Jasmine abroad

What is there to rant about this week? Quite a lot unfortunately, but I can’t bear to work myself into a tizz considering the agonies of the American election; the Brexit farce and the economy; war with Russia (yes, I think we are actually at war, although at the moment it is people outside Europe who are getting hurt); climate change and extinction (ours, perhaps).  I’ve been thinking about trying to be green while still living the life we want to live. That means personal transport.  Over three years ago we changed our car. I wanted one that was fuel-efficient and hence kept our carbon footprint as small as possible. Keeping within our limited budget was also, obviously, a priority. We went for a Ford Fiesta with the Econetic diesel engine. It has been super. On long journeys we have regularly achieved over 70 miles to the gallon (sorry about the old units but that’s still how I think in everyday life) and close to that on local journeys. She had plenty of power to get out of difficulties, would cruise all day (and did when we took her Germany and up to Scotland) and has been very reliable.

But, she’s a diesel. I have been dismayed by the reports over the last couple of years about the damaging emissions from diesels. Now, I know that it is old engines and commercial traffic that are the main culprits but even the diesels in small cars give out up to 10 times more NOx than petrol engines to say nothing about particulates. I feel a little bit duped that we were persuaded that diesels were the way forward. Obviously they are not.  If we lived in a big city then the answer would be public transport and belonging to a car share club giving us a choice of vehicles for whatever purpose we needed one. But living in a small town in a rural county that won’t work.  We need our own vehicle to get around locally, visit family and friends further afield, and for holidays. So what is it to be?  An electric car – too expensive and not enough range for the longer journeys; petrol hybrid – perhaps expensive to purchase; efficient petrol engine – are they good enough?

I’ll let you know later what we decide.

san-antonio

Now on to Jasmine Frame. This week I’m starting a new prequel story set in 2005, so some years before the timeframe of  the Painted Ladies and Bodies By Design novels, but after the two e-book published novellas Discovering Jasmine and Murder in Doubt. Here is the first episode of Falloff.  Let me know what you think.

Falloff: part 1

His lips brushed over the silky skin of her breast.  The softness, the curve, the smell of her, filled his mind. Angela lay motionless beneath him as he delighted in touching her body.
Her body stiffened. ‘What was that noise?’
James lifted his head. ‘What noise? My ears are still ringing from the club.’
‘So are mine, but I’m sure I heard something.’
James listened. There were the typical noises of holidaying young people who filled the Hotel Arena, the rumble of late night traffic, a distant siren, but nothing that drew his attention.
‘What did you hear?’
‘A cry and a bump.’
James pushed himself onto his knees. ‘A cry and a bump?’
‘Yes.’
‘Where?’
‘Just outside our window.’
James got off the bed and walked to the window. He pushed the thin curtain aside and stepped onto the balcony.
‘You’re naked, James.’
‘I know. It doesn’t matter. I’ll just have a quick look.’
A warm, gentle breeze caressed his skin. He looked out across the promenade with its rows of lights to San Antonio’s bay, dark but for the moonlight. He turned left and right. There was no one else on the adjacent balconies. He was about to turn back to Angela but he glanced down to the to the pool and lawn three floors below. Something pale lay on the grass. He saw arms and legs, a body. He froze, his hands gripping the rail.
‘Can you see anything?’
James sucked in air, turned away and ran back into the bedroom. In the semi-darkness, he searched for clothes. There was his dress, cast onto the floor when they returned from the club, along with his high-heeled sandals, bra and knickers, Angela’s clothes too. He scrabbled around on the chair found his bathing shorts, hopped as he pulled them up his legs.
‘What is it?’ Angela said, an anxious tone in her voice.
‘Someone. I think someone’s fallen.’  James ran from the room, down the corridor to the lift. Too impatient to wait, he pushed through the swing door to the stairs. He leapt down two, three steps at a time, till he reached the ground floor and ran across the foyer to the side doors that lead to the pool. He sprinted across the lawn till he came to the crumpled form of a girl.  She was naked but for a pair of the skimpiest knickers, her skin white, her long golden hair spread out like rays of sunshine. Her limbs made strange angles with her torso. Blood trickled from her mouth.
James knelt beside her and lowered his head to listen for breathing. There was the faintest puff of moist air on his cheek, then a whisper.
‘Car. . .’  Then no more.
Feet pounded on the ground behind him. James pushed himself up and looked around. The night manager was standing over him.
‘Qué ha pasado?’
James shrugged.
‘Quién es? Who?’
‘I don’t know her name. Ambulance, get an ambulance.’  The manager ran back towards the hotel. He passed Angela, wrapped in a beach robe running towards him. She stopped at his side and bent over the girl.
‘It’s the girl from next door,’ she said.
‘Yes, I thought so. She must have fallen. It’s three floors. I think she’s dead.’
Other people were emerging from the hotel, shouting and running towards them. They were night porters, bar staff and holidaymakers returning from the all-night clubs and bars. They saw an attraction and gathered around. Some pressed close to the girl, reaching down to move her.
James extended his arms to protect her. ‘No, don’t. Her back may be broken.’  The gawkers froze, eyes wide and staring, forming an impenetrable circle. James leaned down again but could detect no hint of breathing.
It was just a few minutes but felt like an eternity before sirens approached and then the growing crowd was pushed aside and men and women in uniforms were there. James found it difficult to take his eyes off the dead girl but someone took James’ arm and pulled him away.
‘Policía. Come please.’
James looked at the young man in the short-sleeved uniform of the Spanish police.
‘You know this girl?’ he asked.
James shook his head, ‘No, I mean I don’t know who she is but I think we were on the same package.’
‘Package?’
‘The same holiday. She was in the room next to us.’
‘Why you here?’
‘We, my wife heard her fall, I think. I looked over the balcony and saw her on the ground.’
‘Ah. What is your name?’  He took out a notepad and noted James’s and Angela’s names and room number.
James found himself standing next to Angela a little way from the activity around the body. The crowd had been urged back but still they looked on. The ambulance crew did not appear to be doing much. James presumed that his fears for the girl’s life were accurate.  Minute by minute more police officers arrived.
A man in a pale beige suit, with a cigarette hanging out of the corner of his mouth approached them. James thought he looked about forty with his lined face and small moustache.
The policeman removed the cigarette from his mouth. ‘Seňor Frame?’  James nodded.  ‘I am Inspector Alvarez. You discovered the body?’
James noted that he spoke English with little trace of accent. ‘Well yes, I was the first person here.’
‘You heard her fall, I’m told.’
Angela spoke, ‘I heard a cry and then a faint thud.’
Alvarez nodded. ‘That was all?’
‘I think so,’ Angela said, ‘I wasn’t listening. We were in bed.’
‘Ah, I see. In bed but not asleep. You, seňor, heard nothing?’
James shook his head. ‘I don’t think so. Nothing particular.’
‘But you got out of bed to have a look?’
‘That’s right.’
‘Did you see anyone apart from the body. Someone on the balcony perhaps?’
‘No. I didn’t see anyone anywhere except the girl on the ground.’
‘You knew it was the girl?’
‘No, I wasn’t even certain it was a person. I didn’t see who it was until I got down here.’
‘You recognised her?’
‘I recognised her as a girl I’d seen before but I don’t, er, didn’t know who she was.’
‘Where had you seen her before?’
‘At the airport, Luton; on the plane, on the bus from the airport to here. In the hotel oh, and at the club last night.’
‘Which club?’
‘El Danza.’
‘You saw her a lot, but you still don’t know who she was.’
‘We’re with the same tour operator I suppose. She was with a group of other people, Angela and I were separate. We’re on our honeymoon.
Alvarez smiled. ‘Ah, honeymoon on Ibiza. Very romantic. That’s why you are in bed but not asleep. So, you don’t know why this girl should be on the ground dead?’
James shook his head, ‘I suppose she fell.’
The detective nodded. ‘It looks like that. An accident perhaps. Too much alcohol, the girl unsteady on her pretty feet, tips over the balcony. Or perhaps she jumped.’
‘Suicide!’
Inspector Alvarez shrugged, ‘When these girls are on holiday, they are unsuccessful in love, full of emotion and drink so end their lives.’
James thought it was a rather abrupt conclusion to make.
‘You are here for a while, on your honeymoon Seňor and Seňora Frame?’
‘Just a week? We fly home next Sunday,’ James said.
‘I know where to find you. Perhaps I will have to speak to you again. Enjoy the rest of your stay on Ibiza.’  The police officer turned away from them and walked slowly back to where the body lay.
Angela took James’ hand. ‘Come on, let’s go back to our room. There’s nothing more you can do.’
‘I’m not sure I feel like sleep, or anything else,’ James said as they walked back to the hotel.
Angela tugged on his arm drawing him close to her. ‘I’d just like to feel your arms around me, holding me safe.’
…….to be continued.

Jasmine ejected

wp_20160902_10_44_30_proI had a lovely time last weekend at NAWGfest16. Warwick University was, as usual, a building site (will it ever stop growing?) but the bedrooms, the food  and the conference venues were all pretty satisfactory.  That is, except for the Rootes building where the meals, including the conference dinner, were held. It has just about the worst acoustics of any building I know. The noise from conversations builds up until you can barely hear the person next to you speaking.  But enough of grumbles. The best thing was winning  a trophy – yes, me; for writing. My entry in the Minitale competition was judeged “Best Tale”! Now, I know the other awards are for longer, more developed pieces and the winners probably deserve more congratulation, but the Minitale is a bit special as it is judged on the day of the awards and entries can be made up till 2:30 on the Saturday afternoon. Oh, and entries are made under a pseudonym (I won’t tell you mine in case I want to use it again, not that it was particularly original).  Writing a minitale is not a complete doddle as it has to be exactly 100 words long and needs to be a complete story, not just a scene. I don’t know how many were entered but it’s usually 30 or so and there were 4 in the shortlist. Here is my winning piece.

Foreign Aid

     The children pressed around him. “Tell us about when the aliens came, Grandad.”
     He sighed and settled in his old chair. Few were left that recalled the event.
    “Listen,” he said. “Their great spaceships landed across the world. The aliens spoke to every one of us. ‘Let us give you solutions to your problems,’ they said, ‘Food, energy, medicines, repair the climate; a better future for everyone.’ But the people replied, ‘We don’t want orange strangers among us. We want independence.’ The aliens departed not wanting to impose their assistance.”
     A small girl whispered. “Is that when the dying began?”

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There, you may not think much of it but I’m proud of my win.  I also won a prize in the draw as well so it was a profitable weekend.  The workshops and the talks were enlightening and the company very accepting and pleasant.
For those of you who might want to join us next year,  NAWG is the National Association of Writers’ Groups to which you can belong as a member of a participating writers’ group or as an individual, “associate”, member (which I am).  You can find out more at http://www.nawg.co.uk/

One thing I didn’t do at NAWGfest was resolve what to do with the 3rd Jasmine Frame novel. Trawling agents was one suggestion but many of the writers are into self-publishing (often with more marketing success than me) so that remains a popular and likely option. Anyway, for now, here is the next part of the prequel to Painted Ladies and Bodies By Design.

Perspective: Part 6

‘That pair probably weren’t my friends,’ Jasmine said, ‘but perhaps you could describe them.’
The look the barman gave Jasmine made her wonder if she’d aroused his suspicions. ‘How do you know you’d recognise your mates when they’re done up in drag?’
‘Well. . .’ she began trying to think of an explanation. At the edge of her vision she saw the entrance door open and a familiar figure enter. The woman strode to the bar brandishing a card holder.
‘I’d like to see the proprietor or the manager, please,’ DS Denise Palmerston said in a voice that demanded obedience.
The barman turned from Jasmine. ‘That’ll be me. Can I finish serving this customer first?’
Jasmine saw Palmerston glance at her, then take a long, second look.
‘Frame! What are you doing here?’
Jasmine pointed to the two glasses sitting on the bar as yet unpaid for. ‘Having a drink with Angela,’ she said.
The DS’s eyes narrowed and her complexion appeared pink even in the dim light in front of the bar.
‘I said, what are you doing here?
‘It’s an LGBT friendly establishment. I feel safe here.’ Jasmine tried the explanation knowing that she wasn’t going to fool Palmerston.
‘You know these premises are implicated in a serious crime. You are suspended, therefore you have no business in going near this or any other place connected to the incident.’
‘I was just . . .’
‘Get out now or I will arrest you for interfering in a police investigation.’ Palmerston ended on a high pitched shriek.
Angela appeared at Jasmine’s side.
‘What’s happening, Jas?’
‘DS Palmerston is insisting that we leave, Ange. I think we should be allowed to enjoy our drink together.’
‘I won’t give you another warning, DC Frame,’ Palmerston said, ‘If you ever want to work as a police officer again, you’d better do as I say, now.’
‘Come on, Jas,’ Angela took Jasmine’s arm and dragged her towards the door, ‘You don’t want any trouble.’
‘Hey, what about paying for these drinks,’ the barman called.
‘Speak to her,’ Jasmine nodded towards the Detective Sergeant as Angela pushed her through the swing door.
The cold air was a shock. Jasmine shivered and pulled on her jacket. A tall figure was standing by the entrance. He saw her at the same moment as she noticed him.
‘Jas! What are you doing here?’
‘Palmerston’s just asked me that, Tom.’
‘Well?’
‘I could say that Angela and I came for a drink to cheer me up after my suspension.’
‘But that wouldn’t be the full story would it?’
Jasmine shrugged, ‘Well, I did think I might find out something about the two queens who allegedly attacked Wizzer.’
‘The two drag queens that CCTV picked up walking down Dock Lane at one-oh-ten, last night.’
‘You went through the footage then.’ That should have been her job not that it was one that she wanted. ‘Why is Palmerston dishing out orders inside then?’
‘The picture quality is so poor there’s no chance of getting an identification. Palmerston thinks that as they almost certainly came from here, there may be CCTV from inside which is better. We need to find out who those guys were.’
Jasmine frowned. ‘Hopkins and Kingston were here earlier. Didn’t they ask for the CCTV discs?’
‘No, but it wasn’t till your friend Nate mentioned the two drag queens that we knew who we were looking for.’
‘So you’re accepting his story about him and Wizzer being attacked by two guys in high heels?’
‘Why not? He and the dead boy are the victims. Palmerston believes his statement.’
Angela tugged on Jasmine’s arm. ‘We’d better go otherwise you’ll get Tom into trouble.’  Jasmine allowed herself to pulled away.
‘I won’t let that woman push me out,’ Jasmine cried into the November drizzle.
‘Don’t annoy her then, Jas,’ Tom replied.
Angela and Jasmine returned to the car.
‘Well!’ Angela said, gripping the steering wheel, ‘that was a pleasant chat, not. Where now, ace detective? Any other crime scenes to drop in on.’
Jasmine slumped. ‘If I can’t trace those queens, there’s nothing I can do. Mind you Palmerston is going to have fun even if there is footage of the two leaving the pub. With all the queens there last night, effectively in disguise, picking them out let alone identifying them will be difficult.’
‘Kintbridge is a small town, Jas. Surely most of the gay men know each other.’
‘Perhaps.’ Jasmine didn’t want Palmerston to succeed; she burned with hate at the woman who was denying her the right to do her job, but she knew that it was only a matter of time before the two queens would be sitting in an interview room.
Angela tried to soothe her.  ‘Well, I’m still thirsty. Let’s go home and have a drink,’
‘Home? I haven’t got anything.’
‘Sorry, I meant my home.’
Jasmine was surprised by a tear forming in her eye. ‘Our home.’
‘I’m sorry, Jas. I didn’t mean to upset you.’
Jasmine wiped the tear away. ‘I shouldn’t be. It’s all yours now, or will be very soon. It’s not ours anymore.’
‘I shouldn’t have suggested it. Where else can we go? Another pub?’
‘No, your place will be fine,’ Jasmine said, making an attempt to smile, ‘I’ve got to get used to us not being a couple, your house not being my home. It was because of me that we split up.’
Angela started the engine and drove away from the car park. A few minutes later they pulled up in the familiar driveway. With its lights on the house looked cosy and inviting. Jasmine got out and stood by the front door for Angela to unlock the front door.  Jasmine followed her into the hallway and stepped into the lounge. The warmth was like a comfortable cardigan. This had been home. Jasmine sat down in her accustomed place on the sofa.
‘White wine? I don’t think I have soda,’ Angela called from the kitchen.
‘That’s fine.’
Jasmine undid the zips of her boots and tugged them off. She tucked her legs up onto the sofa as Angela came into the room.
‘You’re not going to be able to drive me home after knocking that back,’ Jasmine said eyeing the two large glasses in Angela’s hands.
‘That’s OK. You could stay the night,’ Angela said, and added, ‘Don’t worry, it won’t jeopardise our quickie divorce if we sleep in separate rooms. The spare bed is made up.’
Jasmine didn’t want to offer any more arguments. She took the glass that Angela held out to her and swallowed a large mouthful of dry, white wine.
‘So the case,’ Angela said settling down beside Jasmine, ‘I get the feeling that you have doubts about the guilt of these two drag queens that Denise is chasing.’
……………… to be continued

Jasmine dejected

A couple of times this week I have been asked if I mind strangers staring at me or people who know me using my male name. As I am spending the weekend in the company of writers, many who I have known for a few years and who know that I am trans, it is an apt question. I presume that unless one is an attention-seeking extrovert then having someone look you up and down, wondering what you are, is not particularly welcome. It is something however, that I have to expect, especially since I gave up the disguise that a wig offers. I know that anyone who takes a second look at me will question my gender and perhaps conclude that my physical attributes don’t quite go with the skirt or dress, the dangly ear-rings and the lipstick. The problem is that people still have expectations about gender; stereotypes still rule.

Despite all the recent publicity for transsexuals (do I need to name them yet again?) I am sure most transwomen and men still wish to be in “stealth mode”  i.e. their past lives kept secret with no suspicions about their gender. Why go through all the pain and bother of building a new identity if you are out as a trans person? The point is I am not TS and am not living full-time as a woman so being trans is part of my everyday life.. To be blunt I am getting close to not caring what gender people see me as. I am happy if they accept me as me – someone who loves wearing clothes that were designed for female bodies, dramatic ear-rings, make up and varnished nails. By dispensing with the wig and having my own hair styled in a feminine manner, I have made a bit of stand, but anomalies remain. I wear a bra and enhancers though I have no breasts (not even man-boobs). My bust is a lie and yet it gives me satisfaction. I use a feminine name when I am “dressed” to boost my feminine credentials. Why? Because I still retain the binary stereotype in my psyche even when I am proclaiming myself as a non-binary, unique individual. I suppose being human is all about the fantasy picture one builds of oneself and it is difficult to see yourself as others perceive you. That is a reason why I appreciate having a partner who will give me an opinion about my appearance and stop me making too much of a fool of myself.

Painted Ladies front cover jpeg

I have said this before – Jasmine Frame is not me. I have however used my experiences and knowledge of transgenderism to build her personality and the situations she finds herself in. She is most definitely transsexual, at least she is by the time of the novels Painted Ladies and Bodies By Design, and is determined to achieve a state of womanhood that requires not just hormone treatment but surgery. The stories explore her experiences but I hope I have made and am making the plots interesting in their own right.  Here is part 5 of Perspective:

Perspective – Part 5

‘Off to chase more kids?’ “GG” Gorman called out as Jasmine passed the desk. She didn’t answer afraid that her voice might crack. She pushed the door open and descended the steps to the car park with tears forming in her eyes. It wasn’t the cold that caused them.
She got into the old red Fiesta and sat gripping the steering wheel. What was she going to do without the job to fill her days, and nights? Being a detective was the one thing that took her mind off all the problems of transitioning. At last, she turned the key in the ignition and felt a little grateful that the engine churned into a semblance of life.  She drove home paying little attention to the traffic.
The flat was cold. She couldn’t afford to leave the heating on while she was at work, but she put it on now, made a cup of black instant coffee and sat on her threadbare sofa with her coat on, cradling the hot mug.

She didn’t know how long she sat there, occasionally taking a sip of the drink, but when her mobile phone gave out its familiar piped ringtone, the mug had become luke-warm in her hands. She put the mug down and scrabbled in her bag. The small screen of the phone announced that it was Angela.  She imagined her soon to be ex-wife holding one of those shiny new smart phones.
‘Hi, Ange,’ she said, trying to sound cheerful.
‘Hello, Jas. I hoped I’d catch you on a Saturday afternoon. You’re not at work are you?’
‘I should be but I’m not.’
‘Oh. You’re not ill are you Jas? You don’t sound right.’  Jasmine wasn’t surprised by Angela’s concern. They’d been looking out for each other for ten years now.
‘No. I’m not ill, just fed up. I’ve been suspended.’
‘What! Why?’
Jasmine explained the events and consequence of the previous night and day. ‘Palmerston wants rid of me Ange, and Sloane’s going along with her,’ she ended.
‘And you’re going to let them push you out? That’s not like you Jas.’
Jasmine smiled. Angela had always encouraged and supported her even when she came to realise that it would mean the end of their marriage, the end of their relationship.
‘I’m not sure I can go on being put down, given the mundane jobs, having my femininity doubted.’
‘You have the right to transition, Jas. You are a woman, even though you haven’t had the, er, alterations yet. You’re a good detective. Sloane knows that.’
‘Palmerston has soured him. He never was comfortable with me changing. I think now he’s looking for any opportunity to avoid having to see me every day. Suspending me is a start.’
‘You can’t give in just like that.’
‘What can I do, Ange?’
‘What you always do, Jas. Stick at it.’
‘Stick at what?’
‘The job, the investigation, being a woman, being yourself.’
‘Hmm.’
‘Look, you said the suspects are two drag queens and the Horse and Barge ran a gay night last night.’
‘It’s an LGBT friendly pub, Ange.’
‘Well, why don’t we give it a look over this evening, Jas.’
‘We?’
‘Yes, you and me.  I’ve been busy too and could do with a bit of a social life. You need cheering up. Oh, and we need to meet up.’
‘Why?’
‘Because I’ve got a few bits of post for you and you’ve got those documents. You have signed them, haven’t you?’
Jasmine glanced at the pile of large envelopes on the dining table. They contained divorce papers and forms for handing over the house and mortgage to Angela.  They were untouched.
‘Uh, yes, of course.’
‘Right, well I’ll pick you up at nine. We’ll swap post and the I’ll run us into town. We can have a couple of drinks at the Horse and Barge and you can have a snoop around for any clues to the identity of those queens.’
‘Hmm. Okay.’ Jasmine wasn’t convinced but the opportunity for an evening with Angela was too good to pass over.
‘Right. Nine it is then.’ The call clicked off. Jasmine sat staring at the phone. What could she possibly find at the pub. Denise Palmerston and the team would be there now questioning the staff. They had probably already identified the two queens.  She looked again at the heap of formal letters. Perhaps she had better deal with them before Angela arrived expecting them completed.

Jasmine added her signature to the final sheet of paper and put the pen down. Her scribble hadn’t changed even though her name had but putting her mark on these documents was the final sign of the end of her former life with Angela.  In a few months the divorce would come through, and very soon Angela would be the sole owner of the house they had bought together. Angela could afford it now that her business career was advancing at speed. Jasmine wondered what sort of career future she had. Not much by the way things were going and yet she had all the expenses of her transition to come unless she relied on the NHS for everything, in which case it would be years before she became the complete woman she dreamed of being.
She put the documents ready to hand to Angela and then went to the kitchen to find something to eat. There was some pasta and some pesto and that was about it. It would have to do. After eating she considered what to wear as she was going out with Angela. They were going to a supposedly safe and welcoming venue so she decided to be as feminine as she could. She went to her bedroom and stripped off her sensible work suit. She dug out a short sleeved, fluffy jumper which had shrunk a little in the wash. It clung to the enhanced curves of her breasts and ended just below her ribs. No matter, she was proud of her flat stomach even if she didn’t have a waist to crow about. She decided that despite being November she would not wear tights, but pulled on a multi-coloured mini skirt that revealed her thighs. From the back of her wardrobe she dug out the knee-high boots with the three inch heels and tugged them on her legs.
She looked in the mirror. Tarty yes, but she felt feminine. Long hair wasn’t really possible for a police officer so she still had a fairly short blonde bob. She brushed it up and back combed it to give it a little more volume. Some colour to her eyes and cheeks and a bright red lipstick completed her look. Now she just had to wait for Angela to arrive in a couple of hours’ time.  Her little-used portable TV provided some entertainment.

It was ten minutes to nine when the doorbell rang. Jasmine glanced at her watch to check and smiled. Angela was always on time. She opened the door.  Angela looked her up and down, raising her eyebrows.
Jasmine responded, ‘Yes, I know, it’s probably not an appropriate look, but I feel like making a statement.’
‘And what statement is that?’ Angela asked, smiling as if she already knew the answer.
‘That I’m a girl.’
‘I’m not sure it will say that when you’re in a gay pub, but if you’re happy. . . Here’s your post.’ Angela handed over a slim pile of letters. Jasmine glanced at them noting that most of them were probably junk mail. She dropped them onto the table and picked up the thicker heap of documents.
‘Here’s the stuff you needed. All signed.’
Angela took the envelopes into her arms. There was a sad look on her face. ‘I know what it means, Jas, but it is what you want, isn’t it?’
No, she didn’t want to lose the one woman she had loved, and she didn’t want to lose the comfortable life they had had together, but all this was necessary if she was to be the woman that she wanted to be in law.
Jasmine nodded. ‘Come on, let’s have some fun.’ She picked up her bomber jacket and bag and stepped outside the door.

The main bar of the Horse and Barge was dimly lit and almost empty, but it was warm after the cold, and damp of night-time Kintbridge. Jasmine shucked off her jacket and held it over her arm as she and Angela approached the bar.
The round-faced barman smiled and said in a sing-song voice, ‘Hello ladies, what’s it going to be tonight?’
Jasmine didn’t have to ask Angela. She knew their favourite drink from many nights out together, particularly early in their relationship.
‘Two white wine spritzers please, with soda.’
The barman turned away to make the drinks.
‘I’ll get them,’ Angela said.
‘No, I can still afford a drink even if I’m suspended. You go and take a seat.’
Angela shrugged and walked off.  The barman returned with two large glasses half-filled with white wine. He held the soda dispenser above the glasses and squirted the fizzy liquid into each glass.
‘You’re a bit early for the entertainment,’ he said. ‘We’ve got a live band on at ten. A punk lesbian outfit. Should be a laugh.’
‘Oh, I thought it was a drag queen evening,’ Jasmine said innocently.
‘That was last night.’ The barman peered at Jasmine, ‘You don’t look as if you’re that type?’          Jasmine smiled. Was that a compliment? He didn’t think that she looked like a gay bloke dressed as a parody of femininity? What did he think she was? Probably not a real girl but TS or TV? It didn’t matter really, not tonight.
‘No, but I was expecting to meet a couple who are,’ she replied.
‘Well, there’s always a few in. Perhaps your friends will arrive later when things warm up.’
‘Were there many queens in last night?’
The bar man chuckled. ‘’Were there many? The place was heaving with them. It’s quite a joke actually because I had the police in here earlier asking me to describe two of them.’
‘Two?’
‘The cops said that two queens were involved in a bit of argy-bargy along at the car park.’
‘Were you able to help them?’
‘Nah. You couldn’t see anything here last night for stiletto heels, false tits and beehive wigs. I told the pigs I didn’t have an inkling which pair they were after.’
Jasmine didn’t like being referred to as a pig but wasn’t about to give herself away
‘You didn’t help them much.’
‘I can remember the days when they’d raid a place like this packed full of gays and lezzers and guys in bras and suspenders. I give them as little as I can get away with.’
Jasmine dropped her voice to a conspiratorial whisper. ‘Do you know who the police were interested in?’
The barman leaned forward. ‘Well, I can’t be certain, but I went outside for a breath of fresh soon after one and two of the guys came out and staggered off down Dock Lane. All the rest were still having fun when we chucked out at three.’
…………….to be continued

Jasmine on the case

I don’t usually comment on sport in this blog. After all, sport is not important in the great issues that face us is it? Well I think it is, actually, since for many of us sport of one sort or another is our main form of entertainment – watching that is, not doing it. I think a lot of our attitudes, to say nothing about economics and politics, is influenced by sport. This piece isn’t about the Olympics but a cricket match. I’ve enjoyed cricket since I was a kid and I still try to get to one match each season. Last night I went to a county T20 match.  For those of you who aren’t cricket followers, that is the short (very short) form of the game where each side gets 20 overs (that’s about 80 minutes) batting each. It means that a match can be wrapped up in under three hours which is fine for the busy working men and women of today and the TV spectators.

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Flamethrowers at cricket

With so few balls to face (120 in total), the batting side can’t patiently build a score waiting for the loose balls to hit, they have to go for the runs from the start, taking risks. It can be exciting if simplistic, losing the subtleties and skills of the longer forms of the game. That’s okay. The excitement of 20:20 is like the sugar rush from sucking a toffee (no, it’s not as long-lasting as that, more like a fruit pastille) compared to the three, or more courses, of a restaurant dinner that is a test match. It’s a bit of entertainment and in today’s world not many can or want to sit around for a four-day county match or a five-day test match. What annoys me is how the presentation of the 20 over matches has infantilised the game. There are the extra rules to make the game even more “exciting” – the free ball following a no-ball in which the batsman can’t be given out and the “scatterplay” or whatever it was called, where for an over all the fielders had to stand on the boundary. Why? Neither rule seemed to provide any incentive to the batsmen or the bowlers.  Then there’s the razzamatazz: the loud music from the speakers arranged around the boundary, between every over (6 balls) and wickets, the flame throwers (vertical, I’m relieved to say, although a pigeon or two may have got singed) every time a 4 or 6 was scored, together with fireworks for a  wicket. All thoroughly pointless. If the game is not exciting enough of itself then it is no point being played.

There was a good crowd, largely wanting to see the home side do well (they didn’t), and quite a few children who enjoyed the pyrotechnics  and bashing each other with blow-up cricket bats but watched hardly a ball bowled. This was a sport struggling to make itself appealing to a mass audience and in so doing rubbishing the skills developed by the players over many years of practice. It was a sport desperately trying to attract fans’ money with an Emperor’s new clothes display. What will they do in a few years time when the crowds grow bored with the familiarity of the noise and the effects and the simplistic game?

There, that’s enough of that. Next week – Trans at the Olympics.

 

To more vital matters – here’s the second part of Perspective, the Jasmine Frame prequel to Painted Ladies and Bodies By Design.

Perspective: Part 2

                 There was a different feel to the Violent and Serious Crime Unit’s office when Jasmine arrived for her shift mid-morning next day. There was an urgency and air of expectation that she had not experienced for some time. Detective Constables Hopkins and Kingston were deep in animated conversation and DS Palmerston was with DCI Sloane in his office discussing something urgently. Whatever was causing the buzz of excitement it wasn’t a mundane case of fraud or cybercrime. The feeling was infectious and even she felt eager to know what it was all about. She sat at her desk and fired up her computer then turned to Tom Shepherd whose eyes were fixed on his own screen.

‘What’s up, Tom?’

DC Shepherd looked up. ‘Oh, hi, er, Jas. We’ve got a killing, a young boy. You’re just on time for Sloane’s briefing. Look, here he is.’

Jasmine shifted in her seat and saw DCI Sloane marching from his office to the white board that stretched along one wall of the office. Denise Palmerston followed urging the other officers to pay attention with a peremptory wave of her hand.

Jasmine stood up and edged forward with Tom at her side. Terry Hopkins leaned against his desk at the front with his younger coloured partner Derek Kingston by his side.

Sloane looked around the silent quartet checking that he had their full attention.

‘Good morning,’ he said in his deep voice, ‘As you know a body was discovered in the Riverside car park early this morning. It was a young male. He had a knife wound in his chest. Pathology says death occurred between midnight and about 2 a.m. and the fatal wound followed a struggle.  There are bruises on the victim’s arms as if he was gripped firmly. The wound is not a clean thrust but the blade has been dragged through the flesh and undergone a number of thrusts before piercing the heart. Pictures, Palmerston, please.’

The DS fixed three of the large prints she had been holding to the whiteboard. The first showed the complete clothed body almost curled up, with a blood stain covering the abdomen and spreading onto the tarmac and white line of the car park. The boy was dressed in jeans and a hooded top.  The second photograph was a close up of his face after he had been turned over onto his back. The third showed the bruises on his wrists.

‘Obviously the first task is to identify the victim,’ Sloane continued. ‘There was no i.d. on the body and no-one has yet contacted us about a missing person. We also have to ask what a young man of fourteen or fifteen was doing in the car park at that time and of course who his attackers were and their motive.’

Tom raised a hand.

‘Yes, Shepherd?’ Sloane said.

‘Where exactly in the car park was he found. It covers quite an area.’

‘That’s true Shepherd. DC Hopkins, you were the duty officer called to the scene. Tell us what you saw.’

The middle-aged detective slouched against a desk suddenly came alert and stood up.

‘Uh, yes sir. The call was made about 6:15 by a . . .’ he looked down at his notebook, ‘Steve Brown. He’s a street cleaner. He was doing his Saturday morning round and came across the body in the area by the public toilets.’

Sloane nodded. ‘Thank you Hopkins. Any comments Shepherd?’

Jasmine saw Tom give a start as if he wasn’t prepared to be put on the spot. ‘Um, no Sir.’

Jasmine spoke up. ‘There’s a taxi rank alongside the car park, Sir.  If the attack took place at the time you said, some of the pubs and clubs are still open then and there may have been a taxi or two there.’

‘Good point, Frame,’ Sloane said although he didn’t look directly at her. DS Palmerston glared at Jasmine. She thinks I should keep my mouth closed, Jasmine thought.

‘We will of course be interviewing all taxi drivers that use that waiting area,’ Palmerston said.

‘Of course,’ Sloane added. ‘And you are correct Frame, that at the time of this boy’s death there may have been witnesses from the various entertainment venues. What was the weather like at that time?’

‘Cold with a drizzle of icy rain,’ Hopkins replied and Jasmine nodded in agreement remembering her encounter at midnight.

‘Not the sort of weather in which you would expect members of the public to be standing around,’ Sloane said.

‘Unless they were waiting for a taxi, Sir,’ Derek Kingston added.

‘True. So we need to make an appeal for witnesses. Palmerston, you contact the media. We don’t have the murder weapon as yet. Shepherd, you get down there and accompany SOCO searching the environs.  According to the pathologist we looking for a short knife, the blade no more than three inches long and half an inch or so wide; a kitchen knife most likely. Hopkins and Kingston, you start asking questions in the pubs and clubs that were open at that time.’

There was a pause. Jasmine was on edge. What was her task going to be?

‘And me, Sir?’ she said, eager for a part to play.

‘You can be looking for CCTV footage,’ DS Palmerston said. ‘There must be cameras near the spot.’

Jasmine groaned and sagged. Not again. Would she ever get out of the office to do some real detecting? It was always her that was given the important but sedentary tasks because the female DS didn’t want her seen by the public.

Sloane pulled himself to his full height. ‘Right get down to work. We’ll have another meeting at four and I want some results by then. I’ll consider calling in the rest of the team to assist.’

The other officers scattered leaving Jasmine peering at the whiteboard. Something Sloane had said had made her think.  The description of the knife used to kill the boy reminded her of the weapon she had been threatened with. She could see it waving in front of her face, shining in the streetlights. She took a few paces closer to the board and examined the photos of the victim closely. Could he possibly be the youth that had brandished the knife at her? What did his mate call him? Wizzer or Wizz? It had been so dark last night that she hadn’t taken in his appearance but the clothes the victim was wearing could easily be the same as her attacker and they had similar height and build.

A shiver passed through her. If the mugger and the victim were the same youth, then he was dead less than two hours after mugging her for a few quid. How did he come to be stabbed by his own knife? Where was his accomplice? She had important information pertaining to the investigation but she hadn’t reported the incident. Guilt flooded her. If she had called in after the thieves had left her there may have been a police presence in the town centre which would have prevented the boy’s death. She shook herself. It was no point going down that path. She had to tell someone, Sloane or Palmerston what she knew and what had happened to her. Now though, it wasn’t the embarrassment of being mugged that troubled her but the telling off she would get for not putting a report in.

The office was deserted. All the team, including Sloane were going about their business elsewhere. Jasmine returned to her desk. She might as well start collecting the video evidence while she waited for Sloane or Palmerston to return.

She had only got as far as making contact with the CCTV control centre when the internal phone rang.

‘DC Frame,’ she announced when she picked up the receiver.

‘Oh, it’s you,’ the voice of desk sergeant GG Gorman said. ‘Is the DCI or DS there?’

‘No, they’re not. It’ll have to be me, Sergeant, if you’ve got a message.’

‘Hmm, well, I’ve got a lad down here who says he knows something about last night’s, er, incident in the car park. Says he heard about it on the radio.’

‘OK, thanks. I’ll come and speak to him. How old would you say he is?’

‘A teen, fourteen or so. Scruffy kid in a hoodie and jeans.’  Just like the victim. Could it be Wizzer’s partner?  Jasmine put down the phone and ran from the office and down the flights of stairs to the entrance.

She stepped through the locked door and saw the lad sitting in the public area. He looked up and saw her. He frowned. Jasmine approached him.

‘Hello. I understand you’ve some information about the incident near the toilets in the Riverside carpark?’ As she spoke she saw his eyes widen.

‘I know you,’ he said, ‘You’re that tranny.’

My voice, again, she thought. ‘I think we met last night,’ she said. There was a millisecond pause, then the boy turned and ran.

…………..to be continued.

Jasmine at Pride

Pride2016A4_300dpi_CMYK_5mmBleedToday i.e. Saturday 30th July, is quite a special day. It’s the first time I have been involved with, attended, had anything to do with a Pride event. Today is the first (for a number of years) Herefordshire Pride at the Booth Hall in Hereford from 2 p.m. till late (?!). There will be info stalls (till 5 p.m.), displays, performers, music, comedy, food and drink and, we hope, lots and lots of people, so come along and have a look round.

While the focus is on LGBT, the event celebrates all forms of diversity.  Basically the message is – Be Yourself. If this event is a success then next year will be even bigger and perhaps there will even be a pride parade.

While I did once, a long time ago, take part in a carnival as Penny, this is my first time at a Pride event and I’m looking forward to it. I’ll be wearing two hats. With the first I’ll be supporting the West Mercia Police campaign to improve reporting of hatecrime.  The second hat is as P R Ellis, the author of the Jasmine Frame books. I’ll have paperback copies of Painted Ladies and Bodies By Design available at special prices and, as a special promotion for just two days, there will be offers on the e-book versions of Bodies By Design and the novella Murder In Doubt. Visit Amazon

Post-referendum there have been lots of anecdotal reports of abuse of people perceived to be non-British.  This has been aimed at people born in EU countries and elsewhere, many who have lived here for decades,  and second or third generation citizens of the UK. At Pride and beyond we want to tell all these people that they are still welcome  and we value the work they do and the culture they share with us. They should be confident about feeling safe but report any cases of abuse of any sort.

I hope there will be lots of trans people at Pride, from all points on the gender spectrum. We’ve had a lot of prominence in the media in the last year or so (yet another article in last week’s Observer) but there is still misunderstanding and indeed prejudice and not just from the expected quarters. We’ve got to show that trans people are not necessarily transsexuals (living fulltime in the gender they identify with) nor drag queens (often gay men who dress as a parody of women). There are many of us who simply like presenting as the feminine aspect of ourselves or reject being labelled with a gender.

Finally, to keep your hunger for Jasmine Frame stories whetted, here is another short excerpt from the as yet unpublished third novel, The Brides’ Club Murder. This is where Jasmine appears for the first time.

The Brides’ Club Murder

Chapter 4

Hello, Jasmine. How are you today?’ Katie Kershaw beckoned Jasmine into the treatment room.  Slow, tinkle-tinkle music played at a low volume.

                Jasmine was unsure how to answer and just mumbled ‘Fine, thanks.’  On the one hand she looked forward to these fortnightly appointments with Katie, her electrolygist, as each one took her that tiny step towards ending the daily, sometimes twice daily, chore of shaving. Eventually she would have the soft-skinned face of a woman, but that was a long way off.  She had many, many more of these dates with the electrolysis needle before that goal was reached and that gave the reason why she dreaded them. She had to prepare by leaving part of her face unshaved for two days before and a day after the treatment. Anyone looking at her at all closely could see that she grew a beard and would think she was an imposter, a man dressed as a woman. Not even make-up could be used to cover up the hairs as that would interfere with the treatment. There was also the small matter of the pain.

                ‘Come in. Let’s get you calm and settled,’ Katie said as warm and welcoming as she always was. Her own immaculate complexion and short black hair belied her forty-four years. Jasmine often wondered at her cheerful manner despite a messy divorce and having to bring up two teenagers on her own.

                Jasmine took off her red duffle coat, loosely folded it and dropped it on the floor on top of her shoulder bag.  She sat on a chair beside the door and took her boots off.  Meanwhile Katie busied herself at her trolley of equipment.

                Katie turned around and saw that Jasmine was ready. ‘Come and lie on the couch, Jasmine. Let’s see how we’re doing.’

                Jasmine crossed the small room to the high massage couch and climbed on.  She rested her head on the slightly tilted end of the table. Katie directed two diffuse but bright lamps at her face and bent down to examine her.

