Winning Phryne

Winning Phryne

Monday, December 15, 2014

Chapter 17

Annabelle Sanderson Barrington sat in the darkened hospital room where her father had been these last 24 hours.  The chair was vastly uncomfortable she thought, shifting yet again and realized that it really wasn't the chair so much as it was her. 

Annabelle had always been a strong woman, she'd had to be.  Rosie had always been what her stepmother had called a 'handful' and so from her youngest years she had chased her exuberant sister around, trying to stay out of the ever-watchful and critical eye of their stepmother.  Their own mother had died when Annabelle was 3 and Rosie only a year old.  Their father had remarried soon after that; after all, a police constable had little time to care for two toddlers.  But it seemed as if their stepmother felt the same way. 

"Don't touch me!  Your hands are filthy!  Are you both the spawn of demons?  Can't you behave?"  Such things were often heard around the Sanderson home; where their stepmother was concerned the old axiom was the best advice: Children should be seen and not heard.  Of course she didn't want them to be seen either.

Except when George Sanderson was in residence of course.  At that point she suddenly became the world's most loving stepparent, positively doting on the girls.  As they reached their teen years it became clearly obvious to Annabelle that Marguerite Sanderson was intensely jealous of both girls who both favored their late mother and made George beam with pride at their accomplishments.  Rosie in particular had been the apple of his eye, but Annabelle never minded that much.  Rosie seemed to need the lavish attention he showered on her sister; Annabelle felt that she must have not done enough, been a caring enough sister to Rosie because she seemed to need that constant attention. 

Attention that Marguerite clearly had no intention of giving her.  Eventually of course, George saw what was happening between his wife and daughters.  Those years had been such a struggle for them all; George climbed the ladder quickly, rising through the ranks of the Victorian Constabulary with a speed that many an officer was envious of.  Still, as his pay increased, so did his duties, leaving Marguerite alone more and more, except to basically motherless girls who looked at their father with love and devotion and their stepmother with disdain. 

Finally Marguerite had enough; after an argument of monumental proportions she left one night, literally walked out on her life.  Annabelle was 16 at the time and thought perhaps her stepmother had a lover and ran away with him.  At any rate she never returned home again and eventually life settled down as Annabelle took over the household duties with very little fuss and a great deal of accomplishment.  

She met John Barrington when she was 18, at a lawn party for her best friend's birthday.  It was as close to love at first sight as anyone could ever have she often thought.  Their eyes met over cups of fruit punch and from that very moment they both knew they were meant for one another.  Soon after they began to court and within a year John had asked George for Annabelle's hand in marriage, which was happily granted.  They were married 5 months later and since then not a day had gone by that she didn't thank God for the joy that her marriage had brought her. 

John was a loving and faithful husband and father; it was common for him to bring her little trinkets of his love and devotion or sometimes she would find tender little love notes tucked away in unexpected places.  No woman had ever felt more cherished than she; she was a very lucky woman and knew it.

All those years of happiness had left her mentally holding her breath in many ways; waiting for something terrible to befall them and it had finally happened.  Her father had been disgraced in the most public of ways as had Rosie, who was now dead. 

In truth Annabelle wasn't sure which hurt more; she'd cried more than she ever imagined over this tragic turn of events.  All those tears that had never been shed, never needed to be shed had come in torrents and she felt as if her grief was as deep as an ocean.

She looked up as John came into the room.  He carried a small basket with him and sat it on a small table near the bed.  "Annie, my sweet, you need to eat.  See, I've brought you some shepherd's pie and blueberry tarts.  Come, love, you need to eat something."

She smiled gratefully at him and when she looked up at him he was taken aback at her pallor except for the dark circles about her eyes.   She hastily looked down, aware of just how awful she looked.

"Will you sit with father for a few minutes while I wash up?"  At his nod she stood up gratefully and felt how stiff she felt.  Her muscles and limbs stretched painfully and she was positive she heard her back pop.  She gave her husband another faltering smile and left for the lavatory.

Inside the door she felt for the light and the starkly white room was almost blinding as the overhead light came on. She blinked a couple of times allowing her eyes to adjust to the harsh intensity of the glaring light and then took a look at herself in the small mirror hanging on the wall.  She really did look as bad as she thought.  She'd not slept at all last night really, only tossed and turned fitfully; keeping John awake she was sure.   Before dawn she'd finally ceased the torture of her bed and rose to take a bath and dress for the day.

Her darling sister, who drove her positively around the bend, was dead.  Sidney Fletcher was mixed up in it to be sure; Annabelle wasn't sure how, but he was.  Hiram Matlock had come to tell her personally this evening and he agreed with her, Fletcher was to blame.  Hiram had assured her they would find him and she knew that he'd move heaven and earth to do so.

Annabelle splashed cold water over her face and let it run over her hands and wrists in an effort to calm her emotions.  She wanted to scream, to throw something, to lash out at the world, but she was a lady, so instead she took another look in the mirror, tried to pinch a bit of color into her cheeks and straightened her hair as best as she could before going back to her father's bedside. 

