Jasmine shivers

WP_20170616_16_16_42_ProIt’s strange that during the hottest June days for forty years I have been writing about Jasmine shivering with cold (see below). But at least I have been writing. It’s been lovely to have a week when I can get on with the business of authoring.  Apart from the second part of Viewpoint that follows, it is has included completing the final (?) edit and extra bits for Cold Fire, the fourth September Weekes novel out soon, and starting to plan a promotional push.  I may even get further with Jasmine’s fourth novel, Molly’s Boudoir.

I’ve signed up for the UK Indie Lit Fest in  Bradford  https://www.ukindielitfest.com/  on 26th Aug.  It promises to be a huge gathering of independent authors, and I hope general public looking to buy books.  That follows the smaller, but closer, Llanidloes Tattoo Festival  (yes, tattoos and books!) on 8th/9th July.  Looking forward to both but if you run a lit fest or any other fest for that matter and want a speaker, someone to complete a discussion panel, or simply to run a book stall, then get in touch (paintedladiesnovel@btinternet.com) – I’m up for it.

That’s enough of the self-promotion, let’s get on with the story.  Viewpoint is the latest novella that is a prequel to Painted Ladies, the first Jasmine Frame novel.  It’ll also be the last chronologically as it takes place just a few months before Painted Ladies starts.

Viewpoint: Part 2

She stamped her feet, wrapped her arms around herself and tried jogging on the spot but nothing could stop the shivering. Her legs felt as if they had bags of sand tied to them and her feet didn’t belong to her. While the cold numbed her mind, Jasmine’s eyes were filled with the pale shape of the body lying on the towpath. Through the veil of drizzle and her blurred vision some details registered on her consciousness. The body was naked and the person, she had to remember that this lifeless object had been a person, was female. Something didn’t seem right though, and then it penetrated to her – the chest was flat.
Jasmine leant down, almost stumbling over the corpse as the shivering affected her balance. There were scars that suggested breasts had been removed. Short black hair framed a face marred by bruises and grazes.
She overcame the urge to rest down beside the body and pushed herself upright. The wail of a siren came from across the canal and, shortly after, a blue flashing light appeared through the rain and stopped just short of the opposite bank. A uniformed figure ran across the hump-backed bridge over the channel and approached.
‘Did you report a body in the canal near here?’ The police officer called when he saw her. He negotiated the approach to the bridge and came along the towpath towards her. Jasmine pointed a shaking hand at the corpse. The PC halted, looked down and then up at Jasmine.
‘God!’ he said, ‘Are you alright?’
‘C..c..cold,’ Jasmine mumbled.
‘Shit! You’re soaked. Did you go in the canal?’
Jasmine nodded, unable to speak. The PC bent down to look at the corpse. He shook his head and stood up.
‘Can’t do anything for them. Let’s get you to the car.’ The officer put his arm around her and supported her. They staggered towards the bridge and went over to where the police car waited with its light still flashing and driver speaking into his phone. He looked through the rain spattered windscreen, and seeing them approach, opened his door.
‘Is this the casualty?’ the driver asked.
‘No, there’s a body on the bank. I think this is who reported it. She may be suffering hypothermia.’
‘Get her in the back. I’ll get the blanket from the boot.’
The PC opened the rear door of the Vauxhall Astra and eased Jasmine in. The other officer came up with a silver blanket which he unfolded and passed into the car to Jasmine. With shaking hands, she wrapped it around herself.
The officer who had escorted Jasmine rummaged in the boot.
‘I’ll set up the tapes. We have to make the site secure and stop other walkers bumbling into it. Although who else would be out on a morning like this I don’t know. You stay and watch her. See if she can tell us what happened.’ He ran off, back over the bridge.
The partner resumed his position in the driving seat, started the engine again and turned the heating control. He twisted in his seat to look at Jasmine.
‘How are you feeling?’
Jasmine was grateful to be out of the cold but she was still shivering and her limbs felt dead. ‘B..better,’ she managed.
‘I’d better call a paramedic to see you.’ The PC reached for his phone again and put in the call to the control centre. The car’s fan was blowing hot air over Jasmine and she managed to clamp her jaw so that her teeth didn’t chatter.
The policeman twisted round to face her again. ‘Was it you who reported the incident?’
Jasmine nodded.
‘Do you know the, er, victim?’
Jasmine shook her head.
‘They were in the water, were they?’
Jasmine nodded again.
‘And you went in and dragged them out?
Another nod.
‘Dead?’
And another.
Jasmine found she could take a deep breath rather than the snatched gasps which her uncontrolled shaking had allowed, but her limbs and body still trembled. The officer looked over her out through the rear window at something, and reacted by turning around and opening his door.
‘At last, the plainclothes guys show up.’ He got out. ‘Stay there. I’ll check on you in a mo.’ He closed the door, leaving Jasmine gratefully enjoying the growing fug of hot air in the car. She sat with her eyes closed, grimacing as the feeling returned to her fingers and toes with agonising prickling. There was a tap on the window beside her. She saw a familiar face through the pattern of running raindrops. She wound the window down a little.
‘Tom!’
DC Tom Shepherd peered through the gap.
‘Jasmine? What are you doing here? It wasn’t you that found the body was it?’
‘Yes, it was me.’
‘What were you doing here?’
‘I was out for a run.’
‘In this weather? The officer says you’ve got hypothermia.’
‘Rain doesn’t bother me when I’m running. I didn’t expect to be wading in the canal or standing around.’
‘How do you feel?’
‘Getting warmer.’
‘Good. Look stay there. I’d better go and check on this body you found and make sure they’ve got it cordoned off.’
‘Are you on your own?’
‘No, Derek’s in the car, reporting in. I’ll get him to come and join you and find out what happened.’
Jasmine nodded and Tom’s head moved away. She wound the window up and breathed deeply. She was relieved that it was DC Derek Kingston on duty with her friend and former partner. Kingston accepted her as a woman which wasn’t too surprising since as a young black officer he had no doubt experienced some prejudice himself. She was relieved it wasn’t the cynical older DC, Terry Hopkins, and especially not her nemesis, DS Denise Palmerston.
A few moments later the front passenger door opened and DC Kingston, dressed in a thick anorak, got in. He twisted to speak to Jasmine.
‘Hi, Jas. Tom says we’ve you to thank for this call out. What happened?’
Jasmine explained how she had noticed the body in the water and had gone in to check it wasn’t alive.
‘I’m not surprised you’re suffering from hypothermia. It’s bloody freezing.’
Jasmine shook her head. ‘I don’t think I’m that bad.’
‘No? Well, I think that’s the paramedic turning up. They’ll check you over.’
Jasmine noticed another flashing light reflecting off surfaces inside the police car. Kingston opened the door.
‘I’ll send him to you. Speak to you again soon.’ He got out.
A few moments later the paramedic, a her not a him, opened the door beside Jasmine and peered in. She asked Jasmine questions, did a few simple tests, and pronounced her fit.
‘But stay in the warm and get out of those wet clothes, a.s.a.p.’ She withdrew and closed the door. Once again, she was left alone for a few minutes until the driver of the police car returned.
‘I’ve been told to take you home so you can get dry,’ he said buckling himself in, ‘That’s if I can get us out of this congestion.’ Jasmine gave her thanks and tugged a seatbelt round herself.
With repeated backwards and forwards movements, the police car turned and manoeuvred around DC Shepherd’s car and they set off along a straight, rough track along the edge of a field. Jasmine estimated that it was about half a mile before they came to a cluster of buildings and a metalled road. The police officer turned left, picked up speed and soon they were in the outskirts of Kintbridge. The morning rush hour traffic delayed their passage through the town but soon they pulled up in the carpark outside Jasmine’s flat. The driver got out and opened Jasmine’s door.
‘I’ll see you in, make sure you’re okay,’ he said. Jasmine was reluctant to leave the growing warmth of the police car but realised she couldn’t stay put. She stepped onto the tarmac and pulled the foil blanket round her tighter. She hurried to her door, fumbling in her bumbag for her keys, her hands already starting to shake again.
‘Here let me help,’ The PC said from beside her. He took the key from Jasmine’s hand and inserted it in the door lock. He pushed the door open. ‘There you go.’ He followed Jasmine into the small, dismal flat. ‘Hey, it’s not very warm in here. Haven’t you got the heating on.’
‘I don’t usually have it too warm,’ Jasmine said, her voice beginning to wobble. She didn’t add that it wasn’t her preference but a means of saving money.
‘Well, I think you need it a bit warmer now. Where’s the controls?’
Jasmine nodded to the electric fire. The PC bent down and switched it on; all three bars. He stood up, turned and faced Jasmine.
‘There, I hope that’ll warm you up soon. DC Shepherd said you worked together.’
Not any longer, Jasmine thought.
‘I thought I recognised you,’ The officer went on. ‘Aren’t you the DC who’s having a sex change?’
Jasmine sighed. Why couldn’t she just be recognised for who she was and not her gender history. Who else would be asked such personal questions so early or even at all in a conversation.
Jasmine nodded. ‘That’s right. Look I need to get these clothes off.’ She let the foil sheet fall from her shoulders and started to unzip her running jacket. Waterproof it may have been but that didn’t allow for wading into canals.
The officer’s face showed horrified anticipation. He backed towards the door.
‘That’s right. Look, I’ll let you get on. I’m sure one of the detectives will look in on you soon. I’d better be getting back.’ He let himself out closing the door behind him. Jasmine let out an audible sigh, stepped closer to the electric fire and started to strip off her wet running clothes.

