Winning Phryne

Winning Phryne

Monday, November 24, 2014

Chapter 14

Rosie lay down on the bed, hoping that if Sidney heard the bed creak he'd relax a bit.  She needed to get out of here; she needed to warn Jack about what Sidney planned.

It wasn't that she still loved Jack as a husband; it was just because she couldn't bear the thought of him being killed for doing his job.  When you are a constable's wife you learn to live with the danger that is always present.  They have a job to do and when they do it, when they catch the bad guys, it’s a good thing.

She had felt overwhelming panic when Sidney and her father were first arrested.  All she'd thought about was what this would do to her life and how to survive it all as unscathed as possible.  Yes, she'd tried to hide what she knew from Jack; she'd tried to manipulate him into feeling guilty so that he'd be willing to help her.  She'd done all that and she suddenly felt deep shame and the regret made her more determined to help him and Miss Fisher now.

Was Sidney a bad guy?  She didn't want to believe that; she loved him more than she'd ever loved anyone.  He'd been a part of her life as long as she could remember, her childhood companion, her friend and now her lover.  She didn't want to think of him as the bad guy, and yet, in truth he was
Two more deaths might very well be more than she could bear.  She wanted a life with Sidney but she was also aware that it couldn't happen, not now.  Too much had happened; now she had to prevent anything else bad happening.

There was a window in the room, next to the bed.  When she rolled over to examine it she noticed that it had been painted shut; she'd need something to help her get it open.  Across the spare room, on a tall chest she spotted Sidney's shaving kit.  His razor might be just what she needed so she carefully moved off the bed and crossed the room. 

She opened the leather kit and found the razor; with luck it would cut through the layers of paint.  She moved back to the bed, wincing as it creaked yet again.  She heard Sidney move outside the door and lay still, hoping he would just think that she'd moved in the bed.  After a few minutes she heard him move off and let out a breath she hadn't even been aware of holding.

She unfolded the blade from the handle and comprehended that her hands were shaking with nervousness.  She took a couple of deep breaths to steady herself and then raised the straight edged razor to the seal around the window.  The blade actually cut through the paint easier than she could have hoped for and within a half hour it was done.  She had a way to escape.

The next question was what would she do when she was out of here?  It was twilight and darkness would fall soon; it was also very cold.  She had her coat and hat with her, which would help but it might be a long walk to a tram stop. 

She did have money with her; she could take a taxi, but first she'd likely have to find somewhere to call for one.  Which brought her back to the lateness of the hour.  Groceries would be closing soon, if they hadn't already.  Another problem, aside from escaping undetected would be waiting at a tram stop.  If Sidney discovered her gone that would likely be the first place he would look.  She needed to decide what to do quickly and do it; the longer she was in here resting, the more the likelihood he'd come in to check on her and she didn't see a lock on the door.

If she put the pillows under the cover it could look like she was sleeping; that could work she decided, especially in the lengthening shadows of the room.  He'd have to switch on a lamp to see her properly and he might be hesitant to do that for awhile yet.

It was as good a plan as any she decided and put the pillows into place under the covers.  She grabbed her coat, hat and bag and worked as quietly as she could to get the window open.  Thankfully, it slid open without much fuss and she slipped out of it, landing on the ground with a quiet 'thump'.   She pulled the window back down and looked around, hoping no one had seen her. 

Rosie tried to decide which way was the most likely to hold a tram stop.  She hadn't seen any on the drive here, not any close that was, but then, she hadn't been looking for one either.  She decided to cross in back of the house to the next street over.  Then she'd walk until she found someplace to call a taxi or catch the tram.  The good thing was that walking would help to keep her warm.

She said a small prayer that Earl hadn't killed them yet.


The restaurant was perfect, but then Phryne would have been surprised if it hadn't been, simply because Mr. Butler had recommended it.  The private room was set up and waiting for them, spacious enough to comfortably seat them all and yet still be cozy enough for conversation. 

Phryne tried to arrange for the bill to be taken care of, but Jack interrupted her.  "I have this, Phryne."  When he saw that she was going to protest, he said, "Please, let me."  She nodded; it was okay really. She understood now that he wasn't quite the poor constable she had thought at first; it was evidently important to him to do it. 

