What is there to rant about this week? Quite a lot unfortunately, but I can’t bear to work myself into a tizz considering the agonies of the American election; the Brexit farce and the economy; war with Russia (yes, I think we are actually at war, although at the moment it is people outside Europe who are getting hurt); climate change and extinction (ours, perhaps). I’ve been thinking about trying to be green while still living the life we want to live. That means personal transport. Over three years ago we changed our car. I wanted one that was fuel-efficient and hence kept our carbon footprint as small as possible. Keeping within our limited budget was also, obviously, a priority. We went for a Ford Fiesta with the Econetic diesel engine. It has been super. On long journeys we have regularly achieved over 70 miles to the gallon (sorry about the old units but that’s still how I think in everyday life) and close to that on local journeys. She had plenty of power to get out of difficulties, would cruise all day (and did when we took her Germany and up to Scotland) and has been very reliable.
But, she’s a diesel. I have been dismayed by the reports over the last couple of years about the damaging emissions from diesels. Now, I know that it is old engines and commercial traffic that are the main culprits but even the diesels in small cars give out up to 10 times more NOx than petrol engines to say nothing about particulates. I feel a little bit duped that we were persuaded that diesels were the way forward. Obviously they are not. If we lived in a big city then the answer would be public transport and belonging to a car share club giving us a choice of vehicles for whatever purpose we needed one. But living in a small town in a rural county that won’t work. We need our own vehicle to get around locally, visit family and friends further afield, and for holidays. So what is it to be? An electric car – too expensive and not enough range for the longer journeys; petrol hybrid – perhaps expensive to purchase; efficient petrol engine – are they good enough?
I’ll let you know later what we decide.
Now on to Jasmine Frame. This week I’m starting a new prequel story set in 2005, so some years before the timeframe of the Painted Ladies and Bodies By Design novels, but after the two e-book published novellas Discovering Jasmine and Murder in Doubt. Here is the first episode of Falloff. Let me know what you think.
Falloff: part 1
Her body stiffened. ‘What was that noise?’
James lifted his head. ‘What noise? My ears are still ringing from the club.’
‘So are mine, but I’m sure I heard something.’
James listened. There were the typical noises of holidaying young people who filled the Hotel Arena, the rumble of late night traffic, a distant siren, but nothing that drew his attention.
‘What did you hear?’
‘A cry and a bump.’
James pushed himself onto his knees. ‘A cry and a bump?’
‘Just outside our window.’
James got off the bed and walked to the window. He pushed the thin curtain aside and stepped onto the balcony.
‘You’re naked, James.’
‘I know. It doesn’t matter. I’ll just have a quick look.’
A warm, gentle breeze caressed his skin. He looked out across the promenade with its rows of lights to San Antonio’s bay, dark but for the moonlight. He turned left and right. There was no one else on the adjacent balconies. He was about to turn back to Angela but he glanced down to the to the pool and lawn three floors below. Something pale lay on the grass. He saw arms and legs, a body. He froze, his hands gripping the rail.
‘Can you see anything?’
James sucked in air, turned away and ran back into the bedroom. In the semi-darkness, he searched for clothes. There was his dress, cast onto the floor when they returned from the club, along with his high-heeled sandals, bra and knickers, Angela’s clothes too. He scrabbled around on the chair found his bathing shorts, hopped as he pulled them up his legs.
‘What is it?’ Angela said, an anxious tone in her voice.
‘Someone. I think someone’s fallen.’ James ran from the room, down the corridor to the lift. Too impatient to wait, he pushed through the swing door to the stairs. He leapt down two, three steps at a time, till he reached the ground floor and ran across the foyer to the side doors that lead to the pool. He sprinted across the lawn till he came to the crumpled form of a girl. She was naked but for a pair of the skimpiest knickers, her skin white, her long golden hair spread out like rays of sunshine. Her limbs made strange angles with her torso. Blood trickled from her mouth.
James knelt beside her and lowered his head to listen for breathing. There was the faintest puff of moist air on his cheek, then a whisper.
‘Car. . .’ Then no more.
Feet pounded on the ground behind him. James pushed himself up and looked around. The night manager was standing over him.
‘Qué ha pasado?’
‘Quién es? Who?’
