Jasmine fears for her life

When this blog goes live I will (or should) be at the UK Indie Lit Fest in Bradford.  There, I hope to meet lots of other writers and sell lots of books – we’ll see.  Next week it’s off to Warwick for the annual NAWG festival which promises to be fun – more of that later.

Not a lot of time for writing in the last week thanks to preparations for the weekends and other stuff.  However I did manage to complete reading Eddie Izzard’s autobiography, Believe Me.  It’s not a long account and reads a little like his stand-up style – stream of consciousness with thought-provoking and amusing asides.  While I found his tales of childhood, school and the decade of training for his career in front of audiences enlightening but I was, of course, most interested to read about his transvestism. It didn’t disappoint.

51KeV+2+txL._AC_US218_Eddie tells of discovering at a pretty young age his urge to put on women’s clothes but it wasn’t till he was starting his comedy career and living in London that he dared to go out dressed. His early trans history seems like many – a fumbling, nervous journey to finding  the styles and appearance that at least partly satisfied the desire to be feminine. Gradually he became more confident and confessed his transvestism to friends and family. I hadn’t realised that it wasn’t till the nineties, when he was already a growing success on the stand-up circuit, that he first went on stage in any feminine guise.  Having found that it didn’t deter audiences he kept at it but made sure that he didn’t become known as a purely trans-comedian. He would do one show in male clothes and another in feminine dress without changing his material.

WP_20170824_12_54_04_ProGradually he came to a similar conclusion about himself as I have done.  He doesn’t attempt to pass as a woman but just confesses to liking wearing heels, makeup, nail varnish and items of feminine clothing.  He seems pretty content.  Izzard calls it “action transvestism”.  I think it is being non-binary or at least blurring the lines between male and female.  Now when I go out, fully dressed and made up in female guise but without boobs or wig, I can’t imagine that I “pass” but it seems to work and I have yet to experience a negative response.  We’ll see this weekend, up north. . .

And so to this week’s episode of Viewpoint, the Jasmine Frame novella.  She’s got herself into a bit of pickle has our Jasmine.  Can she get herself out of it?

