I did one of my favourite things this week. I started planning a new novel. Actually, it wasn’t quite the beginning as I had been mulling it over since last summer and even written a short prologue. But now I’ve got an outline and characters and settings, and I’ve done some research to help it all hang together. The danger is procrastination. Time spent on research or thinking up names is not writing however important they might be. The next thing is to begin at the beginning (or at the end; some writers work backwards) and that is quite daunting.
Anyway, there’s always the next Jasmine Frame piece. I got a bit carried away on this week’s episode of Resolution. It’s a bit longer than usual but I think it needed to be. Here it is:
Resolution: Part 8
Jasmine wondered how she would feel if she lost Angela in the same way that Tania had lost Milla. She imagined holding Angela in her arms but her mind baulked at thinking of her dead.
‘What happened next?’ Jasmine asked.
Tania sniffed. ‘Soon there was a crowd around us. I don’t know where everyone came from. A few cars stopped I think. Someone must have rung 999 because a police car and ambulance arrived soon. I was just dazed, sitting there beside Milla. Nothing made sense.’
‘The police officers questioned witnesses did they?’
‘I suppose so. I think people thought it was an accident, a hit and run.’
‘But you didn’t think so?’ Jasmine asked.
Tania shook her head and sat up. ‘No. I never thought it was an accident. He drove straight at us. For a moment I saw the driver as the car left the road. He wasn’t panicked or anything. He was staring directly at me and Milla.’
‘Could you describe him?’ Jasmine asked, eager for some evidence.
Tania shook her head. ‘It was so brief. I just saw his eyes.’
Jasmine pressed her. ‘Was he white, dark-skinned? Hair colour?’
Tania considered. ‘White and fair. Yes, I’m sure.’
‘There, that’s something. You did take in what you saw.’
‘I didn’t tell the police that,’ Tania raised a hand to her mouth. ‘I should have.’
‘They questioned you?’
‘Yes. Straight after but I couldn’t remember anything then except his staring eyes.’
‘You were in shock. It’s understandable. Don’t worry.’
Tania frowned. ‘There was one other thing I noticed. As the car reversed back onto the road I was lying on the pavement. I saw its number plate. It was an RO number.’
‘A Reading plate?’
‘Yes. It’s a funny thing to stick in your head when your partner’s been run down. But I thought, they’ve come all the way from Reading to kill her.’
‘You told the Birmingham police that?’
‘Yes, but it wasn’t much use. They found the car next day a couple of miles away, burnt out. It had been stolen from Kintbridge a few days before.’
‘They kept you informed of the investigation then?’ Jasmine said.
Tania shook her head. ‘Not really. I keep ringing them to find out what’s happening but they will only speak to Milla’s parents.
‘Oh?’ Jasmine didn’t understand.
‘I wasn’t her next of kin, you see,’ Tania explained. ‘As far as the West Midlands Police are concerned, Milla and I shared a house and that’s all.’ She sighed, ‘Getting a civil partnership was the next thing on our list. We hadn’t got round to it down in Kintbridge but here, with a new home and new jobs we thought we’d definitely tie the knot.’ Her voice cracked and she sobbed again. ‘Now we will never will.’
Jasmine felt a lump in her throat. How awful could it be. To be a couple in love, living together, sleeping together but not have the relationship recognised.
‘So Milla’s parents have been getting all the updates from Family Liaison have they,’ she said.
Tania wiped the tears from her eyes and shrugged. ‘I suppose so but they are so broken up about it they barely understand what’s going on. They’re quite elderly, Milla was their only child and born quite late. They’re traumatised.’
Jasmine nodded and reached again for Tania’s hand. ‘I understand. Do you know anything else about the investigation?’
Tania shook her head again. ‘Not really. It’s still going on.’
‘But they must realise that Milla was deliberately targeted by people down in Reading or Kintbridge. People who Milla had annoyed.’
‘Who could she have annoyed enough to want to kill her?’
‘That’s what I want to find out.’ Jasmine stood up. ‘Would you mind showing me where it happened, Tania. I know it must be difficult for you, but I’d like to see.’
