Nimble hands work hastily in the frigid half-light of day break. With a simple hairpin clasped between surgical glove covered fingers, Franky works quickly, bottom lip between teeth, to jimmy the lock free. A final jiggle and twist, and the knob turns in her grip. Her heart flutters with excitement and she smiles at how easy it was.
Stepping into the dimly lit living room, she cautions a glance around the surprisingly inviting space, with it’s soft neutral tones and pale wood furnishings. The aesthetic surprises her; she’d expected something darker, more...chaotic, given the nature of the woman who had lived here.
The place looks untouched, giving the appearance of someone going on a long holiday, instead of a prison sentence.
After her extensive online research, she had found that the bank had only just retained ownership of the property yesterday, so no one has likely been inside since Iman had been remanded to Wentworth. She hopes that works in her favor.
She makes a pass through the rooms downstairs first, looking for anything obvious that might help her case. Finding nothing there, she makes her way upstairs to find Iman’s bedroom, assuming that to be the most likely place where she’d have something to hide.
Starting with the dresser, she combs through each of the drawers, digging to the bottom to search for anything that could link Iman to Pennisi. Coming up empty, she moves to check under the bed, only to find a foam roller and a few other pieces of fitness equipment. With a frustrated sigh she rises from the floor and moves to the bedside table.
The usual contents crowd the small drawer: a tube of hand cream, a bottle of sleeping pills, a sleep mask, a trashy romance novel; but the small glint of a silver picture frame in the back catches her eye. She pulls it out, flips it over and her eyes grow wide with excitement. Iman’s dark eyes stare back at her, a wide smile plastered across her face as Mike’s lips are pressed against her cheek. She flips the frame over and gently pulls back the tabs on the back, lifting the slip of cardboard from the frame. Inside is another picture, obviously from a few years prior. Mike and Iman are standing on a beach, his arms wrapped around her waist as he stands behind her, peering over her shoulder.
Though these link her romantically to Pennisi, they don’t offer a clear motive or any real evidence to support Iman as his murderer. She places the frame on the nightstand, positioning it at a slight angle to face the bed then moves to the closest in search of something more concrete. The ends of the space are lined floor to ceiling with cubbies, containing mostly shoes and other wearable accessories, but nothing more. A search of the floor turns up empty as well. She turns away with a frustrated groan, running her hands over the hood of the jumper she borrowed from Shayne.
In one final, futile attempt to find something, she turns back to the closet and begins pushing through the clothes hanging on the bar, digging in pockets as she goes. Dividing the contents of the rack down the middle, she pushes them to opposite ends of the bar to reveal the wall behind them.
A mural of pictures hangs meticulously aligned on the wall. All pictures of her; stalkerish and rather unsettling in their angle of view. These must be the pictures Pennisi had. Stepping closer to get a better view in the dim light, she notices a ziplock bag in the center of the display. Looking around for a light source, she sees the string hanging from the light above her and pulls it, illuminating the closet, bringing everything into clear view.
Inside the bag is a single knit glove, space-dye black and white, with a dramatic splash of dusty red-brown in the center. Franky shakes her head in disbelief as she registers that the ominous smear is old blood and the implication begins to sink in. This is exactly the proof she needs to set her free.
She stares in silence for a long moment as the tears begin to well in her eyes. The magnitude of the find fills her heart with hope and she laughs in delight as the smiling face of Bridget flashes in her mind’s eye.
“I’m coming for ya, Gidge.” She whispers to herself as tears of joy stream down her face.
Slowly, she pushes the clothes back into place along the bar, turns off the light and closes the closet doors. Removing anything, or sending it to the police would only bring scrutiny to the authenticity of the material; it must remain here for someone else to find. The evidence is so damning, it won’t be ignored.
With renewed hope, she slips soundlessly back into the early light of morning, locking the house behind her, no evidence of her visit left behind.
Sleep deprived and in a state of near delirium, Will stares blankly into his open locker in the staff lounge. It’s the end of his night shift and the splitting headache is finally getting the better of him. The last 72 hours have been an emotional rollercoaster that he’s only barely managed to ride with the aid of copious amounts of alcohol and kickboxing, the perfect cocktail to act as an anesthetic for the pain.
No matter how exhausted his body and mind, the images and ghostly screams haunt him each time he so much as closes his eyes. Despite his attempt to shuck off the role of executioner, he still can’t manage to shuck the terrors from his brain.
He had thought, hoped, that his anonymous call that night would have prevented Ferguson from a real escape, but the lack of any real information about her whereabouts being broadcast on the news makes him worry his call had been in vain. Turns out, she really must be the inhuman beast he thought she was and now his guilt at seemingly setting her free is eating ravenously at the halo around his head. His desperation to set it right, to fix his mistake, propels him into action.
The rundown apartment building looms large above him as he pulls his motorcycle into a space in front of building nine. Taking off his helmet, he slips it under his arm and makes his way up the stairs to 918. He’s fairly certain she won’t be here, but it’s the only place he can think of to start.