…………………to be continued

Jasmine in Viewpoint

Too much news. After the excitement of the unexpected election result the last three days have been filled with the horror of Grenfell Tower. After all the posturing about security and fighting terror, one inexcusable fire has killed more people than have died in all the terrorist attacks in the UK since 7/7 in 2005 and probably scared people living in similar tower blocks far more. Will the government be as keen  to name those responsible for this un-natural disaster as they are the terrorists? Was it austerity or simply a lack of concern that saw so many immigrants housed in what was so obviously a fire-trap.

Perhaps, after a calamity of this nature, brought on ourselves, it is even harder to say that life must go on than after a mindless act of terror but we must. We need real leadership, not empty words, to hack through the lies and obfuscation to sort out the real priorities for this country – not meaningless demands for sovereignty and taking back control that has long since been handed to overseas and multinational corporations, not putting more money in the pockets of the rich or into pointless vanity projects like Trident, but using the remaining  resources of the country to help all its inhabitants.

That’s enough politicking. Last week saw the end of the Leominster Festival following the Bookfair on the Grange. It wasn’t the big sales drive that I hoped for (but didn’t expect) so now I am on the look out for marketing opportunities for my work – both the Jasmine Frame transgender/crime stories and the September Weekes fantasy novels. I have to get busy.

WP_20170616_16_16_42_ProAs promised last week, I have started the next Jasmine Frame prequel. Started being the operative word as a bit of research and planning was necessary before I could get writing. A short first episode follows of Viewpoint. It is set just a week or two after the end of Perspective, which took place towards the end of 2011. This I think will be the last prequel to fit in the time-gap before the events of the first novel Painted Ladies so I’ve got to be careful that it all matches up. Anyway, here it is.

 

 

 

 

 

Viewpoint: part 1

Rain water mixed with sweat dripped from Jasmine’s nose. She looked down at her running shoes, muddy from splashing through puddles on the towpath and was grateful that she had chosen to wear her older pair this morning. The dark oak gates of Renham lock loomed through the December morning drizzle. She glanced at her watch pleased with her time for completing the two-mile run out from her flat in Kintbidge. Her heart was beating a little faster but she felt strong today, for a change, and eager for the return.
She turned and glanced out across the rain spattered water of the canal. Something bobbing in the water caught her eye, something white, smooth and round. An inflated plastic bag perhaps? No, it was bigger than that. She peered through the veil of drizzle. A dead sheep? You didn’t get those very often on this stretch of water. She rubbed away the water dripping from her forehead and stepped to the edge of the bank to look more closely. There were limbs attached to the main body of the object but they didn’t seem like the legs of an animal. Her heart thumped. A body.
Jasmine paused only to undo her bumbag and drop it on the grass beside the towpath. She stepped off the bank. Her feet sank into the ooze but only up to her calves. The water was cold, icy even. She waded out. The canal got deeper with each step. She knew it was V-shaped in profile but the water only came up to her waist when she reached the body. She could see now it was a person not an unfortunate farm animal. She took hold of an arm. It was as cold as the water. She towed it with her as she struggled back through the water and mud to the side of the canal. Her legs were feeling heavy and numb; the cold penetrating to her bones. She let go of the body and placed both hands on the bank. It took all her strength to haul herself out of the water.
She crouched on the waterside, breathing deeply, shivering, and reached down to grab the arm of the body. Thoughts from her police training passed through her head. Evidence. Make sure that no evidence is destroyed. Don’t contaminate what could be a crime scene. But she had to get the body, the person, out of the water. She hauled on the arm; pushed herself upright; staggered back. The body rose from the water, a dead weight.
Jasmine fell backwards, sprawled across the wet grass. She released her grip. The body fell into the mud on the bank, its feet still dangling in the water. She panted, exhausted by the effort, shaking all over now as the wet and the cold penetrated to her core. Jasmine crawled to the edge reached out across the surface of the water and grabbed the leg of the body. She tugged it to land, the body twisting to lie parallel to the canalside.
She scrambled away from the cadaver to where her bumbag had dropped. Her frozen fingers fumbled with the zip but at last she took out her phone. She stabbed the 9 button three times.
‘Hello? Police please. Renham lock. Sorry, there’s not much signal here. On the canal, west of Kintbridge. No, I don’t think an ambulance will be needed, just a pathologist.’

………………to be continued.

Jasmine is still away

Not much to say this week as I want to get on with the fiction.  However. . . as I accidentally opened a A….. Prime account last week we decided to watch the much-praised Transparent before I cancel it – the Prime account, that is.  I’d really wanted to see Transparent for its representation of an ageing, transitioning MtF transsexual.  Having seen 6 episodes I am disappointed. The trans bits are fine and in fact Mora seems to be the only normal person there.  It’s just that her kids are dysfunctional – the son is a sex addict, the elder daughter is (re-)discovering that she is a lesbian married to a bigoted husband, and the younger daughter (apparently the brightest) is a drug addicted weirdo (that is not being prejudiced because I haven’t quite worked out what her angle is). The programme has a lot of gratuitous sex while lacking laugh-out-loud humour.  Also I didn’t know that American college professors were so well off. Although retired, Mora is apparently able to hand over her amazing house to her kids while going to live in a small apartment.  So, not the enjoyable, thought-provoking exercise I was hoping for.

……………….

