A bit of a rush this week, so I’ll just say to the lovely reviewer on Am**** who gave Painted Ladies a brief but very positive review: there is a follow-up; it’s called Bodies By Design and is available as an e-book or from me in paperback form .
Without any more ado here is a special long episode of the prequel, Resolution (spot the reason for the title). It’s a climax but nowhere near the end.
Resolution: Part 6
Michelle Greaves blinked at the change in topic. She shook her head. ‘No.’
The door opened and an officer in uniform entered carrying a tray of mugs. ‘Tea?’ he said.
Trewin looked peeved briefly then nodded. The officer placed one mug on the table in front of him, another for James and the last in front of Michelle Greaves, removing an empty mug. ‘Thank you,’ Trewin said as the officer departed. He turned back to face Greaves. ‘Are you sure about that, Miss Greaves or do you prefer Miz?’
Greaves shook her head. ‘I don’t care, and yes, I’m sure.’
Trewin looked mystified. ‘Strange that, because we have a witness saying they saw someone with a close resemblance to you approaching Mrs Hargreaves’ house on Wednesday afternoon, shortly before she died.’
Greaves shrugged. ‘It wasn’t me. Why are you asking all these questions? The coloured woman said Elizabeth had died but I don’t understand what you expect me to tell you.’
Trewin sighed. ‘Elizabeth Hargreaves didn’t die naturally. You are her next of kin and we need to trace the person seen visiting her who resembles how you look here and now, dressed as a woman.’
‘I am a woman,’ Greaves said, apparently, James noted, more worried by a dispute about her gender than the suspicious death of her wife.
‘When did you go full-time?’ James asked. Michelle Greaves turned her head and examined him. She didn’t answer immediately but then her facial muscles stiffened. ‘I shouldn’t have to answer that,’ she said.
‘Why not?’ Trewin said.
‘You shouldn’t question my gender,’ Greaves said. ‘As far as you’re concerned I’m a woman.’
‘And we will treat you as one,’ Trewin said.
‘But you don’t have a GRC do you?’ James said.
Greaves’ eyes narrowed. ‘So what?’
James launched into an explanation. ‘That means you haven’t had a new birth certificate issued in your reassigned gender and you presumably have not completed the period required for living full-time in the gender you identify with.’
Greaves was flustered. ‘Well, I didn’t transition at work, but I was a woman for the rest of my life.’
‘BT, wasn’t it? Your employer?’ Trewin asked. Greaves nodded.
‘I understand they’re pretty good about employees wishing to transition,’ James said. ‘What was stopping you? You could have had that GRC by now.’
Greaves gave him a look that would have made a charging rhino stop in its tracks. She made an effort to recover and appear relaxed.
‘It wasn’t convenient. I was happy being female outside work but didn’t want the hassle of coming out to all the people I worked with.’
‘So what changed?’ Trewin asked.
‘I got made redundant,’ Greaves said. ‘They gave me a good offer. At last I didn’t have to go to work. I could be the person I wanted to be all the time.’
‘When was that?’ Trewin said.
‘Last summer,’ Greaves answered.
‘What did Elizabeth think of it?’ James asked.
Greaves shrugged, ‘She was OK.’
James wasn’t convinced by Michelle’s answer and pressed further, ‘She had known about you being trans for a long time. There are photos of you together from way back.’
Greaves glared. ‘How did you see those photos?’
‘We had to search Mrs Hargreaves’ home for evidence relating to the cause of her death,’ Trewin explained. ‘Go on with your questions DC Frame.’
James took a breath. ‘Did Elizabeth’s attitude to your transgenderism change?’
Greaves eyes shifted back and for between James and Trewin before he composed his answer. ‘When we got together we were young and full of new ideas. Elizabeth quite liked the novelty of me dressing as a woman. She accepted me as Michelle, but she wasn’t too chuffed when I said I wanted gender reassignment. When I gave up working for BT we decided to split.’
‘You both agreed to separate?’ Trewin said.
‘Yeah,’ Greaves said.
‘So what was the purpose of your trip to Kintbridge on Wednesday?’ Trewin asked. James hid a smile at his colleague’s attempt to catch Greaves out. It didn’t work.
Greaves responded fiercely. ‘I told you I wasn’t in Kintbridge on Wednesday. I’ve never seen the place.’
