Jasmine and September

WP_20170826_14_01_13_ProAnother weekend, another Bookfair (or author-signing-event as they are sometimes called).  Today it is Wellington in Shropshire – almost local.  Let’s hope this event actually attracts keen readers who want to browse the books on offer and even buy some.  It will be my first opportunity to offer Cold Fire for sale, in advance of my official launch next week (Leominster Library 2.00 – 6.30 p.m. Thursday 19th Oct.).

Last Saturday I was in the position of reader at Crickhowell Literary Festival. A very pleasant event in venues scattered across the town. One talk, or rather discussion, featured two ex-policemen who had (or are) retiring having fallen to PTSD. They had turned to writing to express their feelings and ended up publishing books, one fiction (supposedly, although it reads more like an autobiography with added action) and the other an non-fiction account of his career and illness.  I don’t know how good the books are (I’m reading one and am not impressed) but both picked up publishing contracts with apparent ease. Why – because of their jobs (senior Met officers); because of their undoubtedly exciting life-stories; or, because they are good writers? I wonder.

I finally got round to watching the Horizon programme on transitioning by transsexual men and women. It followed half a dozen, mainly trans-women, as they embarked on the medical aspects of transitioning, not just gender-confirmation-surgery, but also vocal chord surgery, testosterone injections for transmen, et al. All the subjects made the point that social transitioning i.e. coming out to family, friends and colleagues, was the most difficult part however painful and difficult the surgery.  It was a good, straightforward account of what transsexuals have to go through to achieve the bodies they want (need?), with enough bloody detail to make you want to look away from time to time.  All the subjects seemed well-balanced and cheerful even if they had had difficult times earlier in their transition, but the programme did not attempt to make judgements or bang a drum for more gender clinics or increased availability of surgery.

20170930_130307I was interested, but not for myself.  It is Jasmine that is a transwoman seeking to achieve the body of a woman and prepared to accept the pain and discomfort that involves.  The fourth Jasmine Frame novel, Molly’s Boudoir, which I am writing in fits and starts at the moment, takes place as, and just after, Jasmine has her GCS, but even that won’t be the end of her transition.  Although in law a woman and now with a vagina she still seeks that alteration that makes her appear more feminine and thereby matches her self-image.  I am not the same.  For many years I have been uncertain of where I stood.  While I feel a degree of femininity, I have never wanted to go through everything that Jasmine wants. Now, I think I have found my place in the spectrum.  I’m gender-fluid; I am comfortable wearing feminine clothes, jewellery, make-up, but I oppose any sort of gender stereotyping, detest exceptional macho-male behaviour but do not see in  myself a girly or motherly woman.

As I mentioned, the 4th Jasmine novel is taking some time to write partly because of other things happening round here, and the time taken to promote Cold Fire along with my other novels. There is also a hint of a demand for another September Weekes novel (the fifth!) while I have ideas for other novels in different settings with different lead characters. Perhaps soon I’ll have more time to think and write. . . How many times has that been said.  Watch this space.

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Cold Fire

cover mediumThis week is all about Cold Fire – my new fantasy novel for young adults and above, which is now available in paperback.  I am holding a launch at Leominster Library from 2 – 6:30 on Thursday 19th October and there will be some sort of launch at Novacon in November.

Cold Fire features September Weekes, the heroine of my trilogy, Evil Above the Stars. It follows on from the final paragraph of vol.1 Unity of Seven but is a free-standing novel, which I think can be read on its own.

The story takes place mainly in 1680 in the Wales and London  of a parallel universe to our own. Aeddon is a young man in the service of an alchemist. The alchemist learns about the discovery of “phosphorus” and desires to make it himself to see and make use of the cold fire it produces.  Aeddon describes the quest to find the ingredients to make the cold fire and witnesses the awful results that bring September into the story.

There are appearances by famous scientists of the period, Robert Boyle and Robert Hooke; there are dragons and unicorns and mermaids; there are Welsh legends and heroic action. Can September find the magic that will enable her to overcome the Malevolence in this world?

Copies can be obtained from any bookseller or the publisher Elsewhen Press.  Or you can order copies from me for £9.99 including post and packing.  Send your order with a postal address to this email address  . I will post your copy/ies and give you options of how to pay. Cold Fire is also available as an e-book in all formats.

Copies purchased from me will include a postcard of one of the water colours by Katie Ellis of scenes from the story.

