Back to something like normal after last weekend at Dysprosium and back to thinking and working on Jasmine Frame stories. Publication of Bodies By Design is top of the list and perhaps there is some progress there; getting on with Jasmine Frame 3, provisionally titled The Brides, is next, and lastly, although first priority, is the next episode of the prequel, Soft Focus, which is below.
I was interested in the media attention given to pre-pubescent transsexuals in the last week, with the Theroux TV programme, items on the news and on radio. It is almost as if the media have switched their sensationalist focus from aging trannies (such as your truly) to the youngsters who are declaring their transgender identity as soon as they can express themselves. I think I’ll have more to say and write about that in future. I hope the time has come when someone like Jasmine Frame isn’t special for what she is but for her personality and her deeds. It doesn’t stop me thinking up “situations” to place her in though. Enjoy the next episode of her evolution as a transsexual detective
Soft Focus: Part 5
They carried on walking, Angela’s hand in James’. Neither spoke. James wondered whether Angela was thinking the same things as he was; a curious mixture of fascination with the questions surrounding Silla’s death along with enjoyment of being with someone, a girl, who seemed to like him and questioning where that might lead.
A few minutes brought them onto the approach road to the bridge. Ahead was the nearer of the two brick encased towers that supported the curving chains of the suspension bridge. There was high wall on their right which stopped abruptly revealing a vista across the gorge. James and Angela took the few steps to the railings topped by a wire fence and looked at the view. For a moment James forgot why they had come here. The scene was stunning. The cliff was just a few metres from them, an almost sheer wall of rock clothed in vegetation which dropped to the floor of the valley far below. A grey ribbon of road hugged the base of the cliff with the cars on it like tiny models, but most of the gorge was occupied by the estuary. The tide was out so there was only a narrow channel of brown water bounded by a wide margin of smooth, glistening mud.
They walked on towards and passed the tower so that they were on the bridge itself. The cars on the narrow roadway were ignored as all their attention was taken by the slowly changing perspective of the cliffs and the river below. They stopped at the centre of the span and stood pressed against the railing looking down.
Angela squeezed James’ hand. ‘I didn’t think I was scared of heights but this gives me the frights.’
James spare hand gripped the iron rail. It was reassuringly firm. The over-engineered strength of the Brunel’s bridge all around him was also reassuringly firm. Nevertheless he empathised with Angela.
‘You’re right. It’s amazing. I’m glad I’ve come to see it but I don’t understand how someone can throw themselves off.’ They both looked up at the modern protective fence that surmounted the old railings.
‘You’ve got to be determined to climb up there and then jump,’ Angela said, ‘but people do, I’ve heard the reports on the news.’
James looked up at the inverted arch of the suspension chain. ‘Don’t they have CCTV to catch people before they go over?’
‘I’m sure they do,’ Angela replied, following James’ searching eyes. ‘Sometimes they can’t get someone here quick enough to stop the jumper.’
James verbalised his thoughts. ‘Hmm. I suppose the video is evidence for the inquest.’
‘It would show if the person was alone when they went over.’
‘Proof that it was suicide and not murder.’
‘That’s right, James. So the Police will know that Silla killed herself.’
James looked at Angela. ‘Except, Ange, You said that Silla didn’t fall into the river.’
Their eyes met. ‘That’s right, I’d forgotten. She wasn’t on the bridge itself. She fell from the approach.’
James took Angela’s arm and they retraced they steps, faster than before. They returned to where the footpath skirted the tower on a balcony and looked over the rail.
‘I thought Tiff said Silla nearly landed on a car,’ James said, ‘but the road goes under the main span of the bridge.’
‘Tiff was exaggerating,’ Angela replied. ‘I heard that a driver had seen Silla fall. She must have come down somewhere over there.’ Angela pointed to the side of the gorge. ‘There are trees and bushes to slow the fall. It’s not as big a drop.’
‘But just as fatal.’ James concluded. He examined the bridge. The fencing wasn’t as high on the approach and he couldn’t see a TV camera aimed at the path. ‘Maybe there isn’t CCTV of this part of the bridge. It could be there is no proof that Silla was alone when she fell. It’s possible that she was thrown over.’
‘You’re convinced Silla was murdered, James?’
‘I don’t believe that she was in the mood to come down here, climb over the fence and jump off, either here or the middle of the bridge. What about you, Ange?’
