Elsewhen Press have put out a press release announcing my forthcoming fantasy series, “Evil Above the Stars“. Read it here Press Release 140606.
Here it has been a busy week with the Leominster Festival on. On Friday we had a “Writers’ Showcase” where I did a “Jasmine & Me” session. Lots of lovely comments and interesting questions about Painted Ladies and Bodies By Design and about Jasmine’s life as a transsexual detective. Then in the evening we had a discussion with author Phil Rickman (Merrily Watkins crime and John Dee historical crime thrillers). He said that one of his favourite characters is a cross-dressing Welsh shaman. Perhaps he/she should meet Jasmine…
Anyway, here is the next episode of The Switch.
The Switch: Part 11
Daniel shrugged and looked down at his empty coffee cup.
‘Where do you want me to start?’ he mumbled.
‘Let’s take it from Saturday morning when you left home after your mother had gone out.’ Jasmine said in a quiet voice.
‘Why do you want to go back to then?’
‘The police will want to track all your movements. So I want to know too.’
‘Well, Mum went shopping and I left soon after.’
‘You packed your bag.’ Jasmine nodded to the sports bag at Daniel’s feet.
‘So you planned to stay out for some time.’
‘I suppose so.’
‘Oh, come on Daniel. You told me on Friday evening that you felt you had to get away from Kyle and his gang. I didn’t think you meant next day – did you?’
Daniel looked up at Jasmine. She guessed her face showed her annoyance at Daniel’s evasive answers. He looked sad and vulnerable, a boy barley into his teens not sixteen.
‘After you left, I thought about what had happened. Actually it stopped me falling asleep when I went to bed. I knew that Kyle and his mates would keep after me and that the chances were that they’d get me soon and each of them would have a go with me.’
‘Not pleasant thoughts. So you came to a decision.’ Jasmine sipped her hot coffee.
‘Yeah. I decided I had to leave.’
‘What did you pack in your bag?’
‘Why do you need to know that?’
‘It shows your intentions.’
‘Oh. Well, I put in a spare pair of jeans and a clean t-shirt with a couple of pairs of pants.’ Daniel paused.
‘A toothbrush, my phone and charger and my wallet,’ he paused, ‘and a spare bandage and my pills.’
‘For flattening my chest.’ Daniel pressed a hand against his chest. Of course, he still had breasts. The lad had to bind himself every day to stop them sticking out from his shirt and giving away his birth gender. Jasmine could imagine how uncomfortable that must be. It made tucking her superfluous bits away seem an easy task.
‘Yes, I see. And the pills?’
‘My testosterone tablets.’
‘Ah, yes. You are on the programme then?’
‘Since my birthday. I’ve been with the GR doctor for a couple of years. I wanted to go on the anti-puberty drugs, but my Dad wouldn’t give permission. But now I’m old enough to make my own decisions.’
‘How long have you been taking them?’
‘A couple of months.’
‘Seen any changes?’
‘I’m not sure. I think I’m starting to get a bit of facial growth.’
Jasmine looked at Daniel trying not to make it obvious that she was searching his face for signs of a beard. His chin still looked soft and smooth. She smiled at the thought that their desires were exact opposites. Daniel wanted to grow a beard or at least have to shave while she would be delighted to be able to give up the, sometimes twice daily, chore. Daniel was ahead of her though – she hadn’t even started taking hormones to feminise her appearance.
‘I’m sure it won’t be long,’ she said.
‘I want my voice to break too,’ Daniel said.
‘That’ll come,’ Jasmine reassured him. ‘So you packed everything you needed for at least a few days away and you left home. What did you think you would gain by being away a few days?’
‘I wasn’t planning on it being just a few days.’
‘What were you planning then?’
‘I don’t know. I just had it in my head that I had to get away from Kintbridge and something would turn up.’
‘Like what? Kyle dying?’
‘No. I don’t know. I wasn’t thinking straight.’
‘Right. That I can understand.’ Jasmine took a mouthful of coffee. ‘So you headed across the Common.’
Daniel looked mystified. ‘How do you know?’
‘You were seen on the Common with Kyle.’
‘Just some walkers who saw two youths together answering yours and Kyle’s descriptions. Was it you?’
Daniel sighed. ‘Yes. I couldn’t believe it. The one person I want to keep out of the way of and I bump into him five minutes after leaving home.’
‘You bumped into him?’
‘Yeah. Mad isn’t it. Head down, just thinking about, well nothing really, and I actually walked into him.’
‘What did he do?’
‘I think he must have been far away too but he grabbed hold of me. I tried to get away but he held me tight and then he realised who I was.’
‘Was he pleased?’
‘Not really. He didn’t have his sidekicks with him so I think he was headed somewhere. To see Tamsin perhaps.’
‘No, he’d left her a while before.’
‘You’ve spoken to her?’
‘Yes. I found her in that security hut by the entrance to the Common. She was grieving over Kyle.’
