Jasmine informed

A busy week with lots to think about but unfortunately time has run away from me. To keep to my timetable of publication we must move straight to the next episode of Pose, the prequel to Painted Ladies and other Jasmine Frame novels.

Pose: Part 2

James knocked on the door and entered the cramped office. Colin and Baz were hunched over their keyboards. Colin looked up, grunted and hauled himself upright.
‘It’s all yours matey. Good luck.’ He squeezed himself past James and left without a further word. James sat on the vacated chair. It was warm. He looked at the screen. It was displaying lists of phone numbers. They meant nothing to him. It wasn’t the child porn that they’d been investigating for weeks.
Alongside him, Baz was focussed on keying something into her computer. She looked the same as she did every day, slashed jeans, black t-shirt, short, spiky hair, immersed in her work.
‘What are we doing?’ James asked.
Baz’s fingers paused. She looked at James.
‘Oh, hi. Colin’s gone.’ Typical Baz. The world could end and she wouldn’t notice if her mind was on an IT programme. Taking an interest in people was not her role as a police officer. Computers however were another matter.
‘I just came on duty,’ James offered as explanation, ‘What are we doing?’ he repeated.
‘Missing girl,’ Baz said. ‘We’re looking into her mobile phone records. Colin was looking at her call list. I’m hacking her SMS.’
‘Who is she?’
Baz shrugged, ‘The DI did say her name, but I didn’t take any notice. A teenager. They think she may have gone to meet someone. That’s why we’re looking for messages from anyone who wasn’t her family or schoolmates.’
‘You mean DI Crowley thinks she was groomed?’
‘That’s what he said.’
‘Do we have her phone?’
‘No, that’s missing too, presumably with the girl. The parents gave us the account details.’
James looked back at the screen. He wished he’d been at the briefing where the DI had given out the information. He wished even more that he was on the investigating team, questioning people, searching for clues, following leads, rather being shut in this cubbyhole. Nevertheless, they had a job to do, one that could provide the breakthrough that Crowley needed.
Now he could understand what Colin was doing. He was eliminating the calls and voicemail messages from known family members and friends and looking into what was left.
‘There are some numbers unaccounted for here,’ James said.
‘Yeah. I’m picking up texts from a few numbers. Seems this paedo was clever and kept changing the SIM in his phone.’
‘When did the girl go missing?’ James asked.
Baz looked at her notebook. ‘Around six last evening. That was the last time anyone saw her that they know of.’
James looked down the call list. There were a number of calls listed after that time, all unanswered and some with voicemail messages attached. They were all known numbers. No doubt they were the girl’s family trying to trace her. One of the numbers Colin had highlighted as being caller unknown was timed at five-thirty.
‘Did she say she was going out?’ James asked.
Baz continued staring at her screen. ‘What was that?’
‘Did the girl tell anyone she was going out?’
Baz took her eyes off the glowing display and re-focussed on James. ‘Er, I don’t know. We were just told to go through the phone records and see who she was in contact with.’
James sighed. This was the problem. He wanted to be a member of the investigating team, aware of all the facts of the case, attempting to draw the threads together to make a case. Out there in the cold, wet October. Baz and Colin however were totally focussed on IT data while shut away in their cosy redoubt. Perhaps he was supposed to be too.
He looked again at the call from the unknown contact. That call had been answered. There had been one other call from the same number, earlier in the day, which had not been answered but there was a voice message. Great, James thought, something to work with. He could use the skills he’d learned from Baz and Colin to access the message. Perhaps they would hear the voice of this contact.
It took him a while but finally he had it. He played the voice mail through the computer.
‘Hi, Avro. Looking forward to hooking up later. I’ll text you where we can meet.’ The voice was cheerful, light and obviously male.
Baz, looked at James. ‘That’s the guy we’re after?’
‘There’s no name and the number was not one of the known ones. How old does he sound to you?’ James played the message again.
‘The sound quality’s not good,’ Baz said, ‘A bit muffled. Could be that’s deliberate. He’s trying to disguise his voice; make himself sound young by introducing a bit of distortion.’
‘Is Avro the girl’s name?’
‘Um,’ Baz searched her screen, ‘no, it’s Avril Robinson, but. . .’
‘Avril Robinson, Av-Ro,’ James recited, ‘A nickname.’
‘Yeah, perhaps. There’s something. . .’
Baz scanned through pages stored on her screen. ‘Yes, there we are. It’s the name she uses on her MySpace account.’
‘The friends thing,’
‘Yeah, aren’t you on it? You can chat to your friends and share stuff.’
‘Like email?’
‘Sort of, except all your friends can see what you write. Facebook is similar, better actually. It’s almost as big as MySpace now.’
Ideas were careering through James’ head. ‘So this guy somehow gets on to Avril’s MySpace account. Reads the stuff she writes and starts making contact with her, using the name she gives herself.’
‘Yeah, that’s how grooming works, I guess.’
‘And it’s on her phone?’
‘Well, she’s just got an old Nokia. She can only do voicemail and SMS on it. She needs her laptop to do MySpace and other stuff.’
‘Where’s her laptop?’
‘You mean she took it with her?’
‘I guess so.’
‘Hmm. Can you find that text that he mentions?’
‘I’m on it.’ She began tapping the keyboard again.
James continued to think. ‘Giving kids a mobile phone makes them vulnerable.’
‘But they’re great for keeping in touch, with parents as well as friends.’ Baz said as she worked.
‘You think they’re good thing?’
‘Sort of. Actually, I can’t wait until I get an i-phone.’
‘That new Apple mobile? Why?’ James had heard about the new product but hadn’t taken an interest.
‘They’re so much more than a phone. Not just texts, but photos and you can move all your friends stuff like MySpace and Facebook and Twitter on to it. It’s like a computer in your pocket.’
‘They’re expensive though?’ James had noticed that much.
‘Yeah, but they’ll get cheaper and other manufacturers will copy them. I bet everyone will have a smart phone soon.’
‘Sharing photos and stuff?’
‘Yeah. All sorts.’
‘I wonder where that will lead?’


