Here is the third part of the fragment of the novel introducing Jasmine Frame. Unfortunately it is also the last part as the rest that I wrote, but never completed, was lost and is gone forever. I had forgotten that I had written this before diversity training became a big thing in the police force. Nowadays I don’t think even Chief Inspector Sloane would treat Jasmine in the way that I described it here. Nevertheless it gives a bit of a clue about Jasmine’s relationship with the former colleagues – something that is an important part of Painted Ladies.
In the Frame – Part 3
The doorbell jangled and Jasmine jerked upright. Callers were unusual. She stood up and walked to the door.
‘Who is it?’ She called.
‘Police.’ Since she had had no visits from her former colleagues since moving in Jasmine was surprised and wary. She opened the door a small crack. Two uniformed officers, a man and a woman, stood in the hallway. Both were very young and unfamiliar to her. She pulled the door wide.
‘Mr James Frame?’ The policewoman asked.
‘Jasmine Frame,’ she replied firmly. The man sniggered.
‘Chief Inspector Sloane would like to speak to you,’the woman continued.
‘Oh, what about?
‘He didn’t say. We just received a call a few minutes ago to pick you up and take you to him at the station.’
‘What if I say I’m busy.’
‘The Chief Inspector was most insistent,’the man said adding a “ma’am” with a smothered giggle.
‘When Sloane calls everyone comes running,’ Jasmine said with a jollity she didn’t feel. Sloane was one person she never wanted to see again.
‘That’s the way of it,’the policeman agreed.
‘I’ll get my coat then.’ Jasmine stepped back into her flat and put her pvc coat back on. She slung her bag over her shoulder and joined the officers in the corridor.
Jasmine sat in the back of the police car for the ten mile journey into the city. The woman drove and no conversation was exchanged but the policeman glanced in the passenger vanity mirror from time to time giving her a good looking over. When they arrived he chivalrously held the door open so that Jasmine could swivel on the seat and adjust her skirt before standing up. She led the officers into the building that was so familiar but as if from a dream. Her past life often seemed like a dream. She marched passed the enquiry desk heading for Sloane’s office but the duty sergeant called out.
‘Where are you going miss?’ Jasmine paused and turned recognising the speaker.
‘Hello Bill. Sloane wants to see me.’ She tried to sound nonchalant but was feeling that this was actually rather strange.
‘Oh it’s you.’ The sergeant didn’t respond to her friendly smile. ‘Chief Inspector Sloane wants you in the interview room.’ He stepped out from behind his desk and opened the door into the bare, plain white room. He pointed to a chair at the single table.
‘Take a seat, I’m sure Chief Inspector Sloane won’t be long.’
Jasmine sighed and entered the room. How many times had she come in here to question suspects, now it seemed as if she was being treated like one. What on earth could Sloane want?
She sat at the chair, smoothing out her leather skirt and making herself as comfortable as possible on the hard plastic chair. To pass the time she took a mirror, lipstick and powder puff out of her bag and smartened up her face. Satisfied she put them away and laid the bag on the table. She pushed the chair back and crossed her legs, the coat falling open. The door opened and Sloane marched in. Tall, and thick set, Mick Sloane was the typical, gruff no-nonsense detective. Jasmine knew him well from four years working under rather than with him. He glared at her.
‘What were you doing in the King’s Head at lunchtime, Jim,’ he barked at her from the other side of the table.
‘I don’t care what you call yourself now. What were you doing there?’ His eyes moved from her face and travelled down the blouse to the short shiny skirt, the sheer nylon covered thighs and the long high heeled boots. ‘Are you on the game yourself now?’
Jasmine ignored his insinuation.
‘I stopped by for a drink, that’s all. What’s the problem?’
Sloane at down and placed the file that was under his arm on the table in front of him. Slowly, deliberately he opened it and took out a photo. He pushed it across the table to Jasmine.
‘Recognise this lad.’ It was Robert Sanger, the dead addict.
‘Wasn’t this picture in the local paper recently? Didn’t he take an overdose or something?’
‘That’s right. He’s dead. Sloane retrieved the photo and returned it to the file. He pulled another one out and slid it across to Jasmine. It was of Wayne Valentine.
‘How about this one?’
Jasmine shrugged and shook her head.
‘He’s dead too.’
Jasmine struggled to control her expressions. Questions filled her head but she wasn’t going to enter into a dialogue with Sloane.
‘Another overdose?’ she whispered.
No. A single shot through the head less than an hour after he left the King’s Head. The same King’s Head where you just stopped off to take a drink.’
‘You must have been watching the pub.’
‘That’s right.’ He placed another photo alongside Valentine’s. It was Snakeskin. ‘How about this fellow. Have you seen him before?’
‘Well, there’s a coincidence. I think he was in the pub when Istopped by for my drink.’
‘That’s right. They were together. Do you know them?’ Sloane looked into Jasmine’s face, his bushy eyebrows close together as he searched for some flicker of defeat.
‘No, I’ve got no idea who they are. It’s difficult to imagine that this lad left the pub and was gunned down.’
Sloane stared for a moment longer then sat back in his chair. He gathered up the photos into the file.
‘So how’s business then with, what is it, Frametecs?’ His forced affableness didn’t fool Jasmine.
‘Oh, you can guess I expect. One or two adulterous wives and husbands to follow, a few lost cats to hunt for, that sort of thing.’ Sloane got to his feet.
‘Make sure you stick to lost cats. Don’t try interfering in police business. You left that when you became a drag artist.’ He strode to the door.
‘Can I go now then?’ Jasmine asked politely.
‘Yes, of course you can go.’ Sloane disappeared.
Jasmine stood up slowly, thinking rapidly. Now why should Valentine be eliminated? Who was responsible? And who is Snakeskin? The name just wouldn’t come but he knew it was there in his memory. She put the bag over her shoulder once again and walked to the door. A familiar figure was just passing.
‘Tom, Tom Shepherd,’ Jasmine called. The detective sergeant stopped and turned.
‘Jasmine,’ she corrected.
‘Oh yes, of course, I’m sorry, I forgot. What are you doing back here? Not a social call?’
‘Hardly, Tom.’ She stepped close to him and whispered, ‘I’m helping Sloane.’ Shepherd stepped back restoring the space between them.
‘Oh, this Valentine thing, the black kid.’
Jasmine leaned close again. ‘That’s right. Sloane showed me a photo, a drug dealer, whose name escapes me. Can you let me check the records?’
‘I can’t do that Jim ah, Jasmine. You’re not in the force anymore.’ The young detective retreated.
‘Oh come on Tom. For old time’s sake.’ He looked up and down the corridor; they were alone.
‘All right, just this once, come with me.’ Shepherd led Jasmine along the corridor and up a flight of stairs to his office. He ushered Jasmine in and closed the door. Jasmine hurried to Shepherd’s desk and sat at the computer screen. She tapped a few keys and photos started to flash in front of her eyes.
‘Yes!’ she gasped as Snakeskin appeared. Howard “Hip” Hepworth, convicted drug addict and pusher. Jasmine closed down the programme and stood up.
‘Thanks Tom. That’s great.’