We had a great day in Birmingham last weekend visiting the Museum and Art Gallery. First of all we saw the six Grayson Perry tapestries “The Vanity of Small Differences” based on his TV series on class and taste. They really are interesting – full of detail and amusing insights into people’s lives, loosely based on Hogarth’s “Rake’s Porgress”. The main purpose of our visit though, was to visit the exhibition “Mapping My Journey” mounted by Gender Matters as part of LGBT history month. It traces the history of transgender and the personal histories of various trans men and women both living and dead. It was very interestng and well worth a visit. A personal highlight was to see a copy of Painted Ladies and a photo of me on display with a description of Jasmine Frame, transsexual detective, as an example of trans in fiction.
So, here is more about Jasmine – the next episode of the prequel to Painted Ladies and Bodies by Design.
Blueprint – Part 25
Minutes passed as they leafed through the papers in the file on Thwaite.
‘It’s no good, Jim. We’ve got to speak to the suspects,’ Tom said.
James nodded, ‘But which one?’
‘I don’t know, but we can decide on the drive up to Manchester.’
James groaned as he contemplated the long haul up the A34, M40 and M6 for the second time.
‘It’s OK, I’ll drive,’ Tom added, ‘You can work out who we’re going to interview.’
‘Thanks.’ James wasn’t sure that being a passenger for three to four hours was any better than being the driver. The one good thing about police work was that it did not usually necessitate long car journeys.
‘Are you going to get changed?’ Tom asked in a strange half whisper.
‘Into your – what did you call it? Your female persona.’
James opened his eyes with surprise. Tom was suggesting he become Jasmine again.
‘Well, these suspects only know you as a woman…’
‘Yes, OK, but they may be more responsive if they think they know you. If two burly plods come asking questions…’
‘Speak for yourself.’
‘OK, but do you see?’
James thought hard. Tom could be right.
‘Yes, they may be more prepared to talk to another trannie that they’ve met before.’
‘Right, well you get off home and change,’ Tom chucked the car keys to James, ‘I’ll go and enter the lion’s den and tell Sloane what we’re doing. He can get on to the people in Manchester.’
James was quite happy for Tom to face Sloane again.
‘OK. I will. I’ll give you a call when I’m back in the car park. I’m not revealing Jasmine to this lot, not yet anyway.’
Tom grinned, ‘It might make their day. Don’t take too long on your makeup; we’ve only got today.’
James snorted in reply and hurried off. Fifteen minutes later he was back home, mounting the stairs while tearing off his jacket and tie. The house was empty, Angela had already gone to work. In his dressing room, James completed undressing and pulled on knickers and bra. What should she wear? Yesterday, she had dressed casually in skirt and woolly top but perhaps today, accompanying Tom Shepherd, she should be a little more formal. She had one suit consisting of a knee-length skirt and fitted jacket in pale grey polyester. With sheer neutral tights and a white blouse it would like she really was a female detective. She dressed quickly but spent a few minutes getting her face right and putting her blonde wig on straight. It was a quick turnaround but in under forty minutes she was back in the police car park and texting Tom.
Jasmine got out of the car and walked around it to get in again in the passenger seat. Tom arrived grasping a file of papers. He dropped it onto Jasmine’s lap as he sank into the driving seat. He started the engine while pulling the seatbelt across his chest.
‘I thought you’d need that lot to look at on the drive,’ Tom said, pulling out of the car park, ‘There’s a few new sheets from forensics.’
‘Is there?’ Jasmine flicked through the pages in the file. ‘How was Sloane?’ She asked.
‘OK,’ Tom nodded as he turned onto the main road out of town and accelerated up to the speed limit. ‘He said he’d let us know if we’re to meet anyone when we get up north.’
Jasmine watched Tom as he drove. His eyes were fixed on the view through the windscreen. While it was good driving technique it didn’t appear normal. Usually when two people were in a car together their eyes glanced at each other while they conversed, the driver maintaining concentration on the road but checking the facial expressions of their companion.
‘What’s the matter, Tom?’ Jasmine asked. Tom’s head didn’t move. His neck might have been in a brace.
‘You haven’t looked at me since you got in, Tom.’
