On the Hook
Foyle and Kiefer are back from a fishing trip by the river, and have just killed two-thirds of a bottle of Jack Daniel's between them in Foyle's living room. Sam's name crops up.
Set May 1942, just after "Invasion", S4E1.
The creative rights to the characters and plotlines in "Foyle's War" belong to Anthony Horowitz. This story is a not-for-profit homage to the television series, to the talented actors who bring its characters to life, and to a fascinating era.
There's a minor referential tie-in to Chapter 5 of my serial "L'Aimant" (set in November 1944), but otherwise this is a stand-alone story.
Reuben (some sources spell it "Ruben") Leonard and Hardy Houghton are types of fishing rod.
Jack Daniel's is what passes for whisky in the U.S. ;0)
dancesabove is my clever beta. She also spanked my Yank into shape.
On the Hook
"Gotta hand it to you, Christopher, that was one impressive bream you landed back there at the river. We don't have those babies in The States."
Captain John Kiefer reclined into Foyle's padded armchair and drained his glass of whiskey. "Twenty-seven-inch eight-pounder. Never seen the like. If I'd'a known, I never woulda parted with that Reuben Leonard!"
Foyle quirked a brief, self-deprecating smile. "One of my better catches, p'raps. Used a hair-rigged maggot on the hook, in case you're interested."
Foyle finished off his glass and added generously "Didn't do so bad yourself, with my old Hardy Houghton. Refill?" Foyle raised the bottle of Jack Daniel's in solemn salute. "Thanks for this, by the way."
Kiefer lifted a lazy hand. "Nah. I'll pass. You go right ahead, and welcome."
He watched Foyle pour himself a decent slug. "So tell me, Christopher: why didja let the monster go? We coulda had ourselves a helluva fry-up…"
Foyle considered for a moment. That fish had been a natural phenomenon, and personally, he'd never been a man for what you'd call conspicuous consumption. "Well… I, um, saw her as a force of nature – better free than fried. Deserved far better than to end up on my plate."
Kiefer straightened up and slapped his thigh. "Well, holy crap! A fisherman-philosopher! Maybe you'd better pour me another, after all. Not sure I'm oiled enough to listen to this highbrow hokum." He shook his head in raw amusement.
Foyle's mouth twitched as he reached across and filled the glass in Kiefer's outstretched hand.
The Captain raised it to him in salute. "Here's mud in your gimlet eye, DCS Foyle."
"Your very good health, John," Foyle responded gravely.
Both men sat a while in silence, savouring the rough tang of the bourbon.
"So, then…" Kiefer leant his elbows on his knees and raised his head between slumped shoulders to size up his companion. "What does Christopher Foyle do for kicks when he's not catchin' fish or felons? Got a lady-friend?"
"Got a yen for one?"
Foyle was unreactive for just a fraction too long, and Kiefer, being about as sharp as they came – even with his bloodstream full of sauce – was onto him.
"Heyyy… Christopher? You carryin' a torch for a woman?"
Foyle snorted. "More of a damp Swan Vesta, for all the notice it would get." He closed his eyes and cursed his bellyful of whiskey for the indiscretion. He'd let his guard down for an instant there, and sensed that he was going to regret it.
Kiefer shot him a sunny grin. "I'm bettin' you're about to show her that you're every inch a gentleman, Buddy."
Foyle smiled quietly. "Think that's my style, do you? Showing my gentlemanly inches to young women?"
"Hey, what the hell do I know? But I'm figurin' there has to be a real guy somewhere underneath that damn Limey reserve." Kiefer paused to take a sip of whiskey.
"From what I've seen since landin' on this godforsaken island, you Brits eat etiquette and shit chivalry. I really gotta wonder how you people keep the population goin' over here. What's the story in those lumpy British beds of yours, anyway? Pardon me modom, may I kiss your delicate hand?"
Foyle awarded Kiefer's witty quip a grin.
"She know you're interested?" Kiefer raised his brows in earnest query.
"For chrissakes, Christopher, the grass is growin' round your goddam ass. Wake up and tell that young lady how you feel." Kiefer's tone was flippant, but his ears were sharp. He hadn't missed Foyle's reference to "young".
Foyle fended him off: "And watch her squirm with pity and embarrassment? I suppose you think that passes for a good idea?"
Kiefer let the glass swing from his fingers. "Who're we talkin' about here, anyway?" He fixed Foyle with an incisive stare.
"Mmm. Rather not say."
"C'mon, fella – who's the lucky lady?"
"Lucky would be something of a misnomer in this case." Foyle nursed his glass and stared into his lap.
Kiefer sighed. "Christopher, I gotta tell ya, this attitude of yours isn't healthy. You seem a pretty nice guy to me, not that I'm judgin' from the best side of the fence, if you get my meanin'. But I've seen the way that women look at you. That cute little driver of yours for one…"
Foyle froze over his whisky-tumbler, caught in a cobra's stare. And Kiefer had him then.
"He-heyyy! Miss Stewart? Sam? DCS Foyle has the itch for Samantha Stewart. Oh, boy!" he chuckled, shaking his head, and waving his index finger, "that's gonna go over great with Joe Farnetti!"
Ignoring the bait, Foyle turned to gaze out of the window. The way that Kiefer spoke her name – "Samantha Stoo-errt" – made her sound like an exotic beast indeed, and even less attainable than Foyle imagined her already.
"My hope would be," Foyle said quietly, "you wouldn't take the information any further."
Kiefer took pity on his drinking buddy and made a grab for some sobriety. "C'mon, Christopher, whaddya take me for?! You think I'm here to dig up gossip for my men?" He snorted and sank back in his armchair. "Let 'em do their own goddam dirty work."
