It’s strange that during the hottest June days for forty years I have been writing about Jasmine shivering with cold (see below). But at least I have been writing. It’s been lovely to have a week when I can get on with the business of authoring. Apart from the second part of Viewpoint that follows, it is has included completing the final (?) edit and extra bits for Cold Fire, the fourth September Weekes novel out soon, and starting to plan a promotional push. I may even get further with Jasmine’s fourth novel, Molly’s Boudoir.
I’ve signed up for the UK Indie Lit Fest in Bradford https://www.ukindielitfest.com/ on 26th Aug. It promises to be a huge gathering of independent authors, and I hope general public looking to buy books. That follows the smaller, but closer, Llanidloes Tattoo Festival (yes, tattoos and books!) on 8th/9th July. Looking forward to both but if you run a lit fest or any other fest for that matter and want a speaker, someone to complete a discussion panel, or simply to run a book stall, then get in touch (firstname.lastname@example.org) – I’m up for it.
That’s enough of the self-promotion, let’s get on with the story. Viewpoint is the latest novella that is a prequel to Painted Ladies, the first Jasmine Frame novel. It’ll also be the last chronologically as it takes place just a few months before Painted Ladies starts.
Viewpoint: Part 2
She stamped her feet, wrapped her arms around herself and tried jogging on the spot but nothing could stop the shivering. Her legs felt as if they had bags of sand tied to them and her feet didn’t belong to her. While the cold numbed her mind, Jasmine’s eyes were filled with the pale shape of the body lying on the towpath. Through the veil of drizzle and her blurred vision some details registered on her consciousness. The body was naked and the person, she had to remember that this lifeless object had been a person, was female. Something didn’t seem right though, and then it penetrated to her – the chest was flat.
Jasmine leant down, almost stumbling over the corpse as the shivering affected her balance. There were scars that suggested breasts had been removed. Short black hair framed a face marred by bruises and grazes.
She overcame the urge to rest down beside the body and pushed herself upright. The wail of a siren came from across the canal and, shortly after, a blue flashing light appeared through the rain and stopped just short of the opposite bank. A uniformed figure ran across the hump-backed bridge over the channel and approached.
‘Did you report a body in the canal near here?’ The police officer called when he saw her. He negotiated the approach to the bridge and came along the towpath towards her. Jasmine pointed a shaking hand at the corpse. The PC halted, looked down and then up at Jasmine.
‘God!’ he said, ‘Are you alright?’
‘C..c..cold,’ Jasmine mumbled.
‘Shit! You’re soaked. Did you go in the canal?’
Jasmine nodded, unable to speak. The PC bent down to look at the corpse. He shook his head and stood up.
‘Can’t do anything for them. Let’s get you to the car.’ The officer put his arm around her and supported her. They staggered towards the bridge and went over to where the police car waited with its light still flashing and driver speaking into his phone. He looked through the rain spattered windscreen, and seeing them approach, opened his door.
‘Is this the casualty?’ the driver asked.
‘No, there’s a body on the bank. I think this is who reported it. She may be suffering hypothermia.’
‘Get her in the back. I’ll get the blanket from the boot.’
The PC opened the rear door of the Vauxhall Astra and eased Jasmine in. The other officer came up with a silver blanket which he unfolded and passed into the car to Jasmine. With shaking hands, she wrapped it around herself.
The officer who had escorted Jasmine rummaged in the boot.
‘I’ll set up the tapes. We have to make the site secure and stop other walkers bumbling into it. Although who else would be out on a morning like this I don’t know. You stay and watch her. See if she can tell us what happened.’ He ran off, back over the bridge.
The partner resumed his position in the driving seat, started the engine again and turned the heating control. He twisted in his seat to look at Jasmine.
‘How are you feeling?’
Jasmine was grateful to be out of the cold but she was still shivering and her limbs felt dead. ‘B..better,’ she managed.
‘I’d better call a paramedic to see you.’ The PC reached for his phone again and put in the call to the control centre. The car’s fan was blowing hot air over Jasmine and she managed to clamp her jaw so that her teeth didn’t chatter.
The policeman twisted round to face her again. ‘Was it you who reported the incident?’
‘Do you know the, er, victim?’
Jasmine shook her head.
‘They were in the water, were they?’
Jasmine nodded again.
‘And you went in and dragged them out?
Jasmine found she could take a deep breath rather than the snatched gasps which her uncontrolled shaking had allowed, but her limbs and body still trembled. The officer looked over her out through the rear window at something, and reacted by turning around and opening his door.
‘At last, the plainclothes guys show up.’ He got out. ‘Stay there. I’ll check on you in a mo.’ He closed the door, leaving Jasmine gratefully enjoying the growing fug of hot air in the car. She sat with her eyes closed, grimacing as the feeling returned to her fingers and toes with agonising prickling. There was a tap on the window beside her. She saw a familiar face through the pattern of running raindrops. She wound the window down a little.