James felt a vibration in his jacket pocket. He pulled out his phone and saw that he had a call.
‘Excuse me,’ he said, rising quickly from his chair and hastening to the door. He thumbed the call key. As the door closed behind him he put the phone to his ear.
‘Tom. What is it?’
‘Hi, Jim. Are you there yet?’ There was a hint of fatigue in Tom’s voice. James felt lucky that he’d bagged the awayday.
‘Yes, we’re interviewing Greaves.’
‘What’s he saying?’
‘She’s denying being in Kintbridge at any time.’
‘You’ll like this then.’
‘I’ve been through CCTV footage from Kintbridge Railway Station.’
James felt his heart beat increase. ‘What you got?’
‘I’ve got someone who looks very much like Michelle Greaves getting off the train from London at 3:10.’
‘Fantastic. Are you sure?’
‘Well, it matches the description from the neighbour and looks reasonably like the photos in that album you picked up.’
‘Thanks Tom. That might be just what we need.’
‘Glad to be of service,’ Tom said ending the call. James dropped the phone back in his pocket and returned to the interview room feeling lighter on his feet. He sat down again. Trewin looked at him with raised eyebrows. Greaves glared sullenly at him. There was a flicker of fear in her eyes. She’s realised that I’ve got some information that will show she’s lying, James thought.
‘So, Elizabeth was unhappy about you transitioning?’ James said.
Greaves grunted something that James felt was an affirmative.
‘Why didn’t you start divorce proceedings?’ James went on. ‘Your change of gender would have been suitable grounds. You could have been divorced by now and halfway through your real-life test.’
James could see the colour drain from Greaves face despite her thick make-up. ‘No comment,’ she said. ‘Am I under arrest?’
‘Not yet,’ Trewin said, ‘We’re just trying to see if you’re implicated in the murder of Elizabeth Hargreaves.’
Greaves shuddered at the word murder but said nothing.
‘And we have evidence that contrary to what you have told us, you were in Kintbridge on Wednesday,’ James felt a feeling of elation as he presented the new information, ‘There is CCTV footage of you getting off the train from London.’
Trewin looked at James with eyes wide. He nodded and leaned forward across the table. ‘So Miss Greaves. Perhaps you had better tell us the truth now. Did you travel to Kintbridge to kill your wife?’
Greaves roared, pushed against the table and jumped up. The table and chairs, fixed to the floor, didn’t move. Trewin and James both leapt up watching the woman carefully for signals of what she was going to do next.
‘Sit down please, Miss Greaves and answer our questions.’ DS Trewin said
Slowly, Michelle settled back into her chair looking from hooded eyes at Trewin to James and back again. Trewin and James sat.
Greaves spoke softly, ‘There’s no proof I was there when she died.’
‘You mean, because you removed the murder weapon,’ Trewin said with a half-smile. ‘We have the witness who saw you and would identify you. We have the CCTV footage, and unless you wore protective clothing and gloves for the whole of your visit to your wife, there will be DNA evidence which hasn’t been analysed quite yet. I suggest that you be honest with us. It will be easier for you.’
Michelle trembled. James wasn’t sure if it was from anger or fear. She covered her face with her hands. The row of gleaming red nails formed a palisade across her forehead.
‘Did you kill Elizabeth Hargreaves at some time on Wednesday afternoon or evening?’ Trewin asked.
Sobs came from behind Michelle’s hands. There was no reply.
‘Answer my question, please Michelle,’ Trewin said.
Michelle slowly lowered her hands and whispered, ‘I didn’t want to kill her.’
DS Trewin leaned forward. ‘You brought the murder weapon, a length of cable, with you and took it away again. That looks very much like premeditated murder to me.’
‘She made me do it,’ Greaves wailed.
‘She asked you to strangle her,’ Trewin scoffed, ‘Come off it, Greaves. You travelled from here, Sheffield, to Kintbridge, prepared to kill your wife and that is what you did.’
‘She left me no choice,’ Greaves cried.
‘No choice!’ Trewin thumped the table, ‘What choice did you give her? Her life or what?’
James spoke softly. ‘Tell us why, Michelle. Was it to do with your transition? Why didn’t you divorce?’
Michelle’s tear streaked face looked at James. ‘She wouldn’t.’
