Jasmine deduces

One of the things I have found most difficult in the last eighteen months (i.e. post-referendum etc.) has been the division and growing anger directed from one side to the other.  This is mainly down to the media and especially those newspapers on the side that apparently “won”.  I have never liked the Daily Mail but used to ignore the fact that some people obviously found it readable.  I occasionally looked at the Telegraph but mainly because its sports coverage was comprehensive. Now, with the repeated vile and rabble-rousing attacks on anyone who invokes the democratic institutions of the UK to get the government to think again about its ruinous approach to Brexit, the EU, and foreigners, I am finding my patience sorely tested. It is increasingly difficult to respect anyone who shares those organs opinions and I detest the path the country is taking. It seems that those people in power, and  by that I mean in the cabinet and in the media who persist in pushing for this mad divorce and doing down anyone who opposes them, have scant regard for the breaks and balances that have been installed in our unwritten constitution over the centuries. They are on course to provoking serious unrest, particularly when their ill-planned policies (actually un-planned is probably closer to the truth) are enacted and the consequences become clear.  And as for the USA . . .

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WP_20170825_16_59_34_ProHaving got that off my chest let’s get on with what I prefer to spend my time doing – writing stories.  The penultimate episode of Reflex is below.  I am planning to include the complete story along with three others in a volume of Jasmine Frame prequels that will be available on Kindle in the spring. No title yet – still thinking!

Reflex: Part 8

Days passed by in the body-clock confusing pattern of shifts. James became familiar with the work of a response officer – every call different, every day the same. He developed a respect for the professionalism and efficiency of his partner PC Ward and she in turn came to trust him as her buddy. Every day brought fresh cases to test his knowledge of the law and police procedures, so he found himself with little time to think about previous callouts. Nevertheless, in the rare moments when there wasn’t some work to be done he wondered about Matthew/Melissa. He had worried that there might be consequences of his visit to Melissa while she was in custody, but after a few days his fears subsided. There was no news because there was no contact from DS Sharma or anyone else involved in the case. Nevertheless, he wondered what had really happened on that evening and who was responsible for the tragic results.
James was on a morning shift two weeks later when walking through the police station he saw DS Sharma approaching him. Sharma saw him and paused.
‘Ah, PC Frame. I’m glad I’ve seen you. I have some news for you.’
‘Oh,’ James managed.
The DS frowned at him. ‘Yes, the charges against Matthew Chapman have been dropped. We took your view that given the evidence of repeated physical attacks on the boy by his father, the use of the knife in self-defence was unfortunate but justifiable. We expect the coroner to judge the death a case of misadventure.’
‘So Melissa is free?’ James said feeling a burst of joy.
‘The boy has gone home to his mother.’
‘That’s wonderful news. Er, what was the evidence that convinced you and the CPS?’
Sharma pursed his lips deciding whether he should pass on the information. ‘The medical examination of the boy revealed bruises and other marks consistent with beatings over a period of time. Mrs Chapman confirmed that her husband frequently hit her son.’
‘She should have reported it and not let it go on.’
Sharma nodded. ‘That’s right, but women often suffer abuse and allow their children to be abused, for a long time without alerting us or the Children’s Services. If that knife had not been left on the worktop it is probable that Eric Chapman would still be beating his son now.’
James agreed.
‘Thank you for your assistance, Constable.’ The detective moved on leaving James thinking. It was that knife that made the difference. He went to the office and sat at the computer.

