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 office-bound

This weekend I am at Nine Worlds in Hammersmith, London.  It’s a big SF/Fantasy convention. As well as, I hope, enjoying some of the sessions, my main reason for attending is that my publishers, Elsewhen Press are a sponsor and exhibitor and I have been asked to compere a Q&A session with the authors of two books being launched. Artwork: David A. Hardy

The first is a well known name – John Gribbin.  He is famous for his popular science books (written with Mary, his wife) but he is also a long-time SF fan and writer.  His anthology Don’t Look Back collects stories written throughout his life.  They are mainly hard SF tales exploring a law of physics.

Zoe Sumra is an exciting young author. TheCover: Alex Storer Wages of Sin is her second novel in a universe of gangsters, interstellar corporations and spellweavers.  I’m hoping that by fielding the questions and prompting answers I may get a chance to do just a little promotion of my own books – but they will be for sale on the Elsewhen stand, along with my Jasmine Frame novels.

So, as I won’t be around on Saturday morning, here is the next episode of Viewpoint, the thirteenth (yes, 13!) Jasmine Frame prequel story.

Viewpoint: Part 8

Jasmine was expecting a telling off from DS Palmerston but she wasn’t prepared for the stream of invective that poured from the detective’s mouth. There were F words and B words and more, including the T word, “tranny”, that merely confirmed for her that Palmerston was transphobic. She tried to let the torrent of abuse wash over her, after all words couldn’t harm her, but Palmerston’s final threat did hit home.
‘If you think that because you’re resigning from the force you can get away with anything, think again. I can get your pension stopped and have you on a charge of improper behaviour in no time.’
Jasmine tried to sound penitent but wasn’t sure she succeeded.  Denise Palmerston stood panting, recovering her breath. At last she spoke quietly and relatively calmly.
‘Tell us what happened.’
Jasmine described as briefly as possible her encounter with Mr Taylor and his shotgun and then her tailing of him to the park homes. She left out the fact that Taylor had rumbled her gender change.
‘You didn’t tell him that his daughter was dead,’ the DS stated.
‘No.’
‘Why not?’
‘I wanted to see his reaction, but he didn’t seem interested in knowing what had happened to Alfie.’
‘Perhaps being told that she was dead would have got a reaction,’ Palmerston said in a voice that insinuated that Jasmine hadn’t pushed the farmer sufficiently.
‘He was pointing a gun at me. I didn’t feel like testing his emotional reaction.’
Palmerston scratched her cheek. ‘Hmm. We need to speak to him. He can at least formally identify his daughter for us.’
‘Why do you think he visited this caravan, Jas?’ Tom asked. Like the others he had retreated into silence when Jasmine was receiving her roasting.
‘It’s a park home not a caravan site, permanent homes. I think the speed with which he went there after speaking to me means there must be a connection with what happened to Alfie.’
‘OK,’ said Palmerston, grabbing the initiative. ‘Kingston. You and I are going to pay Mr Taylor a visit and take him to view his daughter’s body. Shepherd and Hopkins, take a look at this park home. Find out who Taylor visited and why.’
‘Shouldn’t I go,’ Jasmine said, ‘I know which one he was parked at.’
Palmerston glared at her. ‘If you think you are stepping outside this office again during this investigation, Frame, you are in dreamland. You can direct Tom and Terry to the correct cabin and then you can write up your report on your joy ride yesterday.’
The senior detective urged DC Kingston to accompany her and they left. Jasmine was left with Tom Shepherd and Terry Hopkins.
‘Where was this park then?’ Tom asked.
‘I’ll show you on Google,’ Jasmine said. She went to her desk, called up the map and went to the satellite photo. It showed the cabins laid out in a grid with the driveway down the middle. She pointed out where she had seen Taylor’s Land Rover parked.
Tom peered closely at the screen. ‘There are quite a few homes on the site.’
‘I couldn’t tell how many are occupied,’ Jasmine said, ‘Most of them were dark.’
Tom pulled his waterproof from the back of his chair, ‘Well, come on Terry. Let’s go and have a look.’ He moved towards the door with Hopkins following.
‘Enjoy writing your report,’ Terry said over his shoulder as he left.
Jasmine grumbled under her breath as she sat down to do as she was told. It didn’t take her long to type out a bare account of her visit to Exeter and the stop-offs on the way back. Just the bald facts were recorded with no speculation or comments of what she was really thinking about Alfie Benson. When she had finished she read through the medical reports on Alfie that the clinic had sent through. It upset her reading what Alfie had gone through. There was the double-edged emotion of his mastectomy; the joy as a transman of losing his breasts versus the sadness at the death of his mother and fear of following her in contracting cancer. He had gone through the surgery and recovery all alone in Weymouth. After that, there was the long wait for further treatment which never materialised because of his drift into depression, no doubt exacerbated by the lack of progress in his transition and loneliness. Jasmine empathised with Alfie. She knew she was in for a long process to achieve the state of femininity that she desired and she knew there was no guarantee that she would ever get all the treatment that she wanted and needed free on the NHS. At least she had the support of Angela, soon to be ex-wife but still a friend, and her family (sister, Holly, was supportive). Her resignation from the Police Force was perhaps a backward step but she was resolute that she would not suffer the prejudice from Palmerston and others like her for any longer.
Little more than an hour had passed when Tom and Terry returned. Jasmine greeted them cheerfully. Terry grunted and went to the coffee machine. He poured two cups but didn’t ask Jasmine if she wanted one. Tom shucked off his coat and sat in his chair.
‘Well?’ Jasmine asked, ‘You weren’t long. Did you find anything?’
Tom nodded and shrugged at the same time. ‘Yes, there was a guy at the hut. Name’s Patrick Riley. Little Irish bloke, walks with a limp. Used to work on Taylor’s farm until he got injured.’
Jasmine was eager for more. ‘So, he knows Alfie’s father. Did he admit to seeing him last night?’
‘Yes. He said Kevin, that’s Taylor’s first name, often calls in for a beer on a Wednesday evening. Despite having his accident while working for Taylor, Riley says they are still mates.’
‘So he’s prepared to cover for Taylor then,’ Jasmine grumbled, ‘Did you tell him about Alfie?’
‘We asked him if he knew Taylor’s daughter,’ Tom replied, saying the last word quietly as if expecting a rebuke.
‘What did he say?’
‘He said he knew Taylor had a daughter but he hadn’t met her and didn’t know where she was living.’
‘Where he was living. Didn’t you say that Alfie was a man?’
‘No, Jas. DS Palmerston says we’re investigating the death of Lucy Taylor, not Alfie Benson. We did ask if she had been mentioned in conversation last night but Riley said she hadn’t come up.’
‘He would say that wouldn’t he. Did he ask why you were asking questions about Alfie?’ Jasmine saw Tom’s sigh. ‘OK, Lucy.’
‘No, he didn’t Jas, and yes, I realise that is suspicious. We’d expect him to have been interested in why we were asking the questions. It didn’t look as if Lucy could have been held there against her wishes.’
‘No? Are you sure?’ Jasmine wasn’t convinced.
Terry Hopkins put his mug of coffee down. ‘The place was tiny, Frame. I had a look round while Tom was asking the questions. A single bed room, barely room for a bed, and a kitchen-living room. It was grubby but all in order; no sign of anyone being kept there or done in.’
‘Hmm.’ Jasmine wasn’t convinced by Terry’s powers of observation or deduction.
‘I think, Terry’s right, Jas,’ Tom said, ‘If Riley is involved in Lucy’s death, and there’s every chance he was, I don’t think she was kept in that hut.’
‘So, what now?’ Jasmine asked feeling frustrated at the lack of progress or indeed effort to make progress.
‘We see what DS Palmerston gets out of Kevin Taylor and suggests as the next move.’
Tom and Terry settled down to write up their report and Jasmine went back to staring at the satellite photo of the park home site. She counted almost two dozen rooftops of huts of varying sizes.

