Winning Phryne

Winning Phryne

Monday, September 29, 2014

Chapter 6

A few minutes before the winter sun peeked over the horizon Chief Commissioner Matlock made his way to his car.  His breath made little white, misty puffs in the chilled air and he pulled his coat a bit tighter around him as he walked.

He'd decided to head to Russell Street, to get an extra early start on his day.  There was no shortage of tasks to accomplish ahead of him and for a moment he felt the full weight of his new position resting upon him. 
At the station he parked his car and headed towards the door, hurrying a bit when a wet rain started; he hoped it wouldn't freeze, but this was Melbourne in July, anything was possible.  Inside he was surprised to see his very young and very eager constable, who was also his assistant already in the office.

"Sir?  Commissioner Matlock, Sir.  You're early," Constable Kevin Conrad stated, the startled look on his face quickly composed as he rushed to help the commissioner out of his heavy and damp overcoat and hat. 

"You're here quite early, Conrad?" Matlock said, more of a question than a fact.

"Um, yes sir.  I have been organizing some of the files in your office, sir.  Things that, um, Commissioner Sanderson was working on.  I've put them in the file next to the desk so that you can review them."

Matlock didn't know whether to be alarmed that his assistant had been in the files or pleased that he was such an organized young man.  He sighed and nodded, wondering what cases Sanderson had been involved with and if any of them would prove as troublesome as the Fletcher case.

In his office all evidence that George had been an occupant of this office, however briefly, had been removed, something else his assistant must have accomplished.  He looked around at the bare walls, a depressing grayish green and held back a shudder.  It was depressing and he decided that a new coat of paint, something a bit less foreboding was clearly called for.  On the other hand, the huge mahogany desk was truly a piece of art; he ran his fingertips over the polished wood with a sigh of contentment.

Kevin Conrad watched as his new supervisor accessed the office and hoped he didn't find it lacking.  Kevin had done his best to straighten it and make it habitable, plain as it was.  "Sir, would you like some coffee or tea to start your morning?"

"Yes, I would indeed.  Tea, please and if you can find some biscuits to go with it I shall be very grateful."

"Certainly, sir.  I'm sure I can find some," he answered already heading out the door, closing it crisply behind him.  In the outer chambers he called Constable Rittner over and said, "Rush to the bakery around the corner and get some biscuits for the Chief Commissioner's breakfast, quickly!" His voice held a tone that Rittner knew meant sooner rather than later, so he took off at a run to find the biscuits.

By the time that Kevin had made the tea and was debating what to include on the tray to accompany it, Rittner returned with a small wrapped parcel of biscuits.  "You didn't say what kind, so I got several," Rittner offered.

Kevin gave him a terse nod, opening the packet and placing the assortment of cookies on a plate along with milk, sugar and lemon.  He picked up the tray and carried it to the closed door of the office and balanced it carefully as he first knocked and then opened the door at the summons from within.

"Here you are, sir."  He sat the tray down and waited for instructions from Matlock or a dismissal.  Not sure if he'd done something wrong as the man remained silent he started to back away from the desk, fearing the worst.

"Thank you, Constable."  Matlock observed the carefully arranged tray and a small smile crept over his face as he looked up at the young man. 

If Kevin was surprised by the gentle and polite thanks he evidently managed to hide it well.  "Certainly, sir," was all he said before leaving the room.  

Apparently, things were going to be different here with Matlock in charge.  Or so it seemed.  Maybe this position wouldn't be as bad as he'd thought it might be.

As he ate his breakfast, he made a mental note to inform Constable Conrad that he took his tea black with no sugar.  The artistic presentation of the condiments on the tray were rather pleasing, but a complete waste of space.  He ate another biscuit absentmindedly as he finished looking over the files on his desk, deciding that this one was his favorite.  It was some type of ginger biscuit and quite delicious.  It complimented the tea superbly.

After trying to reach Jack at first his residence and then City South, Matlock played a hunch and had the operator ring Miss Phryne Fisher's residence.  It was picked up quickly by someone identifying himself as Mr. Butler.

"This is Chief Commissioner Matlock.  I would like to speak with Inspector Jack Robinson; is he in?  It's an urgent matter."  He saw from his watch that it wasn't quite 7 yet, but he felt it was important to speak to Jack about George Sanderson immediately.