James changed out of his uniform and got in his car. He was ready for the drive home and he’d have a few hours before Angela got back from work. He was looking forward to spending the rest of the day relaxing as Jasmine. But there was something in his thoughts as he drove across the town towards the A34. His mind made up, he turned off the main road and into the housing estate. A few minutes later he drew to a halt outside 18 Milton Drive. It looked very much the same as the last time he had been here, although that had been at night.
He got out, paused on the path then strode towards the front door. He pressed the doorbell. There was a wait of a few seconds before the door was opened by Mrs Chapman. She looked at him, puzzled, then recognised him.
‘You’re that policeman that was with that Asian detective.’
‘Yes. I’m PC Frame.’
‘What’s wrong?’ she raised a hand to her face, ‘Nothing’s happened to Melissa has it?’
‘No, Mrs Chapman, I’m not on duty.’
Now she looked slightly angry. ‘Why are you here then?’
‘I heard that the charge had been dropped. I wanted to ask about Melissa. You used her femme name.’
Wendy Chapman’s eyes explored James. Finally, she pushed the door wider.
‘You’d better come in.’
She led James into the lounge and urged him to sit on a well-used sofa.
‘Melissa said that you visited her when she was in that children’s prison.’
‘The secure unit, that’s right. I shouldn’t have but I needed to know how she was. I was delighted that they were letting her dress.’
Wendy replied dreamily, ‘Dress as a girl. Yes. It’s what she wanted. What she always wanted.’
‘And you’re letting her live as Melissa full-time?’
The mother nodded. ‘It seemed to thing to do. She hasn’t gone back to school, not yet anyway. She started at the special unit in town yesterday.’
‘I see,’ James wasn’t sure how to answer as he didn’t know anything about the facility Mrs Chapman had referred to. He presumed it was for the children who had problems in mainstream schools, perhaps with bullies.
Wendy was looking at him closely. ‘I remember now. You were one of the police who got here after it happened, when Melissa had run off.’
‘That’s right. My colleague and I picked her up over by the marina.’
She shook her head. ‘I don’t know what Mel might have done if you hadn’t.’
James nodded. ‘I was glad we found her fairly quickly.’
‘And then you were with Detective Sharma. . .’
‘He asked me to sit in on the interviews.’
‘. . .because you knew someone who was trans. That’s what he said wasn’t it?’
James nodded.
‘A girl called Tamsin?’
‘Yes.’
‘You understood what Melissa was feeling. It was you that said that what Melissa did wasn’t deliberate.’
‘That’s right. She was defending herself,’ James said, ‘Her father had hit her so often for dressing up as the girl she felt herself to be, that she just grabbed the only weapon that was available to stop him hurting her again. That was what happened, wasn’t it?’
Wendy Chapman, sniffed and nodded. ‘You know how strong the urge was for Melissa to be herself.’
‘I do.’
‘It didn’t matter how often Eric found out what she was doing and punished her for it. She couldn’t, wouldn’t stop.’
‘But you encouraged her didn’t you,’ James said.
The woman stared at him. ‘What do you mean?’
‘You bought stuff for her, clothes, make-up. You helped her. That evening you were styling her hair.’
‘She wants to be a girl so much. I had to help her.’
‘But didn’t that make her father even more angry?’
She nodded.
‘He beat you too.’
She nodded again.
‘So why did you stay. Why didn’t you take your child away to keep her and yourself safe?’
She gave him a look of surprise. Was it because she had never considered escaping her abusive husband or surprise that he should ask the question?
‘Um, er, he wasn’t a bad man. Often, he was a good father. He just had these rages when he thought that Matthew wasn’t behaving as a boy should.’
‘You could have got help, advice.’
She shrugged. The thought had never occurred to her.
‘Something was different that evening wasn’t it?’ James said.
Wendy looked at him, uncertain. ‘What do you mean.’
‘Well,’ he began, ‘you were down here in the kitchen where Mr Chapman would see you the moment he came into the house. You could have been doing Melissa’s hair upstairs where you’d have a few seconds warning of his arrival.’
‘We weren’t expecting him to come home then.’
‘Are you sure?’
‘Yes. He was due home soon after eight. He was doing overtime. Melissa and I thought we had a couple of hours at least.’
‘Melissa might have thought that but I’m not sure you did.’
Mrs Chapman glared at him, ‘What are you saying?’
‘I checked with the factory. There was no overtime planned for that evening. Mr Chapman’s shift finished at its scheduled time of five o’clock. Either Mr Chapman told you a lie about the time he was due home, or you knew he would arrive home while you were doing Melissa’s hair. You were expecting him to walk in on the pair of you.’

……………………………..to be concluded

 

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Jasmine socialises

20170930_153501 (2)The news continues to be mind-chillingly awful but a number of items this week made me wonder what kind of life our children and young people are going to experience.  One was about the swarms of paedophiles who descend on any young girl (I think it’s particularly girls) who decide to post photos on certain social media apps. The reporter talked of girls receiving thousands of responses to any picture of themselves followed by requests to “show a bit more”. Are children learning to discriminate between genuine friendships and the creepy, wheedling, grooming by older men? I hope so but I’m not sure how.

The second item concerned “fake news”, previously known as lies. Not many young people sit down to watch the News at 6 or any other time and I doubt whether many use the newspaper apps on their smart phones. The only “news” they pick up are the posts on social media apps like Snapchat.  These share lies, gossip, conspiracy theories, and extremist propaganda tarted up as reasonable viewpoints which swamp the truth and informed opinions.  How do young people, or any of us for that matter, sort the truth from the lies? It is very difficult and I think we all fall for misplaced blaring indignation from time to time.

The point about both of these news items was that the internet providers and social media services are doing nothing to correct it. Google, Facebook, Instagram and all the others are turning over huge sums of money (largely from advertising), mutter about protecting people, but actually do very little. I think something will (must) happen in the not too distant future which will change the situation but not necessarily return us to a state of internet innocence.

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Let’s get back to contemplating the approaching festive season – there’s still plenty of time to purchase your copies of my Jasmine Frame  and September Weekes books, either on Kindle or as paperbacks (from paintedladiesnovel@btinternet.com).  And here is the next episode of the novella, Reflex, set in 2006 (before all that social media stuff really got started).  Jasmine is having an evening off. . .

