Jasmine: a collection

Trained By Murder: A Jasmine Frame Collection – the new e-book containing four Jasmine Frame stories is now available on Kindle.  More below.


The scary-index has ratchetted up another notch or three, thanks the to the Russians bumping off one of their many traitors and paying no heed to the risk of contaminating the population of Salisbury with their nerve gas. The story reads like a Le Carre novel without the subtlety, but the consequences are worrying. It’s further proof of Putin’s fear of the world and need to be popular amongst his people, not that he needs their approval to win his forthcoming election. It’s also proof of a growing instability in the world with egotistical madmen (however you want to define mad) in power in the three (perhaps more) largest and most powerful countries of the world.

Any response to Russia will probably be ineffectual but dangerous. One can but hope that sense still holds some sway in the those endless corridors in which power is supposed to reside and that no-one gets trigger-happy.  For all of my life we have feared a nuclear war which would probably have been over pretty quick with just the few left to suffer the aftermath. But is that the worst scenario? Surely the type of war on civilians we have seen in Syria and Yemen and elsewhere is worse.


Tea in Debenhams

I am thankful that in my lifetime I have never been asked to put my own life on the line in wartime as our parents’ generation were. I don’t know how I would react. I feel cowardly in the face of physical violence with or without weapons (unless it’s brandishing a foil in a fencing match – but that’s friendly competition). I want peace but I can see that sometimes pacifism is not a viable option.  I have just spent a short while studying the double Nobel Prize winning chemist, Fred Sanger who was a Quaker and conscientious objector in WW2. While I respect Sanger’s ideals, I don’t think that, in circumstances like those of 1939-40, refusing to defend one’s home is justified. A day away from being officially a Senior Citizen, or OAP if you like, I hope I will never have to face that dilemma but unfortunately I can see growing numbers of people around the world will, as a result of the increasing instability, shortage of resources and climate change.


trained by murder ver3Yes, it’s hereTrained By Murder is now available as a Kindle e-book priced at £2.15 (and the equivalent in other currencies.).

Trained by Murder is a set of four stories that fit into a short period, between Murder in Doubt and Painted Ladies, when James joined the Police service, and married Angela. While outwardly living his life as James he spends much of his off-duty time as Jasmine and is struggling to understand where his gender identity lies. The four stories average 13,000 words in length.

In Pushed to Murder, while working as a barman, a jog along the Rover Kennet in Reading brings James some disturbing news and a problem.

Death on a Honeymoon tells the story of James’ and Angela’s not so idyllic nuptial break on Ibiza where he meets a particular Spanish detective.

Vengeance is Murder finds Jasmine enjoying a weekend break in London with Angela that provides a dilemma that will stay with her for the rest of her life.

Death in Self-defence sees James on response duty in Abingdon, trying to get justice while hiding her double identity.

A pdf version of Trained By Murder is available from me, price £2.  Order it by sending an email here.

A paperback version will be available from Amazon soon.

The next full length novel, Molly’s Boudoir is on its way.

And finally, here is the next episode of Pose, another Painted Ladies prequel

Pose: Part 9

Jasmine took a small torch from her shoulder bag and took a look around. It was little bigger than a domestic garage but had a ramp and inspection pit. There was a work bench at the back with what appeared to be a door to another room behind. Apart from bits of car and cans of oil and other liquids there was nothing else to see. Jasmine moved towards the back of the garage. She pushed the door. It opened onto a narrow storeroom. Jasmine shone the torch around. She gasped. There was a glimpse of red satin. She stepped inside for a better view.
It was Tina in her princess dress sprawled on the floor amongst the cans and cardboard boxes. Jasmine knelt, reaching out a hand to feel a pulse. There wasn’t one but there was a sticky mess at the back of her head.
Jasmine backed out of the cupboard and hurried back through the garage. She stepped outside and pulled the door down. Angela approached her.
‘Did you find anything?’
Jasmine took her arm and dragged her back to the Fiesta. ‘Yes. Tina.’
‘Why didn’t she come. . .’ Angela’s mouth dropped open. ‘She’s dead?’
‘Yes.’ Jasmine unlocked the car door, got in and urged Angela to join her.
‘What are we going to do?’ Angela asked her face pale in the moonlight.
‘I don’t know. If we call the police we’ll have to identify ourselves and explain what we’re doing here.’
‘But you can’t leave Tina in there.’
‘She’s dead, Angela. We can’t do anything for her.’
‘We can. We can see that she gets a proper burial or whatever. What about her wife and daughter? What’s Jed going to do with her?’
Jasmine shook her head. She felt lost. She hadn’t been close to Tina but the shock of finding someone she knew battered to death along with her dilemma of not wanting to be identified seemed to have frozen her mind.
Lights appeared from the lane. An old Land Rover drove passed where they were parked, turned through 180 degrees and backed up to the garage door. A man got out.
‘It must be Jed,’ Angela said.
The man opened the garage doors, went back to his car and reversed inside. The doors closed.
‘What’s he doing?’ Angela asked.
‘Well, it could be he’s doing some car mechanics or perhaps he’s getting rid of Tina’s body.’
‘What should we do?’
‘Wait and see.’

A half an hour of sitting in the dark, cooling car, afraid to speak to each other and mulling over the problem passed. The garage doors opened. The Land Rover drove out and stopped. The driver got out, closed the door, returned to the car and drove off. Jasmine started the Fiesta’s engine and followed at a discreet distance.
‘Can you read his registration number?’ Jasmine asked. ‘If we lose him we need to be able to report what vehicle he’s driving.’
‘No, it’s too dark and I think the number-plate is covered in muck.’
‘Damn. We’ll just have to make sure we don’t lose him.’
For a while they travelled south on the main road out of the town. Before they reached the motorway, the Land Rover turned off onto an industrial estate and then onto a narrow lane. Jasmine slowed, letting the distance between them increase. It would be easy for Jed to see he was being followed if they were too close behind on the country road. The road took some wide curves, but they were usually able to see the rear lights of the Land Rover in the distance.
Then the lights disappeared. Jasmine drove slowly and came to the point where an even narrower side road branched off. There was a large building set back from the road.
‘He must have turned up here,’ Jasmine said spinning the steering wheel. She turned the headlights off and drove tentatively along the lane.
‘There he is,’ Angela cried. The dark angular bulk of the Land River against the almost leafless upward reaching branches of the trees was just visible about a hundred yards ahead. They stopped.
‘Call the police and tell them someone in a Land Rover is acting suspiciously,’ Jasmine said, opening her door.
‘But I don’t know where we are?’ Angela said as she dug her mobile phone from her bag.
‘Take the car and see what that building on the corner was. That should be a landmark.’
‘OK,’ Angela got out and ran around to the driver’s side
‘Oh, and don’t give your name.’
‘No, right.’
Angela reversed slowly back the way they had come, veering from side to side of the narrow, dark road. Jasmine crept forward. She kept to the side of the road almost hidden by the hedges and shrubs that lined the road. Closer to the Land Rover she could see that the tail-gate was open but there was no sign of Jed. She stopped, hearing her breathing and the rustle of movement in the undergrowth at the side of the road.
Jasmine pushed through the bushes and, with her eyes adjusted to the darkness, saw a figure moving through the bracken ahead of her. He was weighed down by a heavy bundle carried over his shoulders. Ahead of him there was a shimmer of light on water, part of the large system of lakes in flooded gravel workings.
Jasmine crouched down and tried to move forward, half crawling, half walking. She knew her tights would be ruined. She moved slowly but Jed, with his burden was making slow progress too. Nevertheless, he didn’t go directly to the bank of the lake. He kept to the narrow strip of land that divided the workings into separate bodies of water.
She was close enough now to hear him panting, using the bracken and small shrubs to keep herself hidden. He moved towards the water and let the body slip from his shoulder to the ground. Jed straightened up and seemed to be regaining his breath.
Jasmine wondered if Angela had made contact with the Police and had been able to give their location. Would they respond or just consider it a minor incident? Fly-tipping perhaps. If she allowed Jed to dump Tina’s body in the water and get away the police wouldn’t know where to look unless Jasmine guided them. But she couldn’t do that. She had to delay Jed somehow.
Jed bent down and began to drag the body towards the water’s edge. Jasmine edged forward. She was only a couple of metres from him now but he was intent on his task.
She screamed and launched herself at him. She hit him like a battering ram, tumbling him. He grunted. Jasmine fell in a heap but was quickly picking herself up. Where was he?
Jed was rising to his feet, looking around, startled by her attack. Jasmine threw herself at him again rugby-tackling his legs. They fell together. Jed kicked out, connecting with one of Jasmine’s false boobs. She rolled away and got to her feet. Jed was getting to his knees. Jasmine aimed the toe of her boot at his head. There was a thud as her kick hit home. Jed collapsed.
Jasmine stood up, breathing hard. She heard sirens. Blue lights were moving along the lane. She couldn’t stop here any longer. The police would find the Land Rover and start searching. She hoped Jed would stay put for long enough. She had to get away. Was the strip of land they were on a peninsular or an isthmus? There was only one way to find out. She moved on, away from the flashing lights, through the rough bracken with water on both sides.
It seemed an age but was probably only a few minutes when some buildings loomed against the sky ahead of her. She stumbled from the undergrowth onto a small parking area occupied by a couple of cars. Then she was on a made-up road again. She staggered along it, trying to jog but feeling bruised and cut by thorns and brambles.
She reached a junction with a slightly wider road. Which way should she go? How was she going to get home? The flat was miles away. She was out in the country. She must look a complete mess. Jasmine started walking, slowly, uncertainly, warily.
Lights came towards her. A car. She stepped to the side into the bushes. Perhaps she hadn’t been seen. The car drew level and stopped. The window wound down.
‘Angela?’ Jasmine’s heart beat faster with surprise and joy.
‘Get in, quick.’
Jasmine ran around the Fiesta and got into the passenger seat. Angela drove off.
‘How did you find me?’ Jasmine asked as she buckled herself in.
‘I didn’t.’ Angela stared ahead into the darkness. ‘After I rang the police I had to get away so I drove on along the road. But then I thought, how on earth are you going to get home? So I’ve driven up and down this bit of road a few times, wondering where you might be.’
‘The police. . .?’
‘I kept away from them. I could see their lights coming from the other direction.’
‘We need to get far away now, Ange. They’ll be piling in once they find Jed and Tina.’
‘Will they find them?’
‘There’s a good chance.’ Jasmine described what had happened as they drove along the country road back towards the lights of the town.