Here is a short excerpt from Cold Fire

Cold Fire

Chapter 1
I am given a task by my Master

“Boy! Boy! Where are you? I have need of you!” My Master’s voice came to me from below. He was in the crypt where he performed his manipulations. I was in the kitchen, searching through the sorry remains of our larder for something my Master would find acceptable for his table. There remained just a few parsnips, some herbs and a piece of mutton that the flies had settled on. My Master rarely troubled himself about the source of his food but relied on me to set it before him, unless of course he was too deeply involved in his work to think of food at all. How we would obtain new food supplies, I knew not.
I answered his call immediately as I did not wish to feel a stroke of the birch rod that he kept to punish my many misdemeanours, real or imagined. I hastened down the stone steps into the dimly illuminated crypt of the old abbey. The pale March sun slanted through the small windows at the top of the vaulted walls revealing a space cluttered with urns, jars, chests, furnaces and shelves filled with the Master’s precious glass apparatus and other contrivances. The floor, which I had swept only the previous evening, was already covered in detritus from the Master’s experimentation as well as the droppings of the mice and doves that he kept for testing his nostrums.
My Master, Ezekiel Soulbury, was sitting at his table which was covered in papers, vellum rolls and books but he held in his hand a letter, which I presumed to be that which he had received with great excitement earlier in the day. It had been sent by his cousin from the city of London and such epistles invariably stirred my Master into some kind of activity, although usually of the ‘grumbling and muttered oaths variety’.
“Ah, there you are boy,” he said at the sound of my feet on the flagstones, “stoke the furnaces. We have much work to do. Stir the putti and set them tasks. Where are those mischievous cherubs? Come on, come on, don’t be idle. I need heat.”
This torrent of words poured out of my Master as he shook his head and beard of long grey hair. He waved his hand bearing the letter which stirred the dust floating in the air. It seemed that the letter had brought news of something that had inspired him to a new venture. I wondered what my part would be in it and how much more pain and suffering would be inflicted on me. My search for edible food was inevitably to be set aside as the Master embarked on this new enthusiasm.
I was unsure whether to follow the Master’s first instruction and collect wood for the furnace or his second which was to find his other assistants, the putti. They at least could take some of the effort from the first task if they could be so persuaded, but where were they?
“Yes, milord,” I replied, “I will set to immediately.”
“That you must, while I assemble the necessary apparatus.” The Master got up from his stool, momentarily catching his foot in the torn and threadbare robe which he wore over his rough woollen garb. Once he had had fine clothes of silk and satin but these had been scorched by fire, burned by acids or sold to raise funds for his endeavours.
The putti were obviously not down here in the cellar so I returned to the ground floor, whistling and calling for them. They had not come into the kitchen while I had left it nor were they in the cold dark hall. I climbed the wooden stairs to the upper floor and entered the Master’s little used but grand bedroom. There they were, dancing in the sunlight that shone through the unshuttered, glazed window. Three small, naked, plump boys with feathered wings fluttering a few hands-widths above the floor, circling and weaving as if engaged in some galliard or other.
“Quickly. Come with me,” I said, “The Master has tasks for you and me.”

………………………..

20170930_130251 (2)Last week was spent in the wonderful countryside of Scotland’s Loch Tay. I took the opportunity to test the inclusiveness of the local community, especially the town of Aberfeldy and was not disappointed. Also for the first time I attended a family event, a wedding, in a dress. It was a wonderful occasion, I felt great and I don’t think I stood out that much, especially as most of the men were in kilts. My thanks are due to my step-niece and her new husband for showing wonderful understanding.

There will be more opportunities for purchasing Cold Fire and my other novels, starting with a Meet the Authors day in the library Wellington, Shropshire on 14th October. Following my launch on 19th October I will also be in The Castle Bookshop, Ludlow on 2nd Dec.

 

 

Jasmine in her own words

As you read this, assuming it is just after it published, I am hopefully selling books at the Sandbach book-signing event. This is the second of these bookfairs that I’ve attended and there are more happening over the next year. I am hoping that there will be hordes of eager readers willing  to dip hands in pockets to buy books from me and the dozens of other authors.  If there aren’t then it will have been a waste of writing time.

51cn5-pvU3LGender remains up there in news and comment consciousness. I note that next week’s Horizon is concerned with transitioning and being transsexual.  Gender is also the subject of this year’s Royal Society science book of the year.  The prestigious award has been won by Testosterone Rex by Cordelia Fine (published by Icon Books).  Apparently Fine challenges the pre-eminent position of testosterone in driving male psychology and the fundamental role of biological sex in the development of gender identity and culture.  I haven’t read it yet but I am looking forward to doing so and seeing the responses. It has already received many reviews.

Gender fluidity is even a theme of  W1A the BBC spoof of, yes, the BBC. For those of you who don’t watch the sit-com it is concerned with the knots the BBC management ties itself in to try to appear balanced, inclusive, on message, and popular. The theme involves a retired footballer who has come out as trans, who wants to be a football pundit (on Match of the Day) but who is actually quite rubbish at it. If he is booted off the programme the management don’t want it to appear because he wears a dress, and so the farce builds. I love W1A and all its characters and I am hoping they have got this right. I hope it never slides into treating a bloke in a dress as being funny in itself.

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cover mediumLast week I completed the latest Jasmine Frame prequel, Viewpoint.  There will be a rest now for a few weeks while other things take precedence.  The main event coming up is the launch of the paperback version of Cold Fire – watch this space.  To fill the gap here is something I’ve been meaning to do for a while –  Jasmine speaking for herself. In fact it was suggested that this whole blog should be “written by” Jasmine.  Here is her autobiography.

Jasmine Frame – in her own words

While I was waiting for the date of my gender confirmation surgery, my doctors suggested I might like to write about myself, my journey, my life. So I have. In some ways, it is a final farewell to James Frame, in others it is a search for an explanation of who I am.

I was born in 1983 in Hastings on the south coast of England. Nothing special in that and nothing at all special in my early years. My father was an engineer on some big civil projects so was away quite often. My mother stayed home until I went to school and then went back to work for the county records office. She had a history degree and was an amateur archaeologist. Apart from me there was my sister, Holly who is four years older.

My earliest memories are of playing in a park with Holly and Mum. I have no early recollections of being gender confused or of denying I was a boy. I don’t think I was even conscious of gender until I was quite a bit older. However, I do recall playing with Holly and her friends. They never seemed to mind me being around when they were trying to get on with their own play but I do remember them using me as a sort of large and animated doll. I suppose lots of girls make use of their younger brothers in the same way and I am sure that we don’t all end up trans. Holly dressed me in her old dresses which for some reason Mum kept even when they no longer fitted. I seem to think I was quite happy to go along with the play and actually enjoyed the feel of the smooth and shiny satin and the swish of the dress on my legs. Holly went off to high school and more grown up interests while I got on with my own growing. I had girl and boy friends at primary school, played with Lego and cars as well as enjoying arty pastimes. I do realise now that I was a little bit of a loner, always content with my own company and not much of a team player. In fact, I didn’t get into team sports at all.

It was during my last year at junior school that I discovered that I could run a bit. My parents took up my teachers’ suggestions and enrolled me at the local athletics club. Throughout my secondary school career, I practiced regularly and often with boys and girls. I was county age-group champion at 400 and 800 metres at various times. The fact that I was competing in boys’ events was barely an issue.

