Well, we’re a week into the new year and the sky hasn’t fallen yet. However, Brexit hasn’t even begun yet and Trump isn’t President for a week or two, so it’s a bit soon to feel confident. Anyway, let’s ignore the world situation and concentrate on my plans.
First of all, you will find below, the final episode of Falloff. This has been the latest of eleven novella-length (some longer than others) prequel to Painted Ladies. As prequels, these stories are all set in the time before or during James Frame’s career as a police officer and his relationship with Angela. During this period he moves from being uncertain about his/her gender to starting his transition to the woman Jasmine has become to believe herself to be. Falloff, incidentally is the first Jasmine Frame story I have written that takes place outside the UK.
Two of the novellas have been published (after considerable editing) as Discovering Jasmine and Murder In Doubt. I would love to publish the other nine, perhaps as separate e-books or packaged as an omnibus, but that will have to wait for the funds to appear.
There will soon be a third novel to purchase though. The Brides’ Club Murder is now in production and will be out shortly. There’ll be more news very soon.
I have outline plots for two more Jasmine novels that will see her through the final (and most difficult) stages of her transition, but it will be a few years before I complete those. I will be writing more prequels as there are still time slots in James/Jasmine’s life to fit in a few more stories. However there may be a gap of a few weeks while I get on with some other pressing work.
I have lived with Jasmine in my head for over fifteen years now and I have stated before that she is not me nor are her experiences mine. I think, that as a transgendered or gender-fluid person I have some idea of what a transsexual, such as Jasmine, feels while not necessarily sharing them. What I have learned over the last couple of decades is that the gender map is much more varied and complex than I or most people believe. Legal protection for all genders is a necessity.
Getting back to writing, I have another fantasy novel close to completion but whether it will be published is another unknown. I have various other small projects on the go and a desire to get down to an SF novel. Of course I will also be putting my thoughts on various matters that interest me, if no-one else, here That all means that 2017 is going to be a fascinating year – let’s hope we survive it.
Falloff: Part 10
‘Ah, Seňor/Seňora Frame. Again, I find you beside the body of a young woman.’
Jasmine turned her head and saw the familiar pale beige trouser legs. She looked up to see Inspector Alvarez looking down at her. She opened her mouth to speak but nothing would come out.
‘I think we spoke earlier about a murderer returning to the site of his crime. I had not expected my words to prove to be so exact as this.’
Jasmine struggled to her feet and faced the policeman. ‘But I didn’t do this. I’m not the killer. She was.’ She pointed at the dead girl.
Alvarez nodded slowly. ‘Exactly. It was not you I was accusing, but maybe you can explain why you are once again the first on the scene.’ He examined her face, frowning, ‘and also, how you got that bruise on your face in the short time since we last spoke outside your room.’
Other people were arriving now, Angela and Carrie among them. A circle of onlookers formed around the body but no one approached closer than a couple of metres. It was obvious that nothing could be done for the girl.
Jasmine touched her tender cheek. ‘It was her, Gemma. She hit me before she jumped.’
Alvarez looked up. ‘She jumped from the balcony of the bedroom she shared with Seňorita Carrie?’
‘I presumed they were in their room,’ Alvarez said, ‘though they refused to answer my knock. I was about to return with a master key obtained from the manager. Did they open their door to you?’
‘No, I climbed over the balcony from our room,’ Jasmine said. Alvarez’s eyebrows rose, but he did not express any surprise.
‘Why did you do that?’
‘I could hear them having an argument or something.’
‘So you decided to intervene.’
‘Yes, I thought one of them was going to hurt the other.’
Alvarez frowned. ‘Just because they were arguing? Why did you leap to such a conclusion?’
‘Because I thought Carrie had killed Raquel.’
The inspector appeared confused. He looked down at the body, ‘But this is not Seňorita Carrie.’
‘No. I got it wrong.’
‘Hmm. Why did you suspect the other young woman?’
Jasmine sighed. She was at last going to have to reveal the piece of information she had withheld. She knew Alvarez was not going to be happy.
‘When I got to Raquel last night she wasn’t quite dead,’ she began, ‘She let out a breath which sounded a bit like she was trying to say a name.’
‘You didn’t tell me this earlier,’ Alvarez growled.
‘No, well, I wasn’t sure. It could just have been a sigh.’
‘What was it she might have said.’
‘I thought it sounded like “Car”.’
‘When I discovered that her boyfriend, er, her ex-boyfriend, was called Carl, I thought it must have been him.’
‘You suspected that Seňor Carl killed Seňorita Raquel?’
‘Yes, but it couldn’t have been him as he was seen at the dance club.’
Alvarez nodded. ‘That is true. However, I don’t think you have finished the account of your investigation, Detective Frame.’ The sarcasm oozed from the policeman’s statement. Jasmine felt embarrassed. Yes, of course she should have passed on what she had heard, or thought she heard.
‘I didn’t think any more of it until I learnt that one of Raquel’s girlfriends was called Caroline or Carrie.’