Tania wiped her face and got up. ‘I understand. Let me find my shoes.’ She went into the hallway and returned with a pair of trainers that she tugged onto her feet. ‘Let’s go.’
Jasmine picked up her bag and followed Tania to the front door. Outside the Sun was approaching its zenith and the air was hot and dry. The cul-de-sac was quiet; the neighbours were either out enjoying the summer weather or keeping cool indoors. Jasmine felt sweat bubbling up under her wig. She wasn’t sure she could stand wearing the thing. Perhaps she should grow her hair longer so that she didn’t have to.
Tania lead her back to the junction with the main road. They turned left and walked along the pavement, separated from the road by a strip of grass. The road was straight and wide, an urban clearway with no parking allowed on this stretch. The new houses backed onto the road, hidden behind a high wooden fences. A few hundred yards ahead, though, Jasmine could see that the road narrowed. There were older buildings, shops, flats. Jasmine walked alongside Tania. Cars, vans and a few lorries went by in both directions most keeping to the speed limit which Jasmine observed was forty miles per hour. Some cars were travelling faster.
About halfway to the shops, Tania grabbed Jasmine’s hand and stopped.
Her voice wobbled. ‘It was here.’
Jasmine squeezed Tania’s hand and turned around. She looked back along the road.
‘So, you were walking back home and the car came towards you on the left side of the road as it should have.’
‘Yes, that’s right.’
Jasmine looked down at the road and pavement. She released Tania’s hand and walked forward twenty or thirty metres, her head down.
She stopped. ‘Ah, here. There’s still a tyre mark on the kerb.’ She turned around and examined the verge. ‘The ground’s hard. It’s been pretty dry the last few weeks, but there’s a strip where the grass is worn away. The car must have been on two wheels at this point.’
‘It seemed to be flying towards us.’
Jasmine examined the grass closer to where Tania stood. She shook her head. ‘Difficult to see anything else. The grass is pretty thin because of the weather.’ She looked up at Tania, ‘But you’re standing where the car hit Milla?’
‘Yes.’ Tania said almost inaudibly.’
Jasmine walked towards her. ‘It came to a standstill a bit further on; then he reversed?’
Tania nodded and shivered. ‘He went over Milla again, got back on the road and drove off.’
‘In the same direction?’
‘Yes.’ Tania’s head drooped. Jasmine realised that she was sobbing and put her arm around her shoulders.
‘Oh, I’m sorry, Tania. I didn’t think. I was just going over the sequence of events. How stupid of me. It must be dreadful being reminded of what happened.’
Tania sucked in a breath of air and looked at her. ‘It’s so vivid. It keeps replaying in my head but I think coming here is a good idea. It looks normal again. I know she’s not coming back and you going over things is sort of putting it in the past rather than always being my present.’
‘Oh. I think I understand,’ Jasmine gave her a squeeze.
‘Thank you, Jasmine. Shall we go on to the pub?’
‘Yes, OK.’ They walked on arm in arm. Jasmine expressed her thoughts aloud. ‘There must have been two of them.’
‘Two of who?’
‘There was only one person in the car. I’m sure I only saw one.’
‘Yes, of course. But he had to be told that you were heading home along this side of the road. The driver had to come from way back there. He wouldn’t know where you were until he received a tip off. He must have been waiting somewhere. The other person was watching you, saw you leave the pub and head home.’
Tania stopped and turned to look at Jasmine. ‘You mean someone watched Milla; watched us and chose the moment to kill her?’
Jasmine nodded. ‘That’s it. They must have been waiting for an opportunity. If they had decided on the car as the weapon, then they needed Milla to be on a stretch of road where they could build up speed and stand a chance of getting away afterwards. This road is ideal – fast, straight, and no parked cars.’
‘But we only decided to come out a few minutes before because Milla got home early for once. Do you mean they watched us and waited for an opportunity?’
‘I think so.’
‘How long for?’
Jasmine shrugged, ‘I don’t know. Perhaps the whole time since Milla joined you here.’
‘They watched everything we did.’ Tania shook. ‘I feel sick.’
