I feel a bit cut off from reality this week. Perhaps it’s because we are between two lives as we pack up our home and prepare for our long-awaited move. Maybe it’s because the news has also become unreal, or surreal. The government seems to have entered a quantum superposition over Brexit in which it tries to mollify both the brexiteers and the remainers in its own party with a white paper which makes no sense whatsoever. I really don’t know where we’re headed but it certainly isn’t towards calm prosperity.
Last Saturday we were in Southport in Lancashire. It’s a strange place. It’s supposed to be a seaside town but we didn’t see the sea. The Victorian promenade is actually a good quarter of a mile from the sea front but the actual waves are another half a mile further away except for a very short period at high tide. There was plenty of other evidence that it was a seaside resort though with fish and chips, amusements, entertainments and a pier with “Dotto” trains.
Of course, we weren’t there to get the seaside experience. The idea was to sell books at the BLISS bookfair. That didn’t happen. There were plenty of authors with books on display but the book-reading-and-buying-public didn’t turn up. It really does call into question the purpose of these events. Is it so that a group of authors can socialise or is it to promote, and sell, books? It looks increasingly like the former.
And so on with the latest case for Jasmine Frame. She’s supposed to be enjoying a rest in another holiday town, but she can’t resist a murder investigation. Here is part 6 of Negative.
Negative: Part 6
Jasmine gasped. It hadn’t occurred to her that Tegan might be a lesbian despite having observed her, largely at a distance, for a few days.
‘Had they been together long,’ she asked.
‘Oh, yes, for ages. Years. That’s what upset me I suppose.’
‘Well, her being lesbian. I thought LGBT people stood up for each other, but she’s been at me ever since I started my transition. I nearly didn’t take the job because of her. I wish I hadn’t.’
Jasmine sighed. ‘She’s not unusual. Most lesbian and gay people are supportive of trans men and women but there are a few. . .’
‘Why? Why was she so up her arse about me being a woman?’
‘Some women, not just lesbians, just don’t see a transwoman as a woman, especially if they’ve still got a penis. If you’ve got a cock, you must be a man with a man’s attitude to women. That’s what they think. Before you transition you’ve had all the privileges of being a man so therefore you can’t understand what a woman has to go through, lesbian or straight.’
Ceri looked wide-eyed. ‘That’s a load of balls. I always knew I was different to other boys and I got bullied for being different even before I realised what I was. Privileges, Pah!’
Jasmine went on. ‘Sexuality gets in the way too. If you’re a trans woman who’s keen on blokes are you gay or straight? What if you fancy girls? Tegan probably had conflicting emotions when she looked at you.’ I certainly do, Jasmine thought. You look gorgeous and sexy but am I seeing you with the male eyes I used to have or are the female hormones I’ve been taking sending my brain mixed messages. I’m still not ready to decide on my sexuality. ‘I’, not condoning her attitude,’ Jasmine added, ‘It’s just how some women think.’
Ceri was thoughtful. ‘Why couldn’t she have talked about it instead of being a bitch?’
Jasmine nodded. ‘The question is who might have got pissed off with her enough to kill her.’
The colour faded from Ceri’s cheeks. ‘You don’t mean me, do you? She pissed me off enough times, but you don’t think I killed her?’
‘No, of course not.’ Jasmine replied automatically but when she thought about it, of course Ceri had a motive, and opportunity. But no, sweet, beautiful Ceri couldn’t be a murderer, could she? Jasmine dismissed the thought. Ceri’s reaction to the police officer’s questions and to the news of Tegan’s murder wasn’t that of a killer or someone trying to pretend they’re not the killer. Unless she was a very good actor. Of course, all trans people are actors; they’ve spent their early lives pretending to be their birth gender and then when they transition they have to act out a new public role before it becomes part of their nature and they blend in. Jasmine shook her head. No, it couldn’t be Ceri. But if not, who? And how?
‘Someone killed her though,’ Jasmine said eventually.
Ceri stared at her. ‘Who?’