Reflex: Part 7

Jasmine parked the Fiesta alongside a few other cars on the gravel beside the low brick building. It was the village hall but was some distance outside the village and surrounded only by trees and fields. A little light filtered through curtains but otherwise it was dark. She and Angela got out and approached the door. Jasmine found herself surprisingly apprehensive. She had been going out as Jasmine for years and had visited clubs on straight and LGBT nights with and without Angela many times. This, however, was her first time at a social meeting for transgendered people.
Angela pulled on the heavy door and a waft of slightly warmer air, a buzz of conversation and the music of the Beegees emerged. Jasmine wondered if there would be dancing. They stepped inside the hall. It was brightly lit with six tables set out around the edge. About a dozen people turned as one and looked at them. They all appeared to be women, although a couple were wearing trousers. A rather buxom lady with dark hair approached them. She wore a flowery dress.
‘Ah, you must be Angela and Jasmine. I’m Belinda,’ she said in a deep male voice, holding out her hand. Jasmine and Angela shook it in turn. ‘Come and meet everyone.’ Belinda ushered them towards the little groups of ladies. The conversation, that had stopped, picked up again.
In a whirl of name exchanging, Belinda introduced Jasmine and Angela to all the other members of the Butterflies Club. There were a pair of married couples but all the rest were single “ladies”; Jasmine was unsure who was a transsexual living full-time as a woman, or a transvestite spending the evening in their alternative femme persona. She thought though that she would be able to work it out after a few minutes observation and chat.
‘Now there’s one last person to meet,’ Belinda said, guiding them to the hatch in the middle of the side wall. There, smiling from behind a counter, was a small lady in an apron, cutting up portions of Tesco quiche. ‘This is Susan, my darling wife,’ Belinda announced.
Susan greeted them and was soon chatting to Angela about Butterflies, her life with Belinda and gossip about the other members. Belinda asked what Jasmine would like to drink. She opted for an orange juice while Angela accepted a large white wine. That means I’m driving home, Jasmine thought, but wasn’t too disappointed.
She went off to chat with the other Butterflies. Most appeared to be in late middle-age, with a taste in fashion that, except for one or two, may have been gleaned from their mothers. The exceptions favoured short dresses with stockings and high heels and shoulder-length hair. There were all sorts of professions represented from road hauliers to doctors with a sprinkling of telecoms engineers. There was one member who Jasmine found herself gravitating to. She appeared younger than the others and was dressed more like herself – a skirt over opaque tights with, in her case, a loose jumper on top. Also, her brown hair, cut in a bob, appeared to be her own. She had been introduced as Rachel. She admired Jasmine’s embellished and more fitted top. They were soon chatting about mundane matters and commenting on the other members’ tastes.
Soon food was served and the Butterflies descended on the buffet more like another species of insect. Rachel however took a small plate of food.
‘It’s the oestrogen,’ she said. ‘It makes me put on weight when I just glance at a currant bun.’
‘You’re transitioning,’ Jasmine said, then regretted blurting it out.
‘All done,’ Rachel said with obvious pride, ‘I had my surgery last year.’
‘I’m sorry, I shouldn’t have assumed. . .’
Rachel shook her head, ‘No, it’s OK. I don’t mind talking about it, and if you can’t here,’ she waved at the other ladies, ‘where can you talk about being trans.’
Jasmine nodded in agreement. ‘When did you start?’
‘Oh, years ago, in my twenties. It took ages to reach the top of the list.’
‘Did you always know you were a woman?’
‘As far back as I can remember. Although I didn’t know what transitioning would involve until I was in my late teens. It’s easy for kids today, with the internet to tell them all about trannies.’
‘You were dressing as a girl when you were a teenager?’
‘Oh, yes. Every opportunity I had.’
Jasmine nodded. She had done the same although she had never decided to transition.
‘Did your parents know?’
Rachel snorted. ‘Oh yes, they knew alright.’
‘And supported you?’
‘Ah, that’s more complicated. My mother did, my father didn’t. He couldn’t bear me looking like a girl. I think it offended his own masculinity.’
‘What happened?’
‘My parents divorced when I was fifteen.’
‘Did they blame it on you being trans?’
Rachel shrugged. ‘My father may have done but I haven’t seen him since. My mother has never mentioned it, but she’s always been on my side. If we were out together and someone had a go at me she would tear into them. Nearly got us into trouble with the cops a couple of times.’
‘Really, how?’
Rachel thought for a moment. ‘Once we were out shopping. A couple of lads barged into us and pushed me around a bit. My Mum launched into them whirling her handbag like an offensive weapon. There happened to be a cop nearby and he waded in to separate them.’
‘Mothers can be fierce at times,’ Jasmine said. Rachel asked about Jasmine’s experience and relationship with Angela.
They were putting the tables away when Jasmine realised that the evening had passed. Rachel said farewell and Jasmine was left with Angela, Belinda and a few of the other ladies finishing the washing-up. Belinda bent down to turn off the small CD player sitting on the stage then straightened up.
‘Well, that’s it until next month,’ she said. ‘I hope we see you again, Jasmine, Angela.’
‘Yes, I hope so,’ Jasmine replied, ‘but it can be difficult. I’m on shifts you see, and sometimes don’t get off when I should.’
‘Oh, what do you do?’ Susan asked while folding the tea-towels.
‘I’m a police officer,’ Jasmine replied then wondered whether it was wise to reveal her career, ‘Oh, please don’t spread that around.’
Belinda nodded. ‘Don’t worry, we won’t. All personal details are confidential in Butterflies. Actually, some of the girls are a bit wary of the police.’
‘Why?’ Jasmine asked.
‘They remember times when the police weren’t too supportive of trans girls.’
‘Not now, surely.’ Jasmine thought of the diversity training she had received.
‘No, I’m talking about the eighties and earlier. Some of us have been around that long,’ Belinda winked. ‘It wasn’t unknown for police to arrest men dressed as women, give them a beating and then put them in front of a magistrate for disturbing the peace.’
Jasmine shivered. ‘Things have changed.’
‘I know,’ Belinda smiled, ‘and the Gender Recognition Act has been a help to all of us.’
Jasmine and Angela said their goodbyes and left the hall. They were driving along the country lanes towards Reading and bed before Angela spoke.
‘Well, what do you think?’
‘About what?’
‘The Butterflies. Do you want to come again?’
‘Yes, I think so. Doesn’t have to be every month. It’s not the most exciting of evenings and most of them are pretty old.’
Angela laughed. ‘Yes, and look like men in drag.’
‘I think it’s difficult for some. Perhaps they don’t have someone like you to support them. They’re a bit out of date.’
‘Nevertheless, you found someone to talk to.’
‘Yes, Rachel. She’s a post-op.’
‘Really. Gave you ideas, did she?’
Jasmine took his eyes off the road to look at Angela. Her face was in the dark but he knew she was examining him closely.
‘Yes, well no. If you mean do I think I want to be like her, then no I don’t.’ She wanted to convince herself as much as Angela and wasn’t sure she had. ‘She took a long time to complete her transition and her parents divorced, probably because of it, but her mother was really supportive.’
‘Like your friend, Melissa’s mother.’
‘Hmm, yes,’ Jasmine thought about what Rachel had said and about Melissa. She realised that she was dressed almost the same as Melissa had been when they met earlier in the day. Had she copied the young girl’s style unconsciously this evening? The trans-girl was certainly on her mind.

