“Franky Doyle is at reception. Should I take her to the conference room?” Erica’s secretary asked.
Erica stood up. “No, it’s all right, I’ll collect her,” she grabbed the Roxton file and her legal pad.
She walked into the foyer area and saw Franky chatting with the young receptionist. She was leaning against her desk, smiling and being charming as only Franky could be. Today she was dressed in tight fitting pants and open collared shirt which hugged her figure.
When she saw Erica she immediately stood back and Erica could see the appreciation in her eyes. Franky was checking her out and liked what she saw. Erica could feel herself grow warm under that gaze.
"Hello," Franky greeted her. They headed towards the conference room.
"Were you just flirting with Rebecca?" Erica couldn't help but ask, a little incredulously.
"You shouldn't be jealous," Franky said lightly, teasingly.
"I'm not," Erica refuted. Franky just raised her eyebrows at this.
"I'm just keeping my hand in," she went on. "You know what they say, if you don't use it, you lose it," she grinned.
"You know she has a boyfriend," Erica pointed out.
Franky shrugged. "So do you," she countered with. “And yet,” she said dropping her voice and leaning in, “you were kissing me last time we met.”
They reached the conference room and Erica was relieved to finish the conversation which in hindsight she wished she'd never started. She reached out to open the door but as her hand touched the doorhandle Franky’s hand covered hers and stopped her from opening it. Erica looked at her with surprise.
"No," Franky said firmly. "I want to talk to Ruby alone."
"Why?" Erica asked with a frown.
"Because," Franky said with a sigh. It wasn't anything she could explain to Erica without probably offending her. "Just trust me," she said at last. "It will be better this way."
Erica looked at her for a moment, indecisive and questioning, she felt uncomfortable letting go. She didn’t know why exactly. She delegated happily to Nick but she also knew Nick’s capabilities. Franky was an unknown quantity. She was intelligent certainly and street smart. Those traits Erica had seen at Wentworth. If things went pear shaped and they lost Stuart Roxton it would be her responsibility. Franky was waiting, watching her, willing her to take a chance on her.
She stepped back. "All right," she agreed. "Come and see me when you're done."
Franky walked into the conference room alone. She dropped her legal pad and pen onto the table and sat down across from Ruby. She looked at her.
Ruby Roxton dressed to disappear. Her top was shapeless emphasising nothing of the body beneath it. The colour was soft and understated. Her hair had a tendency to curl so Ruby had pulled it back tightly restricting the offending locks. She wore glasses but not dramatic ones that drew attention to the eyes like Stephanie wore. These were frameless and managed only to hide her eyes slightly when the light reflected off the lenses.
Franky thought about the beautiful vibrancy and richness of a ruby stone and wondered at life's little ironies. Anything less like a ruby she couldn't imagine.
She continued to watch the young woman who she judged from her appearance to be about sixteen but knew from the file was twenty-two. After a minute Franky saw her fidget slightly and begin to look uncertain.
"Who are you?" She asked at last. "Where's Erica?" Her voice was low, and again understated.
"I'm Franky," was all she said. "And you're Ruby."
"Are you a lawyer?" Franky nodded. "Are you here to help me?"
"Maybe, maybe not," Franky said noncommittally. "You need help," she added.
Ruby looked into her lap. "I didn't do it," she said softly. Franky had to lean forward to hear her.
"Someone did," Franky replied. "Someone went to that daycare centre and took that little boy and left him alone in the bush to die." It still turned her stomach to think about it. Despite all she had seen in prison, all she had done, Franky couldn't reconcile herself to this sort of crime. What kind of monster would do that to a child?
"Henry," Ruby said. "His name was Henry."
Franky slid back in her chair. She picked up her pen and tapped it against her notepad. She looked up suddenly and caught Ruby's eye. "You're not helping yourself," she said at last.
"So how did you go?" Erica asked as Franky entered some time later and sat in one of the visitor's chairs.
Franky shrugged. "I have three questions," she said with a frown. "Firstly, if she went hiking that day as she claims why isn't there any record of her signing the register?" All walks in national parks had a register at the beginning of the walk where hikers recorded their contact details and car registration as well as time in and out.
"But she explained she never signs those registers," Erica countered.
Franky raised her eyebrows and gave Erica a look of disbelief. "And you believe her?" Erica frowned. "Look at her, are you telling me, you think she would risk hiking alone in a national park where there's no mobile coverage and not sign the register? Especially if, as she claims, she didn't tell anyone where she was going, come on Erica!"
"How do you know there is no mobile phone coverage?" Erica asked curiously.
