Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls: this is the final chapter of Infinite Variety. This brings the story to a total of eighteen chapters and 25 000+ words – not bad for a "short story" that was based on a single 10-second scene from an episode; was written on the back of an attempted suicide attempt; and was never originally intended to be anything more than a five or six-thousand-word excuse for getting Phryne and Jack together romantically.
My utmost thanks to all those who have read, reviewed, favourited or followed this story. Your support has been an immense, wonderful surprise. I hope that you enjoy this ending and that you consider taking the time to read some of my other fics, both past and future. I'll now turn my attention to updating my ongoing fics, such as Mercury, Temptation and If Blood Should Stain the Wattle. Every review or message helps me write faster, as it assures me that the fics are getting a good enough response to be worthwhile writing.
To the other MFMM fanfiction authors who've offered opinions and reactions as the story grew and developed: you are all absolute peaches. Thank you.
So now: the ending.
"Jack, wake up!"
He came to with a start, his arms flying to protect his head before he realised where he was. Phryne, letting go of the shoulder she'd been shaking, murmured an apology.
"I'm sorry, I didn't mean to startle you...but I just realised something that's been staring us in the face this entire time. Who could have known about Dodgson? I mean – that killing him would frame me? Frame us."
It took a moment for Jack's mind to get to full speed, but as he shook off the shadows of sleep, Phryne's meaning struck him: "Someone who knew that Dodgson was being investigated."
"And presumably someone who was close enough to the case to know that you and I are more than casual colleagues," Phryne added with a raised eyebrow.
Jack ran a hand over his forehead, staring at the ceiling as the obvious began to click into place more easily now that his mind was not so overwhelmed by the stress of Phryne's arrest. "Which leaves out the Harbour Master and the workers at the docks…."
"…and the surgeon who performed the post mortems never knew who was conducting the investigation…" Phryne reminded him.
Jack's chin lifted and he suddenly moved to sit up straighter. "So it has to be someone at the Station."
Phryne nodded, pleased that Jack had come to the same logical conclusion as she had five minutes previously. She felt like shaking herself for not making the connections sooner, but hindsight was easy compared to trying to solve the case while being pummelled by the worries and strain of being under arrest for a crime she hadn't committed.
"Jack, think carefully. Who at the Station would have had access to the particulars of the case? Who could have known that we've become involved with each other?"
Jack ran his hands through his hair, staring sightlessly at the bedroom door as he cast about for ideas. "Well, Collins, of course, but we can discount him. Sanderson knew we were close, but only became aware of the case after Dodgson was dead. Paterson knew about the two dead girls from the get-go because an investigation he was running into a prostitution ring meant we shared information in case the crimes were related. I showed him the reports that had been telegraphed through of similar crimes at other ports along the coast. But he's as straight as they come. A mean-minded, rude bastard, it's true: but an incorruptible policeman. I'd stake my life on it. And I didn't share the information about who or what we were investigating with anybody else."
Phryne bit her lip, trying to imagine what they might have missed. How could every possible suspect fail to be viable? She was sure this was the key to the whole damn mess. Was it possible she was wrong?
Jack must have read the look of vexation on her face, because he flung back the sheets and began to dress. "I'm going to head to the Station and check everything we've done since the first body turned up. There's got to be something in this idea of yours. Why anyone at the Station would want to frame you for a murder I don't know, but if we can figure out who could have done it, hopefully we'll find out why they would."
Phryne nodded, sliding her arms into the sleeves of her silk kimono and tying the belt closed. It was only after Jack had dropped a kiss to her forehead and was halfway out the bedroom door that a niggling thought in the back of her mind finally struck her.
"Jack, wait! What did you say about reports being telegraphed through? Who sent the requests for information?"
Jack's lips parted on a profanity and he spat a name in angry realisation:
"Constable William Logan."
A quick call to Sanderson (made difficult by the man's unwillingness to listen, until Jack had succinctly outlined the reasoning behind the new accusation) and a simpler call to Constable Collins, then Phryne hastily dressed and they drove directly to the address that Hugh had provided as being Constable Logan's registered abode.
