The group in the waiting room was all impatient and restless and very little chatter could be heard. Prudence was a bit taken aback at seeing the Robinson's waiting with the others; it spoke further of the Inspector's relationship with her niece, something that weighed heavily on her mind.
She had been wrong; he came from good family and he was certainly handy to have around when one had an emergency, but that being said, he was still a public servant! In truth, before all of this she had liked and admired the Inspector; she also had to admit that he'd had a positive effect on Phryne, to some small degree that is. She still ran around waving a pistol and totally disregarding social rules, which most likely is what had gotten her into this tight spot. Still, if she was going to continue to do these awful things wasn't it better that the Inspector stood with her?
It was, wasn't it?
She tried to make small talk with the Robinson's but none of them felt interested in the social niceties until they knew Phryne's fate. Prudence wouldn't even consider the fact that her cherished niece could die. Doctor Macmillan, despite certain less than savory aspects in her life would fight for Phryne's life as perhaps another doctor might not. Yes, the good doctor would certainly ensure that Phryne would survive this.
As he watched her, James Robinson realized he was a bit wary of Prudence Stanley; she could be the fiercest of opponents or the finest of allies. It was obvious that she wasn't quite sold on the idea of his son and the Honorable Miss Fisher's attachment. James thought it was a wonderful match; he hadn't met her yet but all evening Elise and Amanda had sung her praises as down to earth and very much in love with his son, attributes that Rosie Sanderson had never completely fulfilled.
Rosie had been sweet when she and Jack first courted but she didn't have the strength that Jack needed; she worried too much over what would get her ahead in society. He hadn't mourned the end of their marriage to be sure but he certainly didn't wish the young woman dead. He knew that John and Annabelle would bear the brunt of the tragedies that had befallen the Sanderson's this past day. George hadn't awoken from his coma and now Rosie was dead. The whole mess sickened him he decided. And seeing the pain that his son was struggling with right now made him want to grab someone and force them make it right; to bring a happy smile back to his son's face.
Jack had been very happy for many months now, since Miss Fisher had first come into his life. James had often smiled behind the paper, his face hidden as his son had ranted to his mother about the audacity of 'that Fisher woman'. It was apparent to James and Elise that Jack was becoming more and more enchanted by 'that Fisher woman', almost daily in fact. They shared a common social background, even if neither of them was truly cognizant of that fact and he personally liked the way Miss Fisher stood toe to toe with his son. She was exactly what Jack Robinson needed; James could only hope that he hadn't realized that fact too late.
Bert and Mr. Butler had left earlier to fetch refreshments; they returned with tea and sandwiches for the group, and although the tea was appreciated no one seemed interested in the sandwiches but Tobias Butler didn't take that to heart. He noticed, in his usual quiet manner that the Inspector looked pale and a bit shaky and that he would probably benefit from a shower and change of clothes; it might revive his spirits a bit. The same could be said for Dorothy who didn't seem to realize that she'd scrapped her knees badly from kneeling on the pavement earlier. His general impression of the group was one of tight control as each struggled with their own thoughts and fears about what was happening.
Dot held onto her rosary, her lips moving silently as fingers moved tirelessly over the beads praying that her Miss would be okay. Better than okay, actually; Dottie prayed that she would be healed good as new. Hugh kept his arm wrapped around her protectively, trying as hard as he could to give her his warmth and comfort. He even said a prayer or two himself; the Inspector would not be the same without Miss Fisher.
None of them would.
Several of them looked up as Hiram Matlock entered the room. James Robinson rose quickly to his feet and greeted his friend with a handshake. Introductions were made to those whom he did not know and Hiram went to stand by Jack and suddenly felt at a loss for words. Sylvia was at home, worrying about Miss Fisher, whom she adored. Hiram cast a quick look at Prudence and recognized that for once the woman had nothing to say, a fact that slightly relieved Hiram.
"Jack, I know I don't need to reassure you that we're going to find Sidney Fletcher, but you do have my personal word on it. We'll get him."
Jack looked at him and swallowed hard; a slight, almost imperceptible nod was all the recognition Matlock's pledge received.
"We know there were two shooters; one dead. We did identify him as Earl Bigelow; we can't tie him directly to Sidney Fletcher, but I've no doubt he works for him. We are looking for possible accomplices of his in the hopes that we'll find Fletcher."
"Two shooter's, you say?" James questioned, frowning slightly. While he was a judge, he had very little knowledge of police methodology and how they would know that there were two guns, unless of course they found two guns at the scene.
James posed that question and Hiram shook his head and explained, "The gun found on Earl Bigelow's body was a small caliber pistol. A second gun evidently killed Rosie Sanderson; it was a larger caliber, possibly a Webley or something similar. Constable Collins saw the flashes from two separate guns as well but so far searching the second area hasn't turned up any leads. Do you know yet what type of bullet struck you or Miss Fisher?"
"So you are sure there were two guns?" Jack asked, confused about it all. It had happened lightening fast. "The bullet that struck me entered and exited. Possibly we'll know the caliber of bullet that struck Phryne after the surgery." He shrugged despondently; there was nothing more he could say.
