On the surface he was a man who had everything. He held a respectable position within the Victorian Police Force, Senior Detective Inspector. He oversaw several men who looked up to him. A solve rate that was unmatched by his peers. He had a pretty wife and a small bungalow on a quiet street in Hawthorn. But the keyword was had, Jack Robinson was actually a man of loss.
He had been adrift for years, had lost so much of himself over a decade ago in the muddy, decaying fields in France. The things he witnessed in France had broken the man that he was. He had returned home but his soul had been too heavy to carry. He had seen too much, done too much. That was too much of a burden so he left it behind to make it easier. He didn’t just leave the pain though, he also left the joy, frivolity and lightness. So he came back to Australia as a faint memory of himself, but half a man was better than no man, in the beginning at least.
Rosie had been glad to have him back. The Constabulary was glad to have an honest, hardworking constable. He was glad to do some good. He hadn’t meant to be lost forever. But, he kept himself to himself to make life bearable, and it worked. Mostly. Eventually, he lost his wife to her sister’s house after years of silence, late shifts and apathy.
He didn’t notice a change when Rosie moved out. That said something in and of itself. He hadn’t realized how far away she had gotten from him. He from her? It happened slowly then all at once. But he would manage. He always did, though he lost the sense of home. The bungalow was just a cold, empty house to sleep in now. He was on his own, walled inside himself where he felt safest. He had been content in his solitude not having to bother after anyone else. Then he lost his marriage, not a surprise since Rosie left 3 years prior. The surprise that came with that loss was the hope. His hope was a challenge presented to him in a beautiful, exasperating, perfumed package. And she turned his carefully constructed life upside down (right side up?).
She was searching for him, he realized. He should have known, he had been searching for himself for the last decade. Occasionally, he found a small piece of himself again, in his garden, in playing the piano, and especially in his books. But all of those things had been solitary and Rosie had stopped looking after a couple of years. He didn’t blame her. But here, now, Miss Fisher was searching; for him, and God did he want to be found.
He wasn’t consciously aware that he had followed her to the side of the unmarked grave, but their tether had grown as short as that worn blue ribbon she kept clasped in her palm. He reached out to her, willing to be her anchor. He didn’t expect it to be long but those moments where she gripped his arm in her grief, he felt,himself The moment he recognized what had happened felt significant. As he stood there he realized she had been drawing him in from the beginning. She had found the end of his rope and curious as ever to find what was on the other end she started pulling it in hand over fist. The majority of the rope now coiled metaphorically at her feet.
He had enjoyed the journey, from the first snap of the “K” in his name to the blatant scan of his form with her teasing eyes. He hadn’t known the change she would bring, in that moment, it had felt like irritation. It was irritation when her two cohorts (well one cohort and one innocent young maid) got him to do her bidding in the middle of the night. It may have been relief when he stood watching the building he just cleared burst into flame. Then it morphed into astonished disbelief as he heard her red-headed friend said “… Lady Detective” and he coughed out the expensive champagne. He had felt more in those few days than he had in a long time and he certainly didn’t want to feel it at the time.
He resisted her during the second case she had inserted herself into. He sent Collins, he thought himself clever,before the report of the body was called in. He cursed himself the entire trip to train. The trip had also given him time to steel himself against her. That had lasted all of thirty seconds when she began speaking about a necklace. Her accounts of the woman’s jewels would be useful. Reluctantly, he sent Collins, again, no need to put himself in her path. He almost hated asking for her help with the girl, but he was never one to let a resource go to waste if it proved to be helpful. But then the astonished disbelief was back when she drove off, car filled with women. He remembered the nerves the first night he showed up on the threshold of her parlor. She invited him to stay, and he invited her to call him Jack.
When he walked into the dimly lit club he wasn’t surprised she was standing next to the body. He felt it was time to use a different tact, so he asked her for the details. He had known the moment she stepped foot in the morgue, that was when he began to sense her before he saw her. Dr. Johnson was where Jack had been a few short weeks ago, flustered by her appearance. Jack had the benefit of experience now so he gave her permission to stay, after a chastisement and restrictions. But that was the first step, he had allowed her in, something he hadn’t let anyone else do.
At the docks he found himself, teasing her back. She was good at what she did and she was selfless. He knew what she had done for the welfare of those wharfies. She didn’t bat an eyelash at forgoing the payment she could have collected. She did it in order to help others that needed it more. He knew she had seen the war too, that had shocked him more than it ought to have, she was always in the thick of things. But to know, the oppressive weight of knowing, they shared that burden. That wasn’t the only thing he realized they shared. They were both helping people, in their own ways and he couldn’t help but feel the companionship in that. And so he teased her, she didn’t know him, not yet, but she knew more than anyone else.
