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Second Chances

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“And this is Franky Doyle, my associate,” he shook hands with a dark-haired attractive woman with an engaging smile. They all sat around the conference table once the introductions were finished.

“You’ve read the brief we sent over?” he asked. Both women nodded. “This line of work is not our speciality but our client is important to us and we want to offer him the best possible legal representation. It is why we have contacted you,” he smiled briefly. “You have an impressive reputation in this area, Ms Wilkinson.”

The older woman did not acknowledge the compliment. “Your client is Stuart Roxton I take it,” she clarified. “And it is his daughter that the matter relates to?”

“Yes, Ruby Roxton,” he acknowledged.

“I’m not in the habit of representing rich, spoilt girls who have spent their youth being overindulged and now lack any moral fibre,” Stephanie pointed out. “If you’d done your research, Mr Hammond, you’d know that.” The young lawyer looked composed despite the implied insult.

“I am aware of that,” he replied seriously. “Ruby Roxton is not like that,” he hesitated slightly. “I think you know that, Ms Wilkinson, or you wouldn’t have wasted your time coming to meet with me,” he studied her intently.

There was a moment of tension while they each assessed the calibre of the other then Stephanie Wilkinson smiled. Her piercing blue eyes changed from icy Antarctic to the embracing blue of the Mediterranean.

“So what were you hoping my firm could do for you?” she asked.

“We would like to bring you in as special counsel to assist with developing a defence and representing Ruby in court,” he explained. “Would you be willing to assist in that capacity?”

“I would like to know more about the case before I agree,” she replied, “I have some questions.”

“Certainly,” he agreed. “I would like you to meet one of our partners. She has done the preparatory work on the case to date. I won’t be a moment.” He stood up and went to the door, which he opened and stepped out into the corridor.

Erica was working in her office when her secretary interrupted her. “You’re wanted in the conference room, it’s the Roxton case, here’s the file,” she deposited a legal file onto Erica’s desk.

When Erica entered the conference room, her associate Nick Hammond had been talking but he broke off immediately. “This is Erica Davidson. Erica, this is Stephanie Wilkinson from Wilkinson and Associates,” Erica shook hands with a composed woman in her late fifties. “And Franky Doyle,” Nick finished with.

Erica looked with surprise into those familiar green eyes, which held amusement and something else. Her mouth opened but no words came out. Seeing Franky so suddenly had completely thrown her. Then Franky stepped forward and took her hand. It felt warm and firm in hers. “A pleasure,” the dark haired woman murmured with a smile.

They all sat down and Nick explained to Erica why she had been brought in. Erica nodded, stealing a glance at Franky as she did so. Franky was watching her intently, looking more composed than Erica felt. She was dressed conservatively in a dark fitted jacket which covered the tattoos Erica knew were lurking beneath. Her hair was longer and she had lost the rat tail. She had toned down the eye make-up but she couldn’t hide those eyes.

Erica switched her attention to Stephanie Wilkinson. On any other day she would have been star struck to have met the woman whose reputation was faultless in both the legal and social welfare communities. Stephanie Wilkinson was tireless in her pursuit of justice for those disadvantaged women who were at the mercy of the criminal justice system. She had admired her work since her university days. Instead Erica had trouble focussing her attention on her idol’s words so completely distracted was she by the appearance of Franky Doyle.

Franky, who she had last seen in prison garb at the Wentworth Correctional Centre three years ago, seemed to have got her life together. Erica was having difficulty reconciling Franky Doyle, prisoner, with the woman sitting across from her. This woman seemed professional, assured and mature.

Erica had spent three years forgetting about Wentworth and getting her career back on track. She had worked hard and made partner in a firm which had no connection to her father. She was doing interesting work unrelated to her previous career. When the Roxton case came across her desk she had felt a slight pull back to that previous world. Broken women who needed saving drew Erica in.

Later she remembered little of the discussion except Stephanie had agreed to a second meeting where she would meet Ruby. As they shook hands on parting Franky leant in and said, “I look forward to us working together,” a flirty smile in her voice. Erica couldn’t be sure but it had sounded as though Franky had deliberately swallowed the word working to change the intent completely.

She watched Franky walk down the corridor towards front reception. Her legs were toned and tanned and Erica wondered if she still worked out. She still had a swagger although not as pronounced. She looked good in her outfit. Erica found herself admiring how it hugged her figure. Just as she was turning the corner Franky looked back suddenly and caught Erica in her observation. She smiled slowly then disappeared from sight.

Erica returned to her office and sent her secretary off to get coffees. Nick appeared in her doorway. “Get on to Stuart Roxton and arrange for his daughter to come in,” Erica instructed her associate. The young man nodded. “Good work today,” she added. She turned her attention to the file on her desk. After a moment someone approached her doorway again. “Anything else?” she asked as she looked up thinking it was Nick back again.

Franky was standing in her doorway smiling. “Hello, Miss Davidson,” she said. It took Erica back to Wentworth when Franky would smile at her in her office. “Fancy meeting you here,” she grinned.

