Title: Under the Radar
Characters/Pairings: Foyle/Sam, Andrew Foyle, Milner, Alistair Graeme, Martin Keller, Other characters
Rating: PG-13 (for adult discussions)
Spoilers: Eagle Day
Summary: Andrew Foyle gets into trouble, and it's up to Foyle and WAAF Sam Stewart to get him out. (An AU version of 'Eagle Day'.)
Disclaimer: Anthony Horowitz owns Foyle's War & its characters – I'm just playing with them!
Author Notes: This fic was inspired by Pip Beck's A WAAF in Bomber Command and the recollection that Sam tells Foyle in 'The German Woman' that she had originally wanted to join the WAAF. What if she had? (Some of this dialogue comes from the episode.)
DCS Christopher Foyle was asleep when a banging noise woke him. Startled, he scrambled out of bed and pulled on his dressing gown, then made his way downstairs barefoot. He didn't bother trying to move stealthily because it was clear the intruder was making too much noise to hear him. Entering the kitchen he caught sight of his son, Andrew, as the latter rattled about in the pantry.
"What the hell are you doing?"
"I was trying not to wake you." His son's grin was as irrepressible as ever, Foyle noted.
"You're trying not to – You're making such a bloody racket." Foyle spoke grouchily, even though he was pleased to see his son.
"Sorry. I don't suppose you've got any food, have you? I left too early for breakfast."
"Food? Yes, there's food. There's some eggs." Foyle vaguely gestured to the fridge.
"That's about it," his father admitted. He had been intending to pick up some supplies today; now he supposed he'd have to pick up more. "Got some leave?"
"No, I've been posted." Andrew glanced across at him as he handled the eggs.
"Right. Well, you put something together. I'll have mine scrambled. I'll go and get changed." Foyle turned to the door, then looked back with a slight smile. "Uniform suits you."
"Thanks. Wish I could say the same about your dressing gown," Andrew answered, grinning.
Foyle twisted his mouth and grunted, biting back a reprimand for the boy's cheekiness.
Foyle entered the kitchen, washed, shaved and dressed in his shirt, suit trousers and waistcoat, the jacket over his arm. He found Andrew spooning the scrambled eggs out of the saucepan onto slices of toast.
"Tea?" asked Foyle.
A few minutes later they were settled on either side of the kitchen table and tucking into their breakfast.
"How did you get down here so early?" asked Foyle.
"A friend drove me down, Bruce Leighton-Morris. I knew him up at Oxford. Bumped into him in London yesterday and he put me up for the night, then drove me down today. He's recceing for the Crown Film Unit."
"Right. So you've finished your training then, have you?"
"Mmm-hmm." Andrew swallowed a mouthful of tea.
"Are you attached to a squadron now?"
"No, and I don't know why not." Foyle glanced up at his son's pensive tone. "Most of the chaps I was with have already gone operational. Bombers, coastal command. But Calder – he was our CO – sent me here. Some sort of cloak-and-dagger show; don't breathe a word to a soul, that sort of thing."
"That include me?"
"Absolutely," Andrew said, with a wry smile.
"I understand." Foyle picked up his cup and finished his tea. "Well, good to have you home, anyway." He glanced at his watch. "I'd better be going. You in tonight?"
"I don't know. I expect so, though."
"See you later, then."
Andrew gave a nod as Foyle got to his feet and cleared away his breakfast things.
"Wash up, when you're done."
Andrew rolled his eyes, causing Foyle to raise an eyebrow. "All right, Dad, I'll wash up."
Foyle drove through the town to the police station, glad to see people enjoying the August sunshine. However, he was less happy with the news Milner gave him on his arrival at the station.
"Morning, sir. There was a raid last night, did a lot of damage in the residential area around Henley Terrace, Bexley Avenue, Maize Hill, and Ecclethorne Glen. And there's been a report of looting in the area."
Foyle grimaced. "Why must people be so vile?" he asked rhetorically. "Much missing?"
"Jewellery, watches, and money, as far as we can tell," Milner answered.
"All right, we'd better go and talk to the ARP Warden."
