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Unbearable, Again

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The sense of déjà vu is almost sickening. But this time there is proof, right there, in print.

Lady detective dies in Biblical City.

He looks up, grasping for comprehension; perhaps hoping to receive a different explanation, but all he finds is Hugh comforting the weeping Dot, and the dejected, sympathetic glances of Bert and Cec. He isn’t alone in this, it isn’t some twisted misunderstanding. Not this time.

“Our condolences, Inspector.”

He barely registers the words over the blood thundering through his ears. All he is able to do is turn and walk in the direction of the car, his head bowed as though he’s actually reading the newspaper in his hands.

He does try to read the smaller print beneath the headline. To gain some understanding, parse some sense out of it. He’s only able to comprehend a few fatal lines. The rest swims before his eyes and he lowers the newspaper, his shoulders clenching painfully as he bites back a sob.

She’s dead.

“Sir?”

He hadn't even known she was in Palestine.

“Sir.”

Two uniformed legs appear next to him. It’s not the first time Hugh tried to speak to him, he realises. He forces himself to look up.

His constable’s face is pale, but resolute. “I’ve sent Dottie home with Cec and Bert. Do you want me to drive you to your house, sir? We’ve nearly finished here anyway.”

Part of him, as ridiculous as it is in the moment, is impressed with Hugh’s levelheadedness. The ache in his chest intensifies. Phryne will never return home, will never see how well marriage suits Dot and Hugh.

“Yes.” He grinds the word out like it’s stuck inside his throat. “Thank you, Collins.”