This weekend I am at the annual NAWGfest – that is the National Association of Writers’ Groups Writing Festival at Warwick University. It is a great opportunity to join in several workshops which are always stimulating and thought-provoking as well as meeting and socialising with people that I have got to know over the last few years. NAWG however has something of a split personality. Is it, as its title suggests, a sort of umbrella organisation for writing groups or is it an association for authors published or not. If the latter then it overlaps somewhat with the Society of Authors, but that organisation is only for published writers. I have been a member of a number of writers’ groups but to my knowledge only one has been a member of NAWG and that one didn’t really participate in the association’s activities. That was why I became an individual or “associate” member. There are possibly millions of people across the country who are writing, many thousands taking part in on-line or face to face writing groups but not many who take advantage of what NAWG offers, perhaps because of the cost. I find the encouragement I get from meeting other authors, engaging in activities which might not be directly related to my particular writing tasks but nevertheless develop my skills, and just talking about writing, very rewarding. I hope NAWG and its annual festival goes from strength to strength.
You may have noticed I haven’t commented on this week’s news. I am trying to blank it from my consciousness as if I think about it too much I could become very agitated and worried. I really do wonder where we will be in one year, five years, time.
So, let’s get back to fiction. We’ve reached the final episode of Negative. I hope you like the conclusion of this short story. It fits in the small temporal gap between Painted Ladies and Bodies By Design and I doubt I will be able fit another plot into this period of Jasmine’s life. Next week I’ll say a bit more about Molly’s Boudoir, the fourth novel, and where I’m going with this blog. In the meantime, enjoy.
Negative: Part 11
Alun took a few faltering steps towards his mother who beckoned him with her hands and warm, encouraging words. Jasmine crawled along the cliff edge keeping her head down. The sirens grew louder and then blue lights appeared over the crest of the moorland. Alun froze, took a step back, then another.
Jasmine rose into a crouch, sprang. She intended a low rugby tackle but her shoulders hit Alun’s legs above his knees. He staggered. She closed her arms around his thighs as she toppled to the ground. He flexed his leg. His heel struck Jasmine’s breast. She held on. He slumped.
And rolled. Her arms were trapped under him. Her feet and ankles swung free. She could feel that there was nothing beneath them but air. Now she was holding onto Alun to save herself not to pull him down.
Hands grabbed her clothes, tugged on her, dragged her away from the edge. She spat tough grass from her mouth and looked up. Ceri’s mother was looking down at her and Alun, a uniformed police officer beside her.
‘I thought you both were going over for a moment there,’ the PC said. He dragged the passive Alun off Jasmine and helped him to his feet. Jasmine panted and pushed herself into a sitting position. To her side, inches away, was the drop, the road below out of sight, and the sea. The PC pulled Alun further from danger.
Another police officer offered a hand. Jasmine used it to pull herself up. Alun was already being taken away with his mother tagging along, crying and asking nonsense questions.
‘You okay?’ the officer that had helped Jasmine said.
‘Yeah, I think so.’ Jasmine rubbed her chest. Her false boobs had taken the brunt of Alun’s involuntary kick; her knees were a little sore from being dragged through the tough grass and bare rock; her heart was still thumping from the exertion and the terror.
‘Let me help get you back to the car,’ the officer said. Jasmine nodded and he took her arm allowing her to put some of her weight on him as they walked away from the cliff.
A few minutes later Jasmine found herself sitting on a hard, plastic seat in an interview room at the town police station. She had barely noticed where the police car was taking her when she had been shown into the rear seat and they had set off down the hill. Her thoughts had been going over those last few moments; her fear that Alun was about to throw himself off the cliff, her own narrow escape from falling; she wondered if the police understood what had happened, the reason for Alun’s flight; did they realise that Ceri had nothing to do with Tegan’s death.
The door opened and a detective walked in, a short, thin woman with lank hair. She carried a mug which she put down on the table in front of Jasmine.
‘This is for you. Sweet tea. I believe you’ve had a bit of a shock. What’s your name?’
‘Jasmine Frame.’ She looked at the pale beige liquid in the mug. A coffee perhaps was desirable but not this sugared water. ‘Thanks,’ she said, nevertheless.
The detective sat down opposite her. ‘I’m DS Huws, Glynys Huws. Sorry to put you in here. It’s not very comfy, but we need to ask you some questions. Like what was going on up there on the cliff?’
‘I thought Alun might jump,’ Jasmine said.
‘You know him then?’
‘No. I know his sister, Ceri.’
‘Ah, yes, Ceri Powell. Mrs Powell says she found you alone at her house.’
Jasmine took a deep breath and began her story. ‘I’d gone to see her, find out what was happening to Ceri. Only Alun was at home. We had a talk but he became agitated. I got knocked over as he ran out.’
‘Well, knocked out I think. He didn’t mean it. I cracked my head against the door. That’s how his mother, Mrs Powell found me.’
