A busy week with some very pleasant moments. There is another excellent review on Amazon of Painted Ladies and I had some wonderfully encouraging comments from friends in Tenbury. That was during my ‘Jasmine & me‘ presentation at Tenbury Library. A small, select audience, but they were very interested in the Jasmine Frame series of crime novels and it gave me a chance to have another practice at getting the balance of readings and chat correct. A big thank you to Librarian Sally.
One less than satisfactory discovery was how little in the way of royalties I am going to get from sales of paperback Painted Ladies through Amazon and other distributors. Once they’ve taken their discount what is left barely covers the cost of printing. Such is the reality of self-publishing. It makes finding an agent and publisher for the whole series an even greater imperative.
Anyway, to more enjoyable activities and the next episode of Blueprint, the prequel set about three years before Painted Ladies. I hope you enjoy it.
Blueprint – Part 22
It had been a long day even by Police standards. Away hours before daylight, it was not far off midnight when Jasmine parked on her own driveway. The rain had let up a bit in balmy Berkshire but she’d had to grope her way through appalling weather all the way from Manchester. She had had to stop at an M6 service area. Food had become a necessity as was an infusion of caffeine and she had needed time to just sit and stare into her cup regardless of the noise and bustle of the weekend travellers.
She had also gone to the Ladies to pee and repair her face. She was appalled to see the hairs of her beard showing through her foundation. At least it was one explanation why she had had more than the usual number of second looks from passers-by and serving staff. Not for the first time she wished that her facial, and body, hair didn’t grow so fast. She wondered what Angela would say if she said she wanted to start electrolysis to rid herself of the hairy chin she invariably got by late afternoon.
Powder and fresh lipstick improved her appearance but didn’t really satisfy her. It settled one thing though – there would be no more “comfort” stops on her journey home. She was determined not to appear looking like a bloke in drag even if that was what she was. The drive had been slow with the typical hold-ups for accidents caused by drivers nor adjusting to the foul conditions. She had begun think that she might have to make a stop after all but now here she was, jumping out of the car, clicking the remote locking and aiming her key at the front door.
The ground floor was dark except for the solitary bulb in the hallway. Jasmine guessed that Angela must be in bed. She leapt up the stairs and into the bedroom.
Angela put down the book she had been reading.
‘At last, Jas. I was wondering if it was going to be tomorrow before you came home.’
Jasmine slumped onto the bed and reached down to unzip her boots.
‘I was wondering too. It was a lousy drive.’
‘You didn’t think to phone and let me know.’
If she was truthful, Jasmine would have to admit that the thought hadn’t crossed her mind. She’d spent the journey concentrating on driving and mulling over the conversations she had had during the day.
‘I was in traffic and couldn’t stop, Ange.’
Having tugged the boots off her feet she hurried in to the bathroom and sat on the loo, sighing with relief.
‘I bet you didn’t even think of it with your mind on the case.’
Jasmine smiled. Angela knew her so well.
‘So was it worth the trip?’ she added.
Jasmine, stood, pulled up her knickers and tights, flushed and returned to the bedroom.
‘I think so. I found four people who knew Petula.’ She pulled the wig off her head and slowly began to undress. As the clothes fell to the floor and the false breasts were plucked from the bra so Jasmine’s appearance faded away
‘Well, there’s three possibles I think.’
James straightened up naked and stretched. He picked up the heap of grubby clothes and dropped them into the laundry basket, then took the wig, boobs and boots back to the spare room that was Jasmine’s room.
‘Three?’ Angela said as he returned, ‘That’s a lot. Petula wasn’t popular then?’
‘I don’t think it’s much to do with her. Three different people with weaknesses that may have pushed them into sending those photos.’
‘No proof then.’
‘Not a bit. I need a shower.’
James cleaned off the make-up then stood in the hot water letting the tensions of the day wash away. Rubbing himself vigorously with a towel he stepped back into the bedroom. Angela had put the book away. She was looking at him. If it had been anyone else he would have been mortified by having his genitals on show. Angela was the one person who he wasn’t embarrassed to reveal his male body to.
‘How was your day?’ James asked.
‘Quiet,’ Angela replied, ‘but that was good. I had work to do too. Oh, and I had a call from your mother.
‘Oh,’ James wasn’t surprised. His mother tended to call on Sundays, under the misapprehension that detective work was a five-day-week sort of job. ‘What did she have to say?’
‘She was wondering when we’d be going down to Sussex next. I told her you were out on a job and she replied that at least you weren’t wasting your time ‘dressing up’.’
James snorted. His mother had known about his dressing as a woman since he was a teenager but persisted in thinking it some strange passing phase. He had tried to explain that it was more than that many times and told her that if he was off-duty he was likely to be Jasmine, but she closed her mind to his words.
‘Did you tell her I had gone out as Jasmine?’
‘No. I’ll leave that to you. She’d only huff and puff. You know that.’
‘More to the point what are you going to tell Chief Inspector Sloane?’
‘Tell him what?’
‘Well, if you’ve got suspects they’re going to be interviewed aren’t they?’
‘I expect so.’
‘So it’s going to come out that they met Detective Constable Jasmine Frame.’
‘I suppose so.’ It wasn’t something that James had thought about. His mind had been on finding someone who might have caused Petula/Peter Thwaite’s suicide, and hadn’t thought through the results of his trip to Manchester. ‘I’ll think of something.’
‘Did you enjoy doing your detecting as a woman?’
Flashes of the day passed through James’ mind. Apart from the odd occasion when he had been worried about being ‘read’ like at the service area on the way home, he had barely thought about the novelty of being on duty in his feminine guise. It had felt natural. After all, Jasmine Frame was who he felt he was.
‘I didn’t think about enjoying the day. I was doing my job.’
‘I thought you’d say that, James. You’re more Jasmine than James now aren’t you.’ He nodded. ‘Have you thought any more about transitioning?’
He hadn’t expected the conversation to take this path. Angela knew that he wanted to become Jasmine but they hadn’t set a date or a timetable.
‘You know I think about it all the time, but not especially today. There were too many other things to think about.’
Angela slid down under the duvet, a sign that she was ready to settle down to sleep.
‘I guess so. But you had better prepare yourself for Sloane finding out about Jasmine pretty soon.’
James stood with the towel hanging limply from his hand. He daydreamed entering Police HQ as Jasmine, of meeting his colleagues, of standing in front of Sloane’s desk. It was an intriguing fantasy, something he wanted to do above almost anything else but scary. What would Tom’s reaction be, and Sloane’s?
‘Are you joining me?’ Angela said. James returned to the present. For now the fantasy would remain as one.
‘If you want me?’ Often now he slept in the single bed in spare room where he kept Jasmine’s clothes but he still liked being close to Angela.
‘Come on. We can cuddle. You look done in.’
James hung up the towel in the bathroom gave his teeth a peremptory clean then slipped under the covers. Angela wrapped her arms and legs around him touching skin down the length of his body. Her warmth was comforting. His eyes closed and he felt sleep overpowering him
‘Who were the … oh. That’s it is it. ‘Night James.’ A kiss on his cheek was the last thing he sensed.