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Death By Chocolate chapters 10 to 12

by Phelim 

Posted: 08 June 2004
Word Count: 3093
Summary: More mysterious doings in Wykmead.

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Chapter 10
Miss Foster had missed much of the excitement in the village, having suffered from a bout of flu that had turned to pleurisy. As such the death of Gareth Highfield was a second hand occurrence, related to her through the daily help. Like many others before her, the comments about headless bodies and duck ponds had come back to haunt Miss Foster. But, not being sentimental, she had put the guilt to one side. Miss Foster lived alone, and no one could have heard her. Even so, for such an event to happen proved Miss Foster right in one thing. People were frustrated. But did they lack such self control as to kill each other?

But did someone kill Gareth? Miss Foster had walked past Ivy Cottage a couple of days before Gareth died, and seen him carrying a number of small packages. Was one of these the poison chocolates? Like many of the village, Miss Foster had heard the rumours. As far as she was concerned, Gareth's death was a stupid accident. He had tried out the idea of posting poison chocolates for his play. Forgotten that he had put poison in them and died. “Just like a man”.

Having dismissed nearly half the world's population in this way, Miss Foster went to put the kettle on. A woman of habit, three o'clock was tea time. Because of her age, Miss Foster had been forced to get a new automatic kettle. Even then she had gone for a traditional style, not one of those new jug ones. Having filled the kettle she pushed the lead in the back and switched it on at the wall. As she did so the door bell rang.

Miss Foster glanced at her watch, she wasn't expecting anyone, then hurried to the front door. But then it was not unusual to get surprise visitors

Suzette Goodwin waited outside the front door. Having finished surgery early, she had decided to pop in on Miss Foster. Officially this was to check on her patient's health, but also because Miss Foster had a wonderful habit of baking seed cake, scones, muffins and other delights. As the door opened, Suzette Goodwin caught the smell of backing. Chocolate cake!

Miss Foster's intelligent anticipation, born from years of visitors “suddenly” deciding to pop round at tea time, had paid off yet again. She could see the pleasure in the doctor's eyes.

At her age, Miss Foster was used to sudden visitors. In fact she enjoyed the chance to talk. To Suzette, who had been born and brought up in South London (Surbiton actually, which is in Surrey, but people think of everything within the M25 as London) village life was as foreign as Colonial Hong Kong. And while Miss Foster was not sure about the correctness of female doctors, she had to admit that Dr Goodwin was a very good listener.

“The village dates back before the Doomsday Book. It wasn't called Wykmead then, but its the same place. And its not much larger now than it was then. The village has changed, we have electricity for a start. When I arrived as a little girl, we still lived by gas light.

My father had been a colonel in India. Very “Secret Garden”, lots of parties and official functions. An aiha to be my nurse maid. Then grand pa died, and father decided it was time to return to England. He had been offered a good job in the civil service, and we found a cottage here. Close enough to London to travel in but countryside enough to enjoy living here. Father was the talk of the village with his Austin, the first car many had ever seen. Father never talked about his work, and we never asked. It wasn't until years later I found out what my father did.

The First World War happened when I was just a child, and being out in India it never really touched me. We returned in 1921. Father was away a lot, often in Germany. When Churchill made his speech about German re-armament, father was one of the ones who supported him. Little did we know what people refusing to listen would lead to.

Father had paid for me to go to a good school, Sherbourne. Being used to the languages around me as a child I soon picked up Latin, French and German. But I really loved Maths and Science. Yes I know that they were not lady like pursuits, but there is something magical about numbers.

It was while I was a school I met Peter. He was the year above me at the boy's school. I first saw him at the carol concert in the abbey. As he entered sixth form, he got permission from the masters to be allowed to ask me to a dance. Everything happened with all propriety, but soon we fell in love.

He went to Jesus College, Cambridge and studied classics. He didn't want to go but his father insisted that Peter needed a good degree. I was able to get into St Hugh's in Oxford to study maths. But I kept up with my French by going over on family holidays.

Just after I graduated War broke out. We, that is Peter and I, were due to be married in the summer of 1940. He had two loves. I was the first. The second came after he joined up, and was his Spitfire. It was the second love that cost him his life. He died when shot down over France.

About the time he died I joined something called the First Aid Nursing Yeomanry. We never thought about being called Fanys. Because of my language skills I was asked to join a special group.”

Miss Foster got out of her chair and walked over to the sideboard. Opening the door she took out a black metal box. In silence she returned to her seat, and sat handed the box to Suzette Goodwin. “Open it, its not locked.”
Suzette did as she was told. A fair haired young man looked at her from inside the box. He was stood next to an aeroplane, his picture on top of a book. She looked at Miss Foster, “Peter?”

Miss Foster nodded her head. Suzette sensed there was more to come. “Look at the book.”