"I googled," Franky said. "Just like the prosecution will. There are loads of helpful hiking tips on the web, including how good the mobile coverage is."
"You think she's guilty," Erica said. It was a statement rather than a question.
"I think she's lying," Franky corrected her.
“What’s your second question?”
"If Ruby didn't take the boy why is she lying about going to the centre that day?"
"You think she went to the centre?" Erica asked. She rubbed her brow.
"Yep," Franky said briefly.
"Maybe because it incriminates her," Erica offered. “Why do you think she’s lying?”
“She mentions in her statement to the police Henry’s blue shirt. How did she know he was wearing a blue shirt unless she’d been at the centre?”
“Why didn’t we pick that up?” Erica frowned. How could they have missed that?
“Probably because it’s not in the written statement,” Franky said and Erica just stared at her. “I found it on the audio but there is some background noise when she says it. Whoever transcribed the interview didn’t catch it.”
“But you did?” Erica sounded sceptical.
Franky took a USB stick from around her neck. Erica hadn’t noticed it before because it had been hidden inside her shirt. She stood up and walked around Erica’s desk and stood beside her. She inserted the drive into Erica’s laptop then leant across her to tap some keys until she brought up the file on the screen. She fast forwarded the audio then hit play.
“This is the original,” she said. They listened. Ruby was talking about Henry. It was the part of the interview where the police had let her talk. They had been fishing, waiting for Ruby to incriminate herself. “There,” Franky hit pause. She’d been leaning on the desk and turned to look at Erica. “Did you hear it?”
Erica shook her head. “What’s that noise?” she asked. She couldn’t help but be aware of Franky’s closeness. She could smell her shampoo when she turned her head. She noticed how her shirt gaped as she leant forward revealing the curve of her breast and her tattoo.
“Someone scraping their chair,” Franky explained. “Now listen to this,” she tapped the keyboard again and opened another file and pressed play. It was the same dialogue but much clearer. This time Erica heard the word blue. “I cleaned up the tape to see if I could hear what she said.” She looked at Erica to see her reaction.
“How do you know how to do that?” Erica asked, clearly impressed.
Franky looked sheepish. “An ex-girlfriend worked in radio, she taught me some stuff,” she said quickly breaking eye contact. “You have to have the right software,” she added.
Erica looked at Franky’s profile as she shut down the files and removed the USB. She put it around her neck again and tucked it inside her shirt. Only then did she look at Erica again. She was smiling broadly, she looked cocky, and very sexy. She knew Franky’s blunt assessment of the flaws in Ruby’s story should worry her. Instead she was admiring Franky’s abilities, feeling surprised and impressed. She had under-estimated the woman in front of her, she acknowledged, and it made Franky even more attractive.
“Now if only you’d put those skills to work defending Ruby instead of tearing her story apart,” she thought then realised she had said it aloud.
“You have to break a few eggs to make an omelette,” Franky pointed out, not offended by Erica’s comment. “Anyway, there is some good news,” she offered.
“Great,” Erica replied in a tone which suggested it would have to be pretty damn good to outweigh what she had just heard.
Franky smiled at her. “I think Ruby is covering for someone so all we have to do is work out who,” she said as though it was the simplest thing in the world.
"You said you had three questions," Erica asked, hoping the third question wouldn’t be quite as damaging as the first two had been.
"It’s late,” Franky said and Erica thought she must be about to defer their discussion. She wondered if Franky had somewhere to be but her next words dispelled this. “What are you doing tonight?”
“Working, why?” Erica asked with a frown.
“I think you should buy me that drink,” Franky said seriously.
Erica had a mountain of work to do. “I can’t,” she said with honest regret. She would much prefer to be having a drink with Franky than ploughing through legal briefs.
“Yes you can,” Franky corrected her. “All this will still be here tomorrow, you know.” She waved her hands at the papers on Erica’s desk. “If you don’t want me flirting with other women, you should give me the opportunity to flirt with you."
She couldn’t help smiling despite part of her wanting again to refute Franky’s assumption. “Well, if flirting’s your intention we don’t have to go–"
"Not just flirting, Erica," Franky interrupted. Erica swallowed at the look in Franky's green eyes and her words. They brought to mind other words, the ones Franky had left on her voicemail, the ones which had made Erica’s pulse quicken when she heard them. The kiss in the lift had been an invitation, the voicemail had been a promise, and the drink would be the fulfilment of those.
The bar was loud and crowded. Erica had to lean in to be heard. "What do you want to drink?" Franky could feel Erica's breath on her ear. She already liked this place. "Vodka," she answered.
