Winning Phryne

Winning Phryne

Monday, December 22, 2014

Chapter 18

At Phryne's house a solemn group pulled up in Hugh's car.  Bert had gone to his boarding house and Mr. Butler rode with Dorothy and Hugh.  The three of them drank a cup of tea at the kitchen table and the quiet was broken occasionally by a few words, spoken in hope or fear. 
Mr. Butler finally excused himself to his bed and Dorothy and Hugh walked into the front hall so they could say their goodbyes.

Hugh kissed her lightly and then looked worried as she broke down and cried against his shoulder.  It wasn't like Dottie to cry much at all, but this sobbing was tearing his heart out.

"Hey, Dottie, it's alright.  I'm here," he murmured against her hair while he patted her back in futile consolation.  Futile because it wasn't helping one bit, in fact it seemed to make it worse.  In desperation he picked her up and went into the parlor and sat down and held her in his arms, letting her cry it out.

Dottie loved Miss Fisher with all her heart and they both knew that had she not come along when she did they might never have met; worse still, Dorothy might have ended up on the streets or in the convent.  When her tears seemed to be abating a bit he pulled his handkerchief out of his pocket and handed it to her to dry her tears with.

"Hugh, don't leave tonight.  Stay here, please."

Hugh stood up immediately, practically dumping Dottie on the floor.  "Dottie!" he stammered, shocked at her words.

"I don't mean with me; in a spare room.  It would be comforting for me know you are close, Hugh.  Mr. Butler is here as well."

"Dottie, it's not proper; the neighbors will know.  I can't."  He watched as her lower lip began to tremble and sighed.  "Alright, Dottie.  Let's lock up and you can show me a room to sleep in.  I want you to be able to rest tonight."

Hugh spent the night a mere 15 feet away from the woman he loved and desired.  But it made her happy and that was all that mattered, at least he kept telling himself that.  It was hard to lay there in his bed and hear her when she moved around in her bed.

He told himself that it was perverted to desire her after all that she was going through with Miss Fisher.  He tried thinking about his mum and how ashamed she would be to know that her only son was fighting off carnal thoughts about a woman; even if it were the woman he was going to marry.

Thoughts of his mother upset him at the best of times.  She was more than angry since he'd told her he was converting to Catholicism so that he could marry Dottie.  In his heart he feared that his mum would never forgive Dottie; he wasn't even sure she'd ever forgive him.  She'd certainly never forget; this was an affront to her basic Christianity. The inspector told him that once there were children that it would help smooth things a bit but Hugh still wasn't sure about that.  The thing was, before he'd told her that Dottie was a Catholic she had liked her.  He'd tried to ease his mum into the situation, but it hadn't helped a bit.  Now, she barely spoke to him when he mentioned Dottie and if Dottie was with him she wouldn't even look at either of them.

He heard Dottie's bed creak again and tried to block the sound out.  He pulled a pillow over his head and tried singing a nursery song to change the direction his thoughts were taking.  He was a very bad man for the thoughts he had, especially in the light of the seriousness of the situation.

He finally fell asleep a little while later and tossed restlessly.  When he woke up he saw the evidence of his dreams, waving proudly in front of him and muttered a curse that Dottie would have been shocked to hear.

When he made his way downstairs he smelled breakfast cooking.  Mr. Butler was at the stove when he entered the kitchen and Dottie was slicing bread at the table.  She looked up as he came in and he could tell by her pale and drawn face that she hadn't slept well either. 

Mr. Butler silently handed him a mug of tea but gave him a small smile that he hoped would help ease the younger man's embarrassment at Tobias knowing that he'd spent the night here.  He knew that the young constable had slept in a separate bedroom, but he also knew that he'd not slept well.  That room was directly above his own and bed springs make a lot of noise when you're tossing and turning.


Jack and Mac continued their vigil, speaking at times and at others silent.  Jack saw Mac looking at the ring on Phryne's finger and felt a rush of guilt sweep over him.

He cleared his throat and said, "We're not really engaged you know." He hoped that admitting the truth would lift the burden of deceit from him but it didn't really help.

Mac's mouth twitched up at the corner's as she looked at Jack.  "You think not?"

"No, she agreed to wear it as a symbol of the love we share, that's all." The words almost hurt him to admit, like a knife stabbing at his heart.

Mac laughed out loud then and Jack stared at her as if she'd gone round the bend.  "Jack, you know her well enough to know that she doesn't do anything she doesn't want.  She knows what that ring means and I'd bet that you didn't have to convince her to agree to wear it.  Tell me I'm wrong but I'll be it was her idea, wasn't it?"

Jack started to deny her words but then the memory of the conversation came back to him and he realized, possibly for the very first time that it really was Phryne's idea.  It couldn't be, could it?  She wanted to marry him, at least at some time?

"You know I'm right, don't you?  Jack, she's unconventional as hell, but it's my belief that she is so in love with you that she won't mind marrying you one bit."

Jack shook his head in denial.  Yes, she was unconventional and marriage and commitment didn't suit her; she'd proven that many a time.  "No, she'll never want to do that and I'll never ask her to."

"Because you're afraid she'll say yes or afraid she'll say no?"  Mac's eyes sparkled with humor a bit as she watched Jack as he searched for an answer.  "If she says yes you'll be worried that she only did it to please you; if she says no, you'll feel horrible because she'll know that you really want to marry her.  But you needn't worry about it.  She might not yet be ready to admit it but she's ready to marry you.  You'll just have to trust me on it," she told him as he began to protest.

