Sidney watched as Rosie ran towards Jack Robinson, screaming and calling out to him and Miss Fisher. He heard Earl's gun go off and saw Jack Robinson go down as he fired as well. Phryne Fisher was next to fall and yet Rosie was still running hard towards them trying desperately to save them. For a moment he felt a sharp pain stab at his heart like a razor sharp dagger; this was her ultimate betrayal. His hand shook for a moment before he steadied it and fired twice. He watched as the woman he loved fell to the ground; a clean sweep of the three who had betrayed him. It pained him more than he could express, but she wasn't with him any longer. Perhaps she never had been actually.
He now noticed that another auto had pulled up behind Robinson's and he took off running, making it to the automobile that was waiting for him on the next street. As he jumped in and barked orders to the driver he closed a chapter on his life. It was time to look out for himself now.
Hugh saw the flashes from the guns as he stopped his automobile. Next to the Inspectors car he saw both the Inspector and then Miss Fisher fall to the pavement, followed quickly by another woman. He didn't think, only took off running after whoever was in the shadows, shooting the gun. He knew that Dot and Mr. Butler would see to the Inspector and Miss Fisher. He was going to catch the bastard that did this.
He ran hard and had almost caught up with the assailant when the man tripped and fell to the ground. Hugh heard the gun go off one final time and when he caught up to the man and turned him over he saw that the man had shot himself in the chest. He wasn't breathing, which meant that he couldn't give them any answers. It had to be Sidney Fletcher who was behind this, but who was this bloke? He was positive that he'd seen flashes from two guns, so the other shooter had escaped. Hugh checked this one for a pulse and finding none left him and headed back to check on the others. What he found was worse than he could imagine.
Jack felt the intense pain that seared through his arm; it hurt like hell but it was only a flesh wound. The unexpectedness of it tore a curse out of him and made him fall to his knees as he struggled to catch his breath.
He yelled "Phryne, get DOWN!" and turned to look at her, only to see that she was already on the ground. He crawled to her, staying as low as he could and pulled her to him, suddenly realizing that she wasn't moving. He looked at her, not seeing a wound and softly called her name as Miss Williams and Mr. Butler both got to them, each kneeling on the pavement. "Phryne?" he said, concerned that she hadn't spoken yet.
"Miss?" Dot said, looking at Phryne with a speculative eye. She heard Mr. Butler draw in a troubled breath and looked to where he was pointing and fear struck her hard; her breath hitched in her throat and she was sure her heart would beat out of her chest.
There was blood on the sleeve of the Inspectors coat, on the opposite arm as his wound. "Inspector? Her head…"
Jack looked down and saw the reddened stain that was covering the sleeve of his overcoat. "Phryne?" he said again, trying to see where she was bleeding. He turned her head just as Hugh ran up to them, telling him that the assailant was dead.
Hugh quickly summed up what the problem was and watched as the doctor's vehicle pulled up. "Dr. Mac, here, hurry!" he yelled, pointing in desperation to Phryne who was cradled in Jack's arms.
Mac saw the as yet unidentified female's body on the sidewalk and then Jack and Phryne, surrounded by Dot, Hugh and Mr. Butler. She grabbed her bag from the car and ran to them, telling Mr. Butler to call for an ambulance. She heard Hugh add "And the police," as she dropped to her knees to see what was wrong. She quickly spied Jack's arm and knew that it wasn't that bad. It was Phryne who was scaring her because even in the shadows of the night she was ghastly pale.
She turned Phryne over and saw that there didn't seem to be a wound on the back of her head and started searching through her hair for the problem. She lifted the hair decoration that Phryne was wearing and found the problem. Phryne had been shot in the head.
The brain is an amazing organ, it can do miraculous things, but it doesn't generally bleed much because there aren't that many blood vessels, especially in the temporal lobe. However, most of the ones that were there were major but luckily the bullet hadn't hit one.
There was much that science didn't know about the brain; as she carefully lifted Phryne's hair away from the wound she couldn't tell whether or not the wound was deep or shallow. Too much hair and not enough light; only at the hospital would they be able to tell that.
"Is she going to be okay?" Jack asked, pain etched upon his face and Mac knew that it wasn't from his wound.
"I don't know. There is a bullet in her head; I don't know how deep it is. We have to get her to hospital. We can use an X-ray machine to get a better look."
"What is that?" he asked.
"It's a machine that will take a picture of what is inside her."
