Below is the penultimate episode of The Switch: A Jasmine Frame story – a prequel to Painted Ladies. When you reach the end you may think that it is a good place to finish but there are some threads I would like to tie together.
Like the first prequel, Blueprint, that I published episodically here, The Switch has developed week by week, and changed as I got into it. Each episode is written just before I post it so sometimes I have more time than others. I realise that this may have an effect on the style and the competence of the writing. I must read the whole story when it’s finished and see whether it works.
I write my novels somewhat differently in that they are loosely planned, drafted, re-drafted and so on. Nevertheless I would like comments on The Switch – please tell me what you think, strengths, weaknesses, that sort of thing, what to do with it next…
So look out next week for the final episode and then… well I am thinking about another, probably the last, prequel which will almost take us up to the start of Painted Ladies. Then, with Bodies By Design complete, I will start planning the third in the series (That’s after I’ve completed the third novel in the September Weekes series). Fun isn’t it, being a writer.
The Switch: Part 17
Her hand shook as she applied the lipstick and it wasn’t due to the rattles of the old Fiesta or Tom’s driving. What have I done, Jasmine thought? She hadn’t given a thought to her actions from the moment she pushed the door to the old security building open. Finding Tamsin being abused by the three members of McLeery’s gang, their attack on her and then the arrival of Sloane and his men had happened so quickly. She had been stupid to walk in to a potentially dangerous situation without back-up or forethought and there was no doubt Tom’s arrival saved her from some injury. It was the delayed realisation of the danger she had been in that was giving her the shakes. But why had Sloane and Tom and the other officers arrived at that opportune moment.
Jasmine completed painting her lips, checked her appearance in her mirror and replaced the items in her bag. Her heart rate was returning to normal and she felt that her voice would not sound too tremulous. It wasn’t far now to Police HQ. She’d better get some information out of Tom while the chance remained.
‘Thanks for turning up when you did back there, Tom.’
Tom glanced at her then turned back to concentrating on the road.
‘Glad to get you out of there, Jas,’ he said, ‘But Sloane is going to be furious with you for going in alone.’
‘I know,’ Jasmine replied. She knew she was in for one of Sloane’s famous outbursts. She had ignored every protocol for following up a lead. ‘But how come you arrived just then.’
‘We were on our way to your house.’
‘Yes. You know Angela rang in.’
‘Don’t you? She rang to say that Daniel Parry was prepared to hand himself in for questioning.’
‘He was?’ Jasmine couldn’t understand. Why had Angela taken it on herself to hand Dan over?
‘Yes, she said that he’d contacted you and you had picked him up and now he was ready to answer questions about Kyle McLeery.’
‘But before we got there we took call relayed to us from a Mr Parry.’
‘Yes. He said that you were on your way to look for a girl called Tamsin who had something to do with McLeery’s death. He suggested that old hut as a starting point.’
‘Did he say anything else?’
‘No, but Sloane has asked for him to come in to answer questions.’
‘He’ll need to.’
‘Why? You said this Tamsin girl was the killer.’
‘Mr Parry was involved in attempting to dispose of the body.’
‘You mean he and Tamsin were in it together.’
‘No. Look it’s complicated but Daniel’s in the clear. He had nothing to with the death and knows nothing about how it happened.’
‘He may be in the clear, Jas, but you’re not.’
‘What do you mean?’ Jasmine asked but she knew the answer already. She was not looking forward to Sloane’s interrogation. It looked like the police career of DC Jasmine Frame could be over before it began.
‘I don’t understand what you’ve been doing for the last few days, Jas. I know this transition is a big thing for you and I can’t imagine what’s going on in your head, but why get involved in the McLeery case?’
‘I wasn’t trying to solve the case, Tom, I was just trying to protect Dan, because he’s trans like me.’
‘And that was a good enough reason for putting your career on the line?’
‘I had no intention of putting my career on the line, Tom.’
‘Well, you’d better find some good answers for Sloane.’
They pulled into the Police Station car park and Tom brought the car to a halt. As he was undoing the seat belt he twisted to face Jasmine.
‘Good luck Jas. I’m on your side, whatever that is, but remember I have to do what Sloane tells me.’
Jasmine gave him a forced smile. ‘I understand Tom.’ It meant that when Sloane gave her a hard time, Tom would not be coming to her rescue.
Tom led her into the station. It wasn’t late but being a Monday evening wasn’t busy. The duty officer sat at the desk looking bored. He looked up as Tom and Jasmine passed by.
