Jack moved to the sofa and sat down, pulling Phryne onto his lap as he did so. He held her firmly in his arms, breathing in her scent which was redolent of lavender or some such flower. She felt small and fragile to him, and he silently scoffed at the last bit; Phryne was anything but fragile. Under normal situations anyway, but he realized this did not qualify as normal, no matter how you looked at it.
Phryne wasn't quite sure how it happened but she became aware that she was sitting on Jack's lap, as he sat on the sofa. She could definitely use a handkerchief, but none was within reach. She snuffled once again and tried to wipe the tears away from her cheeks as best she could. She muttered a "Damn" under her breath that brought a slight smile to Jack.
Finally, it couldn't be helped; she moved off his lap and went to her room to find something to take care of her needs. She must look a fright but that thought was only secondary to her need to blow her nose and that she refused to do in front of Jack.
When she had cleaned herself up a bit she walked back to the parlor and her dilemma struck her; she had very much enjoyed being on Jack's lap, being held by him but returning there was something quite different. Her eyes shifted from his lap to the seat beside him; which to take?
She finally settled next to him, her legs curled under her as she faced him. His arm was stretched along the back of the sofa and he seemed to be at ease, in a way she wished she could be.
The truth was, even though he looked it, Jack was anything but at ease. His striking eyes regarded her steadily as she settled next to him. He ached to pull her back to him, to wrap his arms around her and hold her tightly once again. He needed the solid reassurance of her warmth to calm him, bring him down off of the ledge he felt he'd been teetering upon.
The silence was roaring; anything but comfortable. He took a deep breath and said, "Phryne, I'm sorry about Rosie, earlier, I mean."
Her heart thumping madly, she told him, "It's okay, Jack. I do understand."
He nodded, uncertain if she truly meant it. "Really, I do," she said as she laid a soft hand on his arm. He closed his eyes tightly, trying to push away the memory of what had happened at Annabelle's. He looked down, unable to meet her eyes any longer as he tried to get his emotions under control. Suddenly the story poured out of him; he was unable to stop it and when he was finished with the tale he finally looked at her, meeting her eyes for the first time since he began.
The re-telling of the story had been revised; he'd never tell her what Rosie had said about her, the charges that had hurt him to hear. Even though exaggerated, there was a certain small truth to them; while usually discreet, he knew (more than he'd care to admit) that she had had her share of bed partners.
"So, you're going to inform the police? That she might have known?"
"I have no choice, Phryne."
Phryne frowned, thinking about what he'd told her about the conversation at Annabelle's. "Jack, you said that Annabelle detested Sidney; perhaps she was just trying to make a point about him and her sister?" Even though Phryne trusted Jack's assessment of what had happened there was always the part of her that stood up for those who needed an advocate and perhaps Rosie did after all she'd been through.
He shook his head, "No, if it's even possibly true, the charges will need to be investigated." He sighed heavily and closed his eyes for a moment, leaning his head back against the sofa, wishing to be done with it all. The satin felt cool and smooth against his head and neck and when he opened his eyes again he saw understanding and sympathy reflected in Phryne's.
She frowned a bit, as she digested his story. This wouldn't be easy for him; he might not love Rosie any longer but she'd been through a lot and this would cause even more problems for her. Still, if she had known…for the first time anger bubbled up in Phryne's heart. Those poor girls, being sold off like that. White gold, their fates would have been horrific. If anyone had known and didn't tell they deserved to hang as far as Phryne was concerned.
They were quiet for a moment and when Phryne met Jack's gaze again she saw it darken in a way that made her shift slightly in her seat. His hand reached out to cup her face and he ran his thumb over her cheekbone. She closed her eyes again for a moment, her lashes looking sooty as they rested upon her cheek as she tried to hide her response from him, to keep him from seeing the emotion that overtook her.
"Phryne, I love you. I thought I'd lost you again tonight and I can't let another chance go by without telling you how much you mean to me."
"Please, Phryne, let me say this. I've loved you for so long and I've denied it, to myself and you as well. I'm afraid I'll push you away but…"
"Jack, please…" she interrupted again.
"…I have to risk it. If something happened to you, and I - I didn't take the chance I don't know what I'd do." Pain etched across his face, making him look even more vulnerable than before.
"If you'd just let me speak, Jack, you'll find out that I love you too."
His head snapped towards her as his eyebrows lifted slightly. Surely she hadn't just admitted that she loved him as well?
"Don't toy with me, Miss Fisher. I assure you that I am in no state to tolerate it."
Phryne pursed her lips slightly to keep a smile from tweaking up the corners of her generous mouth. It was funny in a way; how he always reverted to 'Miss Fisher' when he was trying to keep a distance between them.
