Jasmine reluctant

Well, that was a surprising week wasn’t. Fancy Federa losing at Wimbledon from matchpoint! Then there was the government in turmoil over Brexit. Actually that is normal, but the resignations of Johnson and Davies were a bit unexpected. Of course they couldn’t do the honourable thing and resign when asked to back the PM. No, first they gave her their support, then they resigned. But that behaviour is not really a surprise since they have both lied and squirmed since before the referendum. But where does it leave May and the Brexit negotiations? I’ve no idea.

Then there’s Trump’s visit to the UK after causing mayhem at NATO. Nothing surprising there either (I’m writing this  on Thursday evening – perhaps he’s declared himself king of Engerland by the time you read this). I’d have thought that, by now, skilled politicians would have worked out how to neutralise his disruptive behaviour. Apparently they haven’t, which is worrying. The thing is – he’s dangerous. Satire is a useful weapon but just considering him a joke is not. I don’t think he’s particularly bright or the “ideas man” but he knows how to stir things up and sow discord. Other leaders have not found a way to counteract his rudeness, his willingness to tell outright lies and his immediate recall to Twitter to spread his chaos. Our “leaders” whatever their political colour have to find a way to cope without the spin-doctors and the protocol experts.

………………………..

WP_20180414_09_47_33_ProToday I am (I hope) at BLISS in Southport, joining a couple of dozen other authors at the Prince of Wales Hotel displaying and signing our books. I hope there will be people attending who are not only keen readers but who also have deep pockets. I have 10 titles for sale – viz. the 3 Jasmine Frame novels – Painted Ladies, Bodies By Design and The Brides’ Club Murder – the Evil Above the Stars trilogy and Cold Fire, my two Angela Meadows erotic novels and the Elsewhen SF anthology. That’s plenty to keep your bedside table creaking on its legs.

However, for free you can read the next episode of the Jasmine Frame sequel/prequel, Negative, here.

Negative: Part 5

Jasmine felt a wave of nausea pass through her, as if she’d drunk too much alcohol. It wasn’t alcohol, she hadn’t had a drink since she’d arrived here, but she knew the cause of her discomfort – a body, a death, a victim. Perhaps Tegan’s death was an accident, but the tone of the police officer’s questioning suggested a mystery. It wasn’t a simple road accident then.
Ceri seemed as nonplussed as Jasmine. ‘How?’ she asked.
‘I’m afraid that I can’t tell you that,’ the PC replied. Perhaps he didn’t know the whole story, Jasmine thought, definitely not all the details. The SIO, the senior investigating officer, would be keeping important facts secret if there was any crime contributing to the woman’s death.
‘The last time you saw Tegan Jones was Tuesday evening?’ The officer went on.
‘Yes,’ Ceri replied in a quiet voice.
The PC turned to the proprietor. ‘Was she working yesterday?’
The little man flustered. ‘I think so. I wasn’t here. I wasn’t told of a problem. Myfanwy. . .’
‘Myfanwy?’ The officer interjected.
‘Our stand-in waitress,’ the owner continued, ‘she didn’t report anything being wrong yesterday.’
Jasmine coughed. The other three people turned to face her. ‘Tegan Jones was waiting at dinner last evening,’ she said.
The officer turned a page in his notebook. ‘Who are you?’
‘Jasmine Frame. I’m a guest. I had dinner here last evening. Miz Jones was here while I was.’
‘What time was that?’ The PC asked while scribbling notes.
Jasmine had to think. She hadn’t noted the exact timings of her movements the previous evening. What had she watched on TV when she returned to her room?
‘It was quite early, I think, when I finished dinner – seven thirty-ish,’ she said.
‘Thank you, madam,’ the PC said. ‘You didn’t note what kind of mood she was in did you?’
Jasmine shook her head. ‘I’m sorry, she didn’t serve me and I didn’t have any conversation with her. Miz Jones didn’t seem to converse much; not with guests. I couldn’t say what her emotional state was or whether it was different to normal.’
‘Thank you, I think that’s all for now.’ The officer completed his note, turned and left the dining room with the proprietor on his heels. Ceri approached Jasmine. Her face was drained of colour.
‘I can’t believe she’s dead,’ Ceri said, her voice shaking.  Jasmine got up from her seat and wrapped her arms around the girl. ‘I’ve wished her dead any number of times for being so nasty to me, but. . .’
‘It’s okay. You can’t blame yourself for thinking those things. She was nasty.’ Jasmine was trying to be comforting. ‘Her death means she’s not going to bother you again.’
Ceri sniffed. ‘But how? What happened to her? Why did the police come asking questions?’
Jasmine was thinking the same things. She didn’t want to think about another death but she couldn’t help it. Questions about the investigation just kept popping into her head. She released Ceri from her hug.
‘There is obviously some doubt about when and perhaps how Tegan died. The police can’t have witnesses from the time of death; not yet anyway. That’s why they’re trying to trace her last movements.’
‘I want to know what happened,’ Ceri said firmly.
‘The police won’t be letting much out yet. Not until they have the story straight. But there are other ways of finding out some things.’
‘How?’
And so it begins, Jasmine thought. No I am not investigating this woman’s death, but she could see that Ceri was eager to know more.
‘This is a small town,’ Jasmine said, ‘How do you normally find out what’s going on.’
Ceri didn’t have to think for long. ‘Facebook and my mother.’
‘There you are then. I expect you’ll know more than that police officer soon.’
The girl looked around her. ‘I’d better clear up here. Then I’ll ask around.’
‘You do that,’ Jasmine said starting for the door.
‘Shall we meet for coffee?’ Ceri called.
Jasmine paused and turned. ‘Yes, if you like. Same place?’
Ceri nodded and began stacking plates.

