It doesn’t take much to get encouragement. Book sales aren’t rocketing (upwards, that is) and when you read about someone who got a book deal after self-publishing their novel, as happened with the writer of an SF novel I have just read, one can’t help being envious. But yesterday someone who I only met recently and don’t know particularly well said they had bought the Painted Ladies e-book and that they were loving it – that gave me the lift, especially as I hope they will go on to buy Bodies By Design and Discovering Jasmine.
Chronologically, the first prequel
A comment by a follower of these weekly rambles and episodic novellas also gave me a boost. She liked the episode from a couple of weeks back where Jasmine was in a bit of a pickle. Which brings me to the state of the Jasmine Frame prequels. I have now completed seven of them. That’s over 170,000 words for anyone who’s interested.
As you know I write an episode each week from the barest outline. I have tried to make sure that I keep James’/Jasmine’s back story consistent with what I wrote in Painted Ladies which was completed over four years ago and in the sequel, Bodies By Design. I have now completed a draft of the third novel, The Brides’ Club Murder, which takes Jasmine’s story on. While I have managed, I think, to keep the main characters – Jasmine, Angela, Tom, Sloane – “intact”, I have been less careful with the minor characters and a few have become confused or names have been duplicated. I’m afraid some names have to change, and will change when I edit the prequels for publication (as I have done with Discovering Jasmine). The reason I am going on about this is that it affects the new story starting below.
Some stories ago I introduced a member of Sloane’s team called DC Keith Money. It was a while later when I realised that actually he was the same character as appears in the novels called DC Terry Hopkins. From now on Money ceases to exist and is replaced by Hopkins. So when you read this new story, Resolution, which actually follows on chronologically from Flashlight, please remember that Hopkins is Money. Also I realise that I should have made Milla Sparrow a Detective Sergeant in Flashlight rather than a lowly DC. In Resolution she is referred to as a DS.
I hope that’s all clear now, so let’s get on with the fun.
Resolution: Part 1
James Frame skipped up the steps to Kintbridge Police Station. The August sun felt warm through the dark grey cloth of his new suit. It was his first morning as a full-time member of the Violent and Serious Crime unit and he was happy. He had achieved his dream of becoming a detective but he knew that this was just the start.
He entered the public foyer. It was empty at this time of the morning but the grey-haired duty officer was leaning on the counter examining a document. He looked up as James approached. James noted that he was a sergeant in uniform with a couple of female civilian staff sitting at desks behind him.
The sergeant drew himself upright, ‘Yes Sir, how can I help you?’
‘I’m James Frame, DC Frame,’ James said feeling unusually nervous. This wasn’t the first time he had reported for duty at a new station but the first time without the protective shell of a police uniform to mark him out as a member of the force. He did however have his i.d. card which he showed to the desk sergeant.
The older man glanced at it. ‘Ah, yes. We were expecting you DC Frame. There is a staff entrance around the back which you will be able to use when you have had your orientation.’
‘Of course,’ James replied feeling like the new boy at school.
‘I’m Sergeant Gorman, Geoff Gorman. Most people here know me as GG. I’m sure we will get to know each other pretty soon especially as you’re one of DCI Sloane’s bright young chaps.’
James nodded and offered his hand, ‘Please to meet you Sergeant Gorman.’ His hand was shaken perfunctorily. Gorman turned to speak to his staff.
‘Mandy, please show DC Frame the way to DCI Sloane’s office please.’
A young blonde woman got up and left the room. She reappeared a few moments later through the door at the end of the foyer. She smiled at James. He hurried to join her while she held the door open.
‘Thank you,’ he said, ‘I suppose I’ll soon know my way around.’
‘Oh, it’s quite a maze,’ the woman said, leading him passed interview rooms to a flight of stairs. They climbed a couple of flights and then walked along another corridor until they approached a glass-panelled door.
The woman stopped and pointed to the door, ‘V ‘n SC’s through there.’
‘Thanks,’ James said, leaving her and striding to the door. He pushed it open and stopped. A large room with desks arranged in a grid pattern each with a computer monitor, faced him. There were half a dozen people gathered around the door to an office on the far side of the room. A head of grey-flecked hair showed above the group. James had already met Sloane a few times and recognised him immediately.
Sloane’s eyes focussed on him, ‘Ah, Frame. Come and join us.’
James weaved through the desks until he joined the group who had turned to face him.
‘This is our last new recruit, DC Frame,’ Sloane said as he approached the gathering. ‘You remember DC Hopkins, don’t you, Frame.’ Hopkins was in his forties and wearing a crumpled brown suit. He looked at James but his expression was blank. James nodded and smiled. He knew Hopkins was a long-standing member of Sloane’s team so probably someone to get on well with.
‘This is DS Trewin,’ Sloane continued indicating the man standing on his left. He had short black hair and was about a foot shorter than Sloane. ‘He took Sparrow’s place a month or so ago.’ Then Sloane pointed to a young man standing next to Hopkins who was at least as tall as Sloane and as dark as Trewin. ‘And you join on the same day as DC Shepherd. Welcome to the Violent and Serious Crime Unit. You’ll meet the others in due course.’