Viewpoint: Part 11

‘Er, ‘ello, Mr Taylor. Didna ‘spect to see you ‘ere again.’ Riley replied.
Jasmine opened her eyes to see Gary lowering his arm and stepping away from her. She heard Riley shuffling and the hard sound of boots on the wooden floor.
‘I didn’t expect to see you here either Riley but when you didn’t answer yer phone I thought I’d better come lookin’ for yer.’
‘Sorry, Mr Taylor. I left ma phone in ma cabin.’
‘Yer a fool Riley. What yer doing with another girl here? Yer know the cops have been snooping around.’
‘She wuz ‘ere when we came to clean up the place.’
The heavy steps came closer, and Jasmine found herself looking up into the stubbled face of Alfie’s father.
‘Yer bloody fools,’ he shouted, turning on Riley and his mate. ‘Do yer know who this is?’
‘’im said he was a private dick. ‘im’s a bloke dressed as a tart.’
‘I know,’ Taylor roared, ‘but he’s a copper. He was at my place last night. I don’t know how he did it but somehow, he linked you t’me. That’s why you and I have had visits today from the fuzz.’
‘But they don’t know about this place,’ Riley complained, ‘That’s why we came to clean it up like, so that there’s no sign of yer girl.’
Taylor’s voice rose another pitch. ‘Don’t call her my girl. It wasn’t my princess you did away with. The cops will know of this place now. Unless. . .’ he subsided to almost a whisper, ‘he’s on his own in which case we just have to get rid of him.’
‘That’s what we were goin’ to do,’ Riley sounded proud of himself.
‘Not here, you fucking idiot,’ Taylor shouted. ‘There’ll be more mess to clear up. Get him in the Landie and we’ll cart him off to somewhere where the cops won’t find him.’
‘Where?’ Riley asked.
‘Dunno. Not the fucking canal again tha’s for sure. Just get him out of here and make sure he can’t get away.’
Gary had been standing silently, his knife-holding arm hanging by his side. ‘Don’t we get to have some fun?’
Jasmine heard Riley let out a sigh. ‘Don’t you get it, Gary? It’s an ‘im not an ‘er. He’s got a cock not a cunt. Come on, do as Mr Taylor says.’
The two men turned to Jasmine. Gary held her down while Riley untied her ankles from the bed but quickly re-bound them together. She tried to wriggle but Gary cuffed her around the head and out his considerable weight on her. Riley did the same with her arms, rolling her over to fasten her wrists behind her back, then stuffed a filthy rag in her mouth and bound cord around her head. She found she had to concentrate on sucking air into her lungs. Gary picked her up as if she was a sack of potatoes, tossed her over his shoulder and carried her out of the hut into the dark. He dropped her, not at all carefully onto the straw covered rear of the Land Rover. The lights of the hut went out.
‘Get in the front,’ Taylor ordered. Soon the engine started and they began to move. Jasmine was bounced up and down as they travelled along the rough track. Each bump threw her up an inch or two; each fall on the hard surface of the pick-up bruising her and making her worry about getting her next breath. Jasmine was relieved when they reached a smoother, metalled road and the bouncing lessened although the speed increased and the cold wind froze her body.
Jasmine could see nothing of their journey, nor interpret the motion of the vehicle, and had to use nearly all her concentration to breathe and overcome the pain of the cords biting into her wrists and ankles. She had enough sense though, to note that the surroundings remained dark revealing that they were still in the country.
After a time in which the pain in her arms and legs went through numbness to agony, the Land Rover slowed and started to buck again. Treetops closed over the clouded sky. Jasmine had no idea where they were other than they were off even the minor roads and in a wooded area.
The vehicle stopped and Jasmine heard the doors of the cab open.
‘Keep you voices down,’ Taylor hissed. ‘Gary get the fucker; Riley bring some tools. Yer going to have dig, the two of you.’
Jasmine was picked up and thrown over the big man’s shoulder. They set off into the rough ground under the trees. After a few minutes Gary stopped.
‘Is this far enough, boss? Me back is killing me.’
There was a pause then Taylor spoke. ‘Yeah, it’ll do, I s’pose. Dump him and get digging.’
Jasmine was dropped. She hit the ground with a thump that would have hurt a lot more if the floor of the wood hadn’t been covered with a thick layer of leaf litter. She lay still, struggling for air. She heard the sound of a pick-axe thudding into the earth, a spade grinding into the ground and soil being thrown. With her face almost pressed into the muck she saw the merest reflections of pale, yellow light from a single torch. There was almost no feeling in her limbs now other than an undefined, excruciating ache. Even if she could loosen the bonds she didn’t think she’d be able to move. Escape seemed impossible. She didn’t want to die; she couldn’t bear the thought of dying but hope was dribbling away with every moment.
‘Police! Don’t move! Drop the tools!’ A shout, the voice familiar. Two, three bright white torchlights. ‘You’re under arrest. Don’t try to get away. You are surrounded.’
Jasmine recognised the caller. It was Tom Shepherd.
‘What were you intending to bury?’ Tom asked. The torch-light grew weaker then stronger until a beam entered her partly open eyes.
‘Jasmine?’

……………to be continued

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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 in the dark

I’d rather not have to think about Trump but I cannot ignore his latest (as of Thursday) order, that is, banning transpeople from the US armed forces.  It could be said that it is none of my business as I don’t live in the USA but the fact is that anything Trump says or does reverberates around the world.  With the UK government cosying up to him to get a “super” trade deal post Brexit, what happens in the USA has repercussions here.