‘Wouldn’t what?’ Trewin said.
‘She wouldn’t divorce you? Is that it?’ James asked.
Greaves nodded almost imperceptibly. ‘She refused. She kept on refusing. I pleaded one more time. She laughed in my face. That’s when I had to do it.’
Trewin shook his head in confusion. ‘But why? You were living apart; you’d split your finances. You could have gone on living as you were until you filed for divorce yourself. What’s the big deal?’
Greaves sobbed again but didn’t answer.
‘Ah, but it was a big deal wasn’t it?’ James said, realisation dawning. ‘It was all about your GRC wasn’t it?’
Trewin looked at him nonplussed. ‘What are you talking about Frame?’
James faced his colleague. ‘In order to be issued with a Gender Reassignment Certificate the applicant must be single. Married couples must divorce first. If Elizabeth Hargreaves was refusing the immediate divorce, Michelle might have had to wait years before she could get her certificate, change her birth records and become the person she believes herself to be. The delay might have even slow down her treatment.’
Trewin nodded slowly, ‘I see.’ He looked at Michelle Greaves.
The trans-woman sniffed and stared at James. ‘You get it now do you? Our marriage had to end.’ she said.
‘I understand why you might have been driven to kill your wife but I don’t condone it,’ James said.
‘Tell us how your, er, transition, lead to the murder,’ Trewin said.
Greaves slumped and sighed. ‘She was a vindictive bitch. She was amused by my dressing early on but she lost interest in being with Michelle, and then she turned bad-tempered and catty.’
‘Was that because you were spending more and time in your femme mode?’ James asked.
Greaves shrugged, ‘I suppose so.’
‘Why didn’t you divorce when you started falling out?’ Trewin said.
‘We had the house and we were both working in London. Splitting and trying to find somewhere else to live seemed too difficult. We rubbed along, I suppose.’
‘Until you were made redundant,’ James stated.
Greaves nodded. ‘Yeah. I was certain that I wanted to transition, but Elizabeth wouldn’t talk about it. With no job I saw it as my chance to go full-time. She couldn’t bear seeing me as Michelle at home every day. She got more and more stubborn and angry. We rowed lots of times. Eventually she agreed to split. My redundancy package and the money from the house meant we could be fairly comfortable if we moved out of the city.’
‘But she wouldn’t agree to the divorce that would give you freedom to remove records of Michael Hargreaves,’ James said.
‘I thought she would when the house sold but she seemed to enjoy having that last hold on me,’ Greaves said, ‘She taunted me. She said I’d never be a true woman.’
Trewin ‘So you killed her to release you from your marriage.’
‘It was the only way,’ Greaves sobbed again and buried her head in her arms. James wondered at the power of the need to transition. Surely that wouldn’t be his future would it. He was satisfied with a double life as Jasmine and James, wasn’t he? How would Angela react if he decided to transition? He couldn’t imagine her being as disturbed as Elizabeth Hargreaves and refuse a divorce. He sympathised with Michelle Greaves but no conflict was so fierce as to make murder the appropriate resolution.
‘Thank you, Michelle,’ DS Trewin said, rising slowly to his feet. ‘You’ve made it much easier for yourself by admitting your guilt now.’
Michelle Greaves looked up at him, eyes bloodshot and mascara spread across her cheeks. ‘What will happen to me?’
‘You’ll shortly be charged with murder and held in custody. There will be a court hearing and I expect you will be put on remand prior to the case coming to court. As I said, your actions look premeditated but your gender disorder may be offered in mitigation. It will be up to your defence lawyer to find evidence concerning your wife’s refusal to start divorce proceedings. You will go to prison.’
More tears appeared in Michelle’s eyes? ‘Prison? A woman’s prison?’
Trewin was surprised. ‘Huh? Perhaps. I’m not sure. You’re living as a woman but you haven’t had a sex-change have you. You’ve still got a, er, . . . You’ll have to ask someone.’ He turned to James. ‘Come on Frame. The Sheffield lot can get the formalities done.’ Trewin headed towards the door.
James rose to his feet. Was that it? Case completed? Perhaps he wouldn’t be too late getting home after all and he would be able to set off early to investigate how Camilla Sparrow had died. He hurried after Trewin.