The others came in quickly, first Mac and then Cec, Alice and Bert.  Alice looked lovely in a sea green dress that made her skin appear radiant; she absolutely looked beautiful.  In fact she seemed to be glowing; marriage must suite her Phryne decided.  Phryne had only seen her twice since the ceremony, but it was clear that she was incredibly happy.  Phryne was sure that Cec was as well, but since she saw him most days and he was often smiling it was harder to gauge on him.

When everyone was seated wine was poured for most of them with Hugh and Bert holding out for beer.  Chatter and laughter by all of them made for a most merry evening.  Right before their dinners were served Cec stood up; everyone looked at him in question and he blushed slightly to be the center of attention.

"I'd like to say something.  You all know how Alice and me first met; it was a really hard time, but we got through it.  Since then, we've kind a got used to the fact that it would just be us together, but today, Doctor Mac told us that Alice is havin' a baby.  We didn't think it was possible, but according to the doc, it's true."

Applause erupted through the room with liberal exclamations of 'Congratulations' thrown in.  Alice and Cec were both blushing now but clearly very happy. 
Bert stood up and raised his mug of beer.  "To my best friend and his wife!  I can't think of a better pair to be parents!"

Alice said, "Thank you, Uncle Bert!" which made Bert blush, clearly surprised, before he donned a grin that lit up his face.

"What a wonderful surprise, Cec and Alice.  Cec, does this mean that you'll miss breakfast at my house now that you'll be up half the night?" Phryne teased, her eyes sparkling with merriment.

"Ah, I couldn't do that, Miss," he laughed.  "Mr. B makes a fine breakfast, he does."

Mac raised an eyebrow and cast a curious look at Phryne.  "Is this the only thing we're celebrating this evening?" she asked, looking at Phryne's hand.

Phryne never missed a beat.  "Isn't this good news enough?"

Mac wondered if they were going to keep quiet so as to not spoil Cec and Alice's announcement. That would be a very polite thing to do, but since Phryne didn't know of this news when they arranged the dinner this morning it seemed doubtful.  Still, she decided to keep quiet for now.  Maybe they'd say something later.

She cast the occasional glance at Phryne and Jack.  She couldn't count how often they stole a longing look at one another or touched the others hand.  The sometimes steamy looks they shared were almost enough even to make her blush. 
It was about time she thought.  If these two hadn't gotten together soon the rest of them were going to do something drastic about it.  Every since she saw the way they regarded one another when they were investigating Professor Katz' death it had been as clear as a window how much they loved one another.  Both of them were pained when the other was in the room and pain that deep could only come from love.  Mac would swear that Jack knew the problem, but Phryne seemed oblivious to it.  Evidently they both figured it out. 
Mac hadn't talked to Phryne since last night's adventure; Dot had filled her in some on the telephone this morning though.  It could have gone so badly in a very 'they are dead' sort of way.  Dot had been matter of fact about it, but Mac knew she was holding back her feelings about it all.  Cec, this morning, most likely because of Alice's presence had just brushed it all under the rug.  That was at least part of the problem with his silence.  The other was that both he and Alice were afraid that something terrible was wrong with her, never suspecting that she might be pregnant.

After Alice's botched abortion by George the Butcher Mac had told her it was unlikely she would ever conceive again.  George had left her insides a ragged and torn mess.  But as was often unpredictable, she healed, well in fact and now she was pregnant.  At about 4 months along they were past the most dangerous period of pregnancy.  What remained to be seen was whether or not her healed womb would be able to carry to term.  Only time would tell about that.

Phryne was cognizant of the speculative looks that Mac was casting her way.  Yes, they all wondered about the ring; she couldn't change that but it was still too new, too perfect to share.  She did know that sooner or later her best friend would demand answers but she felt sure it wouldn't be tonight. 

As she looked around the table she could see that everyone was enjoying themselves.  After last night they needed a bit of merriment.  It still scared her a bit, what might have happened.  She'd had many close calls in the past, but they had only affected her; this one could have taken the lives of people she loved and that was a thought she couldn't reconcile herself with. 

