We held the celebration of the launch of Bodies By Design this week at Leominster Library. It was lovely to welcome friends – and sell a few books – even though we didn’t get the hordes of eager Jasmine fans that I was hoping (dreaming) for. I wore my new dress and greeted some friends who hadn’t met Penny before.
Now I’m looking for ways and opportunities to bring Bodies By Design as well as Painted Ladies and Discovering Jasmine to the eager book buying masses – you must be out there, somewhere. I am offering my “Jasmine & Me” presentation/discussion to any groups interested in transgenderism of all shades, writing and publishing, or simply want to hear a crime thriller. To order the books, or to find out about booking a presentation just email me on email@example.com
But on with the plot. We’re well into the latest Jasmine Frame prequel, Flashlight, now, so here is the third episode.
Flashlight: part 3
The music had the same thumping beat; the flashing lights were the same; the hot steamy atmosphere was the same, but Jasmine felt different. She was wearing the same fringed satin dress, and Angela was dancing in front of her as before but she was uneasy. This wasn’t about being out with the girl she loved nor being the woman she felt she should be. This was work. Not officially, of course, but she was alert, all her senses tuned to detect the unexpected, her muscles ready to react in any way demanded of them. In other words, she was on edge.
Jasmine leaned towards Angela’s head, and shouted in her ear. ‘Let’s get a drink.’ They moved off to the bar. The same butch drag queens were behind the bar as the previous week.
‘Hi, girls,’ shouted the bearded one over the noise of the music. ‘What will it be?’
Angela ordered a white wine spritzer for herself and a water for Jasmine. They took their glasses and headed into the shadows at the edge of the dancefloor.
Angela took a sip and then said, ‘What are you going to do?’
Jasmine replied, ‘I’ll start in the Ladies, where Natalie was last week. Why don’t you have a peek into the side rooms? See what’s going on.’
‘I think we know what’s going on, don’t we?’
‘Perhaps. Don’t hang around. Look as though you’re looking for someone.’
‘What if someone offers me drugs, or sex?’
‘Say you haven’t got the money for drugs. The sex is up to you.’ Jasmine intended it to be a joke but realised immediately that Angela may not take it that way. Their sex life was not as active as it had been and Jasmine knew why. It was her fault. Increasingly, she was feeling disgusted playing the part of a man in the relationship. She couldn’t help it. She still loved Angela but the thing between her legs felt like an alien growth with reactions that were separate to her own.
Angela scowled, ‘Perhaps it is.’
Jasmine drank the last mouthful of water and put the glass down on a table.
‘I won’t be long. Meet back here?’
‘OK. Be careful.’
Jasmine set off for the toilets trying to look as though she felt “nature’s call”. She went straight to the Ladies and pushed the door open. As before it was dim and occupied with single women of all varieties attending to their make-up and couples who felt that the loo was the place to engage in sexual intercourse. She pushed on the door of the first cubicle. It rattled but didn’t budge and a deep voice bellowed ‘Get lost!’
She moved to the second door. This was where she had seen Natalie previously. The door swung open and she saw a young man standing with one foot up on the loo seat. He was shorter than Jasmine and had a leather post office bag resting on his raised knee. He had cropped bristly hair and a wispy beard. A T-boy, Jasmine guessed.
‘Hi, you want some stuff,’ he said in a voice that was breaking.
‘What you got?’ Jasmine said as disinterested as she could.
‘Anything you like,’ the youth shrugged.
Jasmine thought quickly. How could she say she wanted heroin? What was the street slang for the drug? A list of terms had been issued to police officers. There were thousands of different names for all sorts of drugs. She thought she remembered a few.
‘Got some Big Harry?’ she asked.
‘Yeah.’ He dug into his bag and pulled out a small plastic bag. ‘Good quality stuff.’
Jasmine wondered, should she haggle? ‘That’s a lot for one shot.’
The boy looked at her bare arms. He can see I’m not a regular injector, she thought.
‘Take it or leave it. There’s plenty who need it,’ he said.
Jasmine opened her small shoulder bag and dug out a note and coins. She offered it to the young man in her open palm. He scooped the cash into his bag and replaced it with the polythene packet.
‘Where’s Natalie?’ Jasmine asked wondering if it was a good idea to mention the name of the dead pusher.
‘Who?’ he said without a flicker of interest.
‘The girl who was here before,’ Jasmine explained. How regular had Natalie been, she wondered. Had she been here on other occasions or was last Wednesday the only time?
‘No idea. Look do you want any more stuff? There’s people waiting.’
Jasmine glanced over her shoulder. A burly girl in a leather mini-dress was hanging around the door to the cubicle. A customer or a minder?
‘Oh, OK. Thanks,’ Jasmine said retreating from the toilet. She squeezed passed the leather-clad trans-woman stuffing her purchase in her bag.