‘Eh? DC Shepherd. Who’s this with you? Aren’t you going to log her in?’
‘It’s DC Frame, G.G.’
Jasmine knew Sergeant Geoff Gorman well and he knew her. Well, he knew DC James Frame. He was and old-time cop, approaching retirement and confined to a desk these days. Surely her clothes, make-up and new hair-do didn’t make her unrecognisable but apparently G.G. had seen ‘female’ and that was it. His brow furrowed as he looked at her more closely and then his eyebrows rose.
‘So it is, I’ll be blowed. We had that briefing on you today. You’re a trannie or something. Is that it?’
‘I’m transsexual, G.G. I’m on leave while I transition.’
‘Transition? What does that mean? Getting your bollocks chopped off?’
‘Not yet, G.G. Just getting a few documents sorted.’ Jasmine felt her face turning red and her heart beat faster as her anger grew.’
‘Hmph,’ G.G growled.
‘We’d better go on through,’ Tom insisted holding the inner door open, ‘We’re going to an interview room, G.G.’
‘Do what you like. Seems anything goes these days.’
Jasmine followed Tom down the corridor and when he opened the door into a room stepped through. It was familiar to her, a place where she had interviewed many victims, suspects and witnesses during the last few years as a detective. It was a place she was comfortable in, where she knew what she had to do and how to do it. She pulled a chair away from a table and began to sit down.
‘Not there Jas. The other side.’
Jasmine jumped up as if shocked. Of course, she was the one being interviewed tonight. She moved around the table and sat down in one of the chairs opposite, where the detectives sat. The recording equipment was on the wall to her left and the fluorescent lamps shone down brightly from directly above her head.
‘I’m not used to this, Tom,’ she said
‘No, and I wouldn’t want to be in your shoes. I’ll go and see if Sloane is back yet. Won’t be long.’ He withdrew. The door closed but Jasmine was relieved when she did not hear the clunk of the lock being turned. At least I’m not a prisoner, still free to go if I wish; and say good bye to my job.
In the stuffy, bare room she had time to think. Was G.G’s reaction to her typical of her police colleagues? Why had Angela rung the police? Had Daniel really agreed to give himself up? What had made her dash off to question Dan’s father and get herself in this mess?
The minutes dragged on and Jasmine grew tired of trying to analyse her motives and searching for answers to questions for which she didn’t have the data to provide an answer. She became more and more apprehensive of meeting Sloane. What would he think of her dress – light cotton, colourful, knee-length? Ideal for a hot summer day, but for a police officer on duty he probably would not think it suitable attire. Apart from that few moments in the semi-dark of the disused security box he hadn’t seen the female DC Frame before. How would he react to her made-up face, ear rings, bosom? Why did it matter what he thought. She was entitled to be who she wanted to be, believed herself to be. She didn’t have to appear in a way that pleased DCI Sloane. She mentally thumped the table. But he was her boss; his opinion of her would determine whether she succeeded as a detective, transitioned or not.
She had almost exhausted herself examining and re-examining her thoughts and feelings on her life, career and the position she found herself in. The door opened and DCI Sloane entered. His bulk and the grey suit dominated the room seeming to make it cramped. Tom followed appearing small despite being taller and well-built himself. Sloane paused and looked intently at Jasmine. She saw his top lip curl and a blush appear above his white collar. Then he strode to the table, pulled out the chair and sat down. The plastic and steel chair sank noticeably as he settled his weight into it. Tom eased himself into the chair by his side. The table which had previously seemed quite large now felt inadequate at keeping a gap between them. The two men seemed to be threateningly close.
Sloane stared at her, his eyes examining every square millimetre of her face. He glanced down to the top of her chest and the bulge where her artificial breasts filled her bra. His eyes lingered on the tear in the cloth of her dress and the protruding threads of her bra cup and silicone foam. His eyes rose and he looked directly at her again.
‘So how is your transition going, DC Frame?’ Sloane asked. The words appeared chatty almost friendly but the tone in which they were spoken was grave and suspicious.
‘Very well, thank you, Sir. I’ve made a start on the forms I need to complete. There’s quite a few.’
‘So I understand. It was partly why I agreed to your extended leave. Give you time to adjust to your new identity.’
‘It’s not new to me,’ Jasmine found herself saying.
‘Time for us to adjust then,’ Sloane growled.
‘Yes, Sir,’ Jasmine hastened to agree. She wasn’t sure that three weeks would be long enough for some of her colleagues.