Mr. Butler wasn't surprised in the slightest that the Inspector was there; he'd already spotted the Inspectors car parked in front of the house when he'd went to collect the morning news and milk.  It had been a long time in coming, but it would be a blessing Tobias Butler decided. 
"Certainly, sir.  I will get him now if you'd care to wait," he responded before setting the receiver down on the table.  He knocked on the bedroom door softly, hesitant to wake his mistress, but was prepared to try again if needed.

He finally heard the Inspector answer, "Yes?  What is it?"

"I'm sorry to disturb you, Inspector, but there is a Commissioner Matlock on the telephone for you; he says it is urgent."

Jack ran a tired hand down his face and said, "Yes, I'll be right there, Mr. Butler.  Thank you."
He heard Mr. Butler move away from the door and head down the stairs.  Jack reached for his trousers and pulled them on, fastening them hastily.  He decided to forego his shirt as it seemed unlikely that Miss Williams would be up this early, especially after the previous nights late bedtime.

"Jack?" Phryne asked, watching him walk towards the door.  "What's wrong?"

He faced her for a moment and had to stifle a quick smile because she looked a combination of sleepy and seductive.  Her hair was a tousle of curls and her dark, sooty lashes partially hid blue eyes that obviously didn't want to be open. 

"Just a phone call from the Commissioner, Phryne.  Go back to sleep."

"He's calling you here?" she asked, sitting up in bed feeling extremely curious.

Jack shrugged his shoulders; he was a bit puzzled as well, but supposed he'd find out soon enough.  "I'll be back in a few minutes, Phryne." As he turned he saw her sitting on the side of the bed, the edges of her robe spread apart showing a good expanse of creamy, white thigh.  His eyes swept down to bare feet and back again and he had a sudden, very appreciative thought about the pleasure of spending the night with her.  He cleared his throat and murmured, "I, um, I'll be back," and left the room immediately.

Phryne crossed her legs and let the top one swing back and forth as she thought about the site that Jack made in the morning.  His hair, free of the pomade he used to keep his waves in check had been drooping over his forehead in the most enticing manner.  She had longed to comb her fingers through those curls before kissing him, a thought she filed away for further exploration.  In the meantime, she re-wrapped her robe around her and tied it securely and padded down the stairs to see what the Commissioner could possibly want at this time in the morning.

Or how he had known to look here for Jack.  Curious.

Downstairs Jack was just finishing his call.  Mr. Butler appeared and asked if he would like coffee or tea and some breakfast.  Obviously he had overheard some of Jack's conversation and assumed that Jack was leaving, a thought that made her frown.

"Coffee would be very welcome, Mr. Butler.  Thank you."

"Jack?" she asked as Mr. Butler disappeared back into the kitchen.

He turned to her and swept her from head to toe with eyes that still looked tired and no wonder; he'd only had 3 hours of sleep.  She was gifted with a smile before he pulled her to him, pressing her body against his and thrilling at the feel of the soft silk over her tempting curves.  He held her for a minute longer, just because he could; she was his Phryne now.

"The Commissioner has asked me to come in as soon as I can; George Sanderson was taken ill overnight and is in hospital.  Commissioner Matlock has a lot to accomplish today and this will free up a bit of time for him."

"What happened to Sanderson?"

"He said the doctor said it was apoplexy; he's unconscious now."

"My goodness, this is a lot for Rosie and her sister to deal with, on top of everything else."  Phryne couldn't help but wonder if Jack would try to console Rosie again.  She hated that the thought made her feel vulnerable.  She took in a deep breath and let it out slowly, trying to soothe her fears.

Jack took her hand, entwining his fingers with hers and mounted the stairs, heading to the bedroom so he could finish getting dressed.  She perched on the seat at her vanity table and watched with bright eyes as he pulled on sock and shoes, shirt, tie, waistcoat, suit jacket and finally overcoat.  My goodness he wore so many layers, how on earth did he manage in the summer?  She fanned herself with her hand for a moment, just thinking about it.

Jack walked over to her and pulled her up against him one more time before leaving.  "You're coming back?" she asked.

