A/N: Many thanks for those who have read and reviewed. Your kind words are always appreciated!
Must get her to safety...can't let her be hurt…
Foyle was panting already, not used to running or feeling quite so much adrenaline coursing through his system. He looked around wildly for a shop or cafe or anything that was open that he could shove Sam into before drawing the man with the gun away from her. As it was, there wasn't enough time even for that. He looked behind them and saw the dark figure still there. Foyle supposed he wouldn't start shooting on the open street — perhaps their best bet was to find a crowd to become lost in. But how many men are there? Are there more than just the one with the gun?
They raced along, Foyle still trying to come up with a plan. It was too early for large crowds, and he swore again, wishing he knew this area of London better. He risked a glance behind him, and saw that turning the corner had given them a brief edge.
"Look," Sam cried, pointing, "this way." There was an old air raid shelter underneath a church, and the door was open, a wheelbarrow stood dejectedly nearby.
"No," he tried to say, but his breath came in gasps. Sam was already tearing down the steps and for a split second he thought about turning back towards their pursuer to confront him openly on the street. At least there would be witnesses…someone would be able to identify the attacker and we, well they, could lock him up…
He was thinking like a policeman, but his other instinct also kicked in, and looking after Sam became more crucial. Can't be sure he wouldn't pursue her after he's dealt with me… Foyle raced down the steps after her, slamming the door behind him. No lock, damn!
Chest heaving, he leaned against the door, hand rubbing his face in agitation.
"Maybe we gave him the slip?"
Foyle only nodded.
A heavy footfall on the stone steps outside indicated otherwise, and he moved quickly towards Sam, grabbing her hand and leading the way further into the underground shelter. The drip, drip of water came from somewhere up ahead and he felt the temperature dropping. Tearing his hat from his head, Foyle wiped his forehead with the back of his hand. They moved quietly, Foyle listening with one ear for the sound of someone behind them. He gave Sam a little push, catching her eye and signalling that she should go on ahead to look for a way out.
It felt like a crypt, smelling damp and musty and Foyle shivered even though he was warm from running. He found Sam at the end of the underground tunnel, a large stone wall in front of them. He took her hand again, following the wall along to the right. He saw shafts of light coming from tall, narrow window panes that were at street level. It gave a bit of light to see by, and he noticed, with relief, some stone steps leading up. Sam quickly went up them and tried the wooden door at the top.
Leaning against a stone pillar, Foyle looked up, the utter horror of realisation hitting him that if the door wouldn't open, this might well be it. He felt winded; not from running, but from this awful thought. Sam pulled frantically at the door, but it wouldn't budge. She turned towards him imploringly and just as he was about to move to her side, a sound echoed through the tunnel. He motioned to Sam and she crept back to him carefully and quietly. The footfalls were coming closer, ringing off the stone floor. Her mouth turned down with emotion as she burst into silent tears. She too had realised.
Foyle suddenly remembered his dream from the other night of Sam being held at gunpoint. He began to shake and felt waves of guilt wash through him at the thought of her in this danger. Maybe I can reason with the fellow to let her go?
He pulled her to him, closing his eyes tightly in anguish. I'm so sorry, Sam, how can I have let you get into this mess? He couldn't voice these words, the large lump in his throat preventing him, so he found her lips and crushed them to his own, desperate for her to understand. All the possibilities he had woken with that morning seemed to fly right away from him, and he felt an impossible despair at the thought of all the opportunities of a life with Sam now to be missed. Oh why didn't I make love to you when I had the chance? Why didn't I tell you all those years ago? I love you, I love you. Forgive me, Sam…
She seemed to understand, trembling with fear and clinging to him. They heard another sound, followed by a creak and a shuffle. Foyle kissed her once more, then moved her behind him, turning to shield her with his body. The whining of an ambulance siren went past. Beyond the window panes life was still moving at a headlong pace. Here, he felt time was standing still. He saw a shadowed movement; a flash of metal as the gun was raised towards him, and he flinched as the sharp report of a pistol sounded.
