I have a book called Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds. It is a reprint by Wordsworth Reference but was written by Charles Mackay and published in its complete form in 1852. It therefore predates such twentieth century delusions as Nazism, pyramid selling and that tartan trousers were once thought to be the height of fashion. Mackay examines such cases as the South Sea Bubble, Tulipmania, the Crusades, witch hunts and fortune-telling, amongst others. In each story whole communities apparently lost all reason in following a rush to penury or self-destruction. It occurs to me that Mackay would have plenty to tackle today such Trump’s apparent popularity in part of the USA, the ease with which brits fell for the Leavers lies and the denial of the evidence for climate change and ecological breakdown.
Day after day, I become more worried about where we, that is, the people of the world, are headed. I lived through the Cold War with no great fear of nuclear annihilation but I think now human civilisation is heading willingly if ignorantly towards its end. We hear talk about the current generation of young adults, the millennials, as being the first to fare worse than their parents. That applies in the UK, and across all of the west, but is a mild step back compared to other potential calamities. I think disaster beckons if there is continuance of the state of mind that sees a Trump as a saviour, or supports the blinkered isolationist view that bred Brexit, or stokes the violence of jihad, or continues to burn coal and oil regardless of the consequences or ignores our reliance on the Earth to sustain us. Back in the Cold War we thought that civilisation would end almost overnight in a nuclear holocaust. Now I think it will come in an almost imperceptible worsening of conditions across the world and close to home. In fact it is already happening with the growing number in poverty in the UK and elsewhere despite the millennium promises to life people out of it; the accelerating deterioration in ecologies across the world; the increasing belligerence of world and regional powers (Syria as one case in point); and a hardening of attitudes of ordinary people to what is dismissed as political correctness. How long will it take? I hope I am being optimistic in saying we’ll last out my lifetime but I fear for our grandchildren.
After that bit of dismal thought let’s move on to something trivial – the next episode of Perspective. We’re into the penultimate part following last week’s bloody action, but there are still some things to be worked out. This was intended as the last prequel to Painted Ladies and Bodies By Design chronologically, but we shall see if I can fit another story in that explores Jasmine’s gender identity while investigating crimes.
Perspective: Part 11
DS Palmerston strode towards the front door but was forced to pause as the paramedics wheeled Mrs Gayle out on a stretcher. Jasmine remained sitting on the stairs, waiting for the onslaught to begin.
‘What did you think you were doing, Frame,’ Palmerston moaned as she resumed her march into the house. Jasmine shrugged. ‘You’ve been arrested for obstructing the case and here you are causing more mayhem.’
‘I had to get the truth out of Nate Gayle.’
‘And that meant getting his mother injured, did it?’
‘I didn’t mean that to happen. I got Nate wrong.’
‘Damn right you did. You pushed him over a cliff.’
‘No, it wasn’t like that.’
‘You’ve been on his back from the start. It’s called harassment, Frame.’
Jasmine grabbed the bannister and pulled herself up. She felt unsteady and her head hurt.
‘Look, ma’am, all I’ve been trying to do is show you that it wasn’t those two drag queens that killed Wizzer.’
Palmerston waved her hand dismissively. ‘They both deny it but they had plenty of time to get their stories to tie up.’
‘They say they were approached by the two boys who then started arguing and fighting. The two men then ran off and didn’t get involved.’
‘That sounds likely to me. Why don’t you believe them?’
‘They’re providing an alibi for each other. They’re bigger than the two boys.’
‘But they were in drag gear, presumably high heels, tight skirts or dresses. Not the clothes for launching an attack on two streetwise kids.’
Palmerston frowned. ‘Gayle said they shouted racist abuse.’
‘Gayle said. Can’t you see that although he’s a boy not a man, he’s not an innocent kid. I thought Wizzer was the boss, the instigator, but I was wrong. It was Nate all along.’
‘He told you that did he?’ Palmerston spat, ‘You got a confession?’
Jasmine felt the heat rise up her neck. ‘He was angry and blurted it out. Wizzer usually did as he was told including brandishing the knife but it was Nate that took the stuff. For some reason Wizzer decided he deserved more and that was what started the argument. I don’t think Nate meant to kill him but he’s pretty careless when he’s got a knife in his hand.’
‘That’s what got his mother injured?’
‘Yes. He was waving it at me and spun around when his mother spoke to him.’
‘You’re going to have to give a statement, Frame.’
‘Go and sit in the car. SOCO can take over here.’
‘What about Nate?’
‘We’ll pick him up. Go.’
Jasmine brushed passed the DS and stepped outside. It was raining again. She went to Palmerston’s car and got into the back seat. Derek Kingston was in the driving seat.
‘You in trouble again, Jas,’ the DC said.
‘Yeah, real trouble I expect, but if I’ve persuaded that woman that she got the story wrong then it’s worth it.’
‘Worth losing your career? You do know that Sloane has been threatening you with all sorts of dire consequences?’
‘I can guess.’
More police cars and a van drove up. Jasmine watched as officers in overalls entered the house while other officers set up tape barriers.
Palmerston returned to the car and bent down to speak through Kingston’s window.
‘Get out Kingston. You stay here looking after things. I’ll take Frame back to the station, take her statement, and make sure we’ve got enough officers out searching for Gayle.’ She tugged the door open and Kingston got out. Palmerston took his place, started the engine and reversed out of the cluster of vehicles. Jasmine saw Palmerston’s eyes in the driving mirror.