……………………………to be continued.


Jasmine on the hunt

Further to last week’s comments, I’m delighted that A Fantastic Woman won the best foreign language film Oscar.  I hope we see more of Daniela Vega as she is a fine actress and singer as well as a powerful advocate for trans acceptance.  I’m not sure what’s going on in political circles but it seems that while most parties (in the UK) support individual freedoms and oppose discrimination they are being influenced by the minority of feminists who do not think that transwomen are women. That however is a separate issue to allowing people to free themselves of the constraints of gender.

Layout 1I am delighted that a review of The Brides’ Club Murder is on the Eurocrime website, written by Susan White. Read it here.   The Brides’ is available as e-book on Kindle or in paperback from me  for £9.99 inc p&p




The main news for this week though is the imminent publication of  Trained By Murder: A Jasmine Frame Collection. The Kindle version can be pre-ordered now with publication on 16th March.   Here’s the blurb.

Four stories, four locations, four deaths and four dilemmas give Jasmine Frame a training in the art of detection.  As James she is embarking  on a career in the police force and a marriage to Angela, while wondering what part Jasmine will play in her life. She strives to keep Jasmine secret from her colleagues but the urge to be female is ever-present. The examples and experiences of the transmen,  transwomen and crossdressers that she meets influence her decisions. She has decisions to make and crimes to solve.

trained by murder ver3

The collection  is a long novella or short novel in length. The stories are prequels to Painted Ladies and in Jasmine’s chronology come after the novella,  Murder in Doubt. If you don’t buy Kindles then you can order a pdf version from me for £2 payable by Paypal –  write to me here.

Back to the present, or rather another time in Jasmine’s detecting  life (pre Painted Ladies).  Here is the next episode of Pose.

Pose: Part 8

James returned to his computer and began a review of all the data collected on Terry North and on the murder of Avril. The two collided with the blood in Terry’s burnt-out van but James could see no other overlap. Colin grunted about needing a leak and hauled his bulk out of the room. James quickly scribbled some notes on a sheet of scrap paper, not his police notebook. He knew he shouldn’t be making copies of sensitive data but if he was to find Tina then some rules had to be broken. Colin returned with new supplies of snacks. James refused the packet of crisps he offered and bent his head to the screen.
Their shift came to an end, late of course, with no news from the investigating team. There were no clues to Terry’s whereabouts or the identity of the killer but from the tone of the messages circulating between the team members it looked like DI Crowley was now treating them as the same person.

James drove home thinking hard. What could he do? How could he trace Tina when the might of the Violent and Serious Crime Unit was failing? Was Tina really a paedophile and killer? He was struggling to match the exuberant if eccentric transvestite to the profile of a murderous child-molester. It was difficult, but he knew that the people who went after kids were expert at hiding their true personality and intentions.
Back in the flat, James spread out the bits of paper with his notes, to which he added what he knew about Tina which was not, as far as he knew, known to DI Crowley.
He called Samantha again. She answered quickly this time.
‘Hi, Sam. Have the police been in touch yet?’
‘No. Are you sure they will?’
‘Yes, if they haven’t already found Tina. Look have you any ideas where she might have gone.’
‘She could have driven anywhere in her van.’
‘That’s been found near Fobney Lock, wrecked.’ Another rule broken. Information not yet public given to someone not in the Police.
‘Really? How?’
‘I don’t know. Either someone nicked it or Tina had her own reasons for trying to dispose of it.’
James wasn’t going to say that Terry/Tina was now the principal suspect in the murder of Avril Robinson.
‘I don’t know, but it’s even more vital that we find her. Look. Did you go anywhere with her apart from Butterflies and the Duchess?’
‘No. We went to the Duchess a few times. It’s supposed to be a trans-friendly pub.’
‘Supposed to be?’
‘Last time we were in there a bloke had a go at Tina.’
‘When was this?’
‘A few weeks ago.’
‘You didn’t mention it when Tina went missing.’
‘Er, it didn’t seem important. It was before Tina and his wife had their row.’
James sighed. Could it be important? ‘Tell me what happened.’
There was a pause before Samantha spoke again. ‘We were having a quiet drink and chat. It was quite early; not many people there.’
‘Other trans people?’
‘No, just gays. This guy was with a couple of other blokes. Been knocking the lagers back by the look of it. He staggered over to us and shouted at Tina.’
‘What did he say?’
‘Can’t remember exactly; it was pretty mashed up; usual abusive stuff.’
‘What Tina do?’
‘Just sat there. It just washed off her. She said, “Do go and sit down, Jed.”’
‘Jed! She knew him. She said his name.’
‘Yeah, I suppose she did. I hadn’t thought of that before.’
‘What happened?’
‘The guy’s mates came and dragged him off and they left the pub.’
‘What did Tina do?’
‘Nothing. We just got on with our drink. A few more of the girls arrived and we had a good evening. Why? Do you think it’s important?’
‘Could be. Just one thing. Tina was in her usual stuff?’
‘Yeah, a pink princess mini-dress.’
‘Thanks Sam, I’ll get back to you.’ James ended the call. He was thinking hard. Was it a coincidence? How many Jeds could there be? Was the guy in the pub Tina’s wife’s friend’s partner? The one who got moods on him, so Emma said.

James was still musing when the door opened. Angela staggered in, heaving her heavy briefcase. James jumped up to welcome her, take her bag and coat and give her a cuddle and kiss.
‘I’ll put the kettle on,’ James said, eventually.
‘What’s up?’ Angela said, noticing the scraps of paper on the table. While James made coffee, he described his day and his intention to find Tina. He ended with the latest discovery.
‘It doesn’t seem like much of a lead,’ Angela said from the depths of the sofa.
‘No, but it’s all I’ve got. I must get out and find Tina, whether he’s the murderer or not.’
‘You’re going out investigating?’
‘I have to.’
‘But if DI Crowley finds out what you’re doing he’ll be wondering why.’
‘I know,’ James said.
‘So you need a disguise. You’ve got to be Jasmine the investigator.’
James realised that Angela was right.
‘And what’s more,’ Angela continued, ‘it’ll be safer and better cover if I come with you.’
‘But you’ve had a long day. You’re knackered.’
‘Thanks a bunch.’
‘You know what I mean.’
Angela grinned. ‘Yes. Perhaps I need a change. Studying figures can pall after a while. Let’s do it.’

