr Blewitt as I always do at three o' clock on a Wednesday afternoon.”

            “His Reverence is most punctual,” explained the verger, brandishing a yellow duster.

            “Oh, do be quiet, Mr Yateman,” the vicar protested wearily. “Anyway, as I walked through the woods, I came across poor Mr. Fairweather lying on the ground, dead. I ran back here as fast as I could and telephoned the police.”

            “Do you have any idea who may have done it?” I asked.

            “It's that Lance Corporal,” interjected the warden. “Always charging around with that bayonet of his. Tore His Reverence's best surplice last week, so he did.”

            I was about to explain that the victim had been bludgeoned, not stabbed, when, a small, balding, bespectacled man in the uniform of a Home Guard captain entered the office. “Really, vicar. You should ask before using my office. I've got a parade in ten minutes and I need to prepare.”

            “Must I remind you again,” groaned the vicar, “that this is my office.”

            “Yes,” interjected the verger again. “It's His Reverence's office, and don't you forget it.”

            “Come along, Mr. Yateman,” instructed the vicar as the two of them left the office. We introduced ourselves to the balding man.

            “I'm Captain Mainwaring of the Home Guard.”

            “We need to establish what happened last night,” explained Foyle.

            “We were gathering for parade as usual when Mrs. Fox came rushing in to say she'd seen a parachute come down near Croft's Wood. I took the men out and we spent the next few hours searching the woods for it. It turned out to be a tablecloth! When we got back to the church hall at eleven p.m., that is twenty-one hundred hours..”

            “Twenty three?” I suggested.

            “Twenty three hundred hours. I know what time it was! When we got back here we realised that Fairweather was missing. It was too late then to go back looking for him but as he lived near the wood, we all thought he'd find his own way home.”

            “I gather Fairweather hadn't been in your platoon long?”

            “No. He moved here from London a few weeks ago.”

            “Did he say why?”

            “Only that he had some business to attend to,” Mainwaring answered dismissively.

            Foyle placed the letter on the desk. “Would you mind explaining this, sir?”

            “Ah,” said Mainwaring. “Mrs Grey was a widow who came down here from London with her mother to escape the bombing. We had coffee together a number of times before she decided to return to London. There was nothing more to it than that, but the Bank – and of course, my wife Elizabeth - would see things differently  if they were ever to find out. Before the parade yesterday evening, Fairweather came into this office and showed me the letter – goodness knows how he got hold of it – and threatened to pass it on to Head Office unless I paid him a hundred pounds. I told him I needed time to get the money.”

            “What happened next?”

            “Mrs. Fox arrived and told us about the parachute,” replied Mainwaring.

            “May we see your rifle?” I asked.

            Mainwaring placed a revolver on the desk. “I am an officer. This is what I use.”

            At that moment there was a knock at the external door.

            “Come in,” intoned Mainwaring.

            A tall, grey-haired sergeant and a young private wearing a purple and yellow striped scarf entered the office.

            “Wilson, these two men are from the police,” explained Mainwaring to the sergeant. “They're investigating the death of Fairweather.”

            “Oh, isn't it exciting?” commented the young private. “Having two policemen here investigating a murder. Mum'll be ever so excited when I tell her. It's like that film, isn't it Uncle Arthur? You know, the one we saw a few weeks ago where the captain, the sergeant and the privates all got interviewed about a murder by the policeman.”

            Mainwaring scratched his chin in a bored way.

            “Oh yes,” replied the sergeant with enthusiasm. “That was really most awfully good. Can you remember who did it?”

            The private grinned. “The captain did. He got hanged.”

            “You stupid boy,” commented Mainwaring.

            “I'm afraid to say your name is on our list of suspects,” Foyle told Mainwaring gravely.

            The private's grin grew larger. “Is my name on your list?”

            “Not yet,” replied Foyle. “What is it?”

            “Don't tell him, Pike!” Mainwaring ordered. Foyle wrote the name down in his black, leather bound notebook.

            "That's not fair!" the private protested.

            “Pike, go and wait in the hall,” his captain commanded when Foyle had finished writing. “And stop sucking your thumb!”

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