IMGP5764Here is another of my writers’ group efforts from a few years ago. The task was to follow the first paragraph that was given to us. As you can see it turned into a sort of parody or pastiche of a type of detective story (not Jasmine Frame). I’m not sure whether it counts as a complete story or an incomplete novel(la) but it is a bit longer than my usual blog offerings. Enjoy it, if you can.

 

 

The Necessity of a Raincoat

It was 3 a.m. I’d missed the last bus. I hadn’t enough money for a taxi and it had started to rain.  My raincoat was hanging in the hall cupboard at home.
My mother always said, ‘don’t forget your raincoat, you never know when you might need it’.  She was right.  It was one of the essential tools of my trade.  Mine was not the stereotypical trench coat.  Pale beige with concealed buttons, it had two diagonal outside pockets.  It just reached my knees, a compromise between the possibility of wet trouser legs and being able to run, and it had a thin collar just wide enough to put up and stop raindrops dripping off the brim of my hat.  I can’t say I was that attached to it as I had a habit of going through raincoats rather rapidly.  Keeping rain off was just one of its assets but it was not much use in the cupboard when I was stranded five miles away.
     I hadn’t intended leaving home without it of course but I didn’t get much choice in the matter. It was nine o’clock; the theme tune to Softly, Softly, Taskforce had faded out and I was thinking of bed – you have to make up for the night work sometime – when there was a sharp tap on my front door.  I opened it and found myself lifted off my feet by two goons, 6 foot and 18 stone, the pair of them.  They carried me kicking and squealing to a car, a big one, a Wolseley I think.  They shoved me in the back seat and got in, one on each side of me.  The driver drove us off with no hesitation.
“Hiya boys,” I said trying to appear relaxed about being dragged out of my own home.
“Shurrup,” Gus, on my left, said, or it may have been George; with identical crew-cuts and black suits, they were easy to get confused.
“Where are we going?” I tried again.
“Shurrup,” said George, or it may have been Gus, and for added emphasis showed me his fist complete with brass knuckle duster.  I had a fair idea where we were headed unless this was my last trip in which case I was bound for a shallow hole in a remote field.  I was somewhat relieved when we headed into town and not at all surprised when we drew up at the “Golden Chip”; not a fish restaurant but the town’s brand new casino.
The two burly boys marched me down an alleyway, through a side entrance and pushed me into a dark space.  The lock clunked and I groped around finding that I was in a small store room.   I tried out my locksmithing skills, such as they are, but was defeated.  In fact, it was rather a secure door for a simple store room but the smell suggested it was used for holding animate or previously animate stock rather than mere paper goods.  I sat down on the concrete floor to wait, knowing that my kidnapper was intending me to stew for a few hours.
It was gone 2 a.m. by the luminous dial of my watch when the door was flung open and my two friends dragged me out blinking into the dim electric light.  They escorted me up a couple flights of scruffy stairs to their boss’ office and stood me in front of them facing his large oak desk.
“Hi, Boyd,” I said cheerily, not adding the ‘Big’ that usually went with the occupant of the leather chair behind the desk.  He tended to get a bit sensitive about his nickname.  5 ft 4 in his built-up shoes, big in stature he certainly wasn’t, but he was big in the business of fraud, extortion, and any other illegal activity you care to mention.  Big Boyd was the biggest big man in town.  He’d even bribed the council planning officers to turn the town’s third best cinema into a casino.  He wanted to bring 1970s Las Vegas to a part of middle England that hadn’t yet discovered the 60s.
He glared at me from the tiny dark eyes under his thick bushy brows and Brylcreamed black hair.
“Henley, isn’t it; private dick,” he sneered.
“Joe Henley,” I nodded, almost adding ‘at your service’ but there was no way I wanted to be in his service.
“You’ve been snooping,” he said.
I didn’t answer.
“I don’t like people nosing around my property, particularly good for nothing losers like you.”
I was a bit offended by his assessment of my skills but still I said nothing.
“What’s your story?” he went on, his neck beginning to turn pink as his level of frustration grew.  I didn’t speak while I tried to think of a suitable answer.
“Look, you may think you’re tough,” he went on, “but my lads can soon have you chatting away as if your life depended on it.”  He didn’t add ‘which it may’.  Actually, I’m your original ten stone weakling, so being tough is not one of my attributes.
I felt hot breath on the back of my neck as Gus or George panted with anticipation of a bit of violent recreation.
“I’m on a case,” I said at last.
“Aren’t you the lucky one.  I’m surprised anyone would choose you to pack a case let alone solve one,” he laughed at his little joke and Gus and George chuckled.
“It’s a missing girl,” I went on ignoring his banter.  I thought I might as well tell him as I was damn sure he knew the story anyway.
“So why have you been snooping around my business?”
“She was last seen coming into this place.”
“Hundreds of people come here every night.  The Golden Chip is a popular recreational establishment.”
“But most come out again.  This girl apparently didn’t.”
“Oh, come now,” Boyd smiled and shrugged, “Everyone leaves sometime.  She probably went off with some new friends.”
“Perhaps,” I conceded.  It was exactly those new friends that I was concerned about.
“I’d certainly know if someone was hanging round when we closed up, so you’ve no reason to be concerned on that score.”  He gave me his widest smile, the one that reminded me of a crocodile just about to snap.
“None at all, as you say.”
“Well, I’m glad that’s settled.  Gus and George will see you out with a little reminder of what we think about snoopers.” He nodded to my companions and dropped his head to read some papers.  I was lifted by strong hands under my armpits and carried out.  We returned to the side entrance.  I suppose I hoped to be just thrown out but Gus and George were keen to carry out Boyd’s final order.  How do you brace yourself for a beating?  I’ve never found an answer.  Gus or George held me up and George or Gus hit me in the stomach, first with his right and then his left.  Then they threw me out.
I lay winded for a few minutes before I summoned the energy to haul myself to my feet then staggered to the main road.  It was quiet.  The lucky and not so lucky punters had all left.  The last bus was long gone.  I had no money for a taxi, and it was starting to rain.
       It was gone five when I made it home, wet, exhausted and sick.  My front door was still open and the lights were on but speculative thieves had not made use of the opportunity, which was one cause for celebration.  I crawled up the stairs, pulled off my soaking clothes and fell on the bed.
The alarm clock woke me a couple of hours later.  I flung it off the bedside table feeling like death but forced myself to sit up.  My abdomen ached and I was cold but a long hot shower helped me feel something like human.  I couldn’t face food but a hot, sweet cup of tea brightened up my morning and I felt ready to contemplate the case.
Why was Big Boyd so concerned to warn me off the Lucy Miller case?  Lucy was a nineteen-year-old student who considered university an opportunity to party. To Mr and Mrs Miller, nevertheless, she was still their little princess, as pure and spotless as a fairytale heroine. When Lucy didn’t ‘phone them for a day or two they got worried.  Of course, the police weren’t interested –  how many students ring their parents every other day.  So, the Millers came to me convinced that Lucy was missing. It didn’t take me long to find out that she was.  None of her student friends or lecturers had seen her for days but, as I told Boyd, I had traced her as far as the Golden Chip.  She’d told a girlfriend that she was going there but who she went with I had yet to discover.
Perhaps Boyd thought that his warning would be enough to deter me, in which case he knew me less well than I knew him, especially as I now knew that my investigations had set his alarm bells ringing.   I dressed, took my raincoat out of the cupboard and got the Austin 1100 out of the garage.
I parked a few streets from the casino and wandered down the High Street with my raincoat over my arm. It was a fine, early spring morning.  The overnight rain had cleaned the place up and given it a fresh odour. There were more people around than at 3 a.m., quite a lot in fact, in and out of the butchers, bakers, grocers and hardware stores.  I went into a little cafe opposite the Golden Chip and sat in the window sipping a hot, sweet tea.   Nobody went into or came out of the old cinema building and there was no sign of the big Wolseley or Boyd’s own Roller.  I decided this was probably as good a time as any to do some real snooping.
I crossed the road and looked carefully left and right.  At the end of the alleyway beside the casino I noticed some rubbish bins.  It’s always worth looking at what people have thrown out and my luck was in.  Among the potato peelings and empty whisky bottles was a black and white mini dress.  It was creased and dirty but there no stains that were obviously blood which was heartening. It was Lucy’s.  How did I know?  Well the name tag obviously sewed on by her loving mother gave it away.  If her dress hadn’t left then there was a chance she hadn’t either.  I had to give the casino itself a good going over notwithstanding Boyd’s warnings.
I drew my pistol from the pocket and wrapped the raincoat around my hand.  A raincoat makes a satisfactory silencer and conceals the weapon from casual inspection.  Then I tried the side entrance.   It wasn’t as strong as the door to the storeroom where I was locked up and gave with a good shove of my shoulder. I slipped inside, pulled the door closed and listened.  There were no sounds of movement.  I was hoping that the nocturnal crooks were safely tucked up in bed.   I moved along the narrow corridor trying all the doors.  Most were unlocked and opened to reveal nothing of interest.  I climbed the stairs and searched the upper floors.  I was getting a bit nervous of the time I was taking when I climbed the final flight to the attic rooms.  The first door opened to reveal piles of old film cases and rolled up posters; a treasure trove for movie buffs but not what I was after.
I got to the last low door cut to fit the roof line.  I tried the handle.  It was locked.  I thought I heard a noise and placed my ear against the wood.  There were sounds muffled by more than the thickness of the door.  I stepped back and charged.  The door jamb splintered and I fell through.  Something sharp hit my forehead and I struggled to regain my balance.  I lifted the pistol ready to fire.  The small room, a cupboard really, was lit by a hurricane lamp that had hung from the roof just inside the door and was now on the floor, fuel spilling out, catching alight.  I grabbed my raincoat in my spare hand and beat at the fire, smothering the blue flickers before they became roaring orange flames.   Panting, but reassured that I had not set off an inferno I looked around.  It was pretty dark now but what I could see was pretty significant.  On the floor with ankles and wrists tied, dressed in just knickers and a bra was a young woman.  A pair of tights, hers I presumed, was tied around her mouth.  She was wriggling and mumbling.  Her eyes stared at me, wide open and scared.
“It’s OK, Lucy,” I said, “I’m a friend.  I’ve come to get you.”   I bent down feeling in my jacket pocket for my Swiss army knife.  It took quite a few moments to cut through the ropes around her wrists then I set to releasing her ankles while she tugged at the gag.  At last after much effort she was freed and struggled unsteadily to her feet, shivering.
“Are you the police?” she asked, quite understandably.
“No, and we need to get out of here quick before someone comes back for you.  Put my coat on.”  I offered my raincoat, now a little singed and covered in soot.  She put her arms in the sleeves and wrapped it around her torso.  I grabbed her arm with my left hand and dragged her from her cupboard, leading with my pistol.
There wasn’t opportunity for conversation as we went down the flights of stairs, pausing on each landing to listen for sounds of other occupants of the building.  My heart was thudding in my chest as I anticipated Boyd, Gus and George or any of his other bully boys appearing, but we reached the ground floor without incident and exited through the shattered side door.
The alleyway, enclosed on both sides by tall buildings seemed to stretch to infinity but it was our only route back to the civilised world of the High Street.  I kept Lucy behind me trying to hide or shield her just in case one or more of Boyd’s employees appeared.  I could hear behind me her miserable sniffles and stifled squeals as her bare feet stepped on the sharp gravel.   I dragged her along as fast as I could, waving the pistol in front of me, my trigger finger tensed.  I wasn’t afraid to fire in order to make our escape and thoughts of innocent bystanders barely passed through my head.  I suppose it took us ten seconds to get to the road but it felt like ten years.  We burst out into the hustle and bustle of a daytime shopping neighbourhood.  I pocketed my pistol, drew Lucy to my side and hurried down the pavement, zigging and zagging around shoppers and tradesmen.   No doubt people looked at us and wondered, but we had passed them before it occurred to them to question us.
We reached my parked 1100 and I bundled Lucy into the passenger seat.  I ran around to get into the driving position and had the key in the ignition, engine running and in gear in one smooth movement.  I pulled into the traffic and glanced at my passenger.  She had folded in on herself with my raincoat wrapped tightly around her.
“I want to hear your story,” I said as calmly and kindly as I could manage, “but we must get you somewhere safe.”  The question was where that might be.    My house was the first place Boyd would think of looking when he discovered his loss, and Lucy’s digs would be the second.   A police station would be the normal, respectable answer, but in this town, Big Boyd’s fiefdom, I wasn’t certain of where the loyalties of the boys in blue lay.  I’d rescued Lucy, at the expense of one raincoat but I wasn’t certain I could keep her safe. This story had some life in it yet.
……………………