Why has Trump made his banning order? I am sure the only generals he spoke to were the ones who would support his view and the cost argument is a mere excuse. I think that first and foremost Trump is trying to overturn everything that Obama did and stood for.  Allowing transpeople to serve was one of Obama’s last acts so it must be high up Trump’s list.  Secondly, Trump is of course trying to appeal to his core followers – right wing, bible-bashing bigots. His support has diminished considerably since he sort of won the presidential election but he has to keep those committed Trumpsters cheering him to soothe his ego.

What will be the effect of Trump’s order?  I don’t suppose it will affect the USA armed services a great deal but it gives legitimacy to anyone who sees transpeople as being abnormal and a separate segment of society who should be treated differently.  If the right to serve can be denied to a transperson, what other rights can be removed? Of course what applies to transpeople can quickly be extended to others – gays, ethnic minorities, women.

What this news does is put transpeople in the spotlight. It could make them a target for the misguided people who feel that using violence against minorities is doing Trump’s or God’s work.  We must not allow any actions against transpeople or other minorities to be ignored or dismissed as unimportant.

Not a good week for the human race.

………………………..

IMGP5761Let’s move swiftly on to this week’s episode of Viewpoint.  Just a reminder that this is the latest of the prequel novellas that I put out on this blog.  The three novels, Painted Ladies, Bodies By Design, and The Brides’ Club Murder are each available as e-books and paperbacks.  The two novellas, Discovering Jasmine and Murder In Doubt are only on Kindle. Go to my Jasmine Frame page for more details.

Viewpoint: Part 7

Keep calm, she told herself, he doesn’t know who you are. He doesn’t want to shoot you, really. She reached into her pocket. He stiffened and the barrel of the shotgun moved a few centimetres towards her.
‘I’m a police officer, Jasmine Frame,’ Jasmine said, pulling her warrant card from her pocket and holding it up. The gun didn’t move. ‘I’m investigating the movements of Alfie Benson.’ The gun barrel remained threateningly close to her.
‘Don’t know the name,’ the man growled.
‘You are Mr Taylor, owner of Yew Tree Farm?’
‘What of it?’
‘You had a daughter, Lucy?’
The barrel wobbled. Was he losing control, she fretted. How do I get out of this without getting shot, deliberately or accidentally? I need to keep calm and keep him calm, she thought.
‘Yeah, I did once. She left.’
‘When was that?’
‘A long time ago. Years.’
‘You haven’t seen her recently? In the last year?’
‘No.’ The gun was brandished at her. ‘Why’re you asking?’
‘I told you. I’m trying to find out where Alfie Benson went.’ She didn’t want to make the link to Lucy Taylor explicit. He was obviously in denial about his daughter’s gender change.
‘I said, I don’t know that person. You sound funny. Are you a bloke?’
Jasmine felt ice in her veins. If he didn’t accept Alfie’s transition, what would his reaction be to her as a transsexual police officer? Perhaps this was the moment to retreat.
‘OK, Mr Taylor. Thank you. I’ll be on my way.’
She moved away from the gate, circling around the end of the gun to her car. The barrel followed her than dropped. She felt Taylor watching her as she got in and heard a muttered ‘Fucking, tranny’. The engine started first time, she was grateful for that, and she pulled out onto the narrow lane. She looked in her mirror. The dark figure of Mr Taylor watched her for a moment and then moved out of sight, up the farm track. Jasmine drove on for a few more yards till she came to another field entrance. She pulled in, as far off the road as she could and turned off the engine and lights. Opening her window, drizzle blew into her face. She adjusted her wing mirror to provide a view back up the road then wound the window back up and slid down so that her head was below the back of the seat. Was her hunch right or was she going to have to spend as long as she could bear in this somewhat unusual position?
It was only a few minutes. Movement in her mirror attracted her attention. A vehicle emerged from the farm entrance, turned and accelerated towards her. When it passed her the battered Land Rover Defender was already moving faster than she would be comfortable driving along these lanes. Jasmine pushed herself back up the seat and started the engine. She set off down the lane, following but not matching the farmer’s speed.
He was out of sight when she reached the main road. She took a guess, turned towards Kintbridge and put her foot down. The old Fiesta whined as she took her speed up to sixty. She was grateful that there was little traffic on the dark, wet night. A couple of minutes later, on a straight stretch of the road she saw the red lights of a vehicle ahead. She kept her speed up until she was certain. It was the Land Rover. She slowed, ensuring that she was a good distance behind Taylor.
They passed under the bypass but then Taylor turned right onto a minor road. Jasmine followed, some distance behind, wary of catching him up. They drove a few hundred yards along the lane and then she saw Taylor turn left. She slowed down and as she approached the turning she realised it was an entrance. Driving past she peered into the murky darkness. It was a park home site. She drove on for fifty metres and pulled off the road where there seemed to be a wide and firm grass verge.
She trudged back along the lane to the entrance. There were no gates just a low brick wall on both sides of the road. The low rectangular buildings forming silhouettes against the dark sky were set out in a regular grid. One or two had lights showing but most were dark. Jasmine walked slowly up the driveway between the buildings, trying to think of her story if anyone approached her. She passed the first and the second row of homes and then she stopped. The Land Rover had pulled off the drive and was parked beside the next single-story cabin. That was all she needed to know. She turned and walked hastily back to her car.