It was Butterflies night again and although Jasmine had been caught up in the investigation all day she managed to get the evening off. She was on her own this evening as Angela had the greater attraction of an evening with some of her friends.
Jasmine walked confidently into the hall. She felt she knew everyone, all the regulars anyway, and while she didn’t have much in common with some of the older TVs they were always welcoming. She greeted Susan and Belinda serving at the counter and collected a glass of water. No wine tonight as she was driving. She looked around and saw Samantha approaching her
‘No Tina this evening?’ Jasmine asked.
Samantha wore a worried frown. ‘No. I’m not sure what’s up with her.’
‘Her wife threw her out last week.’
Jasmine gasped. ‘Because of her dressing.’
‘That’s it.’
‘You spoke to her?’
‘We exchanged a few texts. I was supposed to be picking her up this evening, but she didn’t show.’
Jasmine was struggling to keep up. ‘Where did she go when she got chucked out?’
‘She didn’t want to move far away, you know, because of her kid.’
‘I get that.’
‘Well, I think she had a couple of nights on a friend’s sofa then she moved into a b&b or a lodging house.’
‘Still in Reading.’
‘Where were you supposed to pick her up?’
‘In town, at The Duchess.’
‘The gay pub?’
‘That’s the one.’
‘She wasn’t there?’
‘No, and no-one had seen her.’
‘Have you tried calling her?’
‘Yes. She’s not picking up and hasn’t answered my texts.’
‘Hmm. Well, perhaps she decided she couldn’t face this lot after all. Maybe she hasn’t got her female clothes with her.’
Samantha shook her head. ‘Oh, she did. Her wife chucked all her stuff out with her. All those kiddies and teenies clothes she liked. Called her a few names too, so Tina said.’
‘It was pretty public then?’
‘Oh yes. The neighbours saw it all.’
Jasmine chewed her lip. ‘Well, I’m not sure what we can do?’
Samantha shrugged. ‘Neither do I. Perhaps if we exchanged mobile numbers I can let you know what I hear.’
‘Okay.’ Jasmine wasn’t quick to share her number but this seemed to be a special case. She dug into her handbag for her phone.

………………………. to be continued.



Jasmine troubled

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


Tea in Debenhams

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


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

Pose: Part 1

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

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


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

………………………………. to be continued.



Jasmine in preparation

It’s been one of those weeks; a little bit of this a little bit of that, but I have made progress. The editing of the collection of Jasmine Frame stories is almost complete although I am still unsure about the title, Jasmine Frame: Training for Murder.  All the stories are from the period at the start of James/Jasmine’s police career. I am still thinking about better ideas.

20170930_130307I did have a bit of a down at one point with news that sales of my books are pretty slow. That could be my fault – I’m not doing enough to promote them – but I’m not sure what more there is to do on a limited budget. On the other hand I get an email asking for news of the next Jasmine Frame novel.  So I press on.

I note that the media obsession  with trans matters continues with a new series on ITV called Transformations.  It follows people undergoing transition.  I haven’t seen it yet but will comment more when I have. I’m about to do a few talks myself about being trans including the legal and medical aspects. The problem, or perhaps it isn’t a problem, is that everyone is different and that there are so many forms of transgenderism or gender fluidity.  It will be an interesting experience.

So with one thing and another I haven’t yet started the new Jasmine story. Next week?  As a substitute, here again is something I wrote earlier. It is also a piece I wrote for one of the writing groups I attend. I think the task was to write a letter of complaint. In fact I have added the reply too. It was an attempt at satire, not perfect which is why I have not bothered to find a home for it or sent it to any competitions but you can enjoy it or otherwise tear it to pieces.

