I was in London one day this week. Crowded and expensive but easy travel and good mobile internet – swings and roundabouts I suppose. Anyway it was encouraging to find Painted Ladies on the crime shelves in Waterstones Piccadilly. I presume that to be there nearly thee years after publication that they must sell one or two. No Bodies By Design of course, but I think I’ll try them. . .
This weekend my focus is on SF & F at the annual Easter convention. This year it is Mancunicon i.e. Manchester so look at my SF&F page for information. Nevertheless the Jasmine Frame prequel, Resolution continues below, now at part 10. You may wonder how she’s going to get out of this spot of difficulty. So do I.
Resolution: Part 10
The Toyota sped off leaving Jasmine groping at air. She ran across the road towards her car in the driveway. Angela emerged from the front door.
‘What’s going on, Jas?’
‘Where’s the car key?’ Jasmine cried reaching the drivers’ door.
Angela pulled the keys from her pocket. ‘Er, here, Jas. What are you doing?’
Jasmine grabbed the keys and opened the Fiesta’s door. She was turning the key in the ignition as she settled into the seat and pulling the seatbelt across her. The engine burbled into life and she reversed down the drive just as a car went passed with its horn blaring. She spun the wheel and put her foot down. The engine screamed and she headed out of the estate.
She reached the junction and looked both ways. There was no sign of the silver Toyota. She hardly expected there to be. To the right was the way they had arrived, the main road through Kintbridge and elsewhere. It was the obvious way to go but no chance of catching her watcher if he had gone that way. She wasn’t sure where the road to the left went. She turned left, and accelerated beyond the thirty mile-an-hour speed limit. It was a narrow two-way country road that twisted and rose and fell through dips. She drove as fast as she dared, faster than felt safe. She careered around a couple of small roundabouts thankful that no other vehicles emerged from side roads.
She reached a straight section and she pressed her right foot to the floor. Far ahead was a glimpse of silver. It disappeared around a bend. Moments later she reached the tight double bend. The tyres squealed as she braked hard and wrenched the wheel over. The back of the Fiesta wobbled and then she was through and on a slowly curving descent. She passed a sign warning of a main road ahead. There, stopped at the junction was the silver Auris. A couple of cars and a van went passed and Jasmine pulled up behind her quarry. The road cleared and he pulled out turning left. Jasmine followed catching a glimpse of a sign pointing towards Reedham, the town adjacent to Kintbridge. Now Jasmine knew where she was headed. She accelerated to come up to the rear of the hatchback. Bumper to bumper they headed down the hill to the town. Ahead Jasmine saw the canal and railway line running alongside it.
They were approaching the canal bridge when the Toyota pulled off into a narrow layby. Jasmine jammed her foot on the brake, just avoiding ramming the lead car. She pulled on the handbrake, released her seatbelt and pushed her door open. She leaped out and ran to Toyota as the driver slowly hauled himself out. He was a pear-shaped gentleman, two or three inches shorter than Jasmine, wearing a summer suit just as Tania has described.
‘I’m arresting you on . . .’
He held his hands up to halt her. ‘Hold on a moment. On what grounds are you arresting me?’
Jasmine caught her breath, ‘On suspicion of conspiracy to murder Detective Sergeant Camilla Sparrow in Birmingham.’
A smile passed over the man’s bearded face. ‘Where’s your evidence?’
‘You were identified by Milla’s partner.’
‘She saw you in the pub just before Milla was run down.’
The man chuckled. ‘I was sitting in a pub before this detective was skilled in a road accident?’
‘It wasn’t an accident.’
The man waved his hand. ‘Whatever. I think you’ll need to be more convincing than that to link me with the incident.’
‘You’ve been following me. You followed me to Birmingham and back and to the house.’
‘I was following you was I? It seems that you have been following me, somewhat dangerously if I may say so.’
Jasmine couldn’t believe how relaxed and confident he seemed.
‘You know what you’ve done,’ she blurted out.
He held his palms out and shrugged. ‘I don’t know what you’re talking about.’
‘When we’ve questioned you, you’ll know,’ Jasmine said.
‘So you’re going to take me into the police station for interrogation are you?’ he said, smiling broadly.
‘So Jasmine Frame is the Detective Constable now is she? You’re going to reveal yourself to your colleagues are you?’
‘What?’ Jasmine was confused.
‘You’re going to appear before DCI Sloane in your short skirt and false tits?’
Jasmine looked down at herself and understood what the man was getting at. She couldn’t walk him into the police station without revealing herself to her bosses and fellow officers. She didn’t even have her warrant card and handcuffs with her, or her mobile phone.
She could see he was enjoying her sudden discomfort. ‘I know all about you Jasmine or James Frame. I know what a trans person feels when they’re undecided what their future holds. Who do you trust with your secret? How far do you want to go? Is dressing up a hobby or do you really want to be a woman. Either way do you dare let Sloane and the others know?’
He really does know me, Jasmine thought. She examined him from his round face and short ginger beard to his broad hips and big bottom. ‘You’re trans too,’ she said.
He shook his head. ‘I was. Not anymore. I’m a man. But we’re similar. I think we could do business together. If you don’t want your colleagues to know about Jasmine, then I don’t have to inform them.’ He reached into the pocket of his jacket. ‘Here’s my card. Have a think about it. Get in touch with me.’
He stretched out his arm and Jasmine took the card from him. He turned and got back into his car, started the engine and drove on towards Reedham. Jasmine looked at the plain business card. Eric Dawson, property and merchandise, she read, followed by an email address and mobile phone number. She returned to the Fiesta and sat in the driving seat gripping the wheel.
She had him, Milla’s killer, or the person who had planned it, and let him go, because she couldn’t face the horror of revealing her transgender identity to her colleagues. What on earth was she to do now. She felt dirty as if she was implicated in Milla’s death but she realised that was just what Dawson intended. Had he been planning to have her killed just like Milla? Now perhaps he saw her as a puppet which he could manipulate for his own benefit.
She started the car and drove slowly back to the new house and Angela. The front door was open and Angela rushed out as she pulled into the drive.
‘What happened?’ she called.
Jasmine hauled herself out of the car. ‘I lost him,’ she said. She’d lied. She had never lied to Angela. Angela knew everything about Jasmine and James; well, everything that Jasmine was certain of about herself.
‘Who is he?’ Angela said, her eyes showing her concern.
‘I’ll explain.’ Jasmine took Angela’s hand and lead her into the house. ‘It’s all to do with Milla Sparrow.’ She explained what she had learned on her visit to Tania and from Tania’s call.
‘So you think that man was watching us and he’s the same person who organised Milla’s death?’ Angela summarised.
‘But why watch you as well as Milla?’ Angela said.
‘It must be to do with that case I did with Milla. It’s related to the drugs scene in Reading.’
‘That was those trans people in that club. Weren’t they all arrested and the club shut down?’
Jasmine shrugged. ‘We didn’t get the top people. They kept out of sight.’
You’ll have to be careful, Jas. If they want to kill you too . . .’ Angela’s voice cracked into a sob. Jasmine reached out and pulled her into a hug. Jasmine no longer felt she was in danger while Dawson thought she could be kept dangling on a threat to out her. But she didn’t tell Angela that.
‘Shall we go home now, Ange,’ she said. Angela nodded wiping the tears from her cheeks. They locked up the house and drove back to their flat in silence. Jasmine had one question for herself – how was she going to get out of Dawson’s clutches?