                ‘So, have you been busy, Jasmine?’ Katie said as she peered closely at Jasmine’s left cheek.

                ‘The usual. A couple of benefit fraud cases and a woman wanting her husband checked up on. Nothing interesting but it pays the bills.’ In actual fact Jasmine was bored silly with endless surveillance and longed for something more stimulating and difficult like the cases she had tackled in the police force. Paying the bills was however a necessity and the fortnightly electrolysis sessions didn’t help her bank balance.

                ‘Hmm. The area we did last time looks fine. You haven’t had any reaction?’

                Jasmine shook her head, then realised that she wasn’t helping Katie’s examination. ‘No. I’ve hardly felt a thing after you’ve finished.’

                ‘That’s good. I can see you have left the hair growth in the area we’ll tackle today. I’ll clean it off so we can get started.’

                ‘Thanks.  Do I have to leave such a large area unshaved?’ Jasmine asked although she thought she could guess Katie’s reply.

………………………………

Jasmine consequences

You go away for a week and the government changes – completely. It wasn’t surprising I suppose, after the turmoil since June 23rd, but things did move pretty rapidly in the last week, didn’t they. Cameron got turfed out of No.10 sooner than he expected and we have our second female PM – pretty right-wing but the best of a bad lot I think. As for the cabinet changes. . . Well, I’m delighted that Gove has got his comeuppance – good riddance, hopefully for ever. I’m also pleased that Nicky Morgan, the frightened rabbit in the headlights, has gone from education. I think May has been quite canny in putting brexiteers in positions where they have to live with their comments and promises; Johnson to face the foreign secretaries of the countries of the world; Davies to realise the off-the-cuff predictions of future benefits of brexit that the Leave campaign made; and, Leadsom to answer the farmers questions about their subsidies. At least now the Conservative Party has got over its leadership convulsions and can get on with the rather important business of governing and getting us out of this mess that they created.  When, or even if, Labour will form a credible opposition is anyone’s guess.

Being in Germany was very pleasant as usual, and although we didn’t speak to many Germans or other Europeans, the impression we got is that they cannot understand the referendum result or believe that Britain will actually, irrevocably, leave the EU. I said they do not know most of the 52% who voted Leave.

1605 HTLGI 1 (1)But let’s get away from the world of politics and into the fictional world of Jasmine Frame. As I said last week I am not writing  another novella prequel for a while but what I have done is re-edit the third Jasmine Frame novel. This has the provisional title, The Brides’ Club Murder. It follows a couple of months after the events of Bodies By Design which itself comes about 3 to 4 months after Painted Ladies. That means it is November 2012, Jasmine is 29 years old, single, having divorced Angela, but in a deepening relationship with Viv. She’s working as a private investigator and now, having developed a reputation, getting more business; largely boring surveillance operations for the Benefits Agency and suspicious wives and husbands. She’s bored and would grab a meaty murder with both hands. As it is two months since the “minor” op that relieved her of her testicles, she is feeling more feminine but still longing to complete the surgery that would make her physically a woman; but that still appears to be a long way off. While having electrolysis on her facial hair she receives an offer that both attracts and appals her – to go undercover to solve a murder at a convention at a local country house hotel.

TBCM is a traditional country house murder mystery (sort of); a whodunit, rather than a thriller. I think it works and now I’ve edited it for the second or third time I think it’s ready to go. But what do I do with it? Do I send it out to publishers and agents, like I did with PL and BBD or do I go straight to self-publishing under the ellifont impression as I ended up doing with BBD? The latter course makes sure the book gets published but it costs me hard-earned cash (i.e. the pension). Experience suggests that it will be a century before I make my money back at the present rate of sales i.e. realistically never, unless I can move my marketing to a new level and make Jasmine more visible. Dilemmas!  Comments welcome.

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 breaths a sigh of relief

I’ve had cause to make use of the NHS this week – 3 visits to the doctor, 3 prescriptions – a small dent in the extra £350 million per week they are not going to get. I have to say that the service has been excellent despite sitting in and pacing the waiting room for an hour when my head felt it was about to explode. Emergency appointments were made available for within an hour or two of calling and thanks to the computer records each doctor was able to review what had gone before. I won’t go into the full diagnosis but a series of interconnected symptoms which were either excruciating or extremely irritating have made my week somewhat miserable. My darling Lou has, however, looked after me with love and care, making me once again thankful that we are together.

Of course, I would have been pretty miserable this week because of the outcome of the referendum. I’m not going to say any more about the appalling campaign (on both sides), or how sad I am that so many people succumbed to the propaganda put out by the right wing press. I have however two thoughts. First, the difficulty the BBC had in reporting the campaign. They were so bound by the “balance” rule that they couldn’t explain the blatant lies told by the Leave side without allowing them a chance to repeat them, and yes, I know the Remain side, well Cameron & Osbourne, also bandied some outrageous figures too.

My second point is the behaviour of the politicians of the Conservative and Labour party who, after the country delivered such a world-shaking verdict, descended into warfare with their own colleagues such that the important job of planning the country’s future was practically forgotten. I don’t think anyone on the government or opposition (what opposition? I mean Labour) benches has come out of this fiasco with a reputation worthy of respect.

From a few weeks ago. copyright BBC.

From a few weeks ago. copyright BBC.

Anyway, despite being “under the weather” I have managed to complete Aberration, the latest prequel to Painted Ladies and Bodies By Design. I hope you think the following is a fitting ending after last week’s exciting episode.

Aberration: Part 10

James was worried. He was worried about when he could get back to work in the bar with his broken, plastered wrist, and even if Kevin would keep the job for him. He was worried about Josh and his friends – if he persuaded the police that he had nothing to do with Andy’s death, would they come after him and Angela? Finally, he was worried about being revealed as Jasmine and how that would affect his career in the police. He’d had two days of worry. It was Monday, and he was hanging around the flat trying to find things to do which didn’t involve using two hands, waiting for Angela to return from the office because he had another day off. He’d wanted to dress as Jasmine as he usually did when Angela was at work but struggling to put on a bra and fit his falsies in was just too difficult with only one hand. As Angela had already left when he got out of bed he had had to struggle to dress on his own and a pair of shorts and t-shirt was all he had managed.
It was almost noon when the doorbell rang and James leapt out of the sofa with surprise. They didn’t have visitors. He went to the door and opened it just a crack. It was then that he was thankful that he wasn’t dressed as Jasmine because Detective Constable Vickers was standing in the hallway of their block of flats. There was another person, a woman, with him who James didn’t recognise. He pulled the door wide.
‘Oh, hello,’ James said.
‘Hello, Mr. Frame,’ Vickers said, ‘Do you remember me? We talked when you reported that you thought Andrea Pickford’s death was a murder.’
’Yes, I remember. DC Vickers isn’t it?’
‘That’s right. This is my colleague DC Adams. Can we come in and have a chat, please?’
‘Uh, yes, of course.’ James stood aside and let the two police officers step into their bedsitting room. ‘Have a seat. Can I get you a cup of tea or something?’  James saw the man and woman looking at his plastered arm.
‘No, it’s okay. You’ve injured your arm, Mr Frame.’  It was statement of the obvious but James could see that they were both curious.
James looked at his arm. ‘Yes, I fell over and broke my wrist.’
‘When was that?’ DC Vickers asked.
‘Saturday,’ James replied, ‘I had to go to A&E.’
‘It must have been painful,’ Vickers added. James nodded. ‘How did you do it?’ Vickers added.
‘Oh, it was silly. I tripped over and put my hand down to save myself,’ James explained, ‘Why don’t you sit down.’ The two detectives lowered themselves side by side onto the sofa while James pulled up a dining chair and sat down. ‘What can I do for you?’ he said, trying to look as innocent and puzzled as he could.
Vickers took a breath. ‘When we spoke a few days ago you said you thought Miss Pickford had been killed deliberately rather than drowned accidentally.’
James nodded.
‘On Saturday afternoon,’ Vickers glanced at his notebook, ‘Angela Madison rang me and said that the perpetrator of this crime was a Josh Smith and gave us his address. Angela Madison is your partner I gather.’
‘That’s right,’ James nodded again.
‘How did Miss Madison come by this information?’
‘I’d seen Smith speak to Andy, er, Andrea, in the pub where we both worked and we asked around until we found someone who knew him and could tell us his address.’
‘Miss Madison or yourself?’
‘Both of us.’
‘But it was your partner who rang in with the information.’
James could see where Vickers was going. He had made the original contact with the police so why hadn’t he passed on the additional information when they had tracked Josh down. He shrugged, ‘Angela had her phone handy. Did you investigate Josh Smith’s address?’
Vickers nodded slowly. ‘We did. His friends answered the door and when he appeared he seemed rather on edge. We did a search of his home and do you know what?’
‘What?’
‘We discovered a pair of jeans and a vest shoved in a rubbish bin, which we think forensics will show belonged to Miss Pickford.’
‘A vest?’ James queried. Andy’s clothes. He knew that he must have changed at some time before he died.
‘Yes,’ Vickers said, smiling, ‘A special vest, made of a very strong, elastic material.’
‘A chest binder,’ James said realising what Vickers was describing – the vest would compress a woman’s breasts and give her a more masculine upper-body profile.’
‘Exactly.’
‘You knew what it was?’ James was surprised that a policeman or woman had even noted the garment’s special properties.
‘Its elasticity puzzled us at first but DC Adams has a friend who is, um, transsexual, and she recognised what it is used for.’  Vickers glanced at the woman by his side. She gave James a thin smile. ‘Smith was unable to give a convincing explanation for why it was in his possession, so we took him in for questioning.’ Vickers continued.
‘He’s under arrest!’ James felt elated. Josh Smith’s arrogance had caught him out. He hadn’t expected a call from the police so had done nothing to get rid of Andy’s clothes.
‘He is now,’ Vickers said. ‘We took a DNA sample from him and asked for a quick comparison with the DNA of the semen found in Miss Pickford’s vagina.’ James felt Vickers’ eyes watching him, waiting to see his reaction. ‘It needs confirmation, but it looks as though they match,’ he concluded.
James felt elated; his suspicions justified; Andy’s death explained.
‘He’s confessed,’ James said almost joyfully.
‘He’s admitted having sex with Miss Pickford but denies killing her.’
‘He’s not a Miss; Andy was a man, he wanted to be one and he should have been one,’ James cried.
‘So you say, and the chest binder would back that up.’
‘Other people knew Andy. The girl in the coffee shop.’ James almost added the people who ran the transgender night at the club but stopped himself. He must not reveal his own transgenderism.
‘Yes, we know that,’ Vickers said, ‘but her parents were unaware of it and so was her employer.’
‘But. . .’ James couldn’t think of any other argument he could put.
‘There is other evidence,’ Vickers said. James let out a gasp of relief. ‘We have searched Andrea’s, er, Andy’s, bedroom and found other garments like the vest. Mrs Pickford didn’t know he, um, she, shit, this is getting complicated. . . His mother didn’t know anything about them. The bar manager, Kevin Ashton, is quite convinced that Andrea wasn’t wearing the vest when she was at work on the Wednesday evening but we have CCTV of her walking down the street outside and she has a distinctly flat-chested appearance so we think she changed before leaving work. She was picked up in a car which we have now identified as belonging to one of Josh Smith’s friends.’
‘You’ve got him then,’ James felt elated.
Vickers half shrugged, half nodded. ‘The fact that she had enough alcohol in her body to knock out a horse is another factor. She was sober when she left work so Smith and his friends who picked her up must have practically force-fed her. The pathologist thinks it unlikely that she could have walked to the river unaided.’
‘So why hasn’t Smith been charged?’ James said.
Vickers and his colleague appeared crestfallen. ‘The evidence for murder is circumstantial at the moment. We have proof that Andy/Andrea was at Smith’s home, which is on the river, and that he had sex with her, probably without her consent since she was out of her skull. But we need his confession to make the murder charge stick.
It was as if the balloon had popped. James had no evidence that Josh Smith had carried Andy semi-conscious to the river and dumped him in the water but he was sure that that was what had happened.
‘Don’t worry,’ Vickers said cheerfully, ‘DCI Sloane is working on Smith. He’ll get the confession. He always does.’
‘Sloane?’
‘My boss. Head of the Violent and Serious Crime Unit. He’s old school, been doing this job for years. If he’s sure someone’s committed a crime he’ll keep at them until they wish they’d never been born. Not that he’d use violence of course,’
‘Of course,’ James agreed, wondering about this Sloane character. What kind of boss was he?
‘Oh, there is something,’ Vickers said.
‘What?’
‘Smith keeps on mentioning someone called Jasmine. Do you know who she is?’
James felt the blood drain from his face but managed not to blurt out the truth. He shook his head. ‘No. I don’t know anyone with that name.’
‘It’s strange. Smith seems to think this woman, Jasmine something or other, lead us to him. It’s a handle Sloane is using to make him confess.’
‘Oh.’ James shrugged.
‘Well, there’s nothing else to tell you. We’ll need a statement about you knowing that Andrea really felt she was Andy.’
‘We just talked after work, that’s all,’ James said.
‘Yes, well it was enough for us to make this a murder investigation. Thank you Mr Frame.’  The two detectives stood up.  James showed them out and closed the door with relief.  Did Vickers suspect that he knew he was Jasmine? Even if he did, it seemed he wasn’t going to press the matter. If DCI Sloane was as persistent as Vickers said, then Andy’s death would be avenged. He felt a small sense of satisfaction.

A few hours later, Angela returned and found James looking through the papers and handbooks relating to his application to join the police. James leapt up and kissed her.
‘They think Josh killed Andy and are pushing him to confess,’ he said.
Angela looked confused. ‘How do you know?’
James described the visit of DC Vickers and his partner.
‘So Jasmine is still a secret,’ Angela said when he had finished.
‘It looks like it,’ James said feeling relief. ‘And there’s something else I want to say.’
‘Oh?’ Angela’s eyebrows raised.
‘Let’s get married. We’ve been together so long, we’re partners. Let’s do it.’
Angela smiled and made a cheeky grin. ‘Who’s asking, James or Jasmine?’
‘Same sex marriage isn’t allowed. Good knows when it will ever be.’
‘OK, but are you sure you don’t want to be Jasmine?’
James paused, his mouth open. He was about to say, no, but found he couldn’t. He considered. What would his answer be?
‘I want to be Jasmine, but not all the time and I do want us to be together, officially, so I’m happy to be James and Jasmine. Is that enough for you.’
Angela flung her arms around him. ‘I love James and Jasmine. Perhaps the law says I can only marry James but I consider myself engaged to both of you.’

THE END

Jasmine in a jam

I’ve been feeling pain and anguish this week. Mentally, because of the run up to the referendum and the aftershock of Jo Cox’s murder and literally because of a blocked salivary gland (it hurts). As I am writing this on Referendum Day, I cannot tell whether my fears have been averted or not but what I can say is that the last month or two has shown the so-called democracy of the UK to be very sick indeed and, whatever the result turns out to be when you read this, there are some repairs to be made. The legitimisation of bigotry and the hate and fear of minorities that has been aired during the campaign is one thing that makes me afraid for the future. I hope that good old British toleration will re-surface soon. I may have more to say on this in the coming weeks. . .

Out in public at Hay and feeling accepted.

Out in public at Hay and feeling accepted.

While my concentration has been broken by stabbing pains to my jaw I have managed to complete what is probably the penultimate part of Aberration, a prequel to Painted Ladies and Bodies By Design featuring transgender detective Jasmine Frame..  Warning – there is some violence and strong language. Enjoy!

Aberration: Part 9

Jasmine said nothing, looking at the man and wondering if he had murdered Andy.
‘Nothing to say?’ he said. He pulled a new slim Nokia from his jeans. ‘I’ve been getting calls from my friends around town saying that a girl called Jasmine was looking for me.’ He leaned down and placed a hand on Jasmine’s bare thigh. ‘I get all the attention I need from pretty girls but they don’t usually go round all the pubs looking for me. What’s it with you?’
Jasmine swallowed, trying not to look afraid. ‘I wanted to ask you about Andy Pickford.’
Josh stood up and shook his head. ‘Don’t know the name.’
‘I think you do,’ Jasmine said, feeling more confident. ‘His body was pulled out of the Kennet on Thursday morning. I’d guess, not too far from here.’
Josh shrugged again. Jasmine knew he was feigning incomprehension.
‘And I know you talked to him twice on Wednesday,’ she went on.
Josh frowned, his jaw sagged. Got him, Jasmine thought. He didn’t know I knew that.
‘A right little detective aren’t you,’ he said. ‘Surprising for a fluffy haired little cunt.’
Jasmine ignored the insult. ‘You spoke to Andy twice and a few hours later he was dead.’
Josh snorted. ‘You said, Andy, but that wasn’t her real name. She was Andrea, a fucking girl.’
‘He believed he was a boy. He wanted to be a boy,’ Jasmine insisted.
‘Yeah, he said that. But his parents didn’t know it nor did her boss. I wonder what they would have done if they’d found out.’
‘You were going to out her!’ Jasmine realised what Josh had intended.
‘Only if she didn’t play the game.’
‘Game?’
‘Yeah. I gave her the option to join us for, er, a bit of entertainment, or find that everyone knew that she was a sick in the head tranny.’
‘She was worried to death her father might find out. I think she thought he’d beat her up.’
‘Maybe he would have, perhaps that’s why she was so eager to accept my offer.’ Josh was grinning at her now, enjoying recounting his triumph. Jasmine doubted Andy’s enthusiasm.
‘Accepted what?’ Jasmine said in a quiet voice, almost not wanting to know what Andy had let himself be used for.
Josh went on with his story. ‘Just in case she changed her mind I picked her up when she finished work for the night. Brought her back here for a few drinks to loosen her up.’
‘You got her drunk?’
Josh shrugged, ‘A bit tipsy. It made her obliging.’
‘What do you mean, obliging?’ Anger bubbled up in Jasmine’s throat.
‘When we got those jeans and shapeless t-shirt off her she was quite a pretty girl. Nice pair of tits and a juicy slit.’
‘You raped her.’
‘She’d agreed to have fun.’
‘You got her drunk and then raped her,’ Jasmine insisted.
Josh leaned down, face level with Jasmine’s, one hand gripping her thigh, the other, the back of her neck. ‘She was gagging for it.  She just needed a cock up her to prove to her she was a girl not a fucking boy.’
‘She was a boy,’ Jasmine spat out, ‘you forced her. She didn’t want sex with you.’
Josh grinned at her. ‘Every girl wants sex with me, you blonde tart. If they know what’s good for them.’ His hand slid a few inches up her thigh under her skirt.
‘Did Andy resist even though you’d got him drunk? Did he not find you irresistible?’
‘When she’d had enough, we dressed her up and put her out.’ His hand crept further up her leg.
‘You mean you dumped her in the river.’
‘She fancied a swim.’
The fingers were in her groin, pulling at the elastic of her knickers. Jasmine bit her lip. She stiffened knowing that she was going to have move in a moment. A finger slipped inside feeling for what wasn’t there. It found something that was. The hand stopped moving.
‘Well, what have we got her? The little girl isn’t a girl.’  The hand withdrew from her knickers and he released her neck. He swung his arm and the hand slammed into the side of her head. ‘Disgusting pervert.’
Jasmine rocked on the chair, her head ringing.
‘Think you can fool Josh do you? You want to be a girl? You want cock. I’ll give you cock.’  He swung a leg over hers and crouched astride her. His hand went to his flies and started to pull down the zip. The other hand grabbed her nick and pulled her head forward. Jasmine put her hands on his chest and pushed but his weight pressed forward.
Some commotion in the hallway filtered through her terror of what Josh was attempting to do. Footsteps approached.
‘Josh! The police are here. They want you.’ That was one of the men who had kidnapped Jasmine.
Josh straightened up, dropping his hands. Jasmine pushed back, gasping for breath to fill her lungs.
‘What they doing here?’ Josh roared and stamped off towards the door.
The window was revealed clear and unimpeded before Jasmine. She didn’t look behind. She didn’t plan. She leapt up, took three steps forward and launched herself through the open frame, arms outstretched.
A glimpse of green then her hands hit the ground. She heard a click in her left wrist and then she was tumbling, somersaulting, rolling over the grass and then tarmac. She lay for a moment on her back looking up at the clouds in the sky. She put her left hand down to push herself up and cried. Pain pulsed up her arm. Her wrist was definitely broken.
Jasmine struggled to her feet. The river was in front of her, a lock to her left. Away to the right was where Andy’s body had been pulled from the water, and the route home. She set off, slowly, limping a little, her left knee felt sore as well as the side of her face and the wrist which she cradled in her other arm. Walkers along the riverside path looked at her, wonder and disapproval in their eyes. She realised that her wig, though still, miraculously, on her head, was lopsided. She guessed that she wasn’t looking at her most feminine or attractive.

It took considerably longer than on one of her runs to get back to the flat. She didn’t feel like running, in fact, walking had become more of an effort than she wanted. There was even a feeling of nausea. At the door she remembered she didn’t have her bag or her door key. Where had that gone? She tapped with her good hand.
The door was opened almost immediately and there was Angela, worry showing in her frown and set mouth.
‘Jasmine!’ she cried, ‘What happened?’
Jasmine staggered through the door. ‘Let me sit down and I’ll tell you.’
Angela took her arm to help her into the room, but Jasmine winced.
‘What’s the matter?’
‘My wrist’s broken.’ Jasmine sank into the sofa and sighed. ‘I had to dive through a window to get away.’
‘From Josh? It was his mates that took you from the pub?’
Jasmine nodded. ‘He did it. He got Andy drunk, raped him and then dumped him in the river.’
‘He told you!’
‘He was gloating. I think he was planning the same for me until the cops turned up.’
‘They did. Good. They didn’t take long then.’
‘You knew?’
‘Yes. Look let’s get you to A&E and get that wrist sorted and I’ll explain.’
‘I suppose I’d better change if we’re going to see a doctor,’ Jasmine said, reluctantly hauling herself to her feet.
‘I’ll give you a hand.’ Angela knelt to unfasten Jasmine’s sandals, then helped her stand and loosen her skirt. It slipped down over her hips while Jasmine used her good hand to remove the wig.
‘So how did the police know where to come?’ James asked as Angela pulled a pair of shorts up his legs.
‘When I came out of the loo and found you gone I wondered what you were up to but then I saw your bag on the floor and I knew something was wrong.’
‘Good deduction,’ James said as Angela removed his silicone breasts from his bra.
‘That’s when I started making a noise asking the barman and the other people what had happened.’
‘A few people must have seen me being escorted out.’
Angela unclipped his bra. ‘Yes, but they were a bit slow to speak up until I started saying if it was this Josh bloke it was connected to a death.’
‘Bold.’
‘Yes, well, the barman finally gave in. He knew Josh well but I think he realised that this was one affair he wanted no part of. He admitted that Josh’s mates had taken you out and he gave me his address. I rang the police and asked to speak to Constable Vickers.’
‘The detective I spoke to?’
‘Yes,’ Angela pulled a t-shirt over James’ head taking care not to jar his injured wrist. ‘You must have got him and his boss thinking after you spoke to him yesterday. He was interested to hear about Josh’s contacts with Andy. I gave him the address.’
‘You didn’t mention me?’
‘Not Jasmine. Come on let’s get your wrist fixed.’

……………………

Jasmine finds a lead

Is becoming fearful about the future a sign of getting old? When I was younger during the 60s to 80s there was the threat of nuclear war hanging over us or of a Soviet invasion of Europe but the fear, if there was any, was an abstract thing and I don’t recall being bothered by it. Also, I don’t recall being too emotional about the financial situation although I do recall watching the Share index falling to about 150 points in a mid-70s crisis. Despite being a fairly keen Liberal and interested in politics, I never felt worried that the world may collapse around me. Perhaps I was just too concerned about my own state.

Now, I feel beset by problems although my own situation, being retired, happily married and pretty well out as transgendered, is pretty calm. The turmoil of the referendum nonsense and its possible dire outcomes, the threat of terrorism, the rise of a belligerent Russia, an expansionist China, and the general sickness of the Earth, all just add together to make one big bundle of worry. On top of that I have developed a deep loathing of the majority of politicians, leaders of big business, and anyone who spouts extremist/populist propaganda on right or left.

Perhaps it is a feature of growing old that we fear for the world of our children and grandchildren and it’s when we lose youthful optimism it’s time to hand over to the young.

At How the light Gets In, Hay, May '16

At How the light Gets In, Hay, May ’16

Right. After that depressing interlude, on with the story.  Here is the next part of the Jasmine Frame novella, Aberration. I realise that in this story she has spent rather longer as James than Jasmine but as it is from a period where she is still uncertain of her gender identity and resisting the idea that she is transsexual I think it is appropriate. Here he/she is getting somewhere at last. Don’t forget that Painted Ladies, Bodies By Design, Discovering Jasmine and Murder In Doubt are all available to buy.

Aberration – Part 7

Despite a rush to grab something to eat, James started his shift at the pub on time. Kevin was there as usual and Mel, another young woman who James had worked with occasionally. Mel pleased Kevin rather more than Andrea as she was slim with long hair and long legs that were largely bare thanks to the cute shorts that she wore. Her vest clung to her breasts. James noted how the eyes of the male drinkers followed her around the room when she emerged to pick up glasses.  Being Friday it was a busy evening and it was while James was wiping tables and Kevin was filling the dishwasher when he spoke to James conversationally rather than giving an order.
‘Did you send that card then?’
‘Card?’
‘To Andrea’s parents.’
‘No. I called on them and met her mother.’
‘Oh. How was she?’
‘Upset.’
Kevin shrugged, acknowledging that that was the obvious response.
‘I don’t think she could believe it was an accident or suicide,’ James added.
Kevin stared, ‘Suicide?’
‘Well, do you think she would end up in the river by accident? She doesn’t have to go near the river to get home.’
‘Well . . .’
‘You saw her on Wednesday evening. It was my day off. What mood was she in?’
Kevin considered for a moment. ‘Pretty much the same as always. Didn’t say much.’
‘Pretty much? What does that mean?’
‘I suppose she was a bit grumpier than usual.’
‘Grumpier?’
‘Well, edgy. She was in more of a hurry to get off.’
‘Why?’
‘She didn’t say. Never did explain her moods did she.’
James could have given reasons for Andrea’s reticence but he didn’t. Revealing too much of his connection with Andrea might have caused questions about his own personality.
He nodded. ‘She kept things to herself, but did anything happen that evening to make her, er, edgy?’
Kevin straightened up and thought. ‘Yeah, well, Ben and his mates were in.’
‘Ben?’
‘They had a go at Andrea before.’
James nodded. Now he knew who Kevin was talking about; the four thirty-plus louts who had teased and groped her.
‘Your friends,’ he accused.
Kevin shook his head. ‘No, we’re not friends, not really. I’ve known them for years. They come in from time to time and act as if they own the place.’
James wasn’t sure whether to believe Kevin’s denial. They seemed just the sort of blokes who Kevin might count as his mates.
‘What happened then? Did they have a go at Andrea?’
Kevin shrugged. ‘A bit, I suppose, but Mel was on too, so they had an eyeful of her. She could take it though.’
Doesn’t mean that she liked it, James thought. Mel was happy in her female body and perhaps had learned how to respond to randy, older men. Andrea didn’t because she didn’t feel female.
‘They spoke to Andrea as well as Mel?’ James asked.
Kevin shook his head, ‘I don’t know, yes, a bit I think, at least one or two of them did. Why is it important? She’s dead.’
‘That’s right – she’s dead. She ended up in the river an hour or two after leaving here and being hounded by those guys.’
‘They weren’t hounding her.’
‘Alright, but you said she became edgy later.’
‘Er, yeah.’
‘So, perhaps the one or two of your friends who spoke to her said something that got her worked up.’
‘They’re not my friends.’
‘OK, but am I right?’
‘Hey, hold on Jim boy. Why are you getting a heat on? You hardly knew the girl.’
James realised he was getting hot and bothered. He tried to brush it off.
‘Yes, well it’s not everyday someone you work with is fished out of the river.’
Kevin nodded and bent to put a few more glasses in the washer.
‘That’s a fact,’ he muttered.
‘So who was it, that tried chatting Andrea up?’ James insisted while trying to keep his voice cool and calm.
‘I wouldn’t call it chatting up. I only saw them exchanging a few words.’
‘Who?’
‘His name’s Josh. I don’t know him well but he often hangs round with Ben and the others.’
‘Does he live round here?’
‘No idea, but they’re all Reading guys so I ‘spect they live in town somewhere.’
‘They don’t come in here that often. Where else do they hang out?’
‘How should I know. I told you I’m not one of their mates. There are dozens of pubs and clubs around town; you know that. They move around looking for the talent.’
James considered what Kevin had told him. It seemed clear that he needed to meet this Josh and find out what he said to Andrea.  He tried to remember what the four men looked like but his memory was vague.
‘Which one was Josh?’ he asked.
‘The bald, short-arse,’ Kevin said as he slammed the door of the dishwasher.  James nodded as he saw the man in his memory of the four around the table.

James stirred as Angela moved around the flat. Of course, it was Saturday so she wasn’t at work. He groaned.
‘Oh, sorry James,’ Angela said. She came and sat on the edge of the bed. ‘I didn’t mean to wake you.’
James rubbed his eyes. ‘What time is it?’
‘Gone nine. Go back to sleep if you like. I’ll try and keep quiet.’
James pushed himself up the bed. ‘No, I’m awake now and I want to see you.’ They hadn’t seen each other awake since his day off on Wednesday apart from the sleepy conversation about Andrea’s death.
‘I want to see you too. It’s a nice day. Perhaps we can go out somewhere before you go to work.’
James grabbed Angela around the waist and pulled her on top of him.
‘Or perhaps we could just stay in,’ he said, leaning forward to kiss her.  Angela giggled. They kissed and cuddled. Angela slipped a hand between his legs. She pulled away.
‘Your mind’s not on it. What’s the problem?’ she said.
James sighed, ‘I’m sorry. I keep thinking of Andy, Andrea.’
Angela sat up, looking concerned. ‘Oh, is there news?’
James described his conversations with Mrs Pickford, the detective and Kevin.
‘Do you think this Josh guy killed Andy?’ Angela summarised.
James screwed up his face. ‘I don’t know. I am sure Andy was killed and Josh is the only lead I’ve got, but I’ve no idea what happened between them, if anything.’
‘You need to find him.’
‘But all I’ve got is his first name, a pretty vague description and that he often hangs out with the other three.’
‘And he visits the pubs and clubs in town.’
‘It’s a big town, Ange. I could be wandering around for months and never come across him.’
‘If he’s out a lot, other people may know who he is.’
‘So there’s a lot of people to ask.’
‘If you want it to be you that solves Andy’s murder yes. Or you could just tell the police.’
‘And they’d think I was nuts because there’s no evidence that Josh had anything more than a few casual words with Andy while he was doing his job.’
‘I don’t think you’re nuts.’
‘But the police will. They want a nice easy accidental death, or a slightly more troublesome suicide.’
‘Don’t you think they want the truth, James?’
‘I wonder.’
‘Well, if you’re joining them I hope you won’t take the easy path.’
James looked into Angela’s unblinking eyes. She gave him determination.
‘No, I won’t and I will get the truth about Andy’s death. Jasmine Frame will find it.’
Angela nodded. ‘I think you should be Jasmine. She was Andy’s friend. Come on, get dressed. I’ll come asking questions with you. It will be an excuse for getting out of this flat since we’re not going to be doing anything else while you’re in this mood.’

……………………….

Jasmine informs the Police

It has been difficult to find time to write this week (I’ve done this week’s episode though, see below) but it’s been a great time. The Leominster Festival events have gone well.  Deborah Moggach was great both in awarding the writing competition certificates and in her talk. The Choral Society rendition of Haydn’s Creation was fun and well-received. The Bookfair went well with more people looking around but it was difficult to make them part with their cash.  A performance by Canadian folk singer, Ian Sherwood, was brilliant.

Relaxing in the sun (yes, sun!) at Hay

Relaxing in the sun (yes, sun!) at Hay

We’ve also been to Hay twice. The first time was to How the Light Gets In. Some interesting talks but the performance by Marry Waterson, folk singer was dull. On Thursday we had an inspiring day at the Hay Lit Fest, in particular a talk about the bid to make the slate quarrying industry of Gwynedd a UNESCO world heritage site. Talks on the sunken cities of the Nile delta and the development of civilisation across Eurasia were also interesting. Finally, performance poet Roger McGough and his band Little Machine were excellent. The band’s musical settings of classic poems was worth hearing alone and Roger’s poems were hilarious or poignant or both.

A few more events in Leominster to get through over the weekend and then we can get back to normal. Normal?

Oh, and by the way, it’s just 3 weeks to Myth & Magic in Mid-Wales. Come and join us (see my SF & Fantasy page for details)

And so to the next episode of Aberration, the prequel to Painted Ladies and Bodies By Design set in the time when Jasmine is about to join the police force.

Aberration – Part 6

James walked back through the town barely paying attention to traffic or noticing passers-by. The conversation with Andrea’s Mum disturbed him. Neither she nor her husband apparently understood the turmoil Andrea/Andy had been going through, confusing her gender uncertainty with sexuality. The relationship with her father concerned James too. He was obviously violent on occasion even if Mrs Pickford insisted that it was never directed towards his daughter. There was nothing in their conversation that persuaded James that Andrea’s death was an unfortunate accident; the circumstances were too suspicious.  But what were the police thinking?
James took himself to the doors of the Police Station. He looked forward to the time, not many months hence when he would be entering this building as a police constable. Now though he felt nervous as he pushed the door open and joined a short queue at the desk.  It was a few minutes before the civilian employee looked up at him.
‘Can I help you?’
‘Yes, please. I have some information concerning the death of Andrea Pickford,’ he said trying to keep his voice level.
‘Death?’ The woman, was confused.
‘Her body was pulled out of the Kennet yesterday,’ James explained.
Understanding dawned, ‘Ah, that one. Are you a member of the family?’
‘No. I’m, er, a friend.’
The woman scribbled on a pad of forms.  ‘Can I have your name, sir?’
‘James Frame. Do you want my address too?’
‘Yes, please, sir, and a phone number.’  James supplied the details. ‘What information do you have, sir?’
‘I’d like to speak to the investigating officer.’
‘I’m not sure they’re available, sir. If you tell me what you want to say, I’ll pass it on.’
James set his face into a frown. ‘I think I need to discuss a murder with a police officer.’
‘Murder?’ her face looked paler.
‘Yes. I am sure Andrea was murdered.’
‘How do you know it was murder, sir?’
‘I’ll tell that to the investigating officer,’ James said, trying to be authoritative.
‘Alright, sir. I’ll see if there is anyone available.’  She got up and went to the back of the office. James watched her pick up a phone and speak inaudibly. She turned to glance at him a couple of times then put the phone down and returned to face James.  ‘Take a seat, please, sir. Someone will be down shortly.’
James thanked her as politely as he was able, which wasn’t much. It seemed that they had Andrea’s death down as an accident and his intervention might have stirred things up. He had just sat in one of the fixed seats at the side of the room when the door to the inner station opened and a man in a dark grey suit and red hair emerged. James thought that he didn’t look much older than himself but a couple of inches taller. He looked straight at James and still holding the door open spoke in a gentle, southern accent.
‘Mr Frame?’  James nodded and rose. ‘Come with me please.’
James stepped through the heavy door which closed behind them with a clunk of locks operating. He followed the young man down a corridor and through another door, that was held open for him, into a small interview room.
‘Take a seat please, Mr Frame. I’m Detective Constable Vickers.’ He pointed to a chair at a table. James lowered himself into the chair, sitting upright.  ‘Now, I’m told you have some information about the circumstances surrounding the death of Andrea Pickford.’
James took a deep breath. ‘Yes. I think she was murdered.’
DC Vickers eyebrows rose a few millimetres. ‘What evidence do you have for that statement. Were you with her when she died?’
‘No, I haven’t got any concrete evidence, but there was no reason for Andrea to be near the Kennet after work, and she wouldn’t have been wearing a mini-skirt. Not if it was her choice anyway.’
Vickers shrugged. ‘How do you know she was wearing a mini-skirt?’
‘Her mother said that you asked her if she recognised the clothes Andrea was wearing when she was pulled out of the water and they included a mini-skirt, a lace bra and a crop top.’
The DC nodded imperceptibly. ‘You’ve spoken to Mrs Pickford?’
‘Yes. I’ve just come from her house.’
‘Did you tell her your theory?’
‘No. I didn’t want to upset her any more than she is already.’
‘Why are you so sure that Miss Pickford was murdered?’
‘They weren’t Andrea’s clothes. Her mother said so. I know Andrea would never wear such stuff.’
‘You know her well? Are you in a relationship with her?’
‘No. I haven’t known her long and I’m certainly not her boyfriend.’
‘Because she was a lesbian. That’s what her father said she was.’
‘No. Because she was a trans-man.’
‘A what?’
James sighed. He’d have to explain it all. How much would that reveal about himself? ‘Andrea was a transsexual. She believed she was a man. He called himself Andy.’
‘I thought guys that wanted to be women were transsexuals?’
‘It happens the other way too,’ James said feeling depressed. It was 2004 and the Gender Recognition Act had been passed yet people like this young detective were still ignorant about the transgendered.
DC Vickers’s face showed confusion. ‘Did his, um, her parents know about this?’
James shook his head. ‘No. Andy was afraid to tell them because she was worried about her father’s reaction. He gets angry. I think he hits his wife. Andy kept his feelings secret from his parents letting them think he was gay, that is, that she was a lesbian.’
‘But she told you. Why?’
‘We met outside work when he was Andy trying to be as masculine as he could. He wanted to transition but couldn’t break it to his parents or afford to move out and get all the treatment.’
‘Er, treatment?’
‘Hormones, mastectomy, hysterectomy, phalloplasty.’
Most of the words passed the young officer by but he reacted to one. ‘You mean she wanted to have her breasts cut off?’
‘Yes. That’s usually the first stage for F to Ms.’
‘She wanted that?’
‘He did. Andy was a bloke inside. He played an act to his family and the people he worked with but he would never have dressed like a sexy girl. It revolted him.’
Vickers was shocked. ‘What do you think happened?’
‘I don’t know. Someone made Andy wear that stuff, killed him and dumped his body in the river.’
Vickers shook his head. ‘No, she definitely drowned. There were no marks on her body that suggested an attack. She’d drunk a fair amount of alcohol though, and had sex.’ He smacked a hand against his forehead. ‘Oh, god. I shouldn’t have said all that. Sloane will kill me.’
‘Sloane?’
‘The DCI. This is my first case. Just a simple case of accidental death he said. Prepare the evidence for the coroner.’
James shook his head. ‘Well, it’s not. You need to find out who got Andy drunk put him in those clothes, had sex with him, against his will I’d guess, and then pushed him in the river.’
The young detective looked bemused. His face was covered in a slick of sweat. ‘Look, don’t tell anyone that I let out those details.’
James shook his head. ‘No, I won’t but don’t you think I should make a statement.’
‘Um, yes. Sit still for a moment. I’ll be back.’ DC Vickers got up and hurried from the interview room. James remained sitting, still wondering if Vickers or the other officers, perhaps even this DCI Sloane, would believe him.  It was five minutes before Vickers returned. He looked as though he had regained his composure.  He placed a pad of paper on the table and sat down.
‘Okay. Let’s get this down.’

An hour passed before James at last left the police station. He’d set out what he knew about Andy and managed to do it without mentioning Jasmine. Vickers hadn’t thought to probe him on how he met up with Andy. James glanced at his watch. He didn’t have much time to get home, grab something to eat and get out to work. He hoped he had left Vickers and his fellow officers reassessing the case. They only had his word that Andrea was really Andy inside but surely the evidence from Mr and Mrs Pickford, backed it up. The task now was to identify the killers and James had no clues to go on.

………………………

Jasmine keeps a secret

Grange Court, Leominster - Bookfair Mon. 30th May 12 - 4 p.m.

Grange Court, Leominster – Bookfair Mon. 30th May 12 – 4 p.m.

This is the weekend when I get to meet lots of writers and show off my own books – it’s the Leominster Festival.  First there’s the Awards Ceremony for our writing competition – mainly primary schoolchildren, with Deborah Moggach giving out the certificates. That is followed by Deborah’s talk (perhaps I’ll have more on that next week as I’m writing this before it happens).  On Monday we have the Bookfair with about fifteen local authors (and publishers) displaying their books and hoping for sales.  That will be opened by local author of historical fiction, Anne O’Brien. She is an example to us all having started writing only after she retired ten years ago and now has a publisher eager for her work and a burgeoning reputation.

I’ll be offering all my books that are in paperback – the Jasmine Frame novels, Painted Ladies and Bodies By Design as well as the three volumes of Evil Above the Stars. Let’s hope there are some people who actually want to buy books.

By the way, if any readers live nearby, there are still vacancies for the  writing workshops run by Simon Whaley and Fay Wentworth on Monday starting at 11a.m. in Grange Court. They are on the theme of writing about nature and landscapes  in fiction and non-fiction.

copyright BBC.

copyright BBC.

Despite the festival taking up some time this week I have for you quite a long episode of Aberration, the latest Jasmine Frame novella length prequel.  Here James/Jasmine is questioning Andrea/Andy’s mother following the discovery of the body.