"I can't believe that.  She's…she's ran from any commitment as far as I can tell."
"No, she ran from men who wanted to corner her, to take away her independence.  Jack, that's not something you've ever done.  Quite the opposite in fact.  When you tried to end your relationship did she allow that?"

He opened his mouth to deny her words but then closed it just as quickly.  She was right about that; even when she knew that it pained him to have her close she only retreated enough to allow him a bit of space.  She never went away and blast the woman, she knew exactly what she was doing!  Strangely though, it hadn't really angered him; he didn't want her gone, not really.  He'd just needed a bit of time to regroup and collect himself before they continued on.  In the end, it hadn't felt as if they had ever been apart at all.

He realized that Mac was waiting for his answer and he met her gaze evenly across the bed.  "You are quite right, Doctor.  Maybe she does want to marry me, eventually."
Mac nodded and the two shared a bit of a conspiratory smile that helped them both to relax a bit.  A few minutes later the matron came in carrying a tray with a pot of tea and the both smiled at her in thanks. 
Mac looked at him over the rim of the cup and said, "We'll just keep this conversation our secret.  Wouldn't do to let Prudence in on it.  Oh, that's Aunt Prudence to you!  Jack, however did you manage that?"

He smiled and said, "I haven't the faintest idea to tell you the truth.  But I'll not say a word.  If she finds out she's likely to order my execution."

"At the very least," Mac agreed dryly.

At two in the morning Mac stood up and said, "I'm going to go and try and sleep a couple of hours.  Jack as your physician I'd recommend you do the same thing."

"I don't think I can," he said softly, his voice full of sorrowfully.

"Well, you have the cot, give it a shot." She smiled at her unintentional rhyme.  "I'm tired, what can I say?" She gave him a brief nod and left him alone in the room.

He stood up again and walked around the room, stopping every few steps to glance back at Phryne.  She was still a bit restless, but showed no apparent signs of waking up which might not be a worry for the doctors but it definitely worried him.  This had to be the longest the woman had ever stayed put he decided.

Mac came back into the room carrying a brace for his arm and a bottle of some pills.  "Do you still have any tea left?"  At his affirmative nod she opened the bottle and took out two tablets and handed them to him.  "For the pain." 
He protested that he didn't feel any pain, which was probably true at this point.  He was focused on Phryne, not his own injury but Mac knew that by morning his arm was going to be hurting badly.  She watched as he took the pills, mostly because he seemed afraid of what she'd do if he didn't.  He stayed silent as she slipped his arm into the brace and adjusted it as best she could to keep his arm still.

"You'll thank me in the morning.  Now, again I'll caution you to try and rest."

He nodded at her as she again left the room.  He began pacing again and tried to tell himself that Phryne would be okay.  He just had to believe that, keep repeating it.  He stopped next to the bed and looked down at his love.  She looked so small, so fragile.  The bandage that wrapped around her head and the bruises that continued to develop on her face positively scared him to death.  His heart clutched and his breath caught in his throat as she mumbled his name again.  He sat down next to her on the bed after looking out the door to make sure the matron wasn't watching him.  He felt as if he were a youth, sneaking into a peep show.  If she caught him the matron would definitely not go easy on him he was sure. 
He stroked her arm and it seemed to settle her a bit; it seemed natural for him to lie next to her, just for a little bit.  She seemed to settle even more.  Maybe it was the warmth of his body, he really wasn’t sure.  He tried to make himself comfortable without encroaching on her; he didn't want to bump into her and cause her any further harm.

An hour later the matron stepped into the room to check on her patient and found Jack, fast asleep on the bed with Phryne.  The patient wore a slight smile.  Was it possible she knew her fiancĂ© was with her?  Anything was possible the matron decided and left the two of them to rest.  Things were likely to get worse before they got better.  Head injuries were a tricky business.


At six in the morning Mac and Dr. Harrison stood in the doorway, watching Jack and Phryne.  The matron stood behind the doctors, her eyes taking in the site.  Phryne had shifted in the night to turn a bit, facing Jack.  His body was curled around hers in a protective manner and even after so many years of being cynical about the healing arts when family members interfered she had to admit that in this case it just might help the lady to get better faster.  She certainly seemed to take comfort in his nearness she had to admit.

Still, they needed to examine Miss Fisher and Mac gently woke Jack up and he looked startled by their presence.  Whether it was because they found him in the bed with Phryne or because he'd managed to get some sleep she was unsure.  He moved to get up and found out the Mac was totally correct, his arm hurt like hell this morning.  She saw him wince and told him she'd get him something more for the pain. 

"I'm sorry; she just seemed a bit restless and when I touched her she settled a bit.  I didn't mean to fall asleep."  He looked at them hoping that he hadn't committed an egregious error and waited for Dr. Harrison, or worse, the matron to speak. 

"She looks none the worse for wear, Dr. Harrison," the nurse stated.  The next few minutes Jack stood by and watched as they checked Phryne; the only concern was that her temperature was a bit elevated, but otherwise nothing else had changed.

The rise in temperature frightened Jack; that could mean she was developing an infection and that was the thing that Mac said they had to be worried about.  He said another prayer that she would escape that fate; just let her heal and wake up, he asked.

He was suddenly aware of how disheveled he looked as he ran his fingers through unruly locks of hair that had fell down over his forehead.  Jack excused himself to find the lavatory and try to pull himself together.  He looked a fright and almost laughed because he rarely paid that much attention.  Yes, he liked to be neat and presentable, but other than making sure his hair was combed and he was dressed in a tidy manner he thought little about his appearance.  Right now, with his hair cockeyed, his clothes a rumpled, bloodied mess he was quite appalled.  He washed up as best he could and found that moving his arm was a small bit of agony.  Dark circles rimmed his eyes as well and he acknowledged that while he might have slept a little, it did nothing to refresh him.