“Franky,” Erica didn’t know what to say. “What the hell are you doing here?” she asked at last.

Franky looked offended. She wandered towards the desk. “I’m hurt,” she said in a teasing voice. “Aren’t you pleased to see me?”

Erica avoided the question. “How did you end up working for Stephanie Wilkinson?” she asked instead.

“That’s a long story,” Franky studied her. Erica couldn’t read the expression in those green eyes. “We should have a drink,” she said suddenly as though she had just thought of it and it hadn’t been her intent all along. She leant against Erica’s desk and picked up one of her business cards. She studied the details. “Don’t you think?” Franky looked up suddenly and caught Erica’s eye.

Erica looked into those green eyes and found herself nodding. It was curiosity she told herself firmly, nothing more. She wanted to hear how Franky had re-entered society so successfully. Of all the women at Wentworth, Franky had been the one to capture her imagination and blur the lines between professional interest and personal. It was natural to be curious about her journey since.

Franky smiled slowly. “I’ll call you,” she said.

Erica watched her leave. From behind there was almost nothing left of the Wentworth prisoner; from behind Franky Doyle looked like a city lawyer; except for the tattoo on her calf which stood out defiantly against the conservative dress code.

Franky sauntered back to reception feeling the day had taken an unexpected turn for the better. If anyone had told her she would ever see Erica Davidson again she would have been sceptical. In Franky’s experience life did not often give second chances. You had one shot usually to make good. She smiled. Today just might be the exception, she acknowledged.

Her boss was waiting at reception for her. “Find the ladies okay?” Stephanie Wilkinson asked as she put her phone away. Franky nodded. “Only the receptionist tells me it’s that way,” the older woman nodded in the opposite direction to where Franky had appeared from.

Franky raised her eyebrows and gave a quick smile. “Shall we get going, Boss?” was all she said.

In the taxi Franky was quiet. She was thinking about Erica. The ex-governor had looked good to Franky’s eyes. Her blonde hair had long curls which brushed her shoulders as she turned her head. Her figure was trim and looked as sexy as ever. Franky had noticed the engagement ring was still on her finger but no wedding band and for some reason that gave Franky hope. It appeared Erica was still in a hiatus when it came to her relationship. Franky remembered the kiss she had stolen in Erica’s office three years ago. The Governor had fought it then given in to it. The fighting had made the kiss even more intense. For a moment Franky had established her dominance. The kiss had reflected their relationship, which had been a battle for control from the very first day they had met. Franky smiled at the memory of those lips responding against hers, resisting then surrendering before Franky broke away. She had made her point and they both knew it.

“So what did you think?” Steph’s question penetrated her reverie.

“Of the case?” Franky asked with a frown.

“No, the décor,” Stephanie said sarcastically.

“I’m curious,” Franky said immediately. “Aren’t you?”

“Enough to at least meet this Ruby Roxton and take her measure,” admitted the older woman.

“What did you think of them?” Franky was really asking her mentor what she thought of Erica Davidson.

“Typical high-end law firm,” she chuckled, “this case would be so far outside their comfort zone they would have been having kittens when it first came across their desks. I imagine none of them have dealt with anything like it.”

Of course Franky knew that wasn’t the case and it surprised her that Erica had felt the need to call in the expertise of Wilkinson and Associates. Although perhaps it wasn’t so surprising, Steph’s reputation was formidable after all. “I’m glad you took me along,” Franky said gratefully. “I think I will benefit a lot from it.”

Steph Wilkinson snorted. “Don’t think I don’t know what you’re up to Franky Doyle,” was all she said.

Later that same day Erica’s direct line rang. Her secretary had gone for the day. She looked at the number but didn’t recognise it. She frowned. Usually she liked to have her secretary screen calls from strange numbers. She would let it go through to voicemail, she decided. A minute later her mobile started ringing. It was the same number. Okay, so this was someone with both her numbers, she decided to answer it.

“Hello?” she never announced her name if she didn’t know who was calling. She felt it gave the caller the advantage over her.

“I was wondering – did you get my letter?” asked a low female voice which she didn’t recognise.

“Who is this?” Erica asked with a frown.

“Only I gave Boomer very specific instructions,” the woman continued. “So I figure you must have.”

“Franky?” Erica said, suddenly realising who the caller was then added, “What letter?”

“The one I wrote and gave to Boomer when she was released. I told her where to take it and not to hand it over to anyone but you. Boomer is very good at following orders.” The implication was clear Erica should definitely have received the letter.

Erica remembered the incident.

She had been in a meeting when her secretary had knocked on the door.

“I’m terribly sorry, Erica,” she interrupted, “but we have a situation. You’re needed in reception.”

Erica looked at her secretary with surprise. She wondered what on earth could be so urgent that she would interrupt a meeting with a client. Her secretary had good judgement so it must be something important.

“What is it?” she asked once they were in the corridor.

