Jasmine takes a break

And still it goes on – the news I mean. I’m writing this a little early this week but already we’ve had Farage resigning, again, He’d done his job, so he says. No thought about the aftermath or what responsibility he might have. And Chris Evans resigning from Top Gear. I haven’t watched the new series and neither, for a long time, did I watch the old version.  I like James May and Richard Hammond but Clarkson increasingly got on my nerves with his views. But a TV programme is unimportant compared to what is happening to the government of our country. I’ve read and heard Europeans comment that they thought us Brits were calm and thoughtful and wouldn’t, couldn’t, make such a mess of things as leaving the EU. Well, all I can say is that they haven’t met the ones that voted Leave because if they holiday abroad at all, it’s likely that they stay in hotels and camps that are shut off from the country they are in and the only “foreigners” they meet are the waiters, chambermaids, etc. Doesn’t apply to all of them of course.  We shall see what the next week brings.

Having finished Aberration last week I have decided to take a break from writing Jasmine Frame stories for a few weeks.  Writing the stories is fun but each episode takes up a considerable time each week. I also feel I need to give Jasmine a rest so I can get the imagination and creativity going again. I am writing another fantasy novel which I need to devote more time to. I also want to get the third Jasmine novel ready for publication, and perhaps prepare another of the prequels for e-book publication,  so that will keep me busy. It is almost three years since I started writing the prequels and I have finished nine of them (I thought it was just eight!). For those of you that are interested, the table below lists all the Jasmine Frame stories, written, published or planned. There are still a few gaps in Jasmine’s life story, particularly her first years in the police force. However, I don’t really like writing police procedurals and her opportunities for investigations as a uniformed PC may be limited – but we will see.

This blog will continue nevertheless, with comments on the world outside fiction, especially my experience of transgenderism and news about the Jasmine publications (perhaps some free or reduced price offers soon) so I hope you will continue to pop in for a read.

To show how things change in three years here are a couple of photos of me during that time.

2013, shortly after the publication of Painted Ladies

2013, shortly after the publication of Painted Ladies

2016, at Hay Festival.

2016, at Hay Festival.

Provisional title date situation crime Publication & length Publication date
Discovering Jasmine 2000 James experimenting with his gender identity Transwoman intimidated by youths Ebook, Discovering Jasmine

20,000w

2015
Soft Focus 2001 James meets Angela at Uni. Transman dies; suicide or murder? Ebook, Murder in Doubt

21,000w

2016
Aberration 2004 James & Angela living together post- graduation Transman killed 16,000w  
Flashlight 2009 James seconded to V&SCU, meets DCI Sloane for the first time. Woman killed by drug overdose supplied by transwoman 24,000w  
Resolution 2009 James appointed to V&SCU. Meets DC Tom Shepherd Colleague (from Flashlight) murdered 23,000w  
Blueprint 2009 James reveals he is trans Crossdresser suicide 38,000w  
Self=portrait 2010 Start of transition Young transman accused of murder 27,000w  
Close-up 2010 Jasmine back at work. Conflict with DS Baby alleged to be snatched in high street 23,000w  
Split Mirror 2011 Separating from Angela, move into flat. Conflict with DS Transwoman disappeared 22,000w  
Painted Ladies 2012 Jasmine working as private detective. Divorce from Angela. Serial killer targeting trans women Ebook & paperback, Painted Ladies 80,000w 2013
Bodies By Design 2012 Biorchidectomy, start of relationship with Viv Transwoman murdered Ebook & paperback, Bodies By Design 72,000w 2015
The Brides’ Club Murder 2012 Electrolysis. Planning to move in with Viv Leader of Bridal wear group murdered t.b.d

76,000w

2016/17
Molly’s Boudoir 2013 Breast augmentation. Living with Viv Arson at trans shop t.b.d. ?
Impersonator 2014 GRS. Female impersonator killed t.b.d. ?

 

Jasmine starts a case

Is increasing pessimism a sign of ageing? Perhaps it’s just me or perhaps the world is getting more depressing. When I was young I was optimistic about lots of things – developments in  science, colonies on the Moon and Mars, improving standard of living – all that despite the threat of nuclear war which I don’t recall ever losing sleep over. Now though, well the list of depressing news just goes on getting longer: the state of the environment (global warming, pollution, extinctions, new diseases, etc.), threats from terrorists, declining economy (not helped by economists who still can’t accept a finite Earth), authoritarian, self-aggrandising government figures (how did we end up with this Conservative government and what are we going to get in the US?).  I’m not going to ramble on about all my fears and the reasons for them as it would fill up too much space.

On a personal level I am probably as happy as I have ever been. I have a wonderful, loving, supportive partner; a great relationship with children and grandchildren; I’m doing what I want to do i.e. writing, and being who I want to be; and, we cope on what we earn. Nevertheless the worries of the world trouble me. The point is I don’t want to join the crowd writing dystopic science fiction or gloomy, gory crime thrillers. I want to bring some optimism into my writing – but it’s hard.

20160122_144602(2)Anyway, it’s not all doom. We had a lovely day out last week and here’s a photo to prove it.

{Go to Jasmine Frame Publications to find out how to purchase Jasmine Frame stories}

 

 

 

And finally, on with the eighth Jasmine Frame prequel, Resolution.  Just one point to follow on from last week’s comment – the Dr Gupta who appears in this episode is the same character who was Dr Patel in previous stories (viz. Blueprint).

Resolution: Part 2

DS Trewin stopped the car in a narrow road clogged with police cars and vans and cars parked outside the row of terraced houses. On the other side of the road was a fence and then the railway cutting. James got out of the back of the car and looked up and down the street.  Some of the houses looked almost derelict but others had been spruced up. The police activity apparently centred on one of the renovated properties. James thought it was the type of house he and Angela would have looked at until she heard that she had passed her exams. Now they could afford something a little more upmarket.
Trewin joined James. ‘Come and get kitted out before we go in, lads.’ He led James and Tom to the open rear of a van. He reached into a cardboard box and pulled out a clear plastic packet. James took it and Trewin handed another to Tom before taking one himself. James tore open the bag and shook out the one-size-fits-all, white, disposable overall. He struggled to fit himself into it, glancing at Tom to see how we has managing to get his extra length and bulk fitted in. Trewin was ready well before James had done up the Velcro fastening.
‘Follow me,’ Trewin said, ‘I know you’ve been to crime scenes before, but as detectives you will get closer to the victim and other evidence. Don’t touch anything and watch where you are putting your feet. You’ve seen a dead body before?’ Tom and James nodded, and Trewin added, ‘Good, I thought so.’
Trewin entered the house with Tom and James close behind. They stepped straight into the living room. James noted that it was actually two small rooms, divided by a modern open staircase. They walked to the rear where other overalled figures were crouched down almost obscuring the body.
‘Doctor?’ Trewin said. One of the figures twisted around and stood up.
‘Ah, DS Trewin, a pleasure to see you.’  The overall was baggy around the pathologist’s ankles but stretched tight across his stomach. ‘I see you have brought some support.’
‘Frame and Shepherd,’ Trewin pointed to each of them, ‘New DCs, just joined us this morning. I’m guiding them until DCI Sloane decides to release them into the wild. Lads, this is Dr Gupta, pathologist.’
‘Welcome gentlemen. Excuse me for not shaking hands,’ the doctor smiled and displayed his latex covered hands. James was amused that his white moustache seemed to blend with the hood of his overall. ‘Frame you say? Didn’t you work on that drug overdose case with DS Sparrow.’
James nodded, surprised that he had been remembered. ‘Yes, I was seconded for a few days to help out. Now I’m permanent,’ he paused, realising that he sounded a bit brash, ‘at least I hope so.’
‘Well, good luck to you, both of you.’
‘What have you got for us, Doctor?’ Trewin asked.
Dr Gupta stepped aside to give James and the others a view. The body of a woman, fully dressed, lay on the floor, arms and legs twisted into contorted positions that they wouldn’t have been in if she was merely asleep. There was no sign of blood but her eyelids were wide apart and her mouth open in a silent scream.
‘Not a great deal, as yet,’ The pathologist said. ‘A woman of about fifty years, strangled.’
‘Any other signs of a struggle?’ Trewin asked.’
Dr Gupta shook his head. ‘No other bruising. A couple of her fingernails are torn as if she tried to loosen the ligature that her killer had around her neck.’
‘DNA?’ Trewin said.
‘She may have scratched his hands. We’ve taken samples from under her nails. We’ll have to see what we get.’
Trewin knelt and looked closely at the woman’s neck. ‘What did the killer use?’
‘Hmm,’ Gupta mused, ‘There are a number of possibilities but I favour a length of flex. As you can see, the bruising on the neck is narrow which rules out a pair tights or stockings and is uniform which suggests it wasn’t coiled cord or twine.’
‘You mean a length of electrical cable?’ Trewin said.
Gupta nodded, ‘That’s right, but before you ask DS Trewin, we haven’t found a piece of cable lying around.’
Trewin stood up and turned to Tom and James. ‘Any ideas, you two?’
James scanned the room not really expecting to see a convenient length of wire overlooked by the SOCO team.
‘Could he have used the cable from the TV or a kettle?’ Tom asked.
Dr Gupta nodded his head slowly as if considering Tom’s idea, ‘It would be difficult to persuade your victim into a convenient position to twist the television cable around her neck and I think if the kettle had been used there might be signs of it.’
‘He could have unplugged the lead from the kettle, used it to strangle the woman and then replaced it.’ Tom said, eagerly pursuing his suggestion.
‘It would have picked up grease, skin and hair. The cable of the kettle in the kitchen and indeed other electrical items do not show that, and neither have they be wiped clean. Everything has a thin coating of dust as we would expect.’
Tom looked disappointed that his theory had been dismissed.
Jasmine decided to speak up. ‘You mean the killer has taken the cable away and may have brought it with him.’
Dr Gupta nodded, ‘It has certainly been removed and I think it is a reasonable assumption that a suitable length of cable was brought by the killer.’
‘Which suggests premeditation,’ Trewin added. ‘Any signs of a break-in?’
Gupta shook his head. ‘No. It would appear that the deceased let the killer into her home.’
Trewin nodded and looked at James and Tom. ‘I suppose you both know that the majority of killings are carried out by people known to the victim. We need to find out all we can about this woman and her acquaintances.’
Tom and James nodded in agreement. Trewin turned back to Dr Gupta.
‘Who is she, Doctor?’
‘A Mrs Hargreaves, so I’m told,’ the pathologist said, ‘Elizabeth. Not lived here long, I understand, but that’s all I have for now.’
‘Who discovered the body?’ Trewin asked.
‘Ah, I think one of your uniformed officers can help you there,’ Dr Gupta said as he turned and knelt beside the dead woman again. ‘I need to get on here so we can move the body.’
‘Thank you, Doctor. Frame go and see if the officer is outside. He should be hanging around.’
James retraced his steps to the doorway. A female community support officer was standing on the pavement near the door.
‘Hello,’ James said. ‘Can you tell me who found the body of Mrs Hargreaves?’
‘That was the neighbour, Mrs Wilson. She lives here.’ The young woman pointed to the house they were standing next to. ‘She called the emergency services and I was the first on the scene. This is my area.’  James examined the young officer. She was very young; he wondered if she was even out of her teens. She had a smooth, slightly pink-cheeked face and short blonde hair.
‘Thank you. You are?’
‘PCSO Oakham, Sir.’
‘Your first body?’
‘Yes, Sir. I’ve only been on duty for a couple of months.’  She became even pinker and a tear trickled down her cheek. She brushed it away. ‘Sorry, Sir.’
‘Don’t worry, I remember what it was like for me. I imagine that I’ll be seeing a few more in this job. What’s your first name?’
The girl hesitated. ‘Peaches, Sir.’ James felt his eyebrows rise. ‘My mother heard the name just before I was born and decided she liked it.’ James smiled, people who had strange names inflicted on them always felt that they had to offer an explanation.
‘Well, Peaches, tell me what happened.’
The young woman took a deep breath. ‘Mrs Wilson said that she had got annoyed because the radio in the house had been playing all night. This morning she came to complain to Mrs Hargreaves but there wasn’t a reply. Mrs Wilson thought that perhaps Mrs Hargreaves had gone away forgetting the radio so she decided to go in and turn it off. She had a spare key, you see. She let herself in and, well, found the body. She rang 999 and was in quite a state when I arrived.’
‘I’m not surprised. What happened next?’
‘The paramedic got here a few moments after me but of course there was nothing he could do. Then the PCs arrived and they called in everyone else.’
James could imagine the small house filling up with the various professionals. ‘But for a few moments it was just you and the neighbour.’
‘Yes,’ Peaches sniffed.
‘Did you notice anything?’
The girl looked mystified, ‘Like what?’
James shrugged, ‘I don’t know. Anything unusual?’
‘You mean apart from the body?’
‘Yes. Furniture knocked over, things not where they might be expected to be.’
Oakham shook her head, ‘I didn’t see anything like that. Just the radio playing.’
‘Who turned that off?’
‘I don’t know, Sir. It wasn’t me.’
James felt a hard object hit the back of his legs. He turned to find Dr Gupta exiting the front door carrying his large bag.
‘Oh, sorry, Doctor. I didn’t mean to be in your way,’ he said.
‘It’s no bother, DC Frame. I’ve done what I can here for now.’ The portly pathologist started to walk towards the cars parked in the street.
James had a thought. He called out. ‘Oh, Doctor.’
Gupta stopped and turned to face James. ‘Yes, Constable?’
‘You remembered that I’d worked with DS Sparrow.’
‘I did. Three deaths caused by misjudged doses of heroin. I gather you foiled a new group of pedlars of the disgusting material. Well done.’
‘Thank you Doctor. Did you know that DS Sparrow was dead?’
The doctor’s creased face drooped. ‘Yes, I had heard. A very sad business. Strange too.’
‘Strange?’
‘Yes. I understand she was hit twice by the car and the driver has not been traced. Look I must get these samples back to the lab and prepare for the post mortem on Mrs Hargreaves. Good luck Frame.’
Gupta hurried off leaving James with Peaches Oakham by his side. He knew it was the death of Mrs Hargreaves that he should devote his attention to but the thought of Milla Sparrow being repeatedly run over car filled his mind.
…………………..

Jasmine Frame in “Flashlight”

IMGP4720Juggling lots of different activities this week.  Sending off packages containing Bodies By Design – yes, there have been sales (get your copy now by emailing  paintedladiesnovel@btinternet.com  and look at the Jasmine Frame Publications page for prices); sorting out business for various committees, getting ready for the Applefair in Leominster (books for sale); writing some science stuff; and writing the first episode of the new Jasmine Frame prequel, Flashlight.  This one fits in just before Blueprint which was the very first prequel I wrote.  What I have not been doing is writing the next Jasmine Frame novel. I will get round to it, I promise.

So, here is the first episode of Flashlight.  Hope you like it.

Flashlight – part 1

The beat of “Day ‘n’ Nite” crashed through Jasmine’s head. In the brief flashes of light she watched Angela’s face change to blue, red, yellow, purple, green.  Angela’s eyes were closed as she danced to the pulse of the music. Jasmine ignored the hot press of steaming bodies with their mix of odours of sweat, perfume and other substances not so legal. She was simply enjoying being with Angela and being herself. The nylon fringe of her dress brushed against her bare thigh, rising and falling like the long tresses of her wig. She didn’t mind that her foundation was bubbling and her eye shadow slipping. She was enjoying being female and out with her wife.

There had been no thoughts of a night on the dancefloor when James got back to their rented flat. It had been a long shift and it was already eight p.m. He dropped his bag and shrugged off the blouson he’d worn to and from the police station.
‘Hi, James,’ came Angela’s call from the living room. James pushed the door open and stepped into the cramped space. Angela was sitting at the dining table working on her laptop as she had been most of the time  she was home in recent months.
James sank into the saggy sofa, let out a sigh of relief and closed his eyes. ‘How are you getting on, Ange?’
Ange closed the laptop. ‘I’ve had enough of corporate takeovers.’
James’ eyes opened and stared at her. ‘Don’t you have an exam soon?’
‘Yes, next week. But I’ve done enough for now. I seem to spend all my time in front of a screen. I want a change. How about you?’
‘I’m knackered.’
‘Long day.’
‘Yeah, and a lot of tramping around the countryside.’
‘Doing what?’
‘Looking for a bunch who’d been fooling around at a lock on the canal and killed a swan.’
‘Killed a swan? Don’t they belong to the Queen?’
‘Something like that. This one got eaten. They’re probably travellers.’
‘So you’ve been walking the towpath?’
‘Yes. All the way from the edge of town to Theale and back.’
‘Did you find them?’
James sighed. ‘Nope.’
Angela stood up, and took a step towards James and knelt in front of him.
‘I’m sorry you’re tired but I was hoping we might go out this evening?’
‘Out? It’s Wednesday. There’s work tomorrow.’
‘Yes, but you’re on a late and I’m on a study day. We could lie in a bit.’
Angela had obviously been waiting for his return to present her plan.
‘Where do you want to go?’
‘I found it on the internet today.’
James grinned. ‘When you were supposed to be revising?’
‘Yes. It was boring.’
‘What did you find?’
‘There’s a new club and tonight they’re having a transgender night. Well, it’s every Wednesday actually.’
‘A trans dance night?’
‘Yes.’
‘Where is it?’
‘The Marquis.’
James frowned. ‘I thought that place closed.’
‘It’s reopened. Had a makeover. Website looks pretty cool. They specialise in dance music.’
‘Oh,’ James was tempted although his legs protested that they didn’t need any more exercise.’
‘Come on James. You know you love to dance. I do too. And there’s that new dress you bought.’
‘Ah yes,’ James thought of his latest impulse buy. An up to the minute flapper dress in silver satin, with a long fringe and little else to cover the legs. ‘It’s in town. What if I’m seen?’
‘Can you see any of those blokes at the station going to a trans session at a club.’
‘Uh, No.’
‘Well then, even if we did see someone we know they’d hardly recognise you dressed. You know you can pass.’
James really did like Angela’s idea but he felt drained at the moment. ‘I need something to eat before we go though. I’m starving.’
Angela stood and headed towards their tiny kitchen. ‘I’ll fix you a toastie. Now go and start sorting yourself out.’
James hauled himself out of the settee and began undoing the buttons of his short sleeve uniform shirt.
‘Do you think that dress will be okay for an evening out?’
‘It’s perfect and it’s been a lovely day so you won’t be cold getting to the club. You won’t feel cold at all once we start dancing.’
It had taken less than an hour for James to shower, shave, eat the toasted sandwich, dress in bra, knickers and “the dress”, put on her make-up and wig and fasten the high heeled sandals to her feet. Angela had taken even less time to transform her appearance.  Once they were out of the block of flats Jasmine felt able to relax. Now they were just two young women heading off for a night’s entertainment but she still worried in case any of their neighbours saw this tall, rather boyish, figure and matched it with PC James Frame of the Reading Constabulary.

“Show me love” started to fade out as the DJ announced a change of mood – a bit of nostalgia. The familiar intro to Abba’s Supertrooper began. There were cheers from some of the older dancers.  Rather deep-voiced cheers. Jasmine leaned, just a little, and bellowed in Angela’s ear.
‘I need a break, and a drink.’
Angela nodded, grabbed Jasmine’s hand and guided her between the packed bodies beyond the edge of the small dancefloor to the bar. Angela quickly attracted the attention of a barman. He was wearing a yellow strapless dress and blonde wig but his dark beard gave him away.
‘What can I get you girls?’ he asked.
‘Two large glasses of water, please,’ Angela replied.

Having gulped down half her glass, Jasmine put her head close to Angela’s. ‘The dancefloor is smaller than it used to be, isn’t it?’
Angela looked around. ‘Yes. They’ve put in all these extra rooms.’ She pointed to the closed doors to the left and right.
‘What are they for?’ Jasmine asked.
‘Do you really need to ask?’ Angela giggled. ‘You can be naïve at times, Jas.’
‘You mean, drinks and music aren’t enough these days.’
‘You’ve got it Jasmine, The website made a lot of their cosy “quiet rooms” for intimate liaisons.’
‘But they’re not private. I’ve seen people coming and going from them.’
‘No. People can watch as well as take part.’
‘Cheap entertainment,’ Jasmine said.
‘That’s it. Low costs, high income. Look at all the people here tonight. They’re not all trans.’
‘The Marquis never used to be this full.’
‘No Jas, which is why it closed. The new owners have a revised business plan.’
‘You’re not studying now, Ange.’
‘I’m like you, Jas, never off-duty. Not completely.’
Jasmine breathed deeply. Angela was right. She often brought work home. She shouldn’t, she knew, but some of the incidents she was called to just had to be talked through to make them understandable.
‘I need the loo,’ she said.
Angela nodded. ‘OK. Take care. The ladies will be busy.’
‘Yes, it’ll be full of women and men playing at being women – like me.’
‘Playing?’
‘Well, no, practicing maybe.’
Angela grinned as Jasmine moved away looking for the signs to the toilets. She found the ladies quickly enough and when she opened the door she saw that Angela’s prediction was correct. Although the light was dim it was, unlike the dancefloor, constant so she could instantly make out the figures at the wash basins and the mirrors. Some were obviously men in dresses repairing their heavy make-up, but for most it was difficult to tell their genetic gender. It wasn’t the ladies attending to their cosmetics that took up the space however. There was a couple pressed against the wall snogging; a person in a dress not unlike Jasmine’s, on her knees with her head moving back and for against the groin of another “girl” who had her skirt hitched up to her waist and her knickers pulled down to her knees.
Jasmine pushed open the door of the nearest cubicle and dimly saw a pair of bare buttocks, tensed as their owner thrust against a figure bent over the loo. She pulled the door closed and moved to the second cubicle. It too was occupied. A slim, girl with short spiky black hair was sitting on the seat, but from the state of her dress was not engaged in any toilet activity.  There was a wad of banknotes in her lap and a handful of small clear plastic bags in her hand.
‘Hi, love,’ the girl said, ‘Are you buying?’
Jasmine drew back and hurriedly shut the door. She was off duty. She didn’t want to get involved with a drug dealer, not tonight. Two people emerged from the third cubicle and Jasmine gratefully pushed passed them to get into it. She locked the door, pulled up her dress and tugged her knickers down. She sat.

‘I’ve been offered drugs,’ Jasmine shouted into Angela’s ear.
‘I wondered what took you so long. What was it? Skunk?’
‘No, Heroin or cocaine I think. I didn’t hang round for long enough to take a close look.’
‘Are you surprised, Jas?’
Jasmine thought about what she’d seen and wondered what her position as a police officer was. Should she report that she had witnessed drug dealing to say nothing of public displays of sexual activity? But it probably counted as normal for 2009. If she reported it she would have to explain why she was attending a dance-night for trannies. She hoped her next visit to the Marquis would not be in uniform on a raid.

………………………

Jasmine timeline

This week life has been a little more normal, whatever that means. It’s been sunny and warm – nice enough to be out in sumer skirts and dresses.

summer - last year!

summer – last year!

I’ve been able to get on with the next (the third) Jasmine Frame novel as well as getting some other jobs done.  I am thinking about the next prequel novella but have decided to give you, dear readers, a rest for a week.  However, there are now eight novel or novella length Jasmine Frame stories counting the current novel in preparation so I thought you might like to see a timeline of Jasmine’s life and how the stories fit in. I’m not going to give away too many details about Jasmine though. You’ll have to read the stories to find out about her, her gender identity and the cases she tackles as a transsexual detective.

Jasmine Frame Timeline
  • 1983 January 23rd: James Frame born (Hastings, sister Holly is 4)
  • 2000 August: Discovering Jasmine  (novella)
  • 2001 November: Bristol University. Soft Focus (novella)
  • 2004 James/Jasmine graduates & joins the police.
  • 2005 July:  marries Angela Madison
  • 2009 June:  Joins ‘Violent and Serious Crime Unit’ in Kintbridge
  • 2009 November: Blueprint (novella)
  • 2010 July: Commences transition; Self-portraits (novella, previously called The Switch)
  • 2010 November:  Close-Up (novella)
  • 2012 January: Jasmine resigns from the police
  • 2012 May: Painted Ladies (novel – published)
  • 2012 August: Bodies by Design (novel)
  • 2012 November: Brides (novel, provisional title, in preparation)

Painted Ladies: A Jasmine Frame Story is available as an e-book and paperback from all booksellers including Amazon

Painted Ladies front cover jpeg

 

Jasmine in a fix

Watched the programme of Michael Portillo’s railway journey through Israel the other day. It wasn’t just a light historical travelogue. He laboured the point that the three religions that have squabbled over the region, Judaism, Christianity and Islam share a considerable amount of theology, scripture and sacred places and so should get on. What he didn’t reflect on is that it’s the minute diffrences that cause the conflicts and that it isn’t really just three religions as each is riven by factions squabbling over the “true vision”. What would it take for all peoples to live peacably together – I don’t know. Perhaps it is an impossible vision.

keeping up to date

keeping up to date

Anyway to my writing.

With this post I reach the final episode of Discovering Jasmine, the earliest prequel to Painted Ladies. There have now been four prequels all together, the others being Blueprint, Self-portraits (previosuly The Switch) and Close-up focussing on various periods in Jasmine’s evolution and transition from James to the transsexual detective she is in the novels. My main aim is to keep writing the sequel novels and Bodies By Design will be available in some form in the not too distant future. The third novel is also in preparation. So there is plenty of life in Jasmine Frame. I’ll be starting another prequel novella sometime soon, but here it is – the last part of Discovering Jasmine.

Discovering Jasmine – Part 12

Flames bloomed on the end of the stick like a fiery candyfloss. Jasmine was already launching herself across the foyer as Stash thrust the burning cloth through the broken letterbox of Cleo’s flat. She thudded into Stash’s legs as flames roared out of the hole accompanied by a whump!
They sprawled across the floor of the foyer towards the entrance. Jasmine’s skirt was around her waist and one of the bags spilled out of her bra, burst and shed grains of rice. She held on tightly to Stash’s legs trying desperately to prevent him from moving. Stash wriggled, flexed his knees, thrust against her. He was bigger, stronger than she was. One foot slipped out of her grasp. He kicked and his trainer slammed in to Jasmine’s shoulder. Her grip on his other leg weakened. He was free and on top of her, sitting astride her, one hand on her throat, the other holding something. What? It glinted in the yellow light of the flames flickering out of the door. The knife!
Heavy leather shoes pounded on the vinyl floor. In the corner of her eye Jasmine saw the bottom of two pairs of dark-trousered legs approach but her focus was on the silver blade hovering a few centimetres from her face.
‘Come closer and she gets it,’ Stash growled. The legs stopped moving.
A deep voice spoke. ‘Let her go lad. You know you’re not going anywhere.’
‘Get back I said. I mean it.’ The blade approached her cheek. The legs receded.
Stash’s head lowered and Jasmine saw him examining her.
‘You’re the cunt who got in the way last night. Another fucking tranny.’
Jasmine didn’t reply and held still although her heart was thumping and all the muscles in her body were trembling with fear. The point of the knife moved down to the side of her neck and pressed against her skin. She dare not move in case the blade penetrated. As if in a distance she heard the crackling of fire and cries. The acrid smell of smoke oozed out of gaps around the door.
Stash leaned closer. ‘We’re going to get out of here, you and me,’ he whispered in her ear. ‘You’re going to do as I say. Now stand up!’ Stash shifted his weight off her. His fingers pressed into her throat so that her breath came in strangled gasps. Cold steel touched her neck. The point wobbled. There was a sharp pain as the tip penetrated. Jasmine felt blood trickle down around her neck.
The knife moved away a little as Stash rose onto his feet. Jasmine pushed her hands against the floor to help her keep her balance and take the pressure off her throat which he maintained a grip on. They were both on their feet and Stash shifted to stand behind her his left arm locked around her neck and the stubby knife in his right hand pressed against a spot below her right ear.
Two policeman stood three metres away just inside the main entrance. They were poised ready to leap forward but there was fear in their eyes. Fear for her. Stash shuffled backwards, dragging Jasmine with him. One small step, two.
A crunch of something hard hitting bone. A groan, Stash’s not hers, and they were falling sideways, Jasmine dragged down by Stash’s arm. The point of the blade scratched her neck. They hit the floor; the knife slipped from Stash’s hand; the arm around her loosened. She rolled free, lay still, gasping for breath, pain in her neck, blood dripping. There were arms on her turning her over. She couldn’t see. Everything was confused.
‘That was risky, Ma’am. He had a knife to her throat,’ the male voice.
‘I had to do something. She’s not hurt is she?’ Bartrum’s.
‘There’s blood. It could be serious. We’d better get them out before this whole place goes up.’ The bass voice again.
Jasmine felt arms pushing under her body, lifting her. She realised her eyes were closed. It took an effort to open them. A burly, bearded police officer was holding her in his arms, lurching towards the entrance. They were out in the cool air; air that had been fresh but was now tainted by smoke. Her rescuer staggered up the path to the road. There was shouting, sirens, people, lots of people, milling around. At the edge of her vision there was flickering orange, yellow, red.
The policeman laid her on the road, knelt down beside her.
‘Are you okay, Miss.’
Jasmine considered. Her shoulder ached but she could breathe normally again. Her limbs felt weak but they were under her control. Her heart beat was slowing.
‘Yes,’ she croaked, her mouth dry.
A torch shone in her face. ‘Let’s check your neck. I think it looks worse than it is. There’s blood but I don’t think he caught your artery.’
There were other people around her, looking down, faces anxious. DC Bartrum was there. She leaned closer.
‘Jasmine. Are you alight?’
Jasmine pushed her hands against the tarmac, trying to sit up.
‘No, don’t move,’ Bartrum said, ‘The cut might tear. The paramedics will be here in a moment. They’ll wash the blood away, see how deep the cut is.’
‘Cleo?’ Jasmine said.
‘She’s okay. We got her out of the window. The fire’s taken hold.’
‘Stash?’
‘We’ve got him.’
‘You hit him.’
‘She clobbered him with a length of two by four,’ the deep-voiced police officer said. ‘Knocked him out cold. Took a risk though. The knife could have slit your throat.’
‘I had to do something,’ Bartrum said, ‘it looked like he was going to kill you if he couldn’t get away.’
‘Thanks,’ Jasmine said. There was movement near her. A bag was placed beside her and a different coloured uniform knelt to peer at her.
‘Hello, Miss. How do you feel?’ the paramedic said. His face came close to hers, a light shining from his forehead.
‘Okay,’ she replied and decided it was true. Her breathing was back to normal and while her shoulder and neck felt a bit sore she couldn’t identify any major pains.
‘I’ll just clean you up a bit.’ He dabbed gently at her neck with something cool and damp. ‘Ah, there’s some bruising and a couple of superficial cuts, but the bleeding has almost stopped. A plaster will fix you up, Miss.’ He rummaged in his bag for a few moments then placed a sticking plaster on her neck. She felt it more than the cuts. ‘You had a lucky escape,’ the paramedic went on, ‘a little bit deeper and lower and your carotid artery would have been severed. Take care of yourself.’ He moved away from her. ‘Where’s the next casualty?’
‘Over here. He’s unconscious,’ another voice said.
She had no reason for lying still anymore and the surface of the road was rather hard. Jasmine sat up. DC Bartrum was crouching beside her.
‘Can I help you up?’ she said offering her arms.
Jasmine grasped Bartrum’s hand and levered herself on to her feet. ‘Thanks.’ A wave of nausea passed through her and then she was standing straight and feeling almost normal. She brushed her skirt down her thighs, noticed that she had only one boob again and looked around. Flames were shooting out of the windows of Cleo’s flat making a bright contrast with the darkening sky. People had moved back to the far side of the road, the gang corralled behind a circle of police officers. A fire engine arrived, siren blaring and fire officers leapt out. The paramedic was at work on the prone form of Stash who also lay in the road. Approaching her from the other side of the road was Cleo accompanied by a female police officer. Cleo was wearing a lacy white minidress covered in dark smudges.
‘Jasmine?’ the question was tentative.
‘Yes, it’s me, Cleo. Jasmine/James.’
‘They told me it was you that told the police that they were going to petrol bomb me.’
‘Yes. I didn’t want you hurt. Are you okay?’
Cleo waved her hands. ‘Yeah, I was out of the window as soon the fire started and the cops appeared.’
‘I’m sorry about your flat.’
‘It wasn’t up to much. The housing association will have to find me a decent place now.’
‘But your clothes and other stuff?’
‘Charity shop gear. I can soon pick up some more.’
‘I thought the police would have stopped it happening.’
‘We had to catch Wright and his gang in the act,’ Bartrum said, ‘but we didn’t mean for him to actually torch the place.’
‘He should have been apprehended with the petrol can and lighter.’ Jasmine recognised the angry Scottish tones of DI MacNeil as he joined the trio. He wore an anti-stab jacket over his casual shirt and trousers. ‘And you were supposed to remain well away from the action with DC Bartrum,’ he continued.
‘I worked out how he planned to get inside the building,’ Jasmine said.
‘You should have told Bartrum who would have called through to warn us.’ It was obvious to Jasmine that she wasn’t being congratulated. Not that she felt like a hero.
‘Uh, Yes…’ She put a hand to her neck, feeling the sticking plaster. She trembled. Stash could have just slit her throat rather than attempt to use her as a hostage. Cleo could have been trapped in the smoke filled flat. Perhaps if she had spoken to Bartrum and she had alerted the police team they could have stopped Stash before he ignited the petrol. She had endangered herself, Cleo and possibly the police officers. What an idiot. ‘I’m sorry,’ she said, her voice quavering.
The scowl slid from MacNeil’s face and he spoke more soothingly.
‘Well, we can lay a few more charges in front of Wright, when he’s recovered from the headache Bartrum gave him, and the whole gang will face a conspiracy charge. So, thanks for your help.’ He held out his hand to shake Jasmine’s.
‘Yeah, thanks, Jasmine,’ Cleo added, flinging her beefy arms around her and hugging her.
‘I’d better get you back home, Jasmine,’ DC Bartrum said, ‘while we clear up here. Come on.’ She hooked an arm around Jasmine’s and gently dragged her away from the scene.

Back in the small Rover, driving across town, Bartrum glanced across at Jasmine.
‘You okay?’
Jasmine had been sitting quietly. ‘Yes,’ she said, but a vision of the knife sliding into her throat kept on replaying in her head. She didn’t think she’d ever forget it.
‘Still thinking about a career in the Police Force?’
‘Perhaps.’
‘You reacted fast back there,’ Bartrum said. ‘Perhaps not the right action but with training you could be a good officer. Think about it.’
…………………..

Painted Ladies: A Jasmine Frame Story is available as an e-book and paperback from all booksellers including Amazon

Painted Ladies front cover jpeg

Jasmine Frame, the one and only…

I’ve been told a number of times that Jasmine Frame is a unique character, so as a break between posting episodes of Jasmine Frame stories I thought I would examine that assertion and what it means in terms of being transgender.

It is around fourteen years since I created Jasmine Frame as a transsexual detective. I first used her in an unfinished novel which I gave up on. I then used her and a couple of the other characters I had created, Tom Shepherd and DCI Sloane, in a couple of short stories which were published in the Beaumont Magazine.  Then I began writing Painted Ladies and completed the first draft in 2009. Since embarking on the publication of Painted Ladies in 2013 I have written the second novel in the series, Bodies by Design, and the two episodic novella-length prequels, Blueprint and The Switch which were published here.

Painted Ladies cover

I feel pretty close to Jasmine now having lived with her in my head for those fourteen years. I think she has developed as a person while I have filled in her back-story. Although I have the bare outlines of a total of five novels taking her through her full transition I haven’t done what J.K.Rowling says she did with the Potter books i.e. I haven’t plotted out all the stories in detail. This has meant I am stuck with some timings that I put in Painted Ladies which has made the prequels a bit awkward in places.

The surprising thing is that in my fourteen years of writing about a leading character who is trans I have come across few if any similar characters. There have been novels, TV shows and films that have focussed on a trans character (Transamerica and Jimmy McGovern’s “Accused” with Sean Bean as a transvestite, spring to mind) but in all these cases the plot has centred on the trans nature of lead character. I have always seen Jasmine as a detective who happens to be trans. OK, her struggles and dilemmas as she transitions are an important part of her story and to date the crimes she has investigated have been trans related but I still think there is a separation between her life and her work not found in other novels and dramas that feature transgenderism.  I am hoping that if a publisher or a TV company picks up Jasmine Frame then the stories can broaden out into other areas.

While proud of Jasmine’s “unique” status I have been worried about other similar characters emerging. Ideas can’t be copyrighted so anyone could decide to have a trans detective. So far it hasn’t happened but I worry that it might before Jasmine has achieved a place in popular fiction. Perhaps my worry is unnecessary because the trans scene is broad enough to encompass any number of characters – and that is the most important point.