Carefully removing the photograph, Suzette was able to see the title of the book “Jakarta Tales.” The author's name seemed to ring a bell.”Noor Inyat Kahn”. Suzette looked inquiringly at Miss Foster.

When she spoke, Miss Foster's voice carried a pain that was not there when she had spoken about her fiancée. “Noor and I were friends. We first met at Beaulieu, where we trained to be radio operators for the SOE. That book was given to me as a birthday present when I was twenty one. Within weeks we were sent into occupied France. Because we knew that we would not be able to celebrate my birthday, we agreed to meet up and celebrate after the war.

Noor was killed in September 1944. She never made it back to the party. Of twelve of us only five were able to come. Three, including Noor, were killed after D Day. Two were captured and took their own lives rather than betray the SOE, the Resistance, the French or the British. Two were too ill to come, because of what they had suffered. We did not hold a party, we held a wake.

Noor's body was never found, like many others it was probably cremated. Either that or disfigured beyond recognition. Like all other members of the RAF who's bodies were never found her name is on the memorial at Runnymede. As is Peter's. Every year on Peter's birthday and on the anniversary of Noor's death I go up to Runnymede and lay flowers. Once to my love, and once to my friend. Except this year.” The pain that had been bubbling under the surface broke through and Miss Foster started to cry.

Suzette Goodwin was startled at first. Then she realised that the tears were not those of grief for Peter and Noor, those tears had long run dry. These tears were for Miss Foster and her sense of failure. Unable to comprehend the pain or the memories, Suzette started to weep. In its way what Miss Foster had said made the illusion of the theatre seem even less real. Here was someone who had not only lived through World War Two, but been in the thick of it. The reality of the time was not one of gilt theatres to Miss Foster, but recovery from an unspeakable horror.

With out even realising it, Suzette found herself making a vow. As soon as she could, she would take Miss Foster to the RAF memorial.

Drying her eyes, Suzette prepared to leave. She put her arms around Miss Foster and thanked her for the tea and cake. As she put on her coat Suzette asked her host something that she had been wondering. “Miss Foster, what did your father do?”

A warm chuckle filled Miss Foster's throat. “While I was at Beaulieu a smartly dressed gentleman came and did a tour of inspection. When he was introduced to me he said that he worked with my father, and then passed on. Only later, after the gentleman had left, I found out that he was an officer in Military Intelligence. When I was home on leave, and my mother had gone out to the shops I asked Father if he knew this man. He seemed surprised that I had heard of him. He told me they shared an office. Father never knew I was in SOE, and never admitted that he was Military Intelligence. It wouldn't of been right for us to talk about it. Actually we did talk once, after the War. Father had retired and I was working as a secretary. I had received an invite to go to France, and Father wanted to know why. It was a hot summers day, and we were walking on the Downs when I told him, that I had served there with SOE. It was the first time he had cried in my presence. Then I asked him if he was MI6. He said yes and we changed the subject. I'm not sure he whether he was proud of what his daughter had done, or relieved that we had both come out alive.”

As Suzette left the house, Miss Foster suddenly told her to wait there. After a few minutes she returned with a large brown envelope. “I kept a journal while I was training, and made notes after I returned about what had happened. Not for the public but so I never forgot. I thought you might like to read them.”

Suzette did not know what to say. In her hands she carried the war time experiences of a forgotten heroine. She mumbled a thank you and went home.

Chapter 11
Opening the envelope Suzette took out a pile of small note books. Each one was filled with the same spidery script. Very little spoke of the training that Miss Foster had undergone, focusing instead on the girls that she had trained with. Jokes and gossip brought across the humanity of the people involved. Noor Inyat Khan was labelled the Princess, and soon referred to as Princess N.

The diaries that mentioned the times in France were as devoid of activity as those from the training school. Each page captured the memories of people and places. Snapshots of dead heroes. Resistance fighters who were killed by the occupying forces carried as much importance as Miss Foster's fellow agents. Initials replaced names, and appeared to be the real names of the people concerned. Agents changed code names with each assignment, so the first initial made for continuity.

Very little emotion was displayed. Only twice did the pain of death appear. Once was accompanied by a poem, and referred to the death of Peter. The other was towards the end of the War. There was no date, just the words “Told today that Princess N has crossed over. I will miss her laughter and her calm. May Allah be merciful.”

After a gap about other information to do with the people where she was based in England came the words. “As I left, the news came that VS had been executed the same day as Princess N. Met her once, and would like to have met her again. Now I'll never have a chance. She was a brave woman, and now a child is without her mother. But she can be proud of what her mother did.” VS? Possibly Violette Szarbo.

As she read Suzette felt that she was intruding on Miss Foster's silent thoughts and personal grief. Putting down the notebook She rang the lady.

“Miss Foster? Its Doctor Goodwin.” Suzette paused, wondering how best to ask the question. “I have a free day coming up. Would you like me to take you to Runnymede to visit the memorial.”