The Devil’s Redundancy

Dear Lord and Master of All,
I am writing to complain about the redundancy notice I have been sent by your office. I would like to remind you of the contract I received when I accepted this posting outside Paradise. I draw your attention to the term ‘eternity’. Yes, I am appointed to run the underworld for eternity. Further my job description says I am to punish sinners for time without end. You can’t just rip up a contract like that just because you’re omnipotent, after what I’ve done for, what is it now, six thousand years.
You say the reason for my getting fired – that’s a good word isn’t it for the one who has been stoking the fires with a little help from my demons – is because I have been failing in my duty of tempting the good souls to whom you have given the Earth and all the living things within it. Well, I have some reasons for that.
First of all it is a question of numbers. Heaven may be infinite in size but the Earth isn’t, so there is only so much room in the underworld to accommodate all the sinners, allowing space for the punishments you insisted that I provide. The problem is that you let these humans proliferate so that I now have over seven billion of them to deal with at once, and that’s just the living. If you hadn’t made fornication so pleasurable for them I’m sure they wouldn’t breed so fast. So, with so many people to tempt it’s as much as I can do to get round each of them during their lifetimes as well as the time spent preparing new chambers of hell.
The second problem has been an energy crisis. When there are potentially so many candidates for burning there is a need to provide fuel. Now you designed the laws of thermodynamics so you know that when you use energy some always gets lost and heats up the surroundings. I’m afraid that’s been happening and the Earth has been warming up a bit. Well, with increasing numbers the temperature has been rising faster. I can’t keep hiding global warming behind their use of fossil fuels, which you kindly provided, for much longer.
Finally, the place has been filling up at a faster rate than I can manage without me tempting them to excess. I know you’ll say that is why I’m redundant. I’m not needed anymore to trick these folks into vices as they do it for themselves, but do you really expect this place to run by itself or are you expecting volunteers to step in and run your Big Purgatory.
You see you really shouldn’t have given them free will. It’s because of that they’ve found ways to sin that you, for all your omniscience, never thought of. For a start, why did you give them seven deadly sins to work at, when they’d have done well enough with two or three. The trouble started when you made gold not only a pretty metal but rare too. In the early days it was only a few of them who fell for the envy and greed thing as they built up their stocks of the stuff and then added the lust, gluttony and pride for good measure – people like old King Midas; he sends his regards by the way. Now they don’t need to actually own the metal to get into the vices. For a while they collected bits of paper but now figures in their fancy computers do the job very nicely. And then you went and gave a few of them ingenuity so that the rest can satisfy their basic desires while slumped in front of the TV, building up their sloth coefficient. They’ve even found new ways of encouraging vices with inventions such as internet porn, fast food and reality TV shows – which make me pretty wrathful, I can tell you.
I think that instead of putting me out to grass you should be getting round to that Armageddon thing you’ve been talking about for eons. Let’s give the whole place a re-boot and re-think the human race.

Yours faithfully,
P.S. Give my love to the kids.


My dear Lucifer,
Thank you for your letter. I do think it quaint that you still use such outmoded forms of communication. I find email so much more in keeping with my status of omniscience because, of course, it is never lost but always stored in the perambulations of electrons. I can access it anywhere in my universe thanks to the free dongle that came with my package.
I knew that being made redundant would upset you and I want you to know that I empathise with your feelings. I do want to thank you for all the efforts you have made to punish those creatures that I allowed to stray from the paths of righteousness. The truth is that I have decided on a little reorganisation up here.
When I created this place I decided on a multi-faceted presence which allowed my people to interpret my existence in a number of different ways. This produced effects that were not quite as predicted. Not of course that I am giving up my claim on infallibility, it is just that these people have followed a path that was not one of high probability. That was one of the results of allowing them a semblance of free-will. The problem is that instead of uniting in praise of me they have divided up into more and more denominations, each at each other’s throats, so that they have called into question my forgiving and all-embracing love. It has got so bad that a sizeable proportion have even given up believing in me. I am sure that you appreciate that that is not a good state of affairs for an all-powerful being.
Anyway to cut to the chase, as some of them say, I have decided on a universe-wide reorganisation programme. I am going to amalgamate the various divisions of paradise and terminate the various brand-names by which I have been known. It is time for a re-launch with a brand new face of God. So there will be, as you suggest, an Armageddon of sorts. However, it is such a fag having to re-build a whole universe and come up with all those little clues that suggest that everything has been around a lot longer than it actually has – do you know how long it took for me to come up with all the dinosaurs last time? Yes, I know time means nothing to me but someone has to think of these things. Anyway I’ve decided on a species-selective form of the final curtain and these humans I created gave me the idea themselves, isn’t that smart. They’ve already had a few goes themselves but this is going to be the grand-daddy of all economic collapses. I’ve hardly had to do anything at all really, just a few nudges of this corporation or that, a few insider dealings here or there. At the appointed moment their whole financial system will collapse and they’ll be back where they started, a bunch of stone wielding, hunters and gatherers ready to look around them and see me in everything.
I know what you are going to say – where does hell fit into all this? Well actually it doesn’t. I’ve decided on a rationalisation process that means that you and your dominion are surplus to requirements. It’s quite clever really in that I’m bringing punishments for sins back in house. They’ve brought it on themselves really. Once civilisation has gone there’ll be enough radioactive waste, nerve gases, incurable diseases to say nothing of environmental degradation brought on by their profligate use of all the resources I gave them, that there will be plenty of ways to make their existence miserable. And the good thing is that I won’t even have to provide for the pure and faultless souls because there aren’t any. Every last one of them has fallen for at least one of those seven vices you mention, plus a few extra ones that they invented for themselves.
So there we are Lucifer, old fellow. I’m sure you will get over your disappointment and will enjoy your retirement – for eternity, of course. I’ll make sure your needs are provided for, perhaps a little heritage-hell for old times’ sake and I am sure the new arrangements will keep you amused even as a spectator.

