Jack looked in the mirror and tried again to get the knot on his tie to at least look presentable. In frustration he untied it and again tried to get it correct. Finally, he thought that it would have to do and let out a long breath, not really pleased. Phryne had a gift with his tie and he shut his eyes tightly as he realized that it might be a long while before she came home; if she woke up at all that is. Mac had told him she would, but sometimes he felt overcome with abject worry and desperation to see her beautiful eyes looking at him.
Getting dressed presented problems for him. His arm ached abominably; just trying to get it into the sleeve of his jacket hurt like the dickens he decided. Mac had been treating his wound with Lisozyme, a salve to prevent infection from developing. She had also told him to ask for some medication for the pain when he needed it but he didn't like the numb and fuzzy feeling it gave him; better to just work through the pain he decided.
Mr. Butler had cleaned and pressed his black suit. As he looked at himself in the mirror he admitted that what was wrong really didn't have anything to do with his clothing; it was the task he had to do today that presented the problem.
This morning was Rosie's funeral. It was important for him to attend, he knew that. Annabelle and John had handled everything as George was once again ensconced in City Gaol. Commissioner had decided to let George out to attend the service, with the understanding that he would go immediately back to gaol with the conclusion of the service.
Annabelle had been very steady through it all, and of course John had stood with her all the way, through the scandal and Rosie's death. It could have taken a terrible toll on his position at the bank, but John himself was beyond reproach, considered an exemplary financier that commanded deep respect. If others were talking behind his back, (and undoubtedly there were some people who did) they were very careful to keep it from him.
John and Annabelle had stopped by the hospital last evening to see how he was. It only took a few seconds for them to see his deep love for Phryne and his anguish that he couldn't help her right now. They'd tried hard to lift his spirits and encouraged him to just love her and be patient.
That was the hardest task of all.
Convinced that nothing else was be to done about his appearance he headed downstairs and was greeted by Mr. Butler asking if he wanted breakfast before he left.
"Just some coffee, please," Jack answered, not sure if his unsteady stomach could take anything else.
"Sir, might I say that I believe that it would be good for you to eat a little something. Might I suggest toast to go with the coffee?" He didn't want the Inspector to think him to be too forward but he definitely looked a bit peaked this morning.
Jack nodded to please the older man; he was concerned about him he knew.
"Won't be but a minute, Inspector. Would you like to sit in the dining room?"
"No, I'll sit in the kitchen, thank you."
"As you please, Inspector."
Jack followed him into the kitchen and watched as the impeccable butler poured him a cup of coffee, added sugar, which he knew that Jack liked in his coffee and sat the cup and saucer on the table in front of Jack.
"The toast will be done quickly. Would you like jam or marmalade with it?"
"No, I think plain will be better, Mr. Butler. I'm not quite sure that it is going to sit well with my stomach."
"Of course, I assumed as much. I'm sure this will be a trying morning, Inspector, if I'm not being too presumptuous.
"Not at all. It is not a morning I am looking forward to. I'd much rather be at hospital with Miss Fisher."
"Certainly, I do understand."
Jack saw a look of something that was akin to fear cross Mr. Butler's face. Jack was familiar with that. Mac repeatedly told him that she would wake up, but this was the 5th day and mostly she just lay stiffly in the bed or thrashed around a great deal. Both scenarios were hard to watch.
When the toast was ready Jack managed to choke down one piece with his coffee and decided that was all he could handle.
Mr. Butler accompanied him to the foyer and handed him his overcoat and hat. When Jack told him thank you Mr. B uncharacteristically laid a warm hand on Jack's shoulder and said, "You are one of the strongest persons that I know, Inspector. You will get through this."
Jack nodded and tried to smile but it didn't quite work, so he turned abruptly left the house, feeling the weight of the world on his shoulders.
He hoped that Mr. Butler was correct in his estimation of Jack's strength because he knew that was the only thing keeping him steady.
Sidney paced frantically in the dingy parlor of the small cottage they were using as a hideout. He'd seen the notice in the paper that stated that Rosie's funeral was today.
He was in turmoil; his precious love, his childhood companion was being laid to rest and he couldn't be there for her. In his mind he had completely rationalized her death and that it was all her fault for him having to shoot her. He'd forgiven her of course, but he still couldn't go to the funeral, unless he came up with a good disguise.