……………………. to be continued

Jasmine on the spot

There have been so many bits of news this week that have annoyed me and increased my anxiety about the world but they are political and I don’t want to fill this blog with my diatribes. Still, it is worrying times.

20170930_130251 (2)There was one thing that amused me.  I was out in the street and was approached by a fellow that I never expected to speak to me nor I to him. He told me that we need to “do our own thing” and “hold our heads high” and that he thought I was great for doing what I do. I realised that he was referring to my gender fluidity.  At the time he spoke, I was in typical male garb but I had seen him out and about when I was dressed in a skirt and boots. Since I gave up wearing a wig and merely have my hair done in a more feminine style, a little make up and change of clothes is not going to disguise me. It was proof that I am out as my bi-gendered self and pleasant to be complimented on it. Perhaps society isn’t going down the pan.

Anyway, to Jasmine.  The next episode of the prequel to Painted Ladies is below. In Reflex, Jasmine spends most of her time as James and is not sure what her/his future holds. It is interesting to be writing this novella length story at the same time as writing Molly’s Boudoir which takes place much later in Jasmine’s transition.  Don’t forget that the other two novels, Bodies By Design and The Brides’ Club Murder are available as e-books and paperbacks.

 

Reflex: Part 3

Daylight was still a few hours away when James slid into bed beside Angela. She stirred and murmured but he didn’t want to wake her up. He lay there, feeling her warmth, while thinking about his night’s shift, his first active service on a response team and he had had a murder. Or was it manslaughter. Surely, Matthew had not intended to kill his father. In fact, James wondered whether the boy, or girl, should be charged at all. Could it be proved that he was defending himself from the larger man? James wondered what trauma the young transgirl had been through in her life – discovering herself while meeting opposition from one of the people who should be protecting her.
He had drifted into a light sleep when Angela got up to start her day. He turned over.
‘Morning love,’ he muttered.
Angela was apologetic. ‘Oh, I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to wake you up. You must be knackered.’
‘Mmm.’
‘How did it go, your first night on patrol?’
James pushed himself up his pillow and told her the story of the night. She sat down beside him and wrapped her arms around him as he described finding Matthew/Melissa, her arrest and then taking her to the police station before being handed to the children’s services while the investigation proceeded.
‘What will happen to her?’ Angela asked.
‘For a start it will be “him” as far as the investigating officer and the CPS are concerned. Melissa hadn’t begun to transition because I think, only she and her mother knew the truth about her gender identity.’
‘Okay, but he’ll have to go to court?’
‘I expect so. The charge will depend on whether they think he was defending himself or intended to harm or kill his father.’
‘What’s the evidence against him?’
‘I’m not sure, but that knife being so handy is a problem. Did Matthew have it with the intention of causing injury to the father who he disliked? He had the opportunity and they will dig around to find the motive for wanting to kill his father.’
‘But they will understand that he is really Melissa; that she is trans.’
‘I’m not sure Ange. She’ll be traumatised by what has happened and she may not be in a state to describe how she feels.’
‘What about the mother? Won’t she support her child?’
‘I don’t know. She’s lost a husband. I don’t know how close they were.’
‘Oh, James, what a mess.’
James bowed his head. ‘Yes. I really feel for the kid. How would I have felt if my father had found out about me when I was that age, and took against it.’
‘Your father never did know about Jasmine.’
‘I know, and because he’s dead now I will never know if he could understand why I have to be Jasmine now and then.’
‘Your mother knows.’
‘Yes, but she can’t accept that part of me wants to be a woman.’
‘She can’t let go of the boy she raised.’
James shrugged, ‘Which is why I wonder how much Melissa’s mother is on her side.’
Angela stood up. ‘I’d better get ready for work. What are you going to do about Melissa?’
James lay back. ‘What can I do? It’s in the hands of the investigating officer from the Violent and Serious Crime unit. He’ll interview Matthew and his mother and anyone else they think of, then pass the case to the CPS. I’ve written up my report with Sarah. That’s the end of my involvement.’