Jasmine was dressed for a variety of venues – short skirt, opaque tights, thick jumper over a silk cami. Angela, similarly dressed, sat beside her as they drove in the Fiesta towards the outskirts of the town.
‘Where are we heading?’ Angela asked.
‘To where it’s all been happening,’ Jasmine replied, ‘Tina’s home, or rather the home of his wife’s friend, Sharon.’
‘You’re hoping that her bloke, Jed, is there?’
‘That’s it.’
‘Do you think he knows where Tina is?’
‘I’m not sure but there’s a chance he’s got something to with all this. This meeting Tina and Jed had in The Duchess was just before Emma chucked Tina out. That was after Emma had her chat with Sharon and got paedophile and transvestite muddled.’
‘Perhaps she didn’t.’
‘What?’ Jasmine glanced at Angela.
‘Get them muddled. Perhaps Tina is the paedophile who killed the girl.’
Jasmine frowned. ‘That is a possibility. I hope not.’
They pulled up outside number 12, Sharon’s house according to Emma. They got out and went up the path to the door. There was no bell. Jasmine tapped on the plastic door. It was answered by a short woman with bleached blonde hair.
‘Hi,’ Jasmine began, ‘Sharon?’
‘Who’s asking?’ the woman looked closely at Jasmine and Angela.
Jasmine didn’t answer the question. ‘Is Jed in?’ she asked.
Sharon frowned. ‘What do you want Jed for? Who’re you?’
Jasmine decided to tell an outright lie. ‘We met him in The Duchess. He said to call on him. Now Sharon looked confused. ‘The Duchess? That’s in town init? We’ve never bin there.’
‘Jed has,’ Jasmine said.
Sharon’s face darkened with anger. ‘To meet you?’
‘Not us. He was talking to Tina. You know, Emma’s bloke.’
The woman looked confused then comprehension dawned. ‘You’re fucking paedos like Terry.’
Jasmine sighed inside. ‘No, I’m transgender not a paedophile. Tina, or Terry, is like me.’
‘Nah, you’re all fucking weirdoes. I remember now. Jed came in one night and said he’d seen Terry dressed up like a fucking little girl. Jed said he was one of ‘em paedos.’
Jasmine shook her head. ‘He got it wrong,’ she hoped that was true, ‘Tina’s missing.’
‘Yeah. Emma chucked him. Good fucking job.’
‘We want to find him.’
‘So you can play little girls together,’ Sharon sneered.
‘To protect him. From himself mainly.’
‘He can go fuck himself. Mucking around with his little girl.’
Jasmine’s eyebrows rose. ‘Who said he’d done that?’
‘Jed did.’
‘If Jed knows stuff about Tina perhaps he knows where he’s gone. Can we speak to him?’
‘Jed won’t speak to you pervs.’
‘We’ll take that chance. Where is he?’ Since he hadn’t appeared Jasmine assumed he wasn’t with Sharon.
‘OK, if it’ll get you off my doorstep. He’s at his lockup, sorting out a mate’s car.’
‘Where is it?’
‘Behind the shops on Basingstoke Road.’
‘Thank you, Sharon.’ Jasmine backed away from the door. Sharon closed it without further word.
Jasmine turned to Angela. ‘That was helpful.’
‘She wasn’t pleased to meet you,’ Angela said.
‘No, but she didn’t seem too attached to Jed.’
‘You made her wonder what he was doing in The Duchess. That’s if she knows it’s a gay meeting place.’
Jasmine shrugged. ‘Perhaps. Let’s see if we can find his lock-up.
They got back into the Fiesta and set off through the roads of the estate until they came to a busier straight road.
‘This is Basingstoke Road,’ Jasmine said. She turned left and drove slowly along the road. They came to a short parade of shops with a couple of stores and take-aways. There was a lane up the side which they drove up. There was a parking space at the back of the shops with a couple of workshops. One had an up-and-over garage door with a peeling board above it. Just about illuminated by the Fiesta’s headlights, Jasmine read, “Jeds Motors”. No apostrophe.
‘This looks like it,’ Jasmine said, getting out of the car. ‘Let’s have a look.’
Angela followed him to the garage entrance. The door was closed but Jasmine grasped the handle, twisted and pulled. It lifted with a metallic groan.
‘Not very secure,’ Jasmine said, ‘Let’s have a look.’
‘Should we?’ Angela said, ‘It’s private property. We’ll be trespassing.’
‘I know but I want a look around. You stay here and watch.’ Jasmine ducked under the door and stepped into the dark garage.

………………………..to be continued.


Jasmine ventures out

Is civilisation, western or otherwise, doomed? A recent article in New Scientist listed various pointers that suggested it was.  On the other hand there have been articles in newspapers about Steven Pinker’s book on The Enlightenment which, it is suggested, has an optimistic view of present times. Pinker says that from the late-seventeenth to mid nineteenth century,  European and American philosophers, scientists, engineers, humanists, politicians etc. propelled western civilisation  to its current level of power and prosperity with its people experiencing improved health, longer lifespans, better education and various rights and freedoms, such as democracy.  Unfortunately I think both views are correct.

The Enlightenment did result in amazing advances in science, medicine, technology that transformed our i.e. western, way of life. It had its negatives too – exploitation of peoples in other parts of the world (even though the end of slavery is seen as part of enlightenment philosophy), and degradation of the environment through increased consumption and waste. It didn’t stop and may even have encouraged the rise of despots such as Napoleon, and fanatical regimes such as the Nazis and other fascists, and communists. Unfortunately, I think fading optimism for enlightenment themes such as the search for knowledge and the freedom to be individuals is allowing the rise of right-wing populism and fundamentalism, both of which aim to curtail our personal freedoms and the application of science.  Brexit, the dismissal of “experts”, Trump and other political upheavals, are just the most obvious signs.

Faced with environmental breakdown (articles in New Scientist provide evidence week after week) in addition to this threat to our comfortable way of life, I am afraid that I must be numbered with the pessimists.


A future world? Perhaps not

Still, life goes on doesn’t it. To be more cheerful, Trained By Murder: A Jasmine Frame Collection will soon be available on Kindle or as a special purchase in pdf form.  Publication Day is 16th March. Four long short stories of Jasmine Frame in her early days of investigation. There will be more details soon.  Here though is the next episode of the latest Jasmine Frame story.

Pose: Part 6

It was dark now and raining. The streets were empty and not all the streetlights were lit. Creeping along in the Fiesta, peering down cul-de-sacs and lanes between garages had produced no sign of Tina’s red van.
‘Look, Samantha, I don’t think we’re getting anywhere dong this,’ Jasmine said.
Samantha grunted agreement.
‘Angela should be home now. I’ve hardly seen her this weekend and I need something to eat.’
‘Do you mean you’ve had enough of searching for Tina?’ Samantha said.
‘Yes, I do. She may have gone away in her van or gone off to stay with a friend somewhere. One thing we can say, is that her van’s nowhere on this estate.’
‘Yeah, you’re right. OK. Drop me off back in town.’
Jasmine gave an almost audible sigh of relief and accelerated towards the town centre. It wasn’t that she wasn’t worried about Tina. She was concerned about where the crossdresser had gone after the attack on her digs, but Jasmine couldn’t think of anything useful they could do to locate her. If Tina was sensible she would put away her childish clothes for a while and only appear as Terry. Perhaps Emma would let him back home to be with the daughter he apparently loved.
Jasmine dropped off Samantha back at The Duchess where they had met and set off home for an evening with Angela.

It was just after lunchtime next day when he walked on duty. Colin and Baz were hunched over the computers.
‘Any news?’ James asked.
‘’bout what,’ Colin muttered not bothering to look away from his screen.
James shrugged and looked over his shoulder to see what he was examining. ‘I don’t know. Anything. The murdered girl, Avro. Have we got anywhere with identifying her killer, the paedophile.’
‘Nah,’ Baz responded, ‘Not enough info. The SIO has organised a big search of the area where the body was found.’
‘By the river?’
‘Yeah. They’ve expanded the area all the way to Fobney Lock and beyond.’
‘There’s a lot of empty land around there,’ Jasmine said with his limited recall of the course of the River Kennet.
‘Lots of places where a paedo can hole up with his victim,’ Baz said. She leaned forward to peer at her screen. ‘O-oh. An alert. Looks like they’ve found something.’ She tapped at her keyboard.
Jasmine peered at the scrolling text messages. ‘What’s happening?’
‘DI Crowley’s calling SOCO to a site near the water treatment works.’
‘Where’s that?’
‘Where I said, Fobney Lock.’
‘What have they found?’
‘A burnt-out van.’
‘Any details?’
‘A red LDV. No reg. yet.’
James’ heart thumped in his chest. ‘Did you say a red LDV van?’
‘That’s right,’ Baz replied.
‘I’ve got to go,’ James said heading for the door.
‘Hey,’ Colin called, ‘I’m supposed to be going off duty.’ The door closed behind James.

