Below is the final episode of Blueprint, the Jasmine Frame prequel to Painted Ladies. When I started it over six months ago I had no idea where it was going which is probably not the best way to write a crime story. Nevertheless it has been fun thinking up episode after episode while making the plot relatively logical and consistent. I think I have discovered rather more about Jasmine even having completed the draft for the second full length novel, Bodies by Design. One thing I have had to do is get my timings sorted. Blueprint takes place in November 2009 while Painted Ladies is in May 2012. That leaves a window of eighteen months for further developments to take place.
Blueprint has ended up at around 39,000 words i.e. half a novel or a novella. It needs severe editing but I hope to make it available for anyone who wants to read it in its entirety.
Just a reminder that Painted Ladies is available in paperback from all suppliers and as an e-book in all formats, currently at £1.99.
Blueprint – Part 28
James stood behind Sloane’s desk with Tom standing stiffly to attention beside him. He barely reached Tom’s shoulder and felt small and insignificant. He looked at the thinning, short, grey hair on the top of DCI Sloane’s head. His head was bent down reading their report, the one that they had spent hours last evening writing after their return from Manchester. James suppressed a yawn – it had been a tiring few days and there wasn’t the adrenalin rush that usually came when a case was successfully closed. The result of their investigation into Thwaite’s suicide rather depended on Sloane.
Sloane was on the last page of the report. His head tilted up and he looked from Tom to James. He spoke in his deep growl.
‘Not a bad job, Shepherd, Frame. You have made a thorough job of reporting your investigation. What do you expect me to do with it now?’ He closed the report and brandished it in his right hand.
‘I thought you would pass it to the coroner for Peter Thwaite’s inquest, Sir,’ James said.
‘Hmm. That’s what I thought you would say,’ Sloane said. ‘The question is whether that is a wise course of action.’
‘Yes, Frame. Consider your findings. You have concluded that Thwaite was not being blackmailed or threatened, he was not in any financial difficulty and had not been engaged in any criminal activity.’
‘That’s correct, Sir.’ James nodded. Tom said nothing but maintained his upright stance.
‘So the coroner’s verdict can only be that Thwaite killed himself while he was disturbed.’
‘And the reason for that disturbance, you say, was his fear that his wife would discover his transvestism.’
‘That’s right, Sir.’
‘And that fear was accentuated by these stupid photos sent by Barclay.’
‘At least, that is your supposition.’
‘I your pardon, Sir, what do you mean?’
‘I mean that you are guessing that that is the cause of his suicide.’
‘There was evidence, Sir.’
Sloane flicked through the pages of the report.
‘Yes,’ he agreed, ‘Your one conversation with Thwaite at this dressing-up club, and the statement of the person who sent the photos. It does not seem conclusive, Frame.’
‘But there was no other explanation, Sir,’ James was mystified. Sloane had congratulated them on the report but now he was pulling it to pieces.
‘Did you explore any other explanations?’ Sloane’s eyebrows rose as he stated his query.
James flustered. ‘There weren’t any other leads Sir. We checked his bank accounts and expenses and found nothing to suggest that Peter Thwaite had money worries, nor any suggestion that he was having an affair and his wife seemed to have no inkling of a breakdown in their relationship.’ James glanced at Tom but did not catch his eye and Tom remained resolutely silent.
‘Ah, his wife.’ Sloane paused before adding. ‘Actually he was having an affair, one which he kept a total secret. The affair with Petula.’
James wondered whether Sloane had got confused.
‘Petula was himself, Sir.’
‘I’m fully aware of that, Frame, but this sneaking out to social events and liaisons, the hidden case full of clothes, it is as if he was carrying on an affair.’
‘I suppose so, Sir.’
‘And you think, he killed himself to avoid this becoming public knowledge.’
‘Yes, Sir. I think he felt that the shame of being revealed as a cross-dresser and knowing the hurt that he thought it would cause his wife brought on the loss of sanity that made him kill himself.’