Back in Phryne's room he found that the matron had brought him more tea and the hot and steamy brew smelled heavenly.  She'd also found a few biscuits which he managed to choke down as well.  They tasted of pasteboard, but he at least imagined that he felt a bit stronger after he was done.  Mac handed him two tablets again and he swallowed them without a protest.

At eight precisely Prudence arrived, clucking to herself as she saw how the bruises on her niece's face had deepened overnight.  Prudence thought that Jack didn't look much better but hesitated before she spoke the words.  He was clearly deeply upset about Phryne and no doubt his injury was painful for him.  He would do well to go home to rest and eat, but telling him would likely garner her nothing but wasted effort.  Not because he was mean spirited but because he was obviously so worried about her niece.

She decided to take a chance of voicing her thoughts when Constable Collins arrived with Miss Williams.  After the discussion was held and questions answered by Dr. Harrison Prudence gently suggested to Jack that he might benefit by a trip home to rest.

He only nodded tiredly; there seemed to be little fight left in him.  Prudence tut-tutted in concern over her soon to be nephew, a thought that would have further distressed Jack had he known about it.

Prudence hadn't slept well herself; worry about Phryne and thinking about the alliance between her niece and the Inspector had held sleep at bay a good portion of the night.  She had come to the conclusion that she quite approved of the engagement between the two of them.  He came from a good family, a top family in fact and if his chosen profession was less than desirable, she could always applaud him for the humanistic philanthropy of it.  He was a loyal and steadfast companion for Phryne and certainly he had a calming effect on her behavior.  She was sure of it.

Jack finally surrendered reluctantly but he knew that everyone was concerned about him and they needed to focus their attention on Phryne, not him.  He and Hugh had little to say to one another on the way back to Phryne's home; there was never a question as to where he was going. 
Not as far as he was concerned anyway.  Mr. Butler had breakfast waiting for him and then listened as Jack told him of the progress, or lack of progress with Phryne.

"There is little I can say to you, Inspector that will ease your fears, but I do know Miss Fisher to be a woman of substantial strength of will and I feel that will stand her in good stead where healing is concerned.  She will let nothing stand in her way to a full recovery, I am sure."

Jack acknowledged that was true; it was the same thing Mac had tried to tell him too.  But when you're watching a loved one in such serious circumstance it was very hard not to focus on the worst scenarios.  He'd love her no matter what and he'd show her that every day the rest of her life if she'd let him.  The question was, would she?

To be continued…

I hope you all enjoyed the chapter.  I will be taking a brief holiday break and won't be posting again until January 5, 2015.  I hope you have a lovely holiday season.  May the new year brings blessings and joy to your lives.  Happy New Year to all of you!

Now, a little Christmas gift for you!


Monday, December 15, 2014

Chapter 17

Annabelle Sanderson Barrington sat in the darkened hospital room where her father had been these last 24 hours.  The chair was vastly uncomfortable she thought, shifting yet again and realized that it really wasn't the chair so much as it was her. 

Annabelle had always been a strong woman, she'd had to be.  Rosie had always been what her stepmother had called a 'handful' and so from her youngest years she had chased her exuberant sister around, trying to stay out of the ever-watchful and critical eye of their stepmother.  Their own mother had died when Annabelle was 3 and Rosie only a year old.  Their father had remarried soon after that; after all, a police constable had little time to care for two toddlers.  But it seemed as if their stepmother felt the same way. 

"Don't touch me!  Your hands are filthy!  Are you both the spawn of demons?  Can't you behave?"  Such things were often heard around the Sanderson home; where their stepmother was concerned the old axiom was the best advice: Children should be seen and not heard.  Of course she didn't want them to be seen either.

Except when George Sanderson was in residence of course.  At that point she suddenly became the world's most loving stepparent, positively doting on the girls.  As they reached their teen years it became clearly obvious to Annabelle that Marguerite Sanderson was intensely jealous of both girls who both favored their late mother and made George beam with pride at their accomplishments.  Rosie in particular had been the apple of his eye, but Annabelle never minded that much.  Rosie seemed to need the lavish attention he showered on her sister; Annabelle felt that she must have not done enough, been a caring enough sister to Rosie because she seemed to need that constant attention. 

Attention that Marguerite clearly had no intention of giving her.  Eventually of course, George saw what was happening between his wife and daughters.  Those years had been such a struggle for them all; George climbed the ladder quickly, rising through the ranks of the Victorian Constabulary with a speed that many an officer was envious of.  Still, as his pay increased, so did his duties, leaving Marguerite alone more and more, except to basically motherless girls who looked at their father with love and devotion and their stepmother with disdain. 

Finally Marguerite had enough; after an argument of monumental proportions she left one night, literally walked out on her life.  Annabelle was 16 at the time and thought perhaps her stepmother had a lover and ran away with him.  At any rate she never returned home again and eventually life settled down as Annabelle took over the household duties with very little fuss and a great deal of accomplishment.  

She met John Barrington when she was 18, at a lawn party for her best friend's birthday.  It was as close to love at first sight as anyone could ever have she often thought.  Their eyes met over cups of fruit punch and from that very moment they both knew they were meant for one another.  Soon after they began to court and within a year John had asked George for Annabelle's hand in marriage, which was happily granted.  They were married 5 months later and since then not a day had gone by that she didn't thank God for the joy that her marriage had brought her. 