The pub was at the start of the row of shops. They reached it and went inside. There was a long bar with a small sitting area and a larger eating space behind. The rear doors were open and Jasmine could see out into the back where people were sitting at tables in the bright sunshine.
Jasmine said, ‘Do you want to sit inside or out?’
Tania looked around the interior. It was stuffy and smelt of stale beer. ‘Outside.’
‘What would you like?’
‘A beer please, a pint. I’ll go and find some seats.’
Jasmine went to the bar to order while Tania went off. Clutching Tania’s beer and her own lemonade, Jasmine followed her and found her sitting at a table with an awning over it.
Tania smiled at her. ‘This OK for you, Jasmine. I presumed you wouldn’t want the Sun melting your make-up.’
Jasmine put the drinks down. Tania had reminded her that her foundation was probably getting streaked by the sweat running down her face. She hoped it didn’t show.
‘Can you tell?’
‘That my foundation’s running.’
Jasmine sat beside her. Tania examined her face.
‘It’s not too bad. You’ve got good skin. You look after yourself, but there again you are young. Like Milla.’
They sipped their drinks, or rather, Tania took a gulp of beer.
‘Do you mind me asking more questions?’ Jasmine said.
Tania put her glass down. ‘No. Go on.’
‘Where did you sit that evening? You said you had something to eat.’
Tania pointed across to a covered patio through which they had passed on their way from the bar.
‘Over there. It was a lovely evening but we preferred to be under some cover.’
‘I know this is difficult but think back. Look around. Was there anyone who might have been watching you? Someone on their own perhaps.’
Tania stared at the patio and then closed her eyes. She didn’t speak for some seconds.
‘Milla sat opposite me. We talked and talked. It was the first real chance we’d had since she came up. I only really had eyes for her. Although I was hungry and it was a lovely evening to be out I really wanted to get her home, get the clothes off her, feel her, have her hands caressing me.’ She wrapped her arms around herself. She turned to look at Jasmine, her cheeks flushed and her eyes wide and tear-filled. ‘Sorry, that sounds crude.’
Jasmine smiled, ‘No, not at all. I understand. You were in love.’ She imagined Angela in her own arms as they made love and wished, just for a moment, that that was what she was doing this very minute. ‘Did you notice anyone keeping an eye on the pair of you.’
Tania was silent again. Eventually she spoke. ‘The pub was busy. All the tables were occupied, mainly couples, some groups. Some families with kids, here on the grass. But yes, there was one man on his own. He sat a few tables away from us. I didn’t think he was paying us any attention.’
‘Was he eating?’
‘I don’t know.’
‘Can you describe him?’
Tania picked up her pint glass and slowly sipped the beer. ‘He was small and fat. Small, I mean, he was sitting down but he looked as if he was short. He had a thin beard and short hair.’
‘Um, difficult. His face was smooth and pale where the beard didn’t cover it. Perhaps forty-ish.’
‘Oh, he was white, but his hair and beard were gingery.’
‘He was wearing a summer suit. You know, a light beige jacket and matching trousers. I think I noticed him because he looked smarter than most of the other blokes in their shorts and T-shirts.’
‘You said he was fat.’
‘Yes, well, you know, a big rear. Does that help?’
‘If he’s the one who was watching you, I’m sure it will be. Was he still there when you left?’
Tania considered again. ‘Yes, I think he was. We didn’t stay long actually. Just time to eat and have a drink. We were both eager to get back and into bed. Not to sleep . . .’
‘I get it. So this man would have seen you get up and leave the pub. He didn’t follow you?’
‘I didn’t notice.’
Jasmine held her chin and mused, ‘He could have waited till you got out of the front of the pub, seen you heading towards home and contacted his accomplice in the car.’
‘Do you think that’s what happened?’
Jasmine shrugged. ‘There’s no proof that it was the man you described but something like that must have happened for the driver of the car to have hit you where he did. It required a tip off at just the right moment.’
‘He watched us and chose the time to murder
Inspiration. Guess the location and genre of the new novel.
‘That’s about it,’ Jasmine agreed.