Time ticked on interminably; people walked a bit, shifted restlessly in uncomfortable chairs and many deeps sighs were heard by all by the time that Mac and Dr. Harrison stood in the doorway. Jack and Prudence both rose unconsciously to their feet and waited for news.
Amanda stood on Jack's side and slipped her hand into her big brothers and if she noticed the tremor in it she said nothing. Perhaps it was because she couldn't tell if it was his or hers.
For the life of him Jack couldn't squeeze a single word out of his constricted throat. Prudence seemed just as unable to speak as he it seemed. They waited for the doctors to speak for what seemed like an hour but was actually only breathless moments.
"She's alive," Dr. Harrison said, taking a simple approach. "She's unconscious and might be so for a few hours. The bullet was lodged between her skull and brain tissue, which was a lucky circumstance. Her brain is swollen, putting a great deal of pressure inside her skull, but that is to be expected really. The other issue, perhaps the more troubling one is that when she was struck by the bullet she evidently fell against the pavement. It seriously bruised and lacerated her frontal lobe; that could cause more problems than the bullet at this point." He finished and looked at the group expectantly, waiting for questions.
The whole time he was speaking Jack kept his eyes on Mac, watching her reactions in an effort to determine how hopeful she was, how honest Dr. Harrison was being. She seemed to agree with what Dr. Harrison was saying and Jack felt some small bit of relief about the situation. A sudden thought occurred to him and he voiced the question out loud. "But she will she wake up?" The words were quietly spoken and he denied himself from adding, "Ever."
Prudence nodded her head in agreement at his question and they both waited in breathless anticipation of the answer. Jack noticed suddenly that Mac looked down, no longer meeting his eyes and Jack thought for a moment that his legs might well give out. Amanda noticed and hooked her arm around his waist and felt him lean on her a bit, his only concession to his worry.
"We fully expect that she will; what we don't know is when," Dr. Harrison said, his voice barely rising above the concerned murmur that was circulating around the room. "Dr. Macmillan says that Miss Fisher is a fighter, and that is a good thing." Anticipating the next question, he continued, "We aren't sure how she will be when she does wake up."
"I don't understand what you mean by that, Dr. Harrison," Prudence said, ignoring the pain that tore through her chest at his words.
Elise saw Prudence falter and pale drastically and she was suddenly at the other woman's side, trying to lead her to a chair to sit down. Prudence seemed unaware of what was happening, of Elise's support. She could only think that she couldn't seem to catch her breath. When they were both seated she felt Elise take her chilled hand into her warm one and Prudence knew that whatever happened, that she was with people who all cared about Phryne, a comfort that she very much needed.
"Mrs. Stanley, when someone has a brain injury, it is often difficult to determine how it will affect them. The brain is still very much a mystery to medical science; what I can say for a certainty is that the tissue around the gunshot, other than being badly bruised looks sufficiently healthy. Hopefully that will be fine, satisfactory. As I stated before, the injury to her frontal lobe might prove a more troublesome injury."
Was it the words that struck fear into Jack's heart or the uncertainty with which they were spoken? "Dr. Harrison, exactly what are you not telling us?" he asked, his voice filled with all the pain that he was feeling. "When she does awaken," he said, "What can we expect?"
Dr. Harrison cleared his throat and it was more of a nervous gesture as opposed to a necessary one. "Injuries in the frontal lobe can sometimes affect speech, muscle control, sensory issues, even memory at times. But right now, all we are focused on is healing her so that she can wake up."
Jack blinked and looked at Mac; her head nodding in agreement with Dr. Harrison. A long and heavy sigh rushed out of Jack and he knew that for at least the time being there wasn't anything else that they could tell them.
"May I see her?" he asked, hopeful that he could reassure himself that she came out of surgery intact.
Prudence voiced her desire to see her niece as well. Dr. Harrison said, "She will be moved to her room in a little while. When she is settled I'll send a nurse to let you know. You should be prepared when you see her; she is bruised badly, and it will continue to get worse over the next few hours." He nodded once again at the group and then retreated down the hall, his footsteps echoing loudly in the quiet of the night.
Mac sat down with the group; apparently there was nothing more for her to do at the moment other than wait with them which was a thought that was disturbing to both she and Jack. He felt better to know that someone who loved her was with her at all times. He voiced his thoughts out loud and many of the group agreed with him vocally.
"It's just…all we can do is wait," Mac finally said and it was evident to all of them just how worried she was. She wished she dared step out to smoke but at this point she was just as desperate for news as the rest of the group was and didn't want to take a chance on missing something.
Mr. Butler handed her a cup of hot tea with lemon, just the way she liked it. He smiled kindly at her and murmured, "If you don't want to drink it at least you have something in your hands." He had recognized her fidgeting and realized that she needed something to help alleviate her nervousness. She smiled her gratitude at him and took a sip and sighed as the warm liquid spread through her, almost immediately making her feel better. She took another, longer sip and sat back in the chair and closed her eyes for a moment, mentally calming herself.
It was all she could do.
Sidney began to grow alarmed when Earl didn't make it back to the safe house by midnight. Even if he'd had to wait until the police left the scene he should have been back here by now.
