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…