It was only when puberty slugged me with a right hook that I became conscious of gender. It sounds silly but I don’t think I had thought about what growing up as a man or woman meant. Holly had her education and career mapped out, certainly not planning on getting married early and having children soon. With Mum taking on more hours of work as I got older I never saw men and women as being different with respect to employment. But growing facial hair, my voice breaking and getting erections made me realise that I was a boy – at least physically.

I was about fourteen when I began to have the thoughts. Perhaps they were a throwback to Holly’s dressing games but I realised that I didn’t want to turn into a hulking, macho, testosterone fuelled bloke. That’s when the urge to find another persona for myself started to take hold; and a different character meant different clothes. Although Holly was about to go off to university, she was still living at home and some of her clothes were left in her bedroom even when she was away. I began to experiment. Holly and I were a similar size then, in fact, I’m only slightly taller than her now.

The feel of a skirt, of a tight top, of tights and yes, finally, a bra, became familiar. At first it was exciting and arousing. I worried myself sick when once or twice I nearly spurted cum over Holly’s skirt. Soon though, becoming Jasmine ceased to have any masturbatory effect and simply became me in girl mode. It was the late 90s by now and I had access to a computer at home and the internet. I found out words for what I was – transvestite, transsexual I wasn’t sure which – but I did realise that being found out could make life difficult.

Fear of discovery did not stop me experimenting with Holly’s and Mum’s make-up. During holidays, when both were out of the house, I ventured out into town. I avoided the cafes and parks where my friends and school colleagues hung out, and instead went shopping. I used my pocket money to buy a few items of my own. With my blonde hair, quite long at that time, and fair complexion, I found I passed easily as a girl. Shop assistants, even if they sussed me, were eager to make a sale so I had few difficulties.

I became a little complacent I suppose and took to adopting my persona as Jasmine whenever I had the house to myself. That was why when I was 17, Holly discovered my secret. I’ve got to hand it to her, she was pretty calm and was soon advising me on styles of dress and cosmetics. She helped me keep my secret from Mum and Dad.

Going to Bristol to study for a history degree was a big move. I was free to be myself, or was I? Surrounded by other students I could have been drawn into a male world I suppose. As it happened the first guy I met turned out to be gay and he introduced me to other gays and lesbians. I was persuaded to let on that I was trans. And then I met Angela. She wasn’t a lesbian, no way, but she had friends who were and was very open. We hit it off straight away and for some reason she was as keen on Jasmine as James. For a time, I attended lectures and seminars as James but spent a lot of my social life, largely with Angela, as Jasmine, but gradually they all blurred together. Life was so busy and fun that I didn’t really consider where I stood on the gender spectrum or what would happen when university life came to an end. All I was sure of was that I wanted to be with Angela and she felt the same about me.

Of course, we were having sex, eagerly and often, from early in our relationship. She was the woman and I was the man – I had the penis. Making love was very pleasurable but I noticed that when we were having intercourse I could imagine that it was me being penetrated not Angela. It didn’t bother me – we were both feeling satisfied and I enjoyed being Jasmine.

Finishing university was a bit of a shock. We joined the real world embarking on careers, finding somewhere to live and fitting into society. I had settled on the police as a career. Why? Well I suppose my brief adventures with the law had sparked my interest and history seemed to have elements of crimes investigation. I was lucky to be recruited and to get on a training course. I had no real idea what the police reaction would be to my gender flipping although the Gender Recognition Act was just coming into force, but I thought it wise to keep Jasmine hidden from my superiors and colleagues. Angela was getting into her career in commercial accountancy and we decided to make our relationship official by getting married.

If I had thought that getting down to work as a police officer, with all the training that involved, and putting a home together, would make me a man I was wrong. Being Jasmine was a way of relaxing but I also found that increasingly my feelings about being a woman were growing. The urge to be female became more intense and I didn’t want to stop it. Angela was very understanding. Perhaps she had realised all along that that was the path we were on.

Becoming a detective and member of the Violent and Serious Crime Unit was the peak of my ambition, but it also brought increased stress. Now being Jasmine permanently became my greatest desire. I resisted it for a time because I knew, we both knew, that it would mean Angela and I splitting up. Then it was still necessary for married couples to divorce if one of them wanted to transition and obtain a GRC. Finally, though, the decision had to be made. Angela was supportive, so was Holly, but my mother wasn’t. Dad had died from cancer, a few years earlier and now she thought she was losing the other man in her life.

I started transitioning in the summer of 2010. I knew Angela and I would part. The sex in our relationship had always been important to her and she had always been straight. Whatever my fantasies had been she had always taken delight in having good old-fashioned heterosexual sex. I didn’t want to take that away from her but also didn’t want to be piggy in the middle of an “open” marriage. So we split, and I moved out. Angela was by now earning far more than my police officer’s salary and the financial separation was relatively straightforward. What I had not bargained for was my career falling apart. The police service management was helpful and supportive but that couldn’t be said for one or two of my colleagues. Perhaps I could have and should have stuck it out but I didn’t and so Frame Investigations was born.

Then Viv appeared on the scene. I’m dearly looking forward to having the body I’ve imagined myself to have for years. The future is a bit misty but I am looking forward to entering it as Jasmine Frame.

……………………………

 

 

 

Jasmine in the earth

WP_20170826_14_01_13_ProWe had a lovely day at the UKIndieLitFest in Bradford last weekend. There were lots of writers competing for the book buyers which were always going to be scarce.  Nevertheless we gave away a few copies of Painted Ladies, sold a few others and did lots of good promotional stuff.