Milner nodded, and Foyle turned on his heel, heading back along the corridor to the yard at the back of the station where he'd left his car. Milner followed, his limping gait more noticeable in the quiet corridor.
"Leg giving you any trouble?" Foyle asked as they stepped out into the sunshine.
"Now and again, sir. Just a twinge occasionally, but the doctors warned me that it might."
"Well, let me know if it gets too much," Foyle said.
"Yes, sir." Milner eased himself into the passenger seat as Foyle climbed in behind the steering wheel. As if embarrassed, Milner changed the subject. "Have you heard anything from your son lately?"
"He turned up early this morning," Foyle answered. "Woke me up, as a matter of fact, clattering about looking for some breakfast."
Milner smiled. "Home on leave?"
"No, he's been posted locally, apparently. No idea where exactly, or what he'll be doing – it's all hush-hush, it seems, even for me."
"Really? That seems a bit harsh."
"Well, that's the way it has to be, I suppose," Foyle mused, although he felt slightly resentful that Andrew couldn't even tell his own father. After all, if a Detective Chief Superintendent couldn't be trusted to keep secrets, who could? But he didn't repeat that thought to Milner, any more than he had to Andrew; he'd had the feeling, anyway, that his son relished having official secrets from his father.
While Foyle and his Sergeant were beginning to investigate the looting, Andrew was reporting for duty at a very large house on the coast outside Hastings.
"Good morning, Foyle. My name is Wing Commander Keller. Welcome to The Manor."
Keller picked up a file from his desk. "I have your instructor's report. He says a lot of good things about you."
"Thank you, sir." Andrew smiled a little, pleased to hear this.
"I just hope it's true," Keller said, looking up from the file to stare at Andrew.
Andrew lifted his head, wondering at the change of tone in Keller's voice, until the older man remarked, "You flew under the Forth Bridge."
Andrew felt his stomach clench and he glanced away as he began to explain. "We – had a bit of a bet."
"Risking your own neck, and more to the point, a valuable aircraft." Keller pointed out, leaving no doubt in Andrew's mind that the aircraft was valued rather more highly than the pilot.
The older man turned away and rounded his desk again. "Still, it seems you have an aptitude for low-level flying, and that's why you're here."
Andrew swallowed, relieved that it appeared that he wasn't going to get into trouble.
"I imagine you were disappointed not to be posted to a squadron?" Keller asked, looking back up at him as he set the file back down on his desk.
"Yes, sir. If you want the truth, I was."
Keller stepped across to the coat stand and took down his gas mask and tin helmet, then leaned in close. "Well, this is much, much more important."
Andrew felt puzzled, but turned to follow his superior as Keller led the way out of the office.
"What I'm about to show you is probably the biggest, most important secret of the war. This goes no further. You don't even whisper a word to your mother."
"Actually, sir, my mother's dead," Andrew answered.
Keller rounded on him. "Security is my responsibility, and if you step out of line, I'll come down on you like a ton of bricks. Is that understood?"
Andrew suppressed a shudder, startled by the older man's menacing glare, and instantly regretting his quick jokey reply. "Absolutely, sir."
"Good. Right. Well, let me introduce you to the three most important letters you'll hear in your life: RDF, Radio Direction Finding. Also known as radar." Keller had led the way through the house to an outside door, which he now opened and stepped through. As he and Andrew climbed into a waiting car, Keller explained how Hitler had managed to make such easy work of Poland, Belgium and the Netherlands by taking out their entire Air Forces before they'd got off the ground. Keller asserted that this wouldn't happen to Britain because of radar.
Then he asked Andrew how good his science was, and Andrew was forced to admit it had never been his best subject. Fortunately Keller took pity on him and gave him a simple explanation of how radar used reflected radio waves to determine where an aircraft was positioned, which meant they could spot enemy aircraft at night, even in cloud, long before they reached the coast, which meant that they could be intercepted and destroyed before they could do any damage.
Keller continued his explanation, talking about the Chain Home stations, the London HQ, and the sector control rooms in different parts of the country which controlled the British air defences.
"What's my part in all this, sir?" asked Andrew, impatient to know why he was wanted.