Jasmine yawned as she climbed the stairs to the office. She hadn’t slept well thinking about Alfie Benson and his father. She walked along the corridor and pushed the door to V&SC unit open. She saw at once that she was late. She glanced at her watch. It was precisely seven a.m. but the team were already standing facing DS Palmerston and the white board with photos stuck to it. Palmerston saw her enter and gave her a look which would have curdled a dozen bottles of milk.
‘So, DC Frame deigns to join us after her jaunt around the country.’
Tom turned his head and gave her a sympathetic smile. Jasmine went to his side refusing to respond to her senior officer.
Palmerston faced the team. ‘Thanks to our wandering DC, we know the victim found in the canal yesterday was named Lucy Taylor, formerly of Weymouth but recently of no known address. We also know that she died before entering the canal,’ she glanced at the sheet of paper she was holding, ‘of asphyxiation due to pressure on her windpipe, possibly by a rope.’
Sadness gripped Jasmine. It was all too easy to imagine the transman dying in terror.
Palmerston went on. ‘The pathologist also reports other injuries on her body from before she died. She had had a double mastectomy, there was a bruise on her left cheek and on many parts of her body suggesting she had been beaten. He also thinks that marks on her vagina suggest she had sexual intercourse forcibly on at least one occasion not long before she died.’
‘He was raped,’ Jasmine blurted out.
‘She, not he,’ Palmerston sneered, ‘You found out for us that her legal name was Lucy Taylor and that she had never been granted a G, er R, er, whatever.’
‘He had lived as Alfie Benson for six years,’ Jasmine said, ‘He was stopped from transitioning fully and from applying for a G R C, because of his poor mental health.’
‘I am sure her doctors recommended the best treatment for her,’ Palmerston replied.
Derek Kingston coughed. ‘It does seem that she was mistreated and raped before being killed.’
‘Yes, of course, Derek,’ Palmerston gave the detective constable a smile as if she was pleased with his assessment of the case. ‘It appears that she was treated poorly for some time before she was killed. The question is where?’
‘If she lived in Weymouth how did she end up in the canal here?’ Terry Hopkins moaned.
‘She hadn’t lived in Weymouth for months,’ Tom answered.
‘I think she was here,’ Jasmine said. All four of the detectives looked at her.
‘Here?’ DS Palmerston said her voice rising.
‘The Kintbridge area,’ Jasmine clarified. ‘She was brought up in Cindersworth where her father, Mr Taylor, still runs Yew Tree Farm.’
‘You had an address for her father!’ Denise Palmerston screamed.
Jasmine had guessed she would be in for a roasting when she revealed she had that knowledge.
‘Yes, it was in her medical notes that the Gender Identity Clinic in Exeter supplied. They’re in the case file. You could have accessed it.’
‘But you didn’t see fit to draw our attention to that fact.’
‘I was told that you had gone off duty and wouldn’t be interested until this meeting.’
Palmerston subsided a little as she struggled to find a suitable rejoinder. ‘We need to speak to Mr Taylor and inform him of his daughter’s death. I am sure he will be upset at the news.’
Jasmine had a reply, ‘I don’t think so; not as a grieving, loving parent.’
All her colleagues stared at her.
‘What do you mean, Jas?’ Tom asked.
Jasmine took a deep breath. ‘Well, first of all, Mr Taylor abused Alfie after Mrs Taylor died. Alfie was a teenager and wanting to transition. His father beat him and raped him. Alfie told the GIC nurse but wouldn’t report it to the police.’
‘That’s a serious allegation,’ Palmerston said.
‘The nurse I spoke to thought it was a significant contributor to Alfie’s depression that stopped her going further.’
Derek stared at Jasmine, his eyes questioning. ‘You said firstly, Jas. Do you have more?’
Jasmine smiled. ‘Mr Taylor denies all knowledge of Alfie Benson and says he hasn’t seen his daughter Lucy for years.’
‘How do you know that?’ DC Hopkins asked.
‘You’ve spoken to him, haven’t you,’ Tom said, his eyes wide, ‘You called at the farm on the way home last night.’
‘Yes,’ Jasmine admitted. ‘And I think I know where Alfie was held.’

