I've had this first line rattling around my head for a few weeks now.
“Do you know what they do to people like me inside?”
It's the next book. Not the one I'm writing now, not the other one that I'm submitting now and also, not the one I'm editing ready for possible self-publication. It's another one. The fourth book. It's also set to be DI Britwell's first full length outing.
I had another start to the book in mind since about Christmas, but this just kind of fits him better. The story's still formulating and taking shape, but as a first line, I like it.
This morning, while driving to work, the whole chapter took shape. Here it is. It's a bit raw and unedited and liable to change a million times, but, here it is.
“Do you know what they do to people like me inside?” he said.
DI Britwell nodded. Yeah he knew alright. He also yawned to show just how much he cared. He was scared, real scared, but not scared enough to sing yet.
“You better start talking then,” said DS Walters, “reckon we’ve got enough to put you down for six months so far.”
The man shook his head. Britwell watched his long hair sweep from side to side with the nod. He was what Britwell had always called a pretty boy. Smooth complexion, dainty nose, small adam’s apple. Of course the blonde wig, make up and summer dress made him prettier than most boys.
“I can help you, Bill,” said Britwell. “I know magistrates. If you help us, I’ll put in a good word. Reckon I could get you off with a suspended.” He looked at Walters. She nodded in agreement.
He shook his head again. “They’d kill me.”
“Wasting police time. Withholding evidence. Charge sheet’s getting bigger. Could get a year, what do you reckon, sir?”
Britwell nodded. “She’s right. You gotta help us, Bill. Who stabbed the young lad? Who was it? You know who it was, it’s obvious. It’s written all over your face.” Britwell looked again at his face. Blue eye shadow rolled into his green eyes. Heavy red lipstick accentuated his mouth. He should have shaved his moustache though. It just ruined the effect.
“I told you. I don’t know who it was. I saw the two of them get out of that car and one of them stabbed the kid. I panicked. Got in my car and drove.”
“And that was when you crashed into that car. They had to take the other driver to hospital, you know. That could be seen as attempted murder. We can prove you weren;t concentrating,” said Walters.
He shook his head. “She just came from nowhere.”
Britwell hoped he'd have cracked by now. He was made of sterner stuff than he’d thought. The man had just lost everything in an hour. Successful small businessman, good house and doting wife, yet he obviously needed more. Much more. Dressing as a woman and frequenting the red light district, looking for trade, was not how most Newspaper shop owners spent their Friday nights. This world took all sorts, thirty years on the force had taught him that.
Why this though? Britwell couldn’t get it. What drove a man to it. Sure, Britwell himself had a few odd tendencies, a few skeletons in his own closet. But that? Tranny or cross dresser or whatever the PC word for it was now? He couldn’t see it.
“Those boys in E wing’ll pass you around like currency,” said Britwell. He noticed Walters’ disgusted look. She was the bad cop, he the good. He’d forgotten again. He regretted letting her be the baddie. It just felt natural to be bad. Helping was so hard. Especially if you didn’t understand who you were helping.
“I’m told a lot of accidents happen in the showers,” said Wighton. Britwell thought she was trying to outdo his badness. She was winning too.
He played his trump card. “Of course, it might be possible to get you protection. New identity. Surgery.” Britwell pointed at the paper-stuffed bra sitting awkwardly on his chest. “You must see a lot hanging round there. We think we know who it was. But, we need help. Given that help, we could make the streets clean so that g...” He’d no idea whether to say guys or girls. “People like you can do what you do. We need a name. You get a new life. Think about it.”
Bill dropped his eyes to the table, staring at the half full ashtray. He was definitely thinking about it. Britwell reckoned he’d played his card bang on time. It was almost too perfect. The start of a new life awaited. He could be whoever, and whatever, he wanted to. All he had to do was turn snitch. Just one name for freedom.
“I want it in writing,” he said.
“Good lad,” said Britwell. He stood and made for the door. “Need to speak to the Chief Constable. Just a formality, you know.”
Jill stood and followed him. “By the way, that eye shadow with red lipstick.” She shook her head.
“Really.” He turned and looked at the mirrored two way glass panel, a frown growing on his forehead.
“Go for a pastel or light colour,” she said leaving the room.