Everything then seemed to move in slow motion. He heard Sam whimpering behind him, he heard the echo of the shot rattling around the stone tunnel; the man in shadows moved, falling down in a heap, and another shadow came forwards, kicking the pistol away. Foyle saw the man's face in the dim light of the window pane. Alex Anokhov. From the Russian House…
"Mr Foyle," the man said simply, looking at him with mixed impatience and solemnity.
Foyle's eyes had gone wide, and now he closed them in relief. He reached behind him, pulling Sam away from the stone pillar. "Glad to see you Mr Anokhov."
He put a shaking arm around Sam's shoulders. Touching her face with his hand, reassuring himself she was unhurt, he asked, "You all right?"
She nodded, wiping away the tears bravely now it was all over. He breathed out again in relief, squeezing her arm.
"Is he dead?" Sam asked in a quiet voice, looking around Foyle.
Foyle gripped her shoulder more tightly. "You sure you're all right?"
"Yes," she nodded, smiling up at him weakly.
"Right," he rubbed her arm, "better go find the police." The sooner we get out of here, the better…sure Anokhov has some sort of immunity with the police, and we can't just leave the man here…
"No police required, Mr Foyle — I have men that I can trust to sort this out."
Foyle bit his lip, hesitating before nodded gravely, realising he was slightly out of his depth.
"How did you know where to find us?" Foyle asked Anokhov, looking at him properly now that he felt Sam whole and unhurt beside him.
The man wore a long trench coat with a cap pulled low over his eyes, face impassive. He seemed unperturbed that he had just shot a man. Comes with the territory no doubt … The Russian looked on them with keen eyes, but without judgement. He held himself with an understated authority, and Foyle at once felt glad he was on their side.
"I followed you yesterday after our meeting, so I knew you would come again." Anokhov's eyes flicked towards Sam almost imperceptibly. "I was waiting for you outside the hotel," he said, "when this man came following you." He nudged the dead man with his foot. "When yesterday you said Spiakov had been arrested I became suspicious…"
Foyle moved away towards the entrance of the tunnel. "Russian safe house not so safe then," he said dryly.
"This has been my concern for many months," said Anokhov, following them along the tunnel.
"But who is that man?" asked Sam, shooting an anxious glance behind them over Foyle's arm still protectively about her shoulders.
"I do not know…it is possible that he is an agent of Russian counter intelligence."
"Duveen?" Foyle asked, referring to the owner of the Russian House he had met with yesterday. Slimy, unhelpful character that wouldn't be beyond this…
"He is traitor, certainly." Anokhov sounded angry. "He's working with the communists and your government in sending Russian prisoners to their death."
Foyle bit his lip. "Well, I have a good idea why that man was sent."
"Yes, too many secrets your government would not wish to be made public."
"They'll be disappointed then."
Anokhov gave a grim laugh as they arrived on the street, "You would be better off leaving London, Mr Foyle. I think it is quieter on the coast…"
"But what about Niko? Nikolai Vladchenko?"
"I am sorry, miss," Anokhov said with a shrug, "I cannot help you."
Turning back to Foyle, the young Russian added, "Another meeting with your Brigadier Wilson might be in order, Mr Foyle."
It was a good few hours before Foyle was stood in the large, echoing foyer of the Ministry, waiting to see the Brigadier. They had been through it all with Anokhov, seen Adam Wainwright off in the ambulance, and tried to reassure the hotel that the damages would be attended to. Foyle had given them the Ministry's number. He was in no doubt where the blame lay in this case. He had pressed Sam to drink a cup of sweetened tea, only stopping to take a few mouthfuls of his own. He was worried about her, but she had put on a brave face through it all, and he was both relieved and proud of her.
