It’s a week ago now, but I have to mention Orlando. It is impossible to imagine the horror of experiencing someone firing deliberately to hit people for such a period of time and causing so many deaths and injuries. It’s true that it could have been anywhere, another club perhaps filled with straight young people as happened in Paris, but this particular gunman targeted a venue where the majority of clubbers were LGBTQ. Adding another class of hate onto the urge to kill people is like adding infinities to make another infinity – it is meaningless and incomprehensible. There is no excuse or justification for any act that deliberately causes harm to any person. Unfortunately many of the factions in the USA can’t see it like that and the grief has been muddied by politicking.
As the Pulse club has been referred to often as a LGBTQ club I have wondered how many trans people were among the victims but have not seen any mention of a figure or of specific individuals. Not that it matters, dead bodies don’t need labels. I send my sympathy to all the injured and the families and friends of the deceased and indeed to everyone who was involved in any way.
I have been asked if we should be frightened here. Well, I suppose there is sufficient reason to be worried. Anyone could be a target anywhere, as the murder of MP Jo Cox showed. There have been attacks on gay bars in the past and there could be again. Indeed, someone with a hate of gay or trans people could have been emboldened by the footage from Orlando to have a go themselves. I do hope that our gun laws will at least reduce the chance of a potential killer possessing such an armoury, but a hand gun or a knife can cause enough harm. It is easy enough for someone to discover when gay and trans people will be meeting, for example at Pride events, but there are opportunities every day to target people of any interest or inclination. I suppose we have to live with a degree of fear. As I said last week, perhaps it is a sign of getting older or perhaps the world is getting to be a scarier place. We must face our fears and defy those who would try to spread their hate.
So, following the deaths in Orlando, and of Jo Cox, and in all those other places that may not have made the news this week, let us have hope and seek ways to work for a lessening of hate and a growth in respect for the right to live the life one wishes.
To happier thoughts. It is just a week till I lead a walk through the sites near Dylife, Mid-Wales, that inspired scenes in my novel Unity of Seven. Go to my SF & Fantasy page for information on how to join us.
And here is the next episode of Aberration, the Jasmine Frame novella. Unfortunately the theme is also hate but it’s fiction.
Aberration – Part 8
They’d been into a dozen pubs and wine bars already and there were plenty of other places to call on not counting the clubs that only opened in the evenings. Jasmine glanced at her watch. It was nearly two p.m.
‘I feel like some lunch, don’t you?’ she asked Angela.
‘Yes. Pub or café?’ Angela responded, drawing a hand across her forehead. Jasmine noticed that they were a few yards from the café where she had met Andy on a few occasions.
‘Let’s go in there. We can have an iced coffee if you like.’
‘OK. You’re buying.’
They joined the queue at the counter and Jasmine thought through their morning’s efforts. There wasn’t much to review really. They had asked the bar staff and some of the customers in each place they had visited if Josh was known to anyone. All they had had was denials and some strange looks at Jasmine. It was a warm sunny day so she had dressed like Angela – short skirt, crop top, strappy sandals, but, with her long blonde wig on, her face was dripping with sweat. She was sure it was that that marked her as different to Angela who looked as cool and attractive as always.
They reached the head of the queue. Jasmine recognised the young woman that served them from her visits with Andy.
‘Oh, hello,’ she said, ‘You’re Andy’s friend aren’t you.’
Jasmine wasn’t too surprised at being recognised as he and Andy had met at the café on a number of occasions in the last few weeks.
‘Yes, that’s right,’ she said smiling.
The girl looked glum. ‘You know he’s dead.’
Jasmine nodded, losing her smile. ‘Yes, it’s awful.’
‘I hear he was found in the river on Thursday morning.’
‘That’s right. I can’t think what he was doing there after work.’
‘You were in here with him on Wednesday, weren’t you,’ the girl stated. Jasmine nodded. ‘But you’d gone when the other guy came in and spoke to Andy.’
‘Uh, no. Which other guy?’ Jasmine’s heart was beating faster.
‘I don’t know who he was. He was older than you and Andy, but shorter. Oh, and bald.’
Josh, Jasmine thought. It must be him.
‘What did he say to Andy?’
