Back from the weekend in Manchester. A SF&F convention is certainly a diverse gathering – all ages, sexualities, genders (including alien ones) and personalities. There was a trapped audience of a thousand but persuading them to spend their money on books still proved to be difficult. The same applies to all genres. More and more books are published and fewer and fewer people are actually buying. The writer is caught in the middle so we end up buying each other’s books and never making a living from our craft. Still, it’s fun isn’t it.
The second Jasmine Frame novella will be published very shortly. It follows on from Discovering Jasmine and is called Murder in Doubt. It is of course based on one of the serials published here. Here is a sneak preview of the cover. More details soon.
Back to the present and the next episode of Resolution. We’re approaching a climax.
Resolution: Part 11
James pulled on his dark trousers, tucked in his shirt and selected a tie from the rack. Angela came into the bedroom, stopped and stared.
‘That’s your work suit. It’s Sunday. Aren’t you going to be Jasmine today?’
‘I need to call into the Station, Ange. I won’t be long, I hope.’
‘Oh. Is it to do with that man that was following you? I’m worried James. If he is linked to Milla Sparrow’s death, aren’t you in danger?’
James wrapped his arms around Angela’s shoulders. ‘I don’t think he wants to kill me too. I’m going in because I need to write up my report on the Hargreaves case. We completed it on Friday evening and Sloane will want it on his desk by tomorrow morning.’
He looked into Angela’s eyes. They still were dark and worried.
‘Well, take care, and come back as soon as you can. I’m not sure I can relax with you out of my sight at the moment.’
The V&SCU office was empty which surprised James a little. Surely it wasn’t a quiet weekend for crime. Perhaps the other detectives were actually out on cases. James settled at his desk and booted up his computer. He didn’t start writing his report but instead took Eric Dawson’s card from his pocket and keyed the name and brief details into the police database. Dawson’s file appeared but didn’t tell him much. There was no link to his previous existence as a woman. There were notes in the record that linked Dawson to shady deals in Reading and London and incidents where people, predominantly criminals themselves, had been “removed”. There was insufficient evidence to charge Dawson with any wrongdoing let alone convict him of any crime. James felt frustrated. He had to find a way of ridding himself of his tormentor before he revealed James’ dual gender.
The door to the office slammed open despite being on a stiff spring. James looked up to see the grey-suited Sloane striding across the room to his own office.
Seeing James didn’t slow him but he declared. ‘Ah, Frame. Glad you’re here. In my office, now.’
James launched himself from his chair and hurried after the DCI. Sloane rounded his desk and slumped into his seat. James stood in front of him.
‘I haven’t finished preparing the case against Michelle Greaves . . .’
‘There won’t be a case,’ Sloane said.
James was confused. ‘No case, Sir? But Michelle Greaves confessed to killing her wife on Friday evening in front of DS Trewin and myself.’
‘I know that, Frame. You both did a good job but it won’t be going to court. Not a criminal court at least.’
James shook his head in incomprehension.
Sloane went on without a pause. ‘Greaves is dead.’
‘Michelle Greaves?’ James whispered.
‘Yes. He killed himself in custody last night.’
‘Hung himself from the window catch by his bra.’
‘Yes, careless of them. We take belts away from prisoners to prevent this type of thing. The bra wasn’t actually holding up any part of his anatomy. No reason why he should have been allowed to keep it.’
‘But, Michelle was a woman,’ James mumbled.
‘What was that, Frame? Look it’s a mess. I’ve called Trewin in. I’ll need you both to write a full report of your interview with Greaves. See if there was any warning of him being a suicide risk.’
James replied cautiously, ‘She did ask if she’d be placed in a woman’s prison.’
‘Did he?’ Sloane’s bushy eyebrows rose. ‘Why? He was still physically male wasn’t he?’
‘She was transitioning,’ James explained as carefully as he could, ‘She was living as a woman while waiting for medical procedures to start. She wouldn’t have wanted to be among men in a male prison.’
‘Hmph. Well, perhaps the Sheffield lot didn’t take his mental state into consideration sufficiently. I’ll need that report from you and Trewin. It’ll be the coroner’s court for Greaves and for Elizabeth Hargreaves.’