Which left two rather unappealing scenarios: He'd been caught or he'd been killed by the constables. As he ran from the scene after shooting Rosie he'd heard one more shot, surely it couldn't be that one shot had killed him?
No, more likely he'd been nabbed by the coppers. He'd need to have Rudy, one of his other associates nose around and see what he could find out. Sidney walked into the kitchen and saw Rudy asleep at the table and kicked at the chair, jarring him awake.
"Hey, whatcha go and do that fer?" Rudy said, running a dirty hand down over his face.
Sidney shuddered at the lackadaisical hygiene of his employees. Really, was it that hard to bathe daily? It's not like they hadn't any free time; it was usually hurry up and wait. Perhaps in Singapore he'd need to see to hiring better employees, or maybe they at least believed in bathing there.
"Earl isn't back yet. I need you to go and snoop around a bit and see if you can find out what happened to him." When Rudy nodded lethargically and settled back down into the hard, wooden chair Sidney kicked it again, harder this time and it almost unseated the tired man.
"Whatcha expect me to find out at this time o' the night, boss? Not like I can go marching into the police station and ask 'em."
Sidney leaned down and said in a growl, "That is precisely what I expect." For a brief moment he smiled before bellowing, "NOW!"
Rudy jumped to his feet, knocking the chair over behind him. He pulled his hat down on his head and Sidney ignored the mumbles as he headed out the back door. When he heard the car engine start he headed into his room and sat down in the only chair in the room and let himself think about Rosie.
He'd loved her forever it seemed. They'd been childhood allies, two peas in a pod, always on the verge of trouble their parents had always said. Rosie had been a light in his life, never dimming, always ready for an adventure with him.
Until Jack Robinson came along. Was he dead? Sidney had watched as both he and Phryne Fisher fell down as Earl shot them, but he didn't really know if they died as a result of the shots. It wasn't right if they'd survived and his beautiful Rosie hadn't.
He didn't know how he would live without her; how horribly tedious his life would be without her smile and laughter making him feel strong and powerful. In his mind, he had already justified his murder of the woman he loved; he told himself that she would have wanted him to start a new life, even without her. He forgave her for trying to warn Robinson, he did, but it still hurt him. He vowed that if Robinson and Fisher lived, he'd make sure that they died before he left, even if it took a few extra days here. He owed that to Rosie, so that she hadn't died in vain.
It would be worth it.
Sadly, he didn't see the flaw in his logic.
A half hour went by before the nurse came to get them. Jack, Mac and Prudence all rose to their feet, ready to follow her to Phryne's room. If she was a bit shocked at the large group waiting for word on her patient she didn't show it. She addressed Mac as they headed down a hallway and up a flight of stairs.
"She is a bit restless, Dr. Macmillan. As yet she has showed no signs of waking up though."
"Thank you, Nurse Pratter. I know that you'll take excellent care of Miss Fisher." They walked sedately up the stairs in deference to Prudence but both Jack and Mac felt like taking the steps two at a time. They traversed a long hallway that was dimly lit, most likely a consideration of the time of night. Most patient doors were closed and all was quiet, until they got to Phryne's room.
All of them heard her, even before Nurse Pratter opened the door. Phryne was moving, on the bed, her body seeming to twist with a volition all its own. She was calling for Jack, his name spoken loudly, over and over.
"I'm here, Phryne, I'm here," he told her, taking hold of her hand only to have it wrenched away again as quickly as he had taken it.
She wasn't awake yet, that much was clear. What was appalling was how she looked. All of her hair had been shaved off and bandages swathed her head securely in an effort to keep the wound clean. But the hardest part of all was seeing how badly bruised she was. The right side of her face was vividly black and purple and her eyes had seemed to sink into their sockets.
Prudence let out a horrified cry, and tears sprung to her eyes at the sight of her beautiful niece, so badly hurt. She laid her hand on Phryne's shoulder and murmured soft words of comfort to her, words that were unheard by Phryne.
She looked across the bed, to the man who Prudence instinctively knew would stand by Phryne no matter what. That was the moment that Prudence knew that her niece had chosen wisely. The anguish displayed on his face spoke volumes she acknowledged.
Mac had already seen her so she focused on reading the most current notes on the chart. Nothing new really but it gave Jack and Prudence a few moments to take it all in. Mac knew that bruises would fade, hair would grow back; these were only cosmetic issues and were much harder on the family to deal with than the patient most of the time. While Phryne did take her appearance seriously, never wanting to be without her powder or perfume, she also knew that her friend had an incredible sense of humor and would take it in stride, accepting that nothing was forever.
Mac could only hope that was true, that Phryne would wake up; that she would be okay.
However, only time would tell.
To be continued…
I would like to sincerely thank Ariadne04 for her help with this story. A gifted neurosurgeon, she has provided much appreciated and needed advice. The brain is a complicated organ, without her help this might not come together half so well. I have taken about of creative license here and there so please forgive me. This is a work of fiction after all!
Now, that being said, I had the pleasure to see a new fanvid about Jack and Phryne. I did post one on Friday, so if you didn't see that one, check it out. This one is particularly lovely, full of those Jack and Phryne moments that drew me to this story to begin with.