Some good work done this week and hints of progress on the publishing front, but nothing to crack open the champagne for yet. Fingers-crossed. If this was a personal blog I might have a lot to say on Scottish independence, devolution and Britishness but I won’t write it here. Instead here is the next episode of my Jasmine Frame prequel.
Close-up: Part 7
‘Very good, Frame. Let’s see what Parnell makes of that titbit of information.’ Sloane turned to go back into the interview room pulling the door closed behind him.
Kingston and Money had been listening in to the conversation.
‘Hey, well done, Jasmine,’ Kingston said.
‘Great if all you’ve had to do is sit in a cosy office all day,’ Money growled.
‘You’re welcome to it,’ Jasmine said, ‘I’d give anything to get out and do some real detective work.’
Money snorted. ‘Huh. Do you think Sloane is likely to let someone like you loose on the public? You’re going to be in front of a computer for the rest of your days.’
Jasmine felt anger building in her chest but she stopped herself from accusing Money of transphobism. The trouble was she suspected he was right. Sloane was happy to use her to feed him bits of information gleaned from the files but she hadn’t spoken to a suspect, victim or witness since she’d transitioned, at least not officially. It made her frustrated and upset. She looked through the screen wishing that it was her sitting beside Sloane questioning Parnell and not Palmerston. Would she ever achieve Denise Palmerston’s position?
Sloane’s voice came through the speakers.
‘So, Mr Parnell, you say you have never seen this woman and her pushchair before?’ Sloane pointed to the photo lying on the table. Parnell glanced at it then looked directly at Sloane.
‘I said no before.’
‘Hmm. Let’s go back a few years shall we to your appearance in court.’
Even through the partly silvered window Jasmine could see Parnell’s colour change.
‘You were convicted for exposing yourself and handling your member in front of two teenage girls. Is that right?’
‘Answer me please, Mr Parnell.’
‘Yes. You know it is.’
‘Thank you. It seems that one of the girls who had a good look at you now calls herself Amber Markham.’
Palmerston’s head flicked round to stare at Sloane. Parnell’s mouth hung open.
‘Well, Mr Parnell, do you still say that you don’t know the woman with the pushchair and had nothing to do with the disappearance of her baby.’
Parnell’s mouth open and closed a few times before a sound came out.
‘Alright. Yes, I did know who she was but I’ve got nothing to do with her baby being missing. I don’t anything about a baby.’
Palmerston leaned forward across the desk. ‘I think you had better tell us all about it and not waste any more of our time.’
Parnell looked from Sloane to Palmerston and back and then took a deep breath.
‘It was her. She made me do it.’
‘Do what?’ Palmerston asked.
‘Get rid of the pushchair.’
‘Give us the whole story, please,’ Sloane said.
‘She knocked on my door couple of days ago just after I’d got in. She’d followed me home. She said she recognised me in the High Street even though I was wearing a wig and dress and stuff.’
‘Amber Markham recognised you dressed as a woman.’
‘Did you recognise her?’
‘No, not at first. When I answered the door to her I had no idea who she was. But she told me quickly enough. I was gobsmacked.’
‘Because she recognised you?’ Palmerston asked.
‘A bit of that, but I was upset because it brought back what it felt like in court hearing all these things said about me.’
‘Yes, I know, but …’
‘So you were shocked,’ Sloane said, ‘what happened then?’
‘She pushed into my flat, closed the door. She said she knew I was a trannie and she’d tell people I was still doing it.’
‘It?’ Palmerston said.
‘How did you respond to that accusation?’ Sloane asked.
Parnell shook his head. ‘I didn’t know what to say. I was upset. I haven’t done it since I was caught, I’ve tried to forget what happened, but I knew that if she told anyone, they’d believe her not me. I’d be up in court again, having it all raked over. I might go to prison.’
‘So she scared you,’ Palmerston said, ‘What did she want?’
‘She said she wouldn’t tell if I did something for her.’
‘Did she say what?’ Sloane said.
‘No. She asked for my phone number and said she’d call when she wanted me.’
‘And she did?’ Palmerston said.
‘Yes. This morning, early. She told me to get dressed up and meet her at the end of Waggoner’s Passage at ten.’
‘That’s all?’ Palmerston said.
‘Yes. I had no idea what she wanted to do but I got dressed, put my mac on and went and stood at the end of the alleyway. She appeared soon after ten pushing the buggy and went down the Passage. I went after her. She handed it to me and just said, “Get rid of it.” Then she turned around and went back to the High Street.’
‘That’s all? “Get rid of it”,’ Palmerston said.
‘Yes. I pushed it along the path towards my place. It was very light and I realised that there wasn’t a kid in it. I didn’t know what to do. It was just an empty, old pushchair. I didn’t have anywhere to put it in my flat so I pulled off the cover and shoved it in the river.’