John was a loving and faithful husband and father; it was common for him to bring her little trinkets of his love and devotion or sometimes she would find tender little love notes tucked away in unexpected places.  No woman had ever felt more cherished than she; she was a very lucky woman and knew it.

All those years of happiness had left her mentally holding her breath in many ways; waiting for something terrible to befall them and it had finally happened.  Her father had been disgraced in the most public of ways as had Rosie, who was now dead. 

In truth Annabelle wasn't sure which hurt more; she'd cried more than she ever imagined over this tragic turn of events.  All those tears that had never been shed, never needed to be shed had come in torrents and she felt as if her grief was as deep as an ocean.

She looked up as John came into the room.  He carried a small basket with him and sat it on a small table near the bed.  "Annie, my sweet, you need to eat.  See, I've brought you some shepherd's pie and blueberry tarts.  Come, love, you need to eat something."

She smiled gratefully at him and when she looked up at him he was taken aback at her pallor except for the dark circles about her eyes.   She hastily looked down, aware of just how awful she looked.

"Will you sit with father for a few minutes while I wash up?"  At his nod she stood up gratefully and felt how stiff she felt.  Her muscles and limbs stretched painfully and she was positive she heard her back pop.  She gave her husband another faltering smile and left for the lavatory.

Inside the door she felt for the light and the starkly white room was almost blinding as the overhead light came on. She blinked a couple of times allowing her eyes to adjust to the harsh intensity of the glaring light and then took a look at herself in the small mirror hanging on the wall.  She really did look as bad as she thought.  She'd not slept at all last night really, only tossed and turned fitfully; keeping John awake she was sure.   Before dawn she'd finally ceased the torture of her bed and rose to take a bath and dress for the day.

Her darling sister, who drove her positively around the bend, was dead.  Sidney Fletcher was mixed up in it to be sure; Annabelle wasn't sure how, but he was.  Hiram Matlock had come to tell her personally this evening and he agreed with her, Fletcher was to blame.  Hiram had assured her they would find him and she knew that he'd move heaven and earth to do so.

Annabelle splashed cold water over her face and let it run over her hands and wrists in an effort to calm her emotions.  She wanted to scream, to throw something, to lash out at the world, but she was a lady, so instead she took another look in the mirror, tried to pinch a bit of color into her cheeks and straightened her hair as best as she could before going back to her father's bedside. 

In the room she saw John standing over the bed which puzzled her.  She then noticed that her father was moving in the bed and John was trying to settle him down.  Annabelle immediately called for a nurse, who came quickly, and she and John stood motionless as George finally opened his eyes, staring with an unfocused gaze around the room.

"Father?  Father, its Annabelle," she said when her called out for her.  "I'm here, Father."
"Annabelle?  Where's my glasses?  I can't see a damn thing!"

Annabelle let out a strained laugh, though she excused it because he was asking for his glasses; he was okay.  The doctors warnings about the repercussions to his apoplexy were unwarranted, it seemed. 

"They were broken when you fell, at, in the gaol, Father."

"I have a spare pair at home, I need them.  Go and get them," he demanded.  He looked around and blinked, trying to focus his eyes.   "Why am I in hospital?"  George looked around him and though he couldn't see many details, he had no doubt as to where he was; no place on earth smelled like a hospital.

"I, well yes, certainly I will.  We'll get your glasses."  She looked up as the nurse came back in quickly followed by the doctor.  She had left the room as soon as he'd awoken and the doctor asked her and John to step aside so he could examine George.

A few minutes later he finished his exam and said, "Mr. Sanderson, you seem to have a bit of minor paralysis on your left side.  But otherwise, you are in fine shape, which considering the severity of your symptoms amazes me.  With some practice I believe you can regain the strength in your hand and arm.  Until we have you try walking we can't tell as much about your leg, but your reactive responses seem a bit slow there as well."

"I had apoplexy?  A fit?"

"Yes, apoplexy, but not a fit sir.  A blood vessel in your head burst, rendering you unconscious.  It would seem that it hasn't impaired your linguistic or cognitive centers of the brain though, which is remarkable."

George frowned; he hated not being able to see properly.  "Annabelle, call Rosie and ask her to fetch my glasses immediately."

Annabelle cast a worried look at John, not sure what to say to him.  The doctor, unaware of the situation said, "That would be fine, he'll feel more comfortable if he can see properly."

John spoke up then and said, "George, I'll go and get them.  I need to stretch my legs.  I'll be back shortly."

George looked at Annabelle who he saw only as a blurry shadow against the wall and said, "Nonsense!  Where is Rosie?  Why isn't she here?"

John had already left and Annabelle struggled with her answer.  Was it better to just tell him, or to evade the question?  That strategy had never worked with him in their youth; you could never stall a constable he'd always said.  She didn't know what to do and tried to stifle a sob that unexpectedly tore at her throat.

"Annabelle?  What is wrong?  Where is Rosie?"

"Father, I don't know how to tell you this…Rosie, um, Rosie was killed last night.  Sidney Fletcher escaped from gaol and went after Jack and Miss Fisher.  We don't know exactly what happened or how it happened, but Rosie evidently went to Miss Fisher's home to try and stop Sidney and she was shot.  Most likely by Sidney himself." 
It was just as well that George couldn't see his remaining daughter's face as it was again streaked with tears.  Her face felt raw from all the salty tears in fact and she pulled out her handkerchief to wipe them away yet again.  She eyed her father as she did so, waiting for his reaction to the news of his youngest daughter's death.

