2013 was the year that Jasmine Frame became a public figure. For over twelve years she’s been in my head, on the computer screen and read about by just a very few people, but 2013 saw Painted Ladies: a Jasmine Frame story published as a paperback and an e-book. OK, self-published, but I wonder how much difference that makes. In both forms Painted Ladies is available from any bookseller and I wonder if an actual publisher could have generated more publicity. Of course it wasn’t Jasmine herself who made the headlines or was interviewed on the radio. The intended enigma that was P.R.Ellis did not last very long and now it is widely known that I am a transgendered person called Penny. The question is whether the publicity has increased the number of sales. What I do know is that marketing is a time-consuming and difficult business. I appreciate everyone who shows an interest and reads this blog and I hope that you spread the word about Jasmine Frame, transsexual detective. Also I hope you and others will look up the facebook page JasmineFramedetective that will carry notes and news about the Jasmine Frame stories and events where I will be doing readings or giving talks. Here though I will continue to provide episodes in the ever-lengthening prequel, Blueprint along with news about the second novel, Bodies by Design, and my other thoughts on writing.
Thanks to everyone has been following this blog in the last year and I hope you stick with me. I wish everyone a happy, healthy and productive 2014.
Blueprint: Part 17
Jasmine looked up at Geraldine’s tall, thickset figure. Even with the elegant dress, and carefully coiffured wig it was impossible not to see the man behind the make-up. How difficult it must be for some trans women, Jasmine thought, when even the best efforts of an expert like Betty make it difficult to pass as a woman. That is if it is their wish to “pass” and not just content to be dressed and made up in the style they desire. She realised she was transferring her own wish to be a woman on to Geraldine. Perhaps Geraldine was perfectly happy as she was.
‘Hi,’ Jasmine replied, ‘I’m Jasmine.’
Geraldine came into the room and folded herself into the sofa. With her long legs and the soft cushions it was difficult for her to do so in ladylike manner and she ended up holding herself upright with her arms clasped around her insect-like sheer-stockinged knees.
‘Betty says you are looking for people who know Petula,’ Geraldine said in her stage whisper.
‘That’s right. Do you know her?’ Jasmine was eager to meet someone who had met Petula.
‘I met her on one or two occasions when she visited Betty,’ Geraldine said. ‘She was attractive and very good looking.’
Jasmine thought that was somewhat of an exaggeration from what she recalled of Petula’s appearance but at least she had more chance of evading the “second glance” of passers-by than poor Geraldine had. Despite her shyness, Petula made a convincing mature woman.
‘Did you go out with Petula and Betty?’
Geraldine looked horrified.
‘Oh, I don’t go out. I couldn’t. I couldn’t stand everyone staring at me. I just visit Betty and she does what she can for me. She’s very good to me; puts up with me spending a lot of my time hanging around here.’
‘So you only met Petula here. You haven’t seen her since she stopped using Betty’s services.’
‘Of course not.’ Geraldine’s reply was swift and brusque. Jasmine had more questions on her tongue but the door opened and again and Betty returned grasping a slip of paper.
‘I have the addresses of two of the ladies who Petula was friends with. I think the first, Caroline, is the one she had most to do with.’ Betty passed the paper to Jasmine. She read the details.
‘Caroline lives in Altrincham. I don’t know this area very well but that’s near here isn’t it?’
‘It’s a small town on the edge of Manchester,’ Betty said nodding.
‘To the south-west, on the A56,’ Geraldine said in a bass growl. She had forgotten to use her whisper.
‘You know Caroline, do you?’ Jasmine asked.
‘Not really, but I know Altrincham,’ Geraldine said, ‘I live in that general direction.’
‘What can you tell me about Caroline?’ Jasmine looked from Geraldine to Betty and back. Geraldine shrugged and turned to look at Betty.
‘She’s a lovely lady. I suppose she’s been on my books almost as long as Petula was. They’re a similar age and have similar styles. I think they may even both be in the same careers.’
‘Yes. They always had a lot to chat about when they were together.’
‘What about the other name?’ Jasmine glanced again at the slip of paper. ‘Rosalind?’
‘I put that one down because she was at the last lunch Petula attended with me. I wondered if perhaps they got on so well at that first meeting they decided they didn’t need me anymore.’
‘But Caroline and Petula had been getting on for some time?’
‘Well, I’ll try her first.’ Jasmine stood up, ‘Thank you for your help, Betty.’
‘Well, I hope you find out who sent those photos that made Petula kill herself,’ Betty said, offering a hand to shake with Jamine.
‘Petula’s dead,’ Geraldine said, her voice a growl. ‘You didn’t say she was dead, Betty.’
‘Didn’t I?’ Betty looked at Geraldine with a look of surprise.
‘You just said this trannie police officer was looking for her.’
‘I did not use the word “trannie”,’ Betty turned to Jasmine, ‘I’m sorry Miss Frame, I said that you were a trans police officer.’
‘That’s alright, Betty,’ Jasmine felt the older woman’s sincerity in her apology. She turned to look down at Geraldine hunched in the sofa. ‘Why did you think I was looking for Petula?’ she asked.
