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Second Chances

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Franky was sent home that same night from the hospital.  She had sustained severe bruising to her back, ribs and abdomen.  There was no internal bleeding and no broken bones although one of her fingers was dislocated.  They had been concerned about concussion briefly because of a bump on her head.  The medical staff gave her some pain killers and told her not to drive. 

Erica brought her home and made sure the place was secure.  When she realised Franky hadn't eaten she went into the kitchen.  “I can do toast," she offered with a smile.  Franky just grinned.  She liked having Erica fuss over her. 

Erica helped Franky get ready for bed then brought her a glass of water and put the pain killers on the bedside table so Franky could reach them if she needed them in the night.

It was after 11pm. She knew Mark would be home from Sydney by now.  There were probably a dozen messages from him on her phone.   "I have to go," she said at last. "Mark will be -" she began then thought better of it.  There was an awkward pause.  Instead she asked: "Are you going to be okay?"

"Sure," Franky shrugged cautiously as though wary of possible pain.

"Okay," Erica said with relief. "I'll call you in the morning."  Franky just nodded.  "You probably should call the police tomorrow and put in a report," she finished with as she was turning to leave.

"It wasn't a burglary," Franky said as Erica headed towards the bedroom door.

Erica looked back with a puzzled frown.  "What?"

"What happened tonight, it wasn't a burglary," Franky clarified.  She saw Erica was waiting for more information.  "I'm in trouble."

She said it with such deadly earnest that Erica was afraid.  She returned to Franky's bedside and propped on the edge of the bed.  "What kind of trouble?" She asked with a sinking feeling.

Franky told her about Vince and about Boomer.  She left out her intimidation of Ron.  Erica listened with concern. 

"You need to tell Stephanie," she said once Franky had finished.  "Your firm will have reserves for this type of contingency.  Stephanie can give you the money to cover the debt to this Vince Diamond character."

Franky just shook her head.  She knew she wouldn't be able to make Erica understand but going to Stephanie for help would jeopardise all the trust and respect she had earned from her mentor.  She wasn't prepared to risk that.  It would be hard enough to explain why she was battered black and blue without raising suspicion. 

She thought Erica would argue with her but she didn't.  She accepted Franky's decision not to take her advice.  Instead she moved immediately to another possible solution.  This was Erica's strength, she realised, the ability to problem-solve without emotion or judgement, to read the cards she was dealt and adjust her strategy accordingly.

"You need to get Boomer back here then," she said.

"And if I can't get her to return my calls or respond to my texts?" Franky asked with resignation.

"You've got her mobile number," Erica pointed out.  "Get her phone traced."

Franky's brain wasn't working at its usual pace.  "How do I do that?" She asked with a frown.

Erica rubbed her brow.  "I don't know, Franky," she said wearily.  "The same way you're getting the details of that registration I suppose," she finished with a sigh.

Franky was silent.  Of course, why the hell hadn't she thought of that?  She looked at Erica and smiled.  "You're fantastic," she said sincerely. 

Erica stood up.  Franky expected her to leave as she'd planned.  Instead she walked around the bed, took off her shoes and lay down next to Franky. 

"I thought you had to go home," Franky said with surprise.

"I can stay for a bit," was all Erica said.  She had decided Franky needed her more than Mark did and she was worried the men who had attacked Franky might come back.  She slipped her hand into Franky's uninjured one.  "You should try to sleep."

Franky suddenly wondered if taking a beating hadn't been worth it after all.  "Come closer," she murmured.  Erica did.  Franky took Erica's arm and put it gently across her bruised stomach then interlocked their fingers again.  "Doesn't it hurt?" Erica asked with surprise.

"No," Franky replied quickly.  "It helps."  Erica could hear the smile in Franky's voice.  She was amazed how quickly Franky could bounce back. 

“Are you sure it doesn’t tickle?” she murmured.  She felt Franky chuckle.

It was strange to be lying next to her.  Not strange, she corrected herself, but different.  She was very aware of Franky's body against hers.  The warmth of it, her curves, how little there was of her and how her muscles, although subtle, flexed as she shifted slightly.  Franky exuded strength, certainty and danger.  Then Erica would glimpse her vulnerability and it was the combination of these that Erica found irresistible. 

"I like your decor," Erica said suddenly.  Franky laughed but stopped abruptly.  It hurt to laugh too hard.  “Did you choose it?"