Jasmine Frame is unique not because she is a transsexual detective but because she is an individual. She is not based on any one person that I have met or come across, and she’s not me. She does however have facets of her character that I have gleaned from my experience of the trans scene and she holds some of my views. The more I learn about transgenderism the more I see it fragmenting as everyone’s experience is different. There are common features but everyone who professes themselves to transgender or gender variant or whatever term they want to use, has a degree of uniqueness. As time progresses and society changes in the UK and elsewhere the personal stories change. I am sure that there are more young people (teenagers and pre-teens) who now feel able to express their trans feelings than there were ten or twenty years ago. I would guess that the average age of transition (and gender reassignment surgery) is falling as more opt for it in their early twenties. That is good as it means that people are having to suffer the agonies of being trapped in the wrong externally perceived gender for less time but whether the number opting for gender reassignment in their fifties or sixties will drop, who knows..

What is also changing is the break up of the old division between transsexuals and transvestites. Transsexuals can be pre- or post-op but still qualify for their gender reassignment certificate; some will stop before the completing the medical/surgical process (both MtF and FtM).  For those who claim not to be transsexual there are a huge number of options from the closet dresser and secret lingerie wearers, to those that swap between male and female roles frequently and openly (like me), to those who declare that they have no gender or are third gender or between gender, and others that I have no space to list.

IMGP3838

Any of these could (and should) be characters in a story. Jasmine is just one individual who feels and believes that she is a woman but has (at least initially) a male body. She is keen on clothes and looking after her appearance; she has had a loving and sexual relationship with Angela, her (ex-)wife; she is uncertain of her sexuality as she transitions to female but finds herself aroused by male attention; she wants to be feminine (whatever that means – a subject for another blog) but won’t be sidelined by the men in her profession. Her personality has been built by her experiences as a child, teenager, student and trainee police officer and detective, and by the places she has lived in (Southern England). She has likes – running, classic films, spicy food, disco music, short skirts – and dislikes – prejudice, drab clothes, housework, forms, knives. She dives into situations where perhaps a bit of forethought would be a good idea but she has a need to prove herself and be the one to solve a case. She is Jasmine Frame – the one and only.

Painted Ladies: A Jasmine Frame Story is available as a paperback and e-book from all booksellers.

NB The featured image is a mock-up of a cover design for Bodies By Design

Jasmine looks ahead

Well, here it is – the final episode of The Switch. A bit of resolution, life goes on, that sort of thing. Eighteen episodes, 26,000 words. It was fun actually, and at least I had some idea this time where the story was going. But does it work as a novella? What do I do with it now?  One possibility is to publish it and Blueprint as e-books, or wait and see what happens to Bodies by Design for which I am still hoping for a publisher.  Ideas and comments would be very welcome.

I will be starting a third Jasmine Frame prequel in a couple of weeks. I’m just getting ideas together. Away from this blog things are pretty busy – life does indeed go on. I’m working on the third volume of Evil Above the Stars and soon I expect to be working with Elsewhen Press on the proofs of the first two volumes, Seventh Child and Power of Seven.  As I mentioned I am still  actively looking for a publisher for Jasmine, and sometime soon will start putting together the third novel which is still untitled.

Isn’t it great being a writer.

The Switch: Part 18

There was a glow in the eastern sky as Jasmine stooped the Fiesta in the driveway. She hauled herself from the driver’s seat and fumbled her key in the front door lock. She stumbled up the stairs willing her eyes to stay open. Which bedroom should she go to? Was Daniel asleep in her bed?
‘James?’ A sleepy call from their bedroom. No, it was Angela’s bedroom now. Jasmine pushed the door open and peered round it. Angela was heaving herself up on to her elbow.
‘You’re awake?’ Jasmine said unnecessarily.
‘Of course. I always hear you when you fall up the stairs in the middle of the night.’ Angela put the bedside light on. Her mussed up, long, brown hair and reminded Jasmine why she had been so attracted to Angela.
‘Sorry.’
‘Where have you been?’
‘At the station.’
‘All this time?’
‘Yes. Sloane made Tom put me through it.’ Jasmine entered the bedroom and sat on the bed.
‘You’ve still got a job?’ Angela’s face showed her concern as much as her voice.
‘Yes, just. Where’s Daniel?’ Jasmine remembered that Angela had called the police. ‘Did they take him in?’
‘He’s at home with his mother. Where he should be.’
‘Oh, Good. Why did you hand him over?’ She felt betrayed and couldn’t help it coming through in her voice.
‘I didn’t,’ Angela took hold of Jasmine’s hand and squeezed. ‘I thought you were being stupid but I didn’t dump Sloane on you.’
‘It seems like it. You rang in,’ Jasmine said.
‘I know but it was Daniel’s own decision. After you dashed off to see his father we talked. He was very grateful for what you had done but realised that you might be in a difficult position with your colleagues. OK, I explained that you may have put your job on the line by not informing Sloane of Daniel’s whereabouts. He thought about it.’
‘He was scared.’
‘I know, but he’s a sensible boy. He asked me to phone the police and make excuses for you. Say that Daniel had come to you to hand himself in.’
Jasmine felt a lump in her throat thinking of Daniel overcoming his fears of being treated as a girl.
‘What happened?’
‘I made the call, spoke to someone. They said a car would come to pick Daniel up. No one came. Then a few hours ago, it must have been midnight, I got a call from someone. One of your colleagues I suppose.’
‘What did they say?’
‘That Daniel wasn’t a suspect anymore and wasn’t needed, but he should go to the station tomorrow to give a statement.’
‘How did Daniel react?’
‘Well, at first he was delighted. We both were. Then he got this idea that it was his father that had killed the other boy. That made him upset of course. I suggested that he should speak to his mother. He rang her and then I walked him home.’
‘You walked over to the estate at midnight.’
‘Yes. It was quiet.’
‘You were lucky.’
Angela shrugged. ‘Perhaps. Anyway. What happened to you? Was it Daniel’s father?’
‘No, although he became an accidental accessory.’
‘What?’
Jasmine told the story of her evening. It was well rehearsed having gone through it a number of times with Tom. When she got to the confrontation with Kyle’s thugs in the security hut her voice trembled. Angela eyes went to the tear in her T-shirt.
‘You weren’t hurt, Jas, were you?’
‘No. He got my false boob. I’ll have to dig out my spare ones.’
‘But knives, Jas. I know what you’re like.’ Jasmine had nightmares of knife attacks.
‘It was over in a moment. I was OK. There was too much happening to think about what a knife can do.’
‘So, that was it. Tamsin’s guilty of what – manslaughter?’
‘Yes. She didn’t intend killing Kyle.’
‘And Daniel’s father is accused of concealing evidence, tampering with a crime scene.’
‘Something like that.’ Jasmine knew she should know the precise wording for her sergeant’s exams.
‘And Daniel’s in the clear.’
‘Yes. He’ll have to give evidence because of setting his father off after Kyle and because he was part of the reason for the argument between Kyle and Tamsin.’
‘And you?’
‘I’ll have to give evidence too, especially as Tamsin confessed to me.’
‘I meant your job; your relationship with Sloane.’
Jasmine sighed.
‘Well, it hasn’t done it much good. He was suspicious of my transition; he doesn’t seem to know whether to treat me as one of the guys or as one of these strange females that he’s increasingly have to deal with.’
‘But he’s keeping you in the team.’
‘Yes. I’m on probation. It’ll probably be like what it was right at the start with him watching everything I do and issuing his orders every two minutes.’
‘You can cope, Jas. You’re a good detective and he knows it.’
‘Yes, well. I’ll be good for nothing if I don’t get some sleep.’
‘What’s the time?’
Jasmine glanced at her watch. ‘About half five. I think I’ll sleep to midday.’
‘You can’t,’ Angela said.
‘Why not?’
‘Have you forgotten? You’ve got that appointment with that new doctor at eight thirty.’
Jasmine groaned.

Chapter 7
 
                ‘Mr James Frame to Doctor Gould.’
Jasmine froze. Around her in the waiting room were elderly men and women, women with babies and young children, other people with various ailments. They were all listening for their appointment to be called and watching to see who got up next. She couldn’t move. If she stood up they’d see a smart, young woman in a summer dress but they’d know she was Mister James Frame, male. They’d wonder, perhaps some would snigger. But she couldn’t wait. The name may be called again or Dr Gould might assume that she wasn’t there and call her next appointment. She took a deep breath and closed her eyes. At least she didn’t know any of these people. She thought of Daniel, at school surrounded by people who knew him when he was Emma.
Jasmine stood up. She opened her eyes and looked around. Most people weren’t looking in her direction. Nobody was looking at her with any kind of interest. She hooked her bag over her shoulder and walked determinedly towards the corridor and her appointment.
The door had a handwritten label on it saying Dr.J.Gould. How long would it take for Jilly Gould to get a permanent name plate, Jasmine wondered, she’d already been in the practice for a couple of months. Jasmine tapped on the door, heard a voice from inside and entered.
‘Hi, uh, Jasmine. Come and sit down.’ Jilly Gould was young, ginger-haired and her red-cheeked face full of smiles.
‘They called for Mr James Frame,’ Jasmine said sitting down on the plastic chair beside Dr. Gould’s desk. Jilly frowned.
‘Oh, did they? I’m sorry, Jasmine. But you’re here today to make your transition formal aren’t you? It won’t happen again, I promise.’
Jasmine handed over a sheaf of forms.
‘I’m on leave to sort out all the legal changes. As far as the law is concerned I’m now female.’
‘Good,’ Jilly glanced at the forms and placed them on her desk. ‘You’re happy about it.’
‘Yes. It’s a start. No more complications. I’m female, my documents say I’m female, or will once they’re processed, and I hope I look female.’
‘You do, Jasmine. You’re looking lovely.’
Jasmine didn’t feel lovely. She’d had just over an hour’s sleep before she had got up and started making preparations for this appointment. She had showered, shaved closely all over her body but particularly her face, moisturised, dressed with thought and finally made-up with great care; but her eyelids were heavy and she felt tired.
‘Thanks. Now I want to move on. I want the full gender reassignment.’
‘Yes, I understand, Jasmine. We’ve discussed this. You’ve helped me learn a lot about gender identity that I didn’t know before. You still want to follow the NHS route?’
‘I haven’t got any choice, Jilly,’ Jasmine said, ‘I haven’t got the cash to go private. All my savings, our savings I should say, Angela’s and mine, went into buying the house. I can’t deprive her of that even though we will separate. And I’ll need my share to get my own place to live.’
‘I understand Jasmine. You’ve explained it to me, but you know that the NHS process can take a long time.’
‘Yes.’
‘The good news is that I’ve got an appointment for your assessment at the GR centre. It’s a couple of weeks’ time. If that goes well, we’ll be able to get you on the drugs, the oestrogens and the ant-androgens. Then you’ll start to see some changes even before you have the surgery.’
‘Thanks, Jilly.’ Jasmine felt excitement fill her. She was on the path to womanhood. Sometime in the future, perhaps not too distant, she would be able to stand naked in front of a mirror and see an image that matched her inner vision of herself – Jasmine Frame, detective.

The End

Painted Ladies: A Jasmine Frame Story is available as paperback and e-book from all booksellers.

Jasmine faces questions

Below is the penultimate episode of The Switch: A Jasmine Frame story – a prequel to Painted Ladies. When you reach the end you may think that it is a good place to finish but there are some threads I would like to tie together.

Like the first prequel, Blueprint, that I published episodically here, The Switch has developed week by week, and changed as I got into it. Each episode is written just before I post it so sometimes I have more time than others. I realise that this may have an effect on the style and the competence of the writing. I must read the whole story when it’s finished and see whether it works.

I write my novels somewhat differently in that they are loosely planned, drafted, re-drafted and so on. Nevertheless I would like comments on The Switch – please tell me what you think, strengths, weaknesses, that sort of thing, what to do with it next…

So look out next week for the final episode and then… well I am thinking about another, probably the last, prequel which will almost take us up to the start of Painted Ladies. Then, with Bodies By Design complete, I will start planning the third in the series (That’s after I’ve completed the third novel in the September Weekes series). Fun isn’t it, being a writer.

The Switch: Part 17

 Chapter 6

Her hand shook as she applied the lipstick and it wasn’t due to the rattles of the old Fiesta or Tom’s driving. What have I done, Jasmine thought? She hadn’t given a thought to her actions from the moment she pushed the door to the old security building open. Finding Tamsin being abused by the three members of McLeery’s gang, their attack on her and then the arrival of Sloane and his men had happened so quickly. She had been stupid to walk in to a potentially dangerous situation without back-up or forethought and there was no doubt Tom’s arrival saved her from some injury. It was the delayed realisation of the danger she had been in that was giving her the shakes. But why had Sloane and Tom and the other officers arrived at that opportune moment.
Jasmine completed painting her lips, checked her appearance in her mirror and replaced the items in her bag. Her heart rate was returning to normal and she felt that her voice would not sound too tremulous. It wasn’t far now to Police HQ. She’d better get some information out of Tom while the chance remained.
‘Thanks for turning up when you did back there, Tom.’
Tom glanced at her then turned back to concentrating on the road.
‘Glad to get you out of there, Jas,’ he said, ‘But Sloane is going to be furious with you for going in alone.’
‘I know,’ Jasmine replied. She knew she was in for one of Sloane’s famous outbursts. She had ignored every protocol for following up a lead. ‘But how come you arrived just then.’
‘We were on our way to your house.’
‘My house?’
‘Yes. You know Angela rang in.’
‘Do I?’
‘Don’t you? She rang to say that Daniel Parry was prepared to hand himself in for questioning.’
‘He was?’ Jasmine couldn’t understand. Why had Angela taken it on herself to hand Dan over?
‘Yes, she said that he’d contacted you and you had picked him up and now he was ready to answer questions about Kyle McLeery.’
‘Oh.’
‘But before we got there we took call relayed to us from a Mr Parry.’
‘Dan’s father.’
‘Yes. He said that you were on your way to look for a girl called Tamsin who had something to do with McLeery’s death. He suggested that old hut as a starting point.’
‘Did he say anything else?’
‘No, but Sloane has asked for him to come in to answer questions.’
‘He’ll need to.’
‘Why? You said this Tamsin girl was the killer.’
‘Mr Parry was involved in attempting to dispose of the body.’
‘You mean he and Tamsin were in it together.’
‘No. Look it’s complicated but Daniel’s in the clear. He had nothing to with the death and knows nothing about how it happened.’
‘He may be in the clear, Jas, but you’re not.’
‘What do you mean?’ Jasmine asked but she knew the answer already. She was not looking forward to Sloane’s interrogation. It looked like the police career of DC Jasmine Frame could be over before it began.
‘I don’t understand what you’ve been doing for the last few days, Jas. I know this transition is a big thing for you and I can’t imagine what’s going on in your head, but why get involved in the McLeery case?’
‘I wasn’t trying to solve the case, Tom, I was just trying to protect Dan, because he’s trans like me.’
‘And that was a good enough reason for putting your career on the line?’
‘I had no intention of putting my career on the line, Tom.’
‘Well, you’d better find some good answers for Sloane.’
They pulled into the Police Station car park and Tom brought the car to a halt. As he was undoing the seat belt he twisted to face Jasmine.
‘Good luck Jas. I’m on your side, whatever that is, but remember I have to do what Sloane tells me.’
Jasmine gave him a forced smile. ‘I understand Tom.’ It meant that when Sloane gave her a hard time, Tom would not be coming to her rescue.
Tom led her into the station. It wasn’t late but being a Monday evening wasn’t busy. The duty officer sat at the desk looking bored. He looked up as Tom and Jasmine passed by.
‘Eh? DC Shepherd. Who’s this with you? Aren’t you going to log her in?’
‘It’s DC Frame, G.G.’
Jasmine knew Sergeant Geoff Gorman well and he knew her. Well, he knew DC James Frame. He was and old-time cop, approaching retirement and confined to a desk these days. Surely her clothes, make-up and new hair-do didn’t make her unrecognisable but apparently G.G. had seen ‘female’ and that was it. His brow furrowed as he looked at her more closely and then his eyebrows rose.
‘So it is, I’ll be blowed. We had that briefing on you today. You’re a trannie or something. Is that it?’
‘I’m transsexual, G.G. I’m on leave while I transition.’
‘Transition? What does that mean? Getting your bollocks chopped off?’
‘Not yet, G.G. Just getting a few documents sorted.’ Jasmine felt her face turning red and her heart beat faster as her anger grew.’
‘Hmph,’ G.G growled.
‘We’d better go on through,’ Tom insisted holding the inner door open, ‘We’re going to an interview room, G.G.’
‘Do what you like. Seems anything goes these days.’
Jasmine followed Tom down the corridor and when he opened the door into a room stepped through. It was familiar to her, a place where she had interviewed many victims, suspects and witnesses during the last few years as a detective. It was a place she was comfortable in, where she knew what she had to do and how to do it. She pulled a chair away from a table and began to sit down.
‘Not there Jas. The other side.’
Jasmine jumped up as if shocked. Of course, she was the one being interviewed tonight. She moved around the table and sat down in one of the chairs opposite, where the detectives sat. The recording equipment was on the wall to her left and the fluorescent lamps shone down brightly from directly above her head.
‘I’m not used to this, Tom,’ she said
‘No, and I wouldn’t want to be in your shoes. I’ll go and see if Sloane is back yet. Won’t be long.’ He withdrew. The door closed but Jasmine was relieved when she did not hear the clunk of the lock being turned. At least I’m not a prisoner, still free to go if I wish; and say good bye to my job.
In the stuffy, bare room she had time to think. Was G.G’s reaction to her typical of her police colleagues? Why had Angela rung the police? Had Daniel really agreed to give himself up? What had made her dash off to question Dan’s father and get herself in this mess?
The minutes dragged on and Jasmine grew tired of trying to analyse her motives and searching for answers to questions for which she didn’t have the data to provide an answer. She became more and more apprehensive of meeting Sloane. What would he think of her dress – light cotton, colourful, knee-length? Ideal for a hot summer day, but for a police officer on duty he probably would not think it suitable attire. Apart from that few moments in the semi-dark of the disused security box he hadn’t seen the female DC Frame before. How would he react to her made-up face, ear rings, bosom? Why did it matter what he thought. She was entitled to be who she wanted to be, believed herself to be. She didn’t have to appear in a way that pleased DCI Sloane. She mentally thumped the table. But he was her boss; his opinion of her would determine whether she succeeded as a detective, transitioned or not.
She had almost exhausted herself examining and re-examining her thoughts and feelings on her life, career and the position she found herself in. The door opened and DCI Sloane entered. His bulk and the grey suit dominated the room seeming to make it cramped. Tom followed appearing small despite being taller and well-built himself. Sloane paused and looked intently at Jasmine. She saw his top lip curl and a blush appear above his white collar. Then he strode to the table, pulled out the chair and sat down. The plastic and steel chair sank noticeably as he settled his weight into it. Tom eased himself into the chair by his side. The table which had previously seemed quite large now felt inadequate at keeping a gap between them. The two men seemed to be threateningly close.
Sloane stared at her, his eyes examining every square millimetre of her face. He glanced down to the top of her chest and the bulge where her artificial breasts filled her bra. His eyes lingered on the tear in the cloth of her dress and the protruding threads of her bra cup and silicone foam. His eyes rose and he looked directly at her again.
‘So how is your transition going, DC Frame?’ Sloane asked. The words appeared chatty almost friendly but the tone in which they were spoken was grave and suspicious.
‘Very well, thank you, Sir. I’ve made a start on the forms I need to complete. There’s quite a few.’
‘So I understand. It was partly why I agreed to your extended leave. Give you time to adjust to your new identity.’
‘It’s not new to me,’ Jasmine found herself saying.
‘Time for us to adjust then,’ Sloane growled.
‘Yes, Sir,’ Jasmine hastened to agree. She wasn’t sure that three weeks would be long enough for some of her colleagues.
‘So, given that you are off police duties, what were you doing in the disused air force premises this evening?’
The first crunch question. How she answered might determine her future.
‘I was hoping to find Tamsin.’
‘Why?’
‘Because I thought she might have been responsible for Kyle McLeery’s death.’
‘Why did you think that?’
‘Mr Parry, Daniel’s father told me he’d seen a girl similar to her at the scene of McLeery’s death at a time when he might have been killed.’
‘And why was Mr Parry at the scene.’
‘He wanted to tackle McLeery about threats to his son.’
‘Tackle?’
‘I don’t think he intended just to have a quiet chat, Sir.’
‘Parry killed McLeery.’
‘No. He said he found the body of McLeery, after he’d seen the girl leaving the scene. Tamsin admitted she hit McLeery with a pipe.’
‘Ah yes, the clue of the familiarity with the unrevealed evidence.’
‘Yes, Sir.’
‘So you solved the murder of McLeery for us.’
Jasmine nearly replied ‘Yes’, but stopped herself. That was Sloane’s trap.
‘Um. If I was responsible for uncovering important evidence, Sir, then it was unintentional.’
Sloane leaned back in his chair, breathed deeply and examined Jasmine through half-closed eyes.
‘So, what was the intention behind these toings and froings to Basingstoke and Enborne Common?’
‘I wanted to prove that Daniel Parry had no part in the death of Kyle McLeery and that there was no need for him to be questioned.’
‘That was a noble aim, Frame. Why did you consider it your task?’
‘Because, he’s trans, like I am, but younger, inexperienced. I understood his fear of having his relationships and identity examined.’
‘So you had contact with him at a time when we had a call out for his apprehension, but did not inform us at the time.’
‘Yes, Sir.’ Jasmine realised she couldn’t excuse that break with protocol. ‘I thought that if I met him, talked to him, without the police pressing him, I could keep him calm and prepare him for the questions he would be asked.’
‘You didn’t think that that was my responsibility to decide. That having informed me of the contact with Daniel Parry I might have asked you to do just what you did do.’
‘No, Sir. I didn’t think.’ Jasmine dropped her eyes. She couldn’t bear to see Sloane’s accusing expression.
‘That’s not what I expect of a detective constable, Frame. You have broken protocols, withheld information and interfered with an investigation in which you had no part.’
‘Yes, Sir.’ Oh, god. This was it. He was going to throw her off his team, perhaps out of the force altogether. There was just the sound of Sloane’s heavy breathing. Jasmine counted one, two, three, four slow, deep breaths. She looked up. Sloane still had his eyes fixed on her. He took another few breaths before speaking.
‘I read your report of the incident you came across last Friday when, I believe, you met Daniel Parry for the first time.’
‘Sir?’
‘You became emotional about the way McLeery was treating Parry.’
‘Uh. Yes, Sir.’
‘You felt an empathy because of your shared status as transsexuals.’
‘That contributed I suppose, Sir.’
‘At just the time when you have commenced this major change in your life.’
‘Yes, Sir.’
‘You still want to return as a DC on my team?’
‘Yes, Sir.’
‘I presumed as much. You have made me question whether I can trust you sufficiently to have you on my team, Frame. Acting like a private eye doesn’t work in the police force, now or ever. We achieve results by sharing information, ideas, dangers. We cooperate, look out for each other and bring criminals to justice through damned hard work. Once upon a time a hint of instability in character would have been enough to have you out. Now I suppose I have to make concessions to your diversity and emotional well-being.’
He was going to let her off! Jasmine felt a weight lift from her. She straightened her back, held her head up. She had a future in the police force.
‘You will remain here until you have completed a full and detailed account of all your involvement in this case and answered any further questions that DC Shepherd may have. Then you can go home and complete your leave with no more interference in police business. When you return to service you will be on probation, DC Frame. I will be watching your behaviour very closely. Any further insubordination could have severe consequences for your career. Do you understand?’
‘Yes, Sir.’
‘Good. I am sure a woman officer can give you advice on suitable attire for a female detective constable, if that is how you intend to be seen in the future.’
‘Yes, Sir.’ She was getting tired of her bi-syllabic responses but retained enough common sense to not add anything to them. Sloane stood and without a further glance at her, turned away.
‘Make sure it’s a complete report, Shepherd.’   He strode from the room.
Tom pushed a pad of paper and a biro towards her.
‘Thanks,’ he said.
‘For what?’ Jasmine asked.
‘For getting me the task of sitting here while you write your life story. I was supposed to be off duty two hours ago.’
‘Sorry.’
‘OK. Get writing.’
…………………..

Painted Ladies: A Jasmine Frame Story is available as a paperback or e-book from all booksellers.
 

Jasmine takes on the case

Well it’s Sunday this week – sorry if some readers have been waiting for my next post. There’s just not enough days in the week -certainly not enough to keep up with all the things I want to write to say nothing of other stuff.

Just some thoughts – Will Self in yesterday’s Guardian saying  the novel was dead (again). Haven’t yet got round to reading all his arguments but I imagine he’s wrong. Writing, and reading, is constantly changing.  Look at how the size and length of novels has increased over the last fifty years. Most of the paperbacks on my shelves bought in the 60s and 70s are slim volumes. Now nearly every novel is a tome. But apparently the rise of the e-book has encouraged a new interest in novellas or novelettes. I don’t think that is a bad thing.  I am thinking of putting my novel length Jasmine Frame story, Bodies By Design, onto e-book and perhaps also the novella length prequel I published episodically here, Blueprint, as well. Maybe when the Switch is complete I’ll do the same. We’ll have to wait and see. In the meantime here is the next episode.

The Switch – Part 6
 
Jasmine leaned with her back against the shut front door. What should she do? If Danny was still missing his mother, Jenny, must be frantic. Getting calls from the Police about Kyle’s murder would make her worse. Should she ring her? Jasmine returned to the lounge and picked up her phone. She was about to thumb the re-dial when she stopped. No, it would be more comforting for Jenny if she called on her. But Angela had left in the Fiesta. She’d have to walk around to the estate. She recalled Angela’s reservations about the area in which the Parrys lived. At least it was daylight.
Jasmine slipped on a pair of pumps and shrugged her bag over her shoulder. She looked in the mirror to check her make-up, it was OK, stepped outside the door and pulled it closed behind her. There were only a few hundred yards between the two homes but it was like travelling from one civilisation to another. Her own street was neat and tidy. Most of the cars had left in the morning as their drivers set off for work. In the Parry’s road there were a couple of old cars with wheels and other bits missing, a few white vans of various sizes parked up on the muddy verge, uncollected bags of rubbish stacked against walls, torn and spewing wrappers and chicken bones, unoccupied houses boarded up and unlooked after. The street was deserted but Jasmine had the feeling that there were eyes watching her from behind thin curtains.
The Parry house was neat and tidy with blinds at the window, closed despite it being a bright, sunny, mid-morning. Jasmine rang the doorbell. There was a delay and then the door opened an inch, held by a chain. One eye and half a face appeared.
‘Oh. It’s you.’
‘Hello, Jenny. How are you? Will you let me in?’
The face disappeared and the door closed. There was a clinking of metal chain and then the door opened again, just a few inches. Jenny Parry’s face appeared, whole this time. She looked passed Jasmine, seemed to be satisfied and then pulled the door wider.
‘Come in. Quickly.’
Jasmine squeezed through the gap and around the woman. The door was closed behind and the chain restored.
‘What’s scaring you, Jenny?’ Jasmine asked as she followed Mrs Parry down the hallway to the kitchen.
‘Kids. They’ve been hanging around since the police called. Watching and calling out vile things about Daniel.’
‘They’re not out there now.’
‘They’ll be back. I’m glad Daniel’s not here. He’d be shitting himself.’
‘You haven’t heard from him?’
‘No. Have you got any news?’
‘No. Did you think he might have contacted me?’
‘I thought, you being a cop, you might have heard whether they’ve found him.’
Since she’d had a visit from her colleagues Jasmine guessed that Jenny was probably not sure whose side she was on. Jasmine knew she had to get back into Jenny’s confidence.
‘Look, shall we have a coffee and you can tell me what the police said to you.’
‘Oh, yes, I forgot to ask. Black was it?’
‘Yes, please.’
Jenny put the kettle on and got two mugs out of the cupboard. She spooned instant coffee into both
‘They came round looking for Daniel,’ she said, while the kettle began to hiss.
‘I know,’ Jasmine said.
‘The detective said that Kyle was dead and they needed to ask Daniel some questions.’
‘That’s right.’ Jasmine didn’t think she was offering much help.
‘They can’t think Danny had anything to with it can they?’ The kettle began to whistle and Jenny picked it up and poured the water into the mugs.
‘They need to eliminate him from their enquiries,’ Jasmine recited. Jenny handed a mug to Jasmine.
‘What does that mean?’ Jenny said.
‘Let’s sit down and I’ll try to explain,’ Jasmine said. How do I explain that your son is a suspect, she asked herself.
They entered the dimly lit lounge. The closed blind just let a diffuse sunlight into the room.
Jenny sat on the end of a scuffed, Dralon sofa. Jasmine settled into the matching armchair that was closest. She sipped the hot coffee.
‘You see,’ Jasmine began, ‘The police know that Dan knew Kyle.’
‘Everyone round here knows… uh, knew, that boy. He had a go at anyone he wasn’t afraid of.’
‘Well, that’s the point. Kyle threatened Dan.’
‘You told me that last night. How did the police know?’
‘That was me.’
‘You!’
‘Yes. On Friday evening when I met Dan up on the Common he was being attacked by Kyle and his mates. They were dragging him towards the old security hut. I called for assistance but managed to get Dan away from them before the police car arrived. The officers didn’t do anything but a call out has to be logged. I said I would write a report, which I did. What I wrote got flagged up after Kyle’s body was found.’
‘What were they taking Daniel to the hut for?’ Jenny’s face showed fear, fear of something she suspected.
Jasmine struggled to find the best words, ‘Kyle said he was going to do something to Danny.’
‘You mean he was going to rape him. You know Danny is still physically a girl.’
‘Yes, I know, and yes that was what Kyle threatened. I don’t know if he would have gone through with it.’
‘Oh, yes, he would. A vicious bastard he was. I’m glad he’s dead.’ Jenny paused, ‘so that’s why, Daniel went away. To get away from Kyle.’
‘That’s what I think,’ Jasmine agreed. Jenny was silent for a moment.
‘But that’s why the police think Daniel killed him, isn’t it. They think he l did it so he wouldn’t be raped. Or…’ she covered her face with her hands her eyes showing horror, ‘Perhaps Kyle did catch Daniel and… and…’
‘Dan killed him in revenge,’ Jasmine filled in. Jenny shook her head from side to side.
‘No, no. It couldn’t be like that. Daniel wouldn’t hurt anyone. Not even Kyle.’
‘Are you sure?’ Jasmine asked. ‘Being raped is bad enough but when you’re a trans man, being taken as a woman, well, perhaps Dan got angry enough to get his own back.’
‘No. I don’t believe it,’ Jenny cried and curled up sobbing. ‘Emma was such a gentle girl. She wouldn’t hurt anyone.’
‘Emma? Is what Dan’s name was before?’
‘Yes. She was sweet with curly hair and a big smile. Her father adored her. Then as she grew up she began to insist that she was a boy. She wouldn’t wear skirts or dresses and started to say that her name was Daniel.’
‘Did that cause problems?’
‘Of course it did. We tried to play along but Steve, my husband, used to get annoyed. When he tried to get Daniel to behave as a girl Daniel got frustrated.’
‘Violent?’
‘Who? Daniel? No. He got wild and shouted and jumped around but he didn’t hurt anyone. It was Steve who got violent, slapped Daniel and took it out on me. He left eventually.’
‘And that was when Dan transitioned?’
‘Yes. He’s been calm and happy ever since, despite the problems.’
‘Problems?’
‘People calling him names. Outside school this is. School have been great. Some people just don’t understand that he is really a boy.’
‘I know what it can be like.’
Jenny looked up at Jasmine and stared into her face.
‘I suppose you do.’
‘I think Kyle has been bullying Dan for quite a while. Dan told me that he was quite determined to subdue Dan and have him in his gang.’
‘Daniel hated all that gang stuff. He wouldn’t let Kyle rule his life.’
‘But would he kill Kyle to stop him?’
‘No. He’d get away just like he’s done. Look, Jasmine, you’ve got to help us. Get Daniel back and prove he didn’t kill Kyle.’
Jasmine couldn’t find an answer immediately. How could she set about finding Dan and prove him innocent. She was not even on duty. She was starting to transition herself. She had too much to do sorting out her own life. But, she looked at the anguished face of the mother and found herself answering.
‘Yes, of course.’ She stared into her mug and noticed it was empty. She couldn’t remember drinking all the coffee. ‘I’d better go,’ she said putting the mug on the floor and standing up, ‘I’ll make some enquiries. I’m sure Dan will turn up. Perhaps Kyle’s death will turn out to be an accident after all.’
Jenny followed her into the hall and to the door. Jasmine undid the chain and turned the lock. Jenny pushed against the door keeping it closed,
‘You will help Daniel.’
‘Yes,’ Jasmine replied. Jenny pulled the door open. Jasmine stepped through. The door closed behind her and the chain rattled. Jasmine looked ahead. There were people standing in the road and two boys stood at the gate. They were Kyle’s mates.

……………..

 

 

 

Jasmine Frame in “The Switch” – all new story

A little early this week in posting this blog but I’m excited because I have started a new Jasmine Frame story.  It is set between the events of Blueprint and Painted Ladies so is both a sequel and a prequel. It occurs at another important stage in  Jasmine’s transition that sees her involved in another case.  Like Blueprint I will be posting an episode each week, the difference being that this time I have some idea where it is going. What I don’t know is how long it will be or what convolutions will occur in the plot as we go along.

My other source of excitement this week was the news that a publisher is interested in publishing my fantasy novel, Evil Above the Stars featuring the heroine, September Weekes.  The publisher is Elsewhen Press, a small publisher of SF and Fantasy. Like my Jasmine Frame stories, I have been developing September’s adventures for a few years now. I couldn’t be more delighted that it looks as though they’ll be available to an audience. More news as it develops.

So, here is the first episode of The Switch.

The Switch: part 1

Chapter 1

The soles of her running shoes barely touched the concrete pavement as she loped along at a swift but comfortable pace. Despite it being the end of a long working day at the end of a long working week she felt exhilarated and bounding with energy. A weight had been taken off her. No longer would she have the burden of living two lives. From now on she was only Jasmine Frame. James was no more. Ahead of her stretched three weeks of leave from the Kintbridge police force; three weeks to sort out the legal papers; three weeks to acclimatise to being Jasmine full-time.
There was still plenty of light on this July evening but the temperature was comfortable now. Running was easy. The shoulder-length blonde wig was a bit of an irritation as were the silicone inserts in her sports bra, but they were necessary. They made her feel more feminine but she longed for the day when her body would match her image of herself. The wig could be discarded soon but it would be some years before she had breasts of her own to fill the bra cups. She hadn’t even started the gender altering drugs yet, and as for surgery, well, that was in the distant future.
She crossed the road and joined the gravel path that circled the common land that had been an air base. Where once there had been the roar of jet bombers now there was peace but for the call of birds. Sometimes she met other joggers and dog walkers, but this evening she was alone.
Or so she thought. She heard voices, young raucous voices, angry voices. She crested a low rise. Now the path dropped down to one of the old access roads onto the airfield. There were five young people by a disused gatehouse. Their noise and movements attracted Jasmine’s attention as she jogged towards them. There was one girl with long dark hair who slouched a couple of metres apart from the other four who appeared to be boys. Three of them were surrounding the last, jostling and shoving him. The three were taller and tougher looking than the subject of their attack. He tried to evade them but was unable to escape their triangle. Two of his assailants grabbed him and dragged him towards the open door of the concrete hut. From the shouts and swearing Jasmine gathered that it wasn’t some game in progress. This was an assault.
Jasmine stopped and pulled her phone from her belt. She thumbed the contact to the police station and spoke urgently.
‘Back-up required, youths fighting, north entrance to Enborne Common off Bowdown Road.’ She sprinted down the path towards the road. The three boys were trying to push the other through the doorway but he had a foot up on the door jamb pushing back while he waved his arms trying to keep them free. The girl hung behind not helping the assailants or their victim.
‘Stop. Police,’ Jasmine shouted realising that she had used her male voice. The girl and the boys looked around and paused in their pushing. The short boy shook himself free.
‘Fuck off,’ one of the boys shouted towards Jasmine and grabbed the boy’s arm
‘Leave him alone,’ Jasmine roared. ‘The police are on their way.’ She waved her phone to emphasise the point. The two other boys looked at the one holding the victim.
‘Come on Kyle. Let’s go. The fuzz are coming,’ one said.
Kyle glared at Jasmine, his lip curling. Jasmine could see him matching her masculine voice to her bosomed vest and blonde curls.
‘Don’t listen to him, guys. It’s a freak, a perv.’ Kyle took a firmer grip on the small lad who was struggling to get free.
Jasmine took a few steps closer, stretching to her full height, unfortunately no greater than Kyle’s, and adopting a pose with her arms and fists that suggested that she could look after herself in a fight. She was confident she could take Kyle alone but knew she couldn’t defend herself against all three, or four if the girl decided to join in. What was she getting into? At least there were no knives in sight. Knives were her worst fear.
‘Leave it Kyle,’ the other boy spoke up, ‘Perhaps the trannie has called the police.’ A siren sounded in the distance and all the young people stiffened. Jasmine smiled, it may not have been the car she’d called for but it was a useful coincidence.
‘There. They’ll be here in moments,’ Jasmine said in as calm a voice as she could manage, striving to raise her pitch. The three bigger boys and the girl gazed towards the road. The victim wriggled free of Kyle and ran towards Jasmine. Kyle moved to follow. Jasmine grabbed the small lad and held him protectively.
‘If you run, you may avoid being arrested,’ Jasmine added.
‘Come on, Kyle. It’s not worth it,’ the girl said. Kyle stopped a couple of metres from Jasmine and the boy. His fists clenched and the muscles in his bare arms tensed. Was he going to attack? Jasmine prepared to push the lad away while she defended him.
The same or a different siren sounded, closer. The other two boys ran off. The girl tugged on Kyle’s shoulder. After a moment he relaxed and allowed himself to be pulled away. He turned and with the girl ran off in the same direction as the others.
Jasmine was left with the victim of the attack. The top of his head was barely up to her shoulder. The sides of his head were shaved and there was a tuft of spiky black hair on top. His cheeks and chin were smooth and soft. He wore a loose T-shirt and baggy knee-length cotton shorts. Jasmine thought he must be about twelve or thirteen and perhaps rather than being short was actually quite tall for his age.
‘Hi, I’m Jasmine. Who are you?’ Jasmine asked, smiling broadly to reassure the young lad.
The boy frowned.
‘I’m Dan,’ his voice was a soft treble, ‘Are you a trannie?’
Jasmine sighed. She wasn’t surprised that she’d been read. The aggressive Kyle had spotted her. It wasn’t surprising when her shouted police voice didn’t match her waxed arms and legs to say nothing of her now slightly skewed wig.
‘Yes, I’m trans,’ she admitted. ‘What was all that about?’
Dan ignored her question
‘Are the police really coming?’
‘I hope so. I called for back-up.’
‘You’re a cop?’
‘Yes.’
‘They have trannies then.’
‘A few.’ Jasmine had been listening to Dan’s questions and watching him. His interest in her didn’t seem to be the fascination with the weird or the disgust that being read often generated. This young boy intrigued her. ‘You haven’t answered my question, Dan. Why were Kyle and his friends all over you?’
Dan didn’t reply at first. Jasmine watched various emotions pass across his face. Finally he spoke.
‘He was going to fuck me.’
Jasmine knew that her shock must have registered on her face. Did Dan know what he was implying? She had to spell it out.
‘What? You’re underage. Does Kyle want to be known as a gay paedo?’
‘It’s not like that. I’m sixteen and he wants to show everyone that I’m a girl.’

