I don’t usually comment on sport in this blog. After all, sport is not important in the great issues that face us is it? Well I think it is, actually, since for many of us sport of one sort or another is our main form of entertainment – watching that is, not doing it. I think a lot of our attitudes, to say nothing about economics and politics, is influenced by sport. This piece isn’t about the Olympics but a cricket match. I’ve enjoyed cricket since I was a kid and I still try to get to one match each season. Last night I went to a county T20 match. For those of you who aren’t cricket followers, that is the short (very short) form of the game where each side gets 20 overs (that’s about 80 minutes) batting each. It means that a match can be wrapped up in under three hours which is fine for the busy working men and women of today and the TV spectators.
With so few balls to face (120 in total), the batting side can’t patiently build a score waiting for the loose balls to hit, they have to go for the runs from the start, taking risks. It can be exciting if simplistic, losing the subtleties and skills of the longer forms of the game. That’s okay. The excitement of 20:20 is like the sugar rush from sucking a toffee (no, it’s not as long-lasting as that, more like a fruit pastille) compared to the three, or more courses, of a restaurant dinner that is a test match. It’s a bit of entertainment and in today’s world not many can or want to sit around for a four-day county match or a five-day test match. What annoys me is how the presentation of the 20 over matches has infantilised the game. There are the extra rules to make the game even more “exciting” – the free ball following a no-ball in which the batsman can’t be given out and the “scatterplay” or whatever it was called, where for an over all the fielders had to stand on the boundary. Why? Neither rule seemed to provide any incentive to the batsmen or the bowlers. Then there’s the razzamatazz: the loud music from the speakers arranged around the boundary, between every over (6 balls) and wickets, the flame throwers (vertical, I’m relieved to say, although a pigeon or two may have got singed) every time a 4 or 6 was scored, together with fireworks for a wicket. All thoroughly pointless. If the game is not exciting enough of itself then it is no point being played.
There was a good crowd, largely wanting to see the home side do well (they didn’t), and quite a few children who enjoyed the pyrotechnics and bashing each other with blow-up cricket bats but watched hardly a ball bowled. This was a sport struggling to make itself appealing to a mass audience and in so doing rubbishing the skills developed by the players over many years of practice. It was a sport desperately trying to attract fans’ money with an Emperor’s new clothes display. What will they do in a few years time when the crowds grow bored with the familiarity of the noise and the effects and the simplistic game?
There, that’s enough of that. Next week – Trans at the Olympics.
To more vital matters – here’s the second part of Perspective, the Jasmine Frame prequel to Painted Ladies and Bodies By Design.
Perspective: Part 2
There was a different feel to the Violent and Serious Crime Unit’s office when Jasmine arrived for her shift mid-morning next day. There was an urgency and air of expectation that she had not experienced for some time. Detective Constables Hopkins and Kingston were deep in animated conversation and DS Palmerston was with DCI Sloane in his office discussing something urgently. Whatever was causing the buzz of excitement it wasn’t a mundane case of fraud or cybercrime. The feeling was infectious and even she felt eager to know what it was all about. She sat at her desk and fired up her computer then turned to Tom Shepherd whose eyes were fixed on his own screen.
‘What’s up, Tom?’
DC Shepherd looked up. ‘Oh, hi, er, Jas. We’ve got a killing, a young boy. You’re just on time for Sloane’s briefing. Look, here he is.’
Jasmine shifted in her seat and saw DCI Sloane marching from his office to the white board that stretched along one wall of the office. Denise Palmerston followed urging the other officers to pay attention with a peremptory wave of her hand.
Jasmine stood up and edged forward with Tom at her side. Terry Hopkins leaned against his desk at the front with his younger coloured partner Derek Kingston by his side.
Sloane looked around the silent quartet checking that he had their full attention.
‘Good morning,’ he said in his deep voice, ‘As you know a body was discovered in the Riverside car park early this morning. It was a young male. He had a knife wound in his chest. Pathology says death occurred between midnight and about 2 a.m. and the fatal wound followed a struggle. There are bruises on the victim’s arms as if he was gripped firmly. The wound is not a clean thrust but the blade has been dragged through the flesh and undergone a number of thrusts before piercing the heart. Pictures, Palmerston, please.’
The DS fixed three of the large prints she had been holding to the whiteboard. The first showed the complete clothed body almost curled up, with a blood stain covering the abdomen and spreading onto the tarmac and white line of the car park. The boy was dressed in jeans and a hooded top. The second photograph was a close up of his face after he had been turned over onto his back. The third showed the bruises on his wrists.
‘Obviously the first task is to identify the victim,’ Sloane continued. ‘There was no i.d. on the body and no-one has yet contacted us about a missing person. We also have to ask what a young man of fourteen or fifteen was doing in the car park at that time and of course who his attackers were and their motive.’
Tom raised a hand.
‘Yes, Shepherd?’ Sloane said.
‘Where exactly in the car park was he found. It covers quite an area.’