Ceri didn’t appear at the time of their previous meetings but Jasmine didn’t wait on the pier because a wind carrying flurries of rain was blowing in from the sea. She went into the café, queued for a coffee then sat in their corner seat.
Her cup was empty when Ceri strode in. She came straight to Jasmine.
‘I’m sorry. I was stuck on my phone. I was on Facebook and texting my mates, then my mother rang to tell me the news.’
‘The news?’
‘About Tegan. She held me up.’
‘That’s okay. Sit down, I’ll get the coffees.’
Jasmine returned to the table with Ceri’s cappuccino and another black coffee for herself. She sat down and smiled at the young woman.
‘Well tell me. What’s the town got to say?’
‘It’s all over Facebook,’ Ceri said, not really surprised. ‘It’s the most exciting thing that’s happened here in months. Usually it’s what tourists get up to but the season hasn’t really got going yet.’
‘So what is being said about Tegan?’
Ceri took a deep breath. ‘Well some of the posts name her and some don’t.’
‘That’s to be expected. For some people it’s just an exciting event and they don’t know or care who the victim was. What are they saying? Is there a location?’
‘A location?’
‘Where her body was discovered.’
‘Oh yes, On the Undercliff.’
‘Where’s that?’ Jasmine had an idea but wasn’t certain.
‘The road round the headland.’
‘Oh yes. I walked it the other day. It’s a few miles long, do you know where?’
Ceri was looking at her phone, her thumb flicking over the screen.
‘Yes, here we are. It’s about a mile out of town on the east side.’
Jasmine frowned as she recalled her walk. ‘I know. The cliff’s pretty sheer there. The road is tucked right against the rock.’
‘That’s the place.’
‘Any suggestions of how she died?’
Ceri’s face creased. ‘There are all sorts of ideas. They can’t all be right.’
Jasmine grinned. It was as she expected. ‘It’ll all be supposition,’ she said. ‘The police won’t have released details, but gossip gets out. Perhaps there’s some truth there somewhere. What do they say?’
‘Oh, that she was knocked down while out walking, or jogging. That’s nonsense, I don’t think Tegan ever jogged anywhere and she wouldn’t have gone for a walk after work last night or before the breakfast shift.’
‘Okay, so we can reject a typical hit and run. If she’d been hit by a driver who stopped, the police wouldn’t be asking questions about where she was last night. What else?’
‘She fell from the cliff.’
‘From what you said about her not going for a run or walk, that sounds pretty unlikely too.’
‘That’s what I thought.’
Jasmine pondered. ‘Anyway, it seems we know that Tegan’s body was found on the road a mile out of town, under a cliff, and not in a car.’
‘That’s right, Jasmine.’ Ceri nodded.
‘So how did she get there? Is that where she was killed or was her body dumped there?’
‘Dumped!’
‘It’s how bodies are got rid of.’
‘Do you mean? No, you can’t. . .’
‘Tegan was murdered. Yes I do.’ Jasmine felt a mixture of excitement and resignation. Too many deaths had impacted her life in recent years. If it wasn’t actually normal to be thinking of causes of death and motives for murder it was certainly a familiar state of mind for Jasmine. ‘What did your mother have to say?’
‘Uh, Mother? Oh she said, “good riddance”. She knows what Tegan’s been like to me.’
‘Did she think Tegan’s death was suspicious?’
Ceri’s eyes opened wide. ‘I thought she was joking. She said “I expect her partner’s got fed up with her and bumped her off”.’
‘Your mother said partner, not husband? Tegan’s not married?’
‘No, didn’t I tell you? Tegan’s partner’s a woman. Tegan’s a lesbian. I mean, she was.’