The question was greeted with silence. 'Did I say the wrong thing?' Suzette asked herself.

After a minute that seemed more like an hour Suzette heard Miss Foster's voice. “That would be wonderful, Doctor. Yes, its time to say good bye.”

For a moment Suzette thought Miss Foster was saying goodbye to her, then she continued, “What time would you like me to be ready?”

“Would 9:30 on Saturday be okay? Early enough to have a full day, but not too early.”

That arrangement appeared to be satisfactory, and with renewed thanks Miss Foster hung up. Suzette placed the notebooks back in the envelope and pulled out a printed copy of the poem that was in the notebook.

The flower of love has faded
since your light has gone away.
The summer of love has turned
to an autumn of darkest grey.
The flower of love has faded
since your light has gone away.

The music of love is silent
and the dances are no more.
The halls of love are empty
with no dancers on the floor.

The flower of love has faded
since your light has gone away.
The fountain of love is still
and the water no longer plays.
The flower of love has faded
since your light has gone away.

To you I will be faithful
Till I am with you again.
To you I will be faithful
My love it will never wane.

The flower of love has faded
since your light has gone away.

Miss Catherine Foster, on the death of her fiancée Peter Francis-Taylor. Used as her code poem during World War 2.

Suzette had no idea what a code poem was. But the poem was, to her, beautiful.

Chapter 12
Inspector Oaklea sat in his office in Southdean police station. The analysis of the chocolates had come back from the lab. One chocolate, an orange liqueur, had contained nicotine. The rest were fine. The poisonous chocolates in the play were liquors. It made sense, these were the one with a liquid centre. The toxin could easily have been injected into the confectionery.

The pathology report had confirmed the original suspicions. Gareth Highfield had died from Nicotine poisoning. It wouldn't take much. Pure nicotine is swift. It is also a painful way to die. It's bitter taste would explain the look of disgust frozen on Gareth's face.

Anyone who had access to the script would have known the way that the character would have died. And anyone who had taken the effort to ask would have found out that Nicotine was on the short list. Many people even have the plant growing in their gardens. This and many other deadly substances. Why go for exotic poisons when you could kill off half a village from the contents of the flower bed?

The list of suspects was too high. Colonel Orr could be ruled out because of his being in hospital. Or could he? When was the box of chocolates posted? Or when were they prepared? But would the Colonel have had insight to the script?

If the cast discussed the plot in the White Hart as Constable Cooper claimed then it would have been easy to throw suspicion on the performers. In spite of his contempt for Agatha Christie novels, Inspector Oaklea was beginning to feel as if he was in the middle of one.

While Inspector Oaklea would have liked to have Constable Cooper do the interviewing, knowing the people and all that, until he could be cleared then this would be unacceptable.

None of what Jonathan Cooper had said had been officially witnessed, so this would need to be done. And then the two leading ladies would need to be questioned again. So far it was only a suspicious death and questions had been kept to the play and Gareth's behaviour. Now it was a murder enquiry, it was time to shift things up a gear.

So, how do you interview a member of your own team? Do you give the usual “anything you say may be used as evidence against you” speech? Knowing how a village grapevine works, would removing Jonathan Cooper from the enquiry only fuel gossip that he killed Gareth? Do we tape what he has to say about the script, or what? It was time to go see the superintendent.

As Inspector Oaklea put on his suit jacket, someone knocked on the door. As he called the desk sergeant came in. For some strange reason her parents, Mr and Mrs Thorns, had chosen to name their daughter Rose. The sooner the girl got married the better.

“We've had an elderly lady downstairs sir, a Miss Foster, demanding to see the package the poison chocolates came in.”

Inspector Oaklea closed his eyes. Suddenly the whole world was swimming. When he opened them he would probably see a white rabbit, dressed in a waistcoat, holding a watch exclaiming “My ears and whiskers, I'm late”.

“The thing is sir, Miss Foster, a few days before Gareth Highfield died, claims to have seen him putting a number of packages into his car. She is sure one of them was addressed to himself.”

He opened his eyes. No Sergeant Thorns was still in front of him - no rabbit was in sight. Glancing at his watch, Inspector Oaklea asked the desk sergeant to take an official statement. He was off to speak with the superintendent. And then the pub.

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Comments by other Members

Friday at 17:37 on 09 June 2004  Report this post
Hi Phelim,

Miss Foster – “Just like a man”. – don’t you just love her?

I will never look at a little old lady the same way after hearing about Miss Fosters WW2 experiences. That was quite a surprise, a dark horse. I loved the poem. It is all very mysterious I am wondering how all this fits into the bigger picture.

I think ending on

“The thing is sir, Miss Foster, a few days before Gareth Highfield died, claims to have seen him putting a number of packages into his car. She is sure one of them was addressed to himself.”

will add suspense to Chapter 12, while 10 and 11 are more mysterious, but it’s up to you.

Good stuff,
Really enjoyable.

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