Now it’s NAWGFest weekend; two full days at Warwick Uni.  I hoping  to see some familiar faces and make some new friends, and even sell a few more books.  I’m also looking  forward to going to Sandbach on 23rd Sept for their Author-Book-Signing Day – more opportunities.  Soon after that we will be into the launch of Cold Fire in paperback (it’s already available as an e-book).  I’ll have some interesting things to show you when the time is a bit closer.cover medium

Back to our brief visit to Bradford.  We had a evening in the city centre looking for somewhere to eat. Bradford is of course a very diverse community and I felt it very welcoming. Just before we went we watched one of the BBC Gay season programmes about the abuse of and vicious attacks on LGBT people, some very recent. It is dreadful what harm a very small number of people can do and knowing that these things can happen can make people fearful of stepping outside their door. The fear of terrorist attacks has a similar effect. But I am sure (I hope) the number of serious hate-crimes against gay and trans people is relatively low.  I don’t want to feel threatened every time I go out but I am wary, and fairly selective of where I go.

Talking of attacks, Jasmine is in the hands of a vicious trio in Viewpoint. Does she survive?  Of course she does.  It’s a prequel to Painted Ladies and the other novels.  But you can find out what happens by reading part 12 below.

Viewpoint: Part 12

A shadow of a figure crouched down beside her.
‘God! You are alive, aren’t you?’
Jasmine fluttered her eyelids to show Tom that she was indeed living. It was about all that she could move.
‘Can you breathe?’ Tom inserted a finger to pull the cord from her mouth but only succeeded in making it dig into the back of her head even more and pushing the cloth down her throat. He pulled a penknife from his pocket and flicked it open.
‘Lie still. It’s going to be difficult to cut the string without nicking you.’
Lying still was okay. Tom slid the blade between her cheek and the binding and sawed at it. The cords broke and Jasmine felt release but the cloth was still wedged in her mouth. Tom tugged it out and she at last felt cold air enter her lungs. She breathed in deeply and closed her eyes in relief. Tom moved to her wrists and then her ankles, freeing her limbs. Excruciating pins and needles in her arms and legs were the result. She groaned.
‘Are you alright, Jas? They didn’t hurt you, did they?’
Jasmine managed a shake of her head but no words would come out of her mouth yet.
Tom bent down to her and scanned his torch over her body. The light dazzled her and she screwed up her eyes.
‘Are you sure you’re okay?’
Jasmine gasped and said in a hoarse whisper, ‘I’ll be fine. Now.’
Tom stood up. ‘Derek! Read them their rights then get them to a car. Keep them apart. Don’t let them talk to each other. There are questions they need to answer.’
Jasmine heard Derek Kingston reciting the arrest. Tom leant down to her with an arm outstretched.
‘You must be soaked. Can I help you up?’
Jasmine hadn’t given a thought to where she was lying. Now she noticed that the leaf litter was sodden and she was too. She lifted a leaden arm. Tom took hold and gently pulled her to her feet. Her knees buckled rather than take her weight and she started to slide down Tom’s body. He grabbed her with both arms and hauled her upright.
‘Sorry,’ she muttered, ‘My legs don’t seem to want to hold me.’
‘That’s okay, Jas. We’ll head back to the car.’
Tom half dragged, half carried her through the woodland to where the Land Rover was parked. Tom’s unmarked Mondeo was there too and three police cars. Jasmine rested against the roof of Tom’s vehicle while he opened the doors. The three men, handcuffed and lead by police officers followed and were taken to separate cars.
Tom, opened the rear door and helped Jasmine into the seat. DC Kingston joined them.
‘You stay here, Derek,’ Tom said, getting into his driving seat. ‘That Land Rover needs looking at and we’ll need photos of the digging they were doing. You should have assistance soon.’ As he finished a police four-by-four arrived and two more uniformed officers got out.
Tom turned the key in the ignition and closed his window. Jasmine felt the warm air from the heater and recalled that it was less than two days since she had experienced a similar welcoming blast.
They drove along the rough, dark track until they reached a road. Jasmine peered into the blackness. If Tom had not appeared when he had, she thought, it would have been a long time before her body was found, buried in the depths of the wood.
‘Thanks Tom. You saved my life.’
She caught Tom’s eyes in the car mirror.
He didn’t respond to her gratitude. ‘What were you doing there, Jas?’’
‘They brought me in the Land Rover.’
Tom sighed. ‘I know that. What I meant was, what were you doing at the cabin?’
And so it starts, Jasmine thought. My inquisition.
‘I was sure that Alfie had been held captive at that park,’ she began, ‘but Terry Hopkins had said that Riley’s hut was too small for him to have been kept there. I guessed that there would be an empty cabin that they had used. I didn’t think Palmerston was concerned so I thought I’d have a little look myself.’
‘You found it.’
‘Yes. It was obvious really. The hut appeared to have been unoccupied for some time but there were fresh tracks in the grass outside it. I managed to get in to have a look round. Then Riley and his mate turned up and I was stuck.’
‘You shouldn’t have gone on your own, Jas. You shouldn’t have gone at all. Denise took you off the case.’
‘I couldn’t let it be, Tom. She wasn’t going to do anything.’ Jasmine was annoyed at the whine that had crept into her voice.
Tom twisted his head round to glance at her briefly. ‘Actually, she did, Jas. She thought Taylor required watching. Derek and I drew the evening shift. We spent a couple of hours sitting outside his farm gate twiddling our thumbs until he left in the Land Rover. We tailed him to the park. He stopped off at Riley’s place but there was no one in. He got back in the car and headed further into the park.’
‘You followed him?’ Jasmine asked getting excited by Tom’s tale.
‘Well, I thought we’d be noticed if we drove in. Derek went on foot. He found Taylor’s car parked outside the hut. Riley and his friend were loading something onto the back; he didn’t know then what it was. Taylor set off and Derek had to run like Bolt to get back to me. We almost lost them then but luckily Taylor wasn’t driving fast. Perhaps his old crate can’t go at speed. We tailed him all the way to the wood and luckily none of them noticed. Derek followed them in and came back and reported what they were doing.’
‘Preparing to bury me.’
‘Well, we didn’t know it was you, but yes.’
‘So you called in back-up.’
‘That’s right, but told them to arrive without sirens and lights.’
‘Just in time.’
‘Yes. I’m not sure how much time we had left. That hole they dug was plenty big enough.’
Jasmine shivered. She could almost feel the cold wet earth around her but couldn’t imagine being dead. Tom drove on in silence. When they got in to the centre of Kintbridge Jasmine noted that Tom was not heading to the police station.
‘Hey, Tom. Where are we going?’ she cried.
‘I’m taking you home, Jas, unless you think you need the hospital.’
‘No, I’m fine.’ In fact, her arms and legs were still sore and she felt lousy but that wasn’t the point. ‘But we need to question Taylor, Riley and Gary; get their confessions to Alfie’s murder.’
‘You’ve forgotten something, Jas.’
‘What?’
‘You’re off the case. You’re not going to be doing any questioning.’
‘Aw, Tom.’
‘Don’t do that. DS Palmerston is in charge and she’d have my balls if she found I’d let you take part in the interrogation.’
‘But, they said things when they had me in the hut. I know they kept Alfie there and they killed him.’
‘And we’ll need to know what you heard, Jas. Do you really want to face Palmerston, or even Sloane now, in the state you’re in?’
Jasmine became conscious of her wet and mucky clothes and then remembered.
‘Er, Tom, we can’t go to my flat.’
‘Why not?’
‘I haven’t got my key.’
‘Where is it?’
‘In my bag, in my car.’
Tom braked and pulled into the side of the road. He turned around to face her.
‘And where’s that.’
Jasmine managed a thin smile. ‘Back at the cabin site, well, a few yards from it.’
Tom sighed, twisted back, glanced in his mirror and pulled the car round in a U-turn.
‘Okay, we’ll go and pick it up.’