"No," Franky was grinning.  "This place is a rental.  It came with the mirrors."  The wall opposite the bed was panelled floor to ceiling with mirrors.

"Mm," Erica replied.  She squeezed Franky's hand.  "Who was here before you?  A prostitute?"

"Well, I found a pair of handcuffs in the wardrobe."  Franky offered.

"Did you?" Erica was intrigued.  She couldn't help herself.  "Do you still have them?"

"Maybe," Franky answered noncommittally.  Erica could tell she was smiling.

She leant across Franky and switched off the lamp.  "You should try to sleep," she said again. 

"Aren't you going to give me a goodnight kiss?" Franky asked as Erica slid back over her.

"Only if you promise to find those handcuffs," Erica's lips were tantalisingly close.  "Do you promise?" she murmured.

"Definitely," agreed Franky immediately.  Erica's kiss was soft and sensual and finished too soon. 

Franky must have been exhausted though because Erica heard her breathing get deeper quite quickly.  The background noise from the street became less.  The mirrors reflected the glow from the streetlight.  She should close the blinds she thought drowsily but she felt so comfortable she couldn't move.

The next day Franky could barely move she was so stiff and sore.  It didn’t stop her getting up and getting ready for work though.  She didn’t know what time Erica had left but she had woken up alone.  She took a couple of pain killers and looked for her phone.  There was no sign of it either in the flat or outside on the pavement.  She wondered if the thugs from last night had taken it. 

At the office she called her mobile number.  It rang out.  Great!  Now she had no way of contacting Boomer because she had no idea what her number was.  She checked her emails and her appointments.  Boomer’s trial date had been set for Monday fortnight.  It gave her two weeks to find her friend.

Her phone rang.  It was Stephanie.  “I’ll have to work from home today,” her boss told her.  “The plumbing has gone on the blink and the plumbing company can’t seem to commit to an appointment time.” Franky could hear the frustration in her voice.  “It would happen when James is overseas,” she finished with. 

Franky was relieved.  At least she’d have a few days to heal before she had to face Stephanie’s forensic questioning.  “Anything you need me to do?” she asked helpfully.

“Just keep going through the Roxton files for me.  Did anything come out of the meeting yesterday?”  Franky filled her in.  “Good work,” Stephanie acknowledged when she’d finished.  “How was Erica?”

Franky smiled.  “She was very helpful.”

“I’m glad to hear it.  Call if you need me,” she rang off.

Franky pulled out the locker key Ruby had given her and looked at the membership tag.  It was for a gym on Toorak Road.  She rang them explaining she was looking for a gym to join and asked if she could come in for an introductory tour.  She made an appointment for later in the day. 

She rang her mobile again and this time a man answered.  “Hello?” he said.

“Hi,” Franky said.  “Who is this?”

“It’s Mark Pearson,” he answered. 

Franky scribbled the name on her legal pad.  “You have my phone,” she said.

“What?” he sounded confused.

“The phone you’re talking on now, it’s mine, I lost it yesterday,” she explained.  She drew a box around the name.

“Oh, right,” he sounded relieved.  “It was in my fiancée’s jacket.  I thought it was hers and she’d left it at home.” 

Franky suddenly realised who Mark Pearson was.  Somehow her phone had ended up with Erica.  “Look, is it possible for me to pick it up?” Franky wasn’t sure about meeting Erica’s fiancé but she had to admit a part of her was curious.  “I really need it.”

“Actually I was just heading into the office,” he paused then followed with, “where are you?”  Franky told him.  “Well my office isn’t far from there.  I can drop it off on the way in if you like.” 

“Okay,” she agreed.  “That would be great.”  She told him her name and the address of the firm.

Erica wanted to call Franky but she had back to back meetings all morning.  Between meetings she managed to send a text instead.  She was deliberating over how to sign off when Nick entered her office.  Should she put an X or not, should she put more than one X?

“Morning,” he said then added, “Are you ready to start?”  Erica waved him in.  “Have you read my brief?”  He watched her typing into her phone.  “Erica?”

She looked up as she hit send.  “Yes,” she said.   

Franky looked curiously at the brown haired man with the brown eyes and a two day growth.  He was good-looking in that urban professional kind of way.  He smiled at her.  “Franky Doyle?” he questioned.

