I drove across the country to Nottingham yesterday for the Gedling Bookfair. A long way to go perhaps, but I was hoping to get some sales of Painted Ladies and perhaps to meet a few people. It was held in a small theatre attached to a leisure centre in Arnold. There were a number of authors stalls selling books, self-publishng companies and the local Waterstones. New Writers UK who organise the weekend get a lot of support from their local council which is unusual in this age of cuts. There were only about 30 or so pople there, mostly writers, but I think they are expecting more for the activities over the weekend. I left some copies of my book on the members’ stall and went to the talks. They were interesting:
Helen Hollick gave tips on submission on behalf of the Historical Novel Review Society – obvious really but surprising how many people ignore them
Elizabeth Chadwick spoke on doing research for her historical novels – they have to be accurate as they are not fantasies.
Stephen Booth talked about his long running series of crime novels set in the Peak District (police procedurals that are apparently very accurate and well-written)
and Steve Mosby who writes very macabre, serial killer thrillers (not sure I want to read those) recounted how he gets ideas.
The final talk, only ten minutes, was by Penny Luithlen, an agent for authors of children’s and young adult books. She was very negative, perhaps realistically so, but I began to wonder why she was still doing the job as she didn’t seem to find much pleasure in it.
Apart from having a very slow journey home – it was a Friday evening after all – I found it a stimulating day. I really must find a way of getting Bodies By Design, the second Jasmine Frame novel, published, if only as an e-book. But the one thing that was reinforced was the need for marketing – a skill that I don’t think I have.
By the way, I see there is a call for more diversity on TV – time for a transsexual detective?
Anyway, the next free, yes free, epsiode of The Switch – the Jasmine Frame prequel, is below. Can you see where it’s going?
The Switch: Part 13
Jasmine drove with care to Basingstoke looking out for police cars. It was stupid to worry she knew. No officers other than Tom Shepherd knew she shared the Fiesta with Angela or had seen her as Jasmine. Nevertheless she felt as though she was being followed or watched on the journey.
She parked in the shopping mall car park and sent a short text to Daniel. He was waiting at the spot they had arranged and was visibly pleased to see her. They sauntered back to the car, Jasmine making sure that they did not appear to be rushing. An ordinary couple out shopping. Ordinary? Boy and girlfriend – hardly; mother and son – probably not; brother and sister – perhaps. However they tried they must look an old couple; she tall and blonde, him short and dark. They reached the car without anyone apparently taking notice of them, but who knows, Jasmine worried.
‘Get in the back, Dan,’ Jasmine said, ‘and get your head down. I don’t want anyone to see you as we leave the car park or when we get close to Kintbridge.’ Daniel flung his small bag onto the back seat and climbed in after it, laying on the seat. Jasmine got in and drove off. They were on the road back to Kintbridge before Daniel spoke.
‘How was Kyle killed?’
Jasmine glanced in her mirror, just able to see the side of Daniel’s head as he lay curled on the rear seat.
‘I don’t think I can tell you, Dan.’
‘Do you know how?’
‘Yes, but it’s something they’ll want to question you about. If you know they’ll be suspicious.’
‘I’d tell them that you told me.’
Jasmine’s stomach churned as the full realisation of what she was doing dawned. Angela was right. Her career was on the line if Sloane found out that she was preventing the police from interviewing Daniel. It would be even worse if she was found to have passed on vital information.
‘That’s not something I can allow you to do, Dan,’ she said summoning her official voice. Dan’s head rose and she saw him looking at her in the mirror. ‘I shouldn’t be doing this, Dan. It’s my duty as a police officer to hand over a suspect in a serious crime, any crime.’
’You won’t?’ Daniel said with a tremor in his voice.
Jasmine paused. ‘No,’ she said eventually, ‘but I urge you to change your mind and speak to them as soon as possible. They will treat you properly, as a male. They won’t let anyone abuse you. They’ll look into your alibi and then you’ll be free and they’ll have to look for another suspect.’
Daniel’s head shook. ‘No,’ he said.
Jasmine took a deep breath. This was going to be difficult and she did not want to be in deeper than she was already. They reached the outskirts of Kintbridge. It was just a short drive now to Jasmine’s home.
‘Keep your head down,’ she warned.
As she turned into Bridle Lane, Jasmine was relieved to see none of her neighbours outside cutting their lawns, watering their plants or washing their cars, which was unusual. Perhaps it was too early for those activities on a Monday evening. She stopped and reversed up her driveway stopping when the car doors were just about level with the entrance to the house. She switched off the engine.