 

 

Advertisements

Jasmine on tour

I’ve been on holiday for the last week – a week without writing but with wonderful walks, admirable scenery, and excellent weather (surprisingly). We have been staying on the western edge of Pembrokeshire (Wales). One reason for coming here was to visit Skomer Island.  This is a nature reserve with no permanent inhabitants and visitors limited to 200 per day. The island is principally a nesting and breeding site for various seabirds. About 300,000 Manx shearwaters use it, about half of the breeding population. There are also guillemots, kittiwakes, amongst other visitors, plus home-based gulls, predators such as falcons, short-eared owls and choughs and other small land birds. These are all interesting and would attract keen birdwatchers to the small island, but doesn’t explain why during the breeding season there are queues for the few sailings to the island and often visitors are turned away. These birds aren’t the main attraction; top-billing goes to – the puffins.

IMGP6522

Around 30,000 puffins visit Skomer between May and July, a sizeable proportion of the total population. They spend the rest of their lives at sea in the North Atlantic, out of sight and, until recently, unknown. It is when they come ashore to mate, lay their eggs and raise their young that they become the focus of human interest and, I would say, the reason for the success of Skomer’s conservation effort. Why puffins? Well, of course, they are cute – small, colourful (in their beaks), with faces that seem to show expression (thanks to their markings), and they fly in an amusing, eager, wing-flapping manner. However, the main reason is where they nest. They lay their eggs in burrows in the soil on clifftops, which happen to be exactly the place that the human sightseers can get to. The puffins have no fear of humans – they’re protected, after all – and seem to pay little or no attention to their watchers or the clicking cameras. They will stand or sit in their burrows inches away from paths and put on a marvellous display for the tourists. On Skomer there are a number of large areas where thousands of puffins can be watched at close quarters performing their natural antics, and very amusing they are too.

The other birds nest on inaccessible cliffs, or keep out of sight. Binoculars are needed to see details or a great deal of patience is required. Puffins provide entertainment without effort. They are a gift to the conservation groups bringing in £2000 a day to Skomer in the season. I thoroughly enjoyed my visit and took dozens of photos of puffins, but while the puffins and other birds get on with the business of ensuring there is a next generation I wonder what the eager tourists to Skomer reveal us about human behaviour.

And so to next episode of Benefactors, my SF failed-novel. I really would appreciate some comments, you know.

Benefactors: Part 7

Helen felt the blood drain from her face. He hands shook. ‘You’re going to wipe my mind.’
‘A bit of it. In accordance with the Special Powers Act of 2026. I am sure you have read about the procedure Professor. The completion of the Neurone Map and the realisation that certain behaviours such as the Syndrome E abnormality could be localised and corrected by deep brain stimulation permits us to at last rectify the behaviours of people who have been radicalised or who hold dangerous beliefs.’
‘Syndrome E! That’s serial killers, suicide bombers and death cult jihadis.’
‘That is true. But the technique works as well on other parts of the brain such as the memory centres. If we can locate the site of a particular memory then it can be altered or removed.’
‘No, you can’t. I’ve read about it. It’s not as precise as that. You’ll remove my specialist knowledge. You’re going to end my career.’
The man looked sad again. ‘There may be a little collateral damage. Don’t worry. You won’t be aware of what you lose.’
‘You stupid man. You’re talking about ending my life as a thinking, reasoning person. I’ll be a vegetable.’
‘The effects may be similar to that of a stroke. Of course, we do have excellent treatment for stroke sufferers these days. The cause of your disability will of course be secret.’
‘But my friends, my colleagues. They’ll have been wondering what has happened to me. They’ll be asking questions.’
He smiled. ‘I’m afraid not. The university was informed that you were taken ill on the way to your department and that you have been removed to a specialist facility to give you the best treatment possible as your position deserves.’
Helen opened her mouth but no sound came out. Of course, she had no family. Her parents were dead and other relations were in India. She had never found time for a partner so lived alone.  They had thought of everything and tied her up in coils of lies. There was something though.
‘What about Darmaan. Are you doing the same with him. It’s a strange coincidence that he should suffer a stroke when we were together.’
‘Were you together? None of your friends or acquaintances were aware that you had been in contact with Dr Shamarke in recent days. I’m afraid that Dr Shamarke was involved in an accident on his way to work, alone.’
‘Darmaan. . .’ He’d been a friend, someone she had worked with when she needed IT assistance, but somehow she felt a huge loss. ‘Is he alright? What have you done with him?’
‘I’m afraid I do not have the authority to reveal what steps are being taken with Dr Shamarke.’
Helen sank back into the chair. She felt exhausted, defeated. They had taken everything from her – her files, her friends, her freedom and now they wanted to take her thoughts. But there was still one person who knew about the tree.
‘There’s still Jock Fraser. He’s in Kenya, and there’s still a tree.’
‘Dr Fraser is in custody. All the trees have been destroyed. They were discovered to contain a toxic narcotic which was harmful to the population.’
Helen covered her face with her hands and wept. She was a child again, being told what to do, punished for disobeying her parents.
‘I’ll leave you now, Professor. It won’t be long before we carry out the terms of your NAO.’
Helen was alone.  She sobbed for a little longer, enjoying the feeling of misery, the stab of pain caused by defeat.

