First the advertising. The price of the e-book version of Painted Ladies – a Jasmine Frame story has been reduced to £1.99 so now is the time to purchase it for your Kindles, Kobos, etc. There, plug over.
Good news and bad news this week. An agent returned the Bodies by Design excerpt I submitted. It was such a quick turn around I’m not convinced they even looked at it. That was the bad news. The good news is that a small publisher is taking a full look at my fantasy novel having had the first couple of chapters for a month. Fingers crossed…
I’m editing Bodies by Design at the moment. Some advice I’ve read suggests that at this stage I should be tearing it apart and throwing away huge chunks. Perhaps I’m not self-critical enough but when I read through it I don’t see the need to do that. I change bits, add sentences, paragraphs or even whole scenes, but I haven’t altered the basic structure of the story. Not that I’m ever completely satisfied – is any author? Perhaps I do need that editor who makes suggestions. That is both the freedom and the problem of self-publishing – even buying in copyediting help it still comes down to you, the author, to make all the decisions.
Anyway, to Blueprint, the Jasmine Frame prequel. It’s approaching the denouement (sometime soon) which means I must make sure all the threads tie up. I have to keep going back to earlier epsiodes to check what constraints I’ve put myself under. It’s not the best way to write a novel (or novella, which is what Blueprint is) but it is fun each week thinking through what should be in the next episode. So here it is…
Blueprint – Part 24
Tom reached the door into the squad’s office before James but he paused, obviously reluctant to enter on his own. He held the door open and James lead the way in. There were only a few of their colleagues inside, a few individuals with eyes focussed on screens and a couple of pairs in conversation. It was a quiet start to the week with little on the long whiteboard. The detectives, all but one male, glanced at James and Tom as the pair crossed the office and two or three muttered greetings before returning to their tasks.
James and Tom reached the door to Sloane’s own office. James tapped and there was an immediate call to enter. They both went in and stood side by side at Sloane’s large desk. James felt a little as if he was standing in front of the headmaster awaiting a telling off. Sloane, grey-haired and grey-suited, didn’t move. His eyes remained focussed on the top sheet of a pile of papers on the desk in front of him. The computer screen was at the side of the desk, dark and developing a coating of dust.
It seemed like minutes passed but was probably only moments. James felt his heart hammering. What did Sloane want? What did he know? What should he say to Sloane?
Sloane made a mark on the sheet of paper with his pen, and put it into the tray on his right. He looked up.
‘Now you two,’ he said in his deep and gravelly voice, ‘Perhaps you can explain why this morning I have had a call from the Manchester Police asking why a detective from here by the name of Frame was asking questions around the Canal Street area yesterday. Oh and the detective was dressed as a female.’ Sloane’s dark blue eyes moved from James to Tom and back again. James felt that they were boring into him trying to extract the answers to his questions. James knew he had to respond.
‘I was investigating, Sir. The Thwaite suicide.’
‘I’m glad it was that case since that was one I gave you. You didn’t think to inform the Manchester people that you were paying their patch a visit.’
‘No, Sir. I was only asking a few questions. Trying to find anyone who knew Thwaite.’
‘We’ll come back to that. You do know that procedures require you to inform the relevant police service if you move outside your designated area?’
‘But you thought you could get the information you needed without bothering.’
‘There wasn’t time, Sir. It had to be yesterday. You wanted a report for tomorrow.’
‘That is true, Frame. But procedures are in place for a purpose. We can’t have detectives wandering around the country interfering with other forces’ work. You understand?’
‘Now, what is this about a detective in female clothing?’
‘That was me, Sir?’
‘I did presume that it was not someone else using your name, Frame. Would you care to explain?’
James took a deep breath. This was it. He was going to have to lay himself open to DCI Sloane. Sloane seemed so much older, a father figure, although he was probably only around fifty. He’d been in the force since he was a teenager. Old school. A good detective and a good, if strict, boss but defiantly old-fashioned. Sloane expected his staff to make use of all the new technical gear while he relied on his pen and voice. Hence the mouldering computer. He never criticised his superiors but James wondered what he really thought of the diversity policies.
‘Thwaite, the suicide, Sir…’
‘I know who Thwaite was, Frame.’
‘Well, he was a transvestite, Sir.’
There was no movement detectable in Sloane’s face. James paused.
‘Well?’ Sloane said.
‘I believe his suicide was related to transvestism.’
