Apart from the excitement of receiving the first paperback copies of Evil Above the Stars, I’ve had a week of other things to do that have taken up all my time. All I want to do now is get on with telling stories, so here is the next part of the Jasmine Frame prequel.
Discovering Jasmine – Part 11
Jasmine slid into the passenger seat as DC Bartrum got behind the wheel and pulled her seatbelt across her. Jasmine tugged her skirt down her thighs conscious of how much of her legs were exposed. Bartrum started the engine and pulled away, glancing at Jasmine before concentrating on the road ahead.
‘You’re a pretty girl, uh, Jasmine.’
‘Thanks.’ Jasmine felt a thrill. She’d never received a compliment before. It was a strange sensation. Someone thought she looked attractive.
‘If I hadn’t known who I was meeting I would never have connected you with the young man I interviewed a couple of hours ago. I had you down as fair, white male, nothing special, but now I see you with fantastic blonde hair.’
‘That’s thanks to Holly.’
‘My sister, she styled my hair and did my make-up.’
‘Has she always turned you into a young woman?’
‘Only last night and now. Oh, except when I as a little kid and she used me as a doll. She didn’t know I dressed as a girl until yesterday.’ Was it really only yesterday that Holly had discovered her secret?
Bartrum snatched a look at her again. ‘Do you want to be a girl, a woman?’
Jasmine thought. What did she want? ‘I don’t know. I know I’ve got a male body and I like being a girl but I’m not sure I could go through all that Cleo has gone through.’
‘The drugs, the surgery, the abuse she gets.’
‘All that to look like a bloke in drag.’ Bartrum sniffed.
‘And she still is male according to her birth certificate,’ Jasmine added.
‘A few decades ago we’d be pilling her in, and you, for impersonating a female.’
‘I’ve read about it,’ Jasmine said, ‘Transvestites had to go to court and have their identities revealed. Some committed suicide.’
‘Well, we don’t do that anymore, but people like Cleo don’t help themselves do they; parading in public, inciting disturbances.’
Jasmine glared at the DC. ‘Don’t you think a person has a right to be who they want to be without being attacked?’
Bartrum frowned. ‘Hmm, well…’
‘What happened to Cleo last night is like what happened to Stephen Lawrence. He was killed simply because he was black. Cleo was attacked for being transsexual, and tonight she’ll be attacked again for the same reason.’
‘Perhaps you’re right.’
‘I hope one day the police will protect everyone who is a bit different.’
‘We just arrest people who break the law. I can’t see us ever treating attacks on transsexuals as a special crime.’
‘Racism is a crime, why shouldn’t hating trans people be one too?’ Jasmine felt her principles deep within her.
‘Perhaps you should become a lawyer, Jasmine, or join the police force and get your views accepted.’
Become a police officer? Now that was a career choice that Jasmine hadn’t considered. Two images of herself appeared before her eyes, one as James in a policeman’s uniform, the other as Jasmine solving crimes as a detective. They were fantasies.
They had driven across town and now were approaching the estate. Jasmine recognised the road she had run along a few hours earlier. Bartrum pulled into a side road and parked on the kerb. She turned the engine off then lifted her radio out of its dashboard holster. She pressed buttons, muttered a few words into it and listened to the reply. She dropped it onto her lap and tuned to Jasmine.
‘Everyone’s in place. Nothing much happening at the moment. We’re going to get a bit closer but keep out of sight of the gang. Don’t do anything to draw attention to yourself. We are keeping well out of the way of any trouble. Got it?’ Jasmine nodded. ‘All we want is for you to identify the attackers. OK.’ Jasmine nodded again. ‘Right let’s go.’
They got out of the car and walked up the road retracing Jasmine’s earlier steps. They came to the rows of garages with the three blocks of apartments rising beyond them. Bartrum turned to the left and looking nervously all around her, guided Jasmine to end of the lane. A path went up beside the last garage to the end block of flats, the one which had scaffolding up around it. They reached the main entrance at the side and Bartrum took a key from her shoulder bag.