‘Stay down until I say move,’ she said quietly. She got out, closed her door and went to open the front door. She returned to the car, glanced up and down the road then opened the car door.
Daniel crawled out of the car and was into the house in a moment. Jasmine breathed out at last, locked the car and followed him into the house, pulling the door closed behind her. Daniel stood in the hall way with his sports bag by his side. Angela emerged from the kitchen. She’d changed from her business suit into a simple, short, summer dress.
‘Hello, Daniel,’ she said in her welcoming voice but Jasmine saw her examining the young boy. ‘I expect you’d like to wash before we have something to eat. Jasmine will show you to your room.’ She gave Jasmine one of her smiles that wasn’t a smile.
Jasmine led Daniel up the stairs and into what had been the spare bedroom. Then it had become Jasmine’s dressing room, the room where she kept all of Jasmine’s clothes and extra bits while she was still DC James Frame. Now it was her bedroom as the separation from Angela moved forward. She noticed her bed with the duvet carelessly thrown over it earlier in the morning.
‘I’ll change the bedclothes for you,’ she said.
‘Oh, that doesn’t matter. I don’t mind,’ Daniel replied, looking around the room and seeing the bits and pieces of Jasmine’s feminine existence – bottles of make-up and moisturising creams on the dressing table with her wig, no longer needed, on its stand.
‘The bathroom’s at the end of the landing,’ Jasmine said, ‘I’ll go and see if Angela needs a hand. No hurry, join us when you’re ready.’
‘Thanks,’ Daniel said, ‘and thanks for doing this.’
Jasmine felt guilty. She didn’t want his gratitude she wanted him to leave as soon as possible and get her out of the dilemma she had given herself.
‘That’s okay,’ she said and left him.
Jasmine joined Angela in the kitchen. She was shaking lettuce. She put the colander down on the draining board and faced Jasmine.
‘So he left home on Saturday did he?’ Angela said. Jasmine was intrigued by her tone. She seemed to be questioning the story.
‘That’s right, Saturday morning.’
‘And he’s been hanging round in Basingstoke since?’
‘Slept rough for two nights.’
‘Doesn’t look like it to me.’
It took a few moments for Jasmine to take in what she had said.
‘What do you mean?’
‘He doesn’t look like someone who’s been sleeping rough for two whole days.’
‘Two days isn’t much.’
‘Have you tried it?’
‘Really?’ Jasmine thought she knew everything about Angela.
‘I was about the same age as Daniel and had got into social responsibility at school. A friend and I decided to sleep rough for a week for charity and to get publicity.’
‘Well, we did two nights. That was enough. We barely got one wink of sleep, felt and looked dreadful. Even though we used the public loo we were grubby. Daniel is too fresh, too tidy.’
‘Perhaps he found a quiet spot to bed down.’
‘A young trans-man fleeing from a possible rape? I don’t see how he could relax out on the street.’
‘Hmm. You could be right.’ Jasmine replayed his meeting with Daniel in the coffee-shop. He’d looked untidy but that was typical teenage male fashion. He’d been clean and awake.
There was a soft, shuffling noise. Jasmine looked around and saw Daniel standing in the doorway.
‘Hi, Daniel, come and sit down.’ Jasmine pointed to the dining table and chairs. Daniel moved to a chair and sat down. ‘Where did you say you slept last night?’ she went on. Daniel shrugged.
‘In the shopping centre.’
‘The security guards didn’t find you and move you on?’ Angela asked.
‘No,’ Daniel said. A frown creased his brow.
‘You didn’t see anybody else dossing?’ Jasmine questioned.
Angela gave a significant sniff and returned to preparing the salad.
‘I’m going to ask you a question, Daniel, and I want you to give me a truthful answer.’ Jasmine said standing over Daniel.
‘Did you sleep rough for the last two nights?’
Daniel looked up at Jasmine glanced to Angela and then lowered his eyes. Angela was glaring at the two of them with her arms folded.
‘Daniel,’ Jasmine said, ‘answer me.’
‘No,’ Daniel said into his jeans.
‘Where did you stay?’ Jasmine asked. There was silence. Jasmine felt her heart beating.
‘With my father.’
‘Your father!’ Jasmine couldn’t believe it. ‘The father who beat your mother and denied that you were a boy?’
Daniel raised his head. Despair replaced by defiance.
Painted Ladies: a Jasmine Frame story is available as a paperback and e-book from any book supplier.