The door opened and Jasmine looked up to see Palmerston striding in with Kingston behind her. She gave an impatient wave of her hand to gather the team around her at the white board.
‘Mr Taylor has confirmed the identity of his daughter,’ Palmerston said, glaring at Jasmine as she spoke the last word. Jasmine did not fall for her senior officer’s ruse. ‘He says he has not seen her for six years and was not aware that she had had a mastectomy but he confirmed that his wife died of breast cancer.’
‘He had no idea where she’s been during that time?’ Tom asked.
‘He denied any knowledge of her whereabouts or lifestyle,’ Palmerston insisted.
Jasmine couldn’t keep silent. ‘Did you ask him why he threatened me with his shotgun?’
Palmerston glared at her, her nostrils flaring. ‘There has been a spate of farm thefts in the area so he has been patrolling with his gun. He thought you may have been nosing around his property looking for things to steal. Oh, and he says his gun wasn’t loaded.’
Jasmine huffed her disbelief.
‘What about you two?’ Palmerston looked at Tom and Terry. Tom gave a swift report on their conversation with Riley.
‘So,’ the DS drew breath, ‘Taylor and Riley are possible suspects in the murder of Lucy Taylor but we have no evidence to incriminate them as yet. Do we have any sightings of the people who dumped the body in the canal or the vehicle they used? Terry, you and Derek were down there yesterday. No witnesses?’
Terry Hopkins shook his head. ‘There are people living in the houses where the lane meets the road. A few of them said that people sometimes use the track to go fishing but no one saw anything on Tuesday evening.’
‘We need to know where the victim was living after she left Weymouth,’ Denise Palmerston said with a note of frustration in her voice. ‘Hopkins and Kingston, I want you find out all you can about Lucy and her father, relatives, family friends, anyone who Lucy may have been in touch with. Shepherd get on to our oppos in Weymouth. See if they can find anyone at all that knew her.’
‘Him,’ Jasmine said. ‘He was Alfie Benson in Weymouth. He was a man, living, working, socialising, not that he did much of any of that from what I can tell from his conversations with the GIC.’
‘Thank you, DC Frame,’ the DS said, not sounding particularly grateful. ‘I think we know how to do our jobs.’
‘What do you want me to do?’ Jasmine asked as politely as she could manage. She expected to be given another routine IT task.
‘You can get out of here,’ DS Palmerston said, ‘I’ve spoken to DCI Sloane and he agrees that your insubordination yesterday shows that you are temperamentally unsuited to being part of this team. You can go and stew in your little flat until you’ve served your notice.’

………………………..to be continued.

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Jasmine finds a lead

This weekend I’m off to Llanidloes in mid-Wales for their Tattoofest. Apparently it’s not all about tattoos and there will be a number of us offering our books to visitors to browse, and buy. I’m not interested in having a tattoo myself although I think some of the designs people have done are quite stunning. I think it is the permanence that is off-putting.  We like to change our hairstyle and clothes fashion from time to time, as well as our surroundings, so being stuck with the same skin decoration for ever strikes me as being a bit limiting. Nevertheless, everyone has the right to adorn their own bodies in any way that they like.

WP_20170704_10_16_10_ProThis is my first chance for a long time to market my books and offer my talks.  I don’t really count the Leominster Festival Bookfair because I spent so much time looking after everyone else I didn’t get to do much with my own publications. This will be the first outing for my new pop-up banner. It is quite an expense and of course will soon be out of date when Cold Fire is published, but nevertheless it should serve for a couple of years.  I think it looks pretty striking as well as informative.

I am on the lookout for other opportunities to promote my work – both the Jasmine Frame books and my fantasy novels. I’m willing to put up a stand or join discussions or give talks. My main talk will be “Murder – with frocks: transgender in life and fiction” but I am also very keen to talk about SF/Fantasy and the inspirations for my September Weekes novels, and about the business of writing and publishing (I’ve self-published in a number of ways, worked with large educational publishers and been published by a couple of small independents. so I think I have some experiences to relate).

I was hoping for a slot to participate (rather than just attend) the big Nine Worlds SF/Fantasy convention in London in August. I was told, however, that they could not match me to any of the 250 or so events! That’s despite there being sessions on mythology, monsters, writing, etc., etc.  I wish the organisers could have been honest in saying they wanted “names” instead of giving me the brush off.

Anyway, back to the business of writing. Here’s the next episode in the Jasmine Frame novella, Viewpoint.  We’re up to part 4 already and I think I know where the story is going now – yes, really!