Mindless misery wasn’t really her. She’d grown out of self-pity before she was ten years old. She had learned that problems always had a solution even if you had to reject everything you had. She sat up, blew her nose and started to think. Had she really been conned by Jock Fraser and others unknown? If so, was the purpose to discredit her? It was too ridiculous to contemplate. She couldn’t think of anyone who would go to such an elaborate ruse to ruin her scientific reputation. She had achieved her position by hard work not by the insights of a genius. She was a plodder not a Nobel prize winner. Another thought came to her.  If the plan had been to reveal that her acceptance of the tree data as real was a huge sting, then why was the government involved? At least she presumed her gaoler was part of the government. He seemed genuine but how would she know. This was getting confusing. She had to apply Occam’s Razor. If there are two or more explanations for a phenomenon, then the simplest is probably the correct one.
She had to accept that the data supplied to her by Fraser was from the tree and that it did contain some remarkable information. The government, or the part of it to which the agent called Orange belonged, was worried about it becoming common knowledge, and because of that they were prepared to sacrifice her mind in order to keep it secret. She had to find a way to persuade Orange not to carry out the Neurological Adjustment Order. She must retain her intellect.
The question was why the government was so worried? Was it because of the effect on the population of the knowledge that the plant’s genome was tinkered with millennia ago by an earlier, unknown civilisation or by aliens. Or, was the government scared by the possibilities of the new ideas frozen in the genome. Perhaps it wasn’t the possibilities themselves but the fear of others utilising them and surpassing the government’s own efforts. That sort of thing had fuelled the nuclear arms race but which nations now had the resources to embark on another futile competition for mutually assured destruction? But nuclear fission had been our own discovery and the atom bomb born out of the fears of the Second World War and the Cold War that followed. Surely no-one, human or otherwise, would hide, in the cells of the tree, the secrets of how humanity could eradicate itself from the universe. What would be the point of having that knowledge hidden away for hundreds of thousands of years until humans were just capable of reading and understanding its message.
She had to convince those that intended to damage her mind that the tree was a gift that could provide unmeasurable benefits and that her expertise was needed to tap it.
Helen smiled. She had a task and one that she was good at. Scientific research was not really her strength. She was far better as a teacher, an organiser, someone who could persuade the team to work together and the financiers to back the effort. She stood up and began pacing her small room.  She had a presentation to put together, perhaps the most important of her career.

………..to be continued.

Jasmine has an opinion

WP_20180516_13_28_54_ProWhat makes a woman?”, the Channel 4 programme with Munroe Bergdorf continued the exposure of gender issues in the media and to which I referred last week. The first part dealt with Munroe’s facial feminisation surgery which covered the same ground as Transformation Street.  What was more interesting was Munroe’s meetings with various people to discuss the question of whether transwomen are women.  This brought out many well-worn opinions e.g. women have beauty (!), women are mothers, women have a vagina, what you are born with is defines who you are. There were also scenes outside and inside a meeting of radical feminists opposing changes to the Gender Recognition  Act which would allow some form of self-identification of gender. The speeches were frightening in their dismissal of transwomen and using fear of men to whip up anger at transpeople using the spurious argument that if men could self-identify as women they would invade women-s spaces in order to rape them. If men wanted to they could already dress up and lie in wait in those spaces. It doesn’t happen.  The bitterness of these feminists made me sad and worried.

The problem is that 99% of the population are not only satisfied with the gender they were assigned and brought up by family, friends and society to accept, but they have given little thought to what gender is. Most people accept the binary view of the world without noticing or acknowledging that everyone has their own identity, characteristics and individuality.  If you examine the behaviour of people it is easy to see that there is a spectrum of gender. The 99% see no reason fir changing their views. But modern society has changed. On the one hand western society has become somewhat more accepting allowing transpeople (and other minorities) to be more open and assertive. Hence all the media attention. But on the other social media has provided a platform and a shield for people to be more outspoken in their views. The Brexit business in the UK and the election of Trump in the USA showed that the population is split with a sizeable proportion holding entrenched bigoted views. People are less prepared to allow others to express views that they don’t hold.  It is dangerous.