Angela chewed her lip, thinking, then made up her mind. ‘I agree. What do we do about it?’
James turned away from the parapet and took Angela’s arm. ‘I don’t know. Let’s get a coffee and think about it.’
They were in a cafe in Clifton village, not one of the chain of modern coffee-bars but an old-fashioned, cramped place with a few circular wooden tables and bentwood chairs. The coffee was good though, and cheap. James held his cup to his lips, sipping and looking at Angela across the rim. He was looking at her with something beyond lust. She was certainly desirable. Her long waves of brown hair framed a round face with large eyes and strong features. Now that she had removed her coat James could admire her figure which though slim had curves which she did not hide in a slouchy sweater but were revealed by a fitted jumper. He felt an unfamiliar desire to strip her of her clothes in order to caress the smooth, white skin beneath and feel that curved flesh. But there was also the wish to just be with this young woman, to discover more about her, to talk about this and that, to pour out his feelings. It wasn’t just an unfamiliar feeling it was one he had never anticipated.
Angela’s eyes looked back at him across her cup. She put the cup back on its saucer. ‘So, why are you so sure that Silla didn’t intend to die?’
‘I’m not sure,’ James said, ‘I know I only met her for a few minutes, I didn’t know her at all, really, but I have this feeling that she had too much she was looking forward to, things she wanted to happen; she wouldn’t just give it up.’
Angela’s eyes were focused on James, searching for the tiniest evidence of his emotions. ‘Is it because you identify with her as a transsexual? Do you feel like her?’
‘No, yes, oh, it’s complicated. She was living as a girl; she had started on gender reassignment; it may only have been months before she became the woman she thought she was. That’s not me.’
‘I don’t spend all my time as Jasmine, as you can see.’ James knew he wasn’t being completely honest with Angela or himself. Did he want to be Jasmine all the time? Did he in fact feel that he was Jasmine all the time even when he was dressed as James? Despite days, months and years of considering those questions he was still not certain of his answers.
‘OK. You’ve admitted to being a transvestite. That’s fine. I’m looking forward to seeing Jasmine again, she’s fun. But you seem to think you have enough in common with Silla to understand what motivated her.’ Angela sat up straight and laughed. ‘Gosh, I sound as though we’re in a seminar discussing principles of psychology.’
‘Perhaps that’s what I need,’ James nodded. ‘A psychological grilling that can draw out my reasons for feeling as I do about Silla.’
‘I’m not sure I know enough to do that without hurting you, James. The point is you, we, think that Silla was killed. What do we do about it?’
James took another sip of coffee while he considered his answer. He put the cup down deliberately. ‘We have to find out who did it.’
Angela’s dark brown eyebrows rose. ‘Isn’t that a police job?’
‘Well, OK, we have to tell the police. Get them to investigate.’
‘They won’t be interested if all you can say is you believe she was murdered. They’ll want evidence.’
James knew that Angela was right. Police work was all about finding evidence, a bit like what historians did, which was why he was studying history. ‘Right, but I could tell them about what happened in the party last night. You know, my meeting with Silla and then her set to with the gay lads.’
‘But you don’t know why the gays shoved her.’
‘Yes, but Andy can tell us.’ James drained his coffee cup and stood up. He went to the counter to pay their bill. Angela joined him a few moments later, pulling her coat over her shoulders.
She whispered, ‘Are you saying you think the gay boys killed Silla?’
The waitress dropped the change into James’ hand. He mumbled a thanks and turned to Angela.
‘No. I hope not. I’m sure Andy wouldn’t have been part of it. He’s been great to me. He encouraged me to come to the party as Jasmine.’
They left the café, bodies touching, heads close together.
‘So why is their bundle with Silla important?’
‘I’m not sure it is but it will help explain what Silla was getting up to, her state of mind and all that. Andy may give us a clue as to where she went afterwards and give us a lead to the killers.’
They headed back towards the university.
‘So once you’ve spoken to Andy, we go to the Police?’ Angela asked.
‘Let’s see what Andy says. Are you coming with me?’
‘Oh yes. I like being with you James, as much as I enjoyed getting to know Jasmine.’
Painted Ladies: A Jasmine Frame Story is available as an e-book and paperback from all booksellers including Amazon