Viewpoint: Part 4

Palmerston went on, ‘We also need to determine her last movements and how she got into the canal. Pathology will soon tell us whether she was dead or alive when she entered the water.’
Terry Hopkins spoke, ‘A road crosses the canal at Hambury, The body could have been dropped in the water there.’
Jasmine shook her head. ‘I doubt it. That’s a mile upstream from where I found the body and it would have had to pass through Renham lock. I doubt whether a boat has passed through the lock in the time that the body was in the water.’
Hopkins glared at her and moaned, ‘How come you know what goes on on the canal?’
‘Because I run along it most days,’ Jasmine replied. ‘The only boat on the stretch between Kintbridge to Hambury is old Harrold’s and he’s moored under the bypass. The flow has been too great on the river sections in the last few days for boats to be moving much and you may have noticed that it hasn’t been pleasant weather for boating.’
Hopkins grunted but had no further comment.
‘Could the body have been delivered to the north bank at Renham lock?’ Tom asked.
Jasmine gave another shake of her head. ‘There’s only a narrow towpath on the north bank and you’ve got the railway line and then the river alongside. The body must have been brought by a vehicle to the south bank up that track you used this morning, Tom.’
‘There are buildings where that track meets the road,’ Derek Kingston noted, ‘There must be people living there. Perhaps they noticed something.’
‘You’ve given yourself a job, Derek,’ Palmerston said, obviously glad to be issuing orders. ‘You and Terry get down there and start asking questions. Tom, you’re with me. Let’s see what pathology have found.’
Jasmine realised that she was the only one left without a task. Nothing changes, she thought. ‘What do want me to do?’ she asked knowing what the answer was going to be.
‘You can start going through missing persons, DC Frame.’ The DS tossed off her instruction, turned and started towards the door.
Tom saw Jasmine clenching her fists. ‘Sorry, Jas. You didn’t think that she’d change because you’ve resigned, did you?’
Jasmine let out the breath she’d been holding. ‘No, but I’ve been reminded why I did resign. Not that I needed to be.’
‘Shepherd! Come on,’ Palmerston called. Tom hurried to obey.
Jasmine sat at her old desk noting that no-one had laid claim to it yet. She booted up the computer and found that her log-ins were still valid. Well, there were still a couple of weeks before her employment was terminated. She quickly put in a request to receive missing persons data from her own and neighbouring police districts, then sat back and considered. She didn’t hold out much hope of finding a quick match among the dozens of persons reported as missing. She needed another angle. If her guess about the gender of the victim was correct then he appeared to be a good way through his transition. Many FtMs had breast removal before internal surgery to remove ovaries and sometimes the uterus. Phalloplasty, construction of a penis, was the last, most difficult and most expensive stage which many never reached. To be at any stage of that procedure meant that the victim was probably on the list of a Gender Identity Clinic. Jasmine started composing emails to the eight GICs across England. She attached the photo taken of the body when it was lying on the canal bank. It wasn’t pretty but it was all she had for now.
When the task was complete, she sat back and stretched her arms. She realised that although she was alone in the outer office, DCI Sloane had been shut away in his own annexe. She got up and walked to his door. It was open and she could see the man sat his desk, his head bent over a pile of paper files. He rarely used the computer that was pushed to the edge of his large desk. He must have sensed her presence because he looked up and saw her. Jasmine saw his lip curl.
‘Ah, Frame. Any progress?’
‘Not yet, sir. I’m waiting for replies.’
‘Hmm. I see.’ His eyes dropped back to the papers in front of him.
Jasmine wasn’t going to miss this opportunity. There might not be another chance to speak to the Boss when no other officers, particularly DS Palmerston, weren’t around.
‘You agreed with my thoughts about the victim, sir,’ she said.
He looked at her. ‘Agreed?’
‘That he was a man.’
Sloane puffed out his lips. ‘Ah, that. I agreed with your surmise that the victim was undergoing the process of, what do you call it, transition, and I understand that this person may therefore be claiming to be male.’
‘Claiming to be!’ Jasmine felt her face heat up and her heart hammered in her chest.
‘That’s what this transsexual nonsense is all about isn’t it, Frame? People choosing their own sex and expecting their family, employers, even the health service to go along with their fancies.’
‘It is not a fancy. It’s not even a choice. Do you think someone would go through a double mastectomy just because they fancied being a man for a change? Do you think I’m looking forward to having gender reassignment surgery to make me the woman I am?’
Sloane was forced back in his chair by Jasmine’s onslaught.
‘Now, Frame. I know your change causes you some anxiety. I’m sure it’s those female drugs you’re taking. . .’
‘That’s right. Blame it on the hormones that make me behave like a silly female. Is that it?’ Jasmine paused for breath. ‘They do give me mood swings and nausea, but it’s my body that suffers the changes, not my mind. I am a woman and I am sure our murder victim, whoever he was, was certain he was a man.’
‘I think you need to calm, down, DC Frame.’
Jasmine took a breath. ‘I am calm, but I can’t take much more of this. You know it’s why I resigned.’
Jasmine thought she noticed regret pass across Sloane’s face, but it disappeared quickly.
‘That was your choice, Frame. The Police Service was giving you every assistance in your decision to, er, transition.’
‘Officially, yes, but in practice, you know what was happening here and you let Palmerston sideline me in every investigation.’
‘That was your view of the situation. I see Palmerston dong her job to assign staff to tasks as necessary.’
‘So why did you call me back today?’
Sloane’s mouth opened but no sound came out for a moment. He closed it, swallowed then spoke. ‘DS Palmerston thought that as you were involved in the case through your discovery of the body, it would be better for the investigation if you were on the team and could be allocated tasks that suited your abilities and demeanour. You have a reputation for going off in your own direction, Frame, as you well know.’
‘I get results.’
Sloane sniffed. ‘Perhaps. Nevertheless, we felt it was wise to have you where we can see you rather than having you interfere as a free agent; or, what is it you intend being? A private eye. Hah!’
‘Well, you’ve only got to the end of the month to carry on telling me what to do.’
‘We’ll see,’ The DCI said quietly and glanced back at his paperwork, ‘I suggest you get back to your work, Detective Constable.’
Jasmine returned to her desk still feeling the anger filled blood pumping round her body. She looked at her screen. Some of the missing person data had arrived and she flicked through it not surprised to find nothing that had a connection to the victim. The monotonous task at least calmed her down. While she was doing so a ping indicated an email arriving in her inbox. She clicked on it and her heart thumped. It was from the south-west gender clinic in Exeter. She read the message eagerly. One of the staff had recognised the victim but medical confidentiality prevented them from releasing the patient’s details immediately. It didn’t matter – she’d got an i.d.

…………………….to be continued.

 

 

Jasmine is considering

After a couple of weeks of idyllic holiday it is difficult to get back into routine, especially when there is so much to make one want to just curl up again – I won’t say what.  One thing did concern me. It was a report in the news over a week ago about the transwoman who committed suicide while in a male prison. I was concerned to read that she was only 19 and had been living as female since the age of 10.  But, and this is what got to me, she had little idea of what being transsexual means and had had no advice, medical or otherwise to help her transition. Despite all the publicity in recent years about various trans people, she still felt isolated and did not know where to go for help. She had not even begun to apply for a Gender Recognition Certificate, probably because she had not started any authorised medical treatment.

My understanding is that you do not need to go through surgery or even drug treatment to get a GRC but you do have to have a medical opinion that you are gender dysphoric. I have also heard that your mental state is taken into consideration. You can get to a sort of Catch 22 situation where if you are mad i.e. have mental health issues, you can’t get a GRC while a lot of people consider wanting to change gender a sign of madness.

This woman obviously had issues as she was convicted of crimes and sent to prison. What is appalling is that she received no care from the authorities that were responsible for her welfare while in custody. It also shows that there is still a lack of information about being trans available to the general public, despite the heap of material on the internet. We may be just 1% of the population but that just makes it that much more difficult for people who need help to make contact with those that can provide it. It also shows that the majority of people have a poor grasp of gender issues and do not understand how to help someone who is struggling to come to terms with their gender identity.