Yours truly,
The Almighty One


Jasmine plans

We’ve survived a week of 2018. Actually, it was more of the same and I’m trying my best not to get worked up at the foolish things said and done by people who are supposed to be leaders or despondent at the state of the world. So, let’s be more personal shall we.

I’m not one for making new year resolutions.  I have done it and some times kept some of them for a while but I think having goals, as some other writers have suggested, is a good idea.  So I’ve made a to-do list. It’s not complete and I’m not going to divulge it here and now. I will say though that there are quite a few writing objectives on it – plenty of ideas to be realised!


Tea in Debenhams

Jasmine Frame, of course, features amongst them but I’m not starting a new story this week. I have now written three novels with the fourth nearly finished (the first, draft anyway), and thirteen novella/short story prequels. Two of the prequels have already been made available as e-books and I am putting together an anthology containing four of the stories. The prequels cover the period from 2000 to 2012 when James/Jasmine went from a 17 -year old, unsure about his/her gender and future, to a 29 year-old transitioning transwoman working as a private detective. Not surprisingly, during many of the intervening years, James was a policeman. I’ve ended up doing something I never intended doing which is writing stories where the protagonist is a police officer. I don’t want to write police-procedurals, but I will have to continue doing this. I do have some ideas for the next story but it needs a bit of work – hence the delay.

Another aspect of my to-do list is promoting my writing, September as well as Jasmine. I’ve been to a number of marketing workshops and read plenty of guides but I haven’t found the magic formula necessary for getting noticed. Perhaps I’m not trying hard enough (particularly at the social media interaction – but I hate it) or maybe there are opportunities out there I’ve missed. Anyway, let it be known that I am available for talks/workshops with groups, festivals, bookfairs, indeed, any event where I can present my writings with or without a talk about them and/or me and my experiences.

In lieu of a Jasmine story here is a short piece I wrote a while ago for one of my writing groups. I think it was an exercise but I have no idea of what. Perhaps a character study.

Garden Party

“Canapè, sir?”
“What? Is it going to rain?” Billy looked up at the clear blue sky mystified.
There was a drawn out sigh, “I said, canapé, sir.”
Billy noticed the bow-tie wearing waiter was holding a tray of doll’s house sized burgers in buns.
“Oh, you mean, these. I thought you meant….” Billy nodded towards the marquee occupying the centre of the immaculately trimmed lawn.
“Yes, sir, I know sir. I was referring to these bite sized organic rare steaks of Aberdeen Angus beef in an organic whole-meal sesame seed bun.”
“Sounds more than they look,” Billy said reaching for a handful.
“One normally eats one at a time, sir.” Billy released the three that were in his left hand but retained the two he was raising to his mouth with his right.
“Oh, of course, got to make them go round, I see.”
The waiter sighed again and slid off to a quartet of which the two middle-aged men looked as though they were dressed for a day’s sailing and the two mature women wore brightly coloured cocktail dresses.
Billy looked around. Across the lawn between the marquee, swimming pool and the large ivy-clad house were clusters of people similarly dressed. Billy didn’t notice them, his eyes had located the waitress carrying a tray of tall glasses emerging from the very large tent. Billy hurried to intercept her.
He skidded to a halt, causing the glasses to rattle as she also stopped suddenly in order to prevent a collision.
“That’s lucky,” Billy said.
“What’s that, sir?” the girl said staring at him.
“I can help you with that heavy tray.”
“It’s alright sir, I was taking it around the guests.”
“Oh, in that case, I’ll just take a couple.” Billy lifted two glasses of the pale bubbly liquid from the tray. The girl wrinkled her nose and looked sideways at him then marched off to a group of twenty-somethings in chinos and striped shirts or frilly mini-dresses depending on their gender.
Billy took a sip of the drink. Champagne? It could have been Babycham for all he knew, but it tasted as though it had alcohol in it so he was happy. He was about to go in search of more of the mini-foods when a voice in his left ear assaulted him.
“Who are you then?”
Billy turned to see a large, moustache wielding, ancient in a school tie and striped blazer leaning on a shooting stick.
“Oh, hi, uh, I’m with, um,” Billy searched for a name, “Fiona.”
“Fiona? Fiona?” the florid face looked blank, “Oh, Algernon’s lass. There she is now,” He raised the stick and pointed it to a pair of young women not ten metres away.
“That’s right, I’d better get this drink to her.”
“But she’s already got one,”
“Oh, that’ll soon be gone. You know Fiona.”
“What, oh, yes. Got to keep the filly lubricated, what.” The old duffer chortled and Billy made his escape, straight towards the pair of girls.
“Hi, Fiona,” Billy said over the girl’s shoulder. The girl turned to face him. He fell in love. Her round pale face, large blue eyes, and shiny black hair tied in a pig tail, enraptured him.
“Who are you?”
“I brought you a drink.”
“I’ve got one.”
“I thought you might like another.”
Fiona looked at the dregs in her glass, and smiled. To Billy it was as if the day had been dull and the Sun had just come out.
“Well thank you. Who did you say you were?”
“Billy? I don’t think I know a Billy. Do you, Hettie?” She turned to her companion, a tall blonde with a wide face.
“No. There aren’t any cousins called Billy, are there?”
“No, you must be a friend of the family.” The girls nodded, convinced they had solved the mystery.
“Yeh, that’s right.” Billy agreed. Fiona took the glass from his left hand and sipped the champagne. She examined him closely.
“Oh, I do like your jeans and T-shirt. Those rips are so in, aren’t they and those streaks of colour. Well, they look almost as if you really had been painting the house.” They giggled at the joke.
“Everyone else looks so boring,” Fiona continued, “look at them all.”
“Your uncle and aunt’s invitation did say it was a Garden Party,” Hettie sniffed and smoothed the pleats in her crimson silk dress.
“Well I think it’s great that someone has decided to be different and rebel a little.” Fiona grasped Billy’s arm, “Why haven’t I met you before since you’re a friend of the family?”
“Oh, I’ve been, um, away for a while.”
“Yeh, there was a bit in between…”
“I’m going to South America on mine. Hettie’s coming too.” Hettie nodded.
“Let’s go and find some more finger-food,” Fiona went on.
After a shot glass of gaspacho, a minute triangle of bread with a spot of patè de frois gras, and a biscuit with a single prawn, Billy was feeling in need of something more substantial.
“When will they serve the real food?” he asked.
“Real food?” Fiona giggled
“Yeh, proper sized portions.”
“Oh, you won’t get any of that this afternoon. As Hettie said; it’s a garden party.”
“Really, I think I need something more. It takes more energy chasing around trying to catch the waiters than you get from these mini-bites.”
“Oh, you are funny. Look there’s Aunt Deborah. I’m sure she’d like to say hello.”
A horsy woman in a tweed skirt was striding across the lawn from the house.
“No, she looks busy,” Billy tried to tug Fiona in a direction perpendicular to Aunt Deborah’s determinedly straight path.
“She’s coming straight towards us. Hello Aunt Deborah,”
“What’s he doing here?” Aunt Deborah pointed a finger at Billy.
“That’s Billy, a friend of the family,” Fiona said innocently.
“Friend of the family, my foot,“ Aunt Deborah roared, “He’s painting the downstairs loo, Christmas hyacinth blue. I’m not paying you to drink my champagne, Shoo.”