It took a few more minutes to drive out of the town again and onto the lane that lead to the park-home site. Tom slowed as they approached the gates. There was a police car parked at the entrance with its lights on and there were lights showing at various parts of the grounds.
‘Can we. . .’ Jasmine began.
‘No, Jas, we’re not going in. SOCO will be going over both huts and Palmerston may even have got officers questioning the other inhabitants. Where’s your car?’
Jasmine pointed through the windscreen. ‘Another hundred metres or so.’
Tim drove on slowly until the dark outline of the Fiesta appeared, parked on the verge. Jasmine felt in the pocket of her jacket and was relieved to find her key was still there. The car stopped and Tom got out to open the rear door. Jasmine swung her legs round, put her feet on the tarmac and tried to stand up. She almost made it.
‘O..oh. Careful there, Jas.’ Tom caught her as she crumpled up. He lowered her back onto the back seat. ‘I’ll get your bag. Give me your keys. Where is it?’
Jasmine fumbled in her pocket feeling bemused by her weakness. She pulled out the car key and placed it in Tom’s waiting hand.
‘Um, thanks, Tom. It’s under the passenger seat.’
Tom moved away and Jasmine contemplated her fatigue. She felt sore all over and so lethargic that ever moving again seemed impossible.
Her bag dropped onto her lap.
‘There. Let’s get you home.’
‘What about my car key?’
‘I’ll keep it and get your Fiesta brought back into town. Is that OK?’
As Jasmine wasn’t in a mood to make plans herself she indicated her agreement.

Tom drew to a halt at the steps to her flat. He got out and opened her door.
‘Go and have a shower and get some sleep. I’m sure Denise will want to speak to you early in the morning. One of us will come and pick you up I expect.’
Jasmine slid across the seat noting that she was leaving a damp and grubby patch on the upholstery. This time, Tom helped her to her feet and escorted her to her door with an arm under her armpit. She inserted the key into the lock and pushed the door open. Tom’s arms guided her into a dining chair.
Jasmine looked up at him. ‘Okay, Tom. I’ll manage now. Thanks for looking after me, again.’
‘Don’t expect me to make a habit of it, but I’m glad we got to you before. . .’ He turned away and pulled the door closed behind him. Jasmine sighed and faced the challenge of getting to her feet.

……………………..to be continued.

 

Jasmine decides

As I said last time, I spent last weekend at the Nine Worlds convention (or “geek fest” the organisers call it) in Hammersmith, London.  I enjoyed myself chairing a Q&A session 9Worldswith John Gribbin and Zoe Sutra who were launching their books, published by Elsewhen.  I attended a number of other sessions, some better than others, the highlight being a talk on how to build a spaceship that generated quite a few ideas (and arguments). There were lots of people in costume, most of whom meant nothing to me but they impressed me with their dedication and handiwork. Perhaps most noticeably, both in the convention programme and simply looking around was the emphasis on diversity.  This showed up in a variety of ways – there were as many women as men of all ages, there were a variety of ethnicities represented, there were people with disabilities, and most important for me, there were a good number of non-binary people.  It was an opportunity for everyone to be whoever they wanted to be, whether it was Princess Leia, a fairy, or someone proud to be neither overtly male or female.  I’m looking forward to next year.

Next up is the UK Indy Lit Fest in Bradford on 26th August.  There will be over forty authors like me there, with books to sell either self-published or published by small independent publishers. I really do hope that there will also be plenty of people looking around, browsing and buying books. If you are going, you can pre-order my books by completing this form.

UK Indie fest banner

My latest Elsewhen book, Cold Fire, is now available as an e-book on all platforms.  The paperback will be available soon – watch this space as they say.

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And so to Jasmine Frame’s latest adventure in Viewpoint. Here is episode 9.