Yes, she freely admitted that she often leapt before she looked; that was just who she was and she knew that in the future she and Jack would surely have more than one argument about it.  Somehow the thought didn't scare her, the fact that they would argue.  She knew that it would take more than an argument to destroy what they had, a fact she heartily appreciated.

What a strange relationship they had; absolutely no courtship and yet here they were, in love and together.  Living in sin, as society would see it.  Well, almost living in sin as Jack hadn't actually moved in for good.  That would come in time though, she felt confident.  How would he have done it, she wondered?  Courting her; winning her heart?  She laughed softly as she thought about it and then caught him looking at her questioningly.  She only grinned at him and whispered that she'd tell him later.  Clearly puzzled he nonetheless let it go for now; you didn't make Phryne do anything she wasn't ready to do.

Jack was clearly puzzled by Phryne's laugh, but he quickly put it aside.  Tonight was one of the best evenings he'd experienced in a long time.  No stress, just the pleasure of good company.  Yes, he had to admit, even the two red-raggers.  He really needed to start thinking of them in different terms; they were likely not going anywhere and he could tell that Phryne adored them both.

Hearing that Alice was expecting was happy news that made him a bit wistful if he were honest with himself.  He and Rosie had never managed to create a child, even when they were having relations.  He never knew if it was just an unlucky circumstance or a physical problem but it had just never happened.  Had the marriage been a happy one he would have asked her to explore other options, such as adoption.

Which made him think of Jane.  She'd be home soon and despite what Phryne said, he was nervous about how his presence in the house, however limited or often it was would affect her.  Since first meeting the young girl he'd come to admire her a great deal.  She was strong, whether because she had Phryne for an example or the circumstances of taking care of herself in the streets for so long he wasn't sure.  Perhaps it was a bit of both.  The thing he had noticed about Phryne, the thing that he most admired in fact was that she took in these people who needed love and just gave it so freely, including himself.  She encouraged them to become better persons and they never let her down; almost like she had a magical touch. 

He ought to know because he was one of those people.  He'd been deeply wounded, of mind and spirit when they met and somehow he'd been healed.  Phryne had worked some sort of magic and before he knew it he felt alive again, ready to face the world.  How much luckier could he get?

Jack reached for her hand and saw her smile as he gently squeezed it and then stroked the back of it with his thumb.  Yes, very lucky he decided as he saw her shiver slightly from the contact.  He felt the same thing and it had nothing to do with the temperature of the room.

Dot saw the small gesture between Miss Phryne and the Inspector; the love they shared was so apparent to everyone in the room she noticed and yet these two had managed to hide from it for months.  How could that be?  It hadn't taken her any time at all to know that she loved Hugh with all her heart.  She couldn't wait to be engaged to him, even though they'd had their differences about what marriage would mean for them.

She glanced shyly at her constable, so glad he was with her.  She wondered about marriage, what it would bring for them.  Children, she hoped, although if she were honest she'd like to have a bit of time with just the two of them.  There were ways of making sure of that Miss Phryne had told her, but most of them were against the Catholic faith.  But, she'd been told by her Miss that a couple of them might work.

Miss Phryne had given her a book to read, a book that had made her blush with shame and something else she didn't understand.  The illustrations in Erotica of the Far East had set her face to flaming and caused a curious sensation in the, well the parts of her body that were better left unmentioned at this point.  Surely people didn't actually do these things?

Her Miss had told her that they did for a fact and enjoyed them, also telling her that she too could experience the joy of loving her man.  It was bewildering to Dot; her mother had told her that when that time came with Hugh that she should just be still and endure it.  That scared her greatly; why would she have to endure it?  Was there pain involved?  Miss Phryne told her that there could be, the first time but that if she and Hugh worked together that great pleasure could be found in the act of love. 

She hoped that it was true and imagining it brought another blush to her face, which Hugh noticed and was very curious about.

"Are you okay," he whispered into her ear.  He stared for a moment at her beautiful neck, exposed so prettily in her dress and ached to press his lips against it, just like he had seen in the book Miss Fisher had loaned him.  He'd tried kissing her neck before but her coat was on and he felt sure it would be vastly different without the coat.  He licked his lips as he contemplated doing just that.