‘So, given that you are off police duties, what were you doing in the disused air force premises this evening?’
The first crunch question. How she answered might determine her future.
‘I was hoping to find Tamsin.’
‘Because I thought she might have been responsible for Kyle McLeery’s death.’
‘Why did you think that?’
‘Mr Parry, Daniel’s father told me he’d seen a girl similar to her at the scene of McLeery’s death at a time when he might have been killed.’
‘And why was Mr Parry at the scene.’
‘He wanted to tackle McLeery about threats to his son.’
‘I don’t think he intended just to have a quiet chat, Sir.’
‘Parry killed McLeery.’
‘No. He said he found the body of McLeery, after he’d seen the girl leaving the scene. Tamsin admitted she hit McLeery with a pipe.’
‘Ah yes, the clue of the familiarity with the unrevealed evidence.’
‘So you solved the murder of McLeery for us.’
Jasmine nearly replied ‘Yes’, but stopped herself. That was Sloane’s trap.
‘Um. If I was responsible for uncovering important evidence, Sir, then it was unintentional.’
Sloane leaned back in his chair, breathed deeply and examined Jasmine through half-closed eyes.
‘So, what was the intention behind these toings and froings to Basingstoke and Enborne Common?’
‘I wanted to prove that Daniel Parry had no part in the death of Kyle McLeery and that there was no need for him to be questioned.’
‘That was a noble aim, Frame. Why did you consider it your task?’
‘Because, he’s trans, like I am, but younger, inexperienced. I understood his fear of having his relationships and identity examined.’
‘So you had contact with him at a time when we had a call out for his apprehension, but did not inform us at the time.’
‘Yes, Sir.’ Jasmine realised she couldn’t excuse that break with protocol. ‘I thought that if I met him, talked to him, without the police pressing him, I could keep him calm and prepare him for the questions he would be asked.’
‘You didn’t think that that was my responsibility to decide. That having informed me of the contact with Daniel Parry I might have asked you to do just what you did do.’
‘No, Sir. I didn’t think.’ Jasmine dropped her eyes. She couldn’t bear to see Sloane’s accusing expression.
‘That’s not what I expect of a detective constable, Frame. You have broken protocols, withheld information and interfered with an investigation in which you had no part.’
‘Yes, Sir.’ Oh, god. This was it. He was going to throw her off his team, perhaps out of the force altogether. There was just the sound of Sloane’s heavy breathing. Jasmine counted one, two, three, four slow, deep breaths. She looked up. Sloane still had his eyes fixed on her. He took another few breaths before speaking.
‘I read your report of the incident you came across last Friday when, I believe, you met Daniel Parry for the first time.’
‘You became emotional about the way McLeery was treating Parry.’
‘Uh. Yes, Sir.’
‘You felt an empathy because of your shared status as transsexuals.’
‘That contributed I suppose, Sir.’
‘At just the time when you have commenced this major change in your life.’
‘You still want to return as a DC on my team?’
‘I presumed as much. You have made me question whether I can trust you sufficiently to have you on my team, Frame. Acting like a private eye doesn’t work in the police force, now or ever. We achieve results by sharing information, ideas, dangers. We cooperate, look out for each other and bring criminals to justice through damned hard work. Once upon a time a hint of instability in character would have been enough to have you out. Now I suppose I have to make concessions to your diversity and emotional well-being.’
He was going to let her off! Jasmine felt a weight lift from her. She straightened her back, held her head up. She had a future in the police force.
‘You will remain here until you have completed a full and detailed account of all your involvement in this case and answered any further questions that DC Shepherd may have. Then you can go home and complete your leave with no more interference in police business. When you return to service you will be on probation, DC Frame. I will be watching your behaviour very closely. Any further insubordination could have severe consequences for your career. Do you understand?’
‘Good. I am sure a woman officer can give you advice on suitable attire for a female detective constable, if that is how you intend to be seen in the future.’
‘Yes, Sir.’ She was getting tired of her bi-syllabic responses but retained enough common sense to not add anything to them. Sloane stood and without a further glance at her, turned away.
‘Make sure it’s a complete report, Shepherd.’ He strode from the room.
Tom pushed a pad of paper and a biro towards her.
‘Thanks,’ he said.
‘For what?’ Jasmine asked.
‘For getting me the task of sitting here while you write your life story. I was supposed to be off duty two hours ago.’
‘OK. Get writing.’
Painted Ladies: A Jasmine Frame Story is available as a paperback or e-book from all booksellers.