Later, James reported for duty. He met up with PC Ward in the briefing room and they chatted about the previous night’s events. The Sergeant came in and gave them and the other response teams an update on the present situation and issued orders for the shift.
‘What about us?’ Sarah said when she and James weren’t given any instructions.
The Sergeant replied, ‘I want you to hold on here for a while. DS Sharma wants to speak to you.’
‘He’s the SIO in last night’s case,’ James said.
‘That’s right. He’ll be along shortly.’ The Sergeant went out and the other teams set off leaving James and Sarah alone.
‘Why does he need to speak to us?’ Sarah said to the wall as much as to James. ‘Our report was okay.’
‘I think so,’ James said.
‘It’s a simple case, isn’t it? Manslaughter. The kid will get a few years in a youth offender institution.’
James shrugged, ‘I suppose so.’
The door opened, and the Detective Sergeant who had appeared at the scene of the crime the previous evening entered. He looked from Sarah to James.
‘PC James Frame?’ James nodded. ‘You picked up Matthew Chapman, last night.’
‘We found him,’ James agreed.
The DS shook his head. ‘No, I mean it was you, PC Frame, that spoke to him, stopped him from jumping in the river and persuaded him to come into custody.’
‘Er, yes,’ James replied.
‘Well, I have a request to make,’ DS Bhanu Sharma said. ‘The boy is refusing to talk to me or my colleagues. Either he’s too choked up by what he’s done or he’s blocking us. We need to get him to admit to what he did, but he says he’ll only speak to you, PC Frame.’
‘Oh,’ James muttered feeling confused.
‘Why?’ PC Ward said, ‘We were both there. I read him his rights and we brought him in in the car.’
‘All he says is that PC Frame understands. I think he means about this wanting to be a girl thing his mother’s mentioned. What do you know about it Frame?’
James felt ice spread from his chest to the top of his head. His principal horror was his colleagues discovering about Jasmine, laughing about his desire to wear female clothes and act like a girl. He couldn’t imagine being able to survive the nightmare of his other life being talked about. His career in the police would be over.
‘Um,’ was all he managed.
‘What is it man? Do you know anything about this transvestism thing this boy’s got?’
The words came out slowly. ‘Uh, I think the term is transsexual, Sir.’
‘Isn’t it the same thing?’ the DS said.
‘No, a transsexual wants to live their life in the gender they identify with which isn’t their biological gender.’
‘What does that mean?’
‘Matthew said he’s really a girl and that he wants to be called Melissa.’
Sarah stared at James with her mouth open. ‘Did he tell you that last night?’
James nodded.
‘But you didn’t put it in the report,’ PC Ward said
‘I didn’t think it was factually relevant to us finding him and arresting him.’
‘Anything the suspect says is important,’ DS Sharma said, ‘As a police officer you should know that. You’d better revise your report, but first tell me what you know about this trans stuff.’
‘Um,’ James searched for an answer, ‘It was at university.’ He began.
‘What was? Come on, man,’ Sharma said.
‘I knew someone who was transgender.’
‘Transgender. What’s that?’ the DS asked.
‘It’s a sort of general term for people who have questions about their gender. It includes transvestites and transsexuals.’
‘Questions about their gender! Pah! Okay, so did you know this guy well?’
‘Yes, I got to know her pretty much,’ James relaxed a bit. Perhaps this imaginary friend could take the pressure off him. She could be an amalgam of Jasmine and other TG people he and Angela had met. ‘She was called Tamsin,’ he concluded, the name having popped into his mind.
‘This Tamsin was a bloke?’ Sharma asked.
‘She’d been born a boy and had the body of a man, but she lived as a woman and wanted to have gender reassignment surgery.’
‘What’s that?’
‘A sex change. That’s what the papers call it.’
‘But he’d still be a guy.’
‘When we were at uni, but now, since 2004. . .’
‘2004?’
‘The Gender Recognition Act. She could apply for a certificate now, recognising her change of gender and get a new birth certificate.’
The DS stroked his chin. ‘You think that is what Chapman wants?’
James shrugged. ‘I don’t know, Sir. We only exchanged a few words, but I got the impression that Melissa is pretty certain that she is a girl and that her father didn’t approve.’
‘Hmm, well, we’d better get you into the interview room. Perhaps he’ll open up to you and spill the beans on his relationship with his father and whether he intended to kill him.’
Sarah stepped in, ‘Jim, are you sure you knew this Tamsin well enough to cope with Matthew or Melissa or whoever?’
James faced Sarah, ‘I think so, Sarah. I’d like to have a go with Melissa.’
‘Come on then, PC Frame,’ the DS said heading for the door, ‘Time is money and my boss won’t want to have to spend too much on this case. See what you can get out of the kid.’