‘I don’t know her name. Ambulance, get an ambulance.’ The manager ran back towards the hotel. He passed Angela, wrapped in a beach robe running towards him. She stopped at his side and bent over the girl.
‘It’s the girl from next door,’ she said.
‘Yes, I thought so. She must have fallen. It’s three floors. I think she’s dead.’
Other people were emerging from the hotel, shouting and running towards them. They were night porters, bar staff and holidaymakers returning from the all-night clubs and bars. They saw an attraction and gathered around. Some pressed close to the girl, reaching down to move her.
James extended his arms to protect her. ‘No, don’t. Her back may be broken.’ The gawkers froze, eyes wide and staring, forming an impenetrable circle. James leaned down again but could detect no hint of breathing.
It was just a few minutes but felt like an eternity before sirens approached and then the growing crowd was pushed aside and men and women in uniforms were there. James found it difficult to take his eyes off the dead girl but someone took James’ arm and pulled him away.
‘Policía. Come please.’
James looked at the young man in the short-sleeved uniform of the Spanish police.
‘You know this girl?’ he asked.
James shook his head, ‘No, I mean I don’t know who she is but I think we were on the same package.’
‘The same holiday. She was in the room next to us.’
‘Why you here?’
‘We, my wife heard her fall, I think. I looked over the balcony and saw her on the ground.’
‘Ah. What is your name?’ He took out a notepad and noted James’s and Angela’s names and room number.
James found himself standing next to Angela a little way from the activity around the body. The crowd had been urged back but still they looked on. The ambulance crew did not appear to be doing much. James presumed that his fears for the girl’s life were accurate. Minute by minute more police officers arrived.
A man in a pale beige suit, with a cigarette hanging out of the corner of his mouth approached them. James thought he looked about forty with his lined face and small moustache.
The policeman removed the cigarette from his mouth. ‘Seňor Frame?’ James nodded. ‘I am Inspector Alvarez. You discovered the body?’
James noted that he spoke English with little trace of accent. ‘Well yes, I was the first person here.’
‘You heard her fall, I’m told.’
Angela spoke, ‘I heard a cry and then a faint thud.’
Alvarez nodded. ‘That was all?’
‘I think so,’ Angela said, ‘I wasn’t listening. We were in bed.’
‘Ah, I see. In bed but not asleep. You, seňor, heard nothing?’
James shook his head. ‘I don’t think so. Nothing particular.’
‘But you got out of bed to have a look?’
‘Did you see anyone apart from the body. Someone on the balcony perhaps?’
‘No. I didn’t see anyone anywhere except the girl on the ground.’
‘You knew it was the girl?’
‘No, I wasn’t even certain it was a person. I didn’t see who it was until I got down here.’
‘You recognised her?’
‘I recognised her as a girl I’d seen before but I don’t, er, didn’t know who she was.’
‘Where had you seen her before?’
‘At the airport, Luton; on the plane, on the bus from the airport to here. In the hotel oh, and at the club last night.’
‘You saw her a lot, but you still don’t know who she was.’
‘We’re with the same tour operator I suppose. She was with a group of other people, Angela and I were separate. We’re on our honeymoon.
Alvarez smiled. ‘Ah, honeymoon on Ibiza. Very romantic. That’s why you are in bed but not asleep. So, you don’t know why this girl should be on the ground dead?’
James shook his head, ‘I suppose she fell.’
The detective nodded. ‘It looks like that. An accident perhaps. Too much alcohol, the girl unsteady on her pretty feet, tips over the balcony. Or perhaps she jumped.’
Inspector Alvarez shrugged, ‘When these girls are on holiday, they are unsuccessful in love, full of emotion and drink so end their lives.’
James thought it was a rather abrupt conclusion to make.
‘You are here for a while, on your honeymoon Seňor and Seňora Frame?’
‘Just a week? We fly home next Sunday,’ James said.
‘I know where to find you. Perhaps I will have to speak to you again. Enjoy the rest of your stay on Ibiza.’ The police officer turned away from them and walked slowly back to where the body lay.
Angela took James’ hand. ‘Come on, let’s go back to our room. There’s nothing more you can do.’
‘I’m not sure I feel like sleep, or anything else,’ James said as they walked back to the hotel.
Angela tugged on his arm drawing him close to her. ‘I’d just like to feel your arms around me, holding me safe.’