‘And you want to reveal all this in court. Announce it to his wife in public.’
James realised what Sloane had been getting at.
‘You mean that our report will have the effect that Thwaite killed himself to prevent, Sir.’
‘Yes, Frame. Thwaite went to extraordinary lengths to hide his transvestism from his wife and others who knew him, even killing himself to avoid having to explain himself.’
‘Are you saying we should respect his wishes now that he is dead, Sir?’
‘I am more concerned for the living. His wife.’
‘What do you mean, Sir?’
‘Should she be left in ignorance of the reasons for her husband’s death, ignorance of his secret life that excluded her? Or, should she be informed of what he has been doing for years, deceiving her and killing himself because he couldn’t face her with the truth?
James felt the blood drain from his face. Tom shifted uneasily on his feet. What was the correct thing to do?
‘I don’t know, Sir.’
‘And neither do I, Frame, at least at this precise moment. Leave your report with me and I will consider whether to pass it to the Coroner, or…’ Sloane took a breath.
‘Or what, Sir?’
‘Put it through the shredder. You may go now, Shepherd.’ Sloane dropped the report onto his desk.
‘Thank you, Sir.’ Tom did an about turn and marched from the office. James began to follow him.
‘Not you, Frame.’
James froze, turned to face Sloane again. ‘Sir?’ he questioned.
‘Your investigation,’ Sloane tapped his fingers against the report, ‘benefited from you questioning certain people in your disguise as a female, Frame.’
‘Um. It wasn’t a disguise, Sir,’ James wondered again if Sloane was confused or just avoiding reality.
‘You played a role that was designed to get the confidence of these transvestites.’
‘I think Caroline Barclay was transsexual rather than transvestite, Sir.’
‘Semantics is beside the point, Frame.’
‘I approve of the use of initiative when it serves the purpose of collecting evidence. Do you understand, Frame?’
James wasn’t sure where Sloane was heading but he nodded.
‘But I want you to remember, Frame,’ Sloane continued, ‘that above all else you are a detective. Being a detective is more than a job. It is a vocation. When you are on a case, one that puzzles you and tests you, it is the most important thing in your life. It dominates your waking thought, perhaps even your sleep and dreams. Your only objective is to solve it. Your family will come to accept that on those occasions your priorities lie with your investigation. At no time does your life outside this office influence your work as a detective. Do you understand?’
James was trying to take in what Sloane had said but he felt that he had the gist of it. Nothing mattered except the job so his wish to be Jasmine was of no consequence and would be given no consideration by Sloane. DCI Sloane had obviously never suffered from self-doubt and was completely comfortable in his devotion to his career.
‘Frame?’ Sloane prompted.
‘Yes, Sir, I understand,’ James said in as neutral a voice as he could manage, ‘Thank you, Sir.’
‘Right. Well I’m glad that is clear. Off you go now, there’s work to do.’ Sloane dismissed him with a flick of his fingers.
James re-joined Tom by his desk. Tom looked up at him from behind his computer screen.
‘Did Sloane want to speak to you about Jasmine?’
‘What do you mean?’
‘He’s basically told me to forget everything except my job.’
‘Everything. He’s not interested in hearing about my desires and concerns. He thinks my gender identity is unimportant compared to the demands of detective work.’
‘Well, I suppose that’s alright then. He doesn’t care whether you are James or Jasmine.’
‘No, I don’t think that’s it. He thinks I shouldn’t be wasting my time on frivolous concerns like whether I am male or female or how I should present myself. He wants me to put all that out of mind and carry on as I am.’
‘But he’s wrong,’ James said firmly, ‘Who I am affects how I work and I know I can be as effective a detective as Jasmine because that is the person I want to be.’
‘Perhaps Sloane will realise that if you do this transition thing, Jim.’
‘It’s something I will find out not long from now,’ James said collapsing heavily into his chair. His mind was made up. He would become Jasmine Frame, detective, full-time.