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…