“There is a woman staging a sit-in at reception. She is demanding to see you. She doesn’t have an appointment but refuses to leave. She is creating a scene,” her secretary finished with.

“Who is it?” Erica asked as they walked towards reception.

“A Sue Jenkins,” her secretary replied.

Erica thought hard, the name sounded vaguely familiar to her. “Have the police been called?” As she rounded the corner and entered the reception area she suddenly realised why she knew the name.

Boomer had made an effort. Her hair had been braided and pinned back away from her face. She was wearing make-up and while Erica questioned the lipstick colour, she couldn’t doubt Sue looked better than she ever had in the unflattering teal uniform from Wentworth. She was wearing a long skirt made of stretch material which covered her ample figure and a tight-fitting black top which did its best to be slimming but failed miserably. She had parked herself on the floor against the reception and was arguing with the receptionist in a loud voice.

Shit, thought Erica. She was pretty sure Boomer was out on parole and the police attending could only result in a report to her parole officer of a breach. “It’s okay I know her. Call off the police,” she murmured to her secretary.

“No,” Boomer was saying adamantly. “I have a personal delivery for Miss Davidson, so you can bugger off bitch.”

The young, immaculately dressed receptionist was barely holding on to her 9 til 5 smile. “You don’t have an appointment and I cannot let you just walk into her office and wait for her.”

“Well, you better fucking get her here then,” Boomer’s niceties were fading rapidly.

At this point Erica intervened. “Is there a problem?” she asked the receptionist. The young woman looked at her with relief.

Boomer turned her attention to the newcomer and a smile lit up her face. “Governor!” she said with recognition and relief. “They wouldn’t let me see you.” She struggled to her feet.

Erica nodded to the receptionist. She smiled at Boomer. “Sue, what are you doing here?”

Boomer leant in and Erica was overwhelmed by cheap perfume. “I have a letter for you, Miss Davidson,” Boomer whispered. “That’s why I’m here.”

“Well, how about we go to my office,” she suggested and put her hand on Boomer’s elbow to guide her away from reception.

“Fucking harder to see you than the Queen, ay Miss Davidson, and that slag on reception needs to lighten up!” Erica was just thankful Boomer hadn’t decided to put the receptionist in a headlock.

“Well it’s good to see you’re out, Sue, when did you get released?” Erica asked as they walked.

“Yesterday, ay,” she grinned. “I’m staying with my mum, so it’s all good,” she added as though speaking to her parole officer.

Erica ushered Boomer into her office. “Good,” she said with a smile. “You said you had a letter for me,” she prompted.

“Right,” Boomer fossicked in her bag and produced a crumpled envelope and handed it over. “It’s from Franky,” she added. Unnecessarily, in Erica’s view, she had known immediately who it was from and what it would say.

“Thank you,” Erica said and dropped the letter on to her desk. Boomer waited. There was an awkward moment of silence. “Was there something else?” The ex-governor asked at last.

“Franky told me to wait for the reply,” Boomer explained. Erica immediately had an image in her mind of Boomer waiting patiently in the visitor’s chair while she penned a thoughtful reply to whatever declarations Franky had decided to risk including in her letter. She smiled at the absurdity of it.

“There’s no reply,” she said quietly.

Boomer frowned. “Should I come back tomorrow?” she asked at last.

“No, thank you for delivering the letter but there is no need to wait for a reply.” Erica spoke clearly but the larger woman continued to frown.

“What should I tell Franky then?” Boomer asked.

“Tell her I hope she is keeping up her studies,” Erica offered lamely. She watched Boomer grin with confusion.

“You know I got the letter though,” Erica said quietly into the phone. “Boomer would have told you.”

There was silence. “Did you read it?” Franky asked at last. Erica thought she could hear the vulnerability in that question.

Erica knew her response would not satisfy Franky. If she hadn’t read it then the connection they had in prison meant nothing. If she had read it and hadn’t responded then she had deliberately left Franky waiting.

“Yes,” she said at last. The lights went out as she said it. The building’s lights switched off automatically at 8pm. She was sitting in the dark holding her phone to her ear listening to Franky breathe softly. It felt disturbingly intimate.

“You never wrote back,” Franky pointed out. Erica could hear the disappointment in those words.

“Franky,” Erica pleaded. “How could I have possibly written back? I was the ex-governor and all letters are opened.” More silence. Erica waited in the dark.

“You thought about it then,” Erica could hear the small triumphant smile in Franky’s voice.

I thought about you a lot, Erica could have said, for a time you were all I thought about. I almost lost my fiancé because of you.

“I think we should have that drink,” Franky said into the silence. “Then you can tell me what you wanted to say in that letter,” she breathed into Erica’s ear. “Tomorrow,” she suggested.

“I can’t,” Erica said immediately. “Next week,” she offered.

“Tomorrow,” Franky repeated firmly. She named a bar. Erica knew it. It was a popular bar near the law courts. “I’ll be there from 6pm.” She rang off and Erica was left alone in the dark.