Aberration: Part 5

Mrs Pickford turned away and sobbed.  James noticed a bruise on her cheek and realised that he’d been a bit abrupt with his question.
’I’m sorry, Mrs Pickford. I didn’t mean to upset you.’
Andrea’s mother sniffed and turned back to face him. ‘It’s not your fault. Every time I think of my dear girl, I cry. I want her to come back through that door, but the Police came and took us to see her body. I know I’m not going to see her again.’ She cried again.  James felt awkward. Should he put an arm around the grieving woman to comfort her? He decided against it. Perhaps if he could get her to talk.
‘You rang the Police because Andrea didn’t come home.’
Mrs Pickford nodded. ‘We were usually in bed and asleep when she got home from work. You know how late it is when the pub closes?’
James nodded. ‘Yes, I do the late shift. It’s nearly one when I get home.’
‘Sometimes I hear her come in and go to her room but usually its morning when I see her. Tony leaves early – he’s on the bins.  I do afternoons at the Spar down the road so I’m always around in the morning when Andrea gets up.’
‘When did you realise that she wasn’t home?’
‘It was nearly midday and I was about to go to the shop. I was surprised that she hadn’t appeared so I went upstairs and knocked on her door. I wondered if she wasn’t well but she didn’t answer. I opened the door and she wasn’t there.’
‘You didn’t think that she might have stayed overnight with friends?’
‘Andrea never did that and she always gave me a call if she was out for a while. She liked to check I was okay.’
‘You?’
Mrs Pickford waved her hands and looked flustered. ‘It doesn’t matter. I just know Andrea wouldn’t have stayed out without telling me.’
‘So, did you ring the Police then?’
‘No. I didn’t know what to do. I couldn’t think what Andrea was doing. Look, I was always worried about her, her father was too, really.  I know she had problems. . .’
‘Problems?’
‘Well, you know her. She’s always been a tomboy and never had a boyfriend, do you know what I mean?’
James knew what she meant but also realised that she didn’t have much idea about her own daughter’s, or son’s, inner turmoil.’
‘What about girl friends?’ James made sure he separated the “girl” from the “friends“ to spare Mrs Pickford’s embarrassment.
‘I haven’t seen Andrea with friends since she left school, but, um, I thought that she might be, you know, a le. . .  Her father thought so too.’
‘You didn’t talk about it, either of you, with her?’
The woman’s eyes opened wide.  ‘Talk? Tony? With Andrea? Tony’s not a talker.’
‘Andrea didn’t speak to you.’
She shook her head. ‘I suppose she got that from her father too.’
James took a deep breath. ‘So when did you call the Police?’
‘I waited till Tony, got home. I should have been in the shop but I rang in and said I wasn’t well. Mr Patel wasn’t very happy. But by the time Tony got in I was frantic. I couldn’t understand why Andrea hadn’t been in touch.’
‘She had a mobile.’
‘Yes. I tried her number but there was nothing.’
‘So, your husband, Tony, got home . . .’
‘He was angry. He gets like that when he’s tired after a hard day on the lorry. He said a few things about my girl, which I know he didn’t mean, really. Then he said if I was so worried I’d better call the Police; so I did.’
James waited for her to continue.
‘I suppose I expected them to say they couldn’t do anything but the woman took my description of Andrea. It was less than an hour later when a policeman rang back and asked me some questions. Then they came round and took us both to see. . . to see her body.’ The tears welled up again and her voice croaked.
‘So you were sure it was Andrea?’
‘Oh yes. Tony was too. She looked as if she was asleep. Well, not really, but her face was like when she was in bed.’
‘Did the Police tell you what had happened?’
‘They said they’d got her out of the Kennet.  What was she doing there? Oh, and they showed us some clothes.’
James’ heart beat faster. ‘Clothes she’d been wearing?’
‘That’s what they said, although I didn’t recognise them.’
‘What were they?’
‘A mini skirt, a lace bra and a pink vest.’
‘You hadn’t seen Andrea wear things like that?’
‘Andrea hasn’t worn a skirt since she was in junior school. In high school the girls were allowed to wear trousers, so she did, every day. You didn’t see her dressed in stuff like that did you?’
She looked imploringly at James as if hoping to be proved wrong.
James shook his head.
Mrs Pickford spoke again. ‘You said you’d worked with her for a short while but you seem very interested in her. Did she talk to you at the pub?’
‘Not really.’ James was happy to confirm their lack of communication at work. ‘There wasn’t time most nights and you’re right I haven’t known Andrea long but doing the same job, the late nights, I suppose I felt a bit of a bond with her.’
Andrea’s Mum produced a thin smile. ‘Well, thank you. I don’t suppose there will be many others who are sorry she’s gone.’ She sniffed.
James wondered if he could ask a favour that might be seen as an intrusion. ‘Do you think I could have a look in her bedroom? Just to have something to remember her.’
Mrs Pickford appeared slightly surprised but then nodded. ‘I don’t know what you might see that reminds you of her, but come upstairs.’ She went to the stairs which rose steeply against the side of the room. James followed her up to the small landing which had just two doors. Mrs Pickford went to the first door on the left, slowly turned the doorknob and opened the door. She stood by it and nodded to James to enter. He stepped passed her into the front bedroom of the house.
‘There. There’s not much which shows it’s a girl’s room is there?’ Andrea’s mother said.
James looked around and nodded. She was right on that point. There was a single bed against the front wall of the house under the window with a bright orange bed spread. A small wardrobe was against the far wall with a chest of drawers next to it. Closer, on the right, was a desk that doubled as a dressing table. James stepped into the middle of the room and turned around. There was small set of bookshelves beside the bed with a mirror above it. Above the bed was a poster of the Reading football team, last season’s squad. On the other available wall space were posters of heavy metal bands that James didn’t recognise. He crouched to look on the shelves. There were CDs of the bands on the walls along with fantasy novels and superhero comics. There was nothing anywhere to suggest that this room belonged to a woman in her early twenties, not a feminine woman. There were no cosmetics on the desk-cum-dressing table, just a deodorant and hair-brush alongside a CD player.
James itched to fling open the wardrobe and search through the drawers but knew that would be too intrusive while Andrea’s mother was looking on.  She saw him glance at the band posters.
‘I don’t know why she liked those groups, but at least she wore ear phones most of the time. Tony hated the noise they make.’
‘Her father got angry with her?’
Mrs Pickford pursed her lips and nodded almost imperceptibly. ‘He never hit her though.’  James noted the accidental emphasis.  ‘He just wanted his little girl back.’
‘Little girl?’
‘The girl with long dark hair that we dressed in pretty dresses and who loved her teddies.’
‘. . .and dolls?’ James added.
‘No, she never played with dolls. She ignored the Barbie we gave her one Christmas. She gave up wearing skirts and dresses when she could choose her clothes and then she cut her hair short. That made Tony really annoyed.’
‘What did he do?’
‘He blamed me for making Andrea the way she was.’ Mrs Pickford sucked in a breath as if realising that she was on the point of revealing more than she should.
James explained, ‘I don’t think it was anything you did that made Andrea the way she was. She just didn’t think or feel girly.’
‘No,’ her mother sighed.
James wanted to tell her about the conversations that Jasmine and Andy had had over coffee in the last few weeks, but he didn’t. He felt that while she seemed to accept that Andrea may be lesbian she wasn’t ready for the full truth of her gender identity. Perhaps she would never learn the truth. He glanced around the room again, fixing it in his mind.
‘Thank you for showing me this, Mrs Pickford. Did the Police tell you anything else, such as how Andrea got into the river or how she died?’
‘Didn’t she drown?’ The woman looked surprised as if she hadn’t considered any other possibility.
‘I suppose so. I don’t know,’ James said.
She shook her head. ‘They said they couldn’t tell us anything else. They asked a few questions such as when we’d last seen her and what she was wearing and what her mood was. I don’t think we helped them very much. She had just seemed normal.  The detective said they were still investigating and would let us know what they found out.’
‘So the police don’t know much. There’ll be a post mortem to prove that she drowned.’
Mrs Pickford raised a hand to her mouth, ‘Oh, will they have to cut her?’
‘I’m afraid so. It’s normal in cases of unexpected death. The coroner will need to know.’
‘You mean there will be an inquest?’
James nodded. Unless it turns out to be a murder case, he thought, and if they find a killer it will go to court; but he didn’t tell Mrs Pickford that.
‘I’d better go. I’m sorry I’ve taken so much of your time.’
Mrs Pickford tried to smile. ‘It’s no trouble. It’s lovely to meet someone who cared for Andrea even if you haven’t known her long. Will you come to the funeral? I don’t know when it will be yet.’
‘Yes, of course. You’d better have my phone number to let me know.’
They returned downstairs and Mrs Pickford wrote down James’ mobile number on a scrap of paper. Then they said farewells and James stepped out onto the street. He took a deep breath and strode away down Albert Street. His head was full of thoughts. What was Andrea doing wearing those clothes when she died? Where did they come from? James was quite sure that if he had searched Andrea’s bedroom he would not have found any similar items. What were the Police making of her death? There was a lot more he wanted to know.

……………………….

Jasmine has questions

First of all, an invitation.

I would be delighted if any readers would like to join us at The Star, Dylife on Saturday 25th June, to visit the sites that inspired scenes in Unity of Seven, the final part of my Evil Above the Stars fantasy trilogy.IMGP3706

We will begin at 11a.m. with tea/coffee and cake. Then I will give a short introduction to the plot before we set off to visit the sites (not too far, level ground, reasonable paths). Afterwards, we return to The Star for a light lunch. Later, there will be an optional walk to the top of the ridge (weather permitting) to see some more sites and sights.  Cost is £10.

The Star is on the mountain road between Llanidloes and Machynlleth in mid-Wales and is probably one of the remotest former pubs.  For more details, email me at evilabovethestars@btinternet.com

I’ve just received the feedback from the Wishing Shelf awards on Seventh Child, the first book in the trilogy. It was read and judged by 28 young booklovers of whom 25 said they wanted to read more. It was given 10 out of 10 for plot and 9/10 for style. A composite comment says:

A fascinating fantasy adventure with strong elements of Welsh mythology. A finalist and highly recommended.’

Unity of Seven, cover design by Alison Buck

Unity of Seven, cover design by Alison Buck

Now to return to Jasmine Frame in the fourth episode of the story, Aberration, set a few years before Painted Ladies and Bodies By Design.

Aberration: Part 4
 
James gasped. ‘That can’t have been Andrea.’
‘What do you mean?’ Kevin asked.
‘I was there. This morning I was with the crowd by the river watching it.’
Kevin shrugged, ‘So?’
‘How do you know it was Andrea?’
Kevin nodded to the phone. ‘Her father rang an hour or so ago. Said she wouldn’t be in, then he cracked up and said her mother had rung the police because Andrea didn’t get home last night and when she gave a description the police came for them to identify the body.’
Listening to Kevin hammered it home to James that it was really true that Andrea was dead.
‘How did she end up in the river?’ he asked himself more than Kevin.
‘Don’t ask me mate. That’s one for the cops.’
James shook his head. It didn’t fit with anything he knew of Andrea. She didn’t have to go near the river to get home after leaving the pub.
The door of the pub was pushed open and a police officer entered encumbered by his anti-stab jacket bearing radio, baton and other accoutrements. He looked from James to Kevin and settled on the latter.
‘Are you the Manager?’
‘Yes.’ Kevin said.
‘Can I have your name please, Sir,’ The PC took a notebook and pen from his jacket pocket and prepared to write.
‘Why?’
The officer sighed. ‘I’m asking questions in connection with a death.’
‘You mean Andrea?’ Kevin said
‘That’s right,’ the officer looked at his notepad, ‘Miss Andrea Pickford.  Your name, Sir.’
‘Uh, Kevin Ashton. What do you want to know?’
‘Miss Pickford worked here?’
‘Yes, behind the bar.’
‘Was she working yesterday, specifically last evening.’
‘Yes.’
‘What time did she leave.’
Kevin looked vague for a moment. ‘It must have been twelve thirty when she finished clearing up.’
‘Did you see her leave?’
‘Yes. She asked if that was all, and I said yes.’
‘How was she when she left?’
Kevin shrugged, ‘Same as she always was. Tired I suppose. It had been a busy evening. She doesn’t say much, um, didn’t say much.’
‘Did she say where she was going after work?’
‘Er, No. She never did. I thought she went home.’
‘Could you describe her appearance when she left?’
‘Appearance?’
‘Clothes, that sort of thing?’
‘She wore what she always wore, jeans and a t-shirt. If it was wet or cool she had a short, black zip-up jacket. What is it called? A blouson? Yeah, I think she had that on when she left’
‘Shoes?’
‘Trainers I suppose. That’s all she ever wore.’
The PC looked at James who was wearing pretty much the same outfit. ‘That was standard dress for your employees was it, Sir.’
‘Sort of. I asked her to wear a skirt but she never did.’
‘She definitely wasn’t wearing a skirt when she left last night?’
A confused look passed across Kevin’s face. ‘No, I don’t think so. I never saw Andrea in a skirt. Not once.’
James had listened to the exchange. ‘Is this a murder enquiry, Officer?’ he asked.
The PC looked at him as if seeing him for the first time. ‘Who are you, Sir.’
‘James Frame. I worked with Andrea.’
The officer scribbled in his notebook. ‘I see, Sir. Were you working last night?’
‘No, it was my day off.’
‘So you didn’t see Miss Pickford last night when she left the pub?’
‘No.’
‘Did you meet her afterwards.’
‘No.’
‘Thank you, Sir.’  The constable closed his book.
‘Was she murdered?’ James asked again.
The PC frowned. ‘I’m not at liberty to discuss the case, Sir.’ He looked away from James to Kevin, ‘Thank you for your help, Sir. There may be some more questions later.’
‘Yes, okay. Anything I can do,’ Kevin blustered. The officer turned and left.
Kevin let out a breath through pursed lips. ‘Phew. That’s brought it home, hasn’t it? She isn’t coming back is she.’ He returned to his stocktake.
James stared at the closed door. She isn’t, he thought, but what happened to her? How did she end up in the river and what was the point of the questions about her clothes?  Was the gossip about her wearing a short skirt when she was brought out of the water true?
James performed his duties that evening through a haze of sadness and a carousel of questions spinning through his mind. Luckily it wasn’t that busy so he and Kevin coped with the customers. A few had heard the news of the body in the river and its identification and were discussing it. Some expressed their condolences, other pressed for the gossip but most hadn’t registered the connection with the rather plain, short haired girl who served them most days.
By the end of the shift, James was burning with desire to find out more. He wasn’t sure how, since he had no access to the police investigation, but speaking to Andrea’s parents would be a start.
‘Can I have Andrea’s address,’ he said to Kevin just before leaving.
‘Why?’
‘I want to send her parents a sympathy card.’
‘Oh, yes. I suppose they’d appreciate that. I’ll make a note of it for you.’ Kevin disappeared behind the bar for a few moments then reappeared with a small slip of paper torn from a pad.
He handed it to James. ‘You didn’t know her well did you? You didn’t talk much.’
James shrugged. ‘Not really. She was pretty quiet wasn’t she.’
Kevin nodded. ‘Yeah. I thought that was because she didn’t get on with blokes. I guess she fancied girls. She was a bit butch.’
James didn’t show agreement or dissent.
‘I don’t think she had girly side,’ Kevin added.
‘No,’ James agreed. You’re definitely right there, he thought. He said good night and left to walk home.

Angela was asleep when James got back to the flat. He felt he had to tell her about Andrea but didn’t want to disturb her.  He slid into bed beside her and lay thinking about Andy. He was gone too. Was Andrea’s death anything to do with her second life as Andy? He needed answers.
James stirred from a light sleep when Angela started moving in the morning.
‘Ange?’ he murmured with his brain full of fog.
‘Oh, James. Sorry did I wake you>’
‘No, it’s OK.’ James forced his eyes open and watched Angela pulling her knickers on. ‘Did you hear the news?’
Angela paused with her thin panties halfway up her thighs. ‘What news?’
‘Andrea, Andy, is dead. His body was pulled out of the Kennet yesterday.’
‘What?’ Angela hurried to the bed, sat down and looked with a worried frown at James. ‘How?’
‘I don’t know,’ James said pushing himself up onto his elbows, ‘I want to find out.’
‘How?’
‘I’m going to call on her mother and father. See if they know anything.’
‘Was he Andy or Andrea when she died?’
‘I don’t know, although there was talk of her wearing a skirt.’ James explained how he had seen the activity by the river and talked to onlookers and about the visit to the pub by the policeman.
‘But she never wore a skirt, even when she was Andrea.’
‘I know. That’s what’s so odd, and she should have been nowhere near the river if she went home after finishing at the pub.’
‘The poor thing. I wonder what happened?’
‘So do I.’

Once Angela left for work, James did not doze on as he often did. He was too keen to meet Andy’s parents and find out what they knew.  He showered, dressed and ate some breakfast then set off for the fairly long walk to Andrea’s home. The sun was shining although it was cooler than it had been when he set off.
The distance was about twice what he had to do to get to the pub, as Andrea’s home turned out to be on the opposite side of town. He walked passed the shops of Broad Street not pausing to look longingly at the women’s fashions as he did at other times.  He had to refer to the map he’d printed off the computer before he found Albert Street. It was in a similar Victorian-era warren of terraced houses as their own home.
He stopped at number 12. It was like most of the other houses in the street: a small, tidy front garden and tiled path to the front door, painted green.  He pressed the doorbell. Just a few moments passed before it was opened by a short, slim woman in her late forties.  She had light brown hair held by an elastic band at the back of her head and she was wearing a pale blue dress. If this was Andy’s Mum he must have got most of his looks and build from his father, James thought.
She greeted him with a ‘Hello,’ but her face showed the tale of many tears.
‘Hello. Mrs Pickford?’ James said.
‘Yes. Can I help you?’
‘I’m sorry to bother you. I realise that this is a very difficult time for you, but I did want to see you. You see, I worked with Andrea.’
‘At the pub?’
‘That’s right.’
‘Oh. Andrea never talked about who she worked with except she did sometimes mention her boss, Mr. Ashton.’
‘That’s right, Kevin.  I’m James, James Frame. We didn’t work together for long. I started back in August, but we did quite a few evening shifts together.’
‘You’d better come in,’ Mrs Pickford said pushing the door wide, ‘I still don’t believe what’s happened to her, but it would be nice to talk to someone who knew her. I know she was a bit shy.’
James stepped through the front door straight into the small front room of the house.
Mrs Pickford stopped in the centre of the room and turned to face him.  ‘Do you know what happened to Andrea?’ Her voice was plaintive and her face longed for an answer.
James decided to be bold. ‘No, but I would like to find out. What have the police told you?

…………………………

Jasmine receives a shock

rainbow flagTuesday 17th May is IDAHOT (or IDAHoT) day, the International Day for Action against Homophobia and Transphobia. Public buildings around the world will be flying the rainbow flag of lesbian, gay, bisexual pride. As usual trans gets lumped in with the  LGB or to put it another way transpeople join with LGB people to declare their opposition to discrimination and hate. Since being trans is about personal identity and not sexual preferences it is a questionable whether the T should be in LGBT. However as a smaller minority than the LGB crowd, transpeople need all the support they can get. I am quite happy to support gays and lesbians in their campaign against hate crime and prejudice and I appreciate their acceptance and support for transpeople of all genders or none. Nevertheless, I have been asked whether I feel included in the rainbow flag.
220px-Transgender_Pride_flag.svgThere is a transgender flag, in fact, there are many different designs. Apparently the most commonly seen (shown here) was designed by Monica Helms in 1999 although I can’t recall having seen it fly anywhere. Actually I think it is a terrible design. The blue stands for boys, the pink for girls and the white for intersex (those born with parts of both sets of genitals). It is wrong for so many reasons. First, I would like us to get away from this labelling of pink and blue for girls and boys. Second, the division into two genders leaves out the non-binary or dual gender (whatever term you want to use) people who do not identify with just male or female. Last of all, the structure of the flag suggests that female is confined within the male, reinforcing male supremacy.
The rainbow flag itself has problems. It is not a true rainbow which shows infinite gradations of colour but is in fact a variation on the Newtonian seven colour spectrum (with the blue and indigo combined into royal blue) and suggests divisions between the different “colours”. Oh, and the bottom colour should be a much darker violet.
Why have flags anyway?  Flags were invented to identify which side you were on in a battle or to show possession of a patch of land. Do we really want that symbolism?
Despite that I will show my support in the campaign against hatecrime of all forms on Tuesday by attending  the flying of the flag.

So after that, here is the next episode of Aberration, a prequel to Painted Ladies and Bodies By Design, featuring Jasmine Frame, transsexual detective.

Aberration: Part 3
 
The following evening, James found he was behind the bar with Kevin and another young man, but not Andrea. On the Friday evening though, Andrea was there washing glasses, serving customers, clearing tables. James attempted to engage her in conversation but she wouldn’t stop to chat insisting that there was more work to do. She was the same on Saturday and Sunday evenings, but as they were clearing up in the early hours of Monday morning, Andrea brushed passed James and slipped a piece of paper into his hand.  As he left the pub, James read the note in the light of a streetlamp. It gave the location of a Starbucks in the centre of town and a time, 11 a.m. It ended with a greeting or a request, “See you there. A”.  James smiled, put the slip of paper in his pocket and sauntered home.

Next morning was dry but cooler than it had been.  Nevertheless, Jasmine thought it was summer dress weather. She spent a long time getting ready, striving for that natural, everyday look that took ages to achieve. At last she felt ready to hit the Reading town centre and put on her comfy sandals for the walk.  She found the coffee shop easily enough and entered, surveying the customers for Andy. He was sitting at a table. He saw her as she stepped inside and rose to greet her. They exchanged a nervous kiss on each other’s cheek, then Andy insisted on buying Jasmine a coffee, black unsweetened.
They sat together at the table, set apart, a little further from the others, probably because it was near the loo.  Jasmine guessed that Andy didn’t want his voice overheard.
‘Thanks, Andy,’ she began, ‘It’s nice to get out. Do you come here often?’
Andy nodded, then spoke almost in a whisper. ‘Now and again. Often enough so they know me behind the counter.’
‘Why, here?’
‘It’s the opposite side of the town from home and my family aren’t likely to come in. They’re not fancy coffee drinkers.’ He sipped from his cappuccino.
Jasmine examined the young man. He facial features were a little softer than most blokes but his short hair and button up shirt and jeans meant he didn’t draw attention to himself. He slouched forward, round shouldered, resting his elbows on the table – a typical male pose.
‘You look good,’ Jasmine said.
‘So do you. Really girly.’
Jasmine glowed. ‘Thanks.’ She brushed hair from her face, leaned forward and said quietly, ‘Actually, wearing this wig is bloody hot. I wish I didn’t have to.’
‘Couldn’t you grow your hair? It’s blonde like the wig.’
‘I’d love to but I need short hair for the police force.’
‘They don’t like long hair then?’
‘It’s a matter of fitting in. I don’t want to be taken for a long-haired cissy.’
‘Don’t you want to be female all the time?’ Andy sounded mystified.
‘Hmm,’ Jasmine wasn’t sure how to explain herself, largely because she didn’t know how she felt. ‘Look, I love being Jasmine. It feels natural despite the wig and the false boobs, but I don’t really mind being James.’ James was a cardboard cut-out she stood behind, was more like how she felt. ‘But there’s the career in the Police, which I really want to do, and there’s Angela.’
Andy smiled. ‘Ah, Angela. She’s lovely.’
‘She is. I adore her and want to marry her. She’s really great about Jasmine. We have lots of fun together, but I don’t think she wants to live with her one hundred per cent of the time, especially a Jasmine with real tits and no cock.’
‘So you’re happy to stay as you are?’
‘I think so.’  We’ll have to see, Jasmine thought, we’ve barely set out on our life together. Being a student couple didn’t count. ‘But you’re not,’ she added turning the conversation round to Andy.
His face fell. ‘I can’t get it out of my head. It’s banging away all the time. The feeling that my body’s all wrong.’
‘Well, do something about it,’ Jasmine said with a resolution that she realised she hadn’t applied to herself. ‘You’re an adult. See a doctor. It’ll take time but once you’re on the hormones the changes will happen quickly enough.’
Andy shook his head, ‘But my folks will go bananas. They’ll think I’m an aberration. Wrong in the head.’
Jasmine reached forward to take Andy’s hand in hers. ‘I know it’s difficult. I haven’t told my mother and father anything about Jasmine either.’
‘But you said your sister knows.’
‘Yes.’
‘Well, I haven’t got any brothers and sisters and you don’t know my parents. If I told them I wasn’t their daughter anymore, I’m not sure what would happen.’
Despite Jasmine’s questioning Andy wouldn’t offer any more explanation so she steered the conversation to less problematic areas such as the Athens Olympics. After an hour in the coffee shop they left and went their separate ways.

The days passed. Jasmine celebrated Kelly Holmes’ two gold medals and was inspired to do her own runs most days. She quickly found her fitness returning. The evening shifts behind the bar continued to be a chore but they did at least supplement Angela’s meagre salary as a trainee. At least they were starting to settle into something of a routine and making the most of the time off they had together at the weekends – the daytime anyway. She shared shifts with Andrea some nights but they didn’t chat to each other a lot. Instead, every few days Jasmine met up with Andy for a Starbucks coffee. The staff soon got to recognise them and Jasmine realised that they thought they were a normal girl and boy dating. She could not detect any recognition or reaction to them both being transgendered and she enjoyed the opportunity to be out. When Jasmine told Angela about her observations she laughed.
‘Do I have to worry about you having an affair with another bloke, Jas?’
Jasmine blushed. ‘No. We’re just good friends.’
‘That’s what they all say,’ Angela chuckled.
‘I know, but what I really like is being accepted as me. It’s not like when we were at university surrounded by other students, some of them doing far more weird things than dressing up as the opposite gender. Meeting up with Andy in town is like when we go out shopping or whatever. I’m surrounded by ordinary people who couldn’t care less what I am, or what Andy is.’
Angela nodded. ‘Good. That’s how life should be.’

On a Tuesday night in the pub there were four men at a table, each well into his thirties, having a good time. They were knocking back the pints and whisky chasers and getting louder. James noticed that they seemed to know Kevin well and kept on drawing him into their banter and jokes. James also saw how they treated Andrea. Kevin had told her to serve the group so she was constantly being called out from behind the bar. Andrea had not given into Kevin’s request so was still dressed in her jeans and sloppy t-shirt. This didn’t seem to put off the men.  Hands gripped her thighs and buttocks as if assessing her like a prize ewe. When she leaned down to pick up glasses from the table, one or other of the men would lean forward to gaze at her breasts. James admired how she managed to keep her cool and do no more than ease the hands off her anatomy.  At last the group got up and left the pub blowing kisses to Andrea and Kevin.
Next day, Jasmine met up with Andy at the café. She collected the coffees, it was her turn to buy them and set them down at the table they had come to think of as theirs. Andy stared at the cup.
‘Are you OK, Andy?’ Jasmine said as she sat down.
‘Hmm.’
‘You’re not thinking about last night are you?’
‘Last night?’
‘The way those friends of Kevin pestered you.’
‘Oh, them. No, well I suppose a bit. Girls get that all the time.’
‘Yes, but you don’t have to put up with it. Kevin should have stopped them.’
‘He probably thought I should have been wearing a short skirt to please them a bit more.’
‘If he said that it would be sexual discrimination,’ Jasmine said.
Andy sniffed. ‘Well, he didn’t, and if I threatened him with the law I’d probably lose my job and I can’t risk that.’
‘So what’s the problem.’
He shrugged. ‘A bit of this, a bit of that I suppose.’
The more Jasmine pestered, the less Andy would say but she had never seen him as depressed or withdrawn.  They parted after half an hour hardly having conversed at all.  Jasmine returned home looking forward to an evening off with Angela.

The next day, Thursday, was cooler and damp. Almost autumnal, James thought as he set out for his daily run. He now had a few regular routes which all included sections of the Kennet and Thames river paths. This time, having reached the Kennet, he turned left towards Blakes’ Lock and the town centre. He hadn’t gone far when he met a small cluster of onlookers and his way was blocked by a police barrier.  James stopped and like the others looked upstream.  About fifty yards away a number of uniformed people were milling around on the bank and on the water were two inflatable boats.
‘What’s going on?’ James said to his companions.
A man in his mid-fifties in scruffy jacket and trousers, a fag hanging out of his mouth, coughed. ‘They’ve pulled a body out of the water,’ he said.
‘A dead body?’ James asked, realising it was probably a silly question.
‘’Course, it’s bloody dead. Do you think anyone would go swimming in this?’
James had thought the water seemed fairly clean as he ran beside the rivers but he wouldn’t choose to immerse himself in it.
‘Anyone know who?’ he asked of the gathering not expecting a sensible answer.
‘Someone said it was a girl. She was definitely wearing a short skirt when they pulled her out,’ said a man in an office suit holding an umbrella over his head.
James decided there was no point to standing and gawping and he wasn’t going to be able to follow this route. He turned and started to run in the opposite direction.

At five p.m. he entered the bar. Just Kevin was there, checking the bottles of spirits.  James looked around.
‘Where’s Andrea?’ She was usually there earlier, putting in the hours.
Kevin looked up at him, a blank look on his face. ‘She won’t be in tonight.’
‘Why not? Is she ill?’
‘No, she’s dead. They fished her body out of the Kennet this morning.’

………………..

Jasmine Frame in Aberration

courtesy of the BBC

courtesy of the BBC

The power of the media. Following our “exposure” on the BBC World Service we were contacted my BBC Hereford & Worcester and visited by a very pleasant presenter. We chatted and then she recorded an interview and video (using her phone) of us talking about my revelation of being trans. The story was very much the same as the World Service interview as that seemed the only item of interest.  Anyway, it was duly broadcast on local radio on Monday morning, during the 6 to 9 a.m. magazine-style programme. That meant they kept on repeating tiny excerpts but the transgender issue took up quite a large segment of the programme with contributions from a Rev who runs a LGBT friendly church and Joan King from Gender Trust. There is also a Facebook video. I hope it showed others that secrets can be revealed without the sky falling in and that couples can reach a loving accommodation with the trans life. I presume I am even more out now than before as a few people have commented on hearing the broadcast and seeing the video.

Despite there being little advertising in either of the media features there has been a noticeable increase in views of this blog and associated pages, so I’ll say “Hi” to new visitors and urge you all to come back from time to time, especially to catch these weekly rambles and story episodes.

Things have been busy for the last week or so and writing has been put on the “pending” pile.  However I have made a start on  the new Jasmine Frame prequel which I have called Aberration. You may wonder where my titles come from.  When I started writing Jasmine Frame stories I decided to make each title a play on words relating  to paintings, photographs, drawings i.e. connected to “Frame”. Latterly I have used photographic terms like focus, resolution, and now aberration. While this principle applied to the first published Jasmine stories, Painted Ladies and Bodies By Design I have decided that the prequel novellas probably need more explanatory titles when they appear as e-books, hence Discovering Jasmine and Murder In Doubt. All these titles are available as e-books and the two novels can be purchased as paperbacks in bookshops or direct from me.

You’ll have to wait a week or two to discover the pun in Aberration although I think it is probably pretty obvious. So, here we go with the first episode.

Jasmine Frame prequels – Aberration: Part 1

‘Really Andrea! Couldn’t you do something with yourself?’
Kevin’s voice made James pause in taking the glasses from the dishwasher rack. What was the pub manager on about now, he wondered?
‘What do you mean, do something?’
That was Andrea, James’ fellow bartender. Her voice like Kevin’s came from the cluttered corridor between the two bars.
‘Smarten yourself. Look attractive,’ Kevin said.  James resumed stacking the glasses on the shelves, doing it as quietly as possible while he listened to the conversation.
‘Like how?’ Andrea’s voice suggested she might explode pretty soon, but Kevin seemed oblivious.
‘Like, wearing a skirt. Or a dress. Give the punters something pretty to look at.’
The eruption James expected didn’t come.
‘Why don’t you ask Jim to wear a skirt or a dress? I’m sure they’d look as good on him as me.’
James felt himself blushing. Andrea couldn’t possibly know that he’d love to be wearing a dress or skirt right now, although not perhaps in this particular pub.
‘I said pretty not pervy.’ Kevin sounded exasperated. ‘The customers don’t want to see a tranny behind the bar. Your job is to get them to buy drinks and you’ll do that better if you played the sexy bargirl.’
Andrea’s reply was calm and soft not the outraged roar James feared. ‘I am a woman and what you’re suggesting amounts to sexual discrimination.’
‘Yes, well, it was only a suggestion,’ Kevin backpedalled.
‘I’ll do my job in the same way that Jim and the other guys do it. I’ll pull pints for the customers and take their money but I won’t parade myself in front of them like a peep show tart.’
‘No, alright, Andrea. I get the message. Just make sure you do your job.’ Footsteps receded. Andrea emerged into the bar that James occupied.
‘Did you hear that, Jim?’ Andrea said.  Like James she was in her early twenties and matched him for height.  Comparing their legs and torso she probably outweighed him and she had a sizeable pair of breasts which she kept covered in a loose, black t-shirt. She was wearing her ubiquitous jeans and trainers. Her hair was cut short in a boyish style and James doubted that she had ever worn make-up. She was definitely a tomboy and possibly lesbian. Kevin was onto a loser if he expected to get her into a girly outfit.
‘Yeah. He was out of order, there. You could certainly have got him on an equality rap or even sexual harassment.’
‘Thank you, Mr Lawyer, but I think I’d rather just keep my job.’
‘You’ll put up with him having a go at you for not dressing as he’d like?’ James wondered how much antagonism the girl could take.’
‘Well, it’s the only job I’ve got. Unlike you who will be marching off into a well-paid career in a couple of months.’
James had told Andrea of his plans to join the police force in November shortly after starting the job in the pub a couple of weeks ago at the end of August.
‘Don’t go telling Kevin that. He thinks I’m staying for a while. I wouldn’t have got the job otherwise. Look, he’s probably worried about sales. This place doesn’t seem to get that busy.’
‘Well if he wants to drum up trade by having someone wear fancy dress he can do it himself.’  Andrea stomped off to the other bar.        It was that time in the evening when the commuters had left and the night-birds had yet to turn out. There were just one or two customers focussed on their drinks while James and Andrea prepared for busier times.  Soon there wasn’t time for conversation and the noise level in the bar made exchanging even a few words difficult.

It was approaching one a.m. when James clambered, exhausted, up the stairs to their studio flat. He tried to be quiet opening the door but he knew that the slightest noise would disturb Angela, asleep on the double bed in the corner of the small room. He pushed the door closed and pulled off his shoes. He padded across the thin, cord carpet to check on her. She was turned away from him, her long brown hair spread over the pillow. He stood for a few seconds just looking at her illuminated by light from the street lamp which filtered through the unlined curtains.
‘Come to bed,’ Angela mumbled without turning.
‘Yes. I won’t be a moment,’ James whispered unnecessarily.  He pulled off his clothes, went to the tiny shower room to pee and wash and then to the equally cramped kitchen to get a glass of water. At last he was ready to slip under the sheet beside Angela. He placed a hand on her bare shoulder.
‘I’m tired,’ Angela said.
‘Me too.’
‘Sleep well.’
‘And you.’

James stirred when Angela clambered over him. He groaned and curled up tighter wanting sleep to reclaim him. He heard Angela moving around, showering, having some breakfast, getting dressed. She tried to be quiet as he had done in the night, but floorboards creaked, kettle whistled, mug and plates clacked on the miniature table, the wardrobe door squeaked.
James was aware of Angela standing over him.
‘Is this going to work, James?’
‘What?’ He moaned.
‘We never see each other. I’m at the office all day and by the time I get home you’ve gone off to your bar and don’t get home till I’m asleep.’
James forced his eyes to open. He had a blurry view of Angela standing beside him in her accountant’s suit.
‘It’s only till November, Ange. Then I’ll be a trainee police officer.’
‘But it’ll be the same when you’re done training. You’ll be working shifts. We’ll still be crossing in the doorway.’
He pushed himself up into a slumped position. ‘We’ll work it out, Ange. You’ll see. When you’re a high-earning corporate accountant and I’m a Detective Inspector we’ll be able to make time.’
Angela laughed. ‘That’s be years if not decades. I want time with you now. Do you realise, we haven’t been in this bed awake together since we moved in.’
James knew she was telling the truth of their situation. They’d taken this grotty Reading flat just a day before they started their respective jobs, Angela’s permanent and his temporary, but neither well-paid. Life as a working couple was proving to be less carefree than the student experience.
‘Look tomorrow’s Wednesday; my day off. We could do something in the evening when you get home.’
‘I don’t know James. I’ve got studying to do.’
‘Your exams are months away yet.’
‘I know but I need to get up to speed with what I do in the office.’
‘You can afford one evening off. To be with me.’
Angela smiled. ‘To be with Jasmine I suppose.’
‘Well, yes, okay, that would be great.’ It was exactly what he wanted although he hadn’t dared to make the suggestion. They were in a new town and he hadn’t yet ventured out as Jasmine Frame, but he wanted to, very much.  ‘I’ll have a look around to see what’s happening. We haven’t danced since we were on holiday.’  The memory of dancing, two girls together, surrounded by other people their age on that Greek island seemed rather distant now. Their final fling as students. Now real life was pressing down on them.
‘Alright. I’ll see. I’d better be off.’ Angela leaned down and kissed his cheek. He felt the sticky impression of her lips.

Jasmine spent the day in the stuffy flat trying to think of something more useful to do than watching the Olympic games from Athens on their small portable. She did use her laptop to investigate evening entertainments in Reading and while the dial-up connection wasn’t perfect she made one welcome discovery.
Before Angela returned she wrote out a note. ‘LGBT disco night, monthly, Wed. Athena nightclub.’ Then she went to change into her bar uniform which was precisely the same as that worn by Andrea.
James was pleased to find he was on duty with Andrea again at the start of the evening but she was sullen and quiet. She served the customers but didn’t make small-talk.
‘Anything bothering you,’ James asked hoping to draw her out.
‘Nah,’ she said, ‘Just looking forward to a night away from this dump.’
‘Oh, yes. Me too. Got anything planned.’
Andrea shrugged. ‘Don’t know yet. Wait and see I suppose.’ An impatient drinker barked an order, ending their quasi-conversation and so the night went on.
Angel was asleep again when James returned but turned over as he joined her.
‘Okay,’ she murmured.
‘Okay, what?’ James said.
‘We’ll go to that place you found, tomorrow, tonight, whenever.’
‘Oh, that. Great. Night love,’ He kissed her cheek but she was already snoring softly. Before he too dozed off he considered what outfit he should wear for Jasmine’s first venture into Reading’s nightlife.
…………………

Jasmine fears exposure

This week we reach the end of another Jasmine Frame story. Part 13 of Resolution is below. There are now eight completed novella length prequels to the first Jasmine Frame novel, Painted Ladies. They haven’t been written in any particular order but I am publishing edited versions gradually, in the chronological order of each tale. The first, Discovering Jasmine has been available as an e-book for a few months and the second, Murder In Doubt will be available very soon – watch out for next week’s blog.  The second novel, Bodies By Design, the first sequel to Painted Ladies is also available as a paperback and e-book while the third novel, The Bride’s Club Murder is complete and awaiting my decision when and how to publish.

20160122_132302I created Jasmine about fifteen years ago, not long after I started to reveal my own trans nature. I made Jasmine a transsexual, someone who wanted to live in the gender they identified with and if possible have all the medical treatment necessary to achieve a body that matched that identity as closely as possible. I hope that in the prequels I am showing how James/Jasmine reached that decision, because it isn’t easy nor is it cut and dried. While there are many FtM and MtF transsexuals making and realising that choice, there are also many “trans” or “gender variant” people who do not want to follow that path. I am one. I am quite certain I do not want to take drugs or have surgery. I am happy to feminise my appearance using cosmetics, jewellery, and clothes (and prosthetics) and having my hair styled and ears pierced, etc. but I am content for it to be temporary. I swap or oscillate between genders, like a quantum particle sometimes displaying features of both simultaneously. I use the term “transgender” but it is a catch-all term. Others use the terms non-binary or gender-queer amongst others to describe a feeling which sets them apart from people who are content with the male and female tags. I am still exploring and discovering my own gender identity and through the Jasmine Frame stories I hope to investigate other manifestations of gender uncertainty in individuals and relationships – especially where they involve a juicy murder.

The UK may be one of the more enlightened and accepting societies in which trans people can be who they want to be. However the situation is not perfect. Hate crime still exists and many professional people in positions of authority in medicine, the police, education, government etc. still have little or no knowledge of the experiences of trans people, the diversity of types of gender variance and the pressures on them.