"Yes, I'm coming back," he said, smiling at her and placing a kiss on her forehead before following it up with one for the tip of her nose, just because. 
She held him fiercely around the waist, not wanting to let him hurry off.  "Must you go?"

"Yes, I need to go home and shower and change before my meeting.  I promise you Miss Fisher, I will return."  He gave her a slight wink that made her shiver for some unexpected reason.

"You know, Jack, you could actually keep clothing here, so this problem isn't an issue," she mentioned, trying to look innocent, all the while looking anything but.

He chuckled, deep in his throat and she could feel the very pleasant vibrations of it against her chest.  She sighed in contentment for a moment, almost purring her pleasure at having him this close. 
"I suppose I could, yes," he told her, thinking about that idea.  "Why don't we both think about it and we'll talk later, after I return?"

She pursed her lips together in a pout, unwilling to give up on the idea.  "If you promise me that we will discuss it, Jack.  I'm quite serious about the idea."

"So I gather," he said with another chuckle.  "I must go; I've just got a moment now for that cup of coffee and as you know, Mr. Butler's coffee is not to be missed!"

One final kiss later he moved to the bedroom door and cast a quick look back at her, only to see that she dropped her robe and had crawled back into the bed, naked.  He hastily shut his eyes and pulled the door closed behind him.  That image would haunt him all morning, he knew.

At his house, his housekeeper Mrs. Mayton was not yet there.  She usually worked later in the morning or afternoon.  Since it was only him in the house there was little to do.  Jack knew that it was wasted that he lived in this large house alone, but it was his grandmothers and he couldn't bear to sell it; not that the family would agree to that anyway, even though it was solely his.  His older brother James inherited the house in Sydney, which was appropriate as that was where his job as a barrister was.  His younger sister Amanda was granted the summer home, in Geelong and his sister Maude inherited his grandparent's property in Brisbane, near the sugar plantation.  It all worked out quite well actually, with each grandchild getting the place that meant the most to them.  Maude and her husband, Wesley ran the sugar plantation now and it was still a thriving business.

Most of the house in Parkville was closed off; simpler for Mrs. Mayton and him.  She was getting up there in years, having been the faithful housekeeper for his grandparents since he was a child.  There were advantages to that, for both of them but also detractors as well.  She still insisted on calling him 'Master Jack', a term that made him smile but would prove a bit embarrassing when Phryne was introduced to her, he was sure.  Mrs. Mayton was very opinionated at times as well; one couldn't always be sure as to how she would react or what she might say in any given situation.  The elder woman was somewhat like a favored aunt, and like that aunt she told him what she thought, no matter what.  That thought reminded him of Prudence Stanley and how much he dreaded his next encounter with her.

As he stepped into the very up-to-date shower he appreciated his grandparents forethought in keeping the house modernized.  Built just before the turn of the century it was a charming Victorian but contained all the latest innovations as they had become available.  With 5 bedrooms, 4 bathrooms, current plumbing and electrical the house was more than comfortable.  The rooms were spacious, as was the trend when the house was built; that was also one of the things that made Jack feel a bit sad because it all was wasted on him.  

Fifteen minutes later he was shaved, dry and dressed and wishing that he'd taken the time to eat the breakfast that Mr. Butler had offered.  He peeked into the kitchen as saw that Mrs. Mayton had stored some scones in the pantry and took one to eat with a hastily brewed cup of tea.  He must remember to find out what type of coffee Mr. Butler stocked because it was delicious and he found that it was a wonderful addition to his morning.

There was a good chance that many of his mornings could be spent at Miss Fisher's now; the thought both thrilled and frightened him.  He wasn't sure he wanted to play house with Phryne, to live in sin as some people, probably most people would consider it.  Breaking social mores was not something he was keen to do, especially as an officer of the law but he had told her he didn't want to change her and he'd meant that.  He loved the woman that Phryne was; the wild side, the deeply caring side, all of her. But it might come at the expense of his own ideals and that was something that he needed to be sure he was ready for. 
He'd never really thought of himself as a conventional man; he'd had girlfriends and sex before he married Rosie.  At university he'd been an adventurous man, a man who enjoyed the fairer sex.  Not that he was any kind of Lothario, but he certainly hadn't gone to his marriage bed with no experience.  Phryne had any number of lovers in her past and that didn't bother him as much as he might have expected it to; they both were adults and it was to be expected. 

