A busy weekend so I’m pretty late this week. Nevertheless there is another episode of The Switch below.
By this time next week we will have held the Writers’ Slam at the Leominster Festival – 13 writers stepping up to the microphone to read their work. I hope we get a good audience and people want to buy our books, particularly, of course, Painted Ladies. It’s the first marketing opportunity I’ve had for a couple of months so really need to get the sales going.
Just one more thing. An interesting full page article in today’s Observer by the mother of a trans five year old. The child has insisted she is female since she could first speak. The parents finally gave in after a couple of years’ struggle and now she is a happy little girl (still with a male body, of course). The article was a response to a bit of typical Mail On Sunday sniping at the NHS providing puberty-delaying drugs to similar gender dysphoric children. The article makes the point that in the UK it is actually very difficult to get children taken seriously when they say they are a different gender to what they were born with and that there is considerable research data saying how successful the treatment is in preventing psychological anguish (eating disorders, suicide etc.).
Anyway, here’s Jasmine…
The Switch: Part 9
The shadow of the open door formed a monochrome slash across the girl’s sullen, painted face. Jasmine struggled to imagine Tamsin and Daniel/Emma as young girls, playing on swings or with their dolls. Did Daniel ever play at princesses or other girls’ games?
‘Ten years. That’s a long time to be friends,’ Jasmine said.
‘Yeah, well, we haven’t been close for a while,’ Tamsin replied with a sniff.
‘Since Emma became Daniel?’
‘Longer really. Emma didn’t want to be in our gang. She did her own thing.’
‘Kyle didn’t like that?’
‘No. You’re either with us or against us, he said.’
‘So Kyle was keen to teach him a lesson, was he?’
‘Sort of. He said Dan wasn’t a real boy. He still had female bits so Kyle was going to show him how real boys treated girls.’
‘What did you feel about that?’ Jasmine searched Tamsin’s face for clues. Did she know what had happened since Saturday?
‘It didn’t matter what I thought. Kyle got his way.’
‘But you knew Daniel. You understood what he was going through.’
Tamsin shrugged and didn’t say anything.
‘You felt for Daniel?’ Jasmine insisted.
‘Yeah, alright,’ Tamsin stamped her foot, ‘I wasn’t happy about it.’
‘Did you try to stop what Kyle was planning?’
The girl stared at Jasmine with her mouth open in surprise.
‘Stop Kyle! He’s a madman when he gets one on him. I don’t want to end up face down in the pond, thank you.’
‘But you’re his number 1. Doesn’t he listen to you?’
Tamsin turned away from Jasmine.
‘He doesn’t listen to any girl. If you were a real girl instead of a perv in a skirt you’d know what it’s like. He’d only listen to his mates and only if it suits him. Anyway why are you talking about him as if he’s alive? Kyle’s dead.’
‘Do you know anything about that, Tamsin?’
Tamsin turned back to face her with misery written in her features. ‘No.’
‘When did you see him last?’
‘Saturday morning. He was going to pick me up Saturday evening, but he didn’t turn up. I looked for him everywhere. I couldn’t find him.’
‘You tried here?’
‘Was there any sign he’d been here?’
Jasmine bent down to look at the mattress and the debris on the floor. There were a number of fag ends and used condoms to go with the empty cans and bottles.
‘What do you mean?’
‘This litter. Is it new?’
‘How should I know?’
‘You don’t clear the rubbish now and again?’
‘No. Why should I?
Jasmine straightened up.
‘Oh, I just thought if it was a place you used often, you might want to keep it tidy.’
‘What are you on? It’s somewhere to get out of the rain and have a fuck not a fucking dream home.’
It was Jasmine’s turn to shrug. How much self-respect did the girl have if she was prepared to have sex in such a filthy environment? It wasn’t exactly a love nest.
‘Some people said they saw Kyle and Daniel together on the Common on Saturday. Did you know that?’
Tamsin shook her head vigorously.
‘Kyle left me some time after 10. Said he had some stuff to do.’
‘Where was that?’
‘In the play park on the estate. We shared a can of coke.’
‘I saw him in town with his two mates after that. You didn’t see him again?’
‘I told you, I didn’t. Look are you going to let me go?’
‘I haven’t been stopping you from leaving, Tamsin,’ Jasmine said.
‘You’ve asked enough fucking questions.’
‘I want to find out where Daniel is and what happened to Kyle. Do you think Daniel could have killed Kyle?’
‘No way. Daniel was a weed. Even as a girl he wasn’t very butch. Kyle would have hammered him if they got into a fight.’ Jasmine agreed, if they were both unarmed, but what if Daniel had wielded a length of steel pipe? Could he have caught Kyle a lucky blow? It seemed unlikely unless Kyle had been unaware of his attacker’s approach. She didn’t want to imagine Daniel in that role; not yet anyway. Tamsin had obviously not heard about the pipe and Jasmine resolved to keep that to herself.
‘That’s what I thought. The police seem to think otherwise. Who could have killed Kyle do you think – one of the gang?’
‘Na. They’re all a bunch of wankers. Just did what Kyle said and took their chances when they could.’
‘Isn’t it strange that Kyle was apparently on his own?’ Jasmine asked.
‘No. Kyle liked to be on his own. He said he liked wandering around the Common enjoying the quiet.’
‘And meeting up with you, and other girls?’
The girl’s look could have pierced Jasmine.
‘He could have come up here alone to meet another girl.’
‘He could, but he was supposed to be meeting me to come up here not some other slag.’
Jasmine wasn’t sure she would have trusted Kyle that much.
‘OK. Anybody else? Another gang perhaps?’
‘The Common was our place. If any other gang came up here they could expect a battering.’
Jasmine was surprised by the ferocity in Tamsin’s assertion. She knew that the police were called to the occasional fracas involving kids but she hadn’t realised the depth of feeling between the gangs in Kintbridge. It sounded like the inner-city not a peaceful country town.
‘So, no ideas on Kyle’s killer, then?’
‘No,’ Tamsin said moving towards the door. She paused. ‘You will try and find out who did it, won’t you? You being a cop and all that.’
‘I will Tamsin, and I want to discover what’s happened to Daniel. Look, if you hear anything let me know.’
Jasmine thought. She didn’t have any of her cards with her and anyway they gave her phone number at HQ. ‘Pop a note into Daniel’s mother. You know where he lives.’
The girl was gone and Jasmine was left alone in the filth of the blockhouse. Its only redeeming feature was that it didn’t smell damp. She searched through the muck on the floor and lifted the saggy mattress but could not see anything that indicated Daniel had been there, or not for that matter. She stepped outside, back into the bright summer light. She waited a moment while her eyes readjusted then continued her jog, completing the circuit to her home.
In the bedroom she stripped off her sweat-soaked running clothes and went into the bathroom, avoiding catching sight, in the long mirror beside the door, of her naked body and the bits she considered incongruous and unsightly. She turned the shower on and then heard the ‘phone ringing. She hurried, back into the bedroom and grabbed the handset.
‘Yes,’ she said.
‘Jasmine? It’s me, Daniel.’