‘A reasonable conjecture, but what are your grounds for saying that.’
‘He was a secret dresser, Sir, and determined not to have his wife find out.’
‘Determined enough to kill himself if she did?’
‘Determined enough to kill himself before she did.’
‘Ah, that is different. But why now? Something must have happened to precipitate his actions.’
‘Yes sir. He had been receiving photos over the last few weeks showing him, in his feminine persona in increasingly pornographic poses.’
Sloane’s face showed a flicker of displeasure.
‘Fakes, I presume.’
‘Yes, Sir, but I think they worried him so much that he was driven to end his life.’
‘These photos, Frame. I do not recall any mention of them in your report. Were they not found at the scene of his suicide?’
‘No, Sir. I had them.’
Sloane’s eyebrows raised a few millimetres.’
‘I hope you are going to explain, Frame.’
‘Yes, Sir. Thwaite gave them to me before he died. He had asked me to try to find out who was sending them.’
‘Why did he come to you? I presume this “crime” wasn’t logged formally.’
‘No, Sir. He gave them to me at a meeting of Butterflies. That is a group for transgendered people.’
‘And you were at this meeting because…’
‘I’m transgendered, Sir.’
There was another flicker of Sloane’s eyebrows.’
‘So that is your explanation for why you were seen in female dress yesterday.’
‘We, that is DC Shepherd and I, had discovered that Thwaite travelled to Manchester regularly, once a month and I suspected it was to meet other transvestites. I thought that visiting trans-friendly sites in the Canal Street area, that’s Manchester’s gay zone…’
‘I am aware of that, Frame.’
‘…I hoped I might find someone who knew Thwaite, Sir, and I thought if I went in my own female persona I was more likely to get a positive response from the people I questioned.’
‘Yes, Sir. I met four people who knew Thwaite. Knew Petula Thwaite to be precise.’
‘His feminine persona as you put it.’
‘And do you suspect any of them as being the perpetrator of these blue prints?’
‘There are three suspects, Sir.’
‘That’s a pity isn’t it, Frame. No easy answers.’
‘What is your next move?’
‘DC Shepherd and I were just discussing that, Sir. I think we will have to speak to the three suspects and try to obtain evidence that one of them did it.’
Sloane nodded his head imperceptibly.
‘It would help if you could narrow it down, before you started taking suspects in for questioning.’
‘I agree, Sir. We’ll see if we can.’
‘And when you do decide to question a citizen of Manchester, you will speak to the relevant authorities won’t you.’
Tom, who had been silent throughout the exchange, muttered his agreement and nodded vigorously.
‘Right, Shepherd, Frame. You’d better get on with it. You have one day left to complete the investigation.’
Both said their thanks and turned to leave the office, Tom in the lead.
‘Oh, by the way, Frame,’ Sloane added. James stopped and turned.
‘This transgenderism. We’ll talk of that again.’
‘Yes, Sir.’ Jasmine started to move back towards Sloane’s desk.
‘Not now. Soon. Move.’
James felt as though he’d had a kick up his backside. He hurried after Tom and caught him at their pair of desks.
‘Phew,’ Tom said, ‘I think we came out of that in one piece.’
‘Just,’ James agreed, but he realised that the conversation with Sloane about his future as Jasmine had yet to begin.
‘I’d forgotten that we should have told Manchester you were coming,’ Tom said.
‘I hadn’t but I didn’t want to explain. I hoped on Sunday no-one would bother. Obviously I intrigued one of the businesses enough for them to check up on me.’
‘Well, it doesn’t sound as if Sloane was too bothered. He didn’t shout.’
‘No, he was strangely calm, a bit like a volcano before it erupts. I hope he helps smooth the feathers of the Manchester boys before we go up there.’
‘He didn’t go into you being, uh, trans, Jim.’
‘I’ve got that inquisition to come. When we’ve completed this case I think. Sloane will be thinking through all the angles and consequences.’ It felt like a big black cloud that would hang over him until he was summoned to Sloane’s office again. Tom looked sympathetic.
‘Good luck, Jim. I don’t understand what it is you want, but I hope Sloane doesn’t make life difficult.’
‘I’ll have to wait and see, but first let’s find out who sent those photos to Thwaite.’
‘OK, but who are we going after, Geraldine, Caroline or Rosalind, or all three?’
‘I don’t know,’ James said, ‘let’s review what we know, about Petula’s movements and the three of them.’