"I'm about to introduce you to Group Captain Graeme, he's a brilliant man. Science background. Runs this station, and more or less built it. He trained the people that work here, and he's put together a formidable team. He'll introduce you. You'll be based at The Manor, but this is where the vital work will be done. That's why you're here."
Finally they arrived, and Keller led Andrew inside a large building where he introduced him to the Group Captain.
"Very good to meet you, Foyle. Very good indeed." Group Captain Graeme was a large man, with a thick moustache and dark hair. He came around his desk to shake hands with Andrew. "I don't go in for too much formality here, unlike Keller. 'Killer Keller', that's what we call him. Ha!" The man barked a laugh, and Andrew recognised him as the bluff, hearty, all-chaps-together type that he'd encountered many times so far in his RAF career. He wasn't sure that he didn't prefer the quieter, if more menacing, Keller.
Graeme offered him some tea, which Andrew promptly and politely turned down.
"It's very good of you to help us out. The Wing Commander put you in the picture, I hope?"
"To a certain extent, sir, yes."
"At the moment we're fine-tuning and calibrating the system," Graeme explained. "It's a bit late in the day, some might say, but that's where you come in."
Andrew gave a slight nod to show he was paying attention.
"Low flying," Keller put in.
"Low flying, night flying, yes," Graeme said.
"You're going to track me?" Andrew asked, suddenly making sense of what he'd been told.
"Find you, track you, everything. Except shoot you down. Ha!" He laughed, then his expression became more serious. "Make sure you turn on your IFF, by the way. It's only one little switch, and you'd be amazed how many pilots forget it."
"Nobody knows about these exercises," Keller explained. "And if you don't identify yourself with an IFF signal, you'll have every gun on the south coast firing at you."
Andrew gave a half-smile. "I won't forget, sir," he promised. He was beginning to feel quite excited about his new posting.
"I can't tell you how important all this is to us, Foyle. We recently lost one of our plotters. Most unfortunate. We have to get the new team up to scratch."
"Plotters?" asked Andrew, puzzled.
"I'll show you round," Graeme said, suddenly energetic.
Andrew followed him out of the office, and was led into a room which was, it seemed, filled with busy young women working at strange pieces of equipment.
"At ease, everyone. This is Pilot Officer Foyle, our very own hedge-hopper. We'll be tracking him as of tomorrow."
A young woman with striking red-gold hair and dark eyes stood up from her chair beside Andrew as Graeme introduced the women: "Corporal Howse, Sergeant Stewart, Corporal Holdsworth."
Andrew noticed that the young woman just beside him was the Sergeant, and smiled at her before offering a general greeting all round.
"You'll get a chance to meet up at The Manor. That's where they're billeted," Graeme told him, and Andrew immediately hoped that he'd be billeted there, too. "A home away from home, isn't it, ladies?"
"Damp, draughts and dreadful food," answered Stewart, giving Andrew a small smile. "Not my idea of home."
"Don't put him off! Ha!" He bent towards a screen in front of which Stewart had been sitting. "Now, this is what I wanted to show you, Foyle." Andrew moved closer to lean over the back of Stewart's empty chair. "This is what is going to win us the war."
Andrew peered at the circular screen, seeing only an odd triangle of light sweeping around the screen. Fortunately Graeme explained to him just what he was looking at, a radar screen, and how it related to the RDF that Keller had told him about in the car on the way over.
To Andrew's disappointment, he was taken back to The Manor before he could get to know any of the plotters any better, and from there he was sent home for the night. He and his father had supper out, then Andrew took himself to bed early for what turned out to be a very good night's sleep. He returned to The Manor early the next morning and was sent straight to the airfield for his first test flight. He felt wildly excited when he saw his plane – a brand new Spitfire, which looked quite beautiful on the runway.
He greeted the mechanic cheerfully, and was assured that everything was in order and ready to go. Then he climbed up into the cockpit and started her up.
Back in the sector control room, Corporal Holdsworth reported that the target Spitfire had taken off.
"All right," Graeme said. "He'll head inland about thirty miles, then turn. We've got nine minutes until the exercise starts."