Franky nodded and she moved forward cautiously to greet him.  It hurt to move too fast.  She put out her hand then hesitated.  He saw the taped fingers and nodded with understanding.  “Sports injury?” he asked.

Franky shrugged dismissively.  “I dislocated it,” she explained.

“I used to do it all the time playing footy,” he smiled.  “It hurts.”  He pulled out her mobile.

“Thanks for this,” Franky acknowledged.  He was about to hand the phone over when it beeped.  He glanced at the screen and saw Erica’s name.  He read the text with a frown.  Franky watched him.

“You know Erica Davidson?” He asked slowly.  It was Franky’s turn to frown.  “She has just sent you a text,” he explained.  “She’s my fiancée,” he added.

“We’re working on a case together,” she said slowly.

“You’re the one who was injured,” he said with sudden understanding.  Franky watched him closely.  “Erica told me she took someone to the hospital.”

Erica had elected to tell Mark the truth about why she was so late home.  At least as much of the truth as she felt was necessary.  A colleague had been injured and Erica had taken her to emergency and stayed with her.  She hadn’t called Mark or checked her messages because her mobile had been switched off consistent hospital protocols.  He had accepted her explanation.

Franky nodded slowly.  He handed her the phone.  She glanced at the screen.  There was a message from Erica.  How are you?  I’m in meetings until lunch but will call later.  She let out her breath slowly.  “Thanks,” she said.

The gym on Toorak Road looked exclusive.  Franky thought about her own gym in Richmond.  It was tiny and didn’t run yoga classes or any classes for that matter.  There were spin bikes, treadmills, weights and not much else.  Franky liked it.  It was plain and unpretentious.  The girl who showed her around told her enthusiastically about all the great benefits which members could enjoy.  The equipment was shiny and new and the personal trainers looked like they should be on breakfast cereal commercials.  The tour ended in the female change rooms.

“There are complimentary toiletries, hair products, towels, and you get your own personal locker,” she finished with and glanced at herself in the mirrors. 

Franky nodded and looked around with interest.  She saw the lockers lining one wall.  She let the girl lead her out into the corridor.  “Did you want to try out some of the equipment?” she asked.

“I didn’t bring any gear,” Franky said.  “Do you mind if I just have a look around?” The girl smiled and said she would meet her at the front desk.

Franky wandered back into the change room and looked for Ruby’s locker number.  Once she found it she looked around but there was only one woman changing at the other end of the room.  Franky opened the locker quickly.  The soft toy was easy to spot.  Franky took it and put it in the bag she had brought with her.  She looked with interest at the rest of the contents of the locker.  There were some vitamin bottles containing tablets for cold sores and vitamin B.  There was a towel and a drink bottle.  Under the towel there was a notebook and Franky flicked through it quickly.  It looked like some sort of journal.  She dropped it into the bag as well. 

She listened to the final sell from the girl and took the pamphlet she offered then said she would think about it.  Outside the gym she called Erica. 

“Can you meet me?” she asked.  They agreed to meet at a café near Erica’s work. 

Franky arrived first and ordered a double shot expresso while she waited.  She took out Ruby’s journal and stared at it.  It was a plain spiral bound notebook about the size of a paperback with a hard black cover.  It was held closed by a thick elastic band.  She opened it with a certain curiosity.   It was always possible this would give her an insight into Ruby’s soul. 

Something fell out and onto the floor.  Franky bent down cautiously to pick it up feeling every ache with each small movement.  It was an envelope with something inside.  Franky slipped it into her jacket pocket and turned her attention back to the journal.

She didn’t notice Erica arrive until she sat down across from her.  “How are you feeling?” she asked with a frown.

Franky looked up.  “Better for seeing you,” she said with an appreciative smile.  Erica had her hair up and wisps had fallen down framing her face.  She smiled with embarrassed self-awareness and Franky’s smile broadened.  “Did you know Ruby keeps a journal?” She asked suddenly.

Erica shook her head.  Franky told her about the session with Ruby and her visit to the gym.  Erica had the same concerns about the soft toy being in Ruby’s possession as Franky did. 

“I don’t understand why she didn’t give the toy back to Henry,” Erica said as her coffee arrived.  “She must have seen him there because she knew the colour of his shirt.  Did she explain that to you?”  Franky shook her head.  “I don’t like this,” Erica confessed.  “It is sounding more and more like she is guilty.  She has his toy in her gym locker and her journal there as well.  It is as though she deliberately hid those items somewhere the police wouldn’t know to look.”

