Another busy week with little time to write – how many more times am I going to have to say that? Struggling to keep far too many balls in the air at the moment and a little diappointed that I haven’t had any opportunities to promote Painted Ladies recently. I did have a very pleasant conversation with a friend and reader who was very keen to know what happens “next”. That encouragement was the other side of the scales to a review that has made me brood a bit. The review was generally good but made a couple of points which I took issue with. The critic seemed to think that I should have covered more of the strands of transgenderism in Painted Ladies than I did. Heck its a story! Jasmine is a transsexual detective but that t-word is one fairly long term for a whole range of characters and experiences. She is based partly on a few people I have met, a little on my own experience and a lot on my imagination, but she is an individual not a ragbag of every type of TS and cannot and will not espouse every possible view of gender dysphoria. Painted Ladies covers just one short period in her transition. The sequels will cover more.
Secondly, the plot of Painted Ladies involved transvestites of a certain age. There is a continuum between male and female. It may not even be a single strand. Many points in this spectrum are occupied by transgendered individuals who can be labelled as transsexual, transvestite, cross-dresser or any one of the many other terms that are used. To be brief there are all sorts of gender identities. I chose a small number of them for the characters of Painted Ladies. There will be others in the stories that follow. The main point is to make all the stories interesting and exciting reads for non-trans as well as trans readers. If I’ve succeeded at that then I’m happy.
So after that rant. Here is the next part of the Jasmine Frame prequel –
Blueprint: part 8
James took each photo out of its envelope in turn and laid them in sequence across his desk. He looked up. Tom’s face was creased in a mixture of confusion and distaste.
‘What have these got to do with Thwaite?’ Tom asked.
‘Can’t you see?’ James said stabbing at the first photo with a fore finger. ‘The head – it’s Peter Thwaite, or Petula as she called herself.’
Tom leaned down to examine the first photo, then the second, third and fourth. He straightened up.
‘I don’t get it. I see the woman’s head in each of the photos is the same, but what do you mean, it’s Peter Thwaite?’
‘Don’t you recognise the face?’
‘I only saw him when he was dead.’
‘And that photo of him with his wife.’
‘Oh, yes.’ Tom looked again at each of the prints. ‘I suppose it could be him. Someone’s pasted his face into these photos of women. Except his face looks made up. He’s got lipstick on and earrings.’
‘It’s not just his face. It’s his hair too.’
‘What do you mean? Thwaite had short, greying hair. Nothing like this.’
James took a deep breath.
‘The head in each of these photos is of Petula Thwaite. That is Peter Thwaite when he was in his female persona.’
‘Peter Thwaite was a cross-dresser, a transvestite if you like.’
Tom let out a long drawn out ‘oh’ as realisation took hold.
‘I see. But that’s not his body.’ Tom pointed at the naked female reclining on the couch.
‘No, someone has cleverly photoshopped Petula’s head onto real women.’
Tom bent down again to stare at each picture.
‘Hmm. That’s right. I can see the joins.’ He straightened up and fixed his eyes on James. ‘But, I don’t understand. Where have they come from? Did you find them at Thwaite’s house? Have you logged them in?’
‘No I haven’t logged them as evidence – yet. They weren’t at the house. Petula gave them to me herself.’
James saw Tom’s eyes unfocus as he struggled to follow what James had said.
‘Petula? That’s Thwaite when he’s dressed as a woman.’
‘You met her, him, heck, I don’t know.’
‘Before he killed himself.’
‘How did you meet him, her?’
James opened his mouth to speak although he was still not sure what to say, but before a sound came out, his attention was drawn to a young woman crossing the office towards them. It was one of the civilian workers from the front office downstairs.
‘DC Frame,’ she called.
‘Hi, Dawn. What can we do for you?’ James said, grateful for the break.
‘This came for you in the morning post.’ As she approached them, Dawn raised her right hand grasping a large buff envelope.
‘Thanks,’ James said taking it from her.
‘No bother,’ she replied turning on her heels. James looked at the envelope. It had a first class stamp and was clearly addressed to DC Frame at Police HQ, Kintbridge, in precise but flowing handwriting. Its thickness suggested there was more than one sheet of paper inside. James carefully tore the end of the envelope open and reached in to pull out another similar envelope folded in half. He opened it out flat. His heart thumped when he saw the name and address. It was to Mr P. Thwaite. Like the four other envelopes sitting on his desk, the address was written in firm, capital letters in biro.
‘It’s another one,’ James said, his voice trembling in anticipation.
‘Another what? Another photo?’ Tom said nodding towards the prints on the desk.
‘Look, the writing is the same.’ James showed Tom the envelope he was holding.
‘These were all sent to Thwaite at his house?’
‘Yes. On each of the last five Fridays. They’re in order.’ James pointed to the four on the desk.
‘Oh, I see. They’re getting more suggestive, bluer.’
‘So let’s see what the new one is.’
The envelope James was holding had already been slit open neatly by a paper knife. He inserted his hand into it and felt the glossy-faced card of a photoprint. He drew it out. It was upside down, the plain white surface looking innocent, pure, but marred by the crease across it. He turned it over. Tom whistled.
There were two people in the photo. A woman with Petula’s head turned, facing out of the picture, and a man. Both were naked. The woman knelt on a bed while the man stood behind thrusting his penis into her vagina.
‘That’s a bit hard core,’ Tom said, ‘Let me have a close look.’ James handed him the photo and examined the two envelopes. The one addressed to Thwaite was postmarked Thursday while the envelope addressed to him had a noon Friday postmark.
‘He must have received it yesterday morning,’ James said, ‘and posted it on to me before going home to kill himself.’
‘Hmm, yes,’ Tom muttered with his nose almost touching the print. ‘I can see the join again. I’d say the main picture is a screen grab of an internet porn shot.’
‘That makes sense.’
‘What doesn’t make sense is what these photos are for. Why were they sent to Thwaite? Why did he kill himself?’
‘Thwaite killed himself because he was scared of his wife finding out that he was a cross-dresser,’ Jasmine said. ‘These photos increased the risk of being discovered but why they were sent I’ve no idea.’
‘Was there a message with them?’ Tom asked
‘Petula said there wasn’t.’ James looked in the fifth envelope. It was empty. ‘There’s nothing here.’
‘You keep using this name Petula. You still haven’t explained, Jim. How did you meet and why have you got the photos?’ Tom gave James a determined stare. There was a pause during which all James could hear was the blood rushing through his arteries.
‘I met her at Butterflies’