……………………..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 empathises

There is a row going on about whether human rights in the UK will be damaged by the Brexit Great Repeal Bill. I don’t want to see any reining back of our rights as human beings but I have to say that as a gender-fluid person I am feeling more comfortable when I am out and about. Either that or I’ve lost all feeling of being examined and judged.

While I dress in skirts or dresses, and wear jewellery and make-up I don’t try, any longer, to mimic a woman by wearing false breasts or a feminine wig. Yet visiting a number of different towns in recent weeks I have been struck by how comfortable I feel and the lack of strange looks.  Everyone who I have spoken to has treated me as a normal person which is very gratifying and encouraging.  I wish everyone, regardless of their colour, ethnicity, sexuality, gender identity or disability felt the same.

I hope I am not being naïve.

 

WP_20170709_13_23_10_Pro

With Sharon, a lovely person, especially as she purchased all three Jasmine Frame novels

Last week’s trip to Llanidloes went very well and I was fascinated by the tattooed convention goers. They are themselves, perhaps another maligned community, but for that weekend I (in male persona this time) was in the minority. But they bought some books which was great and I had a good time with the other authors and visiting an area of the country I adore.

 

I returned cheered and more optimistic about my writings and publications, so here is the next part of Viewpoint, the Jasmine Frame prequel. The three novels, Painted Ladies, Bodies By Design and The Brides’ Club Murder, follow sequentially over a fairly short time period after this story.

Viewpoint: Part 5

Jasmine let out a silent yell of glee and quickly wrote down the information in her notebook and on a slip of paper. She tapped at the computer keyboard and printed out a map, then stood up, picked up her jacket and strode to Sloane’s office.
‘There. I’ve got an i.d. on the victim.’ She dropped the notepaper in front of the DCI. ‘He was on the list of a Gender Identity Clinic. There’s his name and address although that is apparently over a year out of date.’
Sloane picked up the piece of paper and read out the name. ‘Alfie Benson. Male? Why do you say that this address in Weymouth is out of date?’
Jasmine had the answer. ‘The GIC says that he has not replied to their letters and emails for a year so they are not sure he was living there before he died.’
Sloane continued to stare at the note. ‘Why was, er, his body dumped in Kintbridge if he was living in Weymouth?’ he muttered.
‘Exactly.’ Jasmine turned away and started to walk out of the office.
‘Where are you going, Frame?’
‘Exeter.’
Sloane growled, ‘DS Palmerston told you to work here.’
‘I’ve done what she wanted. I’ve identified the victim. Now I’m going to speak to people who knew him.’
‘Why not go to Weymouth?’
‘Because I know there are people at the Exeter clinic who can tell me about Alfie. There may be no-one in Weymouth who knows him.’
‘DS Palmerston is in charge of the case, Frame. She’ll allocate her staff.’
‘I’m the best person to speak to the GIC staff. I attend one myself.’ Jasmine didn’t wait for Sloane to come up with any other reasons for her to stay. She hurried to the exit. Sloane didn’t follow nor call after her.