DS Huws showed concern. ‘How’s your head now?’
Jasmine felt her skull. The headache had dulled; she was hardly conscious of it amongst the other scrapes and bruises of her contribution to saving or arresting Alun.
‘OK,’ she said, ‘I don’t feel concussed.’
The detective smiled. ‘Why did Mr Powell become, er, agitated?’
‘I had got him to tell me what he did with Tegan Jones.’
‘What he did?’ The detective’s eyes widened.
‘Ceri had nothing to do with Tegan’s death.’ Jasmine explained about Tegan’s transphobic treatment of Ceri and Alun’s brotherly response. The detective listened.
‘So, Alun Powell confessed to you that he abducted Miss Jones, knocked her unconscious, took her to the top of the headland and dropped her off the cliff.’
‘No, not the last,’ Jasmine shook her head vigorously. ‘He left her on the edge. Her fall was an accident.’
‘I’m not sure the death of Tegan Jones can be called an accident.’
Jasmine shrugged. She reluctantly had to agree with the detective on that point. ‘No, not an accident, but not a deliberate act.’
‘If we corroborate your story then perhaps it will be manslaughter not murder. But how did you get involved. You’re not a local. Is it because you and Ceri Powell are both . . .’
‘Transsexual women. That’s not why I came here,’ Jasmine explained, reluctant to talk about herself. ‘We recognised what we are and became friends, but I’ve only known Ceri a few days since I met her at the hotel where she works. I came for a rest.’
‘A rest? A holiday? On your own?’
‘Yes, on my own. It was more recuperation than holiday.’
The detective examined her. ‘What do you do, Miss Frame?’
‘I’m a detective.’
Jasmine sat on the slightly more comfortable seat in the waiting area, a mug of cooling black coffee resting on her knee. Mrs Powell sat a metre from her, but they weren’t conversing. She was deep in her thoughts no doubt contemplating the future with Alun in custody, facing an appearance in court and perhaps, probably was more likely, a sentence in prison. The DI in charge of the case had allowed her to sit in while Alun was interviewed, his “learning difficulties” recognised.
Jasmine was waiting to hear that she was not required for any more questioning, but she was reluctant to leave the older woman alone, even if they weren’t talking.
A door opened and a sergeant in shirt sleeves emerged followed by Ceri. Mrs Powell leapt to her feet and embraced her daughter. Jasmine stood up and waited for an opportunity to greet her friend.
‘The DI says you can all go now,’ the sergeant said, ‘We’ll keep Mr Powell in the cells over night and give you a call in the morning when he is going to be interviewed again. Do you need a taxi?’
Ceri parted from her mother and spoke first. ‘No, I want to walk in the fresh air. It’s not far.’
The custody officer said good bye and retreated through the locked door.
Ceri stepped towards Jasmine. ‘Thank you for what you did.’
‘What did I do?’
‘Saving my brother.’
Jasmine frowned. ‘I’m afraid I haven’t saved him from the responsibility for Tegan’s death.’
‘I know, but you saved him from falling from the cliff, and he didn’t mean for Tegan to die. You said that.’
‘That’s true. I knew it wasn’t you, but I didn’t know what had happened until Alun told me.’
‘He didn’t know what he was doing,’ Ceri said.
‘He’s a child really,’ Mrs Powell added. ‘They won’t put him in prison with criminals, will they?’
‘The police will treat him as kindly as they can,’ Jasmine explained, ‘but there is the matter of justice for Tegan.’
Ceri bowed her head and looked at the floor. ‘I know. I hated the things she said to me. When they were questioning me, accusing me of killing her, I felt at first that she deserved it, but then it came to me that she was just mixed up. No one deserves to die. I wish I hadn’t complained so much about her to Alun.’ She sniffed and her mother put an arm around her.
Jasmine revealed her thoughts. ‘I don’t know why Tegan was transphobic and I don’t think her partner, Bob, understands either.’
Ceri looked at her. ‘You spoke to her? Bob?’
‘Yes, she and Tegan were obviously very much in love.’
‘She’ll want Alun put away for life,’ Ceri snivelled.
Jasmine shrugged. ‘That’s why we have courts and judges. A jury will probably conclude that Alun is guilty of manslaughter, but the judge will decide how responsible he was and what a fitting punishment really is. It’s not up to the victim’s family or supporters. Alun will be protected.’ Jasmine hoped that what she said was true.
‘Let’s go home,’ Mrs Powell said, taking Ceri in her arms. The three of them walked out of the entrance of the Police Station and commenced the short walk back to their house. The streets were empty now and the sky was dark. Jasmine looked at her watch surprised at how late it was. It was gone midnight. She said farewell to Ceri and her mother and continued towards the hotel. She got her mobile out of her bag relieved that it hadn’t been lost on the hillside and also that it was still working. There was a text she hadn’t read earlier. The Benefits Agency wanted her to start an investigation. She had a job to go home to. Her holiday was over.