Sam insisted on going to visit Wainwright in hospital, saying, "It's the least I can do. He did take a bullet for us." Though she had been shaking at the time, Foyle finally agreed. He was shaken up too, but they both had things they must do, he admitted. Foyle had collected the car and driven her around to St Bartholomew's before returning to Whitehall.
When he was finally ushered to Brigadier Wilson's office, the older man greeted him with a thin lipped, slightly impatient smile. "What can I do for you, Foyle?"
Foyle told him what had happened, and the Brigadier looked suitably shocked. "Are you really saying this happened on the streets of London?"
"Yes, I was rather surprised myself…" Foyle crossed his legs and shot the other man a narrow look.
Foyle gave him a succinct breakdown of his thoughts regarding the matter of repatriated Russian soldiers, what he had learnt from Anokhov, the shambles the whole operation seemed to be in, and was quite clear in his opinion of who was responsible.
"We must be pragmatic, Foyle," the Brigadier said sharply. "There are thousands of British POWs in Russian hands. We had to do a deal with Stalin, and we don't know that the returning soldiers will be harmed when they arrive back. Mere rumours."
"So we fought two wars to be pragmatic?" Foyle was losing his patience, and he felt his colour begin to rise.
"What is it you want, man?" said the Brigadier impatiently. "I have only been following orders from on high — had a directive come through last month."
"And this morning?"
"I knew nothing about it," the man held up his hands, looking at Foyle as if he had gone mad.
"And yet…" Foyle pursed his lips and let his eyes swivel up to find the Brigadier's. They bore into the other man, making him sit back in his chair. "You were the only one who knew I was staying at the club. Your club. Where the man you sent followed me from."
"You can't really believe I would condone murder. You're out of your mind."
"And as to what I want," Foyle continued without missing a beat, "your resignation for a start, and Nikolai Vladchenko returned to Hastings. He's a main witness in a murder inquiry."
The gaze he levelled at the other man was of icy steel, the blue there flaming with a nearly unharnessed fury, and he gave his former commanding officer no quarter.
Sam was waiting for Foyle in the agreed place when he pulled up about an hour later. She piled in next to him gratefully, grasping his arm and leaning in to kiss his cheek. She was pale and quiet, and he noticed her hand remain on his arm as if for reassurance.
Foyle pulled out back into the street, moving carefully through the traffic. "Let's get out of here, shall we?"
"You want to drive back now? It's getting late."
"No, perhaps not. Home is probably best."
Foyle moved his hand to grasp hers tightly. He murmured softly, "I like how you say that."
He turned briefly to her, "Yes. Home."
She smiled at him, though it didn't quite reach her eyes. She was still shaken, he could see that. He told her what had happened at the Ministry and she only nodded sadly.
"But look, Niko will be all right."
She nodded again.
"Shall I pull off somewhere…we could have something to eat…talk?"
"Yes, all right."
He drove on until he saw an open cafe, set back only slightly from the road. Here too the bomb damage was still being repaired, buildings seemingly at random reduced to rubble. As he pulled the hand brake, she put a hand on his knee.
"Might we talk first?"
"Yes, of course." He took off his hat and ran a hand through his hair. "You all right, my darling? Very sorry that you got involved in this." He chewed his cheek in agitated emotion, looking at her with heavy eyes.
She nodded, beginning to cry. He squeezed her hand, "Oh Sam…" he sighed, wishing he knew how to begin to explain how sorry he was.
"It isn't your fault, Christopher." She rubbed her eyes, "Sorry, just all rather much."
"I'll say." He pulled her to him, putting his lips against her ear, "I would never have forgiven myself if anything had happened to you."
She gripped his shoulders more tightly, "Nor I you, Christopher. Oh, my darling man, I might have lost you."
Foyle saw that the tables had been awfully turned, and she'd had a sudden insight in to how he had felt not a few days before. He felt sorry for that too, and said as much. They held on to each other gratefully. They knew now that there was nothing to come between them. The decisions they had made that had brought them together, and the experiences they had gone through in such a short time bound them indubitably. Sam continued to cry, but gradually he felt relief sinking in to them both, and she relaxed against him.