Jasmine is away

I recently read a book called Prisoners of Geography: ten maps that tell you everything you need to know about global politics (by Tim Marshall, pub. Elliott&Thompson) and, boy, was it depressing. It gives an outline of the history and present day situation in ten trouble-spots, or rather areas, around the world. Most of them are pretty familiar to anyone who follows the news – the Middle East, Korea and Japan, Russia, etc. and the newest one to watch for the future, the Arctic. The principal message is, nothing changes. No conflict is ever resolved, it’s just put on hold for a while until one or other party feels tempted to open up again. They are all concerned with security (i.e. a sense of being safe from invasion) and/or securing access to resources.  What they all display is a complete lack of trust between members of the human species or any appreciation that we’re all inhabitants of one finite world.

I read the book because I thought it would be useful to discover the background to the various conflicts we hear about but really it just added to my despair at the current world situation exacerbated by Brexit, Trump, and other political nonsense.  I wish I could be like most of the population and close my eyes and ears and brain to what is happening and just live a relatively comfortable and enjoyable life.  Unfortunately, I can’t ignore it all or forget what is happening or going to happen around the world, and, almost certainly, close to home. But what to do? What, indeed, are the solutions? Are marches a way of raising awareness, or what about standing on street corners with a sandwich board saying “Doom!”? Does this blog do any good? Probably not.  Suggestions will be gratefully received but I fear we are all doomed, but I hope it’s later rather than sooner.

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IMGP5546And now for something completely different, as they used to say. I haven’t begun a new Jasmine Frame prequel yet as I have started writing the fourth novel and I can’t really cope with developing two plots, sets of characters, scenes; at least not yet. So while Jasmine is taking a rest for a short while I thought I’d dig out some of my other fictional pieces.  These have largely been written for the writing groups that I have attended over the years. As such they are often rushed and incomplete, sometimes lacking even an ending, but perhaps it is worth bringing some of them out into the glare of online publication to be picked over by readers.  The first one dates from about seven years ago and I think was a general assignment about meeting for coffee, hence the title . . .

