I’ve had cause to make use of the NHS this week – 3 visits to the doctor, 3 prescriptions – a small dent in the extra £350 million per week they are not going to get. I have to say that the service has been excellent despite sitting in and pacing the waiting room for an hour when my head felt it was about to explode. Emergency appointments were made available for within an hour or two of calling and thanks to the computer records each doctor was able to review what had gone before. I won’t go into the full diagnosis but a series of interconnected symptoms which were either excruciating or extremely irritating have made my week somewhat miserable. My darling Lou has, however, looked after me with love and care, making me once again thankful that we are together.
Of course, I would have been pretty miserable this week because of the outcome of the referendum. I’m not going to say any more about the appalling campaign (on both sides), or how sad I am that so many people succumbed to the propaganda put out by the right wing press. I have however two thoughts. First, the difficulty the BBC had in reporting the campaign. They were so bound by the “balance” rule that they couldn’t explain the blatant lies told by the Leave side without allowing them a chance to repeat them, and yes, I know the Remain side, well Cameron & Osbourne, also bandied some outrageous figures too.
My second point is the behaviour of the politicians of the Conservative and Labour party who, after the country delivered such a world-shaking verdict, descended into warfare with their own colleagues such that the important job of planning the country’s future was practically forgotten. I don’t think anyone on the government or opposition (what opposition? I mean Labour) benches has come out of this fiasco with a reputation worthy of respect.
Anyway, despite being “under the weather” I have managed to complete Aberration, the latest prequel to Painted Ladies and Bodies By Design. I hope you think the following is a fitting ending after last week’s exciting episode.
Aberration: Part 10
James was worried. He was worried about when he could get back to work in the bar with his broken, plastered wrist, and even if Kevin would keep the job for him. He was worried about Josh and his friends – if he persuaded the police that he had nothing to do with Andy’s death, would they come after him and Angela? Finally, he was worried about being revealed as Jasmine and how that would affect his career in the police. He’d had two days of worry. It was Monday, and he was hanging around the flat trying to find things to do which didn’t involve using two hands, waiting for Angela to return from the office because he had another day off. He’d wanted to dress as Jasmine as he usually did when Angela was at work but struggling to put on a bra and fit his falsies in was just too difficult with only one hand. As Angela had already left when he got out of bed he had had to struggle to dress on his own and a pair of shorts and t-shirt was all he had managed.
It was almost noon when the doorbell rang and James leapt out of the sofa with surprise. They didn’t have visitors. He went to the door and opened it just a crack. It was then that he was thankful that he wasn’t dressed as Jasmine because Detective Constable Vickers was standing in the hallway of their block of flats. There was another person, a woman, with him who James didn’t recognise. He pulled the door wide.
‘Oh, hello,’ James said.
‘Hello, Mr. Frame,’ Vickers said, ‘Do you remember me? We talked when you reported that you thought Andrea Pickford’s death was a murder.’
’Yes, I remember. DC Vickers isn’t it?’
‘That’s right. This is my colleague DC Adams. Can we come in and have a chat, please?’
‘Uh, yes, of course.’ James stood aside and let the two police officers step into their bedsitting room. ‘Have a seat. Can I get you a cup of tea or something?’ James saw the man and woman looking at his plastered arm.
‘No, it’s okay. You’ve injured your arm, Mr Frame.’ It was statement of the obvious but James could see that they were both curious.
James looked at his arm. ‘Yes, I fell over and broke my wrist.’
‘When was that?’ DC Vickers asked.
‘Saturday,’ James replied, ‘I had to go to A&E.’
‘It must have been painful,’ Vickers added. James nodded. ‘How did you do it?’ Vickers added.
‘Oh, it was silly. I tripped over and put my hand down to save myself,’ James explained, ‘Why don’t you sit down.’ The two detectives lowered themselves side by side onto the sofa while James pulled up a dining chair and sat down. ‘What can I do for you?’ he said, trying to look as innocent and puzzled as he could.
Vickers took a breath. ‘When we spoke a few days ago you said you thought Miss Pickford had been killed deliberately rather than drowned accidentally.’
‘On Saturday afternoon,’ Vickers glanced at his notebook, ‘Angela Madison rang me and said that the perpetrator of this crime was a Josh Smith and gave us his address. Angela Madison is your partner I gather.’
‘That’s right,’ James nodded again.
‘How did Miss Madison come by this information?’
‘I’d seen Smith speak to Andy, er, Andrea, in the pub where we both worked and we asked around until we found someone who knew him and could tell us his address.’
‘Miss Madison or yourself?’
‘Both of us.’
‘But it was your partner who rang in with the information.’
James could see where Vickers was going. He had made the original contact with the police so why hadn’t he passed on the additional information when they had tracked Josh down. He shrugged, ‘Angela had her phone handy. Did you investigate Josh Smith’s address?’
Vickers nodded slowly. ‘We did. His friends answered the door and when he appeared he seemed rather on edge. We did a search of his home and do you know what?’
‘We discovered a pair of jeans and a vest shoved in a rubbish bin, which we think forensics will show belonged to Miss Pickford.’
‘A vest?’ James queried. Andy’s clothes. He knew that he must have changed at some time before he died.
‘Yes,’ Vickers said, smiling, ‘A special vest, made of a very strong, elastic material.’
‘A chest binder,’ James said realising what Vickers was describing – the vest would compress a woman’s breasts and give her a more masculine upper-body profile.’
