Winning Phryne

Winning Phryne

Monday, January 5, 2015

Chapter 19

Sidney woke up as dawn spread fingers of gold and orange over the city.  The house was quiet and terribly cold.  He shifted to sit on the edge of the bed and grimaced as the bed springs creaked loudly in the pale light.  His feet hurriedly searched for the slippers that were on the floor, which was abominably chilly feeling.  He yanked on a heavy robe and damned this creaky old house that didn't keep out the cold one bit.

He headed into the kitchen to see if Earl had returned.  He hoped to see him nodding off in the chair as he was prone to do but instead the room was cold and empty, just as it had been last night.  For the first time it occurred to Sidney that Earl might not be coming back and he felt the first vestiges of panic start in his chest.

Without Earl, he had no way of finding Patch, the somewhat illusive cousin that only Earl seemed to be able to find.  Patch was only a nickname to complicate matters further, so unless it was widely known it would prove a further obstacle in finding the blasted man
Sidney took a mental inventory of exactly what he knew about Earl and it added up to nothing; a big fat zero.  He didn't have any other family as far as Sidney knew; his mother had passed a few years ago and his father a year later.  That was the total sum of his knowledge of his right hand man.

Next, he headed into the living room to start a fire and as he entered the room he saw Rudy, asleep on what passed as a settee in the room.  Anger streaked through him at the sight of his lazy employee, mouth open and snoring like a freight train.

Sidney yanked a pillow out from under his head and watched dispassionately as it startled Rudy enough that he jerked and fell off the settee.  He quickly scurried to his feet and saw his boss staring at him with a nasty gleam in his eye.

This wouldn't be good, he knew.

"Sleep well?" Sidney asked softly, deceptively as his eyes narrowed with anger.

"I…I, well, sure, Boss, sure."

"I believe I told you to report back when you had news of Earl?"

"I, um, yeah, you did.  It's just, well you were sleepin' so's I just let yer be."  His words were met with a stony silence that suddenly frightened him more that anger would.  "It's jus that he um, well, you see, Boss, Earl, he be dead.  Shot, probably shot hisself.  That's what Blackie Balder told me.  Fell on the gun, he did."

"Shot himself?"  The skeptical look on his face told Rudy that his boss wasn't pleased at what he'd been told and likely didn't believe it. 

"I ain't lyin', Boss.  Fell on the gun the coppers said.  That's what Blackie said."

"And just who is Blackie?  How would he know?"

"Blackie be the bloke who runs the shoe shine stand right outside of the City South precinct.  All the coppers talk with him; they was in a big tizzy to find the person who shot Miss Sanderson, he said."

"Are Robinson and Miss Fisher dead as well?"

"Uh, no sir.  But the lady detective be in hospital.  They's alive, both of 'em."

Sidney wished he had something in his hand to throw; his anger strangled him, the irony of the situation.  His beautiful Rosie was dead and those two dared to live!  He was incensed, furious and the venom of his fury nearly choked him.

Rudy took a step backwards, forgetting that the settee was behind him.  He fell back against it and it tipped over backwards with his weight.  He ended up on his back, feet in the air and a solid lump on his head.  He tried to scramble to his feet, knocking over a table in the process.  As he struggled to his feet he saw that Sidney's face was fiery red and he pulled the table and settee back to rights, making sure to keep them between him and his boss.

"You idiot!  Be careful!" Sidney spat, further infuriated by the clumsiness of his employee.

"Yessir," Rudy said, rubbing his head.  When he looked at his fingers he saw blood on them and felt a bit woozy at the sight; he didn't like the looks of blood, especially his own. 

"Do you have any idea where to find Earl's cousin?  The one who was going to take us to Singapore?"

Rudy knew that they 'us' didn't include him.  He also didn't know Earl's cousin and didn't have a clue where to find him either.  He was starting feel a bit faint he realized as he felt a slight trickle of warm blood start to roll down his head.  Dirty fingers swiped it away and he stared in horror at how much blood was on them.  A warm feeling washed over him as he crumpled to the floor.

Sidney let out a loud groan and cursed the man for his clumsy stupidity.  He was utterly useless Sidney decided as he headed into the kitchen to brew a bit more tea.  He'd give him 10 minutes to wake up and then he'd kick the imbecile awake if he had to. 