Jasmine glanced at the dashboard of the Fiesta. Petrol was low. She hadn’t thought about fuel when she leapt into the car and headed south out of Kintbridge. The old car wasn’t going to get all the way to Exeter on the fumes left in the tank. As the wipers half-heartedly dispersed the rain from the windscreen she saw the sign for a service station ahead. She pulled in, filled the tank and went into the shop to pay. It was then that she realised that it wasn’t just the car running on empty. It was past lunchtime and she hadn’t eaten since breakfast. She bought a BLT sandwich and tore open the packet before she got back into the driver’s seat. She set off again along the A303, munching on the bread.
It was another two hours and already getting dark when she reached the city. Now she had to find the clinic from the address and the map she’d pulled off the computer back in the station. She had a sudden desire for a satnav or one of those smart phones that included one. After one or two mistakes, she pulled into the parking area at the front of a large Victorian house, just as her mobile phone gave out its ring tone. She dug it out of her bag, saw that it was Palmerston and dropped it back in. The phone fell silent.
Jasmine approached the main door, found it unlocked and stepped into a hallway that had once been grand but now needed a fresh coat of paint on the walls and woodwork. A reception room was on the left. There were two people sitting waiting. One was a middle-aged woman in a knee length dress and sheer tights with shoulder length blonde hair. A wig, Jasmine guessed. The other was a young man wearing track suit bottoms and a hoody. They were sitting apart and avoided eye contact with Jasmine. She knew how they felt. When she had first attended her GIC she had felt like hiding and thought that everyone was staring at her and wondering about her gender.
A woman in white uniform sat at a desk. ‘Can I help you?’ she said in a welcoming voice.
Jasmine pulled her warrant card from her pocket and showed it to the receptionist. ‘I’ve come to speak to a nurse, Hazel Sullivan, who I’ve been in contact with.’
‘Ah, yes, Hazel is on duty. I’ll see if she is available.’ She picked up a phone and put through a call. She spoke quietly and soon put the phone down.
‘Hazel will see you now. She’s in the office next door to here.’
Jasmine said thank you and left the room noting that the two pairs of eyes of the patients, or clients, followed her covertly. As she looked up the hallway to see where she was headed, the door opened and a short, chubby, woman in a blue nurse’s uniform stepped out.
‘DC Frame?’ she said advancing towards Jasmine with her hand outstretched.
‘Yes, Ms Sullivan?’ Jasmine said shaking the hand.
‘Hazel. Come on in,’ she said as she turned and re-entered the room. Jasmine noted that it was furnished partly as an office with a desk and two chairs and partly a lounge with a small sofa and armchair grouped around a coffee table. Hazel pointed to the sofa.
‘Take a seat. This is where we chat to patients. It’s a bit more welcoming than the medical examination rooms.’
Jasmine nodded. She settled herself on the sofa and tugged her skirt down her thighs. ‘I’ve been in a similar room,’ she said.
‘Ah, yes. You’re GD too. How long have you been in the system?’ Hazel sat in the armchair and examined her closely.
‘It’s nearly two years since I decided to transition but only eighteen months since I began. Then it was six months before I got my first appointment.’
Hazel nodded. ‘Yes, it does take a long time, if you have to go with the NHS.’
‘Like Alfie?’ Jasmine was relieved to move the conversation away from herself.
‘That’s right, but he was with us longer than you have been.’
‘Oh, how long?’
Hazel leapt up to pick up a folder from the desk. She opened it.
‘Six years,’ she said, ‘He was just eighteen when he had his first appointment.’