‘What did you do with the raincover?’ Sloane asked.
‘It was too bulky to put in a rubbish bin and would have floated if I’d thrown it in the river. I took it home and stuffed it under my bed.’
‘We’ll recover it, Mr Parnell. It will have evidence that could back up your story. So far it’s only your word that Jack wasn’t in the pushchair when Mizz Markham handed it over.’
Parnell shook his head violently, ‘No, there wasn’t a baby. You’ve got to believe me.’
‘We’ll see about that.’ Palmerston said.
‘Did you have any further contact with Amber Markham?’ Sloane asked.
‘Mmm. She didn’t get in touch with me but I rang her number.’
‘I don’t know. A couple of hours ago now I suppose.’
‘Why did you ring then? Why did you contact her at all?’ Palmerston said.
‘It took me a while to make up my mind that I needed to speak to her after I’d had the visits by the two cops.’
‘Two?’ Palmerston’s voice rose in surprise and she looked at Sloane.
‘Frame called on him after Money,’ Sloane explained.
‘Frame? What was DC Frame doing out?’
‘She was following up her own line of enquiry,’ Sloane said.
‘That’s totally out of order, Sir. Gross insubordination. I’ll have strong words to say to DC Frame.’
‘Thank you, Palmerston. Not here if you please. We’ll discuss DC Frame later.’
Palmerston wriggled in her seat, getting her neck joints straightened. Sloane faced Parnell.’
‘What did you say to Markham?’
‘I told her that I’d had two visits from the police and that they’d found the pushchair. I asked her what it was all about.’
‘That was all?’
‘Yeah. She didn’t give me a chance to say anything else. She cut me off.’
Sloane stood up. ‘Right, well, we’ll put you in a cell, Mr Parnell until your story is checked out and we decide whether to charge you for depositing rubbish in the river or something more serious.’
Sloane walked out of the interview room. He stopped and spoke to Jasmine, Money and Kingston.
‘That explains why Markham has scarpered. Money, go and tell the custody sergeant to give Mr Parnell a cell for the night. Then you and Kingston get to Parnell’s flat and find the pushchair cover, bag it up and get it to forensics. Frame, you get off for a few hours but I want you in early tomorrow. There’s more checking to be done on Parnell and Miss Barton alias Markham.’
Sloane marched off with Money and Kingston close behind. Jasmine began to follow. She was in two minds about being sent home. One, she was ready to get to sleep, but two, she didn’t want to miss anything that might happen.
Jasmine turned to see Palmerston emerging from the interview room. Jasmine stopped and waited for the DS to approach her.
‘Who gave you an order to call on Parnell?’
‘No one, Ma’am.’ This was it, the dressing down she’d expected from Sloane which hadn’t come. Palmerston’s cheeks were red, her nostrils flared. She was angry.
‘Then why did you?’
‘I wanted to see if my suspicions were correct, Ma’am.’
‘Your suspicions?’ The question was a sneer.
‘I thought he was a transvestite as well as a former flasher.’
‘You could have told DCI Sloane, or me, about your suspicions, DC Frame.’ There was an emphasis on the “C”.
‘You think you’re special, don’t you, Frame.’
O-oh, this was not just an official telling off, this was personal.
‘No, Ma’am.’ She tried to keep her voice as soft and calm as possible.
‘You think that because you were with DCI Sloane for quite a while when you were a man you’ll get preferential treatment now that you’re trans.’
‘I don’t expect pref…’
‘Listen to me Frame. A woman has to work especially hard to get anywhere in the police service. I’ve worked my way up and beaten all the men who’ve tried to put me down. You think you can just pull on a skirt and a pair of false boobs and be the number one female detective. Well, I’ll tell you this. As long as you’re a police officer everyone will know what you really are.’
She paused for breath. Jasmine felt her own cheeks burning. It would be so easy to lash out and tell Denise Palmerston what she thought of her opinions. Palmerston had revealed exactly what she was – a trans-excluding radical feminist, a TERF, who would not accept an M to F as a woman. It looked like she’d gained an enemy, someone who would obstruct her plan to transition while continuing along her career path. But, knowing your enemy was the first step to defeating them. Jasmine composed her face into a semblance of sympathy.
‘I presume you are not going to record what you just said.’
Palmerston looked astonished. ‘Uh…no.’
‘Good. Good night Ma’am.’ Jasmine turned and walked away.
‘Where are you going?’
‘DCI Sloane told me I was off-duty. I’ll be back in the morning, DS Palmerston.’
Painted Ladies: A Jasmine Frame Story is available as a paperback or e-book from any bookseller.