He had been terrified when she walked in front of two guns. It was more than he should have been over an acquaintance, but then she was becoming much more than that to him. She was showing up at all the right places at all the wrong times and he was living for it. But, she continuously put herself in danger and he couldn’t help throwing his weight around a bit. Threatening to arrest her had been folly, he knew, but he couldn’t help trying to stop her midnight skirmishes. Sitting in his office she had seemed forlorn about the doomed affair between the two lovers, and he had made his position clear. He put her into the friend column and she seemed to accept the offer.
He told himself as he was getting ready for a night at the theatre that he was just being a friend. Collins couldn’t make it and he certainly couldn’t leave two ladies unescorted. So as he brushed the shoulders of his tux (thank god he owned one) he smiled inwardly hoping to get a rise out of her. He was surprised by the amount of times he had her in his arms during this case, all in the line of duty though he told himself. But he couldn’t tell himself that while he stood under those stage lights and recited Shakespeare to her. What had he been thinking with that passage? He knew though, he had been sideswiped by a handsome man who had dubious connections. The most dubious was his intimate (he knew it was intimate) connection to her. He had needed to tell her, in his way, that he saw her, even if he had drawn a line.
A line promptly crossed. This time she was terrified and he was calling to her. She wasn’t responding but then words weren’t her most desired form of communication. So he reached for her, his hands drawing her to him and he kissed her. Kissed her. He hadn’t meant to, or rather it was only meant to focus her. When she kissed him back it had been hard to stop. But he was a man of sense and honor and that was not what they were here for. As she aimed the gun at the heart of the foreign-looking man, he felt his own gallop. It galloped for a second time just a few short hours later as she unwrapped the painting, he hadn’t actually seen it until that moment. His mind flashed with another place he could put his lips, and he blushed at the thought.
He told himself he hadn’t been avoiding her but when she breezed into the crime scene he had been off. She of course called him out on it and as he leaned closer to her, eyes boring into hers he saw it. It happened, it had been acknowledged and now it could be moved past. He had grown a lot closer to her during their time in her darkened dining room, and something in her confirmation about chopsticks no longer being at her table had him relieved. So he agreed to a candlelit dinner, something he hadn’t indulged in since before the war.
As he stepped out onto the tin roof towards the two women, he realized it wasn’t just Miss Fisher he had been pulled towards. Jane was important to him too. He saw the parallels in her and her guardian, and he couldn’t have Jane hurt at the loss of a mother, the way Phryne was hurt by the loss of her sister. To watch her dance with a beaming smile on her face at the Flower Festival warmed him. Her people were becoming his people.
Jack found himself amused when he found Dot, sorry, Martha at the factory. Leave it to her to work around a threat of a restraining order. He would have been annoyed at her interference just a few short months ago but now, his reaction was amusement. He enjoyed her ploys, waited for the next time he would turn a corner and she would be there two steps ahead as always. When she asked him for advice while he leaned against her mantle, he had an epiphany. She didn’t need his advice, she never would, but she sought him out for reassurance, for comfort. Maybe he had unwittingly started searching too. For her.
Phryne Fisher undercover was a sight to see. Though he found he vastly preferred her company to any other. It had driven him to madness having to turn her down when she asked for his help. Senior Sergeant Grossmith was a favorite of the brass and wouldn’t take it well if he stepped in. But unable to do nothing he sent Collins, that would at least give him a foot in the door. He had helped the entire case from the sidelines and when he saw her, knees tucked under her chin in that chair, she was all vulnerability and sadness. His throat was thick with the words he hoped would console her. He just sat quietly by her side, not ready to leave her yet.
He had been waiting for the moment to sink in, that he was a free man again. The Federal Magistrate had declared the dissolution of his marriage and he had plans to go straight to another woman. He was a mixture of emotions when he saw her in her costume. Cleopatra. Had she donned that because of him? He had made blatant reference to the ruler in the past, and did she choose it because she knew him to be available? Hours after what should have been one of the lowest points in his life he was being undressed by a beautiful woman, in a bedroom that didn’t belong to either one of them. Yet, he couldn’t take his eyes off her, when she glanced at his mouth it took every ounce of himself not to give in. He had so much of himself back and he knew he didn’t want just one night he wanted them all, so he would wait. When she stepped back into the room after only a minute looking deflated he jumped to her aid.
Standing beside her, while she knelt under the grove weeping willows Jack had found himself. With her help he had finally come home. She was his home. He knew that now and he found he was willing to be towed in her wake until she too was ready to come home.