Resolution: Part 13

James shivered. It was British summer warm but the water of the canal had been cold and now he was cooling rapidly.
Tom knelt by his side. ‘Are you okay, Jim? There’s blood on you.’
James looked down at his soaked and stained jacket and shirt. ‘Not mine.’
‘You’d better get those wet clothes off,’ Tom said, ‘The paramedic will be here soon.’
James tugged his jacket off and felt in the pocket. He dragged out the voice recorder.
‘You’d better look after this. I don’t know whether it still works after being in the water.’
‘You recorded your conversation?’
‘I hope so.’
James found his mobile phone. The screen was blank and it didn’t respond to him pressing buttons. Approaching sirens made him look up. A first responder and a couple of police cars were racing over the canal bridge.  In moments uniforms were bustling around them. The paramedic examined Dawson briefly then turned to James.
‘Let’s have a look at you.’
Through chattering teeth James asked ‘What about him?’ He nodded towards Dawson.
‘Nothing I can do for him,’ the paramedic said. ‘But let’s get you dried off and warmed up. Do you have any injuries?
James felt the bruise on his breast bone and a graze on his knee, but shook his head.
‘Better get you checked over nevertheless, since you’ve been in the canal.’
The paramedic gave him a foil blanket from his bag. He wrapped it around himself. An ambulance arrived and more police cars. DS Trewin got out of one car, took a look around then sauntered up to James. He crouched down.
‘Well, Jim. What have you been up to?’
James opened his mouth.
‘No, don’t tell me now. Let’s get you sorted out in A&E then we can have a chat.’
James found his voice. ‘Tom Shepherd saw what happened and he’s got the recorder. You’ll find stuff on Dawson on my computer.’
‘Thank you, Jim. We’ll talk soon.’ Trewin beckoned to the ambulance personnel, a man and a woman, and walked off to speak to Tom.
‘Can you walk?’ The female paramedic asked. James struggled to his feet. The woman gave him a helping hand towards the ambulance.

‘James! Are you alright?’ Angela rushed towards James with her arms reaching out to him. He rose from the hospital chair which he had been occupying for most of the last few hours. The NHS regulation gown flapped around his knees.
‘Angela, at last.’ He said as they wrapped their arms around each other. They hugged then Angela pushed him away and looked him up and down.
‘You’re well?’ she said, almost as if she expected him to be swathed in bandages.
‘I’m fine. Just a bruise,’ James placed a hand on his chest. ‘My clothes got ruined and my phone’s knackered. That’s why I could only leave you a voice message from a payphone.’
‘I picked it up when I came out of my meeting, but I was in London. You remember?’
‘Oh yes,’ James had forgotten where Angela had said she was spending her day.
‘I’ve got some clothes for you though. Here.’ She handed him a carrier bag. He looked in it – pants, t-shirt, shorts and flip-flops.
‘Looks like I’m on holiday.’
‘Well, they were easy to shove in the bag. You’re not on duty are you?’
James snorted. ‘No. Don’t think I will be for a few days, if ever. Alan Trewin called in and told me to go home and stay there until this is all over.’
‘What’s all over, James?’
‘Dawson, the guy who was following me, is dead. I was responsible, sort of. They’ll have to investigate that and the crimes he was involved in. I don’t know whether they’ll find out about Jasmine.’
Angela placed her hand on his cheek. ‘Well, you’re safe, and that’s all that matters to me. Come on. Get dressed so we can go home.’

The week went by for James in a mixture of nervous excitement and boredom. He spent it in their Reading flat with little to do except follow Angela’s instructions for packing. The contracts were exchanged on the house in Kintbridge so they would be moving in a week or so. He started sorting his and Jasmine’s clothes ready to be transported to the new house. He had no contact with police force colleagues other than brief daily calls from DS Trewin and visits from investigating officers from Birmingham, Sheffield and the Metropolitan Police.
The Sheffield investigators asked questions relating to James’ report on the Hargreaves murder and Greaves’ suicide. James had little to add and didn’t offer an opinion on the treatment of trans prisoners. They had no reason to suspect the existence of Jasmine and he wasn’t going to enlighten them.
The Birmingham detectives were interested to know about Dawson’s part in DS Sparrow’s death. They had got nowhere in tracing the driver of the burnt-out stolen vehicle that had run her down. Now they were able to follow up Dawson’s contacts and arrest a suspect. They had interviewed Tania again and James was relieved that she hadn’t revealed that it was Jasmine who had visited her and not James. The detectives left satisfied that they had Milla’s murder sewn up but upset that James had made the breakthrough.
The Met officers were also a little disgruntled that James had opened up the book of Dawson’s life in crime. To them he had been a peripheral figure in the drug supply business.  Now he was revealed as the middleman between the importers and the dealers with a remorseless way of dealing with those who got in his way. The experience in hiding his identity before and after his transition had stood him well in the murky world of crime. Now, following his death and exposure, his network was unravelling as informers came forward.
James also had a visit from Alan Trewin who had taken down his statement of the weekend’s events and James’ account of his meeting with Dawson. James neglected to report what he was wearing at the various times and Trewin revealed no knowledge of Jasmine. James guessed that Dawson had left no record of his intended blackmail.  Trewin made few comments leaving James more than a little uncertain of his future.
At midday on Friday, the phone in the flat rang. James dropped the pile of books he was carrying into the cardboard box and answered it.
Trewin’s voice greeted him. ‘Jim. The DCI would like to see you this afternoon. Be in his office at two. Don’t come any earlier and hang around, and don’t be late. Got that?’
‘Yes. . .’ The call terminated. They don’t want me chatting to Tom or the others, James thought as he hurried to start getting ready. He dressed in his other dark grey suit with a freshly ironed shirt and polished black shoes.

It was precisely two p.m. when James walked through the communal office and into Sloane’s private space. He’d sat in the police station carpark watching his watch till he judged it was time to go.
DCI Sloane looked up as James stood to attention in front of his desk. There appeared to be no warmth in the chief’s eyes.
‘Now Frame, what have you been up to?’ he paused but James didn’t think he was expecting an answer. ‘In the space of a few days since joining us you bring two cases, perhaps three or more, to a resolution but with the perpetrators dead so the cases will not be tested in court.’
James nodded, wondering where Sloane was leading.
‘Greaves was a bitter and confused fellow,’ Sloane continued, ‘but Dawson was a cunning and ruthless criminal. What this swapping between life as a woman and a man had to do with it I don’t know but the clues you provided have revealed a very nasty personality. We’ve rounded up the immigrants that he was intending to use as his new sales network. He intimidated them, making them think they had broken some employment laws and then blackmailed them to do what he wanted. The boys at the Met are following up various leads on his suppliers. The divers found the gun in the canal and it matches one used in other killings.’ Sloane took a breath and glared at James. ‘So, it seems we have a lot to thank you for, DC Frame.’
It didn’t sound as though Sloane was gushing with gratitude.
‘However, this Dawson business. First you involve yourself in the Sparrow case without authorisation from me or the Birmingham investigating officer. Then you inform no-one of the contact made with Dawson and finally you go off alone, or almost alone, to meet him when you know he is dangerous. What do you have to say, Frame.’
‘I’m sorry, Sir.’ How could he explain? ‘I wanted to see Tania, Milla’s partner, to tell her how sorry I was about Milla. Her sighting of Dawson came out by accident. The Birmingham people hadn’t asked the necessary questions. I would have informed you but then I discovered that Dawson was tailing me. He threatened me and I wasn’t sure what to do, Sir. I thought that meeting him again and getting him to confess might give me a way of . . .’ James wasn’t sure what he’d expected to happen.
‘Frame. I understand and I sympathise,’ There wasn’t much sympathy in Sloane’s grey features. ‘but you have to realise that police investigations are founded on teamwork. The heroic actions of a maverick cop only occur in crime novels. If you want to work alone then get out of the force and become a private eye.’ Sloane spoke the words with disdain. ‘Now, it does appear that you and Shepherd have struck up a bit of a partnership. He says that your swift reaction prevented Dawson getting another shot off at him and you did at least involve him in your half-baked scheme. In future, remember that in the V&SCU, we work together, we share information and we make each other’s safety paramount. Do you understand me, Frame?’
James had listened, waiting for the words that would say his career as a detective was over, but what had Sloane said – “In future”? Did that mean he was being kept on?
‘Frame?’ Sloane repeated.
James jerked to attention. ‘Yes, Sir, I understand, Sir. Teamwork, Sir.’
A hint of a smile formed at the corners of Sloane’s mouth. ‘That’s right. Don’t forget it. Now, thanks to you I have still to speak to a variety of police forces. I don’t want to see you again till eight a.m. on Monday morning, prompt. I’ll work out then which case deserves yours and Shepherd’s attention.’
James saluted, mumbled his thanks and backed out. He hurried through the outer office and out of the station. In the warm, polluted, Kintbridge air, he paused and looked around.  He was still a detective, still a member of Sloane’s team, and none of his colleagues knew about Jasmine.

THE END

……………………….

Jasmine follows

Waterstones 160323

Waterstones’ Crime shelf

I was in London one day this week. Crowded and expensive but easy travel and good mobile internet – swings and roundabouts I suppose. Anyway it was encouraging to find Painted Ladies on the crime shelves in Waterstones Piccadilly. I presume that to be there nearly thee years after publication that they must sell one or two.  No Bodies By Design of course, but I think I’ll try them. . .

This weekend my focus is on SF & F at the annual Easter convention.  This year it is Mancunicon i.e. Manchester so look at my SF&F page for information.  Nevertheless the Jasmine Frame prequel, Resolution continues below, now at part 10. You may wonder how she’s going to get out of this spot of difficulty. So do I.

 

 

 

Resolution: Part 10

The Toyota sped off leaving Jasmine groping at air. She ran across the road towards her car in the driveway. Angela emerged from the front door.
‘What’s going on, Jas?’
‘Where’s the car key?’ Jasmine cried reaching the drivers’ door.
Angela pulled the keys from her pocket. ‘Er, here, Jas. What are you doing?’
Jasmine grabbed the keys and opened the Fiesta’s door. She was turning the key in the ignition as she settled into the seat and pulling the seatbelt across her. The engine burbled into life and she reversed down the drive just as a car went passed with its horn blaring.  She spun the wheel and put her foot down. The engine screamed and she headed out of the estate.
She reached the junction and looked both ways. There was no sign of the silver Toyota. She hardly expected there to be. To the right was the way they had arrived, the main road through Kintbridge and elsewhere. It was the obvious way to go but no chance of catching her watcher if he had gone that way. She wasn’t sure where the road to the left went. She turned left, and accelerated beyond the thirty mile-an-hour speed limit. It was a narrow two-way country road that twisted and rose and fell through dips. She drove as fast as she dared, faster than felt safe. She careered around a couple of small roundabouts thankful that no other vehicles emerged from side roads.
She reached a straight section and she pressed her right foot to the floor. Far ahead was a glimpse of silver. It disappeared around a bend. Moments later she reached the tight double bend. The tyres squealed as she braked hard and wrenched the wheel over. The back of the Fiesta wobbled and then she was through and on a slowly curving descent. She passed a sign warning of a main road ahead. There, stopped at the junction was the silver Auris.  A couple of cars and a van went passed and Jasmine pulled up behind her quarry. The road cleared and he pulled out turning left. Jasmine followed catching a glimpse of a sign pointing towards Reedham, the town adjacent to Kintbridge. Now Jasmine knew where she was headed. She accelerated to come up to the rear of the hatchback.  Bumper to bumper they headed down the hill to the town. Ahead Jasmine saw the canal and railway line running alongside it.
They were approaching the canal bridge when the Toyota pulled off into a narrow layby. Jasmine jammed her foot on the brake, just avoiding ramming the lead car. She pulled on the handbrake, released her seatbelt and pushed her door open. She leaped out and ran to Toyota as the driver slowly hauled himself out. He was a pear-shaped gentleman, two or three inches shorter than Jasmine, wearing a summer suit just as Tania has described.
‘I’m arresting you on . . .’
He held his hands up to halt her. ‘Hold on a moment. On what grounds are you arresting me?’
Jasmine caught her breath, ‘On suspicion of conspiracy to murder Detective Sergeant Camilla Sparrow in Birmingham.’
A smile passed over the man’s bearded face. ‘Where’s your evidence?’
‘You were identified by Milla’s partner.’
‘Identified? How?’
‘She saw you in the pub just before Milla was run down.’
The man chuckled. ‘I was sitting in a pub before this detective was skilled in a road accident?’
‘It wasn’t an accident.’
The man waved his hand. ‘Whatever. I think you’ll need to be more convincing than that to link me with the incident.’
‘You’ve been following me. You followed me to Birmingham and back and to the house.’
‘I was following you was I? It seems that you have been following me, somewhat dangerously if I may say so.’
Jasmine couldn’t believe how relaxed and confident he seemed.
‘You know what you’ve done,’ she blurted out.
He held his palms out and shrugged. ‘I don’t know what you’re talking about.’
‘When we’ve questioned you, you’ll know,’ Jasmine said.
‘So you’re going to take me into the police station for interrogation are you?’ he said, smiling broadly.
‘Yes.’
‘So Jasmine Frame is the Detective Constable now is she? You’re going to reveal yourself to your colleagues are you?’
‘What?’ Jasmine was confused.
‘You’re going to appear before DCI Sloane in your short skirt and false tits?’
Jasmine looked down at herself and understood what the man was getting at. She couldn’t walk him into the police station without revealing herself to her bosses and fellow officers. She didn’t even have her warrant card and handcuffs with her, or her mobile phone.
She could see he was enjoying her sudden discomfort. ‘I know all about you Jasmine or James Frame. I know what a trans person feels when they’re undecided what their future holds. Who do you trust with your secret? How far do you want to go? Is dressing up a hobby or do you really want to be a woman. Either way do you dare let Sloane and the others know?’
He really does know me, Jasmine thought. She examined him from his round face and short ginger beard to his broad hips and big bottom. ‘You’re trans too,’ she said.
He shook his head. ‘I was. Not anymore. I’m a man.  But we’re similar. I think we could do business together. If you don’t want your colleagues to know about Jasmine, then I don’t have to inform them.’ He reached into the pocket of his jacket. ‘Here’s my card. Have a think about it. Get in touch with me.’
He stretched out his arm and Jasmine took the card from him. He turned and got back into his car, started the engine and drove on towards Reedham.  Jasmine looked at the plain business card.  Eric Dawson, property and merchandise, she read, followed by an email address and mobile phone number. She returned to the Fiesta and sat in the driving seat gripping the wheel.
She had him, Milla’s killer, or the person who had planned it, and let him go, because she couldn’t face the horror of revealing her transgender identity to her colleagues. What on earth was she to do now. She felt dirty as if she was implicated in Milla’s death but she realised that was just what Dawson intended. Had he been planning to have her killed just like Milla? Now perhaps he saw her as a puppet which he could manipulate for his own benefit.
She started the car and drove slowly back to the new house and Angela. The front door was open and Angela rushed out as she pulled into the drive.
‘What happened?’ she called.
Jasmine hauled herself out of the car. ‘I lost him,’ she said. She’d lied. She had never lied to Angela. Angela knew everything about Jasmine and James; well, everything that Jasmine was certain of about herself.
‘Who is he?’ Angela said, her eyes showing her concern.
‘I’ll explain.’ Jasmine took Angela’s hand and lead her into the house. ‘It’s all to do with Milla Sparrow.’ She explained what she had learned on her visit to Tania and from Tania’s call.
‘So you think that man was watching us and he’s the same person who organised Milla’s death?’ Angela summarised.
Jasmine nodded.
‘But why watch you as well as Milla?’ Angela said.
‘It must be to do with that case I did with Milla. It’s related to the drugs scene in Reading.’
‘That was those trans people in that club. Weren’t they all arrested and the club shut down?’
Jasmine shrugged. ‘We didn’t get the top people. They kept out of sight.’
You’ll have to be careful, Jas. If they want to kill you too . . .’ Angela’s voice cracked into a sob. Jasmine reached out and pulled her into a hug. Jasmine no longer felt she was in danger while Dawson thought she could be kept dangling on a threat to out her. But she didn’t tell Angela that.
‘Shall we go home now, Ange,’ she said. Angela nodded wiping the tears from her cheeks. They locked up the house and drove back to their flat in silence. Jasmine had one question for herself – how was she going to get out of Dawson’s clutches?
……………….

Jasmine questions Milla’s partner

Layout 1There have been two things that have lifted me this week and will encourage me to go on writing and publishing (I hope that prospect doesn’t terrify you too much). The first was a good review of Bodies By Design on the Eurocrime website. Go to my Jasmine Frame publications page for the link.

Seventh Child cover, designed by Alison Buck

Seventh Child cover, designed by Alison Buck

The second item was the news that the first volume of my fantasy series, Seventh Child, is a finalist in the Wishing Shelf awards (for teenage fiction). There’s more about that on my SF&F page.

 

 

With that news out of the way, here is the next episode in the Jasmine Frame prequel, Resolution. After the climax last week, we’re onto the other strand of the story here.

 

 

Resolution: Part 7

Jasmine yawned as she pulled up outside the smart, recently-built, detached house. It was still mid-morning and the little red Fiesta had made a good job of swallowing up the miles between Reading and Birmingham. Nevertheless, it had been a fairly early start after a late arrival back home. Despite what DS Trewin had hoped it took some time to charge Michelle Greaves and put her into custody. Only then could they begin the drive back to Kintbridge from Sheffield. They had been elated at their success in getting a confession from Greaves but James had felt exhausted when he finally joined Angela in their bed.
She checked her make-up in the vanity mirror and got out of the car, smoothing the cotton skirt down her thighs and making sure that the plain white vest covered her bra. It was turning into a hot day and she was pleased that she had dressed appropriately. The blonde wig was feeling a bit warm though. She recalled Milla Sparrow saying she could pass as a woman even with her short fair hair but Jasmine felt more confident with the disguise the wig provided. She brushed hairs from her face, locked the car, tossed her bag over her shoulder and advanced up the driveway to the front door.
The door opened before she got to it. Jasmine was a little surprised to see that Tania Portman looked older than she expected. She was in her late thirties, a few years older than Milla, and had short, dark hair and tired eyes.
‘I saw the car pull up and guessed it must be you. Jasmine Frame?’ Tania said, pulling the door wide and holding her hand out.
Jasmine extended her hand. Tania took it and shook it gently.
‘Thank you Tania. I hope I’m not too early,’ Jasmine said, stepping into the bright hallway. Tania gazed at the road and then closed the door.
‘No. I’ve finished breakfast and all that. On Milla’s days off, we used to hang around in bed for ages. Not that she had days off very often. Now though I just want to get up and get on. Come on through. Coffee?’
‘Yes, please.’  Jasmine followed Tania into the spacious and well-equipped kitchen. ‘You’ve got a lovely place here.’ Jasmine was comparing the house with the one she and Angela were purchasing in Kintbridge. Though she was delighted with their move into their own property it was small and cramped in comparison to this.
Tania looked around as if seeing her surroundings for the first time. ‘Yes, I suppose it is. It was meant to be a fresh start for Milla and me. Our own place, decorated how we liked; and of course we could afford a better place up here than in Kintbridge.’
‘House prices down there are pretty ridiculous,’ Jasmine agreed, wondering when the inconsequential talk would be finished.
‘But now. . .’ Tania went on, ‘It doesn’t feel right. It wasn’t meant to be just for me.’
‘You miss Milla?’ What a stupid thing to ask, Jasmine thought. Of course she misses her partner and lover.
Tania gave her a polite smile and busied herself with making the coffee. Although the question needed no answer she did respond. ‘I miss her terribly. She was the one person who I could talk about anything to and her to me. We both lead busy lives of course and police work meant a lot to her but at the end of the day, or most days, we ended up curled up together on the sofa or in bed just enjoying being in each other’s lives.’  Tania filled a mug from a coffeemaker. ‘Black or white?’
‘Black please,’ Jasmine took the mug from her and Tania proceeded to pour another.
‘Her death must have been a great shock.’ Oh, not another silly, obvious statement, Jasmine remonstrated with herself. Why was it so difficult to talk about death sensibly? She could do it when the death meant nothing to her personally, but here . . . well, she felt bound by convention.
Tania put a splash of milk in her mug and grunted. ‘I still can’t believe it’s happened. It’s over a month now but I still I expect her to walk through the door at the end of a long day and just call out “Hi”.’
Tania lead Jasmine into a lounge, sparsely furnished with a big, soft sofa and a thick, furry rug over wood flooring. ‘It all happened so soon after we’d moved up here that we hadn’t even finished unpacking or buying stuff. I don’t feel like doing either now.’
They sat next to each other on the sofa. Jasmine carefully crossed her bare legs. Tania slumped with her jean-clad legs stretched out in front of her.  Tania examined Jasmine over the rim of her steaming mug.
‘So, you’re James Frame to the police force, but Jasmine the rest of the time?’
Jasmine nodded. ‘That’s about it.’
‘None of your colleagues know about Jasmine?’
‘No. Milla was the first and only one. Did she tell you how she got to know?’
‘Yes,’ Tania said, ‘She didn’t talk about all her cases, couldn’t a lot of the time, but I remember clearly when she came home and talked about meeting you first as James then how you became Jasmine to deal with those drug deaths.’
Jasmine smiled at the memory. ‘She was great. It made sense to be in my femme mode because so many of the people involved in the case were trans in one way or another but she really worked hard to keep my secret from the guys in the force.’
‘And now you’re a detective yourself.’
Jasmine grinned. ‘Yes. It’s what I wanted to do and I think I can thank Milla for helping me to get the posting.’
‘She did say that she thought you’d make a good detective. Do you think you’ll tell DCI Sloane about Jasmine?’
Jasmine shivered despite the warmth. The thought of revealing herself to the stern, old-time-copper was horrific.
‘I don’t think so.’
‘So you’re happy with the double-life.’
Am I, Jasmine wondered. It was a question she avoided asking herself as the wrong answer created all sorts of other questions about work and her life with Angela.
‘Yes,’ she said hoping that uncertainty didn’t show in her voice.
‘But you’re married?’ Tania went on.
‘Yes. Angela has known about Jasmine from the time we first met. She met Jasmine before James actually. She’s very relaxed about me being both male and female.’  Is she really? Jasmine wasn’t certain about that either. What would Angela do if she decided to transition to the woman she almost certainly felt herself to be? Surely she wouldn’t be as obstructive as Michelle Greaves’ wife.
‘Milla was unsure about coming out at work but once we started living together it became silly not to,’ Tania said.
‘Did she have any problems?’
Tania shook her head. ‘Not really. One or two male officers looked at her in a leery sort of way, so she said, but the police force today is pretty careful about getting diversity right. I’m sure you’d have no problem if you decided to become Jasmine full-time.’
Jasmine nodded and sipped her coffee.
‘But you didn’t come here to hear my opinions on your prospects in the police service,’ Tania said.
‘Um, no.’ Jasmine had been waiting for the chance to get on to DS Sparrow’s death and it seemed Tania was making the move.
‘You want to know what happened to Milla.’
‘Yes, if you don’t mind talking about it.’
‘I don’t. Perhaps talking about her will get it out of my head and stop it going round and round with me wondering if there was anything I could have done.’ Tania paused and looked faraway for a moment. Her eyes focussed again. ‘How much do you know?’
Jasmine shook her head. ‘Not a lot. A few comments from people but that’s all. Why don’t you tell me all that you know?’
Tania took a mouthful of coffee, swallowed and thought. She took a big breath. ‘We hadn’t had time to get settled in. It was just a week after Milla started work here. I’d already been here a few weeks in my job, getting the house liveable. Of course as soon as Milla started she was up to her eyes in work but that day she got home at a similar time to me, about six. We decided to go out for something to eat. There hadn’t been a chance to find decent places but the local pub looked pretty okay so we thought we’d give it a try.’
‘Pub?’ Jasmine interrupted.
‘The Shakespeare. On the main road. Less than half a mile.’ Tania pointed out of the front window in no particular direction. ‘We walked there, had a fairly reasonable meal and a bottle of wine. It was pretty busy as it was a good summer’s evening, but we felt comfortable. It was just getting dark as we wandered home, arm in arm.’ She paused and Jasmine saw cracks appear in her face. ‘It happened so fast. I didn’t see everything that I could have done, should have done.’ Her voice croaked.
‘Take your time, Tania. I don’t want to upset you.’ Jasmine shuffled along the sofa and took Tania’s hand in hers.
‘The car just appeared, coming towards us, fast. It hit the kerb then just flew at us. Milla shoved me out of the way. I fell on the pavement and the car shot by. I heard a thump which I realised later was the car hitting Milla. Then it stopped, reversed and drove off. They went over Milla twice. I was dazed and sore, I’d banged my knee. I felt sorry for myself, then I saw her lying there, blood all over the place. I crawled to her. I wouldn’t have recognised her except for her yellow skirt. She was already . . .’ The tears had been building for a while but now they came, flowing freely down Tania’s cheeks. Jasmine put her arm around the older woman’s shoulders and pulled her to her. Tania sobbed on Jasmine’s false breasts. ‘She saved me but couldn’t save herself.’
……………

Jasmine in the mind of a killer

A bit of a rush this week, so I’ll just say to the lovely reviewer on Am**** who gave Painted Ladies a brief but very positiveLayout 1 review: there is a follow-up; it’s called Bodies By Design and is available as an e-book or from me in paperback form .

Without any more ado here is a special long episode of the prequel, Resolution (spot the reason for the title). It’s a climax but nowhere near the end.

Resolution: Part 6

 Michelle Greaves blinked at the change in topic. She shook her head. ‘No.’
The door opened and an officer in uniform entered carrying a tray of mugs. ‘Tea?’ he said.
Trewin looked peeved briefly then nodded. The officer placed one mug on the table in front of him, another for James and the last in front of Michelle Greaves, removing an empty mug. ‘Thank you,’ Trewin said as the officer departed. He turned back to face Greaves. ‘Are you sure about that, Miss Greaves or do you prefer Miz?’
Greaves shook her head. ‘I don’t care, and yes, I’m sure.’
Trewin looked mystified. ‘Strange that, because we have a witness saying they saw someone with a close resemblance to you approaching Mrs Hargreaves’ house on Wednesday afternoon, shortly before she died.’
Greaves shrugged. ‘It wasn’t me. Why are you asking all these questions? The coloured woman said Elizabeth had died but I don’t understand what you expect me to tell you.’
Trewin sighed. ‘Elizabeth Hargreaves didn’t die naturally. You are her next of kin and we need to trace the person seen visiting her who resembles how you look here and now, dressed as a woman.’
‘I am a woman,’ Greaves said, apparently, James noted, more worried by a dispute about her gender than the suspicious death of her wife.
‘When did you go full-time?’ James asked. Michelle Greaves turned her head and examined him. She didn’t answer immediately but then her facial muscles stiffened. ‘I shouldn’t have to answer that,’ she said.
‘Why not?’ Trewin said.
‘You shouldn’t question my gender,’ Greaves said. ‘As far as you’re concerned I’m a woman.’
‘And we will treat you as one,’ Trewin said.
‘But you don’t have a GRC do you?’ James said.
Greaves’ eyes narrowed. ‘So what?’
James launched into an explanation. ‘That means you haven’t had a new birth certificate issued in your reassigned gender and you presumably have not completed the period required for living full-time in the gender you identify with.’
Greaves was flustered. ‘Well, I didn’t transition at work, but I was a woman for the rest of my life.’
‘BT, wasn’t it? Your employer?’ Trewin asked. Greaves nodded.
‘I understand they’re pretty good about employees wishing to transition,’ James said. ‘What was stopping you?  You could have had that GRC by now.’
Greaves gave him a look that would have made a charging rhino stop in its tracks. She made an effort to recover and appear relaxed.
‘It wasn’t convenient. I was happy being female outside work but didn’t want the hassle of coming out to all the people I worked with.’
‘So what changed?’ Trewin asked.
‘I got made redundant,’ Greaves said. ‘They gave me a good offer. At last I didn’t have to go to work. I could be the person I wanted to be all the time.’
‘When was that?’ Trewin said.
‘Last summer,’ Greaves answered.
‘What did Elizabeth think of it?’ James asked.
Greaves shrugged, ‘She was OK.’
James wasn’t convinced by Michelle’s answer and pressed further, ‘She had known about you being trans for a long time. There are photos of you together from way back.’
Greaves glared. ‘How did you see those photos?’
‘We had to search Mrs Hargreaves’ home for evidence relating to the cause of her death,’ Trewin explained. ‘Go on with your questions DC Frame.’
James took a breath. ‘Did Elizabeth’s attitude to your transgenderism change?’
Greaves eyes shifted back and for between James and Trewin before he composed his answer. ‘When we got together we were young and full of new ideas. Elizabeth quite liked the novelty of me dressing as a woman. She accepted me as Michelle, but she wasn’t too chuffed when I said I wanted gender reassignment. When I gave up working for BT we decided to split.’
‘You both agreed to separate?’ Trewin said.
‘Yeah,’ Greaves said.
‘So what was the purpose of your trip to Kintbridge on Wednesday?’ Trewin asked.  James hid a smile at his colleague’s attempt to catch Greaves out. It didn’t work.
Greaves responded fiercely. ‘I told you I wasn’t in Kintbridge on Wednesday. I’ve never seen the place.’
James felt a vibration in his jacket pocket. He pulled out his phone and saw that he had a call.
‘Excuse me,’ he said, rising quickly from his chair and hastening to the door. He thumbed the call key. As the door closed behind him he put the phone to his ear.
‘Tom. What is it?’
‘Hi, Jim. Are you there yet?’ There was a hint of fatigue in Tom’s voice. James felt lucky that he’d bagged the awayday.
‘Yes, we’re interviewing Greaves.’
‘What’s he saying?’
‘She’s denying being in Kintbridge at any time.’
‘You’ll like this then.’
‘What’s that?’
‘I’ve been through CCTV footage from Kintbridge Railway Station.’
James felt his heart beat increase. ‘What you got?’
‘I’ve got someone who looks very much like Michelle Greaves getting off the train from London at 3:10.’
‘Fantastic. Are you sure?’
‘Well, it matches the description from the neighbour and looks reasonably like the photos in that album you picked up.’
‘Thanks Tom. That might be just what we need.’
‘Glad to be of service,’ Tom said ending the call. James dropped the phone back in his pocket and returned to the interview room feeling lighter on his feet. He sat down again. Trewin looked at him with raised eyebrows. Greaves glared sullenly at him. There was a flicker of fear in her eyes. She’s realised that I’ve got some information that will show she’s lying, James thought.
‘So, Elizabeth was unhappy about you transitioning?’ James said.
Greaves grunted something that James felt was an affirmative.
‘Why didn’t you start divorce proceedings?’ James went on. ‘Your change of gender would have been suitable grounds. You could have been divorced by now and halfway through your real-life test.’
James could see the colour drain from Greaves face despite her thick make-up. ‘No comment,’ she said. ‘Am I under arrest?’
‘Not yet,’ Trewin said, ‘We’re just trying to see if you’re implicated in the murder of Elizabeth Hargreaves.’
Greaves shuddered at the word murder but said nothing.
‘And we have evidence that contrary to what you have told us, you were in Kintbridge on Wednesday,’ James felt a feeling of elation as he presented the new information, ‘There is CCTV footage of you getting off the train from London.’
Trewin looked at James with eyes wide. He nodded and leaned forward across the table. ‘So Miss Greaves. Perhaps you had better tell us the truth now. Did you travel to Kintbridge to kill your wife?’
Greaves roared, pushed against the table and jumped up. The table and chairs, fixed to the floor, didn’t move. Trewin and James both leapt up watching the woman carefully for signals of what she was going to do next.
‘Sit down please, Miss Greaves and answer our questions.’ DS Trewin said
Slowly, Michelle settled back into her chair looking from hooded eyes at Trewin to James and back again. Trewin and James sat.
Greaves spoke softly, ‘There’s no proof I was there when she died.’
‘You mean, because you removed the murder weapon,’ Trewin said with a half-smile. ‘We have the witness who saw you and would identify you. We have the CCTV footage, and unless you wore protective clothing and gloves for the whole of your visit to your wife, there will be DNA evidence which hasn’t been analysed quite yet. I suggest that you be honest with us. It will be easier for you.’
Michelle trembled. James wasn’t sure if it was from anger or fear. She covered her face with her hands. The row of gleaming red nails formed a palisade across her forehead.
‘Did you kill Elizabeth Hargreaves at some time on Wednesday afternoon or evening?’ Trewin asked.
Sobs came from behind Michelle’s hands. There was no reply.
‘Answer my question, please Michelle,’ Trewin said.
Michelle slowly lowered her hands and whispered, ‘I didn’t want to kill her.’
DS Trewin leaned forward. ‘You brought the murder weapon, a length of cable, with you and took it away again. That looks very much like premeditated murder to me.’
‘She made me do it,’ Greaves wailed.
‘She asked you to strangle her,’ Trewin scoffed, ‘Come off it, Greaves. You travelled from here, Sheffield, to Kintbridge, prepared to kill your wife and that is what you did.’
‘She left me no choice,’ Greaves cried.
‘No choice!’ Trewin thumped the table, ‘What choice did you give her? Her life or what?’
James spoke softly. ‘Tell us why, Michelle. Was it to do with your transition? Why didn’t you divorce?’
Michelle’s tear streaked face looked at James. ‘She wouldn’t.’
‘Wouldn’t what?’ Trewin said.
‘She wouldn’t divorce you? Is that it?’ James asked.
Greaves nodded almost imperceptibly. ‘She refused. She kept on refusing. I pleaded one more time. She laughed in my face. That’s when I had to do it.’
Trewin shook his head in confusion. ‘But why? You were living apart; you’d split your finances. You could have gone on living as you were until you filed for divorce yourself. What’s the big deal?’
Greaves sobbed again but didn’t answer.
‘Ah, but it was a big deal wasn’t it?’ James said, realisation dawning. ‘It was all about your GRC wasn’t it?’
Trewin looked at him nonplussed. ‘What are you talking about Frame?’
James faced his colleague. ‘In order to be issued with a Gender Reassignment Certificate the applicant must be single. Married couples must divorce first. If Elizabeth Hargreaves was refusing the immediate divorce, Michelle might have had to wait years before she could get her certificate, change her birth records and become the person she believes herself to be. The delay might have even slow down her treatment.’
Trewin nodded slowly, ‘I see.’ He looked at Michelle Greaves.
The trans-woman sniffed and stared at James. ‘You get it now do you? Our marriage had to end.’ she said.
‘I understand why you might have been driven to kill your wife but I don’t condone it,’ James said.
‘Tell us how your, er, transition, lead to the murder,’ Trewin said.
Greaves slumped and sighed. ‘She was a vindictive bitch. She was amused by my dressing early on but she lost interest in being with Michelle, and then she turned bad-tempered and catty.’
‘Was that because you were spending more and time in your femme mode?’ James asked.
Greaves shrugged, ‘I suppose so.’
‘Why didn’t you divorce when you started falling out?’ Trewin said.
‘We had the house and we were both working in London. Splitting and trying to find somewhere else to live seemed too difficult. We rubbed along, I suppose.’
‘Until you were made redundant,’ James stated.
Greaves nodded. ‘Yeah. I was certain that I wanted to transition, but Elizabeth wouldn’t talk about it. With no job I saw it as my chance to go full-time. She couldn’t bear seeing me as Michelle at home every day. She got more and more stubborn and angry. We rowed lots of times.  Eventually she agreed to split.  My redundancy package and the money from the house meant we could be fairly comfortable if we moved out of the city.’
‘But she wouldn’t agree to the divorce that would give you freedom to remove records of Michael Hargreaves,’ James said.
‘I thought she would when the house sold but she seemed to enjoy having that last hold on me,’ Greaves said, ‘She taunted me. She said I’d never be a true woman.’
Trewin ‘So you killed her to release you from your marriage.’
‘It was the only way,’ Greaves sobbed again and buried her head in her arms. James wondered at the power of the need to transition. Surely that wouldn’t be his future would it. He was satisfied with a double life as Jasmine and James, wasn’t he? How would Angela react if he decided to transition? He couldn’t imagine her being as disturbed as Elizabeth Hargreaves and refuse a divorce. He sympathised with Michelle Greaves but no conflict was so fierce as to make murder the appropriate resolution.
‘Thank you, Michelle,’ DS Trewin said, rising slowly to his feet. ‘You’ve made it much easier for yourself by admitting your guilt now.’
Michelle Greaves looked up at him, eyes bloodshot and mascara spread across her cheeks. ‘What will happen to me?’
‘You’ll shortly be charged with murder and held in custody. There will be a court hearing and I expect you will be put on remand prior to the case coming to court. As I said, your actions look premeditated but your gender disorder may be offered in mitigation. It will be up to your defence lawyer to find evidence concerning your wife’s refusal to start divorce proceedings. You will go to prison.’
More tears appeared in Michelle’s eyes? ‘Prison? A woman’s prison?’
Trewin was surprised. ‘Huh? Perhaps. I’m not sure. You’re living as a woman but you haven’t had a sex-change have you. You’ve still got a, er, . . . You’ll have to ask someone.’ He turned to James. ‘Come on Frame. The Sheffield lot can get the formalities done.’ Trewin headed towards the door.
James rose to his feet. Was that it? Case completed? Perhaps he wouldn’t be too late getting home after all and he would be able to set off early to investigate how Camilla Sparrow had died. He hurried after Trewin.
……………………..

Jasmine meets a killer(?)

Well! Today has been a bit special.  We had a visit from a producer and presenter from BBC World Service. They 20160122_132302interviewed us for a programme about secrets. They had discovered the interview we did the The Why Factor just over two years ago and thought that our story would make an interesting contribution. So Emily interviewed me about the secret I had kept about being trans up until I informed Lou (fifteen years ago) and placed the secret on her shoulders. Then Emily asked Lou questions about her memories and feelings and thoughts about taking on the secret. I find it very difficult to think back to exactly what my thoughts were then and before. It is a blur of emotion but I recognise now that I was and have been self-centred and selfish. I am extremely grateful that Lou stuck with me but delighted that the secret has been eroded until it is just a tiny relic – I assume that most people now know I am trans.  Emily and Sinita were lovely and made over an hour of recordings including various false starts and interruptions, such as when the clock chimed. It was a long way to come for a small part of one programme but they were both very sensitive and grateful for our time. It will be interesting to see how they edit it.  When we know the broadcast date, I’ll post it here.

I don’t suppose it will give Jasmine Frame more publicity.  The never-ending search goes on for something that will present Jasmine Frame, Painted Ladies and Bodies By Design (not forgetting my fantasy titles) to the masses and trigger an explosion in sales  (dream on). Anyway, the labour of love continues (I have no problem getting inspiration to write about Jasmine) so here is the next episode of the Jasmine Frame story, Resolution.

Resolution – Part 5

‘What’s your evidence, Frame?’ Sloane barked.
‘I missed it earlier,’ James said, calling up a file on his screen. ‘Elizabeth Hargreaves’ bank statements show that after the sale of their house in Staines, a large sum was transferred to another account. I thought it was to Michael Hargreaves but the account is in the name of Michelle Greaves.’
‘Ah, so he can be traced,’ Sloane said nodding his head.
‘Yes, Sir. I’ve got an address for her in Sheffield.’
‘That’s some way from Staines,’ DS Trewin said, ‘Why would he move there? Is there family?’
‘We haven’t found any close living relations for Elizabeth or Michael Hargreaves apart from her sister but she lives in South London,’ Tom answered.
‘I can think of two reasons for moving there,’ James said, wondering if he was making his ideas fit the facts rather than the reverse.
‘They are?’ Sloane said.
‘Well, housing is a lot cheaper there than in the home counties, so if they were splitting their home and finances, Michelle would find it more affordable,’ James said.
‘A good point,’ Sloane nodded, ‘but there are many places for which you could say the same thing. What’s your second reason, Frame?’
James took a breath and blurted out, ‘There’s a Gender Identity Clinic in Sheffield.’
‘What?’ Tom said.
‘He’s moved there to get treatment to become a woman.’ Trewin stated. James thought he’d grasped the point rather quickly.
James wasn’t as certain of the chronology. ‘I don’t know when Michelle decided to transition. She’s had a driving licence in her name for a few years, but if she wanted gender reassignment surgery it would be better to be close to one of the few hospitals where it’s done and where she may get treatment on the NHS.’
‘So Michael Hargreaves has become a woman,’ Sloane said.
‘Well. . .’ James began.
‘What is it, Frame?’ Sloane growled.
‘The photos show that Michelle has been around for a long time and  I think she started to transition a while ago. I’m surprised that she hasn’t got a Gender Recognition Certificate.’
‘A what?’ Tom said.
‘They came out of the 2004 Gender Recognition Act,’ James said.
‘Ah, yes. I remember now,’ Trewin said, ‘It allows transsexuals to change their birth certificate doesn’t it.’
James nodded, pleased with Trewin’s knowledge, ‘But the birth certificate of Michael Hargreaves has not been amended and there isn’t one for Michelle Greaves. Michael disappears when he and Elizabeth separated and closed their joint account. Michelle exists in his place, but not from birth.’
Sloane scratched his chin. ‘You know a lot about this transsexual stuff,’ he said examining James.
I’m not about to say why, James thought. ‘Just been doing the research, Sir,’ he said, as calmly as he could
‘Well, very good, Frame.’ Sloane produced a small smile, ‘Where does it get us?’
Trewin was looking at the photo in the album of Michelle. ‘His appearance here seems to match the description of Elizabeth’s visitor.’
‘That’s what I thought,’ James said trying not to sound too smug.
‘There you are then,’ Sloane said straightening up to his full height, ‘You have your prime suspect. Get on to the Sheffield constabulary to take Michelle Greaves in for questioning.’ He strode off without another word.
Trewin clapped James on the back. ‘Good work, Jim. I’ll fix things up with Sheffield. You carry on digging into this Michael/Michelle thing. See if you can find out when he started living as a woman and if there is any evidence placing her in Kintbridge on Wednesday. If he did come down here from Sheffield we need a reason. Tom, you get on to Dr Gupta. He said he’d have a more detailed path report this morning, and see if forensics have come up with anything.’

