Jasmine gets investigating

Been out putting up posters for my talk “Jasmine and me” (8 p.m. Wed. 27th Nov, The Sitting Room, Ludlow) and desperately hoping I get an audience. I haven’t actually prepared anything yet but I have been thinking about the presentation – how many readings, which bits from Painted Ladies, Bodies by Design, Blueprint or other Jasmine Frame material? How much about me, and how much should I go into Jasmine’s future as a transsexual detective? How can I make it amusing? Not long now to find the answers.  Not much time for writing this week either but here is the next bit of Blueprint.

Blueprint – Part 10

James scratched his head. There were so many things he wanted to know about Peter/Petula Thwaite and the photographer who had sent the prints that precipitated his/her suicide.
‘We’ve got to track Thwaite’s movements yesterday before he locked himself in his garage,’ James said at last.
‘His wife said he went to work,’ Tom said.
‘Yes, but he obviously didn’t stay there as he was sitting in his car with a pipe from the exhaust in the afternoon.’
‘Hmm yes, that old car with the un-cleaned up exhaust.’
‘The car that gave him his cover.’
‘What do you mean?’ Tom asked
‘His wife thought he went to the car club two Saturdays a month, but in fact it was only one. The other was to attend Butterflies.’
‘He was pretty devious wasn’t he?’
‘He had to be to keep his cross-dressing a secret.’
‘OK, so we need to know what he did before he killed himself. What else?’
‘We’ve got to trace who sent these,’ James pointed to the five photos. Tom stared down at them.
‘Hmm. Any clues? What about the postmarks?’
James bent to examine each envelope closely.
‘Some of them are illegible but I think this one says Birmingham, and this one Manchester.’
‘Not local then.’
‘No,’ James agreed, ‘Perhaps forensics can read the smudged ones.’
‘They may get something from the prints,’ Tom said, ‘identify the paper and the printer, that sort of thing.’
‘Maybe, but I can’t see that leading us to Thwaite’s persecutor,’ James said. There didn’t seem to be any clues to the person who had driven Thwaite to kill himself. ‘The other thing I want to know,’ James went on, ‘is what happened to his clothes?’
‘His clothes?’ the mystified look had returned to Tom’s features.
‘Her clothes to be more accurate. Petula had at least one outfit as well as wig and make-up. Thwaite kept it secret from his wife. I presumed he hid it in the garage, but you didn’t find anything there.’
‘No. Not that I was looking for female clothes,’ Tom said, ‘but that garage was clean enough to be used as a dressing room. Perhaps he did keep stuff hidden there.’
‘And he got rid of it before he killed himself.’
‘We do need to track his movements, don’t we?’
‘Yes. Let’s start at the bank. That’s where he should have been. It’ll be open this morning. Let’s go.’
James leapt to his feet. With something to do he felt energised. The investigation was under way.