To his credit, Sanderson was already there when they arrived, although he pointed out sharply that he was not yet convinced. Entering the boarding house, they made their way to the second floor and knocked on the door that bore a tarnished brass number '9'.
The young man who opened the door was vaguely familiar to Phryne. She realised that she must have seen him around the Station and simply never paid him much attention. But the look on Logan's face when he saw her now was full of such hatred that she found herself taking a step backwards.
"What the fuck is she doing here?" The young constable growled, eyes fixed on Phryne.
Sanderson bristled. "Mind your language, Constable! Inspector Robinson and I, along with Miss Fisher, are here because there is some evidence that you may have been involved in a series of crimes. Now I suggest you let us in before the entire building decides to listen."
The room had little to distinguish it from a hundred other boarding house bedrooms across the city. A rickety bedframe and two-drawer bedside table, a small enamel washbowl and a freestanding cupboard filled most of the space. But the one thing that was conspicuously out of place were the handwritten copies, hastily shoved in a half-open drawer, of every telegraph Jack had written and every response he had received about Emil Dodgson and his crimes.
Sanderson read out the top page. "Require information STOP Crimes Emil Francis Dodgson STOP Cook British Merchant Navy STOP … why do you have copies of the transmissions you were asked to send, Constable? Frankly, I'm starting to believe Inspector Robinson's assurances that you were the only one who knew all the details of the Dodgson case and who could have had reason to want revenge on Inspector Robinson himself."
When Logan's scowl deepened, Jack handed the rest of the pages to Sanderson to leaf through and fixed a stare on the angry young man. "You're very attached to Inspector Paterson, aren't you, Constable?"
The constable shook with barely concealed fury. "Don't you dare talk about him! He's ten times the detective you are! You waltz around with this woman, taking credit for other men's work and parading your paltry successes like you're something special but you're not. I know what sort of man you are, Robinson."
"And what sort of man is that, Constable?" Jack asked in a deceptively calm voice.
"A liar and a cheat. A man who gets all the glory while good coppers like Arthur Paterson are overlooked. Yeah, I know what sort of a man you are…"
Phryne eyed the young man with shocked contempt. "Are you blind? Have you not seen how much trouble Jack has been in with his superiors over the last few years?" But William Logan shook his head dismissively and turned his face away from her.
"So you knew Dodgson was being investigated for two murders. What I can't understand is why, if I was the target of your ire, you decided to frame Miss Fisher?" Jack asked in a low voice. Perhaps only Phryne noticed the way Jack's shoulders were bunched beneath his coat as he fought to control himself and calmly question this man who'd plunged both their lives into chaos.
"I wasn't going to – not at the start. I was going to pin it on you. But then my brother what works at the cutlers mentioned that a Miss Fisher had put a beauty of a knife in to be repaired and copied a while ago. I knew it must be the same woman who hung around your coattails. I could tell you were sleeping with her. And I remembered my Aunty saying to me when I went to visit her last year, that one day Miss Fisher and Detective Robinson needed to be made to pay for everything they'd done to her." The young man's face broke into an awful smile and a faraway look crept into his eyes as he basked in his own cleverness. "It was like it all fell together for me. Like it was meant to be. Miss Fisher's address was easy enough to get and the knife wasn't hard to find – she'd told my brother when she picked up the order that she intended to throw the old knife in a drawer as a spare. And that sailor was so drunk I could have followed him through the alleys with me eyes closed. I paid a fancily-dressed whore to talk to him in the pub and lure him out into the street where I was waiting." Logan's eyes flicked dismissively over Phryne as he said, "I couldn't believe my luck when that whore had hair just like yours and the witnesses remembered seeing her with Dodgson before he died. It was like the evidence I needed to set against you just fell into my lap. All I had to do was frame one of you, and the other would go down too. I tell you – it was meant to be."
Sanderson's face was grey as Logan's words hanging in the air made him realise just how close this young man had come to successfully pinning a murder on two innocent people: one of them Sanderson's own former son-in-law. The older man had to moisten his lips before he could speak. "Was Paterson in on your plan?"