James was in his car and racing out of town. He only had a vague idea where he was going but he was following the River Kennet as closely as possible as he traced its course upstream from where it joined the Thames. He was heading south along the A33 when he noticed signs of police activity – a police car parked on a junction. He took the minor road running into an area of new industrial building and scrubby, empty land. There were more police vehicles parked by the side of the road. A narrow lane went off to the right.
James took the track and was amazed to find himself in countryside with hardly any sign of the large town that lay less than a half a mile to the north and east. He stopped behind a SOCO van parked at the edge of the lane. James got out and stood looking around. There were a few buildings ahead on the left but to the right was a patch of bracken and trees with a rough track across it. That seemed to be where the activity was. Blue tape waved in the breeze and police officers were moving to and fro. James advanced to the tape barrier. A constable barred his way. James showed his warrant card.
‘I’m Constable Frame, with CPU,’ he said. The officer looked at his clipboard.
‘Can’t see your name down here.’
‘I’m on this case,’ James insisted.
‘You’ll have to speak to your senior officer then.’
‘Okay, I’ll have a look for DI Crowley.’ James backed off. A group of white coveralled people approached the officer from within the cordon. While they were conversing, James stepped off the track into the waist-high bracken, moving parallel to the taped boundary. It was hard going with the stems grasping at his legs. Soon however, a couple of conveniently placed shrubs cut off his view of the officer on sentry duty. James turned and approached the taped zone. He ducked beneath it and now could see the focus of the attention. The men and women in overalls were clustered around the partially burnt wreck of a van. James was able to confirm that it was an LDV and it was red. Was it Tina’s? Was it a coincidence that a van like Tina’s should turn up here in the search zone for the murdered girl. It wasn’t even far from where Tina and Emma North lived. Their estate was just the other side of the A33.
James kept low and circled the vehicle as close as he could while keeping out of sight of the officers examining it and the ground around it. The front of the van was badly burned but the rear seemed undamaged. The back doors were open but James was too far away to see what was inside. The crime scene investigators were making a close examination of the contents of the van but there didn’t seem to be a body at the focus of their interest. James did notice the number plate hanging from the rear of the van – R251BRD. They will have identified the owner by now, James thought. He headed back the way he had come. He got onto the muddy track and brushed bits of undergrowth from his clothes.
‘What are you doing here, Constable Frame?’
James looked up to see DI Crowley walking towards him.
‘Good afternoon Sir. I heard that you had made a discovery and wondered if anything had been found to add to the information we’re working on back at the unit.’
‘There was no need for you to come out here. Anything we find will be passed to you at the station.’
James realised he had no other excuse for his presence. He had to distract the DI.
‘I gather a van has been discovered. Has the registration given us the name of the owner?’
‘It’s registered to a Terrence North,’ the inspector said. ‘Name mean anything to you?’
James couldn’t admit to knowing the man when he only knew him as Tina and when he was Jasmine. ‘It’s not a name that has come up in the investigation, Sir, but if we have his details we may be able to see of there are any links to the texts and other material we’ve got on Avril’s phone and laptop.’
‘Well, I suggest you get back to the station and get to work on it. No point you being out here.’
‘No Sir. I’ll head off, Sir. Um, there haven’t been any other developments have there?’
‘Any indications of Mr North’s whereabouts?’
‘No. We’re locating his address and will start enquiries soon.’
‘Is there any evidence linking him to the girl’s murder, Sir?’
Crowley frowned, ‘Not yet, though forensics have found blood inside the van. Now less of the questions, Frame. If you get back to your work, I can get on with mine.’ The senior officer set off towards the barrier.
James walked back to his Fiesta and negotiated a multi-point turn. He set off towards the town, but once back on the A33 he had a change of mind. He turned off to the right and in moments was amongst the streets that he had driven around the previous evening. Terry/Tina could easily have driven the van to where it was found to get away from the gang that was pestering him. It was still close to his home. It was also very close to where the body of Avril Robinson had been found.
He drove slowly past Emma North’s home. There was no sign of the woman, her daughter or Tina. He approached a roundabout and the route that would take him back to the town centre. Two police cars, blue lights flashing, passed him. James could guess where they were headed.

…………………… to be continued

Jasmine explains

There’s been a chorus of pots calling out kettles this week. I’m referring to the scandal of the Oxfam aid workers exploiting local sex-workers in Haiti and elsewhere. It is disgusting that a small number of employees of the charity take advantage of vulnerable women (is it just women?) but the threats by government minsters to cut the charity’s grant from the foreign aid budget smacks of hypocrisy and opportunism on the part of those Tories who want to see foreign aid reduced. It is stupid to penalise the work of the charity because of the actions of a small number of people and the failure of the management to deal with them satisfactorily.

We have seen, not just in recent months, that sexual predators find opportunities in lots of professions and places of work, including the House of Commons.  No organisation should be complacent and the old methods of allowing, in particular, senior staff to resign and move on to other lucrative posts when their odious behaviour is found out, must stop. Sexist, misogynistic and sexually exploitive behaviour must be eliminated from all areas of society and men must learn to treat women (and other genders) equally and with respect.


trained by murder ver3And now for the good news.  The publication of  Trained By Murder: A Jasmine Frame Collection is approaching and the cover by Scott Wood is now revealed.  The collection is made up four longish short stories set in 2004-2006 so still some years before the events of Painted Ladies.  Here’s a trial blurb:”

“James Frame is embarking on a career in the police force and sharing a life after university with Angela Madison. Jasmine makes a large contribution to his identity but he/she is unsure if the future lies with James or Jasmine. In Reading, Ibiza, London and Abingdon James’/Jasmine’s dual life collides with incidents of life and death that develop her skills as a detective. She is trained by murder.”

Trained By Murder will be available on Kindle.

Back to the current prequel.  Pose has reached the fifth episode and Jasmine has to do some explaining.