Latte tales

I hadn’t planned to kill Catherine.  Why should I, she was my best friend, so everyone said.  She was always coming round to my house to drink my coffee and we would laugh at her new acquisitions – a new dress, dining suite, loo brush or a new man.  It had always been the same.
In school, Catherine invariably came to sit next to me and look over my shoulder as I wrote in my exercise books.  Working together, was her name for it.  At break times, if I was chatting to a boy, who would come wandering up but Catherine, flicking her blonde hair out of her eyes and smiling sweetly.  What the boys saw in her, I didn’t understand when we were young, but they always went after her. Still, she was good for a laugh and a drink in the pub – her parents were loaded.
Later when other friends had taken jobs in other parts of the country, we were the only two of the old crowd left.  Geoff and I always said we would move when he got his promotion but it never happened, and Catherine inherited her parents pile after they were killed in a car crash.   Somehow along the way she got married to Will.  Why she married, I don’t know because monogamy wasn’t a word in her dictionary.  She always said that Will was quiet and a bit dull; I think she saw him as a live-in handyman; he’s certainly transformed their old house.
Anyway, she took to calling round for that coffee whenever she wasn’t off on some shopping expedition or enticing some sexy fellow or other.  To be truthful I often looked forward to her visits as they lightened the boredom of being at home looking after the kids;  and we did laugh about the antics she got up to.
On that morning we had got onto our second cup.  The first had been taken up with the tale of the new sofa.  Taking a sip of the second she launched into the tale of her latest assignation. She described the most intimate details, humorously as always, of their bedroom frolics. Then, I think it was because she was so used to stealing my boyfriends when we were at school, that she forgot herself completely – she revealed her lover’s name.
‘Geoffrey,’ she said.
‘Geoffrey,’ I replied, ‘what a coincidence.’
She suddenly stopped laughing and I noticed that for the first time in her life she was blushing.  She stared into her cup.  A horror gripped my chest.
‘You don’t mean, my Geoffrey?’ I asked, slowly, deliberately, in a hoarse whisper forced between my gritted teeth.
She didn’t reply.
‘You do, don’t you,’ the pitch and volume of my voice rose.  She started to get up from her stool.
‘I think I had better go now,’ she said in an unfamiliar mousey tone. I tugged at her arms and forced her back down.
‘No you don’t.  You are going to tell me that it’s my Geoffrey you’re shagging.’
‘I’m sorry, I didn’t mean…’
‘…to let it out that it’s my husband that’s your latest conquest.’
For some reason the red Le Creuset frying pan was on the table close to hand.  I think I had been drying it when Catherine arrived and just put it down to let her in.  I didn’t really think about it, just sort of picked it up and swung my arm.  It made a very satisfying thud when it hit her head.  She fell backwards off the stool and hit her head again on the floor.   I knew she was dead as soon as I looked at her.
Will and I buried Catherine alongside Geoffrey in the back garden.  Will has laid a lovely thick concrete foundation for the new patio that Geoffrey always wanted but did nothing about. All our neighbours are sympathetic about how Catherine and Geoff have run off and left us, and actually it turns out that Will isn’t as boring as Catherine suggested.
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Jasmine meets the brides

Support for populist power-seekers is gathered by generating fears: the migrants/refugees will take our jobs/homes; all muslims are radicalised terrorists out to kill us; women are being attacked in public loos by men in dresses. None of these assertions are true and I refuse to use the current term of “alternative facts” for them as anything called a fact has evidence to verify it. By encouraging these fears, the alleged perpetrators can be turned into figures of hate and the people’s anger used to boost the support of those peddling the lies. That is the tactics of the Brexiteers and Trump-fanatics.  In certain parts of the USA it is also being used to build suspicion of people whose gender identity doesn’t match their birth anatomy.  Some states have passed laws that forbid transgendered people from using the lavatories they feel comfortable with although how the law-enforcers are supposed to prove who is entitled to use a particular toilet escapes me.

As with all things American, thanks to the media, social and traditional, similar issues are beginning to arise in the UK. Here however the law is different.  The UK has the 2004 Gender Recognition Act. A bearer of a gender recognition certificate is, in law, the gender they say they are, regardless of the bits of anatomy between their legs. Those people are also protected from the discrimination by the 2010 Equality Act.  For the rest of us the picture is less clear.  Transsexual men and women who have not had time to get the certificate or have not met the criteria and gender fluid people like myself who flip, have no such protection. Nevertheless, we occasionally have to use a loo and we choose that most appropriate for our appearance. Although we may not have the weight of the law behind us anyone wanting to stop us has to be certain that we are not the gender we are presenting as. The evidence is hidden in our knickers and very few people have the right to delve in there. Thus no transgendered person should ever have their gender questioned by an ordinary citizen.

imgp5648I don’t believe that there has ever been a case of a man in a dress attacking a woman in a wash room. The fear is completely unwarranted. Neither do I think anyone would be harmed at seeing another person washing their hands, combing hair or applying make-up and appearing a little effeminate or masculine, depending on which facilities we’re talking about. In other words it is a manufactured fear which is being used by some to generate anger towards those whose are in a minority.  The solution is to accept people for who they say they are rather than ban them or provide them with alternative facilities (as is happening in some schools). This only serves to discriminate by setting the minority apart from the majority.

I hope sense will prevail, but I doubt it.

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The Jasmine Frame story, Darkroom, was concluded last week, so before I began a new novella I thought we’d take a look at the new novel, the 3rd., The Brides’ Club Murder.  The novel is a traditional whodunit set in a country hotel.  Jasmine is called in to help solve the murder of the the leader of the Wedding Belles. She meets the suspects who are members or partners of members of the group and finds that they have a selection of motives and opportunities which take some sorting out.

There is one 5* review on Amazon but there are two other reviews:

Another great story and Jasmine becoming more understandable and sympathetic all the time. I like the way you brought out all the characters and their location on the non-binary spectrum, and the fact that there were all the loves, hates, power struggles, resentments,wishing the boss dead, that you get in any group of people( club,workplace,etc). V. Wood-Robinson

The 3rd JF novel . . . is a terrific read, a whodunit with a setting that will be familiar to many BS members, a transgender weekend.  I’m glad that we’ve never had a murder at one in real life. The novel is filled with interesting, well-portrayed characters and Penny Ellis has done well to introduce enough friction between the en-femme guests to leave a reader guessing as to the culprit’s identity. . . This is the best novel in the series so far. . . Beaumont Magazine

So, here is a excerpt. where Jasmine, known as Sindy undercover, is meeting the Belles for the first time.