………………

IMGP5962I have a busy two or three weeks coming up so a new Jasmine novella will be on hold for a bit longer. In the meantime I’ll continue with other short stories I have stored away (there are lots).  This week I have a recent SF story I wrote (somewhat hurriedly) for a competition.  It didn’t get anywhere which I’m not surprised about.  I think it reads more like a synopsis than a short story.  It is also a familiar theme – colonisation of the Moon – but I hoped I had an original slant. Anyway, here it is.

Life on the Moon

The dark sky. That’s what surprised me most when I got here. I spent lots of time staring at the sky back home. There wasn’t much else to do lying in a cot. I watched the clouds move, that’s all. Then they gave me the neuro-interface. Here, on the Moon’s surface with my suit working at one hundred percent to keep me cool and my visor filter at maximum, the sun’s still too bright to look at directly and yet the sky is black. Yeah, that’s what tells me I’m on the Moon. It’s not the lower gravity, that’s just a pleasure. The weight on my chest is less and my useless muscles don’t have to work so hard.
The thing is they didn’t mention it during training. I suppose those career guys who’d been up to orbit lots of times didn’t think of it. Perhaps they weren’t allowed the time to just stare out of the windows of the space station. Me, well, when I’m turned away from the Sun and see all the stars on that black background it still takes my breath away. That’s probably not a good way of putting it. A break in my breathing would set off all sorts of warning alarms and have the monitor reprimand me for wasting time – time we haven’t got.
I’m outside for almost all my ten-hour shift, keeping an eye or more accurately a few brain cells, on the drills and the rock shifting kit, making small adjustments here and there, occasionally taking control of the waldos and really moving stuff. I love it. I feel useful for the first time in my life. Useful and important.  When I hand over to one of the others I feel as if I’m giving up a part of my body. In some ways, I am.
Yesterday, when I got back from my shift there was a celebration going on. Li told me all about it. We’re friends. She’s so like me; in abilities if not looks or personality. The fuss was over the completion of Cavern 1. Now they can start filling it with all the kit they’ve been hauling up from Earth. That gear will make this place self-sufficient in water, oxygen, metals, and lots of other stuff. The bosses were pleased because the hole was dug ahead of schedule and that was all down to our team.
Soon we’ll finish Cavern 2. It’ll be great to start filling it with the permanent living quarters. The temporary surface pods are cramped and there’s always the chance of a meteor puncturing the skin. The next bunch to come up from Earth will find their cosy apartments all ready for them.  By then the bio domes should be producing real food. I’m looking forward to having something to chew on instead of the concentrated, dried, pre-cooked mush we get from Earth. Once we’ve got our own food supply we can really start calling ourselves colonists.
Some of the guys talk about going home when we’ve finished the heavy work. Not me. Why should I go back to that gravity-well where I can’t move a muscle and I’m treated like a dependent waste of space? Here I’m free and a respected member of the gang. I’d happily see out my life working as a farmer or extending the caverns. Li feels the same. We may pair up and take a shared apartment in Cavern 2; maybe even have kids. I wonder if they would be like us?
Anyway, who really wants to go back to Earth now? It’s not exactly a pleasant place to be these days. The guys who want to go back have family down there so perhaps that gives them a reason. There’s no one down there who wants me back, not when getting food and staying alive is such a struggle, even for people who have the use of their own limbs.
I saw a meteor today. You don’t see them very often because there’s no atmosphere for them to streak through. It caught my eye, well, my camera lens, when it reflected the sunlight. A brief flicker, then it was gone. Thinking about it, perhaps it wasn’t a meteor after all. It wasn’t moving fast enough. Some of the states on Earth don’t like what we’re doing and have threatened to lob a bomb at us. One or two of them still have the capability. That’s why we’re on the “other side” facing away from Earth. Some of the guys are upset that we don’t have a view of Earth but I don’t care. I don’t want to see what we’ve done to that place, or let the bad guys down there have a good view of what we’re doing.
………………..
It was a missile. Li told me that someone she knows in admin said that our defences took it out before it got anywhere near. They’re not expecting many more as they’ve started lobbing nukes at each other down there. That should take their minds off us. Mind you the chances of us getting more supplies look pretty slim. Just like the chances of some of the guys going home.  I’ll just get on with my job managing the machines fitting out Cavern 2. I’m a builder now not a digger.
…………………
That’s it. We’re on our own. The multi-nationals who were behind us don’t exist anymore, like their customers, or most of them anyway. Admin have cut our rations to tide us over until the first crops are ready in a few weeks. It’ll be tough but I don’t need much to eat.
Chatting to Li, she thinks that the company bosses knew this was going to happen. That was why there was such a rush to get the colony set up. She says they used up all their capital to move as much stuff up here as possible in the time that was left. They had to do it without the governments noticing as otherwise their resources would have been commandeered for the patriotic wars.
……………………..
Li and I moved into our new home today. It’s on floor 6, two hundred meters below the surface but handy for the elevators. We’ve got more room than we expected because there’s no more people coming up from down below.  We celebrated with a special dinner – a tube of protein paste saved from yesterday’s ration, re-hydrated rice and a fresh lettuce from our first crop.  Food may be short still, but we’re nice and cosy down here and the solar energy collectors on the surface are 100% as it’s mid-moon day. We selected a view of the surface for our video-screen. Some of the others have selected scenes of Earth relayed by the satellite. I don’t know how they can look at that spoiled place now. It’s not the blue, white and green globe it used to be but a dirty brown ball.
………………….
We had boiled egg today. Okay, Li and I had to share it, but it was a real egg; shell and everything. We spent as much time looking at it as eating it. I had no idea that we’d brought chicken embryos up with us. Once we got the bio pods up the chicks were incubated. Now they’re hens and laying.  We had bread with the egg; real bread made from grain grown in the bio pods. Food is still rationed, probably always will be, but we’re self-sufficient.  Li and I talked about raising a kid. Of course, we can’t actually make a baby by ourselves, not us two, but we’re going to have a chat with the meds.
……………………
We’re going to be a mum and dad!  I supplied the sperm and Li the egg and the cybermeds did the rest. Nine months’ time we’ll have a daughter called Selene. We decided against gen-eng so she’ll be like Li and me. Admin agreed to it. In fact, they suggested it. They need our brains but being immobile we don’t need as much food as the ables. Selene won’t be the first child. Dmitri and Makena are having theirs the traditional way, a few weeks sooner. Admin were delighted. Without the extra people that were expected from Earth we’re a small number. Now that the food situation is easing, they want more mouths to feed, and hands and brains to do the work.
……………………..
I’ve got a new job.  Admin have patched me into the colony’s mainframe. I’m making sure that all the systems are running to plan. I look after the farmbots in the bio pods, energy generation, the foundries extracting metals and making plastics, the water and oxygen extractors, life support, everything really. It’s not just me of course. Li does a shift and there are others like us.  I wonder if the guys who designed the neuro-interface that give us a life, guessed that one day we’d be running the first colony on the Moon. Okay, it’s probably the last as well, but we have a future, which is more than those poor folks on Earth have got.
………………………..
It’s a good job that we can override the default settings. A few of the guys who couldn’t go home to Earth got a bit upset. I had to cut their oxygen. They won’t cause any more problems.
I love this job. It means that I’m on the surface any time I like, looking out through the cameras on the bio pods, the solar collectors and the communications towers. I can see the ragged ridge that surrounds our crater, the grey dust that’s now criss-crossed with the tracks of our machines and I can look up and see the stars in that black sky.
………………………………

Jasmine at rest

IMGP5962I’ve been on holiday and had a thoroughly relaxing time. So relaxed in fact that I have not done any writing, which is unusual when I am holiday. There’s been lot’s to do like reading and walking and gazing at the glorious views and lying on the sand with my eyes closed listening to the waves and watching the sunset (not the sunrise – haven’t been up early enough). It has been lovely just being. We have kept up to date with the news and there have been plenty of emails to delete every day but for once we have just not felt like bothering. I know that getting home will change all that but perhaps this feeling of “let it be” will continue. We have decided one thing – that I must do more to market Jasmine but how remains to be seen.