Tom continued to stare ahead.
‘There’s a fair bit of traffic.’
‘I know, but it’s not that busy. You could glance at me.’
‘Why? Do I need to look at you?’
‘No, but I thought it would be natural to have a look, check me out.’
Tom’s hands tightened around the steering wheel.
‘I can’t, Ji… I mean, what do you call yourself?’
‘Why can’t you, look at me, Tom?’
‘It’s…it’s…’ Tom blinked but his eyes didn’t move. ‘It’s you. I’m not sure what I’m supposed to feel.’
‘Yes. You sound like Jim. Well your speech is a bit higher pitched, but it’s definitely you. But you’re dressed like a girl.’
‘I’m a woman, Tom, not a girl.’
‘Yes, OK, but skirt, stockings,’
‘OK, tights and breasts.’
‘Well you look, um, er,…’
‘I look what?’
‘Damn it, you look, uh, good.’
‘Well, thank you, Tom, but how do you know. You haven’t looked at me.’
‘I can see you out of the corner of my eye.’
‘So you’ve seen enough to see that I’m attractive?’
‘You’re my buddy. My male buddy. I’m not supposed to be attracted to you.’
Jasmine sighed. She’d wondered for a long time how her colleagues would react to her. She’d expected revulsion, ostracism perhaps, even insults from the ones who had forgotten their diversity training. Fear of being attracted to her was not a response she had counted on. Thinking about it though it made sense. She always went to great lengths to appear as attractively feminine as possible and when men saw what looked like a pretty, sexy, young woman it triggered their natural responses. But the knowledge that under the false breasts, the nylons and the foundation she was male caused conflict.
‘I’m sorry, Tom. I know it’s only the second time you’ve seen me and it takes some getting used to. I feel pretty relaxed being me but I should have realised how much I confuse you. You are reacting as any heterosexual man does to a pretty woman and I’m flattered that I’ve set off that reaction. I want to appear female but it doesn’t mean I’m out to seduce you or any other man.’ She wasn’t even sure if she fancied men. Sorting out her sexual preferences as Jasmine was a subject she had yet to face.
‘I’m still your partner,’ she went on. ‘We’re on a case. For now that’s all that matters. I hope that away from this we can sort out how you and I can be friends whether I’m Jim or Jasmine.’
Tom’s head did turn now. Just a few degrees. Enough for his eyes to focus briefly on her for a moment before returning to scan the road ahead.
‘I’m sorry, Jasmine,’ Tom said, ‘I was being stupid. Of course you are still you under all that stuff. But, god! You make a pretty good woman.’
‘Thanks. That is the biggest compliment you could make.’
‘My pleasure,’ Tom grinned. His body relaxed a little. ‘Now are you going to work out who we are visiting?’
Jasmine chuckled and looked at the file on her lap. She found the report from the forensic department that Tom had referred to. Most of it detailed the findings at Thwaite’s house – fingerprints on his car, on the doors into the garage and on the hose that fed the exhaust fumes into the saloon. The last page was different. It was a report on the photo of Thwaite that Jasmine had handed over. It confirmed that it was a collage of two pictures, the one of Petula and the other a screen grab of some porn. That was familiar, but the next paragraph she had to read through a couple of times before she realised the significance.
‘This is interesting,’ she said.
‘There’s a forensic report here on the last photo sent to Thwaite. It says the original of the photo of Petula had a random arrangement of colour dots which were of variable size.’
‘What does that mean?’
‘It means it wasn’t taken with a digital camera. They produce a regular pattern of pixels.’
‘So the picture was taken…’
Jasmine flicked through her pocketbook checking her notes on Geraldine, Rosalind and Caroline.
‘I think Geraldine and Rosalind have digital cameras, but Caroline told me she didn’t. She still uses a film camera.’
‘Caroline?’ Tom turned his head and took a long look at Jasmine.
‘Are you sure?’
‘Keep your eyes on the road, Tom.’ Tom’s head flicked to face forward. ‘It’s possible Caroline took the photo of Petula used in the prints,’ Jasmine mused, ‘It’s just one bit of evidence. There must be more, if I look hard enough.’ She began to turn over the pages in the file, looking at each with renewed interest.