‘Don’t say another word, Frame, until we’re at the station.’
The door opened and Tom Shepherd entered accompanied by DC Hopkins.
‘Hi, Jas,’ Tom said, ‘We’ve come to take your formal statement.’
‘She’s busy organising the search for Nate Gayle. We’ve got cars driving round the estate and officers on foot checking the alleyways and gardens.’
‘He could be hiding anywhere.’
‘Yes, but its cold and wet. He’s not going to be comfortable. In fact, he could be in danger himself if we don’t find him quickly.’
The two detectives sat down opposite Jasmine.
‘You look a mess, Frame,’ Hopkins sneered, ‘and you’ve caused a mess.’
‘You must have headed off to the Gayle house right after I dropped you off,’ Tom said, ‘Why, after everything that was said about you going off on your own thing?’
Jasmine sighed. ‘I thought Nate’s mother might get him to admit what really happened.’
‘Did she?’ Tom asked.
‘Sort of, but I didn’t realise that Nate was the leader and a knife carrier. How is Mrs Gayle?’
‘Hanging on,’ Hopkins growled, ‘You’re in deep shit for causing all this, Frame.’
‘Thanks Derek,’ Jasmine muttered, ‘I think I know that.’
Tom arranged the pad of paper in front of him. ‘Let’s get your statement down, Jas. Then we can move on.’Bang! Bang! Bang! Was the noise in her head? Jasmine stirred in her bed, opened her eyes. A grey light filtered through her thin curtains. She glanced at her watch on the bedside table. It said nine a.m. She’d had six hours sleep since the police car had brought her home, but she still felt groggy.
The banging came again. Someone knocking on her front door. She pushed herself out of bed and grabbed her dressing gown. She had it around herself by the time she got to the door and tugged it open. Tom Shepherd was there, again.
He looked at her. ‘Oh, you are here. I wondered. . .’
‘Wondered what, Tom?’
‘Since you weren’t answering I thought you might have gone off on your own again.’
‘I’ve been sleeping, Tom. I had a headache.’
‘Oh, yes, so you said. How is it?’
‘Better, not perfect.’ She felt the side of her head. The lump seemed to have subsided. ‘Why are you here, Tom? Not arresting me again?’
Tom shuffled his feet. ‘No, but Sloane sent me to fetch you to a meeting.’
‘Yes, to wrap up the case and with him, I think.’
‘He could have rung.’
‘He wanted to make sure you were there on time.’
‘When is it?’
Tom looked at his watch. ‘Nine-thirty.’
Jasmine snorted. ‘Well, thanks for the warning. That doesn’t give me time to get ready properly.’
Tom bowed his head, ‘I think that was the idea, Sloane’s in a mood. Look you’d better be getting dressed.’
‘Oh, come in then and close the door.’
Jasmine went back to the bedroom. She seethed. Sloane knew that she needed a bit more time than most people to get herself prepared to face the outside world. At least she’d had a shower last night when she got home to wash off the blood and clear her head. She ran her shaver over her face, knowing that it wasn’t enough, pulled on the first clothes she could lay hands on and slapped foundation on.
She returned to the living room. Tom was standing by the front door.
‘There, I don’t feel comfortable but is that quick enough for Sloane do you think?’
‘You look okay, Jas. A bit, um, what should I say, less. . .’
‘No, erm. . . You’re fine.’
She didn’t want to embarrass him anymore. He was still her friend. ‘Come on then. I suppose my car is still outside the Gayle’s house.’
‘Yes. There’s no time to pick it up now, Jas.’
‘I know. Get me to this meeting.’
Sloane was standing by the whiteboard, apparently already addressing the team. He beckoned to Jasmine and Tom to join them.
‘Ah, Frame. Please don’t get the idea that your suspension is in abeyance. I nevertheless felt it would be appropriate for you to be at this conference. Take a seat.’
Jasmine pushed a chair from behind a desk and positioned it behind the other detectives facing Sloane. She sat down. Tom joined her.
‘Now, DS Palmerston will bring you up to date on the latest situation,’ Sloane said. His female deputy stood up and faced the group.
‘First of all, the hospital reports that Mrs Gayle’s condition has stabilised. She is still unconscious but the bleeding has been stopped. She should make a full recovery.’ There were mutterings and nods of heads around the room. Jasmine felt a sense of relief. It was bad enough feeling a little responsible for her injury but if the woman had died she didn’t know how she would have coped.
‘Also, Nathan Gayle has been found in an alleyway less than a hundred metres from his home. He was pretty cold and wet but is recovering in a cell. He’s been worried about his mother and has been talking to us.’
Sloane spoke, ‘Which leads me to the announcement that the two previous suspects in the death of William Smith have been released without charge. DS Palmerston will explain what we now know happened on Friday night.’
Jasmine stared at the DS. Did she look embarrassed? Her cheeks were a little flushed but her eyes hardly flickered and when she spoke it was with her usual self-confidence.
‘Gayle has agreed that his previous statement was incorrect and that the fatal injury to William Smith was accidental and occurred during a tussle between the two of them. The two men who we originally suspected were bystanders and should have come forward as witnesses. Gayle will be charged but he is a minor.’
Jasmine allowed herself a small smile. Her version of events had been accepted, at last, but was she vindicated? She didn’t expect that much joy from Palmerston.