…………………………

Reflections and projections

This week I am reflecting on Blueprint, the Jasmine Frame prequel I completed last week.

Keeping to a strict programme of writing an episode of around 1500 (+/- 200) words a week was instructional. While I hadn’t had any idea where the story would go at the start or often from one week to the next, I was never at a loss for what to write.  The actual writing of the episode was sometimes rushed (it probably showed) but I would find myself thinking through the episode often during the preceding week. I was pleased that the story hung together (I think) over 28 weeks and 38,000 words even if it was a little contrived at the end. It was a very useful vehicle for further development of Jasmine Frame as a character and to fill in some of the gaps of how she became the transsexual detective of Painted Ladies and Bodies by Design.  One of the biggest challenges of writing a prequel is to ensure that the facts and timings are kept straight. I hope I succeeded. As a result I do now have a fixed chronology which is summarised below

Jasmine Frame born 1983; Blueprint, Nov 2009; Painted Ladies and Bodies by Design, May & August 2012.  For more details about Jasmine’s significant dates you’ll have to read the stories.

I would welcome criticism of Blueprint. I feel it lacks a bit of movement towards the end although I did inject a bit of action to the questioning of Caroline.  The biggest question is whether the solution to the case fits the set-up. There’s nothing worse than a plot with gaping holes in it. I have put together all the episodes into one manuscript although I have not edited thoroughly yet. Read it here.
Blueprint – A Jasmine Frame Story

Now I have to think about what to put on this blog. Bodies by Design is about to go out into the world to find an agent and publisher. If nothing happens then I may self-publish it as an e-book but I cannot afford another paperback like Painted Ladies, at least not unless sales pick up quickly. I am planning the third in the Jasmine Frame series but do not intend to start writing that for some time. I do want to write the third volume of my fantasy series (Evil Above the Stars) first. So, for here, I have decided on another Jasmine Frame prequel, filling in (some of) the gap between Blueprint and Painted Ladies and dealing with another important stage in her transition as well as a crime.  The first episode will appear next weekend (I hope). It has the provisional title “The Switch.”  This time I will write a short outline so I know where it is going and that it has a basic plot, but who knows where it will wander to.

Finally I was delighted to find Painted Ladies on display in two local libraries and to see that it has been borrowed.
PL in library

Jasmine looks ahead

Below is the final episode of Blueprint, the Jasmine Frame prequel to Painted Ladies. When I started it over  six months ago I had no idea where it was going which is probably not the best way to write a crime story. Nevertheless it has been fun thinking up episode after episode while making the plot relatively logical and consistent. I think I have discovered rather more about Jasmine even having completed the draft for the second full length novel, Bodies by Design. One thing I have had to do is get my timings sorted. Blueprint takes place in November 2009 while Painted Ladies is in May 2012. That leaves a window of eighteen months for further developments to take place.

Blueprint has ended up at around 39,000 words i.e. half a novel or a novella. It needs severe editing but I hope to make it available for anyone who wants to read it in its entirety.

Just a reminder that Painted Ladies is available in paperback from all suppliers and as an e-book in all formats, currently at £1.99.

Blueprint –  Part 28

James stood behind Sloane’s desk with Tom standing stiffly to attention beside him. He barely reached Tom’s shoulder and felt small and insignificant. He looked at the thinning, short, grey hair on the top of DCI Sloane’s head. His head was bent down reading their report, the one that they had spent hours last evening writing after their return from Manchester. James suppressed a yawn – it had been a tiring few days and there wasn’t the adrenalin rush that usually came when a case was successfully closed.  The result of their investigation into Thwaite’s suicide rather depended on Sloane.
Sloane was on the last page of the report. His head tilted up and he looked from Tom to James. He spoke in his deep growl.
‘Not a bad job, Shepherd, Frame. You have made a thorough job of reporting your investigation. What do you expect me to do with it now?’  He closed the report and brandished it in his right hand.
‘I thought you would pass it to the coroner for Peter Thwaite’s inquest, Sir,’ James said.
‘Hmm. That’s what I thought you would say,’ Sloane said. ‘The question is whether that is a wise course of action.’
‘Wise, Sir?’
‘Yes, Frame. Consider your findings. You have concluded that Thwaite was not being blackmailed or threatened, he was not in any financial difficulty and had not been engaged in any criminal activity.’
‘That’s correct, Sir.’ James nodded. Tom said nothing but maintained his upright stance.
‘So the coroner’s verdict can only be that Thwaite killed himself while he was disturbed.’
‘Yes, Sir.’
‘And the reason for that disturbance, you say, was his fear that his wife would discover his transvestism.’
‘That’s right, Sir.’
‘And that fear was accentuated by these stupid photos sent by Barclay.’
‘Yes, Sir,’
‘At least, that is your supposition.’
‘I your pardon, Sir, what do you mean?’
‘I mean that you are guessing that that is the cause of his suicide.’
‘There was evidence, Sir.’
Sloane flicked through the pages of the report.
‘Yes,’ he agreed, ‘Your one conversation with Thwaite at this dressing-up club, and the statement of the person who sent the photos. It does not seem conclusive, Frame.’
‘But there was no other explanation, Sir,’ James was mystified. Sloane had congratulated them on the report but now he was pulling it to pieces.
‘Did you explore any other explanations?’ Sloane’s eyebrows rose as he stated his query.
James flustered. ‘There weren’t any other leads Sir. We checked his bank accounts and expenses and found nothing to suggest that Peter Thwaite had money worries, nor any suggestion that he was having an affair and his wife seemed to have no inkling of a breakdown in their relationship.’ James glanced at Tom but did not catch his eye and Tom remained resolutely silent.
‘Ah, his wife.’ Sloane paused before adding. ‘Actually he was having an affair, one which he kept a total secret. The affair with Petula.’
James wondered whether Sloane had got confused.
‘Petula was himself, Sir.’
‘I’m fully aware of that, Frame, but this sneaking out to social events and liaisons, the hidden case full of clothes, it is as if he was carrying on an affair.’
‘I suppose so, Sir.’
‘And you think, he killed himself to avoid this becoming public knowledge.’
‘Yes, Sir. I think he felt that the shame of being revealed as a cross-dresser and knowing the hurt that he thought it would cause his wife brought on the loss of sanity that made him kill himself.’
‘And you want to reveal all this in court. Announce it to his wife in public.’
James realised what Sloane had been getting at.
‘You mean that our report will have the effect that Thwaite killed himself to prevent, Sir.’
‘Yes, Frame. Thwaite went to extraordinary lengths to hide his transvestism from his wife and others who knew him, even killing himself to avoid having to explain himself.’
‘Are you saying we should respect his wishes now that he is dead, Sir?’
‘I am more concerned for the living. His wife.’
‘What do you mean, Sir?’
‘Should she be left in ignorance of the reasons for her husband’s death, ignorance of his secret life that excluded her? Or, should she be informed of what he has been doing for years, deceiving her and killing himself because he couldn’t face her with the truth?
James felt the blood drain from his face. Tom shifted uneasily on his feet. What was the correct thing to do?
‘I don’t know, Sir.’
‘And neither do I, Frame, at least at this precise moment. Leave your report with me and I will consider whether to pass it to the Coroner, or…’ Sloane took a breath.
‘Or what, Sir?’
‘Put it through the shredder.  You may go now, Shepherd.’ Sloane dropped the report onto his desk.
‘Thank you, Sir.’  Tom did an about turn and marched from the office. James began to follow him.
‘Not you, Frame.’
James froze, turned to face Sloane again. ‘Sir?’ he questioned.
‘Your investigation,’ Sloane tapped his fingers against the report, ‘benefited from you questioning certain people in your disguise as a female, Frame.’
‘Um. It wasn’t a disguise, Sir,’ James wondered again if Sloane was confused or just avoiding reality.
‘You played a role that was designed to get the confidence of these transvestites.’
‘I think Caroline Barclay was transsexual rather than transvestite, Sir.’
‘Semantics is beside the point, Frame.’
‘Yes, Sir.’
‘I approve of the use of initiative when it serves the purpose of collecting evidence. Do you understand, Frame?’
James wasn’t sure where Sloane was heading but he nodded.
‘But I want you to remember, Frame,’ Sloane continued, ‘that above all else you are a detective. Being a detective is more than a job. It is a vocation. When you are on a case, one that puzzles you and tests you, it is the most important thing in your life. It dominates your waking thought, perhaps even your sleep and dreams. Your only objective is to solve it. Your family will come to accept that on those occasions your priorities lie with your investigation. At no time does your life outside this office influence your work as a detective. Do you understand?’
James was trying to take in what Sloane had said but he felt that he had the gist of it. Nothing mattered except the job so his wish to be Jasmine was of no consequence and would be given no consideration by Sloane. DCI Sloane had obviously never suffered from self-doubt and was completely comfortable in his devotion to his career.
‘Frame?’ Sloane prompted.
‘Yes, Sir, I understand,’ James said in as neutral a voice as he could manage, ‘Thank you, Sir.’
‘Right. Well I’m glad that is clear. Off you go now, there’s work to do.’ Sloane dismissed him with a flick of his fingers.
James re-joined Tom by his desk. Tom looked up at him from behind his computer screen.
‘Did Sloane want to speak to you about Jasmine?’
‘Sort of?’
‘What do you mean?’
‘He’s basically told me to forget everything except my job.’
‘Everything?’
‘Everything. He’s not interested in hearing about my desires and concerns. He thinks my gender identity is unimportant compared to the demands of detective work.’
‘Well, I suppose that’s alright then. He doesn’t care whether you are James or Jasmine.’
‘No, I don’t think that’s it. He thinks I shouldn’t be wasting my time on frivolous concerns like whether I am male or female or how I should present myself. He wants me to put all that out of mind and carry on as I am.’
Tom shrugged.
‘But he’s wrong,’ James said firmly, ‘Who I am affects how I work and I know I can be as effective a detective as Jasmine because that is the person I want to be.’
‘Perhaps Sloane will realise that if you do this transition thing, Jim.’
‘It’s something I will find out not long from now,’ James said collapsing heavily into his chair. His mind was made up. He would become Jasmine Frame, detective, full-time.

Jasmine finds the answer

I spent Thursday evening visiting Gender Matters in Wolverhampton.  It is a wonderful centre that supports transgendered people in the West Midlands.  It is Gender Matters that has put together the brilliant Mapping My Journey exhibition at the Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery which runs till 20th of this month.  The reason for my visit was to take part in a creative writing workshop with members. This gave me a chance to talk about Jasmine Frame, how I got Painted Ladies published, what’s going to happen with Bodies by Design and generally have a great time promoting my work. Everyone was very appreciative and intrigued by the possibilities of a transsexual detective. I am very grateful for the opportunity. It was also great to hear the contributions of other writers who are transgendered.

Presenting a copy of Painted Ladies to Gender Matters

Presenting a copy of Painted Ladies to Gender Matters

And so to the penultimate episode of Blueprint. At least I think it is the penultimate. Next week I will bring it to a close. I’ve also roughed out a cover. As ever comments would be most welcome.

Blueprint – part 27

Chapter 8

There were bangs and clatters from the kitchen where Tom had been instructed to make a cup of tea. In the lounge, DS O’Shaunessy perched on the edge of an armchair while Jasmine sat next to Caroline on the sofa. Caroline was gripping her damaged wrist with her head bowed.
‘Come on Caroline,’ Jasmine said, ‘tell me why you ran away.’
Caroline didn’t answer nor did she move.
‘We know it’s got something to do with Petula,’ Jasmine went on, ‘because we talked about her yesterday.’ She paused but there was no response from Caroline. ‘Were you worried because you felt responsible?’
Caroline made a noise, which may have been a sob or a snort. Jasmine was pleased as it was the first response she’d got out of Caroline since they’d got her back into the house.
Tom entered carrying a cup and saucer.
‘Here’s a nice hot cup of tea,’ he said cheerfully, ‘I’ve put milk and sugar in.’
Caroline looked up at him. ‘I don’t take sugar.’
‘I found the sugar in the cupboard so I thought you used it,’ Tom added offering her the cup and saucer. Caroline didn’t move her good hand but O’Shaunessy took the cup and saucer from Tom and placed it on the occasional table beside the sofa.
‘The sugar’s for guests,’ Caroline said.
‘Such as Petula? She was a guest wasn’t she,’ Jasmine said.  Caroline lowered her head again and made another sobbing/snorting noise. ‘Tell me about the photos, Caroline. I’m sure if we examine your computer we’ll find them there. Photos that you printed off and posted to Petula.’
Caroline looked at Jasmine with an expression of horror.
‘I asked you about your camera yesterday,’ Jasmine went on, ‘It didn’t strike me as odd at the time that you didn’t ask me why I was interested. It was because you knew exactly why I was asking questions about photography since it was you who sent the photos to Petula. The photos that made Petula kill herself.’
O’Shaunessy glared at Jasmine but didn’t say anything. Jasmine knew she was jumping to conclusions, pushing Caroline hard but she had to get a response, to get her talking. It worked. Caroline began sobbing, her shoulders shaking, tears running down her nose and dripping onto her dress.
‘She wasn’t supposed to die,’ Caroline said through grunts and gasps.
‘Tell me about it,’ Jasmine insisted, ‘What were the photos for? Tell me all about you and Petula.’
‘It was a joke,’ Caroline paused to allow another couple of sobs to emerge. ‘No, not a joke. To stir her up. Make her look at herself.’
O’Shaunessy was scribbling in her notebook and Jasmine, too, had her pocketbook on her lap. Tom watched from the doorway.
‘What do you mean, Caroline?’ Jasmine said quietly, ‘Tell me all about it.’
Caroline sniffed and drew in her breath. She sat up straight and looked directly at Jasmine.
‘I thought she was like me… and you.’
‘What do you mean?’ Jasmine struggled to see herself as similar to Caroline – an older woman, in an ankle-length flowery dress.
‘I thought she wanted to be a woman, full-time.’
‘Go on,’ Jasmine urged.
‘When we met at Betty’s a couple of years ago we seemed to have so much in common. We were almost the same ages, similar jobs in the banking business, similar taste in clothes. We were both married; well, I’d lost my wife by then, but we’d both had settled married lives.’ Caroline paused and her eyes lost focus. Perhaps she’s thinking of her wife, Jasmine thought.
‘So you got on together,’ Jasmine urged Caroline on.
‘Yes. She was confident, a good talker. We had a lot to chat about. After meeting up a few times with Betty we decided to organise our own little trips. We invited Rosalind the first time because Petula felt sorry for her, but she didn’t have much in common with the two of us. We didn’t invite her again.’ Caroline stopped to draw breath, then continued. ‘It became a regular arrangement. Once a month on a Thursday morning I would meet Petula at the shopping centre in time for a coffee. We’d do a bit of shopping, at least I would. Petula rarely bought anything at all. Then we’d go off somewhere for lunch. I started to use the bus so that we only needed Petula’s car, that old Rover, to go off in. It was my job of course to find a different place for lunch each month. At first we used to hang about in the restaurant or pub until Petula decided it was time for her to leave after dropping me off here. Of course I invited her in for a cup of tea. We began to come back earlier and earlier and she left for home later and later so we had more time just the two of us here, in my home.’
‘And that was how you began to find out more about Petula,’ Jasmine said.
‘Yes. I didn’t make anything of it at first but gradually I saw we weren’t alike at all.’
‘What do you mean?’ O’Shaunessy butted in, ‘You said you had similar tastes.’
Caroline turned to look at the small detective sergeant.
‘Oh, we had that. The differences went much deeper.’
‘You were different types of trans,’ Jasmine said. Caroline turned back to her and nodded, her face showing relief. Jasmine understood.
‘You know what it’s like don’t you,’ Caroline said, ‘to spend all your life wanting to be the person you feel yourself to be. My wife knew about me and supported me so in return I never transitioned. Since she died I’ve been Caroline nearly all the time and that’s fine. I’d like to be a complete woman but I don’t think I want to go through all the surgery and stuff now.’
‘I understand,’ Jasmine said, nodding her head. She understood Caroline’s feelings but was not sure that she could spend a whole lifetime trading off wanting to be female with staying as Angie’s husband. How had Caroline done it?
‘Petula was different,’ Caroline said, ‘She loved dressing up and going out once or twice a month but that was all. She had no wish to become a woman, she told me so. That was why she kept it secret from her wife; she didn’t want her to know anything about her feminine side. So when she was at home she kept Petula packed away in her suitcase; that was the reason why she didn’t buy much – she had nowhere to store lots of clothes.’
‘I don’t understand,’ Clodagh O’Shaunessy said, ‘how were you different?’
‘There are lots of labels for what we do,’ Jasmine said. ‘Transsexual, transvestite, cross-dresser, gender queer. They all mean something slightly different but no single title applies to any one person. We’re all individuals, every one of us, you and Tom included, somewhere on the spectrum that runs from male to female. To an observer Caroline and Petula looked the same, elegant, middle-aged ladies, but close up they were blokes in dresses.’
A look of thunder crossed Caroline’s face but then she shrugged and nodded. Jasmine went on.
‘But actually I think Caroline is saying they really were at different points on that spectrum. Caroline says she’s transsexual, she wants to live as a woman and if circumstances were different would have had the medical intervention that would make her body feminine.’
‘And you’re the same?’ O’Shaunessy asked.
‘Yes,’ Jasmine replied, ‘It’s taken me a long time to get here but I want to be me.’
‘And your suicide victim? Where was she on this spectrum?’ O’Shaunessy said.
‘She was more a cross-dresser,’ Caroline said, ‘She liked the dressing up but had no wish to become a woman full-time. I think she enjoyed the risk-taking, the secrecy. She wouldn’t admit it of course, but it’s a bit like a drug isn’t it.’
‘Except that she over-dosed,’ Jasmine added, ‘Why did you send the photographs, Caroline?’
Caroline’s face sagged, the corners of her mouth drooped.
‘It was after the last time we met, in September.  I said that Petula really should try and come out to Linda, her wife; that she couldn’t go on living this secret life for ever; that it would be better to tell her than for her to discover it by accident sometime. Petula wouldn’t have it. She said that Linda must never know. She couldn’t bear it if Linda found out that she liked dressing up in women’s clothes. I thought she was being stupid.’
‘You argued?’ Jasmine said.
‘We had words and she left earlier than usual.’
‘And so you sent the photo.’
‘I know it was a stupid thing to do. I’d been playing with my new scanner and learning how to enhance pictures – being retired can be boring sometimes. I just took a photo I’d taken of Petula not long after we first met. I scanned it and extracted her head and put it on the body of a model.’
‘But why post it to Petula?’ Jasmine asked
‘I don’t know. It was silly but she’d annoyed me and I wanted to show her that she could be an attractive woman. I thought she would realise it came from me, get in touch and have a laugh.’
‘But she didn’t.’
‘No. So I sent another one.’
‘And another. Each week.’
‘Yes,’ Caroline said softly.
‘Getting more risqué with your choice of body model.’
‘Yes,’ Caroline whispered.
‘Just because Petula turned out to be different to you.’
‘Yes.’
‘But what happened last month? You told me that you met as usual, but you didn’t.’
‘She didn’t turn up. I waited at our usual time in the coffee shop but she didn’t come.’
‘Don’t you email or send texts to arrange meetings.’
‘Not a lot. Petula said she didn’t want to risk Linda reading them.’
‘She really was paranoid,’ O’Shaunessy said.
‘She didn’t contact you to say she couldn’t come, that she was filling in unexpectedly in Banbury,’ Jasmine said.
‘I never heard anything from her.’
‘So you sent her the last photo. The pornographic one.’
Caroline bent her head, avoiding Jasmine’s and O’Shaunessy’s eyes. She nodded almost imperceptibly.
O’Shaunessy stood up and beckoned Jasmine to follow her out of the room.
‘Sit with her, Tom,’ Jasmine said as she passed him in the doorway.  She followed the detective sergeant into the back garden.
‘Well, you’ve got your confession,’ O’Shaunessy said, ‘But I don’t know what you can do with it. There were no notes, no threats of blackmail, no intimidation.’
Jasmine shook her head.
‘Nothing like that. Caroline just sent the prints in a plain envelope.’
‘How did Thwaite not guess who they were coming from?’
‘I don’t know,’ Jasmine said. She recalled how mystified Petula had been, just over a week earlier when she had handed over the photos. ‘She didn’t recognise the photo of her head. Perhaps Caroline had never shown the original to her.’
‘But after such a regular relationship with Barclay, why didn’t she realise it was him/her?’
‘I don’t understand it myself,’ Jasmine said, ‘Perhaps it never occurred to Petula that the one other trans person she knew well, Caroline, could actually do this to her. She really was terrified of her wife finding out about her and was very secretive. She didn’t give me the full story.’
‘You didn’t know her well then?’
‘I only talked to her once.’
‘So you’ve got no proof that it was these photos that drove her to suicide.’
‘No, but there’s nothing else. No work problems, no financial difficulties. We haven’t uncovered any other secrets.’
O’Shaunessy stroked her chin and pondered. Jasmine waited, the cold northern November air starting to cut through her grey jacket and blouse. At last the DS spoke.
‘I don’t think you’re going to get anything else from Barclay. He/she, whatever, sent the photos, full stop. It’s apparent that he had no real intentions of causing Thwaite harm, he hadn’t thought through what he was doing at all. A sad case but I don’t think a criminal one.’
‘Hmm.’ Jasmine was uncertain. She could see that O’Shaunessy was right but she was reluctant to accept that they had reached the end of the case. ‘Tom and I have a report to write and then I suppose it’s up to Sloane what happens.’
‘Sloane?’
‘Our DCI.’
‘Well, perhaps you’d better head back down south and get that report done. I’ll take Caroline to get her wrist checked. If your boss does decide he needs a formal statement from her, I’ll do it for you.
‘Thanks, and thanks for helping out today.’
‘A pleasure – it got me out of the office, but I can’t spend much time on this, especially as it doesn’t look much like a crime.’
‘You’re probably right.’
‘Well, it’s been nice meeting you.’ O’Shaunessy offered her hand. Jasmine took it in hers and they each held tight for a moment. ‘Oh and I hope things go well for you when you transition.’
‘Thanks. I’ve got to face Sloane over that as well.’
Blueprint cover……………..

Jasmine makes a decision

Well, this is a bit of a mile-stone. The 26th episode of Blueprint, the Jasmine Frame prequel. That’s six months worth, half a year. I didn’t expect the story to continue for so long but it’s been fun writing the episodes each week even if from one week to the next I wasn’t sure where it was going. I am pleased that quite a few people seem to have been accessing the weekly episodes and I hope you are all enjoying it. I am wondering if it now makes a coherent story if read whole. It’s not quite complete yet, though.

This week I have also completed the first revision of Bodies by Design. Now it’s in the hands of the my dear Lou who will tell me where the story doesn’t work or needs clarification or this and that. It still needs quite a bit of work I think. This coming week I am taking “Jasmine and Me” to Gender Matters in Wolverhampton and hoping the members are a receptive readership for Painted Ladies.

There are so many exciting things to do including making a start on the 3rd volume of my fantasy series involving September Weekes…

Anyway, here’s Blueprint.

Blueprint – Part 26

They had reached the ring road that skirted Oxford.
‘Perhaps we could see Geraldine and Rosalind first, then go on to Caroline,’ Jasmine said.
‘Why all three?’ Tom said, his eyes still fixed on the road.
‘So we can find out if Geraldine or Rosalind ever took photos of Petula on film.’
‘And if they didn’t it’s Caroline we’re after?’
‘Yes.’
‘Why not go for Caroline first then? Don’t you think she could have made up those photos?’
Jasmine didn’t answer immediately. She didn’t want to think that it could have been Caroline that drove Petula to commit suicide. She was the one person who Petula/Peter Thwaite seemed to have been able to confide to. There simply wasn’t anyone else. Not his wife, nor the other members of Butterflies he met once a month but always in a social group. He had spent one day a month travelling to Manchester and back, hiding the reason for his absence from his wife, in order to spend a few hours with Caroline. That was a pretty special relationship.
‘Sloane won’t want us dragging the Manchester Police from one place to another,’ Tom said into the silence. ‘He said we should fix on one suspect.’
‘Hmm, I know. But which one?’ Jasmine said.
‘Why not, Caroline?’
‘The question is, why Caroline? I can’t see what her motive would be to drive Petula to suicide.’
‘It does seem odd if they were friends.’
Jasmine flicked through the papers on her lap yet again. She looked through her notes of the conversation with Caroline and the record of Petula’s monthly trip north – and noticed something she’d missed on the umpteen previous examinations.  She dug her phone out of the shoulder bag she carried with all Jasmine’s bits and pieces in it, and flicked through pages in her notepad. She thumbed the number pad.
‘Who are you calling?’ Tom said with a quick glance to his left.
‘Thwaite’s boss at the bank.’
‘Good morning,’ Jasmine said when she had a reply, ‘This is DC Frame investigating the death of Peter Thwaite. We met on Saturday.’
‘I remember. How can I help?’ the voice said in her ear.
‘I have a query. Mr Thwaite usually took a Thursday off every month.  Did he take it off last month, October?’
‘I’ll have to check. Do you want to hold?’
‘Yes. That’s ok.’ The phone went quiet. Jasmine kept it pressed against her head.
‘What are you after?’ Tom said, ‘I thought she went up to Manchester every month, staying in a hotel on the way up.’
‘That’s what I thought,’ Jasmine answered, ‘But on her last trip she stayed in a hotel in Banbury. Usually she stayed further north.’
There was a rustle in Jasmine’s ear.
‘Hello?’ the voice said.
‘I’m here,’ Jasmine replied.
‘I’ve found Mr Thwaite’s work log.  Apparently we had a bit of an emergency on the Wednesday before his usual day off. The staff of the branch in Banbury went down with a bug. Mr Thwaite was one of the people asked to fill in. He was there all day on the Thursday too.’
‘So he didn’t have the day off?’
‘No.’
‘Thank you very much. That’s a great help.’  Jasmine ended the call and dropped the phone into her lap.
‘That’s it. We’re going to see Caroline,’ she said, her mind made up.
‘Why? What did the bank say?’ Tom asked.
‘Petula didn’t have her awayday last month thanks to being stuck in the Banbury branch covering for ill staff. She didn’t get to see Caroline but Caroline told me that she had.’
‘She lied,’
‘Yes. And another thing I’ve realised. Although I questioned Caroline about photos and cameras she never asked me why I was asking the questions or whether Petula had given a reason for why she killed herself.’
‘Caroline it is then. You’d better ask Sloane to get on to the Manchester bunch.’
Jasmine radioed through to HQ. DCI Sloane declined to speak but the message was taken and passed on.  Less than ten minutes later Jasmine took the reply. She relayed it to Tom.
‘We’re meeting a DS O’Shaunessy outside Caroline’s house.’
‘Making sure we’re outranked are they?’ Tom said with a cynical tone to his voice.
‘Not surprising. They’re not going to let us call the shots on their territory. Can we go faster, Tom?’
‘I’m on the speed limit now. Do you really want me to put the flashing lights on? It’s not really an emergency.’
‘No. OK. Just get us there as quickly as you can.’

It was mid-day as Tom pulled to a halt behind a similar nondescript Ford a few yards away from Caroline’s house. The car seemed to have one occupant.  Jasmine and Tom got out and stood on the pavement. Jasmine smoothed the grey skirt over her thighs and adjusted her hair. The passenger door of the other car opened.
‘Get in,’ a faint, Irish voice called. Tom clambered into the front seat while Jasmine slid into the back. The driver was a small woman with ginger hair.
‘I’m DS O’Shaunessy, Clodagh,’ the woman said, shaking hands with Tom. Tom mumbled his name. Clodagh twisted in her seat to take a look at Jasmine.
‘And you must be DC Frame. I was told you would be in female disguise.’
Jasmine couldn’t decide whether there was amusement or interest in the Irish lilt.
‘It’s not a disguise but you’re right I’m not Jasmine Frame full-time,’ she said, wondering if the regret and desire to be Jasmine was apparent in her voice.
‘Are you going to transition?’ Clodagh asked. She is interested Jasmine realised.
‘I’m not sure,’ her voice shook, ‘I’d like to.’
‘Good luck. I know what it’s like to be in a minority.’
‘Oh? How?’ Jasmine was unsure what she meant. Was she lesbian?
‘Female, Irish and small. I get it three times over.’ She ended with a giggle.
‘I see,’ Jasmine added a forced chuckle.
‘Actually, we had someone like you in our station last year.’
‘Really? How did she get on?’ Jasmine was interested to hear about a fellow transsexual in the force – it wasn’t so uncommon now.
‘Okay, I think. She moved on a few months ago.’ Her tone became more business-like, ‘Look we don’t have time to chat. I’ve got other cases to get on with. Why are we here? I was told it was something to do with a suicide.’
‘That’s right,’ Jasmine responded, ‘the victim, Peter or Petula Thwaite, was friends with the person we’re here to see – Caroline or Geoff Barclay. They met every month.’
‘But your suicide happened down in your part of the country? Why the interest in this Barclay person.’
‘We think that Caroline was sending photos to Petula that drove her to kill herself.’
‘Blackmail?’
‘No?’
‘So what’s the crime?’
‘We don’t know. Perhaps there wasn’t one. Perhaps it was a silly joke which went wrong.’ Jasmine said.
‘We just want to know why Thwaite killed himself.’ Tom added.
‘Well, let’s not waste too much time then,’ O’Shaunessy said, dismissively, ‘Keep your questions concise.’ She pushed her door open and got out. Tom and Jasmine hurried to join her on the other side of the road.  Jasmine saw that O’Shaunessy had been correct. She really was short, her head barely up to Tom’s chest.
‘Shepherd stay her,’ the DS said, ‘There’s no point three of us piling in. She knows Frame and I need to be there too.’  She set off again, up Caroline’s driveway. Short she may have been but her legs worked very fast.  Jasmine hurried to keep up.  O’Shaunessy pressed the bell-push and rapped her knuckles on the door.  The two ladies awaited a reply.
‘Out?’ O’Shaunessy said.
‘There’s movement upstairs,’ Tom called out.
Jasmine bent down to the letter box and pushed it open. There was an inner flap so she couldn’t see through, but she spoke loudly.
‘Caroline. It’s Detective Constable Frame. We spoke yesterday. We have a few more questions. Let us in please.’
There was no reply, and Jasmine straightened up. A few moments later there was the sound of feet hurrying downstairs and through the patterned glass of the front door the fragmented image of a figure moving quickly. The figure did not approach the door but receded.
‘She’s not going to let us in,’ Jasmine said.
‘There’s a path behind the houses,’ O’Shaunessy said, ‘She’s trying to get away.  You go that way.’ She pointed to the left. ‘Cut her off.’ She turned and ran across the grass in front of the house to the right, calling out ‘Shepherd stay put.’
Jasmine was astounded at how fast O’Shaunessy covered the ground, then she reacted and ran. She passed two similar houses then saw a narrow gap before the next. She turned into the alleyway and ran between two metre high wooden fences. She was relieved that she had not chosen a pencil skirt for today’s outing and that her boots had only a minimal heel but she made a memo to herself – when she transitioned as a police officer she must choose clothes and shoes that enabled her to run easily.
She reached a T-junction – the path along the end of the gardens of the houses. She looked to the right. Fifty yards away a figure in a dress was running away from her. Jasmine followed and soon began to catch up. Caroline looked over her shoulder, saw her, put her head down and tried to make her legs pump faster. A small figure appeared beyond her, approaching. Caroline looked back again, must have weighed up her chances of getting passed Jasmine or O’Shaunessy. She apparently decided on the latter because she continued to pound along the path
Jasmine was still thirty yards away when the small DS dived forward and took Caroline by the shins. The trans-woman tumbled down and scudded across the ground with a cry.  As Jasmine arrived, Clodagh was scrambling to her feet. Caroline lay groaning.  Jasmine put a hand under Caroline’s left arm hauled her upright. The older woman was gasping for breath, and holding her right hand against her stomach. Her stockings were laddered and her knees grazed.
‘That was some tackle,’ Jasmine said, feeling full of admiration.
‘One advantage of being small,’ the DS replied, ‘I can take them out low down.’ She put a hand on Caroline’s back. ‘Now Caroline let’s get you back home so you can answer a few questions.

Jasmine and Tom head north

We had a great day in Birmingham last weekend visiting the Museum and Art Gallery. First of all we saw the six Grayson Perry tapestries “The Vanity of Small Differences” based on his TV series on class and taste. They really are interesting – full of detail and amusing insights into people’s lives, loosely based on Hogarth’s “Rake’s Porgress”.  The main purpose of our visit though, was to visit the exhibition “Mapping My Journey” mounted by Gender Matters as part of LGBT history month. It traces the history of transgender and the personal histories of various trans men and women both living and dead.  It was very interestng and well worth a visit. A personal highlight was to see a copy of Painted Ladies and a photo of me on display with a description of Jasmine Frame, transsexual detective, as an example of trans in fiction.

So, here is more about Jasmine – the next episode of the prequel to Painted Ladies and Bodies by Design.