James was feeling the effects of several hours in front of a computer screen.  He stretched his arms and rubbed his eyes.
‘At last!’ Alan Trewin said leaping top his feet. ‘Sheffield have pulled their finger out and found Michelle Greaves. They’ve invited us up there to interview him. Come on Jim, we’ve got a long drive. Tom, start getting those reports in order.’
Tom Shepherd looked forlorn realising that he was stuck in the office. James stood up and glanced at his watch. He wanted to be in on the interrogation but it was going to be mid to late afternoon before they reached Sheffield. How long would the questioning last? He might not get home till the early hours and he was intending setting off to see Tania in Birmingham early on Saturday morning. Oh well, there was nothing he could do about it.  He followed Trewin from the office. In the police car park Trewin chucked James the keys of the Mondeo and got into the passenger seat.

They were caught by Friday afternoon traffic on the M42 around Birmingham and they were slowed down by roadworks on the M1, so it was three-thirty when they pulled up at the Police Station. James followed the DS into the building and they presented themselves at the desk. There was just a few minutes’ wait before a dark-skinned, female plain-clothes officer approached them.
‘DS Trewin? I’m DS Mansfield.’ The Yorkshire accent was strong revealing that her Afro-Caribbean roots were at least one generation in the past. ‘Follow me. We have Miss Greaves in an interview room waiting for you.’
Trewin shook the detective’s hand and introduced James. ‘This is DC Frame. He tracked Michelle Greaves down.  Thanks for picking her up.’
Mansfield guided them through a security door.
‘How did Miss Greaves seem when you met her?’ Trewin asked.
‘She wasn’t at the address when we called after you contacted us,’ DS Mansfield said as they walked along a corridor. ‘It’s a rented flat in a what used to be one of the council blocks. One of Sheffield’s cheaper properties.
‘Saving her money,’ James observed.
‘For what?’ Trewin asked.
‘A pair of boobs, I expect,’ Mansfield said, ‘Did you know she’s a trans-woman?’
‘Jim worked that out for us,’ Trewin replied. The female DS looked at James with a look of respect. James gave her an embarrassed smile.
‘Good work. I’d say she’s got a clothes habit too.’ Mansfield went on. ‘She’d been out shopping and had a few bags of charity shop clobber when we met her.’
‘What was her response to being taken in for questioning?’ Trewin asked.
‘Calm. Cooperative.’
‘She asked the reason?’ Trewin pressed further.
‘Yes. We told her that her ex-wife had been found dead and that you wanted to speak to her.’
‘How did she react to the news?’ James said.
Mansfield turned to look directly at James. ‘She said, and I’m quoting now, “Not ex” and that was it. She agreed to come into the station and we sent a car to pick her up an hour ago.’
‘You left her on her own?’ Trewin said, and James could hear a note of annoyance.
‘You said you wanted to question her not arrest her. Does it matter?’
Trewin shrugged.  ‘Probably not. She will have disposed of any evidence of the trip to Kintbridge. If she is responsible for Elizabeth Hargreaves’ death, she must have known that we’d come for her sometime.’
Mansfield stopped at a door. ‘Well, she’s in here. Been sitting quietly since we brought her in. I’ll let you question her. Would you like tea?’
Trewin nodded. ‘Yes, please. Milk and sugar. Jim?’
‘A black coffee, please. No sugar,’ James replied. Trewin opened the door and entered the interview room. James followed.
The woman from the photos was sat at the table. She looked a little older, with the creases more visible around her eyes and mouth despite heavy make-up, and the brown hair was a little thinner and flatter. Michelle Greaves was smartly dressed in a pale-blue, sleeveless summer dress. She didn’t get up when they entered but looked up at them with an emotionless face.
‘Good afternoon, Miss Greaves,’ DS Trewin began as he took a seat on the opposite side of the table from her. ‘This is DC Frame. We’re from Kintbridge. I gather you have heard that Elizabeth Hargreaves is dead. She was found in her house yesterday morning.’
‘The coloured detective told me that,’ Greaves said in a soft voice. James realised that she was making an effort to talk with a feminine tone. ‘I’m not sure how I can help you.’
‘Elizabeth Hargreaves was your wife,’ Trewin said.
‘She was.’
‘You had not divorced?’
‘No.’ There was a flicker in Michelle’s eye and she turned her face from DS Trewin.
‘So she was still your next of kin,’ Trewin stated. Greaves tensed.
‘We were separated, as good as divorced,’ she said.
‘Was the separation amicable?’ Trewin asked. James watched carefully. Greaves was about to answer then thought better of it and composed herself before speaking.
‘As much as these things can be. We agreed to sell the house and go our different ways.’
‘No children?’
Greaves shook her head.
‘So Elizabeth moved to Kintbridge and you came to Sheffield.’
Michelle looked a little confused, as if wondering what Trewin was getting at.
Trewin went on after the briefest of pauses. ‘You came here so you could transition? That’s the word isn’t it?’
‘Yes, but not really. I’ve been Michelle for years.’
‘But you haven’t had surgery?’
Greaves turned her face from Trewin and James and muttered, ‘No.’
Trewin leaned forward. ‘Have you seen Mrs Hargreaves since you split up, Michelle?’
………………………….

Jasmine makes a discovery

20160122_144907 (2)A somewhat busy week not helped by me taking on some work I didn’t really want.  Anyway today I’m at Shrewsbury’s celebration of LGBT History Month.  I think I am almost the token trans element but there’s lots of events happening. I’m at the new University Centre at the Guildhall, signing copies of Painted Ladies and Bodies By Design (and hopefully selling a few copies).  I’m looking forward to meeting lots of people.

And so to the next episode of Resolution, the eighth of my prequels to Painted Ladies. Perhaps this episode is a bit predictable but let me know what you think.

Resolution: Part 4

James called out as he entered the flat. There was an answering cry and Angela appeared from the living room. She flung her arms around him and they kissed. Just as James was running out of breath, Angela pulled her head back.
‘Well, how did it go? Your first day as a DC.’
‘Great. We got called to a suspicious death.’
‘A murder?’ Angela grinned as if it was the best thing ever.
‘Yes. I’ve been working on it all day. That’s why I’m pretty late.’ He glanced at his watch. It was already gone seven.
Angela frowned. ‘I suppose this is what it’s going to be like. No standard shifts for a detective.’ James nodded. ‘So it’s just as well that I’ve got some other news,’ she said smiling.
‘What news?’
‘We’ve exchanged contracts. Number seven, Bridle Lane, Kintbridge is ours, or will be when we complete in a couple of weeks.’
James was stunned. Angela had handled all the paperwork and negotiations. All he had done was tag around a few houses, agreeing on the one they wanted.
‘That was quick. Wasn’t it?’
Angela shrugged. ‘So-so. It’s still a buyers’ market after the crash so we’re in a good position. The vendors wanted a quick sale and there were no hold-ups.’
‘Our own house.’ It was a strange concept. It gave James the feeling of being a normal married couple.
‘Soon, but I’d like to eat before we move. I haven’t had a chance to think of food so how about we go out and celebrate. It’s a lovely evening.’
‘Um.’
‘Yes, you can be Jasmine. Go and get ready, I’m starving.’
James hurried to the bedroom. ‘Thanks Ange. I really wanted to get out of these threads.’  He stripped, showered briefly and dressed in a summer frock in bright yellows and blues. Jasmine applied minimal make-up and pulled the lightest of her blonde wigs on to her head. She joined Angela in the living room.
Angela looked up from the magazine she was reading. ‘That’s nice. Ready?’
‘Uh, yes, almost. I just want to make a quick call.’  Jasmine returned to the bedroom and pulled the acknowledgement card from her jacket pocket. She rang the number on her mobile.
A woman’s voice answered. ‘Tania Portman.’
‘Hello, Tania. We haven’t met but I knew Camilla. I’m James Frame.’
‘Frame? I know the name. I’m sure Milla mentioned that name. Did you say James?’
Jasmine took a gamble. ‘Or Jasmine.’
‘Ah, yes. Now I remember. You’re a cop who’s trans. You worked with Milla.’
‘Yes, but just for a few days. I only heard today about her being, er, killed. I’m so sorry.’
There was no reply but Jasmine thought she could hear a distant sob as if Tania had put the phone down.
‘Tania? Are you still there?’
‘Sorry,’ the voice was shaky, ‘It still gets me when I’m reminded that she’s not going to walk in.’
‘She was a great detective and very good to me, especially about the trans thing.’
‘She told me all about it. You’re not out to your colleagues.’
Jasmine shuddered, ‘No. Especially as I’m now in Milla’s old unit.’
‘Ah, yes.’
‘Look, I’m sorry to bring it up. It must be very painful for you, but can you tell me what happened?’
‘There’s not a lot to tell,’ Tania sniffed, ‘Milla was walking home. She was just a few yards away. A car came screaming down our road, mounted the kerb and ran her down. Then the driver reversed over her and drove off.’
‘Oh, god!’
‘She died there and then. At least that was something. She didn’t suffer.’
‘It doesn’t sound like an accident.’
‘No, it doesn’t, does it.’
‘What do the Birmingham police say?’
Tania snorted. ‘Not a lot. You see I wasn’t Milla’s next of kin. We were planning a civil ceremony later this year but as far as the officials are concerned we were just housemates. The Police have been in touch with Milla’s parents but they’re not interested in the details. They’re still in shock.’
‘I’d like to find out more. Would you mind if I came to see you?’ Jasmine waited for the reply hoping that Tania would agree.
‘Yes, I’d love to meet you, Jasmine.’
She said “Jasmine”. Jasmine felt a lurch inside her. Tania expected to see her feminine persona.
‘Thanks. It’ll be this weekend. If I’m not caught up with a case.’
Tania managed a chuckle. ‘Oh, I remember how weekends and days off used to disappear, but if you’re free I’ll be here. Not a lot to do now there’s just me.’
Jasmine took the address and they said their goodbyes. She ended the call, dropped the phone into her shoulder-bag and re-joined Angela.
‘Who was that?’ Angela asked. Jasmine explained. Angela gasped as Jasmine described how Milla Sparrow had been killed.
‘Who would do something like that?’
‘Someone she had annoyed, seriously annoyed.’

They chatted as they ate, sitting overlooking the river in the warm evening. Angela nattered about the decoration and furnishings she wanted in the new house. Jasmine listened, occasionally put in a word but generally relishing simply relaxing and being herself. She thought about it. More and more the life she led as James felt like a piece of character-acting. She was looking forward to getting into the part of “detective constable” but being a man increasingly felt false. Here and now, in a loose, thin dress with bare legs and strappy sandals, chatting over a glass of white wine with her partner, surrounded by other couples and groups, she felt normal. The wig was something of an irritation, the weather being warm, but it was a necessity in giving her confidence in her feminine appearance. Was this how she wanted to be in the rest of her life? She wasn’t certain – yet.
The conversation came round to her first day amongst the detectives and then to Milla Sparrow
‘I’m going up to Birmingham on Saturday to see Tania,’ Jasmine said, ‘If Sloane doesn’t keep us working on this murder.’
‘Why, Jas? To give your condolences?’  There was a doubtful note in Angela’s voice. Jasmine wasn’t surprised. Angela knew her well.
‘Well, there’s that, but I want to find out what happened to Milla. Or, to put it bluntly, who killed her.’
Angela nodded and smiled, satisfied that her guess had been proved correct. ‘Isn’t that a job for the Birmingham Police?’
‘It is, but I can’t wait until reports filter back to us. I don’t even know if they’re investigating it as a premeditated murder.’
‘It couldn’t be anything else could it. Who would plan to kill a police officer?’
Jasmine pondered. ‘I suppose it could be someone in Birmingham wanting to make a point by getting rid of a new threat.’ She paused, ‘But I think it was more likely to be ordered by someone who knew her already. Someone who knew her from past cases.’
‘You mean from round here,’ Angela said. She glanced around as if expecting criminal masterminds to pop up from behind the tables.

James made sure he was at his desk early next morning; it was even earlier than the seven-thirty that Tom had said they should start.  He looked at the wedding photo of Elizabeth and Michael Hargreaves and the portrait of her taken after death. What had happened to the husband?  He noticed the photo albums in their plastic wallets sitting in the tray on his desk. He hadn’t looked at them yet as there hadn’t seemed any point. Now, with nothing else to do while he waited, he took them out of the evidence bags and started flicking through. There was the usual mixture of scenery, places Elizabeth had visited, portraits of individuals and groups. Frequently there were snaps of Michael or Elizabeth or both; never any of children. He turned a page and leaned closer. Who was that? There was Elizabeth, standing next to another woman. They were both wearing wide-brimmed hats and knee-length sleeveless dresses as if they had been to some smart event: a garden party, the races, an outdoor concert. Both wore high heels but the other woman was a tiny bit taller than Elizabeth. She had thick dark brown hair but her face was shaded under the hat. James peered even closer, then looked again at the wedding photograph. He was certain of it. Yes, the other woman was Michael.
He turned over the pages of the album. There she was again, alone this time, leaning against a tree in a park. No hat this time, hair brushed into a dark halo around her face. Short sleeve top, mid-thigh skirt, smooth bare legs, an attractive woman, but it was definitely Michael. A few more pages and there were other photos, sometimes alone, sometimes with Elizabeth, all seasons, a variety of outfits. James searched through the album looking for dates but couldn’t find anything recorded that said when the photos were taken. Elizabeth looked a little slimmer, younger than she had laid out on the floor of her terrace house. James guessed that the photos were a few years old, probably taken with a film camera before the days of digital. Nevertheless, it revealed the truth about Michael. He was trans.
James’ fingers skipped across his computer keyboard.  DS Trewin came in followed soon after by Tom Shepherd. Both said hello to James. He murmured a reply but didn’t take his eyes off the screen. The office filled up with other detectives. There was a hum of conversation. DCI Sloane strode in and immediately approached the trio of desks occupied by Trewin and his pair of DCs. All three of them rose to their feet.
‘Well, gentlemen, what line of enquiry are we following today?’ Sloane said in his deep bass voice.
Trewin cleared his throat and opened his mouth.
‘I think I’ve found something,’ James interrupted. Trewin, Tom and Sloane gathered around him.
‘Well?’ Sloane said.
‘Michael Hargreaves is or was transgender.’ James stated.
Tom Shepherd grimaced, ‘What does that mean?’
‘It means a bloke who likes wearing women’s knickers,’ Alan Trewin said.
‘It’s bit more than that,’ James said, silently groaning.
‘Explain, Frame,’ Sloane said.
James lifted up the photo album and pointed to a print of a figure in female dress.
‘I’m sure that is a photo of Michael Hargreaves.’
‘It looks like a woman,’ Tom said.
‘Are you sure?’ Trewin said.
James held up the wedding photo. ‘Compare them,’ he said. Three heads leaned forward.
Sloane straightened first. ‘You appear to be correct, Frame. What does this information tell us?’
James took a deep breath. ‘With the knowledge of his wife, Michael Hargreaves spent at least some of his life as a woman. There are a number of photos of him, or rather her, in this album so it wasn’t a one-off outing or a fancy dress thing. The photos are a few years old so I wondered if things had moved on.’
‘Moved on?’ Tom asked, still confused.
‘I wondered if being a woman had become, er, more habitual for Michael Hargreaves.’
‘Hmm, what are you saying Frame?’ Sloane pressed.
‘I wondered if he was transsexual.’
‘You mean if he’s had a sex-change?’ Trewin said.
‘Er, perhaps,’ James replied.
‘Out with it, Frame,’ Sloane was sounding impatient now.
‘I’m not sure,’ James said, ‘I can’t quite make out how far Michael Hargreaves has gone but she’s Michelle Greaves now.’
……………….

Jasmine reaches a dead end

20160122_132302Just one thing I’d like to comment on this week as I don’t think it has appeared in the mainstream news. According to New Scientist, the International Olympic Committee have agreed that transsexual men and women can compete in their chosen gender without having to undergo gender reassignment surgery. FtM can compete immediately, while MtF must have a test to show that their testosterone levels are within the normal range for females. That means that transwomen must at least be on anti-androgen drugs. I think that is a huge and welcome step for a worldwide body and shows acceptance of a broad definition of gender identity.

……………………………..

 

Now to this week’s episode of Resolution, a prequel to the Jasmine Frame novels Painted Ladies and Bodies By Design. This is a longer piece than usual as the case needed to get moving. Perhaps you can guess where it’s going.

Resolution: Part 3

James watched as Dr Gupta drove off then turned to see DS Trewin emerging from the house followed by DC Shepherd.
‘Well, Frame. Did you find who discovered the body?’ Trewin asked.
‘Yes, Sir. It was the neighbour, Mrs Wilson,’ James pointed to the front door directly next to the victim’s house. ‘and PCSO Oakham here was the first on the scene.’
Peaches Oakham looked a little scared as James recounted what she had told him.
Trewin smiled at Peaches, ‘Well done Oakham. We may have more questions for you later. Now though we’ll have a word with Mrs Wilson. Shepherd with me.’ He started to pull off the overalls. ‘Frame, go back in and have a good look around the house, upstairs too. See what you can find that tells us something about Elizabeth Hargreaves. If you come across anything get a SOCO to bag it up.’
James re-entered the victim’s home. He paused in the front room taking in the appearance. The room was recently decorated with white painted walls and a plain, innocuous carpet in a terracotta colour.  There were no pictures on the wall and just a mirror on the chimney breast. The room was small but nevertheless sparsely furnished with just a small sofa, coffee table and a small flat screen TV on a stand. He decided not to go into the rear room where the body lay and a pair of SOCOs were still working. Instead he went up the stairs. He glanced in the back bedroom and saw the same white walls, a double bed with a single pillow in the middle, duvet neatly spread. There was a small fitted wardrobe and dressing table.
He turned to look in the front bedroom and felt a little surge of excitement. It was decorated the same but unfurnished. Instead there were four large, cardboard packing cases sitting in the middle of the carpet. James bent down and looked in the nearest box. It contained objects wrapped in newspaper. He and Angela would be doing this soon, he thought, packing up their present home into packing cases and then moving into their new home in Kintbridge. Elizabeth Hargreaves had been living in her new house for a few weeks though. Why hadn’t she unpacked?
James unwrapped a few items. They were largely ornaments: bits of china, flower vases, framed pictures. He looked in the next box. That too contained wrapped objects, this time a complete dinner and tea set, along with some cooking utensils.  The third box contained books, mainly romantic and classic novels with a few popular chicklit titles, along with a couple of loose cushions.
James crawled to the last box and looking in saw a record of Elizabeth Hargreaves life. There were old school photographs dating from the 70s, a patched and threadbare teddy, a Barbie missing an arm and most of her hair. At the bottom of the box James could see a couple of photograph albums but they were under a glass-fronted picture frame. It was a wedding photo. James lifted it out and examined it carefully.  The bride was blonde, young and dressed in a long white dress. It was hard to compare her with the distorted features of the victim lying downstairs but James was pretty sure they were the same woman. Standing beside the youthful Elizabeth Hargreaves was a young man. He was just an inch or two taller than her, slim, and had a thin, clean-shaven face with dark brown hair almost as long as his new wife’s.
‘Frame? Are you up there?’ Trewin’s call carried up the stairs.
‘Yes, Sir.’
‘We’re heading back. Are you coming?’
James grabbed the photo albums and the wedding photo. ‘Coming, Sir.’ He hurried down the stairs. Trewin was standing in the front room.
‘What have you got there, James?’ Alan Trewin said.
‘Photos. I thought they may be useful even if they’re old.’
Trewin nodded. ‘Get them bagged up and recorded. Meet us in the car.’

James and the other two detectives were clustered by the white board that covered one wall of the V&SC office. Currently there was only one photo stuck to the board, taken by the pathology team, showing Elizabeth Hargreaves’ face in death. Written underneath were the words, “strangled – cable”.
DCI Sloane emerged from his office and joined the trio.
‘What have you got, gentlemen?’ he said.
Trewin spoke up, ‘Deceased is Elizabeth Hargreaves, female in her fifties. Recently moved in to 12 Railway Terrace. Tell us what the neighbour said, Tom.’
Tom Shepherd blushed and pulled himself up straight. ‘She, uh, that is Mrs Wilson of 13 Railway Terrace, um, they’re next door neighbours, not opposite. The houses are on just one side.’
‘Yes, Shepherd, I know the location,’ Sloane said.
Tom looked at his notebook. ‘Mrs Wilson said that she had gone into Mrs Hargreaves’ house this morning because the radio had been left on all night and she assumed Mrs Hargreaves had gone away leaving it on by mistake.’
‘Mrs Wilson had a key?’ Sloane said.
‘Yes,’ Tom replied, ‘She befriended Mrs Hargreaves when she moved in just over a month ago and Mrs Hargreaves asked her to hold a spare just in case she locked herself out.’
‘They were close friends?’ Sloane asked.
‘Not really. Apparently they chatted a bit if they met on the doorstep and Mrs Hargreaves had been into Mrs Wilson’s house for a coffee once, but that was all.’
Again Sloane posed a question. ‘Did the victim have any visitors?’
Tom smiled. ‘Well, Sir, just one. Mrs Wilson said she was not aware of Elizabeth Hargreaves having any guests until yesterday afternoon when a woman called on her.’
‘The neighbour saw the visitor?’
‘Yes, Sir. The houses are small terraces right on the street. Mrs Wilson said she was in her front room when the woman walked passed and rang the doorbell next door. She heard Elizabeth let her in.’
Trewin spoke up, ‘Apparently sounds pass through the adjoining wall, Sir, although not well enough to make out conversation.’
‘So this woman is your chief suspect?’ Sloane said.
‘The only suspect at the moment,’ Trewin said. ‘There could have been another caller that the neighbour didn’t see, but there was no sign of forced entry so the victim must have let her killer in.’
‘Unless they also had a key,’ James added.
Sloane nodded, ‘Ah, yes, a good point, Frame. The neighbour is also a suspect especially since she apparently discovered the body. What else have you got to tell us Frame?’
James took a breath, ‘Elizabeth Hargreaves was married, at least she got married about thirty years ago.’ He reached behind him to lift the wedding photo in its clear evidence bag from the desk and handed it around. James continued, ‘Although she has been in the house a few weeks now she hadn’t put this photo on display nor had she unpacked any other ornaments or pictures. I got the impression that she had moved into a recently decorated house but done nothing to make it personal or “lived in”. She doesn’t appear to have enough furniture to fill even a small house.’
Sloane frowned and stared at James, ‘What does that tell you, Frame?’
James looked from Sloane to Trewin, uncertain whether he should speak what was on his mind. ‘I don’t think she was really happy about being in her new house. She may have been lonely in a new environment without visitors – until yesterday.’
‘What about this husband?’ Sloane said.
‘He may have died or perhaps they have just separated and divorced. They may have split the contents of a joint property. Maybe that’s why she’s feeling alone.’
‘A thoughtful assessment, Frame. Well, it seems to me, Trewin, that you need to learn more about Mrs Hargreaves, trace this husband if he is still alive, and find out who her visitor was.’
‘Yes, Sir.’ Trewin said, ‘We’ve got officers doing house to house. Shepherd come with me. We’ll see if Mrs Wilson can tell us some more about this mystery visitor and see what the talk is on the street. Frame, see what you can do to trace Elizabeth Hargreaves past and find her husband.’
Sloane nodded and returned to his office. James was a bit disappointed to be relegated to the computer but he was keen to find out what had happened to bring Elizabeth to this lonely end.

By the end of the afternoon, James was feeling frustrated and his eyes ached. He leaned back in his chair, stretching the muscles which were stiff from lack of exercise. Tom Shepherd returned alone.
‘Where’s Trewin?’ James asked.
‘Gone to see Gupta, the path doc.’ Tom replied easing into his chair. ‘He told me I could pack up for today. We’ll need to start at 7:30 tomorrow. How are you doing?’
‘No case-solving insights,’ James said. ‘I’ve followed bank details and papers that the SOCOs found. Elizabeth Hargreaves moved from Staines where she did indeed share a house with her husband, Michael. She gave up a part-time job in M&S to move here alone.’
‘That was quite a life-changing move.’
‘Yes, but I don’t have a lot more. She was born and grew up in Putney where she got married in 1978, aged twenty-three. Michael Hargreaves was a year older and was born in Wembley. He worked for BT and they stayed in Putney until they moved out to Staines in 1990.’
‘That’s pretty good, Jim.’
‘It’s OK, but I can’t find anything on Michael Hargreaves now. Since they closed the joint bank account and gave up the mortgage on the Staines house, there’s no trace of him, not even a death certificate.’
Tom shrugged. ‘Surely something will give a lead to him. Perhaps tomorrow. . .’
‘I suppose so.’ James sighed and started closing down his computer.
‘Well, that’s our first day as detectives done,’ Tom said. ‘Coming for a drink to celebrate, Jim?’
James was tempted, feeling he wanted to get to know this tall, friendly colleague but he was eager to get back to Angela and out of his male clothes. He also felt uncomfortable surrounded by high-spirited male colleagues that habitually stopped off at the police local.
‘Sorry, not tonight. My wife will be waiting to hear all about the first day and it’s a bit of drive home.’
‘You live in Reading?’
‘Yes. Moving to Kintbridge soon I hope.’
‘Oh, well, perhaps we can get to know each other soon.’ Tom got up and set off to the exit. James began to follow but noticed DC Terry Hopkins at his desk.
‘DC Hopkins?’ James began.
The older man looked up. ‘Oh, hi, Frame. How’s your first day gone? I hear you’ve got a murder.’
‘Yes. It’s a bit slow at the moment. Do you mind if I ask you a question?’
‘I don’t know anything about your case.’
‘Yes, I know. This is different.’
Hopkins frowned and glared at James. ‘What is it?’
‘You worked with Camilla Sparrow for a while, didn’t you?’
‘Yeah, a good detective despite being a dyke.’
James was surprised by Hopkins answer, and his choice of term. ‘You knew she was a lesbian.’
Hopkins grinned, ‘She didn’t talk about it but she didn’t hide it. Gave some of the blokes hard-ons whenever she appeared.’
James felt a bit sick but pressed on. ‘You know she’s been killed?’
James was pleased when Hopkins showed a little remorse. ‘Yeah, I heard. She didn’t deserve that. We had a whip-round for a wreath. It was just after we collected for her leaving present but all the guys chipped in.’
James was a bit cheered. ‘Do you know how to contact her partner? Tania, I think it was.’
‘No, but she sent a thank you card. It’s probably still on the wall over there by the coffee machine. There may be some contact details on that.’ Hopkins pointed to a corner of the office that James had not yet explored.
‘Thanks. Do you know anything about the accident?’
Hopkins shook his head. ‘Nah, just that it was a hit and run. I heard that a witness said the car had an RV number.’ His eyes examined James. ‘You two got on pretty well on that drugs bust.’
Sadness filled James, ‘Yes, we did. She was very, uh, helpful. That’s why I’m here now, I think.’
‘Yeah, well, good luck with it.’ Hopkins returned to staring at his screen.
James sauntered over to the corner of the room where the coffee maker quietly steamed. There were birthday and celebrations cards blu-tacked to the wall, some curling with age. James looked at them until he found one that was just a plain card with some printed words and a handwritten message thanking the V&SC staff for their wreath, signed by Tania. At the bottom there was a mobile number. James pulled the card off the wall, stuffed it in his pocket and then hastened from the office. There was something he needed to do when he got home.

Jasmine meets a partner

It doesn’t take much to get encouragement. Book sales aren’t rocketing (upwards, that is) and when you read about someone who got a book deal after self-publishing their novel, as happened with the writer of an SF novel I have just read, one can’t help being envious. But yesterday someone who I only met recently and don’t know particularly well said they had bought the Painted Ladies e-book and that they were loving it – that gave me the lift, especially as I hope they will go on to buy Bodies By Design and Discovering Jasmine.

Chronologically, the first prequel

Chronologically, the first prequel

A comment by a follower of these weekly rambles and episodic novellas also gave me a boost. She liked the episode from a couple of weeks back where Jasmine was in a bit of a pickle. Which brings me to the state of the Jasmine Frame prequels. I have now completed seven of them. That’s over 170,000 words for anyone who’s interested.

As you know I write an episode each week from the barest outline.  I have tried to make sure that I keep James’/Jasmine’s back story consistent with what I wrote in Painted Ladies which was completed over four years ago and in the sequel, Bodies By Design. I have now completed a draft of the third novel, The Brides’ Club Murder, which takes Jasmine’s story on.  While I have managed, I think, to keep the main characters – Jasmine, Angela, Tom, Sloane – “intact”, I have been less careful with the minor characters and a few have become confused or names have been duplicated.  I’m afraid some names have to change, and will change when I edit the prequels for publication (as I have done with Discovering Jasmine). The reason I am going on about this is that it affects the new story starting below.

Some stories ago I introduced a member of Sloane’s team called DC Keith Money.  It was a while later when I realised that actually he was the same character as appears in the novels called DC Terry Hopkins. From now on Money ceases to exist and is replaced by Hopkins.  So when you read this new story, Resolution, which actually follows on chronologically from Flashlight, please remember that Hopkins is Money. Also I realise that I should have made Milla Sparrow a Detective Sergeant in Flashlight rather than a lowly DC. In Resolution she is referred to as a DS.

I hope that’s all clear now, so let’s get on with the fun.

Resolution: Part 1

James Frame skipped up the steps to Kintbridge Police Station.  The August sun felt warm through the dark grey cloth of his new suit. It was his first morning as a full-time member of the Violent and Serious Crime unit and he was happy. He had achieved his dream of becoming a detective but he knew that this was just the start.  
He entered the public foyer. It was empty at this time of the morning but the grey-haired duty officer was leaning on the counter examining a document. He looked up as James approached. James noted that he was a sergeant in uniform with a couple of female civilian staff sitting at desks behind him.
The sergeant drew himself upright, ‘Yes Sir, how can I help you?’
‘I’m James Frame, DC Frame,’ James said feeling unusually nervous. This wasn’t the first time he had reported for duty at a new station but the first time without the protective shell of a police uniform to mark him out as a member of the force. He did however have his i.d. card which he showed to the desk sergeant.
The older man glanced at it. ‘Ah, yes. We were expecting you DC Frame. There is a staff entrance around the back which you will be able to use when you have had your orientation.’
‘Of course,’ James replied feeling like the new boy at school.
‘I’m Sergeant Gorman, Geoff Gorman. Most people here know me as GG. I’m sure we will get to know each other pretty soon especially as you’re one of DCI Sloane’s bright young chaps.’
James nodded and offered his hand, ‘Please to meet you Sergeant Gorman.’ His hand was shaken perfunctorily. Gorman turned to speak to his staff.
‘Mandy, please show DC Frame the way to DCI Sloane’s office please.’
A young blonde woman got up and left the room.  She reappeared a few moments later through the door at the end of the foyer. She smiled at James. He hurried to join her while she held the door open.
‘Thank you,’ he said, ‘I suppose I’ll soon know my way around.’
‘Oh, it’s quite a maze,’ the woman said, leading him passed interview rooms to a flight of stairs. They climbed a couple of flights and then walked along another corridor until they approached a glass-panelled door.
The woman stopped and pointed to the door, ‘V ‘n SC’s through there.’
‘Thanks,’ James said, leaving her and striding to the door. He pushed it open and stopped. A large room with desks arranged in a grid pattern each with a computer monitor, faced him. There were half a dozen people gathered around the door to an office on the far side of the room. A head of grey-flecked hair showed above the group. James had already met Sloane a few times and recognised him immediately.
Sloane’s eyes focussed on him, ‘Ah, Frame. Come and join us.’
James weaved through the desks until he joined the group who had turned to face him.
‘This is our last new recruit, DC Frame,’ Sloane said as he approached the gathering. ‘You remember DC Hopkins, don’t you, Frame.’  Hopkins was in his forties and wearing a crumpled brown suit. He looked at James but his expression was blank. James nodded and smiled. He knew Hopkins was a long-standing member of Sloane’s team so probably someone to get on well with.
‘This is DS Trewin,’ Sloane continued indicating the man standing on his left. He had short black hair and was about a foot shorter than Sloane. ‘He took Sparrow’s place a month or so ago.’ Then Sloane pointed to a young man standing next to Hopkins who was at least as tall as Sloane and as dark as Trewin. ‘And you join on the same day as DC Shepherd. Welcome to the Violent and Serious Crime Unit.  You’ll meet the others in due course.’
James and Shepherd exchanged nods and examined each other. Shepherd seemed a similar to age to himself, James noted but his height and build made him appear like an elder brother.
‘Trewin, Shepherd and Frame, with me. The rest of you, back to work.’  The three other detectives, a woman and two men of which one was dark-skinned, immediately turned on their heels and scattered to desks. James followed Shepherd and Trewin into Sloane’s office. Trewin stood by the side as James lined up next to Shepherd facing Sloane who settled himself into his leather chair.
‘I’m not going to give you two a long speech,’ Sloane began, looking from James to Shepherd and back. ‘You’ll soon learn the standards I expect from you. Initially you will be working at the direction of DS Trewin. He knows his way around well enough now so he can get you settled in. Right off you go.’
Trewin began to move to the door and DC Shepherd turned on his heels. James was about to follow.
‘Frame, stay a moment.’ Sloane said. James froze. Trewin and Shepherd left and the door closed behind them.
‘Yes, Sir?’ James said wondering why he had been singled out.
Sloane frowned at him and spoke in grave voice, ‘There’s something I should tell you, Frame.’
Oh, god, James thought, what is he going to say? Does he know about Jasmine?
‘You got to know DS Sparrow quite well when you were seconded to us.’
‘Milla? Yes, Sir.’ It had only been a few days but he and DS Camilla Sparrow had worked closely together on a trio of drug related deaths. Milla had moved to Birmingham leaving the vacancy filled by Trewin.
Sloane took a deep breath before continuing. ‘Well, I think you should know that DS Sparrow has died.’
‘She’s dead!’ James was mystified. Milla Sparrow was a young, fit woman looking forward to her new posting and life with her partner in the Second City.
‘Yes, I’m afraid so, Frame.’
‘How, Sir?’
‘A hit and run accident. She was a pedestrian and was hit by a car that mounted the pavement.’
James felt a great sadness. He hadn’t expected to meet Milla Sparrow again and he had hardly got to know her well but she had been a great friend to him, and she knew about Jasmine.
‘When did it happen, Sir?’
‘About a month ago. The funeral was last week.’ Sloane replied, not appearing too certain of the facts.
‘That must have been only just after she moved up there, Sir.’
‘That’s right. I think she’d been in her new post for a fortnight. Your affair at the Marquis was her last case here. She took some leave afterwards.’
James shook his head. ‘How did it happen? What did the driver have to say?’
‘The driver is unknown. Hasn’t been traced. As I said, it was a hit and run.’
‘An accident?’
Sloane shrugged which meant his whole bulk moved up and down. ‘That’s all Frame. Go and join Trewin and Shepherd.’
James muttered a thank you and drifted out of Sloane’s office in a daze. He couldn’t imagine Milla Sparrow becoming the victim of a road traffic accident; she was far too alert and careful. What had really happened to her? Sloane appeared to not know more or to be concerned by anything other than her sad loss to policing.
Trewin and Shepherd were standing next to a desk close to Sloane’s office. James joined them.
Trewin addressed them in a Cornish accent, ‘You two can have these two desks.’ He pointed to the two other desks in the row.  ‘DCI Sloane tends to stick with surnames, but I’m Alan.’ He grabbed James’ hand and shook it.
‘James, or Jim,’ James said.
‘Tom,’ Shepherd said holding out his hand to be shaken by James.
‘Hi,’ James replied.
‘Ok. Get logged in and find your way around,’ Trewin went on, ‘No doubt I’ll have something for us in due course. Life is not usually dull round here, I’ve found. Do you know Kintbridge, Jim?’
‘Not really,’ James said. ‘I’ve been in Reading for the last few years but never came out here much. We’ve had a look round while we’ve been house-hunting though.’
‘We? You’re married?’
‘Yes, Sir.’
Trewin nodded, ‘And you Tom?’
‘No, Sir. I do have a girlfriend but . . .’
‘I understand. Well, get settled.’ He shooed them towards their own desks. James sank into the chair and woke up the computer.
‘Hey, Jim,’ Tom called in a breathy whisper from behind him. James swivelled.
‘Yes?’
‘What did Sloane want to see you on your own for?’
James smiled. DC Tom Shepherd was obviously not one for hanging back.
‘He wanted to tell me that a detective I’d worked with had died.  DS Sparrow the one that Trewin has replaced.’
‘Died? That’s harsh. How did you know him?
‘Her. I spent a few days in plainclothes working with her in May.’
Tom’s eyes widened. ‘You mean you’ve already worked for Sloane?’
‘Only briefly. It was a temporary secondment.’
‘You must have impressed him.’
‘Why?’
‘To get onto the Unit so soon. My name has been on the list for over a year and only now did Sloane decide to give me a try.’
‘Well, we’re both here now so I suppose it’s up to us to show Sloane he’s made the right decision.’
‘Yeah. Everyone says he’s quite a taskmaster.’
‘So I hear,’ James agreed.
There was a shuffle as DS Trewin stood up from his desk in front of James. He turned around to face them.
‘With me you two. We have a call out.’
‘What is it, Sir?’ James asked hurrying to follow the DS who was already striding to the exit.
He called over his shoulder, ‘A body.’
 
 

Jasmine in jeopardy

First of all a serious matter. This week has seen the publication of the House of Commons Report on Transgender Equality. The Women & Equalities Committee has been receiving submissions for some months on all matter of transgender issues. I have given it a quick read and I am impressed. For a start it recognises that trans is not just about people suffering gender dysphoria and undergoing gender reassignment. It recognises that there are people who identify as non-binary or agender who do not want to be medicalised or undergo hormone treatment or surgery.  That is a big step forward.

The Report recommends: changes to the Gender Recognition Act – to remove the requirement for medical assessment and allowing self-determination of gender; the Equality Act – expanding protected minority status to all aspects of gender identity rather than just gender reassignment and putting transphobia on the same legal basis as other hate-crimes; re-affirming the right of anyone to be known by any name they wish (there is no such concept in the UK of a “legal name” which one must give when asked); and moves to de-gender a lot of bureaucracy such as allowing an X on passports denoting either no gender or gender withheld.

I applaud the members of the committee for their diligent work and thank all those that submitted comments or took part in the hearings. If all the conclusions and recommendations of the Report are followed up (and I have only mentioned a few) then life for many trans people, of various gender identities, will be much improved.

Not transsexual, not gender dysphoric, just trans

Not transsexual, not gender dysphoric, just trans

One comment in the Report, dealing with trans in the media suggested that it would be a step forwards if trans characters in drama actually had something in their characterisations beyond being trans such as being a nurse, doctor, police officer (actually commentator, MP Ed Vaizey said “policeman” which was a bit a faux pas). So come on media companies – take on Jasmine Frame!

And so to the final episode of Flashlight, the seventh prequel to Painted Ladies and Bodies By Design. Don’t worry. there will be an eighth, starting soon.

Flashlight: Part 15

His field of vision was filled by the shining blade as if he was looking through a telescope. James struggled to think of something, anything, other than that sharp edge slicing through flesh. With his eyes focussed on that sparkle of reflected light, he twisted to the right, pushing Dick behind him. The movement seemed to be in slow-motion while his thoughts raced. The point of the knife gathered momentum towards him, slashing at his left arm.
He watched the blade slice through the sleeve of his jacket and felt a searing line of heat as the tip caught his upper arm.  Nothing stopped the knife though. It emerged from the cloth and carried on millimetres from his chest. As the blade passed he grabbed the wrist with his right hand and pulled.
The hand’s owner, already off balance, toppled head first past James. James released his grip on the arm and the attacker continued to fall across the corridor until his head met the dado rail on the wall, a metre above the floor. There was a loud thud and he fell to the floor.
Time returned to its normal pace. James sucked in a breath and found himself standing over the unconscious bovver boy with Dick cowering beside him. Sirens sounded and tyres screeched on the road outside the club.
‘He cut you,’ Dick said.  James looked at his left arm. The neatly torn sleeve was red and blood trickled down his arm. James felt nauseous, his nightmares realised. Being cut and scarred was what he always dreaded. He clamped his right hand over the injured arm, not sure how deep the wound was.  He looked along the corridor and then turned to Dick.
‘Don’t move,’ he warned, ‘There are more of them. Check that he’s alive.’
Dick crawled to the side of the assailant and bent to examine him.
‘He’s breathing, but out cold.’
‘Watch him. I don’t want him dying on us but I don’t want him getting away either.’ James was undecided what to do next.
Shouts of “Police!” and boots stomping on the club’s wooden floor gave James a feeling of relief. There were answering cries from the clubbers and the invaders. The corridor was suddenly filled by two officers in riot gear. They stopped and stared with their batons raised.
‘Don’t move!’ the leading officer said, ‘Who are you?’
‘DC Frame,’ James shouted and nodded to the floor. ‘This guy attacked me with a knife, the other one is helping with the investigation.’ He released his grip on his left arms and reached with a bloody hand into his jacket for his i.d. He presented it to the officer who glanced at it and then lowered his baton.
‘Are you hurt, Sir?’
‘A bit. Not sure how serious it is. Look, take care of this pair will you, but keep them separate.’
The officers moved forward, one bending over the skinhead and the other taking Dick’s arm. James gripped his arm again trying to staunch the trickle of blood.
Another figure filled the corridor. ‘Well, Frame. You’ve made quite an impact.’ It was DCI Sloane, looking as fresh and composed in his grey suit as ever despite it being the middle of the night.
‘Hello, Sir,’ was all James managed.
‘Two major incidents in one night, two back-up teams in riot gear. Not bad for your first case.’ James wondered if he detected a chuckle amongst the gruffly spoken statements.
‘I think we’ve broken up the drug ring based here,’ James said.
Sloane nodded, ‘So Sparrow informs me, and we have about a dozen suspects to question. We’re going to be busy for a day or two, but we need to get you treated first. I can see you’re bleeding.’