She returned to the dark corner of the dance floor, dazzled once again by the flashlights illuminating the dancers. Angela wasn’t there. Jasmine stood uneasily, glancing at the bar. She caught the eye of one of the men standing there. Jasmine groaned inwardly as he approached her. He was probably a decade older than her and a couple of centimetres shorter with lank brown hair and a small paunch that filled out his dark, slogan-breasted t-shirt. He came close to her, his face just a few centimetres from hers so that he could make himself heard over the noise of the music.
He smiled and said, ‘Hello. What’s a pretty girl like you standing all alone for?’ The “girl” was emphasised in a way that let Jasmine know she’d been read. Not surprising as a good proportion of the “girls” in the club were, TSs, trannies or drag queens.
‘Just waiting,’ Jasmine replied not wanting to make conversation and hoping that Angela would reappear soon.
‘Well, I’m here now,’ he said with a leery smile, ‘How would you like have an admirer?’
This time Jasmine’s groan was almost audible. Oh, no, she thought, a bloody tranny fancier. What attracted them to guys in dresses? Did he think she was so desperate to be treated as a woman that she’d give a blow-job to any bloke that appreciated her? Jasmine hadn’t had to fend of such admirers very often as she was usually in the company of Angela when clubbing. She was unsure how to respond.
‘Uh, not a lot,’ she said.
‘Aw, come on, love. You look so good you must want it.’ He reached out an arm and placed his hand on Jasmine’s left buttock. The cloth of the dress and her knickers was so thin that she could feel the heat of his palm.
She pushed his hand away. ‘No, thank you,’ she said as calmly as she could though her heart was beating fast, ‘I said I was waiting for someone.’
From behind him, she saw Angela appear.
‘Hello, Jas. Everything alright here?’ Angela’s cheery greeting wasn’t quite her normal jolly tone.
‘Hi, Ange. Yes. This “admirer” was just leaving.’
The man looked around, took in Angela in a glance and backed away, muttering ‘fucking tranny cock-teasers’.
‘Where have you been?’ Jasmine asked, her relief coming out more like impatience
‘Doing what you asked?’ Angela said, ‘Having a look in the side-rooms.’
‘Sex mainly. Some straight, some gay, some kinky. A few people watching others getting it on. I didn’t stop for long enough to get involved, although there were some good-looking blokes with their tackle out.’ Jasmine saw the cheeky grin that she knew of old and guessed that she was being paid back for her earlier attempt at a joke.
‘Perhaps. Didn’t see anything in particular. Some of the spectators and participants were probably on something. I wasn’t offered anything though. Were you?’
Jasmine tapped her bag. ‘Yes. Heroin. I think it was time we went home. I wouldn’t want to be caught here, or anywhere, with drugs in my bag if my work-mates decided on a raid.’
Angela nodded. ‘I understand. Who was it? Another trans-woman?’
‘No, an F to M. Young lad. In the same cubicle as Natalie though, but didn’t seem to know about her when I mentioned her.’
‘You didn’t say she was dead?’
‘No, I just mentioned her name. He didn’t seem to care.’
‘OK. Well, let’s head home.’
‘Don’t hurry. Look natural.’
‘Of course.’ Angela took her arm and they sauntered off giggling together.
‘I’ll put the kettle on,’ Angela said as they entered their flat.
‘Good idea,’ Jasmine replied, sinking into the sofa. She felt more exhausted from the little bit of under-cover work than if they had spent the night dancing. She opened her bag and took out the little packet of heroin.
Angela came out of the kitchen and stood looking at her. ‘What are you going to do with it?’ she said.
‘I’ll hand it in.’ Jasmine said examining the honey coloured powder.
‘Won’t you have to explain how you got it?’
Jasmine breathed deeply. ‘Yes. I’ll find a way of putting it. I think I’ll go straight to DCI Sloane, tomorrow morning before my shift. That’ll be quicker and I might find out a bit more about Natalie.’
‘You may have to reveal Jasmine to him.’
Jasmine trembled. ‘I hope I don’t have to.’
The kettle whistled.
James walked through the police station feeling like a stranger. The building was familiar, he was in it every work-day but he wasn’t on duty just yet. He always had a secret to hide – his transgenderism – but today those feelings of suppressing his feminine character were mixed up with the information he had to impart, and the knowledge of the packet of heroin in his trouser pocket.
He climbed the stairs to the office that DCI Sloane had commandeered for his murder investigation. He knocked on the door and immediately heard a gruff voice invite him to enter. It was a small room with just room for a couple of desks and the other paraphernalia of an investigation – a white board with photos of Natalie’s body stuck to it and of her bedsit.
DCI Sloane was behind the larger of the desks filling the chair with his bulk. He didn’t rise but looked up as James stepped towards him. Apprehension made James’ stomach tense.