Unforeseen- Chapter One
Disclaimer- Foyle's War is the creation of Anthony Horowitz. It is brilliant television and the actors are wonderful. However, Rachel Roberts is a product of my own imagination.
Unforeseen- not anticipated or predicted. What happens to Christopher Foyle when he visits the States in his pursuit to bring Howard Paige to justice? It may not be what he planned.
Note to readers- This is a re-write of the long dormant story "Faux Pas"
Early 1946- New York City
Rachel Roberts ran like mad to board her train before it began to move out of Grand Central Station. She'd spent far too long looking for just the right book to buy at one of the terminal's several newsstands. She just managed to board her assigned passenger car before the conductor closed the door and the train pulled away from the station.
Rachel landed in her seat with an unlady like "plop", loud enough to draw the attention of the man seated across from her. He looked over the newspaper he'd been reading to see a breathless, young woman with dark auburn hair holding a handbag in one hand and a book in the other. Her hat was askew and long tendrils of hair had escaped from its confines. As her breathing slowed, the young woman closed her eyes and gave thanks to Heaven that she hadn't missed the train.
"Green, her eyes are the color of emeralds," the man observed to himself. "Probably the same age as Sam." Unlike Samantha Stewart, this young woman was short, probably no more than 5 feet tall. An amused half smile spread across his face for the briefest of moments when he noticed that the toes of her shoes barely touched the floor.
Without intending to, Rachel fell asleep. As her body relaxed, her hands released their hold, first on the book and then on her handbag. Any minute gravity would gain the upper hand and they would certainly fall from her lap. Unsure of how soundly she was sleeping, he was afraid he might startle her if he tried to keep them from falling.
The train rounded a curve and placed the matter beyond question when both the book and the handbag hit the floor. The book slid around and came to rest under his seat. The contents of her handbag – a tube of lipstick, comb, embroidered handkerchief and wallet- made a rolling procession down the aisle of the car. He put the newspaper down and leaned forward to rise from his seat to reach under it and retrieve the book. His effort was met by a stunning smack to his forehead by a hard object. A few seconds passed before he realized that the hard object was the young woman's forehead. She had leaned forward at the same instant and collided with him.
Too stunned to speak, Foyle's head began to throb and he hesitated to move lest it start hurting more than it already did.
"Ow! What the he…heck?" Rachel opened her eyes. She was nose to nose with a stranger and a man at that! "Uh…ah…wha…happened?" She blinked several times but didn't move away as an odd thought raced through her head. "Mmm…his eyes are a lovely shade of blue. Oh my God! What am I doing? He must think I'm an idiot!"
As she backed away from him, the young woman stammered, "Oh Sweet Jesus! I'm so…so sorry Mister…"
"Foyle," he responded, leaning back into his seat while rubbing his forehead.
His voice was pleasant and kind, considering what she'd just done to him and she noticed that his accent was British. Rachel wondered if she had really butted heads with him or fallen down a rabbit hole. "Huh?"
"Foyle," he repeated, growing concerned that the young woman had gotten the worst of their cranial collision. "Miss, are you alright?"
She rubbed the goose egg that was beginning to form on her forehead. "I guess so. My daddy said I was hard headed." When Rachel noticed that Foyle's gaze had remained steady on her, she felt her face grow hot and red with embarrassment. Tears began to form in her eyes and she blinked hard to keep them at bay.
"Quite an interesting shade of crimson. Never saw anything like it before. Wonder if she always blushes like this when embarrassed?" He handed her his handkerchief. "Here, I think you might need this. Your name, by the way?"
She answered with a muffled and barely audible, "Rachel…Rachel Roberts" and then wiped her moist cheeks with his handkerchief. Once finished, Rachel held the linen square in her hand, uncertain what to do with it so she began to nervously twist it around her fingers.
"An aspirin would not go amiss right now. I wonder if Rachel Roberts' head hurts as much a mine." He gingerly touched his forehead and felt it for any swelling. It was tender, but not swollen. "Miss Roberts?"
Not ready to look him in the face, she made a close study of her hands and answered, "Yes?"
"Do you need an aspirin?" He rubbed his head and continued, "I know I do. I'll look for the conductor and see if he can get us some."
Rachel finally looked up at him. The embarrassment she felt started to recede, the heat of it finally leaving her face. Just as it seemed she'd finally calmed down, an unbidden hiccup betrayed her. She saw him trying to keep a straight face to the hide his amusement and closed her eyes tight, willing her face not to turn red again. "Yes, thank you. I could use an aspirin."