Going back to the question Munroe posed, I don’t know what the answer is, except that gender or identity is not determined by the physical form of a baby at birth. I identify as gender-fluid, although I still use “trans” for convenience. I do not know how a “woman” or a “man” thinks, despite having lived my working life as a man and being married to a woman that I love for over 30 years. I don’t think any person can know what every other person feels and, to be specific, radical feminists cannot know how other women feel about themselves.  I do know that I am comfortable being feminine rather than overtly masculine and that I am attracted to styles of dress and appearance that are labelled female. For us 1% I think it would be wonderful if there was no such thing as gender and that everyone was treated as an individual, but I’m wishing for a fairytale.

………………………

To change the subject. I had a lovely day in Aberystwyth this week attending a meeting of the Society of Authors.  As always I find writers wonderfully accepting and I am increasingly seeing the SoA as my union, providing advice and support to me as a writer. I’m looking forward to the next meeting of the Welsh chapter.

And so to the next episode of Benefactors, my SF novella or fragment of a novel.

Benefactors: Part 6

Chapter 6

The sky was bright blue but the Sun was still below the peaks of the eastern hills when Ekuru Lengabilo started up the Toyota. The boy and the old woman sat in the seats behind Jock, the boy pointing the direction to take. It took just half an hour bumping over the rough ground till they came to the entrance to a gully.
Ekuru pulled up. ‘I think it’s too narrow for the car.’
Jock got out and helped the woman and boy step down from the vehicle. ‘Lead the way,’ he said to the lad. Ekuru translated and they set off with Ekuru and the boy helping the old woman to walk. The steep-sided valley weaved left and right but within a couple of hundred metres it opened up slightly. There, standing alone on the patch of sparse grass was the tree. It was less than a metre taller than Jock with twisted, gnarled branches which were thinly leafed.
Jock stopped to take in the view. He felt joy that at least one tree still existed.
The air fizzed just above his head. The tree exploded in flame and smoke and splinters.
Jock, froze, his breath halted. On the ridges on either side of the gully, figures in full camouflage kit rose, weapons trained on him and his companions.
‘Don’t move,’ one soldier commanded in English. Ekuru turned and ran back the way they had come. Jock turned to warn him but a gun fired and Ekuru fell.
‘No!’ Jock ran to him and knelt beside his body. Blood covered the flesh-torn back. Jock knew there was no hope. The boy and woman joined him muttering in their own language. The soldiers surrounded them.
‘You will accompany us,’ the commander said and signalled them to start moving. They retraced their steps to the Toyota. A helicopter stood a short distance from the smoking wreck of the vehicle. Two of the soldiers carrying Ekuru’s body placed it by the side of the burnt-out car.
‘Get into the ‘copter,’ the commander said. Jock did as he was told helping the boy and woman to clamber on board. There was nothing else to do.
‘What’s going to happen to us?’ Jock asked. He felt the loss of Ekuru, the trees and almost all the people more than fear for his own safety.
‘Not my business to know,’ the commander said. ‘Sit down and belt yourselves in.’

Jock still didn’t have an answer to his question. They had flown at low altitude over the sparsely populated country until they reached the coast and then on out to sea. Far out in the ocean they approached a small flotilla of ships. One was an aircraft carrier that Jock recalled seeing in the news at various times in the last ten years. They landed on the deck and sank into the hanger beneath. Jock, the boy and the woman were escorted off the helicopter and then separated. Jock found himself in a small cabin with a hard bed, a toilet, a light that was permanently on and no windows. He’d taken the opportunity to rest and had dozed. The door had opened briefly at intervals of some hours and he had been given a bowl of typical naval fare but the sailor had not spoken a word.
One, two or it may have been three days later, Jock was marched from his cell to a larger cabin where he was surrounded by armed marines. He was brought to a halt in front of a desk. A senior officer, the ship’s commander sat behind the desk. He examined Jock.
‘Dr Fraser, I am instructed to inform you that you will be taken from this vessel and transported to an unnamed location.’
Jock cleared his throat trying to find his voice. ‘What about the boy and the woman?’
‘I cannot tell you.’
‘Is Ekuru Lengabilo’s killer under arrest.’ Jock felt renewed anger.
‘Mr Lengabilo was a terrorist,’ The officer said without hint of emotion.
‘Like heck he was.’ Jock clenched his fists. The commander nodded to one of the marines. Jock heard the sound of a cork being released from a bottle, a sting on his neck and his legs became like jelly.
Chapter 7