George had gone completely white and the doctor immediately used his stethoscope to check his heart.  George tried to push him away before the stinging tears slipped down his face; his beloved Rosie, dead by the hand of Sidney Fletcher.  Would this nightmare ever end?  That snake, Sidney Fletcher had stripped every joy, every happiness from his life, wrecked havoc within his family.  Suddenly life didn't really seem worth living.


Jack and Prudence were quiet as they watched over Phryne; Jack standing next to her bed and Prudence seated by it.  Both of them were worried and their eyes often met over the bed, their concern clearly written on their tense faces.

Dr. Harrison came in again and examined Phryne, checking her pulse, listening to her heart, examining her wounds.  He wore a frown of concentration on his face as he went through what was clearly a practiced routine.  Jack watched him, hopeful that he would see some type of sign that Phryne was improving, but there was none.

Phryne's body seemed very restless and she often moaned and had called out for Jack several times.  All he could do was hold her hand and assure her that he was here, that he wouldn't leave her. 
The matron nurse came around and told them that the visiting hours were over, had been over for several hours and that they simply must go.  Jack stood his ground and said, "I am not leaving her."  Both the doctor and matron realized that he meant what he said.

Prudence recognized it as well.  "Inspector, if you stay with her tonight I shall come back in the morning and you can go and refresh yourself then.  Is that agreeable to you?"

Jack nodded gratefully, "It is, Mrs. Stanley.  Shall we go to the waiting lounge and let everyone know what is happening right now?"

"Yes, I think that is a very good idea."

In the hall they saw Mac and let her know what was happening.  It was unusual for someone to stay with a patient overnight but she knew that it would be useless to try to persuade Jack to leave.  She herself was going to stay in the doctors lounge overnight because she wanted to be near and keep a watchful eye on Phryne.  She watched Jack and Prudence walk down the hall and couldn't help the smile that came to her face as she listened to their conversation.  People could be amazing in times of crisis.

Jack offered his arm to Prudence who gratefully accepted it.  "Thank you, Inspector."

"You're quite welcome, Mrs. Stanley.  Please, call me Jack."

For a moment Prudence was taken aback.  Surely it wasn't proper?  But in this circumstance, hopefully propriety could be eased, just the tiniest bit.  "Of course, Jack.  Please call me Aunt Prudence, or Prudence if you prefer?  We're going to be family after all."

Jack quickly glanced away, hoping she hadn't caught the momentary flash of guilt that crossed his face.  "If you wish, Au…Prudence," he stammered.  It didn't feel right to call her 'Aunt', perhaps it never would.

Mac headed into the doctor's lounge as an idea came to her.  She asked an orderly for help and nodded as they moved one of the cots from the doctors lounge into Phryne's room.  Jack might not use it at all, but if he needed it, it would be there for him.

In the lounge everyone had questions - how was she, was she awake, how did she look.  Jack and Prudence answered as many as they could and both of them realized that it all sounded very grim, a bit hopeless at this point and yet neither or them gave up any hope.

"I'm staying here tonight with her; Prudence will come back in the morning so that I can go home and shower and change."  Prudence nodded in accord of his words and if anyone was surprised at his informal use of her name they didn’t show it.

The group trickled out and Jack tried not to be impatient for them all to leave so that he could get back to Phryne.

Dot and Hugh told him they would be back in the morning as well and that Hugh would take him to Phryne's to change clothes and get his automobile.  He nodded and could barely stand to see the looks of concern that was written so starkly on their faces.  His parents were the last to depart and his mother held him tightly for a minute, assuring him that Phryne would be fine, after a bit of recovery.

"She's a fighter, Jack.  I saw that for myself this morning.  Do not underestimate her.  Your Miss Fisher will be right as rain in no time at all!"

Jack held back his doubts; he knew better than to disagree with him mother and there was a strange comfort in her words, a possibility that she might be correct.  Even a small chance at this point seemed better than what his fears were trying to convince him of.

He nodded mutely, afraid to speak because the lump that was in his throat threatened to break lose at any moment.  His father saw how his son was struggling and pulled him into a hug.  As Jack broke down he motioned for Elise and Amanda to wait in the hallway and just held his son for a minute.  Grief such as this was private to a man; Jack needed to let it out and have time to move past it without an audience.  As much as James loved his wife she would have surged towards Jack, all comforting gestures and kind words and that wasn't what Jack needed right now.

When the storm of tears finally passed James moved away and handed Jack his handkerchief and gave his son another moment to collect himself.  Then he laid his hand on his son's shoulder, a demonstration of solidarity between the men; Jack finally nodded and headed to the hallways where his mother and sister waited for them. 
Elise took one look at her son and started to say something but James, standing behind his son adamantly shook his head no, so she kissed him on the cheek and murmured, "I love you, Jack.  I'll see you tomorrow."  Amanda followed suit and soon they were walking towards the door, with Jack almost sprinting upstairs in order to reach Phryne more quickly.

Mac was back in the room, sitting in a chair as he entered the room.  One look at her pale face told Jack that she was worried as well.  He stood by the bed opposite her and took Phryne's hand in his and softly stroked her fingers with his own.  Her hand felt terribly cold to him and he spoke as much to Mac.

Mac sort of shrugged it off and said, "She's had a major surgery, Jack, it isn't unusual."

"Is she in shock?"

"No, not really.  Actually, the human body is amazing; it has a way of utilizing resources to help itself heal.  I suspect it is doing that.  At this point, it isn't something to be concerned about."

"Then what should I be concerned about?" he asked and found he was holding his breath as he waited for her answer.

"Infection, that's the major concern now.  Infection could prove deadly, Jack."
He closed his eyes and almost slumped against the bed; infection was always a worry in any illness.  He hadn't even considered it yet.  

