Jasmine hears a tale

WP_20180803_14_21_17_Pro (2)Last weekend was spent, as I said last week, at the 9 Worlds convention at a large London hotel. It was a wonderful three days and I had a great time. I gave two talks, “Images of Trans in Fiction” and “Cavorite to Coaxium: Alchemy and Chemistry in SF&F” (unfortunately no photographs to show for it). I needn’t have been worried about having an audience. Despite the timings of my talks, the first late in the afternoon when everyone was ready for some relaxation, and the second early in the morning when most sensible people were still waking up, I had a good attendance at both. I felt the talks went well.  The first encouraged a good discussion and people laughed at the correct points in the second. The only problem was that I had misunderstood the timings of the 9 a.m. sessions and had to finish inside the hour.

For the rest of the convention my time was my own, except when I did a stint on the independent authors’ bookstall on Sunday when I actually sold a few of my books. Apart from being a celebration of SF&F in all its forms (cosplay is popular!), 9 Worlds is a paragon of diversity. People of all backgrounds – ethnicity, sexuality, gender, disability (or should I say alternative ability) – are not just welcome, they are celebrated. There were numerous other attendees who were at various points in the middle of the gender spectrum (of course it is almost impossible to be certain if someone is a fully transitioned transman or woman). The hotel staff also, were fully into the spirit of the proceedings.

The convention has strict protocols to ensure that everyone is treated as they wish. Some people don’t like to be spoken to unexpectedly and obviously one’s language must be appropriate for the diverse nature of the attendees. This has got me thinking about freedom of speech, following on from Johnson’s ruckus last week.  I hear that Rowan Atkinson has made a speech supporting “freedom of speech” and suggesting that there was nothing wrong with what Johnson said about Muslim women. I haven’t heard the speech but I have a few thoughts. Freedom of speech is a right, but it is also a responsibility. One should be able to espouse whatever views one has even if it causes offence, but that should not extend to promoting violence against any person nor to wilfully insult a person or group of people. By that measure I feel that Johnson’s piece was insulting and so irresponsible. On the other hand, to pick up the other great rumpus of the moment, I think the Israeli government’s attitude to Palestinians has for many years been racist and harmful but that doesn’t mean that I have anything other than sympathy for most Jews.  That view may offend some right-wing, anti-Palestinian Jews, but I think I am justified in holding it.

………………………….

Let’s get to the story. There’s a climax, if not a denouement, coming up in Negative, the latest Jasmine Frame prequel/sequel. Here’s part 9.

Negative: Part 9

‘Huh.’ It was a sort of response.
‘I’m a friend of Ceri’s,’ Jasmine said realising from the big youth’s dull eyes that she wasn’t going to get much chat from him.
‘She’s gone.’
‘I know.’
‘The cops took her.’
‘So I heard.’
‘She didn’t do it.’ He shook his head vigorously.
‘Didn’t do what?’ Jasmine asked to be sure they were in the same conversation.
‘Hurt Tegan, even though she was nasty to Ceri.’
‘You’re sure Ceri didn’t harm Tegan?’
‘Yeah. Ceri did nuffin.’ He said it with a firmness that suggested that he considered that Ceri could do nothing wrong.
‘That’s right.’ Jasmine was sure it was true but had no idea who else could be responsible for Tegan’s death. ‘I’d like to speak to your mother.’
He shook his head. ‘Mam’s out.’
Jasmine felt stymied. ‘Is anyone in?’
‘I am.’
‘Can I come in please?’
‘Er, I suppose so. Ceri’s friends can come in.’ He stepped back from the door allowing Jasmine to enter. She followed him into a small but tidy lounge. There was a large TV, a sofa and a couple of old but comfortable easy chairs. Alun slumped on the sofa. Jasmine sat on the edge of one of the single seats.
‘You know about Ceri’s troubles with Tegan?’ she asked as gently as possible.
The boy glowered. ‘Tegan said things to Ceri.’
‘What sort of things?’
‘She said Ceri wasn’t a girl.’
‘But you know she is.’
Alun lowered his head and spoke secretively. ‘Ceri used to be my brother but he’s a girl now. He wears boobs.’
Jasmine smiled. Like her, Ceri apparently had to boost her cleavage by wearing breast enhancers. Being Ceri’s brother didn’t stop him confusing the pronouns though. Despite Alun’s apparent support for Ceri he was obviously still confused by her transition.
‘Did Ceri tell you other things that Tegan said?’ Jasmine guessed that Tegan had not stopped at a simple denial of Ceri’s femininity.
‘Ceri said Tegan used rude words about her.’
‘You didn’t like that?’
‘Ceri was unhappy. Mam said I must look after Ceri.’
‘When did your Mam tell you that?’
‘When Ceri became a girl.’
A few years ago then. Alun, the older but simpler, brother had become Ceri’s bodyguard. Jasmine began to have fears about how far Alun’s protection had gone. The rotund but solid young man seemed placid now but what was he capable of if roused or if he felt he had to defend his sister? Jasmine stood and backed towards the door.
‘Um. Did you feel you had to defend Ceri against Tegan’s abuse?’
Alun looked up at her blankly. ‘Er?’ he said.
‘I mean, did you punish Tegan for what she said about Ceri.’
Alun nodded. ‘Tegan made Ceri unhappy. Mam said that no-one should do that.’
Alun obviously did as he was told, especially if his mother had something to say about it.
‘What did you do to Tegan, Alun?’
‘I met her when she finished work.’
Jasmine felt her skin grow cold. She was almost afraid to take her questions further.
‘At the hotel.’
‘Yeah’
‘This was last night, when Ceri was on her day off.’
Alun nodded.
It would still have been light when Tegan left the hotel. The hotel was in a quiet side road so there was a good chance that there was no-one about to witness the conversation between Alun and Tegan.
‘Did you meet her at the main entrance of the hotel?’
Alun shook his head. ‘I waited by the kitchen door like when I meet Ceri.’ Jasmine hadn’t explored the hotel fully but knew there was a driveway up the side of the hotel for deliveries and she could visualise where the kitchen was. Alun had met Tegan meeting out of sight of the road, or the hotel guests.
‘That must have been a surprise for Tegan. What did she say to you? I guess she knew who you were.’
‘She used a rude word.’
Jasmine could imagine the shock of being confronted by the large figure of Alun as Tegan left the hotel after a busy shift.
‘Did you speak to her, Alun?’
‘Yeah. I told her she had to say sorry to Ceri.’
‘Did you threaten her?
‘Threaten?’
‘Did you say you’d hurt her?’
Alun looked blank. Either he didn’t understand or couldn’t remember exactly what he’d said.
‘Tegan said some rude words about Ceri.’
‘Was that all?’
‘She said, “Go jump off a cliff.”’
Ah, Jasmine thought. Perhaps that wasn’t the most sensible thing to say to Alun.
‘What did you do, Alun?’
‘I took Tegan up to the cliffs.’
Jasmine couldn’t imagine Tegan accompanying Alun for an evening stroll.
‘Did Tegan want to go with you?’
He shook his head. ‘She punched me when I picked her up. I had to stop her doing that.’
Jasmine bit her lip. She hardly dared ask the next question.
‘How did you do that, Alun.’
He shrugged. ‘I slapped her bit.’
Jasmine looked at the large, knobbly hands that rested in Alun’s lap. Those hands could do a lot of damage.
‘That made Tegan quiet, did it?’
Alun nodded. ‘She stopped whining.’
‘So you carried her up on to the headland, did you?’
‘Yeah.’
‘Along the road?’
Alun shook his head. ‘No, the path.’
Jasmine had noticed that there were numerous footpaths climbing the steep hill. She wouldn’t have wanted to try doing it carrying the dead weight of a woman’s body, but Alun was at least twice her size. Tegan wasn’t very big. She’d be an easy load for the young man.
‘What did you do?’ she pressed.
‘We went to the Tud’s Leap.’
Jasmine shivered. She almost didn’t want to know the answer to her next question.
‘Is that overlooking the cliff, Alun?’
‘Yeah. That’s where she said to go.’
If you were really going to take a jump off a cliff, no doubt. Jasmine took a deep breath and asked, ‘What did you do with Tegan, Alun?’
He looked sad. ‘I put her down. She wouldn’t speak to me; so I went home.’
‘You left her there on the cliff top.’
Alun nodded. Jasmine’s heart beat faster
‘You said, she wouldn’t speak to you, Alun. Why was that?’
The young man shrugged. ‘She wouldn’t wake up.’
Tegan was unconscious, but perhaps not dead. Jasmine took a step towards Alun. She was eager for the answer to the important question. Perhaps too eager.
‘You said you left her on the edge of the cliff. Are you sure you didn’t kill Tegan, Alun?’
His expression darkened and he hauled himself to his feet.
‘Mam says it’s bad to kill things. Mam smacked me when I killed a bird.’
‘Yes, Alun, killing is wrong. But what about Tegan? Was she alive when you left her?’
‘She was sleeping.’
‘Sleeping or unconscious. Which was it, Alun? Was Tegan breathing when you left her.’
His body shook, the fat and muscle rippling under his loose T-shirt and jeans. Alun took a step forward. Jasmine backed into the hall.
‘I didn’t hurt Tegan.’
‘But you hit her, Alun. You carried her up the headland unconscious.’
‘Mam said look after Ceri.’
‘Yes, Alun, but your Mam told you not to kill.’
The man-boy’s lips wobbled. ‘I . . . I do what Mam says.’
‘Yes, Alun, but you may be responsible for Tegan’s death.’ Jasmine imagined what might have happened. Alun had left Tegan unconscious on the cliff edge in the twilight. The woman may have come around later, when it was dark, and confused and concussed, fallen from the cliff. She saw the image of the woman tumbling to the road below.
The blow caught her on her shoulder, slamming her head on to the doorjamb. She felt the bulk of the young man press her against the wall as she slipped into the black.