"I'm fine, Hugh.  You look strange, are you okay?"

"Quite fine, Dottie.  I'm just happy."  At her nod he relaxed a bit.  It was a good night.


Rosie found a green grocer who was getting ready to close but he begrudgingly allowed her in so that she could call for a taxi.  Once the call was made though he ushered her out of the shop.  He hoped it wouldn't take too long for the taxi to get there, but supper was waiting for him and home and he was hungry.


Phryne invited everyone back to the house for drinks; Mac accepted but Alice was feeling a bit tired so she and Cec were heading home.  Bert would drive them and stop around later he promised.  Mac was going to stop by the hospital to check on a patient but wouldn't be long she promised. 

Phryne and Jack made the drive in content contemplation of the evening.  Both of them were glad the dinner had gone so well and they looked forward to drinks as well with their friends. 
They were both extremely aware of the closeness of the other; each light touch had felt electric almost. Their looks at one another smoldered with desire, a prelude or maybe a promise of what they would share later.  Neither lamented that that would be delayed a bit because of drinks; it seemed as if anticipation truly was the best form of foreplay.

When Jack pulled up in front of Phryne's house he shut the engine down and turned to her and pulled her into a searing kiss that took the breath away from each of them.  Somewhere along the way he'd lost Hugh in his old car, but that was okay, it gave them a private moment to savor. In a few minutes the rest of them would be here and they would welcome the guests and enjoy the rest of the evening.


It took forever for the taxi to get there.  Rosie was freezing by the time it showed up.  She'd been watching carefully for Sidney, keenly aware that if he found her it wouldn't go well for her.  He had too much to hide and protect; she was smart enough to know that she was probably not one of those things now.


She'd been sleeping for several hours when Sidney started to get worried.  He knew she hadn't rested last night, so he'd let her be but finally he decided to just peek into the room to make sure she was well.  

At first all looked fine; he saw her under the covers and he worried that perhaps she was cold because she seemed to be curled up tightly.  He found another blanket and went to spread it over her but as he did something didn't look right.  He pulled the cover over her off and discovered that she was missing.

He had no idea of how long she'd been gone but he had a good idea of where she had gone.  She had some misguided notion of saving her ex husband and Miss Fisher.  He'd be damned if he'd let that happen.

He made a quick call and waited for his ride.  She wouldn't mess this up.


Finally the taxi arrived and Rosie jumped in, giving the driver Miss Fisher's address.  She hoped she wasn't too late.  When she got close she had the driver let her out halfway down the block.  It would do for Earl or even Sidney if he'd discovered she was gone to see her pull up in front of the house.  She got out of the taxi and made her way cautiously towards the house.  It all looked quiet and she wasn't sure if that was a good thing or not.


Sidney got to Miss Fisher's the same time as Rosie, but from a different direction.  He found Earl easily enough; he was standing outside the automobile and when questioned, he told Sidney that the Inspector and Miss Fisher were sitting in the automobile in front of the house and that he hadn't seen Rosie.

Sidney pulled another gun from his waistband and nodded towards the house.  "Come on, then, let's get this over with."  Earl nodded and the two of them made their way closer to the house, being sure to keep to the shadows.


Rosie saw them moving from the opposite direction and panicked.  She started to run just as Jack and Miss Fisher alighted from the automobile.  She screamed at them to duck, just as shots were fired. 

Jack screamed and fell to his knees right before Phryne collapsed, hitting the sidewalk hard.  Rosie continued to run and felt two bullets tear into her body before blackness took her and she fell to the ground.  Her unblinking eyes looked up into the blackness of the night.

To be continued…

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Chapter 13

So sorry to be late.  I moved a few days ago and I had the internet switched yesterday and it decided not to work.  It has taken two days now to get it figured out, mostly because I added TV to the mixture.  Anyway, we're good to go now, I guess. 

"I want you to go back to Miss Fisher's house and watch it.  If you see them out, I want them both shot dead.  If you don't see them, break in, but either way, I'd better hear of their deaths in the morning.  Do you understand, Earl?  It won't be good for you if you can't follow my orders."