‘I suppose she thought he loved her,’ Daniel said in a cynical growl.
‘You don’t think he did?’
‘The only person he loved was himself.’
‘I’m not sure if even that’s true. Bullies often pretty low on self-esteem,’ Jasmine offered the benefits of her psychological profiling training. ‘But where was Kyle off to then?’
‘One of the other girls, perhaps.’
‘Yeah. Tamsin was his chief bitch, but they passed a couple of others around them. He didn’t want me at any rate, not without his back-up.’
‘He let you go?’
‘I tried to get his arms off me and he slapped me around a bit and called me all the usual names, but he didn’t come after me when I got away.’
‘So you carried on your way.’
‘Kyle didn’t chase you.’
‘You didn’t arrange to meet him?’
Daniel’s dark eyebrows shot up. ‘No. Why should I? He’s the last person I want to meet.’
‘OK. So where did you go next?’
‘I walked across the Common to the road and caught a bus here.’
‘It’s somewhere else. There wasn’t any other reason really.’
‘So you got here, when? Early Saturday afternoon. What did you do?
‘Looked round the shops; got something to eat; nothing much.’
‘What about sleeping?’
‘I found somewhere to doss down. It was a warm night.’
‘You slept rough?’ Jasmine was horrified. A young person like Daniel could easily have been picked up or worked over by all sorts of unsavoury people. ‘Did you have any problems?’
‘No. It was ok.’
‘Really?’ Jasmine didn’t fancy spending a night in the open in Basingstoke or any town, summer or any time.
‘So what did you do yesterday?’
‘Same as before. Wandered around, ate and went to see a film.’
‘You had enough money for the cinema.’
‘I got some cash from my account. I didn’t realise at the time that the police might be tracking me.’
‘They weren’t then, but if they are now, they’ll have found a record of the transaction so they’ll know you’ve been in Basingstoke.’
Daniel glanced around as if expecting police to burst into the coffee-shop.
‘I’d better move somewhere else then.’ He started to rise from his chair. Jasmine grabbed his arm and tugged him back into the seat.
‘I shouldn’t think they’re on to you yet, Dan. Take it easy.’
Daniel was on edge but he remained seated.
‘What film did you see?’ Jasmine asked.
‘I thought that came out a few years ago.’
‘It’s the sequel, Iron Man 2.’
‘Oh.’ Superhero films weren’t on Jasmine’s list of favourites, classic film was her taste. ‘And then you slept rough again.’
‘You can’t carry on doing that.’
‘Come on Dan. You’re a smart kid. Either the police will pick you up or some other guys, not nice ones will. And even if you can use your card, what happens when you run out of cash and can’t afford burgers and fries or whatever.’
‘Speak to the police,’ Jasmine urged, ‘then you can go home. Kyle’s not there to bother you anymore.’
‘I can’t go to the police. I can’t face it.’
Jasmine could tell from Daniel’s determined expression that she wasn’t going to be able to make him hand himself in just yet. His story wasn’t a convincing alibi either. Apart from the visit to the cinema which could perhaps be proved he didn’t have much proof of what he’d been up to for two days.
‘I don’t suppose you kept receipts for your meals and the cinema ticket, did you?’ she asked.
‘The times of the transactions would support your alibi.’
‘I don’t need an alibi. I didn’t have anything to do with Kyle’s death.’
‘The police will check your alibi and it’s got more holes than substance at the moment.’
‘Well, that’s tough. I’m not going to see the police anyway.’
‘So you’re just going to hang out here are you?’
‘Yes. No. I’ll get some cash out and then go somewhere else. London.’
‘And hang around the streets and parks with all the other drug addicts and dropouts.’
‘Yes.’ Daniel didn’t look to happy about that possibility.
‘What about your mother?’
‘What about her?’
‘She’s worried about you.’
Daniel’s head dropped. He didn’t reply. Jasmine was thinking. She had to protect Daniel and question him further to see if she could find any clues to who did kill Kyle. There was only one thing to do.
‘Come home with me,’ she said.
Daniel looked up. ‘Back to Kintbridge?’
‘Yes. You can stay with me. We’ll get a message to your mother that you’re safe and well.’
‘I’m not going to the police.’
‘We won’t contact the police unless you want to.’
Daniel mulled the proposition over while Jasmine considered the consequences. Their third bedroom was a study. The second bedroom was Jasmine’s room where she now slept having given up the double bed to Angie. Where would she put Daniel?
‘Ok. I’ll come.’
‘Good. Let’s go.’ Jasmine drained the last drops of cooling coffee.
‘Isn’t there a problem?’ Daniel asked.
‘Didn’t you come by bus?’
Jasmine had forgotten. ‘Um, yes.’
‘Well, if we both go back by bus someone might see us walking to your house. I don’t think that’s a good idea.’
Jasmine wondered how she could be so stupid. ‘You’re right, Daniel.’
Painted Ladies: A Jasmine Frame Story is available as a paperback and e-book from all the usual sources.