Well, this is a bit of a mile-stone. The 26th episode of Blueprint, the Jasmine Frame prequel. That’s six months worth, half a year. I didn’t expect the story to continue for so long but it’s been fun writing the episodes each week even if from one week to the next I wasn’t sure where it was going. I am pleased that quite a few people seem to have been accessing the weekly episodes and I hope you are all enjoying it. I am wondering if it now makes a coherent story if read whole. It’s not quite complete yet, though.
This week I have also completed the first revision of Bodies by Design. Now it’s in the hands of the my dear Lou who will tell me where the story doesn’t work or needs clarification or this and that. It still needs quite a bit of work I think. This coming week I am taking “Jasmine and Me” to Gender Matters in Wolverhampton and hoping the members are a receptive readership for Painted Ladies.
There are so many exciting things to do including making a start on the 3rd volume of my fantasy series involving September Weekes…
Anyway, here’s Blueprint.
Blueprint – Part 26
They had reached the ring road that skirted Oxford.
‘Perhaps we could see Geraldine and Rosalind first, then go on to Caroline,’ Jasmine said.
‘Why all three?’ Tom said, his eyes still fixed on the road.
‘So we can find out if Geraldine or Rosalind ever took photos of Petula on film.’
‘And if they didn’t it’s Caroline we’re after?’
‘Why not go for Caroline first then? Don’t you think she could have made up those photos?’
Jasmine didn’t answer immediately. She didn’t want to think that it could have been Caroline that drove Petula to commit suicide. She was the one person who Petula/Peter Thwaite seemed to have been able to confide to. There simply wasn’t anyone else. Not his wife, nor the other members of Butterflies he met once a month but always in a social group. He had spent one day a month travelling to Manchester and back, hiding the reason for his absence from his wife, in order to spend a few hours with Caroline. That was a pretty special relationship.
‘Sloane won’t want us dragging the Manchester Police from one place to another,’ Tom said into the silence. ‘He said we should fix on one suspect.’
‘Hmm, I know. But which one?’ Jasmine said.
‘Why not, Caroline?’
‘The question is, why Caroline? I can’t see what her motive would be to drive Petula to suicide.’
‘It does seem odd if they were friends.’
Jasmine flicked through the papers on her lap yet again. She looked through her notes of the conversation with Caroline and the record of Petula’s monthly trip north – and noticed something she’d missed on the umpteen previous examinations. She dug her phone out of the shoulder bag she carried with all Jasmine’s bits and pieces in it, and flicked through pages in her notepad. She thumbed the number pad.
‘Who are you calling?’ Tom said with a quick glance to his left.
‘Thwaite’s boss at the bank.’
‘Good morning,’ Jasmine said when she had a reply, ‘This is DC Frame investigating the death of Peter Thwaite. We met on Saturday.’
‘I remember. How can I help?’ the voice said in her ear.
‘I have a query. Mr Thwaite usually took a Thursday off every month. Did he take it off last month, October?’
‘I’ll have to check. Do you want to hold?’
‘Yes. That’s ok.’ The phone went quiet. Jasmine kept it pressed against her head.
‘What are you after?’ Tom said, ‘I thought she went up to Manchester every month, staying in a hotel on the way up.’
‘That’s what I thought,’ Jasmine answered, ‘But on her last trip she stayed in a hotel in Banbury. Usually she stayed further north.’
There was a rustle in Jasmine’s ear.
‘Hello?’ the voice said.
‘I’m here,’ Jasmine replied.
‘I’ve found Mr Thwaite’s work log. Apparently we had a bit of an emergency on the Wednesday before his usual day off. The staff of the branch in Banbury went down with a bug. Mr Thwaite was one of the people asked to fill in. He was there all day on the Thursday too.’
‘So he didn’t have the day off?’
‘Thank you very much. That’s a great help.’ Jasmine ended the call and dropped the phone into her lap.
‘That’s it. We’re going to see Caroline,’ she said, her mind made up.
‘Why? What did the bank say?’ Tom asked.
‘Petula didn’t have her awayday last month thanks to being stuck in the Banbury branch covering for ill staff. She didn’t get to see Caroline but Caroline told me that she had.’
‘Yes. And another thing I’ve realised. Although I questioned Caroline about photos and cameras she never asked me why I was asking the questions or whether Petula had given a reason for why she killed herself.’
‘Caroline it is then. You’d better ask Sloane to get on to the Manchester bunch.’
Jasmine radioed through to HQ. DCI Sloane declined to speak but the message was taken and passed on. Less than ten minutes later Jasmine took the reply. She relayed it to Tom.
‘We’re meeting a DS O’Shaunessy outside Caroline’s house.’
‘Making sure we’re outranked are they?’ Tom said with a cynical tone to his voice.
‘Not surprising. They’re not going to let us call the shots on their territory. Can we go faster, Tom?’
‘I’m on the speed limit now. Do you really want me to put the flashing lights on? It’s not really an emergency.’
‘No. OK. Just get us there as quickly as you can.’