………………….to be continued

 

Jasmine searches

Let’s get the advertising out of the way.

From today until Tuesday 8th you can get Discovering Jasmine for Kindle Free.  Go here to get your copy.

Discovering Jasmine introduces Jasmine when she is the seventeen years old James, just learning what his need to be feminine means. It leads to her first case, defending an older transsexual. Discovering Jasmine is a novella length story.

discovering jasmine final cover

Right, that’s done.

So what has caught my eye this week.  Well, I suppose it’s the resignation  of Defence Secretary Michael Fallon for “inappropriate behaviour”.  He wasn’t, perhaps, the most obvious candidate to be the first to fall in the Westminster sex-pest scandal but I thought his attempts to wriggle were contemptuous.  First, he seemed to think that there has been a huge change in morals in the fifteen years since he groped a journalist – not in my mind there hasn’t.  It is approaching a hundred years since women got the vote and more than thirty since they achieved (if that is the right word) equality in law. I think treating women as objects to maul and grope was wrong fifteen, thirty, more years ago. Secondly he made his apology only to the servicemen which he oversaw in his cabinet post. There was no real apology to women in general for his attitude to them or to men for again bringing masculinity into disrepute.  Who knows who else will be revealed as a perpetrator of this misogyny.  What I find interesting is that the aftershocks of the Weinstein affair, in the UK at least, have caught up politicians more than any other group.

……………………..

Now to return to Jasmine Frame and the second episode of the new prequel story, Reflex.

Reflex: Part 2

They drove slowly through the estate.
‘Have we got a description?’ James asked.
‘Sort of,’ Sarah replied. ‘Matthew is a little small for his age and slight. He’s got long dark hair and he’s wearing skinny jeans and a jumper.’ James thought the boy sounded like many others of his age but since the dark streets were deserted there wasn’t anyone to check.
They carried on along estate roads, but James noticed that although Sarah was driving slowly they were moving away from the scene of the crime.
‘Are we headed somewhere?’ James asked.
‘I have an idea. Not sure if it’s right,’ the PC answered.
‘What is it?’
‘Well, if you’d done something really bad. . .’
‘Like kill your father?’
‘Yes, so you had to get away. Where would you go?’
James considered. ‘I don’t know. A dark hole where I couldn’t be found?’
Sarah shrugged. ‘OK, that’s a possibility, anywhere else.’
‘I don’t know Abingdon, I don’t know where I’d go.’
‘If you were at home in Reading?’
‘Uh. I’m not sure. Down by the river. The river path is deserted at night and you can get right out of town.’ And you can jump in and drown yourself, James thought.
‘That’s it. We’re headed for the river. I’m taking the shortest route. Matthew hasn’t had that long, so he might still be heading this way.’
‘Well, it’s a long shot I suppose, but apart from searching every side street I can’t think of any other idea.’
Now they were driving along a straight road with playing fields and park on either side. Then there was water.
‘Where are we?’ James asked.
‘The Marina.’
The road became a track with moored boats to the left. They reached a car park. Sarah stopped and turned off the engine.
‘Come on. We’re on foot now. Get the torches.’
James reached into the glove box and pulled out a couple of LED torches. They got out and James followed Sarah along an unlit path that headed into woodland. They turned the torches on.
‘This path does a circuit of a peninsula,’ Sarah explained, ‘Alternatively there’s another that heads down the riverbank.’
‘A quick round trip can’t hurt,’ James said, ‘It’s pretty secluded.’ The trees provided plenty of cover for a boy that wanted to hide himself with just brief glimpses of the moonbeam-dappled surface of the river beyond. James thought their task was pretty hopeless but couldn’t think of a better idea. He almost couldn’t believe it when a cast of the torch light illuminated a figure between the trees. Was it a person or were his eyes confused by an oddly shaped tree stump?
‘There,’ he said pointing and starting to trample through the undergrowth towards the silhouette. His guess was confirmed when the figure moved.
‘Matthew, stop!’ Sarah called but the boy went on towards the river. James stumbled over a tree root, regained his balance, ran on. He saw Matthew stop.
‘Don’t come any closer. I’ll jump in,’ the boy said. James froze. He was twenty feet from the boy, with just grass and small shrubs between them. Matthew stood on the ends of a muddy bank that shelved into the water. James could see the river was flowing quite rapidly.
‘Alright,’ he said shining his torch on the lad. ‘We want to help you. It’s no point staying out here.’
‘You can’t help me,’ the boy sobbed, ‘After what I did.’
James couldn’t say things weren’t so bad because there were fewer things worse than killing your father. The boy probably didn’t even know his father was dead. Telling him now wouldn’t help matters. He took a few steps forward. Matthew didn’t move.
‘You can get through this. We’re not going to hurt you,’ James want on. Sarah stayed in the trees while James edged forward keeping the light on the boy.
‘I didn’t mean it,’ the boy’s voice broke. ‘He came at me. The knife was just there.’
The boy was facing him, his back to the river. James was just a few steps away. He shone the torch on Matthew, not directly in his eyes but illuminating his head and body. His face was streaked. Tears or sweat? There was something not quite right. James examined the boy’s face. There was a bruise on his left cheek bone but there was colouration around his eyes and his lips. James saw his own face in mirror. He recognised what he saw. The boy was wearing make-up.
James reached out to him. Matthew flinched, stepped back, overbalanced, was falling. James leapt forward and grabbed him. He hugged the boy to his body. Matthew went limp and cried.
‘I didn’t mean to. . .’ he said through sobs. ‘I just picked it up and held it. He came forward and . . . and. . .’
‘It was a reflex,’ James said, ‘self-defence.’ He wasn’t sure that was an excuse which would stand up in court.
The boy nodded his head. James looked down at him. There really was a sizeable bruise on the lad’s left cheek. The skin was grazed.
‘Why did your father hit you?’
‘He wasn’t supposed to see me. He was early. I was showing Mum.’
‘What were you showing her?’
‘My new eye-shadow.’
‘Do you often wear make-up, Matthew?’
‘I’m not Matthew, not really. I’m Melissa.’
James hugged him/her tighter. What a mess. How was he supposed to react? Say, “Yes, I understand, I’m trans too”. That would reveal Jasmine to his colleagues and his superiors. He wasn’t ready for that.
‘You’re trans?’ He said. Melissa nodded.
‘That is why your father attacked you?’ Another nod.
‘Your mother knows?’ And another.
‘Anyone else?’ A shake of his head.
‘Okay, I’m Jim Frame. I’ll help you.’
PC Ward was at his side.
‘Well done, Jim. Let’s get him back to the car.’
They walked back through the trees, The boy, or rather girl, at James’ side clinging to him. They got back to the police car and put Matthew/Melissa on the back seat. James sat beside him. Sarah got in the driving seat.
She let out a long, slow sigh. ‘Okay. We’re heading for the police station, Matthew. This is going to be hard for you, but you’ll be looked after. No-one’s going to hurt you.’ She turned the ignition.
No-one but yourself, James thought, and put an arm around the trans-girl.

