Just as I was working myself up into a panic attack, Chris appeared, as if by magic, from the office behind the front desk.
He's nimble; I'll give him that.
I could breathe again. I got to the desk just as he was leaving and of course he noticed the limp.
"Are you all right?"
Mindful of the desk sergeant within earshot, I tried to be circumspect. Instead it came out 'cryptic'.
One sardonic eyebrow lifted. Jeez, that brow alone should get an Oscar. I redefined my answer.
"Yes. I need you -"
How true, but not what I meant to say. Freud, anyone?
"I need you to look at…at…erm…"
C'mon then, clothbonce, think of what you want him to look at.
Other than me nekkid and waiting, obviously.
What a time to get brain-freeze.
I looked around us, up and down the corridor, for inspiration. None was forthcoming. I moved away from the desk, hoping that Chris would follow. He did.
"Actually, there isn't anything to look at. The thing is…I need to talk to you. Privately. In your office not in your home type privately. If you have time. Please."
He didn't do anything so rude as to sigh heavily, but I'm fairly sure he would have liked to. Instead, he gave a nod, and moved back towards his office. Behind his back I looked at my watch. Twenty five minutes.
What the frack can I talk about for twenty five minutes?
Just as we got to the office Sgt Milner turned up. I could have kissed him. He looked at Foyle's coat and hat.
"I'm glad I caught you, Sir. I've just informally interviewed Rex Talbot, if you have a moment?"
Chris turned slowly to face me, his eyebrow doing its thing.
It was as good as a whole question; am I free, Miss Davis?
Nodding, I backed towards the door. It didn't matter why he was in his office, so long as he stayed in it.
"I'll just get you both some tea, shall I? Won't take a jiffy."
I fled to the relative safety of the staff room, where I discovered that not only does a watched pot actually boil, but that it also boils bloody quickly if you want it to take ages.
I took Chris and Milner their tea, and another cup for me back to my office. All I have to do now is hurry up and wait.
I did have one thing that I ought to get finished before very long. I took out an ink pen, and addressed the clean sheet of paper with care.
'Dear Zak, Hi guys; you should see your faces…'
I think I can remember how it goes. I need to get myself back here in the past so that I can get Foyle to wait for his phone call. Obviously the two Chrisses didn't do anything to tamper with the timeline; I haven't seen them since I arrived, so I'm not here to stop them doing anything wrong. That's the trouble with time paradoxes; you can never get your head around them. How was I ever here in the first place? Someone must have saved the Foyle line at some point.
Thinking about it, I wonder if my manager back in the you-know-when knew what was going on. Perhaps he had a visitor from further up the line?
My thoughts were interrupted when the man himself appeared in the doorway. Chris looked weary, as if the weight of the world sat upon his shoulders.
"Lily -" He caught himself. "Miss Davis; you wanted a word?"
I nodded and stood up with a little more care than previously.
"In your office?"
It was the closest to exasperated that I had ever seen him. He frowned as he looked around my 'office'.
"Is there anything wrong with here? I'm trying to get out of the building and really not having much luck of it today."
Could he hear his telephone from here? I'm not so sure.
"Umm, well, we could, but we might be…compromised."
I looked pointedly at the large mirror. Mr Poker face looked surprised for a brief moment. I could see what he was thinking.
How did she know?
His tone was resigned.
"Right. My office."
He waited for me to step ahead of him and I walked as slowly as I could without arousing suspicion.
But all too soon we were seated in his office. What could I say to keep him here for a few more minutes?
"Would you like a cup -?"
"No more tea, thank you."
The smooth interruption was polite, but firm.
"Now, what's so important?"
Nice lucid start. Please continue.
I took a breath.
"It's difficult to know where to start."
Chris leaned back in his chair. His voice was dry.
"Try at the beginning."
"The beginning. Yes, that would probably be the best place…"
"…but I can't do that, so I'll have to start somewhere else."
At almost the end.
"Have you ever found yourself in a situation where you were told to do your job, but that the assigned task was so much more than you thought it would be at the beginning?"
He had served in the Great War; of course he knew what I meant.
Subtly more alert, Chris leaned forward and nodded slowly.
"Did you cope?"
He knew that I was asking if he had still managed to do his job.