………………….to be continued.

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Jasmine steps in

“If you haven’t got something kind to say, don’t say anything,” my mother used to say. At least, I think she did. It’s imprinted on me. That is why I find the statements of people like Boris Johnson offensive. There is nothing wrong with having an opinion about someone’s appearance but there is no need to make your point by making silly and rude allusions. I am of course referring to the burka scandal. Personally I have issues with all organised religions. Apart from peddling stories which are pure fiction they seem to be ways in which one group of people, usually men, can dominate and control another 20170930_130251 (2)group of people. That’s my opinion. If people want to submit to the rules and culture of a religion then it is up to them, so long as they don’t try to impose their views and rules on me. The same applies to dress. I don’t think anyone should be telling other people what they should wear.  One moment they are telling women they can’t wear the burka, next it will be that if you’re (legally)  a man, you can’t wear a dress.

I won’t use the string of comments about Mr B Johnson MP that spring readily to mind because I think that flinging insults at people just brings you down to their level. Satire is a powerful took against the likes of Trump, Johnson, Putin, Corbyn and the rest but swearing at them or calling them names is neither funny nor effective.  Anyway, the world situation is not funny, it’s deadly serious.

…………………………………

Photo from Nine Worlds 2016 by Tracy HowlThis weekend I’m at 9Worlds, the London geekfest, a wonderfully diverse and inclusive convention on science fiction, fantasy and related interests. I’m promoting my September Weekes books through the medium of a talk titled “Cavorite to Coaxium: Alchemy and Chemistry in SF&F“, and the Jasmine Frame detective novels through a talk called “Trans in Fiction“. I hope I get an audience, appreciative of course, and perhaps sell a few books. Otherwise I’m looking forward to meeting new people and having some fun.

Despite time being used to get our new home straight, and prepare my presentations, Jasmine moves on.  Here is the next (8th) episode of Negative. Jasmine’s seaside break is becoming more of a busman’s holiday.