Rosie tried to back away from the kitchen door and managed to bump into a small table that she'd forgotten about.  She tried to stifle her gasp but realized all too soon that Sidney had heard it.  

Her mind was whirling at Sidney's words.  She might hate the thought of Jack being with that woman but she'd never want them dead.  How could Sidney be so callous, so vicious?  She looked up with a start when he walked out of the kitchen, his eyes focused on her, assessing what she might have heard.  When she couldn't meet his eyes he knew that she'd heard it all.

"Rosie, my love, it has to be done," his words gentle, reminding her of someone who was delivering bad news, which this was, to her anyway.

"Why, Sidney?  I know that they ruined your plans, but we're leaving here.  What is the purpose in killing them?"

"Don't tell me that you're suddenly feeling a bit sentimental, Rosie?  Or are you still in love with that man?  The man who churned you up into little pieces and spit you out like rubbish?  Could that be it?"  He regarded her with narrowed eyes, intent on watching her reaction to his words
"Love him?  Of course not. Sidney, I only love you.  But it's just more for me to bear, with father being so close to death. I can't stand the thought of having their deaths on my conscience as well.  Please, we're leaving, just let them be."

"Do you seriously think that Inspector Jack Robinson would ever give up looking for me, Rosie?  Don't be naïve, my love.  He'll never stop and I have to protect us both.  You have nothing to do with this, ease your conscience now."  His words were clipped as he tried to control his anger; how dare she care what happened to Jack Robinson and that social harlot, Phryne Fisher? He didn't really think she still could love him but perhaps he was wrong.  The thought made him burn with jealousy.  He'd waited too many years for her, even gladly accepting Robinson's leftovers just to finally have the woman he'd loved all his life. 
"Its - it's not that easy, Sidney.  I can't undo, what I know I mean. This knowledge makes me complicit in what will happen and I can't abide the thought.  Please don't do this!"  She was trying unsuccessfully to hold back tears and when Sidney saw them sparkling in her eyes a blazing anger took hold of him and he hit her across her mouth and then watched a trickle of blood seep from the corner of it.

"I'll do what needs to be done, Roselyn.  Do not question that again."  His words were spoken with deadly calm and a brittle civility that scared her more than his slap had.  The fact that he'd used her formal name should be a serious warning to her; he hoped she'd realize that.

"Of course, Sidney.  I'm sorry."  She backed away from him and sank down into a chair in the living room, searching her bag for a handkerchief to wipe her mouth.  The taste of blood was acrid and tinny tasting and she wished even more for a cup of tea.

She had to get away and stop this.  She didn't know how, but she had to.


Jack carried his valise up the stairs at Phryne's house, feeling excited about it.  He had to laugh at himself because no callow, inexperienced youth could possibly feel more eager to share a bed with a woman than he did.  And not just any woman; Phryne.  He'd scarcely allowed himself to think much about it because it brought an immediate response to his body that was getting harder to conceal by the minute. 
He was looking forward to the family dinner; family being not a single member of her blood relations but rather the group of individuals that she had gathered to her and loved dearly.  He'd never known anyone with a more open heart than Phryne Fisher.  Their loyalty to her spoke volumes as well; he knew that any one of them would walk through fire for her and had, in a manner of speaking.
As a man who loved and cherished his own family he couldn't help but wonder at the dynamics of hers.  She made occasional references to her father, an apparent drunkard who would lock her into a cupboard when she misbehaved.  Which, knowing Phryne was probably often, but he felt that her misbehaving was more likely a matter of her being her own, strong mined person, which her father obviously couldn't tolerate.

Of her mother she'd said little, which made him even more curious.  Was she cowed by her husband, a meek woman afraid to have an opinion of her own?  Her sister, Prudence certainly wasn't but after years in what might have been a bad marriage, who knows how the woman felt.  He knew that Jane had spent a good deal of time in England with her grandparents while she was on her grand tour, but that didn't really tell him anything.

All in all, it wasn't much knowledge about them.  She apparently wasn't close to any of them and he couldn't help but wonder if it had something to do with the death of Janey, her sister?  Perhaps her heart just wouldn't let her open herself to her family any longer, much as Rene had made her keep her heart locked away as well.