DC Tom Shepherd peered through the gap.
‘Jasmine? What are you doing here? It wasn’t you that found the body was it?’
‘Yes, it was me.’
‘What were you doing here?’
‘I was out for a run.’
‘In this weather? The officer says you’ve got hypothermia.’
‘Rain doesn’t bother me when I’m running. I didn’t expect to be wading in the canal or standing around.’
‘How do you feel?’
‘Good. Look stay there. I’d better go and check on this body you found and make sure they’ve got it cordoned off.’
‘Are you on your own?’
‘No, Derek’s in the car, reporting in. I’ll get him to come and join you and find out what happened.’
Jasmine nodded and Tom’s head moved away. She wound the window up and breathed deeply. She was relieved that it was DC Derek Kingston on duty with her friend and former partner. Kingston accepted her as a woman which wasn’t too surprising since as a young black officer he had no doubt experienced some prejudice himself. She was relieved it wasn’t the cynical older DC, Terry Hopkins, and especially not her nemesis, DS Denise Palmerston.
A few moments later the front passenger door opened and DC Kingston, dressed in a thick anorak, got in. He twisted to speak to Jasmine.
‘Hi, Jas. Tom says we’ve you to thank for this call out. What happened?’
Jasmine explained how she had noticed the body in the water and had gone in to check it wasn’t alive.
‘I’m not surprised you’re suffering from hypothermia. It’s bloody freezing.’
Jasmine shook her head. ‘I don’t think I’m that bad.’
‘No? Well, I think that’s the paramedic turning up. They’ll check you over.’
Jasmine noticed another flashing light reflecting off surfaces inside the police car. Kingston opened the door.
‘I’ll send him to you. Speak to you again soon.’ He got out.
A few moments later the paramedic, a her not a him, opened the door beside Jasmine and peered in. She asked Jasmine questions, did a few simple tests, and pronounced her fit.
‘But stay in the warm and get out of those wet clothes, a.s.a.p.’ She withdrew and closed the door. Once again, she was left alone for a few minutes until the driver of the police car returned.
‘I’ve been told to take you home so you can get dry,’ he said buckling himself in, ‘That’s if I can get us out of this congestion.’ Jasmine gave her thanks and tugged a seatbelt round herself.
With repeated backwards and forwards movements, the police car turned and manoeuvred around DC Shepherd’s car and they set off along a straight, rough track along the edge of a field. Jasmine estimated that it was about half a mile before they came to a cluster of buildings and a metalled road. The police officer turned left, picked up speed and soon they were in the outskirts of Kintbridge. The morning rush hour traffic delayed their passage through the town but soon they pulled up in the carpark outside Jasmine’s flat. The driver got out and opened Jasmine’s door.
‘I’ll see you in, make sure you’re okay,’ he said. Jasmine was reluctant to leave the growing warmth of the police car but realised she couldn’t stay put. She stepped onto the tarmac and pulled the foil blanket round her tighter. She hurried to her door, fumbling in her bumbag for her keys, her hands already starting to shake again.
‘Here let me help,’ The PC said from beside her. He took the key from Jasmine’s hand and inserted it in the door lock. He pushed the door open. ‘There you go.’ He followed Jasmine into the small, dismal flat. ‘Hey, it’s not very warm in here. Haven’t you got the heating on.’
‘I don’t usually have it too warm,’ Jasmine said, her voice beginning to wobble. She didn’t add that it wasn’t her preference but a means of saving money.
‘Well, I think you need it a bit warmer now. Where’s the controls?’
Jasmine nodded to the electric fire. The PC bent down and switched it on; all three bars. He stood up, turned and faced Jasmine.
‘There, I hope that’ll warm you up soon. DC Shepherd said you worked together.’
Not any longer, Jasmine thought.
‘I thought I recognised you,’ The officer went on. ‘Aren’t you the DC who’s having a sex change?’
Jasmine sighed. Why couldn’t she just be recognised for who she was and not her gender history. Who else would be asked such personal questions so early or even at all in a conversation.
Jasmine nodded. ‘That’s right. Look I need to get these clothes off.’ She let the foil sheet fall from her shoulders and started to unzip her running jacket. Waterproof it may have been but that didn’t allow for wading into canals.
The officer’s face showed horrified anticipation. He backed towards the door.
‘That’s right. Look, I’ll let you get on. I’m sure one of the detectives will look in on you soon. I’d better be getting back.’ He let himself out closing the door behind him. Jasmine let out an audible sigh, stepped closer to the electric fire and started to strip off her wet running clothes.
…………………to be continued