It was late-afternoon and James was sitting at a desk in the cramped office in Reading Police Station. James’ arm was sore despite the painkillers. A few stitches had knitted the skin and muscle together and his arm was held in a sling to stop putting tension on the wound.  He yawned. After a couple of hours in A&E he had grabbed a few hours’ sleep but it wasn’t enough and the day had been busy processing the arrests. He was supposed to be typing up his account of the proceedings but it was slow work using just one finger on his right hand. He was having trouble accounting for his time in the lock-up garage with Baker and her accomplices, while dressed as Jasmine.
The door opened and DC Sparrow swept in. ‘Yes!’ she said punching the air.
James stared at her. ‘What…?’
‘Baker and Jefferson have admitted providing the overdoses to Murray and Butler who worked for the other drug gang,’ Milla said, bubbling with excitement, ‘and Baker has identified the pair that attacked her and ransacked her flat; the same couple we think that gave Natalie Peck her fatal dose.’ Despite working throughout the day without a break she seemed filled with energy.
‘What about the gang that attacked the Marquis last night?’ James asked.
Milla grimaced. ‘They admit to a bit of old-fashioned gay-bashing but we’re having trouble connecting them to the old mob in Reading. We’ll see if they stick to their story when they realise they are in for enhanced sentences for hate crime in addition to GBH on a police officer for one that attacked you.’
James didn’t feel victorious. ‘So the people that Murray and Butler worked for and who got Natalie murdered will get away with it and carry on business as usual?’
Milla nodded, ‘I’m afraid that’s true, but come on cheer-up, we’ve had a great result. Time to celebrate with the others. What are you doing?’
James glanced down at the computer screen. ‘Trying to write my report. How do I describe what happened in the lock-up?’
‘You don’t,’ Milla grinned, ‘You were with me, in the car the whole time, until I sent you back to the club. That girl, Kylie, who Baker and Jefferson have mentioned was an un-identified tranny they were recruiting. Somehow in the confusion she got away. No trace of her.’
James felt a weight lift from him. ‘And that’s it? I’m in the clear. No-one will know about Jasmine?’
‘That’s right. Sloane and the Chief Constable are delighted with us busting the new drug suppliers, solving the three deaths and putting a bunch of yobs behind bars. They’re not interested in some kid in a frock who got mixed up in it but had done nothing wrong.’
‘Thanks Milla.’
‘My pleasure, James. It was fun working with Jasmine. I hope she gets a chance to do more investigations in future. Perhaps you’ll feel confident about coming out someday. Look I’ve just got to go and have a few words with the uniform guys. Shall I see you in the King’s Head soon?’  The King’s was the local pub frequented by off-duty police officers.
James nodded. ‘I’ll get this finished and see you there.’
‘Great.’ Sparrow left. James got back to tapping on the keyboard but a few minutes later the door opened again and Sloane’s bulk filled the doorway.
‘Ah, Frame. I just met Sparrow and she said you were still working on your report. That can wait till tomorrow. You’ve had a busy twenty-four hours. I think you need to rest.’
‘Thank you, Sir.’
‘You’ll be back in uniform for your next shift, Frame.’
‘Uh, yes, I suppose so, Sir.’ James hadn’t thought about his return to normal duties. Despite enjoying his usual work, it felt like a bit of a let-down.
‘But, ahem, with Sparrow leaving very soon there will be a post vacant on my team. I trust you will apply for it.’ Sloane stared sternly at James as if he might disobey the instruction.
Did he just hear what he thought he’d heard? Joy and excitement lifted his mood. He was going to be a detective, permanently.

THE END

Jasmine in action

Ux7 coverFirst of all a blatant plug for my new fantasy novel, Unity of Seven now out as an e-book. Go to my SF & Fantasy page for more details.

 

 

 

 

We went to see The Danish Girl at the cinema this week. It wasn’t as busy as for Star Wars, surprise, surprise. Actually I wasn’t – surprised, that is. Despite the wonderful filming and costumes and the fine acting by Eddie Redmayne and Amelia Vikander and others, I do wonder how much appeal the film will have for mainstream audiences. It tells the 1920s/30s story of how artist Einar Wegener became Lili Elbe, the first person to undergo gender reassignment surgery. The transformation is portrayed with little tension or drama despite the extreme threat to Lili’s survival in the operating theatre. It is really a love story – not about the growth and discovery of love but its survival. Einar (Redmayne) and Gerda (Vikander) are very much in love but as Einar becomes Lili she becomes self-centred and focussed on her own gender turmoil. She pushes Gerda away. Gerda is hurt but never loses her love for Einar/Lili and supports her throughout her transition. Trans people, their partners and perhaps their acquaintances can maybe recognise the emotional exchanges but I wonder if those with no experience of transgenderism can understand the urges that Einar/Lili experiences and appreciate the film.

Ready to go to the cinema

Ready to go to the cinema

Anyway, for a bit more action there’s Jasmine Frame in Flashlight, the prequel to Painted Ladies and Bodies By Design.

Flashlight: Part 14

                 Like Jasmine, Baker and her two captors stared at the doors. There was another crash followed by the scream of wrenching metal. The doors swung open.  The syringe swung away from her arm and the grip on Jasmine’s arms and thighs weakened. She pushed her feet down on the floor and pressed against the chair-back. The chair toppled backwards. Jasmine somersaulted, her dress flopping over her head but she ended up on her feet. She straightened up, her wig covering one eye, and ran around the back of the van. She heard Baker ordering Kel and Hassan forward as boots thudded on the concrete floor and the invading police officers yelled out instructions.
                Jasmine crept down the side of the van until she reached the bonnet. The buckled garage doors were open ahead of her. Following the last of the police officers through the gap was Milla. She wore an anti-stab vest over her boob tube and mini-skirt. She saw Jasmine.
                ‘Jas! Here now. Quick.’
                Jasmine ran towards the doors. Milla grabbed her and pushed her through the opening. Outside was a traffic jam of police cars and vans, headlights on and lights flashing. Milla dragged Jasmine between the vehicles to where their own unmarked Ford Focus stood.
                ‘How. . .’ Jasmine began.
                ‘No time now, Jas. Take the car. Get home. Change to James then get to the club a.s.a.p. Bring Jefferson and Dick in for questioning. I’ll send you assistance.’
                ‘But . . .’ Jasmine’s head was filled with questions.
                ‘Go. I’ll cover you.’ Mill dangled the car keys in her hand. Jasmine took them, got in the car and drove off with tyres screeching.
                Two thoughts occupied Jasmine’s mind as she drove home as fast as she dared. How had Milla known where she was being held? Had she given her a way to keep Jasmine secret? She hoped to get an answer to the first question sometime but for now she had to do what Milla had ordered to stand a chance of keeping her transgenderism concealed.
                She braked hard outside their apartment block and ran from the car, operating the lock as she did so. Miraculously her small bag had remained dangling across her body despite the gymnastics. She leapt up the stairs to the flat and shoved the key in the lock. In the hallway she pulled off the wig. As she entered the bathroom she tugged her earrings off and pulled the dress over her head. She bent down to spread cleanser over her face and swilled it off with water.
                ‘Jasmine? Is that you?’
                Jasmine rubbed her face as she headed to the bedroom. Most of her make-up had come off –much of it onto the towel. Angela was standing in the doorway, eyes blinking in the light.
                Jasmine squeezed passed her. ‘Can’t stop now, Ange. I’ve got to change. Get me a t-shirt, please.’ She undid her bra and the enhancers flopped to the floor. Hopping to the wardrobe as she tugged off one sandal then the other, she pulled out a pair of chinos. With the trousers around his hips James grabbed the t-shirt from Angela’s hands and pulled it over his head. He was leaving the room with one hand holding his trousers up, pushing his feet into a pair of trainers and grabbing his jacket.
                By the door he picked up Jasmine’s shoulder bag which had been discarded.
                ‘Explain later, Ange.’  He staggered out of the flat, leaving the door for Angela to close. Back in the car he did up his trousers and pulled up the fly, then he was off again, racing back to the Marquis. How could he explain this excursion? Would he have to?
 
James pulled up on the yellow lines outside the club and got out trying to look as calm as he could. There were still two doormen although there were more people leaving now than arriving. James recognised one of the bouncers from earlier in the night but the other was a replacement for Kel. James raised his identity card, retrieved from Jasmine’s shoulder bag.
                ‘I need to see Mr Jefferson,’ James said. The security men glanced at his card, nodded and stood to one side.  James glanced behind to see two uniformed police officers approaching.
                ‘Are you DC Frame?’ the leading officer said.
                ‘Yes. Did DC Sparrow send you?’
                ‘Yes.’
                ‘Follow me. There’s two people we need to find to take in for questioning.’
                James led the way into the club. The noise was still loud, the lights still flashing and the dancefloor stilled packed with writhing bodies, male, female and other. James and his escort circled the dancers but there was no sign of Jefferson or Dick.
                James headed for the stairs. As he began to climb he turned to the following police officers.
                ‘One of you come with me, the other stay at the bottom and stop anyone else coming up.’
On the top floor, James strode into Jefferson’s office. The club manager was sitting behind the desk. He looked up, at first alarmed and then angry.
‘What are you doing, bursting in here,’ he said in his high-pitched voice.
‘Police, Mr Jefferson. I’m DC Frame,’ James waved his warrant card, ‘We’d like you to come to the station to answer some questions.’
‘Questions? What questions?’
‘About the sale of illegal substances on these premises.’
Jefferson squinted through narrowed eyes. ‘Do I know you?’
‘No.’ James dismissed the question. He didn’t want to get into explaining his prior meeting with the Jefferson when he was Jasmine. ‘Come with us now please.’
‘I’m busy. There’s a club to run. I’ll come and answer your questions later when we’re closed.’
James sighed. He’d hoped that Jefferson would come without argument.
‘I must insist, Sir.’
There was a pounding on the floor behind him. The officer left at the bottom of the stairs burst in.
He spoke through pants for breath. ‘It’s kicking off down there. A bunch of yobs have got passed the bouncers.’ 
‘What are they doing?’ James asked, his heart beating rapidly. This was unexpected. Where had the yobs come from?
‘They’re beating up the gays and wrecking the place,’ the officer said.
‘I’ve got to stop them,’ Jefferson said rising to his feet.
‘No,’ James held out his hand to prevent Jefferson leaving. The man looked bewildered. ‘I think it’s more than a bunch of gay-bashers. They wouldn’t invade a full club. I think it’s your competition come to mess up your business.’ James turned to the officers. ‘Take Jefferson down the back stairs and out through the yard.’
One officer took Jefferson’s arm and lead him from the room.
‘What are you going to do?’ the other officer asked.
‘I need to find someone else before the attackers get to him,’ James said. ‘Put in a call for back-up. We need support now.’
They parted and James hastened down the front stairs. He paused before reaching the bottom and listened to the noise. Music was still playing but there were screams and the crashes and bangs of wood hitting wood and of chipboard being torn apart. The lights were still flashing and illuminating the dancefloor. James could see arms flailing and people struggling to find the exit. He slid along the wall in the shadows hoping none of the assailants would see him. At the moment they seemed focussed on the bar and the small side rooms.
He reached the corridor that lead to the toilets and quickened his pace. He pushed the door to the Ladies open and found it empty except for Dick, cowering in a corner.
He trembled. ‘W. . who are you?’
‘Police. Come with me. I’ll get you out.’
The young man slowly stood. ‘T. . they’re after m. . me.’
‘You know that do you?’ James asked.
‘I. . I’m trans. They’ll kill me.’
‘They might, but not because you’re TS,’ James said.
‘What?’
‘They’ll murder you for stealing their customers.’
The trans-boy trembled violently. ‘You mean . . .’
‘I think they’re from the other drug gang. Now come with me. I’ve got to get you out of here.’
James stepped forward, grabbed the youth by the shoulders and pulled him upright. He still had his bag of drugs around his neck.
‘Come on,’ James guided Dick to the door. They stepped into the dimly lit corridor. James saw a figure approaching them – bald, t-shirt, jeans, boots – a stereotypical bovver boy homophobe. It was a costume, a cover for the real reason for the invasion. A knife glinted in his hand.
‘Oh, shit,’ James groaned.
………………………

Jasmine in trouble

A Happy New Year to all my readers whether you are a regular visitor or have just found your way here. I hope you’ll come again and again.

It’s resolution time although I don’t go in for those lists of unattainable goals that are forgotten after a few weeks (or days). I do have a to-do list though and plenty of desires. The most pressing is to market my books more successfully although I am pretty short of ideas of how to achieve that.  Suggestions will be gratefully received and considered.

Being the start of a new year I should have a striking new photo but I don’t – there weren’t any opportunities for posing over the break. So here’s an old one.

Taking a selfie in the dark with the flash on the wrong side.

Taking a selfie in the dark with the flash on the wrong side.

And now the main event – the next episode of Flashlight – the Jasmine Frame, transsexual detective, prequel to Painted Ladies and Bodies By Design.

Flashlight – Part 13

Fear washed through Jasmine like a breaking wave. Had they seen through the cover she and Milla had given themselves?
‘We’re friends,’ she offered.
Kel commented in gruff voice, ‘Looked a damn sight more than friends.’
‘That was so you’d let us in,’ Jasmine said, forcing a cheeky grin.
‘Where’s your “friend” now?’ Amy Baker asked.
Jasmine shrugged as if she didn’t care. ‘Oh, I don’t know. She’s bi-curious. Thinks of me as a bloke in a dress because I’ve still got my you-know-what. She’s gone off to find a real girl who wants to get it on.’
Baker nodded as if she accepted the story.
‘You think she’s being straight with us?’ Jefferson appealed to Baker.
Amy examined Jasmine. ‘Oh, she’s trans alright. I can tell. I thought you could too, Jerome, with your experience even though you’re a man now.’
‘Yeah, well you’ve spoken to her. We could do with someone to replace the Peck girl. But what if she’s a stooge for the competition?’
‘Then we’ll deal with her like we did that runt of a rent-boy and that tranny-fancier.’
Jasmine realised that Baker was referring to Murray and Butler, the two overdose victims; so they were murders not accidental deaths, killed because they worked for the rival drugs gang. She realised that she was dealing with a ruthless operator in Amy Baker. She would have to be very careful to avoid being unmasked or rather de-wigged.
‘It doesn’t do business much good if our stuff gets a reputation for being unreliable,’ Jefferson said.
Baker snorted. ‘We’ve got to show the other lot that we mean business. They did for Natalie because she was stupid enough to take work home with her. They turned my place over looking for stuff. If they’d found any I wouldn’t be here now. I take precautions so they just thought I was a mate of Natalie and roughed me up for the fun of it.’
‘What if the pigs stick their noses in what we’re doing?’
Baker looked unconcerned. ‘As far as they’re concerned a few druggies got a bad dose. They couldn’t care about a bit of business rivalry.’
Jasmine breathed easily again. Baker and Jefferson had underestimated the police interest in the deaths of Murray, Butler and Peck, so she was in the clear – so long as they didn’t decide she was with the established drug suppliers, she was safe, for now.
Baker glanced at her watch. ‘Look the delivery is due soon. I need to check the merchandise. I’ll take Kylie here with me. Give her a test run. Kel can come to make sure she knows her place.’
Jefferson nodded. ‘OK.’
‘You and Dick watch things here. Look out for late entrants. They could be the competition trying to find out where we’re marketing our stuff.’ Amy turned to Jasmine, ‘Come on Kylie, you wanted to find out about the business. But I warn you, one false move and you’re toast. Kel, keep hold of her.’
The beefy bouncer grabbed Jasmine’s arm enthusiastically and dragged her from the room, with Baker, Dick and Jefferson following.
‘Hey, I’m with you, there’s no need to be so rough,’ Jasmine complained. Kel glared at her but loosened his grip. They went down the dimly lit stairs to the rear entrance. The sound of the dance music came through the wall to her right. They emerged into the dark yard where a small Transit van was parked. Kel yanked open the passenger door and pushed Jasmine up into the middle seat. Amy climbed into the driver’s seat then Kel squeezed his bulk in beside Jasmine, jamming her in. Amy set off without a seatbelt having been fixed. Luckily they didn’t have far to drive. Amy took back streets to the edge of a former council housing estate. She turned into the lane between a double row of graffiti-daubed concrete garages.
The Transit pulled up and Jasmine was immediately dragged from her seat by Kel. The three of them formed up in a row facing a garage door illuminated by a small torch held by Amy Baker in one hand. In the other, she had a small key fob which she pressed with her thumb. The whining of an old and much abused electric motor started and the roller door in front of them began to wind itself up.
Jasmine peered into the garage but it was so dark she couldn’t see anything. Then she realised that there was another barrier behind the flimsy old roller door. Amy stepped forward, shining her torch on dark, smooth steel. She inserted a key into a lock. It turned with a deep clunk and the door swung ajar silently. Amy passed through the gap and Kel grabbed Jasmine’s hand dragging her inside with him. The lights went on as the steel door closed with a clang.
Jasmine saw a largely empty space that was not the area of one lock-up garage but three. The walls to the adjacent garages had been replaced by RSJs and breezeblock walls built up behind the old up and over doors that were now just a fake façade. Jasmine looked around. There were a couple of packing cases standing on the concrete floor and in one corner a desk, office chair and an armchair on a square of blue carpet.
Baker sat down behind the desk and looked at her mobile phone.
‘They’ll be here soon,’ she said. ‘Get the kettle on, Kel. Sit down Kylie.’ She pointed to the armchair. Jasmine did as she was told rubbing her bare arms. The night-time air was cool and she’d dressed for the dance-heated atmosphere of the club not a chilly storeroom. Kel busied himself with kettle, mugs and cartons of coffee, sugar and milk.
The kettle had only just whistled when Jasmine heard another noise – a vehicle engine outside the garage.
‘Open the doors,’ Amy ordered, ‘quickly!’ Kel hurried to obey, swinging the steel doors inwards. Immediately a van backed into the garage far enough for Kel to close the doors. The engine stopped and the driver got out. He wore a leather jacket and grubby jeans and had a dark, East European or possibly Turkish appearance. He noticed Jasmine immediately.
‘Who is she?’ he asked in a thick accent.
‘A new recruit,’ Amy Baker said leaving her desk, ‘Don’t worry about her. Get the van unloaded. I don’t want you hanging around.’
The man grumbled but went to the rear of the van and opened the doors. From where she was sitting, Jasmine could see that the van was jammed full of packing cases.
‘On your feet you,’ Amy said to her, ‘You can help even if you are dressed as a party-girl.’
Jasmine helped the dark man and Kel remove the cases from the van and stack them on the floor in the available space of the triple garage while Baker watched, checked labels and gave orders. The labels meant nothing to Jasmine but she guessed that each case contained a sizeable stash of illegal drugs.
Soon the van was empty. Kel started to move towards the kettle.
‘No,’ Amy said, ‘Time for refreshment later. Let’s check out the consignment. Open that box, Kel.’ She pointed to a particular packing case. Kel went to it and ripped the top open. He took out a small package wrapped in clear plastic. Amy went to the desk and opened a drawer. She took something out, closed the drawer, then pushed the office chair from behind the desk and into the space in front of it.
‘Sit down Kylie,’ Amy said.
Jasmine looked suspiciously at the chair and at Amy Baker. She was getting an unsettling feeling about what Baker intended.
‘I’m fine standing,’ she said.
‘Make her, Hassan,’ Amy ordered. Jasmine had no time to think of escape. The dark man grabbed both her arms and dragged her to the chair. He pushed her into it. Jasmine felt fear, surprise and incomprehension. What did Amy mean to do?
‘Hey, I thought I was helping you,’ she said, ‘I want to sell your stuff.’
‘Oh, you are helping,’ Amy said with a hint of glee in her voice, ‘and you will get the chance to use your marketing skills if you and this consignment pass the test.’ She took the package from Kel and ripped it open on the desk. ‘Kel, help Hassan, stop the “lay-dee” from wriggling.’
Jasmine found herself with a man on either side of her, each with a hand holding her forearms against the arms of the chair and their other hands pressing down on her bare thighs. She found it almost impossible to move but decided to sit quietly for a moment and see what Amy intended. She busied herself for a few moments then approached Jasmine carrying a hypodermic syringe.
As the woman approached, Jasmine had an idea of what she intended. She trembled.
‘What are you doing?’ she said unnecessarily.
‘You said you wanted to sell H, heroin. Is that true?’
Jasmine swallowed, ‘Yes, but . . .’
‘Don’t you think you should try out the merchandise before letting your friends buy it from you?’
‘But I’m not a user.’
Amy shook her head in mock dismay. ‘Oh. Come now Kylie, one little shot won’t make you an addict and afterwards you’ll have a better idea of what you are offering your purchasers. There is one little problem, however, and you will be doing us a favour.’
‘What?’
‘Some of our batches have been a little bit over-concentrated. Some of our clients have suffered a tinsy-winsy overdose, somewhat as Mr Murray and Mr Butler did. It’s not good business to kill your customers so it will be very helpful if you test this batch for us.’
‘No . . .’ Jasmine strained against Kel and Hassan’s hands.
‘Hold her still, boys,’ Amy called as she stepped forward.
The needle approached Jasmine’s left arm. She tensed, ready for one last effort.
‘Open up! Police!’ Voices repeated the cry outside the garage. A heavy object crashed against the steel doors.
………………..

Jasmine under cover

It’s been a bit busy this week; there’s been this seasonal festival happening. . . Anyway I’d like to send readers seasonal greetings and best wishes for 2016.

A great day out at the Hay Festival in May '15 and one of the last times I wore a wig.

A great day out at the Hay Festival in May ’15 and one of the last times I wore a wig.

2015 has been pretty busy. I published three novels and a novella. (Vol.1 & 2 of Evil Above the Stars published by Elsewhen, and Bodies By Design and Discovering Jasmine under my own imprint, ellifont). In addition there have been the weekly episodes of prequels to the first Jasmine Frame novel, Painted Ladies, of which Flashlight is the sixth. I’m not sure how many more I can fit into the ten years or so when Jasmine/James is adult but before her transition. Nevertheless, next year will be busy with the publication of vol.3 Unity of Seven of EAtS and perhaps the 3rd Jasmine Frame novel, The Brides’ Club Murder and one or two of the novellas.

Anyway, here is the next episode of Flashlight,  approaching a climax.

Flashlight: Part 12

 There was a queue for the club when Jasmine arrived with Milla; not a long one, but the checks by the security guards on the door were sufficient to delay their entry. Milla took her hand in hers to make it look like they were a couple. They had nearly been three. Angela had been determined to come along too, especially when Jasmine let slip that there might be some danger as Milla was convinced the new drug gang was based at the Marquis. It had taken some persuasion to get Angela to accept that jasmine and Milla together could handle themselves and that Jasmine didn’t want Angela put at risk. They didn’t exactly look like a pair of tough detectives. Jasmine was in a short, strappy summer dress that flared out a little alarmingly when she spun around revealing her newly shaved legs while Milla wore a boob tube and short skirt which revealed her midriff.
After a few minutes they reached the door. The bouncers looked them up and down, winked and let them in. Milla tugged on Jasmine’s hand and headed straight for the dance floor.  It was already fairly full, mainly with men in shorts and t-shirts or shirts un-buttoned to the navel or no shirt at all. Jasmine observed the flesh on display.
Milla leaned close. ‘Let’s dance. I want to have a good look around the place.’
With the lasers and the flashlights Jasmine wondered how Milla could see anything at all but she started to move to the beat. Milla didn’t. Jasmine had never danced with anyone other than Angela. They had always had an understanding of each other’s movements and had danced as if they were one. Now Jasmine began to appreciate what she and Angela had going on between them. Milla was barely moving and certainly not with the rhythm of the music. Jasmine felt that they were not really dancing together at all. She put her arms around Milla’s waist and pulled her in.
‘What are you doing?’ Milla shouted in her ear.
‘I thought we were supposed to be a couple? I’m trying to make us look like one.’
‘Okay, but move around so I can see what’s going on.’
They moved as one, well almost. Jasmine stepped and jiggled with the beat with Milla forced into similar movements while held tightly in Jasmine’s arms. They travelled around the dancefloor giving Milla a good view of the dancers and the occupants of the shadowy edges. While Milla watched, Jasmine thought.
Earlier Milla had told Jasmine what had happened when she returned to the office. DC Money had completed interviewing Amy Baker. He’d shown her photos of various known gang members known to be involved in drug dealing. Amy had said she had not recognised anyone but, Money noticed, so he told Milla later, that she had delayed on photos of two men who matched the description of her attackers. Money knew the men and their connections and was pretty sure they had ransacked Amy’s flat and probably been involved in Natalie Peck’s death.
‘Kiss me,’ Milla said abruptly turning her face to Jasmine’s.
‘Why?’ Jasmine responded. Kissing was taking the role play a bit far wasn’t it?
‘Jefferson. I hope he doesn’t recognise us.’ Her lips clamped on Jasmine’s. Milla made a good job of looking like she was snogging Jasmine. In fact, was there a hint of tongue there? Jasmine tried to act like a willing participant but she felt odd. Angela kissed her as she would a man, even when she was dressed as Jasmine. Milla kissed her as she would a woman. There was a difference but Jasmine had problems working out precisely what it was. Perhaps it was the way their bodies pressed against each other.  Whatever it was, it felt different
Milla broke away and spoke into Jasmine’s ear. ‘I’m going to keep an eye on Jefferson. You go and see whether your drug dealer is operating in the loo.’
They parted and Milla disappeared into the mêlée of bodies. Jasmine carried on dancing for a few moments. The guys paid her no attention being focussed on each other. The few other women on the dance floor gave her appreciative looks and one seemed about to approach her. Jasmine moved quickly into the shadows at the edge of the dancefloor. People were entering and leaving the side rooms singly and in pairs. Jasmine ignored them and headed for the toilets.
Unlike on the trans nights, there were just a couple of women attending to their make-up in the mirrors. The doors to two of the cubicles were open revealing them to be empty. Jasmine pushed on the door of the middle cubicle. The bearded young man she had seen earlier in the week was there, sat on the loo seat cradling his post bag.
‘You buying?’ he said looking up at Jasmine.
‘Could be,’ Jasmine replied not committing herself.
‘What do you want?’
‘Well, look, it’s not for me,’ Jasmine began, ‘But I’ve got quite a few people I know who need stuff. What do you say to us doing a deal?’
The young man looked at her with his brow creased in a frown. He was weighing up her suggestion.
‘You mean you want to buy in?’
‘Yes, sort of,’ Jasmine replied.
‘How much?’
Jasmine thought quickly. What sum of money would attract his interest and would not sound ridiculously huge?
‘A thousand?’
‘A grand?’ He nodded. ‘Hmm, what you after?’
‘H.’
He shrugged. ‘Look we had a few problems getting the cut right but it’s sorted now. We’ll have to talk to the boss. See what she thinks of you. Come on.’  He stood up hanging the bag over his shoulder. He was a couple of inches shorter than Jasmine. He urged her out of the cubicle then lead her from the lavatory.  Jasmine was thinking; he’d said “her” referring to the boss. It wasn’t Jefferson then. Perhaps it was the girl who’d been with him this afternoon.
The drug dealer lead Jasmine up the stairs to the entrance of another room. He tapped on the door and got an answering invitation to enter. He pushed the door open. They stepped into a small room which was more store room than office. There was an assortment of containers filling most of the space – cardboard boxes, plastic storage bins, suit cases, brief cases, carrier bags, all of various sizes. There was also a card table and behind it was sitting Amy Baker.
Jasmine stifled a gasp and followed the man into the room. He stood in front of Amy.
‘This tranny has been asking about selling the stuff. She wants to buy in?’
Amy looked up, the bruise around her eye a vivid pink. She glared at Jasmine.
‘Do I know you?’
Jasmine fingered her long black hair. ‘Don’t think so,’ she said trying to put on a London accent in a higher pitch to her usual voice. She had no idea if it sounded true to life but Amy seemed convinced.
‘Why do you want to sell then?’ Amy said.
‘I need to make some money,’ Jasmine replied.
‘What for?’
‘I need to get things done,’ Jasmine was thinking hard. What might sound like a reasonable story?
‘What things?’
‘Tits, and my nose and chin, and I don’t want to wait for ever to get, er, down there done.’ Jasmine waved in the general direction of her crotch.’
Amy nodded. ‘Costly.’
‘Yeah, to say nothing of lasering my facial hair, and getting my legs waxed and so on.’
‘Being a woman is expensive,’ Amy agreed, ‘becoming one, more so. Hmm, so you think you can sell do you?’
‘Yeah, there’s loads of people I know who want stuff.’
‘Hmm, right,’ Amy considered then turned to the man, ‘Go and get Kel off the door. Let’s see if he knows this girl. What’s your name?’
Jasmine chose the first name that came into her head, ‘Kylie.’
The young dealer turned to leave.
‘Oh, Dick, find Jerome too. Tell him we have a potential recruit.’
Dick left.
‘We call him Dick because he hasn’t got one,’ Amy said, chuckling, ‘Like you he wants to get some things done. You want to lose your cock; he wants to have one made for him. Come and take a seat while we wait. Tell me about yourself.’
There was one other chair not occupied by packages. Jasmine sat down, and prepared to answer Amy’s questions. The transsexual was much more confident and assured than she had been when surrounded by the wreckage of her home. Was that all an act, Jasmine wondered? Here she was the fixer, the manager of a team of drug pushers.
Amy asked about her background, whether she took drugs herself, her transition. Jasmine made it all up, all except for not being addict. She based her story on the tales of young transsexuals she had read about – the discovery of her transgenderism, rejection by family and friends, hard times, struggling to get by, the urge to remodel her body – that bit was fairly true as it featured in her fantasies almost daily. Amy seemed satisfied with her answers.
‘I don’t think you need all that secondary stuff, Kylie,’ she said in a motherly tone. ‘Actually you look pretty feminine already. You do need to get your voice trained – your accent and pitch is all over the place.’
The door opened and Jefferson entered followed by one of the burly door guards and “Dick”
‘Is this the one?’ Jefferson said nodding at Jasmine.
‘Yes,’ Amy said, ‘Know her? She’s a tranny.’
Jefferson shook his head, but Kel the bouncer spoke up.
‘Saw her when she arrived with a dyke.’

Jasmine at work

I’ve been saying it, as others have, for a long time but now there is scientific support – there is no such thing as a male or a female brain and no support for the binary view of gender.  The results are reported in this week’s New Scientist magazine (Brains are not male or female, New Scientist p.8 issue  no.3050 5/12/15).  1400 brains of people aged from 13 to 85, were scanned and could not be sorted into two categories, male and female. People who identified as either male or female shared some but by no means all of 29 features thought to be associated with gender with a spectrum of responses.  Qualities that have been associated with one gender or the other such as obsession with sex (male), gossiping (female), mathematics ability (male) were found to be no predictor of gender. The research team concluded that there are not two types of brain and “that we all lie along a continuum of what are traditionally viewed as male and female characteristics”.

It appears that we are all individuals and while our particular characteristics will determine our gender identity it is cultural influences which have forced people into the gender straitjacket. Those influences are very strong as was revealed in article in last week’s Guardian where even children’s nurses were testing language development by choosing gender stereotypical topics regardless of the particular interests of the child.

The moral is, do not accept any statement of the sort “Men are from Mars and Women from Venus”, or, only a man can read a map. That is complete, utter, nonsense. And resist being forced into classing yourself as either male or female if you feel your are neither, both or in-between.

IMGP4799

There. Now onto the next episode of Flashlight, the Jasmine Frame prequel to Painted Ladies and Bodies By Design. We’ve reached part 10 and Jasmine makes her first tentative appearance as a plainclothes police officer.

Flashlight: Part 10

James stared into the wardrobe. What did he have that was suitable to be worn as a female detective?  Female uniformed officers wore pretty much the same outfit as the men but in plainclothes they were more diverse even if a dark suit was the most common choice of both genders. It wasn’t a dilemma that had influenced Jasmine’s shopping pattern previously.
He had to make a decision quickly because he didn’t want to keep Milla waiting. She was sitting in their lounge, catching up with DC Money on her phone. What would Angela think, he thought? Another woman witnessing his transformation into Jasmine Frame.
He made his choice and pulled a plain dark blue skirt from the wardrobe and a light blue t-shirt from the chest of drawers. He stripped naked and quickly pulled on knickers, sheer tights, and bra. She tucked in her silicone breasts and put on the skirt and t-shirt. Jasmine looked in the mirror. It was a sensible enough outfit for a police detective, especially if she put a light jacket over it.  There was another necessity – make-up. She hurried into the bathroom and quickly applied foundation, eye shadow and lipstick. It was a familiar routine and she could do it without much delay. Finally, back in the bedroom she pulled the blonde wig on to her head. She didn’t like wearing it but with her hair cut short for her male look, the wig aided her femininity. She slipped her feet into a pair of black pumps and emerged into the lounge.
‘Well,’ Milla said looking up from her phone. ‘I don’t think I would have recognised you as being PC Jim Frame. You look great. Most women detectives favour trousers. . .’
‘I don’t have any female trousers – not for the summer anyway.’
‘That’s OK. I sometimes wear a skirt. Are you ready?’
‘Yes.’ Jasmine checked her pockets again; keys, phone, notebook, warrant card – except she wouldn’t be able to show that – handcuffs.
‘Right, let’s go. I’ve got Amy Baker’s address from Keith.’
Jasmine followed Milla from the flat, locking the door behind her.
‘How’s DC Money getting on with his investigation?’ Jasmine asked as they went down the stairs.
‘He’s made some progress. He’s spoken to a couple of his informants and apparently the regular drug dealers are on edge because of the new stuff appearing. No leads on Natalie’s killers yet though.’
‘It could be dangerous if there’s a drug war starting,’ Jasmine said.
They reached the car and quickly set off for the address that Milla had received. Jasmine recognised that it was just a few streets away from where she and Gavin had found Natalie Peck’s body.
They pulled up outside the three story Victorian terrace house, now split into at least five flats.
‘This doesn’t look right,’ Milla said pointing out the broken glass in the bay window of the ground floor of the property.
Jasmine got out of the car and looked into the garden. There was a drawer on the untidy lawn with knickers and bras spilled out of it. Milla ran up to the front door. It was open. Jasmine followed her into the hall of the building.
‘This is Amy’s flat,’ Milla said pointing to the door which had a number 1 on it. It too was ajar. Milla tapped. There was a groan from inside. Milla pushed the door open. Jasmine saw at a glance that it was actually just a bedsit with kitchen, living space and bed all in one room and that it was a mess. Cupboards and drawers were open and their contents strewn over the bed, floor and small sofa.
Amy was lying on the floor. Jasmine recognised her but as she knelt by her side she saw that she did not look the same as she had in Natalie’s flat. There was a darkening bruise around her left eye and a small trickle of blood from her swollen nose. She was stirring, trying to sit up.
Jasmine put her arms around her shoulders.
‘Do you feel OK to move, Amy?’ Jasmine said. ‘Where does it hurt?’
‘All over,’ the woman moaned. ‘Ow, my head.’ She put a hand to her forehead, gently touching her left eyebrow. Her hand jerked away. Jasmine helped her to her feet and put her onto the sofa.
Milla was searching around the room, turning over the belongings scattered everywhere.
‘How long ago did this happen?’ she asked.
Amy looked at Milla, ‘Not long. A few minutes? I may have been out of it. Who are you?’
‘DC Sparrow. This is DC Frame.’
‘What are you doing here?’ Amy asked in a shaky voice.
‘Can I get you some water?’ Jasmine said, moving to the kitchen area.
‘Yes, please.’
There was broken glass and crockery on the floor and around the sink unit and work top. Jasmine stepped carefully and found a glass that was in one piece. She washed it under the tap and filled it with cold water. She returned to Amy and handed it to her.
‘Thanks.’
‘Who was it?’ Milla asked.
Amy took the tumbler from her lips. ‘I don’t know. Two men, one black, one white, young. I’ve never seen them before. Why did you come?
‘We came to ask you some more questions about Natalie Peck.’
‘Oh.’
‘Is this related to what happened to Natalie?’ Jasmine asked.
‘I don’t know,’ Amy said, ‘Why did Natalie die?’
‘We think she was killed by a drug gang,’ Milla explained, ‘What did you know about Natalie’s drug dealing?’
Amy shook her head slowly. ‘I don’t know anything. I told that other detective that.’
‘Well, what were the men looking for when they turned you over?’ Milla pressed.
‘I don’t know,’ Amy repeated.
DC Sparrow pressed on. ‘Were they looking for the drugs that you have been selling?’
‘I don’t,’ Amy glared at Milla with her left eye partly closed. ‘I don’t know what they were looking for.’
Milla sighed. ‘I think we’d better get you to A&E, Amy.’ She turned to Jasmine and handed her the car keys, ‘You take her. I’ll stay here and call in soco and some officers to keep an eye on the place. I’d better get Keith down here. We’ll need to speak to the neighbours in this property and next door. See if anyone saw anything.’
‘Okay. What should I do when I’ve got Amy to the hospital?’ Jasmine said.
‘Stay with her. It doesn’t look as though she’s poorly enough to be kept in but that eye needs looking at. I’ll come and join you as soon as I’ve handed over to Money.’
‘And it gets me out of the way,’ Jasmine said.
Milla stepped closer to her and whispered, ‘Yes, I know you don’t want other officers to see you, but get to know her more. There must be a reason why the drug gang came looking for stuff here. Do they think she was dealing too?’
Jasmine bent down to speak to Amy. ‘Do you feel OK to come in the car. We’ll get the nurses to sort you out?’
Amy nodded and pushed herself painfully from the sofa.
Jasmine gave her a helping hand towards the door. ‘Do you want a coat? It’s quite warm out but we don’t want you feeling shivery.’
Amy pointed to a heap of coats fallen behind the door. Jasmine picked out a light waterproof and handed it to Amy. They left the flat with Milla already speaking rapidly into her phone.

Jasmine put Amy into the passenger seat then they drove off towards the hospital.
‘Have I met you before?’ Amy said still sounding a bit groggy.
‘No,’ Jasmine lied, ‘but I know you were a friend of Natalie Peck and were supporting her through her transition.’
‘Oh, yes.’
‘Had you known her long?’
Amy spoke slowly, ‘We met at a support group, a couple of years ago. I was getting over my g.r.s. and she was hoping to start.’
‘She must have been grateful to have you helping her along. It’s a long and difficult process.’
‘Hmm, yes.’
‘Was there anyone else? Family, friends? Did she have any financial support?’
‘No, no-one, nothing. A few people we both knew, other TSes, but no-one close.’
‘No work?’
‘Some odd jobs. Employers don’t want trannies, especially when they’re stuck in between.’
Jasmine nodded.
‘What about you? Have you got a job?’
Amy snorted then groaned. ‘Sort of. Cashier at the supermarket. But they only want me on nights.  Zero-hours contract. You know. Like it or lump it.’
‘I understand. Natalie must have found money a problem. The NHS doesn’t cover everything a transitioning trans-woman needs and neither does job-seeker’s allowance.’
‘You seem to know a lot about transition,’ Amy said, turning her head painfully to examine Jasmine. ‘Are you. . .?’
‘Transitioning? No.’ Jasmine stared at the traffic ahead, ‘But I understand how Natalie could have been driven into drug dealing.’
‘She wasn’t on drugs – not that sort of drug anyway.’
‘I know but she was selling them to people who were.’
‘I don’t know anything about that.’
‘Somebody thought you did.’
They pulled into the hospital approach road. Jasmine found a parking space then helped Amy out of the car and into the A&E department.
……………….

Jasmine and the cleaner

This week, I have given quite a lot of thought to Jasmine Frame as I do every week. Writing the weekly episode of the Frame prequels is a commitment I enjoy and over the two years or so since I started has resulted in the completion of six novellas and Flashlight is the seventh. That’s quite a lot of words on trans-based fiction.

butterfly

I’ve also been thinking about my first literary love – SF. At the convention last weekend it was suggested (not too seriously) that modern SF doesn’t come up with the scientific and technological ideas that SF of the 1940s, 50s and 60s produced – spaceships, robots, powerful computers, rayguns, hand-held communicators (cf Star Trek), new worlds, etc. If that is actually true, is it a result of the move to more character-based storytelling or are modern SF writers just less interested (and knowledgeable) about scientific advance and invention? Whatever the truth or otherwise of the supposition and it’s imagined causes it got me thinking and writing SF stories again, using articles in New Scientist as a starting point for extrapolation and plot generation.  We’ll see where that leads.

Back to Jasmine. Here’s the next episode of Flashlight.  Don’t forget that Bodies By Design is available as an e-book and as a paperback (direct from Ellifont).