‘I don’t know but the police will be investigating. You had better be prepared to answer more questions when they find out that you and Tegan didn’t exactly get on.’
‘But I had nothing to do with it,’ Ceri insisted.
‘I know, but they will ask questions like, where were you last night?’
‘After Tegan went off duty. You know what time that probably was.’
‘Between eight and nine. Um, I was at home.’
‘With your Mum and Dad, oh, and your brother?’
Ceri considered her answer. ‘Mum was there. I’m not sure about Dad and Alun.’
‘Well, you only need your Mother to provide an alibi and you’re in the clear.’
‘Of course,’ Ceri sipped her coffee and looked away from Jasmine. Ceri glanced at the clock on the wall behind the counter. ‘Oh, I’d better get off. I said I’d help Mum with the shopping.’ She glugged her coffee, put the mug down and got up.
‘See you later then,’ Jasmine said.
‘Later?’ the girl replied.
‘Dinner? You are going to be serving dinner, I hope,’ Jasmine grinned to show she was joking.
‘Oh, god, yes. I hope he gets Myfanwy in. I don’t want to do it all myself. Breakfast was bad enough.’ She pulled her summer-weight mac around her and hurried out.
Jasmine drank the remaining drops of her coffee and got up. She had a day to kill with nothing to do except investigate a murder.
Jasmine was surprised to find herself heading along the Undercliff. The road around the headland was quiet today. The mist and rain rolling in off the sea cut the visibility to a hundred metres or so. There was no view out to sea or indeed up to the clifftops. The tourists were sensibly staying indoors. Jasmine trudged along the tarmac, feeling rainwater dripping down her neck.
The town was out of sight and the road had narrowed where it cut into the cliff. The roadway was made narrower still by the area next to the rockface cordoned off by police tape. It was a small crime scene, barely larger than a parking space for a car. Jasmine guessed that a larger zone had been designated when the body had been discovered but now that the body had been removed and the forensic examination apparently completed, just this small patch was still being protected. A small police car parked beyond the tape showed that the spot where the body had been discovered was still secure.
Not wanting to draw attention to herself, Jasmine walked passed slowly, observing carefully but not making it obvious that that was what she was doing. There was, in fact little or nothing to see. No blood stains, no chalked body outlines, no skid marks or any other sign of a vehicle, but the water on the road may have obscured those anyway. There was one bunch of flowers, white roses, wrapped in clear plastic, leaning against the rock face.
The police officer stayed in his car, but Jasmine could see him watching though his rain-spattered windscreen. There was one other person at the scene, standing on the opposite side of the road, looking out into the grey sea. Jasmine thought it was a man at first, dressed in trainers, jeans, and a waterproof with short, wet hair. As she passed by though, she saw the figure in profile and noticed a feminine silhouette. She wanted to walk on but her investigative instincts urged her to pause and engage the person.
Jasmine stopped and faced the woman. ‘Is this where the body was found? I heard there’d been an accident along here.’
The woman turned to face Jasmine. Her cheeks were white and damp, not just with rain, Jasmine thought.
‘Accident?’ she said in a soft, vague voice. ‘No, not an accident.’
‘Someone died though?’ Jasmine felt guilty making it seem that she was an innocent passer-by. The woman nodded slowly and sniffed.
‘Did you know her?’ Jasmine asked, hoping that she didn’t appear to be prying, even thought she was.
‘I thought I did. I thought I knew everything about her,’ the woman said turning to look at the crime scene. ‘but I don’t know what she was doing out here.’
Jasmine guessed this must be Tegan’s partner that Ceri had mentioned. It wasn’t surprising that it should be her facing the weather to stand in a vigil at the Tegan’s scene of death.
‘What was she like?’ Jasmine asked.
The woman faced Jasmine, but her eyes looked at some distant point as she called up her memories. ‘She was warm and loving, funny and deep, kind and she was my rock.’
Is she describing the Tegan Ceri and I know, Jasmine asked herself.
……………………to be continued