Blueprint – Part 25

Minutes passed as they leafed through the papers in the file on Thwaite.
‘It’s no good, Jim. We’ve got to speak to the suspects,’ Tom said.
James nodded, ‘But which one?’
‘I don’t know, but we can decide on the drive up to Manchester.’
James groaned as he contemplated the long haul up the A34, M40 and M6 for the second time.
‘It’s OK, I’ll drive,’ Tom added, ‘You can work out who we’re going to interview.’
‘Thanks.’  James wasn’t sure that being a passenger for three to four hours was any better than being the driver. The one good thing about police work was that it did not usually necessitate long car journeys.
‘Are you going to get changed?’ Tom asked in a strange half whisper.
‘Changed?’
‘Into your – what did you call it? Your female persona.’
James opened his eyes with surprise. Tom was suggesting he become Jasmine again.
‘Why?’
‘Well, these suspects only know you as a woman…’
‘A trans-woman.’
‘Yes, OK, but they may be more responsive if they think they know you. If two burly plods come asking questions…’
‘Speak for yourself.’
‘OK, but do you see?’
James thought hard.  Tom could be right.
‘Yes, they may be more prepared to talk to another trannie that they’ve met before.’
‘Right, well you get off home and change,’ Tom chucked the car keys to James, ‘I’ll go and enter the lion’s den and tell Sloane what we’re doing. He can get on to the people in Manchester.’
James was quite happy for Tom to face Sloane again.
‘OK. I will. I’ll give you a call when I’m back in the car park. I’m not revealing Jasmine to this lot, not yet anyway.’
Tom grinned, ‘It might make their day. Don’t take too long on your makeup; we’ve only got today.’
James snorted in reply and hurried off. Fifteen minutes later he was back home, mounting the stairs while tearing off his jacket and tie.  The house was empty, Angela had already gone to work. In his dressing room, James completed undressing and pulled on knickers and bra.  What should she wear? Yesterday, she had dressed casually in skirt and woolly top but perhaps today, accompanying Tom Shepherd, she should be a little more formal.  She had one suit consisting of a knee-length skirt and fitted jacket in pale grey polyester. With sheer neutral tights and a white blouse it would like she really was a female detective. She dressed quickly but spent a few minutes getting her face right and putting her blonde wig on straight. It was a quick turnaround but in under forty minutes she was back in the police car park and texting Tom.
Jasmine got out of the car and walked around it to get in again in the passenger seat. Tom arrived grasping a file of papers. He dropped it onto Jasmine’s lap as he sank into the driving seat. He started the engine while pulling the seatbelt across his chest.
‘I thought you’d need that lot to look at on the drive,’ Tom said, pulling out of the car park, ‘There’s a few new sheets from forensics.’
‘Is there?’ Jasmine flicked through the pages in the file. ‘How was Sloane?’ She asked.
‘OK,’ Tom nodded as he turned onto the main road out of town and accelerated up to the speed limit. ‘He said he’d let us know if we’re to meet anyone when we get up north.’
Jasmine watched Tom as he drove. His eyes were fixed on the view through the windscreen. While it was good driving technique it didn’t appear normal. Usually when two people were in a car together their eyes glanced at each other while they conversed, the driver maintaining concentration on the road but checking the facial expressions of their companion.
‘What’s the matter, Tom?’ Jasmine asked. Tom’s head didn’t move. His neck might have been in a brace.
‘Nothing, why?’
‘You haven’t looked at me since you got in, Tom.’
Tom continued to stare ahead.
‘There’s a fair bit of traffic.’
‘I know, but it’s not that busy. You could glance at me.’
‘Why? Do I need to look at you?’
‘No, but I thought it would be natural to have a look, check me out.’
Tom’s hands tightened around the steering wheel.
‘I can’t, Ji… I mean, what do you call yourself?’
‘Jasmine.’
‘Jasmine. Yes.’
‘Why can’t you, look at me, Tom?’
‘It’s…it’s…’ Tom blinked but his eyes didn’t move. ‘It’s you. I’m not sure what I’m supposed to feel.’
‘Feel?’
‘Yes. You sound like Jim. Well your speech is a bit higher pitched, but it’s definitely you. But you’re dressed like a girl.’
‘I’m a woman, Tom, not a girl.’
‘Yes, OK, but skirt, stockings,’
‘Tights.’
‘OK, tights and breasts.’
‘Yes.’
‘Well you look, um, er,…’
‘I look what?’
‘Damn it, you look, uh, good.’
‘Well, thank you, Tom, but how do you know. You haven’t looked at me.’
‘I can see you out of the corner of my eye.’
‘So you’ve seen enough to see that I’m attractive?’
‘Yes.’
‘So?’
‘You’re my buddy. My male buddy. I’m not supposed to be attracted to you.’
Jasmine sighed. She’d wondered for a long time how her colleagues would react to her. She’d expected revulsion, ostracism perhaps, even insults from the ones who had forgotten their diversity training.  Fear of being attracted to her was not a response she had counted on. Thinking about it though it made sense. She always went to great lengths to appear as attractively feminine as possible and when men saw what looked like a pretty, sexy, young woman it triggered their natural responses. But the knowledge that under the false breasts, the nylons and the foundation she was male caused conflict.
‘I’m sorry, Tom. I know it’s only the second time you’ve seen me and it takes some getting used to. I feel pretty relaxed being me but I should have realised how much I confuse you. You are reacting as any heterosexual man does to a pretty woman and I’m flattered that I’ve set off that reaction. I want to appear female but it doesn’t mean I’m out to seduce you or any other man.’  She wasn’t even sure if she fancied men. Sorting out her sexual preferences as Jasmine was a subject she had yet to face.
‘I’m still your partner,’ she went on. ‘We’re on a case. For now that’s all that matters. I hope that away from this we can sort out how you and I can be friends whether I’m Jim or Jasmine.’
Tom’s head did turn now. Just a few degrees. Enough for his eyes to focus briefly on her for a moment before returning to scan the road ahead.
‘I’m sorry, Jasmine,’ Tom said, ‘I was being stupid. Of course you are still you under all that stuff. But, god! You make a pretty good woman.’
‘Thanks. That is the biggest compliment you could make.’
‘My pleasure,’ Tom grinned. His body relaxed a little. ‘Now are you going to work out who we are visiting?’
Jasmine chuckled and looked at the file on her lap. She found the report from the forensic department that Tom had referred to. Most of it detailed the findings at Thwaite’s house – fingerprints on his car, on the doors into the garage and on the hose that fed the exhaust fumes into the saloon. The last page was different. It was a report on the photo of Thwaite that Jasmine had handed over. It confirmed that it was a collage of two pictures, the one of Petula and the other a screen grab of some porn. That was familiar, but the next paragraph she had to read through a couple of times before she realised the significance.
‘This is interesting,’ she said.
‘What is?’
‘There’s a forensic report here on the last photo sent to Thwaite. It says the original of the photo of Petula had a random arrangement of colour dots which were of variable size.’
‘What does that mean?’
‘It means it wasn’t taken with a digital camera. They produce a regular pattern of pixels.’
‘So the picture was taken…’
‘On film.’
‘Right. So?’
Jasmine flicked through her pocketbook checking her notes on Geraldine, Rosalind and Caroline.
‘I think Geraldine and Rosalind have digital cameras, but Caroline told me she didn’t. She still uses a film camera.’
‘Caroline?’ Tom turned his head and took a long look at Jasmine.
‘Yes, Caroline.’
‘Are you sure?’
‘Keep your eyes on the road, Tom.’ Tom’s head flicked to face forward. ‘It’s possible Caroline took the photo of Petula used in the prints,’ Jasmine mused, ‘It’s just one bit of evidence. There must be more, if I look hard enough.’ She began to turn over the pages in the file, looking at each with renewed interest.
……………….

James faces DCI Sloane

First the advertising. The price of the e-book version of Painted Ladies – a Jasmine Frame story has been reduced to £1.99 so now is the time to purchase it for your Kindles, Kobos, etc. There, plug over.

Good news and bad news this week. An agent returned the Bodies by Design excerpt I submitted. It was such a quick turn around I’m not convinced they even looked at it. That was the bad news. The good news is that a small publisher is taking a full look at my fantasy novel having had the first couple of chapters for a month.  Fingers crossed…

I’m editing Bodies by Design at the moment. Some advice I’ve read suggests that at this stage I should be tearing it apart and throwing away huge chunks. Perhaps I’m not self-critical enough but when I read through it I don’t see the need to do that. I change bits, add sentences, paragraphs or even whole scenes, but I haven’t altered the basic structure of the story. Not that I’m ever completely satisfied – is any author? Perhaps I do need that editor who makes suggestions.  That is both the freedom and the problem of self-publishing – even buying in copyediting help it still comes down to you, the author, to make all the decisions.

Anyway, to Blueprint, the Jasmine Frame prequel. It’s approaching the denouement (sometime soon) which means I must make sure all the threads tie up. I have to keep going back to earlier epsiodes to check what constraints I’ve put myself under.  It’s not the best way to write a novel (or novella, which is what Blueprint is) but it is fun each week thinking through what should be in the next episode.  So here it is…

Blueprint – Part 24
 
Tom reached the door into the squad’s office before James but he paused, obviously reluctant to enter on his own. He held the door open and James lead the way in. There were only a few of their colleagues inside, a few individuals with eyes focussed on screens and a couple of pairs in conversation.  It was a quiet start to the week with little on the long whiteboard.  The detectives, all but one male, glanced at James and Tom as the pair crossed the office and two or three muttered greetings before returning to their tasks.
James and Tom reached the door to Sloane’s own office. James tapped and there was an immediate call to enter. They both went in and stood side by side at Sloane’s large desk.  James felt a little as if he was standing in front of the headmaster awaiting a telling off. Sloane, grey-haired and grey-suited, didn’t move. His eyes remained focussed on the top sheet of a pile of papers on the desk in front of him. The computer screen was at the side of the desk, dark and developing a coating of dust.
It seemed like minutes passed but was probably only moments. James felt his heart hammering. What did Sloane want? What did he know? What should he say to Sloane?
Sloane made a mark on the sheet of paper with his pen, and put it into the tray on his right. He looked up.
‘Now you two,’ he said in his deep and gravelly voice, ‘Perhaps you can explain why this morning I have had a call from the Manchester Police asking why a detective from here by the name of Frame was asking questions around the Canal Street area yesterday. Oh and the detective was dressed as a female.’ Sloane’s dark blue eyes moved from James to Tom and back again. James felt that they were boring into him trying to extract the answers to his questions. James knew he had to respond.
‘I was investigating, Sir. The Thwaite suicide.’
‘I’m glad it was that case since that was one I gave you. You didn’t think to inform the Manchester people that you were paying their patch a visit.’
‘No, Sir. I was only asking a few questions. Trying to find anyone who knew Thwaite.’
‘We’ll come back to that. You do know that procedures require you to inform the relevant police service if you move outside your designated area?’
‘Yes, Sir.’
‘But you thought you could get the information you needed without bothering.’
‘There wasn’t time, Sir. It had to be yesterday. You wanted a report for tomorrow.’
‘That is true, Frame. But procedures are in place for a purpose. We can’t have detectives wandering around the country interfering with other forces’ work. You understand?’
‘Yes, sir.’
‘Now, what is this about a detective in female clothing?’
‘That was me, Sir?’
‘I did presume that it was not someone else using your name, Frame. Would you care to explain?’
James took a deep breath. This was it. He was going to have to lay himself open to DCI Sloane. Sloane seemed so much older, a father figure, although he was probably only around fifty. He’d been in the force since he was a teenager. Old school. A good detective and a good, if strict, boss but defiantly old-fashioned. Sloane expected his staff to make use of all the new technical gear while he relied on his pen and voice. Hence the mouldering computer. He never criticised his superiors but James wondered what he really thought of the diversity policies.
‘Thwaite, the suicide, Sir…’
‘I know who Thwaite was, Frame.’
‘Well, he was a transvestite, Sir.’
There was no movement detectable in Sloane’s face. James paused.
‘Well?’ Sloane said.
‘I believe his suicide was related to transvestism.’
‘A reasonable conjecture, but what are your grounds for saying that.’
‘He was a secret dresser, Sir, and determined not to have his wife find out.’
‘Determined enough to kill himself if she did?’
‘Determined enough to kill himself before she did.’
‘Ah, that is different. But why now? Something must have happened to precipitate his actions.’
‘Yes sir. He had been receiving photos over the last few weeks showing him, in his feminine persona in increasingly pornographic poses.’
Sloane’s face showed a flicker of displeasure.
‘Fakes, I presume.’
‘Yes, Sir, but I think they worried him so much that he was driven to end his life.’
‘These photos, Frame. I do not recall any mention of them in your report. Were they not found at the scene of his suicide?’
‘No, Sir. I had them.’
Sloane’s eyebrows raised a few millimetres.’
‘I hope you are going to explain, Frame.’
‘Yes, Sir. Thwaite gave them to me before he died. He had asked me to try to find out who was sending them.’
‘Why did he come to you? I presume this “crime” wasn’t logged formally.’
‘No, Sir. He gave them to me at a meeting of Butterflies.  That is a group for transgendered people.’
‘And you were at this meeting because…’
‘I’m transgendered, Sir.’
There was another flicker of Sloane’s eyebrows.’
‘So that is your explanation for why you were seen in female dress yesterday.’
‘Yes, Sir.’
‘Why Manchester?’
‘We, that is DC Shepherd and I, had discovered that Thwaite travelled to Manchester regularly, once a month and I suspected it was to meet other transvestites. I thought that visiting trans-friendly sites in the Canal Street area, that’s Manchester’s gay zone…’
‘I am aware of that, Frame.’
‘…I hoped I might find someone who knew Thwaite, Sir, and I thought if I went in my own female persona I was more likely to get a positive response from the people I questioned.’
‘Did you?’
‘Yes, Sir. I met four people who knew Thwaite. Knew Petula Thwaite to be precise.’
‘His feminine persona as you put it.’
‘Yes, Sir.’
‘And do you suspect any of them as being the perpetrator of these blue prints?’
‘There are three suspects, Sir.’
‘That’s a pity isn’t it, Frame. No easy answers.’
‘No, Sir.’
‘What is your next move?’
‘DC Shepherd and I were just discussing that, Sir. I think we will have to speak to the three suspects and try to obtain evidence that one of them did it.’
Sloane nodded his head imperceptibly.
‘It would help if you could narrow it down, before you started taking suspects in for questioning.’
‘I agree, Sir. We’ll see if we can.’
‘And when you do decide to question a citizen of Manchester, you will speak to the relevant authorities won’t you.’
‘Yes, Sir.’
Tom, who had been silent throughout the exchange, muttered his agreement and nodded vigorously.
‘Right, Shepherd, Frame. You’d better get on with it. You have one day left to complete the investigation.’
Both said their thanks and turned to leave the office, Tom in the lead.
‘Oh, by the way, Frame,’ Sloane added. James stopped and turned.
‘Yes, Sir?’
‘This transgenderism. We’ll talk of that again.’
‘Yes, Sir.’ Jasmine started to move back towards Sloane’s desk.
‘Not now. Soon. Move.’
James felt as though he’d had a kick up his backside. He hurried after Tom and caught him at their pair of desks.
‘Phew,’ Tom said, ‘I think we came out of that in one piece.’
‘Just,’ James agreed, but he realised that the conversation with Sloane about his future as Jasmine had yet to begin.
‘I’d forgotten that we should have told Manchester you were coming,’ Tom said.
‘I hadn’t but I didn’t want to explain. I hoped on Sunday no-one would bother. Obviously I intrigued one of the businesses enough for them to check up on me.’
‘Well, it doesn’t sound as if Sloane was too bothered. He didn’t shout.’
‘No, he was strangely calm, a bit like a volcano before it erupts. I hope he helps smooth the feathers of the Manchester boys before we go up there.’
‘He didn’t go into you being, uh, trans, Jim.’
‘I’ve got that inquisition to come. When we’ve completed this case I think. Sloane will be thinking through all the angles and consequences.’  It felt like a big black cloud that would hang over him until he was summoned to Sloane’s office again. Tom looked sympathetic.
‘Good luck, Jim. I don’t understand what it is you want, but I hope Sloane doesn’t make life difficult.’
‘I’ll have to wait and see, but first let’s find out who sent those photos to Thwaite.’
‘OK, but who are we going after, Geraldine, Caroline or Rosalind, or all three?’
‘I don’t know,’ James said, ‘let’s review what we know, about Petula’s movements and the three of them.’
………………

James and Tom discuss suspects

I’ve been busy on three fronts with Jasmine Frame this week. I’ve put together a new flier for my ‘Jasmine & me’ presentation and been in contact with some literary festivals and readers groups. It is quite clear that if Jasmine is going to be publicised I’ve got to get out and meet people. That will be true even if I find a publisher for Painted Ladies and the rest of the series. Which is something else I’ve done – sent off a package to an agent.

I’ve also moved on with editing Bodies by Design. I’m not changing huge sections which feels fine but I wonder if I’m critical enough. The trouble with writing is that you feel you are living the story. Editing sections, perhaps even removing whole incidents, is a little like changing your memories.

The next episode of Blueprint has also occupied me for a while. It’s amazing that it is now up to its 23rd episode and has reached 30,000 words. I’m having to be careful that I don’t contradict things I wrote in earlier episodes. I hope I’m keeping the story bubbling – it is reaching a climax, I promise, and in the not too distant future. I think it’s going to end up as a novella rather than a novel, but that’s fine.

Blueprint: Part 23

Tom Shepherd ran through the freezing drizzle and jumped into the car beside James.
‘I thought you were never coming,’ Tom said glancing at his watch. James put his foot on the accelerator and pulled away from the block of flats where Tom lived.
‘I sent you a text to say I was running a few minutes late.’
‘A few minutes! It’s gone seven thirty already. What kept you?’
‘I was knackered after yesterday.’
‘Long day up in Manchester?’
‘Long drive, especially last night.’
They reached the main road into the centre of Kintbridge and come to a halt.
‘There I knew it,’ Tom said, ‘Get here after half seven and you’re in the rush hour.’
‘I’m sorry,’ James said, ‘You did say you wanted a lift.’
‘Well, since you had my car, I think I deserved one.’
James pulled into the outside lane and drove forward a few car lengths.
‘It won’t take long.’
‘So you spent the whole day as, uh, Jasmine, did you?’ Tom asked, his voice taking on a strained quality.
‘Yes. I said I would.’
‘You didn’t find it strange acting like a woman all day?’
‘I wasn’t acting,’ James said, he tugged on the lapel of his suit, ‘if anything I’m acting when I’m wearing this.’
‘You mean being a woman is more natural for you than being a bloke?’
‘Yes, Tom.’ James sighed. How could he explain his feelings to someone who had no concept of what it was like to feel in your head that you were someone while your body suggested someone else? Tom was a great mate but obviously had never questioned his identity, gender or otherwise.  ‘I know it’s hard for you and I find it difficult to put into words but for years, possibly as long as I remember, I have felt more comfortable being feminine than in pretending to be a guy.’
‘And Angela’s happy about this?’
‘Happy? Probably not. We’re happy together and she’s always supported me, but when we got married I don’t think she planned on having a woman for a partner.’
‘If you’ve felt like this all your life why did you marry Angela?’
They’d crept towards the roundabout. Police HQ was just off to the left.  James signalled and pulled into the inside lane.
‘We got married because we loved each other and back then I didn’t understand my feelings about myself. I hadn’t reckoned on how powerful my need to be female was or would become.’
‘So you’re prepared to end your marriage and lose everything so you can become Jasmine fulltime.’
‘It sounds awful put like that, Tom, but the answer is yes.’  James pulled into the car park beside the police station and turned off the engine.
‘Let’s go and get a coffee,’ Tom said, stretching his legs out of the car door, ‘I think we need to talk before going up to the office.’
‘So, did you find out anything?’ Tom gazed at James across his mug of coffee.  They were sitting in a corner of the canteen in the basement of the police station.  It was quiet, just a few officers taking a break at this time in the morning.
‘I found a few people who met Petula on her trips to Manchester.’
‘Suspects?’ Tom looked eager.
‘Perhaps.’ James described his meeting with Geraldine, the transvestite who hung around Betty’s Boudoir.
‘She did it,’ Tom said confidently, ‘or is it he?’
‘She was she when I met her,’ James said, ‘and yes she’s a possible. She may have had a grudge because Petula snubbed her, and she took photos, but…’
‘But what?’
James described his interview with Rosalind, the beginner transvestite.
‘Oh, it must have been him, er, her. If Petula was embarrassed by her and dropped her then that could have been reason enough for Rosalind to get her own back.’
‘Maybe,’ James was doubtful. It just didn’t sound so convincing after he’d told the story.’
‘Well, who else is there? You’ve talked about a Geraldine and a Rosalind.’
‘There’s Caroline,’ James said.
‘I thought you said she was the person who Petula drove all the way up north to see.’
‘Yeah. It sounds as though they were great friends. Meeting up once a month for lunch and a shop.’
‘Is that all they did?’
‘Ah, that’s a good question. Caroline got pretty upset when I suggested that there may have been another reason for their meetings.’
‘Sex?’
‘She denied it vehemently.’
‘Where’s there’s smoke…’
‘Could be or perhaps it was just very far from her thoughts and I surprised her.’
‘OK, but why would she be sending those photos to Petula.’
‘I don’t know, but there was something in her story that didn’t seem quite right.’
‘What?’
‘I’m not certain. It’s just speculation. You see Caroline and Petula were quite different types of trans.’
‘What do you mean? They were both men dressed up as women weren’t they?’
‘Yes, but there’s more to it than that.’
‘Really?’
James could see that Tom was confused as if he’d just discovered the world was round after thinking it was flat all his life.
‘Caroline lived her life as a woman,’ James explained. ‘Had done since she retired after her wife died. She only put on male clothes when her daughter and grandchildren visited. Otherwise she’s relaxed about it; she’s accepted who she is. Even her neighbours know. I can’t be sure but I’d go as far as saying that Caroline is transsexual.’
Tom nodded slowly. ‘That’s what you said you are, isn’t it. You want to be a woman.’
‘I am a woman and Caroline sees herself as a woman,’ James corrected. ‘Petula though, was different, at least in her circumstances. She didn’t dress up much. She didn’t have many clothes – just a case full. She was scared to death, literally, of her wife finding out, or anyone else outside of her trans circle. Perhaps in her dreams she was a woman but the urge to dress up, strong though it was, wasn’t powerful enough for her to give up her life as Peter Thwaite.
‘Hmm So Peter/Petula was not transsexual?’
‘I’d say she was a cross-dresser. I may be wrong and misinterpreting what I’ve learned about her but that’s my opinion.’
‘So one is transsexual and one is a cross-dresser, and they’re different.’ Tom shrugged, ‘so what?’
‘They don’t always get on,’ James said.
‘Why not? They face the same sort of reactions from people don’t they.’
‘Yes, but a transsexual faces it all the time if they are living the role. A cross-dresser can step out of their femme persona any time. Some transsexuals may think that a cross-dresser isn’t taking things seriously enough, is just playing at being a woman and belittling their own struggle.’
‘They can be a bit “holier-than-though” can they, these transsexuals.’
‘Occasionally, some are,’ James agreed, ‘but you have to set it against the difficulties so many transsexuals face keeping jobs, families, friends while fighting to get treatment.’
‘OK. So you think Caroline’s friendship with Petula may have soured when Petula carried on wanting to go back to her wife and life as Peter.’
‘It’s just a thought. I’ve got no proof.’
Tom sighed and leaned back in his chair, stretching.
‘So we’ve got three suspects. No evidence against any of them but each may, just may, have a motive.’
‘That’s it,’ James said.
‘Where do we go from here?’
‘I don’t know. I think I’m missing something.’
There was a beep from the mobile phone in James’ pocket. Tom’s let out a similar tone. They both pulled out their phones and looked at the screens.
‘Sloane wants me,’ they said simultaneously as they both stood up.
‘What are we going to tell him?’ Tom asked as they hurried from the canteen.
‘The truth,’ James replied.
‘Even about your trip to Manchester and about Jasmine?’
‘It was going to happen sometime. I just wasn’t expecting it to be like this.’ James called out as Tom leapt up the stairs three steps at a time.
………………..

Jasmine goes home

A busy week with some very pleasant moments. There is another excellent review on Amazon of Painted Ladies and I had some wonderfully encouraging comments from friends in Tenbury. That was during my ‘Jasmine & me‘ presentation at Tenbury Library. A small, select audience, but they were very interested in the Jasmine Frame series of crime novels and it gave me a chance to have another practice at getting the balance of readings and chat correct. A big thank you to Librarian Sally.

Sally and Penny at Tenbury Library, promoting Painted Ladies

Sally and Penny at Tenbury Library, promoting Painted Ladies

One less than satisfactory discovery was how little in the way of royalties I am going to get from sales of paperback Painted Ladies through Amazon and other distributors. Once they’ve taken their discount what is left barely covers the cost of printing. Such is the reality of self-publishing. It makes finding an agent and publisher for the whole series an even greater imperative.

Anyway, to more enjoyable activities and the next episode of Blueprint, the prequel set about three years before Painted Ladies.  I hope you enjoy it.

Blueprint – Part 22

Chapter 7
 
It had been a long day even by Police standards. Away hours before daylight, it was not far off midnight when Jasmine parked on her own driveway. The rain had let up a bit in balmy Berkshire but she’d had to grope her way through appalling weather all the way from Manchester.  She had had to stop at an M6 service area. Food had become a necessity as was an infusion of caffeine and she had needed time to just sit and stare into her cup regardless of the noise and bustle of the weekend travellers.
She had also gone to the Ladies to pee and repair her face. She was appalled to see the hairs of her beard showing through her foundation. At least it was one explanation why she had had more than the usual number of second looks from passers-by and serving staff. Not for the first time she wished that her facial, and body, hair didn’t grow so fast. She wondered what Angela would say if she said she wanted to start electrolysis to rid herself of the hairy chin she invariably got by late afternoon.
Powder and fresh lipstick improved her appearance but didn’t really satisfy her.  It settled one thing though – there would be no more “comfort” stops on her journey home. She was determined not to appear looking like a bloke in drag even if that was what she was.  The drive had been slow with the typical hold-ups for accidents caused by drivers nor adjusting to the foul conditions. She had begun think that she might have to make a stop after all but now here she was, jumping out of the car, clicking the remote locking and aiming her key at the front door.
The ground floor was dark except for the solitary bulb in the hallway. Jasmine guessed that Angela must be in bed. She leapt up the stairs and into the bedroom.
Angela put down the book she had been reading.
‘At last, Jas. I was wondering if it was going to be tomorrow before you came home.’
Jasmine slumped onto the bed and reached down to unzip her boots.
‘I was wondering too. It was a lousy drive.’
‘You didn’t think to phone and let me know.’
If she was truthful, Jasmine would have to admit that the thought hadn’t crossed her mind. She’d spent the journey concentrating on driving and mulling over the conversations she had had during the day.
‘I was in traffic and couldn’t stop, Ange.’
Having tugged the boots off her feet she hurried in to the bathroom and sat on the loo, sighing with relief.
‘I bet you didn’t even think of it with your mind on the case.’
Jasmine smiled. Angela knew her so well.
‘So was it worth the trip?’ she added.
Jasmine, stood, pulled up her knickers and tights, flushed and returned to the bedroom.
‘I think so. I found four people who knew Petula.’  She pulled the wig off her head and slowly began to undress. As the clothes fell to the floor and the false breasts were plucked from the bra so Jasmine’s appearance faded away
‘Suspects?’
‘Well, there’s three possibles I think.’
James straightened up naked and stretched. He picked up the heap of grubby clothes and dropped them into the laundry basket, then took the wig, boobs and boots back to the spare room that was Jasmine’s room.
‘Three?’ Angela said as he returned, ‘That’s a lot. Petula wasn’t popular then?’
‘I don’t think it’s much to do with her. Three different people with weaknesses that may have pushed them into sending those photos.’
‘No proof then.’
‘Not a bit. I need a shower.’
James cleaned off the make-up then stood in the hot water letting the tensions of the day wash away. Rubbing himself vigorously with a towel he stepped back into the bedroom.  Angela had put the book away. She was looking at him. If it had been anyone else he would have been mortified by having his genitals on show. Angela was the one person who he wasn’t embarrassed to reveal his male body to.
‘How was your day?’ James asked.
‘Quiet,’ Angela replied, ‘but that was good. I had work to do too. Oh, and I had a call from your mother.
‘Oh,’ James wasn’t surprised. His mother tended to call on Sundays, under the misapprehension that detective work was a five-day-week sort of job. ‘What did she have to say?’
‘She was wondering when we’d be going down to Sussex next. I told her you were out on a job and she replied that at least you weren’t wasting your time ‘dressing up’.’
James snorted. His mother had known about his dressing as a woman since he was a teenager but persisted in thinking it some strange passing phase. He had tried to explain that it was more than that many times and told her that if he was off-duty he was likely to be Jasmine, but she closed her mind to his words.
‘Did you tell her I had gone out as Jasmine?’
‘No. I’ll leave that to you. She’d only huff and puff. You know that.’
‘I know.’
‘More to the point what are you going to tell Chief Inspector Sloane?’
‘Tell him what?’
‘Well, if you’ve got suspects they’re going to be interviewed aren’t they?’
‘I expect so.’
‘So it’s going to come out that they met Detective Constable Jasmine Frame.’
‘I suppose so.’ It wasn’t something that James had thought about. His mind had been on finding someone who might have caused Petula/Peter Thwaite’s suicide, and hadn’t thought through the results of his trip to Manchester. ‘I’ll think of something.’
‘Did you enjoy doing your detecting as a woman?’
Flashes of the day passed through James’ mind. Apart from the odd occasion when he had been worried about being ‘read’ like at the service area on the way home, he had barely thought about the novelty of being on duty in his feminine guise. It had felt natural. After all, Jasmine Frame was who he felt he was.
‘I didn’t think about enjoying the day. I was doing my job.’
‘I thought you’d say that, James. You’re more Jasmine than James now aren’t you.’ He nodded. ‘Have you thought any more about transitioning?’
He hadn’t expected the conversation to take this path. Angela knew that he wanted to become Jasmine but they hadn’t set a date or a timetable.
‘You know I think about it all the time, but not especially today. There were too many other things to think about.’
Angela slid down under the duvet, a sign that she was ready to settle down to sleep.
‘I guess so. But you had better prepare yourself for Sloane finding out about Jasmine pretty soon.’
James stood with the towel hanging limply from his hand. He daydreamed entering Police HQ as Jasmine, of meeting his colleagues, of standing in front of Sloane’s desk. It was an intriguing fantasy, something he wanted to do above almost anything else but scary. What would Tom’s reaction be, and Sloane’s?
‘Are you joining me?’ Angela said. James returned to the present. For now the fantasy would remain as one.
‘If you want me?’ Often now he slept in the single bed in spare room where he kept Jasmine’s clothes but he still liked being close to Angela.
‘Come on. We can cuddle. You look done in.’
James hung up the towel in the bathroom gave his teeth a peremptory clean then slipped under the covers. Angela wrapped her arms and legs around him touching skin down the length of his body. Her warmth was comforting. His eyes closed and he felt sleep overpowering him
‘Who were the … oh. That’s it is it. ‘Night James.’  A kiss on his cheek was the last thing he sensed.
………………………..

Jasmine digs deeper

First a thank you to the new followers of this blog. I hope you stay with me and enjoy the episodes of the Jasmine Frame story as I post them. Your comments will be very welcome.

This week I joined the Literary Festivals website. It lists a lot of authors, many of them very famous indeed, who make themselves available to talk and join discussions at the many festivals around the country. I would very much like the opportunity to do the same to promote the Jasmine Frame novels and discuss transgenderism on a broader stage. So if anybody out there is involved with a Festival – I’m available.

Actually I am giving my “Jasmine and me” talk next week in Tenbury, Worcs. I’m looking forward to the experience and hoping for a good audience. Of course it’s sales of Painted Ladies I would really like. I do wish that marketing was as easy and enjoyable as sitting in front of the computer and writing stories.

Talking of which here is the next episode of Blueprint – the Jasmine Frame, transgender detective, prequel.

Blueprint: Part 21

‘Geraldine? I met her at Betty’s earlier today,’ Jasmine said recalling the tall, manly looking transvestite who had been rather evasive.
‘Oh, you would have done. She is always hanging around at Betty’s,’ Caroline replied.
‘Why is she there so often?’
‘I don’t know why Betty puts up with her. Well I do – Betty is a kind lady. But Geraldine is not a good advert for Betty’s skills and would barely pass if she ventured out dressed. She doesn’t though which is probably a good thing.’
‘Why did you mention her then?’
‘Well, she had one of those digital cameras. She acts as Betty’s photographer. It’s one way she pays Betty back I suppose. If one of Betty’s clients wants a photo taken, Geraldine is there to take it.’
‘So she produces prints and knows how to enhance photos.’
‘What do you mean?’
‘Improve them. Make them brighter, chop out bits, perhaps even make the model look more attractive.’
‘I suppose so. Geraldine does a good job. Betty has a number of the photos on the walls of her salon. They look pretty good to me.’
Jasmine recalled that she hadn’t ventured past Betty’s sitting room so hadn’t seen the photos.
‘Have you got any of Geraldine’s photos, Caroline?’
‘No. I didn’t go to Betty for advice, just for company. I didn’t need Geraldine snapping away at me.’
‘What about Petula? Did she have a photo taken by Geraldine?’
‘I doubt it. Unless Geraldine took one when she wasn’t noticing. Petula tried to avoid Geraldine.’
‘Oh. Why was that?’
‘She felt uncomfortable in her company. Petula didn’t like cross-dressers who stood out.’
‘Like Geraldine and Rosalind.’
‘Rosalind wasn’t so bad. She was just a beginner.’
‘Was Petula rude to Geraldine?’
‘Oh, Petula would never be rude, but I think her body language made it obvious she did not wish to be near Geraldine.’
‘Did Geraldine notice?’
‘Oh, I should think so.’
It seemed that the circumstantial evidence was stacking up against Geraldine. She had the skills and the opportunities to make the photos sent to Petula and it seemed a motive if she was aware that Petula resented her.
‘Petula told you what she felt about Geraldine.’
‘We discussed her, yes.’
‘Did you discuss things between Petula’s visits here?’
‘Yes. Not frequently, but occasionally Petula would ring when it was convenient, and there were emails.’
‘Oh, you have a computer.’
Caroline’s nostril’s flared.
‘I’m not an ignoramus. I worked with computers at the bank until I retired. Of course I have a computer.’
Jasmine was a little taken aback at Caroline’s sudden display of temper, but she carried on.
‘Did Petula contact you in the weeks before she died?’
Caroline did not reply immediately as if she was deciding what her answer should be.
‘I think there were a couple of messages.’
‘Did she mention any worries? Things that were troubling her.’
‘No.’
‘But as far as I have discovered you were her main companion, the one trans-person she saw most often and spent most time with. Her only other regular outing was the Butterflies club in Kintbridge and that was for just a few hours once a month.’
‘What are you saying?’
‘I’m just surprised that as you were so close she didn’t confide in you.’
‘We talked about lots of things.’
‘But not about what was driving her to suicide.’
Caroline was quiet and then shook her head and whispered, ‘No.’
‘But you’re out much more than Petula. You live as Caroline except when your daughter and grandchildren visit, at least I presume you have since your retirement. Was that after your wife died?’
Caroline nodded, ‘I retired a year after. There wasn’t any point working anymore.’
‘So you’ve been living as a woman for four years.’
Caroline’s eyes lit up again, ‘I am a woman.’
Jasmine recognised the emotion. She felt the same – a woman inside her head but with a male body.  Did Caroline have a woman’s desires? With no partner at home did she look for more than companionship in the men or women, trans or otherwise, that she met?  Jasmine was uncertain about herself. Angie was still there for her although sex had slipped off the menu. While oscillating between appearing as male and female, she put thoughts about her sexual preference out of her mind. But what about if or when she transitioned, if she parted from Angie. What then? Would she seek a male or a female partner? She wasn’t sure so couldn’t say what Caroline’s preference was.
‘Petula wasn’t though was she?’ Jasmine asked.
‘What do you mean?’ Caroline hissed.
‘Well, she spent the vast majority of her time as a man, Peter. He still had his wife and she seems to have had no complaints about his masculinity. Peter was a cross-dresser. Dressing was a hobby which he was very good at but I don’t feel that he ever considered transitioning.’
‘What do you know about Petula?’
‘We met once. We talked and I have been exploring her life.’
‘Well, I don’t know what you are getting at. We met once a month and were friends.’
‘Is that all?
‘What do you mean?’
‘Did you want to be more than friends?’
‘I beg your pardon!’
‘Did you want to be lovers?’
Caroline shot onto her feet.
‘How dare you suggest such a thing. We never had sex. I think you had better go now.’
Jasmine rose. Caroline’s response was interesting. Had she made a move and been rebuffed?
‘You can’t suggest a reason why Petula took her own life?’
Caroline moved to the front door and opened it.
‘No. We were just friends. I accompanied her on her outings. I’ll admit to feeling sorry for her. She was stuck in the closet, afraid to come out to her wife or anyone else. Just sneaking off for her little trips. I gave her my time to help her. Now please go. I have washing up to do and then I have other friends to meet.’
Jasmine walked to the door. She smiled as sweetly as she could.
‘Thank you Caroline. You’ve been very helpful but there may be more questions I have to ask.’
‘I’ve told you all I know.’
Caroline shuffled forward, urging Jasmine through the doorway. Jasmine stepped out into the porch and the door closed behind her. The cold rain blew into her face reminding her of where she was and the long drive in front of her. At least she had something to mull over on the road south.