‘So you suspected her.’
‘When you crawled across the balcony, at considerable risk to your own safety, were your suspicions strengthened.’
‘No. I was surprised. It was Gemma abusing Carrie, not the other way around.’
‘Gemma had Carrie on her knees and was pulling her hair. She was making her promise not say anything about Raquel.’
Alvarez nodded, ‘You intervened?’
Jasmine rattled out what had happened. ‘I pulled Gemma off Carrie. She fought like a hellcat but Carrie helped me. I thought we had Gemma calm after that but she broke free, lashed out at me and then leapt over the balcony.’ The words came to a shuddering halt as she surveyed the result of her intervention; the sprawled, lifeless body of the young woman on the grass.
‘Do you know the reason for these two deaths?’ Alvarez persisted.
‘It was my fault.’ It was Carrie’s sob-choked voice that answered.
Inspector Alvarez looked at her with sad eyes. ‘Ah, Seňorita. What do you have to tell us?’
Carrie stepped forward with Angela’s arms around her. She glanced at the body then looked away but couldn’t raise her eyes to the policeman or Jasmine.
‘Raquel and I were lovers,’ she whispered.
Alvarez shrugged. ‘That may have displeased Seňor Carl, but why Seňorita Gemma?’
‘Because Gemma and I were also lovers.’
‘Ah, a love triangle of three young women,’ Alvarez said.
‘A love square with Carl as well,’ Jasmine added. Alvarez looked at her and shook his head.
‘I don’t think Seňor Carl had much say in what happened, eh, Seňorita?’
Carrie shook her head.
The Inspector took a deep breath. ‘I need to hear your story Seňorita but not here and not in front of this crowd.’
Jasmine looked around and was surprised to see how big the band of gawkers had got. Now though, uniformed police had arrived and Alvarez gave instructions for them to clear the onlookers and let the body be dealt with. He returned to take Carrie’s arm and started to lead her away. Over his shoulder, he addressed Jasmine.
‘I will be back to speak to you again in the morning. Whether you are Seňorita or Seňor Frame is up to you.’
There was a light tap on their door. Angela got up to open it and returned with the police officer. James noted that he wore the same suit and wondered whether the Inspector had managed to get out of it at all since their meeting in the night. Angela offered him her seat on the balcony. Alvarez sat down and appeared to be grateful to have the rest. Angela went back into the bedroom.
‘Well, Seňor,’ Alvarez began, his voice betraying his fatigue, ‘we appear to have solved the two deaths. A murder and a suicide.’
James nodded. ‘That’s what I thought. But why?’
Alvarez shrugged. ‘I love women but I do not understand them, particularly young seňoritas and especially those who, ah, only love other seňoritas.’
‘Lesbian jealousy,’ Angela said, returning with a glass of iced water for the policeman. He took it, with a nod of gratitude and took a sip.
‘That is it,’ Alvarez said after a moment. ‘Seňoritas Raquel, Gemma and Carrie, were all lovers of each other with Gemma the dominant Seňora. When Carl appeared, Gemma’s control over Raquel was broken. Raquel was briefly in love with him but missed the tender caresses of Carrie. She, how do you say, “dumped” the boy and drew the girl into her arms, away from the manipulations of Gemma.’ He paused to take another cool drink before continuing. ‘The night before last, Raquel and Carrie returned early from the dancing. A short while later, after, I think, you had yourselves returned, Gemma came knocking. Raquel let her in. Gemma ordered Carrie to leave and then launched an assault on Raquel which ended with her fall from the balcony. She thought it would look like suicide but Raquel’s struggles to hold on damaged her fingertips and she also had Gemma’s skin under her finger nails.’
‘So you knew that Gemma was the killer,’ James said.
‘That information wasn’t given to me by our forensic officers until this morning.’
‘Too late,’ James said, shaking his head.
‘It may not have been too late if Seňorita Gemma’s bullying of Seňorita Carrie had not been exposed.’
James heard Alvarez’s words. Gradually understanding came.
‘You mean, if I hadn’t burst in on Gemma threatening Carrie, she wouldn’t have leapt off the balcony and you could have arrested her this morning.’
Alvarez nodded slowly, ‘Of course I may be wrong. Seňorita Carrie may have resisted Seňorita Gemma’s demands and violence may still have occurred, but. . .’ He shrugged.
James felt cold. His mouth sagged open. He was responsible for Gemma’s death.
Alvarez leaned towards him and placed a hand on his shoulder.
‘Do not be troubled, Police Officer Frame. The seňorita was unstable. She had, after all, killed Seňorita Raquel, who she had loved, or at least loved to dominate. As a detective, one learns that investigations can have unforeseen consequences.’
James stared at Alvarez. ‘But . . .’ he began but ran out of words. Alvarez held a finger to his lips.
‘No, Seňor. When you are a detective you will understand. Perhaps you will also learn that holidays with your delightful wife are not for investigating but for having fun, as Seňorita Jasmine perhaps.’