They were standing at the bar. "Two vodka shots," Erica ordered from a passing bartender. Someone pushed her from behind and she felt Franky's hand steady her. She hated this bar but it was the closest one to her office.
She handed Franky a shot glass and picked up her own. She watched Franky down it quickly then followed suit. Franky leant forward. "You still haven’t told me what you would have said in that letter," she breathed into Erica’s ear. “Are you going to tell me now?” She pulled back to see Erica's reaction.
Erica shook her head with a smile but leant in. “You never give up, do you Franky,” she said. She heard Franky give a wry laugh. “I’d have said you were fascinating, and dangerous, and so damn attractive that if I’d stayed I wouldn’t have been able to resist you,” she confessed.
Franky put her hand on Erica’s hip. “Why are we still here?” she asked quickly. She knew why though because Boomer was sprawled across her couch invading her privacy.
As she considered alternatives Erica pulled on her arm. “Come on,” she said and led Franky out of the overcrowded, overheated bar.
Ten minutes later Franky was looking around a top floor apartment about a block from Erica's office. "What is this place?" She asked as Erica turned on a couple of lamps.
"It's a serviced apartment the firm owns." She watched as Franky explored. In the kitchenette Franky opened the fridge and pulled out a bottle of wine. She raised her eyebrows at Erica then continued exploring. She was like a kid in her first hotel room. She disappeared down the corridor. "We keep it for visiting clients and specialists," she explained. There was no response from Franky.
Erica put down her bag and took off her jacket. She followed Franky down the corridor and found her in the bedroom testing out the bed. She sat up when Erica appeared. Franky studied Erica. Her green eyes caught the lamp light and sparkled. Erica had thought Franky the prisoner had been attractive but this woman in front of her was gorgeous.
"What are you thinking?" Franky asked suddenly. Erica was surprised Franky couldn't read her thoughts on her face.
"I was thinking how sexy you look," she admitted.
Franky's eyes lightened with amusement. "Were you?” her voice was full of anticipation. "Come here," she invited. Erica closed the gap between them. Franky put her hands on Erica's hips and looked up at her. Erica's dress felt silky and smooth under her hands. She pulled her closer and trailed her fingers down her legs towards the hem. When she got there she stopped, her hands resting against Erica's thighs. She saw Erica catch her bottom lip between her teeth. She put her hands on Franky's shoulders. "Did you ever imagine this?" Franky asked in a low voice. Erica shook her head slightly. "You never thought about what it might be like with me, what I might do to you, when you were thinking how attractive I was?"
Erica swallowed. She was thinking about it now and she could feel herself getting aroused just at the thought of what might happen next in this borrowed apartment. Franky's fingers slid under her dress and moved upwards, her thumbs caressing her inner thighs. Her hands tightened on Franky's shoulders.
When she reached Erica's underwear Franky slid her hands around Erica's arse liking the feel of it. Her eyes darkened as she peeled the underwear downwards. Erica stepped out of them. Her breath was a little uneven now. Franky pulled her down into her lap. Erica was thankful because her legs felt like they were about to give out. Franky kissed her, loving the taste of her, the feel of her body, she pulled her close. "I want you," she murmured in Erica's ear.
Erica was undoing the buttons on Franky's shirt, taking the initiative, hastily pulling it off so Franky was sitting in her cute simple red bra. The USB stick dangled between her breasts. Her tattoo finished just above her bra. Erica traced it with her fingers and then her mouth. She unclipped Franky's bra and pulled it off. Her mouth found her nipples and she teased them with her tongue marvelling at how they felt and responded to her touch. She sat back and pulled her dress over her head impatiently. Franky took over removing her bra quickly, expertly. She sank back on the bed and pulled Erica with her. She reversed their positions effortlessly so she was on top. She looked down at Erica's nakedness admiring it, soaking up the sight of it, storing it in her memory.
Her mouth explored every inch of it, looking for Erica's sensitive spots and delighting in Erica's reaction when she found them. Finally Erica begged and Franky went lower kissing her, using her tongue in ways which caused Erica to gasp and grab the side of the bed trying to anchor herself in the sensation. It was torture, it was bliss, she couldn't stand another moment, and yet she never wanted it to stop. "Franky," she managed to gasp. When she came she cried out riding the waves of the orgasm unable to focus on anything but the intense sensations she was experiencing.
Franky dropped onto the bed next to her and rolled onto her side so she could watch Erica. She could watch Erica forever she thought suddenly. Erica turned her head to look at Franky. "Fuck," was all she could manage.
Franky gave a slow smile. "I've wanted to do that ever since I met you."