‘Tell us about yourself, Sindy,’ Melody said reaching for her glass. ‘We don’t know anything about you at all.’
‘Um,’ Jasmine took another slug of wine and soda while composing her reply.
‘Well, who is this gorgeous creature, you’ve found, you love birds?’
The loud but slurred voice with the Irish accent made Jasmine turn her head and she found a figure looming over her.  She had a wig of brown hair that cascaded over her shoulders with highlights that matched the lemon yellow of her lace dress. The capped-sleeve dress clung to her prominent breasts and slim but waistless body, ending at mid-thigh. Her legs were cased in sparkly sheer stockings and she wore an impossibly high pair of black patent leather, platform stiletto shoes. Possibly it was the shoes but more probably it was the alcohol that caused her to sway unsteadily while desperately trying to avoid spilling the sparkling wine from the glass she held.
‘Hello, Samantha,’ Geraldine said with a note of resignation in her voice. ‘Do you think you had better sit down? Here, have my chair.’ She started to rise.’
‘No thank you, Geraldine,’ Samantha had difficulty pronouncing the name, ‘I want to sit next to this delightful person.’
Geraldine continued to stand up. ‘Alright, I’ll find you a chair.’ She went in search of another vacant and moveable seat.
‘This is Sindy,’ Melody said.  Samantha put her spare hand on the arm of Jasmine’s chair and leaned down.
‘How do you do, Sindy?’ She wavered like seaweed in the tide, ‘I don’t seem to have a spare hand to shake with you.’
‘That’s alright, Samantha.’ Jasmine was sifting through her memory of names and facts about members of the Wedding Belles. She came up with Samantha Nolan, cross-dresser recently separated. There was also something about a brief exchange with Valerie Vokins. ‘You’re one of the Wedding Belles?’ she went on.
Samantha’s head hovered over Jasmine, wobbling as if it was attached to her neck by a spring. Her words came out in a drunken garble. ‘That’s right. Are you? I don’t think we’ve met before.’
Here I go again, Jasmine thought. ‘It’s my first time. Valerie fitted me in. I wanted to thank her but now she’s dead.’
Samantha swayed. ‘Miserable old goat. Do you know what the old fart did? He let it out to my wife that I dressed. She walked out on me.’
‘Was it deliberate? Perhaps Valerie-Vernon didn’t know that your wife was unaware that you were a cross-dresser.’
‘Oh, the bugger knew what he was doing alright. He wanted me out of the Belles but I showed him.’
‘Really? How.’
‘By coming here of course.  He couldn’t refuse my booking. I’m making the most of this weekend now that I don’t have to hide. But I’ll be skint once she’s taken me to the cleaners.’
‘She?’
‘My wife.’
Geraldine appeared behind Samantha carrying a chair. She placed it on the floor carefully behind her legs. ‘You can sit down now Samantha.’
Samantha swayed and wine slopped from her glass.
‘Careful!’ Geraldine said, as the drops of wine fell onto the carpet.
Samantha’s knees bent and she slumped into the chair. She recovered and bent towards Jasmine. ‘That’s better. Now we can have a lovely girly chat can’t we.’
Geraldine returned to her seat and took Melody’s hand.
Geraldine called across the table. ‘Give the girl a chance, Samantha.  She’s only just arrived and she hasn’t been before.’
Jasmine wanted to interrogate Samantha some more about her relationship with Valerie Vokins but wondered whether the cross-dresser was in the mood for questions. She seemed more determined on flirting.
‘That’s a lovely dress. I like sequins,’ Samantha said, reaching out a hand to touch the shoulder of Jasmine’s dress. Her face was so close that Jasmine could see through the wig and the thick make-up.  Samantha was considerably older than her slim figure, high, pert breasts and young woman’s dress suggested. Mid-fifties perhaps? Trying to live the youthful female life she’d never had?
‘Are you dressing more now that you are separated from your wife?’ Jasmine asked as innocently as possible.
‘I’ll say,’ Samantha replied, giggling. ‘Every chance I get. And I’m buying clothes. Spend it before she gets her hands on it, I say. I’ve got a sexy new wedding dress for tomorrow you’ll see. Now why haven’t I caught up with you, you gorgeous young thing, before.’
‘I haven’t been to one of these events before,’ Jasmine answered truthfully.
‘Where do you live, darling?’
‘Hastings.’
‘Don’t you go up to the clubs in London? I’m sure I would have seen you there.’
‘No, I don’t.’
‘You must. We’d have so much fun. Let’s get another drink. I want to spend more of Jill’s divorce money.’  Samantha lurched unsteadily onto her platforms.  Jasmine realised her own glass was empty.
‘Don’t you think you’ve had enough, Samantha?’ Jasmine said.
Geraldine chipped in, ‘Yes, Samantha, you’re drunk enough already.’
Melody warned, ‘You’ve got to be fit to show off your new dress tomorrow.’
Samantha wobbled towards the bar. ‘I’m going to get another drink and I’ll get you one too, Sindy.’
Jasmine got up and took Samantha’s arm to support her. She called over her shoulder to Geraldine and Melody, ‘I’ll look after her.’
Geraldine and Melody were also rising from their chairs. ‘Thank you, Sindy,’ Melody said, ‘We’re off to bed. See you in the morning.’
Jasmine escorted Samantha through the crowd to the bar. There they stood next to a tall, thin, coloured woman with a massive afro-style hair-do and a very short white dress.
‘Ha!’ Samantha shouted, ‘My room-mate. Hi there, Tammy!’
Tammy’s expression did not show delight at seeing Samantha. ‘Oh, hello, Samantha. Sloshed again, I see.’  Her sober male voice reminded Jasmine of Viv with his Caribbean lilt.
‘This is Sindy,’ Samantha slurred, ‘she’s new. Isn’t she gorgeous and young?’
Tammy looked Jasmine up and down, examining her obvious wig, her colourful but relatively thinly made-up face compared to most of the other “women”, and her figure.  After a pause she held out a dark hand with pale blue nails.
‘Pleased to meet you Sindy. You’re not a Belle are you?’
‘Yes, she is,’ Samantha said before Jasmine could reply, ‘Vokins fitted her in late. What do you think of that?’
Tammy’s eyes widened. ‘The conniving old bigot.’
‘Why do you say that?’ Jasmine said.
‘Because he is, or was,’ Tammy said. ‘He put me off for weeks before he gave me the last bed available, so he said; sharing with Samantha. Filling the spaces became more important than keeping the gathering racially pure.’

………. Buy the e-book from Amazon Kindle or go to Jasmine Frame Publications for details for purchasing the paperback edition.

 

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Jasmine’s choice

I was wondering whether I should comment on the London terror attack. What can one say?  These things are going to happen because it is impossible to stop every single maniacal fanatic who sets out to kill and maim. Perhaps there are some precautions – bollards at shortish intervals on pavements to prevent rogue drivers having a clear run at pedestrians – but nothing must alter our freedom to live our lives as we wish.

It was the death of the policeman that made me decide to discuss it here.  Coincidentally I have spent sometime this week with police officers.  They are like you and me in that they are all sorts – men, women, short, tall, all types of personality. Although, I don’t think they are exactly like you and me because of their training. I have no doubt that all would follow orders to protect the public and do all they could to bring down an assailant. I help to scrutinise police procedures and behaviour. Now and again, protocols have to be revised and attitudes modified to allow the rest of us to be ourselves but I have a huge respect for the work they do and the manner in which they do it.

Jasmine Frame was a police officer.  How she measures up can be gleaned from the stories I write. I haven’t tried to make her a paragon of public service. We’ve reached the last episode of Darkroom. At least I think it is the last episode. What do you think? Gosh, how I’d like some response.

The Brides’ Club Murder is available as e-book and paperback.  Get it if you like relatively cosy whodunnits, this one with a trans twist.