After he got up to search for the conductor, Rachel opened her eyes. What once promised to be a pleasant train ride from New York to Washington had turned into a disaster. She wondered what Mr. Foyle's opinion of American women must be now that he'd literally bumped heads with one. What was the worst part of the whole sorry little episode was that he was, at least by her guess, a good deal older than her and probably thought she was just a clumsy kid. If he'd been a man her age, she felt she might have been able to laugh and joke about what happened. Well, there was little she could do about it other than apologize, which she'd already done.
Foyle returned a few minutes later with the aspirin and two glasses of water. Rachel took two of the aspirin tablets with one gulp of water and sputtered as one of the tablets didn't quite make it down her throat. Finally, the cursed thing went down and she took a long, slow sip of water to make doubly sure of it.
"Wonder if she does everything so suddenly? Could come to harm that way." He dismissed the thought with a slight shake of his head. Why should he be so concerned about a young woman who accidentally bumped heads with him?
"I was wondering where my book went?" Rachel's question stirred him from his thoughts.
Foyle bent over and retrieved the book from under his seat. As she reached to take it from him, he noticed a long, puckered scar on her right hand. His fingers accidentally brushed against it and she pulled back. He inclined his head toward her hand. "I'm sorry Miss Roberts, have I hurt your hand?"
"No, it really…doesn't… hurt anymore. I guess I'm just self-conscious about it. Don't know why, it's been there for nearly five years." Rachel immediately let the subject drop; it was too painful to relive the memories of how the scar came to be. "Now that I've got my book, what about my handbag?"
He chewed the inside of his cheek before answering her question. "May not be quite as easy to locate as the book. When it fell out of your lap it sprung open and the contents are scattered all over this car."
She stood up and swayed, almost falling in his lap. Foyle reached out to grab her, but Rachel righted herself without his assistance and then went out into the aisle to search for her handbag and its contents. She found the handbag first and proceeded to look for the other items. As she knelt down in her search, he lost sight of her a moment and was beginning to wonder if she had passed out on the floor. To his great relief, after a few minutes she popped back up, triumphantly holding her handbag. "I found everything but the lipstick. No great loss. Didn't like the color anyway."
Foyle quickly got up and guided Rachel back to her seat. He wanted no more falls, bumps or accidents of any kind that involved the young woman in his proximity. Maybe they could both sit in their respective places and simply converse. Or he would return to reading his newspaper and she would…What would she do?
She waited for him to say something, anything. When she opened her mouth to speak, Rachel promptly clamped it shut, petrified of making a verbal faux pas to compound the physical one she'd already made by bashing heads with the man. "Oh say something Mr. Foyle. Anything. Like "nice weather we're having" or "good thing that the train's on schedule".
Anything that Christopher Foyle might have anticipated happening that day had been eclipsed by his sudden encounter with the young woman seated across from him. The copy of the New York Times he'd been reading before she bounded onto the train lay neglected on the seat next to him. What on earth could he talk to her about? With Sam he had something in common- police work. Making casual conversation with a woman half his age and an American at that had not been on his agenda that morning as he boarded the train; there were more serious matters calling for his attention.
Rachel decided to relieve him of the burden of starting the conversation. She decided that she'd already made a fool of herself with the man, why worry about how he would respond to her? "I'm headed to Washington. What's your destination, Mr. Foyle? If you don't mind me asking."
"I don't. And I'm going to Washington as well."
"I see. Will this be your first visit there?" As soon as she finished the question, Rachel could have kicked herself. What a dumb question! For all she knew he could have been in the country for years and live in Washington!
"Me, too." Rachel now wished she'd kept her mouth shut. "Oh God, this is awkward. Should I continue to ask him questions or just hush? Oh well, I give up. I tried. Best not make things worse." She closed her eyes and wished that she could evaporate. Why did she feel so nervous around him and why should she care what he thought of her? They would both be off the train and out of each other's lives forever soon enough.
When Rachel closed her eyes, Foyle took it as a sign that she had nothing more to say. For some reason, this disappointed him. Her simple questions held the promise of an easy, casual conversation; something he desperately needed to take his mind off the reason he'd come to the States, if only for a little while.
When Rachel closed her eyes she only intended to shut out the world, particularly Mr. Foyle, until the train arrived in Washington. However, sleep claimed her once more and a memory buried deep in her subconscious came to the surface as a hazy dream.