Pose: Part 5

Jasmine stopped the car outside the small terraced house that Samantha had indicated. She reached for the handle of her door.
‘I’m not coming,’ Samantha said.
Jasmine looked at her companion who seemed to be trying to make herself as small as possible. ‘Why not?’
‘She doesn’t like me.’
Jasmine chuckled. ‘Are you surprised? She would see you as encouraging her husband. You’re the one to blame for Terry’s behaviour.’
Samantha shrugged. ‘Yeah, I know that. You go and speak to her if you want to.’
‘OK. I think we need to find out if she’s seen Tina recently. What’s her name?’
‘And their surname?’
‘North. Good luck.’
‘Thanks.’ Jasmine opened her car door and stepped out. She walked up to the front door, noting that the garden was tidy and the front of the house at least, appeared looked after. She pressed the doorbell. The door was opened by a young woman in jeans and t-shirt. She looked at Jasmine blankly.
‘Mrs North?’ Jasmine asked.
‘Yeah. What d’you want?’
‘I’m a friend of your husband, Mrs North.’
She looked suspicious. ‘How d’you know Terry?’
Jasmine didn’t want to deceive the woman. ‘I don’t know Terry. I know him as Tina.’
The young woman’s nose wrinkled in disgust but then she examined Jasmine more closely.
‘You’re a woman not one of them pervs.’
Jasmine sighed. It was a pleasure to be taken for a woman, but this was one occasion when she had to admit to what she was and perhaps alter Tina’s wife’s misconceptions.
‘I’m transgender, Mrs North.’
She pushed the door closed. ‘I don’t want nuffin to do with you lot.’. Jasmine placed the sole of her boot in the way.
‘Please, Mrs North. We’re concerned about Terry.’
The door pressed against Jasmine’s foot.
‘Whass that mean?’
‘He’s gone missing from his address.’
Emma North shrugged. ‘I ain’t bovvered. Get your foot out of my door.’
‘Look I know you didn’t like how Terry dressed when he was Tina. . .’
‘It was disgustin’.’
‘And Terry was wrong not to discuss it with you.’
‘Nuffin to talk about. He was wrong in the ‘ead.’
Jasmine nodded. ‘I know, but he was the father of your daughter. You were happy together once.’
‘Once,’ she snorted, ‘Until he went bonkers. Doin’ hisself up like a kiddy.’
‘I can understand that it upset you, Mrs North.’
Her eyes were examining Jasmine, perhaps seeing her properly.
‘You look like a normal woman not like what Terry did.’
‘That’s what I want to be, Mrs North, a normal woman. Tina wanted to be something different.’
‘A pee-do-file, that’s what he wanted to be.’
Jasmine was astonished. ‘What do you mean, he wanted to be a paedophile?’
‘That’s what my mate, Sharon said he was when I said that Terry wanted to be a little girl. She said that’s called being a pee-do.’
‘Um, no, Emma, that’s not what a paedophile is. For some reason Terry liked dressing up like a teenage girl, or perhaps younger. I don’t know why. I don’t understand him either. But that doesn’t make him a paedophile.’
The woman looked confused.
‘Can I come inside so we can talk about it?’ Jasmine said gently, hoping that Emma North would accept her. The pressure of the door on Jasmine’s foot lessened.
‘I’m not sure. My girl’s inside.’
‘I understand. You don’t want your daughter confused.’
The door opened wider. ‘She’s watching telly. Come in the kitchen. Keep quiet.’ She let Jasmine step into the hallway, closed the door then guided her into the small kitchen.
‘I’ll see she’s happy,’ Emma said leaving Jasmine standing by the cooker. She returned a few moment later smiling. ‘She’s glued to a cartoon.’
Jasmine smiled, ‘Kids like a good cartoon don’t they. How old is your daughter?’
‘Five, nearly six.’
‘Terry loves her, doesn’t he?’ Emma nodded. ‘You’ve never been worried about leaving Terry with her, have you?’
The mother appeared to think the question odd. ‘No. He used to be a good dad. Played with her lots.’
‘But you asked him to leave because of his dressing.’
Her expression changed to anger. ‘I didn’t want Lucy seeing him looking weird.’
Jasmine nodded, ‘I understand. But that doesn’t make Terry a paedophile.’
‘A paedophile abuses children; touches them inappropriately, sexually; hurts them. Terry never did anything like that did he?’
Emma’s eyes widened in a look of horror. ‘No. I’d ‘ave killed him if he hurt my little girl.’
Jasmine said very slowly, ‘Right. Terry is a transvestite not a paedophile.’
Emma nodded slowly.
‘Now,’ Jasmine went on, ‘Did you tell anyone else that you thought Terry was a paedophile.’
The woman shook her head.
‘Did you tell Sharon where Terry was living?’
Emma nodded. ‘Yeah. I told her I didn’t like him bein’ so close. One day I saw him out in his gear. He looked a right wanker.’
Jasmine bit her lip. ‘You haven’t seen or heard from Terry in the last couple of days?’
Emma shook her head. She had turned pale. ‘Nuffin’s happened to him has it?’
‘I don’t know Emma,’ Jasmine tried to speak as neutrally as possible, ‘He hasn’t been seen since Friday evening after a group of people went to the house where he lives, shouted and threw a stone at his window.’
‘They called Terry a “Paedo”. They thought he’d abused your daughter and should be punished for it.’
‘Oh god!’
‘Perhaps Terry has just decided to go away from here. Somewhere where he’s safe. Has he got family somewhere?’
Emma shrugged. ‘They live up north but he never goes there. He fell out wiv ‘is Dad years ago.’
‘Is there anywhere else he might have gone?’
She shook her head.
‘Where does Sharon live?’
Emma pointed to the back of the house. ‘The street behind ‘ere. Number twelve. Why do you want to know?’
‘Someone told the people who attacked Terry’s digs where he was living and that he was thought to be a paedophile. Unless you can think of anyone else you talked to about it, it must have been Sharon.’
Emma looked thoughtful. ‘I ‘spect she told her bloke.’
‘Who’s that.’
‘Jed. He’s lived wiv ‘er for a couple of years. I dunno what Sharon sees in ‘im. He gets moods on ‘im.’
Jasmine had an impression of the man which she didn’t want to explore with Emma.
‘Ok, well thank you Mrs North. I’ll be off now. Thanks for speaking to me.’ Jasmine began to walk back to the front door.
Emma North followed her. ‘Look. If you find Terry, tell ‘im he’s not seeing Lucy unless he’s dressed proper.’
Jasmine smiled at her. ‘OK. I hope we find him.’ She let herself out of the door and hurried back to the car.
Samantha spoke as she got in. ‘She let you in then.’
‘Yes. We had a chat.’
‘What did she tell you?’
‘Her friend Sharon told her that Terry must be a paedophile because he likes dressing like a girl. Seems they didn’t understand what the word really means.’
‘So this friend started the rumour?’
‘It was her or her boyfriend.’
‘Did Emma have any idea where Tina’s gone?’
Jasmine shook her head. ‘No. She thought it was unlikely that he’s gone home and didn’t have any other suggestions.’
Samantha frowned. ‘If Tina’s frightened about staying in that house with the Romanians she could be sleeping rough.’
‘The nights are getting a bit chill for that. What does Terry do for a living? Perhaps he’s hanging around where he works.’
‘He’s a handyman; a bit of this a bit of that. He works all over the town. Gets round in a van.’
‘Would you recognise it?’
‘Yeah, Tina gave me a lift a few times. It’s an old LDV, red.’
Jasmine turned the key in the ignition. ‘Well, let’s have a drive round and see if we can find it. I think he’ll try to stay as close to home as possible to be near his daughter.’ She drove slowly down the street.

…………………….to be continued.



Jasmine begins a search

This week I read a book suggested by Lou, my wife. It’s called “The Circle” by Dave Eggers. It was an unusual choice for her as it can be classed as science-fiction; not space-opera, it is an extrapolation of present day trends.  In some respects it resembles some of J G Ballard’s later work, High Rise, Cocaine Nights etc where a situation that starts out somewhat utopic ends up anything but. In The Circle the decision about whether it is a utopia or dystopia is the readers’ own although I am sure the author tends to the latter opinion.


The selfie generation

It concerns a business that is an all powerful combination of Microsoft, Apple, Google, Facebook etc. Its declared aim is to link everybody and everywhere providing on-line services that look after their personal contacts, entertainment, employment, health, welfare, safety, and ultimately their taxes and voting intentions. For the participants, including the protagonist, a new employee of the Circle, the aim is to increase the number of friends, followers, smiles (likes), comments, etc. by responding and commenting on other people’s posts and everything else and so boosting their rating and ranking.  People choose to become “transparent” i.e. continuously broadcasting video and audio of their lives while new Circle initiatives  remove the possibility of secrets and privacy, revealing not only everyone’s whereabouts but also their past (criminal records) likes and dislikes and even standardising actions in order to prevent crime or violence. Remind you of anything?

The Circle does extrapolate the present preoccupation with social media – frequent comment and messages, photos, blogs, vlogs, followers and “likes” – to an horrific, dystopic level (here I am encouraging it!). But I wonder. Some people reading the book (if they can concentrate long enough and don’t go flitting off to snatch a glimpse at some other bit of “news”) may think it’s a world they aspire to. Nevertheless, I don’t think the novel is an accurate prediction of  our future. It makes only passing  reference to the monetarisation of social media through endless advertisements, competition and algorithms that tell you what you should like. There is  no mention of cybercrime, cyberterrorism and cyberwarfare.  I think these three modern horses of the apocalypse, together with good old-fashioned greed, are what will eventually undermine what trust is left in the social media and internet behemoths. Where that leaves us I have no idea.

One specific aspect of the novel that attracted my interest was the need to achieve a top rating for everything we do. Only 5 stars or 100% will do. I rarely award the top grade or mark for any subjective judgement. I work on the principle that in the future I might find something that is even better so I must have something in reserve. If that disappoints people or causes them to lose kudos then tough.


And so to my writing.  First of all – newsflash. I have a cover for Trained by Murder: A Jasmine Frame Collection – an anthology of four longish short stories which will be available on Kindle in March.  All will be revealed soon. For now, here is the fourth episode of the latest Jasmine Frame story, Pose.


