No ranting this week – it’s exhausting; just some news. First, The Brides’ Club Murder, the 3rd Jasmine Frame novel, is ready for publication. I’m planning on 1st March for the e-book (Kindle) version and soon after for the paperback. If anyone can offer to write a review and get it published around the same time I will supply a pdf review copy – just send a message here with your contact details. Then I must get on with the 4th novel called Molly’s Boudoir.
Second bit of news is that Elsewhen Press have picked up my recently completed fantasy novel, Cold Fire. It’s the fourth in the series featuring September Weekes but isn’t part of the Evil Above the Stars trilogy and is a free-standing novel. I hope that it will be out as e-book and paperback within the next year. More news as it comes.
So, on with Darkroom, the Jasmine Frame prequel.
Darkroom: part 3
‘You can hear yourself speak in here,’ Jasmine said, experimenting in the empty room. Angela lead Jasmine along a convoluted path through the squishy sofas and bean bags to the door to the next room. This was also relatively quiet and dark but for a few small spotlights over a bar. There, a woman, turned away from them, was fiddling with the optics. No, not a woman, Jasmine thought on further examination of her figure, a cross-dresser or perhaps a transwoman. She wore an elegant lowcut, gold dress that sparkled in the spotlights. She turned as Jasmine and Angela approached.
‘Hi, I’m Debs,’ she said in a cheery baritone. Her face revealed her to be in her forties, heavily made up but her bob of golden hair seemed to be her own. ‘Can I get you a drink? Oh, I see you’ve got a couple already.’
Jasmine looked into her glass. It was still half full.
‘I’m okay for now. We’re just looking around.’
‘Your first time?’
Debs smiled. ‘Well, welcome to “Be” the place where you can be who you want, go be-yond expectations; the place to be for a good time.’ Jasmine recognised the straplines in the club’s advertising.
‘Oh, you must be. . .’
‘Debbie Webb, the fool who spends her time running this place.’
‘It’s pretty successful, isn’t it?’
‘Always a struggle to make ends meet, I’m afraid. It would help if more people would come before the pubs close so that we could sell more booze.’
Jasmine glanced around. ‘It is a bit quiet.’
‘Livens up after eleven. No one comes over this side until they’ve warmed up a bit, with alcohol and dancing. Then they want somewhere a bit cosy and quiet. Were you two looking for a bit of privacy? There are more, um, intimate, rooms further along.’
‘No, we’re married,’ Jasmine replied more hastily than she intended.
‘So what?’ Debs said, smiling, ‘You haven’t lost all the passion yet, surely?’
Angela dug Jasmine in the ribs. ‘It’s less than a year, actually, and no we haven’t turned into a middle-age couple yet.’
‘Were you just exploring, then?’ Debs asked.
‘Sort of,’ Jasmine said.
‘We were looking for someone,’ Angela added.
‘Oh, who?’ Debs asked.
‘We don’t know her name; don’t know her at all, actually,’ Jasmine started to explain. ‘She was in the tube carriage with us. We thought she looked trans and she was dressed for an evening here.’
‘Short skirt, high heels?’
‘That’s right. We followed her out of the station and she appeared to be coming in this direction, but then . . .’
‘Well, we lost her. We turned the corner and she wasn’t in front of us anymore.’
‘So?’ Debs shrugged.
‘We thought she might have hurried here because she was cold and got inside before we got in sight of the Shed.’
‘If you don’t know her, why are you searching for her?’ Debs asked.
Jasmine opened her clutch bag. She picked out the earring and held it up.
‘Because I found this on the pavement just across the road. I’m sure I saw her wearing earrings like this when we were close to her on the tube. I think she dropped it. I want to give it back.’
Debs leaned over the bar to examine the jewellery. ‘Not valuable but I’m sure she’d be grateful if you gave it back to her, though, if she was here I’m sure you would have found her by now.’
‘Perhaps she’s stopped off at a pub,’ Angela said, ‘You said that’s what most people do before coming here.’
Debs shook her head. ‘Not within a quarter of a mile of here. It’s all disused warehouses. If you saw her coming in this direction there’s no other place she could have gone to.’
Jasmine pondered. Where can the girl have got to?
