How do you like the weather? It’s amusing that one day of really hot British summer produces endless news reports but it was hot on Wednesday. I found that even sitting at the computer trying to write was draining – that’s my excuse anyway. But the warmth has forced me into a change I have been thinking about for some time. I’ve ditched the wig!
For the last fifteen years I have worn a wig whenever I have been out as Penny (except for one or two occasions when a summer hat was used instead). I’ve always felt that the wig helped my feminine appearance and influenced my gender identity, but it is also a mask. It is quite amazing how a different colour, length and style of hair can make you, me, anyone, almost unrecogniseable. In the summer however, it turns me into a sweaty blob with my foundation bubbling and eye shadow running, and it feels unbearable. Going without the wig is quite a step. I am stepping outside as me, exposed, allowing myself to be read as trans more easily and perhaps making myself a target for name-calling, if nothing worse. We’ll see, but for comfort the experiment must be made. I hope that by next week I’ll have some photographic evidence.
Here are some previous wig appearances!
Anyway, to Split Mirror, the new Jasmine Frame prequel novella. I write these stories in episodes having written out a very brief outline. Sometimes the plot evolves as I go along. In this case, something I learned during the week gave me a bright idea about how Split Mirror could develop. As it happens it means no changes were necessary to part 1, so here is part 2 for your entertainment.
Split Mirror: Part 2
Palmerston got up from her seat. ‘‘We’ll circulate all the details Miss Stretfield. I’m sure your partner will turn up soon but thank you for coming in.’ She stood at the table waiting for the tearful woman to move. It was a few moments before she took the hint, gathered up her bag and stood up. The DS escorted her out of the interview room and into the corridor where she pressed the button to release the lock on the exit to the foyer. Debbie Stretfield muttered her thanks and left.
Jasmine followed Palmerston back up the stairs.
‘I told you not to speak,’ Palmerston said over her shoulder.
‘I was surprised by the similarity between them,’ Jasmine said through lips stiffened by anger.
‘You confused her. You could see it on her face.’
Jasmine thought it was worry about the loss of her partner that had been visible on Debbie Stretfield’s face but she didn’t comment.
‘What are we going to do about finding Diana?’ she asked instead.
‘Post the photo and the details of her car on the system.’
‘Is that all?’
Palmerston paused on a landing and turned to face Jasmine. ‘The woman has been away from home for less than a day. There are all sorts of reasons for why she didn’t come home last night. We’ve spoken to the woman as DCI Sloane promised we would. That’s enough.’
‘But, she was worried. She had no reason to expect her partner to be out all night.’
‘Look Frame, if you want to get involved with what goes on with couples join the Domestic and Families team or go to Traffic if you want to look at cars. We’re the Violent and Serious Crime Unit. We are interested in acts of terrorism, drug dealing, people trafficking, child sex rings, corporate fraud, serial rapists and unresolved murders and a host of other important crimes. We’ve got plenty of work to be getting on with.’ Palmerston strode off down the corridor and shoved open the door to their office. Jasmine followed a few paces behind seething at the arrogance of the woman.
She got to her desk and booted up her computer. Alongside her, Tom Shepherd was bent over his keyboard writing his report. He straightened up stretched and turned his head to her.
‘Hi, Jas, anything interesting?’
Jasmine replied in a whisper, ‘I don’t know. DS High and Mighty Palmerston thinks it’s a waste of our time, but I’m not sure. There’s something . . .’
‘You sound pretty pissed off.’
‘I am. Palmerston told me not to speak as my masculine voice might confuse the interviewee.’
Tom’s dark eyebrows rose. ‘She said that?’
‘Well, not quite, but that was what she meant.’
‘She’s out of order.’
‘I’m sorry, Jas. Look, I’d better get this done. I was supposed to be off duty ten minutes ago.’ He turned back to his screen.
He doesn’t want to talk about it, Jasmine thought, how Sloane, Palmerston and the others treat me and leave me out of the exciting stuff. She sniffed and got down to the mundane job of loading Diana Stretfield’s details and photo onto the police computer system. Something that Debbie Stretfield said had set her wondering and she started calling up data from the national records. She was soon busily following a trail and barely noticed when Tom rose and said good bye. A half hour had gone by before she sat back in her chair, stretched and nodded. It was then that a message pinged into her inbox. The brief note made her eyes widen.