Foyle gave a nod. "Appreciate it." He was not a man to ask for favours, but he knew how to accept one.
There followed a silence as both men reassessed the terms on which their conversation might continue. What had begun as a light-hearted, boozy, jocular exchange had talked itself into an awkward corner, and Foyle was jammed right up inside it, with his back against the wall.
Not that it showed in either Foyle's face or demeanour. Nonetheless the rules of male camaraderie demanded that Kiefer now withdraw and offer him an "out".
A change of subject seemed as good a ploy as any.
"You got a son, right? Mine are six and nine. I thank God that they're not an age to fight. I miss 'em somethin' awful."
"Andrew is a fighter-pilot," nodded Foyle. He declined to add: I miss him too, and worry every waking hour. Or even: but he deserves a tongue-lashing for trifling with Sam's affections.
Kiefer slumped and turned his face aside. "Boy, I miss my Carrie, too. No use me gazin' at the bottom of a glass. At night I get a yen for somethin' soft… and this?" – he waved his whiskey – "doesn't even come close as a substitute."
He took a drink, and then continued, "I'm tryin' hard to keep my nose clean, Christopher. I love my wife, but Jesus, there are days when I'm this close to chewin' on the furniture." He held his finger and his thumb an inch apart.
"I thought the U.S. Army gave you pills to counter that – or is it nylon stockings?" Foyle said sardonically, emerging from his figurative corner, rapier-sharp.
Kiefer's retort was affable enough: "You know what? You have gotta be the craziest guy I know. You spend your working days shut up inside an automobile with a girl you've set your sights on, and you barely lift an eyebrow at her, let alone a finger or a–"
"Thank you for your frank appraisal," threw in Foyle quickly, just to let him know he'd got the gist.
Kiefer shook his head in cheery disbelief. "Hey, all I wanna know is, what're you on? It sure as hell ain't bromide."
"Call it self-control or sublimation if you like," confided Foyle. "I've been a widower for ten years now. And if success depends on practiced abstinence, I've certainly racked up a tidy share."
"Well you sure do take the cool-cucumber prize, I'll give you that. To me though, Buddy, your approach smacks more of cold castration than success. What are ya savin' it for anyway – The Afterlife?"
Foyle rolled his lips between his teeth to stifle a smile, then offered, haltingly: "I... suppose that, if… I'm honest, the only thing I'm saving… is my dignity."
Kiefer shot him a commiserating look. "Pal, you stand on that too long, you're gonna get a cramp. A bad one. But then you British always did wear big sticks up your furry asses."
"Thangyouverymuch." Foyle raised his eyebrows and his glass, toasting his companion with a cheery and good-natured nod.
"Hey," Kiefer smiled and lifted his index finger, "Did ya notice that I was purposely excludin' all the British ladies in the asses thing?"
They grinned at one another and regrouped.
"So whaddya gonna do about Miss Stewart?"
"Not a thing."
"You're gonna let Farnetti have her?"
Foyle considered. "That's about the size of it. He'd be much better for her than I ever would."
"Bullshit. The guy's a jerk. And syphillitic. I should know – I had to put him on a clap charge only yesterday." Kiefer looked away and carefully took a long drag at his whiskey to camouflage the bare-faced and deliberate lie.
Foyle's face was wide-eyed – quite the picture of alarm. "And you – um – locked him up until he's better, surely?"
"The hell I did. Farnetti doesn't get a vacation out of me for catching The Pox; he takes his pills, his medicine and a one-week loss of privileges." Kiefer shrugged. "He'll be back in circulation in good time for the next dance round at 'Saint Preserve Us'."
Kiefer paused a spell to gauge Foyle's reaction, then added slyly, "But he'll still be on the pills. And likely even still infectious." Nice touch there, John. "A shame the rules don't let us hang a goddam 'UNCLEAN' sign around his neck." Kiefer gave himself a figurative big cigar for that last inspired embellishment.
Foyle sat, dismayed, and mulled the information over. Loose-principled Farnetti on the loose round Sam. He didn't like the sound of that one bit. Sam might look very like a milkmaid, but he wouldn't want to bet she was immune to pox of any kind.
He ran his fingers though his thinning hair, assessing what he might do to protect her from a second bad experience. As if the sorry mess with Andrew hadn't queered the pitch enough.
If this was all that young men had to offer her, perhaps his own attention to her wouldn't be so inappropriate after all.
The thought began to take root in his mind, as he relaxed to sip his whiskey.
And Kiefer set to speculating how delicious Foyle's bream might have tasted fried, if only he hadn't chosen to let that baby swim…
****** FIN ******
More Author's Notes:
I loved Captain John Kiefer's character in "Invasion" (all credit to Jay Benedict's portrayal!), and was very put out that his integrity was sacrificed to a "mere" plot line, when they brought him back as Major Kiefer in "All Clear".
Some promotion that turned out to be for Kiefer! From out-and-out nice guy to… Nope! Don't try to palm me off with that "it's the war" rubbish. It was a total sell-out. The Kiefer we knew from "Invasion" would've waltzed right up to Griffiths and called him an 'asshole' to his face instead of pinning tiger-pictures to his front door and all that cloak-and-dagger sand-in-the-envelope fol-de-rol. Well, I ask you!
Still (complete digression here), it did give actor Martin Savage as Griffiths an excellent opportunity to fiddle, sweat, and look nervous – something he does particularly well. Anyone with an appreciation of character actors should try and catch his performance as George Grossmith, leading light of the D'Oyly Carte Opera Company, in Mike Leigh's excellent film "Topsy-Turvy".
The idea that saltpetre (US military) or potassium bromide (British military) were covertly administered to troops during WWII as sexual appetite suppressants is reported to be an urban myth. Anyone with inside info to the contrary, do shout up. ;o)