I’m making a few changes to this blog. Thoughts about transgenderism, crime, Jasmine Frame and all that will continue to appear here along with episodes of Jasmine Frame stories. But to read about my SF/fantasy writing, particularly the September Weekes series, Evil Above the Stars there is a new page for your delectation. Soon there will be extra pages on other topics and possibly a whole new design – exciting.
One question that has been concerning me this week is this. Is Jasmine in a niche (or a rut)? My original aim was to write exciting crime thrillers in which the lead character, Jasmine Frame was a pre-op transsexual. I hoped that put her in the niche crime thriller market (as opposed to the police procedural or whodunnit mystery niches) which is pretty big. The suggestion is that I’ve actually confined her to the transgender fiction niche which is a considerably smaller market. So far all my plots have centred around trans issues because obviously Jasmine is pretty emotionally involved in such matters. Does that stop them being appreciated by a wider audience? I hope not but perhaps I need you, the readers of this blog, to let me know what you think.
Here then is the next episode of the prequel to Painted Ladies that tells of Jasmine’s beginnings.
Discovering Jasmine: Part 8
Despite the warm August sunshine, James felt cold inside. The gang were planning on hurting Cleo really badly but what could he do about it? Run away while Nicko and his mates were lying around relaxing or wait to see what they did? But he couldn’t stop their plan all on his own. He wasn’t sure what to do so just sat, arms around his knees and conscious of the fading ache in his abdomen caused by Nicko’s punch.
‘So, Jimbo, you don’t like trannies,’ Nicko said.
‘Uh, no,’ James replied, feeling the greater pain of betrayal.
‘What you got against them then?’
James thought. What did people like Nicko have against people like Cleo? ‘It’s not normal, is it,’ he offered as a likely answer.
‘What ain’t?’ Nicko asked.
‘Well, a bloke wearing women’s stuff and all that.’
Nicko nodded. ‘Yeah and actually asking to have your knob and balls cut off. That’s sick.’
The other boys nodded and grunted in agreement.
‘They try to make out they’re women,’ Nicko continued, ‘and fool blokes into fucking them.’
James wasn’t sure that Cleo spent time prowling around the estate looking for men to have sex with, even if she did dream of a lover.
‘That’s why we’ve got to get rid of people like this cheating fucker,’ Nicko concluded. ‘Don’t you agree, Jimbo?’
‘Oh, yes,’ James said, wishing that he was miles away from this cosy chat.
The two boys that had been sent off returned carrying cans and bottles and celebrating their victory over the shopkeeper. Each member of the gang selected from the choice of cheap strong lager or cider. Nicko chucked a can to James.
‘There you go, Jimbo, courtesy of the Crew.’
James tugged at the ring pull, sucked at the froth that emerged but did not take a swig of the strong alcohol. He had to keep hold of his wits and not get drunk. The gang though, swiftly emptied their first cans and started on a second. Their conversation grew louder and reduced to expletives and accusations. A couple of boys wandered down to Cleo’s window and bellowed obscenities through the pane. Another couple engaged in a mock fight like playful lion cubs.
A boy stood up and lurched towards the apartment block. ‘I need to take a leak,’ he muttered.
‘Piss on the perv’s door,’ Nicko called out. The boy nodded and continued around the building.
James watched his surroundings. The road was quiet with just the occasional car passing by. There were even fewer pedestrians. A woman pushing a pushchair came up the road but crossed over before she got close to the carousing crew. She hurried past.
The boozy conversations were halted by the familiar tinkle of the Nokia tune. All the boys looked to Nicko who scrabbled in the pocket of his jeans. He pulled out a chunky mobile phone, looked at it as if it was a monster then stabbed one of the buttons with a thick, grubby finger. He held the phone to his ear.
‘Hello?’ he said, somewhat tentatively, ‘Oh, Stash, it’s you.’ His head went back suggesting that he’d been given a telling off in some ripe language, then he listened closely for a minute or so. Finally he pressed another button and shoved the phone back in his pocket. He looked around at his fellow gang members.
‘That was Stash,’ he said. Everyone nodded as if they hadn’t gathered the fact. ‘It’s all set for this evening. Stash wants us to keep an eye on the tranny until he comes down with the stuff when it’s getting dark. We’ve got to make sure the guy doesn’t leave.’
James glanced at his watch. It was just three o’clock. It would be another five hours before the action took place. By then this lot would be off their heads if they drank more booze. He didn’t want to be hanging around when it all happened. At least he now knew something about what was planned.