Viewpoint: Part 9

The pale autumn sun hung over the canal, glinting off the murky water. Jasmine’s feet pounded the towpath. It had stopped raining and the air had a freshness to it. She was running to dispel the frustration and anger and also to overcome the feelings left by yesterday’s jog with its macabre conclusion. Another unexpected wade through the cold water was not on her list of desirables. She was approaching the bypass bridge and there, underneath the roadway, was Harold’s old boat and Harold himself stroking a paintbrush along its multi-coloured wooden superstructure. His wiry haired dog of no identifiable breed sat patiently beside him watching as he worked.
Jasmine slowed to a stop when she drew level with the old boatman. The dog approached her and lowered its head to sniff her running shoes. Harold turned and spoke to her in his Yorkshire accent.
‘Hello again lassy. Don’t often see tha at this time of day.’
Although Jasmine had occasionally stopped to chat she was surprised that Harold was familiar with her routine of early morning or evening runs.
‘I needed to get out. I finished early today,’ she said.
‘Ah well, no doubt you think it does tha some good.’
‘Running lets me think,’ Jasmine said.
‘Well now, a gentle walk with Robbie here before closing up for t’night does that for me,’ Harold said.
‘Which way do you usually go?’
Harold nodded to the setting sun, ‘Away from the town, lass.’
‘As far as Renham lock?’
Harold looked into her eyes. ‘That I do. Give Robbie a chance to do his business and nose around after rabbits. You’ve a ken for what I saw a couple of nights ago.’
Jasmine’s stomach churned. What had he seen? ‘Tuesday night, yes. Did you see anything, er, unusual?’
‘Now what does tha mean by unusual? I saw three fellas up at the lock dropping stuff in the water. Tha’s not so unusual. Plenty of them fly-tippers thinking that the canal makes a useful rubbish dump.’
‘Did you see what it was?’
‘No, but it was quite a weight. Took two of them to heave it off the bank. I reckoned it was a dead sheep or summat.’
‘You know a body was found there yesterday morning.’
He nodded. ‘Aye, and it was thou what found it, weren’t it? I saw you run past, earlyish, and didna see you come back. Then there wus all them sirens. I wandered up to have a look but when I saw the coppers I turned back. Some other dog walkers said what was happening and I put two and two together.’
Jasmine shivered at the memory of the cold water. ‘I saw the body in the water. It had come back to the surface. I went in and dragged it out. Did the police officers come to speak to you?’
‘Na. Why would they trouble themselves to walk all the way down here to hear what I had to say?’
It should have been Terry and Derek who’d been asking questions but they had focussed on the possibility of eyewitnesses on the track from the road. Unless you knew the canal, like she did, you wouldn’t know that there were people like Harold on it at all times of the year.
‘Could you describe the men, Harold?’
Harold sniffed. ‘It was nigh on dark. They wuz shadows more than anything, but definitely three fellas, one of them small and he had a limp.’
Jasmine was excited. Riley? With Taylor and someone else perhaps?
‘What about their vehicle, Harold? Did you see that?’
‘Like I say, it was dark. I couldn’t get a number.’
‘No, I understand. But the type of vehicle?’
‘Oh, it was one of them old Land Rovers, short wheelbase, pick-up.’ He had described Taylor’s Land Rover. Of course, there were plenty of them around, but it confirmed her suspicions well enough for her. Harold’s observations could be vital evidence.
She asked him a question. ‘You’ve moored here a while, haven’t you?’
Harold nodded, ‘For as long as the Board will leave me be. No doubt they’ll be along in a day or two to move me along a bit.’
‘You’ll still be on the canal though?’
‘Oh, aye. I only move as far as I have to. Perhaps a couple of miles the other side of Kintbridge or back towards Thirsbury.’
‘I’ll be able to find you again, then.’
‘Tha might have to run a bit further lass.’
‘No problem.’ She turned to face back into the town.
‘Not going on this time then?’ Harold asked.
‘No, there’s work to do,’ Jasmine said, taking her first stride.