Pose: Part 4

They headed south and then Samantha directed Jasmine onto what was once a council estate. There were rows after rows of 1960s terraced houses and low-rise blocks of flats. They turned left and right more than once, until they were well into the estate.
‘There,’ Samantha said pointing to the end of a terrace. Jasmine pulled up, not directly outside, and they got out. There was no gate on the path leading to the front door and the garden was largely a bare patch of mud with a few tufts of grass, littered with household rubbish. Samantha strode up to the door and tapped with her fist. There was a delay before the door was opened. Jasmine saw a young woman with dark hair tied in a pony tail. She was thin and dark-eyed. The look she gave the two of them was a mixture of bemusement and uncertainty.
‘Yes?’ She said. The word was drawn out as if to stand in for several other words.
‘We’re here to see Terry,’ Samantha said, her voice obviously masculine.
‘Terry?’ the woman repeated as if the word was strange to her.
‘He lives here. He’s English,’ Samantha explained.
The woman’s face brightened. ‘Ah, the Inglis man.’ She shrugged. ‘I have not seen him. He is not here.’
Samantha nodded. ‘I was here earlier today. That’s what I was told then.’
‘It was not me you speak to,’ the woman said.
‘I know. I spoke to one of the men. He said there had been some trouble.’
The woman frowned, ‘Trouble, yes. Men throw stones and shout.’
Jasmine spoke, striving for her feminine voice, ‘Were they shouting at you and your friends?’ She wanted to check on what Samantha had told her earlier.
The woman looked at her as if she was cast into doubt. ‘We think that first. Inglis people not like Romanians. But they call Terry’s name and shout other words.’
‘What other words?’ Jasmine asked.
‘Rude words and words I not understand. Pee-do.’
‘Paedo?’ Jasmine was puzzled. ‘Where did they get that from? Not “tranny” or “pervert”?’
The woman shrugged, ‘”Pee-do” they shout again and again. Then they throw stone and break window.’
‘When was that?’ Jasmine asked.
‘Yesterday. Evening.’
‘When Tina was supposed to be meeting me,’ Samantha said.
‘When did she, er, he, Terry, leave?’ Jasmine asked.
The woman shook her head and raised her hands.
‘Can we see Terry’s room please?’ Jasmine asked. The woman looked uncertain.
‘We’re friends,’ Samantha said, ‘We’re worried about him.’
‘He is a travestie, like you,’ she said pointing at Samantha.
‘Travesty?’ Samantha looked blank.
‘She means are we transvestites like Terry?’ Jasmine said, then to the woman. ‘Yes, that’s how we know him. Did you see him dressed as a woman?’
She frowned. ‘Not as woman. As girl. He have no….’ she raised her hands to her chest cupping her breasts.’
Samantha chuckled. ‘That’s right. Tina never wore breastforms or a bra.’
‘It was her pose,’ Jasmine said, ‘A young girl. Can we come in.’
The woman shrugged and stood back to let them in. They entered a small square hallway. There was a closed door on each side. A stairway was in front of them beside a narrow corridor to a kitchen. A couple of men peered at them from the kitchen from where sounds of cooking emerged. The woman led them up the stairs. There were five doors on the landing. She pushed one door. It opened on what should have been one of the front bedrooms. Jasmine saw that it was divided in two by a partition made of thin board. The partition didn’t reach the ceiling. She pointed to the left. Samantha and Jasmine squeezed into a space that was filled by a single bed, a chest of drawers and a wardrobe rail. The window was covered in cardboard from a supermarket box. The bed was unmade and covered with a grey sheet and grubby duvet.
‘Did she sleep here last night?’ Jasmine wondered aloud.
‘Difficult to tell,’ Samantha said.
Jasmine took a step towards the wardrobe rail and fingered through the clothes. There was a pair of jeans on a thin metal hanger and three dresses in various shades of pink. She moved to the chest and pulled out drawers. There were items of clothing in each, some male some female. An electric razor and cosmetics on the top of the chest. She looked for personal belongings – phone, wallet, anything that might identify the occupant of the room as Terry/Tina.
‘Well, he hasn’t packed and left,’ Jasmine said.
‘If he doesn’t come back tonight, one of the men will move in here,’ the woman said.
‘The house is overcrowded,’ Jasmine said.
The woman screwed her face up, ‘Yes, but we can only pay if there are many of us.’
‘Why did Tina come here?’ Jasmine said looking around at the squalor.
Samantha shrugged, ‘Finding accommodation in Reading is difficult and this is close to where she lived with her wife and daughter.’
‘Where do they live?’ Jasmine said.
Samantha pointed out of the blocked window. ‘A couple of streets away.’
‘Let’s go and have a look.’ Jasmine backed out of the room. They returned downstairs and were leaving the building when Jasmine paused and turned to the woman.
‘Thanks for your help. Can you tell me your name?’
She shook her head and kept her lips clamped closed.
‘It’s alright, we won’t tell anyone. Just, if we find Terry we can tell him that you helped us.’
The woman managed a half smile. ‘OK. It is Cristina Antonescu. My brother Dumitru is here too.’
Jasmine took the last as a warning not to take advantage of her. Nevertheless, she smiled and thanked the woman. They returned to the Fiesta.
‘What do you think has happened to Tina?’ Samantha said.
‘I’ve no idea,’ Jasmine replied, ‘but it looks like she went out expecting to come back. She didn’t hide her femme side did she.’
‘I don’t think she saw any reason to; not now she didn’t have her wife and kid to tell her what to do.’
‘She wasn’t afraid of transphobes?’
‘Doesn’t look like it. Perhaps she thought that if the Romans accepted her then she was safe.’
‘Except that she wasn’t. Not if that gang were after her. And they didn’t think she was just a tranny.’
‘Yeah,’ Samantha looked mystified, ‘Where did they get that paedophile thing from? Tina dressed like a girl, she didn’t go after them.’
‘Are you sure?’
Samantha turned white. ‘I never got any idea of that when we were out together. Tina just liked the princess look. Like that Grayson Perry.’
‘I don’t think there’s much similarity,’ Jasmine said. ‘Perry’s style is juvenile, but his outfits are sculptured affairs, costumes. Tina’s look was pre-pubertal girl.’
‘I don’t know,’ Samantha said. ‘I thought we were having fun.’
‘You and Tina perhaps,’ Jasmine said, ‘Tina’s wife didn’t see it as simple fun or she wouldn’t have chucked her out. I think we need to have a chat with her.’
A scared look came over Samantha. ‘Are you sure?’
‘She’s the only other person we know who might be able to tell us where Tina is.’
‘OK, but I’m not going near her.’
‘Just take me to their house.’ Jasmine started the engine.

……………………….to be continued


Jasmine involved

As I said last week, time ran out on me, leaving me unable to write a comment on the week.  You’d think that there was plenty of time in seven days, especially as I no longer have the day job to fill a considerable portion of the time. Nevertheless, tales of the unexpected conspired to fill my blog-writing slot.

I had, and still do want to comment on my first appearance at a Society of Authors meeting, the inaugural Welsh section gathering as it happened. It was a very enjoyable session and I met a number of very interesting and friendly people. Of course in any group of writers we were soon sharing publishing experiences. Some have been far more successful than me with contracts with the big publishers, but I think most of us were in the same boat – struggling for sales because of the problems of marketing our wares. The rise of the internet, e-books and print-on-demand publishing has, made it a lot easier and cheaper to publish and be published but has made the chore of marketing so much more difficult. You can’t see the leaf for the jungle.  With everybody leaping up and down shouting “read me”, it is very difficult to stand out.  Some manage it (and I have to say it, sour grapes and all that, it’s not always the most well-written offerings). Anyway membership of the SoA provides advice and assistance and fellow authors to share ideas with. I’m looking forward to the next meeting.


I need some new photos. This is from Dec. 2017

I’ve also spent a considerable amount of time in the last fortnight giving Trans-awareness talks. I enjoy talking and describing what being trans in all its varied forms is all about. I find people interested to learn about us but often confused despite the higher visibility of trans issues in today’s media. I am keen to get across an understanding of the wide range of trans-people. Fully transitioned, gender-confirmed, men and women are a small minority of the total. What’s more, many of us have no wish to be medicalised or to be pushed into permanent slots on the gender spectrum.


And so to Jasmine. The new story, Pose, is getting going now I think. We’ve got to episode 3.  I hope it is clear when the events are happening. It is still a few years before Painted Ladies takes place and the sequels. Remember that you can purchase all the novels and the two early (chronologically) prequels as e-books and the three novels are available in paperback from me – here.