"I assure you, Inspector, I have no intention of toying with you," she said softly, with an emphasis on Inspector. "Why is it so hard to believe that I might actually love you as well, Jack?"
Why was it so hard? Was it because he thought it unlikely that this irrepressible woman who was so intent on living to the extreme could actually love him, a person who was cautious almost to excessiveness? She exuded a curious delight in life with a zealousness that was intimidating to him. Perhaps the real question was why was it so hard for him to let go, at least a little bit. That one gaudy night that they'd not had; he'd been prepared that night to give that to her before they'd discovered Jane was missing. Why had it been so hard since then?
Time and time again he had witnessed the woman inside; the one who loved her extended family to a fault and who always fought for the underdog, even those two detested red-raggers who were slowly growing on him because no matter what, they were there for her, loyal to a fault, even tonight, risking their own lives to help her.
She loved others easily, embraced the very idea of love, of loving. Could she really love him?
Be in love with him?
What could she possibly see to love in him? The question begged an answer so he asked it.
The look of incredulous outrage that washed over her face almost took his breath away.
"Are you questioning my judgment, Inspector?" The words echoed hollowly in him, as they had the first time she'd spoken them.
He looked up into her eyes again and swallowed quickly, measuring his words carefully. He could have given a factious reply that would have been truthful, as he had before.
No, I'm questioning your taste in men, Miss Fisher
He'd spoken those words out of contempt for Lin Chung and if he'd admitted it, a bit of jealousy as well.
They were both different people now; time and their journeys together had changed them both. A heightened awareness of one another had honed their crime solving skills but it had also brought a better, a clearer understanding of one another and if there was one thing Jack understood about Phryne it was that she was a woman who knew what she wanted.
And how to get it as well.
He had been prepared to fight for what he wanted. But perhaps he wouldn't have to.
Rosie poured herself another whiskey and then ran her fingertip over the cut facets in the lead crystal, a frown marring her face. She almost jumped and dropped the glass when Annabelle spoke behind her.
"Proud of yourself, Rosie? Or Sidney? How many lives have the two of you ruined this day?"
The words with spoken with barely controlled vitriol and sounded particularly ugly, even to her. They definitely left a bitter taste in her mouth.
Rosie had always been the darling girl of the family. Her winning smile had won her approval from all fronts; what most people didn't know was that the smile was done with practiced calculation. Even their constable father couldn't tell when it was fake - but Annabelle could. Didn't sisters always know the other better?
Right now though, there was no smile on Rosie's face, Annabelle noted. She braced herself, knowing that a storm was ahead.
"How dare they arrest Sidney, like…like some common criminal? And Jack shot him as well!" Rosie stated, her voice sounding brittle as shards of broken glass grinding together.
"He is a common criminal, Rosie or are you forgetting the kidnapping and imprisonment of those young girls? And what about our father? You've concern for him as well?"
"Father? Yes, yes of course," Rosie offered, realizing too late her lack of compassion for their father.
"Yes, I can see how his indictment into this mess, via your darling Sidney, has you broken up, Rosie." The sharpness of her words made no impression on Rosie and Annabelle let out a long, irritable breath. She poured herself another drink and prepared to take it back to her bed; she had no intention of listening to Rosie sing the praises of Saint Sidney.
"He was only trying to help those girls, Annabelle." For a moment something dark slipped over her features, as she contemplated her words. "At least, I thought so. I believed them to be hired as servants, eager to start a new life elsewhere."
"Yes, I can see how you'd believe that," Annabelle said dryly, the sarcasm of the words totally lost on her sister.
"Why, yes, it's true. I'm sure it will all come out in the wash. In the meantime, I must smooth things over with Jack. I will go and see him tomorrow, make sure he understands it all."
Delusional, Annabelle decided. With a shake of her head, she exited the room, leaving Rosie to her plans and schemes. There was nothing she could do and at the present time, returning to her bed was the desired path.
Rosie never noticed when her sister left the room. There were things to be done and she must start making plans!
It had been a very long and grueling night, what with the arrest of the former Chief Commissioner Sanderson. Hiram Matlock, the new Chief Commissioner sat back for a moment and expelled a deep breath, his hands itching for a cigar to hold but none were to be found here, in this office that was newly his.
He was the third Chief Commissioner appointed in less than 36 hours. The thought made little beads of sweat pop up on his bald head. He reached for his handkerchief to blot them away, and grimaced when he felt how damp it already was, from his previous attempts to keep himself dry.
He might have believed that Wilson Wells had been a regular patron of the Imperial Club. The man had never tried to hide his considerable absorption in the fairer sex; yes, Willie had always had an eye for the ladies. It shouldn't be such a surprise, and yet somehow it was.