There was just no such thing as a good employee any longer.


Prudence and Dot sat vigil with Phryne, watching as she moved restlessly about the bed at times, still as could be at others.  A few times she called out for Jack, but mostly she was quiet and still very pale.

Dr. Harrison, Mac and the matron checked on her frequently, but never seemed to find any change to her condition.  She was running a slight temperature, but given everything that had happened they weren't alarmed about it, at least not at this time.

No one could tell if she'd do better if Jack were here now, but, while Prudence mulled over whether or not she should ring him.  She finally decided to let him rest and refresh himself; he had looked positively haggard when he left this morning.  Dr. Macmillan had told her that his arm wasn't serious, but that it was plenty painful for him so Prudence settled for carrying on with Miss Williams, who was quiet mostly, saying her rosary over and over as nimble fingers worried the beads.

At 10 o'clock a nurse brought in a tea tray complete with biscuits and while neither Prudence nor Dot was hungry, the tea was welcome and the small plates with biscuits gave them something to do with their hands.  The efforts of hospital staff were noticed with approval by Prudence who was a member of their board.  

At this point all they could do was wait and that was the hard part Prudence admitted.  No matter how much she wished Phryne to wake up, it was beyond her control, a very bitter pill for her to swallow.


Jack stood and looked at Phryne's bed; a bed that they had shared briefly a mere 24 hours before.  It wouldn't be fair to say that he regretted that they hadn't made love at that point; both of them had been so tired that it wouldn't have been what either of them wished.  Still, now in retrospect he had regrets that he hadn't at least allowed himself to hold her, as he had wanted to do. 

Mr. Butler had done his best to rally him with a hearty breakfast, of which Jack managed to choke down part of.  It tasted like pasteboard but that wasn't due to Mr. Butler's lack of skill but rather Jack's lack of enthusiasm about eating.  His family might have laughed over that as Jack was perpetually hungry and never missed an opportunity to partake in whatever food was offered.

He knew he needed to telephone his mother, who be now would be anxiously waiting to hear from him but all he wanted right now was a warm bath.  Mac had told him not to get his wound wet, so a shower was definitely not in his picture.  He turned the taps on and adjusted the temperature before heading into Phryne's dressing room in search of clean clothes to put on after his bath. 

He spotted one of his favorite outfits that Phryne wore, a white cashmere sweater that she usually wore with white wool trousers.  He held the arm of the sweater in his hand for a moment, feeling the softness of it and brought it up to his face and was positive he could smell Phryne's scent on it.  He inhaled deeply and felt tears sting his eyes once more before he hastily closed them tightly, trying to shut away the pain and fear, an action that didn't work very well at all.

He gathered his things and headed back to the bedroom so that he could turn the taps off before he undressed and slid carefully into the warm water.  He'd forgotten to ask Mr. Butler if there was any other soap in the house; what was here was a lovely smelling Castile and while quite nice, he doubted if the fragrance would do anything for him.  Still, it was what was here so he hoped that everyone would ignore the floral scent on him
He had to admit that he felt a bit better as he climbed out of the tub.  He was still extraordinarily tired and as much as the bed was calling his name for a nap, he wanted to call his mother and the hospital to check on Phryne.  They had promised to let him know if anything changed, but he needed to make sure they hadn't forgotten.

While Elise Robinson was happy that Jack called her, she wasn't happy about the news or how tired her son sounded.  He promised her that he was going to sleep for a few hours and then told her that he was staying at Phryne's home for the time being.

That was an excellent idea she later told her husband; it would help him to feel a bit closer to the woman he loved, to be among her things.  The judge wisely nodded his head in agreement and thought privately that his dear wife's philosophy was more from a woman's perspective than a man's.  But, if it helped his son even a little bit, James Robinson would be happy about it.  His son needed all the little bits of peace he could get right now.

After Jack spoke to his mother he telephoned the hospital and talked with Dr. Harrison.  No, Phryne hadn't awoken yet, no, there was no change; she still was a bit restless which was common with head injuries and yes, she still had a bit of a fever, but they weren't worried about it yet.

Jack hung up the phone, relieved and worried at the same time.  He was relieved that she hadn't gotten worse but worried that she wasn't better.  He sat on the small chair by the telephone table and ran his fingers through hair that was already a bit disheveled.  He hadn't put the pomade in yet to help keep his unruly locks into place; he had figured there wasn't a point until after he woke up from a nap.

