First of all an apology if last week you received notification of my post and found it either not available or in an unfinished state. Somehow it posted early before I was ready and the notice of the “update” of the finished piece I don’t think was circulated. I hope this goes out on time and complete.
The French burkini fiasco attracted my notice this week, not that I’ve read in depth about the controversy. I can’t believe that French authorities have put themselves in the position of telling women on a beach that they must expose more of themselves; but the main issue for me is that a government (local or national) is telling its citizens (and presumably visitors) how they must dress. This is an incredibly dangerous move for civil liberties and human rights. Not many decades ago, a person thought to be a man wearing a dress could be arrested and shamed. Women wearing trousers were a topic of discussion. Personally, I don’t think any authority or individual has the right to tell me or anyone how to dress. I will allow, for now, laws against indecency simply because I don’t think the majority are ready for public nudity. Also, I think, with regret, that for security purposes, people should expose their faces when requested to do so. Otherwise, men, women and nonbinaries should have the freedom and right to appear in public in whatever form of dress that they, themselves, choose.
Another minor news item was talk of a ban on Morris dancers that “black up”. Apparently it is a 500 year old tradition and was a means of disguise since dancing to raise money was seen as begging and hence illegal. There is no evidence that the practice was ever to imitate black people (there were a few in the country 500 years ago) unlike the Black & White Minstrel Show which had the men made up and wigged as caricatures of Black Americans. Unfortunately the Morris dancers and the B&W Minstrels have become confused in some people’s brains. I think it is foolish to see disrespect of minorities everywhere and equality groups have to pause and avoid reacting to every misread sleight.
So now to the main business that is part 4 of Perspective, the tenth prequel to Painted Ladies, and another story about transsexual detective, Jasmine Frame.
Perspective: Part 4
Jasmine saw an expression of worry and concern on Nate Gayle’s face.
‘What made you decide to come and see us?’ DS Palmerston said, ‘I don’t imagine you would step inside a police station out of choice any other time.’
‘It was on the radio.’
‘That there’d been a fight at the Riverside and someone had been injured.’
‘When did you hear that?’
‘When I woke up this morning.’
‘You thought it was your friend who had been hurt?’
Palmerston frowned and glared at the boy. ‘His parents haven’t reported William missing.’
Nate snorted. ‘His old woman won’t have noticed he wasn’t there.’
‘What do you mean?’
‘She’s out most nights. She wasn’t there when I went round Wizzer’s place this morning.’
‘She works nights?’
Nate gave a nervous giggle. ‘You could call it work I s’pose.’
Palmerston didn’t say anything and Jasmine guessed that she had interpreted the youth’s comment the same way as she had.
‘No father?’ the DS asked after a few moments.
Nate shook his head. ‘Is Wizzer in hospital?’
Palmerston paused again, then said softly. ‘I’m sorry Nate but your friend is dead.’
The boy no longer looked like the confident street thief. His mouth sagged open and his eyes became shiny with tears.
‘He died in the car park,’ the DS continued, ‘presumably when you were attacked. We will need your help to find out exactly what happened.’
Now Nate looked frightened rather than sad. ‘You won’t tell my Ma I was out last night, will you?’
Palmerston’s eyes narrowed. ‘Your mother didn’t know you were out of the house?’
Nate bit his lip. ‘She thought I was in bed. I slipped out when she went to sleep.’
The DS sighed. ‘I’m sorry Nate but she’s going to have to know. We need a detailed statement from you and then we’ll have to check parts of it with your mother, but I’m sure that when she hears your friend is dead she’ll be gentle with you.’
‘She didn’t like Wizzer.’
‘Said he was a bad’un and not to mix wiv im.’
Denise Palmerston began to stand up. ‘Well, we’ll have to call her in when we interview you formally, Nate, as you’re still a minor, but thank you for coming in to speak to us. You did the right thing. Can we get you a tea or coffee or something?’
The boy shook his head.
‘Come on Frame. We’ve got work to do.’ Palmerston strode to the door. Jasmine glanced at the boy who looked as miserable as he could be, then chased after her boss. She caught her up in the corridor.
‘You didn’t ask him about his friend Wizzer threatening me with a knife?’ Jasmine said. Palmerston stopped, turned and glared at her.
‘Well, you haven’t put in a crime report have you, Frame. In any case the murder of the boy is rather more important don’t you think.’
‘Murder? Surely the kid got killed with his own knife when he attacked the two queens.’
‘Gayle says they were set upon. It looks like murder to me, Frame, and we’ll treat it as murder while we look for the two men dressed as women. I think you were supposed to be looking for CCTV footage.’
She turned her back on Jasmine and marched off.