Pose: Part 3

Colin was in the rest room pouring his first coffee of the day when James arrived.
‘You look bright eyed and the rest of it,’ Colin growled.
‘Uh, I don’t mind early mornings,’ James replied. An evening without alcohol, that wasn’t too late ending, helped. ‘Any news?’
Colin took a tentative sip from his steaming mug. ‘You mean, the missing girl?’ James nodded. Colin screwed up his pudgy features. ‘Nah.’
‘Doesn’t look good,’ James said. She’d been missing for a day and a half, including two nights. He could imagine the parents trying to keep their hopes up, but the investigating team would be fearing the worst. ‘Better see if there’s anything more we can find out,’ he added.
Colin shrugged and, coffee in hand, followed James to their little office. They booted up their computers and called up the files they’d downloaded from the girl’s internet provider and mobile phone company.
‘There’s just not enough in the metadata to identify the groomer or get his location,’ Colin said. James agreed while noting the number of times the missing girl and her supposed abductor had exchanged messages. Had they arranged where to meet?
There was a knock on the door and it opened to reveal a young police officer.
‘I was told to deliver this to you,’ he said holding out a small clear evidence bag.
Colin took it. ‘Is that the girl’s phone?’
The PC nodded. ‘The DI thinks it is.’
Colin opened the bag and tipped the phone out onto his desk. It was a Nokia, a model from a couple of years ago, decorated with stars, stickers and Tippex writing.
‘Where was it found?’ James asked.
‘On waste ground near the Kennet on the edge of town.’
‘Show me.’ James beckoned the officer to squeeze into their cramped office and called up Google maps on his screen. He zoomed into the south-western edge of the town which showed the River Kennet meandering towards its junction with the River Thames. The PC peered at the screen and then pointed at a spot close to the river.
‘Who found it?’ James asked.
‘A jogger. It was just by the path. He handed it in and luckily the desk officer recognised it from the description the parents had given.’
‘That’s quite a way from where she lives,’ James said. ‘Was she taken there do you think?’
‘DI Crowley has started a search of the area.’
James knew the spot. He’d passed by there himself on some of his longer runs. ‘So, was it deliberately dropped, or did she just lose it there?’ The officer shrugged. ‘What about her laptop? That’s missing too.’
The constable shook his head, ‘It was just the phone.’
There was beep from the phone. Colin was tapping keys.
‘It’s still on,’ James said.
‘Yeah. Battery’s good on this model,’ Colin muttered. ‘Now let’s see what texts she’s had.’
‘Um, I’d better head back,’ the PC said.
‘Yes, thanks. Tell DI Crowley, we’re on it,’ James said as leaned across to see what Colin was doing. The young man sidled out of the door.
‘Here we are,’ Colin, said. ‘The last message from the guy. Friday afternoon. He tells her to meet him at Sandford Park.’
‘Where’s that?’ After three years living in Reading, James was still not familiar with every part of the town.
‘It’s in Woodley.’
‘That’s the east of the town. Where she lives isn’t it?’
‘Yeah,’ Colin said, reading the text. ‘He tells her exactly where he’ll be. On Comet Way.’
‘On the road?’
‘So he’s in a car.’
Colin half shrugged, half nodded. ‘Guess so.’
‘Does he give her a time?’
‘Six fifteen.’
‘That’s not long after she was last seen.’
‘Only three quarters of an hour after this message too.’
James moved his mouse, shifting the area of the map shown on the screen. Then he scrabbled around the bits of paper they’d collected. He found what we wanted.
‘Got it. Her home is about half a mile from the park. If she left around six she could easily get to the meeting point in time. How does she know who she is meeting?’
’Dunno,’ Colin said. ‘He doesn’t give a description of himself.’
‘Is she expecting a boy of her own age who’s on foot or perhaps a bike, or is she expecting an older guy in a car?’
Colin didn’t reply at once. He was thumbing buttons on the phone.
‘From the texts she had from him I’d say she was expecting a kid. But you’re probably better at the lovey-dovey stuff than I am; you’ve got a girl.’
‘Um, I guess. Let’s see.’ James took the phone from Colin and flicked through the stored texts. It was easy to see which ones were from the “boy” rather than the girl’s parents. They were in textspeak with a significant lack of vowels. Neither did they resemble messages from her girl friends as they were complimentary and urged her to meet up so they could get to “know” each other.
‘He was keen to get her,’ James noted.
‘And she was eager to meet him,’ Colin added. ‘Have you read her replies?’
‘Yes. She fell for it didn’t she.’
‘Did she ever.’
‘We can let DI Crowley know where and when they met. Perhaps there’s some CCTV at the park which will pick them up.’


James got back to the flat that he and Angela rented in the late afternoon. He was feeling despondent. The body of the girl had been discovered around mid-day, not far from where the phone was found. She had been strangled and it looked as though she had been raped. Despite having all the messages between the murdered girl and the boy or man she had arranged to meet, they had got no closer to identifying him and no CCTV had turned up of their meeting place. James wondered whether he’d made any contribution at all to catching the killer.
He slumped onto their old, saggy sofa. Angela had used the opportunity of a Sunday on her own to catch a train into London to meet some old friends. She wouldn’t be back for a few hours and apart from the household chores which he had promised to share, there was little else to do.
His phone buzzed. He pulled it out of his pocket and looked at the number. It looked familiar but not so familiar that he recognised who it was. He accepted the call and raised the phone to his ear.
‘Jasmine?’ It was a male voice, but she recognised it.
‘Samantha. How are you?’
‘Okay. Look you said you’d help sort out Tina.’
Jasmine didn’t recall making that promise. ‘You said you’d let me know if you heard anything. Have you met her?’
‘No. That’s the trouble. I’m worried about her.’
‘I went to the address she’d given me – her digs.’
‘A real dive. An old council house divided up into bedsits. I think the other rooms are full of Romanians.’
‘OK. I gather she wasn’t there.’
‘No. I spoke to some of the guys. They don’t speak much English, but they knew her. Knew she was trans.’
‘Were they abusive?’
‘No. But some other blokes had been.’
‘Other blokes?’
‘Yeah. Some British wankers turned up a couple of nights ago. They made a fuss.’
‘Oh,’ Jasmine was shocked and confused.
‘The foreign guys thought it was aimed at them at first, but they realised that it was Tina they were shouting at.’
‘What happened?’
‘They smashed a window – Tina’s. They went after that.’
‘Was Tina there?’
‘I think so, but the Romans told me they haven’t seen her since.’
‘Where did she go?’
‘I don’t know. I was hoping you might help me look for her. Perhaps talk to the Romans again and find out a bit more what went on.’
‘Hmm.’ Jasmine was reluctant to commit herself.
‘I think she needs help. Our help.’
Jasmine decided. ‘OK, I’ll come and take a look. Where shall I meet you?’
‘At the Duchess.’
‘You’re dressed.’
‘Of course.’
Jasmine had to think quickly. Did she want to meet up with Samantha and go looking for Tina as James or Jasmine. As the former she was a police officer. This task looked to be a little extracurricular. Jasmine it would be.
‘Give me half an hour or so.’
‘Great. Thanks Jasmine.’ The call ended.

It took twenty minutes to change into leggings and a chunky tunic top, put on her long blonde wig and dab some foundation and lipstick on. Another ten minutes in the light Sunday traffic took her to the Duchess. Samantha was standing outside the pub dressed in a leather jacket over a woollen dress with heeled over the knee boots. Jasmine thought she was ready for a night out. Samantha bent down to peer into the Fiesta as she pulled up. Jasmine beckoned for her to get in.
‘Hi,’ Jasmine greeted her, ‘Give me directions.’


Jasmine troubled

It’s been another week when the news has been less than uplifting. Was the collapse of Carillion due to mismanagement or greed, or both? The fact is that many thousands of ordinary people are now not sure about their future while the rest of us may be faced with extra costs via taxes and lower savings interest rates because of government incompetence and arrogance.


Tea in Debenhams

I mentioned last week the new ITV programme, Transformation Street.  I’ve now watched the first episode and can comment.  Like so many programmes focussing on transgender people, it delights in the gory details – pictures of excised breast tissue and testicles. I’m not sure what the point of doing that is, unless it is to justifiably emphasise that this is serious stuff. The programme is largely one long ad for a private gender clinic and its charismatic surgeon, who does all the surgery from facial feminisation through, breast enhancement and removal to the big ones – gender reassignment or confirmation as it is now called. As always, the individuals reveal how everyone has their own story, as do the partners and family of the transgender person. The gratitude shown by the patients as they recover from their surgery is striking.  I’d like to see them again many months after their operation. Many, probably most, are satisfied with their treatment but a few find that modifying their appearance doesn’t answer all their problems.  The programme did reveal the immense costs of going through the full transition particularly if one wants all the cosmetic treatment. Some will spend their entire life savings (and more) to get what they want. These costs also explain why the NHS struggles meet demand for gender identity treatment.  Is the programme of value? Well, it didn’t offer any judgements in the first episode but viewed as a source of information it performs a role. For surgery-porn junkies it probably hit the mark. For keeping trans in the public eye I’ll give it full marks, for anything else I’ll wait and see.