"No no no – it was a present to him. A secret gift from me. I…I wanted to…"
"You're in love with him, aren't you? You'd do anything to help his career – even commit murder." Phryne's words were a question, but her voice said she already knew the answer. The blush that stained Logan's face simply confirmed it.
When Sanderson nodded and moved away to telephone the Station, Jack stepped toward the suddenly shrunken-looking killer and handcuffed him with obvious satisfaction. When a police vehicle arrived ten minutes later, the disgraced constable was bundled into the back without a murmur of protest. It was only then that Phryne thought to ask.
"Constable? The aunt you mentioned – what's her name?"
William Logan raised his head enough to answer before the police car bore him away:
The rest of the house was silent but for the creaking of the roof cooling and settling as night gave way into the earliest hours of morning. Within the walls of Phryne's bedroom, the low light of a bedside lamp glinted on the gramophone and the husky strains of I Hate a Man Like You drifted through the room like an echo of another night spent in each other's arms.
Shifting slightly, Phryne rested her cheek against Jack's jaw and closed her eyes. Jack turned further onto his back and tightened his arms around Phryne where she lay half atop him.
"Even knowing your talent for trouble, I must confess that though I've imagined it many times since we first met, I never thought our first week as lovers would be quite so chaotic as this," Jack murmured, his voice merging with the music. A lazy smile lifted the corners of Phryne's mouth and she pressed another kiss – just the latest of the night's many – against Jack's throat before laying her head on his chest.
"Neither did I. I suppose that at least we now know that this relationship, however it may be tested, is proven to be capable to withstanding that which would break it." She was quiet for a moment as she enjoyed the feeling of Jack's fingers combing through her hair, and then her voice became more playful. "And I'm relieved to hear that you have. Spent a long time imagining us as lovers, I mean," she clarified.
Jack stretched beneath her like a particularly warm and comfortable cat, before he rolled onto his side and pulled Phryne up to match him face to face.
"Always. Since the first day I saw you poking your nose in where you weren't meant to be, I think." The low rumble of Jack's voice was made no smoother by the hours of love making they had indulged in since sunset, but his eyes were still bright despite the tiredness that had relaxed his muscles. He caught Phryne's gaze and then caught her mouth, meeting her in a kiss that was at least three parts intimate for every one part sexual.
"I wondered if maybe you might one day grow tired of me. Of the trouble I bring to your life and the disruption I cause. If one day the novelty might wear thin." When Phryne spoke, her voice was soft and Jack could tell by the look in her eyes that these thoughts were something that had been wearing at her mind.
So as he pulled her leg over his hip and entered her welcoming body to move with loving patience and tenderness, Jack showed Phryne the depth of emotion he felt for her as he spoke again the words that he once used to sum up the impact that Phryne Fisher has on his heart:
"Age cannot wither her, nor custom stale
Her infinite variety: other women cloy
The appetites they feed: but she makes hungry
Where most she satisfies."
Author's Final Note:
For those who don't remember: Lydia Andrews was an old friend of Phryne's who turned out to be a cocaine-dealing murderess in Season 1 Episode 1: "Cocaine Blues". As Australia only ever hanged a total of two women during the 20th Century, Lydia would still be alive and angry, locked up in prison thanks to Phryne and Jack's investigations. She would certainly have told her young nephew (my entirely invented Constable Logan) about the people whom she blamed for her capture and incarceration.
The song I Hate a Man Like You was playing when Phryne and Jack first slept together, back in Chapter Five.
The title of this fic, and indeed the final lines, are from Shakespeare's Antony and Cleopatra. Jack himself quotes these same lines to Phryne on the stage during the episode Ruddy Gore: a bold and clear declaration of his love for her, if ever I saw one! Remember too that Jack tells us that you can't go past Shakespeare for romantic declarations.
Also, a final "thank you", to the bloggers at missfishersmurdermysteries tumblr and phryneandjack tumblr who mentioned me as a fanfiction writer worth seeking out and reading. I hope this fic makes the "worth reading" list!