"Yes, I did. But it was…difficult."
"Difficult. But had to be done, no matter the cost."
Chris frowned at my words.
"Is there a problem with the work? What have you found to be more than you expected?"
You. You are so much more than I anticipated. So different from a few small black and white archive pictures.
My thoughts ran ahead of our conversation and I was not really aware that I wasn't answering his question.
"Sometimes we lose sight of the fact that faded pictures and old names in a dusty book once belonged to real people; living breathing human beings, that played, laughed and…loved. Then it's a shock to realise that one day I'll be a faded photo in an old book and no-one will remember that I was real."
The gentleness and sincerity in his response was obvious.
"I'm sure that you won't be forgotten, Lily. You don't just exist; you're vitally alive; there's laughter and love for you, I'm sure of it."
I suddenly feel very near to tears.
I felt weary with the effort of trying to be creative about keeping Chris in his office. I had a desperate urge to tell him everything and throw myself on his mercy. Unfortunately, this would probably lead immediately to my incarceration for insanity and that would bugger my chances of getting back home, not to mention what it would do to the timeline.
Chris, bless him, was now looking mildly confused.
"But I'm still not sure what you need me for, Lily. How can I help you?"
I looked down at my lap and surreptitiously checked my watch.
Any minute now.
I look up at him; my smile probably looks a little rueful.
"Never mind, boss, don't worry about it. It'll sort itself out. I'm sorry to have delayed you going home."
I stood quickly, anxious to be out of the room before the phone rang. Chris now looked baffled by the speedy turn of events, but he regrouped quickly.
"Erm, tonight, I was wondering…if you're free…?"
I shook my head and spoke without engaging my brain, which was busily tied up with wishing that I could spend more time with him.
Time, ha, that's a laugh.
"You'll be busy."
Blast; now Chris looked startled.
I tried for a misunderstood expression.
"I'm sorry; I meant unfortunately I'm busy later."
Chris was already half-nodding; as if his brain was saying 'hang on, something's wrong here' but the rest of him was trying to be adult about the perceived rejection.
Oh, now I feel terrible. Wait, no, I have an idea.
"But I can put that off, if you don't mind eating a little later than usual…? If I wasn't being presumptuous about tonight…?"
This way, he will have to cancel our plans, but he won't feel rejected. Ace!
"Not at all. Would eight thirty suit you?"
I started edging towards the door; this was cutting it too fine.
"Yes, that'll be fine. See you later!"
As I walked as quickly as was decorously possible along the corridor, I could imagine the scene in Chris' – sorry, Foyle's – office; He would be at the door, coat and hat at the ready, the telephone would ring and he would look peeved at least. Possibly a hesitation at the door while he considered whether or not to answer it…
He'll go to the desk and drop his hat before he picks up the telephone receiver.
"Sir! It's Sam!"
"Sam, what is it?"
"I'm at the depot, in the Bennett's office."
"What are you doing there?"
"It's a long story. The point is there's a bomb."
"There's a what?"
"It's in a suitcase. Someone left it in here. I couldn't see who it was, I'm afraid, but I've sort of got stuck in this office."
Foyle will probably stand up, all agitated, at this point.
"What do you mean you got stuck in the office?"
"I'm locked in and it looks as if it's going to go off pretty soon."
"Soon? How soon?"
"Ten minutes I'd say, sir."
At this juncture I imagine he'll be beside himself with anxiety.
"Well get out of the window – break a window!"
"And if you can't do that, you get behind something solid. Lie flat behind a desk or a table or something? On my way!"
Then he'll hang up the 'phone and rush to the rescue. Yup, I reckon that any second now he'll come out of his office and bark out his commands.
Foyle's office door banged back on its hinges right on cue.
"Sergeant! Assign someone to get hold of the bomb disposal people; send them to Bexhill Fuel Depot immediately, tell them there's a bomb in the office, and then you get the car out, we're going…"
From where I was hiding, the sound of Foyle's voice faded as he hurried away. I looked at my watch again. I smiled. Sam was right on time and history was back on track.
Foyle would rescue his driver and future wife. And they will live happily ever after. Eventually.
I guess tonight's dinner is a bust.
I couldn't be more pleased.
These are happy tears.