……………………………. to be continued

 

Jasmine on patrol

The news has been depressing again lately – no, I’m not going to go over it all – and then something happened that gave me a lift.  It was an email out of the blue from an old school friend.  We haven’t met or been in contact for a long time (25 to 30 years I think). Like me he is retired now and doing what he enjoys doing which happens to be photography, and he has moved back closer to our childhood home. Hopefully we can now keep in touch and meet up.

That contact gave me a burst of nostalgia. I have said that my mother suffered from nostalgia – the pain of missing the past. I inherited a bit of it, dwelling on old memories and hanging on to artefacts that jog remembrance of people, places and events. It is a constant trial to live in the present, to make the most of the time and companions and freedoms that we have now and not spend time recalling what was and what might have been. Nostalgia can be dangerous as it can give a golden glow to what happened a considerable time ago, making you forget the reasons why you made certain decisions and leading you to the edge of regret. So, anyone who suffers from it must look to the future, take advantage of the present and grasp new opportunities. I’m trying.

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WP_20170923_10_43_20_ProWith Cold Fire now well and truly launched (there are other events happening like a signing at The Castle Bookshop, Ludlow on 2nd December and something at NovaCon in November) I am turning my attention back to Jasmine.  I am getting on with Molly’s Boudoir again (hooray) and wondering about bringing out one or two of the prequels as an e-book  (it would be great if I was overwhelmed with a resounding “yes, please”).  Here, I am starting another prequel, called Reflex. It takes place when James was a fairly new cop.  I don’t think it will be a long story but we’ll see where it takes Jasmine.  I hope you enjoy the first part.

 

 