Negative: Part 8

By the time she reached the seafront, the sun was shining and tourists were already relaxing in deck chairs. Jasmine felt uncomfortable in her damp clothes so walked back to her hotel. As she opened the door she was greeted by the proprietor. He held the door for her.
‘Ah, Miss Frame, I’m glad to have the chance to speak to you.’
Jasmine felt a little surprised at his eagerness. ‘Oh, what is it?’
‘I wanted to apologise for the business with the police this morning when you were having breakfast.’
‘That wasn’t a problem. The police officer had to do his job of investigating the circumstances of Tegan’s death, but I’m sure it was a shock for you.’
He blanched at the mention of the reason for the police visit. ‘Tegan dead, it’s incredible, and they think she was murdered!’
His rising voice told Jasmine that the hotel owner was severely affected by the revelation.
‘Did you think she might have killed herself?’ Jasmine asked calmly.
He shook his head violently. ‘Tegan commit suicide? No, I can’t imagine it. Usually she was cheerful and positive.’
‘Usually? Had she changed?’ Jasmine’s interest in the conversation increased.
He dropped his voice. ‘Well, she had been a bit sort of, off-colour recently?’
‘Off-colour? You mean she was ill?’
He shook his head and stepped closer to Jasmine. The top of his head was below Jasmine’s.
‘No, not ill. Her mood was, how should I say, morose. She was irritable at times.’
‘Do you know what caused it?’
‘Mmm, well, between you and me, I think you will understand. It was Ceri.’
Here we go, Jasmine thought, it all comes out. ‘You mean Tegan didn’t get on with Ceri.’
He nodded. ‘That’s just about it.’
‘Why?’ Jasmine pressed guessing the answer.
‘Well, um, I think it was because Ceri was transsexual.’ He blushed.
‘Tegan was a transphobe.’ There, she’d said it plainly.
The man shook as if unsure what to say. ‘Oh, I’m sure I wouldn’t go that far. Tegan must have felt uncomfortable with trans people, like Ceri and , er, . . .’
‘Me.’
‘Um, yes, perhaps, I’m sorry.’ He appeared scared that she might complain and make a fuss.
Jasmine ignored his emotion. ‘But Tegan was the head waitress. Didn’t she appoint Ceri?’
The proprietor looked nervous. ‘Ah, well, no. You see we were approaching the start of the high season and the previous waitress left suddenly. Tegan was taking a few days off before we got busy. Ceri came along looking for a job, so Wayne interviewed her and suggested I appoint her to start immediately.’
‘Wayne?’
‘My Chef.’
Jasmine had only had glimpses of the coloured man running the kitchen. He never appeared amongst the guests. Either he was modest or uninterested in their opinions
‘So Tegan returns from her break to find a trans girl working under her.’
He nodded.
‘I don’t suppose you knew she was transphobic.’
‘No, of course not. It never occurred to me before, after all . . .’
‘Tegan is a lesbian.’
‘Er, that’s right.’
‘But Tegan let her feelings affect her relationship with her junior colleague and her guests.’
He nodded reluctantly. ‘She complained about Ceri a few times; said she was rude and insubordinate, but the guests were completely happy with Ceri’s work. I couldn’t just sack Ceri because Tegan didn’t like her.’
‘No, of course not, especially as Ceri knows her rights. Discrimination against a transitioning transsexual person is illegal.’
His face turned even paler. ‘Er, yes. I suppose you know about these things.’
Jasmine nodded. ‘So, Tegan’s mood got worse.’
‘Yes, but what has it got to do with her death, if she was murdered?’
‘I don’t know,’ Jasmine replied truthfully, ‘but unless Tegan was a random target for an attack, it seems to be the only thing that has changed in her life recently.’
‘And it doesn’t explain what she was doing on the headland last night.’
‘That is true.’ Jasmine was a mystified as the proprietor. He seemed to accept that their intimate conversation had ended. He stepped away from her.
‘I hope this upset hasn’t affected your holiday, Miss Frame.’
‘Not at all. I’m enjoying it.’
Jasmine headed up the stairs to her room. She stripped off her damp clothes and having pulled on clean knickers and a bra, lay on the bed checking her phone. She was still unfamiliar with her new smart phone but had managed to get it to download her emails. She found she had just one, from the Benefits Agency. She read it eagerly. It informed her that she had been accepted as a freelance benefit-fraud investigator. She felt elated. At last, her future as a private investigator looked brighter. She didn’t expect the cases to be interesting but at least they would provide a steady income, more reliable than the irregular requests to follow errant husbands or wives. She dressed and decided to celebrate with an ice cream on the sea front.

Jasmine was feeling hungry by the start of the evening dinner service. Just a couple of other guests had beaten her to the dining room. Jasmine sat at her table for one and looked around. Myfanwy bustled out of the kitchen. She appeared hot and bothered as she approached Jasmine.
‘Hello Myfanwy. It’s lucky that the hotel was able to call on you to take Tegan’s place.’
A frown had replaced the woman’s usual jolly smile.
‘I was very happy to fill in for poor Tegan, but I wasn’t expecting to be on my own.’
‘On your own? Where’s Ceri?’
‘No idea. She hasn’t turned up. There’s almost a full house tonight and it looks like I’m on my own.’
‘Is she ill?’
Myfanwy shrugged. ‘I don’t know. No-one has told me anything. What would you like for dinner, love?’
Jasmine gave her order, keeping it to a simple main course. The woman hurried off. The room was beginning to fill with hungry holidaymakers.
Jasmine ate quickly but had no further conversation with the waitress as she rushed around trying to keep every table satisfied. She folded her napkin and left the dining room. In the entrance hall the proprietor was standing behind the reception desk.
‘Ceri hasn’t turned up for her shift,’ Jasmine said.
The man looked at her with eyes wide. ‘I know. I’ve just had a phone call from her mother. The police have taken Ceri in for questioning.’
‘She’s been arrested?’
‘That’s what her mother said. She’s been arrested on suspicion of the murder of Tegan.’
‘That’s ridiculous.’ Jasmine thoughts whirled. What evidence could the police have to link Ceri to Tegan’s death? Did they know about the feud between Ceri and Tegan?
‘I have to see Ceri’s mother. I am sure she needs someone to reassure her that it doesn’t mean that Ceri will be charged.’
‘You know about those things?’
‘I was a police officer,’ Jasmine said, surprising herself that she was able to say the words without emotion.
‘Oh, I suppose you would, then.’
‘Can you give me Ceri’s home address, please. I’ll call round there now.’
‘Yes, of course.’ He drew a slim notebook from under the desk and turned the pages. He showed the book to Jasmine. ‘Here you are.’
Jasmine noted the address on her phone, thanked the proprietor and returned to her room to grab a light jacket and the map of the town.

It was only a few hundred yards from the hotel and seafront to the rows of terraced houses where permanent inhabitants of the seaside town lived. Jasmine walked along the street looking at front doors till she matched one with the address on her phone. She pushed the gate open and stepped into the small but neat front garden. She pressed the door bell and waited.
The door was opened by a burly young man with short dark hair. He looked at Jasmine with unblinking eyes and a blank expression. He didn’t greet Jasmine. She decided she had to open the conversation.
‘Hello. Are you Alun?’

………………………..to be continued.

Jasmine asks questions

WP_20180803_14_21_17_Pro (2)For the last week we have been settling into our new home. There’s been a lot to do – unpacking, setting up new pieces of furniture, even some decorating (not my favourite job).  I was appalled by the amount of cardboard waste we generated but at least we have delivered it all to the recycling centre.  The polystyrene and polythene sheet was another matter – surely they can be recycled, the polythene especially, but apparently not.

We know no-one here although we have said hello to some of our neighbours but it has been pleasant just getting on with our own thing. Political issues have not been at the forefront of my mind although the pieces I have read have not eased my fears for the future. Nevertheless we are looking forward to getting familiar with our new home and meeting people.

Next weekend I will be at the 9Worlds convention in London otherwise known as the London Geekfest. It’s turned out I’m doing two talks, the first on creating positive trans figures in fiction, i.e. Jasmine, although I hope to widen out my talk into a discussion with the audience.  My second talk is about alchemy and chemistry in SF and fantasy or “Cavorite to Coaxium – super-materials in SF&F” which will, of course, include a plug for my September Weekes books. I seem to have drawn the short straw with the timings though – 5 p.m. on Friday for the former and 9 a.m. on Saturday for the latter. We’ll have to see if there is an audience.

Thanks to getting our home somewhat straight, I have at last been able to get back to some writing and have written the next episode of Negative, the Jasmine Frame prequel/sequel that fits in the short period of time between Painted Ladies and Bodies By Design. We’ve reached episode 7 and Jasmine is, at last, starting to investigate. . .

