Season’s Greetings to all of you reading this blog. Whatever festival you are celebrating on or around 25th December I hope you have a great time. I have been an atheist for some time (possibly always but it took me a while to realise it) but I still like singing Christmas carols. It’s the tunes and the harmonies that I like and if you strip out the theism and the subversion of Jesus of Nazareth’s principles by the church, then there are things that I can go along with like love and peace to all men and women and non-binary people.
I also like giving and receiving presents. We take it in turns to open our presents one by one. If there are a few of us this can take quite some time which means we get through a few bottles of fizzy stuff. A very merry time indeed.
There is still time to purchase copies of the three Jasmine Frame stories that are on sale, particularly if you get the e-books. Painted Ladies, Bodies By Design and Discovering Jasmine are each available for Kindle.
And here is my present to you – the next episode of Flashlight, the Jasmine Frame prequel, in which Jasmine begins to learn the importance of observation.
Flashlight: Part 11
Jasmine was feeling bored when DC Sparrow walked into the waiting room of the A&E department. It was a couple of hours after Jasmine had arrived with Amy and only a few minutes since Amy had been called to a cubicle. A female uniformed officer accompanied Milla Sparrow.
‘PC Brown will look after Miss Baker, now. I’d like you to come with me Miss Frame.’ Milla said. Jasmine deduced from her tone that she wasn’t speaking to her as a colleague.’
‘Oh, OK, yes,’ Jasmine replied as vaguely as she could manage. PC Brown looked at her without showing any questioning of her reason for being there.
‘Where is she?’ Milla asked, looking around.
Jasmine pointed. ‘Cubicle five. They’ve just started to patch her up.’
Milla gestured to PC Brown, ‘Come with me. I’ll introduce you to Miss Baker. Take her to the station as soon as they let her go. DC Money will see if she recognises any of the drug gang he knows about.’ Milla led the officer to the cubicles with Jasmine tagging along behind. Milla poked her head through the curtain, spoke to Amy and the nurse then let the constable in. She let the curtain fall and turned to speak to Jasmine.
‘Right Jasmine. Let’s get off. We need to get back to the Marquis.’
Jasmine guided her to where she had parked the police car.
‘Thanks for covering me with that PC,’ Jasmine said as she settled into the driving seat.
Milla buckled herself in. ‘She won’t recall who you were, and I’d like to protect your identity if we can. Now what did you get out of Amy? You’ve had long enough with her.’
Jasmine felt a bit dissatisfied. ‘Not a lot actually. She denies having anything to do with the drug dealing but she went on quite a lot about Natalie Peck.’
‘Amy says Natalie was desperate for cash, not just for her gender reassignment but for all the other things she wanted – breast enhancement, vocal cord tightening, facial feminisation surgery, etcetera.’
From the corner of her eye as she drove back into the traffic, Jasmine saw Milla’s surprise. ‘Really. Do transsexuals actually have all that done?’
Jasmine shrugged, ‘Lots would like it, I suppose, to make them look and sound more feminine, but not many can afford it, and the NHS won’t pay for most people to get all that done.’
‘So, Amy is telling us that Natalie was selling drugs to raise the money to get all this treatment done privately.’
‘That’s the story,’ Jasmine agreed.
‘Did Natalie need it all?’ Milla said, ‘I only saw her dead but she didn’t look unattractive.’
‘She wasn’t,’ Jasmine said, ‘OK, I only saw for a few minutes in a dark lavatory, but she was young and was a pretty woman. But you can’t tell what people think inside. She could have thought she looked ugly and male and needed all those treatments to make her look acceptable.’
Several minutes later they were back at the rear entrance to the club having parked almost where they had been earlier in the morning. The back door was closed and locked this time so Milla thumped on it. There was no response for quite a while. Jasmine was beginning to wonder if indeed there was anyone in the club and Milla was preparing to hammer on the door again when they heard bolts being pulled back. At last the door opened and they were faced by a young woman in a short summer dress.
‘What do you want?’ the woman said glaring at them as if they were an irritating disturbance.
‘Police,’ Milla waved her badge, ‘We’d like to speak to the organiser of the club that operates here.’
The woman shrugged and opened the door wide. ‘You’d better see Mr Jefferson then.’ She turned her back and lead the way inside the building. Jasmine followed behind Milla as they climbed stairs to the top floor and were shown into a small office. A man sitting behind a desk looked up and rose to his feet. His appearance fascinated Jasmine although there was nothing out of the ordinary about him. He was small, about five foot six and slight, with short brown hair and a neatly trimmed moustache and sideburns almost down to his chin. He was immaculately dressed in a fashionable blue suit.
‘They’re Police,’ the women said in an off-hand manner. Mr Jefferson held out his hand. Milla shook it then his gaze passed to Jasmine and rested on her for a moment longer than necessary.