But if that was true then why did the thought that this might be a casual affair on her part bother him so much?  She had told him that she could be faithful to him and he believed her to be sincere.  He believed that she loved him and he knew that he loved her. 

Enough to marry her.

Enough to marry her.  There was the crux of the matter.  Love her, respect her, but just live with her, no legal ties involved?  It was hard for him to accept. But not impossible he acknowledged and the truth was, he wanted to be with her, no matter what.


City gaol wasn't the place the Sidney Fletcher wanted to claim as home, however temporary it might be but it was a place where gossip ran freer than water.  Come to think of it, that wasn't really a good analogy because a man could die from being parched in here if it wasn't on the schedule for water to be provided.  Still, gossip was rampant this morning concerning George Sanderson and that made Sidney extremely curious.

All the participants in the raid were being held in different cells; the police didn't want them to have any opportunity to collaborate on their stories.  But word passes quickly from cell to cell and the news of the former police chief commissioner had spread like brush fire.  Most of the jailed population was hoping for death because they held a grudge against the old man.  True enough, he'd probably had a hand in many of their arrests and incarcerations. 

Sidney was George's godson; he'd known him all his life and the best part was that George had always had a soft-spot for him and had run interference for him with his parents and schools more than once.  That didn't mean that the old man couldn't see through him; quite the contrary, he'd been able to see right through Sidney's schemes more often than was good for all concerned.  This last one was no different but it was amazing what a little evidence can accomplish when getting someone on your side and making them capitulate to your needs.  He'd had the old man right where he wanted him.

As much as George doted on him, the old man had been less than happy when he started stepping out with Rosie.  George really was a straight arrow most of the time and had appreciated Jack Robinson as a son in law completely.  Jack was always on the right side of the law, and could always be counted on to do the right thing.  Poor Rosie had languished in that marriage, denied not only the material things she deserved, but eventually the emotional connection as well. 

It ate at him; he'd loved Rosie from the time they were children.  She was his partner in crime, always up for whatever adventure they could find.  When she had fallen in love with that insipid constable he'd tried to woo her to him, but ultimately George had his way and Rosie and Jack were united in marriage, basking in the old man's jubilation in what he saw as a perfect union.
Jack Robinson hadn't deserved her, and ultimately couldn't keep her.  It was easy for Sidney to step in this time; her marriage had left her lonely and vulnerable and she came to him willingly, joyfully.  It thrilled Sidney; he'd finally gotten what he wanted and it also gave him a hold over the old man and made things much easier for him in Melbourne.

George had a secret, a big one, hidden far in the past but that didn't keep Sidney from discovering it.  George could do nothing less than follow Sidney's direction.  Not without rewards of his own though; Sidney had blackmailed the current Chief Commissioner to resign so that George could take his place.  The former Chief Commissioner had a nasty little penchant for ladies at the Imperial Club and luckily, Madame Lyon had a habit of having her girls nip bits of information about customers that could be used if needed.  Once Sidney had bribed a doorman to provide this box of information about the clientele it was smooth sailing.  Wall was out, Sanderson was in.  Making George an accomplice in the slave market for young, pure and fair-skinned young girls had been ridiculously easy and then he'd had no option but to help in the matter, an unwilling accomplice but an accomplice anyway.

Then Jack and that Fisher woman got involved.  God, he should have shot her on the Pandarus when he had the chance.  He could have but the thought of imprisoning her so that after they were out to sea she could be dumped overboard had been a fantasy; the only thing better would have been if he could have taken his time and his revenge on her.  Little good they did, those thoughts; Jack had arrived, against Chief Commissioner Sanderson's direct orders, searching the ship and ultimately finding both Miss Fisher and the girls that he'd already paid for.  That burnt more than anything! 

The smuggling would continue; there was more than one ship involved and Sidney wouldn't be in here much longer.  He had accomplices that would take care of that, sooner rather than later he knew.  And as soon as he got out of here he had two outstanding tasks to take care of - killing both Miss Fisher and Jack Robinson.