‘So, he was twenty-four now, when he died.’
‘That’s right.’
‘That’s quite a while to be in the queue,’ Jasmine commented.
Hazel frowned. ‘It is, but Alfie was in and out of it a bit.’
‘Why?’
‘He had mental health issues – depression. There was always the question about his fitness for transitioning.’
‘That held up his treatment?’
‘Yes, and he was never able to apply for his Gender Recognition Certificate.’
‘But he lived as a man.’
‘Oh yes.’
‘And he had a double mastectomy,’ Jasmine added keen to confirm Alfie’s maleness.
Hazel nodded. ‘Yes, that was his one bit of luck, if you can call it that.’
‘What do you mean?’
‘His mother died from breast cancer when he was a teenager and his aunt, his mother’s sister, died of it soon after. Alfie had a test and was found to carry the BRCA gene. Do you know what that means?’
‘Yes. Alfie was likely to get it too.’
‘Alfie was offered the mastectomy as risk-reducing surgery. It would have been delayed if there was a chance pf Alfie having children but he insisted on having it immediately. All FtMs want rid of their breasts. He refused breast reconstruction but because he was under our care we managed to get some cosmetic treatment to give him a more masculine chest.’
‘But that was as far as he went?’
‘Yes. There was the possibility of having his ovaries removed for a similar reason but it was delayed and as I mentioned we have lost touch with him in the last year.’
‘What about hormones – was he on testosterone?’
‘Not with us. The question-marks over his mental state meant that we couldn’t prescribe him medication. There was one occasion when he got testosterone off the internet. He nearly got thrown off the programme for that.
Jasmine sighed. ‘So, he was probably depressed because he couldn’t get treatment for his gender dysphoria.’
Hazel shrugged. ‘Probably but that wasn’t the root cause of his mental problems.’
‘Oh, what was?’
‘Well, I’m not a psychiatrist, but his notes suggest that it was the loss of his mother just when he was going through puberty – growing the breasts, having periods, all that – and the abuse by his father.’
Jasmine’s eyes opened wide. ‘Abuse?’
‘He beat Alfie when he refused to wear dresses and when he had his hair cut short, and he raped him.’
‘Did this come to court?’
Hazel shook her head. ‘Alfie didn’t reveal it until he came to us and he didn’t want to go to the police. He left home at sixteen and was a bit of a mess. It’s quite amazing that he got himself together enough to even start coming here.’
Jasmine was struggling to take in what Alfie’s life must have been like to transition with a father like that. She realised that she had had it easy – an understanding wife, generally supportive family and friends and a helpful employer, up to a point. But the difficulties she had experienced with DCI Sloane and DS Palmerston gave her some feeling for the turmoil that Alfie had undergone. On top of the abuse from her father, Alfie had faced the catch 22 of not being deemed sane enough to go through life-threatening and altering surgery so was left in an intermediate state.
‘Alfie still had his original birth certificate,’ Jasmine stated. Without a Gender Recognition Certificate, he couldn’t have changed that document even though he’d changed his name.
‘That’s right. The name he was given at birth was Lucy Taylor.’
‘Oh, he changed his surname too?’ Jasmine had kept her surname when she transitioned but she knew that some transsexuals used the opportunity of changing their forenames to give up every aspect of their former lives.
‘Yes, Alfie didn’t want any reminder of his father. Benson was his mother’s maiden name.’
Jasmine scribbled in her notebook. She stopped and looked at Hazel. ‘So why did he stop responding to your letters and messages?’

………….to be continued.

 

 

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.