It was mid-day as Tom pulled to a halt behind a similar nondescript Ford a few yards away from Caroline’s house. The car seemed to have one occupant. Jasmine and Tom got out and stood on the pavement. Jasmine smoothed the grey skirt over her thighs and adjusted her hair. The passenger door of the other car opened.
‘Get in,’ a faint, Irish voice called. Tom clambered into the front seat while Jasmine slid into the back. The driver was a small woman with ginger hair.
‘I’m DS O’Shaunessy, Clodagh,’ the woman said, shaking hands with Tom. Tom mumbled his name. Clodagh twisted in her seat to take a look at Jasmine.
‘And you must be DC Frame. I was told you would be in female disguise.’
Jasmine couldn’t decide whether there was amusement or interest in the Irish lilt.
‘It’s not a disguise but you’re right I’m not Jasmine Frame full-time,’ she said, wondering if the regret and desire to be Jasmine was apparent in her voice.
‘Are you going to transition?’ Clodagh asked. She is interested Jasmine realised.
‘I’m not sure,’ her voice shook, ‘I’d like to.’
‘Good luck. I know what it’s like to be in a minority.’
‘Oh? How?’ Jasmine was unsure what she meant. Was she lesbian?
‘Female, Irish and small. I get it three times over.’ She ended with a giggle.
‘I see,’ Jasmine added a forced chuckle.
‘Actually, we had someone like you in our station last year.’
‘Really? How did she get on?’ Jasmine was interested to hear about a fellow transsexual in the force – it wasn’t so uncommon now.
‘Okay, I think. She moved on a few months ago.’ Her tone became more business-like, ‘Look we don’t have time to chat. I’ve got other cases to get on with. Why are we here? I was told it was something to do with a suicide.’
‘That’s right,’ Jasmine responded, ‘the victim, Peter or Petula Thwaite, was friends with the person we’re here to see – Caroline or Geoff Barclay. They met every month.’
‘But your suicide happened down in your part of the country? Why the interest in this Barclay person.’
‘We think that Caroline was sending photos to Petula that drove her to kill herself.’
‘So what’s the crime?’
‘We don’t know. Perhaps there wasn’t one. Perhaps it was a silly joke which went wrong.’ Jasmine said.
‘We just want to know why Thwaite killed himself.’ Tom added.
‘Well, let’s not waste too much time then,’ O’Shaunessy said, dismissively, ‘Keep your questions concise.’ She pushed her door open and got out. Tom and Jasmine hurried to join her on the other side of the road. Jasmine saw that O’Shaunessy had been correct. She really was short, her head barely up to Tom’s chest.
‘Shepherd stay her,’ the DS said, ‘There’s no point three of us piling in. She knows Frame and I need to be there too.’ She set off again, up Caroline’s driveway. Short she may have been but her legs worked very fast. Jasmine hurried to keep up. O’Shaunessy pressed the bell-push and rapped her knuckles on the door. The two ladies awaited a reply.
‘Out?’ O’Shaunessy said.
‘There’s movement upstairs,’ Tom called out.
Jasmine bent down to the letter box and pushed it open. There was an inner flap so she couldn’t see through, but she spoke loudly.
‘Caroline. It’s Detective Constable Frame. We spoke yesterday. We have a few more questions. Let us in please.’
There was no reply, and Jasmine straightened up. A few moments later there was the sound of feet hurrying downstairs and through the patterned glass of the front door the fragmented image of a figure moving quickly. The figure did not approach the door but receded.
‘She’s not going to let us in,’ Jasmine said.
‘There’s a path behind the houses,’ O’Shaunessy said, ‘She’s trying to get away. You go that way.’ She pointed to the left. ‘Cut her off.’ She turned and ran across the grass in front of the house to the right, calling out ‘Shepherd stay put.’
Jasmine was astounded at how fast O’Shaunessy covered the ground, then she reacted and ran. She passed two similar houses then saw a narrow gap before the next. She turned into the alleyway and ran between two metre high wooden fences. She was relieved that she had not chosen a pencil skirt for today’s outing and that her boots had only a minimal heel but she made a memo to herself – when she transitioned as a police officer she must choose clothes and shoes that enabled her to run easily.
She reached a T-junction – the path along the end of the gardens of the houses. She looked to the right. Fifty yards away a figure in a dress was running away from her. Jasmine followed and soon began to catch up. Caroline looked over her shoulder, saw her, put her head down and tried to make her legs pump faster. A small figure appeared beyond her, approaching. Caroline looked back again, must have weighed up her chances of getting passed Jasmine or O’Shaunessy. She apparently decided on the latter because she continued to pound along the path
Jasmine was still thirty yards away when the small DS dived forward and took Caroline by the shins. The trans-woman tumbled down and scudded across the ground with a cry. As Jasmine arrived, Clodagh was scrambling to her feet. Caroline lay groaning. Jasmine put a hand under Caroline’s left arm hauled her upright. The older woman was gasping for breath, and holding her right hand against her stomach. Her stockings were laddered and her knees grazed.
‘That was some tackle,’ Jasmine said, feeling full of admiration.
‘One advantage of being small,’ the DS replied, ‘I can take them out low down.’ She put a hand on Caroline’s back. ‘Now Caroline let’s get you back home so you can answer a few questions.