In the meantime, it might not be a bad thing if the old man died.  Perhaps someone should make sure that was going to happen if it hadn’t already.

To be continued…

Monday, September 22, 2014

Chapter 5

Phryne and Jack both stared into the other's eyes, searching for acceptance, truth, and the spark that made them one, two halves of a whole.  Neither was disappointed as dark gray eyes, so deep they might have been brown met stunning blue ones. Jack's swept over the face of the woman he adored, his fingertips suddenly feeling the need to touch her.  A strong hand reached to cup her face, the caress as delicate as an angel's wing.  A thumb played lightly over her lips, devoid of the usual scarlet smear of lipstick and now just a glorious, lush peach tone that begged to be kissed.

As if reading his mind, Phryne said, "You know, Inspector, I believe that this would be an appropriate moment for a…kiss, perhaps?"  She licked her lips lightly, as if in invitation and watched as he swallowed again as he contemplated her words.

He tilted his head a bit to the side and gave her the slightly lop-sided grin she adored. "A kiss, Miss Fisher?  That's what you would demand of me now?" he teased.

"Well, it seems a simple enough goal, Inspector.  We can go on from there," she suggested, the warmth of her breath teasing his ear.

Something briefly flickered in his eyes, something she couldn't quite decipher.  He drew in a deep breath and looked down for a moment as if afraid of all she might read on his face.

The truth was, loving Phryne was easy, admitting it harder; the rest of it scared him senseless.  Phryne's past brought lurid images of broken hearts strewn along behind her and he knew that he couldn't survive being one of them.  Phryne was a shooting star amongst the heavens; he was Jack, a man whose feet were firmly planted in the earth.
Phryne moved to sit on his lap and he let out a shaky breath he hadn't been aware of holding.  All thought left him as her head bent to him, her eyes searching his one last time, as their lips were poised only an inch apart.  He was conscious of their mingled breaths, warm and moist between them and he knew his fate was sealed.  His hand gently pulled her head down until their lips met, softly, almost tentatively blending together.

A shiver went through Phryne at the contact and for a moment confusion made her pause at this unexpected reaction to a kiss; to Jack's kiss.  His lips were warm and tender, moving slowly, enticingly over hers before they deepened the kiss and she felt her lips part in response.

Jack drank her in, her sweetness, her desire.  He stifled a groan as his tongue traced the outline of her lips and then dipped into the warmth of her mouth.  He felt an almost electric charge go through him as her tongue met his, stroking with increased fervor until he finally broke apart from her, almost panting as he tried to catch his breath, to steady himself.

"Jack?" she questioned, clearly confused by his withdrawal.  Her eyes searched his with concern.  Had she done something wrong?

"Phryne, we…this…," he stumbled, seeking the right words.  "I don't want to go too fast," he finally told her, his words all but a mumble.

"Too fast?"  He detected a slight snicker in her tone.  "Jack, we've had two years of foreplay for heaven's sake; there's nothing fast about this."

She pinned him with a determined look that told him clearly that she was resolved to win this battle.  She smiled a deliciously seductive smile and bent her head to again capture his lips with the promise of more passion to come.

He let himself be carried away by the kiss, like a parched man at an oasis drinking his fill.  The truth was that he would never get enough; not enough of her or her dizzying kisses that made him ache for her all the more. For a few minutes he let his fear absent itself and reveled in the exquisiteness that was Phryne Fisher.

When he realized that his body as well as his heart were reacting to her he abruptly stopped the kiss, pulling his mouth from hers all the while his body was screaming that it was madness to stop what they both wanted so badly. 
"Phryne, enough!" he pleaded only to have her seek his mouth again.  "Miss Fisher! We have to discuss this before things go any farther."

Phryne arched an exquisite eyebrow to gaze upon him.  "What is there to discuss, Jack?  You want me, I want you; it's very simple."

"No, Miss Fisher, it is not simple at all!"

Her eyes narrowed as she let out an indignant huff of air.  What was this about she wondered.


It was 3 in the morning when Hiram Matlock heard the telephone ring downstairs.  A call at such an hour could only mean bad news and so he sat up in bed and reached for his robe, slipping it into place. 
"What on earth are you doing, Hiram?" Sylvia Matlock inquired as she focused on her husband who was sitting on the edge of the bed.

