I spent last weekend at the Warwick Festival of Writing organised by the National Association of Writers’ Groups. It’s not a huge gathering but is very friendly and welcoming. I had the opportunity to meet Lord (and Lady) Julian Fellowes of Gosford Park and Downton Abbey fame and even got to pitch my Jasmine Frame novels. He was very pleasant and encouraging.
There were quite a few workshops and I attended sessions on research (some good tips) and criticism – some excellent guidelines for having rewarding writers’ group meetings. I also went to two sessions on websites for authors and the presenter, Aimee Cheveney, really made me determined to sort out my on-line presence and marketing techniques. It looks like I’m going to have to make some improvements to this site, perhaps split these ramblings from the stories and separate my two genres. Some comments from readers (I know you’re out there) would be a help. For a start I’ve put up a new page (Jasmine Frame Publications) with information about all the Jasmine Frame stories that are available and how to get hold of them.
But for now, let’s press on with the prequel to Painted Ladies called Split Mirror. We’ve reached episode 12 so there won’t be many more but after last week’s climax what else faces Jasmine Frame?
Split Mirror: Part 12
Jasmine stared through the one-way glass. Cox was facing her slouched in the plastic chair with his hands resting on the table. She saw only the backs of DS Palmerston and DC Shepherd but heard Palmerston’s voice from the speaker above her head.
‘So you deny intent to kill Diana Stretfield?’
Cox looked as though he’d been hurt. ‘Yeah, of course I do, why should you think I wanted to kill her?’
‘DC Frame says you were holding a heavy wrench above your head and about to beat Miss Stretfield,’ Palmerston replied, her head bent down to look at a sheet of paper on the table in front of her. Jasmine recognised the words of her statement.
‘Nah, she got it wrong. That stupid bitch leapt out of nowhere, sent me flying.’
‘So what were you doing with the wrench?’
‘I’d just taken it out of my pocket, it was getting in the way as I was looking after the woman.’
‘A woman who was naked, gagged, restrained hand and foot and suffering from hypothermia.’ Palmerston sounded more than a little sceptical.
‘Yeah, well I had a callout that took longer than I thought. I hadn’t expected to leave her in the van for so long. It’s nice and toasty when the engine’s running but I had to turn it off when I left’
‘Why was she there at all? Why had you imprisoned the woman for two days?’
‘She wanted it. She was gagging to be fucked when I met her and my van was a lot more comfortable than where she’d been in with the other blokes.’
‘You’re saying she had already had sex with other men at the public sex site when you invited her into your van?’
‘Yeah, that’s right. She didn’t have a stitch on and was opening her legs to anyone.’
‘Did you know the other men?’
‘Nah. I haven’t been there before. A bit too close to home. I should have gone further away like I usually do.’
‘But Miss Stretfield accepted your invitation to enter your van?’
‘As I said, it’s pretty comfy.’
‘So you had sex in public?’
‘Yeah, entertained the other fuckers.’
‘And then you drove off with her still inside.’
‘I offered her the chance to have a bit more fun, sort of in private.’
‘And she consented to the use of the restraints?’
‘You bet. She was a right little goer even if she wasn’t a looker.’
‘Oh, so looks are important as well as free sex?’
‘Not really. But she had nice knockers and a tight cunt even though she looked older.’
‘Why didn’t you release her when you’d finished.’
Cox sat up and leaned on the table. ‘Well it was after I’d fucked her back at the garage that I had a close look at her and I realised I knew her.’
‘You knew her?’ Palmerston repeated.
‘Well, not really knew her but I recognised her. She lives down the road from me Mam and me, she was one of the Secret Sisters.’
Palmerston expressed confusion. ‘Secret Sisters?’
‘Yeah, that’s what we called them. They live together and go out together but don’t talk to anyone. They look like twins, dress the same and all. Seeing them come towards you was like looking through one of them split mirrors where you see the object and its reflection side by side.’
‘You thought they were sisters, did you,’ there was a chuckle in Palmerston’s voice. ‘You didn’t know that Diana Stretfield is a transsexual and Debbie Stretfield was his wife.’
Even through the smoky glass, Jasmine could see the colour drain from Cox’s face. His eyes were wide and he stared at Palmerston.
‘Yes, Cox. This “woman” who you enjoyed having sex with so much was a man who once had a penis.’
Jasmine felt the muscles in her jaws and fists tighten. She knew that Palmerston was just winding Cox up but she seemed to be relishing describing Diana Stretfield as a man masquerading as a woman.
‘Those breasts and vagina which excited you so much were created by a surgeon a couple of years ago,’ Palmerston continued. ‘And I reckon she must be twenty years older than you. I bet she was laughing at you all the time you were having sex.’
‘The fucking bastard,’ Cox muttered.
‘So why did you keep her for two days?’ Palmerston repeated. ‘You meant to kill her didn’t you. That was the final act of pleasure that you planned.’
Cox shook his head violently. ‘No, no. I was confused that was all. I didn’t know what to do. I thought if I let her go my Mam might find out.’