"Standing by, sir," Sam Stewart reported, staring intently at her screen. Her headset seemed heavier than usual this morning, and she was aware of the extra tension in the room. She forced herself not to think about anything except the exercise they were to carry out, knowing that she couldn't afford to be distracted. She knew the Group Captain didn't particularly like her, and that he would probably be glad of an opportunity to send her away should it arise, but that was something she was used to and could ignore.
"Haven't you got him yet?" Graeme asked a few minutes after Andrew Foyle had reported he'd completed his circuit and was coming in.
"Nothing, sir, just a blank screen," Sam said tensely, aware of how tight her shoulders felt. "Wait a minute, there's something." She heard Graeme step closer behind her chair as she added, "No, that's just ground reflection."
"Come on, Stewart, this is not good enough. He'll be here in seven minutes, and if he was the enemy, we'd need to see him by now."
Sam bit her lip, forcing herself not to retort, then glanced up over her shoulder, sighing silently when Graeme moved away again. She hated it when he loomed over her chair, even if he did keep his hands to himself.
"Well?" Graeme asked shortly afterwards.
"Still nothing, sir," Sam answered, slightly anguished.
"All right, try a different modulation."
She reached up to the knobs and switches above her screen and changed the frequency with a feeling of mild relief. Unfortunately, changing the modulation didn't help, as Sam still couldn't get a signal.
"Three minutes and counting," Graeme observed tetchily. "He's right on top of us."
"He's not there, sir," Sam said, knowing she couldn't wave a magic wand and suddenly produce the signal. "Not anywhere."
"I've picked up an echo from his IFF, sir," Jane Holdsworth said from behind Sam.
"He's out there," Graeme insisted, coming back to lean over Sam's shoulder. "Where is he?"
Suddenly a voice came over the tannoy, making them all look up. "This is Target Spitfire to Base. I've just dropped a bomb. You're all goners!"
Andrew Foyle sounded quite smug, Sam thought, and bit her lip, wondering if Graeme would reprimand her.
To Sam's great relief, the Group Captain didn't single her out for a reprimand, but he was quite cross with everyone that they hadn't been able to find and track the target Spitfire. Sam escaped to the dining room for lunch with a considerable sense of relief. The food might be unappetising and the company rather solemn, but at least she could get away from Graeme for a while.
She had already taken a seat and begun eating her lunch in a desultory fashion, when Andrew Foyle came in. He fetched himself some food, then headed straight for her table.
"Hello, there. May I join you?"
He grinned at her cheerfully and she forced herself to smile back at him as she acquiesced. While she was glad to see a cheerful face around The Manor, she had an awful feeling that he would be no different from all the other young Pilot Officers in believing that the WAAF were all young women eager to give up their virtue for any swaggering young man in RAF blue. Sam wasn't like that – first because she was a vicar's daughter, and secondly because she tended to prefer older men – though not men like Graeme.
"Thanks," Andrew said, seating himself opposite her. "How was it you described this place? Damp, dismal, dreadful food? Well, you were right about the food, anyway."
Sam nodded glumly. She had a healthy appetite, yet she rarely felt as if she'd got enough to eat, and she had a feeling the situation would just get worse if the rationing became stricter. Sometimes she wished she'd become a Land Girl instead; working on her uncle's farm, she'd probably have noticed the rationing rather less than she did in the WAAF.
"Everyone thought what you did this morning was tremendous," she told Andrew. "I've still got no idea how you managed to sneak up on us." Although she felt sure he'd be smug in response to her words, she couldn't help telling him, honesty being one of her besetting sins, or strongest virtues, depending on whom you asked.
"Well, I suppose I was lucky," he answered, grinning.
"That's someone you don't meet every day: a modest pilot," Sam said, surprised and wondering if she'd misjudged him.
"No, actually, you're right," Andrew declared. "It was a damned good piece of flying."
She felt disappointed that he'd lived up to her expectations after all, but she refrained from saying anything. "We'll just have to try harder next time."
He smirked at her from across the table, as if to say that they could try as hard as they liked, but they wouldn't succeed.