Saturday- December 6, 1941
"It matches your eyes. Let me buy it for you. Consider it an early Christmas present and…" He stopped mid-sentence to kiss her. The proprietress of the shop cleared her throat and the couple quickly disconnected from the kiss. "Wear it next Saturday, O.K.?"
"I sure will, Jimmy. Can't wait for that day to come."
Jimmy planted a kiss on her forehead. "Me, too. It's gonna be a long, long week." He looked down into her green eyes and smiled. "But it'll be worth the wait."
Not caring if the old bat who ran the hat shop approved or not, Rachel wrapped her arms around Jimmy's waist and rested her head on his chest. "Yeah, it sure will."
After several attempts to resume reading the newspaper, Foyle gave up and tossed it on the seat next to him. There was nothing else to do but think about why he'd come to America or watch the young woman across from him as she slept. He opted for the second course of action.
Although asleep, there was nothing that appeared to be relaxed about her. Her hands tightly grasped the arms of her seat and a combination of grimaces and frowns flickered across her face. She tossed her head from side to side in what seemed like an attempt to cast off whatever unpleasantness was causing her such great distress while she slept. One toss too many caused her hat to fall off. He caught it in the palm of his hand just before it hit the floor. The label inside it immediately drew his attention. It wasn't the hat maker's name that caught his eye; it was the location- Honolulu. Rachel Roberts was a long way from the hat's origin.
Foyle's study of her hat was interrupted by a loud whimper and a cry of "it's all I have left, can't lose it, can't lose it!" Slowly, Rachel opened her eyes and lifted her right hand to touch her head, reaching for the hat. Panic set in as she realized it was no longer there. "Where's my hat? Oh God! Where is it?"
It quickly became obvious to Foyle that the hat was more than an article of clothing to the young woman. The panic in her voice told him that it connected her with something or someone she'd lost. He gently called to her, "Miss Roberts, I have your hat. No harm has come to it."
"Oh, thank God! I thought I'd lost it. Thank you." Rachel took the hat from his outstretched hand; carefully placing it on her lap. She stoked it lovingly and it seemed she was making sure it was really there. "Mr. Foyle must think I'm crazy. Maybe I am."
He inclined his head towards the object in her lap and observed, "That hat must mean a lot to you."
She looked up at him, her green eyes shining with tears. "Yes, yes it does. It was a gift from a…friend… a long time ago."
Although he was officially "retired", he was and would always be a policeman. Foyle knew he was already interested in Rachel Roberts and there would be no going back. She seemed troubled and vulnerable, but not weak. He would be reluctant to part company with her once they reached Washington. Did she need protecting or something else? He wasn't sure, but the more he thought about it, the more uneasy he felt about leaving her alone. "This is not the reason I came to America. I have no obligation to her whatsoever."
"Really sir? You think so? You're already obligated and you know it! " Foyle sighed and ran a hand across his forehead as if he could make that voice go away. That was Sam's voice in his thoughts. During the years Sam had been his driver, she'd come to know him very well.
"Mr. Foyle?" Rachel called out to him, but he seemed to be preoccupied. "Sir?"
The voice that called him "sir" the second time wasn't in his mind. It came from the woman seated across from him. "Not one bit like Sam, short, dark hair, green eyes, different accent…and yet… Come on Foyle, pull yourself together and answer the young woman."
He made a point to focus on her eyes and answered, "Yes?'
"Just wanted to thank you again for "catching" my hat. I would have been devastated if it had been lost. It's silly; I know it's just a hat."
He chewed on his bottom lip for a second before responding, "Not silly at all. It seems to have a special meaning for you."
She looked out the window for a moment and then turned back to face him. "Yes, yes it does." Rachel changed the subject. "I wonder how long it will be before we arrive in Washington."
"Shouldn't be long," he told her. "While you were sleeping the train stopped to let off passengers in Baltimore."
Rachel raked her fingers through her hair and sighed, "Oh good. I'm so ready to get off this train, although I shouldn't complain. This is just a "jump, skip and hop" compared to the cross country train ride I took a few years ago. As a girl in school I saw maps of the United States in textbooks, but I didn't realize how big this country really is until I traveled across it on a crowded train that took three days to get from San Francisco to home."
Where was home for Rachel Roberts? From the sound of her accent, she wasn't a native of New York. Somewhere in the South was Foyle's guess.
She read his mind. "I'm from the Holy City."