‘Find out that you’re a dogger who fucks strangers in front of other men,’ Palmerston said. ‘I don’t suppose she imagines that’s how her wonderful car mechanic son gets his kicks.’ Cox seemed to curl up like an embarrassed child. ‘And then kills the women so they can’t talk,’ Palmerston concluded.
Cox tried to push away but the chair was fixed to the floor. He rocked back and then flopped forward. ‘No, no!’ he insisted.
‘What did you do with these two women?’ Palmerston asked as Tom Shepherd pushed a pair of photos across the table. Cox glanced at them then turned his head away.
‘Don’t know ‘em,’ he said.
‘I don’t suppose you do,’ Palmerston said, ‘But you picked them up at two other dogging sites, drove off with them in your van, probably had sex with them and then killed them and disposed of the bodies. That’s what you did isn’t it.’
Cox shook his head from side to side repeatedly. ‘No, no,’ he moaned.
The door to the narrow observation corridor opened and Derek Kingston stepped in.
‘Jas,’ he said, ‘Sloane wants to see you.’
‘Now?’ Jasmine said, not taking her eyes off the scene in the interview room. Palmerston was pushing Cox to make a confession but he was still resisting.
Kingston was insistent. ‘Yes, now, Jas. He’s not happy. I don’t think you’d better keep him waiting.’
Jasmine turned and looked at the coloured detective. He looked at her sympathetically and Jasmine realised that he was worried for her.
‘I’d better go then,’ she said, squeezing passed him and stepping out into the corridor.
Jasmine mounted the stairs feeling trepidation. She knew that she was due a reprimand from Sloane despite having rescued Diana Stretfield and arrested Cox. The team’s office was empty when she got there but the door to Sloane’s room was open and she could see him sitting at his desk. She knocked on the door and waited.
‘Get in here, Frame, and close the door,’ Sloane growled. Jasmine pushed the door to as quietly as she could and stood in front of the DCI’s desk.
‘You wanted to see me, Sir.’
His eyes glared at her. ‘What do you think you were doing, Frame?’
‘I was observing DS Palmerston questioning Cox, Sir.’
Sloane spluttered. ‘No. Not just now. I mean earlier. Deserting your post and going after this Cox fellow on your own.’
Jasmine drew herself up straight, thrusting her false breasts out in front of her. ‘I realised that DS Palmerston was wasting her time rounding up the doggers, Sir. I worked out that Cox was the suspected kidnapper and that time was running out for Diana Stretfield, if indeed I wasn’t already too late.’
‘Yes, well your hunch turned out to be correct, Frame, and it was lucky that you were able to overpower Cox.’
‘Is Diana alight, Sir?’ Jasmine asked.
Sloane searched on his desk for a slip of paper. ‘Ah, yes, I have a report from the hospital. She’s recovering from mild hypothermia. No lasting damage.’ He cleared his throat and looked at Jasmine, ‘But that is beside the point. This isn’t the first time that I’ve received a complaint about you from DS Palmerston. She accuses you of disobedience, dereliction of duty, of being a maverick.’ Sloane was just getting going; his voice rose in volume and his neck increased in pinkness. ‘You know this unit can only function if every member acts as part of the team. You’re not following orders, Frame, and acting as a loner. What’s become of you? When you joined the unit I had high hopes for you.’ He paused and his eyes wandered up and down her body. ‘It’s this transition thing isn’t it? This notion that you’re a woman. You’ve become obsessed with this “sex-change”. It’s affecting your judgement.’
Jasmine couldn’t remain silent anymore. ‘No, Sir, my judgement has not been altered. I am a woman. I always was even though I looked like a man.’
Sloane snorted. ‘The Chief Constable may declare that you should be treated as a woman but I see a man wearing a skirt flaunting his perversity to all and sundry.’
Jasmine swallowed. Did she have to accuse her boss of transphobia, of denying her right to live in the gender she knew herself to be? ‘I have been accepted on to the gender reassignment programme, Sir. My doctors have diagnosed me as having gender dysphoria. I am a woman inside this body, Sir.’
Sloane stared at her and Jasmine could see him thinking and realising that he had gone too far in his dismissal of her true nature. ‘Well, apparently we must accept what the medics say. It does not excuse your behaviour.’
‘It’s DS Palmerston, Sir.’
‘What do you mean?’
‘You say we have to act as a team, Sir, and I agree,’ Jasmine said trying not to sound too plaintive. ‘But Palmerston won’t let me, Sir. She gives me all the office based jobs, never lets me interview witnesses or victims or suspects. She’s side-lining me, Sir.’
‘I’m sure that’s not true. She’s a very competent officer and doing a grand job of managing operations.’
‘But she doesn’t like me because I am a transwoman, Sir.’
Sloane shook his head, his cheeks flopping. ‘No, I’m sure that isn’t the reason she’s made these complaints. Look Frame, I’m giving you a final warning. A reprimand will be recorded on your record and if you want to remain in the unit you had better start doing as you’re told. Now get out; you have a report to write.’
Jasmine knew that arguing would be pointless and perhaps result in her being thrown out of her job. She muttered, ‘Yes, Sir,’ spun on her heels and felt the hem of her skirt flare out. A man in a skirt indeed! She marched from the room feeling defiant.
Part 13 of Split Mirror will be available on 19th Sept.