With a balled fist, stern gaze and mouth drawn in a thin line, he bangs on the door. Perhaps the hardened exterior will mask the near panic coursing through his veins. The latch turns on the other side and he nearly jumps as it slowly creeps open. Shayne recognizes him instantly and begins to slam the door, but he butts the steel toe of his boot into the frame, a flat palm and bulging bicep forcing the door open against Shayne’s weaker opposing force.
“I need to fucking talk to you, mate.” He growls as he steps into the unit, Shayne staring wide-eyed, throwing his palms up in surrender. He cuts a cautious glance down the hall, but Will is too irritated to notice.
“Alright man, alright. What the fuck do you want?” Shayne acquiesces as he backs further into the room.
“Have you seen her...that Freak? She contacted you?” Will asks menacingly as he takes another step towards Shayne.
“Nah man.” Shayne huffs in response, relieved to know he’s asking about Joan instead of Franky. Will lunges forward, grabbing him by the chest of his shirt, pulling him in close to intimidate.
“Don’t fucking lie to me, mate.” Will seethes between clenched teeth.
“I’m not man, I swear. She hasn’t fucking contacted me! I’d have told the Jacks if she did, that bitch is fucking crazy.” Shayne grabs onto Will’s fists for leverage, maintaining eye contact as he tries to convey the truth behind his words.
Finally, Will loosens his grip and steps back, lowering his gaze to the floor; ashamed of the aggressive man he’s become.
“Sorry man, I’m sorry.” He whispers low as he slowly begins to meet Shayne’s relieved stare.
The sound of a door opening down the hall pulls their attention and they both look up anxiously. From out of sight, a woman’s voice calls into the room.
“Shayne, I’m gonna make an omelet, you want one before you go to work?”
Suddenly, the owner of the voice steps into view, wet hair cascading down her neck as she blots at it with a towel. Her eyes meet with Will’s and both mouths fall open in shock.
The dazed realization comes in unison as they stare at each other across the room. Will manages to regain some composure first, shaking his head in disbelief as he takes a step towards her.
“What the fuck are you doing here, Doyle?” disbelief and rising anger coloring his voice.
“Mr. Jackson, please….please don’t call the cops. I’m begging you. You know I didn’t kill Pennisi, that I didn’t deserve to be back at Wentworth. I had to clear my name! Please, Mr. Jackson….please.” Hot bottom lip trembles wildly as she stands frozen, pleading with the man before her. Shayne watches in shock, too terrified to speak.
With a laboured exhale, Will brings a hand to the bridge of his nose, squeezing tightly as he shuts his eyes. If he’s honest with himself, he knows Franky is innocent and he was actually a little glad she had managed to escape. He knows she’s one of the good ones, one of the ones that actually found rehabilitation at that fucked up place of concrete and wire.
After a long silence, he opens his eyes again, reflecting a gentle kindness that makes the terrified woman before him breathe a sigh of relief, familiar with the bleeding heart buried just under the surface of his tough facade. With a second exhale, he sinks into the chair near his right leg.
“And did you, have you….cleared your name?” He asks with a heavy sigh.
She crosses to the coffee table at his knees and sits before him.
“Yea, I have. Well, I’ll be cleared very soon, anyway.” She says with a small smile.
“I broke into Iman’s house, the bank just took possession of it yesterday. In her closet, behind all the clothes, tacked on the back wall, she has all the pictures Mike took of me when I was out, when he was stalking me. There’s also a little baggie with a knit glove inside. It’s covered in blood...I think it’s probably his. When the bank sends people to pack up the house, they’ll find it, and they’ll have no choice but to notify the police. It’ll prove my innocence.”
He sits silent for a long moment, taking in everything she says. He has no reason to doubt her, she’s been brutally honest with him in the past. Only one thing seems to stand in his mind, in preventing her freedom.
“What about Iman’s death? It’s still your word against Ferguson’s since you have no proof.”
“I know...I’m still working on that part.” Franky bites her bottom lip and he watches her with growing interest. Seeing his shot at a chance of redemption, an opportunity to start with a clean slate for his sins, he leans forward, elbows on knees as an idea strikes him.
“You told me before that Ferguson was wearing gloves when she killed Iman, right?”
“Yea,” she replies with a shake of her head, puzzled by the question.
“Well, if you had those gloves, maybe they could find her DNA on them, proving that part of your story, that Ferguson had contact with her.” Franky shakes her head, still confused by what he is getting at.
“But I don’t have them, so how’s that gonna help me?”
“I can get them; I’m sure they’re in her cell. She’s gone from Wentworth….and likely won’t ever be back, so we’ll be packing it up to make room for new inmates. I can convince Vera to send them to the police for testing and with her escape, I’m sure they won’t take much convincing to look for any evidence that would support locking her up for good...if she’s ever found again.”
“You’d do that for me?” She asks in disbelief as the tears well in her eyes.
“Yea...you’re one of the good ones, Franky, you deserve to be out here. I’ve done some things in my life that I regret….this will be a chance for me to make something right.” He reaches out and places a hand on her knee, squeezing gently. She leans forward and clings around his neck, pulling him into a tight hug that he reciprocates.
“Thank you, Mr. Jackson...thank you.”
Cupping his face in her hands, she smiles through the rush of tears streaming down her face and he offers a genuine smile in return, his heart finally feeling some of the guilt begin to melt away.