Back in the V&SC room, Palmerston went into Sloane’s office. Jasmine could see the DCI at his desk. Jasmine sat and opened the file of CCTV recordings that had been sent to her. There were views from a number of cameras around the extensive car park but having glanced at each of them she chose the one that looked along Dock Lane. It seemed to be the only camera with even a possibility of a view of the scene of the incident. Jasmine started to scan through the recording to get to the time when the attack occurred. The dim grainy pictures, made worse by the persistent drizzle showed cars and taxis entering and leaving the car park and pedestrians walking to and from the town. By one a.m. the area looked deserted with not even a taxi waiting on the rank.
The office door crashed open and Tom Shepherd loped in.
‘We’ve got the weapon,’ he shouted.
Jasmine rose from her seat as Palmerston emerged from Sloane’s office with Sloane close behind.
‘Let me see,’ Palmerston said. Tom handed over the plastic bag weighted by the knife.
‘It matches the description the doc gave.’
Jasmine joined the group. She squinted to get a look at the knife as Palmerston held the bag up. It appeared to be the knife that had been waved in her face.
‘It looks like the knife Wizzer had,’ she said.
‘Wizzer?’ Tom said with a look of confusion on his face.
‘William Smith, the victim,’ Palmerston said. ‘known as Wizzer to his friends apparently.’
Tom looked at Jasmine.
‘You know him?’
‘We met,’ Jasmine said.
‘So I gather,’ DCI Sloane growled, ‘In my office now, DC Frame.’
Jasmine followed Sloane leaving Tom staring. The tone of Sloane’s voce did not suggest that he was about to praise Jasmine.
‘Close the door please, Frame,’ the DCI said. His chair sagged as he lowered his bulk into it. ‘Denise tells me that you failed to report an incident with the victim and his friend Gayle.’
Jasmine groaned silently. Palmerston had got her tale telling in first. ‘Yes Sir, I meant to this morning. . .’
‘Hours after the alleged attack took place.’
‘Denise says you alleged that the two boys threatened you and stole your purse.’
‘That’s what happened, Sir.’
‘Why didn’t you report it at the time?’
‘It was late, Sir, and cold. I was tired.’
Sloane frowned at her. ‘You’re a police officer, Frame. That’s no excuse. Now it appears that one of the youths is dead.’
‘Well, I can’t have an officer on the case who is prejudiced against the victim and a witness.’
‘I’m not prejudiced, Sir.’
‘DS Palmerston is of the opinion that you would not be able to investigate this case dispassionately. As you had dealings with the victim and the suspects we are seeking are men like yourself, I tend to agree with her.’
A hot flush rushed up Jasmine’s neck. ‘Men like myself? What do you mean, Sir?’
‘The two men described by Gayle. They were masquerading as women I believe.’
‘I don’t know about them, Sir, but I am a woman.’
Sloane’s face had turned a shade of crimson. ‘I don’t care what you think you are Frame, I can’t have someone emotionally involved in a case getting in the way. You are relieved from duty. You may go home.’
‘But, but, Sir?’ Her anger had subsided as fast as it had risen. Now she felt sick.
‘Pass what you were working on to Shepherd, and go.’ Sloane looked down at the heap of papers on his desk, dismissing her from his thoughts. Jasmine backed slowly from the small room, and went slowly back to her desk.
‘What’s up, Jas?’
Jasmine saw Tom looking up at her from his seat.
‘Sloane’s suspended me.’
‘It was Palmerston.’
Jasmine briefly described her encounter with Gayle and Smith the night before and how the female DS had used her failure to report it.
‘She’s persuaded Sloane that I can’t be objective and he thinks that the two queens Gayle described are like me. I’m not a drag queen, Tom.’
‘Er, no you’re not, Jas.’ Tom spoke slowly, taking care not to say the wrong thing. Jasmine had explained often enough what being transsexual meant and the differences between her situation and with transvestites, drag queens and other trans people but she knew he still found the distinctions difficult to recall.
‘Haven’t you left yet, Frame?’
Jasmine turned to see Denise Palmerston leering at her.
‘DCI Sloane told me to hand over the CCTV footage to Dc Shepherd,’ she said.
‘Well, do it quickly, then get out. We’ve got work to get on with.’ The delight in her voice was palpable. ‘Oh, Shepherd. We’re looking for two particular drag queens. Hopkins rang in to say that there was a gay night at The Horse and Barge last night and that there were quite a few of the weirdoes.’ She turned on her heels and strode off.
‘You’d better get off, Jas,’ Tom whispered, ‘With her in that mood . . .’
‘I might thump her. Yes, I know Tom.’ Jasmine leaned down to her keyboard, sent the data to Tom’s address and closed her computer down. She picked up her coat and strode from the office, refusing to look in DS Palmerston’s direction.