Chapter 3
The manager rose to greet James and Tom as they entered her office. Most of the room was taken up by a vast desk which she leaned across to shake their hands.
‘Sit down, please,’ she said indicating the two stainless steel framed chairs pressed against the desk. James sat quickly while Tom struggled to fold his long legs into the limited space.
‘I presume you know about Peter Thwaite,’ James began.
The woman looked sombre, her expression complemented by her navy blue uniform jacket.
‘I heard about it his morning,’ she said, ‘dreadful.’
‘What did you hear?’ Tom asked. The woman looked a bit shocked as if the question was superfluous.
‘My colleagues told me that he had committed suicide yesterday afternoon, in his car.’
‘He should have been here, is that correct?’ Tom asked.
‘Well, I wasn’t in. Mr Preston, the manager was on duty yesterday, but yes, I suppose Peter should have been at work. Instead he was …’ There was a glint in her eye as if a tear was forming.
‘You’re deputy manager, Miss Sutton?’ James asked, reading her name badge. The woman nodded. ‘Peter Thwaite worked for the bank a long time. Hadn’t he reached manager level? Did you know him well?’
The woman flushed as if James was questioning her right to a position of authority.
‘I’ve known Peter for quite a few years and yes he does, did, hold a senior position, but while we say he worked here it’s more accurate to say he was based here.’
‘What do you mean?’ Tom asked.
‘Peter used this branch as his headquarters. He wasn’t on the regular staff.  He was on the savings and loans side, training and appraising the advisors across the whole region.’
‘So he travelled around.’ James said.
‘That’s right.’
‘What about yesterday?’ Tom asked.
‘Well, I don’t know what he was supposed be doing but the staff said he came in in the morning. He was late actually. Peter was never late. Then he left soon after saying he was sick.’
‘How soon?’ James leaned forward with interest.
‘I’m not sure. You’ll have to talk to Sue Marsh. She was downstairs all morning. I think she saw him come and go.’
‘But he definitely said he was ill?’ James pressed.
‘Yes,’ Miss Sutton insisted, ‘a few of the staff commented on how pale he looked.’
‘So he arrives late, stays a while, then leaves claiming he’s sick.’ James reiterated. The woman nodded.
‘You say his work covered the region,’ Tom said, ‘Was he supposed to be somewhere else yesterday.’
‘I don’t know. You’d have to look at his diary,’ Miss Sutton said.
James looked at the paper-free desk in front of the deputy manager which was occupied only by a large computer screen and keyboard.
‘I presume that’s an on-line diary,’ James said
‘Of course,’ the woman seemed surprised to consider there could be any other.
‘Can you access it?’ James asked.
‘Yes.’ Her fingers flittered over the keyboard. She turned the screen so that James and Tom could see also it. ‘There.’
Tom peered closely at the rainbow coloured spreadsheet.
‘It’s blank for yesterday,’ he announced.
‘That means he wasn’t booked to go anywhere. He must have been intending to work here. A lot of his work was done by email and video conferencing,’ Miss Sutton explained.
‘But he did travel to other branches?’ James asked trying to make sense of the text and hieroglyphics in the diary.
‘Oh, yes, two or three days a week.’
‘He worked hard then?’ James said. ‘His wife suggested he rarely took holidays.’
Miss Sutton looked doubtful.
‘Peter did work hard but he took his time off. He always had at least one day off a month.’
‘Yes, look,’ Miss Sutton scrolled the screen through the months and pointed at the days that were marked as leave.
‘They look like Thursdays,’ James said trying to follow the moving screen, ‘the second or third of the month.’
‘The third. Peter always took the third Thursday off. Something to do with that old car of his I suppose.’
‘The car he used for cover for his Saturday nights,’ Tom commented.
‘What?’ The woman asked mystified.
‘Nothing,’ James said waving his hand. He was staring at the screen. ‘Can you scroll through again, slowly? There seems to be something about those third Thursdays.’
The woman caressed her mouse. James’ attention was fixed on the flowing dates.
‘Yes, there is a pattern. I’ll need a print out to check.’
‘What pattern?’ Tom asked.
‘It’s the Wednesdays before his days off. He always seems to be out somewhere, Swindon, Oxford, Abingdon, Banbury.’
‘They’re all branches in the region,’ Miss Sutton said.
‘Where does the region extend?’ James asked.
‘Central South – Hampshire, Dorset, Wiltshire, Berkshire, Oxfordshire.’ Miss Sutton recited.
‘So he could have visited Portsmouth, Weymouth, other places south of Kintbridge but always on the day before his day off he heads north or west.’
‘So what?’ Tom asked shaking his head.
‘Did Peter Thwaite ever stay overnight on his trips?’ James asked.
‘Yes, occasionally,’ Miss Sutton agreed, ‘If he was visiting branches close together it would make sense putting up somewhere rather than driving back home.’
‘That’s it,’ James said. He pushed himself back in his chair feeling satisfied
‘What is?’ Tom asked still with a look of puzzlement on her face.
‘I bet that if we asked Mrs Thwaite she would say that once a month Peter Thwaite was away on a Wednesday night because he was visiting branches in the same area on the Wednesday and Thursday.’
‘But he wasn’t. He was off on the Thursday,’ Tom said.
‘Exactly. So where was he going on the Thursdays and why did he make sure he was in the north of his region?’

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