Jasmine at rest


Feb. 2017

It’s the end of one year and the start of a new one so I suppose it is the time to look back, and forward.

2017 was a pretty ghastly year politically and environmentally, but putting worries about the future of humankind to one side for now, I’ll just consider my own selfish interests.  We had memorable holidays in Munich, the Isles of Scilly, Loch Tay in Scotland, Manorbier in Pembrokeshire and some shorter, bookselling jaunts to Bradford, Sandbach and Wellington (Shropshire). Two of my novels have appeared – Cold Fire published by Elsewhen, and The Brides’ Club Murder by ellifont.  I was runner-up in the NAWG minitale (100 word story) competition. I’ve had a number of science anniversary pieces published online by Collins Freedomtoteach, and articles in the Beaumont Magazine.  I even did some science education writing but the less said about that the better – I didn’t enjoy it.  Listed like that it looks like quite a busy year.


Dec. 2017

Looking ahead, I hope to finished Molly’s Boudoir: the 4th Jasmine Frame novel, very soon and then put it away for a short time while I look to getting the collection of Jasmine Frame short stories published as an e-book. Then I will turn my attention to my next SF/Fantasy novel. The problem is I have a number of undeveloped ideas and I’m not sure which to pick up and run with. Decisions! I also intend writing more short stories and contributing them to competitions and magazines.  Together with attending more bookfairs and literary festivals it promises to be a busy and exciting year.

I hope all you readers out there have a successful and happy 2018.

I haven’t got a Jasmine story this week having finished Reflex last week.  For a change I am giving you a seasonal i.e. Christmas, (well, we’re still in the 12 days) story which I wrote some years ago.  I can’t recall whether I’ve put it on the blog before although I did include it my little booklet of Christmas Tales.