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Darkroom: Part 9

Jasmine lay beside Angela, listening to her soft purring as she slept. Her mind wouldn’t rest. The events of the evening kept on repeating in her mind – the attack on her and Diana, and the fate of their assailant. At some point, when a grey light was already filtering though the curtains, she drifted into sleep but the same thoughts reappeared in her dreams.
She stood on a railway line as a train approached her. It was a steam train which she knew was odd but nevertheless she was unable to move as it roared towards her through a cloud of steam and smoke. The train was upon her when she flinched and woke up.
‘Are you alright?’ Angela asked. Jasmine saw her looking at her with a worried look. ‘A nightmare?’
Jasmine gave her a reassuring smile. ‘Yes. It’s gone now.’
‘Good. I’m ready for breakfast. We didn’t get a lot to eat last night.’
It hadn’t occurred to Jasmine that she hadn’t eaten for a long time but now her stomach let her know it was empty.
‘Me too.’  The need for food overcame her desire to stay in the cosy bed with her arms wrapped around Angela. They got up, showered, dressed and headed down to the street and the café attached to the hotel.
Jasmine and Angela sat opposite each other, eating their sausages and fried eggs; not talking. Eventually Angela put her fork down and spoke.
‘What do you want to do today. Sightseeing or shopping?’
‘Hmm.’ Jasmine was non-committal.
‘You do want to stay tonight and go to the other place? You said you wanted to visit a straight club.’
‘That’s what I said. I was looking forward to dancing to some great music and to being just one tranny amongst lots of real girls.’
‘And real boys,’ Angela added. ‘You realise that they’ll be eyeing us up – two unattached girls.’
‘Yes, I know.’  Jasmine hadn’t been sure she wanted the attention of a young man, with spunk in his balls. Now she was sure she didn’t. ‘Look, I’m sorry, after last night. . .’
‘You don’t want to.’ Angela gave her a sad smile. ‘Don’t worry Jas. I understand. After what you went through, I don’t think I’d be in the mood for another night in a dark, noisy, sweaty shed packed with hormonal kids. I don’t think I am anyway.’
‘I’m sorry. It was supposed to be our weekend of R and R.’
‘Well, we can have that. It doesn’t have to be here and involve dance clubs.’
Jasmine nodded.
Angela began to move. ‘Let’s check out, go home and relax there. We might even get something back on the hotel room.’
Jasmine felt a weight falling from her and she realised that she had been anxious about the proposed second night out even though it had been top of her list of things to do when they planned their weekend. She stood up, took Angela’s hand and headed back to their hotel room.
It was a dull, wet morning when James reached the small police station he was currently assigned to.  He let himself in, not surprised to find he was the first to arrive. He took his uniform jacket from the metal locker and then sat down at the station computer. Once he’d put in his six-letter password he was into the system. There were a couple of emails and some general notices which he ignored and started to delve into incident reports. He didn’t have access to the Metropolitan Police records but having sifted through numerous request for information on missing persons he found what he was looking for.  It was a request for help in identifying the body of a male, late 30s/early 40s. found on a railway in south-east central London. James was sure it was the incident that the station worker had referred to.  The time that was stated looked right, early hours of Saturday morning, but there were few other details other than a brief description. He was white with short dark hair and he wore a black overcoat over black trousers, a black jacket and a black shirt.  James could see the figure in his memory, a dark shadow, held between the two club bouncers; a bloody patch in the middle of his pale face. It wasn’t conclusive but James was sure that the body belonged to Diana’s and her attacker.  The report didn’t give an exact location of where the body was found but it appeared to be less than a mile from The Engine Shed. The report said there was no identification on the body, no wallet, phone or anything.
James was certain now that Debs had made good her promise that the attacker wouldn’t trouble them again. James trembled at the apparent nonchalance with which she and her guards had disposed of the troublesome man, obviously confident that the body couldn’t be linked to the club.
‘Hi, Jim. Early this morning.’
James jumped at the gravelly voice of Sergeant Wilkes. He had enough presence of mind to close the tab and turn around.
‘Morn’ Kev. Just checking the reports.’
‘Good lad. A pretty quiet weekend. A couple of drunk lads broke a window in the newsagent in the High Street on Saturday night was all. We can take a walk down there now. Check things over.’
‘Oh, yes, of course.’ James stood up and went to get the standard issue coat that was needed given the weather.
‘You have a good weekend off?’ the older officer asked as he too pulled on his coat.
‘Yes, thanks. A good rest.’
‘A rest? Why do you youngsters need a rest. You’ve only just got married, haven’t you?’
‘Six months ago.’
‘Well, there you are.’
The sergeant continued his gentle joshing as they left the station unattended and started their stroll up the small town high street.
James was home before Angela, after his shift. He paced around the living room debating furiously with himself about what he should or should not do. When the door opened and Angela entered he rushed to her and grabbed her shoulders.
‘It was him, I’m sure of it!’
Angela extricated herself from his arms and took off her coat.
‘Who was?’
‘The body on the railway line. It was the man who attacked me and Diana.’
‘You’re certain?’
‘Not one hundred percent, but I’ve seen the Met reports, well, a part. The description of the body matches him, but they have no way of identifying him unless they get a DNA match.’
Angela shrugged, ‘So?’
James slumped onto the old sofa. ‘It’s my duty as a citizen let alone a police officer to tell them what I know.’
‘You don’t know who he is.’
‘But I know how he got onto the railway line.’
‘No, you don’t. You’re guessing. They could have dumped him outside the club and he made his own way across the lines.’
‘Was he in a fit state to do that? I’d bashed his face in and knocked him out. Do you think Deb’s guys just escorted him to the exit and said goodbye?’  James’ heart was racing and his breath was coming in gasps.
Angela glared down at him. ‘So, you want to tell the police that Debs and her guards murdered this man by putting him on the tracks in the path of a train.’
‘If they hadn’t killed him first.’
Angela sat beside him and took his hand. ‘There, you don’t know what happened after Debs took him away. You know if you report what happened to you and Diana, Debs and the guards will be arrested and probably charged with murder, and your, our, part in it will come out too. Do you want that?’
James shook his head, his chest heaving. ‘No.’
‘Well, say nothing and nothing will happen.’
James looked at his wife, the kind, loving girl he’d known and adored for years. ‘How can you be so cool when the guy is dead?’
Angela scowled. ‘Because he was a total shit. He attacked you and Diana. Goodness how many others he’s raped or intended to. I’m glad there’s one fewer of people like him on the planet.’
James stared at her, amazed at her depth of feeling, her cold attitude to a murder.
‘They could find my DNA on is body. I headbutted him, twice. There could be Diana’s on him too.’
‘You’re the police officer. Is that likely?  They have a mystery body apparently mangled by a train. I don’t think a bloodied nose will mean much. They’ll try to identify him from his DNA, dental records, whatever. Perhaps he’ll be reported missing or someone will come forward to identify him, perhaps not. Whatever happens I can’t see the police taking a great interest in another railway death, whether its suicide or a gangland killing as the guy at the station said.’
James said nothing but breathed deeply and thought. Angela was right. It would mean the end of his career if it was revealed that he was Jasmine and he admitted his part in the man’s demise.
Angela squeezed his hand. ‘Leave it. Let it sort itself out. I know you want to do the right thing. In this case this is it.’
James gave her a thin smile. He had relied on her support from the moment they first met and now she was giving him the strength to put this dilemma to one side and get on with their lives together. He felt himself again in the dark room with the man’s hands groping up his thighs. Probably, he’d never forget that moment when he had to decide to be a victim or to fight, nor would the knowledge that the attacker had been disposed of ever leave him. They were part of his history, Jasmine’s history.
…………………..the end.

Jasmine has a shock

Back to a familiar subject – the media and transgender. In the last couple of weeks there have a been a few items that have given me cause for thought.  First was Jenni Murray’s comment that trans-women aren’t real women. I haven’t heard the full context of what she said but it seems that she fell into a trap of disclosing her prejudice. My first thought was what does she mean by a real woman?  It can’t be someone with breasts and a vagina because many trans-women have those.  Perhaps it’s the presence of ovaries, but what about the women who have had them removed for various reasons – do they cease to be real women.  I can’t think of a single feature or lack of it that makes a woman real or fake unless we’re talking about the possession of two X chromosomes (even that is complicated by various chromosomal abnormalities). I’m sure Jenni doesn’t want to lump all women together in some outdated stereotype but she is reinforcing the stereotypical view of women with her discriminatory opinion.