James and Shepherd exchanged nods and examined each other. Shepherd seemed a similar to age to himself, James noted but his height and build made him appear like an elder brother.
‘Trewin, Shepherd and Frame, with me. The rest of you, back to work.’ The three other detectives, a woman and two men of which one was dark-skinned, immediately turned on their heels and scattered to desks. James followed Shepherd and Trewin into Sloane’s office. Trewin stood by the side as James lined up next to Shepherd facing Sloane who settled himself into his leather chair.
‘I’m not going to give you two a long speech,’ Sloane began, looking from James to Shepherd and back. ‘You’ll soon learn the standards I expect from you. Initially you will be working at the direction of DS Trewin. He knows his way around well enough now so he can get you settled in. Right off you go.’
Trewin began to move to the door and DC Shepherd turned on his heels. James was about to follow.
‘Frame, stay a moment.’ Sloane said. James froze. Trewin and Shepherd left and the door closed behind them.
‘Yes, Sir?’ James said wondering why he had been singled out.
Sloane frowned at him and spoke in grave voice, ‘There’s something I should tell you, Frame.’
Oh, god, James thought, what is he going to say? Does he know about Jasmine?
‘You got to know DS Sparrow quite well when you were seconded to us.’
‘Milla? Yes, Sir.’ It had only been a few days but he and DS Camilla Sparrow had worked closely together on a trio of drug related deaths. Milla had moved to Birmingham leaving the vacancy filled by Trewin.
Sloane took a deep breath before continuing. ‘Well, I think you should know that DS Sparrow has died.’
‘She’s dead!’ James was mystified. Milla Sparrow was a young, fit woman looking forward to her new posting and life with her partner in the Second City.
‘Yes, I’m afraid so, Frame.’
‘A hit and run accident. She was a pedestrian and was hit by a car that mounted the pavement.’
James felt a great sadness. He hadn’t expected to meet Milla Sparrow again and he had hardly got to know her well but she had been a great friend to him, and she knew about Jasmine.
‘When did it happen, Sir?’
‘About a month ago. The funeral was last week.’ Sloane replied, not appearing too certain of the facts.
‘That must have been only just after she moved up there, Sir.’
‘That’s right. I think she’d been in her new post for a fortnight. Your affair at the Marquis was her last case here. She took some leave afterwards.’
James shook his head. ‘How did it happen? What did the driver have to say?’
‘The driver is unknown. Hasn’t been traced. As I said, it was a hit and run.’
Sloane shrugged which meant his whole bulk moved up and down. ‘That’s all Frame. Go and join Trewin and Shepherd.’
James muttered a thank you and drifted out of Sloane’s office in a daze. He couldn’t imagine Milla Sparrow becoming the victim of a road traffic accident; she was far too alert and careful. What had really happened to her? Sloane appeared to not know more or to be concerned by anything other than her sad loss to policing.
Trewin and Shepherd were standing next to a desk close to Sloane’s office. James joined them.
Trewin addressed them in a Cornish accent, ‘You two can have these two desks.’ He pointed to the two other desks in the row. ‘DCI Sloane tends to stick with surnames, but I’m Alan.’ He grabbed James’ hand and shook it.
‘James, or Jim,’ James said.
‘Tom,’ Shepherd said holding out his hand to be shaken by James.
‘Hi,’ James replied.
‘Ok. Get logged in and find your way around,’ Trewin went on, ‘No doubt I’ll have something for us in due course. Life is not usually dull round here, I’ve found. Do you know Kintbridge, Jim?’
‘Not really,’ James said. ‘I’ve been in Reading for the last few years but never came out here much. We’ve had a look round while we’ve been house-hunting though.’
‘We? You’re married?’
Trewin nodded, ‘And you Tom?’
‘No, Sir. I do have a girlfriend but . . .’
‘I understand. Well, get settled.’ He shooed them towards their own desks. James sank into the chair and woke up the computer.
‘Hey, Jim,’ Tom called in a breathy whisper from behind him. James swivelled.
‘What did Sloane want to see you on your own for?’
James smiled. DC Tom Shepherd was obviously not one for hanging back.
‘He wanted to tell me that a detective I’d worked with had died. DS Sparrow the one that Trewin has replaced.’
‘Died? That’s harsh. How did you know him?
‘Her. I spent a few days in plainclothes working with her in May.’
Tom’s eyes widened. ‘You mean you’ve already worked for Sloane?’
‘Only briefly. It was a temporary secondment.’
‘You must have impressed him.’
‘To get onto the Unit so soon. My name has been on the list for over a year and only now did Sloane decide to give me a try.’
‘Well, we’re both here now so I suppose it’s up to us to show Sloane he’s made the right decision.’
‘Yeah. Everyone says he’s quite a taskmaster.’
‘So I hear,’ James agreed.
There was a shuffle as DS Trewin stood up from his desk in front of James. He turned around to face them.
‘With me you two. We have a call out.’
‘What is it, Sir?’ James asked hurrying to follow the DS who was already striding to the exit.
He called over his shoulder, ‘A body.’