Well it’s Sunday this week – sorry if some readers have been waiting for my next post. There’s just not enough days in the week -certainly not enough to keep up with all the things I want to write to say nothing of other stuff.
Just some thoughts – Will Self in yesterday’s Guardian saying the novel was dead (again). Haven’t yet got round to reading all his arguments but I imagine he’s wrong. Writing, and reading, is constantly changing. Look at how the size and length of novels has increased over the last fifty years. Most of the paperbacks on my shelves bought in the 60s and 70s are slim volumes. Now nearly every novel is a tome. But apparently the rise of the e-book has encouraged a new interest in novellas or novelettes. I don’t think that is a bad thing. I am thinking of putting my novel length Jasmine Frame story, Bodies By Design, onto e-book and perhaps also the novella length prequel I published episodically here, Blueprint, as well. Maybe when the Switch is complete I’ll do the same. We’ll have to wait and see. In the meantime here is the next episode.
The Switch – Part 6
Jasmine leaned with her back against the shut front door. What should she do? If Danny was still missing his mother, Jenny, must be frantic. Getting calls from the Police about Kyle’s murder would make her worse. Should she ring her? Jasmine returned to the lounge and picked up her phone. She was about to thumb the re-dial when she stopped. No, it would be more comforting for Jenny if she called on her. But Angela had left in the Fiesta. She’d have to walk around to the estate. She recalled Angela’s reservations about the area in which the Parrys lived. At least it was daylight.
Jasmine slipped on a pair of pumps and shrugged her bag over her shoulder. She looked in the mirror to check her make-up, it was OK, stepped outside the door and pulled it closed behind her. There were only a few hundred yards between the two homes but it was like travelling from one civilisation to another. Her own street was neat and tidy. Most of the cars had left in the morning as their drivers set off for work. In the Parry’s road there were a couple of old cars with wheels and other bits missing, a few white vans of various sizes parked up on the muddy verge, uncollected bags of rubbish stacked against walls, torn and spewing wrappers and chicken bones, unoccupied houses boarded up and unlooked after. The street was deserted but Jasmine had the feeling that there were eyes watching her from behind thin curtains.
The Parry house was neat and tidy with blinds at the window, closed despite it being a bright, sunny, mid-morning. Jasmine rang the doorbell. There was a delay and then the door opened an inch, held by a chain. One eye and half a face appeared.
‘Oh. It’s you.’
‘Hello, Jenny. How are you? Will you let me in?’
The face disappeared and the door closed. There was a clinking of metal chain and then the door opened again, just a few inches. Jenny Parry’s face appeared, whole this time. She looked passed Jasmine, seemed to be satisfied and then pulled the door wider.
‘Come in. Quickly.’
Jasmine squeezed through the gap and around the woman. The door was closed behind and the chain restored.
‘What’s scaring you, Jenny?’ Jasmine asked as she followed Mrs Parry down the hallway to the kitchen.
‘Kids. They’ve been hanging around since the police called. Watching and calling out vile things about Daniel.’
‘They’re not out there now.’
‘They’ll be back. I’m glad Daniel’s not here. He’d be shitting himself.’
‘You haven’t heard from him?’
‘No. Have you got any news?’
‘No. Did you think he might have contacted me?’
‘I thought, you being a cop, you might have heard whether they’ve found him.’
Since she’d had a visit from her colleagues Jasmine guessed that Jenny was probably not sure whose side she was on. Jasmine knew she had to get back into Jenny’s confidence.
‘Look, shall we have a coffee and you can tell me what the police said to you.’
‘Oh, yes, I forgot to ask. Black was it?’
Jenny put the kettle on and got two mugs out of the cupboard. She spooned instant coffee into both
‘They came round looking for Daniel,’ she said, while the kettle began to hiss.
‘I know,’ Jasmine said.
‘The detective said that Kyle was dead and they needed to ask Daniel some questions.’
‘That’s right.’ Jasmine didn’t think she was offering much help.
‘They can’t think Danny had anything to with it can they?’ The kettle began to whistle and Jenny picked it up and poured the water into the mugs.
‘They need to eliminate him from their enquiries,’ Jasmine recited. Jenny handed a mug to Jasmine.
‘What does that mean?’ Jenny said.
‘Let’s sit down and I’ll try to explain,’ Jasmine said. How do I explain that your son is a suspect, she asked herself.
They entered the dimly lit lounge. The closed blind just let a diffuse sunlight into the room.