On the other hand, the knowledge of George Sanderson being a corrupt copper went against every instinct Hiram had. But the proof of it all was irrefutable; Sidney Fletcher had used incriminating evidence against Wilson Wells to have him removed from his position so that George could be put into the highest seat and look the other way when Sidney undertook less than legitimate business doings, such as selling young women into slavery. The very thought of the plight of those young girls left a horrific taste in Hiram's mouth. The poor young girls, he could only imagine what their fates would have been had Fletcher's plans been successful.
Hiram would have bet his last pound that George Sanderson was an upright copper. Some were now calling for Jack Robinson to be carefully watched as well. Jack, who was George's son in law, well, ex to be exact, and had been mentored by George for as long as he'd been on the force.
Hiram didn't believe that for one minute the young man had been corrupted; his record spoke for itself. Jack had been determined to search the ship last night, even when George ordered him to walk away; the threat of dismissal never even made him hesitate for a moment. He'd done his duty, against the specific orders of his superior true, but he had been correct in doing so. It was all in the statements made by Constable Collins and the young man was unquestionably truthful in his account of the night's events
Still, Hiram knew that there would be those that watched Jack Robinson. The lady detective, Miss Fisher as well. Many of the men at Russell Street didn't like females interfering in the business of men and police work was strongly considered just that. Hiram himself was quite astounded by how well the pair, Miss Fisher and Jack Robinson worked together. It was hard to disregard their results, their very successful results. Yes, he'd keep an eye on the pair, as required and he might even have a bit of fun doing it.
The man sat on a hard and splintered wooden plank in City Gaol, holding his head in his hands. It would be fair to say that he was remorseful of his actions, but that was only because it had ruined his life. The ethics of his actions aside, he would have been a just and venerable Chief Commissioner; his oath to uphold the law was important to him, it's just that at times, the road you had to take to that was a bit of a crooked path. If it had worked out as planned, he would have been a memorable Chief Commissioner and not for the reasons that he was infamous for now. He could have worked around the machinations of Sidney Fletcher, turned a blind eye at times because there was so much more to occupy him, cleaning up this lustful and degenerate city had been his goal. He would have accomplished it, too.
His daughter, Rosie had always been able to wind him about her finger, much the same as a puppet, but she loved Fletcher and it did his heart good to see that, after all her struggles with Jack. The divorce had cost them all ranking in society, but the Fletcher name and money smoothed it all over and his darling girl was once again a princess amid the cream of society.
He had done all in his power to make that happen. Fletcher had threatened to break her heart if he didn't concede to his plans and with the added boon of power, it was more than George could resist. George wasn't ignorant of the shadier side of his future son in law and god son; quite the opposite now after his recent dealings with the young man. Sidney Fletcher held cards that George was very much afraid of.
His head ached, as did his heart. How had it all gone so wrong? Jack, the righteous defender of the law, that's how. He should have known what would happen when Jack got involved, should have removed him from the situation, using whatever means were needed. And that Fisher woman; always pushing Jack, snooping into areas that didn't concern her, in essence disrupting Jack's judgment with her persuasive demands to meddle in police business. He'd seen how the situation lie between them, when he'd walked into Jack's office and caught them, her retying his necktie. He knew what was up with that, yes, he certainly did. Jack had been compromised by this willful woman of loose morals; they very idea saddened him.
He stared around him, at the other inmates of his holding cell. No sign of Fletcher or anyone from the ship either, probably done with the purpose of not letting them talk among themselves. He didn't believe that any of the other's in this cell had any idea who he was, for which he was thankful. Had they known, he was sure he'd be dead by now; criminals and coppers didn't mix, period.
If only the ache in his head would subside but it only grew more fierce. His vision was a bit blurry as well was his last thought as he fell forward, onto the dirty stone floor and lay quiet. Several of the other inmates noticed, but ignored him; the general opinion being that the mate couldn't hold his liquor. Basically, they didn't care; had they known who he really was, things might have been different.
To be continued…
Story Notes: In an episode in the second series Jack is called to a motorcar crash and believes it is Phryne who is dead. Her driving is always wild and reckless and yet, he is stunned when he realizes it is not her lying dead. It makes him have to confront his feelings, which affected his relationship with Phryne. He told her that he felt devastated when he thought it was her that was dead and while he wouldn't ask her to give up her way of life, he was giving her up, a move that stunned Phryne, forcing her, in my opinion to examine her feelings for the Inspector as well. The break didn't last long of course, Phryne refused to be ousted from his life or a murder investigation!
*Red-raggers* A term that is used in reference to Communists in the show. Bert and Cec, formerly 'wharfies' or dock workers quit that occupation to drive the cab, when Miss Fisher first encounters them. Even though they no longer worked on the docks, their inclinations still kept them ensconced in Communism.