The bed was comfortable, there was an efficient shower in the en-suite, and there was an easy chair and desk. It could have been a reasonably priced hotel room. It was a cell and Helen knew it. The door was locked, there was no window and she had no access to the Net. All there was to do was read one of the paper books that had obviously been selected according to her reading tastes. She’d read them all before.
Meals were brought to her and she considered trying to make an escape but there were always guards in the corridor outside the door. Helen wondered how long she could stand this pampered but restricted existence – two days, three?
She thought it was four before he came to her. Of course her sleep pattern may have been distorted but it felt like four days.
‘Professor. I do hope you are comfortable,’ he said. He was younger than her and obviously kept himself fit but he acted as if he was at least her equal. He obviously wasn’t just an interrogator. They stood facing each other.
‘What a pointless question,’ She said, ‘I’m a prisoner. This is intolerable. You must release me.’
He smiled. ‘I’m afraid we must not. You see Professor you are a danger to the security of this nation.’
‘What on earth do you mean?’
‘You intended to distribute restricted material. That is what I mean.’
Helen glared at him. ‘I was about to share scientific data in order that we might learn its meaning and importance.’
‘Data whose owner had not released it for public consumption. Data that had been classified by the government as of national importance.’
‘Why?’
‘I do not have the authority to tell you that.’
Helen turned her back on him, walked to the easy chair and sat down. She crossed her legs and looked up at him.
‘Who are you?’
The man stared at her impassively. ‘You can refer to me as Orange. That is my designation.’
‘Are you and your colleagues all named after fruits?’
He gave her a thin smile. ‘My boss is Apple but that is not proof of the pattern you have postulated. We use the Naval Phonetic Alphabet from the First World War for our designations. Letters and numbers are somewhat clichéd. As you can tell I am quite low in the department.’ Helen wondered what government organisation he was referring to but the trouble they had gone to to keep her captive suggested something.
‘You’re scared. Or your bosses are. You think there is something in that plant genome that could threaten your position of power.’
‘That is pure supposition. It is unusual for you, Professor, to follow such a fanciful line of thought.’
Helen bit her lip. He was right of course. What was it in the plant’s genome that had caused her to ignore her normal caution? Was it Jock Fraser’s incomprehension, Darmaan’s excitement at solving the puzzle, or simply her hunch that it was special?
‘But Darmaan found a pattern, figures, mathematical formulae, physics, chemistry, biology beyond our understanding, stored in the genome of the tree.’
‘I’m afraid, Professor, you were misled. There is nothing remarkable about that tree.’
Anger welled up in Helen’s throat. ‘Misled? By whom? Not Dr Fraser. He may be an excellent botanist but he doesn’t understand genomes or binary code.’
‘How well do you know Jock Fraser?’
Helen paused. ‘We met once.’
‘And you spoke to him in Kenya.’
So they had been hacking her netlink. ‘Yes.’
‘That was all?’
Helen snorted. ‘You know it was.’
‘Well then, you didn’t know him at all.’
Helen leaned forward. ‘Are you saying that this is all a put-up. I’ve been conned by some scam or other into throwing away my scientific reputation.’
Orange shrugged. ‘There. You’ve said it.’
Helen flung herself back in the chair and looked away from him. ‘I don’t believe it.’
‘And that Professor is why you are here. The government considers your attitude and behaviour dangerous to the general well-being of the nation. That is why you have been served with a Neurological Adjustment Order.’

………………………to be continued

Jasmine absent

Following a lovely weekend with the family the rest of this week should have been getting some work done but unfortunately I have been doing some personal investigation of the NHS. On Tuesday evening I suffered severe pain, probably caused by a small kidney stone, an occurrence I last had nearly two years ago.  Needing a strong painkiller but it being too late to get to our GP we took advantage of the after hours service at Hereford Hospital.  I was given an appointment immediately and we set off. Within 45 minutes I was being looked at by the doctor and throwing up in the sink in his surgery. Having examined a pee sample, he wanted me to be seen by the Clinical Assessment Unit and gave me a letter to take there, along with some codeine that had no effect whatsoever.  The CAU was just down the corridor but when we got there found that they did not have a doctor available to assess me. So we were sent to A&E, which we had been trying to avoid. Nothing much happened for a time except for me moaning and pacing and throwing up but eventually a paramedic took pity on me, took me into a consulting room, and asked me the same questions as the GP an hour before. At least he did manage to locate a surgeon who breezed in confirmed what we thought might be wrong and sent me back to the CAU.

I was put in a cubicle, yes, a whole one all to myself, with a nice comfy bed, except that it didn’t feel that comfy to me. A nurse took a blood sample. I gave my second urine sample of the evening and I was rigged up with a cannula in my left hand. I was given a mouthful of what I was told was a morphine based pain killer but it had no effect either. They gave me an emetic via the drip but I threw up again soon afterwards. I was still in head-banging pain but at around 11 p.m., finally, the registrar gave me a strong painkiller as a suppository.  I inserted it myself. He also said that he wanted me to have a scan in the morning. As I was not an emergency they couldn’t call out the radiologist to fire-up their catscan machine, but I was urgent enough to be top of their list when they opened at 9 a.m.