“Maybe she did,” Franky acknowledged.  Her gut still told her Ruby was protecting someone though.  “What do you want to do?”

“Give me the journal,” Erica instructed.  “I’ll have copies made and we can all go through it.”  Franky wondered how Ruby would feel about a bunch of lawyers poring over her personal thoughts and desires.  Franky knew what it felt like to have her private letters read by others and almost wished she hadn’t told Erica about the journal.  It was too late now.  She slid the journal across the table.  “Have you had any luck finding Boomer?”

Franky shook her head.  “Maybe tonight,” she said.  What Franky couldn’t understand was how Vince Diamond had discovered his money might be in jeopardy.  As far as she knew she was the only person who knew Boomer had gone AWOL. 

“Let me help,” Erica offered.  She wasn’t sure Franky wanted her help but she’d made some discreet enquires about Vince Diamond and she hadn’t liked what she’d heard. 

Franky didn’t trust offers of help.  In the past there had been too much obligation associated with them or she had been let down.  She had opened the door last night though when she had confided in Erica.  She knew it so she tried to meet Erica halfway.  “I’ll think about it,” she said with a quick smile.

Franky didn’t feel much like going out but she did want the information about the car registration and to speak to Amy Wilson about tracing Boomer’s phone.  The police officer scrubbed up well in civilian clothes.  She was wearing a sleeveless black dress and her blonde hair dropped in sexy curls below her shoulders.  Franky was understated by comparison.  She was all in black except for a shimmer of silver thread which was stitched through her top.  She had worn tight pants and long sleeves to hide the bruises to her forearms. 

Academy was buzzing and on any other night Franky would have been happy to drink and dance the night away there.  As it was the loud music was giving her a headache and the jostling crowd caused her pain each time someone bumped into her.

“Can we get a table?” she pleaded.

They found a free booth.  Franky sank carefully into the comfortable bench seat.  Amy slid in next to her.  She sat so close their arms touched.  “Do you have the registration details?” Franky asked immediately.

Amy smiled coyly.  “Pleasure first, Franky, business later.”  She picked up her drink and waited for Franky to do the same.  “Here’s to mutual satisfaction.”

Franky raised her eyebrows but drank anyway.  She wasn’t sure how alcohol would mix with the painkillers so she sipped the vodka Amy had bought for her. 

“How did you injure your finger?” Amy asked looking at the taped fingers holding Franky’s glass.

“Basketball,” Franky said immediately.

“Does it hurt?” she asked sympathetically taking Franky’s hand in hers and rubbing it gently.

A lot, thought Franky, withdrawing her hand.  “Not much,” she said with a shrug.  Prison had taught Franky to underplay the amount of pain she was in.  It wasn’t smart to let other prisoners know just how much you were hurting.  It was a sign of weakness. “Do you like being a cop?” she asked as a conversation starter.

“Well, I meet a lot of people,” she gave a flirty smile. “The overtime is good and I get to wear a gun and a uniform,” she leant into Franky.  “Which is a turn on, don’t you think?”  She breathed into her ear.   Franky choked on her drink. 

Franky thought about Erica.  She wondered if she had seemed this full on to Erica when they had first met.  “I want to ask you something,” she said abruptly.

“Ask me anything,” she invited eagerly.

“I need a mobile phone number traced,” Franky said.  “Can you do that for me?”

"That will cost you more than a drink." The implication was clear.  Amy leant in and kissed Franky.  It was forward and full of promise.

Two weeks ago she had been interested but now her head was full of Erica and Amy paled in comparison.  She pulled away.  "You can't bargain your way into my bed," she said bluntly.  Amy's smile faded.  "I think you're cute and maybe if," she trailed off.  "But I'm with someone right now."

Amy wasn't prepared to give up straight away.  "And you're exclusive?"

Franky hesitated.  She thought about Mark. "No," she admitted at last.

“So," she left it hanging in the air.  Franky didn't say anything.  "You want to be though," Amy caught on.

"Look, you can help me with this, or not," Franky said quickly.  "If not then I'll find another way," she shrugged and tapped the side of her glass.

Amy sighed.  It was a pity, she thought, because Franky Doyle was one hot girl.  There was always a chance Franky's current relationship would not pan out though.  She decided not to burn her bridges.

"Okay," she said after a moment.  "I'll help you."