Sniffing she said, "Well you certainly know how to show a girl a good time."
They both laughed together softly, Foyle giving a small huff of, "Yes, well…"
"We would do best to be married as quickly as possible if this is any indication," Sam continued lightly, wiping her face with a grubby hanky.
"We will," said Foyle firmly. "Lost enough time as it is. I want to begin our life together, Sam, I really do."
"Well, let's start with sharing a meat pie," she said, nodding towards the cafe.
"Not an entire one for yourself?"
They got out of the car, Sam saying, "I didn't want to sound greedy."
"Well, I could eat a horse myself after all this running about. We'll each get one." He held out a hand for hers, briefly kissing the ring that stood out there. She put an arm around his middle as they walked towards the cafe.
"Be careful what you wish for," Sam said with a sudden grin, "you can never be quite sure what goes into these things…"
The street was enclosed in shadows when they arrived in the late evening. Foyle felt a moment's self conscious relief for this — the curtain twitchers would have enough to gossip about already with Sam staying two nights previously. And yet, could she really continue to stay here? It really wouldn't do…she'd have to be at home while the banns were read. The prospect filled him with a desperate sadness. To be away from her now that they had become so inordinately close was not something he wanted to bring up just yet. For the sake of propriety however, he knew he would have to.
In the small hallway they pulled off hats and coats, setting overnight bags at the bottom of the stairs. Sam put a hand on his chest, over his heart, staying him with the motion — "will it get you into trouble?"
"No. With your father perhaps, but the world is changing…"
"You haven't necessarily changed with it though, have you?"
Foyle gave her a half smile, "Perhaps not entirely; propriety has its place…"
"How long will the banns take?"
"A few weeks."
"I don't suppose people still go to Gretna Green do they?"
"What, and have your father and uncles string me up for it afterwards?"
She seemed to have read his mind again when she added, "You'll send me home, won't you?"
"I should like to think you would go of your own free will without me sending you…" He arched an eyebrow at her with a hint of amusement. "It will be expected, my darling."
Foyle swept her in to his arms then, whispering in the small space of hall, "If I could, I would never have you go away from me…after all that has happened…after today, I nearly can't bear it…"
His breath was hot against her ear, his whispered words ringing with an edge of hopelessness that Sam didn't like to hear.
"We mustn't look at like that," she began sensibly. "I don't want to be away from you either, but if a few weeks is all that is standing in our way of a life together, I will manage. Won't you?"
He chuckled softly, feeling almost light-headed with her here against him at the foot of the stairs, hearing her levelled headed reasoning once again reassuring him.
"What would I do without you?" he murmured, letting his lips trace the outline of her cheek, nudging her closer to him.
"Let tonight be our night…before the rules of the world claim us…please, Christopher." Her voice had become low and Foyle pulled back to look at her. He suddenly knew what she meant, and it both thrilled and worried him.
She sensed this, and putting a soft hand on his cheek she smiled up at him. "Oh my darling man, has today shown you nothing?"
He clung to her then, pulling her roughly into a tight embrace, knowing she was right. This was beyond propriety and the restraints of society were no longer important. Could they risk any more lost chances? He felt the fear of earlier return to him again, and he began to shake. Sam let her hands run up and down his back, one at last slipping up to cup the back of his head, fingers trailing through the small, cropped curls there in a soothing motion. Adrift in this moment, Foyle felt at once both lost and yet found. He needed her more than ever. The culmination of the day's events broke within him, and he gave a small huff of a sob, burying his face in her neck.
She murmured soft sounds to him and he felt the wetness of her tears fall against his skin. Finding each other's lips, Foyle nodded, saying throatily, "Are you certain, Sam?"