Negative: Part 7

‘You were close to her,’ Jasmine said as empathically as she could manage, ‘I’m sorry.’
The woman looked at her. ‘Thank you.’ There was a hint of a sob in her voice.
‘Do you know what happened here?’ Jasmine persisted. ‘Was she in a car accident?’
The woman shook her head. ‘I don’t know. The police won’t say; not yet.’ She turned and glanced up at the mist-shrouded cliff. ‘They say she could have fallen instead of being hit by a car. They’re waiting for the pathologist to tell them how she died.’
‘Oh, that’s awful.’ Jasmine was trying to think of comforting things to say but struggling. The eagerness to find out the facts, whatever they were, overrode her feelings of sympathy. ‘It was last night wasn’t it? What was she doing out here then?’
The woman looked at her with a face filled with anguish. ‘I’ve no idea. There was no reason for her to be here. She should have been home with me after work.’
‘After work?’ Jasmine said innocently. Of course, she knew Tegan’s work, or presumed she did.
‘Tegan worked in a hotel. Head waiter. She should have come home when dinner was finished. She usually got in by nine-thirty. She didn’t last night.’
‘You must have been worried.’
Her face creased up. Jasmine was afraid she was going to burst into tears. ‘When it got past ten, I was worried. I waited another hour then rang the police.’
‘Oh, did they start looking for her?’ Jasmine thought she knew what the answer would be.
‘No. They said some things which were supposed to reassure me and told me to ring again later if she hadn’t turned up. As if Tegan would go off for a night without telling me!’
‘They might have started searching sooner if they thought that your partner was suicidal.’
‘Suicide!’ The woman looked horrified.
Jasmine shrugged. ‘She wasn’t then?’
‘No, no, not Tegan. Okay, she wasn’t really happy at work, but it wasn’t so bad that she wanted to end her life. I’m sure of it.’
The mention of work increased Jasmine’s interest. ‘What was wrong at work?’
‘A new waitress. Tegan didn’t get on with her.’
She must mean Ceri, Jasmine thought. Apart from the bubbly Myfanwy who only worked two days, there was only Ceri working with Tegan.
‘Did she tell you why they didn’t get on?’
There was a small shake of her head. ‘Tegan said she was rude to her and didn’t do what she was asked to do. It was strange because she usually got along with everyone.’
That wasn’t Jasmine’s impression, but perhaps Tegan’s issues with Ceri affected her manner with guests. Or perhaps it was simply that Tegan didn’t get on with trans women.
Jasmine backpedalled in the tale. ‘So, did the police find her here?’
The woman shook her head vigorously. ‘No, that was a jogger. I don’t know who it was but they called the police and ambulance. It was too late to save her though. She was already dead. Someone at the police station remembered my call and they got me to look at . . . her.’ This time there was a sob. Jasmine reached out a hand and touched the woman’s arm gently.
‘I really am sorry. I shouldn’t have disturbed you. It’s a very sad time for you.’
‘No, no, talking about her, Tegan, about what’s happened, helps. It seemed unreal, a dream but now I know it’s something I have to deal with.’ The woman looked into Jasmine’s face. ‘Who are you?’
‘My name’s Jasmine, Jasmine Frame.’
‘I haven’t seen you before. Do you live here?’
‘No, I’m a visitor. I was out for a walk. Fresh air with added water.’ Jasmine was lying; she was out in the rain because she was eager to find out what had happened to Tegan.
‘Ah, I see. Well, thank you for stopping to talk.’
‘What’s your name? You told me your partner was Tegan.’
‘I’m sorry, I should have said. You told me your name. I’m Bob, short for Roberta.’
The rain became harder. Both women shrank into their jackets.
‘Look, I’d better go,’ Bob said, ‘that policeman has been waiting patiently for me to finish.’
Jasmine looked at the police car. Through the rain-spattered windows she could see the police officer watching them.
‘He brought you here, did he?’ Jasmine asked.
‘I wanted to see where she’d been, er, found. He offered to drive me up here. It’s such a lonely spot. Thank you again.’ Bob crossed the road to the police car. The officer leaned over and pushed the passenger door open. Bob got in and they drove off towards the town.
Jasmine pulled her jacket tight around her, not that it was stopping her getting soaked. The police car was out of sight almost as soon as it set off. Jasmine crossed the road to the cordoned off area, stepped over the tape and crouched down to the look at the bouquet. There was a sodden card stapled to the clear plastic. The ink was running but the words were still just legible. They read, “For my love, Bob”.
Jasmine surveyed the tarmac and the narrow strip of gravel between the road and the cliff. There was nothing to draw her attention, but she didn’t expect to find anything. Forensics would have done a thorough investigation and taken away any objects of interest. What was missing was interesting though. Even though the rain had washed away blood and other water-soluble bodily fluids spilled onto the roadway, some marks might have been expected to remain since the time of Tegan’s death. Tyre marks for instance. Jasmine paced up and down the crime scene, then stepped over the tape and walked in both directions along the road. There were no traces of any skidmarks. It wasn’t conclusive. The water on the road could have washed away the greasy rubber if it had been there, but surely some would remain to be observed by a detective’s practised eye.
So, Tegan wasn’t hit by a vehicle slamming on its brakes. Either it was a hit-and-run where the driver didn’t pause or slow at all, or Tegan wasn’t killed by the impact with a vehicle. Perhaps she had fallen from the cliff above. Jasmine gazed upwards. The rain was easing and the cloud breaking up. Visibility was improving. She couldn’t see the clifftop, but it was a long way up. A fall from that height would most likely be fatal. Tegan’s injuries would confirm whether she was killed by a fall or collision.
She began to retrace her steps back into the town. Tegan’s death was a mystery. Why hadn’t she returned home to her partner, Bob, when her shift at dinner ended? What was she doing either here on the road or up above, if indeed she got here under her own volition? And why was her relationship with Ceri so fraught if Bob’s opinion of her being a warm, loving person was correct?
Jasmine pondered as she trudged along the road, the sun beginning to warm her and dry her sodden clothes.

……………………to be continued

Jasmine (on hold)

For the latter half of this week I have found myself without access to standard terrestrial TV. Also there has been little time to access online news coverage. The result is that I have had a few days without having to hear all the Brexit or Trump rubbish. It’s been quite liberating or relaxing (either or both) although I realise that that we are approaching at speed that cliff that’s been talked about quite a lot but never really acknowledged. Also, with the heatwave (that’s affected most of the northern hemisphere)  knocking out agriculture one wonders what will happen to food prices in the coming months.

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Displaying my wares at the Southport book signing.

The reason for my semi-isolation from the media is that we have moved to a new apartment in a beautiful country town (in Wales). Everything about the move went smoothly (ignoring the previous year’s stress). I even have to congratulate BT. As soon as we exchanged 3 weeks ago I phoned them to inform them of the move. From the start they said there would be an engineer at our new property on moving day. I thought it was incredible but sure enough, at 5:30 p.m. on the day we moved, there was the engineer. He connected us, gave us our new phone number and said broadband was live. The only problem was that I hadn’t brought our filter or splitter or whatever you want to call it. Nevertheless we were able to make calls and next day a visit to our local, fantastic hardware store secured the required hardware and we were online. Amazing and well done BT.

We’re settling in well and I am looking forward to being my gender-fluid self in the new surroundings.