"I've never heard of that. Can the bullet be removed?"
"I…I don't know, Jack."
A sudden thought occurred to Jack and he choked out the words to his query. "Will she live?"
"I don't know that either. It's too early to tell." She reached out and touched his hand and said, "I'm sorry, Jack. This is the best I can do without being in hospital."
He nodded and was unashamed of the tears that ran unchecked down his face. He heard a small sob come from Dot and realized she too was crying.
Hugh had gone to check on the other woman whom he finally realized was Rosie Sanderson. She too was dead and he shook his head slightly at the dreadful ending to this nights festivities. He heard the sirens of the ambulance and saw it pull up in front of the house. A moment later the police arrived and he watched as Miss Fisher was loaded into the ambulance, followed by the Inspector who refused to leave her. He told the police what had happened, directing them the body of the man down the sidewalk as well as Miss Sanderson's. Dot came to him and said she was riding to hospital with the doctor. Mr. B was staying here for now to be of help if he could.
Bert pulled up a few minutes later and was shocked at the scene and Hugh saw the older man's anguish as he heard the news about Miss Fisher. Hugh looked away to give Bert a moment of privacy as tears sprung to the man's eyes.
No one knew who the mystery man was, but with hope they might identify him later. For now, the crime scene was abandoned and Hugh, Mr. Butler and Bert headed to the private hospital where they had taken Phryne and Jack.
Sidney Fletcher was now a ship without a rudder; his Rosie was gone. By his own hand, but she'd forced it; he couldn't let her get to Robinson and tell him everything she knew.
From what he could see Jack Robinson wasn't dead; a fact that irritated Sidney to no end. The Inspector wouldn't stop until he discovered the truth, until he knew who was behind the assassination attempt. He took solace in the joy that seeing Phryne Fisher go down gave him; he knew she was dead. But Jack would be a problem and Sidney needed to escalate his plans to get out of Melbourne, he needed out tonight if it were possible.
He went back to the safe house to wait for Earl; it was Earl's cousin who was ferrying him out of Melbourne and he'd been paid handsomely for it. Sidney didn't have any information about that, Patch wouldn't tell them the name of the boat, he said it was safer that way. They couldn't tell what they didn't know if they got caught. Obviously Patch made a living getting people out of the country and guarded his livelihood closely.
Sidney scrounged in the kitchen, looking for a bite of something, anything at this point. He was hungry but all he could find was the stale biscuits and decided they were better than nothing. He'd wash them down with some tea, it would have to do.
He settled down to wait for Earl then, sipping his tea. He had no idea he'd be waiting forever.
All the way to the hospital Jack prayed to a god he wasn't sure existed for Phryne to be okay, to live, no matter what. He offered to trade his life for hers if god would only accept it.
They were going to a private hospital, Higgins-Bath, one where Mac had privileges. Phryne would get the best of care there, no matter the cost. Once they were there everything happened incredibly fast; Phryne was whisked away as was he, but he was sent to a different area where his wound could be looked after.
He was full of impatience as the nurse cleaned out the bullet hole on his upper arm. It had torn though muscle and when the doctor sewed it up he warned that Jack needed to keep it immobilized because it was going to be frightfully tender. Jack didn't care; the only thought he had was to get to Phryne. Thankfully the doctor, whose name Jack either forgot or didn't hear in his panic was very kind and showed him to the area where Phryne was being treated.
As he stepped into the room he saw Mac and another doctor conferring over her wound. "Mac? Um, Dr. Macmillan? Do you know anything yet?"
Mac stepped closer to him, frowning slightly. He should be in the waiting lounge, resting but she knew better than to suggest it. "Jack," she said, nodding to him. "We are getting her ready to go to X-ray. We'll know more then. Why don't you have a seat," she told him, indicating a chair in the room.
He said nothing to her, only shook his head mutely. His eyes stayed focused on Phryne and Mac sighed and led him over to the bed. "May I touch her hand? Talk to her?"
Mac and the other doctor locked eyes for a moment and then she nodded. "You may. She likely can't hear you though, Jack."
"I don't care. In case she can, I want her to know that I love her, that I'm with her."
"Fair enough. Jack, this is Dr. Harrison. He is a specialist in head injuries. He'll be treating Phryne."
Jack glanced at Dr. Harrison and nodded briefly before looking down at his love. She was still terribly pale and her hand felt icy as well. He wanted to touch her face but was afraid to do so. "Does, um, did she lose a lot of blood? Is that why she is so cold?"