Flashlight: Part 7

DC Sparrow turned off the main road into a street of Edwardian terraced houses but they weren’t far from the city centre’s new apartment blocks. The narrow street had parked cars on both sides but Sparrow found a small gap and skilfully manoeuvred into it.
‘Is Butler’s place near here?’ James said looking at the well-maintained row of houses.
‘It’s not far,’ Milla replied, ‘but a century apart in style. He lived in one of those new smart apartments.  This is where his cleaner lives.’ They got out and James jogged after Milla as she set off down the road. She turned into one small front garden with James at her shoulder and pressed the doorbell.
A few moments later the door was opened by a little woman with greying ginger hair.
Milla flashed her badge. ‘Hello Mrs O’Reilly. Do you remember me? I’m DC Sparrow. This is Constable Frame. We’d like to ask you some more questions about Mr Butler.’
Mrs O’Reilly looked sad but opened the door wide and led them into the small but tidy house.  They went into the front room with a large three piece suite clustered around a bulky CRT TV. The woman signalled them to seat and then spoke with a lilting Irish accent.
‘Would you like a cup of tea? The kettle’s just boiled. I’m expecting my Bill any moment. He finishes at five.’
‘No, thank you,’ Milla said and looked at James for confirmation. He shook his head. ‘We won’t keep you long,’ Milla went on. ‘We’re just trying to find out a hit more about Mr Butler. His contacts. We know he had no family nearby and apart from his work colleagues he doesn’t seem to have had close friends. You’re the only person we know who visited him regularly.’
‘But I didn’t see him very often. Usually he was at work when I went in to clean. That’s why I had a key.’
‘Did you get to know him at all, Mrs O’Reilly?’ Milla said. ‘Do you know of anyone he saw – girlfriends, or manfriends? What did he do with his spare time? Perhaps you noticed things as you dusted.’
The woman looked thoughtful. ‘I don’t like to tell tales. I am trusted when I go into houses to not go gossiping about what I find when I clean.’
James could see that Mrs O’Reilly had something to tell them.
‘This isn’t gossiping, Mrs O’Reilly.  You may have important information to help clear up Mr Butler’s death.’
Mrs O’Reilly nodded, ‘I understand, but, well, he liked those ladies who aren’t women but are men really.’
‘Transsexuals!’ James blurted out.
‘I don’t know that word,’ Mrs O’Reilly said, ‘Sometimes he left a picture of one on his table, and twice when I went into his flat to clean in the morning he hadn’t gone to work and was there with these persons.’
‘You’re sure they were transsexuals?’ Milla said and quickly added, ‘Women who were men.’
‘Oh yes, I’m sure. The second time it happened they were still in bed and I had a glimpse of the thing between her legs, but otherwise he looked like a woman. She had boobies.’
‘She-males. He liked she-males,’ James whispered. He had an image of Butler entwined with a sexy girl with an erection. Did Butler only seek trannies with functioning male equipment or did he go for transsexuals, either pre-op or when they were in actual fact, women. There had only been one photo of a living Tim Butler in his file. James couldn’t help being judgemental but it showed a man in his late 30s who lacked something in the looks department. He had lank, thinning brown hair, a squashed pug-like nose and a Habsburg-like protruding chin. Butler was a trannie fancier but perhaps his liking for young transgendered lovers reflected a lack of success with men or women of his own age group. James wondered whether it had anything to do with his death.
‘You don’t seem shocked by Mr Butler’s behaviour,’ James said.
Mrs O’Reilly gave him a patronising smile. ‘I’ve been cleaning homes for over forty years, young man.  I’ve seen an awful lot of behaviour in that time. If it doesn’t hurt me it doesn’t bother me, except finding my gentlemen dead, and Mr Butler wasn’t the first of those.’
‘Oh,’ was all James could find to say. He felt that Mary O’Reilly had put him in his place as far as making judgements was concerned.
Milla flashed James a frown then asked, ‘You don’t know where Mr Butler met these women, do you?’
Mrs O’Reilly shook her head.
‘Or any places at all that he visited – pubs, restaurants, clubs that sort of thing?’
‘We hardly ever talked,’ the woman paused, ‘although a couple of weeks before he died he did seem to be excited about going somewhere. He said it had been a dive of pub but had been done up.’
‘The Marquis,’ James said.
Milla looked at him. ‘Could be.’ She turned back to Mrs O’Reilly. ‘Did he mention the name?’
The woman shook her head. ‘That was the last time we spoke. I cleaned for him a few more times then I found him . . . dead.’ Her face broke up and she sobbed gently.
DC Sparrow got to her feet and comforted the older woman.  ‘I think that’s all for now, Mrs O’Reilly.  Thank you for your time.’
James hauled himself up and followed Milla to the front door.
Mrs. O’Reilly wiped her eyes with her apron. ‘I do hope you find out what happened to Mr Butler. He was a funny sort but he was always very kind to me.’
‘We will Mrs O’Reilly, and what you have told us is very helpful.’
The woman sniffed and held the door open for them.
James and Milla walked slowly back to the car side by side
‘Well, we’ve got our connection to the Marquis, Jim,’ Milla said, ‘and it appears he liked sex with women who have a cock. I presume he could meet them at the Marquis as well as elsewhere. What do you think? You’ve been there.’
‘Yes, I’m sure he could.’ James was thinking of the man who had approached him, or rather her, at the Marquis last night. He was after the same as Tim Butler – sex with a girl with a bit extra.
They reached the car. Milla unlocked it and paused opening the driver’s door.
‘We’ll report back to Sloane, Jim, and see what he wants us to do next.’

It was nearly seven-thirty when James got back to the flat. Angela was there relaxing in front of the TV – a change from the studying she had been doing every evening for months. She jumped up and greeted James with a hug and questions.
‘How did it go, James? Did you hand in the drugs?’
James hugged her, recalling how he had loved this woman ever since they had met at university.
‘I did and now I’m a detective.’
‘What?’ Angela searched his face for explanation.  James told the story of his interview with DCI Sloane, of his secondment to the plain-clothes detective team and his expedition with DC Milla Sparrow.
Angela gave him an extra squeeze. ‘That’s wonderful news. You always wanted to be a detective and now you are one.’
‘Temporarily.’
‘But it will be wonderful experience and help you when a permanent posting comes up.’
‘I hope so,’ James grinned, pleased that Angela had seen the possibilities. Then his worries re-surfaced and he frowned. ‘Except, it looks as though the Marquis is involved in all three deaths and there are a number of trans people caught up in it. I don’t know how I can keep Jasmine out of it.’
Angela released him and stepped away examining his facial expression and posture. ‘Do you want to?’
James felt himself tightening up as if trying to curl up and disappear. ‘I don’t know what I want but I’m not ready for everyone at work to know I’m trans. I’m not sure how Sloane would take it. Milla’s lesbian and out with a partner and all that but even she was unsure of Sloane’s attitude.’
‘Well, I’m sure you, we, can find a way through it. Go and get out of your work gear while I put some supper on.’
James went into the bedroom and tore off his shirt, trousers and underwear. He donned knickers, bra and a summer dress and soon emerged as Jasmine. He sat at the dining table and Angela placed a plate in front of him.
‘There,’ Angela said as she sat down with her own plate. ‘Does being Jasmine help you solve your dilemma?’
Jasmine had to admit that she felt relaxed, but whether that was from her apparent change in gender or just from being safe at home with her wife and love, she wasn’t sure.
‘I think I’ll have to play it by ear. We’re going to have to visit the Marquis but I don’t think anyone there will recognise me as Jasmine when I’m dressed as James.’
‘I think you’re missing something, Jas,’ Angela said.
Jasmine was confused. ‘What’s that?’
‘At least two of the drug dealers at the Marquis are or were trans. One of the victims was trans and another was involved with transwomen. It could be that your best way of getting into this case and finding out what is going on is by using your trans knowledge and persona. Jasmine needs to be the detective on this case not James.’
Jasmine thought about what Angela had said. ‘You could be right, but I can’t let Sloane know about me yet. I’m sure it would scupper any chance of getting onto the Violent and Serious Crime Squad permanently.’
‘Alright, but perhaps you can confide in the others.’
Jasmine imagined the conversation with the other officers in the team. ‘Not Money,’ she said forcefully, ‘I don’t think he’d understand. He couldn’t bring himself to refer to Natalie as “she”.’
‘What about the woman you worked with today. What was her name? DC Sparrow?’
Jasmine pondered, ‘Milla? Hmm. Perhaps. She’s leaving soon.’
………………………………

Jasmine seeks a lead

I don’t say this very often but thank you.  Thank you for reading this weekly ramble and serialised scribbling.  A special thanks to the person, I think it is just one, who accessed a lot of the archived pages this week.  I hope that gave you a good insight into Jasmine Frame.  You can of course purchase the latest novel, Bodies By Design by going to the Jasmine Frame Publications page.

IMGP4329(2)This weekend I’m putting on my “published by Elsewhen Press” badge and my “Seventh Child” t-shirt (if I can find it) and setting off for Nottingham for this year’s NovaCon – one of the biggest SF&F conventions in the calendar. I don’t think I’ll have any exclusive opportunities to promote Evil Above the Stars (vol. 3 Unity of Seven isn’t due out till the new year) but I hope to meet people, introduce myself and catch up with the gang from Elsewhen. Elsewhen are publishing an anthology of short SF stories with contributions from most, if not all, their authors. I’ve got a story in it – a landmark for me in that it is actually my first SF story in a professional publication. More of that when it appears.

This week I have been delighted to make good progress with the third Jasmine Frame novel, The Brides’ Club Murder. What to do with it when it’s finished is one question and another one is what do I write next – more of that next week.  Here though is the next episode of the Jasmine Frame prequel, Flashlight. Jasmine is now a temporary addition  to DCI Sloane’s investigative team and she, or rather he, is learning more about Sloane and his new partners.

Flashlight: Part 6

James followed DC Sparrow down the stairs and into the secure car park. It gave him a chance to look at the young police officer. Although wearing black trousers and sensible flat shoes, she hadn’t adopted the male detective uniform of dull suit, shirt and tie. She wore a grey blouson leather jacket over a pale blue scoop-necked t-shirt and wore her dark hair long and loose. James felt poorly dressed in comparison. He’d removed his police jacket with all its kit when he’d got back to the station with Gavin. Now he just had the showerproof jacket that he wore to and from work over his shirt and his uniform trousers.
Sparrow stopped at unmarked Ford Focus. ‘Get in Jim,’ she said.
James slid into the passenger seat beside her and in moments they were driving through the security gates and out into the town. Milla drove swiftly but safely through the busy traffic until they reached a scruffy part of town – a 50s former council estate now largely housing association run social housing and private lets. They drew up at a three story apartment block. Some of the windows were boarded up but James could see that there were occupants.
‘This is where the gay lad was found?’ James asked.
Milla turned off the engine. ‘Yes, one of the ground floor flats. A right dump. Murray’s flatmate, may be there or he might be out servicing a client or hunting for drugs himself. We’ll give him a try shall we?’
They got out of the car and walked through the rubbish and bits of bicycles and push-chairs to the door of the block. The lock was broken so Milla pushed the door open and stepped inside.  She tapped on the door on the right. There was a moan from inside which James translated as a ‘who’s there?’
‘Lawrence Offiah? It’s the police. DC Sparrow. We met last week when your friend died. We’d like to talk to you.’
There was further moaning but James also heard movement. It was a few moments more before the door opened a crack. Filling the gap was young dark-skinned man, shorter than James, thin, naked but for a pair of grey boxer shorts with a significant bulge. His shaven head was a glistening black
‘Can we come in, Lawrence,’ Sparrow said in a gentle voice, ‘It’ll be easier to talk inside. This is Constable Frame. He’d like to ask some questions.’
The boy shrugged and wandered away from the door leaving it ajar. Sparrow pushed it open and stepped into the room. James wasn’t surprised by the state of the bedsit but he wondered how people could live in such a fashion. A thin, much-stained carpet covered the floor. A grubby duvet was heaped on the three-quarter sized bed. A few bits of crockery and empty plastic cartons filled the sink. An old Dralon-covered sofa faced an almost new 60-inch flat screen TV with a game console on the floor in front of it.
Offiah slumped onto the sofa and scratched his crotch. ‘What do you want now? I told you everything when Guy died.’ His London gangsta drawl cracked a little when he said the name of his dead partner and James saw real sorrow on his face.
Milla soothed him. ‘Yes, Lawrence. You helped us a lot last week and I know it was difficult for you. James here, thinks you can help us find out why Guy died.’
‘He got a bad batch. It happens.’ Offiah shrugged.
‘But where did he get it?’ Milla asked.
‘I said I didn’t know,’ he insisted, ‘it wasn’t from any of the usual pushers because he didn’t have any money.’
James butted in. ‘How do you know he hadn’t just seen a client and been paid?’
Lawrence sneered at him. ‘Because he was sick. No punter would fuck him. Not even the most desperate. I was looking after him but I had to go out and earn some dough.’
‘You were out all night,’ Milla said.
Lawrence slumped and tears appeared in his eyes. ‘Yeah. I got back in the morning and found him. You know all that.’
‘How was Guy, when you left him?’ James asked.
‘He said he was feeling better,’ Offiah said, ‘I told him to have a bit more rest. Make sure he was well before, you know.’
‘But he went out?’ James said.
Offiah shrugged. ‘Must have gone somewhere to get a packet. They don’t do home deliveries.’
‘If he didn’t have enough cash to go to your usual suppliers where would he gave gone?’ Milla asked.
‘I don’t know,’ Lawrence said.
‘Do you know any new sources?  A new venue perhaps?’ James knew he was leading the boy on.
Lawrence looked thoughtful. ‘Yeah, perhaps.’
‘Such as the new club at the Marquis?’ James said.
‘Could be,’ Lawrence shrugged, ‘We took a look in there a couple of weeks ago when it opened. They made a fuss about it being gay-friendly. It was okay. We might have gone again if Guy hadn’t got sick.’
‘You didn’t go back to pick up anyone?’ James asked.
‘Didn’t need to. I’ve got me regulars.’
‘Were you offered drugs at the Marquis?’ Milla asked.
‘Didn’t ask. We just spent a while having a drink, a dance and a kiss and a cuddle. They’ve got some nice cosy corners.’ He smirked at Milla. She sent an enquiring glance at James. He nodded. He could see the two boys getting off in one of the Marquis’ private rooms to the delight of voyeurs.
‘Did Guy leave you at any time while you were there?’ James enquired.
Lawrence turned to James and glowered at him. ‘He might have gone for a pee.’
‘And he didn’t mention anyone dealing from the loos.’
Offiah shook his head. ‘No. Look have you finished. I’ve got to go and meet someone.’
‘You’re sure you don’t want to tell us more about the Marquis?’ Milla said, in a tone rather firmer than she had used previously.’
‘I told you I don’t know anything about that place. Now I’ve got to get ready so I’d like you to leave.’ The young man started to pull his boxers down over his hips.
Milla began to retreat to the door. ‘Okay, Lawrence, but we may be back. This isn’t just about Guy anymore.’
James followed her out of the door and pulled it closed behind getting a glimpse of a dark pair of buttocks as it clicked shut.
‘He’s lying,’ Milla said as they walked back to the car.
‘Yes,’ James agreed, ‘He knew more about what goes on at the Marquis than he admitted.’
‘You were offered drugs in the loo, by Natalie, were you, Jim?’
‘Yes, and the guy I bought them off last night.’
‘A trans-man, you said.’
‘I think so.’
‘You have an eye for transgender, Jim?’
‘Sort of.’
They got into the car. Milla froze with her hand on the ignition key.
‘So there is definitely a link with the Marquis even if we haven’t yet got proof that Guy Murray went there after Offiah left him for the night. Let’s have a go at Butler’s cleaning lady, Mary O’Reilly. With any luck she might have finished for the day.
James glanced at his watch. It was gone five p.m. He only had a couple of hours left on his shift.
‘What time do you finish, Milla?’ He asked as they drove off.
The DC glanced at him. ‘When we’re done for the day, Jim. You don’t get regular hours when you work for DCI Sloane. Is that a problem?’
James shook his head. ’No, no, not at all.’ He was thinking of Angela being at home and wondering where he was. As a uniformed officer he often didn’t get off when his shift was due to end but he usually managed to send Angela a text to let her know. He didn’t want to do that now while he was accompanying Milla.
‘Have you worked with Sloane for long?’ he asked as they joined the Reading rush hour queues.
‘Over a year,’ Milla answered, ‘but not for much longer.’
‘Oh?’ James wasn’t sure whether to enquire further.
Milla drummed the steering wheel in impatience. ‘I’ve got a transfer to the West Midlands force,’ she explained. ‘My partner got moved to Birmingham a while back. It took a bit of time but they finally found a place for me. Sloane was very helpful actually.’
‘Really,’ James expressed his surprise, ‘I’d heard he was, um, difficult to work for.’
Milla chuckled. ‘Oh he is. He’s bad tempered, impatient and old-fashioned but he looks after his team.’
‘Is your partner in the force too?’
‘No, she’s an IT geek. Earns far more than me.’
‘She?’ James blurted out then was embarrassed that he’d said it.
Milla looked at him with a frown. ‘Yes, Jim. I’m a lesbian. Is that a problem for you?’
James shook his head vigorously. ‘No, no, of course not. I’m sorry I was surprised, I mean, I shouldn’t have reacted like that. It’s not important.’
‘Oh, yes, it is Jim. I’ve had to face the insults and the “jokes”. You’re a bloke so I expect you and your mates have fantasised about two girls having it off.’
James denied it as Milla went on.
‘I tried keeping it quiet but you know what the force is like. It’s difficult to keep a secret for long, particularly if it concerns who you’re living with. Actually I think it’s getting better. People, blokes included, are accepting different lifestyles more. Even gay officers are being open now.’
James remained silent. Are they ready for a transgender colleague though, he wondered?
As they edged forward, Milla continued. ‘I think Sloane was uncomfortable. He’s always avoided any mention of my sexuality and never asked about Tania. So long as I was doing a good job he was pleasant enough. But perhaps the reason why he helped me get my transfer was so he wouldn’t have a lezzer on his team.’
‘Do you really think he’s prejudiced?’ James felt a sickening worry in case his own secret was revealed.
‘Prejudiced? No, I don’t think so. He goes along with all the diversity stuff, but he’s old-school. I think he’s just uncomfortable with openness about sex and sexual oddities – despite coming across all sorts of depravity in his job. Ah, at last. Let’s get moving.’ She revved the engine and they moved forward with the traffic.
………………………………..

Jasmine seeks a clue

IMGP4799We held the celebration of the launch of Bodies By Design this week at Leominster Library. It was lovely to welcome friends – and sell a few books – even though we didn’t get the hordes of eager Jasmine fans that I was hoping (dreaming) for. I wore my new dress and greeted some friends who hadn’t met Penny before.IMGP4806

Now I’m looking for ways and opportunities to bring Bodies By Design as well as Painted Ladies and Discovering Jasmine to the eager book buying masses – you must be out there, somewhere.  I am offering my “Jasmine & Me” presentation/discussion to any groups interested in transgenderism of all shades, writing and publishing, or simply want to hear a crime thriller. To order the books, or to find out about booking a presentation just email me on paintedladiesnovel@btinternet.com

IMGP4803

But on with the plot. We’re well into the latest Jasmine Frame prequel, Flashlight, now, so here is the third episode.

Flashlight: part 3

The music had the same thumping beat; the flashing lights were the same; the hot steamy atmosphere was the same, but Jasmine felt different. She was wearing the same fringed satin dress, and Angela was dancing in front of her as before but she was uneasy. This wasn’t about being out with the girl she loved nor being the woman she felt she should be. This was work. Not officially, of course, but she was alert, all her senses tuned to detect the unexpected, her muscles ready to react in any way demanded of them. In other words, she was on edge.
Jasmine leaned towards Angela’s head, and shouted in her ear. ‘Let’s get a drink.’  They moved off to the bar. The same butch drag queens were behind the bar as the previous week.
‘Hi, girls,’ shouted the bearded one over the noise of the music. ‘What will it be?’
Angela ordered a white wine spritzer for herself and a water for Jasmine.  They took their glasses and headed into the shadows at the edge of the dancefloor.
Angela took a sip and then said, ‘What are you going to do?’
Jasmine replied, ‘I’ll start in the Ladies, where Natalie was last week. Why don’t you have a peek into the side rooms? See what’s going on.’
‘I think we know what’s going on, don’t we?’
‘Perhaps. Don’t hang around. Look as though you’re looking for someone.’
‘What if someone offers me drugs, or sex?’
‘Say you haven’t got the money for drugs. The sex is up to you.’ Jasmine intended it to be a joke but realised immediately that Angela may not take it that way. Their sex life was not as active as it had been and Jasmine knew why. It was her fault. Increasingly, she was feeling disgusted playing the part of a man in the relationship. She couldn’t help it. She still loved Angela but the thing between her legs felt like an alien growth with reactions that were separate to her own.
Angela scowled, ‘Perhaps it is.’
Jasmine drank the last mouthful of water and put the glass down on a table.
‘I won’t be long. Meet back here?’
‘OK. Be careful.’
Jasmine set off for the toilets trying to look as though she felt “nature’s call”.  She went straight to the Ladies and pushed the door open. As before it was dim and occupied with single women of all varieties attending to their make-up and couples who felt that the loo was the place to engage in sexual intercourse. She pushed on the door of the first cubicle. It rattled but didn’t budge and a deep voice bellowed ‘Get lost!’
She moved to the second door. This was where she had seen Natalie previously.  The door swung open and she saw a young man standing with one foot up on the loo seat. He was shorter than Jasmine and had a leather post office bag resting on his raised knee. He had cropped bristly hair and a wispy beard. A T-boy, Jasmine guessed.
‘Hi, you want some stuff,’ he said in a voice that was breaking.
‘What you got?’ Jasmine said as disinterested as she could.
‘Anything you like,’ the youth shrugged.
Jasmine thought quickly. How could she say she wanted heroin? What was the street slang for the drug?  A list of terms had been issued to police officers.  There were thousands of different names for all sorts of drugs. She thought she remembered a few.
‘Got some Big Harry?’ she asked.
‘Yeah.’ He dug into his bag and pulled out a small plastic bag. ‘Good quality stuff.’
‘How much?’
‘Eleven quid.’
Jasmine wondered, should she haggle? ‘That’s a lot for one shot.’
The boy looked at her bare arms. He can see I’m not a regular injector, she thought.
‘Take it or leave it. There’s plenty who need it,’ he said.
Jasmine opened her small shoulder bag and dug out a note and coins. She offered it to the young man in her open palm. He scooped the cash into his bag and replaced it with the polythene packet.
‘Where’s Natalie?’ Jasmine asked wondering if it was a good idea to mention the name of the dead pusher.
‘Who?’ he said without a flicker of interest.
‘The girl who was here before,’ Jasmine explained.  How regular had Natalie been, she wondered. Had she been here on other occasions or was last Wednesday the only time?
‘No idea. Look do you want any more stuff? There’s people waiting.’
Jasmine glanced over her shoulder. A burly girl in a leather mini-dress was hanging around the door to the cubicle. A customer or a minder?
‘Oh, OK. Thanks,’ Jasmine said retreating from the toilet. She squeezed passed the leather-clad trans-woman stuffing her purchase in her bag.
She returned to the dark corner of the dance floor, dazzled once again by the flashlights illuminating the dancers. Angela wasn’t there. Jasmine stood uneasily, glancing at the bar.  She caught the eye of one of the men standing there. Jasmine groaned inwardly as he approached her. He was probably a decade older than her and a couple of centimetres shorter with lank brown hair and a small paunch that filled out his dark, slogan-breasted t-shirt. He came close to her, his face just a few centimetres from hers so that he could make himself heard over the noise of the music.
He smiled and said, ‘Hello. What’s a pretty girl like you standing all alone for?’  The “girl” was emphasised in a way that let Jasmine know she’d been read. Not surprising as a good proportion of the “girls” in the club were, TSs, trannies or drag queens.
‘Just waiting,’ Jasmine replied not wanting to make conversation and hoping that Angela would reappear soon.
‘Well, I’m here now,’ he said with a leery smile, ‘How would you like have an admirer?’
This time Jasmine’s groan was almost audible. Oh, no, she thought, a bloody tranny fancier. What attracted them to guys in dresses? Did he think she was so desperate to be treated as a woman that she’d give a blow-job to any bloke that appreciated her? Jasmine hadn’t had to fend of such admirers very often as she was usually in the company of Angela when clubbing. She was unsure how to respond.
‘Uh, not a lot,’ she said.
‘Aw, come on, love. You look so good you must want it.’ He reached out an arm and placed his hand on Jasmine’s left buttock. The cloth of the dress and her knickers was so thin that she could feel the heat of his palm.
She pushed his hand away. ‘No, thank you,’ she said as calmly as she could though her heart was beating fast, ‘I said I was waiting for someone.’
From behind him, she saw Angela appear.
‘Hello, Jas. Everything alright here?’ Angela’s cheery greeting wasn’t quite her normal jolly tone.
‘Hi, Ange. Yes. This “admirer” was just leaving.’
The man looked around, took in Angela in a glance and backed away, muttering ‘fucking tranny cock-teasers’.
‘Where have you been?’ Jasmine asked, her relief coming out more like impatience
‘Doing what you asked?’ Angela said, ‘Having a look in the side-rooms.’
‘What’s happening?’
‘Sex mainly. Some straight, some gay, some kinky. A few people watching others getting it on. I didn’t stop for long enough to get involved, although there were some good-looking blokes with their tackle out.’ Jasmine saw the cheeky grin that she knew of old and guessed that she was being paid back for her earlier attempt at a joke.
‘Any drugs?’
‘Perhaps. Didn’t see anything in particular. Some of the spectators and participants were probably on something. I wasn’t offered anything though. Were you?’
Jasmine tapped her bag. ‘Yes. Heroin. I think it was time we went home. I wouldn’t want to be caught here, or anywhere, with drugs in my bag if my work-mates decided on a raid.’
Angela nodded. ‘I understand. Who was it? Another trans-woman?’
‘No, an F to M. Young lad. In the same cubicle as Natalie though, but didn’t seem to know about her when I mentioned her.’
‘You didn’t say she was dead?’
‘No, I just mentioned her name. He didn’t seem to care.’
‘OK. Well, let’s head home.’
‘Don’t hurry. Look natural.’
‘Of course.’ Angela took her arm and they sauntered off giggling together.

‘I’ll put the kettle on,’ Angela said as they entered their flat.
‘Good idea,’ Jasmine replied, sinking into the sofa.  She felt more exhausted from the little bit of under-cover work than if they had spent the night dancing. She opened her bag and took out the little packet of heroin.
Angela came out of the kitchen and stood looking at her. ‘What are you going to do with it?’ she said.
‘I’ll hand it in.’ Jasmine said examining the honey coloured powder.
‘Won’t you have to explain how you got it?’
Jasmine breathed deeply. ‘Yes. I’ll find a way of putting it. I think I’ll go straight to DCI Sloane, tomorrow morning before my shift. That’ll be quicker and I might find out a bit more about Natalie.’
‘You may have to reveal Jasmine to him.’
Jasmine trembled. ‘I hope I don’t have to.’
The kettle whistled.

James walked through the police station feeling like a stranger.  The building was familiar, he was in it every work-day but he wasn’t on duty just yet. He always had a secret to hide – his transgenderism – but today those feelings of suppressing his feminine character were mixed up with the information he had to impart, and the knowledge of the packet of heroin in his trouser pocket.
He climbed the stairs to the office that DCI Sloane had commandeered for his murder investigation. He knocked on the door and immediately heard a gruff voice invite him to enter. It was a small room with just room for a couple of desks and the other paraphernalia of an investigation – a white board with photos of Natalie’s body stuck to it and of her bedsit.
DCI Sloane was behind the larger of the desks filling the chair with his bulk. He didn’t rise but looked up as James stepped towards him. Apprehension made James’ stomach tense.

…………………….

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 – the printed word

IMGP4784At last they’ve arrived – the paperback copies of Bodies By Design: the 2nd Jasmine Frame novel – and we’re getting pretty merry about it.  Actually I can’t fault the printers – they’ve done a great job and kept to their deadline. It’s just that a fortnight can seem like a long time when you’re waiting to get your books in your hands. Let’s hope I won’t have this batch on my hands for long. Go to the Jasmine Frame Publications page to see how you can place an order.  Anybody who puts a review (favourable I hope) on Amazon or Facebook or Twitter will get a special thank you from me and a gift worth, oh, lot’s of, um, pence, if you tell me where the review is by emailing paintedladiesnovel@btinternet.com

This week there is another short excerpt from Bodies By Design below which introduces Viv (?!), to whet your appetite. Next week I’ll be starting a brand new Jasmine Frame prequel novella titled Flashlight, set in a time before she was she and before she was a detective.

Layout 1Bodies By Design: the 2nd Jasmine Frame novel – excerpt

The doorbell rang. Jasmine hurried to open it, wiping the tears from her cheeks. The man she had met in the car park stood there holding a bottle of wine. The smoke alarm fell silent.
‘Hi.’ He paused, ‘Look, I wanted to apologise. I’m sure you’re fed up of people recognising you like that. It was rude of me.’
Jasmine held the door, wondering how to respond. He looked at her closely.
‘Hey, are you OK? You’ve been crying.’
‘Well, I’m tired and hungry, I found a body this afternoon and I’ve just burned my supper.’
His eyes widened, but he quickly recovered.
‘Well, I brought this bottle as an apology. You and I could share it and I’ll try to cheer you up. I haven’t eaten yet either, so perhaps we can order a takeaway?’
Jasmine’s first instinct was to thank him and close the door. She was wary of strangers and slow to form new friendships. She had to be sure that people accepted her and weren’t going to react badly to her transsexualism. But this guy seemed different. He knew who and what she was, but had taken the trouble to apologise for blurting it out when they had met. The wine was an attraction too – she needed something to get rid of the smoky taste in her mouth. The promise of a takeaway was the clincher. She opened the door wider and summoned up a cheerful voice.
‘That sounds like a good offer. Come in.’
She stepped back into the room and he followed. Jasmine stooped to remove papers and her bag from the small sofa.
‘I’ll see if I can find a corkscrew, uh, I’m sorry, I don’t know your name.’
‘It’s Viv,’ he said, smiling broadly, ‘I brought a corkscrew, just in case, but perhaps you have a couple of glasses?’
‘Oh, yes, um, Viv. I’ll get some.’ Jasmine hurried to the kitchen, grabbed a pair of wine glasses from the wall cupboard, her only two as it happened, and returned to the living room. Viv was still standing. There was a cheerful pop as the cork was pulled from the bottle. Jasmine held out the two glasses and Viv poured the dark red wine into each. He put the bottle down on the table and took the glass that she offered. Jasmine noted that he was about four inches taller than her.
‘I’m sorry, another apology. While I recalled the reason why you were in the papers, I don’t remember your name.’
‘It’s Jasmine, Jasmine Frame. Welcome to Kintbridge. At least, when you said you were just moving in I presumed you meant that you were new to the area?’
‘That’s right. I’m down from Brum as you can probably tell,’ he clinked his glass against hers, ‘Thanks.’
They each took a sip and Viv folded himself into Jasmine’s battered old sofa. Jasmine sat on a dining chair and, ensuring her knees were together, leaned towards him.
‘So, Viv …?’
‘Short for Vivian. Vivian Jackson. My parents, or rather my father, named me after his great hero.’
‘Hero?’
‘Viv Richards, the cricketer.’
‘Um, yes. I’m not sure….’  Cricket wasn’t top of Jasmine’s favourite pastimes.
‘My father was born in Jamaica and came here with his parents in the Fifties. He’s always supported the West Indies cricket team, even though now he’s become more British than the British. Viv Richards is his all-time favourite player.’
‘I can understand that.’ Jasmine knew enough about cricket to be vaguely aware of the name.
‘But that’s why I was so annoyed that I had embarrassed you. I know what it’s like to be different. My mum’s white and even in the Eighties life for a mixed race family wasn’t easy. So, I shouldn’t have blurted out about you being transsexual.’
Hearing Viv say the word again made her wince. It was the truth and she’d known it for years, but she hated the label. She just wished to be seen and recognised as a woman. But she appreciated what Viv was saying.
‘That’s OK. It’s just that it’s happened so often since the story got into the media, I’m sick of it.’
‘I’m sure you are. Look what about that takeaway? What do you suggest?’
…………………..

Jasmine – the second novel

Bodies By Design – now available in paperback

Layout 1Having reached the end of the prequel, Split Mirror, at a convenient time I can now announce that the second Jasmine Frame novel, Bodies By Design is now available to order in paperback form (it is also available as an ebook).  Go to the Jasmine Frame Publications page to find out how you can get hold of your copy.  You’ll find a short excerpt below to whet your appetite.

IMGP4717However to digress for a moment – with transgender remaining a subject of journalists’ fascination it is interesting that the media snake is now starting to bite its tail. An article in last week’s Guardian (or Observer, I can’t remember which) asked whether it was right for non trans people to play trans characters on screen.  The main focus is of course the part played by Eddie Redmayne in The Danish Girl but of course applies to previous film portrayals of trans women such as Transamerica, Priscilla Queen of the Desert and others where the trans character is played by a “cis-” man or woman.  I would have liked to have seen these parts played by a transwoman but I am not sure that it is a principle that has to be enforced rigidly. The point is that a part should be given to the actor who is able to play it well. A good actor can take on many roles which may differ greatly from their own personality. On the other hand a trans woman is indistinguishable from any other woman and so, if she is a good actor, can also play any part. What I am saying is that the watcher should not be able to tell if any part played on screen is being played by a trans or cis person.  However I hope that no trans-actor is being discriminated against simply for being trans.

Anyway, back to Bodies By Design. The novel follows on some three months after the events of Painted Ladies and Jasmine again becomes involved in the investigation  of a murder while undergoing a significant stage in her own transition.

Bodies By Design: The 2nd Jasmine Frame Novel – excerpt

Jasmine sank down while raising the camera to her eye. She peered through the viewfinder, choosing her shot. Would the picture show whether he was relying on the crutch for support? Did he need it? Was he the benefits cheat the FIS suspected? Was he going to get in and drive off? Jasmine clicked off a few shots.
The subject, a middle-aged man with greying brown hair wearing old jeans and a battered sweatshirt, reached inside the car and withdrew a package. He closed the door. He began to move with difficulty around the bonnet back towards the pavement. Good, he wasn’t going to drive off, not yet anyway. Jasmine took a few more pictures. He paused, looked up the road. Jasmine wondered whether he had noticed her but he was staring, not at her but at something on the pavement opposite. He began to walk quickly, almost breaking into a run, his crutch not performing any role at all
High pitched cries finally penetrated Jasmine’s consciousness.
‘Fire! Help!’
Jasmine looked out of her side window. Standing on the kerb opposite was a young woman with wavy brown hair wearing denim micro shorts and a cut-off vest. She was shouting.
Jasmine dropped the camera onto the passenger seat, grabbed her shoulder bag and opened the car door.
‘What’s the matter?’ she called, getting out.
‘There’s a fire! Upstairs!’ The girl ran towards her just as Jasmine’s subject arrived puffing and leaning on his crutch. The girl pointed to the top floor of one of the Edwardian terraced houses. ‘I heard the alarm going off,’ she added.
Jasmine looked up. Thin wisps of dark smoke rose into the sky from a small dormer window.
‘Is there anyone up there?’
‘Xristal. Oh my God, I think she might be trapped!’ The girl shivered.
‘Show me the way!’ Jasmine’s training took over and she spoke firmly. She urged the girl back towards the house, hurrying her along. The subject followed more slowly.
There were two doors in the front porch. The right one was open. The girl led Jasmine into a dark hallway, through a small kitchen and out into a gravelled backyard. A steel staircase rose to the upper floors. The smoke alarm’s whine was clearly audible.
‘Do you have a phone?’ Jasmine asked the girl.
‘Yes.’
‘Well, dial 999 and get the fire service here as quick as you can!’ Jasmine ran up the staircase. Two short flights brought her to a narrow landing and a door to the first floor flat. Two more flights and she stood at the door to the top flat. The alarm was deafening.

………………

Jasmine again!

Layout 1

Bodies By Design – the 2nd Jasmine Frame novel is now available as an e-book on kindle, price £1.99 from Amazon.

The paperback will be on sale very soon, and can be ordered from booksellers or from paintedladiesnovel@btinternet.com for £9.99 inc post & packing.  Here’s the back cover blurb

Jasmine Frame is back …
Three months after the events of Painted Ladies, Jasmine responds to a call for help and finds herself involved in a murder case by the special request of DCI Sloane. But who or what was the victim? What was the motive? Jasmine’s investigation leads into the murkier regions of the transgender scene. Meanwhile her own transition is progressing and she is about to take an irreversible step to lose her masculinity. What are the parallels between her situation and that of the murder victim? Did both hope to achieve bodies by design?

I am delighted to at last have a sequel to Painted Ladies available for existing fans of Jasmine and for new readers and I am really looking forward to seeing the paperbacks. If you would like to have a copy for review please contact me at the email address given above.

But for another taste of Jasmine Frame here’s the latest episode of the prequel, Split Mirror.

Split Mirror: Part 11

Jasmine leaned back in her chair. Her heart was beating fast. Could Cox have been more blatant? To advertise his taste in lovemaking through his van registration number was simply arrogant. But this was the number plate that Debbie must have seen not the one on the van that Tom investigated. Tom would surely have noted the unauthorised distribution of the numbers and the not-so-hidden meaning. Yet they were the same number. Cox must be running two vans on the same plates; identical vans with one set up for his business and the other for his pleasure. She breathed deeply. Cox was the kidnapper; she was sure of it. But where did he keep his vans and where was Diana? He must run his business from somewhere.
It only took moments to search the Kintbridge directories and then Jasmine reached for her phone. Palmerston’s line was engaged, so was Tom’s. They’d be busy setting up their cordon and rounding up the doggers now. She waited till Tom’s voicemail cut in.
‘Tom. Stop what you’re doing, it’s a waste of time. Cox is the abductor, I’m certain. I’m going to his garage – it’s on the Mill Lane industrial estate. Meet me there soon as you can.’
She ended the call grabbed her bag and coat and ran from the office. It crossed her mind that she was disobeying DS Palmerston’s orders but it didn’t matter. If there was chance to find Diana Stretfield she had to take it.
Crossing the car park she pulled her coat on and fumbled for her car keys. The key missed the keyhole in the door twice before it slid in. She lamented the lack of remote locking on the old Fiesta. Sitting in the driver’s seat she muttered a prayer as she turned the key in the ignition. The engine groaned into life causing her to smile. Prayers did work occasionally then.
It was less than a mile to the industrial estate but it always seemed an unfamiliar world of metal clad boxes of various sizes. She drove slowly along Mill Lane peering through the February darkness for some sign of the building she was looking for. There it was, a small, single storey shed between two larger, more recent blocks, with Cox’s name above the entrance. She drove passed before she stopped and got out, remembering to pick up her big torch.
Jasmine stood by her car and examined her surroundings. At this time of night all the warehouses, workshops and offices were empty and shut-up. There were few street lights and only one or two of the buildings were lit up. Cox’s garage, set back from the road, in the shadow of its neighbours was the darkest of all. She walked slowly onto the forecourt. No other vehicles went by and there were no pedestrians. She was alone. She hoped that Tom had picked up the message and was at this moment racing to support her.
The front of the building was a concertina door wide enough for two cars. Jasmine found the handle, gripped it and tried to turn or tug it. It was immoveable although the doors rattled. There were no windows but no light crept from beneath or above the entrance. Cox didn’t appear to be present. She walked to the left side of the building. There was a bigger gap here to the neighbouring warehouse than on the other side. Her shoes crunched the gravel as she walked up the driveway to the back of the garage. The darkness deepened and she flicked her torch on.
She reached the end of the side wall and took a step beyond. The torch illuminated a concrete hard-standing and, as she lifted it, the back of a tall white van. The reflective number plate sent the light back to her, RUF SEKS. This was it – the unmarked white Renault Traffic; not the one that Tom has seen. A few steps took her to the back of the van. She reached for the handle.
A metallic crashing was followed by a shaft of light showing in a small dirty window in the back wall of the garage. The sound of the doors at the front of the garage being folded back went on for a few more moments. Jasmine retreated to the corner of the building. There was the reverberating grumble of an engine as the vehicle drove into the garage. The engine stopped.
Jasmine switched off her torch and pressed against the side wall. She leaned forward to peer around the corner. A door opened and the back of the van was suddenly in light. A silhouette moved from the door to the rear of the van, tugged the doors open and reached inside.
Cox, surely it as him, dragged the body from inside the van until its feet fell to the ground. Then he put his arms around the naked torso, lifted it from the floor of the van and lowered it to the concrete.
The body lay in the trapezium of light cast by the open door. Dark shoulder length hair, open mouth gagged, breasts, ankles and wrists bound. It’s Diana, Jasmine thought. I’m too late, she’s dead. Then there was a faint groan and the knees bent. No, she’s still alive, Jasmine rejoiced.
Cox bent over the naked, bound woman. ‘It was fun while it lasted but you’re in the way now,’ he muttered. ‘Time to go.’
He reached into the thigh pocket of his overalls and drew out a large wrench. He straightened up and lifted the wrench above his head.
‘No!’ Jasmine shouted. One, two, three paces, and she was in the air, the torch clattering to the ground. She thudded into Cox’s side, her hands reaching for his wrist. He toppled over, falling with Jasmine on top. His hand hit the concrete and the wrench slipped from his grasp. Jasmine was astride him, grabbing his wrists pressing them to the concrete above his head.
Cox was bigger than her, stronger perhaps but she had gravity on her side, still had her masculine muscle tone, and more importantly, skill. He wriggled, struggled to push her off, but she used his movements to roll him on to his front and twist his arms behind his back. He growled and tried to throw her off but she gave his wrists and extra twist. He howled and lay still.
A siren sounded at the front of the garage, a screech of tyres, then faint shouts.
‘Jasmine! Where are you?’
‘Tom!’ She called as loudly as she could, ‘Round the back.’
Feet running on gravel, getting louder, then panting and, ‘what the. .? Is that Cox?’
‘Help me, Tom. I need to check Diana.’
Tom was at her side, resting his knees on Cox’s back, taking his wrists from Jasmine and snapping handcuffs around them. Jasmine moved to Diana’s side. Flat on the concrete with her arms bound behind her back and ankles chained together, she was shaking her breathing through the gag coming in short, fast gasps. Jasmine pulled her coat off, laid it over the naked woman, lifted her so that the coat wrapped around her and hugged her to her own body.
‘She’s freezing Tom. Call an ambulance.’
‘OK. Get her inside it might be warmer there.’ Tom stood up and, still keeping a foot on Cox’s back, pulled his phone from his pocket. Jasmine half dragged, half carried Diana through the open door into the garage. The front of the garage was open and the space for vehicles was partly filled by the van covered in Cox’s advertising, but there was the usual clutter of tyres, tools and spare parts in one corner and a desk covered with oil smudged papers in the other. There was a battered leather revolving chair at the desk. Jasmine heaved Diana to the chair and gently lowered her into it. She pulled her coat around the woman and reached to the back of her head to find the buckle of the leather straps that held the ball gag in her mouth. She undid them and pulled the gag from Diana’s mouth. It came away with a “pop”. The woman gasped.
Jasmine bent down to peer at her face, ‘Diana, how do you feel?’
Diana’s face was white, her lips pale and she was still shivering uncontrollably. She moaned rather than answering. Jasmine bit her lip, worried. She looked around the untidy office area. There must be heating somewhere here. Cox couldn’t work in the freezing cold. She saw an electric fire under the desk, traced the mains lead back to the socket and switched it on. The heater lit up and immediately gave out warmth.
‘An ambulance is on its way,’ Tom called from outside, ‘and so is Denise.’
Even as he spoke, Jasmine heard another siren approaching and then a Mondeo appeared on the forecourt followed by a police car. She watched Palmerston get out and stride towards her.
‘What do you think you are doing, Frame, leaving your post?’
‘He was going to kill her,’ Jasmine protested. ‘Diana would have been dead if I hadn’t got here in time.’
‘Where’s Cox?’ Palmerston demanded.
Jasmine nodded to the open door. ‘Out there. Tom’s got him.’
Palmerston, turned and looked down at Diana. ‘How is she?’
‘I think she’s suffering from hypothermia. An ambulance is coming.’
Palmerston snorted. ‘I’ll see that you’re reprimanded for disobeying orders, Frame.’ She stalked out to assist Tom. Two uniformed policemen arrived looking confused and unsure what to do.
Jasmine knelt and examined the steel cuffs and chains binding Diana’s feet. They were locked in place. She turned to the policemen.
‘See if you can get the keys out of Cox,’ she nodded at the door, ‘or find me a bolt cutters or hacksaw or something to get these things off her.’
The officers split up and one started searching through the scattered tools while the other joined Tom and Palmerston outside.
Another siren sounded, a different tone. The ambulance at last, Jasmine thought.

