This week we reach the end of another Jasmine Frame story. Part 13 of Resolution is below. There are now eight completed novella length prequels to the first Jasmine Frame novel, Painted Ladies. They haven’t been written in any particular order but I am publishing edited versions gradually, in the chronological order of each tale. The first, Discovering Jasmine has been available as an e-book for a few months and the second, Murder In Doubt will be available very soon – watch out for next week’s blog. The second novel, Bodies By Design, the first sequel to Painted Ladies is also available as a paperback and e-book while the third novel, The Bride’s Club Murder is complete and awaiting my decision when and how to publish.
I created Jasmine about fifteen years ago, not long after I started to reveal my own trans nature. I made Jasmine a transsexual, someone who wanted to live in the gender they identified with and if possible have all the medical treatment necessary to achieve a body that matched that identity as closely as possible. I hope that in the prequels I am showing how James/Jasmine reached that decision, because it isn’t easy nor is it cut and dried. While there are many FtM and MtF transsexuals making and realising that choice, there are also many “trans” or “gender variant” people who do not want to follow that path. I am one. I am quite certain I do not want to take drugs or have surgery. I am happy to feminise my appearance using cosmetics, jewellery, and clothes (and prosthetics) and having my hair styled and ears pierced, etc. but I am content for it to be temporary. I swap or oscillate between genders, like a quantum particle sometimes displaying features of both simultaneously. I use the term “transgender” but it is a catch-all term. Others use the terms non-binary or gender-queer amongst others to describe a feeling which sets them apart from people who are content with the male and female tags. I am still exploring and discovering my own gender identity and through the Jasmine Frame stories I hope to investigate other manifestations of gender uncertainty in individuals and relationships – especially where they involve a juicy murder.
The UK may be one of the more enlightened and accepting societies in which trans people can be who they want to be. However the situation is not perfect. Hate crime still exists and many professional people in positions of authority in medicine, the police, education, government etc. still have little or no knowledge of the experiences of trans people, the diversity of types of gender variance and the pressures on them.
Resolution: Part 13
James shivered. It was British summer warm but the water of the canal had been cold and now he was cooling rapidly.
Tom knelt by his side. ‘Are you okay, Jim? There’s blood on you.’
James looked down at his soaked and stained jacket and shirt. ‘Not mine.’
‘You’d better get those wet clothes off,’ Tom said, ‘The paramedic will be here soon.’
James tugged his jacket off and felt in the pocket. He dragged out the voice recorder.
‘You’d better look after this. I don’t know whether it still works after being in the water.’
‘You recorded your conversation?’
‘I hope so.’
James found his mobile phone. The screen was blank and it didn’t respond to him pressing buttons. Approaching sirens made him look up. A first responder and a couple of police cars were racing over the canal bridge. In moments uniforms were bustling around them. The paramedic examined Dawson briefly then turned to James.
‘Let’s have a look at you.’
Through chattering teeth James asked ‘What about him?’ He nodded towards Dawson.
‘Nothing I can do for him,’ the paramedic said. ‘But let’s get you dried off and warmed up. Do you have any injuries?
James felt the bruise on his breast bone and a graze on his knee, but shook his head.
‘Better get you checked over nevertheless, since you’ve been in the canal.’
The paramedic gave him a foil blanket from his bag. He wrapped it around himself. An ambulance arrived and more police cars. DS Trewin got out of one car, took a look around then sauntered up to James. He crouched down.
‘Well, Jim. What have you been up to?’
James opened his mouth.
‘No, don’t tell me now. Let’s get you sorted out in A&E then we can have a chat.’
James found his voice. ‘Tom Shepherd saw what happened and he’s got the recorder. You’ll find stuff on Dawson on my computer.’
‘Thank you, Jim. We’ll talk soon.’ Trewin beckoned to the ambulance personnel, a man and a woman, and walked off to speak to Tom.
‘Can you walk?’ The female paramedic asked. James struggled to his feet. The woman gave him a helping hand towards the ambulance.
‘James! Are you alright?’ Angela rushed towards James with her arms reaching out to him. He rose from the hospital chair which he had been occupying for most of the last few hours. The NHS regulation gown flapped around his knees.
‘Angela, at last.’ He said as they wrapped their arms around each other. They hugged then Angela pushed him away and looked him up and down.
‘You’re well?’ she said, almost as if she expected him to be swathed in bandages.
‘I’m fine. Just a bruise,’ James placed a hand on his chest. ‘My clothes got ruined and my phone’s knackered. That’s why I could only leave you a voice message from a payphone.’
‘I picked it up when I came out of my meeting, but I was in London. You remember?’
‘Oh yes,’ James had forgotten where Angela had said she was spending her day.
‘I’ve got some clothes for you though. Here.’ She handed him a carrier bag. He looked in it – pants, t-shirt, shorts and flip-flops.
‘Looks like I’m on holiday.’
‘Well, they were easy to shove in the bag. You’re not on duty are you?’
James snorted. ‘No. Don’t think I will be for a few days, if ever. Alan Trewin called in and told me to go home and stay there until this is all over.’
‘What’s all over, James?’
‘Dawson, the guy who was following me, is dead. I was responsible, sort of. They’ll have to investigate that and the crimes he was involved in. I don’t know whether they’ll find out about Jasmine.’
Angela placed her hand on his cheek. ‘Well, you’re safe, and that’s all that matters to me. Come on. Get dressed so we can go home.’