"Not really, no. But her body is in shock, Mr, er?" Dr. Harrison raised an eyebrow to Mac who introduced him to Jack.
"This is Inspector Jack Robinson, Miss Fisher's fiancé, actually." She indicated the ring on Phryne's finger and the doctor followed her eyes down to the patient's finger and nodded.
Normally the hospital didn't allow people in the room who weren't family, but he could tell that the Inspector wasn't going to leave so he kept his own counsel on the subject. Whether because Jack was the fiancé or a police Inspector was anyone's guess.
Jack appreciated Mac's bit of subterfuge and kept whispering to Phryne that he loved her and that she would be okay.
The love that this man had for her best friend wasn't unexpected by the good doctor. She'd seen it on his face many times and it was heartbreaking for Mac to hear him express his love and devotion to Phryne. He kept telling her she'd be okay but whether to reassure Phryne, if she were aware of what was happening or to bolster his own spirits she wasn't sure. One glance at Dr. Harrison told her he wasn't either.
A nurse stepped into the room and said that the X-ray machine was ready; Jack knew he'd have to leave her now. He bent to kiss her chilled lips lightly; the hardest thing he'd ever done was to step away from her. Just as he did, Phryne called out.
He immediately leaned back down to her. "I'm here, love. Phryne, I'm here." When there was no response he looked up at Mac who smiled softly at him
"She's still unconscious, Jack. Sometimes patients do that. She's not awake, Jack."
He wiped a hopeful tear from his cheek and let out a breath before nodding in acceptance.
"We're going to take good care of her, Jack. The best care, I promise," Mac said and indicated he should follow her. She led him down to the waiting lounge, where Dot, Mr. Butler, Bert and Hugh were sitting quietly, each of them afraid to speak.
Mac explained the situation to them and Dot felt more tears sting her eyes as she leaned against Hugh when he wrapped his arm around her. "Now don't go and get all maudlin, Dot. This is Phryne here; she's a born fighter and if anyone can survive this it will be her. Now, has anyone called Mrs. Stanley?" Mac knew that when Prudence arrived things could become more difficult; if certain decisions had to be made, well, legally it would have to be her since she was Phryne's next of kin as her parents weren't here. Mac didn't even want to contemplate that scenario and kept it to herself.
"No, I hadn't thought about it," Mr. Butler said. "Inspector, perhaps you should be the one? Or you Dr. Macmillan?"
Jack nodded, "I'll do it. I'd like to call my mother as well. Is there a private telephone I might use?"
"Yes, Jack. Follow me."
Jack laid his overcoat on a chair; he'd taken it off so that the doctor could treat his gunshot. His jacket had come off as well as his shirt but he'd put both of those back on, even though they were a mess. He went with Dr. Macmillan down a corridor and stepped into a room and waited as she turned a light on for him.
"Take your time, Jack. She'll likely be in X-ray for a little while."
He nodded and she left him alone. He stared at the telephone for a moment before picking it up. He gave the operator instructions for his parent's number and waited to be connected. When his mother answered he tried to speak, but only a choked sob came out. "Mother? It's Jack. Phryne has been shot, it's bad. Can you come to hospital?"
"Of course. Where are you?" She listened to his directions and added, "We'll be there quickly, son. Do be brave; I'm sure she will be fine."
When he hung up the receiver he broke down and cried, hot tears that stung his eyes and ran in rivulets down his cheeks unchecked. He was terrified; losing Phryne was something that he couldn't contemplate happening. Finally, once his fear had abated a bit he called Mrs. Stanley and again explained the situation. Assured that she too would be there quickly he breathed a sigh at having completed these tasks before heading back to the waiting lounge.
A constable was there, speaking with Hugh and Jack joined them, curious about the conversation. Hugh explained about the man who had fired the shots; he had been pronounced dead and they didn't yet know who he was. The constables at the precinct were going through the books looking for a picture of him so that they might identify him.
Jack took the news of Rosie's death with a strange calm, Hugh thought. Perhaps it was because of the unknown situation with Miss Fisher, but Jack said little when told of Miss Sanderson's death.
In truth, Jack felt a bit numb about Rosie's death; he couldn't imagine what she had been doing there. He'd loved her once, adored her in the way a man does his first real love. It had been a love born of innocence in a way, before life had spun that love out of control and separated the two of them irrevocably by war. He'd never ever wished her harm and after the pain this past 24 hours had brought to her this seemed a cruel and spiteful trick of fate.