‘I don’t know,’ Gerladine flustered, ‘I thought that she may have gone missing, run off with her bank’s money or something.’
‘Why should she do that?’
‘I don’t know. I was guessing. I didn’t know the guy.’
‘Are you sure’
‘Geraldine never came out with Petula and me,’ Betty said.
‘That’s right. I told you that,’ Geraldine said.
‘I’m trying to find people who really knew her, had seen her recently and perhaps can lead me to the reason why she was driven to kill herself.’ Jasmine said firmly. Geraldine shook her head, her black curls vibrating.
‘I didn’t know her. I can’t tell you anything,’ Geraldine answered in a high pitched falsetto.
‘I’m sure Caroline can give you some answers,’ Betty said. Jasmine shrugged.
‘I hope so.’ She glanced at her watch. ‘I haven’t got much of the day left to get this case solved. And it needs to be sorted today.’
‘I think Caroline will be in today. She lives alone.’
‘Thanks I’d better be on my way.’
Betty escorted Jasmine to the front door leaving Geraldine hunched on the sofa. They said their farewells and Jasmine ran through the rain to the car. As the engine started she tapped the address Betty had given her into the satnav and set off at the command of the disembodied female voice.
Jasmine was grateful both for the satnav and Betty’s record keeping that had provided her with a full address. Soon she was driving through the light Sunday afternoon traffic around the periphery of Manchester and onto the A56 heading towards Altrincham. Within half an hour she was pulling up outside a small, but recently-built detached house on a small estate of similar dwellings. She parked on the kerb and got out. At least the rain had eased off although the heavy overcast threatened more to come. She walked up the path across the tiny but immaculate lawn to the front door.
There was a quick response to her ring on the door bell. The door was pulled open by a man who took a step back in surprise.
‘Oh. I’m sorry. I was expecting someone else,’ he said. Jasmine quickly took in his smart but casual trousers, shirt and jumper, his short brown hair and smooth shaven face. He appeared to be in his late fifties, perhaps a little older and was a similar height to Jasmine.
‘I’m sorry to disturb you,’ Jasmine said thinking how to express her next sentence, ‘I was given this address for a lady called Caroline.’
A dark shadow passed across the man’s face.
‘Who gave you that information?’
‘Betty of Betty’s Boudoir.’
The darkness faded somewhat.
‘I see. Who are you?’
‘My name’s Jasmine Frame, I’m a police officer.’ She waved her card but he took no notice of it. He looked over her shoulder at the quiet street.
‘You’d better come in,’ he said, stepping back to let her enter the hallway. ‘I’m Caroline. I can’t think why Betty gave you my address.’ He closed the door behind Jasmine and directed her into the main room of the house. There was a table laid for high tea, with plates of sandwiches and cakes.
‘She gave me your name because I think you know someone called Petula.’ She saw the recognition of the name in his face followed by a question.
‘Yes, I do know a Petula. Why is that important?’
‘She’s dead. Suicide.’
Jasmine wasn’t prepared for the response. She’d said it and heard it so many times now she had forgotten what impact the words might have. The man who was Caroline turned white and collapsed into an armchair that was luckily nearby.
‘Petula killed herself. How? Why?’ He covered his face with his hands and sobbed.
‘That’s why I’m here. I want to find out why she felt she had to.’
The man took a hanky from his pocket dabbed his eyes, sniffed, blew his nose, sobbed again.
‘They can’t see me upset like this,’ he said.
‘My daughter and grandchildren. They’re coming to tea. They’ll be here any minute. I thought it was them when I answered the door.’
‘They don’t know Caroline?’
‘No. My daughter knows I dress but she doesn’t know that I spend most of time as Caroline and would be horrified if her boys found out. I promised her I wouldn’t appear as a woman when I’m with her or the boys.’
‘I really do need to ask you some questions, Caroline… uh, Mr…’
‘It’s Geoff,’ he said through sniffles, ‘I can’t answer you while they’re here. How can I explain why you’re here, a police woman?’
Jasmine understood his dilemma. Through the window of the lounge she saw a car draw into the short driveway of the house. The driver was a woman and there were two children in the back.
‘I think they’ve just arrived,’ Jasmine said.
‘You’ve got to go. You’ve got to leave me with them,’ Geoff appealed.
‘OK, but when can I come back?’ Geoff pulled himself from the chair and squeezed passed Jasmine in order to get to the front door.
‘They don’t stay long. We play games, have a chat and some tea. They’ll be gone by five. Come back after then.’ Jasmine followed him to the door. She felt frustrated but sympathetic.
‘Right. That’s what I’ll do.’
‘Please don’t call if their car is still here.’ Geoff opened the door. A woman and two children were approaching.
‘I won’t,’ Jasmine said stepping through the doorway, ‘Goodbye, Geoff.’ She waved at him, said hello to the woman and smiled at the two boys. As she headed to her car she heard the woman ask Geoff who she was. She didn’t hear Geoff’s explanation.