Anyway , my main confession is that there is no episode of the Jasmine Frame story, Negative, to give you this week. I do, literally write each episode in the week of publication and this week I have not had access to my computer and not had time to sit and write. I am hoping that normal service will resume next week. (You could, in the meantime, go to a certain online e-book provider and purchase one of the six Jasmine Frame titles on sale there).

To be continued…

Jasmine at the scene of the crime

I feel a bit cut off from reality this week. Perhaps it’s because we are between two lives as we pack up our home and prepare for our long-awaited move. Maybe it’s because the news has also become unreal, or surreal. The government seems to have entered a quantum superposition over Brexit in which it tries to mollify both the brexiteers and the remainers in its own party with a white paper which makes no sense whatsoever. I really don’t know where we’re headed but it certainly isn’t towards calm prosperity.

…………………………….

WP_20180713_13_38_49_ProLast Saturday we were in Southport in Lancashire. It’s a strange place. It’s supposed to be a seaside town but we didn’t see the sea. The Victorian promenade is actually a good quarter of a mile from the sea front but the actual waves are another half a mile further away except for a very short period at high tide. There was plenty of other evidence that it was a seaside resort though with fish and chips, amusements, entertainments and a pier with “Dotto” trains.

Of course, we weren’t there to get the seaside experience. The idea was to sell books at the BLISS bookfair. That didn’t happen. There were plenty of authors with books on display but the book-reading-and-buying-public didn’t turn up. It really does call into question the purpose of these events. Is it so that a group of authors can socialise or is it to promote, and sell, books? It looks increasingly like the former.

And so on with the latest case for Jasmine Frame. She’s supposed to be enjoying a rest in another holiday town, but she can’t resist a murder investigation. Here is part 6 of Negative.

Negative: Part 6

Jasmine gasped. It hadn’t occurred to her that Tegan might be a lesbian despite having observed her, largely at a distance, for a few days.
‘Had they been together long,’ she asked.
‘Oh, yes, for ages. Years. That’s what upset me I suppose.’
‘What did?’
‘Well, her being lesbian. I thought LGBT people stood up for each other, but she’s been at me ever since I started my transition. I nearly didn’t take the job because of her. I wish I hadn’t.’
Jasmine sighed. ‘She’s not unusual. Most lesbian and gay people are supportive of trans men and women but there are a few. . .’
‘Why? Why was she so up her arse about me being a woman?’
‘Some women, not just lesbians, just don’t see a transwoman as a woman, especially if they’ve still got a penis. If you’ve got a cock, you must be a man with a man’s attitude to women. That’s what they think. Before you transition you’ve had all the privileges of being a man so therefore you can’t understand what a woman has to go through, lesbian or straight.’
Ceri looked wide-eyed. ‘That’s a load of balls. I always knew I was different to other boys and I got bullied for being different even before I realised what I was. Privileges, Pah!’
Jasmine went on. ‘Sexuality gets in the way too. If you’re a trans woman who’s keen on blokes are you gay or straight? What if you fancy girls? Tegan probably had conflicting emotions when she looked at you.’ I certainly do, Jasmine thought. You look gorgeous and sexy but am I seeing you with the male eyes I used to have or are the female hormones I’ve been taking sending my brain mixed messages. I’m still not ready to decide on my sexuality. ‘I’, not condoning her attitude,’ Jasmine added, ‘It’s just how some women think.’
Ceri was thoughtful. ‘Why couldn’t she have talked about it instead of being a bitch?’
Jasmine nodded. ‘The question is who might have got pissed off with her enough to kill her.’
The colour faded from Ceri’s cheeks. ‘You don’t mean me, do you? She pissed me off enough times, but you don’t think I killed her?’
‘No, of course not.’ Jasmine replied automatically but when she thought about it, of course Ceri had a motive, and opportunity. But no, sweet, beautiful Ceri couldn’t be a murderer, could she? Jasmine dismissed the thought. Ceri’s reaction to the police officer’s questions and to the news of Tegan’s murder wasn’t that of a killer or someone trying to pretend they’re not the killer. Unless she was a very good actor. Of course, all trans people are actors; they’ve spent their early lives pretending to be their birth gender and then when they transition they have to act out a new public role before it becomes part of their nature and they blend in. Jasmine shook her head. No, it couldn’t be Ceri. But if not, who? And how?
‘Someone killed her though,’ Jasmine said eventually.
Ceri stared at her. ‘Who?’
‘I don’t know but the police will be investigating. You had better be prepared to answer more questions when they find out that you and Tegan didn’t exactly get on.’
‘But I had nothing to do with it,’ Ceri insisted.
‘I know, but they will ask questions like, where were you last night?’
‘When?’
‘After Tegan went off duty. You know what time that probably was.’
‘Between eight and nine. Um, I was at home.’
‘With your Mum and Dad, oh, and your brother?’
Ceri considered her answer. ‘Mum was there. I’m not sure about Dad and Alun.’
‘Well, you only need your Mother to provide an alibi and you’re in the clear.’
‘Of course,’ Ceri sipped her coffee and looked away from Jasmine. Ceri glanced at the clock on the wall behind the counter. ‘Oh, I’d better get off. I said I’d help Mum with the shopping.’ She glugged her coffee, put the mug down and got up.
‘See you later then,’ Jasmine said.
‘Later?’ the girl replied.
‘Dinner? You are going to be serving dinner, I hope,’ Jasmine grinned to show she was joking.
‘Oh, god, yes. I hope he gets Myfanwy in. I don’t want to do it all myself. Breakfast was bad enough.’ She pulled her summer-weight mac around her and hurried out.
Jasmine drank the remaining drops of her coffee and got up. She had a day to kill with nothing to do except investigate a murder.

Jasmine was surprised to find herself heading along the Undercliff. The road around the headland was quiet today. The mist and rain rolling in off the sea cut the visibility to a hundred metres or so. There was no view out to sea or indeed up to the clifftops. The tourists were sensibly staying indoors. Jasmine trudged along the tarmac, feeling rainwater dripping down her neck.
The town was out of sight and the road had narrowed where it cut into the cliff. The roadway was made narrower still by the area next to the rockface cordoned off by police tape. It was a small crime scene, barely larger than a parking space for a car. Jasmine guessed that a larger zone had been designated when the body had been discovered but now that the body had been removed and the forensic examination apparently completed, just this small patch was still being protected. A small police car parked beyond the tape showed that the spot where the body had been discovered was still secure.
Not wanting to draw attention to herself, Jasmine walked passed slowly, observing carefully but not making it obvious that that was what she was doing. There was, in fact little or nothing to see. No blood stains, no chalked body outlines, no skid marks or any other sign of a vehicle, but the water on the road may have obscured those anyway. There was one bunch of flowers, white roses, wrapped in clear plastic, leaning against the rock face.
The police officer stayed in his car, but Jasmine could see him watching though his rain-spattered windscreen. There was one other person at the scene, standing on the opposite side of the road, looking out into the grey sea. Jasmine thought it was a man at first, dressed in trainers, jeans, and a waterproof with short, wet hair. As she passed by though, she saw the figure in profile and noticed a feminine silhouette. She wanted to walk on but her investigative instincts urged her to pause and engage the person.
Jasmine stopped and faced the woman. ‘Is this where the body was found? I heard there’d been an accident along here.’
The woman turned to face Jasmine. Her cheeks were white and damp, not just with rain, Jasmine thought.
‘Accident?’ she said in a soft, vague voice. ‘No, not an accident.’
‘Someone died though?’ Jasmine felt guilty making it seem that she was an innocent passer-by. The woman nodded slowly and sniffed.
‘Did you know her?’ Jasmine asked, hoping that she didn’t appear to be prying, even thought she was.
‘I thought I did. I thought I knew everything about her,’ the woman said turning to look at the crime scene. ‘but I don’t know what she was doing out here.’
Jasmine guessed this must be Tegan’s partner that Ceri had mentioned. It wasn’t surprising that it should be her facing the weather to stand in a vigil at the Tegan’s scene of death.
‘What was she like?’ Jasmine asked.
The woman faced Jasmine, but her eyes looked at some distant point as she called up her memories. ‘She was warm and loving, funny and deep, kind and she was my rock.’
Is she describing the Tegan Ceri and I know, Jasmine asked herself.