‘You knew what it was?’ James was surprised that a policeman or woman had even noted the garment’s special properties.
‘Its elasticity puzzled us at first but DC Adams has a friend who is, um, transsexual, and she recognised what it is used for.’ Vickers glanced at the woman by his side. She gave James a thin smile. ‘Smith was unable to give a convincing explanation for why it was in his possession, so we took him in for questioning.’ Vickers continued.
‘He’s under arrest!’ James felt elated. Josh Smith’s arrogance had caught him out. He hadn’t expected a call from the police so had done nothing to get rid of Andy’s clothes.
‘He is now,’ Vickers said. ‘We took a DNA sample from him and asked for a quick comparison with the DNA of the semen found in Miss Pickford’s vagina.’ James felt Vickers’ eyes watching him, waiting to see his reaction. ‘It needs confirmation, but it looks as though they match,’ he concluded.
James felt elated; his suspicions justified; Andy’s death explained.
‘He’s confessed,’ James said almost joyfully.
‘He’s admitted having sex with Miss Pickford but denies killing her.’
‘He’s not a Miss; Andy was a man, he wanted to be one and he should have been one,’ James cried.
‘So you say, and the chest binder would back that up.’
‘Other people knew Andy. The girl in the coffee shop.’ James almost added the people who ran the transgender night at the club but stopped himself. He must not reveal his own transgenderism.
‘Yes, we know that,’ Vickers said, ‘but her parents were unaware of it and so was her employer.’
‘But. . .’ James couldn’t think of any other argument he could put.
‘There is other evidence,’ Vickers said. James let out a gasp of relief. ‘We have searched Andrea’s, er, Andy’s, bedroom and found other garments like the vest. Mrs Pickford didn’t know he, um, she, shit, this is getting complicated. . . His mother didn’t know anything about them. The bar manager, Kevin Ashton, is quite convinced that Andrea wasn’t wearing the vest when she was at work on the Wednesday evening but we have CCTV of her walking down the street outside and she has a distinctly flat-chested appearance so we think she changed before leaving work. She was picked up in a car which we have now identified as belonging to one of Josh Smith’s friends.’
‘You’ve got him then,’ James felt elated.
Vickers half shrugged, half nodded. ‘The fact that she had enough alcohol in her body to knock out a horse is another factor. She was sober when she left work so Smith and his friends who picked her up must have practically force-fed her. The pathologist thinks it unlikely that she could have walked to the river unaided.’
‘So why hasn’t Smith been charged?’ James said.
Vickers and his colleague appeared crestfallen. ‘The evidence for murder is circumstantial at the moment. We have proof that Andy/Andrea was at Smith’s home, which is on the river, and that he had sex with her, probably without her consent since she was out of her skull. But we need his confession to make the murder charge stick.
It was as if the balloon had popped. James had no evidence that Josh Smith had carried Andy semi-conscious to the river and dumped him in the water but he was sure that that was what had happened.
‘Don’t worry,’ Vickers said cheerfully, ‘DCI Sloane is working on Smith. He’ll get the confession. He always does.’
‘My boss. Head of the Violent and Serious Crime Unit. He’s old school, been doing this job for years. If he’s sure someone’s committed a crime he’ll keep at them until they wish they’d never been born. Not that he’d use violence of course,’
‘Of course,’ James agreed, wondering about this Sloane character. What kind of boss was he?
‘Oh, there is something,’ Vickers said.
‘Smith keeps on mentioning someone called Jasmine. Do you know who she is?’
James felt the blood drain from his face but managed not to blurt out the truth. He shook his head. ‘No. I don’t know anyone with that name.’
‘It’s strange. Smith seems to think this woman, Jasmine something or other, lead us to him. It’s a handle Sloane is using to make him confess.’
‘Oh.’ James shrugged.
‘Well, there’s nothing else to tell you. We’ll need a statement about you knowing that Andrea really felt she was Andy.’
‘We just talked after work, that’s all,’ James said.
‘Yes, well it was enough for us to make this a murder investigation. Thank you Mr Frame.’ The two detectives stood up. James showed them out and closed the door with relief. Did Vickers suspect that he knew he was Jasmine? Even if he did, it seemed he wasn’t going to press the matter. If DCI Sloane was as persistent as Vickers said, then Andy’s death would be avenged. He felt a small sense of satisfaction.
A few hours later, Angela returned and found James looking through the papers and handbooks relating to his application to join the police. James leapt up and kissed her.
‘They think Josh killed Andy and are pushing him to confess,’ he said.
Angela looked confused. ‘How do you know?’
James described the visit of DC Vickers and his partner.
‘So Jasmine is still a secret,’ Angela said when he had finished.
‘It looks like it,’ James said feeling relief. ‘And there’s something else I want to say.’
‘Oh?’ Angela’s eyebrows raised.
‘Let’s get married. We’ve been together so long, we’re partners. Let’s do it.’
Angela smiled and made a cheeky grin. ‘Who’s asking, James or Jasmine?’
‘Same sex marriage isn’t allowed. Good knows when it will ever be.’
‘OK, but are you sure you don’t want to be Jasmine?’
James paused, his mouth open. He was about to say, no, but found he couldn’t. He considered. What would his answer be?
‘I want to be Jasmine, but not all the time and I do want us to be together, officially, so I’m happy to be James and Jasmine. Is that enough for you.’
Angela flung her arms around him. ‘I love James and Jasmine. Perhaps the law says I can only marry James but I consider myself engaged to both of you.’