"This radar work – every day there are more raids, and soon – it's so important," she said, trying to convey to him the seriousness of the job, and that it wasn't just a game.
"How long have you been a WAAF?" he asked.
"Oh. I started with the VADs, but then I heard they were looking for people who could work nights and weren't afraid of being bombed."
Andrew looked up in obvious surprise from the glass of water he was just pouring for himself. "And you aren't?" he asked, his tone a mixture of disbelief and admiration.
"Well, yes, of course I am. But I suppose they meant people who could keep their heads in a raid. I'm a vicar's daughter, and I'm not the sort who goes off in a flap. So I thought that might be me. Anyway, I applied and I was accepted, and they sent me to Bawdsey, where I was trained. That was in April, and then I was sent here."
"So you live here?"
"Actually my parents are in Lyminster and I occasionally manage to spend a weekend with them, but most of the time I'm here." She looked out of the window. "We've got rooms in the old stable block, in what's known as the 'WAAFery'."
"The three of you?" Andrew asked.
Sam got the impression that he really liked the idea of the three women being billeted out there together. "The plotters, yes."
"You must be quite a team," he said, smiling. He looked down at his plate, hummed a little, as if in dismay, then asked abruptly, "Listen, when are you back on duty?"
"Not until three," Sam answered.
"Then let's go out for lunch."
"What?" she asked, bemused.
"I know the perfect place," Andrew insisted. "Come on." He got up from the table and quickly moved towards the door.
Sam looked down at the unappetising food on her plate, glanced around her, then got up to follow him.
Half an hour later they were sitting on a grassy hillside outside Hastings, eating thickly cut sandwiches from actual china plates. Andrew had nipped home and raided his father's pantry to make them a picnic lunch.
"This is lovely," Sam said gratefully, appreciating the thick, fresh bread and the sharp, tangy cheese.
"Yes, isn't it?" He gave her an admiring look before staring across at the town. "You could almost forget there was a war on."
"Oh, no," Sam protested quickly. "I mean, well, the war's all we ever think about here. Day and night." She gave him an apologetic look, sensing she was spoiling the mood – not that she wanted him to flirt with her.
"The people who run this show, they seem pretty tough," he observed, taking a bite of his own sandwich.
"They're all right, really," Sam said, mindful of things she couldn't say to him. "Group Captain Graeme can be a bit short-tempered. He was a pilot, you know, in the last war." She assumed Andrew would be impressed with that, as the pilots usually were. "He flew in Persia, and won lots of medals. And Wing Commander Keller – " She paused, wondering how best to phrase what she wanted to say. "He's not very friendly. But that's not why any of us are here."
"Hmm. Are all the operators girls?" Andrew asked.
Sam refrained from rolling her eyes. "Most of them are, I think," she said. "They say men are too ham-fisted." Andrew laughed. "Men peel potatoes, but women scrape them; that's the difference. Or at least, that's what they say." She made a gesture with her free hand. "We've got the right hands for the job." She wouldn't admit it to anyone else, but she felt a little proud of this fact.
Andrew glanced down. "I think you've got perfect hands," he said, lifting an eyebrow appreciatively.
Sam felt her cheeks getting warm. "You should stop flirting like that," she scolded him. "How do you know I haven't got a boyfriend?"
"I don't!" he said cheerily, as if it were of no consequence at all whether she had or not.
She shook her head, then laughed a little. All pilots were the same, it seemed.
"That's none of your business!" she told him, still laughing.
"Oh, I see. It's like everything else in this place: top secret!" He took a bottle from the basket in which he'd brought their picnic, and unscrewing the top, offered it to her. "Here."
"That's not beer, is it?" Sam asked, startled and trying to see the label. "You'll get me shot!"
"It's ginger beer," Andrew said reassuringly. "Don't drink it too fast."
She took the bottle from him with a sense of relief. Then as he took another from the basket and opened that, she gestured to him. "Cheers."
"Cheers!" Andrew grinned at her, and she couldn't help smiling back. He might not be her type, but he was a friendly young man and, as a newcomer, something of a breath of fresh air.