It’s been a while since I posted anything here but now with publication of my novel Painted Ladies approaching fast it’s time to start being active.
Painted Ladies will be available as a paperback and e-book from 1st September (probably) and is my first full length novel with Jasmine Frame as the central character. Until then I intend posting information about Jasmine. As a taster here is the first part of a story I wrote about her some years ago. I was just beginning to develop the character and setting and does not fit into the timeline of Painted Ladies. I hope you enjoy Mirror Image.
Mirror Image – a Jasmine Frame short story
The mobile bleeped the Morse theme. A long slender finger with an immaculately glossed nail touched the talk button.
“Hello, Jasmine Frame.” Jasmine held the phone to her ear while looking at herself in the long mirror beside the entrance to her flat.
“Is that the Frame Detective Agency?” She detected a Scots accent.
“That’s right, I’m Jasmine Frame.” She moved a blonde curl into its place.
“Ah, Miz Frame. Are you available to take on a job?”
“I may be. It depends on the job.” Another wayward curl was adjusted.
“It’s our son. He’s disappeared.”
“The police look after missing persons.”
“Yes, well, we’re not sure he’s missing, but he’s left home and we would like to know where he’s gone. Look are you interested or not?” The voice was agitated and Jasmine could sense worry.
“I think I have time to see you.” Actually this was the first call she’d had all week, so apart from looking after her nails there had been nothing much to occupy her. “To whom am I speaking and where do you want to me to come?”
“Oh sorry, I’m Hamish Galloway, my son is Nicholas. Our address is 7 Charnley Close, do you know it?”
Oh, yes, she knew it all right. It was in the posh part of town, not far from where she used to live, before she gave up the police job.
“Yes, I know it Mr Galloway. I’ll be with you in half an hour.”
“Thank you Ms Frame. My wife and I will appreciate your help.” Jasmine closed the phone and reached into her hand bag for her lipstick.
Jasmine’s aging Fiesta stuttered to a halt in the driveway of the smart detached house. The old car looked rather forlorn behind the silver Audi. She swung out and stood up, straightening her beige knee-length skirt and yellow cotton blouse before striding to the door. Well, teetering was a better verb as the gravel made her unsteady on the narrow high heels of her sandals. The door opened before she could reach for the bell push. A middle aged man with short tightly waved ginger hair beckoned her in.
“That’s right, Mr Galloway.”
“Please come in.” She was lead into a large well-furnished lounge where a short dark haired woman stood up to greet her.
“Oh, Miss Frame, we’re so pleased you could come. We got your name from yellow pages. We haven’t called a private detective before.” She wittered and was obviously as worried as her husband.
“How can I help?”
“It’s my son, Nicholas. He’s gone.” Her voice wavered.
“What do you mean by gone? Left home?”
“Possibly. He left this note,” Mr Galloway handed Jasmine a scrap of paper. All it said was, I have to go. Sorry.
“How old is Nicholas?” Jasmine asked, looking at the note intently but failing to detect any morsel of information other than the message in the words.
“He was eighteen in January. He’s just finished his A levels.” Mr Galloway replied.
“So, he’s pretty grown up. Perhaps he’s gone to stay with friends.”
“No, we thought of that,” Mrs G wailed, “we’ve spoken to all his school friends but none of them have seen him since his last exam last Thursday.” That was six days ago.
“And when did you see him last?”
“Friday morning. My husband had gone to his office. I took Nick some breakfast in his bedroom and then went out to the shops. When I got back he was gone. All he left was that note.” She started to weep.
Mr G folded an arm around her and sat her down beside him on the sofa. Jasmine sat in an armchair, making sure her skirt didn’t rise up her nylon covered thighs. She felt a bit disgusted by the show of emotion. Surely the lad was beyond having this kind parental attention.
“Has he gone to relatives? Perhaps he’s just taken a break to get over the exams.”
“We’ve thought of all that Ms Frame. He’s close to his sister but she lives abroad and hasn’t heard from him. But the strange thing is he didn’t take any of his clothes or the mobile ‘phone we gave him. We can’t contact him at all.”
“Are you sure?”
“Yes. Come and look in his room.”
Mr G disentangled himself from his wife and stood up. He led Jasmine up the stairs into one of the four bedrooms. It was quite large, larger than Jasmine’s living room, and, she noticed, amazingly tidy for a teenage boy. The bed by the wall was made and a computer was the only thing on the desk under the window. The floor was bare of the usual teenage clutter of trainers, discarded clothes, magazines, and empty mugs, except in a corner by the built in wardrobe. There there was a small pile of sports clothing.
“It’s very tidy.” Jasmine couldn’t help commenting.
“Oh, Nicholas was always a neat boy,” said Mrs G entering the room behind her.
“How do you know he didn’t take any clothes?”
The father stepped over to the wardrobe and flung open the doors. There were neat rows of school uniform, suits, trousers, shirts. Then he went to a chest and pulled out one drawer after another, each one filled with jumpers, socks and sensible underpants.
“I’ve been through it all. He hasn’t taken a thing,” moaned the mother, “not even a clean pair of pants.”
“Nothing is missing at all?”
“Well his sports bag has gone.” Galloway pointed at the small pile of sports clothes on the floor. “He had a big holdall with one of those logos on it, Adidas, I think.”
Jasmine looked around the room. There was a photo in a frame on the bedside table. It showed two tennis players, two boys, one, medium height, slight, with long wavy ginger hair. Jasmine picked the photo up.
“Is that Nick?” she asked pointing to the ginger-top.
“Yes,” Mrs. Galloway sobbed.
“Lovely long hair,” Jasmine commented jealously, “not really fashionable these days.”
“I always said he looked like a girl with that hair,” Galloway huffed.
“You were always getting on at him to get it cut,” Mrs G accused, “But nothing would persuade him to get it trimmed. Please take the photo if it will help, it was only taken in May when Nick and Wayne won the school tennis cup.”
“Will you look for him?” Galloway asked
“I’ll give it a go, but if there’s no news in a few days you may want to bring in the police.”
“We’ll give it a week. I’ll pay you in advance if you like. Is there anything else you want?”
“Thank you Mr Galloway. I’d like to have a look round in here if I may,”
“Come on Denise let’s leave the detective to it.” Mr Galloway guided his wife out of the room.
An hour later Jasmine was driving away from the Galloways’ house with a nice fat cheque in her handbag. The room hadn’t revealed any clues, except an empty cardboard box pushed right under the bed, but the computer was a different matter. There was no password so Jasmine had got into the files easily, not that any of those were interesting. What was intriguing was that Nick’s email file was empty, all his old messages had been deleted. He’d obviously tried to cover his tracks, but he hadn’t taken the trouble to delete his favourite web-sites. Jasmine recognised a few chat sites and knew some of the other sites. An idea was forming in her mind but she hadn’t revealed it to the worried parents. Now she had nothing to do until evening arrived. Time for a spot of retail therapy; the Galloways’ advance would be very useful.