Same Day Delivery

Father Christmas stepped down wearily from the driving seat of his sleigh and pulled the air purification mask from his face. The long white filaments irritated his skin so he rubbed his chin with some relief. He appreciated the mask when he was travelling because of all the pollutants he met landing on roofs across the world – carbon monoxide from gas fires in the UK, wood smoke in North America, sulphurous fumes from dirty coal in China and goodness knows what from the dung in India. The emissions were constantly jingling the warning bell in his cab. On this last trip it had jingled all the way. He glanced into the cargo bay. Yes, no presents left, he’d finished his deliveries for the year, at last. Already the elves were scurrying around the sleigh. They were opening up the Rapid Displacement and Lift Facility, or RDLF affectionately called the Rudolf, that pulled the sleigh. Its spiky, branched, cooling fins were producing a mist in the cold arctic air. The elves also had the Temporal Transporter and SACK (Superfast Article Conveyancing Kit) to service so Father Christmas decided he would leave them to it.
He trudged to his office and began to strip off his boots, insulating trousers and jacket. They were thickly padded not so much for Arctic temperatures as for the absolute cold of the time shift. The longer the interval the more the cold penetrated to the core of his body. Over two hundred years old but looking less than seventy, Father Christmas was upset that the clothes made him look fat. And why did they have to be so red? Why couldn’t he wear a modern white or silver outfit like astronauts? But he knew that the red suit was part of the image. Who would want a silver Father Christmas? More comfortable in T-shirt and jeans, Father Christmas poured himself a cup of coffee and sank into his high backed, swivel chair and rested his feet on the desk. There was a deep pile of documents in the in-tray but they would have to wait. He was on leave now or would be very soon. He was itching to get away for a few days’ vacation.
The door opened and the Senior Elf entered and stood with his grey hair and wrinkled brow just above the level of the desk.
“Welcome back Father Christmas,” he said cheerfully,
“Less of the FC stuff when I’m on holiday. It’s Dave now.” Father Christmas replied gruffly.
“Oh, you’ve finished the run then.”
“Yes, and about time too. Look at the date,” Father Christmas gestured to the wall clock and calendar. It read 17th December. “I’ve been back to the 25th December three hundred and fifty-seven times and I really wish it wasn’t Christmas every day.” The Senior Elf nodded in agreement.
Father Christmas went on “You know if things get any busier I won’t be able to finish one delivery before the next one starts.”
“You’re a victim of your own success,” the elf said, his pointed ears dipping in sympathy.
“Yes, I know. When we took over the franchise from old Saint Nicholas, a hundred years ago, we only had to deliver to a couple of hundred million children in Europe and North America. Now, regardless of their religion, or even if they’ve got none at all, everyone, all over the globe wants a delivery from Father Christmas. We’ve updated the sleigh, replacing the reindeer with the Rudolf, and installed the instant parcel delivery system so that I don’t have to get stuck in chimneys, but this time travelling just isn’t working anymore. And I’m exhausted.”
“We’re working on it,” The Senior Elf said reassuringly.
“I hope so too. Any more problems to deal with?”
“Well. There has been some disturbance amongst the elves.”
“Really. What sort of disturbance?”
“It’s the BNP.”
Father Christmas looked confused, “Who are they?”
“The Better North Pole group. They’ve not been very nice to the goblins. You know we’ve got quite a few of them working here now.”
“Since we changed the employment rules they’ve been pouring in haven’t they. They do a good job.”
“Exactly Fa…Dave, but the BNP say the goblins are taking jobs from elves.”
“But aren’t the goblins doing jobs the elves don’t want, like parcel wrapping.”
“Well tell this BNP lot to behave then. You know, I always hoped we could automate parcel wrapping.”
“That was an idea, but times change. The days when it was all train sets for boys and doll’s houses for girls have gone. Now they want Playstations and Wiis and Barbies and Manchester United kits and all sorts of things. They all need different wrapping techniques.”
“In that case good luck to the goblins,” Father Christmas sighed, “what else have you got for me to worry about?”
“You may not have noticed but back in the summer it got quite warm. The Arctic ice almost melted away; it’s this global warming. If it gets any worse there won’t be enough ice left for our mega-shed warehouse.” Father Christmas looked worried.
“Are you suggesting that we’ll have to re-locate; move the Father Christmas HQ from the North Pole?”
“I fear that is the situation, uh, Dave.”
“Hmm. What about the South Pole? No too busy.” Father Christmas scratched his head. “I really can’t think of anywhere on Earth that is so remote that it has not been visited by Michael Palin, Sue Perkins or some other comedian.”
“It is a problem, sir.” There was silence for a few moments.
“I know,” Father Christmas said excitedly, “the Moon. No-one has been there for decades. Lots of unused space.”
The Senior Elf shook his head, “the elves won’t like it; it’s a long way from their homes and there aren’t any good shops.”
“Look if there’s a recession in Elfland they’ll move to keep their jobs. Look into it.”
“If you insist.”
“I do. Now I’m going on holiday.”

After a few days in the Maldives, Father Christmas felt refreshed. He had soaked up some uv, swum in the warm ocean, eaten good food and chatted up some pretty girls. On the 23rd December he was back at his North Pole desk.
“Well, what news do you have for me,” he demanded of Senior Elf who peered over the edge of the desk. The Senior Elf grinned.
“I think we have solved the delivery problem, Father Christmas.” Father Christmas leaned forward excitedly,
“You have! Tell me about it.”
“I’ll leave that to the Chief Boffin sir.” He retreated to the door and called out. The boffins are sub-species of elf distinguished by unruly hair and an undeveloped dress sense. The Chief Boffin waddled into the office and stood behind the desk staring up at Father Christmas in awe. The Senior Elf nudged him.
“Tell him about it then.”
“Oh yes, well, hmm, we call it the Multiple Manifestations Machine.”
“What does that mean?” Father Christmas sighed, already regretting the addition of another weirdly named gadget to his sleigh.
“The problem is that we’ve been thinking serially; There’s been just one of you visiting each household in turn,” the Chief Boffin warmed to his subject.
“Well there is just one. Real one anyway; me,” Father Christmas said indignantly.
“In this universe.”
“What do you mean?”
“Our universe is just one of many. There is an almost infinite number of universes and billions more are created every minute.”
“How?” Father Christmas asked.
“Every decision that is made whether it is a radioactive atom choosing to decay or Justin Bieber deciding whether or not to perform, causes a split in the continuum and one universe becomes two. Many of those universes are very similar to our own with stars, planets, people and TV reality programmes. The Multiple Manifestation Machine simply pulls Father Christmas from a billion or so universes so that each household can have its very own Father Christmas.” Father Christmas shook his head.
“Well I don’t understand it but if it means that I can get all the deliveries done on Christmas morning then I’m happy. Let’s do it.”

