Title: In Uniform, a story fragment
Disclaimer: The story and characters in Foyle's War were created by Anthony Horowitz. No infringement is intended.
Feedback: Always appreciated.
A/N: I began jotting down notes for this story in 2006, but didn't post it until April 2009 on the (first) Quietly Enigmatic Forum, and suggested readers fill in the missing story with their own imaginations. One member - Sunshine - went further, and began posting a continuation, which was quite promising and got up to Part 6, but then ceased in May of 2012. Still hoping that's temporary, Sunshine! But willing to wait as you work on your story, 'Little Girl Lost.'
Time: 1941 (perhaps September)
Place: Assistant Commissioner Rose's office, London
"I'm sorry, Foyle, but we must transfer you to uniform branch at Hythe for the two months. You know your counterpart, David Fielding, is on medical leave. Until the new man, Parry, arrives the division is just too demoralized to be left without a head – I've heard some of the talk there and it is a real concern."
Foyle regarded AC Rose across the desk with his usual quiet distrust, mixed with a resigned dissatisfaction. He had long wanted a change of responsibility, but this was not what he had had in mind.
"At what rank?"
Rose adjusted his spectacles and studied the paper in the file before him,
"Assistant – no, Deputy Chief Constable."
If Rose had expected Foyle to be impressed, he would be disappointed.
"Well, that's just pen-pushing. How's that going to help the morale of the men?"
"No, Foyle, I want you to take a more direct role, more involved. There's no one in place between you and the Chief Inspector - that's two more high-ranking men we've lost to the War Department. You'll be needed in an operational capacity in addition to managerial and administrative responsibilities."
Foyle ruminated unhappily for a minute, not seeing the AC's apprehensive gaze.
"Well," he said in a practical tone, "I'll need a new uniform – haven't worn mine in nearly a decade and I doubt I'll fit into it."
The AC raised his eyebrows in wary surprise,
"That's all? No litany of important cases you'll be neglecting? No finger-pointing at whose incompetence has created this situation?"
He narrowed his eyes at the DCS,
"What else do you want, Foyle?"
Foyle chewed the inside of his cheek and gave a half-shrug,
"My driver comes with me – assuming there's a car at my disposal."
With sudden inspiration he added,
"Temp'ry promotion for my Detective Sergeant."
"Paul Milner? Yes, we'll make him Inspector. Only temporary?"
"Well, I'd make it permanent if there was anyone to step into his place as sergeant."
"I'll look into it."
Which, Foyle knew, was Rose's way of saying there was no one.
"I'll need to assign a constable as Milner's assistant – he doesn't drive either."
"That's your call."
He scratched his head consideringly, adjusting his thoughts to this unlooked for turn of events.
"Yes, we've got you a house."
Foyle raised an eyebrow at the 'fait accompli,' but let it pass without remark.
"Could someone arrange a decent billet for my driver?"
"Who's the senior sergeant at Hythe? Hill, isn't it?"
The AC consulted another file on his desk.
"No, Hill has 'gone for a soldier.' It's, er, oh dear… Dale."
"Hill...has been replaced by Dale?"
Even the AC rolled his eyes.
"This... Dale was promoted six months ago. One other thing, Foyle." Rose added, looking up from the paper.
"Sergeant Dale is, er… female."
Foyle frowned as if having difficulty taking in the information.
"A woman uniformed sergeant? How many have we got now?"
"This is the first on the south coast; she's… ambitious - looking to transfer to the Detective branch."
"Right… When's this Parry expected, again?" he asked, without a trace of humour.
The Assistant Commissioner smiled,
"Stiff upper lip, Foyle."
On Thursday Foyle had picked up his new uniform, complete with cap, tunic, necktie, three crisp shirts, two pairs of trousers and a greatcoat, an incredible luxury in these times of clothing rationing and 'make do and mend.' It seemed to him a waste of materials for a two-month transfer. He had put it on reluctantly this morning, regarded in the mirror the effect of the insignia on the epaulettes - single pip and crossed tipstaves within a wreath - the lapel tabs, belt and shoulder badges, and had sighed unhappily.
He had wanted to be in uniform, but not this one.
It felt as if he were going backwards in a career that seemed less and less relevant each month that the war dragged on.
His eyes fixed on the reflection of the ribbon bars above the left breast pocket. When he had ordered and been measured for the uniform, he was reminded that regulations required him to wear any decorations he had received.
In the mirror his frown deepened into one of regret.
When Sam called for him just before eight he kept the dark greatcoat carefully closed, not wishing to be subjected to any remarks she might feel inspired to make.
Yesterday he had mostly packed up what he needed from his office, but today he wanted to be seen to hand over the reins of authority, as it were, of the Detective Branch to Inspector Milner.
He had already held a formal meeting with all the members of the Station to announce the temporary arrangement; this morning he would call a short impromptu gathering. A show of his unreserved confidence in Milner's abilities would do much for morale and would smooth the transition.
By eight forty-five Foyle was done with the briefing, had shaken hands with the men, and had told Sam to be ready to depart in fifteen minutes. A constable would drive them both to Hythe and then return by way of Winchelsea where a witness had some evidence to offer regarding one of the regular black-market cases the station was always dealing with. At least the trip wouldn't be quite such a waste of petrol.
In his office he sorted a few remaining things and had friendly parting words with the new-made Inspector. Paul Milner handed the last items across the desk, and as Foyle picked up the small basketwork box and tucked it under his left arm his greatcoat was swept back to reveal three rows of ribbon bars across his breast.
Milner stared for a moment and then froze in astonishment,
"Sir, that's the D.S.O."
With a frown Foyle closed his eyes momentarily, then glanced up at his colleague and answered almost inaudibly,
Milner studied the different ribbons,
"And the Bravery Medal; the DCM; the Conspicuous Service Medal; the Military Medal… What are the others?"
"It was a long time ago."
Setting the basket on the desk again, Foyle stared unhappily at the blotter, and spoke quietly,
"Milner, meaning no disrespect… but, when you recall the circumstances in which you lost your leg in Norway, what do you think of?"
Foyle looked up into the younger man's face.
Milner went still, then was subdued, and met his chief's eyes uncomfortably,
"I… remember the men who were with me; the way they died – the way they were dying all around me."
"Yes. And... that's exactly what I think of… every time I remember how I got these. As far as I can see, each one represents a dozen or so men I knew, all very brave men… who were in the campaign and who never made it through."
Foyle lowered his eyes,
"...To be truthful, it's… it's more than that."
He brushed a hand over his brow in a quick gesture of frustration,
"…Had I been transferred to one of the military branches, if I were in military uniform…I might feel I was doing something worthy of the memory of those men, and… in this war, these might seem more relevant."
Milner nodded, deeply affected that his superior would confide his private thoughts to him. Foyle had never discussed his Great War experience, but Milner had always harboured a sense of particular understanding from him regarding his own trauma after returning from the catastrophe at Trondheim.
Foyle took up the basket again, this time ensuring it cleared the edge of his coat. He gave a grim smile and held out his hand,
"Good luck, Inspector – know you'll do well. Just...find me something challenging to come back to, eh?"
Milner stood straight, almost at attention, and shook his boss's hand,
"I will, Sir; thank-you, Sir."