……………………to be continued

 

Jasmine reluctant

Well, that was a surprising week wasn’t. Fancy Federa losing at Wimbledon from matchpoint! Then there was the government in turmoil over Brexit. Actually that is normal, but the resignations of Johnson and Davies were a bit unexpected. Of course they couldn’t do the honourable thing and resign when asked to back the PM. No, first they gave her their support, then they resigned. But that behaviour is not really a surprise since they have both lied and squirmed since before the referendum. But where does it leave May and the Brexit negotiations? I’ve no idea.

Then there’s Trump’s visit to the UK after causing mayhem at NATO. Nothing surprising there either (I’m writing this  on Thursday evening – perhaps he’s declared himself king of Engerland by the time you read this). I’d have thought that, by now, skilled politicians would have worked out how to neutralise his disruptive behaviour. Apparently they haven’t, which is worrying. The thing is – he’s dangerous. Satire is a useful weapon but just considering him a joke is not. I don’t think he’s particularly bright or the “ideas man” but he knows how to stir things up and sow discord. Other leaders have not found a way to counteract his rudeness, his willingness to tell outright lies and his immediate recall to Twitter to spread his chaos. Our “leaders” whatever their political colour have to find a way to cope without the spin-doctors and the protocol experts.

………………………..

WP_20180414_09_47_33_ProToday I am (I hope) at BLISS in Southport, joining a couple of dozen other authors at the Prince of Wales Hotel displaying and signing our books. I hope there will be people attending who are not only keen readers but who also have deep pockets. I have 10 titles for sale – viz. the 3 Jasmine Frame novels – Painted Ladies, Bodies By Design and The Brides’ Club Murder – the Evil Above the Stars trilogy and Cold Fire, my two Angela Meadows erotic novels and the Elsewhen SF anthology. That’s plenty to keep your bedside table creaking on its legs.

However, for free you can read the next episode of the Jasmine Frame sequel/prequel, Negative, here.

Negative: Part 5

Jasmine felt a wave of nausea pass through her, as if she’d drunk too much alcohol. It wasn’t alcohol, she hadn’t had a drink since she’d arrived here, but she knew the cause of her discomfort – a body, a death, a victim. Perhaps Tegan’s death was an accident, but the tone of the police officer’s questioning suggested a mystery. It wasn’t a simple road accident then.
Ceri seemed as nonplussed as Jasmine. ‘How?’ she asked.
‘I’m afraid that I can’t tell you that,’ the PC replied. Perhaps he didn’t know the whole story, Jasmine thought, definitely not all the details. The SIO, the senior investigating officer, would be keeping important facts secret if there was any crime contributing to the woman’s death.
‘The last time you saw Tegan Jones was Tuesday evening?’ The officer went on.
‘Yes,’ Ceri replied in a quiet voice.
The PC turned to the proprietor. ‘Was she working yesterday?’
The little man flustered. ‘I think so. I wasn’t here. I wasn’t told of a problem. Myfanwy. . .’
‘Myfanwy?’ The officer interjected.
‘Our stand-in waitress,’ the owner continued, ‘she didn’t report anything being wrong yesterday.’
Jasmine coughed. The other three people turned to face her. ‘Tegan Jones was waiting at dinner last evening,’ she said.
The officer turned a page in his notebook. ‘Who are you?’
‘Jasmine Frame. I’m a guest. I had dinner here last evening. Miz Jones was here while I was.’
‘What time was that?’ The PC asked while scribbling notes.
Jasmine had to think. She hadn’t noted the exact timings of her movements the previous evening. What had she watched on TV when she returned to her room?
‘It was quite early, I think, when I finished dinner – seven thirty-ish,’ she said.
‘Thank you, madam,’ the PC said. ‘You didn’t note what kind of mood she was in did you?’
Jasmine shook her head. ‘I’m sorry, she didn’t serve me and I didn’t have any conversation with her. Miz Jones didn’t seem to converse much; not with guests. I couldn’t say what her emotional state was or whether it was different to normal.’
‘Thank you, I think that’s all for now.’ The officer completed his note, turned and left the dining room with the proprietor on his heels. Ceri approached Jasmine. Her face was drained of colour.
‘I can’t believe she’s dead,’ Ceri said, her voice shaking.  Jasmine got up from her seat and wrapped her arms around the girl. ‘I’ve wished her dead any number of times for being so nasty to me, but. . .’
‘It’s okay. You can’t blame yourself for thinking those things. She was nasty.’ Jasmine was trying to be comforting. ‘Her death means she’s not going to bother you again.’
Ceri sniffed. ‘But how? What happened to her? Why did the police come asking questions?’
Jasmine was thinking the same things. She didn’t want to think about another death but she couldn’t help it. Questions about the investigation just kept popping into her head. She released Ceri from her hug.
‘There is obviously some doubt about when and perhaps how Tegan died. The police can’t have witnesses from the time of death; not yet anyway. That’s why they’re trying to trace her last movements.’
‘I want to know what happened,’ Ceri said firmly.
‘The police won’t be letting much out yet. Not until they have the story straight. But there are other ways of finding out some things.’
‘How?’
And so it begins, Jasmine thought. No I am not investigating this woman’s death, but she could see that Ceri was eager to know more.
‘This is a small town,’ Jasmine said, ‘How do you normally find out what’s going on.’
Ceri didn’t have to think for long. ‘Facebook and my mother.’
‘There you are then. I expect you’ll know more than that police officer soon.’
The girl looked around her. ‘I’d better clear up here. Then I’ll ask around.’
‘You do that,’ Jasmine said starting for the door.
‘Shall we meet for coffee?’ Ceri called.
Jasmine paused and turned. ‘Yes, if you like. Same place?’
Ceri nodded and began stacking plates.