It was nearly midnight on Christmas Eve. The sleigh was loaded with presents and Father Christmas was dressed in his traditional outfit. He climbed into the driving seat.
“Now tell me again. What do I do?” The Chief Boffin sighed,
“Once you are in the air you can operate the Multiple Manifestation Machine.” Father Christmas looked at his controls, mystified.
“Where is it?” The Chief Boffin took a deep breath,
“It’s the box on the dashboard between the satnav and the hands-free mobile phone dock.”
“Oh, I see it.”
“When you’re ready, just press the button; everything is programmed in.”
“Right, got it.” Father Christmas looked at his watch. It was just midnight. “Well, here it is, Merry Christmas, everybody have some fun.” He waved cheerily to the assembled elves and engaged the Rudolf.
The Senior Elf watched as the sleigh lifted off in a sudden blur of movement. In less than a breath it was barely more than a dot hanging in the sky directly over the North Pole. Moonlight glinted off its gleaming paintwork. Then suddenly there were two sleighs, then four, eight, sixteen.
“It’s working,” murmured the Chief Boffin, and moments later the sky was filled from zenith to horizon with twinkling sleighs too numerous to count and banishing the stars from the night sky. If he squinted the Senior Elf could see that each sleigh was piloted by a red-robed clad Father Christmas.
Then they were gone.
The Senior Elf stared into the clear, violet sky pierced by thousands of bright stars. He turned to the Chief Boffin.
“I’ve been wondering. What has happened to the universes we’ve taken the Father Christmases from?”
The Chief Boffin stroked his bushy beard.
“I suppose it would be as if Father Christmas didn’t exist. People would have to deliver their own presents on Christmas Day.”
“No Father Christmas! How could anyone imagine a world without Father Christmas?”


Jasmine compromised

WP_20171215_16_16_28_ProIt’s the festive season so I am not going to go on a rant or raise any controversial topics now. After a year when I have spent a lot of the time scared about the future I just want to have a few days of pleasure and conviviality when worries can, hopefully, be set aside. So I wish all of you all good tidings. May you enjoy this celebratory period.

Here’s a photo taken on a day out Christmas shopping in Cardiff.


Here is the concluding episode of Reflex to, I hope, get you thinking and looking  forward to the next Jasmine Frame novel and/or story and whatever else I decide to inflict on you.