Victoria Coren Mitchell did a piece in the Observer on Jenni Murray’s comment. I can’t recall her main point, if there was one, but she seemed to be commiserating with Jenni for being trapped in one of those topics where voicing an opinion is not allowed. The situation where speakers get banned from university campuses because their views may cause offence. We ought allow ourselves to be offended and respond with a reasoned argument and not close our minds to the views. I am offended my nearly every statement that emerges from this Conservative government, but that’s another matter. I don’t agree with shouting someone down simply because I think they are wrong. So I think Jenni Murray should be responded to but not gagged.

Which brings me to my last point.  There has been some discussion about Ricky Gervais.  Apparently, he made fun of transgendered people, specifically Caitlin Jenner, in a comedy skit. Was it offensive? I think we all need to be able to laugh at ourselves and perhaps all comedy has a degree of offence in it.  Being transgender has its ridiculous moments but I don’t like being ridiculed. My rule is to replace “trans” or some other term for a minority group with “black” or “disabled”.  If the joke becomes offensive to those groups then the original was obviously offensive too.

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imgp5544That’s enough of that.  Don’t forget to go to the Jasmine Frame publications page to find out about the new novel, The Brides’ Club Murder. Here however, is the next episode of the prequel novella, Darkroom.

Darkroom: Part 8

The tube was quieter than earlier in the evening. Most of the passengers were single people, wearing work clothes, slumped in their seats. Jasmine guessed they were night-workers, cleaners, restaurant and bar staff, tired after a long shift. There were a few other people like themselves heading home after an evening of entertainment or perhaps going on somewhere.  Jasmine reflected on how different she felt now compared to earlier on the train. She wondered if Diana shared her feeling. Instead of the anticipation of showing off herself off as a woman, of meeting others like her enjoying themselves, there was the sense of being sullied by their attacker, a reinforcement of the worries that probably every woman and person trying to be a woman faces on a night out.
They arrived back at the mainline station and having checked that there was no train for Diana until after four a.m. they took the short walk back to the hotel. Diana stood in the middle of the room and stared, vacantly at the double bed.
Jasmine pointed at the couch under the window.
‘Look that’s a bed too. There’s spare pillows and blankets in the wardrobe.’
‘Why don’t you lie down and have a rest. We’ll make sure you get to your train,’ Angela said.  Diana nodded, went to the couch and sat down. She took her shoes off and lay on her side, tucking her legs up against her chest.
Angela took the blanket from the wardrobe and lay it over Diana.
‘There you are. Get some sleep if you can.’
Diana muttered a kind of thank you and lay with her eyes open.
Jasmine unzipped her dress and let it drop to the floor. She covered her underwear with a thin dressing gown and got into the double bed. Angela copied her and quickly climbed in beside her.
‘I hope Diana is alright,’ Jasmine said, looking at the curled-up figure.
‘I don’t think her head injury is serious,’ Angela whispered, ‘She was walking okay from the station, but I’m sure she’s troubled by what happens.’
‘I suppose we’ll see if she wants to catch the early train.’
She did. The rustle of Diana’s shoes on the carpet was enough to alert Jasmine that she was moving. Although she felt exhausted, Jasmine couldn’t fall asleep because of all the thoughts about the evening that passed through her mind.
‘Are you going for the train?’ Jasmine asked as quietly as possible to avoid disturbing Angela.
Diana froze as if she had not expected to hear her voice.
‘Yes,’ she said.
‘I’ll come with you,’ Jasmine said, swinging out of bed. ‘I don’t think stations are pleasant places in the early morning.’
Angela’s spoke her voice groggy with sleep. ‘I’ll join you.’
‘Sorry, I was trying not to disturb you,’ Jasmine said.
Angela gave her a tired smile, ‘I wasn’t sleeping very deeply.’
Jasmine pulled on the skirt and a thick top she had worn on the previous day’s journey and Angela quickly dressed too.
‘There,’ Jasmine aid, glancing in the mirror and deciding her make-up would do for a dark, cold morning, ‘We’re ready.’
The station was even more deserted than it had been a couple of hours earlier. Jasmine glanced at the departures board and noticed that a number of trains had “CANCELLED” beside them.
‘What’s up?’ she said, ‘There weren’t any problems earlier.’
‘My train’s OK,’ Diana said, ‘The cancelled trains were heading south. I’m going east.’
‘South?’ Angela queried, ‘That’s where we were isn’t it? Where the club is?’
Jasmine nodded. ‘I wonder what’s happened.’  They escorted Diana to her train and saw her through the barrier. Just before boarding her carriage, Diana turned and raised a hand.
‘I hope she’s safe?’ Angela said as she waved in return.
‘Safe, yes. Feeling safe, probably not. I think it will be a while before Diana is confident enough to take another night out; as Diana at any rate.’
Angela nodded and they turned away to return to the hotel. As they crossed the concourse, Jasmine saw a railway worker walking on a path that intersected with their own.
‘Why are all those trains cancelled?’ she asked.
The middle-aged man sniffed and looked at her. His eyes showed that he suspected she wasn’t a real girl. ‘Body on the line.’
‘A body!’ Angela gasped.
The man shrugged. ‘Happens all the time. Driver reports hitting something and when we turn up we find bits spread from here to Timbuctoo.’
‘Suicides?’ Jasmine asked.
‘Mostly. Selfish cunts who don’t care what it does to the driver. Sometimes though they’re dead first.’
‘What do you mean?’ Angela said.
‘Handy way of getting rid of body isn’t it. Have a train mash up the corpse for you, if you’re a murderer, that is. The gangs and criminals do it to cover their traces.’
Jasmine found certain thoughts running through her head.
‘Where was this body found?’
‘Why you lost one?’ The railway man chuckled. ‘I can’t say exactly,’ he went on, ‘somewhere down towards The Tower.’
‘That’s. . .’ Angela began. Jasmine grabbed her arm and dragged her away.
‘Thanks. We’ll have to wait till they’re running again, ‘ Jasmine said, walking away and leaving the railway man staring after them.

They were back inside the hotel before Angela spoke again.
‘That body. . .’
‘Yes, I know,’ Jasmine interrupted, ‘it was found near where we were.’
‘The club, the Engine Shed, was right on the lines.’
‘Of course, it was.’
‘You don’t think? Surely Debs didn’t intend. . .’ Angela froze as they climbed the stairs.
‘. . .killing the guy who attacked Diana and me.’  Jasmine shook her head. She didn’t want to entertain the thought.  ‘Look, we don’t know that this body on the line was him. It could be just a coincidence. The man at the station says it happens all the time.’
Angela was shaking now, her voice cracking. ‘But Debs said she would make sure he didn’t trouble girls again. She got her men to take him out the back exit. That probably opens onto the railway lines.’
Jasmine wrapped her arms around her and urged her up the stairs.
‘She wouldn’t be so daft to dump him close to the club. As I said it’s probably a coincidence.’
They returned to their room and quickly stripped off their clothes.  They fell into bed arms enclosing each other.  Soon Angela’s breathing showed that she was asleep but Jasmine kept on thinking.  What had Debs meant?

…………….to be continued.