Did some work this week with my agent on editing Bodies By Design, the second Jasmine Frame novel. It is now a much tighter novel, allbeit a little shorter. Let’s hope it attracts some interest. Otherwise it’s been another busy week with not a lot of time for fresh writing. Nevertheless here is the next epsiode of the prequel, Close-up.
Close-up: Part 12
DCI Sloane walked around Jasmine’s desk to peer at the screen.
‘Where is the suitcase now?’ he asked.
‘I think Amber dumped it before she called on Ashley Stiles,’ Jasmine replied. She touched the keyboard to bring up a map showing the route Amber Markham would have taken from the station to Ashley Stiles’ home in Coot Close. Pointing to the screen, she said, ‘There’s all this rough ground behind Ashely’s house. Amber had time to go there, dump the case and then get back to Coot Close by six-thirty.’
‘Not a lot of time,’ Sloane commented.
‘No, so she couldn’t have hidden very thoroughly,’ Jasmine added.
Sloane straightened up, scratching his chin. ‘You may be onto something her Frame.’ He turned to Tom Shepherd. ‘Pick up Palmerston from the Parnell place. She can leave SOCO to do their jobs. Get over to Aldermaston and organise a search of this rough ground. I’ll round up as many uniformed officers as I can to assist. Kingston and Money are in Reading following a trail of addresses that may lead us to Markham and Harris.’
Tom started to move.
‘And take Frame with you,’ Sloane went on. Jasmine sat up. Was Sloane at last sending her out on a task? ‘Drop her off at A and E to get checked over.’ Jasmine slumped. ‘If they don’t keep you in, Frame, you will go home and wait for me to call you. Do you understand?’
Jasmine swallowed. ‘Am I suspended, Sir?’
‘You’re off sick. I haven’t decided whether to suspend you yet. Now go and get your head looked at.’
Reluctantly, and also a little painfully, Jasmine pushed herself from her chair and followed Tom from the office.
Jasmine fastened her seat belt in Tom’s Mondeo. ‘Take me with you to Aldermaston.’
‘No way, Jas. Sloane said to take you to the hospital and that’s what I’m doing. Then I’ll pick up Denise. You know she wouldn’t let you disobey Sloane and he’ll be telling her what’s happening right now.’
Jasmine sat silent as Tom manoeuvred through the town centre traffic. Sloane’s words were final. She was off the case and all she had to look forward to would be a long wait in Kintbridge Hospital.
It didn’t take long for Tom to deliver her to the entrance to A&E. She got out of the car and Tom drove off quickly. As she expected, the reception staff saw that she was walking, talking normally and not complaining of anything other than a sore head, so it was nearly two hours before she was shown into a cubicle. A doctor examined her and decided to send her for a scan which entailed another couple of hours wait.
‘There’s no evidence of any internal damage,’ the doctor said looking from the screen to Jasmine. ‘So I suggest you go home and rest and take painkillers if you need them.’
Jasmine found herself discharged and stranded at the hospital with no transport as the afternoon turned to dusk and rain started to fall. She took out her phone and rang Angela.
‘Hi, Ange. Are you at home?’
‘Yes, Jas. What’s up?’
‘Can you pick me up?’
‘Why? Where are you?’
‘At Kintbridge Hospital.’
‘Why are you there without a car? You haven’t been hurt have you?’
‘I’m OK. Sloane sent me for a check-up.’
‘You have been hurt. I’m on my way.’
The call was cut off before Jasmine had a chance to explain.
‘Oh, Jasmine what did you do that for?’ Angela said.
They were in the slow-moving rush hour queue, on their way home. Jasmine had explained the events leading up to her fall.
‘I had a hunch that Parnell might have something to say when he learned that his friend Harris had fucked both the girls he flashed at.’
Angela inched the car forward. ‘But what is this bloke Harris up to?’
‘I don’t know but from the counsellor’s reports he seems an obsessive, controlling character. I think that having got to know Parnell and perhaps got bored with his cross-dressing he decided to have some fun with his two flashing victims. Something must have happened to Jack Markham and Harris decided to use Parnell in a cover up. Perhaps he hoped Parnell would get blamed for Jack’s disappearance or Parnell was just supposed to get rid of the buggy and make sure that the trail went cold.’
‘So why did Harris kill Parnell?’
‘I’m not sure. Maybe he was angry that his plan hadn’t worked and that we’re onto him. If he’s the type of character that expects things to go the way he imagined he may put the blame for failure on the people he tries to control.’
‘If he’s killed Parnell because of that, is anyone else in danger?’ The traffic was beginning to move as they reached the edge of the town centre. Angela accelerated up the hill out of the town centre.
Jasmine didn’t answer while she pondered. Who else might Harris think he controlled? There was Amber Markham. If she was at his home in Reading then perhaps Kingston and Money would find her. There was Ashley Stiles and her child, but their home would be swamped by police including Tom and Denise Palmerston, searching for the suitcase.
‘If he goes back to either of the women he’s going to run into our lot,’ Jasmine said.
‘Is there anyone else?’ Angela said turning into the road that led to their housing estate.
‘I can’t think of anyone. Parnell, Markham and Stiles, they’re the three people Harris has been involved with.’
‘Anyway, it’s not your problem anymore is it? Sloane has put you on sick leave.’
‘At least I haven’t been suspended. Yet.’
Angela glanced at her. ‘Is that a possibility?’
‘If Palmerston has her way, yes it is. I visited Parnell once before without authorisation. That got him taken in for questioning.’
‘So Ryan Harris’ plan failed because of what you did.’
Jasmine reflected. ‘I suppose so.’
‘What if Parnell told Harris about your role?’
‘What do you mean?’
Angela turned into Bridle Lane. ‘Parnell knew were trans?’
‘Yes, he guessed.’
‘Do you think Harris might blame you for the failure of his plan?’
‘He might think I’m possibly more responsible than Sloane or one of the others.’
‘Hmm.’ Angela turned into their drive and brought the car to a stop. They got out and Angela put her door-key in the lock. She turned the key, pushed the door open and stepped inside. Jasmine followed. She had one foot on the doormat.
A blow hit the back of her neck. She tumbled forward, cannoning into Angela. Falling.
From behind her came a male voice, gloating, triumphant. ‘Got you, you gender bender.’
Painted Ladies: a Jasmine Frame story, is available as a papaerback and e-book from all booksellers including Amazon