The week went by for James in a mixture of nervous excitement and boredom. He spent it in their Reading flat with little to do except follow Angela’s instructions for packing. The contracts were exchanged on the house in Kintbridge so they would be moving in a week or so. He started sorting his and Jasmine’s clothes ready to be transported to the new house. He had no contact with police force colleagues other than brief daily calls from DS Trewin and visits from investigating officers from Birmingham, Sheffield and the Metropolitan Police.
The Sheffield investigators asked questions relating to James’ report on the Hargreaves murder and Greaves’ suicide. James had little to add and didn’t offer an opinion on the treatment of trans prisoners. They had no reason to suspect the existence of Jasmine and he wasn’t going to enlighten them.
The Birmingham detectives were interested to know about Dawson’s part in DS Sparrow’s death. They had got nowhere in tracing the driver of the burnt-out stolen vehicle that had run her down. Now they were able to follow up Dawson’s contacts and arrest a suspect. They had interviewed Tania again and James was relieved that she hadn’t revealed that it was Jasmine who had visited her and not James. The detectives left satisfied that they had Milla’s murder sewn up but upset that James had made the breakthrough.
The Met officers were also a little disgruntled that James had opened up the book of Dawson’s life in crime. To them he had been a peripheral figure in the drug supply business. Now he was revealed as the middleman between the importers and the dealers with a remorseless way of dealing with those who got in his way. The experience in hiding his identity before and after his transition had stood him well in the murky world of crime. Now, following his death and exposure, his network was unravelling as informers came forward.
James also had a visit from Alan Trewin who had taken down his statement of the weekend’s events and James’ account of his meeting with Dawson. James neglected to report what he was wearing at the various times and Trewin revealed no knowledge of Jasmine. James guessed that Dawson had left no record of his intended blackmail. Trewin made few comments leaving James more than a little uncertain of his future.
At midday on Friday, the phone in the flat rang. James dropped the pile of books he was carrying into the cardboard box and answered it.
Trewin’s voice greeted him. ‘Jim. The DCI would like to see you this afternoon. Be in his office at two. Don’t come any earlier and hang around, and don’t be late. Got that?’
‘Yes. . .’ The call terminated. They don’t want me chatting to Tom or the others, James thought as he hurried to start getting ready. He dressed in his other dark grey suit with a freshly ironed shirt and polished black shoes.
It was precisely two p.m. when James walked through the communal office and into Sloane’s private space. He’d sat in the police station carpark watching his watch till he judged it was time to go.
DCI Sloane looked up as James stood to attention in front of his desk. There appeared to be no warmth in the chief’s eyes.
‘Now Frame, what have you been up to?’ he paused but James didn’t think he was expecting an answer. ‘In the space of a few days since joining us you bring two cases, perhaps three or more, to a resolution but with the perpetrators dead so the cases will not be tested in court.’
James nodded, wondering where Sloane was leading.
‘Greaves was a bitter and confused fellow,’ Sloane continued, ‘but Dawson was a cunning and ruthless criminal. What this swapping between life as a woman and a man had to do with it I don’t know but the clues you provided have revealed a very nasty personality. We’ve rounded up the immigrants that he was intending to use as his new sales network. He intimidated them, making them think they had broken some employment laws and then blackmailed them to do what he wanted. The boys at the Met are following up various leads on his suppliers. The divers found the gun in the canal and it matches one used in other killings.’ Sloane took a breath and glared at James. ‘So, it seems we have a lot to thank you for, DC Frame.’
It didn’t sound as though Sloane was gushing with gratitude.
‘However, this Dawson business. First you involve yourself in the Sparrow case without authorisation from me or the Birmingham investigating officer. Then you inform no-one of the contact made with Dawson and finally you go off alone, or almost alone, to meet him when you know he is dangerous. What do you have to say, Frame.’
‘I’m sorry, Sir.’ How could he explain? ‘I wanted to see Tania, Milla’s partner, to tell her how sorry I was about Milla. Her sighting of Dawson came out by accident. The Birmingham people hadn’t asked the necessary questions. I would have informed you but then I discovered that Dawson was tailing me. He threatened me and I wasn’t sure what to do, Sir. I thought that meeting him again and getting him to confess might give me a way of . . .’ James wasn’t sure what he’d expected to happen.
‘Frame. I understand and I sympathise,’ There wasn’t much sympathy in Sloane’s grey features. ‘but you have to realise that police investigations are founded on teamwork. The heroic actions of a maverick cop only occur in crime novels. If you want to work alone then get out of the force and become a private eye.’ Sloane spoke the words with disdain. ‘Now, it does appear that you and Shepherd have struck up a bit of a partnership. He says that your swift reaction prevented Dawson getting another shot off at him and you did at least involve him in your half-baked scheme. In future, remember that in the V&SCU, we work together, we share information and we make each other’s safety paramount. Do you understand me, Frame?’
James had listened, waiting for the words that would say his career as a detective was over, but what had Sloane said – “In future”? Did that mean he was being kept on?
‘Frame?’ Sloane repeated.
James jerked to attention. ‘Yes, Sir, I understand, Sir. Teamwork, Sir.’
A hint of a smile formed at the corners of Sloane’s mouth. ‘That’s right. Don’t forget it. Now, thanks to you I have still to speak to a variety of police forces. I don’t want to see you again till eight a.m. on Monday morning, prompt. I’ll work out then which case deserves yours and Shepherd’s attention.’
James saluted, mumbled his thanks and backed out. He hurried through the outer office and out of the station. In the warm, polluted, Kintbridge air, he paused and looked around. He was still a detective, still a member of Sloane’s team, and none of his colleagues knew about Jasmine.