It was decided that I should stay in the cubicle overnight and at last the painkiller was kicking in. Feeling somewhat better all I wanted to do was sleep, but the noise of chatter in the CAU throughout the night, and the various rhythms of beeps kept me a wake. At 6:30 a.m. when I was asleep, a nurse came in to give me some paracetamol. That was when the day started.  The day shift arrived, the catering guy came round with breakfast. I selected toast and was given a piece of untoasted bread. I had my blood pressure taken yet again – it was now getting back to normal. The consultant popped in with his retinue Soon after 9 I was taken for my scan which took no more than five minutes.

And then I waited. I was feeling better by now, although very tired and a bit sore from the vomiting. I was visited by a nurse every now and again. I was told they were waiting for the report on my scan and I may need another so I shouldn’t have lunch. It wasn’t until after two that the report came that my scan was clear and there was no obvious reason for my severe pain. Perhaps I’d passed the stone (well a bit of grit) already. The new surgeon wanted me to eat something before he let me go so I had some egg sandwiches. Finally, I was removed from the drip and sometime after 4 p.m. was released back into the community.

So, my conclusions. I was treated well; not kept waiting without treatment for the four hours the targets stipulate; I had a comfortable bed to lie on. But my post treatment period was drawn out much longer than it needed to be during which time I occupied the cubicle which may have been needed by someone else. The connection between the out of hours service, the CAU and A&E seemed somewhat disjointed (why printed letters of introduction?). Overall though, thank you to the nurses, paramedics, doctors and ancillary staff who made my short stay as comfortable as it could be. Free at the point of use, except for the car park, the NHS remains and so it should.  Everyone deserves the same care and attention that I had.

…………………………….

WP_20170923_10_43_20_ProJasmine is still taking a rest, but next Saturday I will be at the West Midlands Book Signing event in Telford when I will have all my (paperback) books for sale. Here though is the concluding  part of my short SF story, Imposter.

Imposter: part 2

Kappa looked at his hands, examining each finger and the lines on each palm. He thought he knew his hands but these weren’t his. The fingerprints were different; his life-line didn’t stretch as far as it used to. He raised a hand to his cheek.
‘Don’t touch,’ the doctor said. ‘The culture needs some time to, er, set.’
‘Just relax and enjoy the rest,’ Agent Tau said from somewhere behind his head. He was suspended about a millimetre above the smooth flat metallic surface; the back of his legs and torso covered in a sprinkling of superconducting-ceramic magnets, repelling the surface so that no part of his body touched it.
‘What have you done to me?’ Kappa asked.
‘Given you Borodin’s skin,’ Tau replied. ‘Actually it’s partly his skin and partly a synthetic polymer. We cultured the cells and the skin bacteria and fungi we found in Borodin’s room then impregnated the polymer. It covers your own skin to a depth of about one hundred micron. It’s permeable of course so your own skin can live normally but none of your skin cells will fall off. You’ll shed a trickle of Borodin’s skin cells and microbes wherever you go.’
‘So DNA and microbe tests will show that Borodin has been present and not me.’
‘That’s right. We haven’t got long though. The new skin will wear off in about a ten days.’
Kappa did a quick count. ‘That’s only two days after the mission is due to end.’
‘That’s right. We have to get you in and out pretty quickly. But you’ve got a week for your insides and outsides to settle. Oh, and to fit contacts so you can get through the iris i.d.’
Kappa looked at his hands again. ‘I presume I’ve got Borodin’s fingerprints?’
‘That’s right. The polymer skin is imprinted with them.’
‘I’m not me at all anymore, am I,’ Kappa said.
‘Not to any sensors; no you’re not.’
‘I’d better make sure I behave like Borodin then.’
‘I gather he’s a misogynistic brute who delights in violence.’
Kappa snorted, ‘With a taste for western fast food and vodka.’
‘You’re going to have to adjust a fair bit then aren’t you, Kappa,’ Tau said

