No Such Thing As Ghosts
The first season is just wrapping up here in New Zealand, and I'm thoroughly hooked.
Phryne was dead.
The knowledge sat in his heart like a stone, choking him, making it hard to breathe, hard to think. Radiating sudden paralysing lances of pain and grief. Bringing to mind bitter regrets and achingly sweet memories: things she had said, things she had done. Things he had said, and too many things he had left unsaid.
He sat alone at his desk, staring at the wall, occasionally glancing at the door through which she would never again come sweeping, to madden him and enliven him and make him fall in love with her.
The previous day played over in his mind. The look on Collins' face as he brought in the message circulating through the stations: a Hispano-Suiza wrecked on the coast road, the occupant unidentified, missing, possibly thrown into the sea. The call to Phryne's house: no, Miss Fisher was unavailable, following a lead to a farm, on the coast road they thought. The drive along the coast: desperate, silent prayers offered to a God he barely thought of anymore and was no longer certain he believed in. Identifying the wreck, unable now to deny what he had feared from the moment he received the message. Accepting the discarded purse and its contents: her pocketbook, revolver, makeup and mirror, a photograph of a young woman, and a handkerchief smudged with her lipstick. The sombre drive back to Melbourne, and the grim task of taking the news to her aunt, to her household, and, because no-one else would think of it, to Dr. Macmillan: shock, disbelief, tears. Finally, the endless night spent staring into the darkness, her handkerchief, surreptitiously removed from her purse, clutched in his hand like a talisman, the one remaining piece of her that was left to him.
He had dragged himself back to the station the next morning by habit and sheer force of will, walking silently past the men already on duty there. He had shut the door to his office behind him, and it appeared that the message had been received: he was not to be disturbed for anything less than the direst of emergencies.
At one point a young constable entered with some files, information he had requested the previous day, back when things still seemed important. He set them down in the empty space by the Inspector's right hand.
"Not there!" The words burst out, loud and harsh, before he had time to check them. 'There' was where she sat, the spot where Phryne perched whenever she took it into her head to grace him with her presence, cheerfully ignoring chairs and propriety, always too close for comfort and never quite close enough. There was the spot where she would never sit again, and to place anything in it seemed wrong, somehow, almost a defilement, as though the uncaring world were already rushing in to claim the space she had left and erase her memory as though she had never been.
"Put them over there." He pointed to his left, to files that were doubtless important, just not to him. The constable, hands shaking slightly, complied, and he was left alone in the deafening silence, his eyes now drawn, as if magnetised, to that empty spot, that space that would never again, really, be filled.
He had known loss before, in the War, on the street, most recently at the Magistrate's Court where sixteen years of marriage had disappeared with a few words and his signature on a piece of paper. He could not remember a time when he had felt any loss so keenly.