"The phone is ringing; I'm sure I'll be needed," he began, only to be interrupted by a quiet knock on the door.

Hiram slipped his feet into his slippers and made his way around the bed to answer the door. 
Simmons, their butler looked apologetic before speaking.  "I'm sorry to disturb you sir, but you have a telephone call from City Gaol.  They stated that it was urgent."

"Perfectly alright, Simmons.  I'll take it.  Please, go back to bed man, sorry you were disturbed."

Simmons nodded and shuffled sleepily down the stairs as Hiram followed.  In the hallway he picked up the receiver and spoke into the phone and then listened intently.

"This is Senior Constable Morrison, sir.  I'm sorry to wake you but there's been a bit of a problem here; George Sanderson has collapsed and has had to be taken to hospital.  We don't know what is wrong, however he appeared to be unconscious."

Hiram rang a tired hand over his face and sighed.  What next he wondered?  "Thank you for calling.  I'll go to hospital myself to see what is happening.  Did you provide him with an armed escort, Morrison?"

"Certainly, sir.  Four men accompanied him."

"Good.  That will be all then.   Goodnight," Hiram said as he settled the receiver into the cradle. 
He stood up and headed back upstairs to dress.  He longed to crawl back into his bed but duty called and Hiram Matlock always did his duty.


Phryne shifted off of Jack's lap and tucked her knees up against her chest as she settled next to him.  She wrapped her arms around her legs and fixed him with a curious stare. The move struck him as a curiously vulnerable pose.

"Would you care to tell me what is wrong, Jack?"  Her words were spoken softly but Jack heard the tight control that made them sound almost brittle.  He admired her restraint for a moment; he wasn't sure how to keep his own emotions in check.

He let his fingers play against the satiny fabric that covered the sofa and refused to meet her gaze.  He felt as if his air was being choked off and he suddenly took a huge gulp of air and tried to clear his head.

"Jack, are you trying to tell me that there isn't any 'us'?  That…that all of this meant nothing?"

"Of course not!  Phryne, I love you.  I accept you for who you are; but that is part of the problem you see."

Phryne thought back to another similar conversation between the two of them and her heart sunk, dropping down to her stomach.  "So, once again you're giving me up?" she asked, incapable of hiding her fear as her teeth worried her lower lip.

"No, Phryne, no.  You…we, it's just, we go about things differently.  You've led a, busy, life shall we say?  I've kept to myself mostly, so for me to enter into a situation such as this is a big step.  Do you understand that?"

She nodded, gazing into his eyes and suddenly she did begin to understand what he was trying so hard not to say; the string of lovers that she'd had, always moving on after a dalliance or two.  He was afraid of the same thing happening to him; it made sense.  A year ago that might well have happened, but no longer.  She hadn't had any true interest in other men for months.  Jack wasn't only in her heart but her soul as well.

She took his hand, the one that was still rubbing absentmindedly along the back of the sofa and brought it to her lips, kissing his palm tenderly, a mere wisp of a kiss like the flutter of a butterfly wing.  "Jack, you are the only man I desire to share my life or my bed with.  To speak plainly, there will not be any others."

He looked up at her words and saw a glimmer of tears in her eyes and felt his own eyes sting a bit too.  "I'm well aware you don't want a commitment, Phryne."

"That doesn't mean that I can't be faithful to you, Jack.  Frankly, this is all new to me, this feeling of loving you.  I'm quite sure I've never experienced it before and it makes me a bit, shall we say, insecure where you are concerned?"

Jack looked at her, puzzled by her last words.  Phryne never seemed insecure about anything. He'd never known anyone more sure of themselves than this impossible, amazing woman. "How do I make you feel insecure?" 

"Jack, you completely and utterly intoxicate me with your mere presence; I don't always think straight when I'm with you. 

Jack gazed at her, surprise coloring his face and he cleared his throat in an effort to think for a moment.  For Phryne to admit to being so vulnerable cast a whole new light on their situation and a spark of true optimism brought a gentle smile to his face.  Had he had any doubts as to her feelings, this would have made them perfectly clear.  He had believed her avowal of love, but understanding the depth of the emotion she felt finally started to help untwist the knots in his stomach.