On her return to her flat, Jasmine undressed. She replaced the brightly coloured vest, shorts and shoes with black tights, a short black skirt, black polo neck and black ankle boots. She glanced out of the window. The sky was darkening but it wasn’t yet fully night-time. Not time yet. She toasted some bread and spread it with peanut butter. As she munched on it she felt excitement. Denise Palmerston would be furious if she knew what she planned, but that, sort of, made Jasmine more determined to follow through with her plan.
Harold’s information confirmed for her that Taylor and Riley were responsible for Alfie’s death. She was sure they had held him before he had died, either at the farm or at the park home site. She was going to look at the latter first. Tom had said that Riley’s hut was small but there were plenty of others on the site. Embarking on a search alone was against her instructions and contrary to police protocol, but she felt she was on her own now. If Palmerston wasn’t going to take Alfie’s death seriously then it was up to her.
It was dark now and the evening rush hour would have died down. After putting on her dark puffer jacket and black leather gloves she left the flat, checked that she had a torch, with batteries, in the glove compartment of the Fiesta and set off. Retracing her journey the previous evening, she drove to the edge of town and turned along the lane past the park homes. She drove on a couple of hundred yards and pulled off the road on to a suitable verge. She locked the car, dropped the keys into the pocket of her jacket and set off back up the road gripping her torch.
Before she reached the entrance to the park she climbed over a gate into a ploughed field and walked alongside the hedge that bordered the site. At the corner, there was a wooden gate. It was locked but Jasmine quickly clambered over it and dropped into knee-high grass. The shadows of the huts loomed against the night sky with the glow of the town beyond.
She crept to the nearest cabin. The grass was trimmed neatly around it and there were pots of shrubs either side of the front door. Jasmine moved onto the second. This too looked cared for and occupied. She continued along the well-spaced row until she came to the hut closest to the far hedge. This one was smaller than the others and the long grass grew up above the columns of breeze blocks that supported the floor of the hut. Jasmine crawled around the hut not daring to use her torch but feeling the ground. The grass was beaten down in front of the doorway and in two narrow strips. A vehicle had parked here not many days ago.
Jasmine approached the hut, raising her head to peer through the dirty windows. There was nothing to see as curtains covered the windows. She pressed her ear to the window and listened. No sounds from inside. Surely the hut was unoccupied. She moved to the front door, tested the handle. It was locked. That wasn’t surprising but perhaps she would have some luck round the back of the hut. Her reward was finding a small window open an inch or two. She inserted her hand through the gap and was able to lift the latch. The window swung open. It was a small gap but with her slim figure she could wriggle through. She entered head first, groping with her hands for the floor to support herself before she tumbled in.
She folded herself into a crouch and waited. There was no sound. The hut was empty. As she suspected, she was in a bathroom; a none too clean bathroom. There was the stink of mould, urine and faeces. She took her torch from her pocket and turned it on. The light revealed a grubby wash basin, loo and bath. Were the stains merely dirt or blood? They looked suspiciously like the latter to Jasmine.
She pushed on the door and it swung open. A scan with the torch showed a small bedsitting room with an old, iron-framed single bed against one wall with a bare mattress. There was a threadbare rug covering part of the rough wood floor, a small dining table and chairs and no other furniture at all. In one corner was a sink unit and old gas cooker. Jasmine could hardly imagine living here and she wondered whether in fact anyone did, voluntarily. She crossed to the bed and shone the torch on the head and foot. There were cords looped around the rails at the four corners, with loose, cut ends. Someone had been tied down, hand and foot, spread-eagled. Had it been Alfie? She was looking closely at the stains on the mattress when the front door creaked open.
Jasmine spun around, her heart thudding, her legs ready to run. But there was no escape. Two figures filled the doorway: a short man and one that was taller. The light bulb hanging from the centre of the ceiling flicked on giving out a dim, yellow light.
‘What the ‘ell?’ The shorter man said in a distinct Irish accent.

……………………….to be continued.

 

 

 

 

Jasmine follows a hunch

So Jeremy Corbyn supports self-identification for transgender people. He says the Labour Party would support a Bill to modify the Gender Recognition Act to remove the requirement for medical tests as part of gender reassignment. May’s government says it is considering the change but has not committed to making it.  (https://www.theguardian.com/society/2017/jul/19/let-trans-people-self-identify-gender-corbyn-urges-may)

What would it mean?

The most important effect would be the demedicalisation of gender identity.  Like sexuality, it would become a personal matter.  Changing gender would be as easy as changing your name.  Once upon a time being gay was not only a crime but a medical condition which some doctors thought could be treated.  Now, while identifying as something other than your birth gender is not a crime, transitioning to the gender you identify with does involve jumping through various medical hoops including proving that your mental health is good enough to make the decision.  Already, the GRA allows transgender people to transition without undergoing surgery or hormone treatment but insists on a diagnosis of gender dysphoria. The proposed change would allow the individual to make the decision on their own, by right.

Self-identification could have wider beneficial effects. If gender is no longer seen as a medical issue then it could accelerate the breakdown of gender barriers and improve gender equality. Why demand a statement of gender to open a bank account, store account et al, if gender can be changed by personal decision?  Why demand to know someone’s gender when they apply for a job hence bringing all sorts of bias into play?  With many modern names gender neutral, a person’s character will be at the forefront not their gender.

I hope any changes to the law will not perpetuate gender stereotypes by insisting that a person declare themselves permanently male or female.  If gender identity is demedicalised then it must become possible to declare that one has no gender, both or a mix. That would please me a lot.  Let’s hope Corbyn and the Labour Party stick to their word and the Tory government (backed by the DUP) are not persuaded by the reactionary elements in their ranks.

……………………………………

cover mediumYou might have seen my news elsewhere that the cover of my new fantasy/speculative fiction novel, Cold Fire, has been revealed by Elsewhen Press.  The e-book will be available in August and the paperback in October.  It is a September Weekes story involving Welsh myth, C17th science, and my own vision of fantastic creatures.  I love the cover and the interpretation of the creature – it’s red, flies and spits fire, so what is it?

 

 

 

 

 

Back to Jasmine Frame in Viewpoint, the prequel to Painted Ladies.  Jasmine is investigating the death of a transman.

Viewpoint: Part 6

Hazel shook her head slowly and shrugged. ‘I don’t know. Alfie missed an appointment once before we saw him for the last time in October last year. I remember him being depressed and uncommunicative. We did get out of him that he was struggling to get by – no job, limited benefits, few friends in Weymouth.’
‘And getting nowhere with his transition,’ Jasmine added.
The nurse nodded. ‘That’s right. We couldn’t recommend him for medication and surgery in the state he was in. I worried if he was becoming suicidal.’
Jasmine flinched. She hadn’t considered suicide. Was she mistaken? No, she was almost certain Alfie hadn’t killed himself.
‘I’ve been assuming he was murdered,’ she said, ‘His body looked as though it had been dumped in the canal.’
Hazel looked grim. ‘Well, I can’t say what has happened to him in the last year. He didn’t come to his appointment; he hasn’t replied to emails and the last letter we sent was returned to us as “unknown at this address”.’
‘You think he moved from Weymouth?’
‘Seems like.’
‘Where would he have gone?’ Jasmine was struggling to put herself into the mind of a depressed and lonely transman.
Hazel shrugged again. ‘The only other address we have is where he grew up. His father’s home. Despite everything his father was still his next of kin.’
Jasmine felt a surge of interest. Another lead perhaps. ‘What’s the address?’
Hazel flicked through the file. ‘Ah, here it is. Yew Tree Farm, Cindersworth, Hampshire.’
Jasmine gasped. ‘But that’s no distance from where Alfie’s body was dumped.’
‘Really?’ The nurse’s eyebrows were raised.
‘I don’t know the farm, but Cindersworth is a village south of Kintbridge. It can’t be ten miles to the canal. Surely, he wouldn’t have -’
‘What?’
‘Gone home to his father and killed there.’ Jasmine couldn’t understand how the young man could return to the parent who had abused him, but of course Alfie wasn’t the man he wanted to be, he was a confused and depressed transsexual.
‘His father was the only family he had,’ Hazel offered, ‘Sometimes the devil you know is the only one drawing you in.’
Jasmine jumped from the sofa. ‘I’ll have to call there. Can I borrow your computer – I need to find the location of this farm.’
‘Yes, of course. Let me call up Google Maps for you.’ Hazel returned to the seat behind her desk and started tapping keys. Jasmine looked over her shoulder.
‘There we are,’ Jasmine said, stabbing a finger at the screen. ‘Can you print it off?’
Hazel nodded and the printer under the desk started chuntering. Jasmine grabbed the sheet of paper and scampered towards the door.
‘Thank you for all your assistance,’ she called.
‘I hope you find out what happened to Alfie,’ Hazel cried after her.