It seemed to Jack that the people she did love were the ones that had no familial connection to her; he knew that her relationship with Prudence Stanley could be very difficult at times, like this morning.  He also knew that she seemed to love both her cousins very much, especially Arthur.  They posed no threat apparently so they were safe, much like the others she had brought into her life.  Even Doctor Macmillan, her closest friend, she sometimes kept at arm's length.  Yet still, they did care deeply for one another and that gave Jack some hope that others could earn her love, like his family.

It was important for her to at least like them, if she couldn't bring herself to love them.  He was close to them and saw them often; if Phryne couldn't accept that if would put a strain on their relationship and he didn't want to think what would happen if that were the case.

He was shaken out of his thoughts when Phryne came into the room, wearing a huge smile as she saw that Jack was standing in her boudoir, but she was curious as to why he hadn't removed anything from his valise and questioned him.

He reached for the best excuse he could, which was, "I wasn't sure where you wanted me to put everything."

"OH!" she exclaimed, realizing that he was right, there hadn't been anywhere cleared for him.  She opened the door and called out to Dot for assistance.

"We'll have if figured out in a snap, Jack," she said, her answer punctuated by a snap of her fingers.  She headed into the dressing room to start surveying it for possible solutions.
When Dot entered the room Jack smiled and nodded toward the dressing room and she smiled back at him and joined her Miss.  Phryne had an armful of items, mostly fancy dresses worn to formal engagements and she asked, "Dot, can you store these in one of the guest rooms for now?  I'm trying to find space for Jack's things."

Dot accepted the garments and came close to dropping the load at her Miss' words.  Did this mean that the Inspector was moving in?  Were they getting married immediately?  It was very puzzling.

For two years Dot had watched as various men had come and gone in Phryne's life; none of them were here for longer than a night or two, with the exception of Lin Chung that is.  In Dot's world, an unmarried woman didn't live with a man; it wasn't done.  Not unless she was a woman like Nell, her sister who used the name Lola for professional reasons that Dot preferred to ignore.  And actually, she didn't think even Lola would go this far.  What on earth would Dot tell Father Grogan about this?

Nothing, she realized.  She thought the Inspector was good for her Miss and they loved one another; how could that be wrong?

Dot carried the garments to the room next door and hung them up in the empty wardrobe.  Miss Fisher entered the room a minute later with an armful of assorted items that had been stored on shelves.  "I am going to have to expand the bedroom now," she said as they stored the items away.  Dot followed her back into the bedroom for another armful.  "Honestly, I've been thinking about it for awhile now, it would be wonderful to have a bigger dressing room and also a complete lavatory in the bedroom instead of just the tub.  What do you think, Jack?"

If Jack was surprised to be included in the conversation he hid it well.  "I can tell you from personal experience that it is quite useful to have a full bathroom attached to the bedroom suite."

"Yes, I was quite jealous at your home.  We must make it happen here."

He smiled as Dot left the room with the last load of items and pulled the door closed behind her.  "I think Miss Fisher that we must make many things happen here; do you agree?" 
She let out a low laugh, a sensual growl almost and walked straight into his arms.  "I believe you are correct, Inspector.  But not at this moment.  I very much wish to bathe before I dress for the evening.  You may join me if you wish," she said, her words a mere whisper in his ear.  The warmth of her breath immediately brought a rise to him and he stepped away. 

If he climbed in that tub with her he knew that they'd never make dinner.  He reluctantly stepped away and said, "I believe I'll leave you to your scented bath.  I'll use the guest room to get ready?"

At her nod he stepped into the dressing room to collect the necessary clothing items.  When he came back into the bedroom he found her completely undressed and turning on the taps for the tub.  His mouth gaped at the delectable curve of her derriere and immediately snapped his eyes shut, in an effort to put that from his mind.  It did no good, it was firmly burned into his brain and turned and headed out of the room as quickly as possible.

He missed the grin that Phryne threw over her shoulder at his hasty retreat.  Not much longer and there would be no hiding away for either of them.  