‘Look excuse me,’ Debs said moving from behind the bar. ‘I need to go and get the float so we can open this bar up. Perhaps your girl was in the loo when you were looking around. Enjoy your night.’ She departed, letting in a blast of Wham! when the door opened.
‘Let’s go and have a dance,’ Angela said. ‘It’s what we came for. I’m sure the girl will turn up.’
Jasmine put the earring back in her bag. There was a niggle at the back of her head that wouldn’t go away.
‘You’re right. Come on.’ She took Angela’s hand and lead her out into the vast hall. A few intrepid souls had begun to dance close to the DJ’s redoubt. As they crossed the black-painted, concrete floor arm in arm with the patterns of light from the glitterballs falling on them, she felt the beat penetrating her muscles and bones. The urge to dance came upon her.
‘I need to cool down,’ Angela bellowed into her ear, while taking her hand. She tugged Jasmine towards the edge of the dance floor. Jasmine was amazed. Somehow the club had filled up without her noticing. It wasn’t packed yet, but now there were groups of girls, real and trans, and males, leaping and gyrating to the current beats which had replaced the 80s disco.
They reached the bar which now was obscured by clubbers waiting for a drink.
‘What do you want?’ Angela shouted at her.
‘Water, that’s all,’ Jasmine replied, realising that an hour of energetic exercise had left her thirsty. Angela pushed through the crowd leaving Jasmine on the fringe. Jasmine looked around noting the groups of transgirls, young and not so young, having a good time; the male “admirers” chatting up singles and couples. There was no sign of the girl from the train.
Angela returned after a few minutes bearing two pint glasses of water. She handed one to Jasmine who took a long swig.
‘Debs was right about it filling up,’ Angela commented.
‘Yes, but I can’t see the girl,’ Jasmine replied, ‘Let’s have another look around.’
Angela shrugged but followed Jasmine as she eased her way through the crowd. They circled the bar, walked around the outer rim of the dance floor and did another survey of the quiet rooms.
‘It’s no good,’ Jasmine said, ‘Some parts are too crowded now to see if she’s here and others are too dark.’
‘Let’s give it up. The earring’s not worth much; Debs said so.’
‘It’s not about the earring,’ Jasmine said, ‘It’s about the girl. I can’t understand how we lost her.’
‘Are you worried about her?’ Angela’s face showed surprise.
‘Let’s ask the doorman and at ticket office, then. They may remember her if she has got in.’
Jasmine nodded and they made their way to the corridor where there was a steady current of clubbers arriving, collecting tickets, dropping off coats and entering and leaving the loos, the ladies’ loos mainly.
They reached the entrance. Two bouncers were now controlling the flow.
‘Have you seen a girl, a t-girl, in a red leather jacket,’ Jasmine asked. The security man who had been on duty all evening frowned.
‘Can you give me a bit more, luv?’
‘High heels, sheer tights or stockings, a short, loose skirt, red jacket, dark hair, well a wig I think, about my height. Oh, and she may have had just one earring. Like this one.’ Jasmine held up the earring.
The bouncer’s face puckered and he shrugged. ‘Doesn’t ring any bells. I would have lost count if I’d been counting, all the trannies who matched that description tonight.’
‘Oh, well, thanks.’ Jasmine turned away then paused and returned. ‘Look. Can we go out and come in again?’
‘Yeah. If you’ve got your ticket.’
Jasmine re-joined Angela. ‘I’m going to the loo to repair my face.’
Angela nodded. ‘I’ll join you.’
The ladies loo was crowded with cross-dressers touching up their lipstick and mascara. Jasmine and Angela managed to get a look in the mirror, squashed side by side.
‘I’d like to go outside and have a look around,’ Jasmine said.
‘I want to check where we found the earring,’ Jasmine replied, ‘Why did she drop it there?’
Angela shrugged, ‘We’d better get our coats then. It’s probably even colder outside now.’
They handed over their numbered tickets to reclaim their coats then squeezed passed the doormen onto the road. There was a queue of eager clubbers waiting to be passed as acceptable by the two diligent bouncers.
Jasmine and Angela crossed the road to the dark Victorian warehouses and slowly retraced their steps along the pavement.
‘It was here I think,’ Jasmine said, looking from the ground up at the building.