To fill in the gap, here is another of my older short stories. This one is fairly recent. I wrote it as a test to see if I could write an SF story based on an article in a random edition of New Scientist. The trouble is I am not sure how fictional it is or how far into the future it is set..

Potential for Evil

The room I was shown into reflected the contradictions of the British Security Service. An antique comfy sofa and dark wood panelling denoting the history of the service while the holographic projector on the mahogany desk signalled that technologically it was up to date. The projection blinked off as I entered like a bubble bursting and the figure behind the desk rose to greet me.
‘Ah, Professor Isabella Boyle.’ He pronounced each syllable of my title and name as if making sure he wouldn’t forget it. He was tall and dark and, I suppose, handsome in a 2020s sort of way. It looked rather dated today, like the pale blue summer suit he was wearing. He indicated the sofa and invited me to sit.
I settled into the soft, low cushions, thankful that I had chosen to wear trousers rather than a skirt despite the continuing summer heatwave.
‘You know who I am but I do not know your name,’ I said, perhaps showing a bit of irritation in my voice.  I had been summoned by my comm implant which let it be known that I couldn’t really refuse but with no information whatsoever about why my presence was required.
‘We don’t go in for identities here,’ he said lowering himself onto the sofa beside me, ‘It’s an historical thing I suppose. You can call me N if you like.’
‘N?’
‘It comes after M. Now Professor I want you to watch this.’
He wiggled his fingers and the projection formed in the air in front of us. ‘Resume, rewind, start,’ he said.
I saw a planar view of some dusty middle-eastern town. There were lots of people, men, women, children going about what seemed to be their normal business. They were surrounded by a cloud of buzzing insects which seemed to hover over or near each person.  As the picture moved I realised we were following one particular character, a young man. He seemed to know where he was going as he strode through the awning-covered streets until he came to the steps of a white concrete building. It appeared to me to be a meeting place where people got out of the extreme heat to eat, drink, chat, play games and do business.  The man we were pursuing stopped, took the bag he had been carrying off his shoulder and drew out a compact automatic firearm, bigger than a pistol. He held it in one hand and started firing.  Immediately people fell to the ground, bleeding, dying. Some fled but he shot them in the back. He turned, shooting continuously, spraying fire into every corner of the building, the gun automatically selecting targets, aiming and firing without any likelihood of missing. The assassin stepped forward and our viewpoint moved with him deeper into the shadows. Many people had no escape because the exits were blocked by those who had the time to start to flee. He carried on shooting, mercilessly cutting down everyone in line of sight.
He reached the far end of the building and paused. Now as well as the cries of the dying and the incessant chatter of his gun there was another noise – answering fire from outside the building. He stopped shooting, held up his hands and exploded. The image disappeared.
‘So?’ I said looking at N, ‘an act of terrorism in some foreign town. I can see plenty of those on newsfeeds if I wish – many closer to home.’
‘Of course,’ N said, a thin smile playing across his lips. ‘Didn’t you notice anything unusual?’
I thought for a moment, ‘The point of view followed the killer. You had a surveillance drone on him. Why couldn’t he be stopped?’
N smiled. ‘It wasn’t one of ours. We hacked it after the incident. The state follows everyone over the age of twelve with flybots but while it stores the uploads it doesn’t have the AI power to analyse them in real time so they’re only good for reviewing events not influencing them. The incident happened three days ago but what was interesting was who committed the atrocity.’
I was surprised at his use of the word “atrocity”.  It reminded me of my childhood when events like we had watched were not daily events. What had happened to make an atrocity an everyday occurrence?
‘A member of a rival faction?’ I suggested.
‘Could have been. There are plenty of jihadi groups vying for the reputation of being the most barbarous. Not that this was any more deadly than many others – just a hundred dead. No he wasn’t with one of them. His home was one of our supposed allies.’  He seemed particularly gleeful by that revelation.
‘How do you know? Whichever country he originated from he could have been a radicalised member of one of these terrorist organisations.’
‘Ah, that’s where you are wrong. You see we have accessed his i.d. He worked for one of our “friends”.’
‘How did you find out?’
N smiled broadly. He was enjoying showing off. ‘We’re not as out of touch as the public sometime think. We have agents in the field. One of them managed to get hold of the bomber’s body, well, his head actually. It arrived here yesterday.’
‘So you were able to read his implant.’
‘Yes, we know exactly who he is, what he’s been doing, what porn he’s accessed, everything. Except we don’t know what this is.’  N reached into the inside pocket of his jacket and pulled out a small, clear plastic bag. He handed it to me.
The bag appeared empty until I held it up to examine closely. Inside was a bundle of fine wires, each much thinner than a human hair, almost too thin to see. Attached to the wires were slightly larger nodes.
‘Where was this found?’ I asked although I was beginning to get ideas.
‘I think it is called his prefrontal cortex – the PFC? Separate to his comm implant anyway.’
‘Why are you showing this to me?’ I asked although I was pretty sure of the answer now.
‘You’re a top neuroscientist, Professor,’ N said, beaming at me and taking care to look at my face and not my breasts. ‘We think you can explain what this was doing in the agent’s brain and what it has got to do with his actions on behalf of our “ally”.’
I took a deep breath. ‘I suppose you realise that it was connecting to the neurones in the part of the brain that you named. The PFC is responsible for our higher functions – rational thought, decision-making, that sort of thing.’ I dangled the packet in front of me. ‘This is a behaviour modification device.’
‘I guessed that. But what is it doing exactly?’
‘Ah. I would need to know exactly where it was situated.’
‘I can help you there,’ N said, and began waving his hands in the air again. A new image appeared in front of me, 3D this time, – a full colour scan of the brain. ‘You can manipulate it,’ N said.
I raised my hands and fingers to hold the image of the brain, turn it, expand it. I reached in to grasp the piece I wanted to examine more closely.  The silver neural modifier stood out from the grey brain cells.
It was as I thought. ‘It’s made him evil,’ I said.
‘Really?’ N said as if I had confirmed his own guesses.
‘Yes,’ I said. ‘A couple of decades ago it was discovered that a part of the PFC was involved in giving the person the potential for evil. That is the ability to perform violent acts frequently and without emotion and be willing to follow orders and adopt the belief system of the group which they have joined. It’s called Syndrome E.’
‘Your typical jihadi,’ N said nodding.
I pointed to the image that hung in the air. ‘This part of the PFC was found to be active in suppressing the moderate, altruistic, risk-averse instincts of other parts of the brain.  It seems that someone has engineered this implant to control the function – turn the evil on and perhaps off.’
‘So it seems. Thank you Professor. I suspected as much but needed your opinion as proof. You see N stands for Neurological Section Leader.’
I was confused. ‘But why would someone do that? Why put that thing in someone’s brain?’
N smiled again. ‘It seems that our ally has decided that trying to bomb our enemies into submission isn’t working. It isn’t. We’ve known that for decades but there hasn’t been any acceptable alternative. So they’ve decided to copy the enemy’s tactic of indiscriminate brutality.  Give them back the terror. But they needed a single minded, evil assassin happy to blow himself to bits if it killed enough innocent bystanders.’
‘Would they be able to find such a person?’ I asked realising immediately that I was being naïve.
‘Of course they could. Think of the Nazis, Irish IRA and protestant militia, Serbians in Bosnia, numerous American college boys.  Every nation has its reservoir of easily led, homicidal maniacs. The problem is controlling them.  With this device the guys in charge, like me, can turn anyone, or almost anyone, into a multi-murderer whenever we wish.’
I suddenly felt cold. ‘You said “we”.’
He gave me that broad grin again, like the cat that not only had the cream but a tasty dead bird as a side dish. ‘You don’t think we’re going to let our “friends” go on with this on their own do you? The Prime Minister wants our own Syndrome E Squad a.s.a.p. and as the leading authority on neural implants you are the person we are relying on to provide it, Professor.’
‘But how will releasing our own programmed killers end the war on terror?’ I asked.
‘It won’t,’ N replied.
‘Then, why?’
‘Because it will be a damn sight cheaper than operating the current fleet of drone bombers. Now, Professor, you’re not getting moralistic qualms about this are you? Not after developing the neural implant that has connected the whole population to the internet and allowed governments and corporations into everyone’s heads.
My uncertainty surfaced as an ‘Umm.’
‘I am sure I don’t have to remind you that under the state of emergency that has existed for the last twenty years your citizenship is dependent on you carrying out your government’s, that is my, wishes.’
I had no choice, unless I wanted to be deported from my own country. Any other that took me would make the same demands on my knowledge and skills. It appeared that from now on I would be harnessing the evil present in most, if not all minds, but perhaps I would also be able to insert an off switch.
‘When do I start?’