‘That’s true Shepherd. DC Hopkins, you were the duty officer called to the scene. Tell us what you saw.’
The middle-aged detective slouched against a desk suddenly came alert and stood up.
‘Uh, yes sir. The call was made about 6:15 by a . . .’ he looked down at his notebook, ‘Steve Brown. He’s a street cleaner. He was doing his Saturday morning round and came across the body in the area by the public toilets.’
Sloane nodded. ‘Thank you Hopkins. Any comments Shepherd?’
Jasmine saw Tom give a start as if he wasn’t prepared to be put on the spot. ‘Um, no Sir.’
Jasmine spoke up. ‘There’s a taxi rank alongside the car park, Sir. If the attack took place at the time you said, some of the pubs and clubs are still open then and there may have been a taxi or two there.’
‘Good point, Frame,’ Sloane said although he didn’t look directly at her. DS Palmerston glared at Jasmine. She thinks I should keep my mouth closed, Jasmine thought.
‘We will of course be interviewing all taxi drivers that use that waiting area,’ Palmerston said.
‘Of course,’ Sloane added. ‘And you are correct Frame, that at the time of this boy’s death there may have been witnesses from the various entertainment venues. What was the weather like at that time?’
‘Cold with a drizzle of icy rain,’ Hopkins replied and Jasmine nodded in agreement remembering her encounter at midnight.
‘Not the sort of weather in which you would expect members of the public to be standing around,’ Sloane said.
‘Unless they were waiting for a taxi, Sir,’ Derek Kingston added.
‘True. So we need to make an appeal for witnesses. Palmerston, you contact the media. We don’t have the murder weapon as yet. Shepherd, you get down there and accompany SOCO searching the environs. According to the pathologist we looking for a short knife, the blade no more than three inches long and half an inch or so wide; a kitchen knife most likely. Hopkins and Kingston, you start asking questions in the pubs and clubs that were open at that time.’
There was a pause. Jasmine was on edge. What was her task going to be?
‘And me, Sir?’ she said, eager for a part to play.
‘You can be looking for CCTV footage,’ DS Palmerston said. ‘There must be cameras near the spot.’
Jasmine groaned and sagged. Not again. Would she ever get out of the office to do some real detecting? It was always her that was given the important but sedentary tasks because the female DS didn’t want her seen by the public.
Sloane pulled himself to his full height. ‘Right get down to work. We’ll have another meeting at four and I want some results by then. I’ll consider calling in the rest of the team to assist.’
The other officers scattered leaving Jasmine peering at the whiteboard. Something Sloane had said had made her think. The description of the knife used to kill the boy reminded her of the weapon she had been threatened with. She could see it waving in front of her face, shining in the streetlights. She took a few paces closer to the board and examined the photos of the victim closely. Could he possibly be the youth that had brandished the knife at her? What did his mate call him? Wizzer or Wizz? It had been so dark last night that she hadn’t taken in his appearance but the clothes the victim was wearing could easily be the same as her attacker and they had similar height and build.
A shiver passed through her. If the mugger and the victim were the same youth, then he was dead less than two hours after mugging her for a few quid. How did he come to be stabbed by his own knife? Where was his accomplice? She had important information pertaining to the investigation but she hadn’t reported the incident. Guilt flooded her. If she had called in after the thieves had left her there may have been a police presence in the town centre which would have prevented the boy’s death. She shook herself. It was no point going down that path. She had to tell someone, Sloane or Palmerston what she knew and what had happened to her. Now though, it wasn’t the embarrassment of being mugged that troubled her but the telling off she would get for not putting a report in.
The office was deserted. All the team, including Sloane were going about their business elsewhere. Jasmine returned to her desk. She might as well start collecting the video evidence while she waited for Sloane or Palmerston to return.
She had only got as far as making contact with the CCTV control centre when the internal phone rang.
‘DC Frame,’ she announced when she picked up the receiver.
‘Oh, it’s you,’ the voice of desk sergeant GG Gorman said. ‘Is the DCI or DS there?’
‘No, they’re not. It’ll have to be me, Sergeant, if you’ve got a message.’
‘Hmm, well, I’ve got a lad down here who says he knows something about last night’s, er, incident in the car park. Says he heard about it on the radio.’
‘OK, thanks. I’ll come and speak to him. How old would you say he is?’
‘A teen, fourteen or so. Scruffy kid in a hoodie and jeans.’ Just like the victim. Could it be Wizzer’s partner? Jasmine put down the phone and ran from the office and down the flights of stairs to the entrance.
She stepped through the locked door and saw the lad sitting in the public area. He looked up and saw her. He frowned. Jasmine approached him.
‘Hello. I understand you’ve some information about the incident near the toilets in the Riverside carpark?’ As she spoke she saw his eyes widen.
‘I know you,’ he said, ‘You’re that tranny.’
My voice, again, she thought. ‘I think we met last night,’ she said. There was a millisecond pause, then the boy turned and ran.
…………..to be continued.