Thank the heavens!


Chief Commissioner Hiram Matlock was frustrated and angry, at, well everyone around him.  He knew that the constables were doing their best to find Fletcher, but not a single clue had turned up.  He'd been to visit the Barrington home to speak to Rosie Sanderson, but found that she wasn't in.  The maid didn't have any idea where Miss Sanderson might be - she'd left in the late morning and hadn't been home since. 
He'd stopped by the hospital and found Annabelle there, but she told him that Rosie hadn't been there to see their father.  There was still no change in George and the doctors had begun to agree that he might never wake up.  Hiram had put another guard on Sanderson, just in case Fletcher felt the need to make sure that George never woke up. 

The constables had been to every business interest that Fletcher had, every single known hangout as well but Matlock knew that he wouldn't be in any of those places.  Now they were focusing on his known associates, trying to track down properties associated with them. 
Hiram felt saddened by how hard it was for the Fletcher family; all of this had been a complete shock to them.  He believed their disavowal of any knowledge of Sidney's schemes and he also believed that they knew nothing of his whereabouts.  He'd known the Fletcher family for years and their grief was real.

Leave no stone unturned, that was his motto in such circumstances.  However, they were quickly running out of stones.


Sidney stood in the kitchen and stared out the window that was above the sink with dirty dishes sitting in it.  For obvious reasons they didn't have a maid and while he could compel Earl to kill someone, he couldn't seem to make the man clean up the kitchen.

He sighed and felt terrible about hitting Rosie; she was his treasure, the woman he loved more than anything.  He had never before hit a woman and it made him feel slightly ill.

That she hated what he was going to do was obvious but did she hate it enough that he couldn't win her to his side?  That was a very pertinent question.

Sidney didn't consider himself a bad man; on the contrary, he thought he was quite a good man.  He gave copious amounts to charity, both in money and time.  He respected his elders, supported friends in time of need; he did all the things that make a man a good man.

But business was business.

As far as he was concerned, he was doing those girls a favor.  Had they stayed here they would have likely eventually ended up at prostitutes, servicing sailors in the most degrading ways, in the dirty back alleys of Melbourne.  They'd ultimately die of disease or a slit throat from an unhappy john. 

Once their voyage was over the girls were sold to wealthy men who wanted them because of their pure bodies and fair skin.  In many of those households they were sold to they'd be respected members, revered basically.  That was so much better for them, whether they realized it or not at the time of their abductions.

He mulled all these thoughts around while he washed out cups and a teapot so that he could brew some tea for Rosie.  He hoped that it would make her feel a bit better.  He thought he might try to explain all this to her, but he realized that now wasn't the time.  No, he'd let her drink her tea and settle a bit first.

When the water boiled he poured it over the tea leaves and waited patiently for it to brew a bit as he looked for something that would pass for a tray.  He also located a packet of biscuits so he added them to the tray as well.  Tomorrow he was going to have to have Earl go to the market to make some purchases.

Rosie was civil when he brought her the tea, but she said little.  Her excuse was that she was very tired; having had little sleep the night before and she also thought she might still be feeling the effects of the laudanum that Annabelle had given her.  When they'd finished their tea she asked if there were somewhere she could lay down for a bit and rest.

Sidney led her into a bedroom that was reasonably neat.  The crude bed covers were pulled up and the room wasn't too dirty but was certainly dismal.  She thanked him graciously and even allowed him to place a kiss on her cheek.

As he closed the door he heard her settle onto the bed, the springs creaking softly.  He smiled, knowing that this was exactly what his love needed.


In the Fisher household Phryne was just finishing dressing.  Jack had previously done so and was downstairs in the parlor, sipping a glass of whiskey while he read the mornings paper, which he'd not had a chance to read yet.  It was full of the raid on the Pandarus and it brought it all back to him vividly. 

Dot helped Phryne don a beautiful headdress for the evening; it was a lovely weaving of green peridot in a gold filigree setting.  Phryne admired it greatly because it was unusual in the fact that peridot was most often a lighter shade of green. However these gems were a much deeper shade, closer to emerald and she wanted it to go with her ring as did her dress, chosen carefully for the evening.