…………………….

Inspired by Roots of brutality, Laura Spinney, New Scientist p.40, no.3047, 14/11/15

………………………………………….
 

 

Jasmine questions Milla’s partner

Layout 1There have been two things that have lifted me this week and will encourage me to go on writing and publishing (I hope that prospect doesn’t terrify you too much). The first was a good review of Bodies By Design on the Eurocrime website. Go to my Jasmine Frame publications page for the link.

Seventh Child cover, designed by Alison Buck

Seventh Child cover, designed by Alison Buck

The second item was the news that the first volume of my fantasy series, Seventh Child, is a finalist in the Wishing Shelf awards (for teenage fiction). There’s more about that on my SF&F page.

 

 

With that news out of the way, here is the next episode in the Jasmine Frame prequel, Resolution. After the climax last week, we’re onto the other strand of the story here.

 

 

Resolution: Part 7

Jasmine yawned as she pulled up outside the smart, recently-built, detached house. It was still mid-morning and the little red Fiesta had made a good job of swallowing up the miles between Reading and Birmingham. Nevertheless, it had been a fairly early start after a late arrival back home. Despite what DS Trewin had hoped it took some time to charge Michelle Greaves and put her into custody. Only then could they begin the drive back to Kintbridge from Sheffield. They had been elated at their success in getting a confession from Greaves but James had felt exhausted when he finally joined Angela in their bed.
She checked her make-up in the vanity mirror and got out of the car, smoothing the cotton skirt down her thighs and making sure that the plain white vest covered her bra. It was turning into a hot day and she was pleased that she had dressed appropriately. The blonde wig was feeling a bit warm though. She recalled Milla Sparrow saying she could pass as a woman even with her short fair hair but Jasmine felt more confident with the disguise the wig provided. She brushed hairs from her face, locked the car, tossed her bag over her shoulder and advanced up the driveway to the front door.
The door opened before she got to it. Jasmine was a little surprised to see that Tania Portman looked older than she expected. She was in her late thirties, a few years older than Milla, and had short, dark hair and tired eyes.
‘I saw the car pull up and guessed it must be you. Jasmine Frame?’ Tania said, pulling the door wide and holding her hand out.
Jasmine extended her hand. Tania took it and shook it gently.
‘Thank you Tania. I hope I’m not too early,’ Jasmine said, stepping into the bright hallway. Tania gazed at the road and then closed the door.
‘No. I’ve finished breakfast and all that. On Milla’s days off, we used to hang around in bed for ages. Not that she had days off very often. Now though I just want to get up and get on. Come on through. Coffee?’
‘Yes, please.’  Jasmine followed Tania into the spacious and well-equipped kitchen. ‘You’ve got a lovely place here.’ Jasmine was comparing the house with the one she and Angela were purchasing in Kintbridge. Though she was delighted with their move into their own property it was small and cramped in comparison to this.
Tania looked around as if seeing her surroundings for the first time. ‘Yes, I suppose it is. It was meant to be a fresh start for Milla and me. Our own place, decorated how we liked; and of course we could afford a better place up here than in Kintbridge.’
‘House prices down there are pretty ridiculous,’ Jasmine agreed, wondering when the inconsequential talk would be finished.
‘But now. . .’ Tania went on, ‘It doesn’t feel right. It wasn’t meant to be just for me.’
‘You miss Milla?’ What a stupid thing to ask, Jasmine thought. Of course she misses her partner and lover.
Tania gave her a polite smile and busied herself with making the coffee. Although the question needed no answer she did respond. ‘I miss her terribly. She was the one person who I could talk about anything to and her to me. We both lead busy lives of course and police work meant a lot to her but at the end of the day, or most days, we ended up curled up together on the sofa or in bed just enjoying being in each other’s lives.’  Tania filled a mug from a coffeemaker. ‘Black or white?’
‘Black please,’ Jasmine took the mug from her and Tania proceeded to pour another.
‘Her death must have been a great shock.’ Oh, not another silly, obvious statement, Jasmine remonstrated with herself. Why was it so difficult to talk about death sensibly? She could do it when the death meant nothing to her personally, but here . . . well, she felt bound by convention.
Tania put a splash of milk in her mug and grunted. ‘I still can’t believe it’s happened. It’s over a month now but I still I expect her to walk through the door at the end of a long day and just call out “Hi”.’
Tania lead Jasmine into a lounge, sparsely furnished with a big, soft sofa and a thick, furry rug over wood flooring. ‘It all happened so soon after we’d moved up here that we hadn’t even finished unpacking or buying stuff. I don’t feel like doing either now.’
They sat next to each other on the sofa. Jasmine carefully crossed her bare legs. Tania slumped with her jean-clad legs stretched out in front of her.  Tania examined Jasmine over the rim of her steaming mug.
‘So, you’re James Frame to the police force, but Jasmine the rest of the time?’
Jasmine nodded. ‘That’s about it.’
‘None of your colleagues know about Jasmine?’
‘No. Milla was the first and only one. Did she tell you how she got to know?’
‘Yes,’ Tania said, ‘She didn’t talk about all her cases, couldn’t a lot of the time, but I remember clearly when she came home and talked about meeting you first as James then how you became Jasmine to deal with those drug deaths.’