Reflex: Part 9

‘No, no. I didn’t,’ Wendy Chapman cried, ‘He did lie to me. He said he was doing overtime and that he’d be late home.’
James shook his head, ‘I don’t think so Mrs Chapman.’
‘Why not? Why don’t you believe me?’
‘Because of the knife.’
The woman stared at James. ‘What do you mean?’
James stood up. ‘When I spoke to Melissa at the unit she said you were a bit OCD about tidiness, especially in the kitchen and with knives in particular.’ He walked from the lounge into the kitchen. It wasn’t a huge room. There were units and services on three sides and a small dining table against the fourth wall next to the side door. The whole room was sparkling clean and there wasn’t a thing on any surface.
‘There!’ James said pointing, ‘Nothing. Not a utensil, bit of food, not even post or a shopping list. I’ve never seen a kitchen so tidy.’
Wendy Chapman had followed him. ‘So what? I like to keep the place clean and tidy. It’s not easy with a family in the house.’
‘I’m sure it isn’t, but you manage it. Melissa commented on it. And yet on that evening a sharp knife, big enough to cause serious injury was left on the work top handy enough for Melissa to grab it when her father attacked her.’
Now there was fear and worry on Wendy’s face. ‘It was an accident. I forgot to put it away. Melissa just grabbed it. You said it yourself it was self-defence.’
‘I did and it was, but I don’t think that was the intention.’ James examined the woman’s face searching for confirmation that his idea was correct.
She frowned. ‘What do you mean, “the intention”?’
James took a deep breath. ‘I don’t think it was an accident that that knife was left out on the surface. I don’t think you make those kind of mistakes Mrs Chapman. I think you put that knife on the work top close to you and Melissa deliberately.’
She shook her head and shrugged. ‘Why do you think I did that?’
‘I believe you knew that your husband would be home earlier than you said to Melissa. You were expecting him to barge into the kitchen and find you doing his son’s hair in a girly style. You knew he would be angry and would attack Melissa.’
Her eyes narrowed. ‘You think I put the knife there so that Mel could grab it and kill my husband.’
‘That’s what it looks like. You set up your trans-daughter so that she had no time to escape when her father burst in and attacked her and you provided the weapon for her self-defence.’
Mrs Chapman shrugged. ‘What if that was how it happened? It doesn’t make any difference. Melissa didn’t plan to kill her father. She didn’t murder him. And he attacked her first.’
‘I don’t think that was what you planned, Mrs Chapman,’ James said in a quiet voice not wanting to stir up the mother.
Her face lost all colour. ‘What do you mean?’
‘I think that you had observed what was happening to your son, or rather daughter. He was growing up, going through puberty. He was getting bigger, stronger, turning from a sexless little boy into a young man. He hated it. He believed himself to be a girl. The physical changes he was undergoing were destroying his dream of being a woman. His father was preventing him from being himself, stopping him from getting help.’
The woman flapped her hands. ‘Yes, yes, so what?’
‘Melissa was dressing more often and being discovered more often. Her father, your husband was beating her more often. You probably had one of two fears, or perhaps both.’
‘What fears?’
‘One that Eric might kill Melissa in a fit of temper. Or alternatively Melissa might plan to kill her father herself to get her freedom and stop being hurt by him.’
‘Nonsense. Eric didn’t want to kill her and Melissa couldn’t hurt anyone.’
‘Are you sure, Mrs Chapman? I think you did fear either of those things happening. You had to protect Melissa and not let her be drawn into planning the murder of her father.’
She shook her head but didn’t speak. James went on.
‘So you made your own plan. It had to look like a spontaneous act of self-defence. You knew your husband would be home soon after his shift finished, around five-thirty. You offered to style Melissa’s hair but instead of doing it in a bedroom with a mirror, the sensible place, you did it here where Eric was bound to burst in on you. You placed a knife within easy reach. Your reach. You expected Eric to attack Melissa as soon as he saw what was happening. You would then grab the knife, kill or at least badly injure him and that would be it. You would be arrested but probably get off because you were defending yourself and your child. Melissa would be blameless and free of her father’s persecution. You planned the death of your husband. You are his murderer.’
Wendy screamed and ran at James beating at his chest with her fists. He grabbed her wrists and held her firmly.
‘It didn’t happen like that,’ she cried.
‘No. Eric attacked you first and knocked you to the floor. Then he set on Melissa but she grabbed the knife and killed him. Your plan had gone wrong and Melissa was going to be accused of manslaughter or conspiracy to murder.’
The woman froze in his arms. She tugged her hands free and stepped back.
‘You’ve got no proof,’ she accused.
James shrugged. ‘No, I haven’t. An accidentally-placed knife, an angry man arriving home unexpectedly and an unfortunate death. No one ultimately responsible.’
She glared at him with piercing eyes. ‘Why?’
James frowned, ‘Why what?’
‘Why have you taken so much trouble to work it all out? Why have you come her today? Why did you visit Melissa when she was in the unit? What is it that made you get so involved in my husband’s death?’
‘I was concerned about Melissa,’ James said.
‘You don’t know her. You didn’t know Matthew,’ she paused. ‘I know. It’s because she’s trans. You’re really interested in a boy wanting to be a girl.’
‘Well, yes, I am. My friend. . .’
‘Your friend,’ she laughed, ‘Tamsin was it? Really? You use words like “femme names” and “being dressed”. I’ve done my research mister policeman. I know those are terms transvestites use. This Tamsin isn’t a friend of yours, is she? She’s you. You’re a tranny. That’s why you were so concerned for my daughter.’
She’d guessed. James was horrified. If this story got out his career in the police would be over.
‘No, no, I’m not Tamsin.’ He knew his denial didn’t sound genuine. Mrs Chapman backed away from him.
‘Of course, I have no proof you’re a transvestite interfering with my daughter’s case; like you’ve got no proof that I planned my husband’s death.’
‘No?’ James wasn’t sure what she was implying.
‘So, if neither of us say anything, no one will be any the wiser, will they.’
‘You can continue with your career as a police officer with no black marks against your record and Melissa can begin her transition with me, her loving mother, supporting her every step of the way.’
‘Um, that’s right.’
‘Everyone’s happy.’
‘I suppose so.’
‘Right Constable. You leave now and never come back or interfere in the lives of me or my daughter again. You say nothing and I’ll say nothing.’
‘I see. OK, yes, that’s what we’ll do.’
James backed to the side door opened it and stepped outside. He was in the narrow passageway alongside the house. The door closed. He walked back to the car, got in and drove off.
It was a long enough drive home to think about the conversation. Was doing what Mrs Chapman said and saying nothing a denial of justice? Well, yes, it was. Eric Chapman was not getting justice for his death, but did he deserve it? He was a violent bully who may have killed his daughter at some point. Surely Melissa deserved the chance to begin her new life with a loving mother at her side. Was giving up his career as a policeman worth getting justice for Eric Chapman? He didn’t think so. He would just have to continue his life knowing that he had let a woman who planned a murder go free to live with what she had done.

…………………..The End.

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 . . .


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?’
‘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