She got up and looked round the office. Palmerston wasn’t at her desk or anywhere to be seen. Jasmine walked to the door of DI Sloane’s office and knocked lightly. Immediately there was a gruff response of ‘Come In!’ She entered. As usual Sloane’s desk looked like a relic from the 1980s or earlier. There were piles of folders with the computer screen pushed to the side unlooked at. Sloane looked up from the report he was reading.
‘Frame. What can I do for you?’
Jasmine stepped into the office and stood in front of the desk like a child confronted by her headmaster. ‘It’s that missing person case that you sent DS Palmerston and me to look at, Sir.’
Sloane looked vague. ‘Palmerston said that the case was filed and that uniform could look after it.’
‘Yes, well I’ve turned up some points of interest, Sir.’
‘Points of interest? What do you mean Frame?’ Sloane stared briefly at Jasmine but she noted that his eyes quickly flicked away. He couldn’t bear to look at her for more than a few moments. His body language suggested he wanted Jasmine out of his presence a.s.a.p.
‘The woman that Palmerston interviewed, Deborah Stretfield, said that her partner, Diana Stretfield had left home for Reading sometime yesterday afternoon in a white Nissan Micra and had not returned. I have just had a report that the car has been recorded as parked in a layby on the A4 at Theale, just before the junction for the motorway.’
‘Parked? What about the driver?’
‘No mention of Miss Stretfield, Sir.’
‘Well, she’s gone off somewhere and left the car. What is unusual?’
‘The police officers logged it twice, Sir. Once last evening and again this morning.’
‘So she went off with someone overnight. Why were the officers interested in a car parked in a layby?’ Jasmine could see Sloane’s face reddening. His renowned impatience was setting in.
‘It’s just that that layby is used by lorry-drivers and as a PSE, Sir.’
‘A Public Sex Environment, Sir.’
‘I know what the letters mean, Frame. You’re saying that this woman’s car has been parked all night at a site used by people engaged in sexual activities but there is no sign of her.’
‘Well, offensive though it may be, unless someone makes a complaint about activities in breach of The Sexual Offences Act there is nothing that we can do. Are you suggesting that this woman has deliberately parked at this layby to take part on the behaviour?’
‘I don’t know, Sir. . .’
Sloane’s eyes flared and he roared, ‘In that case get back to your other work. There is no case to investigate.’
When she had first joined the V&SCU as James Frame, Sloane’s outbursts had been scary but usually appropriate. Since her transition she had had to face his distaste for her changed appearance on too many occasions and she was losing patience with his bigotry.
‘But, I think you need to know I’ve also made some deductions about Diana Stretfield, Sir.’
Sloane’s face turned redder. ‘What deductions, Frame?’
‘Well, Sir. It was something the other Miss Stretfield said. She told us she was divorced but that she and her partner, Diana, had kept the surname Stretfield. “Kept”, Sir, not adopted or taken.’
‘Get on with it Frame?’
‘I’ve checked the records. Deborah Stretfield was married to a Donald Stretfield. They divorced in 2006. I can find no trace of Diana Stretfield in records prior to 2007, Sir, except for her birth certificate which seems to be a modern form and not one scanned from 1963 when she was born.’
Sloane seemed calmer but shook his head in confusion, ‘I’m not getting your drift, Frame.’
Jasmine took a deep breath. ‘I think Diana Stretfield is a trans-woman, Sir who transitioned in 2006 and received her Gender Recognition Certificate in 2007. She had to divorce from her wife Deborah to get it but they have continued to live together and have a striking similarity in appearance, at least, superficially.’
Sloane still looked confused. ‘Why didn’t the other Miss Stretfield, the one who reported her partner missing, say she was a trans, er, person.’
‘Possibly because Diana no longer consider herself trans. She has probably completed her transition and is physically a woman. She would not want to be outed as a transsexual – that is the whole point of the GRC, Sir.’
‘You’re obsessed with trans-thingummy stuff, Frame. Stop wasting time finding it in every case you are asked to investigate.
‘I didn’t request the case Sir, but I think that Diana Stretfield’s history as a transsexual is relevant to her disappearance.’
Sloane sighed. ‘Well what difference does it make, Frame? There is no evidence that she has come to any harm and it is still less than twenty four hours since she left her home. Pass on your deductions to the missing person team it’s not a case for us.’
‘I think her absence is worrying, Sir. I think she may have gone to that layby deliberately to have sex with men. We know that PSEs can be dangerous places and as a trans woman she is vulnerable. The fact that she didn’t return after the night’s activities suggests that something serious may have happened to her.’
Painted Ladies: A Jasmine Frame Story is available as an e-book and paperback from all booksellers including Amazon