Jasmine smiled at the memory. ‘She was great. It made sense to be in my femme mode because so many of the people involved in the case were trans in one way or another but she really worked hard to keep my secret from the guys in the force.’
‘And now you’re a detective yourself.’
Jasmine grinned. ‘Yes. It’s what I wanted to do and I think I can thank Milla for helping me to get the posting.’
‘She did say that she thought you’d make a good detective. Do you think you’ll tell DCI Sloane about Jasmine?’
Jasmine shivered despite the warmth. The thought of revealing herself to the stern, old-time-copper was horrific.
‘I don’t think so.’
‘So you’re happy with the double-life.’
Am I, Jasmine wondered. It was a question she avoided asking herself as the wrong answer created all sorts of other questions about work and her life with Angela.
‘Yes,’ she said hoping that uncertainty didn’t show in her voice.
‘But you’re married?’ Tania went on.
‘Yes. Angela has known about Jasmine from the time we first met. She met Jasmine before James actually. She’s very relaxed about me being both male and female.’  Is she really? Jasmine wasn’t certain about that either. What would Angela do if she decided to transition to the woman she almost certainly felt herself to be? Surely she wouldn’t be as obstructive as Michelle Greaves’ wife.
‘Milla was unsure about coming out at work but once we started living together it became silly not to,’ Tania said.
‘Did she have any problems?’
Tania shook her head. ‘Not really. One or two male officers looked at her in a leery sort of way, so she said, but the police force today is pretty careful about getting diversity right. I’m sure you’d have no problem if you decided to become Jasmine full-time.’
Jasmine nodded and sipped her coffee.
‘But you didn’t come here to hear my opinions on your prospects in the police service,’ Tania said.
‘Um, no.’ Jasmine had been waiting for the chance to get on to DS Sparrow’s death and it seemed Tania was making the move.
‘You want to know what happened to Milla.’
‘Yes, if you don’t mind talking about it.’
‘I don’t. Perhaps talking about her will get it out of my head and stop it going round and round with me wondering if there was anything I could have done.’ Tania paused and looked faraway for a moment. Her eyes focussed again. ‘How much do you know?’
Jasmine shook her head. ‘Not a lot. A few comments from people but that’s all. Why don’t you tell me all that you know?’
Tania took a mouthful of coffee, swallowed and thought. She took a big breath. ‘We hadn’t had time to get settled in. It was just a week after Milla started work here. I’d already been here a few weeks in my job, getting the house liveable. Of course as soon as Milla started she was up to her eyes in work but that day she got home at a similar time to me, about six. We decided to go out for something to eat. There hadn’t been a chance to find decent places but the local pub looked pretty okay so we thought we’d give it a try.’
‘Pub?’ Jasmine interrupted.
‘The Shakespeare. On the main road. Less than half a mile.’ Tania pointed out of the front window in no particular direction. ‘We walked there, had a fairly reasonable meal and a bottle of wine. It was pretty busy as it was a good summer’s evening, but we felt comfortable. It was just getting dark as we wandered home, arm in arm.’ She paused and Jasmine saw cracks appear in her face. ‘It happened so fast. I didn’t see everything that I could have done, should have done.’ Her voice croaked.
‘Take your time, Tania. I don’t want to upset you.’ Jasmine shuffled along the sofa and took Tania’s hand in hers.
‘The car just appeared, coming towards us, fast. It hit the kerb then just flew at us. Milla shoved me out of the way. I fell on the pavement and the car shot by. I heard a thump which I realised later was the car hitting Milla. Then it stopped, reversed and drove off. They went over Milla twice. I was dazed and sore, I’d banged my knee. I felt sorry for myself, then I saw her lying there, blood all over the place. I crawled to her. I wouldn’t have recognised her except for her yellow skirt. She was already . . .’ The tears had been building for a while but now they came, flowing freely down Tania’s cheeks. Jasmine put her arm around the older woman’s shoulders and pulled her to her. Tania sobbed on Jasmine’s false breasts. ‘She saved me but couldn’t save herself.’
……………

Jasmine seeks out Cleo

All week I have been keeping an eye on a certain e-book supplier (here) to see how Seventh Child (Evil Above the Stars vol.1) is doing.  Well it’s not in the best seller list but has moved up and down and up so I presume that means some copies have been sold. Volume 2, Power of Seven will be available soon and then we’ll see what happens.

I’ve been having discussions and giving thought to how I can promote both of my series – Jasmine Frame and Painted Ladies and September Weekes and Evil Above the Stars. The problem is that they are in two different genres with, probably, very different readerships. It has been suggested that I have a website linked to this blog and stick solely to  crime fiction and transgenderism  i.e. Jasmine Frame, with my fantasy/SF material promoted elsewhere.  What do you think?

It was interesting to learn this week that Jasmine (and me for that matter) are no longer allowed to drive in Russia, because Putin’s government have included  trans on a list of “medical” conditions that could cause drivers to have accidents. What! How blatant can prejudice be? Well, that’s it. I won’t be visiting Russia (another country crossed off).

Penny Ellis -  no longer allowed to drive in Russia

Penny Ellis – no longer allowed to drive in Russia

So to Discovering Jasmine, a prequel to Painted Ladies. Here’s the next instalment. Let me know what you think.