"Jack, Dr. Harrison is the best specialist in Melbourne; you need to have faith in that."

"It's…hard, Mac.  Very hard."

"I know.  But you're not alone.  We'll get our girl through this, no matter what."

Jack could only nod and hope that she was right.

To be continued…

AUTHOR'S NOTE:  I thought since many of you haven't seen the program that I'd publish a few of my favorite photos from the show.  I hope you'll enjoy them.

This is a shot of the entire regular cast that was evidently taken for the final episode of series 2, which was a Christmas episode.  A delightful episode, but no kiss!!!

Phryne fan dancing in a gentleman's club, undercover of course.  Jack, Hugh, Bert and Cec all got more than they bargained for in that episode!

A lovely pic of Jack and Phryne, second series.  They are growing closer and there is no denying what they feel for one another.  Except of course they do deny it!

Monday, December 8, 2014

Chapter 16

The group in the waiting room was all impatient and restless and very little chatter could be heard.  Prudence was a bit taken aback at seeing the Robinson's waiting with the others; it spoke further of the Inspector's relationship with her niece, something that weighed heavily on her mind.

She had been wrong; he came from good family and he was certainly handy to have around when one had an emergency, but that being said, he was still a public servant!  In truth, before all of this she had liked and admired the Inspector; she also had to admit that he'd had a positive effect on Phryne, to some small degree that is.  She still ran around waving a pistol and totally disregarding social rules, which most likely is what had gotten her into this tight spot.  Still, if she was going to continue to do these awful things wasn't it better that the Inspector stood with her?

It was, wasn't it?

She tried to make small talk with the Robinson's but none of them felt interested in the social niceties until they knew Phryne's fate.  Prudence wouldn't even consider the fact that her cherished niece could die.  Doctor Macmillan, despite certain less than savory aspects in her life would fight for Phryne's life as perhaps another doctor might not.  Yes, the good doctor would certainly ensure that Phryne would survive this.

As he watched her, James Robinson realized he was a bit wary of Prudence Stanley; she could be the fiercest of opponents or the finest of allies.  It was obvious that she wasn't quite sold on the idea of his son and the Honorable Miss Fisher's attachment.  James thought it was a wonderful match; he hadn't met her yet but all evening Elise and Amanda had sung her praises as down to earth and very much in love with his son, attributes that Rosie Sanderson had never completely fulfilled. 

Rosie had been sweet when she and Jack first courted but she didn't have the strength that Jack needed; she worried too much over what would get her ahead in society.  He hadn't mourned the end of their marriage to be sure but he certainly didn't wish the young woman dead.  He knew that John and Annabelle would bear the brunt of the tragedies that had befallen the Sanderson's this past day.  George hadn't awoken from his coma and now Rosie was dead.  The whole mess sickened him he decided.  And seeing the pain that his son was struggling with right now made him want to grab someone and force them make it right; to bring a happy smile back to his son's face.

Jack had been very happy for many months now, since Miss Fisher had first come into his life.  James had often smiled behind the paper, his face hidden as his son had ranted to his mother about the audacity of 'that Fisher woman'.  It was apparent to James and Elise that Jack was becoming more and more enchanted by 'that Fisher woman', almost daily in fact.  They shared a common social background, even if neither of them was truly cognizant of that fact and he personally liked the way Miss Fisher stood toe to toe with his son.  She was exactly what Jack Robinson needed; James could only hope that he hadn't realized that fact too late.

Bert and Mr. Butler had left earlier to fetch refreshments; they returned with tea and sandwiches for the group, and although the tea was appreciated no one seemed interested in the sandwiches but Tobias Butler didn't take that to heart.  He noticed, in his usual quiet manner that the Inspector looked pale and a bit shaky and that he would probably benefit from a shower and change of clothes; it might revive his spirits a bit.  The same could be said for Dorothy who didn't seem to realize that she'd scrapped her knees badly from kneeling on the pavement earlier.  His general impression of the group was one of tight control as each struggled with their own thoughts and fears about what was happening.

Dot held onto her rosary, her lips moving silently as fingers moved tirelessly over the beads praying that her Miss would be okay.  Better than okay, actually; Dottie prayed that she would be healed good as new.  Hugh kept his arm wrapped around her protectively, trying as hard as he could to give her his warmth and comfort.  He even said a prayer or two himself; the Inspector would not be the same without Miss Fisher.

None of them would.

Several of them looked up as Hiram Matlock entered the room.  James Robinson rose quickly to his feet and greeted his friend with a handshake.  Introductions were made to those whom he did not know and Hiram went to stand by Jack and suddenly felt at a loss for words.  Sylvia was at home, worrying about Miss Fisher, whom she adored.  Hiram cast a quick look at Prudence and recognized that for once the woman had nothing to say, a fact that slightly relieved Hiram.
"Jack, I know I don't need to reassure you that we're going to find Sidney Fletcher, but you do have my personal word on it.  We'll get him."

Jack looked at him and swallowed hard; a slight, almost imperceptible nod was all the recognition Matlock's pledge received. 
"We know there were two shooters; one dead.  We did identify him as Earl Bigelow; we can't tie him directly to Sidney Fletcher, but I've no doubt he works for him.  We are looking for possible accomplices of his in the hopes that we'll find Fletcher."

"Two shooter's, you say?" James questioned, frowning slightly.  While he was a judge, he had very little knowledge of police methodology and how they would know that there were two guns, unless of course they found two guns at the scene. 