Ceri didn’t appear at the time of their previous meetings but Jasmine didn’t wait on the pier because a wind carrying flurries of rain was blowing in from the sea. She went into the café, queued for a coffee then sat in their corner seat.
Her cup was empty when Ceri strode in. She came straight to Jasmine.
‘I’m sorry. I was stuck on my phone. I was on Facebook and texting my mates, then my mother rang to tell me the news.’
‘The news?’
‘About Tegan. She held me up.’
‘That’s okay. Sit down, I’ll get the coffees.’
Jasmine returned to the table with Ceri’s cappuccino and another black coffee for herself. She sat down and smiled at the young woman.
‘Well tell me. What’s the town got to say?’
‘It’s all over Facebook,’ Ceri said, not really surprised. ‘It’s the most exciting thing that’s happened here in months. Usually it’s what tourists get up to but the season hasn’t really got going yet.’
‘So what is being said about Tegan?’
Ceri took a deep breath. ‘Well some of the posts name her and some don’t.’
‘That’s to be expected. For some people it’s just an exciting event and they don’t know or care who the victim was. What are they saying? Is there a location?’
‘A location?’
‘Where her body was discovered.’
‘Oh yes, On the Undercliff.’
‘Where’s that?’ Jasmine had an idea but wasn’t certain.
‘The road round the headland.’
‘Oh yes. I walked it the other day. It’s a few miles long, do you know where?’
Ceri was looking at her phone, her thumb flicking over the screen.
‘Yes, here we are. It’s about a mile out of town on the east side.’
Jasmine frowned as she recalled her walk. ‘I know. The cliff’s pretty sheer there. The road is tucked right against the rock.’
‘That’s the place.’
‘Any suggestions of how she died?’
Ceri’s face creased. ‘There are all sorts of ideas. They can’t all be right.’
Jasmine grinned. It was as she expected. ‘It’ll all be supposition,’ she said. ‘The police won’t have released details, but gossip gets out. Perhaps there’s some truth there somewhere. What do they say?’
‘Oh, that she was knocked down while out walking, or jogging. That’s nonsense, I don’t think Tegan ever jogged anywhere and she wouldn’t have gone for a walk after work last night or before the breakfast shift.’
‘Okay, so we can reject a typical hit and run. If she’d been hit by a driver who stopped, the police wouldn’t be asking questions about where she was last night. What else?’
‘She fell from the cliff.’
‘From what you said about her not going for a run or walk, that sounds pretty unlikely too.’
‘That’s what I thought.’
Jasmine pondered. ‘Anyway, it seems we know that Tegan’s body was found on the road a mile out of town, under a cliff, and not in a car.’
‘That’s right, Jasmine.’ Ceri nodded.
‘So how did she get there? Is that where she was killed or was her body dumped there?’
‘Dumped!’
‘It’s how bodies are got rid of.’
‘Do you mean? No, you can’t. . .’
‘Tegan was murdered. Yes I do.’ Jasmine felt a mixture of excitement and resignation. Too many deaths had impacted her life in recent years. If it wasn’t actually normal to be thinking of causes of death and motives for murder it was certainly a familiar state of mind for Jasmine. ‘What did your mother have to say?’
‘Uh, Mother? Oh she said, “good riddance”. She knows what Tegan’s been like to me.’
‘Did she think Tegan’s death was suspicious?’
Ceri’s eyes opened wide. ‘I thought she was joking. She said “I expect her partner’s got fed up with her and bumped her off”.’
‘Your mother said partner, not husband? Tegan’s not married?’
‘No, didn’t I tell you? Tegan’s partner’s a woman. Tegan’s a lesbian. I mean, she was.’

 

 

Jasmine’s day out

I couldn’t let it pass without comment, could I. The big topic of the week. No, not that. School uniforms, of course. First there was the now annual revolt of boys adopting skirts because they were denied shorts as an alternative to long grey trousers in the hot weather. Then there was the discussion about school uniforms in general. Apparently some schools have imposed a supposedly non-gendered uniform policy on pupils i.e. they have to wear a stereotypical western male uniform of trousers and shirt, (and probably a blazer and tie). This is justified with some derogatory comments about skirts or dresses being “embarrassing”. The main reason for choosing trousers is supposed to be to prevent “upskirting”.

20180621_185132Having taught in boys’, girls’ and mixed schools, as well as being genderfluid with a predilection for wearing skirts and dresses, it won’t surprise you that I have an opinion on this. Only one school I taught at did not have a uniform. Dress code was smart so no jeans (at least I think that was it). While most students were sensible, a sizeable number, particularly girls but not exclusively, treated dress as a competitive sport. They were little rich kids so they could afford very expensive and trendy stuff. I recall one girl wearing a £500 (1980s prices) leather jacket to my practical chemistry class. Girls who arrived without an up-to-the-moment wardrobe were ridiculed.

It’s always been one of the arguments for uniform that it takes away this competitive element, stops the morning arguments about what Olivia (or Oliver) should wear and makes the school’s kids easy to pick out when outside school (that happens less often now there are fewer trips). But some schools have got tied up in knots about the actual dress rules and are struggling now that gender is an issue. Many schools are still stuck with a girls having a choice, skirts or trousers, while boys don’t policy. It is sexist as well as a restriction on those who want to express their gender questioning.

While there might still be a case for some uniform element, I think it is restrictive and displays a lack of acceptance of diversity on the part of the school management. There should be no distinction between male and female; boys should be allowed to wear skirts if they like and girls shouldn’t be forced into trousers. The upskirting argument is spurious – boys should be taught how to behave in modern society and that intruding on a person’s (girl or otherwise) privacy is not allowed. But I also feel that the western style of male dress is too narrow. In many cultures across the world, men wear forms of gowns or kilts. Young people should be able to adopt those styles if they wish.

So, let’s allow much more variety in our schools, even if there is an element of uniformity in colours or badges.

……………………..

In one week I will be at BLISS at the Prince of Wales Hotel in Southport, Lancs. where all my (paper) books will be on sale. I’m hoping for a good crowd of browsers (with some money to spend).

We’ve reached episode 4 of Negative, the Jasmine Frame sequel/prequel that fits between Painted Ladies and Bodies By Design. Things are warming up.

Negative: Part 4

‘When’s your day off?’ Jasmine asked, changing the subject.
‘Tomorrow. Hey, we could meet up and I could show you around.’
Jasmine felt her spirits lift. It would lovely to spend a day with this attractive and vivacious girl. ‘That’s lovely. Any ideas?’
‘Let’s jump on a bus and look over the castle. The old town’s got lots of lovely shops and cafes.’
‘Great. What time? Do you have a lie-in on your day off?’’
Ceri grinned. ‘Definitely. I don’t get up before six on my one day of freedom. Shall we meet at the bus station at nine-thirty?’
‘Suits me.’
They chatted for a bit longer before Ceri left to do some errands for her mother. Jasmine set off to walk around the headland. It was a good distance and she was pleased to feel her muscles working. The cliffs and the ever-changing view across the sea entertained her.
A bath followed by dinner completed her day. Ceri was cheerful when she served her. Myfanwy was again a jolly colleague. At the end of the meal Ceri said, ‘See you in the morning.’ Jasmine nodded and headed back to her room.