Discovering Jasmine: Part 5

They were back in the police car, driving out of the town centre, heading home. James felt tired and depressed but he couldn’t stop thinking about Cleo the transsexual.
‘Did you catch the gang that attacked Cleo?’ he said.
The police officer in the front passenger seat twisted to face him.
‘What was that, lad?’
‘Did you get them? The man with the knife and the others.’
The officer shook his head. ‘They ran off when we turned up.’
‘Didn’t you chase after them?’
‘No. Our first responsibility is to the victims. We had to check that you and Cleo were safe and getting the treatment you needed. We try not split up. It’s not like on TV you know.’
‘So the men got away.’
‘I wouldn’t call them men,’ the officer said. ‘From your descriptions, and other bystanders, they were youths, a similar age to you, possibly even younger.’
‘But you will go after them?’ James had the feeling that the police weren’t too concerned.
‘We will be continuing with our enquiries.’
‘What will you do?’
‘Someone will talk to Cleo when she gets home from hospital. There’s a good chance that she knew the boys. They probably live on her estate.’
‘And that’s it. Couldn’t you be rounding up the kids on the estate to question?’
‘Look lad. We don’t go pulling in people unless we’ve got a good idea they are involved in a crime and we haven’t the officers to launch a major inquiry just because one tranny has got himself beaten up. The investigation is live, that’s all, OK.’ The officer turned back to face the front. Holly patted James’ hand.
‘Don’t say anything more,’ she whispered.
‘But…but…’ James wanted to say that Cleo’s life had been threatened and it sounded as if it wasn’t the first time she’d been attacked. Why wasn’t she being protected? Was it all because she was transsexual?

They soon arrived at the dark house. James and Holly got out and watched the police car drive off at speed before they went inside. James trudged upstairs without a word and went to his bedroom. He pulled off the sandals, slipped the remains of Holly’s dress over his head, extracted the one bag of rice and unclipped the bra, then wearing just the knickers went to the bathroom to wash off the make-up. When he emerged, Holly was waiting on the landing.
‘I’m sorry about your dress,’ James mumbled. Holly waved her hands dismissively.
‘I’m not bothered about that. I’m just sorry you got hurt and that your evening out got spoiled.’
James shrugged his shoulders. ‘Yeah, so am I. Look Hol, I really appreciate what you did. You’ve been really great to me, helping me be Jasmine.’
Holly placed her hand gently on James’s shoulder. ‘Look, I’m not sure I fully understand why you want to dress up as a girl but it obviously means a lot to you. We’ll do it again sometime, although with Mum and Dad back at the weekend I don’t know when or how. It may be the new millennium and all that but I don’t think they’ll want to know you’re a transvestite.’
James shuddered. The thought of revealing Jasmine to his parents was scary as was being found out by his mates.
‘Don’t tell them,’ he said hurriedly.
‘Of course, I won’t, James. It’s our secret if you want it to be.’
‘Thanks.’
Holly gave him a quick kiss on his cheek and went off to her room. James pushed his door open, went in and threw himself onto his bed.

Next day was warm and sunny so when James set off for the council estate, shortly after breakfast, he wore a T-shirt, jeans and old trainers. He thought that would make him blend in as he searched for Cleo’s flat. He got off the bus and started walking the streets. There were a few kids on the road kicking a ball around but otherwise there was little movement. Most of the buildings were shabby terraces and semi-detached houses put up in the fifties and sixties. There were scruffy patches of grass or dried mud in front of them where cars were parked or dumped with one or more wheels missing.
He came to a development of four storey apartment blocks. It wasn’t difficult to guess which contained Cleo’s flat. The ground floor walls on two sides of the block had slogans and pictures crudely sprayed on them. “Tranny” and “Perv” were a couple of the legible words and a few fanciful images of penis and testicles. It appeared that someone had attempted to remove most of the graffiti but some looked older than others and more ingrained into the brickwork. A window facing the road was partly boarded up. James walked up the side of the building till he came to a communal door. It opened when he pushed on it and he stepped into drab foyer with a dusty, vinyl-tiled floor. There was a stairs and entrances on the left and right. He chose the left. There was no bell or knocker so he tapped his knuckles on the door. It was a few moments until he heard feet scuffing against a carpet on the other side of the door.
‘Who’s there?’ A voice called out. Neither deep nor high-pitched it was impossible to tell if it was a male or female.
‘Is that Cleo?’ James replied. ‘We sort of met last night; on the promenade; when you were being attacked. I tried to help.’
There was the rattle of locks being undone and the door opened a few centimetres but was stopped by a chain. Half a face appeared, pressed into the gap.
‘Who are you? What are you doing here?’
‘I’m James Frame but last night I was Jasmine. I wanted to know if you were OK.’
‘You were the kid who stopped those thugs attacking me?’
‘Yeah. Well, I tried.’
‘You’re trans?’
‘Um. Yes.’ It was still difficult for James to admit it to someone else. The door closed, the chain clanked and then the door opened wider.
James noticed Cleo’s head first. Mousy hair flecked with grey covered her ears but had receded from her high forehead. One eye was covered with a patch and bruising showed around it. There was dried blood in a cut on her lip and another bruise on her cheek. Then James looked down and noticed the pressure bandage on Cleo’s right wrist, the short pink vest revealing a paunch and the miniskirt that failed to cover most of her plump thighs. Her legs were bare but she wore high-heeled sandals.
‘You’d better come in.’ Cleo looked over James’ shoulder, obviously checking there was no one else in the foyer, then stepped back into the short hallway. James stepped through the doorway and waited while Cleo closed the door and replaced the chain. Then James followed her through a door into a small living room with a tiny kitchen attached.
‘Have a seat,’ Cleo said sweeping a heap of newspapers off the grubby two-seater settee and shoving a dirty plate underneath it. James sat down hugging himself tightly so he didn’t have to touch too much. The room was a mess, with heaps of papers, magazines and post and piles of clothes, washed and unwashed. It was quite dim despite the bright sunlight outside because half the small window was covered with cardboard.
‘So here you are,’ Cleo began. She tried to speak in the upper register of her voice but every few words it dropped an octave. ‘You can see I’m fine. Just a bit bruised. Is that all you want to know or is it the first time you’ve seen another tranny?’
James was confused. Cleo was suspicious and not very welcoming. Perhaps she had reason to be.
‘I can see you took a hammering,’ he said. ‘Are you sure you’re feeling alright. Can I do anything for you? Go to the shops or something. Those blokes were vicious.’
‘Kids they were. Just fucking kids. I don’t need any help but thanks for the offer.’ Cleo pulled up a dining chair and sat down spreading her legs. James stopped himself from looking up her short skirt at her knickers. His eyes rose to her T-shirt stretched across her high, ample bosom and battered face.
‘One of them had a knife. He took a swipe at me,’ he said.
‘Yeah. The cops asked me about that. I didn’t see it.’
‘The police officer thought you might know them.’
‘They’re probably from around here. I might recognise them. Don’t know their names though.’
‘You get bothered a lot?’
‘Bothered!’ Cleo laughed. ‘Obscenities sprayed on my wall; banging on my door at all times of day and night; stones thrown at my windows, some large enough to smash the glass.’ She pointed to the boarded up window. ‘Followed whenever I step outside the door, name-calling the whole time. Oh, yes, I get bothered.’
……………………………….

Painted Ladies: a Jasmine Frame story is available as an e-book and paperback from all booksellers including Amazon

Painted Ladies cover