‘Good afternoon. What can I do for you?’ His voice was a high-pitched tenor. He indicated two office chairs for Milla and Jasmine to sit in.
‘We are investigating three incidents that have a connection with the club nights you organise, Mr Jefferson,’ Milla said.
Jefferson looked surprised. ‘Incidents? What kind of incidents. We have had no trouble here since we opened three months ago.’
‘They didn’t happen here,’ Milla said, ‘but three people who have died recently have links to this venue.’
‘Died? Three people? How? I don’t see the connection with the Marquis.’
‘They each died of a heroin overdose, Mr Jefferson, and we have reason to believe that the drugs were purchased here.’
Jefferson frowned. ‘I am sorry to hear that but if people have been exchanging drugs while attending one of our events it is no business of mine.’
‘I think you’ll find it is, Sir,’ Milla said in an accusing voice. ‘Don’t you consider it a serious matter that drugs have been changing hands on your property?’
‘It is not my property,’ Jefferson, said his voice rising a tone or two, ‘And I do consider illegal activity a very serious matter. We run our events under contract to the owners who are based in London. Our business is to provide night-time entertainment particularly to the LGBT community. All out events are LGBT friendly and on Wednesday nights we have a special welcome for trans people.’ He glanced at Jasmine and smiled. ‘Illegal substances are not part of our package.’
‘Nevertheless, we have evidence that drugs have been on sale during your “events”.’ Milla persisted.
‘But not with our permission,’ Jefferson retorted, ‘I will instruct our security personnel to be more vigilant in preventing such activity.’
‘Thank you,’ Milla said putting on a broad smile, ‘But we would like to catch the persons involved.’ She pulled some photos from the pocket of her jacket. ‘Do you know any of these people?’ She presented the photos to Jefferson one at a time. His face remained passive. Milla turned to speak to the young woman who had remained standing by the door. ‘What about you?’ She passed the photos to Jasmine. Jasmine looked at each one before showing them to the girl. She shook her head when she saw the picture of Guy Murray and Tim Butler and again when Jasmine showed her pictures of Natalie Peck and Amy Baker but there was a flicker of her eyelids. Jasmine put the photos together and passed them back to Milla.
‘We would appreciate it if you could ask your staff to let us know if they see any dealing take place,’ Milla said, ‘and any information you can provide would be of great use to us.’
‘Of course,’ Jefferson mimicked Milla’s smile, ‘we will assist the police in any way we can.’
Milla stood up. ‘Thank you. We may call again if we have more questions to ask.’
‘Any time.’ Jefferson stood up and offered his hand again. Milla and Jasmine shook it and left the room with the woman leading them back down the stairs.
When they left the building Milla marched off at speed along the lane.
‘Lying toe-rag,’ she said.
‘You didn’t believe him?’ Jasmine said. She hadn’t been convinced by Jefferson’s denials but couldn’t put a finger on why she thought so.
‘Did you watch his face muscles?’ Milla said.
‘Um, no?’ Jasmine said.
‘Whenever he smiled his mouth moved but his eyes didn’t. When he looked at the photos he had to strain to remain impassive. I saw his muscles tighten.’
‘The girl’s eyes flickered when she saw Natalie and Amy,’ Jasmine reported pleased to have noticed something.
‘Exactly. They know what’s going on and they know that Natalie was dealing,’ Milla stopped, ‘But Amy too? Hmm, perhaps she’s telling us stories.’ They resumed walking towards the car. Jasmine burrowed in her bag to find the car keys.
‘I’ll drive,’ Milla said, ‘I’ll drop you off at home on my way back to the station.’
‘Oh, OK.’ Jasmine handed over the keys and got into the passenger side, wondering if Milla was dispensing with his assistance. She wasn’t prepared for Milla’s next question.
‘Do you fancy another evening of dancing?’ Milla said as they drove off.
‘Um, yes, but it’s not a trans night tonight.’
‘No, but you heard what Jefferson said, all their nights are LGBT friendly. You’ll fit in – you look great.’
Jasmine tensed with apprehension. ‘I don’t want Angela going there while it’s being investigated.’
‘I wasn’t suggesting you go with Angela. I’m coming. We’ll go as two lesbians. Not difficult. Just one problem.’
‘What’s that?’ Jasmine said wondering what Milla was worrying about.
‘Jefferson and that woman have seen us now. I’d rather it if we weren’t recognised.’
Jasmine had an easy answer as avoiding being recognised was a frequent consideration. ‘I’ve got a long dark wig which I bought for just those occasions when I thought there was a chance I might see someone I knew. You could borrow this one,’ she pointed to her blonde bob. ‘With our party dresses and a bit more make-up, we should look completely unlike two police officers.’
‘Good idea. I’ll arrange some back-up just in case we uncover something; but don’t worry they won’t have to see you. I’ll pick you up at ten. Be ready for anything.’