……………………………

Jasmine is found out

Since the purpose of this blog is to get a wider audience for my writings, particularly those involving Jasmine Frame, I suppose I should remind followers that Painted Ladies: A Jasmine Frame story is available as a paperback and e-book from all booksellers. As the weeks pass I realise what a difficult job marketing a book is. For a start there are so many of us in the same position, so many hopeful writers wishing for the big publishers to come along with a book deal or those of us who have self-published jostling to get our work noticed.  Another plug – I’m willing to do my talk/entertainment, Jasmine and me, anywhere (in the UK) for the chance to promote and sell a few books.

As for writing this week, well, there was a bit of the bread and butter (educational stuff), some jam (a short story for one of my writing groups) and a little cake (the episode of Blueprint below). But no real meat, that is, I didn’t work on Bodies by Design this week but I am still hoping for something other than a rejection from a publisher.

On other matters, there’s been a lot in the media about the demise of Hayley Cropper from Coronation Street. That’s one less trans character on TV. There must be room for a transsexual detective.

Here’s Blueprint.

Blueprint: Part 20

Chapter 6

It was dusk as Jasmine drew up outside Caroline/Geoff’s smart little house. The rain was coming down hard now and Jasmine was not looking forward to the long night-time drive home.  There was no car in the driveway so Jasmine presumed that Geoff’s daughter and grandchildren had already left. She got out of the car, ran to the front door and sheltered in the small porch waiting for her ring of the doorbell to be answered.
Through the patterned glass she saw a figure come down the stairs and approach the door.
‘Oh, it’s you. You did come back,’ Caroline said as she opened the door. She was wearing a smart grey woollen dress over opaque tights and a neat auburn wig that made her look ten years younger. There was no sign of a male paunch and her dress clung to her shapely figure. There was an obvious but not obtrusive layer of foundation on her smooth face with bright red lipstick. Blue shadowed eyes peered from feminine shaped spectacles with diamante crystals on the arms.
‘I said I would. I gather your family have left,’ Jasmine said stepping into the hall.
‘Yes, not long ago but I had enough time to change back to Caroline. Come on through.’ Caroline led Jasmine into the lounge where she saw that the tea things had been cleared away and there was no sign of the whirlwind that a visit of two young boys would have undoubtedly caused. Caroline pointed to the small sofa and sat down in an armchair. Jasmine sat and carefully arranged her legs so that her skirt did not ride up.
‘You were upset when I told you earlier that Petula was dead,’ Jasmine said. She wondered if getting straight to the point might catch Caroline off-guard.
‘Yes. It was a shock,’ Caroline said straight-faced.
‘Why? Were you close?’
A hint of pink showed through Caroline’s foundation and her eyelids flickered but otherwise her face remained expressionless.
‘I suppose we were. We met regularly and got on together. But why are you asking these questions? You said she killed herself but she lives a long way from here, down south. Are you from down there?’
‘Yes, I’m from Kintbridge where Petula lived.  Something or someone drove her to suicide and I want to know why.’
‘But why come here?’
‘Petula didn’t go out a lot and yet once a month she drove up here. I know she visited Betty’s until last year and now I know that she and you were friends. When did you see her last?’
‘It was in October. As you say, her monthly visit. We should have been meeting next Thursday.’
‘So you carried on meeting monthly after she stopped going to Betty’s?’
‘That’s right.’
‘Why did you change the arrangements?’
‘I suppose we decided we didn’t need Betty anymore. That sounds very ungrateful; Betty provides a marvellous service.’
‘You mean that you and Petula got on so well you didn’t want Betty in the way.’
‘Well, I’m not sure it was like that. Petula and I are both careful with money and it wasn’t cheap going through Betty. We decided we could have a good time just the two of us and save some cash.’
‘But it wasn’t just the two of you was it? What about Rosalind?’
‘Oh her. She was at the last lunch we had with Betty and overheard Petula and me making our arrangements to meet separately. Petula thought it would be polite to invite her to our first lunch. She came, but it was a mistake.’
‘Why?’
Caroline hesitated.
‘Well, I don’t like to sound rude, but, well, she wasn’t very good.’
‘You mean she didn’t pass as a woman very well.’
‘Um, yes.’
‘She made people take a second look at you and Petula, making passers-by wonder about you too.’
‘Well, yes, I suppose there was a bit of that.’
‘Rosalind was new to dressing. She wasn’t sure about herself.’
‘She needed Betty. We couldn’t help her.’
‘You ditched her.’
Caroline avoided Jasmine’s eyes.
‘We decided not to invite her again.’
Jasmine thought they had been selfish and given little thought to Rosalind’s state of mind, but it was Petula she was investigating not Rosalind.
‘So it was just you and Petula from then on.’
‘Yes.’
This wasn’t really getting anywhere, Jasmine realised, but she felt that the relationship between Caroline and Petula was important. After all, Caroline was the only person, apart from one or two members of Butterflies, who apparently knew Petula well.
‘Why do you think you and Petula got on so well?’
Caroline thought for a moment before speaking.
‘I suppose we were similar in many ways. We were similar ages and in the same business – banking. We were both married or had been – my wife was killed in a road accident five years ago. We liked the same styles so talked for hours about clothes and wigs and all the other stuff we trannies use. You understand don’t you?’
The false breasts, the substantial underwear to hide one’s manhood, the heavy foundation, yes Jasmine knew all about it.
‘But you weren’t exactly the same were you. You have a daughter and she knows about your two personas.’
A momentary expression of regret passed over Caroline’s face.
‘That’s right. My wife knew all about Caroline when she was alive. Not that she fully approved, but poor Petula just couldn’t bring herself to tell her wife.’
‘So Petula was a secret cross-dresser while I imagine you are more open about it.’
‘Well, I can’t hide Caroline anymore, and don’t want to. I spend most of my time as Caroline now. All the neighbours know. It’s just my daughter won’t accept it and won’t allow me to appear in front of the boys.’
‘While Petula had to keep her female persona hidden away in a suitcase and spent most of her life as Peter.’
‘That’s right.’
‘Petula must have envied you, Caroline.’
‘Perhaps, but I envied her too.’
‘Why?’
‘She still had her wife. They seemed to get on OK despite the secret that Petula kept from her. I miss my wife dreadfully. Still.’
‘So you shared your regrets and desires.’
‘We did. And I was very grateful to her for it. I looked forward to each visit. You must understand – you’re not full-time or fully transitioned are you?’
Jasmine was surprised. How did she know?
‘Uh, no. I’m a man at work but female most of the rest of the time. How did you guess?’
‘I’ve been a trannie for a long time and met lots of people. I can see the signs.’
‘Such as?’
‘You wear a wig. Transsexuals of your age don’t usually need to. I can see signs of a shadow on your chin so you haven’t had electrolysis yet; your voice goes deeper every now and again so you’re not used to using your female voice all the time; and you are particular about how you sit, making sure you appear feminine. It all shows that you are still practising at being a woman, you’re not doing it every moment of your life.’
Jasmine was staggered by Caroline’s assessment. It summed up exactly where she was.
‘You’re right. I’m thinking about transitioning but haven’t decided when or discussed it with my wife.’
‘But you have a wife that understands?’
‘As much as anyone can understand what being trans feels like.’
‘There you are.’
‘What?’
‘That explains why Petula and I got on so well. We understood each other.’
Jasmine nodded. Where did this leave her investigation? Could Caroline give any information about who would hound Petula to her death?
‘Do you have any photographs of Petula or the two of you together?’
‘Yes, I do have a few. Do you want to see them?’
‘Yes, please.’
Caroline stood up and crossed the room to a unit of cupboards and shelves. She opened a door and pulled out a photograph album. She flicked through the pages and then passed the open book to Jasmine.
‘These were taken on one of our jaunts back in the summer. The waiter kindly took a couple of the two of us ladies together.’
There were four pictures on the page all taken in the garden of a pub or restaurant. Two showed Caroline and Petula standing side by side by a table with flowerbeds and trees in the background. The others were individual photos of Caroline and Petula taken across the table. Petula looked very much as Jasmine remembered her from Butterflies. Together the two of them could have been sisters, cousins or two old female friends enjoying a lunch together.
Jasmine looked closely at the photos.
‘Were these taken with a digital camera?’
‘Oh no. They’re old-fashioned film. I’ve had my camera for ages, but it’s getting very difficult to find film. I think I will have to think about getting one of those digital cameras.’
‘Have you got a camera on your mobile phone?’
‘Do I? I’m not sure. I hardly ever use it. I’ve had it since before my wife died. Why? What’s all this about photos?’
Jasmine ignored Caroline’s question.
‘Did any of the others take photos using a digital camera?’
‘Others?’
‘People you met through Betty. Rosalind for example.’
Caroline was thoughtful.
‘I think I do remember Rosalind having one of those tiny digital cameras. Why is it important? Oh, of course, there was Geraldine.’
…………………….

Jasmine finds a suspect

A busy week, so not a lot of writing work done. The highlight though, was going to see the Priscilla Queen of the Desert musical live. Great fun, amazing costumes, good songs, and a feel-good atmosphere pretty much like the original film. I just wonder how many other trans folk were in the audience. How about a musical version of Painted Ladies?

Anyway here is the next episode of Blueprint. I think we’re approaching a climax, not sure, but sometime soon…

Blueprint, Part 19

With the engine off the temperature in the car soon began to drop. Jasmine hugged herself and hoped that she wouldn’t have too long to wait. Fifteen minutes passed before she saw a figure in her driving mirror emerge from one of the terraced houses. He walked swiftly along the pavement towards her.  Just before he came level Jasmine opened the car door and stepped out. The man stopped with a startled look on his face which turned to a scowl.
‘You waited,’ he growled.
‘I said I would, and you came,’ Jasmine said.
‘I’m on my way to the shop. We need some more milk.’
‘That’s a good excuse. Do you want to get in the car or shall we walk to the shop together, Rosalind?’
‘Don’t call me that.’ He looked up and down the deserted Sunday-afternoon street obviously deciding which would be least noticeable – getting into an unknown woman’s car or walking with her in public.  There was another alternative; he might make a bolt for it, leave her standing so that she would have the choice of chasing after him or letting him go. He made a decision, shrugged.
‘I’ll get in. But I can only be a couple of minutes. She’ll wonder why I’ve taken so long.’
Jasmine opened the back door of the Ford Focus, let him get in and got back into the driving seat. She had him now – the childproof-locks would stop him getting out.  Jasmine twisted in her seat to get a look at him. He sat back in the seat looking very uncomfortable and nervous.
‘I won’t keep you for long. I just need some answers. You are Rosalind aren’t you?’
‘Who told you?’
‘Betty.’
‘I thought so.’
‘You visited her to dress didn’t you?’ She saw his colour change and the scowl turn to anger.
‘I’m not a trannie. It was a phase. Things were difficult.’
‘How did you find Betty? She doesn’t advertise. Do you know some trans people?’
‘I went to that big place down near Canal Street, Transmutations, first. I had this, uh, urge. Look, I don’t want to talk about it.’
‘So someone at Transmutations gave you Betty’s address?’ Jasmine persisted.
‘Yeah. It was costing me too much. One of their women said Betty would be cheaper.’
‘Was she?’
‘Yeah, but it was different at her place.’
‘How?’
“Rosalind” wriggled uncomfortably.
‘She seemed to take it more seriously.  The Transmutations women seemed to think it was a bit of fun helping blokes dress up, but for Betty and the others it was a way of life.’
Jasmine understood what he meant. She had noticed the difference on her visits to Transmutations and Betty’s Boudoir. The former was more like a theme park while Betty’s was much more intimate.
‘Didn’t you like it at Betty’s?’
‘I wasn’t sure. Oh, she was very helpful, understanding and all that, but I told you. It was just a phase. I soon realised that I wasn’t like that. I don’t want to look like a stupid prick in a dress and I don’t want my balls chopped off.’
Which was, of course, just what Jasmine did want, ultimately. She felt herself flush, but she persisted.
‘But you did visit Betty’s a few times and met Petula?’
‘Yeah,’ Rosalind admitted with a sigh.
‘Tell me about it.’
‘There’s not much to tell. I’d been to Betty’s a couple of times before she suggested going out. It scared me stiff but sort of gave me a thrill too.’ The thrill of doing something extraordinary, of breaking convention. Jasmine understood what he meant even though it was not something she had felt since her teenage years.
‘So you went out with Betty.  Just the two of you?’
‘Yeah, the first time.  It was only an hour. A quick trip to the shops and a cup of coffee.’
‘You enjoyed it.’
‘Sort of. Betty suggested meeting up with a couple of others and making it a lunch party.’
‘The others being, Petula and …?’
‘Petula and some trannie called Christine or Caroline or something.’
‘How did it go?’
‘Okay I suppose. I felt nervous all the time but the other two were pretty relaxed. Actually they spent most of the time chatting with each other.’
‘Did you go out with Betty again?’
‘No. Soon after my wife and I patched things up and I realised this dressing lark wasn’t for me.’
‘Really?’  Jasmine knew that while the urge to be female could be supressed it often re-surfaced.
‘Really. It’s in the past. It’s something I did for a while when things weren’t so good and now it’s gone. I got rid of all the stuff I’d bought.’
‘Okay. So you didn’t go out with Betty and Petula again?’
‘Well, not with Betty.’
‘But?’
‘Well at that first lunch we all exchanged ‘phone numbers and a few weeks later Petula rang to ask if I’d like to meet up with her and the other trannie. I said yes.’
‘This was a Thursday again?’
‘Yeah. We met at one of the big stores in town and had lunch in the restaurant.’
‘Just the three of you.’
‘Yes.’
Jasmine dragged out the first photo of Petula and held it up for Rosalind to examine.
‘Was this photo taken at either of your meetings with Petula?’
Rosalind leaned forward to peer at the image.
‘I don’t know. He looked pretty attractive for an older guy in drag. You know; he wore decent clothes, but I can’t remember if those were what he was wearing when we were out.’
‘Did you take any photos?’
‘No!’ His bark made Jasmine flinch.
‘Do you have a computer?’
‘Yeah.’
‘And a digital camera?’
‘Yeah. So what? Why is taking a photo of the trannie such a big deal?’
‘Because the photographer hounded Petula into taking her own life.’
‘What? You don’t think I did that do you? Why should I? I only met the daft bugger twice.’
‘I don’t know why anyone should have done what they did to Petula, but someone did and I mean to find out who.’ Jasmine looked into Rosalind’s eyes searching for signs of guilt. He looked away from her and tried to open the door.
‘Well it wasn’t me. Let me out. I’ve been gone too long already.’
‘Alright.’ Jasmine got out and opened the rear door. Rosalind unfolded himself and stood up.
‘Look, I don’t how a photograph could make someone kill themselves, but it wasn’t me, right.’ He inclined his neck and spoke into Jasmine’s face. ‘And don’t come knocking on my door again.’ He straightened up and marched off down the street.
‘I may have to speak to you again, Rosalind. I will find out who took the photos.’
He ignored Jasmine’s call and strode on.  Jasmine got back into the car and started the engine. She put the car in gear, released the handbrake and pulled out of the parking spot. She drove at walking pace up the road following Rosalind. He reached a small shop and paused to look at her. She lowered her window.
‘The urge never truly goes away,’ she called out. He looked as if he would explode then turned away and went into the shop without making a reply. Jasmine raised her window and drove on.
…………………..

Jasmine Frame resolutions

Happy New Year to everyone. A few days in and I’m trying to keep to my resolutions. One is to find an agent/publisher to take on the Jasmine Frame series. Self-publishing requires quite an outlay and having done it once for Painted Ladies I can’t afford to publish Bodies by Design as soon as I’d like. Anyway I have made a start by sending a package off to one publisher.  I also want to find a publisher for my September Weekes fantasy novels so I made a start with a publisher for those too. People often advise against writing in two genres but while I don’t claim to match his class, if Iain (M) Banks can do it it’s not impossible. No doubt rejection slips will soon be fluttering in like snow flakes… but it only takes one as they say.  Keep optimistic is the message.

Anyway on to the next episode of Blueprint. I’m still making it up as we go along, but it’s grown far more than I expected when I started.  Can you see a resolution yet?

Bluepint: Part 18

Jasmine got into her car and pulled away from Caroline/Geoff’s house, drove a hundred metres up the road then stopped again. She turned off the engine and looked at her watch. It was three o’clock.  Soon it would be getting dark.  What should she do? She had found three people who knew Petula. Betty, Geraldine and Caroline but none that had told her what Petula had been doing in Manchester recently. Perhaps Caroline would have more to say when she had said farewell to her daughter and grandsons, but it was two hours before Jasmine could return. There was one other name on the slip of paper that Betty had given her.  The name was Rosalind and the address was in Warrington. Jasmine recalled seeing signs to Warrington on the M6 when she had driven north. She was sure it wasn’t too far from where she was now. She should be able to get there speak to Rosalind, if she was in, and get back to interview Caroline as soon as possible. Then she would have to decide what to do. Did she have a suspect or was she going to have to head home with the case unsolved?
The satnav swiftly guided her along motorways, main and side roads until she arrived in a street of small Victorian terraced houses with doors opening off the street. Luckily there was a gap between parked cars outside the number given on the slip of paper. She stopped, got out and approached the front door looking for a bell or knocker. Failing to find one she tapped on the door itself. It was quickly opened by a man with shoulder length brown hair and smooth features. He appeared to be in his late thirties.
‘Yes? What do you want?’ He said.
‘I’m looking for someone called Rosalind. Does she live at this address?’ Jasmine was careful to avoid making assumptions but she noted the scowl on the man’s face. He stepped forward so that he was between the door and the jamb. He spoke more quietly than his greeting.
‘There is no one of that name here. My wife doesn’t know anyone called Rosalind. What do you want?’  His eyes examined her and she felt him noting her wig and the bristles growing through the foundation on her chin. It was a long time since she had shaved before leaving home.
Jasmine pulled the crumpled photo from her pocket and held it up for him to see.
‘I’m looking for people who know this person,’ she said. His eyes focussed on the picture of Petula. She saw recognition in them.
‘I’ve got nothing to say,’ he said shaking his head and stepping back. He tried to close the door but Jasmine stepped forward and pushed her foot against it.
‘You do know Petula, don’t you, Rosalind,’ Jasmine said.
His face showed anger.
‘Don’t use that name here,’ he hissed, ‘My wife can hear.’
‘But you have met Petula, haven’t you?’
‘What’s it to you?’
‘I’m a police officer.’
He tossed his head back with a dismissive grunt.
‘You’re a trannie.’
Jasmine took a deep breath.
‘Yes, but I am a police officer too and I want to know about Petula.’
He had another go at pushing the door closed. Jasmine held her foot hard against it.
‘I don’t know anything about her.’
A female voice called from inside the house.  The man turned his head to call back.
‘It’s no-one. They’re going.’
‘Do you know who took the photo?’ Jasmine persisted.
‘No,’ he replied ‘Move your foot so I can close the door.’
‘But I need to talk to you,’ Jasmine said.
‘I can’t. Not when my wife can hear.’
Jasmine pulled one of her cards from a pocket and thrust it at him.
‘Here’s my number. Phone me. Or meet me outside. I’ll be sitting in the car up the road.’
He took the card reluctantly, folding it in to his fist.
‘Now go,’ he said.  Jasmine withdrew her foot.
‘We need to speak,’ she said to a closed door.  She returned to the car and drove up the road for fifty metres before finding another parking spot. She turned off the engine and adjusted her mirror so that she had a view of the pavement back to “Rosalind’s” house. She glanced at her watch. It still wasn’t yet four. She had time to wait before returning to Caroline. Would Rosalind come out to speak?
…………………………..

Jasmine Frame’s year

2013 was the year that Jasmine Frame became a public figure.  For over twelve years she’s been in my head, on the computer screen and read about by just a very few people, but 2013 saw Painted Ladies: a Jasmine Frame story published as a paperback and an e-book. OK, self-published, but I wonder how much difference that makes. In both forms Painted Ladies is available from any bookseller and I wonder if an actual publisher could have generated more publicity. Of course it wasn’t Jasmine herself who made the headlines or was interviewed on the radio.  The intended enigma that was P.R.Ellis did not last very long and now it is widely known that I am a transgendered person called Penny. The question is whether the publicity has increased the number of sales.  What I do know is that marketing is a time-consuming and difficult business. I appreciate everyone who shows an interest and reads this blog and I hope that you spread the word about Jasmine Frame, transsexual detective. Also I hope you and others will look up the facebook page JasmineFramedetective that will carry notes and news about the Jasmine Frame stories and events where I will be doing readings or giving talks.  Here though I will continue to provide episodes in the ever-lengthening prequel, Blueprint along with news about the second novel, Bodies by Design, and my other thoughts on writing.

Thanks to everyone has been following this blog in the last year and I hope you stick with me. I wish everyone a happy, healthy and productive 2014.

Blueprint: Part 17

Jasmine looked up at Geraldine’s tall, thickset figure. Even with the elegant dress, and carefully coiffured wig it was impossible not to see the man behind the make-up. How difficult it must be for some trans women, Jasmine thought, when even the best efforts of an expert like Betty make it difficult to pass as a woman.  That is if it is their wish to “pass” and not just content to be dressed and made up in the style they desire.  She realised she was transferring her own wish to be a woman on to Geraldine. Perhaps Geraldine was perfectly happy as she was.
‘Hi,’ Jasmine replied, ‘I’m Jasmine.’
Geraldine came into the room and folded herself into the sofa. With her long legs and the soft cushions it was difficult for her to do so in ladylike manner and she ended up holding herself upright with her arms clasped around her insect-like sheer-stockinged knees.
‘Betty says you are looking for people who know Petula,’ Geraldine said in her stage whisper.
‘That’s right. Do you know her?’ Jasmine was eager to meet someone who had met Petula.
‘I met her on one or two occasions when she visited Betty,’ Geraldine said. ‘She was attractive and very good looking.’
Jasmine thought that was somewhat of an exaggeration from what she recalled of Petula’s appearance but at least she had more chance of evading the “second glance” of passers-by than poor Geraldine had. Despite her shyness, Petula made a convincing mature woman.
‘Did you go out with Petula and Betty?’
Geraldine looked horrified.
‘Oh, I don’t go out. I couldn’t. I couldn’t stand everyone staring at me. I just visit Betty and she does what she can for me. She’s very good to me; puts up with me spending a lot of my time hanging around here.’
‘So you only met Petula here. You haven’t seen her since she stopped using Betty’s services.’
‘Of course not.’ Geraldine’s reply was swift and brusque. Jasmine had more questions on her tongue but the door opened and again and Betty returned grasping a slip of paper.
‘I have the addresses of two of the ladies who Petula was friends with. I think the first, Caroline, is the one she had most to do with.’ Betty passed the paper to Jasmine.  She read the details.
‘Caroline lives in Altrincham. I don’t know this area very well but that’s near here isn’t it?’
‘It’s a small town on the edge of Manchester,’ Betty said nodding.
‘To the south-west, on the A56,’ Geraldine said in a bass growl. She had forgotten to use her whisper.
‘You know Caroline, do you?’ Jasmine asked.
‘Not really, but I know Altrincham,’ Geraldine said, ‘I live in that general direction.’
‘What can you tell me about Caroline?’ Jasmine looked from Geraldine to Betty and back. Geraldine shrugged and turned to look at Betty.
‘She’s a lovely lady. I suppose she’s been on my books almost as long as Petula was. They’re a similar age and have similar styles. I think they may even both be in the same careers.’
‘Banking?’
‘Yes. They always had a lot to chat about when they were together.’
‘What about the other name?’ Jasmine glanced again at the slip of paper. ‘Rosalind?’
‘I put that one down because she was at the last lunch Petula attended with me. I wondered if perhaps they got on so well at that first meeting they decided they didn’t need me anymore.’
‘But Caroline and Petula had been getting on for some time?’
‘Oh, yes.’
‘Well, I’ll try her first.’ Jasmine stood up, ‘Thank you for your help, Betty.’
‘Well, I hope you find out who sent those photos that made Petula kill herself,’ Betty said, offering a hand to shake with Jamine.
‘Petula’s dead,’ Geraldine said, her voice a growl. ‘You didn’t say she was dead, Betty.’
‘Didn’t I?’ Betty looked at Geraldine with a look of surprise.
‘You just said this trannie police officer was looking for her.’
‘I did not use the word “trannie”,’ Betty turned to Jasmine, ‘I’m sorry Miss Frame, I said that you were a trans police officer.’
‘That’s alright, Betty,’ Jasmine felt the older woman’s sincerity in her apology. She turned to look down at Geraldine hunched in the sofa. ‘Why did you think I was looking for Petula?’ she asked.
‘I don’t know,’ Gerladine flustered, ‘I thought that she may have gone missing, run off with her bank’s money or something.’
‘Why should she do that?’
‘I don’t know. I was guessing. I didn’t know the guy.’
‘Are you sure’
‘Geraldine never came out with Petula and me,’ Betty said.
‘That’s right. I told you that,’ Geraldine said.
‘I’m trying to find people who really knew her, had seen her recently and perhaps can lead me to the reason why she was driven to kill herself.’ Jasmine said firmly.  Geraldine shook her head, her black curls vibrating.
‘I didn’t know her. I can’t tell you anything,’ Geraldine answered in a high pitched falsetto.
‘I’m sure Caroline can give you some answers,’ Betty said. Jasmine shrugged.
‘I hope so.’ She glanced at her watch. ‘I haven’t got much of the day left to get this case solved. And it needs to be sorted today.’
‘I think Caroline will be in today. She lives alone.’
‘Thanks I’d better be on my way.’
Betty escorted Jasmine to the front door leaving Geraldine hunched on the sofa. They said their farewells and Jasmine ran through the rain to the car.  As the engine started she tapped the address Betty had given her into the satnav and set off at the command of the disembodied female voice.

Jasmine was grateful both for the satnav and Betty’s record keeping that had provided her with a full address. Soon she was driving through the light Sunday afternoon traffic around the periphery of Manchester and onto the A56 heading towards Altrincham.  Within half an hour she was pulling up outside a small, but recently-built detached house on a small estate of similar dwellings. She parked on the kerb and got out. At least the rain had eased off although the heavy overcast threatened more to come.  She walked up the path across the tiny but immaculate lawn to the front door.
There was a quick response to her ring on the door bell. The door was pulled open by a man who took a step back in surprise.
‘Oh. I’m sorry. I was expecting someone else,’ he said.  Jasmine quickly took in his smart but casual trousers, shirt and jumper, his short brown hair and smooth shaven face. He appeared to be in his late fifties, perhaps a little older and was a similar height to Jasmine.
‘I’m sorry to disturb you,’ Jasmine said thinking how to express her next sentence, ‘I was given this address for a lady called Caroline.’
A dark shadow passed across the man’s face.
‘Who gave you that information?’
‘Betty of Betty’s Boudoir.’
The darkness faded somewhat.
‘I see. Who are you?’
‘My name’s Jasmine Frame, I’m a police officer.’ She waved her card but he took no notice of it. He looked over her shoulder at the quiet street.
‘You’d better come in,’ he said, stepping back to let her enter the hallway. ‘I’m Caroline. I can’t think why Betty gave you my address.’ He closed the door behind Jasmine and directed her into the main room of the house.  There was a table laid for high tea, with plates of sandwiches and cakes.
‘She gave me your name because I think you know someone called Petula.’  She saw the recognition of the name in his face followed by a question.
‘Yes, I do know a Petula. Why is that important?’
‘She’s dead. Suicide.’
Jasmine wasn’t prepared for the response. She’d said it and heard it so many times now she had forgotten what impact the words might have. The man who was Caroline turned white and collapsed into an armchair that was luckily nearby.
‘Petula killed herself. How? Why?’ He covered his face with his hands and sobbed.
‘That’s why I’m here. I want to find out why she felt she had to.’
The man took a hanky from his pocket dabbed his eyes, sniffed, blew his nose, sobbed again.
‘They can’t see me upset like this,’ he said.
‘Who can’t?’
‘My daughter and grandchildren. They’re coming to tea. They’ll be here any minute. I thought it was them when I answered the door.’
‘They don’t know Caroline?’
‘No. My daughter knows I dress but she doesn’t know that I spend most of time as Caroline and would be horrified if her boys found out. I promised her I wouldn’t appear as a woman when I’m with her or the boys.’
‘I really do need to ask you some questions, Caroline… uh, Mr…’
‘It’s Geoff,’ he said through sniffles, ‘I can’t answer you while they’re here. How can I explain why you’re here, a police woman?’
Jasmine understood his dilemma. Through the window of the lounge she saw a car draw into the short driveway of the house. The driver was a woman and there were two children in the back.
‘I think they’ve just arrived,’ Jasmine said.
‘You’ve got to go. You’ve got to leave me with them,’ Geoff appealed.
‘OK, but when can I come back?’  Geoff pulled himself from the chair and squeezed passed Jasmine in order to get to the front door.
‘They don’t stay long. We play games, have a chat and some tea.  They’ll be gone by five. Come back after then.’ Jasmine followed him to the door. She felt frustrated but sympathetic.
‘Right. That’s what I’ll do.’
‘Please don’t call if their car is still here.’ Geoff opened the door.  A woman and two children were approaching.
‘I won’t,’ Jasmine said stepping through the doorway, ‘Goodbye, Geoff.’ She waved at him, said hello to the woman and smiled at the two boys.  As she headed to her car she heard the woman ask Geoff who she was. She didn’t hear Geoff’s explanation.

……………………………

Painted Ladies for Christmas

It’s been quite a few months now since I started making sure I posted something every week and Blueprint, the Jasmine Frame prequel has reached epsiode 16 (I didn’t know it was going to be so long when I started it). So, as this is the last post before 25th December I would like to say thnk you to everyone who has read the blog or is receiving the updates and wish you all a very Merry Christmas or Winter Festival, whichever it is you celebrate. There’s still time to download the e-book of Painted Ladies – a Jasmine Frame story (by P R Ellis) and if you order the paperback it’ll be with you  by New Year, and since I’m doing the plugs I’ll remind you that I am available to do my “entertainment”  called  Jasmine and me – adventures in murder and frocks.

The news is that, not having any other pressing work, I’ve been able to get on with the second Jasmine Frame, transsexual detective, novel, Bodies by Design, and have actually reached the end. It’s not finished and there’s a lot of work to be done on it yet, but the complete story does now exist.

So, finally, here is the next episode of Blueprint.

Blueprint – Part 16

Chapter 5

 The rain had got harder as Jasmine satnaved her way from the city centre out to the suburbs of Manchester following the address that Audrey had written down.  At last she turned into a street of 1930s semi-detached houses.  The road was narrow with just space for one car when there were parked vehicles on either side. A short drive led up to the garage beside of each house but the houses were tightly packed. Jasmine peered through her rain-obscured window looking for the numbers.  Some had numbers on the gate post, some on the front door and some none at all.
At last she found the number she wanted, fifteen, in large white figures on a door painted dark green. There was a small car, a Nissan, in the short drive but there was a space outside the house on the road. Jasmine parked and turned the engine off. She got out and ran to the porch to lessen the amount of rain that fell on her wig. She pressed the bell-push. A bell rang inside.
She had to wait for a minute before she saw through the patterned glass a figure approaching. The door was opened by a short lady who appeared to be in her late sixties or even early seventies.  She had grey hair tied up in a bun and spectacles perched on the end of her button nose, but was smartly dressed in blouse, cardigan and plain pleated skirt all in cheerful browns and reds.
‘Hello. Can I help you?’ The lady said.
‘Hi,’ Jasmine said, ‘I hope I’ve got this right. Is this Betty’s boudoir?’
The little lady looked Jasmine up and down and Jasmine felt she was being assessed.  Her hair style, make-up, dress sense were each being graded and the data filed away.
‘I’m Betty,’ she said. ‘I don’t think you’ve made an appointment have you?’
‘No,’ Jasmine replied. ‘I’m Jasmine Frame from Kintbridge in Berkshire. I’m a police officer.’
Jasmine held up her identity card as proof.  Betty took a close interest in it.
‘I see. It says Detective Constable James Frame.  Is this an official visit or have you come for advice because you are a transvestite.’
‘I’m on police business,’ Jasmine said,wincing as she did not consider herself a transvestite but a trans-woman.
‘Oh dear. Well you’d better come in, young lady, and tell me what it’s all about.  Then perhaps I can give you some advice. Your skirt is a little short.’
Jasmine felt herself colouring up and tugged the hem of her skirt down her thigh. Betty held the door wide and ushered Jasmine in. She closed the door behind her and led the way into the front room. It was a small lounge, with a floral three piece suite and glass cabinets filled with small china and glass pieces.
‘Take a seat, love,’ Betty gestured, ‘I have another client with me at the moment. I’ll be back in a minute or two. Can I bring you a cup of tea?’
‘Yes, please. No sugar.’  Jasmine sat obediently in an armchair and was careful to jam her knees together.  Betty left and Jasmine examined the room while she waited.  There were a few photos on the wall breaking up the floral wallpaper. They appeared to show Betty with a tall man of similar age to her.  The photos showed the couple at various ages from a black-white wedding portrait where they looked very young to a colour photo where both appeared middle aged. Jasmine noted that Betty’s hair was not completely grey in that photo so it must be a few years old.
Betty returned carrying a small tray with a cup and saucer and a small plate of fairy cakes. She placed the tray on an occasional table alongside Jasmine’s chair.
‘My client may join us soon, but she is a little nervous of meeting someone she doesn’t know,’ Betty said sitting down on the end of the sofa, ‘so how can I help you.’
Jasmine drew the increasingly crumpled photos from her bag.
‘I’m looking for anyone who knew this person.’ She passed the photos to Betty.  Betty pushed her glasses up he nose and examined the images.
‘That’s Petula,’ she announced. Jasmine stomach leapt. At last, she thought, someone who knew her.
‘That’s right. Petula or Peter Thwaite.’
‘I only ever met Petula although of course I knew she was a transvestite and lived most of her life as a man.’
‘She was a client?’
‘Yes, for a time.’
‘Oh. That doesn’t sound as though you have seen her recently.’
‘I haven’t.’
Jasmine’s stomach ceased its excited clenching.
‘Can you tell me when you last saw her?’
‘Oh, I’d have to look at my notes.  I keep details of all my clients. But it must be well over a year since Petula visited me.’
Dash, Jasmine thought. Not recent at all, but Petula was still coming north up to the last month.
‘Did you know her well?’
‘Oh yes. I know all my ladies very well. It is part of my service to get to understand them. I find out what they get out of dressing; what their purpose is; what their likes and dislikes are; where they want to go if indeed they want to leave my house dressed.’
‘So what did you find out about Petula?’
Betty looked thoughtful for a moment then spoke.
‘I would have to go through my notes on her but it must be four or five years ago since she wrote to me and asked for an appointment. I don’t know how she found my address but someone must have given it to her.’
‘I was told you don’t advertise.’
‘Oh no. That would be vulgar. All my ladies come by personal recommendation and I decide after a first meeting if I can be of service to them.’
‘What does your service involve?’
‘Advice on appropriate clothes to wear to suit their age and figure. I keep a small stock. I suggest suitable undergarments to help the clothes look their best. I also advise on hairstyles, and keep a number of wigs if required. I also do their make-up and train the ladies how to do their own.  Then if they are satisfied with their appearance, and they usually are, we may go out to a shopping centre and have some lunch or tea.’
‘You do this for all transgendered people?’
‘Trans-women. Transsexuals becoming full-time and transvestites who only dress occasionally.’
‘May I ask how you got into this business?’  Jasmine was impressed and intrigued by Betty’s description of her service.
‘It was necessity,’ Betty said firmly, ‘My Tommy died suddenly leaving me with very little pension.  I wanted to keep this house so I had to find a way to earn some money.’
‘Oh, I see, but how did you choose to help trans-women?’
‘I saw a couple out shopping in Manchester one day, when I was desperately trying to think of things I could do at my age.  It was nearly ten years ago now.  These ladies stuck out like they had flashing lights on their head. Their styles were all wrong for a day of shopping. I watched them then while they were talking over a dress that suited neither of them I told them so. We got talking and that was it. Betty’s Boudoir was born.’
‘That’s quite amazing,’ Jasmine said.
‘It is, isn’t it. I can hardly believe how bold I was myself. But I’ve done very nicely, thank you very much, and I have lots of lovely ladies who visit me and go out with now.’
‘And what about Petula?’
‘Well, I arranged for her to come for her preliminary visit.  I knew she had to come a long way but she seemed determined.’
‘You said you didn’t know her as Peter, so she must have come dressed as Petula.’
‘That’s right. I can remember her now standing on my doormat. She had some quite good quality clothes on but oh, her colours. Nothing matched and she looked a bit like a sack of potatoes.’
‘So you offered to help her.’
‘Yes. She was very shy at first but she followed my suggestions. She arranged to come up once a month, always on a Thursday. Gradually I got her appearance to improve and she relaxed enough for us to start going out. I helped her choose decent lingerie to wear underneath and she bought some very nice, classic outfits. She became a smart, mature woman.’
‘Did she talk much?’
‘About what?’
‘Her life in Kintbridge? Her wife?’
‘I knew she was married but she was very secretive. Although she became much more confident out and about she was very scared of being discovered by her wife. She didn’t think her wife could possibly understand her urge to dress as a woman.’
‘That was what troubled her most I think.’
‘Now Detective Constable. I’ve told you quite a lot. Perhaps you can tell me why you are asking these questions. Has something happened to Petula?’
Jasmine drew in a lungful of air before replying.
‘I’m afraid so. She died last Friday. She killed herself.’
Betty raised her hands to her cheeks.
‘Oh dear me. Why did she do that? Did her wife find her dressed?’
‘No. She did it to stop her wife finding out.’
‘Oh dear, dear. The poor woman and poor Petula. The wife still doesn’t know?’
‘That’s right but I’m afraid that it is going to come out at the inquest.’
‘Why?’
‘Because Petula was driven to suicide by something that made her suspect that she was about to be outed.’
‘What was that?’
‘This photograph of her was one of a series sent to her home by post at weekly intervals. This first one is mild enough although it shows her clearly enough as a woman.  But the subsequent pictures become increasingly pornographic.’
Betty looked confused.
‘But that doesn’t sound like Petula. She was very shy of showing her body.’
‘That’s right. They’re fakes. A collage of Petula’s head on a different body.’
‘And she thought if her wife saw them she would be horrified and she couldn’t face the consequences.’
‘That seems to be the reason why she killed herself.’
‘But that’s horrible. Who would do such a thing,’ Betty paused as her face turned white. ‘You don’t suspect me?’
‘No. I don’t think so. But I need to find out who she was meeting up here after she stopped coming to you.  Why did she stop?’
‘I don’t know. I got a letter saying she wouldn’t be attending one of our sessions and that was the last I heard from her.’
‘But she carried on coming up here on those Thursdays. She must have been meeting someone.’
‘That’s true… I wonder?’
As Betty pondered, Jasmine felt her stomach take another leap. Did Betty have an idea?
‘What is it?’
‘Well,’ Betty began hesitantly, ‘As she became more confident we began to go out as a small group of ladies, three or four of us. We’d take lunch together in a pub or restaurant after a little bit of shopping. Ladies that lunch – that sort of outing.’
‘The same group every time.’
‘No… but there were one or two ladies who came more frequently. Petula became quite friendly with them.’
‘Can you remember who they were?’
‘I’ll have to check my diary.  I always record who my appointments are with and who I accompany.’ Betty got up. ‘I’ll go and get my books and look through them. I’ll see if Geraldine would like to come to have a chat.’  She left the room.
Jasmine lifted the cup of tea and put it to her lips. It was now only lukewarm but she drank it down and then selected a fairy cake. Was she really on the threshold of finding the person who Petula had met? She seemed so close.
The door to the lounge opened and a tall figure entered wearing a smart, knee-length black dress.
‘Hello, I’m Geraldine,’ she said in a husky whisper.
……………………………

Jasmine on the radio

Well, the BBC World Service edition of The Why Factor on cross-dressing has gone out.  Actually presenter Mike Williams and producer Bill Law made a good job of a complex subject in eighteen minutes. Apart from me and Lou there were interviews with Grayson Perry, Hugh/Helen from London, a psychologist (?) and an expert on the Indian Hajira (have I spelt that correctly?).  It certainly showed that there is a huge variety of personalities and expression and I think we came over quite well.  There was also, thankfully, a plug for Painted Ladies which I hope will lead to more sales and raised awareness. Comments and feedback would be very welcome.  If you didn’t catch the programme you can find it on

http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p01mxt88

So back to now and the next episode of Blueprint, my Jasmine Frame prequel.