Mr. Butler, hearing the inspector was off the telephone entered the hallway and called out, "Inspector, is there anything I can get for you?"

"No, thank you, Mr. Butler.  I'm going to try and sleep for a few hours."  He started up the stairs when there was a knock on the door and waited while Mr. Butler answered it.

"Hello, I'm Chief Commissioner Matlock.  Might Inspector Robinson be available?"

Jack stepped down the stairs and greeted the commissioner, not at all surprised that he'd come here to see him instead of his own house.  "Commissioner, come in."  Jack showed him into the parlor and asked, "Would you care for some tea or coffee?"

"No, I won't be staying long and that is apparently a good thing; Jack, you look done in.  My boy, you need to sleep."

Jack nodded, "Yes, that is next on my list.  Have you any news about Rosie's murder?"
"Unfortunately, no, we haven't any more leads yet.  I stopped by to tell you that George Sanderson woke up this morning.  Apparently he's in fairly good shape, considering everything.  The damage to his body could have been much worse."

"You've seen him?"

"No, Annabelle let me know."

"I'm thankful he is okay; Annabelle and John have enough on their plates with Rosie's death.  I plan to telephone her, but, well I just haven't had the chance."

"Understandable, Jack.  They know about Phryne and I'm sure they don't expect to hear from you immediately.  Now, I must go, I just wanted to tell you about George."  He walked to the front door and placed a hand on Jack's good shoulder and squeezed it lightly, an attempt at a show of compassion for the younger man. Their eyes met briefly and they shared a brief nod before Matlock left.  Jack sighed and closed the door before heading upstairs to the bedroom, to sleep, perchance to dream? 

Even Shakespeare failed to bolster him right now.


Two different households in Melbourne decided to try and help to keep everyone's spirits up by providing food.  It was the way that both Mr. Butler and Elise coped, by taking care of the ones they loved.  Elise was already willing to embrace Phryne's 'family' so her job was to make sure they all got through this the best way they could and that meant that their stomach's wouldn't go hungry.

She arrived at the hospital with two large baskets of food for the group, just as Jack arrived with another.  The waiting group had been offered a private waiting area, something that most likely occurred because of Prudence's connections with the hospital.  A table was soon laid with an appetizing, if impromptu meal.  Bert and Cec both headed to the table, Bert because it was something to do and Cec to fix a plate for Alice; he worried about her and knew that she needed to eat. 

Soon all of them were sharing a somber meal, except for Jack who had eaten before he came, thanks to Mr. Butler and his way of making sure that he got exactly what he wanted, which at this time was for the inspector to eat.

Aunt P and Dot both joined the group, followed by Mac, who was thankful for the food.  As a doctor she'd learned to sleep and eat when you could because you never knew when you might have the chance again.

In Phryne's room it was Jack's turn to sit silently with Phryne.  It bothered him to see her so restless and on the few occasions that she moaned or called his name a sprig of hopefulness burst from his heart, only to be torn away as quickly as it blossomed.

Mac wandered in and out and try as hard as he might, Jack couldn't determine if she were worried or not.  He'd hate to play poker with the good doctor because she was a master at hiding her thoughts.

For three days the routine stayed much the same, Aunt P and Dot with her in the mornings and afternoons and Jack watching over her the rest of the time.  Often he spent at least a few hours in the bed with her, as the pain in his arm allowed, and she seemed to take great comfort from his warmth.  He read Shakespeare to her, the Sonnets which he thought she might like.

Late on the fourth night she almost sat up completely in the bed, thrashing wildly and Jack went to hold her to keep her from falling.  She felt on fire, and the doctor was immediately summoned to check on her.

A fever was beginning to ravage his love and there didn't seem to be anything he could do to help but to sit back and let Dr. Harrison take control.

Jack Robinson, the man who always was in control was lost.

To be continued…

AUTHOR'S NOTE: I'm so sorry that I have missed answering some comments. Jenn had surgery a week before Christmas and has had a lot of complications because of it. That has taken a good deal of my time. I do want to thank you SO much for taking time to read and comment, you, the readers make this all worthwhile!

1 comment:

  1. You are definitely teaching me patience...I have a sinking feeling this is going to be a long time in resolving...sigh....