Foyle reacted to this information with a raised eyebrow and a puzzled look. Rachel to laugh. "Oh, I'm sorry. I should have been more straightforward. I'm from Charleston, South Carolina. People call it the "Holy City" because there are so many churches there."
"That smile. Glad to see a little light in those green eyes." He returned her smile with one of his own. "I'm glad you clarified where that the "Holy City" was Charleston. I was about to question my knowledge of world geography."
"Oh Mr. Foyle, I'm so sorry for the confusion," Rachel told him in a solemn tone that didn't sound exactly sincere.
"No, you're not. You enjoyed it." He decided that he would tease her a little bit if it would keep the smile on her face and the light in her eyes a little longer. They certainly suited her better than the panic and sadness he'd seen earlier.
She mentally swatted away the second voice and followed the first one's lead. Rachel shrugged. "Yes, I confess I did. Been a long time since I've caused a man any sort of confusion. The look on your face was priceless."
He slumped just a little bit in his seat, crossing his arms and chewed on his bottom lip while he formulated what he would say to her next. "Miss Roberts, I…" He was interrupted by the conductor's announcement that they were pulling into Union Station.
"Yes Mr. Foyle, you were saying...?"
"Uh, um...looks like we've finally arrived in Washington." He wasn't sure if he was delighted or disappointed to be interrupted by the conductor.
Rachel was relieved at first and then a wave of sadness swept over her unexpectedly. She would never see this man again and for some reason she didn't understand, that was an undesirable state of affairs. "At least I'll have this "souvenir" on my forehead to remember him by for a few days." A sigh sounding like a balloon deflating escaped her lips, followed by a frown that she didn't realize was there.
"Oh, don't do that. Miss Roberts…Rachel, don't frown! Need to make sure you're alright. Just… don't… frown anymore!" Foyle proceeded to make busy by gathering up his newspaper, coat and hat. He needed the distraction to force himself to get up, get off the train and leave her.
Rachel stood up while he was still seated to avoid another "collision" with Foyle. She placed her handbag on her arm and grabbed her coat and hat. "Well Mr. Foyle, I'm glad I had the opportunity to meet you. I'm just sorry that it was in such a dramatic fashion." At the mere mention of the incident, she felt her face turn red.
By this time, Foyle was standing up and looking down at her. He realized that it was a rare occasion when he wasn't looking eye to eye with a woman. This fact and her blushing face delighted him. She had provided the respite, although brief that he needed in the serious business that had brought him to America.
As they exited the train, Foyle stepped out onto the platform first and reached up to help Rachel down the steps. Any notion of a graceful descent on her part was erased when she somehow managed to trip over her own two feet and fell out of the train. He managed to grab her and set her on her feet before she knocked him down.
She closed her eyes for a moment and mentally dared her body to show any signs of embarrassment. Finally, she looked up at him and sighed, "I did it again, didn't I?"
Foyle twisted his lip to the side for a few seconds and then responded, "No, you did something completely different. You nearly knocked me flat on the Union Station platform. Not…quite…the same."
"Uh, maybe it would be a good time to say "good bye" to each other and go our separate ways. Anyway, I've got to go get my luggage and look for a taxi. I just want to get to my hotel, I'm starving. Neglected to eat breakfast this morning." Just then her stomach growled, adding validity to her statement. She rolled her eyes and mentally cursed the digestive organ for not minding its own business. "Well good bye, Mr. Foyle. Hope all goes well for you while you're here." Before he could respond, she hurried off into the crowd.
He watched Rachel walked away, amazed at how fast the petite woman could move. Then he made his own way to pick up his luggage and find a taxi for himself.
Rain was falling as Rachel got to the taxi stand. It looked like she might not get one then and have to wait for who knew how long for the next one to arrive. The back passenger side door of the last taxi in line opened and a distinctive male voice called out, "Miss Roberts! Come get out of the rain."
Rachel hopped in the taxi so fast that she nearly landed in Foyle's lap before he moved over to give her room on the seat. "Thanks, I thought for sure I was gonna get soaked before another taxi came by."
The driver turned around to the couple and asked, "Where to folks?"
"The Hotel Harrington," Rachel and Foyle answered the driver simultaneously. They weren't going their separate ways just yet.
Note-The Hotel Harrington opened in 1914 and is still family owned and operated. It is located in an area between the U.S. Capitol and the White House.
What a memorable meeting!
Foyle is intrigued by Rachel. It will be even harder for him to want to say good bye to her now he's gotten to know a little bit about her, even though she nearly knocks him down getting off the train!
Thanks so much for reading!