I didn’t notice until later that last week’s post was my hundredth. Quite a milestone. I’m planning on making some changes to this site developing a few more pages to show off (that’s probably the right term) my writings. But the episodes of Jasmine Frame stories will remain. The one that follows was qute difficult to write so comments about how it reads will be very welcome. Abuse of transsexuals has not gone away although I believe it to be rarer today than it was. This prequel is hopefully revealing how James/Jasmine decided that a career as a detective was for him/her.
Discovering Jasmine: Part 7
James’ first impulse was to run. He was confident he could run faster than most people but he would have to run past the gang to get onto the road and they could cut him off. He would have to confront them. They had seen him and were already fanning out to surround him. Were they the gang who had attacked Cleo last evening? None of them looked familiar but then he only had a hazy recollection of the appearance of the young men he had run at. He guessed that at a few of them at least had been on the sea-front beating up Cleo but he couldn’t tell whether the knife-wielder was amongst them. A more vital question was whether they recognised him?
James stopped a few metres from the boys. His worries grew as a couple circled around him so that he was surrounded.
‘Who are you?’ the boy facing him asked. He was James’ age and height but a bit more heavily built with dark, short hair with shaved sides. He held himself with a confidence that suggested he didn’t expect opposition.
‘Ja…Jim,’ James replied.
‘What you doing here? You don’t live here.’ The boy spoke with the apparent knowledge of all the residents of the block of flats and perhaps all the others in the vicinity.
‘No, I don’t live here,’ James replied avoiding the question.
‘You weren’t calling on the tranny were you?’ It was an accusation rather than a simple question. James weighed up his answer. It did not look as though he had been recognised. In his scruffy male gear rather than his girly attire of the previous evening, with his blonde hair flattened down rather than back brushed and lacquered, and lacking make-up and jewellery his appearance was different enough as to not ring bells in the boys’ memories of the previous evening. It was what James relied on when he was out as Jasmine – a change in appearance that turned him into a different person. Nevertheless he had to choose his answer carefully. If he suggested that he had made a social call on Cleo he would become a target for the gang’s wrath, but he had to explain his presence in the apartment block. There was another thing too – he’d told Cleo he would find out who the attackers were, particularly the knife-wielder. Here he had an intro to the gang.
‘I was seeing where the perv lived,’ James said emphasising the “perv” and speaking in as nonchalant a fashion as he could manage. ‘I knocked on his door and gave him scare.’
The leader of the group sniffed and scowled but seemed convinced.
‘That’s what we do. Stash won’t like some other fucker having a go.’
‘Who’s Stash?’ James asked. His question resulted in a few in-drawn breaths around the circle.
‘You are a stranger,’ the leader chuckled. ‘It’s Stash that decides what goes round here. He’s going to want to see you. Come on.’
The two boys behind James stepped forward and shoved him in the back. James stumbled, recovered and followed the leader who had turned and headed up the street.
They walked along the roads deep into the estate for a few minutes, James surrounded by a phalanx of gang members. They came to a row of garages. A couple of wrecked cars stood outside with weeds growing up around their wheels. One of the up-and-over garage doors was open. A heavy beat of music came from inside. As they approached James saw that the garage was furnished more like a living room than a place to park a car. There was a faded but colourful carpet on the floor, a pair of tall speakers and a DJ’s record desk and a couple of up-turned boxes littered with cans and burger boxes. A few boys and girls stood in the shadows at the back of the garage behind a big, squashy armchair with stuffing sticking out of rips. A youth sprawled in the chair. One look at him gave James a flashback.
She was on her knees, the boy looming over her, a glint of steel in his hand. James blinked. He was sure. The youth in the chair was his knife attacker from the previous evening. He looked to be a year or two older than James, with coffee-coloured skin, short black hair and a frown. As if to confirm his identity he lifted up a grey craft knife and flicked out the triangular blade.
James’ guardians stopped at the entrance to the garage.
The leader of the group, standing beside James, spoke. ‘Stash. We found this guy annoying the tranny.’
Stash shifted to an even more relaxed pose in the chair and stabbed the knife into the arm. His eyes flicked to James then back to examining the knife blade.
‘Who is this arsehole, Nicko?’ Stash mumbled.
‘Say his name’s Jim. Doesn’t live round here,’ Nicko said, eager to pass on the little information he’d learned.
‘Of course he’s not from around here,’ Stash growled, ‘we’d know him if he did.’ He glared at James. ‘What you doing here, kiddo?’
James swallowed. He was in trouble if he wasn’t careful. Stash, like Nicko and his mates, hadn’t recognised him but he knew that if he said the wrong thing he was going to get hurt.
‘I’d heard there was a tranny here. I wanted to see where she lived.’
‘Why?’ Stash asked.