Things hadn't been going his way since his arrest on charges that were ridiculous. He'd only been helping those girls but the Melbourne Constabulary refused to see that point. No, instead he'd been handcuffed and taken away like a criminal! They'd refused to bring his personal physician in to treat his wound, telling him that the gaol doctor would take care of it. He'd shuddered when he saw the man and grimaced over his lack of cleanliness. Still, it was all the treatment he was going to get so he muddled through it. It still hurt like the dickens though he thought, rubbing his arm slightly as he remembered the gunshot.
That bastard Jack Robinson had had the nerve to actually shoot him! How dare he? He should have been taught as a school lad to have respect for his betters, but obviously he hadn't the sense to see it.
Sidney knew that the problem was that he was jealous about Rosie, that she had left Jack to be with him. She obviously had made the right choice; she was his jewel. He'd wanted to tell Jack that he had personally enjoyed the favors of his wife that he didn't want to share with her. A woman, such a beautiful woman deserved to be lavished with love and attention and Sidney had done his best to give it to her.
Before he left Melbourne he was going to make sure that Miss Fisher and Jack Robinson each were killed in the most distressing manor possible. He wanted them both to suffer, to watch as they were tortured in front of the other. He'd also take Miss Fisher, let Jack see how a real man pleases a woman.
All that couldn't be done until he has his passage away secured. And THAT was proving to be the biggest thorn in his side; finding a safe way out of Australia.
Neither Rudy nor Scotch Barlow, another associate that Sidney sometimes employed had found Patch Bigelow. It would be helpful possibly if they knew his given name because Patch was only a nickname. Still, even asking about a Bigelow hadn't helped either. So it looked like he was going to have to find another way out of here and taking a ship from Melbourne harbor didn't look like it was possible. The boys said the docks were heavily covered with coppers and he'd likely never make it to a ship.
Possibly he might go over land to Brisbane or even farther to Cairns if he had to. It wasn't a good choice but it was better than just sitting here waiting fruitlessly while twiddling his thumbs.
Elise and James Robinson arrived at the church for the funeral before Jack did. They decided to wait outside for him suspecting that he would need their presence with him. It wasn't usual for an ex-spouse to attend such things but Jack was above all a man of honor and felt it would be bad form not to attend. So here they were, standing in the chilled air while their breaths made small puffy mist as they exhaled. A few minutes later Jack arrived and both his mother and father were alarmed at how gaunt he looked and pale, very pale. He was wearing himself out trying to be with Phryne constantly. Even yesterday, when Elise and Amanda stopped in to see if anything had changed he hadn't looked this badly. It must be nerves over the funeral.
Actually, that wasn't really the reason; Jack was feeling overcome with guilt over his marriage. He'd thought he had put it all behind him but this funeral was just another reason to heap more guilt on his soul.
Rosie hadn't deserved to die like this, or at all for that matter. If he'd been a better husband, if he'd paid more attention to her and cherished her more, than she wouldn't have turned to Sidney Fisher as she had. She'd be safe now, instead of dead.
As a constable he saw far too many dead bodies; he should be inured to it, but he couldn't be with Rosie. He'd not seen her body because he'd been too occupied and worried with taking care of Phryne. In truth, he'd not known that she was dead until later at the hospital, when Constable Collins had told him. He'd managed to push it out of mind for the most part because his worry was so focused on Phryne, but every now and again a pain hung heavy on his heart as he thought of her.
He greeted his parents with a hug for his mum and a handshake for his father. He couldn't even express how grateful he was for their presence today and he felt just a bit steadier as he walked in, his father's arm across his shoulder and his mum on the other side her dainty hand on his arm.
Inside they greeted John and Annabelle. John had always been Jack's best friend and both Elise and James liked him a great deal; he was actually more like a son to them as anything else. He and Jack were practically inseparable as children.
"Annabelle, I'm so sorry for your loss. Such a terrible tragedy. Please, if there is anything I can do for you, you'll let me know?"
"Thank you so much Elise. Roberta delivered enough food this morning to feed an army and we're very grateful for that kindness. We're not having a gathering after the funeral; we think its best just to let things be, considering it all."