Jack paced the room even though there wasn't much room to do so in. His arm ached but he ignored the pain; it was nothing to the pain his heart was experiencing as he waited for information about Phryne.
He looked up expectantly when he heard footsteps outside the waiting lounge; he saw that it was his parents and sister. It wasn't exactly a disappointment, but he had hoped that it was Dr. Macmillan with news about Phryne.
His mother walked directly to him and pulled him into an embrace. She felt him wince and noticed for the first time that his arm was wounded. "Jack! What happened?"
He explained briefly and Amanda asked why he wasn't wearing an arm brace so that he didn't damage it more. He shrugged off her concerns; his worries were for Phryne, not his arm.
He introduced his parents and sister to the group gathered in the small room. His father looked at the pinched look on his sons face, the grim expression and he reached out and gently squeezed his shoulder, the good one. It was a comforting gesture for Jack and he met his father's eyes and saw the sympathy in them; the kindness and love were easy to read.
Jack swallowed hard in response to his family's show of support. He heard footsteps again and looked up to see Mac enter the room, followed by Dr. Harrison, who spoke to the group.
"Miss Fisher has a bullet lodged between her skull and the temporal brain lobe. It doesn't appear to have entered the brain itself, it is only pressing into it. We will need to surgically remove it, as quickly as possible; the quicker we get it out, the less likely we are to have an infection occur."
Jack blanched at the news. He'd been expecting something like this but brain surgery sounded very scary. "How soon after the surgery will we know if she'll be…okay?" he asked them, afraid to hear the answer.
"There isn't an absolute answer to that, Jack," Mac told him. "So much depends on how badly damaged the brain tissue is. Until we get in there to see the extent of the damage, I'm afraid we don't have an answer for you. If you'd like to come with us you can see her for a few minutes while we get her ready for surgery."
Jack nodded and followed them down the hallway that seemed much too long to him, interminably long in fact. Each step took him closer to Phryne and he felt he wanted to run the last few steps, but stayed in pace with both doctors.
In the room he found a nurse preparing to shave Phryne's hair. He looked at Mac, who understood his concern. Phryne loved her tidy little bob and she spoke with the nurse and they decided that if they shaved only a portion of it, that the hair above would cover the spot, mostly. Jack stared at the offending hole in the side of Phryne's head and thought how very small it looked and hoped that was a good thing.
Loud footsteps could be heard coming down the hall and Prudence Stanley stepped into the room, slightly out of breath. She laid a hand over her heart at the sight of her niece, so pale and small on the gurney. "Doctor Macmillan? What is happening?"
Mac explained it all to Prudence who nodded occasionally. She didn't seem to be reassured by the words that were spoken though. Suddenly her eyes lighted on the ring on Phryne's finger. Her eyebrows arched highly and she looked at Jack, clearly demanding an explanation.
Thus far, Jack had told no one that they were engaged. Even now, he didn't want to lie about it but he had the distinct impression that if he didn't Mrs. Stanley would have him removed, something that he wouldn't stand for. So, hating himself a bit he told her, "Yes, I gave her the ring this afternoon." It was the truth, what she inferred from it was something he didn't want to think about.
"I see," she said, but her face told them all that she didn't approve, not at all. "Still, I'm not sure it is entirely appropriate that you're in here now." Her words were clipped, a tone that she used when she would have her way about something. Unfortunately for her, this time it wasn't going to work.
"I am staying, Mrs. Stanley. I love her and I will be here. Please, accept that."
The pain and determination in his voice was clear to understand, even if she didn't want to. She frowned at his total lack of respect for her wishes, but nodded, not willing to make a scene in front of the hospital staff who everyone knew would love to gossip about her kind of people.
Jack realized he had won the battle but knew there was a war ahead. Both he and Mrs. Stanley watched as Phryne was wheeled out of the room on her way to surgery. Mac assured them both that she would let them know when it was done. There was nothing left for them to do but to make their way back to the waiting lounge, saying nothing to one another. It was an uneasy truce at best.
To be continued…
AUTHOR'S NOTE: The medical information included in this and coming chapters is the best I could determine from the web. If there are glaring mistakes, they are entirely my own. One note that surprised me - Xray machines were invented in 1895 and were commonly used in the early 20th century. I had no idea!