In the room she saw John standing over the bed which puzzled her.  She then noticed that her father was moving in the bed and John was trying to settle him down.  Annabelle immediately called for a nurse, who came quickly, and she and John stood motionless as George finally opened his eyes, staring with an unfocused gaze around the room.

"Father?  Father, its Annabelle," she said when her called out for her.  "I'm here, Father."
"Annabelle?  Where's my glasses?  I can't see a damn thing!"

Annabelle let out a strained laugh, though she excused it because he was asking for his glasses; he was okay.  The doctors warnings about the repercussions to his apoplexy were unwarranted, it seemed. 

"They were broken when you fell, at, in the gaol, Father."

"I have a spare pair at home, I need them.  Go and get them," he demanded.  He looked around and blinked, trying to focus his eyes.   "Why am I in hospital?"  George looked around him and though he couldn't see many details, he had no doubt as to where he was; no place on earth smelled like a hospital.

"I, well yes, certainly I will.  We'll get your glasses."  She looked up as the nurse came back in quickly followed by the doctor.  She had left the room as soon as he'd awoken and the doctor asked her and John to step aside so he could examine George.

A few minutes later he finished his exam and said, "Mr. Sanderson, you seem to have a bit of minor paralysis on your left side.  But otherwise, you are in fine shape, which considering the severity of your symptoms amazes me.  With some practice I believe you can regain the strength in your hand and arm.  Until we have you try walking we can't tell as much about your leg, but your reactive responses seem a bit slow there as well."

"I had apoplexy?  A fit?"

"Yes, apoplexy, but not a fit sir.  A blood vessel in your head burst, rendering you unconscious.  It would seem that it hasn't impaired your linguistic or cognitive centers of the brain though, which is remarkable."

George frowned; he hated not being able to see properly.  "Annabelle, call Rosie and ask her to fetch my glasses immediately."

Annabelle cast a worried look at John, not sure what to say to him.  The doctor, unaware of the situation said, "That would be fine, he'll feel more comfortable if he can see properly."

John spoke up then and said, "George, I'll go and get them.  I need to stretch my legs.  I'll be back shortly."

George looked at Annabelle who he saw only as a blurry shadow against the wall and said, "Nonsense!  Where is Rosie?  Why isn't she here?"

John had already left and Annabelle struggled with her answer.  Was it better to just tell him, or to evade the question?  That strategy had never worked with him in their youth; you could never stall a constable he'd always said.  She didn't know what to do and tried to stifle a sob that unexpectedly tore at her throat.

"Annabelle?  What is wrong?  Where is Rosie?"

"Father, I don't know how to tell you this…Rosie, um, Rosie was killed last night.  Sidney Fletcher escaped from gaol and went after Jack and Miss Fisher.  We don't know exactly what happened or how it happened, but Rosie evidently went to Miss Fisher's home to try and stop Sidney and she was shot.  Most likely by Sidney himself." 
It was just as well that George couldn't see his remaining daughter's face as it was again streaked with tears.  Her face felt raw from all the salty tears in fact and she pulled out her handkerchief to wipe them away yet again.  She eyed her father as she did so, waiting for his reaction to the news of his youngest daughter's death.

George had gone completely white and the doctor immediately used his stethoscope to check his heart.  George tried to push him away before the stinging tears slipped down his face; his beloved Rosie, dead by the hand of Sidney Fletcher.  Would this nightmare ever end?  That snake, Sidney Fletcher had stripped every joy, every happiness from his life, wrecked havoc within his family.  Suddenly life didn't really seem worth living.


Jack and Prudence were quiet as they watched over Phryne; Jack standing next to her bed and Prudence seated by it.  Both of them were worried and their eyes often met over the bed, their concern clearly written on their tense faces.

Dr. Harrison came in again and examined Phryne, checking her pulse, listening to her heart, examining her wounds.  He wore a frown of concentration on his face as he went through what was clearly a practiced routine.  Jack watched him, hopeful that he would see some type of sign that Phryne was improving, but there was none.

Phryne's body seemed very restless and she often moaned and had called out for Jack several times.  All he could do was hold her hand and assure her that he was here, that he wouldn't leave her. 
The matron nurse came around and told them that the visiting hours were over, had been over for several hours and that they simply must go.  Jack stood his ground and said, "I am not leaving her."  Both the doctor and matron realized that he meant what he said.

Prudence recognized it as well.  "Inspector, if you stay with her tonight I shall come back in the morning and you can go and refresh yourself then.  Is that agreeable to you?"

Jack nodded gratefully, "It is, Mrs. Stanley.  Shall we go to the waiting lounge and let everyone know what is happening right now?"

"Yes, I think that is a very good idea."

In the hall they saw Mac and let her know what was happening.  It was unusual for someone to stay with a patient overnight but she knew that it would be useless to try to persuade Jack to leave.  She herself was going to stay in the doctors lounge overnight because she wanted to be near and keep a watchful eye on Phryne.  She watched Jack and Prudence walk down the hall and couldn't help the smile that came to her face as she listened to their conversation.  People could be amazing in times of crisis.