‘We’re going inside?’ Jasmine asked.
‘Yes. This block is empty while it’s being refurbished. The Housing Association gave us the key.’ Bartrum opened the door, and lead Jasmine into the vestibule and then up the stairs to the first floor. Builder’s equipment and materials were scattered over the floor. The doors to the flats at the front and the back of the block were open. They entered the apartment at the front. It was bare of furniture. The thin carpet in the living room was threadbare and stained and the wall to the left was covered in mould and the plaster was lifted by damp. The room was dim because although there were no curtains or blinds at the windows the glass was painted over with whitewash although there were narrow gaps at the edges.
‘You can have a look out but move slowly and crouch down,’ DC Bartrum said. ‘We don’t want anyone noticing we’re here.’ Jasmine nodded and crept slowly to the window. She bent to her knees and peered through the narrow strip of clear glass. She had a view of the road and the patch of sloping grass in front of the blocks of flats. The gang were clustered outside Cleo’s flat. They seemed to be having a party. There was the sound of a CD player and scattering of bottles, pizza boxes and burger containers. The shadows were lengthening as the sun sank behind the houses opposite.
Bartrum was speaking quietly into her radio, informing her boss that they were in position.
‘We’re all ready,’ she told Jasmine, ‘Let’s hope we don’t have to wait too long.’
‘Where are the police waiting?’
‘Most of them are in cars down the road, but we have observers watching the main entrance and fire escape of Cleo’ flat.’
‘What about the other people in the block? Haven’t they got fed up of having the gang outside?’
‘There isn’t anybody else left,’ Bartrum said.
‘No. The Housing Association is waiting to do up all the blocks. The other tenants moved out last week. Cleo is hanging on because she doesn’t like the alternative accommodation she’s been offered.’
‘Oh. So she thinks she’s on her own with the gang outside waiting for her.’ Jasmine was certain that Cleo must be scared out of her wits.
‘I’m afraid so. But it won’t be long and we’ll protect her. Who can you see out there?’
Jasmine put her face to the gap again and peered at the group of kids. Nicko was there with a couple of girls that Jasmine recognised from her encounter with Stash. The other kids from the gang were there too and some other youths that she didn’t recognise.
‘They’re all there, except Stash. I don’t see him,’ Jasmine said, her eyes searching the scene. Some of the gang who had been lounging on the grass had got to their feet and they all seemed to be focussing on the flat. ‘It looks like they’re expecting something to happen but Stash isn’t there. He’s not going to the entrance is he?’
Bartrum had the radio to her ear listening to whispered reports. ‘No. They don’t see anyone approaching.’
Jasmine watched the crowd. They were definitely anticipating some action. Jasmine was sure that Stash planned to fire the flat and drive Cleo out. But how?
‘Your guys are watching the sides of the block?’ she asked.
‘Yes, the entrances.’
‘The rear flat is empty?’
‘Yes. I said. There’s only Cleo left.’
‘That’s it. He’s not going to use the doors.’ Jasmine jumped to her feet and ran from the flat.
‘Jasmine! Where are you going? Stay here.’ Bartrum’s voice receded as Jasmine leapt down the stairs and ran from the building. She sprinted around the back of the block and across the path between the two blocks. How has Stash got in? She thought and then she saw the answer. There was a pile of breeze blocks stacked up against the rear wall of the block, beneath a window. She reached it, clambered up and saw that the window had no glass in it. She stepped onto the sill and jumped into the room. She could hear Bartrum’s footsteps approaching but she didn’t stop. She ran through the dim room and halted in the hallway. The door of the flat was open. The vestibule was brightly lit by electric light and crouching at the door to Cleo’s flat was Stash. There was a can at his feet and he held a stick with a wad of cloth tied to its end. In his other hand he held a cigarette lighter. Jasmine watched his thumb flick.
Painted Ladies – A Jasmine Frame Story is available as an e-book and paperback from all booksellers including Amazon