‘I don’t know. I just saw them sitting down together with a coffee. Andy didn’t look very happy. He got up and hurried out soon after.’
‘Have you seen this man before?’
‘He’s been in a couple of times but we’ve never had a chat. Bit of a miserable git really.’
‘Hmm. Thanks. I wonder what he had to say to Andy.’
‘So do I. What can I get you?’
Jasmine gave her their order and then followed Angela to a table.
‘I can’t believe Andy met Josh, here.’ Jasmine said.
Angela shrugged. ‘It sounds as if Josh deliberately approached Andy.’
‘But why? What did he say that made Andy walk out?’
There was a call from the counter that their drinks and food were ready. Jasmine collected them and set them on the table.
‘You know what it means don’t you?’ Angela said.
‘This Josh guy knew that Andy was trans.’
Jasmine froze with the sandwich halfway to his mouth.
‘God! You’re right. When I met Andy here he was as male-looking as he could be. He even darkened his chin to look as though he needed a shave. There was no way that Josh could have mistaken him for a butch lesbian.’
‘So what happened when they met at the pub later in the evening?’ Angela asked.
Jasmine puffed out her cheeks. ‘I can’t imagine. But we’ve got to find him. Let’s get back to doing the pubs.’
‘When I’ve finished my lunch,’ Angela said before taking a big bite out of her sandwich.
Jasmine was finding that her summer sandals were not as comfortable as she thought after a few hours tramping round town. They were in another pub having visited a few more since their pause in the café. Despite redoubling their efforts to ask everyone they met if they knew Josh or his mates they still had no leads.
‘Let’s have a drink and a sit down,’ Jasmine said. Angela agreed and went to the bar to get a couple of half pints of beer.
Jasmine took a sip. ‘We’ve got to find him,’ she said.
‘I agree, but we’re running out of pubs.’ Angela sagged in her seat.
‘There are still the clubs.’
‘But they don’t open till later.’
‘I know,’ Jasmine paused. ‘I think I need the evening off. I’m going to have to ring Kevin and tell him I’m sick.’
‘’It’ll be better if I do it for you,’ Angela said. She took hold of her shoulder bag and dug in it for her phone. ‘What’s the number?’ Jasmine got her phone out, looked up her list of numbers and showed the pub’s number to Angela. She dialled it in but didn’t press “call”. ‘I won’t do it here. The background noise might tell him we’re out having a good time. I’ll go and see if I can get a signal in the loos.’ Angela got up and made her way to the toilets.
Jasmine relaxed back in her seat and drank her beer.
She looked up to see two burly men in tight t-shirts standing either side of her.
‘Yes,’ she said feeling nervous.
‘Someone wants to see you.’
‘Yeah. Come with us.’ They each leaned down and took one of Jasmine arms each. They hauled her to her feet and before she could think of a response she was being half carried half dragged from the pub.
The men dragged her down an alley beside the pub. One of the men produced a linen bag which he pulled over Jasmine’s head. She wriggled trying to release herself. A thump in her stomach stopped her struggle. She gasped for breath.
‘Don’t think of getting away. Josh wants a word with you,’ one voice said. Jasmine didn’t know what to do. She couldn’t see anything and her arms were being gripped firmly. She knew she couldn’t escape – yet. She allowed herself to be marched along. Then her head was being pushed down and she fell onto the seat of a car. It moved off. The hands kept her head and shoulders down, resting against muscular thighs.
They were travelling for just a few minutes with a number of stops and starts. Just around the town centre, jasmine guessed. The car stopped and she heard the door being opened. She was dragged out. Her legs buckled as her feet hit the ground but the arms held her up. They carried her into a building – she felt the change of temperature and quality of sound.
Her bottom was placed on a chair, an upright dining chair, and then the bag was pulled off her head. She was in a typical living room. There was carpet on the floor, a sofa and a couple of easy chairs, and a large TV in the corner. Sunlight streamed in through the tall sash window she was facing. She could see town centre buildings some distance away but no view of ground level. The lower window was open letting in the sounds and smells of the town.
Her arms were free; her legs were unimpeded. She could have stood up but as she considered what to do she heard footsteps behind her. She swivelled on the seat. A short bald-headed man had entered the room.
‘I hear you’ve been wanting to meet Josh. Well, here I am.’