He reached for her, pulling her back onto his lap as he claimed a kiss, it being all the sweeter because he knew now that they were at the beginning of something that would change them both and it felt right.  For the first time in so many years it felt good to open himself to another person; the fact that she'd also been through so much made it even better.  She understood him and allowed him those moments, those times when he just didn't have words. 

Phryne begun to work on his tie, trying to quickly unknot it so she could get it off.  She tugged it finally and had it loose as she straddled him on his lap, deepening the kiss until they both felt breathless.  Her body was pressed tightly to his and felt as if she couldn't get enough of him.  She breathed in the scent that was pure Jack; something that reminded her of sunshine and freshly cut wood. Her lips swept down his exposed neck, planting kisses that made him almost delirious with desire. 

After a few minutes he pulled back and said, "Phryne, this isn't how I want this to happen."

She chuckled and bent to kiss him again.  "This is the way it usually happens, Jack."

He wanted to break the kiss, to move her off of his lap and yet he felt intoxicated by her, the way their lips fit together perfectly, the way her small body fit next to his, her breasts pressed fully against his chest.  He could feel her nipples through the thin silk of her robe and he fought himself to keep from surrendering to the desire, the need.  He finally managed to pull his mouth away from hers with a comingled moan. 

"Jack?" she questioned, clearly confused by his actions.

"Phryne, I'm so tired; so are you.  This isn't the time.  We both need some rest."

"Well, Inspector, I'm thinking we can rest…afterwards…" she told him with a saucy grin.

"I'm serious, Phryne.  I'm just not up for this right now."  A lie.  He'd just lied to her.

She looked down at the evidence she was pressing against.  He shook his head and sighed.   "Yes, you have aroused me;, I want you more than you could possibly know, Phryne but when I make love to you, I want you to remember it for the right reasons."

"What would those be, Jack?" she murmured against his neck.

He moved his lips to hers and whispered, "When I make love you, Phryne, you won't forget it.  It's going to last…all…night…"  He punctuated that statement with a searing kiss that left them both breathless.

"I do believe you will," she murmured, licking her lips.

"But for now, I need to go home, to sleep.  I have a meeting with the Chief Commissioner at 9 in the morning."

"That's only a few hours away!  How can they expect you to be there after this past nights events?"  It didn't seem fair to her.

"Phryne, you know that the call of duty isn't always convenient.  Commissioner Matlock and I have much to discuss about all this, as you well know," he said, referring to the problem of his ex wife.

She nodded, still not happy but willing to surrender this battle.  "Alright, I understand that.  But please don't leave, Jack.  Stay here, with me."

"Phryne," he began, preparing for another battle.

"I'll behave, I promise." She stifled a yawn, whether real or counterfeit he wasn't quite sure.  "I just don't want you to go; I want to have you next to me, Jack.  Please?"

He knew he was in for a night of pure torture; how could it be anything but, lying next to her all night and not touching?  How many nights had he lain at home in his solitary bed, wanting her, needing her?  To have her next to him seemed an impossible dream and now he was placing restrictions on it as well.  He was convinced that he had surely lost his mind when he agreed.

She left her robe on when she crawled into her bed and tried to give him a bit of privacy as he took off his shirt to uncover his singlet and his trousers, shoes and socks.  That was a far as he dared let himself go but it felt like no safeguard at all, mostly because he needed protection from himself more than her.  He was tempted to lie on top of the covers but since there was a definite chill out he climbed into the bed next to her, his body a study in tension and rigidity.  A few deep breaths brought a bit of relaxation and finally he succumbed to the luxury of the bed itself, far more comfortable than any he'd ever lain in. 

"Jack?" she asked, her voice so quiet he has to strain just to hear it.


"Thank you," she said and he was positive he heard a catch in her breath.  It melted him. He rolled over and pulled her close to him, feeling how perfectly her body spooned against his.
She made no move to further the contact and soon he relaxed.  Right before he drifted off to sleep he heard a soft snore and knew she was sleeping as well.


Hiram Matlock arrived at the hospital a few minutes after Rosie and Annabelle did.  Rosie cast a malevolent look at him and raised her chin a bit as he offered his hand to her.