Jenny sat on the end of a scuffed, Dralon sofa. Jasmine settled into the matching armchair that was closest. She sipped the hot coffee.
‘You see,’ Jasmine began, ‘The police know that Dan knew Kyle.’
‘Everyone round here knows… uh, knew, that boy. He had a go at anyone he wasn’t afraid of.’
‘Well, that’s the point. Kyle threatened Dan.’
‘You told me that last night. How did the police know?’
‘That was me.’
‘Yes. On Friday evening when I met Dan up on the Common he was being attacked by Kyle and his mates. They were dragging him towards the old security hut. I called for assistance but managed to get Dan away from them before the police car arrived. The officers didn’t do anything but a call out has to be logged. I said I would write a report, which I did. What I wrote got flagged up after Kyle’s body was found.’
‘What were they taking Daniel to the hut for?’ Jenny’s face showed fear, fear of something she suspected.
Jasmine struggled to find the best words, ‘Kyle said he was going to do something to Danny.’
‘You mean he was going to rape him. You know Danny is still physically a girl.’
‘Yes, I know, and yes that was what Kyle threatened. I don’t know if he would have gone through with it.’
‘Oh, yes, he would. A vicious bastard he was. I’m glad he’s dead.’ Jenny paused, ‘so that’s why, Daniel went away. To get away from Kyle.’
‘That’s what I think,’ Jasmine agreed. Jenny was silent for a moment.
‘But that’s why the police think Daniel killed him, isn’t it. They think he l did it so he wouldn’t be raped. Or…’ she covered her face with her hands her eyes showing horror, ‘Perhaps Kyle did catch Daniel and… and…’
‘Dan killed him in revenge,’ Jasmine filled in. Jenny shook her head from side to side.
‘No, no. It couldn’t be like that. Daniel wouldn’t hurt anyone. Not even Kyle.’
‘Are you sure?’ Jasmine asked. ‘Being raped is bad enough but when you’re a trans man, being taken as a woman, well, perhaps Dan got angry enough to get his own back.’
‘No. I don’t believe it,’ Jenny cried and curled up sobbing. ‘Emma was such a gentle girl. She wouldn’t hurt anyone.’
‘Emma? Is what Dan’s name was before?’
‘Yes. She was sweet with curly hair and a big smile. Her father adored her. Then as she grew up she began to insist that she was a boy. She wouldn’t wear skirts or dresses and started to say that her name was Daniel.’
‘Did that cause problems?’
‘Of course it did. We tried to play along but Steve, my husband, used to get annoyed. When he tried to get Daniel to behave as a girl Daniel got frustrated.’
‘Who? Daniel? No. He got wild and shouted and jumped around but he didn’t hurt anyone. It was Steve who got violent, slapped Daniel and took it out on me. He left eventually.’
‘And that was when Dan transitioned?’
‘Yes. He’s been calm and happy ever since, despite the problems.’
‘People calling him names. Outside school this is. School have been great. Some people just don’t understand that he is really a boy.’
‘I know what it can be like.’
Jenny looked up at Jasmine and stared into her face.
‘I suppose you do.’
‘I think Kyle has been bullying Dan for quite a while. Dan told me that he was quite determined to subdue Dan and have him in his gang.’
‘Daniel hated all that gang stuff. He wouldn’t let Kyle rule his life.’
‘But would he kill Kyle to stop him?’
‘No. He’d get away just like he’s done. Look, Jasmine, you’ve got to help us. Get Daniel back and prove he didn’t kill Kyle.’
Jasmine couldn’t find an answer immediately. How could she set about finding Dan and prove him innocent. She was not even on duty. She was starting to transition herself. She had too much to do sorting out her own life. But, she looked at the anguished face of the mother and found herself answering.
‘Yes, of course.’ She stared into her mug and noticed it was empty. She couldn’t remember drinking all the coffee. ‘I’d better go,’ she said putting the mug on the floor and standing up, ‘I’ll make some enquiries. I’m sure Dan will turn up. Perhaps Kyle’s death will turn out to be an accident after all.’
Jenny followed her into the hall and to the door. Jasmine undid the chain and turned the lock. Jenny pushed against the door keeping it closed,
‘You will help Daniel.’
‘Yes,’ Jasmine replied. Jenny pulled the door open. Jasmine stepped through. The door closed behind her and the chain rattled. Jasmine looked ahead. There were people standing in the road and two boys stood at the gate. They were Kyle’s mates.