Tegan was back on duty at breakfast and spreading chill with her dark frowns. Jasmine did note that she was polite to the older woman filling in for Ceri. Was Tegan a bully who picked on more junior colleagues or was it because Ceri was trans that she persecuted her? Jasmine wasn’t certain but was happy that it was Myfanwy who served her with a smile and a chuckle.
As Jasmine got up to leave the dining room, Tegan approached her.
‘You’ve been meeting Ceri,’ Tegan said.
‘I have,’ Jasmine replied. She had considered saying it was none of Tegan’s business but decided to see where the glum woman was going with this conversation.
‘We have a rule that staff should treat all guests the same.’
‘That’s what I would expect of any hotel,’ Jasmine said.
‘So we don’t allow staff to meet up with guests socially,’ Tegan went on.
Jasmine felt a flush come to her cheeks. ‘I think you’ll find that what a member of staff does in their own time is their own business, and who a “guest” or anyone else meets outside of this building is none of yours or anyone else’s concern.’ Jasmine pushed past the woman and marched somewhat faster than she intended from the dining room.
She got herself ready for a day out and was at the bus station with plenty of time to spare. She was still angry at Tegan’s effrontery but decided that she wouldn’t mention it to Ceri. The bus drew up at the stop and Jasmine got on. She glanced at her watch. It was nine-thirty and there was no sign of Ceri but the bus was not due to leave for another ten minutes.
With a minute to go, she saw the girl running towards the bus with her golden hair blowing out behind her. As she leapt on, her short skirt rose revealing her smooth, tanned thighs and a flash of large knickers. She flopped down beside Jasmine.
‘Sorry I’m late. I knew I had time to catch the bus but I got stuck with my brother.’
‘Oh, what did Alun want?’
‘Nothing really. Just checking on me I suppose.’
The bus pulled away. Ceri fidgeted beside Jasmine but pointed out places that related to her lifetime in the town. Then they were on the road along the estuary and approaching the bridge into the old town with its castle a prominent landmark. Soon they were disembarking and Ceri lead Jasmine through the narrow streets. Jasmine enjoyed her guided tour but felt there was something behind Ceri’s never-ending chatter and constant impatience to show her something else.

They stopped their tour for a late lunch in an olde-worlde café which Jasmine cheerfully paid for. She felt she had to repay Ceri for her company.
‘I’ll have to catch the bus back soon,’ Ceri said putting down her fork.
‘Oh, that’s okay,’ Jasmine replied feeling a little surprised because she had thought she had Ceri for the day. ‘I mustn’t take up all your time.’
‘No, I’m sorry. I didn’t know. There are things. . .’
‘It’s really no problem. It’s been very good of you to show me round.’
Ceri started to get up. ‘You don’t have to come with me, now.’
‘Oh,’ Jasmine hadn’t considered what she would do. ‘Are there buses later.’
‘Oh yes. Every hour until late this evening. But you’ll want to be back at the hotel for dinner won’t you.’
‘Mmm, yes.’
Ceri stood up. ‘I’ll see you tomorrow then. Breakfast.’
‘Yes, ‘Bye Ceri. Thanks.’
The girl was gone in a flash of gold hair. Jasmine was left contemplating her sudden departure. Had she known all along that she would have to leave at this time? What was it that demanded her return? Had she read a text while Jasmine wasn’t looking that made her decide to leave? It was probably of no concern of hers. She should be grateful for the young woman giving up the time she had on her one free day of the week. Jasmine finished her drink and decided to resume her wandering around the town, at a slower pace than Ceri had set.

Despite Myfanwy’s smile, dinner was served in the gloom caused by Tegan’s scowls and curt responses to queries from guests. Jasmine ate quickly and returned to her room for a quiet evening of TV and reading. She realised that she had fallen into a comfortable routine of sightseeing, meals and relaxation, with her meetings with Ceri a highlight of stimulating conversation. Not that they discussed weighty matters. The closest they got to that was comparing notes about their transitions and their hopes for their future lives as women.
Jasmine was still getting tired at the end of the day despite her lack of stress. Would she ever be ready to go back to investigating? She hoped so.

Jasmine woke the following morning to find the light entering her room, dull. There were raindrops on the window and grey clouds in the sky. She stayed in bed until it was almost too late for breakfast. There was only one laid-up table, her own, when she entered the dining room. Just one other couple were finishing their meal. Other tables were still covered with the detritus of breakfast eaten. Neither waitress was in evidence.
Jasmine sat in her usual seat and waited. A few minutes passed before Ceri appeared from the kitchen. Some of her long golden hair had escaped from her bun and she looked harassed. She approached Jasmine.
‘Good morning, Ceri. How are you after your day off?’ Jasmine asked feeling that as Tegan wasn’t in sight she could be friendly.
Ceri took her notebook from her pocket. ‘Oh, er fine. What would like this morning.’ Jasmine gave her usual order which Ceri jotted down. Tegan had still not appeared to glower at them.
‘Isn’t Tegan on duty today?’ Jasmine asked.
‘No, she isn’t. I’ve had to do everything.’ There was an impatient tone to Ceri’s reply.
‘Oh. Is she ill?’
Ceri shrugged. ‘I’ve no idea. I don’t think she called to say she wasn’t coming in. I’ll get your breakfast.’ She hurried off. She returned with the coffee jug, and then with toast and Jasmine’s cooked breakfast. In between she dashed around clearing tables, doing the job of two waitresses.
Jasmine was alone now, taking her time over her bacon and egg. Ceri passed close to her with her arms loaded with crockery.
‘Does this happen often?’ Jasmine said.
Ceri paused. ‘First time. I’ve never known Tegan miss a shift.’ She departed for the kitchen.
Jasmine had finished her final piece of toast, washed down with black coffee when the door to the dining room opened. The proprietor of the hotel, a short man with thin strands of black hair plastered across his bald head, entered followed by a uniformed policeman.
They both glanced at Jasmine, the hotel owner perhaps surprised to see a guest still at breakfast. Ceri emerged from the kitchen and stopped dead. An ‘Oh,’ escaped from her lips.
‘Hello Ceri,’ the owner said, ‘the police officer would like a word with you.’
‘With me? Why?’ Ceri looked confused.
The policeman stepped forward. ‘You normally work with Miss Tegan Jones.’
‘Yes.’
‘When did you see her last?’
‘The day before yesterday,’ Ceri replied still bemused.
‘Not yesterday?’ the officer said, ‘Wasn’t she at work yesterday?’
The owner raised his hand. ‘Oh, I forgot. Yesterday was your day off wasn’t it Ceri. Myfanwy was on with Tegan yesterday.’
Ceri nodded in agreement. ‘Yes, why? What’s happened?’
‘The body of Tegan Jones was found earlier this morning. We’re trying to trace her movements.’
Ceri stared. ‘The body?’

………………………..to be continued.