He spoke to Annabelle, a thoroughly sensible young woman who had the good grace to meet his inquiry their father.

"They aren't quite sure yet what is wrong.  They are still examining him."

Hiram nodded and looked down the hall to where his 4 constables stood at attention, knowing their presence was purely superfluous.  Hiram spoke to them and told them to wait in the foyer, that he'd let them know when they were needed again.

The women had seated themselves in what surely had to be the most uncomfortable chairs imaginable.  Hiram couldn't understand why the hospital wasn't a bit more accommodating for people who had to wait endlessly for news of their loved ones.  He stood looking out a window at the still dark streets below.  An occasional automobile drove past but at this predawn hour it was mostly quiet on the streets of Melbourne.

A half an hour passed, during which time the ladies had shifted uncomfortably several times.  Both of them looked wan and after the events of the night he couldn't find fault with that.   Annabelle dabbed at her eyes several times with a handkerchief but was otherwise quiet.   Finally a doctor came to speak to them, seeming surprised that the constables were no longer in the hallway.

"I'm afraid your father is suffering from apoplexy, an occlusion of a blood vessel in his brain."

"What does that mean, exactly?  Will he recover successfully?" Annabelle asked.

"At this point we simply aren't sure.  If he does recover he could lose a part of his brain function; the brain is still a bit of a mystery to us I'm afraid, but the kinds of issues associated with this are impaired motor functions, speech impediments, that sort of thing.  Until he is conscious and we can test his abilities I cannot give you more information."

"But he will regain consciousness?" Annabelle asked hopefully.

The doctor met her steady gaze reluctantly and finally said, "I am not positive of that, no.  He apparently was unconscious for a good deal of time before he was brought in to hospital.  Be assured that we are doing everything we possibly can.  It would be best if you went home; he'll certainly rest for a few hours more, at the very least."

Annabelle nodded; this was not good news at all but given what her father had done would he prefer this?  She was startled from her thoughts when Rosie let out a shriek and ran towards Hiram Matlock, resentment and blame branding her face. 
"Your fault!  All your fault.  You'll pay for this you bastard," she spit at him, her body shaking until it collapsed, with Hiram catching her before she hit the floor.  "Let go of me, don't touch me," she screamed, as Annabelle led her to a chair. 
"Do you have something to help calm her?" Hiram asked the doctor, who looked on with compassion in his eyes.

"Yes, certainly.  I'll be back in soon." 
Annabelle looked at Hiram and the look almost broke his heart.  Here was a woman, who was actually made of very stern stuff and she looked devastated.  How could she not be?  

"Mrs. Barrington, what can I do to help you?"

Annabelle saw the sincerity in his eyes but she knew that this was an issue she had to deal with all on her own.  "Nothing, thank you Commissioner Matlock.  I'll just get her home.  Perhaps you could send one of your constables to bring my driver?  That would help."  She gave him a weak smile and he nodded.

The doctor returned with a small bottle of laudanum and the instructions to give her a spoon of it when they were home and a promise to call as soon as any change occurred.  Annabelle smiled and thanked him as their driver came to collect them.  Annabelle decided that after she got Rosie home and into bed she would return to the hospital to be here with her father.  It didn't feel right to let him be alone at this time.

Hiram and the doctor watched solemnly as they walked down the hall.  Hiram cleared his throat and said, "I'll just leave one constable here at this time; you understand that he is a prisoner, so it is unavoidable?"

"Yes, I do understand.  Please have him stay in the room and out of the way of the nurses as they check on the patient.  We don't want others to be alarmed at the presence of a constable in the hospital."

"Of course, he'll be very unobtrusive, I assure you. You'll notify me of any changes in his condition?"  At the doctors nod of agreement Hiram walked down to the foyer and spoke the men who waited there.  "Meyer's, you'll stay for now.  I'll send an officer to relieve you soon.  The rest of you are released to return to your duties.  Thank you."

The men dispersed and Hiram Matlock made his way back into the hospital, to set at the bedside of his old friend; a friend who had been highly valued and he couldn't help but wonder what on earth had happened to him. 

To be continued…

*NOTE*  Apoplexy is what strokes were called at that time.  The term 'stroke' became more commonly used later on.