Blueprint – part 15

It was only a few minutes before the woman returned.  Jasmine hadn’t even had time to get bored.
‘I’m sorry. We have no record of anyone of that name in our records.’
Jasmine stood up and slung her bag over her shoulder.
‘Thank you. It was a long shot. Petula was very secretive but I am hoping to find someone who knew her.’
‘Well, I’m sorry we couldn’t help. You or her. It’s very sad when a transvestite is driven to kill themselves – but not so unusual.’
‘You’re right. Well, thank you, I’d better move on.’
The woman opened the door of the dressing room for Jasmine and escorted her to the exit. Jasmine glanced at her sheet of paper with scribble on it. The next possible venue was only a couple of hundred yards away. A wintry shower had begun to fall so she pulled the collar of her coat up and hurried along the street, keeping close to the wall to get some protection from the rain.
With the aid of the map she didn’t have too much trouble finding the premises of “Inner Girl” even though it was much smaller than “Transmutations”. It was just an ordinary local shop with a small window display of what appeared to be fancy dress outfits – nurse, French maid, nun.  Jasmine pushed the door open and entered. The interior was, as expected, rather more cramped than Transmutations but contained a similar range of wares – women’s underwear and clothes, many in shiny fabrics, wigs, cosmetics and figure enhancements. It all seemed trashier, more down-market than the products sold by Transmutations and that seemed to be reflected in the prices flashed on fluorescent coloured cards. There was just one assistant, standing behind a counter, a young woman. She looked up as Jasmine entered but said nothing and returned to reading the magazine that was open in front of her.  Jasmine approached her.
‘Excuse me, but do you run a dressing service here?’
The girl glanced up with a bored look.
‘Sort of.’
‘What do you mean?’
‘There’s a room through there,’ she pointed a thumb at a curtain beside the counter, ‘They change in there. You don’t want to do you?’ The fact that Jasmine was already dressed as a woman confused the girl.
‘No. I’m looking for someone who might have known someone who may have visited here.’
‘Uh?’ The girl’s confused look deepened.  Jasmine dragged the photos out of her pocket.
‘Do you recognise either of these people?’
The girl looked at the pictures for a moment before shaking her head.
‘No, never seen either of them.’
‘Actually they’re the same person. The woman is the man’s femme persona.’
‘Yeah, I can see that.’
‘The name Peter or Petula Thwaite doesn’t mean anything to you?’
‘No.’
‘Is there anyone else here I could ask?’
‘No.’
Jasmine guessed she wasn’t going to get anything useful from this girl, and anyway it didn’t look to be the type of place that Petula would frequent.
‘Well, thank you for your time,’ Jasmine said glumly as she turned to leave.
‘Whatever,’ was the reply that followed her to the door.
That was two down and still not mid-day, but not many other addresses to try.  Jasmine found two others nearby but one was closed and the other more of a sex shop dealing with all sorts of fetishes. It didn’t appear to have anything to attract Thwaite, from what she knew of Peter and Petula, but Jasmine did go in to check. The bald headed proprietor with all the piercings didn’t recognise the figures in the photos as Jasmine expected.  She only had one venue left, “Trans-sisters”, which as luck would have it was at the opposite end of Canal Street. Jasmine set off into the face of an increasingly biting wind and heavier rain. She regretted not having brought a hat.
“Trans-sisters” turned out to be not a shop at all. There was a plaque with the name beside an open door into a Victorian terraced house. There was a porch and another door which opened onto a corridor and rang a distant bell as Jasmine stepped through it. There was an entrance to a room off to the right. It wasn’t a large room, more of a cosy lounge with a couple of armchairs, a sofa and a few plastic stackable chairs. All seemed far from new. In an alcove beside the empty fireplace there was a cupboard with a coffee machine on it. There was no one in the room and Jasmine looked around wondering what to do. There were posters on the wall facing the window advertising events and warning of transphobia.
‘Hello. Welcome to Trans-sisters.’
Jasmine turned to see a lady entering the room. She was in her forties, dressed smartly in a knee-length beige skirt and matching jacket. While her make-up and hair was immaculate, Jasmine had no doubt that she was a trans-woman.
‘Hi. I was hoping you could help me.’
‘Oh? Please take a seat,’ the lady pointed to the sofa, ‘I’m Audrey. How can we help? Do you need advice or do you have a problem?’
Audrey meant a personal problem relating to her own transgenderism, Jasmine realised as she sat.  The sofa sagged as Jasmine sank into it.  She struggled to pull her skirt down her thighs as she fell backwards.
‘I’m trying to trace someone,’ Jasmine said recovering her balance and pulling out the photos. Audrey glanced at them but didn’t examine them.
‘I’m sorry I can’t …’
‘I’m a police officer,’ Jasmine waved her badge. Again Audrey glanced but didn’t read it.
‘Oh, I’m sorry. I thought you were one of the girls. We’re a self-help group.’
‘Yes, I realise that. I am trying to find anyone who knew the person in the photos.’
‘Is she in trouble?’
‘She was, sort of, but now she’s dead.’
Audrey raised her hand to her mouth.’
‘Dead!’
‘She committed suicide. Do you know her?’ Jasmine pushed the photos closer.  Audrey looked closer then shook her head.
‘I’m sorry, I don’t recognise her.’
‘Is there anyone else who might?’
‘No, I’m sorry. I’m on my own this morning but I’m here a lot. I think I know most of the girls.’
‘Hmm,’ Jasmine was at a loss. She had exhausted all the addresses on her list and had got nowhere in tracing Petula. Audrey sat down on a plastic chair beside Jasmine.
‘Did the lady live in Manchester?’
‘No. She came from Kintbridge, that’s in Berkshire. Same as me.’
‘That’s a long way. Why are you looking here?’
‘Once a month, Petula travelled here for a day. I think that if I can find what she did and who she met here I may be closer to understanding why she died.’
‘Ah, I see. Was she a transvestite or transsexual?’
‘A secret transvestite. I don’t know how often she dressed but she kept it to herself. Her wife didn’t know. But she did get out a bit and meet other T-girls and she had this monthly day out up here. I’m sure she met someone to go out shopping, have lunch, that sort of thing.’
‘I see. And you’ve tried a few other T-friendly places?’
Jasmine handed her the crumpled hand-written note. Audrey examined, tut-tutting once or twice.
‘There are quite a few bars and clubs that the girls go to.’
‘Yes, I know, but Petula was here during the daytime and drove home in the evening. I can’t see her as a clubber. I figured she met someone who perhaps helped her choose items, advised on her appearance, went out with her.’
Audrey looked thoughtful.
‘I think you need to try Betty’s Boudoir.’
‘Where? I don’t remember seeing that on the internet.’
‘Betty doesn’t advertise. She works on individual contact. She provides a service to a select group of ladies.’
‘That sounds promising,’ Jasmine was cheering up, ‘What sort of service?’
‘Well they can use her house to get dressed. Betty keeps a stock of clothes and wigs and things so helps them choose if they haven’t got their own stuff. She does their make-up and will escort them into town for shopping and eating and any other sort of entertainment.’
‘Does she live nearby?’
‘Sorry, no. She’s on the outskirts. Do you have a car?’
‘Yes.’
‘That’s alright then. I’ll go and dig out her address. Have a drink while you wait.’
Audrey left in a business-like bustle. Jasmine struggled out of the sofa and took up the offer of pouring a coffee from the machine. It was free. She went back to looking at the posters while sipping from the paper cup.
Audrey returned soon and handed Jasmine a post-it.
‘There it is. I hope you can find it OK.’
Jasmine read the address then stuffed the piece of paper in her pocket.
‘Shouldn’t be a problem. Thanks.’ She still had half a cup to drink. There was time for small talk.
‘A good place you’ve got here.’
‘Yes, we’re pretty lucky. We get a bit of help from the council but it’s mainly voluntary donations that we rely on and there are lots of girls in the area who make use of us.’
Audrey wasn’t actually holding out her hand but Jasmine felt the subtle pressure. She put her empty cup down beside the coffee machine, dug her wallet out of her bag and handed over a five pound note.
‘That’s very kind,’ Audrey said, beaming, ‘I do hope that Betty can help you.’
‘So do I. Thanks for your help.’
Jasmine left feeling considerably happier. At last she felt that she had a link to Petula that was not improbable.  It was raining hard.
………………………………….

Jasmine Frame on the trail

An early post this week as I’m going to be a little occupied over the weekend.

A bit of a let down this week as we thought the BBC World Service, The Why Factor on “Cross-dressing” (their term) was going to be broadcast on Friday 6th. The trailer appear on their website along with a rather garish photo of two drag queens kissing.  I sent a message saying I didn’t think the picture quite matched the content of our interviews.  Anyway on Thursday the schedules were changed and a different topic was put in. So, what happens next is anybody’s guess.

Before we come to the next episode of Blueprint, just a reminder that Painted Ladies – a Jasmine Frame story is available as a paperback or e-book from all suppliers. It’s had some great reviews on Amazon, Goodreads, Netgalley and Eurocrime.

Blueprint, part 14

Tom pulled the clothes out one by one. There was everything a woman could need – bras, knickers, slips, blouses, skirts, dresses, cardigans, coats.  Then there were the additional bits not needed by real women – false breasts (Jasmine noted they were a larger size than what she used) padding to fit around the hips and buttocks (Jasmine couldn’t imagine wearing that) and jars of heavy foundation and cleanser. There was eye shadow, blusher, lipstick, nail polish and remover; and jewellery – bracelets, necklaces, rings, ear rings.  There wasn’t a lot of each but it added up to quite an assortment when it was spread out on the lounge carpet.
‘Did he need all this?’ Tom asked.
‘Well, it’s not as much as it looks really.  Think of it as a woman’s complete wardrobe.’
‘I’d have trouble getting all my clothes and stuff into that one case,’ Angela admitted.
‘Hmm yes, I’ve seen how much stuff Sophie has,’ Tom nodded in  agreement, ‘But this bloke, Thwaite – he wasn’t a woman.’
‘No, he was a secret cross-dresser,’ Jasmine said, ‘but it seems he still managed to get out at least twice a month – one evening at Butterflies and his away day in Manchester.  He needed a variety of clothes for his various outings, summer and winter.’
‘He went for quality not quantity,’ Angela said, bending to look closely at a skirt, ‘These are best high street purchases.’
‘I wonder,’ Jasmine pondered, ‘Did Petula do her buying on her Manchester trips?’
‘It would be impossible to tell,’ Angela said, ‘The big chains have shops everywhere.’
Tom reached into what appeared to be an empty case and drew out put a brown file. It was smaller than normal paper size but was quite thick.  He flicked open the cover.
‘I think you may be able to trace some if not all the stuff,’ Tom said, ‘These are receipts.’
‘Let me see,’ Jasmine said eagerly stretching out her hand. Tom hesitated then handed over the file. Jasmine flicked through the sheaf of paper slips all neatly punched and filed.  ‘They’re in date order, everything Petula purchased by the look of it. Right up to October,’ she pointed to the date on the top receipt.
‘Well, he was a banker,’ Angela said, ‘Obviously wanted to keep his expenditure under control.
‘Especially as he was keeping it secret from his wife,’ Tom added.
Jasmine continued to thumb through the papers, rapidly becoming frantic.
‘But it’s no use,’ she slammed the file shut, ‘They are just her purchases. There’s nothing here about where she stayed, ate or visited.  She must have kept those records separate.’
‘If he kept them at all,’ Tom said.
‘So you still only have the list of places you made,’ Angela said.
‘Yes. There’s nothing here to help me track where Petula goes on her days out except for the shops where she buys her stuff.’
‘Perhaps that was all she did,’ Tom said, starting to pack the clothes back in the case.
‘Why go to Manchester every month if only to go shopping,’ Jasmine said, ‘No, I’m sure she was meeting someone, some people. I’ve just got to hope that it was at one of the trans venues.’
‘Well, good luck,’ Tom said, ‘Give us a hand here, I don’t think all this stuff will go back in.’
They put aside concerns about contamination and helped Tom stuff the clothes into the case, finally forcing it shut.
‘Well, if that’s all we can do, I’ll get off.’ Tom got to his feet lifting the case.
‘Wait a moment. I need car for tomorrow.’ Jasmine said.
‘I’ve got things to do tomorrow Jas. You can’t have my Clio.’ Angela complained.
‘No. I need a police car so I can keep in touch. I’ll have to use yours, Tom.’
‘Hey. How am I going to get home?’
‘I’ll give you a lift now, and pick you up on Monday morning if you like.’
Tom looked doubtful, ‘Well OK then.’
‘Let’s go then and make the most of what’s left of the evening.’

Chapter 4
               
Jasmine was ready for a break by the time she reached the outskirts of Manchester. She was tired and stiff from the long drive from Kintbridge via the A34, M40, M42 and M6.  She had passed the various roadside motels where Thwaite had spent nights before his away days.  Jasmine had done the trip in one go, leaving before dawn and, thanks to the light Sunday morning traffic, it was still only 10 a.m.  She made her way to the city centre and then to a car park on the edge of the Canal Street gay village.  Most of the venues she had on her list were in or close to this area.  First though, she needed coffee.
Jasmine was the only customer in the cafe when she sat down with her coffee.  The young girl who served her smiled at her with thick glossy red lips. A T-girl? Jasmine wondered.  She looked wonderful and perfectly natural. As Jasmine took a sip from her cup she wondered whether she would ever feel relaxed working as the person she felt she was. Perhaps though there was a difference in serving in a coffee house in a gay area and being a member of a largely male team in a police station.
She looked at her list and at the map she’d downloaded.  Her first try would be Transmutations. “We change every element of your appearance” said the strapline on their website and went on to list all the latex enhancements, wigs, cosmetics and clothes that may be needed to make a man look and feel like a woman.  It could be a place someone like Petula would go to purchase items for her transformation or meet up with someone to go shopping.
She downed her coffee, slung her bag over her shoulder and waved to the girl behind the counter as she left. The streets were only just starting to fill up with visitors on this dull, grey November Sunday  as she began following her map.  Transmutations was in a quiet back street, with a discreet frontage that barely hinted at the joys and mysteries that awaited the man daring to enter. Jasmine pushed the door open and stepped into a large area divided up into many alcoves offering all sorts of wares. Jasmine was just taking in the sight of row upon row of heads with wigs of all styles and colours and racks of glittering ball gowns when she was approached by a middle-aged woman dressed immaculately in classic black shop assistant garb.
‘May I help you Madam?’ The woman said. It wasn’t a deep voice so Jasmine was unable to decide whether she was a real woman or another T-girl. It seemed this was going to be a frequent dilemma for her on this mission.  Why should I, of all people, care, she thought. Men, women they are just being the person they want to be and doing a job as well.  The scale of the shop and the other assistants that Jasmine saw moving elegantly from one display to another, showed there was a market for catering for men’s need to be women.
‘I hope so,’ Jasmine replied, ‘I’m trying to trace someone.’
The woman frowned, ‘One of our assistants?’
‘No, one of your customers. At least she may be a customer.’
‘She?’
‘Well he, but, well, he may have come as she.’
‘I understand,’ the woman said with a cold edge to her voice, ‘but we do not divulge information about customers or indeed acknowledge whether people are customers. Certainly not to people unknown to us. I do not recall that you are a client yourself.’
Jasmine had feared that getting a lead would be difficult. Thwaite was secretive himself so he would have chosen places that were equally if not more confidential in their dealings with clients.
‘No I’m not a client. Would you recognise me if I was?’
‘Oh yes. We pride ourselves on knowing our regular customers,’ the woman stretched her neck lifting her head proudly, ‘I am sure we could offer you service. We have dressing rooms available this morning.’
Would she have resorted to a place like this, Jasmine wondered. A mega-store for turning men into the women they fantasised themselves as being. Perhaps if she hadn’t had Angela to talk to, to guide her, she may have needed the advice that was available at places like Transmutations, at a price.
‘No, as I said I’m looking for someone who may have known this cross-dresser,’ Jasmine thrust out the photo of Peter Thwaite that she had had at the ready in her coat pocket. The eyes of the woman did not flicker.
‘I said we cannot confirm or deny the identity of a client.’
‘Perhaps she came already dressed,’ Jasmine plucked out the photo of Petula.  It was a bit fuzzy having been  cropped and enlarged from the first of the anonymous photos. Still there was no sign of recognition in the woman’s face.
‘If you do not have business here I must ask you to leave,’ the woman said.
Jasmine sighed and dug in her bag for her warrant card.
‘Perhaps this will allow you to answer. I’m a police officer.’
The woman’s eyes focussed on Jasmine’s identity details.
‘That says Detective Constable James Frame,’ she said with a hint of a smile forming around her lips.
‘Yes, well I’m trans too, and I’m looking for anyone who knew this cross-dresser.’
‘Why?’ The woman asked.
‘Because she is dead and I’m trying to find out why.’
The colour disappeared from the woman’s face.
‘I see. You had better come with me.’ She turned and led Jasmine to the back of the shop where there was a row of doors a few feet apart. She opened one and showed Jasmine into a small room laid out as a dressing room, with a couple of compact easy chairs, a high chair at a dressing table with a full-length mirror beside it and a wardrobe rail.
‘Please take a seat,’ the woman said.  Jasmine sat on one of the easy chairs and the woman sat beside her.
‘I am sure you understand why we do not divulge information about clients,’ she said.
Yes, I do and I’m sure that if Peter or Petula Thwaite was one of your customers he would have been very pleased to hear it. He was a secret dresser. His wife knew nothing, but he visited Manchester once a month until he committed suicide last week.’
The woman’s hand rose to her mouth.
‘Oh, dear,’ she sighed.
‘Do you know her?’ Jasmine insisted holding out both the photos.
‘No, I don’t recognise him or her,’ the woman replied.
‘And you are sure you would if she was a client.’
‘If she had been here more than once I would certainly recognise her. I’ve worked here for ten years. We photograph all our regular clients, with their permission of course, so that we can replicate styles and appearance when they return. I am quite sure that I have not seen this person here, but I’ll check the name in our records if you like. Thwaite you say.’ She rose to her feet.
‘That’s right. Peter. Petula was her femme name.’
‘I’ll just be a few minutes.’
‘Thanks.’  The woman left.
Jasmine was left to imagine how clients felt being shown into this room, stepping into dresses selected by the assistants, fussed over while make-up was applied and wigs fitted.  Admiring oneself in the mirror and posing for the photographs. It wasn’t what she wanted but she could see how some, many, men would pay for the pleasure.
………………………

Jasmine Frame live

Done my first presentation of “Jasmine and me” at The Sitting Room, Ludlow. The audience weren’t clamouring to get in but neither did they clamour to get out. Quite pleased with how the linked readings from Painted Ladies, Bodies by Design and Blueprint went down and there were plenty of questions afterwards. Also I sold a few books. Anyway many thanks to The Sitting Room for the opportunity.  Now need some more venues.

So here’s the next part of Blueprint

Blueprint, Part 13

‘Hi, Jame…, uh… Jay…’ Tom stuttered.
‘It’s Jasmine,’ Jasmine said stepping off the bottom stair and looking up at Tom’s pink face.
‘You look, uh, strange,’ he said.
‘Strange?’ Jasmine asked, frowning and wondering what Tom found wrong with her appearance.
‘I mean, you look like a stranger,’ Tom said losing something of his look of utter bemusement.
‘It’s me Tom,’ Jasmine said, beginning to enjoy her colleague’s discomfort.
‘I know it’s you,’ Tom said, ‘but you look so different. It’s not just the skirt, make-up and the hair, you’ve got a, um, figure. You don’t look like a fella.’
‘Well thanks, Tom. That’s one big compliment, although I have to say it’s all a bit fake for now, but one day…’
‘This is how you want to spend all your life?’
Jasmine saw Tom’s eyes scan up and down her body.
‘Yes, some day, perhaps sooner than I thought, it will be for real.’
‘And tomorrow will soon be here if you carry on chatting,’ Angela said, grinning, ‘Come on in Tom. Cup of tea?’
Tom turned to face Angela and seemed relieved to speak to her.
‘That would be great. Thanks.’
‘Well, perhaps Jasmine can be the hostess and take you through while I put the kettle on. I presume you need to talk about Petula.’
Tom looked surprised for a moment.
‘Oh, yes. James, um, Jasmine said you were together when Thwaite gave you the photos.’
‘What have you got, then?’ Jasmine said, leading Tom into the lounge.  Tom sank into one of the armchairs, his long legs splayed out. Jasmine sat on the sofa, carefully tugging her skirt down her thigh and pressing her knees together.
‘Well, I had a fun time visiting the charity shops but I got lucky.’
‘Really?’ Jasmine leaned forward eager to hear more.
‘Yes. A lady in the Hospice shop recognised Thwaite’s photo and said he’d brought in a suitcase yesterday morning.’
‘And?’
‘And yes. I’ve got it. It’s in the car outside.’
‘Did the charity shop open it? Have you opened it?’
‘No and No. The lady said they’d been busy and hadn’t got round to sorting donations from yesterday. I thought you’d like to be with me when we opened it’
‘Thanks. We’ll take a look when Ange has made the tea. See if there are any clues. Anything else?’
‘Well, not a lot. I went back to the station and called in on forensics as you suggested. There were just a couple of the girls in this afternoon. I gave them the photos. They examined them with a magnifier. Couldn’t say much though. They’re printed on typical glossy print paper which you can buy from any stationer. The photo of Petula is fairly low resolution, possibly taken with a mobile phone rather than a camera as such and the rest of the photo is, as you said, a screen-grab.’
‘Hmm. Not much to help us there.’
‘No. Could have been done by anyone with a computer and a little bit of know-how. What about you? Have you got anywhere or have you been doing other stuff.’
Jasmine caught Tom looking at her legs covered in the smooth black tights.
‘I’ve been working Tom not preening myself.’
Tom blushed.
‘I didn’t mean…’
‘I’m sure you didn’t, Tom.’ Was she really sure about what was going through Tom’s head? Could she be certain he didn’t see her as a transvestite getting a kick out of wearing women’s knickers and bra and the rest. ‘This isn’t a special occasion, Tom. This is me when I’m off duty.’
‘Oh. What does Angela think about it?’
‘Angela’s OK.’
‘Ok about what?’ Angela came in carrying a tray of mugs. She laid them down on a coffee table.
‘Tom was asking how you feel about me.’ Jasmine saw Tom searching Angela’s face for signs of a reaction.
‘I’ve known Jasmine since James and I first met,’ Angela said handing Tom a mug, ‘I did’t know what it meant at first and when we got married I didn’t think that she wanted to be a woman all the time, but I think I appreciate how she feels.’
‘So you’re OK with this transition James, uh, Jasmine has mentioned,’ Tom’s voice was sombre.
‘Yes, well, I’m sad at losing the guy I’ve loved, and I’m not sure where it will leave us as a couple, but I know it’s what Jasmine wants.’
‘Need,’ Jasmine said, ‘It’s more than a desire, it’s something I’ve got to do to be the person, the woman, I am.’
Tom shook his head.
‘I still don’t get it.’
‘Don’t worry Tom,’ Angela said, ‘I’ve known Jas for seven years and I’m not sure I understand her.’
‘But you’re going to become, DC Jasmine Frame?’ Tom asked Jamine.
‘DS. It’s going to be a while to arrange my transition and I hope we’ll both have passed our sergeant’s exams by then.’
‘I think life is going to get interesting – for you, me, Sloane and the rest.’
‘That’s one way of putting it.’
‘Anyway. If you haven’t just been looking at yourself in a mirror what have you found out.’  Jasmine was pleased by Tom’s lighter tone, or was it just to get off the subject of his transition and get back on the safe ground of the investigation.
‘Well I have been busy, even though I was wearing a skirt. Thwaite spent those days off in Manchester – the proof’s in his bank statements. I’ve got a list of places he may have visited.’
‘So. Where does that get us?’ Tom asked.
‘Well, I think the photo of Petula was taken on one of his awaydays and if I can find out how he spent his time I think we may get a lead on who took it.’
‘Hmm. Perhaps. What are we going to do?’
‘I’m going up to Manchester.’
‘When?’ Tom and Angela asked in unison.
‘Tomorrow.’
‘Oh, Jas. I was hoping for a real weekend together,’ Angela moaned.
‘And I was hoping for at least one day with Sophie,’ Tom complained.
‘I‘ll go on my own. You can have your day off, Tom,’ Jasmine countered, ‘I’m sorry, Ange, but Sloane has only given us a few days to complete this case so I’ve got to see if I can get a lead.’
‘You say you’ve got some addresses?’ Tom asked, ‘Will it be safe going on your own?’
‘Better on my own than dragging you along with me.  They’re places where trannies meet. They’ll accept me but you could be a bit intimidating, unless you fancy dragging up.’
‘No way. OK, If you’re sure.’
‘I’m sure. Now let’s have a look in this suitcase. Perhaps there’s something that will cut the list I’ve got.’
Tom rose to his feet.
‘I’ll get it.’ He strode out and a moment later Jasmine heard the front door open.
‘Are you sure about going on your own?’ Angela asked.
‘Yes. Even if I find this anonymous photographer I don’t think they’re going to be violent. Those photos are more like a practical joke than a threat of violence.’
‘Well, I hope you’re right,’ Angela said, ‘You’re relishing this aren’t you. Carrying out an investigation as Jasmine Frame.’
Jasmine examined her feelings and realised that Angela was right.
‘Yes. I suppose it is an opportunity to give myself an outing but I really do want to find out why Petula was driven to kill herself.’
The front door slammed shut and Tom lurched into the room carrying a suitcase. It was an old-fashioned style, covered in worn and scratched brown leather, not huge but it looked pretty heavy. Tom set it on the floor.
‘We should be doing this down the station,’ he said, ‘You know, avoiding contamination, protecting evidence, that sort of thing.’
‘Yes, I know. Have you got gloves?’ Tom nodded. ‘Well you put them on and open it up. I’ll just watch.’ Jasmine leaned forward to get a closer view.
Tom pulled some latex gloves from his pocket and stretched them over his hands. Then he pressed the two catches on the case. They sprang open.
‘At least it isn’t locked,’ Jasmine sighed. Tom lifted the lid and the three of them gazed at the assorted colours and textures of the clothes packed inside.
……………………………….

Jasmine goes global

A bit of excitement this week. On Monday I received a phone call from the producer of “The Why Factor” on the BBC World Service and on Wednesday he and the presenter, Mike Williams, turned up to interview me and Lou. We spent an hour and a half answering questions into a microphone. It was quite emotional going over our lives and trying to put ideas and feelings into words but it was also a great opportunity to promote Painted Ladies and Jasmine Frame, transsexual detective. The show should go out in the next couple of weeks, and Grayson Perry is supposed to be on it too.

I’m also getting ready for next Wed. (27th) and the first performance of “Jasmine and me” at The Sitting Room, Ludlow (8 p.m.). I hope its a fascinating insight into Jasmine’s crime investigations and life as a transsexual. I hope there’s an audience…

So after all that, here’s the next episode of Blueprint.

Blueprint, part 12

Jasmine sat at the desk in their shared study. The estate agent had listed it as the third bedroom in their house but Jasmine wondered how a bed could be fitted in the tiny room or if that impossible task was achieved how the door could be opened. Probably the room’s most likely use by the young couples who bought these houses was as a nursery. Jasmine could imagine the room filled by a cot and baby’s things. The walls would be decorated with pictures of fairy-tale characters, gruffaloes, hungry caterpillars and the strange beings from children’s TV that were cult-watching in student days such as the Tele-tubbies.
Jasmine doubted the room would ever be a nursery while she and Angela were the occupiers. Children had been mentioned shortly after they were married and Jasmine had learned that Angela was keen – but not yet. Angela had her own career which she wished to follow before being burdened by pregnancy and child-rearing. Jasmine liked children but whenever she imagined herself playing with or looking after young children she saw herself as the mum or favourite aunt not the dad.  As the need to become the woman she believed herself to be grew, Jasmine realised that the chance of her fathering a child diminished. She knew she could never bear children herself but once she had gender reassignment surgery the chance of siring her own children would be zero. Jasmine knew that Angela understood this but it had become one of the unspoken matters in their discussions about her likely transition.
Angela was the only person Jasmine loved or had had a sexual relationship with. The thought of giving her up hurt far more than the thought of the surgery she would need to become a woman. But give her up she must. To get her birth certificate altered would mean getting a divorce. They could stay together as a pair of women but Jasmine knew that Angela was not looking forward to that prospect. Even now her frustrations at the lack of sexual intercourse surfaced from time to time; Angela liked sex with a man not a woman. Jasmine was resigned to letting go of Angela, to seeing her find another man, to being alone.  It was hard, very hard, made more difficult by not being sure what, if any, other relationship she might want. As a woman was she straight or lesbian? She didn’t know; hadn’t felt any attraction to anyone other than Angela. Transition would be a voyage of discovery in many ways.
Jasmine shook herself out of her reverie and booted up the computer. It was Angela’s really as she spent most time on it preparing her spreadsheets and reports. Once she was home Jasmine was just glad to relax with an old film or occasionally a game played on their new flat screen TV.  She didn’t bring work home very often. She looked at the sheaf of bank statements from Thwaite’s private accounts and his list of appointments. Going through them line by line it didn’t take long to confirm that he had stayed in hotels on the night before his secret day off. Jasmine went onto the internet to locate the hotels.  It was only a few actually, and Thwaite had stayed in each more than once. One was on the A34 near Oxford, another on the M40 on the way to Birmingham and couple on the M6 further north.  Nothing special, they were just stopping off points for the night, anonymous dormitories for travellers.  The regularity of the bills did prove that once a month Peter Thwaite headed north. But where was his destination?  Jasmine searched through the statements looking for other transactions that he made on his days off. There weren’t many – a few restaurants, a number of shops, a garage for fuel.  She located the addresses of the places on a map and smiled. They were all central Manchester.  Each month it appeared that Thwaite took himself off for a day shopping in Manchester.  What was the purpose of these solo jaunts that he kept secret from his wife?
Angela came into the room and put a cup of tea down beside the heap of papers that covered the keyboard.
‘Found anything?’ she asked.
‘Yes, I have,’ Jasmine replied feeling proud of her effort, ‘Every month, I’m sure it was that regular, Thwaite took a trip to Manchester.’
‘Why?’
‘I haven’t got any proof yet but I think it was to meet someone for a trannie day out.’
‘A friend?’
‘I don’t think so. Why stay in hotels on the way up if he was meeting a friend or friends. Surely he would have stayed with them as it’s been going on for so long.’
‘What then?’
‘I think it was more of a professional relationship. I’d guess he had appointments with a dresser.’
‘Oh, one of those places where men can go and spend a day being dressed as a woman and made up…’
‘…and escorted out on the town. That’s right. I know there are a number of them in Manchester. I’ve just got to get their addresses and then go to visit them.’
‘Are you sure you want to?’ Angela asked. Jasmine gave her a questioning look.
‘If I’m going to find out how Thwaite was driven to suicide I’m going to have to.’
‘I know that,’ Angela said with a note of petulance, ‘but do you want to find the explanation?’
‘Why shouldn’t I?’
‘If you do, it will come out at the inquest. Mrs Thwaite will find out her husband was trans. You say he committed suicide because he couldn’t face her with that knowledge and he did everything to stop her finding out.’
Jasmine spoke slowly, ‘Yes, I know.’
‘So why are you trying so hard to solve this possible crime. Is it because you can’t bear the thought of someone needing to keep their gender identity secret or is it because you want to prove that you, that is Jasmine, can be a detective?’
Jasmine couldn’t reply at once. She hadn’t questioned her motives for digging into Thwaite’s decision to kill himself. Now she wondered if Angela was right and it was all about her own ego. In revealing herself as transsexual to Tom and soon to Sloane and the rest of the Kintbridge police force perhaps she couldn’t allow Thwaite to keep Petula hidden. She had to make being trans seem a trifle, nothing to kill yourself over, and that it was the anonymous photographer that was the cause of Thwaite’s death.
‘You may be right, Ange, but this person who sent the photos to Thwaite needs to be caught and shown what the result was of their little joke or blackmail or whatever.’
‘Perhaps you’re right Jas, but think about the effect it’s going to have on Mrs Thwaite.’
‘I will.’
‘It’s not always easy, you know.’
‘What?’
‘Being the partner of a trans-person.’
‘What do you mean?’
‘Just that you’ve launched into this investigation, revealing yourself in the process, taking the next step towards transition. Have you really thought it all through?’
‘No,’ Jasmine whispered reluctantly.
‘Well, when you’re gallivanting off to Manchester, give it and me some thought.’ She left the room and pulled the door closed.
Jasmine sat staring at the blank computer screen with sadness sitting on her like a sandbag. She did take Angela for granted and she had dived into this case without much thought about where it and she were going. She must organise herself. But first she must track those dressing agencies.
She woke the computer from its slumber and was soon surfing the well-known trans sites. Soon she had half a dozen addresses written into her notebook.  The doorbell ringing. She looked up and say that it was dark outside.  There was talking downstairs; Angela’s welcome and the deep voice of Tom Shepherd.
Jasmine leapt up and hurried down the stairs. Tom was standing in the hallway talking to Angela. He turned to look up at her and his eyes widened.  Jasmine realised the reason for his look of shock – he’s seeing me for the first time.
‘Hi, Tom,’ she said in as light a voice as she could manage.