James posed that question and Hiram shook his head and explained, "The gun found on Earl Bigelow's body was a small caliber pistol. A second gun evidently killed Rosie Sanderson; it was a larger caliber, possibly a Webley or something similar. Constable Collins saw the flashes from two separate guns as well but so far searching the second area hasn't turned up any leads.  Do you know yet what type of bullet struck you or Miss Fisher?"

"So you are sure there were two guns?" Jack asked, confused about it all.  It had happened lightening fast.  "The bullet that struck me entered and exited.  Possibly we'll know the caliber of bullet that struck Phryne after the surgery."  He shrugged despondently; there was nothing more he could say.

Time ticked on interminably; people walked a bit, shifted restlessly in uncomfortable chairs and many deeps sighs were heard by all by the time that Mac and Dr. Harrison stood in the doorway.  Jack and Prudence both rose unconsciously to their feet and waited for news. 

Amanda stood on Jack's side and slipped her hand into her big brothers and if she noticed the tremor in it she said nothing.  Perhaps it was because she couldn't tell if it was his or hers.

For the life of him Jack couldn't squeeze a single word out of his constricted throat.  Prudence seemed just as unable to speak as he it seemed.  They waited for the doctors to speak for what seemed like an hour but was actually only breathless moments.

"She's alive," Dr. Harrison said, taking a simple approach.  "She's unconscious and might be so for a few hours.  The bullet was lodged between her skull and brain tissue, which was a lucky circumstance.  Her brain is swollen, putting a great deal of pressure inside her skull, but that is to be expected really.  The other issue, perhaps the more troubling one is that when she was struck by the bullet she evidently fell against the pavement.  It seriously bruised and lacerated her frontal lobe; that could cause more problems than the bullet at this point."  He finished and looked at the group expectantly, waiting for questions.

The whole time he was speaking Jack kept his eyes on Mac, watching her reactions in an effort to determine how hopeful she was, how honest Dr. Harrison was being.  She seemed to agree with what Dr. Harrison was saying and Jack felt some small bit of relief about the situation.  A sudden thought occurred to him and he voiced the question out loud.  "But she will she wake up?" The words were quietly spoken and he denied himself from adding, "Ever."

Prudence nodded her head in agreement at his question and they both waited in breathless anticipation of the answer.  Jack noticed suddenly that Mac looked down, no longer meeting his eyes and Jack thought for a moment that his legs might well give out.  Amanda noticed and hooked her arm around his waist and felt him lean on her a bit, his only concession to his worry.

"We fully expect that she will; what we don't know is when," Dr. Harrison said, his voice barely rising above the concerned murmur that was circulating around the room.  "Dr. Macmillan says that Miss Fisher is a fighter, and that is a good thing."  Anticipating the next question, he continued, "We aren't sure how she will be when she does wake up."

"I don't understand what you mean by that, Dr. Harrison," Prudence said, ignoring the pain that tore through her chest at his words. 
Elise saw Prudence falter and pale drastically and she was suddenly at the other woman's side, trying to lead her to a chair to sit down.  Prudence seemed unaware of what was happening, of Elise's support.  She could only think that she couldn't seem to catch her breath. When they were both seated she felt Elise take her chilled hand into her warm one and Prudence knew that whatever happened, that she was with people who all cared about Phryne, a comfort that she very much needed.

"Mrs. Stanley, when someone has a brain injury, it is often difficult to determine how it will affect them.  The brain is still very much a mystery to medical science; what I can say for a certainty is that the tissue around the gunshot, other than being badly bruised looks sufficiently healthy.  Hopefully that will be fine, satisfactory. As I stated before, the injury to her frontal lobe might prove a more troublesome injury."

Was it the words that struck fear into Jack's heart or the uncertainty with which they were spoken?  "Dr. Harrison, exactly what are you not telling us?" he asked, his voice filled with all the pain that he was feeling.  "When she does awaken," he said, "What can we expect?"

Dr. Harrison cleared his throat and it was more of a nervous gesture as opposed to a necessary one.  "Injuries in the frontal lobe can sometimes affect speech, muscle control, sensory issues, even memory at times.  But right now, all we are focused on is healing her so that she can wake up."

Jack blinked and looked at Mac; her head nodding in agreement with Dr. Harrison.  A long and heavy sigh rushed out of Jack and he knew that for at least the time being there wasn't anything else that they could tell them.  

"May I see her?" he asked, hopeful that he could reassure himself that she came out of surgery intact.

Prudence voiced her desire to see her niece as well.  Dr. Harrison said, "She will be moved to her room in a little while.  When she is settled I'll send a nurse to let you know.  You should be prepared when you see her; she is bruised badly, and it will continue to get worse over the next few hours."  He nodded once again at the group and then retreated down the hall, his footsteps echoing loudly in the quiet of the night.

Mac sat down with the group; apparently there was nothing more for her to do at the moment other than wait with them which was a thought that was disturbing to both she and Jack.  He felt better to know that someone who loved her was with her at all times.  He voiced his thoughts out loud and many of the group agreed with him vocally.

"It's just…all we can do is wait," Mac finally said and it was evident to all of them just how worried she was.  She wished she dared step out to smoke but at this point she was just as desperate for news as the rest of the group was and didn't want to take a chance on missing something.  

Mr. Butler handed her a cup of hot tea with lemon, just the way she liked it.  He smiled kindly at her and murmured, "If you don't want to drink it at least you have something in your hands."  He had recognized her fidgeting and realized that she needed something to help alleviate her nervousness.  She smiled her gratitude at him and took a sip and sighed as the warm liquid spread through her, almost immediately making her feel better.  She took another, longer sip and sat back in the chair and closed her eyes for a moment, mentally calming herself.
It was all she could do.


