There was a full moon shining over the Yarra tonight, which for some reason Phryne found oddly appropriate. Shoving her hand in her pocket, she palmed the gold revolver once, twice, to remind herself of the task at hand.
She waited, patiently. She was good at that. She’d been waiting for almost two decades now, she’d gotten very good indeed.
Behind her the sound of gravel crunching under foot caught her attention and she whipped around.
It was him.
Well, not him. The other him. The only other him that mattered.
“Jack,” she greeted calmly, hand still shoved in her pocket, revolver still firmly in her grip.
“Phryne,” he replied, with equal calm. At least, on the surface; who knew what truly lurked in the depths of the Pacific.
“What are you doing here?” she asked and the look he gave her in response almost made her laugh despite the circumstances.
“If I said ‘trying to keep you out of jail’, would that be vague enough to give me plausible deniability?” he inquired.
“Well I’m no lawyer,” she replied breezily.
“And you’re no killer, either.”
Phryne stared at him for a moment, any attempted breeziness well and truly gone.
“I think you’re dangerously close to losing that plausible deniability,” she told him, voice low and meaningful.
“Damn,” he said with a shrug of his broad shoulders. “I guess I’ll just have to face the consequences.”
“How did you - ” But even as she asked the question, she answered it for herself. “Mac.”
“Mac,” he confirmed.
“You know, my life has gotten considerably more difficult since the two of you became pals,” Phryne complained and despite the circumstances Jack did laugh at that.
“Yes, well, turnabout, fair play, and all that.” Then the laughter left his voice and the seriousness in his tone turned absolute. “What are you doing here?” he asked, repeating her earlier question.
Phryne turned away.
“You should go,” she told him, easier to say now that she wasn’t looking at him.
Phryne turned back in surprise. “No?”
“No. Whatever you’re here to do… I won’t leave you to do it alone.”
“If you stay, you’ll either have to arrest me or run away with me,” she joked, though the words felt heavy even to her own ears.
“Well both options have appealed at one time or another,” he replied, the barest hint of that non-smile smile she loved so much at the corners of his mouth.
Phryne choked on a laugh, that turned into a sob and Jack took a step closer.
“Phryne…” he began, though it was clear he didn’t know how to end.
“I have to do this,” she said softly. “I have to.”
“Do you?” he asked with what seemed like genuine curiosity and as Phryne wiped away a rogue tear she looked at him in surprise.
“You’re asking? You’re not… you’re not here to tell me to stop?”
“Well you never listen to me, anyway,” he reminded her.
“Humour me,” she said. “It’s taken me years, Jack, years to find him. This isn’t a hunch or a guess. I know. I know he killed my sister. And he’s been living his life, no consequences, no - he needs to pay, Jack.” She fought back more tears and gripped the gun so hard it hurt. “So tell me: what would you do?”
Jack took one more step closer to her, until there was barely any space between them at all, but still he did not touch her. A little odd, she thought, considering their arrangement these last few months, but then again perhaps not; for all the times she’d taken him to bed, this was probably the most intimate they’d ever been.
“It doesn’t matter what I’d do,” he said, the certainty in his deep voice washing over her like a wave. “You know what to do.”
“I want to kill him,” she whispered, her voice tight with rage.
“I want to kill him, too,” Jack confided, and for such a noble man the admission must have hurt a little to say. “But wanting is not doing. And you know what to do.”
Jack met her eye and then… nothing. Neither said anything at all as they stared at each other in the moonlight. Finally, Phryne pulled back from him and turned back to the street. Behind her, Jack just stood.
He hadn’t been lying; whatever she did, he would be there.
Phryne watched as a man, the man, turned onto the otherwise abandoned street, whistling softly and well in his cups from his monthly poker night.
Stumbling a little he got closer and closer and Phryne forgot about Jack, forgot about the plan, forgot about everything except Janey and pirate girls and a childhood they’d both been robbed of. The moon was full and her heart was screaming. She pulled the gun from her pocket and then…
The man walked by, taking no notice of Phryne or Jack in the shadows as he disappeared from view, merrily continuing on to his antique store she assumed.
The gun hit the street and Phryne collapsed.
Great racking sobs shook her body and vaguely she became aware of strong arms holding her, though still he said nothing.
Eventually she stilled, having run out of tears to shed. She leaned back along the bridge wall and wiped her eyes on her sleeve.
“What now?” she asked, ostensibly the man sitting next to her, possibly the universe.
“Well,” he replied, voice a little rougher than before but also significantly more relieved. “I was rather hoping you could tell me. I think… I think you could help get him. Arrest him,” Jack clarified.
“How?” Phryne asked, not even attempting to hide the incredulousness she felt.
“I know all the evidence you have is circumstantial, but… but what if we could find hard evidence? Legally.”
Phryne sighed. “Jack, I’m not a detective.”
“Aren’t you? You’ve been chasing a ghost for over 15 years and you found him. You found him. I’m just suggesting you find him with a warrant this time. Work with me.”
“With you? You’re suggesting... what? A union?”
“A partnership. You don’t need to answer now. Just give it some thought.”
“I thought I already knew what to do,” she reminded him, not quite cheekily but certainly not despondent either.
He smiled a little sadly at that and wiped his thumb across her cheek before standing up and offering her his hand.
She took it and he pulled her to her feet. As he straightened his hat and dusted off his coat, she looked him over critically.
“You would have let me do it, wouldn’t you? If I’d… you wouldn’t have interfered.”
Jack met her eye again, but his expression remained inscrutable. “Plausible deniability, Miss Fisher.” He offered her his arm and she took it. “Though I am relieved neither of us had to find out.”
As they began the long walk back to her motorcar, Phryne started to think about his suggestion. It wasn’t so outlandish, was it? After all, it seemed she did have a knack for investigating. And if she could prove Foyle had murdered his sister… there would finally be consequences, real consequences, even if it had taken far too long. And she could cope with that.
And if she could bring her sister justice, well… who’s to say she had to stop there?
The Honourable Miss Fisher, lady detective.
She did like the sound of that.