……………………………………

Jasmine decides on a plan

Another busy week and not much opportunity to promote Painted Ladies. Nevertheless there have been some good bits of news. Apparently Diva magazine ran a review although I haven’t seen it yet, and at last there is a review on Eurocrime the big crime fiction reviews website  http://eurocrime.co.uk/reviews/Painted_Ladies.html  Also I have got on a bit with Bodies by Design – the exciting action packed climax is in sight!

Finally there has been some good publicity for my “entertainment” Jasmine and me, at The Sitting Room in Ludlow at 8pm. on Wed. 27th Nov. I hope there will be an audience.

So, here is the next episode of Blueprint and the start of Jasmine Frame’s first outing as a transsexual detective.

Blueprint, part 11

James and Tom thanked Miss Sutton for her help and left the bank after checking Peter Thwaite’s timings with the cashier, Sue Marsh.  They sat in a coffee shop mulling over what they had learnt.
‘He arrives late, stays a while, then leaves,’ Tom said, taking a sip of his cappuccino.
‘Looking pretty sick – or worried,’ James added, blowing on his black coffee.
‘Why was he late for work?’
‘I think he was shook up by the arrival of that last photo. The post must have arrived before he left for work or else none of this would have happened.  He stuffed it in another envelope and posted it off to me sometime in the morning, perhaps before he got to the bank.’
‘Why come to work at all if he had decided to end it all?’ Tom shook his head.
‘Perhaps he hadn’t reached that decision. But he had to get out of the house, away from Mrs Thwaite. He left the bank when he knew she would have gone to work herself.’
‘So he goes back, collects his female clothes and …what?’
‘Gets rid of them.’
‘How?’
‘Wheely bins, recycling points, charity shops. I can’t see someone like Peter Thwaite dumping them by the road side, he’s too clean and particular for that.’
‘Do we need to find those clothes?’ Tom’s expression showed that he thought the task would be impossible.
‘It would help to determine his movements and prove that he had decided to get rid of signs of his cross-dressing.’
‘Hmm. I suppose the charity shops are the easiest to check. We may get lucky if someone recognises his photo.’
‘Right Tom. You do that.’
Tom grimaced. ‘Thanks. What are you going to do, Jim?’
‘Go back to the bank and see if they can show me his own transactions. See if I can track down where he stayed on those Wednesday nights when he was away.’
‘Why is that important?’
‘Because I think that on those secret days off he was meeting or in the vicinity of the person who took the photos.’
‘Ah, I see.’
‘And once I’ve got that information I’ll have to do some travelling myself.’
‘Shall I come too?’
‘I think it best if I go alone.’
‘Why?’
‘Because I’ll be meeting up with other trans folk and I’ll be Jasmine.’
Tom’s coffee cup stopped half way to his lips.
‘What? Oh, this other character you have.’
‘It’s not another character, Tom.’
Tom looked over the rim of his coffee cup, his dark eyebrows raised.
‘I am Jasmine,’ James said firmly, ‘One day I’ll discard this pretence at being male. James will disappear and I will be Jasmine Frame full-time.’
Tom put the coffee cup down and looked straight at James, then shook his head.
‘It’s no good, Jim. I can’t see you as a woman.’
‘You will, and perhaps sooner than I expected, if we get anywhere with this investigation and it all comes out – about Thwaite and me.’
‘I’m not sure it’s something I’m looking forward to.’
‘I’m not either. I don’t like being the centre of attention. In fact when I’m dressed as Jasmine I’m pretty careful I’m not the centre of attention. Look, I don’t know what image you’ve got in your mind. I don’t go round looking like a drag queen, nor did Petula for that matter. We both look like women when we are dressed, at least on first sight.’
‘I suppose I need to see you to believe it.’ Tom said.
‘That can be arranged. Look we had better get on. When you get back to the office get those photos out of my desk and take them down to Forensics. See what they can tell us about the postmark and anything about the photos. Oh and get me some copies, and bring them to me at home if you can spare the time.’
‘OK. It looks as though my weekend with Sophie has gone up in smoke anyway.’

They parted, Tom to visit the many charity shops in the town centre and James to return to the bank. He emerged after an hour or so with a sheaf of bank statements. He returned to police HQ and drove home.
Angela was ironing in the kitchen, nodding her head to old clubbing numbers, the ones they used to dance to in the old days when they had time for such past-times. James paused in the doorway watching her for a moment and missing those sessions on the dance floor. Why did they stop? He wondered. As if he didn’t know. It was when he took to dressing as Jasmine every time they went out and Angela got fed up of being approached by other men thinking she needed a bloke to dance with.
‘Oh. Hi,’ she said noticing him. She put down the iron and stopped the music player. ‘Have you finished?’
‘No, but I’m not going back to the station. We need to talk.’
‘OK.’ Angela looked pensive as if she knew where the talk would lead. ‘Have you had any lunch?’
James glanced at his watch noticing it was gone one o’clock.
‘No. I hadn’t thought about it.’
‘I haven’t either. I wanted to get this ironing out of the way. I’ll put something on while you get changed. I suppose that’s what you want to do.’
‘Yes.’
‘Then we’ll have this chat.’

A few minutes later Jasmine re-joined Angela in the kitchen as she poured hot soup into bowls. There hadn’t been time to put her make-up on but Jasmine felt comfortable in opaque tights, an above-the- knee cord skirt and fluffy jumper. She flicked the long blonde hairs from out of her eyes and sat down at the table.
‘Is this about the suicide?’ Angela asked, between mouthfuls of soup.
‘Yes. Sloane’s given Tom and me a few days to look into the reasons behind Thwaite’s suicide. I’ve shown Tom the photos and told him about Thwaite being a cross-dresser.’
‘And how you met Petula?’
‘Yes. Tom now knows about me, about Jasmine.’
Angela nodded.
‘What about Sloane?’
‘Not yet. As I said he’s given us a few days to investigate and Tom agreed we didn’t need to report till Monday.’
‘But it will come out that your trans.’
Jasmine held her breath for a moment.
‘Yes.’
Angela stood up, taking her empty bowl to the dishwasher. She put the bowl down and turned to Jasmine.
‘Well, we knew it would happen even if it wasn’t supposed to be now.’
‘I’m sorry Ange. I didn’t mean to rush into announcing it.’
‘I don’t want you to rush into anything Jas,’ Angela eyes flared, ‘Just because you have to let Sloane and everyone know you are who you are, you must take your time over your transition. Tell the right people, get them on your side. You can’t suddenly cast James Frame aside.’
Jasmine knew Angela was correct.
‘You’re right. This’ll just be a heads up and then I’ll start going through the formalities. But I don’t know how Sloane’s going to take it. Well, I do – with difficulty. Tom’s having enough trouble taking it in and he’s a modern sort of guy.’
‘Yes, well take care. Don’t assume that everyone will be easy with you suddenly appearing on duty as a woman. They may have to accept it but they won’t necessarily like it.’
‘I know.’ In truth, Jasmine felt nervous. For years she had dreamt of going public, letting everyone know she was a woman not a man, at least in her own sense of identity, but now it was actually starting to happen she trembled with nervousness.
‘I’ll support you. You know I will.’ Angela came and stood behind Jasmine, pressing her hands against her shoulders. ‘So where are you going with the case.’
Jasmine took a deep breath.
‘It seems that once a month Thwaite took a day off from work without his wife knowing and spent the night and the day away somewhere.’
‘Where?’
‘Somewhere outside the local area. Up north I’d say. I’ve got his bank statements to see if I can trace the place he stayed and anything else he paid for.’
‘You’ve got an idea, though haven’t you?’
‘Yes. I think he was on a trannie awayday. Perhaps visiting a trannie club or dressing venue or something. I think it’s where the photographer latched onto her.’
‘Well, then, Detective Jasmine Frame you’d better hunt the miscreant down. Make sure he pays for driving Petula to her death.’

…………………………………………..

Jasmine gets investigating

Been out putting up posters for my talk “Jasmine and me” (8 p.m. Wed. 27th Nov, The Sitting Room, Ludlow) and desperately hoping I get an audience. I haven’t actually prepared anything yet but I have been thinking about the presentation – how many readings, which bits from Painted Ladies, Bodies by Design, Blueprint or other Jasmine Frame material? How much about me, and how much should I go into Jasmine’s future as a transsexual detective? How can I make it amusing? Not long now to find the answers.  Not much time for writing this week either but here is the next bit of Blueprint.

Blueprint – Part 10

James scratched his head. There were so many things he wanted to know about Peter/Petula Thwaite and the photographer who had sent the prints that precipitated his/her suicide.
‘We’ve got to track Thwaite’s movements yesterday before he locked himself in his garage,’ James said at last.
‘His wife said he went to work,’ Tom said.
‘Yes, but he obviously didn’t stay there as he was sitting in his car with a pipe from the exhaust in the afternoon.’
‘Hmm yes, that old car with the un-cleaned up exhaust.’
‘The car that gave him his cover.’
‘What do you mean?’ Tom asked
‘His wife thought he went to the car club two Saturdays a month, but in fact it was only one. The other was to attend Butterflies.’
‘He was pretty devious wasn’t he?’
‘He had to be to keep his cross-dressing a secret.’
‘OK, so we need to know what he did before he killed himself. What else?’
‘We’ve got to trace who sent these,’ James pointed to the five photos. Tom stared down at them.
‘Hmm. Any clues? What about the postmarks?’
James bent to examine each envelope closely.
‘Some of them are illegible but I think this one says Birmingham, and this one Manchester.’
‘Not local then.’
‘No,’ James agreed, ‘Perhaps forensics can read the smudged ones.’
‘They may get something from the prints,’ Tom said, ‘identify the paper and the printer, that sort of thing.’
‘Maybe, but I can’t see that leading us to Thwaite’s persecutor,’ James said. There didn’t seem to be any clues to the person who had driven Thwaite to kill himself. ‘The other thing I want to know,’ James went on, ‘is what happened to his clothes?’
‘His clothes?’ the mystified look had returned to Tom’s features.
‘Her clothes to be more accurate. Petula had at least one outfit as well as wig and make-up. Thwaite kept it secret from his wife. I presumed he hid it in the garage, but you didn’t find anything there.’
‘No. Not that I was looking for female clothes,’ Tom said, ‘but that garage was clean enough to be used as a dressing room. Perhaps he did keep stuff hidden there.’
‘And he got rid of it before he killed himself.’
‘We do need to track his movements, don’t we?’
‘Yes. Let’s start at the bank. That’s where he should have been. It’ll be open this morning. Let’s go.’
James leapt to his feet. With something to do he felt energised. The investigation was under way.

Chapter 3
 
The manager rose to greet James and Tom as they entered her office. Most of the room was taken up by a vast desk which she leaned across to shake their hands.
‘Sit down, please,’ she said indicating the two stainless steel framed chairs pressed against the desk. James sat quickly while Tom struggled to fold his long legs into the limited space.
‘I presume you know about Peter Thwaite,’ James began.
The woman looked sombre, her expression complemented by her navy blue uniform jacket.
‘I heard about it his morning,’ she said, ‘dreadful.’
‘What did you hear?’ Tom asked. The woman looked a bit shocked as if the question was superfluous.
‘My colleagues told me that he had committed suicide yesterday afternoon, in his car.’
‘He should have been here, is that correct?’ Tom asked.
‘Well, I wasn’t in. Mr Preston, the manager was on duty yesterday, but yes, I suppose Peter should have been at work. Instead he was …’ There was a glint in her eye as if a tear was forming.
‘You’re deputy manager, Miss Sutton?’ James asked, reading her name badge. The woman nodded. ‘Peter Thwaite worked for the bank a long time. Hadn’t he reached manager level? Did you know him well?’
The woman flushed as if James was questioning her right to a position of authority.
‘I’ve known Peter for quite a few years and yes he does, did, hold a senior position, but while we say he worked here it’s more accurate to say he was based here.’
‘What do you mean?’ Tom asked.
‘Peter used this branch as his headquarters. He wasn’t on the regular staff.  He was on the savings and loans side, training and appraising the advisors across the whole region.’
‘So he travelled around.’ James said.
‘That’s right.’
‘What about yesterday?’ Tom asked.
‘Well, I don’t know what he was supposed be doing but the staff said he came in in the morning. He was late actually. Peter was never late. Then he left soon after saying he was sick.’
‘How soon?’ James leaned forward with interest.
‘I’m not sure. You’ll have to talk to Sue Marsh. She was downstairs all morning. I think she saw him come and go.’
‘But he definitely said he was ill?’ James pressed.
‘Yes,’ Miss Sutton insisted, ‘a few of the staff commented on how pale he looked.’
‘So he arrives late, stays a while, then leaves claiming he’s sick.’ James reiterated. The woman nodded.
‘You say his work covered the region,’ Tom said, ‘Was he supposed to be somewhere else yesterday.’
‘I don’t know. You’d have to look at his diary,’ Miss Sutton said.
James looked at the paper-free desk in front of the deputy manager which was occupied only by a large computer screen and keyboard.
‘I presume that’s an on-line diary,’ James said
‘Of course,’ the woman seemed surprised to consider there could be any other.
‘Can you access it?’ James asked.
‘Yes.’ Her fingers flittered over the keyboard. She turned the screen so that James and Tom could see also it. ‘There.’
Tom peered closely at the rainbow coloured spreadsheet.
‘It’s blank for yesterday,’ he announced.
‘That means he wasn’t booked to go anywhere. He must have been intending to work here. A lot of his work was done by email and video conferencing,’ Miss Sutton explained.
‘But he did travel to other branches?’ James asked trying to make sense of the text and hieroglyphics in the diary.
‘Oh, yes, two or three days a week.’
‘He worked hard then?’ James said. ‘His wife suggested he rarely took holidays.’
Miss Sutton looked doubtful.
‘Peter did work hard but he took his time off. He always had at least one day off a month.’
‘Really?’
‘Yes, look,’ Miss Sutton scrolled the screen through the months and pointed at the days that were marked as leave.
‘They look like Thursdays,’ James said trying to follow the moving screen, ‘the second or third of the month.’
‘The third. Peter always took the third Thursday off. Something to do with that old car of his I suppose.’
‘The car he used for cover for his Saturday nights,’ Tom commented.
‘What?’ The woman asked mystified.
‘Nothing,’ James said waving his hand. He was staring at the screen. ‘Can you scroll through again, slowly? There seems to be something about those third Thursdays.’
The woman caressed her mouse. James’ attention was fixed on the flowing dates.
‘Yes, there is a pattern. I’ll need a print out to check.’
‘What pattern?’ Tom asked.
‘It’s the Wednesdays before his days off. He always seems to be out somewhere, Swindon, Oxford, Abingdon, Banbury.’
‘They’re all branches in the region,’ Miss Sutton said.
‘Where does the region extend?’ James asked.
‘Central South – Hampshire, Dorset, Wiltshire, Berkshire, Oxfordshire.’ Miss Sutton recited.
‘So he could have visited Portsmouth, Weymouth, other places south of Kintbridge but always on the day before his day off he heads north or west.’
‘So what?’ Tom asked shaking his head.
‘Did Peter Thwaite ever stay overnight on his trips?’ James asked.
‘Yes, occasionally,’ Miss Sutton agreed, ‘If he was visiting branches close together it would make sense putting up somewhere rather than driving back home.’
‘That’s it,’ James said. He pushed himself back in his chair feeling satisfied
‘What is?’ Tom asked still with a look of puzzlement on her face.
‘I bet that if we asked Mrs Thwaite she would say that once a month Peter Thwaite was away on a Wednesday night because he was visiting branches in the same area on the Wednesday and Thursday.’
‘But he wasn’t. He was off on the Thursday,’ Tom said.
‘Exactly. So where was he going on the Thursdays and why did he make sure he was in the north of his region?’
……………………………………….

Jasmine Frame is revealed

Well, I wish I could report that this week I have sold x copies of Painted Ladies, had an offer of publication of all the Jasmine Frame novels with TV and film rights to follow, but no, none of that has happened. It’s been a pretty normal, busy week and once again I have failed to get on with Bodies by Design. I am, however, looking forward to my date for giving my first presentation of ‘Jasmine and me’ (The Sitting Room, Ludlow, 8p.m. Wed. 27thg Nov) when I’ll do some readings and talk about Jasmine the transsexual detective and about my own experiences of transgenderism.

Here though is the next episode of Blueprint, the Jasmine Frame prequel.

Blueprint: part 9

‘Butterflies. It’s a club for people like Petula – cross-dressers and other transgendered men and women.’
Tom looked confused.
‘Really. Where is it? I haven’t heard of a club with that name in Kintbridge.’
‘Oh, Butterflies is just the name of the group of people. The club meets in a village hall out of town.’
‘Right. But what were you doing there? Had Thwaite asked to meet you?’
‘No, I’d met Petula there before but we hadn’t talked much.’
‘You’d been before? Why?’
James took a deep breath. This was the moment he had been dreading since he joined the police force. As a teenager and as a student he had thought he could get away with not telling anyone. Dressing as a woman was a passing phase; the feelings he had about being female, about wanting to be accepted as a woman, were surely a fantasy. Time and living with Angela had proved that was not the case. Angela was the first person he had confessed his feelings to. She supported him, seemed to actually enjoy being with Jasmine, had encouraged him to talk and to think deeply about his future.  They had come to the decision not long ago that ultimately he would have to turn his dream into reality and become the woman he felt himself to be. But taking that step required planning and he had been putting off revealing his intentions to his senior officers as well as to friends and colleagues.  Now it looked as though he had lost the luxury of choosing the time for his announcement. Petula’s suicide needed investigating and he would have to reveal himself as Jasmine Frame, transsexual detective constable.
James could see Tom waiting for an answer to his question.
‘I’m a member of Butterflies myself, Tom,’ James said quietly and hesitantly, ‘I’m transsexual.’
Tom didn’t say anything for moments that stretched into seconds. James could almost see the wheels turning. Tom wasn’t dim, in fact he, like James, was on a fast track to promotion, but he did seem to be slow on the uptake.
‘You mean, you put on women’s clothes and make-up and stuff.’
‘It’s a bit more than that actually. I am a woman inside here,’ James tapped his forehead, ‘but yes, I put on feminine clothes, make-up, jewellery and a wig – my haircut is a bit too masculine at the moment to pass.’
Tom took in what he said.
‘And you go out dressed like that?’
‘Yes.’
‘To this club, Butterflies?’
‘There and other places.’
‘Does Angela know?’
‘Yes. She’s always known. We often go out together when I’m Jasmine.’
‘Jasmine?’
‘My female name.’
‘Oh, like Thwaite is Petula?’
‘That’s right.’
‘But his wife doesn’t know.’
‘No. That’s just one of the differences between us. I didn’t know Petula very well but I had the impression that she was at the cross-dressing end of the transgender spectrum.’
‘Transgender spectrum?’  Tom was looking confused again.
‘Look, it’s difficult to explain. Perhaps we can sit down and talk about it sometime, but there’s probably almost as many ways of being transgendered as there are people. I feel that I am really a woman and want to live my life as a woman.  I think Petula enjoyed dressing up from time to time, looking and acting feminine and meeting with like-minded people but did not want to change her life at all.’
‘I’m having trouble getting a handle on this Jim. Why did Thwaite do it?’
‘It’s an urge, a driving force, but he felt he had to keep it secret from everyone who knew him as Peter, including his wife. He was very upset at the thought of her discovering Petula. Obviously even more upset than I thought as he’s dead.’
‘You think this last photo tipped him over.’
‘Yes. It’s shocking isn’t it,’ James glanced at the photo of the man and woman having sex, ‘to people not used to porn. I guess he thought that his wife might think that he wanted to be the woman in the photo. He may have felt incapable of coping with the shame of being found out.’
Tom scratched his cheek.
‘Right, so let me get this straight. This guy has been dressing up as Petula secretly for years, always terrified that his wife might find out. Then these photos start arriving and he gives them to you. Why? When was it?’
‘It was last Saturday at the monthly Butterflies meeting. Some of them know I’m a police officer because I can’t get to meetings often. Petula approached me with the photos. She was upset and worried and asked if I could do anything to find out who was sending them. I took them but I didn’t have the slightest idea how to start. It was Angela who promised I’d look into it, actually.’
‘Angela was with you?’
‘Yes, as I said, she often comes out with me.’
‘So what have you done about it?’
‘Nothing. It’s been a busy week and I haven’t had a chance to even think about how to start the investigation. I suppose I hadn’t realised how upset Petula was or that the photos would keep coming.’
‘Well, we’ll have to investigate it. The person who sent the photos may have been intending to blackmail Thwaite. At the very least least he’s partly responsible for tipping Thwaite over the suicide line. The coroner will need to know why Thwaite was unbalanced. We’d better log these photos as evidence, write up what you know and plan where we go next.’
He’s shifted into detective mode, Jasmine thought. Good old Tom. If there’s a problem, tackle it by following procedure. He’s ignoring what I told him, blanking it out of his consciousness.  It was a familiar response, James had found, when informing people of his transsexualism. A couple of years ago he had told his mother; she had even met Jasmine on a couple of occasions but she still acted as if she knew nothing about his feelings or intentions.
‘You’re right, Tom. We must do all those things. But we’re also going to have to explain to Sloane. He’s going to have to find out about Jasmine.’
‘Jasmine? Oh, you mean, you being, uh,…’ Tom’s voice trailed off and his expression took on a vacant appearance.
‘Yes, Tom. Sloane and everyone will have to know that I want to be the woman I know I am.’
Tom shook his head.
‘I don’t get it, Jim. You’re a great police officer; you’ve got a career as a detective ahead of you.’
‘Detectives can be women.’
‘Yes, of course, but you, you’re my mate. You’ve got me out of a few scrapes. You go running.’
‘Women run too.’
‘I know that. Look, you know what I’m trying to say. You’re a good bloke.’
James sighed.
‘It’s a front, an act that I’ve developed over the years to hide my real feelings, to protect myself from people’s reactions because I know that standing here in my CID suit I don’t look at all like a woman. But that can change and over the last few years I’ve realised I’ve got to make it change. It’s just that I’m not quite ready to go public.’
Tom shook his head.
‘I don’t understand, but I see you’ve got a problem. You’re Sloane’s protégé but I don’t know how he’ll react if he finds out you want to be DC Jasmine. He’s a bit unPC in his attitudes.’
‘That’s just part of it,’ Jasmine agreed, thinking of all the other colleagues who might mouth the diversity training they’d received but didn’t really believe it. ‘And I need to let Angela know what’s going to happen. We’ve discussed it often enough but hadn’t set any dates or timetable.’
Tom didn’t say anything and the silence stretched on and on. James searched Tom’s face trying to work out what he was thinking. Eventually Tom spoke.
‘Look. Sloane’s given us a few days to wrap up this investigation. It’s Saturday today. I know he’s a 7/7 sort of guy but he’s probably not expecting to hear from us before Monday and with most of the admin staff off for the weekend it’ll be Monday before the evidence and your statement go through the system.  Let’s sit on it till then, see how far we can get in the investigation. That gives you today and tomorrow to sort out things with Angela.’
James felt relief wash over him. It would be at least two days before the news spread through the station.
‘Thanks Tom. That’ll be something.’
‘Right. So where do we start?’
…………………………

Not fifty shades, but infinity

Another busy week with little time to write – how many more times am I going to have to say that? Struggling to keep far too many balls in the air at the moment and a little diappointed that I haven’t had any opportunities to promote Painted Ladies recently. I did have a very pleasant conversation with a friend and reader who was very keen to know what happens “next”. That encouragement was the other side of the scales to a review that has made me brood a bit. The review was generally good but made a couple of points which I took issue with. The critic seemed to think that I should have covered more of the strands of transgenderism in Painted Ladies than I did. Heck its a story! Jasmine is a transsexual detective but that t-word is one fairly long term for a whole range of characters and experiences. She is based partly on a few people I have met, a little on my own experience and a lot on my imagination, but she is an individual not a ragbag of every type of TS and cannot and will not espouse every possible view of gender dysphoria. Painted Ladies covers just one short period in her transition. The sequels will cover more.

Secondly, the plot of Painted Ladies involved transvestites of a certain age. There is a continuum between male and female. It may not even be a single strand. Many points in this spectrum are occupied by transgendered individuals who can be labelled as transsexual, transvestite, cross-dresser or any one of the many other terms that are used. To be brief there are all sorts of gender identities. I chose a small number of them for the characters of Painted Ladies. There will be others in the stories that follow. The main point is to make all the stories interesting and exciting reads for non-trans as well as trans readers. If I’ve succeeded at that then I’m happy.

So after that rant. Here is the next part of the Jasmine Frame prequel –

Blueprint: part 8

James took each photo out of its envelope in turn and laid them in sequence across his desk. He looked up. Tom’s face was creased in a mixture of confusion and distaste.
‘What have these got to do with Thwaite?’ Tom asked.
‘Can’t you see?’ James said stabbing at the first photo with a fore finger. ‘The head – it’s Peter Thwaite, or Petula as she called herself.’
Tom leaned down to examine the first photo, then the second, third and fourth. He straightened up.
‘I don’t get it. I see the woman’s head in each of the photos is the same, but what do you mean, it’s Peter Thwaite?’
‘Don’t you recognise the face?’
‘I only saw him when he was dead.’
‘And that photo of him with his wife.’
‘Oh, yes.’ Tom looked again at each of the prints. ‘I suppose it could be him. Someone’s pasted his face into these photos of women. Except his face looks made up. He’s got lipstick on and earrings.’
‘It’s not just his face. It’s his hair too.’
‘What do you mean? Thwaite had short, greying hair. Nothing like this.’
James took a deep breath.
‘The head in each of these photos is of Petula Thwaite. That is Peter Thwaite when he was in his female persona.’
‘Female persona?’
‘Peter Thwaite was a cross-dresser, a transvestite if you like.’
Tom let out a long drawn out ‘oh’ as realisation took hold.
‘I see. But that’s not his body.’ Tom pointed at the naked female reclining on the couch.
‘No, someone has cleverly photoshopped Petula’s head onto real women.’
Tom bent down again to stare at each picture.
‘Hmm. That’s right. I can see the joins.’  He straightened up and fixed his eyes on James. ‘But, I don’t understand. Where have they come from? Did you find them at Thwaite’s house? Have you logged them in?’
James sighed.
‘No I haven’t logged them as evidence – yet. They weren’t at the house. Petula gave them to me herself.’
James saw Tom’s eyes unfocus as he struggled to follow what James had said.
‘Petula? That’s Thwaite when he’s dressed as a woman.’
‘Yes.’
‘You met her, him, heck, I don’t know.’
‘Yes.’
‘Before he killed himself.’
‘Obviously.’
‘How did you meet him, her?’
James opened his mouth to speak although he was still not sure what to say, but before a sound came out, his attention was drawn to a young woman crossing the office towards them. It was one of the civilian workers from the front office downstairs.
‘DC Frame,’ she called.
‘Hi, Dawn. What can we do for you?’ James said, grateful for the break.
‘This came for you in the morning post.’  As she approached them, Dawn raised her right hand grasping a large buff envelope.
‘Thanks,’ James said taking it from her.
‘No bother,’ she replied turning on her heels.  James looked at the envelope. It had a first class stamp and was clearly addressed to DC Frame at Police HQ, Kintbridge, in precise but flowing handwriting. Its thickness suggested there was more than one sheet of paper inside. James carefully tore the end of the envelope open and reached in to pull out another similar envelope folded in half. He opened it out flat. His heart thumped when he saw the name and address. It was to Mr P. Thwaite. Like the four other envelopes sitting on his desk, the address was written in firm, capital letters in biro.
‘It’s another one,’ James said, his voice trembling in anticipation.
‘Another what? Another photo?’ Tom said nodding towards the prints on the desk.
‘Look, the writing is the same.’ James showed Tom the envelope he was holding.
‘These were all sent to Thwaite at his house?’
‘Yes. On each of the last five Fridays. They’re in order.’ James pointed to the four on the desk.
‘Oh, I see. They’re getting more suggestive, bluer.’
‘That’s right.’
‘So let’s see what the new one is.’
The envelope James was holding had already been slit open neatly by a paper knife. He inserted his hand into it and felt the glossy-faced card of a photoprint. He drew it out. It was upside down, the plain white surface looking innocent, pure, but marred by the crease across it. He turned it over. Tom whistled.
There were two people in the photo. A woman with Petula’s head turned, facing out of the picture, and a man. Both were naked. The woman knelt on a bed while the man stood behind thrusting his penis into her vagina.
‘That’s a bit hard core,’ Tom said, ‘Let me have a close look.’ James handed him the photo and examined the two envelopes.  The one addressed to Thwaite was postmarked Thursday while the envelope addressed to him had a noon Friday postmark.
‘He must have received it yesterday morning,’ James said, ‘and posted it on to me before going home to kill himself.’
‘Hmm, yes,’ Tom muttered with his nose almost touching the print. ‘I can see the join again. I’d say the main picture is a screen grab of an internet porn shot.’
‘That makes sense.’
‘What doesn’t make sense is what these photos are for. Why were they sent to Thwaite? Why did he kill himself?’
‘Thwaite killed himself because he was scared of his wife finding out that he was a cross-dresser,’ Jasmine said. ‘These photos increased the risk of being discovered but why they were sent I’ve no idea.’
‘Was there a message with them?’ Tom asked
‘Petula said there wasn’t.’ James looked in the fifth envelope. It was empty. ‘There’s nothing here.’
‘You keep using this name Petula. You still haven’t explained, Jim. How did you meet and why have you got the photos?’ Tom gave James a determined stare. There was a pause during which all James could hear was the blood rushing through his arteries.
‘I met her at Butterflies’
‘Where?’
………………………….

Jasmine and me

It’s been a frustrating week. Other work has meant that I haven’t had time to move on with Bodies by Design although it has been on my mind, along with plots for the other sequels. I also need to devote time to marketing Painted Ladies as copies won’t sell themselves. At least I’ve got my evening at The Sitting Room in Ludlow on 27th November to plan. It’s going to be called “Jasmine and me: transgender fiction and reality”. I’ll read excerpts from Painted Ladies and Bodies by Design and perhaps some of the other stories involving Jasmine Frame such as Blueprint. I’ll talk about Jasmine and about myself. I hope that there will be enough people there to do some signing at the end. Once again publicity will be needed to attract an audience.

Anyway, all that is still to come. Here’s the next part of the prequel series.

Blueprint, Part 7

Neither spoke for a moment, then Angela got up.
‘Have you had anything to eat recently?’
Jasmine thought. What time is it now? She glanced at the neat little gold watch on her wrist. Gone nine o’clock. It was over eight hours since she’d grabbed a sandwich in the canteen at Police HQ. She hadn’t felt hungry but she did now.
‘No. I could do with something.’
‘I had lasagne when I got in. There’s a portion left. I’ll heat it up. Do you want to get some salad.’
They both busied in the kitchen until Jasmine’s meal was ready for her. She sat at the dining table and stuck her fork into the steaming pasta. Angela leaned against the cupboards sipping her wine.
‘Did he leave a note?’
‘Peter Thwaite? A brief one. Didn’t explain why he was about to kill himself.’
‘So the wife still doesn’t know?’
‘That’s right.’
‘What about his female clothes? Where did he keep them?’
‘I thought they would be in his car or somewhere in the garage. It’s clean enough to act as a dressing room, the garage that is, but Tom did a search and didn’t find any women’s clothes.’
‘Was he looking for them?’
‘No. He doesn’t know Peter Thwaite is also Petula, does he.’
‘I suppose not.’
‘But he still didn’t come across Petula’s gear.’
They were silent as Jasmine ate a few more forkfuls of lasagne and salad. The flavour was ignored while she pondered.
‘So he must have got rid of them,’ Angela said, eventually.
‘Looks like it.’
‘He’s gone to great lengths to make sure his wife doesn’t find out that he’s a cross-dresser hasn’t he.’
‘Including killing himself.’
‘Will it come out?’
‘That depends.’
‘On what?’
Jasmine was thinking. What were the possible consequences of Petula’s suicide?
‘If Sloane decides it is just a simple case of suicide then the papers will be passed to the coroner for the inquest. There may be some attempt to find out what Thwaite’s state of mind was but Sloane won’t want to devote a lot of time to an investigation. So the fact that he was a trannie may not be revealed.’
‘But it’s not a simple case of suicide is it?’
‘It looks like it, but you’re right, it’s not. Those photos must have pushed him over and someone is responsible for them.’
‘You’re going to have to tell Sloane aren’t you?’
‘Should I? As you said, Peter Thwaite has done all he could to stop his wife finding out his secret. Shouldn’t we respect that? It’s only you and I that know about the photos.’
‘And let the joker with the photos get away with murder. That’s what it looks like to me, Jas.’
Jasmine was surprised at Angela’s vehemence.
‘You’re right, as usual, Ange. I’m going to have to work out how to do this.’
‘Sleep on it. Come on have a glass of wine and relax.’

It was Saturday morning but Sloane was in his office early as usual. He was sitting there reading their report when he called Tom and James in.
‘Straightforward case of suicide,’ DCI Sloane said with a tone of finality
‘Looks like it, sir,’ Tom said, standing stiffly in front of the desk.
‘There’s no apparent reason for him taking his own life,’ James said. He was dwarfed as usual by Tom’s height and felt he was skulking at his partner’s side.
‘What are you suggesting, Frame? That he was murdered?’ Sloane his eyes raised to examine James. They seemed to want to search inside James’ brain.
‘No, I’m sure Peter Thwaite killed himself, sir, but there’s no indication why.’
Sloane scanned through the report again.
‘That is true. Your report does not suggest a reason for his decision to kill himself.’
‘Perhaps we should try and find out a little bit more about him,’ Jasmine went on.
‘Hmm. Yes, the coroner will want some indication as to why his mind was unbalanced.’ Sloane scratched his chin while Tom and James stood silent. ‘Can’t afford much expenditure on an investigation,’ Sloane went on, ‘It’ll have to be just you two. You’ve got until Tuesday to come up with the answers.’
‘Three days sir?’ Tom said.
‘I believe it’s four counting tomorrow, Shepherd.’
‘It’s Sunday, tomorrow, sir.’
‘So? Crime doesn’t stop for Sundays. If there’s a job to be done detectives work twenty four-seven.’
James sensed Tom shrink beside him.
‘Yes, sir,’ Tom said miserably.
‘Well, get on with it, or it will only be three days.’ Sloane closed the folder and added it to a pile in a tray and opened the next on the heap in front of him.  James hurried out Sloane’s presence and returned to his desk in the larger outer office which was deserted. He sat in his chair as Tom came and loomed over him.
‘What did you go and do that for? Now we’ve got to work tomorrow. I was hoping for a relaxing day with Sophie.’
James strained his neck to look up at his friend.
‘Oh, yes, Sophie. How did it go last night?’
‘She was a little pissed off at how late I was but she said yes. Well, she asked the question and I said yes.’
‘Congratulations. You’re getting married.’
‘Yes. We were going to tell her parents tomorrow, but now you’ve scuppered that.’
James realised that his concern for Petula had ramifications.
‘I’m sorry, Tom.’
‘Well, I guess you didn’t really want to give up a Sunday off, but I’ll ask again. Why did you do it? It might have been Monday before Sloane decided to look into Thwaite’s mental state if you hadn’t brought it up, and then he may have just passed it on to the uniform guys to complete the job for the inquest.’
‘I felt that since we’d started the investigation we should finish it,’ James said.
‘Why? There’s probably no crime involved. Thwaite was probably just feeling down.’
‘Down enough to kill himself by sitting in his car with a gas pipe stuffed through the window.’
‘Well, who knows? Perhaps he’d been depressed for some time.’
‘His medical notes would tell us that but I don’t think they will, Tom.’
‘How do you know? What is it about this guy that is getting you so worked up, Jim?’
James pulled the drawer of his desk open and pulled out a sheaf of buff envelopes. He spread them out on his desk.
‘These,’ he said.
………………………….

Jasmine faces a dilemma

One of those weeks when I haven’t been able to get on with the second Jasmine Frame novel, Bodies by Design, as much as I’d like although there is the next episode of Blueprint below. I have had some nice moments with Painted Ladies this week however. There have been some more very encouraging reviews including one from a lady who writes for Eurocime, the big crime review website. I do hope these good comments encourage people to go out and buy Painted Ladies either in paperback or e-book form. Jasmine still seems to be unique as a transsexual detective but it is gratifying that people think the story is a page turner.  Anyway here is the next bit of Blueprint.