"Yes, I understand," Elise murmured. She gave Annabelle a hug before they all took their seats.
Not many people attended the service and it seemed that most of them were only there to gather gossip. Jack tried to keep his cool as he heard the nasty, hushed voices around him but that was no easy task. Still, he refused to let it get to him; instead he tried to focus on the early years with Rosie, the good times.
He wasn't entirely successful, but when the service was over he felt a bit of relief and possibly a bit of shame over it. But it didn't matter in the end. He just hoped he made peace with his past; it was the most he could hope for.
He drove back to Phryne's home to change before heading to the hospital, anxious to see her. He focused on seeing her and touching her, it's what he needed right now more than anything.
When Jack finally arrived at the hospital it was just quarter past two, much later than he usually arrived. As he walked into the room he saw Mac and Dr. Harrison examining Phryne. Aunt P and Miss Williams stood to the side, watching, both wearing a distressed look on their faces.
"Aunt Prudence, what is happening?" he asked, kissing the woman on the cheek lightly as a greeting. Her name, or the more familiar 'Aunt' didn't yet flow easily off his tongue but they were family, of a sorts as she believed them to be engaged.
"She may be waking up; something has changed as they examined her. Or, if that isn't happening, she might be passing, Jack." She saw the deeply panicked look on his face and said, "We just don't know yet. Please, hold on to your faith. Say a prayer."
Praying wasn't something that came easily to Jack. He tended to put his faith into tangible things rather than the intangible. Still, the past few days he had prayed a few times and if it did nothing else it had made him feel a bit better. He sent up a plea to God, to a supreme being to please let her wake up, to be okay.
Yesterday he had noticed that the bruises on her face were starting to fade to more of a yellow, with only shadows of a bluish tint in them now. He'd taken that as a positive sign, even though they were still worried about her fever and infection in the gunshot wound. They cleaned it often and again, it seemed to be getting better. The swelling around the wound was also down a bit as well, another good sign.
Mac and Dr. Harrison were still talking quietly when he stepped up to the bed and took Phryne's hand. It still felt a bit warm, but hopefully the fever would go altogether soon.
Suddenly Phryne opened her eyes and sat straight up in the bed and called out, "JACK!" then immediately fell back into the bed covers. Mac rushed to her side, followed closely by Dr. Harrison.
Jack continued to hold her hand and called her name. Her eyes opened again and she looked around the room and blinked. It was damnably bright in here she decided, using her free hand to shield her eyes. Miss Williams immediately rushed to close the blinds, rendering the room a bit more shadowed.
Phryne looked around at the group and focused on each face in turn. Finally she looked at Jack and heard him tell her he loved her, how happy he was that she had awoken.
She squinted a little as she looked at him. The room still seemed too bright but her eyes were adjusting a bit.
"Phryne, my darling. I am so happy to see you awake. How are you feeling?"
Darling? The man standing next to her and holding her hand was exquisitely handsome and he had the most beautiful eyes she thought. But why was he calling her 'darling'?
She tried to speak and found her mouth abominably dry, it felt as if it was full of cotton. The woman with red hair quickly realized the problem and grabbed a tumbler and filled it from the pitcher on the bedstead. She held it to Phryne's lip and watched as Phryne drank deeply until Mac pulled the glass away.
"Not too much, Phryne. It could make you sick."
Jack leaned over and kissed her hand; his love was awake. He smiled at her again, his heart overcome with joy.
She was startled by the gesture and immediately pulled her hand away from him. "Excuse me? But just who are you?"
To be continued…
Hi everyone! Sorry to have missed the last few weeks but we're back on schedule now. Real life has a way of kicking your behind and mine has been a target for awhile. The good news is that my daughter is doing much better now; the bad news is that most of us in the house have had the flu and still has 3 grandsons down with it and home from school. LOL, try being here with 3 cranky, bored kids! Yikes…
Thank you all so much who take the time to read and comment as well. I am terribly behind on answering comments but I'll try to catch up.
By the way, I often post messages on Face Book about what is going on. If you would like to friend me on there, you'll usually find out if the post will be delayed. You can find me at Cyndy Klein Hodge.