I have at last begun a new Jasmine Frame story, called (for now) Pose. The first episode is below but I think it needs just a short introduction.  I know stories should be able to stand alone but as there are now so many Jasmine tales this one perhaps needs to be placed in context. Chronologically, it follows after the recently concluded story, Reflex, but takes place about one year later in, autumn 2007. This is the one period in Jasmine’s Painted Ladies front cover jpegcareer where there is a bit of a gap.  The prequels to Painted Ladies cover the years 2000, starting with Discovering Jasmine, and ending with Viewpoint (so far unpublished) set in December 2011 which concerns Jasmine’s last case in the police force.  Four of the stories which cover the period 2004 to 2006 will shortly be published in the collection provisionally titled, Jasmine Frame: Training for Murder. There are eight stories in the period 2009-2011 which may get published at a later date. So there is this gap, 2006-2009, where Jasmine is a police officer, married to Angela, but struggling with her identity. Pose deals with some serious issues – I hope you enjoy it.

Pose: Part 1

‘No, no, no!’ James pushed back on his chair and turned his face away from the computer display. Alongside him, DC Colin Green, glanced from his screen.
‘Bad one, eh?’
James shook his head, not in disagreement but trying to free his mind of the image. ‘Sick.’
Colin grunted and looked back at the images flicking past on his computer.
James thought and then declared, ‘No, not sick.’ Colin looked at him, eyebrows raised. ‘Sick implies that the guys looking at this stuff are ill, that it’s not their responsibility. They don’t have an illness, they’re evil. And I don’t mean they’re under the influence of the devil. They’ve made their very own hell for these kids.’
DC Green pushed his chair back. ‘Come on, Matey. I think you need a break. I could murder a bacon sarnie.’ He heaved his bulk off the office chair, which sighed gratefully. James stood too, and they squeezed past the desks, the tower of processors and the evidence bags of CD-ROMs, hard drives, memory sticks and floppy discs. James pushed the door open and emerged into the relative airiness of the corridor. The windowless office of the Child Protection Unit Electronic Evidence Section was little more than a cupboard hastily equipped with a couple of desks, keyboards, display units, processors and a variety of file readers.

James cradled the cup of black coffee in his hands and looked at DC Green munching into his ketchup dripping, bacon and egg sandwich. He wasn’t everyone’s image of the criminal-catching detective. He was overweight for a start, would barely pass the fitness test for an on-the-beat constable, and his unbuttoned shirt had obviously been nowhere near an iron. Yet he was dedicated. James knew that from observing him for the last four months and he looked to him for help in hacking into recalcitrant files and online accounts.
‘How do you cope with it?’ James asked.
Green took his eyes off the sandwich. ‘What?’
‘The disgust.’ Actually, it wasn’t just disgust he felt at the images they were duty-bound to examine. There was fear too. Fear of being drawn in by the overt sexual images. It hadn’t happened, but he was scared that one day he might find himself aroused by what he saw. The thought was appalling but he already felt that his penis had an existence all of its own, separate to the feminine persona that inhabited his skull. It was nonsense really. He knew that his cock and balls didn’t have a mind of their own despite that it sometimes appeared like it; but the fear remained.
Colin shrugged. ‘It’s a tough job that we do. You have to build a shell around yourself.’
‘A shell?’
‘Yeah. You can’t let anything you see or hear touch you. Just record it, label it, prepare it to be used as evidence. That’s our job.’
James nodded. Our job, yes, just another task for the twenty-first century police officer. He’d been delighted when he had been invited to join the Vulnerable Persons Department and assigned to the Child Protection Unit in Reading. It was his first experience of plainclothes work, his first post as a detective. Except that, ever since, he had spent most of his days in that claustrophobic, cramped closet, hunched over a computer. His apparent familiarity with a computer keyboard had indicated to his bosses that he would be a suitable recruit to the Electronic Evidence Section. He probably did have more experience with computers than officers that had joined straight from school or after some other career, and yes, he had owned a laptop since he was in the sixth form at school, but he wasn’t a computer geek like Colin, or Baz, his other EES colleague. Nevertheless, he was a fast learner and picked up the techniques of searching the internet and accessing files and digging through mobile phone records. He’d been aware of the easy availability of porn on the internet, who wasn’t, but just a few months in the job had shown him how the increasing sophistication of search engines and file sharing websites, the growth of social networks like MySpace and the rival Facebook, and the decreasing cost of mobile phones, made life easier for those who were drawn to the margins of sexual desire – the illegal, sickening and abusive gutters.
‘You’ll cope,’ Colin added. ‘You’re a natural.’
James didn’t feel as confident as Colin’s compliment suggested. He drank his coffee. Colin wiped the egg yolk from his plate with the last piece of bread, popped it in his mouth and chewed.
‘Better get back to it,’ he said through the mouthful, ‘The DI wanted the report on this lot today.’
James groaned at the thought of the hundreds of images still to be accessed, logged and classified, but he heaved himself to his feet. He noticed that Colin had a drip of ketchup on his collar.


As soon as they arrived at the country village hall, Angela went to the hatch to collect a couple of drinks and chat to Susan. Jasmine looked around noting who was present at this month’s Butterflies meeting. Belinda, the President and organiser was chatting to a couple of older members. Jasmine had only managed to attend half a dozen times in the last year, but she recognised the regulars, and they were all regulars. There were no new faces, not tonight. She crossed the room to approach a couple of the girls. They were younger than the rest of the attendees, though still several years older than herself. She felt she had more in common with them. For a start they were in modern fashions rather than “classics”, or to be frank, what mother might have worn. Jasmine did have some doubts about Tina, however. She favoured a teenage, or even pre-teen, style. In public, she would look odd, weird even, but in the private, inclusive atmosphere of the Butterflies she was accepted, as she wanted to be.
As Jasmine approached Tina and her companion, Samantha, she examined this evening’s outfit. Being September, it was still warm enough for summertime wear. Tina wore a baby-doll dress in pale pink which just reached to mid-thigh and had short puffed sleeves. It was tied at the waist with a black ribbon. Through the semi-transparent cloth Jasmine could see suspenders holding up white stockings and a lacy bra. On her feet were white strappy sandals with high block heels. Her long blonde hair, which Jasmine knew was a good quality wig, was bedecked with little pink bows. She carried a handbag in the shape of a pink plastic teddy bear.
‘Hi, Jas,’ Tina greeted her in her artificially high-pitched sing-song voice. It grated on Jasmine for being so unnatural, but she had learnt it was part of Tina’s attempt to build a persona for herself as a young teen. It was make-believe. Jasmine knew that she was a mid-thirties electrician with a wife and a young daughter.
‘Hi,’ she replied and nodded to Tina and Samantha, ‘How are things?’
Samantha smiled at Jasmine. Her style was more adult – denim miniskirt over light blue leggings and a bright yellow t-shirt.
‘Tina’s got problems,’ Samantha confided.
‘Oh?’ Jasmine said.
Tina leaned into the group and spoke in a stage whisper. ‘My wife’s giving me hassle.’
‘About dressing?’ Jasmine asked.
‘But she accepts that you do dress?’
Tina responded grumpily, ‘Tolerates, would be a better way of putting it although that seems to be wearing thin.’
‘Why?’ Jasmine wondered what was going on between Tina and her wife.
‘She won’t let me in the house dressed when Lucy’s awake.’
‘You had to get changed here did you?’ Jasmine asked. Some members arrived as men and did a transformation in the hall’s small Ladies loo.
‘No, I stopped in a layby and did a quick swap. I don’t know about going home. She might go crackers if I turn up at home like this.’
Jasmine inquired further, ‘Why is she less tolerant than she was?’
Tina shrugged. ‘She says that now that Lucy is nearly six and at school, she might get confused if she sees her father in a dress.’ Wearing clothes the girl might herself wear to a school-friend’s party, except for the suspenders and bra, she might be confused, Jasmine thought. ‘It might be partly what I spent on my new boobs,’ Tina added.
‘You need to talk,’ Samantha advised.
Tina looked rueful. ‘I think we’re passed that. She hasn’t spoken to me for days.’

………………………………. to be continued.