Phryne had caught Dot staring more than once at the ring, but so far she had kept her curiosity at bay.  Phryne and Jack hadn't exactly decided what and when to tell everyone of their understanding; it was still new to them and a cherished secret, made dearer because they alone knew it.  Still, they'd soon have to say something about it and Phryne wondered how they would explain the ring that wasn't really an engagement ring?  At least not at this time.  Phryne looked down at the ring for a moment, loving it, knowing how much she loved Jack and hoping that he had the patience to give her the time she needed. 

As she slipped an emerald green sheath dress with an over-layer of swirling hues of turquoise that changed shades a bit as she moved, she sighed at the beauty and cleverness of the design, by Salon Fleuri of course.  It left one shoulder bare and made her neck look long and delectable, she hoped.  Delectable for a certain Inspector that is.

Dot was dressed in a charming dress in a soft shade of rose, which looked beautiful on her.  It had fine lace around the rounded neckline and she'd noticed Dot tugging it up on several occasions, clearly uncomfortable with what she thought was too revealing for her.  The dress had been a gift from Phryne and had been designed by the younger sister Fleuri.  Phryne thought it perfect for her young companion. 
"Dot, it is not too low cut.  Goodness, you can't see even a hint of cleavage but it shows off your lovely neck to great advantage.  I'm sorry if it makes you feel uncomfortable, but it really does look lovely on you.  I'm sure Hugh will think so too."

"You don't think he'll think it…too much, Miss?" she asked, still a bit unsure.  She did have to admit that it was a perfectly wonderful dress; maybe it wasn't quite as immodest as it seemed.  It was just her first time to wear such a dress, although she'd observed many other women wearing this style.

Phryne gave a small laugh that sounded almost musical.  "I think he'll love it and wish he didn't have to share you all evening, Dot."

That brought a vivid flush to Dot; it started on that lovely neck and swept up her face.  Some unrecognized feeling made her tummy feel strange and she drew in a quick breath at the sensation. She blinked as she stared in the mirror and knew that Miss Phryne had saw the flush and likely did not believe it was strictly embarrassment.

"Come along, Dot.  I'm sure that your constable will be here soon and I know that Jack is waiting for us downstairs.  She offered her arm as a means of a bit of courage for Dot who took it gratefully as they descended the stairs together.  When they entered the parlor Jack stood and his eyes lit up as he took in the women.

"You both look very pretty tonight."  Phryne knew that had it been only the two of them the words would have been a bit different but they were meant to charm Dot and she could have kissed him for that.  On second thought, she would kiss him for that.  As she headed across the room there was a knock on the front door and Dot froze, knowing it was Hugh.  Her hand started trembling and no amount of deep breaths could calm her nerves.

Mr. Butler headed to the door and let Hugh in.  When he stepped into the parlor his eyes popped open in surprise at seeing his fiancé.  She was beautiful, beyond beautiful and suddenly he was dumbstruck at how to let her know that.

"Dottie…I …I don't even know the words to tell you how perfectly lovely you look tonight.  That dress is wonderful on you."  He was afraid he'd messed things up; he usually got into trouble when he talked about her clothes.

One look at her face told him that for once, he'd said exactly the right thing.  Her smile lit up her face just as one did the same on his.  Their eyes locked and for a moment it was only them in the room.

Phryne and Jack grinned at one another; both were able to appreciate what was happening to Dot and Hugh.  Phryne finally did steal that kiss from Jack and breathed him in.  She'd never felt so happy.

Finally Jack said, "Shall we go?  We don't want to miss out reservations."

Everyone headed into the foyer to gather their coats.  It was a happy group that exited the house, Phryne and Jack in his automobile, with Mr. Butler riding in Hugh's with Dot.  All of them were excited about the evening's festivities


Earl watched as the group left the house.  There were too many of them to get a clean shot.  Sooner or later they'd be back though so he'd wait them out, hoping that it would only be the two of them later on.

He pulled his coat a little bit tighter around him, wishing he had a blanket as well.  The temperature was getting frigid again.  It was going to be a cold wait; he could only hope it wouldn't be a long one.

To be continued…