Jasmine was in her car and about to set off when her phone rang again. She glanced at the small screen. It wasn’t Palmerston this time but Tom. She decided to pick up.
‘Hi Tom.’
‘Jas! Where are you?’
‘Exeter. Just interviewed a nurse at the GIC that knew Alfie.’
‘That’s good, but you know Palmerston is furious don’t you.’
‘When isn’t she.’
‘Well, I suppose she is whenever your name is mentioned. She wants you back here.’
‘I expect she does.’
Tom’s voice became conspiratorial. ‘It may calm her down a bit if I tell her what you’ve found out.’
Jasmine considered for a moment. ‘Okay. Well Alfie Benson has been on the clinic’s books for six years but they haven’t heard from him in the last year. He wasn’t getting far with his transition because he was depressed.’ She paused. How much more should she tell Tom now?
‘Is that it?’
‘His birth name was Lucy Taylor. What have you got?’
‘Not a lot. That Weymouth address got us nowhere. Palmerston got the local cops to look in on it. The current tenant didn’t know an Alfie Benson and neither did any of the neighbours that they managed to speak to.’
‘Or they said they didn’t.’
‘Well, okay, perhaps. We haven’t managed to contact the landlord yet.’
‘So, you’ve got no leads on Alfie’s movements before he died.’
‘No, but it was definitely murder. Pathology says he was dead before entering the water and he’d been beaten severely.’
Jasmine was saddened by the news but wasn’t surprised. Was Alfie’s father the murderer? She wanted to find out.
‘Are you coming back then?’ Tom asked.
‘Yes, on my way.’ She glanced at her watch. It would be late evening by the time she got back to Kintbridge even without any detours.
‘We’ll be gone by the time you get here. Palmerston has called a meeting for seven tomorrow morning. She doesn’t think there are any leads to follow tonight.’
‘Even though she knows for certain that it’s a murder case?’ Jasmine was surprised at the DS’s lack of urgency.
‘As I said, no leads.’
Jasmine knew the real reason for the half-hearted attitude of her boss; the victim was TS and in Palmerston’s mind didn’t warrant her full attention.
‘Well, we’ll see about that. Bye Tom.’ She ended the call and turned off her phone. Peering through the windscreen into the dark, drizzly evening she didn’t relish the return journey but she turned the key in the ignition and pushed the gear lever forward.

The drive was frustrating and exhausting. Her eyes ached from peering through the drizzle and light rain, and she met lorry after slow lorry on the single-track stretches of the A303. It wasn’t surprising she was tired, she thought, after the day she’d had – a run, a ducking, mild hypothermia, the tension of a murder to investigate and the journey across country. Nevertheless, it wasn’t the fatigue which occupied her thoughts it was a mixture of her anger at Palmerston for . . . well, for being DS Denise Palmerston, and then there was Alfie Benson. What had he’d been thinking when he left his home in Weymouth? Had he returned to his father’s farm and was it there that he’d met his death?
A road sign reflected the not-so-bright headlights of the Fiesta. Straight ahead was her quickest way back to Kintbridge, the sensible route to her bed, but the sign reminded her of an alternative route, shorter if slower. It would pass near to Cindersworth and Alfie’s childhood home. She found herself taking the turning and joining the new road. It was a darker and narrower but quieter. The rain and the old Ford’s imperfect wipers caused her to lean forward to see the road ahead while looking out for signs.
A signpost to Cindersworth indicated a left turn. She braked hard, turned the wheel and was bumping up a steep, narrow lane. A traditional wooden sign loomed out of the darkness announcing that she had reached the village. She drove slowly past unlit cottages. Then she was back amongst hedges and trees and wondering what to do. The sensible thing would be to head on home but she saw the sign on a wide gate. It was a battered wooden board hanging from frayed ropes but the name was painted in white paint that stood out even through the mist. Yew Tree Farm.
She pulled up alongside the tubular-steel gate, wound down her window and peered into the night. There was a rutted track and a few dozen yards away the brooding presence of buildings. There were no lights, no suggestion that the farm was occupied. She got out and pulled the hood of her puffer jacket over her head and examined the gate. It had no lock or bolt, not even a piece of string looped over the gate post. She placed her hands under the top bar and lifted. The gate moved with a creak and whine of complaining hinges.
‘And who might you be?’
The gravelly voice caused Jasmine to drop the gate. She turned, trying to make out who had spoken. The shotgun attracted her attention first, the barrel glinting in the light from her car. It was hung over the shoulder of a man in an old waxed jacket with a tweed cap on his head. His face was dark and unshaven. He was an inch or two shorter than Jasmine but there was a sturdiness about him. The shot gun strap slid down his arm and the barrel rotated to point towards her.

……………………..to be continued.

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