James took a deep breath. ‘Because they’re disgusting filth.’ He felt like Peter betraying Christ, denying his sympathy for Cleo, but he couldn’t see any other way of avoiding a beating.
Stash nodded. ‘You’re right. The arse-fucking queer is a blot on our patch. Me and my guys keep this place clean of gays and towel-heads. But you need to learn that I say how we sort them out. You don’t come in here doing what you like.’ He looked at Nicko and nodded.
James didn’t have time to flinch. The fist hit him in the stomach. He fell to his knees vainly trying to suck air into his lungs.
‘If you want to drive the dickless shit off the estate you come with me. Got it Jim-boy?’
James nodded and rocked on his knees grateful when cool air filled his chest.
‘Is the bugger in his flat, Nicko?’ Stash continued.
‘Yeah,’ Nicko replied. ‘Hasn’t been out all day. Not since he got back from the hospital this morning.’
‘Well, he shouldn’t have been fit to be let out. We got disturbed last night by that stupid twat in the dress. We’ll have the perv tonight, no mistake.’
‘Yes, Stash,’ Nicko said and his mates nodded.
‘Get back there and keep an eye on him. I want to know the moment he tries to leave.’
‘And take our guest with you and teach him how to behave like one of the crew.’
‘Well go on then. Fuck off.’
Nicko reached down to drag James to his feet and backed away with his followers. They re-traced their steps to the patch of worn grass outside Cleo’s flat then flopped down on the ground.
‘Go get us some tinnies,’ Nicko said to one of the slightly younger boys.
‘I ain’t got no cash,’ the boy said.
Nicko sighed. ‘What do you need cash for? Nick ‘em or tell the fucking curry-fart that we’ll torch his place if he doesn’t give them to you. Go!’ The boy got up and dragged another boy off with him. Nicko turned to James.
‘Now Jim. It seems that Stash wants you to hang around and see how we run things here.’
James nodded. Since recovering from the punch he had been torn between running away from the gang as soon as he could and staying to find out what they had planned for Cleo later in the day. Now the pain had lessened and only four of the gang remained he was fairly confident he could get away from them but he was worried that Cleo was in danger.
‘So, fill me in. Where do you live, Jim?’
James thought quickly. He mustn’t mention his real home or he’d be found out as an outsider.
‘Wealden Way.’ He replied naming a road on an adjacent estate. Nicko curled his lip and nodded.
‘All bloody immigrants, over there.’ He looked at James as if examining him for the first time. ‘Ain’t seen you round school.’
‘We’ve just moved here. I’ve been wandering around, getting to know the place,’ James explained, hoping it sounded convincing.
Nicko shrugged. ‘Well your first lesson is that no-one goes wandering around here without Stash’s permission, and that means no strangers. So you’re going to have to stop being a stranger and become one of the crew.’
‘How do I do that?’
‘Well, you can start by chucking some gravel at the fucker’s window. That’ll keep him sweating.’
‘Yeah, there’s a heap over there.’ Nicko pointed to the adjacent apartment block which appeared to be having some much needed repairs. ‘Go on. Do it.’
James got up and walked slowly across the grass. There was scaffolding on the side of the block and a heap of gravel beside some bags of cement. He picked up a handful of the stones and walked back to Nicko and the gang.
‘Chuck them at the tranny’s window. Hard, not a pansy throw.’
James raised his hand and threw the chips at Cleo’s partly-boarded window. They made a loud clatter. He saw the curtain inside flick aside and a face appear momentarily before disappearing again. I’m sorry, Cleo, James thought, but I hope I can help you.
‘Good,’ Nicko said laying back on the grass with his hands behind his head.
‘Who is Stash?’ James asked wondering if he was in a position to ask questions.
‘The boss,’ Nicko replied.
‘Yeah, I gathered,’ James struggled to avoid being sarcastic. ‘But who is he?’
‘Stephen Ashley Wright,’ Nicko said, enunciating each name, ‘But you’ll get a kicking if you call him by any of those names. He can be really evil, as Nobbo found out.’
‘He ran the crew before Stash jumped him and cut him up.’
‘He used that knife he had in the garage.’
‘Yeah, he likes a bit of blood does Stash. You’d better do as he says if you don’t want him to carve his mark in your face.’
James shuddered, seeing the blade slashing at him the night before. ‘I’ll remember that. What’s he got planned for this evening.’
Nicko giggled. ‘We’re going to make things a bit hot for the tranny.’
‘Yeah, we’re going to post him a special delivery through his letter box. If that doesn’t get him out of the place I don’t know what will. And when he comes out, Stash’ll be ready with his little blade.’
Painted Ladies: A Jasmine Frame Story is available as an e-book and a paperback from all booksellers including Amazon