Well, I wish I could report that this week I have sold x copies of Painted Ladies, had an offer of publication of all the Jasmine Frame novels with TV and film rights to follow, but no, none of that has happened. It’s been a pretty normal, busy week and once again I have failed to get on with Bodies by Design. I am, however, looking forward to my date for giving my first presentation of ‘Jasmine and me’ (The Sitting Room, Ludlow, 8p.m. Wed. 27thg Nov) when I’ll do some readings and talk about Jasmine the transsexual detective and about my own experiences of transgenderism.
Here though is the next episode of Blueprint, the Jasmine Frame prequel.
Blueprint: part 9
‘Butterflies. It’s a club for people like Petula – cross-dressers and other transgendered men and women.’
Tom looked confused.
‘Really. Where is it? I haven’t heard of a club with that name in Kintbridge.’
‘Oh, Butterflies is just the name of the group of people. The club meets in a village hall out of town.’
‘Right. But what were you doing there? Had Thwaite asked to meet you?’
‘No, I’d met Petula there before but we hadn’t talked much.’
‘You’d been before? Why?’
James took a deep breath. This was the moment he had been dreading since he joined the police force. As a teenager and as a student he had thought he could get away with not telling anyone. Dressing as a woman was a passing phase; the feelings he had about being female, about wanting to be accepted as a woman, were surely a fantasy. Time and living with Angela had proved that was not the case. Angela was the first person he had confessed his feelings to. She supported him, seemed to actually enjoy being with Jasmine, had encouraged him to talk and to think deeply about his future. They had come to the decision not long ago that ultimately he would have to turn his dream into reality and become the woman he felt himself to be. But taking that step required planning and he had been putting off revealing his intentions to his senior officers as well as to friends and colleagues. Now it looked as though he had lost the luxury of choosing the time for his announcement. Petula’s suicide needed investigating and he would have to reveal himself as Jasmine Frame, transsexual detective constable.
James could see Tom waiting for an answer to his question.
‘I’m a member of Butterflies myself, Tom,’ James said quietly and hesitantly, ‘I’m transsexual.’
Tom didn’t say anything for moments that stretched into seconds. James could almost see the wheels turning. Tom wasn’t dim, in fact he, like James, was on a fast track to promotion, but he did seem to be slow on the uptake.
‘You mean, you put on women’s clothes and make-up and stuff.’
‘It’s a bit more than that actually. I am a woman inside here,’ James tapped his forehead, ‘but yes, I put on feminine clothes, make-up, jewellery and a wig – my haircut is a bit too masculine at the moment to pass.’
Tom took in what he said.
‘And you go out dressed like that?’
‘To this club, Butterflies?’
‘There and other places.’
‘Does Angela know?’
‘Yes. She’s always known. We often go out together when I’m Jasmine.’
‘My female name.’
‘Oh, like Thwaite is Petula?’
‘But his wife doesn’t know.’
‘No. That’s just one of the differences between us. I didn’t know Petula very well but I had the impression that she was at the cross-dressing end of the transgender spectrum.’
‘Transgender spectrum?’ Tom was looking confused again.
‘Look, it’s difficult to explain. Perhaps we can sit down and talk about it sometime, but there’s probably almost as many ways of being transgendered as there are people. I feel that I am really a woman and want to live my life as a woman. I think Petula enjoyed dressing up from time to time, looking and acting feminine and meeting with like-minded people but did not want to change her life at all.’
‘I’m having trouble getting a handle on this Jim. Why did Thwaite do it?’
‘It’s an urge, a driving force, but he felt he had to keep it secret from everyone who knew him as Peter, including his wife. He was very upset at the thought of her discovering Petula. Obviously even more upset than I thought as he’s dead.’
‘You think this last photo tipped him over.’
‘Yes. It’s shocking isn’t it,’ James glanced at the photo of the man and woman having sex, ‘to people not used to porn. I guess he thought that his wife might think that he wanted to be the woman in the photo. He may have felt incapable of coping with the shame of being found out.’
Tom scratched his cheek.
‘Right, so let me get this straight. This guy has been dressing up as Petula secretly for years, always terrified that his wife might find out. Then these photos start arriving and he gives them to you. Why? When was it?’
‘It was last Saturday at the monthly Butterflies meeting. Some of them know I’m a police officer because I can’t get to meetings often. Petula approached me with the photos. She was upset and worried and asked if I could do anything to find out who was sending them. I took them but I didn’t have the slightest idea how to start. It was Angela who promised I’d look into it, actually.’
‘Angela was with you?’
‘Yes, as I said, she often comes out with me.’
‘So what have you done about it?’
‘Nothing. It’s been a busy week and I haven’t had a chance to even think about how to start the investigation. I suppose I hadn’t realised how upset Petula was or that the photos would keep coming.’
‘Well, we’ll have to investigate it. The person who sent the photos may have been intending to blackmail Thwaite. At the very least least he’s partly responsible for tipping Thwaite over the suicide line. The coroner will need to know why Thwaite was unbalanced. We’d better log these photos as evidence, write up what you know and plan where we go next.’
He’s shifted into detective mode, Jasmine thought. Good old Tom. If there’s a problem, tackle it by following procedure. He’s ignoring what I told him, blanking it out of his consciousness. It was a familiar response, James had found, when informing people of his transsexualism. A couple of years ago he had told his mother; she had even met Jasmine on a couple of occasions but she still acted as if she knew nothing about his feelings or intentions.
‘You’re right, Tom. We must do all those things. But we’re also going to have to explain to Sloane. He’s going to have to find out about Jasmine.’
‘Jasmine? Oh, you mean, you being, uh,…’ Tom’s voice trailed off and his expression took on a vacant appearance.
‘Yes, Tom. Sloane and everyone will have to know that I want to be the woman I know I am.’
Tom shook his head.
‘I don’t get it, Jim. You’re a great police officer; you’ve got a career as a detective ahead of you.’
‘Detectives can be women.’
‘Yes, of course, but you, you’re my mate. You’ve got me out of a few scrapes. You go running.’
‘Women run too.’
‘I know that. Look, you know what I’m trying to say. You’re a good bloke.’
‘It’s a front, an act that I’ve developed over the years to hide my real feelings, to protect myself from people’s reactions because I know that standing here in my CID suit I don’t look at all like a woman. But that can change and over the last few years I’ve realised I’ve got to make it change. It’s just that I’m not quite ready to go public.’
Tom shook his head.
‘I don’t understand, but I see you’ve got a problem. You’re Sloane’s protégé but I don’t know how he’ll react if he finds out you want to be DC Jasmine. He’s a bit unPC in his attitudes.’
‘That’s just part of it,’ Jasmine agreed, thinking of all the other colleagues who might mouth the diversity training they’d received but didn’t really believe it. ‘And I need to let Angela know what’s going to happen. We’ve discussed it often enough but hadn’t set any dates or timetable.’
Tom didn’t say anything and the silence stretched on and on. James searched Tom’s face trying to work out what he was thinking. Eventually Tom spoke.
‘Look. Sloane’s given us a few days to wrap up this investigation. It’s Saturday today. I know he’s a 7/7 sort of guy but he’s probably not expecting to hear from us before Monday and with most of the admin staff off for the weekend it’ll be Monday before the evidence and your statement go through the system. Let’s sit on it till then, see how far we can get in the investigation. That gives you today and tomorrow to sort out things with Angela.’
James felt relief wash over him. It would be at least two days before the news spread through the station.
‘Thanks Tom. That’ll be something.’
‘Right. So where do we start?’