Blueprint, part 6

‘Have you had a look around the garage?’ James asked.
‘Yeah,’ Tom replied more concerned with watching Dr Patel at work in the Rover.
‘Find anything?’
‘Such as?’
‘I don’t know. A clue as to why he killed himself.’
Tom turned to look at James.
‘Nope, didn’t find anything like that. He keeps a clean garage though. The floor is painted and clean enough to eat your dinner off. All the tools, and he’s got plenty of them, are hanging on their marked hooks or in special places in the drawers.’ Tom pointed at the workbench against the wall with the window onto the back garden. There was a wardrobe in the corner.
‘What’s in the wardrobe?’ James wondered if that was where Peter Thwaite kept Petula’s clothes. ‘Have you looked inside?’
‘Yeah, of course I looked. There’s just some overalls and jackets for working in the garden or on the car. As I said, he seems a pretty careful and organised guy. Everything has its place. Obviously devoted a lot of time to the car.’
‘His wife said he did.’
Dr Patel grunted and backed out of the car. He stood up and revealed his white moustache and hair. He was short enough so that even James was able to look down on his shiny bald head.
‘Well, gentlemen, I’ve done as much as I can here,’ he said in his familiar public school accent which carried just a trace of his Mumbai birthplace.
‘Anything you can tell us, Doc?’ James asked.
‘Nothing but the obvious I’m afraid. He almost certainly died of carbon monoxide poisoning a couple of hours ago.’
‘Any signs that he was forced into the car?’ James asked.
‘There are no marks on his body implying that he was assaulted. There are no injuries to his fingers suggesting that he tried to get out. I gather the wife was able to open the door and switch the ignition off.  Were you thinking that Mr Thwaite was murdered, DC Frame?’ Dr Patel placed his instruments in his case.
Tom looked at James incredulous.
‘No, I was just checking all the possibilities.’
‘Well, of course I do not deal in certainties but I would say it was highly probable that Mr Thwaite arranged to be poisoned by the exhaust gases of his car and that it was his intention to die.’
‘Suicide then,’ Tom said firmly.
‘Precisely,’ Dr Patel said closing his case with a snap. ‘Now I shall be off and when the body is delivered to me I will carry out the autopsy which I am quite sure will confirm my initial findings. Goodbye gentlemen.’ He lifted his bag and stalked off towards the garage doors which one of the waiting SOC officers lifted.
‘Why do you keep on going on suggesting that Thwaite was murdered, Jim? All the evidence says suicide.’
James stroked his chin, feeling the stubble which he longed to get home to remove.
‘I know. It looks like suicide and probably is suicide but there is no apparent reason why he should take his own life.’ Except the one that I can think of, he added to himself, that he was so scared of his wife discovering he was a transvestite that he couldn’t bear to go on living.
‘Well, there’s nothing left for us here. The SOCOs will clear up the details and that will be it. We can get off. I’m supposed to be going out with Sophie this evening.’
‘We’ll have to write a report first. You don’t want Sloane coming in tomorrow and not finding it on his desk.’
‘All the more reason for getting away now, Jim. Come on.’ Tom too headed towards the partly raised garage doors. James followed.
‘You don’t want to let Sophie down?’
‘No. In fact I’m hoping we’ll make a decision tonight.’
‘A decision?’
‘When we’re getting married.’
‘Oh, great. Congratulations.’
‘Well, it’s not certain yet. I’ve got to let her suggest a date. You know she likes to be in charge.’
‘Hmm. I think that’s a common female trait.’
‘You know a lot about feminine characteristics don’t you, Jim.’
James realised that the conversation was moving in a direction he didn’t want to follow.’
‘I am married, Tom.’
‘Oh yes.’

Chapter 3
Angela was already sitting in front of the TV with a glass of white wine in her hand, when James finally got home. He dropped his briefcase containing the notes and law books for his sergeant’s exams by the stairs and blew her a kiss as he started up the stairs.
‘I’ll be down in a minute. There’s something we need to talk about.’
Angela twisted around in the sofa and frowned at him.
‘Something serious?’
‘Could be. I won’t be long. I need to get out of this clobber.’

Ten minutes later Jasmine joined Angela on the sofa. Jasmine felt more comfortable in a paisley-patterned blouse over a grey pencil skirt and sheer tights. She flicked long blonde hairs from her new shaved cheek.
‘Come on then. What do you have to tell me?’ Angela’s eyes searched Jasmine’s face for signs of her emotional state. She thinks I’ve got something personal to say, Jasmine thought.
‘It’s work,’ Jasmine said noting that Angela visibly relaxed.
‘Oh? You don’t usually bring work home. What’s the problem?’
‘Petula’s dead.’
Angela looked blank for a moment, then gasped.
‘Oh, Petula. The trannie who received the photos.’
‘That’s the one.’
‘How?’
‘Suicide. At least it looks like she, he, meant to kill himself.’
‘Was it the pictures? He was very upset last week Did his wife find out?’
‘No, she hasn’t said anything about him, Peter his name is, being trans. There’s no sign of anything to suggest he was. But he made sure his life ended.’
‘What are you going to do, Jas?’
‘I don’t know.’

……………………………………………

Across country to Nottingham

To Arnold in Nottingham yesterday (Saturday) for the New Writers UK Festival. Nice venue but somewhat secluded. Not many people just there to buy so not the most lucrative days. Nevertheless, met the organisers and some other people and went to a couple of talks. The first revealed that I still have a lot to learn about marketing. The second by Steve Dunne, a crime writer from Derby made me envious. He started, like me, by self-publishing his first crime novel through Troubador back in 2008, but then got publishing deals, first with Harper-Collins then with Hodder-Headline. Not big, life-changing deals but enough to encourage him and take him out of the self-publishing money pit.

Any way the result is that I will redouble my efforts, promote Painted Ladies more – anyone fancy a reading or talk title ‘Jasmine and me: transgenderism in fiction and reality.’ Also I will press on with Bodies by Design and hope to get that out one way or another by next summer, and there are more Jasmine Frame stories to come.  For now here is the next epsiode of Blueprint.

Blueprint, part 5
‘Peter Thwaite. I see,’ James said, playing for time. How many P.Thwaites could there be in Kintbridge? Not many he thought. ‘Do you have a recent photo?’
The woman stopped sobbing and looked up at him with a question in her eyes.
‘Why do you need a photo?’
‘Oh, just for records.’ How should he treat this? Did Linda Thwaite have any idea about her husband’s double life, if indeed it was him?
‘There’s one there, on the mantelpiece,’ she said before dissolving into snuffles and sobs again.
James took the two steps to the fireplace and immediately saw the photo she referred to. It was of the two of them, husband and wife, beside a car, an old Rover. The car was old but the photograph seemed recent. The woman looked like a smiling, cheerful version of the woman sobbing in the arms of the policewoman. Would women sob in his arms if he became Jasmine full-time, he wondered. He picked up the photo and looked at it closely. If the man had long curly brown hair instead of the greying short cut, and thick make up and red lips would it be Petula. He rather thought it could be.
‘When was this taken?’ James asked.
‘A couple months ago, early summer. I went with Peter on one of his runs with his car club. I don’t usually go, but it was a nice day out.’
‘The car club?’
‘For those old Rovers. Peter was always in the garage polishing it. He kept it spotless. Twice a month they met up, on a Saturday evening. I didn’t go usually. It was just men talking about engines and gearboxes and miles to the gallon.’
‘Twice a month?’
‘That’s right. He went last Saturday so the next one will be not tomorrow but next Saturday.’
Her voice broke up as another fit of sobbing commenced. Only once a month actually, James thought, but a good cover for his evenings at Butterflies.
‘He loved that car,’ Mrs Thwaite croaked, ‘but now it’s killed him.’
‘Why do you say that, Mrs Thwaite?’
‘I found him in it, with the pipe from the exhaust and the engine running.’ Her shoulders shook and she buried her face in PC Barnett’s shoulder. The policewoman looked up at James with a resigned expression.
‘I’m sorry Mrs Thwaite, Linda, but I do need to ask these questions. Was there a note or anything…?’
She waved an arm in the direction of the coffee table in the middle of the floor without moving her head.  There was a folded piece of white paper and a small, white, open envelope sitting on the glass-topped table.  James reached into the pockets of his suit and pulled out a pair of rubber gloves. He pulled them onto his hands and then reached for the paper and envelope.  The envelope had a single word written on it, ‘Linda’. He unfolded the paper. It was a sheet torn from a pad of quality letter paper. James wondered how many people bought paper like this these days, not many he thought. The days of formal letter writing were past. There wasn’t much written on the sheet. Just two brief sentences – ‘I’m sorry darling. I can’t go on any longer.’  For suicide notes it wasn’t very helpful; no explanation of the suicide’s reasons for ending their existence. James refolded the letter and replaced it in the envelope. He placed it back on the table.
‘We’ll bag it up soon,’ he said. ‘I’m sorry Mrs Thwaite, but I have to ask this. Do you know of any reason why Mr Thwaite should take his own life?’
The woman pushed herself away from the policewoman, turned on the sofa to face him and sat upright.
‘I can see you are going to ransack our lives to find a reason, but no, I cannot think of a reason. Peter was moody. Some days, most days, he was pleasant, considerate, happy.  Other days he seemed irritable, silent, brooding, but I suppose we all go through ups and downs.’
‘He didn’t give a reason for those down days?’
‘No, he wouldn’t discuss them. Said it was nothing to be concerned about.’
‘Had they become more frequent?’
Mrs Thwaite paused as if a sudden awareness had dawned.
‘Well, yes, I suppose they had. This last month he has seemed to have had them more often.’
‘But you can’t think of any reason. No financial worries?’
‘No, Peter has a good salary from the bank. And I contribute a bit – I have a job in a store in town – so we don’t have any need to be concerned about money. Peter works hard, that’s why I was surprised.’
‘What surprised you?’
‘Well, that he was home. He usually works later than me on a Friday. But I got home and I could hear the engine running in the garage. The outside door was closed so I came in and went through the kitchen to the garage and when I opened the door…Well!’
‘Well what?’
‘The smell of smoke from the engine. It filled the garage. I didn’t know what to do. I wanted to close the door and get away so I could breathe, but I realised that the engine should be turned off. I didn’t understand it. I covered my face with my hanky and ran to the car and that was when I saw Peter.’
‘How was he?’
‘He was lying back in the front seat with the hose poking through the window.’
‘I see. It must have been a great shock.’
Mrs Thwaite bit her lip to stop it trembling and James could see more tears forming in her eyes. She nodded slowly.
‘You think that Mr Thwaite, Peter, arranged it himself. That he intended to kill himself.’
She looked up James, with a look of incomprehension.
‘How else could it have happened? It wasn’t an accident that the hose was attached to the exhaust pipe.’
‘No, it wasn’t an accident,’ James said.
PC Barnett frowned at him. She thinks I’m handling this badly, James thought. Perhaps I am but how can I let on that I know something that the wife, who’s known him years and years, doesn’t. He tried again.
‘Was there anything that happened today that could have put Mr Thwaite into a bad mood?’  Bad enough to kill himself, James nearly added.
Mrs Thwaite shook her head.
‘It was a fairly normal morning. We had breakfast. Peter went into his study then off to work – he walks. I had to take my car to the garage for a service. I should have gone to pick it up by now. Then I walked into town to work too.’
‘He didn’t get any post, email, telephone call that might have disturbed him?’
‘I don’t think so. He didn’t mention anything.’
‘Hmm. Thank you Mrs Thwaite. I’ll leave you with PC Barnett for now. I’ll see what my partner is up to. You say I can get into the garage through the kitchen?’
‘That’s right.’ The woman remained sitting upright on the sofa, a glazed expression on her face.
James stepped towards the open door but paused.
‘Oh, if you think of anything we should know, tell PC Barnett. I’ll speak to you again soon.’
James walked along the hall, into the bright, modern kitchen and through an open door into the garage. It had a window onto the back garden but the lights were on and members of the SOC team were setting up more powerful spotlights. It was a long garage, but narrow. Most of the space was taken up by the brown Rover 2000. A G reg., James noted. The bodywork of the car gleamed in the lights, reflecting the work put in by Peter Thwaite.  A white-overalled figure was leaning in through the open driver’s door. James recognised the portly figure of Dr Patel, the pathologist. Tom Shepherd was standing at the back of the car watching.
‘What does the Doc say then?’ James said as he looked around.
‘Straightforward case. Used to get more of these before the days of catalytic converters on cars. They’ve cleaned up the exhaust so it takes longer to knock yourself out.’
‘But these old Rovers don’t have them.’
‘Nope. Would have finished him off in a few minutes. Mind you he would have been coughing his guts up before he went out.’
‘No chance that someone else could have set it up to look like suicide?’
Tom stared at James, wide-eyed.
‘Why on earth do you suggest that?’
‘Well, you know. Checking all the possibilities.’
‘I suppose the SOCOs will dust the hose and the car for fingerprints but I don’t imagine they’ll find any other than his, the poor sod.’
‘So that’s it then. A simple suicide.’
‘Yeah. Guy had enough and the car provided a handy method. Straightforward.’
James wasn’t so sure.
…………………………………………..

Jasmine takes a case

A busy week with news that the article about me and Painted Ladies made it into the Dailys Mail, Express and Star as well as a couple more local papers. I do hope the publicity encourages people to go out an buy, buy, buy.  Next Saturday I’ll be at the New Writers UK Festival in Nottingham hoping to spread the word further, and I’ve also heard of a fairly new website that promotes independent writers’ work  at   http://www.writers-room.org/

I hope it will prove helpful.

Here is the next part of my serialised, prequel, Blueprint.

Blueprint, part 4

‘You’ve got to do something,’ Angela said.
Jasmine looked at the four photos and shook her head.
‘I don’t know what I can do. I’m not sure that anyone has broken the law.’
‘Really?’ Angela stabbed a finger at the naked “Petula”, ‘Isn’t it illegal to send offensive material through the post.’
‘Yes, but I’m not sure whether this would count as offensive today,’ Jasmine said.
’Well, what about stalking then. That’s against the law.’
‘I know, but it would be difficult to present a few items of unsolicited mail as stalking.’ Jasmine turned to Petula. ‘ You haven’t noticed anyone watching you or following you, have you?’
Petula shook her head vigorously.
‘No, not at all. If I’m out, dressed, then I keep a careful lookout for anyone taking a special interest in me. You know why.’
‘Yes, in case they read you as a cross-dresser and decide to make a fuss,’ Jasmine agreed. ‘We all develop three sixty degree vision.’
‘So are you saying you can’t help Petula, Jas?’ Angela glared at Jasmine.
‘Well, I don’t see how I can get the police to open an investigation.’ Jasmine said trying to keep things calm.
‘Oh, I don’t want the police involved,’ Petula flustered, ‘Linda would be sure to find out. I hoped you might be able to find out who’s doing this, uh, privately.’
‘You could do that, couldn’t you?’ Angela wheedled.
Jasmine realised that she couldn’t get away with doing nothing even if it did appear that someone was just playing a silly game on Petula.
‘Well, OK, I suppose I could try and look into it myself.’
‘Oh, thank you.’ Petula grabbed Jasmine’s hand and pumped it up and down. Jasmine was surprised at how emotional Petula was. ‘I really can’t imagine what would happen if Linda saw these photos and found out about me.’
‘If you’ve kept you’re dressing secret for so long, I’m sure it would be a big shock for her.’ Jasmine said.
Petula’s face cracked and she began to sob.
‘Oh, I couldn’t bear it.’
Angela comforted her.
‘Now I’m sure Jasmine will make sure that you dressing remains a secret.’ She glared at Jasmine. ‘Let’s get you a drink.’ Angela guided Petula to the hatch where the drinks were served.
Jasmine began to put the photos back into the respective envelopes, looking at each one carefully in turn. Close-up they revealed the differences between the exposures of Petula’s head and the model’s body. The head shots had obviously been blown up from pictures taken at a distance outdoors, while the photos of the model looked to have been taken in a studio.
Angela returned.
‘She’s pretty upset about these photos,’ she said, ‘Do you think you can do anything?’
‘No,’ Jasmine said shaking her head, ‘I don’t know where to start. If it was a criminal investigation we’d check the photos and envelopes for DNA and see if we get a match or at least a profile, but I can’t get tests done if it is not a proper case. I’ll take them away and see if I get some ideas but let’s hope the person who sent them has had enough of his game and that they stop.’
‘And Petula can go on deceiving her wife.’
‘You sound disapproving.’
‘Perhaps I do. Look, I think I understand how you feel about wanting to be a woman but you were open with me from the start. OK, you say you can’t tell me how far you want to go and I believe you but at least we’re in it together. But I don’t understand how someone like Petula can go on like this for decades without her wife suspecting something or how Petula justifies keeping it secret.’
‘Me neither, but I know Petula’s not alone.  There are hundreds, thousands of secret cross-dressers out there.’
‘So it seems. Look have you had enough of being amongst trannies, Jas?’
Jasmine chuckled and looked around the room at the middle-aged “women” engaged in chats or dancing arthritically to the seventies disco hits. ‘Yes, I think so.’
‘Good, let’s go home and have a better look at those photos.’

Chapter 2

‘Hey, Jim, we’ve got a callout.’
James Frame woke suddenly from his daydream to see DC Tom Shepherd waving from the door to DCI Sloane’s office. James had been imagining life as Jasmine, the daily routine of dressing as a woman, of being accepted as a woman as she went about her business as a police detective, a sergeant or perhaps even inspector. He looked at his watch.
‘Damn, another hour and we’d be off-duty. It had better be exciting.’
‘A suspicious death. Come on, we can’t leave the uniform boys to it.’
‘Okay, I’m coming.’ James hauled himself out of his chair and squeezed passed the empty desks. Most of the team had already left for the weekend. It had been a quiet week of routine questioning after a domestic dispute turned violent and pursuit of a hit-and-run driver but nothing to tax the violent and serious crime team.
‘Where are we going?’ James asked as he caught up with Tom.
‘Just across town. The report suggests a suicide.’
‘Nothing too extraordinary?’
‘Probably not.’
Tom stopped the Mondeo in a quiet road of 1930s semis. There was a police patrol car outside one driveway with tape already blocking it off.  James got out and followed the bigger man up the drive to the garage attached to the house. A police officer stood at the garage doors.
‘What’s the story, Officer?’ Tom asked.
‘Bloke killed himself in his car, by the look of it. The old hose to the exhaust pipe trick. The pathologist is in the garage now.’
‘Anybody else around?’
‘The wife’s in the house. PC Barnett is with her.’
‘I’ll go and see how she is,’ James said, ‘if you check with the pathologist, Tom.’
‘Right,’ Tom said stepping inside the garage.
James went to the front door and found it on the latch. He stepped inside and called out,
‘Hello, I’m DC Frame.’ The carpet was soft under his shoes as he walked into the lounge. A police woman had her arms around another woman who sat shaking on a sofa. The officer looked up at him.
‘This is Mrs Linda Thwaite. She discovered her husband in the car in the garage.’
Jasmine felt the blood drain from his face.
‘Linda Thwaite? What was her husband’s name?’
‘His name’s Peter,’ the woman said through sobs.

A problem for Jasmine

Having been late last week I’m getting in early this week with the next part of my prequel serial about Jasmine Frame (below). This week has seen interesting progress with Painted Ladies. News about me and the book has been spreading slowly through the media (go to http://www.troubador.co.uk and look up the book’s webpage) and I hope will encourage sales. Also I am moving on slowly with the sequel, Bodies by Design, having gone back over one bit a few times to get it closer to being right.  Anyway, here’s the next piece about Jasmine:

Blueprint, part 3

Jasmine took the envelope from Petula’s hand. Automatically she filed away a number of details with her policeman’s eye. It was a typical A4 size, buff envelope. The address, written in biro, was in capital letters and the recipient was a Mr P. Thwaite. There was a normal large letter postage stamp in the top right corner and a smudged postmark which she did not examine closely. The envelope had been opened with a paper knife that made a clean slit through the paper. She drew out a sheet of thin card. So far so ordinary, Jasmine thought until she turned the A4 card over and saw the photograph. It was a full page shot of a nude woman reclining on a couch. Depending on your point of view it was either art or porn. Nothing was left to the imagination. The body, and it was the body that drew the eye, was of a young but mature woman. Jasmine looked at the head and had a shock. The face and hair were Petula’s.

‘That’s quite a photo,’ Angela said looking at the print from Jasmine’s side.

‘It’s not me,’ Petula said. ‘Well, it’s my head but not my body.’

‘I sort of thought that,’ Jasmine said, ‘No offence.’

‘No. I wish it was mine, but even if I was female I don’t think I’d ever have looked quite as attractive as her. Whoever’s body it is.’ Petula said with a note of regret in her voice.

‘A clever bit of photoshopping,’ Angela noted, ‘Who sent it to you?’

‘I don’t know,’ Petula said, ‘There was no letter or anything with it.’

‘Have you had any others?’ Jasmine asked.

‘Yes,’ Petula dug in her bag and drew out another three similar envelopes, ‘but that is the first one that is…uh.’

‘A blue print?’ Angela completed Petula’s sentence.

Jasmine grimaced at Angela’s pun and looked at the other envelopes. They were very similar to the latest and the writing of all the addresses looked identical. Jasmine laid the four envelopes down on a table, took the contents of each out in turn and put them on top of their respective packaging. The other three were photos of Petula standing in various forms of dress. In one she wore a respectable long skirt and top, in another she had on a miniskirt and cropped T-shirt and in the last she was in a set of seductive lingerie including a g-string, stockings and suspender belt and half-cup bra. In each, Petula’s middle-aged face surrounded by the brown curls of her wig looked out of the picture.

‘There seems to be a sequence here,’ Jasmine said.

‘That’s right,’ Petula said, ‘they’re getting more and more, um, pornographic.’

‘When did you get them?’ Jasmine asked, leaning down to examine the postmarks.

‘Weekly.  The first one arrived a month ago on the Friday and it’s been each Friday since.’

‘Hmm,’ Jasmine looked at each photograph, comparing them, trying to draw as much detail as she could from each.

‘The problem is my wife,’ Petula said. ‘I have to stop her seeing them.’

‘I can see they’re a bit embarrassing,’ Jasmine said looking at Petula who had blushed.

‘She doesn’t know about me.’

‘What! She doesn’t know you’re a transvestite?’ Angela said, louder than was necessary.

‘Cross-dresser,’ Petula said defiantly, ‘No, she doesn’t. It’s been a secret all our married life.’

‘How long’s that?’ Angela asked, her eyes wide with surprise,

‘Twenty eight years. I keep my female clothes in a suitcase in the garage. I only dress at home if she is out or I bring them with me and change here.’

Jasmine saw disbelief on Angela’s face.

‘It’s not uncommon,’ Jasmine said, ‘Plenty of the ladies here will tell you about their secret existences or of others they know.’ She pointed around the hall at the other cross-dressers.’

‘But how do you keep it secret?’ Angela asked.

‘By taking care,’ Petula said, ‘and making sure that nothing crops up in conversation that could lead anywhere awkward.’

‘So these photos are quite a problem,’ Jasmine said, ‘How have you managed to stop your wife seeing them?’

‘Well, I do tend to take business post to my study to open,’ Petula explained, ‘As it was in a brown envelope that  is what I did with the first one. When the second arrived I recognised the writing and made sure that I removed it smartly, and the same with the third and fourth.’

‘And in each photo your head has been superimposed on some other model’s body.’ Jasmine looked at the photos closely again. ‘The same model by the look of them.’

‘That’s right,’ Petula said.

‘But where did the photographer get the picture of your head. Do you recognise a photo it was taken from?’ Jasmine asked

‘No.’

‘Do you have photos of you, as Petula?’

‘A few. Mainly old prints taken by friends at evenings like this.’

‘Not digital then?’

‘No, I don’t have a digital camera.’

‘Do you have a computer?’

‘Yes.’

‘Do you have any photos of Petula stored on it?’

‘No.’

‘So this picture of your head must have been taken by someone unknown to you.’

‘I think so.’

‘Do you go out in public as Petula?’

‘Now and again, if Linda, that’s my wife, is out for the day, or away for a day or two.’

‘Hmm. So someone has snapped you while you’re out as Petula, and taken your head and merged it with this other model’s body. Why?’

‘That’s what I want to know. You’ve got to help me. I’m getting frantic that Linda will see one and ask all sorts of questions.’

‘Yes. I understand.’

‘And what is the next one going to show?’ Petula’s voice had become plaintive

‘How do you know there’ll be a next one?’ Angela asked.

‘Oh, I think there will be,’ Jasmine said, ‘The photographer is playing a lovely little game with Petula and hasn’t revealed their aim yet.’

‘Please help me,’ Petula said.

Jasmine Frame visits Butterflies

A bit late with this week’s post because I was out all day on Saturday and didn’t have time to write the second episode of the Jasmine Frame prequel, Blueprint – see below.

It’s been a busy week of marketing Painted Ladies. There was a big feature, with photos in the Hereford Times. It made page 3! Not a review, unfortunately, but a bit of exposure that might boost sales.  That led to a short interview on BBC Hereford & Worceter’s Drivetime slot which went pretty well. Painted Ladies is available as paperback and e-book from all booksellers.

Anyway, to the next bit of my serialised story about Jasmine before the Painted Ladies period

Blueprint part 2

Jasmine fitted her feet into patent black high-heeled shoes, and picked up the matching clutch bag from the bed. She checked that she had the essential lipstick, compact and hanky. The last choice was what coat to wear.  It was pretty cool out, not surprising for November and the sequinned dress was not really warm. There was only one choice really, the mid-length, fawn, fake-fur coat.

‘Are you nearly ready?’ Angela called up from downstairs.

‘Coming,’ Jasmine replied, putting the coat on then steeping out of the bedroom.  She was growing in confidence on high-heeled shoes but she took each step of the stairs with care; too often she had almost twisted an ankle by toppling. Angela met her at the bottom with her coat on and her car keys in her hand.

‘I’ll drive then, if you’re wearing those shoes,’ she said nodding at the high heels.

‘Thanks. What are we going to do about eating?’

‘There’s Susan’s sandwiches and cakes at Butterflies.’

‘Yes, I know, but I’m starving. Tom and I didn’t get any lunch.’

Angela looked thoughtful for a moment.

‘Well, let’s go into town, get a pizza or something before going out to Butterflies. It doesn’t matter if we arrive late.’

‘That’s right. Yeah, let’s go to a restaurant first, but not in Kintbridge.’

‘Still afraid of meeting some of your colleagues? They wouldn’t recognise you.’

‘No, but they might remember you. We’ve been to a enough does together for them to know who you are.’

‘Anyone seeing me with you would just assume I’m out with a friend.’

‘Yes, but if they decided to come and have a chat they may become suspicious.’

‘You’re still nervous aren’t you? Even though you’re spending most of your time as Jasmine, when you’re not at work.’

‘I suppose so. I’m still not sure what would happen if I bumped into one of the senior officers.’

‘Probably nothing at all. Mind you the chance of meeting them on a night out in Kintbridge is pretty slim.’

‘OK. Let’s give it go.’ Jasmine opened the front door and stepped into the cold night air, glad of her fur.

Angela parked her small VW in one of the city car-parks and together they walked the couple of hundred yards into the town centre. Arm in arm with Angela, Jasmine felt confident and content. It was in the queue at the restaurant that she felt nervous. A few minutes standing still in the light gave people a chance to give her more than a passing glance. They might wonder at this tall (in her heels) woman with the broad shoulders and narrow hips. In fact no-one seemed to give her a second look and in a few minutes Jasmine and Angela were seated at a table for two and giving their order to a waiter.

‘I’m glad we’ve come here first,’ Angela said, leaning forward a little so that she didn’t have to shout across the table to be heard.

‘Why?’ Jasmine replied.

‘Because we don’t get much chance to talk with Sloane keeping you going all hours of the day or night.’

‘It’s because Tom and me are new to his team. He’s trying us out, seeing what we’re good for, whether he wants to keep us.’

‘Yes, I can understand that but he is not giving much thought to your home life.’

‘I don’t suppose that ever crosses his mind. I don’t think he has one himself – always on the job.’

The waiter interrupted them to deliver two small glasses of wine. When she had moved away, it was Jasmine’s turn to lean forward.

‘What did you want to talk about, anyway?’

‘Us, actually.’

Jasmine felt a tingle of anticipation in her stomach. She was dreading having these conversations.

‘What about us?’

‘Come on Jas. Don’t go silent on me. You know what I mean. You’re out most of the day. When you get home you change into Jasmine. I hardly get to see James. I love you whoever you are but I want to know where you’re going. Where we’re going. Do you want to become Jasmine, full time?’

Jasmine sighed. It was the question she often asked herself. She sipped her wine before answering.

‘I don’t know Ange. I am comfortable when I’m Jasmine and always feel I’m playing a role when I’m James but at the moment I haven’t got time to work things out. I love being on Sloane’s team, even though he’s difficult. It’s what I’ve always wanted to do.’

‘I know that Jas.’

‘And I love you. I want to be with you.’

‘I know that too.’

‘So I really don’t know where I’m going. I’m sorry Ange.’

The pizzas arrived and they ate while chatting about less important matters. Angela seemed content to put off the difficult discussion for another day.

It wasn’t long before they were back in the car heading away from the bright town lights and out into the dark country lanes. Jasmine recalled how difficult it had been to find the village hall where Butterflies met for their first visit when they were new to the area. The hall was isolated from the village it served, but that made for a discreet and quiet venue for a transgender club. There were a dozen cars lined up as Angela pulled into the small car-park with faint sounds of the Beegees coming from the hall.

‘Sounds like the disco fans are here,’ Angela said getting out of the car.

‘Their period,’ Jasmine noted referring to the age of most of the members.

They entered the hall and found about twenty people inside.  All appeared to be women but Jasmine knew that all but one or two were either transsexuals or cross-dressers. Just four were dancing to the music while most of the rest sat at tables in conversation. At least the music wasn’t so loud that shouting was necessary in order to be heard.  They were approached by a large woman in a brunette wig and weighed down with heavy jewellery at her neck and wrists.

‘Good evening. Jasmine and Angela isn’t it?’ The woman said, smiling broadly and ushering them in.

‘That’s right,’ Jasmine said

‘I’m sorry most of the sandwiches and cakes have gone.’

‘That’s OK, Belinda. We’ve eaten.’

‘That’s alright then. We missed you last month.’

‘I was busy.’

‘It’s her work,’ Angela offered by way of explanation, ‘She’s hardly home.’

‘Oh, yes,’ Belinda nodded, ‘I understand. You’re a policeman aren’t you?’

‘A detective now,’ Angela said proudly.

‘With lots of crimes to solve?’ Belinda asked.

‘Quite a few.’ Jasmine agreed.

‘Well, get a drink and relax. I’m sure everyone will be pleased to see you both again.’

Jasmine and Angela went to the hatch where the drinks were served and collected a lemonade for Angela and another red wine for Jasmine.

‘Shall we dance, Jas?’ Angela asked.

‘I’m not sure 70s disco is our thing is it?’

‘We used to dance to anything. You loved it.’

‘I still do.’ It was what had brought them together. They met on the dance floor at the students’ union and found that their rhythm and movement merged. Each took the cue from the other so that their bodies seemed to merge into one.

Angela put her glass down on a table and took Jasmine’s hand.

‘Come on then.’

Another woman approached them. Jasmine recognised her from previous visits to Butterflies and thought she was one of the cross-dressers – a man living his fantasy for a few hours before returning to a male life somewhere. She was dressed in a short, sleeveless green dress with sparkly flesh-coloured tights, green high heeled court shoes and a light brown wig with curls that tumbled over her shoulders. She had a large handbag slung over one shoulder. Jasmine wondered if she was feeling cold as the hall wasn’t warm and her outfit seemed more suited to a summer party.

‘Hi. You’re Jasmine, aren’t you?’ she said.

‘That’s right, um, I can’t remember your name.’ Jasmine struggled with her recall.

‘It’s Petula.’

‘Oh, hi, Petula.’

‘Look, you’re a policeman aren’t you?’

‘Yes.’ Jasmine wondered if she had been right to give out that piece of information.

‘I thought so. Look, I wonder if you could help me?’

‘How?’

Petula opened her handbag and drew out an envelope.

‘I’d like you to take a look at this.’

Blueprint – Jasmine Frame before transition

It’s been a busy week since Painted Ladies was officially published on 1st September. Last night (Friday) we held a launch party where there were drinks and nibbles, readings, signings and books sold. In fact marketing took up quite a bit of the week what with interviews with our local journalist and photographs taken down by the river.  There have also been some new encouraging comments about Painted Ladies so I hope more people wil be encouraged to buy, buy, buy.

I did find time to move along a bit with Bodies by Design – the second Jasmine Frame story.  It is still going to be some time before that appears so I thought for those wanting to know more about Jasmine Frame I would provide weekly episodes of a prequel which will develop as it moves along.  The first part can be read below.

Blueprint – part 1

‘Is that you James?’

James closed the front door and called out his reply.

‘Who were you expecting Ange?’

He looked up as Angela appeared at the bend in the stairs. Her red lips were drawn into broad smile.

‘You of course. You don’t think I’d have my lover turning up now, just when you’re due home.’

James giggled.

‘No. If anyone knew how to time an affair it would be you.’

‘Thanks.’ She reached the last but one step, stopped and rested her arms horizontally on his shoulders. ‘At least you’re back when I was expecting you.  Detective Chief Inspector Sloane didn’t need his favourite detective late this evening then?’

James put his arms around Angela’s waist, lifted her up and swung her into the hallway, planting a kiss on those red lips as he did so. He lowered her until her feet touched the floor then pulled his head away.

‘I don’t think Sloane has a favourite. I’m not sure he even likes any of us. He’s just a little less grumpy when we do something right.’

‘So what did he have you doing today?’

‘Oh, interviewing some kids involved in a fight outside The Haughty Hippo last night.’

‘A punch-up?  Surely that’s not serious enough for the Violent and Serious Crimes Squad?’

‘One boy pulled a knife and threatened a few of the others.  That was enough to get the Chief Constable going. You know he’s got this campaign to combat knife crime.’

‘So Sloane’s crack team of detective was called in, were they?’

‘Just Tom Shepherd and me.’

‘I see – give the new boys something easy to prove that they won’t mess up.’

‘Sort of.’

‘Were you OK?’  A concerned expression had replaced the amusement on Angel’s face.

‘What do you mean?’

‘Well, you and knives…’

James brushed away her concern.

‘Oh yes. I only had to question the kids, not confront them.’

The smile returned to Angela’s face.

‘So it’s all wrapped up.’

‘Yeah.  The idiot with the knife will find himself with a criminal record but it was all straight forward; plenty of witnesses.’

‘Good, so we’ve got the evening together and no chance of Sloane calling you out.’

‘That’s right, unless something big kicks off.’

‘Right, well, you go upstairs and start getting ready while I wait in front of the television. We are going to Butterflies aren’t we?’

James noticed that Angela was dressed for an evening out; a red dress with patterned tights.

‘It’s that Saturday, so, yes, I suppose so.’

‘Well, go on then. It’s gone six-thirty already and it always takes you ages to get ready.’ She pushed him towards the stairs and gave his bottom a playful slap. James ran up the stairs uttering a voluntary yelp.

 

Standing in the shower with the hot water trickling down his body was a pleasure after the day with the grubby kids who’d spent twelve hours in the cells.  He shaved his face carefully and then ran a lady razor over his armpits.  Stepping out of the shower cubicle into a warm and spacious bathroom James reflected on how wonderful it was to have their own new house after years in student digs and rented flats. He knew how lucky they were to have his detective constable’s pay and Angela’s fast growing salary as an accountant to get a mortgage.  With the banks reluctant to lend and prices in Kintbridge still high, even after the crash, buying a house was a big responsibility for a couple in their mid-20s.

James sauntered into his bedroom still rubbing his backside with the towel which he dropped on the floor. He chose a pot of moisturiser from the dressing table and rubbed into his legs and arms, examining his limbs for hairs as he did so. Although blonde they grew somewhat coarsely and he sometimes felt in need of a waxing – but not now that it was winter.  He put the top back on the tub and opened a drawer, taking out a pair of large, elasticated knickers.  He pulled them up and carefully tucked his penis and testicles between his legs.  He looked in the full length mirror. He was satisfied that there was no sign of a bulge between his legs.

From another drawer he drew out a black bra, efficiently fastened it around his smooth and muscular but flat chest and tucked in the two false breasts that had lain beneath the bra. He sat on the side of the single bed and drew a pair of sheer black tights up his legs and smoothed them to remove all wrinkles. Opening the wardrobe he paused. Which dress should it be for this evening at Butterflies? There wasn’t much doubt really; it had to be the new midnight blue sequins.  He lifted it off the hanger and dropped it over his head. It fell to mid-thigh.  He looked in the mirror.  His shoulders were a bit broad and he had no waist to speak of but the shimmering sequins disguised his lack of female shape.  He was nearly there.

James sat on the stool in front of the dressing table and began his transformation.  Foundation, applied not too thickly, eyebrow pencil, eye liner and shadow, blue of course, mascara, thick and black, rouge, bright red lipstick. Finally he reached for the long blonde wig that sat on its stand.  He tugged it over his short fair hair. He was so grateful to Angela for teaching him how to apply cosmetics and choose the right wig so that the face that now stared back at him looked not like a pantomime dame, but what he really felt he was – a young woman.  Jasmine Frame looked out of the mirror.