Sidney began to grow alarmed when Earl didn't make it back to the safe house by midnight.  Even if he'd had to wait until the police left the scene he should have been back here by now. 

Which left two rather unappealing scenarios:  He'd been caught or he'd been killed by the constables.  As he ran from the scene after shooting Rosie he'd heard one more shot, surely it couldn't be that one shot had killed him? 

No, more likely he'd been nabbed by the coppers.  He'd need to have Rudy, one of his other associates nose around and see what he could find out.  Sidney walked into the kitchen and saw Rudy asleep at the table and kicked at the chair, jarring him awake.

"Hey, whatcha go and do that fer?" Rudy said, running a dirty hand down over his face. 

Sidney shuddered at the lackadaisical hygiene of his employees.  Really, was it that hard to bathe daily?  It's not like they hadn't any free time; it was usually hurry up and wait.  Perhaps in Singapore he'd need to see to hiring better employees, or maybe they at least believed in bathing there. 

"Earl isn't back yet.  I need you to go and snoop around a bit and see if you can find out what happened to him."  When Rudy nodded lethargically and settled back down into the hard, wooden chair Sidney kicked it again, harder this time and it almost unseated the tired man. 


"Whatcha expect me to find out at this time o' the night, boss?  Not like I can go marching into the police station and ask 'em."

Sidney leaned down and said in a growl, "That is precisely what I expect."  For a brief moment he smiled before bellowing, "NOW!"

Rudy jumped to his feet, knocking the chair over behind him.  He pulled his hat down on his head and Sidney ignored the mumbles as he headed out the back door.  When he heard the car engine start he headed into his room and sat down in the only chair in the room and let himself think about Rosie.

He'd loved her forever it seemed.  They'd been childhood allies, two peas in a pod, always on the verge of trouble their parents had always said.  Rosie had been a light in his life, never dimming, always ready for an adventure with him.

Until Jack Robinson came along.  Was he dead?  Sidney had watched as both he and Phryne Fisher fell down as Earl shot them, but he didn't really know if they died as a result of the shots.  It wasn't right if they'd survived and his beautiful Rosie hadn't. 

He didn't know how he would live without her; how horribly tedious his life would be without her smile and laughter making him feel strong and powerful.  In his mind, he had already justified his murder of the woman he loved; he told himself that she would have wanted him to start a new life, even without her.  He forgave her for trying to warn Robinson, he did, but it still hurt him.  He vowed that if Robinson and Fisher lived, he'd make sure that they died before he left, even if it took a few extra days here.  He owed that to Rosie, so that she hadn't died in vain. 
It would be worth it. 

Sadly, he didn't see the flaw in his logic.


A half hour went by before the nurse came to get them.  Jack, Mac and Prudence all rose to their feet, ready to follow her to Phryne's room.  If she was a bit shocked at the large group waiting for word on her patient she didn't show it.  She addressed Mac as they headed down a hallway and up a flight of stairs.

"She is a bit restless, Dr. Macmillan.  As yet she has showed no signs of waking up though."

"Thank you, Nurse Pratter.  I know that you'll take excellent care of Miss Fisher."  They walked sedately up the stairs in deference to Prudence but both Jack and Mac felt like taking the steps two at a time.  They traversed a long hallway that was dimly lit, most likely a consideration of the time of night.  Most patient doors were closed and all was quiet, until they got to Phryne's room.

All of them heard her, even before Nurse Pratter opened the door.  Phryne was moving, on the bed, her body seeming to twist with a volition all its own.  She was calling for Jack, his name spoken loudly, over and over.

"I'm here, Phryne, I'm here," he told her, taking hold of her hand only to have it wrenched away again as quickly as he had taken it. 

She wasn't awake yet, that much was clear.  What was appalling was how she looked.  All of her hair had been shaved off and bandages swathed her head securely in an effort to keep the wound clean.  But the hardest part of all was seeing how badly bruised she was.  The right side of her face was vividly black and purple and her eyes had seemed to sink into their sockets. 

Prudence let out a horrified cry, and tears sprung to her eyes at the sight of her beautiful niece, so badly hurt.  She laid her hand on Phryne's shoulder and murmured soft words of comfort to her, words that were unheard by Phryne.

She looked across the bed, to the man who Prudence instinctively knew would stand by Phryne no matter what.  That was the moment that Prudence knew that her niece had chosen wisely.  The anguish displayed on his face spoke volumes she acknowledged. 

Mac had already seen her so she focused on reading the most current notes on the chart.  Nothing new really but it gave Jack and Prudence a few moments to take it all in.  Mac knew that bruises would fade, hair would grow back; these were only cosmetic issues and were much harder on the family to deal with than the patient most of the time.  While Phryne did take her appearance seriously, never wanting to be without her powder or perfume, she also knew that her friend had an incredible sense of humor and would take it in stride, accepting that nothing was forever.

Mac could only hope that was true, that Phryne would wake up; that she would be okay. 
 However, only time would tell.

To be continued…

I would like to sincerely thank Ariadne04 for her help with this story.  A gifted neurosurgeon, she has provided much appreciated and needed advice.  The brain is a complicated organ, without her help this might not come together half so well.  I have taken about of creative license here and there so please forgive me.  This is a work of fiction after all!

Now, that being said, I had the pleasure to see a new fanvid about Jack and Phryne.  I did post one on Friday, so if you didn't see that one, check it out.  This one is particularly lovely, full of those Jack and Phryne moments that drew me to this story to begin with.