Sloane picked up his phone and waved James away. James returned slowly to his desk. He couldn’t understand how someone could take their own life. Could the thought of being treated like a man have been so terrible for Michelle Greaves? Apparently it was. James tried to recall as much as he could of the interview with Greaves in the Sheffield Police Station. It seemed so long ago.
DS Trewin arrived and joined James in a brief discussion of the news, then he left James to prepare his account of the investigation alone. James completed it, saved it to the file and attached it to emails to Sloane and Trewin. Writing the report had helped him come to terms with Greaves’ death. He could see some kind of parallel between Michelle Greaves’ fear of being cast back into the role of a man and his own fear of being outed by Eric Dawson. He recognised that he shared with Greaves a vulnerability in gender identity that was a danger to them both. Greaves’ determination to be recognised as a woman had led to her Elizabeth’s and her own deaths. James realised that he would have to take care of his own mental state because of his fears about his mixed up gender. He could succumb to Dawson’s blackmail and become his tame monkey, or he could fight him and risk his gender confusion becoming public knowledge with whatever consequences that would have. He didn’t want the former so he would have to pursue the latter course however much that scared him.
James returned to his electronic trail of Eric Dawson. There were plenty of snippets of reports and hints about Dawson’s role in criminal activity. Now that he knew his appearance James was able to observe him in surveillance photographs of meetings of criminals. Dawson, he discovered was a link between the drug lords and the suppliers on the streets and in the clubs across the south-east as well as the go to man for removing troublesome clients and employees. Dawson had established his position and reputation despite his transgender history. Or was it “despite”? Perhaps he had gained his reputation for organisation and ruthlessness because of his adoption of a male persona. He may look a somewhat flabby specimen of a man but testosterone coursed through his veins and produced a masculine response to a crisis. Nevertheless, he had been born a girl and James felt sure Dawson must still harbour a feeling of insecurity about his female origins. James accessed his birth certificate. It was a new one, post Gender Reassignment Act certification. It told him that Eric Dawson, male, had been born in 1969 in Southampton. James would need a higher authority to delve into Dawson’s female history, but perhaps he didn’t need the truth to stick a needle in Dawson’s buried and almost forgotten fears.
A meeting would have to be arranged at which James would keep Dawson guessing as to whether he was going to be compliant or defiant. If he could play Dawson along, James hoped he could lead him into indiscretions and incriminate himself even if it meant Jasmine and James Frame were revealed as one and the same person. James’ fingers skipped across the keys, his eyes locked on the screen as he continued to build up his knowledge of everything there was to learn about Eric Dawson.
A long while later, James stretched and rubbed his eyes. He glanced at his watch, saw the time and felt a pang of anxiety about Angela. He must get back home to her to calm her anxieties. He wanted to get back into a dress again too. First though he had a phone call to make.
Next morning, following the briefing and some routine and boring paperwork James joined Tom Shepherd in the corner by the coffee machine.
‘Are you free this afternoon, Tom?’ James said in a quiet voice but trying not to be too conspiratorial.
Tom shrugged, ‘If nothing comes up, I suppose so. What’s up?’
‘I’m meeting someone and I’d like you to come along. You know, as witness, partners.’
‘What’s it about. The Hargreaves case is over now that Greaves has topped himself.’
‘No, it’s not that. It’s to do with Milla Sparrow.’
Tom frowned. ‘The DS that was killed? I thought the Birmingham lot were investigating that.’
‘Yes, they are but I’ve become involved because I knew her and we worked together on her last case here,’ James tried not to tell an outright lie. ‘I’m meeting someone who might give us a lead.’
‘Oh, right. What time?’
‘Two. We can go straight from lunch.’ When it won’t be so obvious that we’re missing, James didn’t add.
Before lunch James picked up surveillance kit from stores and hid the microphone and recording device under his clothes. He met Tom in the police canteen and after a they had each finished off a plate of sausage and chips they left in one of the cars assigned to their unit. James drove them out of Kintbridge.
‘Where are we meeting this guy,’ Tom said as they drove east along the main A road.
‘Not far,’ James replied. He felt a tightness in his stomach. His appointment with Dawson was just minutes away.