Nicko hauled himself to his feet. ‘It’s going to be a long wait so I’m going to get some stuff. You lot stay here and do what Stash says. Don’t be stupid.’ He turned his back on the gang and headed up the street. James wondered whether he had been forgotten as the boys returned to their joshing and stories of their triumphs, supping from their cans and bottles. James waited for a few minutes then stood up.
‘Where you off, then?’ a short boy said.
‘Need a pee,’ James said heading off towards the block. The others giggled and returned to joshing one another. James walked down the side of the building, passed the entrance to the flats and on to the rear. As he had observed earlier that took him to a line of garages that linked the three apartment blocks. Once sure he was out of sight of the gang he began to jog. The lane from the garages lead into another road of terraced houses. James kept on running, listening out for any sound of pursuit. There was none. The kids had probably forgotten all about him, at least until Nicko returned. Then they might start to wonder about who he was. By then though he would be far away, never to return.
Soon, James reached the perimeter road of the estate. He crossed and passed into the older part of the town. He slowed to a gentle trot. Ten minutes and another mile brought him to the town centre and the entrance to the police station he had visited the previous night. He walked up the steps and opened the door. The police officer on the desk was unfamiliar. It was silly to expect the same one as in the middle of the night but James was sorry that he had to introduce himself all over again. This was a man in his fifties with greying hair and signs of a paunch.
‘Yeah, lad, what can we do for you?’
James was unsure where to start. ‘They’re going to murder Cleo,’ he blurted out. The police officer looked unconcerned but picked up a pencil and twisted it around his fingers.
‘Right. Who’s Cleo and what makes you think she’s going to be murdered?’
‘Um, I don’t know her surname. She lives in a flat on the council estate. She’s transsexual.’
‘Oh, that Cleo,’ the PC groaned. ‘Has she been telling you that they’re going to get her?’
‘No, well, yes, and no.’
‘What do you mean lad?’
‘Well, I did speak to her. She told me about all the aggro she gets.’
‘Well, she will go flaunting herself in mini-skirts and tight blouses. Always down here complaining about fancied slight or other. Stories, all of them.’
James realised that there wasn’t a lot of sympathy for Cleo.
‘She’s on her own,’ he said.
‘Yeah, who’d want to be with a creature like that,’ the officer said in an offhand manner.
‘But she’s being targeted. Her flat is graffitied, her window smashed. She gets abused every time she goes out, and this evening they’re going to put a petrol bomb through her door.’
‘She told you that did she?’ The PC sniffed.
‘No. Stash said so.’
The police officer stared at James, suddenly interested. ‘Stash Wright? Dark hair, mixed-race?’
‘Yes, that’s him. He’s leader of the Crew.’
‘How did you meet him?’
James described how Nicko and his mates had met him outside Cleo’s flat, taken him to Stash and then included him in their stakeout.
‘So you don’t like trannies either. Is that it?’
‘No, no. I don’t dislike trans people at all. I am one.’
‘What?’ The officer’s eyes opened wide. ‘Look lad, I think you’d better start at the beginning.’
James sighed, drew a breath and related the previous evening’s events and explained that he had wanted to check that Cleo wasn’t badly hurt and so had called on her.
‘So why did you join Stash’s gang.’
‘I didn’t join but I couldn’t just walk away from them. They would have trashed me if they thought I wasn’t with them. Stash is the guy who had the knife last night.’ James saw the flashing blade in his head again. ‘I recognised him straightaway, and he had the same knife that I saw last night.’
‘Didn’t he recognise you?’ The policeman seemed unconvinced.
‘No, I was dressed as a girl last night, make-up, ear rings, my hair brushed up. Most people only see what they expect to see. Today they saw a boy in jeans and trainers; they didn’t see the girl in the short dress and high-heels.’
The PC’s face turned pink and he started scribbling on the pad in front of him.
‘OK,’ he said after a few minutes of writing. ‘So you overheard the gang making a plan to attack the trans-guy.’
‘Cleo. She’s a woman. She’s had all the treatment.’
‘OK, so you say. So what are they going to do, pour paint through her letter box or something?’
‘Not paint. Petrol. They want to drive her out by setting fire to her flat and then kill her.’
‘That’s a bit over-dramatic isn’t it, lad? Are you sure that’s what Stash meant? We’ve had Cleo in here before saying she’s had death threats.’
‘Yes, I’m sure. Stash and his gang are going to get her.’
‘Hmm.’ The officer sucked his pencil. ‘I think I’d better pass this on. Take a seat for a while, lad.’ He pointed with the pencil to the bench seats set against the opposite wall of the foyer. James went to them and sat down. He wasn’t sure that the police had taken Cleo’s predicament seriously before. Would they now?
Painted Ladies:A Jasmine Frame Story is available as an e-book and a paperback from all booksellers including Amazon