Life is getting hectic. I’ve had the contract for the publication of the second volume of my fantasy series, Evil Above the Stars. There will soon be a biog and blurb on the website of Elsewhen Press. It’s also getting very close to the Leominster Festival which has a number of literary events – a Writers’ Slam!, a showcase of local writers’ work (including me doing Jasmine & Me), the awards ceremony for the writing competition we’ve been running, and finally, the highlight, a talk by author Phil Rickman.
So, back to Jasmine Frame, and the next part of the prequel to Painted Ladies, The Switch.
The Switch: Part 8
Jasmine jogged up the road leading to the Common. She didn’t usually like to run during the heat of the day, and today was warm, but it was a good cover story for visiting the sites where Daniel had apparently been seen with Kyle and the place where Kyle’s body was found. She enjoyed the rhythm of putting one foot in front of the other, pushing the pace a little so that she could feel her heart beating a little faster.
She reached the pond at the top of the Common first. It was more of a sunken hole in the ground, about ten metres across that had filled up with water than a picturesque water feature. There was a layer of algal scum on the surface and a few clumps of reeds at the edge. The whole pond was ringed by police tape attached to spikes driven into the chalky ground. A couple of male CSOs, that Jasmine didn’t recognise, patrolled the perimeter. She ran up to them and stopped, making a fuss of catching her breath. The sweat was real though.
‘What’s going on here?’ she asked between exaggerated puffs.
‘They pulled a body out of the water,’ the younger of the CSOs replied.
‘A bloke, well, a kid really,’ his colleague added.
‘Oh, when was that?’ Jasmine asked innocently.
‘Last evening,’ the first said.
‘He was in the water?’ Jasmine wanted as much detail as possible.
‘The body was floating face down in the middle when the dog walker saw it, so they say,’ the older man said.
‘Any signs of a struggle?’
‘Dunno,’ the young CSO said
‘Why do you want to know?’ The elder asked, suddenly suspicious. Jasmine realised that she had fallen into interrogation mode.
‘Oh, just wondering how he got there,’ she said fluttering a little. ‘I’d better get on.’ She started to run away from the pair, making a circuit of the pond. After a couple of paces she slowed down to a gentle jog and examined the side of the pond within the police tape. The ground was hard and dry and quite dusty after the recent dry weather. The pond had shrunk quite a bit but was clearly still a few feet deep in the centre. Kyle must have been unconscious when he fell or was pushed into the water. The wielder of that steel tube that Tom had mentioned must have given it quite a swing.
She came to a spot where the reeds were bent over and creased. Was this where the fight took place? Or was it where the police pulled the body from the water? It probably didn’t matter. She wasn’t going to find any sign of Daniel here that the SoCO officers hadn’t.
Jasmine continued her jog along the gravel path that ran parallel to the perimeter road. She kept scanning the ground on both sides for any clues. Was this where Kyle was seen with Daniel or was it someone who looked like him? The path inclined downwards slightly and she found herself heading to the access road where she had met with Daniel and his assailants on Friday evening. It was deserted now but the security hut drew her attention. Kyle and his mates had been trying to get Daniel into it. Was it one of their usual meeting places?
The hut was a simple concrete cube with a flat roof. The windows were boarded up but the door didn’t look secure. In fact it had been open when Jasmine had last seen it. Jasmine approached. Presumably there had once been a padlock but the bolt had been smashed off and hung by one screw. Jasmine pushed her hand against the door. It swung inwards in little jerks. The interior was dark and Jasmine’s eyes were adjusted to the bright sunlight. She took one step in, saw movement.
‘Who’re you?’ a nervous, female voice. Jasmine froze, raised her hands. It showed she was unarmed but also left her prepared to defend herself. A girl stepped out of the shadows. She wore a tight black micro-skirt that barely covered her bottom and revealed her long bare legs. On top she had a cut-off vest revealing her midriff and belly-button ring. She had long, dark hair draped over her bare shoulders. It was the girl who had been with Kyle on Friday evening.
‘I’m Jasmine. We sort of met on Friday.’
The girl took a few steps back, leaning against the rough wall of the hut. Jasmine’s eyes were beginning to adjust to the dim light. She saw a mattress on the dusty concrete floor, a few empty bottles, cigarette ends.
‘You said you were a cop,’ the girl said, ‘you don’t look like one.’
‘That’s right. I am a police officer but I’m off-duty,’ Jasmine said.
‘You’re a trannie.’
‘I’m transsexual,’ Jasmine corrected. ‘What’s your name?’
‘What are you doing here, Tamsin?’
‘None of your business,’ she said and folded her arms.
‘Is this where you and Kyle’s gang used to hang out?’
She nodded and then tears appeared at the corner of her eyes and made a streak down her tanned face.
‘You know what’s happened?’
The girl nodded again.
‘The cops came to my house and asked me questions,’ she sniffed.
‘You and Kyle were close?’
‘He said I was his bitch, his boss-girl.’
‘Really. Did you and he come here alone?’ Jasmine nodded at the grubby mattress.
‘Yeah. We shagged for the first time in here, and other times.’ she spoke as if it was a proud achievement. Perhaps it was to have been selected by the gang leader as his preferred sexual partner.’
‘Kyle had other girls though did he?’
She nodded and sniffed again.
‘He picked all the girls and gave ‘em one before letting the other guys have their turn.’
‘And that’s what he was going to do to Daniel on Friday was it?’
She sniffed again and blubbed.
‘What did you think of that?’
‘I was sorry for Dan.’
‘We’ve known each other since we started school. Emma and me were friends then, before she became Daniel.’