Reflex – part 1

James buckled himself in as PC Sarah Ward started the engine and drove them out of the Police Station carpark. It was his first shift as a member of the response team and he was filled with a variety of emotions. There was excitement at meeting new experiences as a police officer and apprehension about what those experiences might be.
‘We’ll take a run through the town centre, first,’ PC Ward said. ‘We might see a character or two from the observation list.’
James nodded. He’d examined the list of names of people, mainly male drug dealers, who they were on the lookout for. He tried to recall features from the photos that had been supplied, mostly from previous arrests. They made slow progress.
‘Is it always this busy?’ James asked.
‘‘Fraid so, especially during rush hours like now,’ Sarah replied, ‘You don’t know the town?’
‘No. Never been here until I got my posting.’
‘Where do you live?’
‘Reading. That’s where we’ve been since before I joined the force.’
‘We?’
‘Me and my wife, Angela. We met at uni.’
‘That’s nice.’
They reached a junction in the inner ring road and Sarah turned off it. The queue of traffic moved a little quicker.
‘Let’s show you the river. There are some well used spots down there. It’ll be good to have a nose around while we’ve still got some light.’ They turned onto a road that ran parallel to the river. James gazed out at the trees on the opposite bank that were beginning to show their autumn colours in the sunset. Sarah slowed as they travelled along the wharf.
The squawk from the radio made James jerk alert.
“All cars. Incident at 18 Milton Drive, Abingdon. A male reported to be injured.”
The car surged forward. James looked at Sarah.
‘Tell them we’re on our way,’ She ordered.
James pressed the call button and did as he was told.
‘Do you know where it is?’ He asked.
‘Yes,’ Sarah replied as she flicked on the sirens and lights. ‘Not far. On the poets’ estate.’
‘Poets?’
‘All the roads are named after British poets.’ She overtook slow moving traffic that had pulled to the left.
James had looked at a map of the town but was still confused about its layout. ‘Where?’
‘On the west side. A 70s estate.’
‘Oh.’ They drove at speed along a main road, jinked around a roundabout and entered the narrower streets of the housing estate. James marvelled at the familiarity that Sarah showed with the layout of the town. How long would it be before he was as experienced?
They entered a straight road with bungalows on one side and semi-detached houses on the other. There was a dead end ahead. The car slowed.
‘I think we’re just about. . . here.’ Sarah said as she pulled up. ‘First, too.’ She pushed her door open and jumped out. James did the same and followed his partner up a short driveway. There were lights on inside number 18 but the front door was closed. Sarah knocked firmly.
‘Police. Hello. Is anybody in?’
James heard movement; someone running to the door. The door was flung open. A woman stood there.
‘Oh, please. It’s Eric. He’s hurt.’
Sarah stepped inside and urged the woman to lead them. James followed down a hallway and into a kitchen. The bright light and orderliness only highlighted the bloody handprints on the worktop and doorway and the body of a man sprawled on the floor. Blood spread from his chest onto the tiles.
PC Ward knelt to examine the man. The woman, whom James presumed to be his wife, stood sobbing by his side. He was unsure whether to comfort her. He looked around and noticed a knife with a bloodstained blade lying a few feet from the injured man. It was a typical kitchen knife. Who had wielded it? The woman had blood on her hands and on her clothes. Had she attacked the man, her partner, Eric? Should he move her away from the victim?
Another siren drew closer.
‘Go and see who that is, Jim,’ Sarah said twisting her neck to look for him.
‘How is he?’ James asked. Sarah grimaced. James took that as a “not good” and pushed past the woman to reach the front door. He got to the entrance to see a yellow and green 4-by-4 pull up. The paramedic got out and hurried with his bag to the house.
‘Is this it?’ he said.
James stood to one side holding the door wide. ‘Yes, in the kitchen. Man been knifed, it looks like.’
The paramedic bustled towards his subject. James remained, still not sure what to do next. The kitchen was obviously getting crowded. PC Ward appeared urging the woman towards the living room at the front of the house.
‘This is a crime scene, James,’ Sarah said, ‘It’s our job to secure it. There’ll be more of our lot but also members of the public. We have to keep them out. Go and get the tape and start setting up a barrier.’
James remembered his training for this sort of activity. It was his first time as first on the scene at a major crime. He hurried out to the police car, opening the boot to pull out tape and bollards. Yet another siren signalled the arrival of another response team. The road was getting quite cluttered.

By the time he had erected a tape fence around the front of the house, another two police cars and an ambulance had arrived. There was also a growing crowd of estate dwellers, adults and children. James was occupied in keeping them back beyond the vehicles, helped by his new colleagues.
‘James? How are you doing?’ James turned to see Sarah striding along the pavement.
‘OK. How’s the man?’
The PC shook her head. ‘Gone I think. He wasn’t breathing when we arrived. The knife must have gone straight through his heart. There was enough blood.’ She looked at her hands. In the yellow streetlight James could see they were bloody. ‘I need to get cleaned up,’ Sarah added and went to their car. James followed her.
‘Did the woman do it?’ he asked.
Sarah dug in the boot and emerged wiping her hands on a cloth. ‘Mrs Chapman? No, she says it was their son.’
‘Son? Where is he?’
‘Gone. He ran off as soon as he had done it.’
‘What! Stuck a knife in his father and ran away. How old is he?’ James imagined a man in his late teens or twenties attacking the older man.
‘Fourteen, named Matthew.’
The picture in James’ head changed radically. Why? How? ‘Did the mother, Mrs Chapman, say what happened?’ he asked.
‘Not a lot. She’s talking to DS Sharma. He’s attached to the serious crime squad. We need to find the boy.’
‘Us?’
‘Yes. He can’t have got far and we’re the local patrol. We’re supposed to know where he might have gone.’
James snorted. ‘I haven’t got a clue. Aren’t we supposed to be keeping the perimeter secure?’
‘The others can do that. Get in the car. I’ve got a few ideas.’
James jumped in beside Sarah. She manoeuvred the car out of the traffic jam that filled the narrow road.
‘It’s vital we find him soon,’ Sarah said as she spun the steering wheel and they mounted the kerb to get around an unmarked Ford Focus parked in the middle of the road. ‘Goodness knows what state he is in. He could be in danger himself or a danger to others.’
James nodded and thought about what his partner said. How would he have felt if in his early teens he had stuck a knife in someone, his own father even. He couldn’t imagine the situation with himself as the central actor, but it had happened here. There must have been some reason for it; some explanation for the death of the boy’s father.

…………….to be continued.

 

Jasmine fears for her life

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

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

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

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

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

Viewpoint: Part 11

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

……………to be continued

Jasmine decides

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

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

UK Indie fest banner

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

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

Viewpoint: Part 9

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

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

……………………….to be continued.