She pulled away, eyeing him squarely and frankly. He saw there a depth and spark, and he felt as if his nerves had been electrified. The blood began to rush to his ears. Yet, he understood that this was not mere indulgence, but in fact something deeper and binding, important for them both. With her mouth set seriously, she said quietly, "Make love to me, Christopher."
He had decided before she had even asked, but now moved in to capture her lips with his own as if in answer, suddenly smiling amidst their kiss. She nipped at his bottom lip, grinning up at him.
Though tired from a day of running about, adrenaline and emotion, and the long drive back, Foyle was spurred into action. His hands were everywhere at once, and Sam had already begun to tug at his shirt buttons.
"Upstairs?" he murmured questioningly.
"I'll race you," she said mischievously, giving him a small push and dodging past him with a laugh.
"Oh I see," he said rolling his eyes, grabbing the banister to haul himself upright, tearing up the treads after her. He caught her hips and stopped her just as they reached the landing and together they crashed down to the threadbare rug. Sam gave a squeal followed by a giggle, and Foyle moved himself over her, ravishing her lips. "Got you…"
But it was perhaps, that Sam had got him, for with a flick of her tongue, she felt him respond breathlessly and his kiss became deeper than before, probing and delightful.
"As much as I like your landing, Christopher," Sam began, shifting underneath him, "it isn't exactly comfortable."
He chuckled and rose to his feet, offering her a hand to help her up. They went into the bedroom, Foyle closing the door. When he had turned back to the room, Sam had begun to shed her clothes at a remarkable speed. He was beside her in a moment, pulling off his own as well as trying to help her with hers, both getting in the way of the other. They collapsed on the edge of the bed with sudden helpless laughter and attempted to proceed more efficiently.
Foyle's warm hand traced her collarbone, sliding down to find her breasts, now bare to him. "Are you nervous?" he asked softly.
"Not at all," she smiled warmly at him, touching his cheek. "Are you?"
He gave her an upside down smile, the corners of his lips turning downwards in slight amusement. "Well…"
Leaning her back he moved to lay beside her on the top of the counterpane, stroking her cheek with the back of his forefinger. He closed his eyes for a brief moment and admitted quietly, "A bit…"
She sensed his reservations; she understood them, and knew they were nothing that couldn't be eased. "I love you," she whispered to him, drawing him against her, "and I always shall."
He moved with her, and realised now that there had been enough talking. Enough words spoken. They no longer needed to speak, she knew him through and through, and he could read her just as well. It was with this alignment that Sam finally broke into a smile that reached her eyes, twinkling up at him with love. He saw himself reflected there in her depths and he relaxed, grinning back. In that moment they had overcome the last hurdle, and from here the path leading from the gates of recognition was smooth and even.
They came together with a symmetry nearly unknown to either of them before. No one person leading, but rather meeting each other equally as passion prescribed. Movements became suddenly dictated by instinct and deeper emotions than either might have fathomed. After days of such uncertainty, this coupling was the surest, most pure and sensible thing. It was not merely physical, but something more — a coming together of souls and minds; establishing an infallible understanding.
They wept together for the beauty of it; for the relief and assurance it seemed to bring, and for feeling alive in a life so transient. From here it was only forwards and that too thrilled them both. In the height of it all, as Foyle felt from within her the rolling wave of pleasurable release, he too let himself go to join her in the heady aftermath.
His chest was heaving again for a second time that day, and he said with a grin as he eased himself down beside her, "All this exertion will do me a damage…"
"If we can survive days like today, my darling, and live so fully in the knowledge of that, nothing can stop us." She grinned back at him in soft amazement.
Foyle smiled, wrapping her up close against him, the feel of her warmth and the scent of her bringing fresh tremors to his system. "With you, Sam, I feel I can do anything."
"Well you can — you're brilliant."
He chuckled, kissing her damp temple. "And you're a wonder. Together I think we make rather a formidable team."
"So can I become your driver again?" she asked sleepily, nestling into his shoulder.
"Wouldn't dream of going anywhere without you…"