The door was held open for him as he left the palace. The rear door of the stretched Mercedes was opened by the armed guard who stood to attention and saluted him. Kappa eased himself into the seat.
‘Good to see you again, Comrade Borodin,’ the driver said, looking in his mirror. ‘Where can I take you.’
‘Into town,’ Kappa said, ‘The Peacock Club.’
The driver nodded, ‘Of course.’
They drove off slowly, passing through the fortified gates of the palace compound. Soldiers saluted and Kappa graciously waved to them. He allowed himself to relax just a little. The job was done. The kid was dead and he had got out without the alarm being raised, yet.
The electric limousine sped away into the sparse traffic ignoring speed limits. After all, the passenger was a senior member of the government; laws didn’t apply to him. Now all that was left was to get out of the country and leave the real Borodin to face the music.
It wasn’t long before they were driving down the narrow streets of the old town. Old neon lights flickered from doorways offering food, drinks and sex in a variety of tastes. The car drew up at the entrance to one such with a peacock’s tail flashing above the entrance.
‘No need to wait for me,’ Kappa said as he got out. The driver nodded, closed the door and resumed his driving seat. He drove off before Kappa entered the club.
He was recognised at once, the staff and the manager bowing and offering anything he wanted.
‘Vodka,’ Kappa ordered, surprised that he actually meant it. He felt an urgent need for the alcoholic hit, ‘and food, my usual,’ he added.
He was lead to a private booth out of sight of the rest of the clientele. A waitress in a very short skirt and low cut blouse brought him a small glass and a bottle of vodka. If she had been seen on the street dressed like she was here in the club, Kappa knew she would have been assaulted or arrested. Probably both. He felt a strange emotion. His hand reached out and touched her bare thigh. Her leg trembled. He snatched his hand away. She filled the glass, smiled at him and withdrew.
He glanced at the Rolex watch on his wrist. Five minutes to his pick-up. Time for a couple of drinks. He threw the vodka down his throat. The unfamiliar burning sensation shocked him at first but then a feeling of satisfaction filled him. He poured another glass.
A minute or two passed and the alcoholic glow permeated him. The waitress returned with a plate that she placed in front of him. American style hamburger and fries. He gave her a wink. She smiled again and left him to eat.
A small light flickered faintly on his watch. His transport had arrived. Well, they can wait a moment, can’t they, Kappa thought. He lifted the burger in its bun to his mouth and took a bite. He followed it with a handful of fries.
‘Where are you, Kappa? We’re outside.’ Tau said in his ear.
Kappa growled and looked at the burger wistfully. Bloody woman, ordering him about. He imagined doing certain violent things to her.
‘Come on, Kappa. Get rid of the gun and get out.’
Kappa remembered he still had the murder weapon in his pocket. He didn’t want to be caught with it. He’d better join Agent Tau. He took the gun from his jacket, dropped it gently under the seat, knocked back the glass of vodka and got up. He didn’t feel quite steady on his feet. He started to head back towards the front entrance then remembered. It was at the rear of the club that Tau was waiting. He staggered towards the toilets.
He emerged blinking into the bright light and hot, humid air. A Toyota taxi waited with its rear door open. He stumbled towards it and fell into the back seat.
‘Close the door Kappa. Let’s go.’
Kappa pulled the door closed and immediately the car drew away. ‘Don’t you go telling me what to do, Tau.’
‘What kept you, Kappa?’ Tau asked.
‘Just a full bottle and a burger,’ Kappa said.
‘What? You kept us waiting while you ate and drank. Are you out of your mind, Kappa?’
Kappa slapped her. ‘Shut up, you slut. No woman tells Agent Kappa what to do.’
Tau felt her bruised cheek. ‘We thought this might happen. Sorry Kappa.’ She drew a gun from under her leg and shot him.

Kappa woke up. He was in a bed; the surroundings looked familiar; the medical wing that he’d spent a couple of weeks in before the mission. Agent Tau stood by his side.
‘Ah, you’re awake. Good. How are you feeling Kappa?’
Kappa wasn’t sure how to answer. He felt as if he’d been ill and was recovering, as if he’d had a bout of diarrhoea or flu.
‘Not wonderful. Why?’
‘No uncontrollable urges for alcoholic beverages or processed foods?’
‘Uh? No.’
‘Good. The replacement of your microbiome was successful then. We kept you out for a few days for your own good. You are completely yourself again, Agent Kappa.’
‘Um, thank you. The mission?’
‘The boss has declared it an almost complete success,’ Tau said, smiling broadly. ‘Dmitri Borodin has been arrested, tried and executed for the murder of the President-elect.’
‘Executed, already?’
‘Justice is swift in Rusbenya, Kappa, and the weight of the DNA and microbe cloud evidence against him was unarguable. He had no way of proving that he wasn’t in the Presidential Palace when Vitaly was killed, or in the Peacock Club where the murder weapon was found. President Gagarovich is in a coma and his followers and Borodin’s faction are eliminating each other.’
Kappa felt satisfaction at doing his job well. ‘Er, you said almost complete success.’
‘Yes, Kappa. The transplant of Borodin’s microbiome into your guts produced some undesirable effects.’
Kappa recalled slugging the vodka and the taste of the burger. ‘You mean I acquired Borodin’s taste in food and drink.’
‘It was a bit more than that actually Kappa. You were beginning to acquire his personality too. I’ve forgiven you for the slap but I’m not so sure of your reference to me as a slut.’

……………………………….

 

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.

jfjfjfjfjfjfjfjfjf

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.

WP_20180102_15_23_41_Pro

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.

jfjfjfjfjfjfjfjfjfjfjf

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.
‘Jas?’
‘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.’
‘Why?’
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.

tree-desert-namibia-dead-vlei-68661.jpeg

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?’
‘Developments?’
‘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