Jack offered his arm to Prudence who gratefully accepted it.  "Thank you, Inspector."

"You're quite welcome, Mrs. Stanley.  Please, call me Jack."

For a moment Prudence was taken aback.  Surely it wasn't proper?  But in this circumstance, hopefully propriety could be eased, just the tiniest bit.  "Of course, Jack.  Please call me Aunt Prudence, or Prudence if you prefer?  We're going to be family after all."

Jack quickly glanced away, hoping she hadn't caught the momentary flash of guilt that crossed his face.  "If you wish, Au…Prudence," he stammered.  It didn't feel right to call her 'Aunt', perhaps it never would.

Mac headed into the doctor's lounge as an idea came to her.  She asked an orderly for help and nodded as they moved one of the cots from the doctors lounge into Phryne's room.  Jack might not use it at all, but if he needed it, it would be there for him.

In the lounge everyone had questions - how was she, was she awake, how did she look.  Jack and Prudence answered as many as they could and both of them realized that it all sounded very grim, a bit hopeless at this point and yet neither or them gave up any hope.

"I'm staying here tonight with her; Prudence will come back in the morning so that I can go home and shower and change."  Prudence nodded in accord of his words and if anyone was surprised at his informal use of her name they didn’t show it.

The group trickled out and Jack tried not to be impatient for them all to leave so that he could get back to Phryne.

Dot and Hugh told him they would be back in the morning as well and that Hugh would take him to Phryne's to change clothes and get his automobile.  He nodded and could barely stand to see the looks of concern that was written so starkly on their faces.  His parents were the last to depart and his mother held him tightly for a minute, assuring him that Phryne would be fine, after a bit of recovery.

"She's a fighter, Jack.  I saw that for myself this morning.  Do not underestimate her.  Your Miss Fisher will be right as rain in no time at all!"

Jack held back his doubts; he knew better than to disagree with him mother and there was a strange comfort in her words, a possibility that she might be correct.  Even a small chance at this point seemed better than what his fears were trying to convince him of.

He nodded mutely, afraid to speak because the lump that was in his throat threatened to break lose at any moment.  His father saw how his son was struggling and pulled him into a hug.  As Jack broke down he motioned for Elise and Amanda to wait in the hallway and just held his son for a minute.  Grief such as this was private to a man; Jack needed to let it out and have time to move past it without an audience.  As much as James loved his wife she would have surged towards Jack, all comforting gestures and kind words and that wasn't what Jack needed right now.

When the storm of tears finally passed James moved away and handed Jack his handkerchief and gave his son another moment to collect himself.  Then he laid his hand on his son's shoulder, a demonstration of solidarity between the men; Jack finally nodded and headed to the hallways where his mother and sister waited for them. 
Elise took one look at her son and started to say something but James, standing behind his son adamantly shook his head no, so she kissed him on the cheek and murmured, "I love you, Jack.  I'll see you tomorrow."  Amanda followed suit and soon they were walking towards the door, with Jack almost sprinting upstairs in order to reach Phryne more quickly.

Mac was back in the room, sitting in a chair as he entered the room.  One look at her pale face told Jack that she was worried as well.  He stood by the bed opposite her and took Phryne's hand in his and softly stroked her fingers with his own.  Her hand felt terribly cold to him and he spoke as much to Mac.

Mac sort of shrugged it off and said, "She's had a major surgery, Jack, it isn't unusual."

"Is she in shock?"

"No, not really.  Actually, the human body is amazing; it has a way of utilizing resources to help itself heal.  I suspect it is doing that.  At this point, it isn't something to be concerned about."

"Then what should I be concerned about?" he asked and found he was holding his breath as he waited for her answer.

"Infection, that's the major concern now.  Infection could prove deadly, Jack."
He closed his eyes and almost slumped against the bed; infection was always a worry in any illness.  He hadn't even considered it yet.  

"Jack, Dr. Harrison is the best specialist in Melbourne; you need to have faith in that."

"It's…hard, Mac.  Very hard."

"I know.  But you're not alone.  We'll get our girl through this, no matter what."

Jack could only nod and hope that she was right.

To be continued…

AUTHOR'S NOTE:  I thought since many of you haven't seen the program that I'd publish a few of my favorite photos from the show.  I hope you'll enjoy them.

This is a shot of the entire regular cast that was evidently taken for the final episode of series 2, which was a Christmas episode.  A delightful episode, but no kiss!!!

Phryne fan dancing in a gentleman's club, undercover of course.  Jack, Hugh, Bert and Cec all got more than they bargained for in that episode!

A lovely pic of Jack and Phryne, second series.  They are growing closer and there is no denying what they feel for one another.  Except of course they do deny it!

1 comment:

  1. I am loving this story! I think it is way better than the show itself. Maybe you should write for them! :-)