………
Painted Ladies front cover jpegPainted Ladies: A Jasmine Frame story is available as a paperback and ebook from all booksellers including Amazon

Jasmine alone

Not a lot of time this week for writing but things are moving with publication of Bodies By Design – the 2nd Jasmine Frame Novel, as both a paperback and e-book and the novella Discovering Jasmine as an e-book.  I hope I’ll have a publication date and lots of info next week.

Rebecca Root has been getting plenty of publicity for her role in the new BBC sitcom Boy Meets Girl – an interview in Guardian Weekend and a feature in Radio Times are just the ones I’ve seen. I’ve got high hopes for the series in presenting transpeople in comic situations where the joke is not “silly bloke in a dress” but the ridiculous situations we find ourselves in.  Ms Root comes across as a likeable and sensible woman and I hope she has lots of success with this role and others. It will be great to see a transwoman playing a transwoman. It would be even better seeing a transwoman playing a woman’s role but the whole point is that once transition is complete there is no distinction so really we shouldn’t notice. On the other hand I wouldn’t want to insist that all trans-roles should be played by trans-people, after all acting is about playing a part. In classic theatre there is a lot of playing with roles – all male and all female Shakespeare, women taking traditional male roles and vice versa (e.g. Helen Mirren as Prospero/a in The Tempest). How about an all-trans Hamlet? Theatre (and film) should not be censored in any way.

I’d love to see Rebecca Root playing Jasmine – okay she’s a little old for the part and not blonde, but make-up does wonders.

Anyway here is the next episode in the prequel to Painted Ladies. It’s building up to a climax – just wait.

Split Mirror: Part 10

Jasmine ended the call and dropped her phone on to her desk. Almost at once it beeped and she grabbed it up again, thinking Tom had got back to her straight away, but it was only a text alert. The receptionist at her GP surgery was reminding her that she had an appointment at five o’clock today. She had forgotten about it and wondered how she could have done. These appointments with Dr Jilly Gould were important to her as they moved her forward in her transition even if each step seemed to be infinitesimal in size. She hoped that this time Jilly would be happy with the effects of the hormones she had been taking for three months, not that she had seen much change in her body shape yet. Perhaps there would be news from the gender reassignment clinic. Oh, how she hoped to be given a date for her surgery but she knew that was unlikely. She would have a few more years yet to practice patience.
The phone rang and vibrated in her hand. She jumped in her seat realising that she had been day-dreaming. She glanced at the screen; this time it was Tom. She pressed the answer button and held the mobile to her ear.
‘Tom. Did you get my message?’
‘Yes, Jas, but it’s a downer I’m afraid.’
‘The wrong van?’
‘Yes. Sorry, Jas. It was parked on the pavement outside the houses. A Renault Traffic, high top.’
‘That’s right.’
‘Plastered with the name of the owner, Steve Cox, and his phone number. He’s a car mechanic; does motorway rescues. Nice guy, early forties, still lives with his mother. She’s a bit dotty but said he’s very proud of his van now he’s got his name all over it. I’m coming back in. I’ve told Palmerston. I expect she’ll be speaking to you any moment.’
Jasmine felt a weight in her stomach. She’d so hoped that they were on Diana’s trail even though it had been a long shot. ‘Thanks Tom,’ she said and ended the call. She looked over the top of her monitor and saw DS Palmerston advancing towards her.
‘Frame. Your information proved to be of no use, as I expected.’ There was obvious glee in her voice. ‘Now I suppose we have to go about finding Stretfield the proper way although I still think there’s a good possibility that she has just walked out on her look-alike partner with or without this unknown van driver. At least it gives us a chance to disrupt the obscenities occurring in that layby.’
Jasmine listened to her monologue without comment awaiting the instructions that she knew would be coming. She wasn’t disappointed.
‘Put together a team to round up those sex maniacs this evening. We’ll need about a dozen uniformed officers and see if Kingston and Money are free to come along with Shepherd. We’ll need transport and a mobile incident vehicle so we can interview them individually on the spot. Inform highways and the area commanders. Make sure we can all speak to each other. I want to set up the cordon at twenty hundred. Got it?’
Jasmine certainly had. She knew she had an afternoon of phone calls and form-filling to set up an operation of this size.
She nodded. ‘What about me Ma’am?’
Palmerston looked confused. ‘What do you mean?’
‘What role do I have in the operation?’
Surprise made the DS’s eyes widen. ‘You’ll be here of course. Monitoring communications.’
Of course, Jasmine thought, how had she ever expected anything else? Left behind as usual, playing no real part in the proceedings.
‘We’ll find out if this white van man really does exist. Get on with it Frame.’ Palmerston turned on her heels and headed for Sloane’s office.
Jasmine breathed in deeply and got down to work. She’d be lucky if she had everything arranged in time for her doctor’s appointment.

7

‘I’m really sorry I’m late, Jilly,’ Jasmine said as she pushed the door of Dr Gould’s office open. The young GP glanced at her screen.
‘Only a couple of minutes, Jasmine. I hadn’t got round to thinking of taking my next patient yet. Busy?’
Jasmine sat in the chair beside Jilly’s desk, tugged her skirt down her thighs, and put her fingers through her hair. ‘Yes. A rushed job on. I’ve got to go straight back but I didn’t wasn’t to miss seeing you.’
‘So we’re not going to get that quiet drink and chat this evening, then.’
Jasmine laughed. It felt like her first real laugh for days. This mythical drink and chat was a constant source of amusement since they had never yet managed to coordinate their busy working days to allow them a couple of hours together. ‘One day,’ she said.
Jilly’s face took on a serious expression. ‘I’m glad you managed to get here though. It’s important that we keep these regular appointments so I can monitor your reactions to the hormones. Could you take your shirt off, please Jasmine?’
Jasmine obliged but felt embarrassed sitting in just her bra when it was only supporting her silicone falsies. Dr Gould used her instruments to measure her heart beat and blood pressure and took a sample of blood. She kept up a stream of questions and chat.
‘Have you noticed any changes?’
‘No, no really. My breasts feel a sensitive and sore at times but I don’t think they’ve grown.’
‘It’s early days yet, Jasmine. It’s not quite three months is it?’
‘Nearly. I started in November.’
‘And don’t forget you’ve got the antiandrogens fighting your testosterone and well as the oestrogens. I’m not even sure we’ve got the dose right yet. It’s a delicate balance and the reason for all these tests.’
Jasmine nodded. ‘I understand Jilly. I’m just impatient to be fully a woman.’
‘I know, Jasmine.’ Dr Gould tipped her head on one side and gazed at her. ‘Well, I don’t really. I can’t really understand what it must be like to feel that your body is not in tune with your identity. You’re teaching me an awful lot. I appreciate it. You can dress now.’
Jasmine gratefully began to pull her shirt on.
‘What about moods?’ Jilly asked.
‘What about them?’ Jasmine asked feeling a bit wary of Jilly’s question.
‘Well, you are like a girl going through puberty with all these hormones sloshing around inside you and you know what they are like. How do you feel?’
‘It’s difficult to say,’ Jasmine replied. She didn’t want to confess to the times she burst into tears or snapped at Angela or Tom or other colleagues or the days when it was a struggle to even get out of bed. ‘Work has been difficult,’ she admitted, ‘but that’s because my senior officers keep leaving me out of operations so I’m stuck in the office.’
‘Perhaps they think they are protecting you while you go through your transition.’
Was Sloane protecting her? Perhaps, but not Palmerston.
‘Our DS has got it in for me. She hates transwomen.’
‘Oh, that’s a pity. You shouldn’t have to face abuse in the workplace. What does Angela say?’
‘We’re not together anymore. I’ve moved out.’
‘Oh, when? Where?’
Jasmine struggled to recall since she had hardly spent any time in the flat but an image of untouched boxes and bags came to her. ‘Um, Wednesday. It’s a one bedroom flat on Bristol Road. I haven’t had a chance to do anything to it yet or even unpack.’
‘But you have started your life as a single woman.’
‘Yes,’ Jasmine said knowing that her tone of voice revealed her feelings.
‘You miss Angela?’ Jilly asked.
‘Yes,’ Jasmine admitted, ‘I know we had to split up for Angela’s sake. She doesn’t want a lesbian relationship. But, well, we got on.’
‘You were, are, very close Jasmine. It’s bound to be hard for you for a while. But try and stay positive and this problem with your colleagues – don’t let it get to you.’
Jasmine knew what the doctor was getting at. Any sign of depression or mental ill health and she would be off the gender reassignment waiting list. It was a sort of catch 22. Some people thought she must be mad to want to alter her body but only if she was judged completely sane would she be allowed to do it.
‘I won’t,’ she said. ‘If that’s it, Jilly, I’d better head back to work.’ Jasmine rose to her feet
‘Yes, that’s all for now, Jasmine, but we need to meet fairly frequently to make sure your hormone balance is correct.’
Jasmine was already heading for the door. ‘Sorry I’ve got to rush. Thanks Jilly.’

Over two hours had gone by since her return to the office. Jasmine was alone, the room strangely quiet and peaceful. DS Palmerston had been in along with Tom Shepherd, Kingston and Money. They had collected their instructions and Jasmine had confirmed all the arrangements. Now they, along with the uniformed officers were on their way to round up and question the doggers at the public sex site. Jasmine had nothing to do except seethe at being left on her own. All she could do was listen in to the communications between the police officers but there was none at the moment. She deeply resented being left out of the operation and allowed herself to dwell on her bitterness. It wasn’t even likely that they’d glean anything useful from interviewing the participants and voyeurs in the sex play. The chances were slim that anyone recorded the registration of the white van in the dark layby while there was exciting activity taking place.
Jasmine couldn’t avoid being disappointed that Tom had turned up the wrong van but something about it bothered her. She pulled out her mobile phone and rang Debbie’s number.
‘Hello?’
‘It’s me Debbie, DC Frame, Jasmine.’
‘Oh, hello. Do you have any news?’
‘No. Sorry Debbie but we really are doing all we can. Look I have a quick question.’
‘Yes?’
‘The van you saw up the road. It was plain white, no markings, wasn’t it?’
‘Yes. That’s right.’
‘And you’ve seen it a few times?’
‘Yes.’
‘How recently?’
‘Oh, I don’t know. Not long ago. A week or two.’
‘You can’t remember anything else about it can you? It’s number plate?’
There was silence for a few moments. ‘No, I can’t, I’m sorry. Wait! There was something strange about the number. It had the two numbers in the middle like they do now but they were split up.’
Jasmine felt excited but wasn’t sure what Debbie meant. ‘You mean the letters and numbers were separated into two bits.’
‘That’s right.’
She had an inspiration. ‘As if the numbers were acting as letters and making words with the letters?’
‘That’s right, I suppose, but I can’t remember the letters making any sense to me,’ Debbie answered. ‘I’m sorry I can’t help anymore.’
‘No, that’s fine Debbie. You’ve been a great help. Good bye.’ Jasmine ended the call and eagerly played her fingers over her keyboard calling up information on her computer. She wanted to find out what vehicles Steve Cox had previously owned. It took just moments and there it was. A white Renault Traffic. The same model as his current van but a little older. It had been scrapped. At least the records said it had been.
Jasmine compared the details of the two vans. She stared at the registrations, the older RV54YTK and his current van RU55EKS. 5s could be Ss and a 4 used as an A. She scribbled the sequences on a piece of paper separating the numbers. Then she saw it. Of course a 5 could also be twisted into a sort of F. RVS AYTK meant nothing, but what about RUF SEKS?
………………………

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

Jasmine hopes for a breakthrough

Back home after three weeks away and looking forward to some discovering jasmine final coverpromotional activity for  Jasmine and September. Next month will see a double launch with the publication of Bodies By Design, the 2nd Jasmine Frame novel as a paperback and e-book and of Discovering Jasmine – the first stand alone publication of one of the prequel novellas, re-edited as an e-book and available as a special offer in pdf format.  Discovering Jasmine is the story of James/Jasmine as a teenager finding out about him/herself and appeared here in serialised form.  Here is a quick look at the cover.

But back to the present and the latest episode in the latest prequel.

Split Mirror: Part 9 

Jasmine stamped her foot on the brake and pulled into the side of the road. A lorry passed with its horn blaring. Jasmine ignored the noise and stared at Debbie. Surely it was too much of a coincidence. The driver of the white van that she believed was involved in Diana’s abduction couldn’t possibly live on the same estate – it was highly improbable. Wasn’t it? But she had surmised that the driver lived somewhere locally. Perhaps either he or Diana recognised the other because they lived close to each other and that was why Diana was taken.
‘Are you sure? Did Palmerston describe the van?’ Jasmine asked.
Debbie looked certain. ‘She said it was a plain white Ford Transit high top. I didn’t pay attention at the time and didn’t quite understand what she meant.’
‘It’s a van with higher sides than usual.’
‘That’s what I thought. I’m sure I’ve seen one on the estate, parked on the pavement so it was difficult to walk passed.’
Jasmine sighed. ‘There are thousands of those vans, dozens if not hundreds in Kintbridge.’
‘I realise that,’ Debbie said, ‘but I wondered if Diana knew the owner before she met him at this . . . place.’
‘It’s a possibility,’ Jasmine conceded. ‘Let’s have a look for it.’ She looked in her mirror and when the road was clear performed a U-turn. They headed back towards Kintbridge.
Neither said a word for a few minutes. Jasmine was trying to dampen her hopes. It couldn’t be this easy to trace the van. They were back on the edge of the town when Debbie spoke.
‘You think Diana’s dead don’t you?’
Jasmine shook her head. ‘I haven’t given up hope of finding her alive yet, Debbie.’
‘But those other women you think were kidnapped by the same person – they haven’t turned up have they?’
‘No.’
‘And they disappeared months ago?’
‘Yes.’
‘So they are probably dead.’
Jasmine shrugged as she slowed approaching the turning onto the estate.
‘If there has been no ransom demand then surely he kidnapped them to kill them?’
Jasmine wanted to sound encouraging. ‘They met at sex sites. Perhaps they went willingly to have sex in a more private place. Maybe he wants to keep the women for sexual gratification or for trafficking. It’s not a pleasant thought but it’s an alternative to them being dead.’
‘It’s something,’ Debbie said.
‘Now where did you see the van?’ The road curved and twisted through the housing estate with short cul-de-sacs on the right and left. Jasmine drove slowly.
‘Further on. Beyond our house.’
Jasmine touched the accelerator. As they approached Debbie’s house she saw a small police car parked outside. She speeded up.
‘Your liaison officer is waiting for you,’ she explained, ‘I don’t want anyone to know I’ve been out with you.’
‘That woman detective would have a go at you?’
‘Yes,’ Jasmine said, certain that Debbie was correct.
‘Diana had a lot of trouble from her boss and colleagues when she was an electrician. They couldn’t accept her as a woman because they had known her as Don.’
Jasmine slowed as they rounded a bend and were out of sight of the police car. ‘That’s part of my problem too, but Palmerston has got it in for trans-women in general – she’s a feminist.’
Debbie snorted. ‘She obviously has no idea about the trials you people suffer. She probably thinks she’s had a difficult time as a woman but I know what you go through.’
Jasmine nodded recognising the devotion that Debbie had shown to her former husband, now her female partner. ‘Where was the van?’
‘Just here,’ Debbie said, pointing out of her window at a row of semi-detached 1970s houses. There were no vans visible now. Jasmine slowed to a crawl. There were no driveways or garages alongside the houses. She noted the house numbers.
‘Did you see the van more than once? It wasn’t just delivering?’
‘No. I’ve seen it a few times.’
‘Do you know the people in these houses?’
‘I don’t. Can’t say I’ve got to know many people at all since we’ve lived here. Diana and I have kept to ourselves. Of course we went out together but we didn’t want people prying into our affairs.’
Jasmine understood what Debbie meant. She didn’t want neighbours gossiping about the strange pair of women who looked alike and lived together. ‘The garages are in separate blocks aren’t they?’ she said.
‘Yes,’ Debbie pointed through the windscreen. ‘I think if you take the next turning left you’ll see a row of them.’
Jasmine accelerated and followed Debbie’s directions. They drew up between two rows of concrete garages with metal up-and-over doors.
‘You couldn’t get a high top in one of those garages. The door is too low.’ Jasmine said.
‘That’s right,’ Debbie agreed. Jasmine manoeuvred back to the road and stopped.
‘If he does live here, he’s not here now. I’d better drop you off and get back to the station. Palmerston may be wondering where I’ve been.’
‘I hope I haven’t got you in to trouble,’ Debbie said.
Jasmine shook her head. ‘It’s not a problem. I can handle Palmerston.’ She wasn’t sure that was true but she wasn’t prepared to admit it. ‘But don’t tell anyone that we’ve met. I’ll say you rang through with your information about the van.’
‘I’ll walk home from here and let you get back. Thank you for your support.’ A tear trickled down the woman’s cheek. She opened the passenger door and stepped out.
‘No. I must thank you,’ Jasmine said, feeling regret that she couldn’t immediately soothe Debbie’s anguish. ‘I’ll keep in touch with you. We’ll do all we can to find Diana.’
Debbie pushed the door closed and Jasmine drove off.

6

As Jasmine entered the Unit’s HQ she saw Tom Shepherd standing beside Denise Palmerston who was sitting at her desk. Both looked up and saw her and she watched a scowl crease the DS’s face.
‘Where have you been, Frame?’ Palmerston asked.
‘I took a break while I was waiting for replies from Cardiff and Swindon,’ Jasmine replied trying to act as casual as she could.
Palmerston wasn’t satisfied. ‘Kingston said you went out over an hour ago.’
‘I went out to get to get something to eat. I got in early this morning and missed breakfast.’
The Detective Sergeant considered for a moment, then appeared to change the subject. ‘I suppose it’s too much to ask if you made any progress in tracing the van before you left.’
Jasmine ignored Palmerston’s sarcasm. ‘I hadn’t but Debbie Stretfield phoned me. After your visit she recalled seeing a high side white van on the estate where she lives.’
Palmerston ignored the clue, ‘Why did she ring you?’
‘I gave her my number when I met her last night. I think she trusts me.’
Palmerton scowled. ‘Hmm. It’s unlikely it’s the same van.’
‘But it’s a possibility,’ Jasmine said, ‘We think the driver is local and perhaps he or Diana recognised each other.’
‘A very slender possibility,’ Palmerston said as she pondered. Jasmine glanced at Tom. He raised his eyebrows and gave a hint of a shrug. ‘I suppose we must act on any lead in the absence of some real information,’ she went on. ‘Tom, collect a couple of uniforms and get down there and look for this van. If it’s not there do some door knocking. Find out who the driver is and the location of the vehicle. I have other things to do.’ She got up and marched out of the room.
Tom looked at Jasmine with a suspicious expression. ‘Stretfield rang you?’
‘Yes,’ Jasmine replied but did not elaborate.
‘OK. Tell me where she says she saw a white van.’
Jasmine gave him the house numbers she had noted then hurried to her own desk.
‘What are you doing, Jas,’ Tom asked following her.
‘I want to see if Cardiff or Swindon have replied yet. You get off and do what “Denise” says. It may be a long shot but it’s our only lead so far.’
‘Why did you say “Denise” like that?’
‘Well, you’re “Tom” while I’m simply Frame. Getting on well now are you?’
‘She’s OK, Jas. It’s just you she doesn’t get on with.’
‘No, it’s not just me. She’s transphobic; she doesn’t believe we should have the right to call ourselves women. It’s war, Tom, and one of us is going to win.’
‘Hmm. I hope it’s not that serious as you might lose, Jas.’
‘Oh, it is,’ Jasmine was convinced that her future in the police force depended on her relationship with DS Denise Palmerston. ‘Now get off and find that van driver. Diana Stretfield has been in his clutches for nearly two days now.’
Tom moved off tossing over his shoulder as a parting comment, ‘I hope this whole scenario is not a red herring Jas.’
Jasmine woke up her computer and looked in her email inbox. Her heart beat faster when she saw that there were messages from both Cardiff and Swindon but her hopes subsided when she read them. Neither had any CCTV coverage of the public sex environments on the nights when the two women had gone missing so there was no information on the van. Neither was there anything useful in the files on the two women. They were just two spinsters, one in her thirties and the other in her fifties but, like Diana Stretfield, looking younger. The younger shared a flat with two other women but was not in a relationship while the elder still lived with her husband but they were no longer intimate and lived almost separate lives. The flatmates and the husband who had reported the women’s disappearance knew of their dogging but showed little concern for them. No clues to their whereabouts had been reported. Until Jasmine re-awoke interest the cases had been placed on a dust-collecting pile.
She sighed and began a search of vehicle details, sorting a list of white Ford Transit vans registered in the area. As she expected there were hundreds to go through. She entered the road name and house numbers she had noted. No vehicle appeared. She stared at the screen feeling frustrated. Was Debbie mistaken and the van driver was just a caller and not a resident? Then she had a thought. Many people referred to all vans of that particular type as a transit van, but there were other makes. She started the search again using the address rather than the make of vehicle.
Jasmine smiled. There it was – a white Renault Traffic van and the owner’s name. She reached for her phone and clicked on a frequent contact. She heard the ring tone and then Tom’s recorded message. She spoke after the beep.
‘Damn, I hope you pick up Tom. I’ve got the name of the van owner, Stephen Cox. Of course it may be the wrong van and he may not be our suspect but . . .’ She couldn’t think what else to add.
…………………
Painted Ladies front cover jpegPainted Ladies: A Jasmine Frame Story is available as a paperback and e-book from all booksellers including Amazon

Jasmine digs deeper

Layout 1First of all a sneak preview of the cover for Bodies By Design which will be available as an e-book and paperback in September.  More of that in the coming weeks.

Earlier this week I read something on Linked-in that chimed with some thoughts I have had in the past. It was recounting the continuing spat between radical feminists and trans activists. The feminists pointed out that the media fall on a man who suggests that women’s brains are different to men’s causing women to be emotional and weepy and all that. Remember what happened Prof Tim Hunt when he described female scientists as tearful and prone to falling in love. On the other hand, famous trans women like Caitlin Jenner are feted for their stories of “feeling like a woman trapped in a man’s body” and how they knew they were female because of all the emotions they felt. The feminists don’t think trans people should get away with this arguent. Although I am trans or non-binary or whatever label you want to use, I think I side with the feminists on this. Too often trans people, particularly cross-dressers, present a stereotypical image of what a woman is – either the sexy young things (cf Caitlin Jenner in Vanity Fair) or the elderly mother figure. Many transsexuals claim, like Jenner, that they are female because their minds are different to what they think a man’s should be.

15 July 1 - CloseupI really don’t know what differences there are, if any, between a male brain, a female brain or indeed a trans brain. I don’t know whether my identification with being trans is because the neurone connections in my brain resemble a woman’s. All I know is I like wearing clothes which are generally found in the female part of the catalogue, I like wearing dangly ear rings, I like wearing lipstick and I like having my hair done in what may be considered a more feminine style. What I’m getting to is that I’m getting pretty fed up with the distinctions that are made between male and female, not just by the authorities but by feminist groups, trans groups and many other groups. I would just like to be considered as me.

 

 

So to the sixth episode of Split Mirror – the Jasmine Frame prequel to Painted Ladies. Enjoy!

Split Mirror: Part 6

 5

‘God, Jas. Have you been here all night?’
Jasmine looked up from her computer screen and saw Tom Shepherd standing over it. Her eyelids felt heavy and she blinked.
‘No, not all night.’ She yawned and stretched her shoulders.
‘Well, it looks like it. You look knackered.’
Jasmine thought that was probably a pretty fair statement. She stood up and stretched her back and arms. Her breast enhancements moved in her bra and she quickly shoved them back into place and sat down again.
‘Thanks for the compliments,’ she replied finally.
‘Well, what’s the problem? Did you spend all night unpacking?’ Tom was showing real concern for her.
She thought of the boxes still filling her living room. ‘No, I haven’t started unpacking yet. I couldn’t sleep. Things on my mind.’
‘What things?’ Tom’s face showed fear as he realised that he might have been prying, ‘Sorry. Is it this split from Angela or your, um, transition, you know . . .’
Jasmine shook her head. ‘No, none of that. Well a little bit I suppose. I miss Ange and the flat’s a dump. But no I was thinking about Diana Stretfield.’
Now Tom looked mystified. ‘Stretfield? I don’t recall a case with that name.’
‘The missing person.’
‘Oh, from yesterday. The woman who came in. But I thought we hadn’t picked up that case.’
‘That’s what Sloane and Palmerston said.’
Tom’s worried look returned. ‘You’re not disobeying Denise again are you?’
‘I needed confirmation, Tom.’
‘Confirmation of what?’
‘That Diana is a trans-woman.’
Tom sighed, moved round the desk and pulled up a chair beside Jasmine’s. He folded his frame into it.
‘I see. It got to you personally did it. What did you do?’
‘I went to see her.’
‘The woman who reported the missing person?’
‘That’s right.’
‘Is she a trans-woman?’
‘No, Tom. Debbie Stretfield was married to Donald Stretfield who became Diana. They divorced but still live together.’
‘Right, got it. You’ve got to admit Jas, this trans stuff gets pretty confusing.’
‘Yes, Tom. I know exactly how complicated it gets.’
‘So you met this woman.’
‘Yes.’
‘I presume the other woman, the trans-woman still hasn’t turned up.’
‘That’s right.’
‘So what did you find out?’
‘Diana has completed her transition; had all the surgery and so on. She’s a complete woman.’ Jasmine realised that there was a wistfulness in her voice.
‘That’s what you want. Is that right, Jas?’
‘Yes, Tom. But it takes years. The Stretfield’s used all their savings to pay for a lot of it, but both of them lost their jobs. Diana had to wait for the NHS to do the final gender reassignment surgery.’
‘That’s when she was given an, um, . . .’
‘Vagina. You can say it, Tom.’
Tom’s face coloured, ‘Yes, I know, but. . . Anyway, what has this got to do with her going missing?’
‘It seems that once she had recovered she became eager to try out her new equipment.’
Tom looked vague for a moment then understanding dawned. ‘Ah, you mean she wanted to have sex with a man.’
‘Yes, it seems to have become an obsession with her, but she was still living with Debbie. The only way she could think of to achieve her wish was to slip out for an evening of dogging.’
‘Dogging!’ Tom laughed.
‘Yes, you know that layby on the A4 near the motorway junction.’
‘I know it. I’ve been down there a couple of times when there have been reports of things getting out of hand.’
‘So have I, Tom. I went there last night.’
‘You did what?’
‘Diana’s car had been reported abandoned there so after I left Debbie I went there. I didn’t tell her that was where Diana went.’
‘But you went on your own to a known public sex environment?’
‘Yes, Tom.’
‘Was there anyone there?’
‘Yes, quite a few.’
‘They could have attacked you.’ Tom paused as if thoughts were going round in his head. ‘You’re a woman. You might have been raped. No. If they found you were still a . . ., I mean you still have a . . . They might have killed you, Jas!’
Jasmine let Tom stumble on. ‘None of that happened.’ Although she knew Ton was right and that she had put herself in a vulnerable position.
‘What did you see? Was there stuff going on? Did you speak to any of them?’
‘I saw people having sex watched by other people, men; and, yes, I spoke to a couple of the “participants”. They both knew Diana, I think they’d both had sex with her at one time or another and they knew she was trans but since she was able to satisfy them they didn’t seem too bothered.’
‘Did they know where she was?’
‘No, but one of them, Big Dick . . .’
‘Because he had one?’ Tom giggled
‘Yes, Tom. Big Dick said he saw her the night before last, Wednesday, and she may have gone off with a guy who had a high sided white van.’
Tom’s face showed interest. ‘Did they know this guy?’
‘No. He wasn’t a regular at the PSE. But it looks as though he might be someone who goes from site to site. His van was padded inside.’
‘Just what you need for driving off with a kidnappee.’
‘Exactly, Tom.’
‘Have your reported this to anyone? You’re not sitting on it hoping to trace this Stretfield woman, are you?’
Jasmine sighed. ‘I’m not that stupid, Tom. I’ve informed missing persons of all that I know.’
‘Registration number?’
‘No. It was dark of course, and Big Dick didn’t see it. Of course there were other people there on Wednesday evening who may have seen it, but I didn’t question them all.’
‘No of course not, Jas. Did they, er, molest you?’
Jasmine snorted. ‘They showed interest in me. Asked me to join them in the back of a car, so I didn’t hang round. The uniform boys and girls can go down there this evening and speak to everyone they can get hold of. Perhaps they’ll be able to trace this van and the driver.’
Tom didn’t speak for a few moments then he looked at Jasmine and at her computer screen which had reverted to its screen saver. ‘But you’ve been here for a while, haven’t you Jasmine. What are you up to?’
‘I told you. I couldn’t sleep. I kept on thinking about Diana. If I’m right, she’s been in the hands of this white van man for going on thirty six hours. She may well be dead. I kept imagining what this guy might have wanted to take her away for. If he’s not satisfied with fucking women in a public place what else does he get up to in his fancy van?’
‘So?’
‘So I came in early, about five, to start digging.’
Tom nodded slowly, ‘Ah, I see. You’ve got an idea.’
‘Well, not much of one. I thought since he hadn’t been seen at this PSE before perhaps he’s picked up women from other sites.’
‘That’s a good one.’
‘So I’ve been through all the missing person reports for the last year.’
‘That must have been a huge number, Jas.’
‘Of course it is, but I limited it to women, not young girls, they don’t tend get to dogging sites, and I started with Berkshire and then widened it out to the M4 corridor.’
‘Why?’
‘Well, this site is close to the motorway. He’s got a white van. I thought there was a chance he might drive up and down it for some work reason.’
‘Hmm, yes. Did you get anywhere?’
‘Perhaps. I’ve found two case of women who have gone missing in the last year who were known to visit particular PSEs.’
Tom’s eyes widened, ‘Really? Where?’
‘One outside Cardiff and the other near Swindon. They’re both similar sites to the one here – overnight lorry parks a few hundred yards off the motorway.’
‘The women – have they turned up?’
‘No. Not a sign. No bodies, no clues.’
‘Did the local police link the two cases?’
Jasmine shook her head and tapped her keyboard to wake up the computer. ‘It doesn’t look like it. There’s no link between the two reports flagged. Two doesn’t make a pattern, three perhaps does.’
‘That’s true. Did they question the doggers?’
‘Some. At both sites the women were known by sight and er, other attributes, but no names. That’s the point about dogging isn’t it – no questions sex with strangers.’
‘Was there anything at all in the reports?’
Jasmine’s fingers played over her keyboard and files appeared on the screen. ‘The investigations weren’t very thorough. They were missing persons inquiries and the women were single. With no evidence that they’d been abducted, or worse, not a lot was done. Nobody that the police interviewed reported the women going off with anyone in particular. But I’ve been through the recorded notes and in both cases someone mentions a white van.’
‘Didn’t they follow it up?’ Tom sounded critical.
‘Why should they? It’s not the only unfamiliar vehicle mentioned in the reports. No one says they saw the women get into it, and no one has looked at the two sets of records looking for correlations.’
‘Until now.’
‘Correct.’
‘Have you told anyone about this, Jas?’
‘Not yet, Tom. I’ve just spent the last few hours digging it out. I haven’t compiled a report yet.’
‘You’re going to have to tell Palmerston. Or Sloane.’
‘I know, but there’s something else.’
‘What’s that?’
‘I think I’ve seen the white van.’
……………………..

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

Order it for £8.99 inc. post and packing and pay by Paypal through paintedladiesnovel@btinternet.com
or by direct payment to Ellifont sort code 30-99-11 account no. 00263862

 

Jasmine gets her answer

Ellifont logo greyWell, I am, or to be more accurate, ellifont™ is, now an official publisher.  I have the ISBN numbers for Bodies By Design and other Jasmine Frame books. In addition the proofs are being checked and the cover is all but done and ready to be unveiled in a week or so. Soon, very soon, I will have to make plans for the marketing. I wish I had the magic formula for getting Jasmine Frame known to a wider audinece.  There is so much publicity about trans people at the moment – trans actors, trans models, even a trans sit-com on BBC, but none of it compares with Jasmine – a trans-woman making a living as a detective.

 

15 July 1 - CopyI’m also getting exercised by the place of non-binary people in society. That’s the phrase used for people like me who haven’t transiitoned to a gender different to that we were born in but vacillate between appearing as male and female. People like us are not protected by law in the same way that transsexuals are but there is a move to get the Gender Recognition Act changed so that you don’t have to have a medical diagnosis to get your gender changed. It still won’t help me but is a welcome move away from the authoritarian imposition of gender identity.

So to Split Mirror, the Jasmine Frame prequel story to Painted Ladies. It’s actually set about seven months before PL. There’s a bit more crude language and references to sex in this episode – hope you like it.

 

 

Split Mirror: Part 5

In the stark light of the headlights, the men surrounding the Volvo were mere silhouettes. Jasmine had no way of knowing whether they were people she’d want to be within a mile of, but the thought that Diana had allowed some of them, many of them perhaps, to grope her and have sex with her made her feel sick. Had the need to prove she was a woman, to show that she could function as a sexually complete female, been so strong in her? Jasmine shared the desire to have the body she believed she should have but she could not put herself in Diana’s place and imagine giving herself to any and every man that wanted sex in a public place.
She looked at the little man. He was still eyeing her up. He disgusted her and she just wanted to be away from this place. But she had come to find out about Diana. She had to know more.
‘Did you see her here last night?’ she asked.
He shook his head, ‘Nah, I wasn’t here. Why do you want to know? Checking up on your friend?’ The last word was said in a tone that suggested a more intimate relationship. Jasmine ignored it.
‘She was here. Her car still is but she isn’t, is she? She hasn’t been home.’
The man frowned and he withdrew from her. ‘Look, I don’t know anything about her. Perhaps she went off with one of the blokes. Sometimes the women fancy fucking somewhere more comfortable.’
‘I want to know who she went with,’ Jasmine insisted.
‘I told you, I don’t know nuffin.’
Jasmine glanced around the men concentrating on the action in the cars. ‘Who would know? Any of these guys?’
‘Perhaps,’ the weasel backed off.
Jasmine reached out, grabbed his coat and pushed him back until he was against the bonnet of car with its headlights on. She raised her knee, pressed it into his groin and ground it against his balls. He yelped.
She withdrew her knee, a bit. ‘If you don’t help me look for my friend, the police are going to be here asking lots more questions and putting a stop to your dirty little games.’
The worried look was replaced by a grin on the man’s face. ‘You’re like her aren’t you? One of them transsexuals.’
Jasmine tightened her grip on his collar. ‘How did you know Diana was trans?’
His smile became a sneer. ‘Pretty obvious when you get close to her init. She weren’t a youngster, yet those tits could have been a teenager’s. And she wanted her cunt filled as if she’d just discovered fucking.’
Jasmine was disgusted by his talk but she couldn’t disagree with his explanation. She released her hold a little.
‘What about you?’ he went on. ‘You look a bit younger. Have you got a nice new pair of knockers and a new fanny?’
Jasmine shook her head. ‘I haven’t got that far yet.’ She wondered why she felt compelled to reply. Was it to deny feeling the urge that Diana had?
‘Still got your cock have you. Well don’t worry. Some of the guys aren’t too bothered about where they stick their tools.’
‘Stop your filth,’ Jasmine retightened her grip, ‘Just help me find out what happened to Diana.’
‘I can’t if you keep strangling me with me own coat,’ he said. Jasmine dropped her hands and stepped back. The man straightened up and raised his chin to stretch his neck.
‘That’s better. I can see you’re bothered about your mate but I said I wasn’t here last night.’
‘Someone else then?’ Jasmine glanced around at the sizeable crowd.
‘Well, perhaps Big Dick saw her. He’s often here for a bit of nooky. Come on.’ He slipped across the front of the car and into the dark space within the circle of vehicles. Jasmine followed. Her eyes quickly adjusted to the dark. She was amazed by the number of people clustered around the cars, some in various states of undress despite the cold. They moved in a zig zag as the little man searched for the person he called Big Dick.
‘There,’ he said quickening his step towards a 4×4. A man was moving away from it adjusting his flies. He was no more than a couple of inches taller than Jasmine with no sign of a gut. In fact Jasmine thought he looked pretty fit.
‘Big Dick!’ her guide called, ‘This tart’s asking about the trannie bitch.’
‘What about her?’ he asked, stopping and peering through the dark at Jasmine.
‘I guess your name’s not Richard,’ Jasmine said.
He grinned, ‘Nope. Do you want to see?’ his hand reached down to his flies again.
‘No, I just want to know if you saw my friend, Diana, last evening. She was here.’
‘Why should I tell you?’
‘Because she’s missing and I thought that if you’ve had any sort of relationship with her you might be just a little bit concerned and prepared to help.’
He scratched his chin. ‘Yeah, well, she has been kind of obliging. Eager to fuck any of the guys who fancied it, which means most of them who ain’t gay. She gave me a good time. Tight though.’
‘Look I don’t need that. I just want to know what she did last night. Did you see her?’
‘Yeah, reckon I did. She’d had a couple of the regular guys then there was a new bloke.’
‘Someone new to this?’ Jasmine indicated the circle of cars.
‘Don’t know about that but I’ve never seen him here before with his fancy van.’
‘A van?’
‘Yeah, a high-sided Transit. A real passion wagon. Had the inside padded and a thick mattress done out in black fur and drapes.’
‘So you saw Diana in this van.’
‘Yeah.’
‘Did you see her leave it?’
Big Dick screwed up his face. ‘Can’t say I did. Mind I was occupied elsewhere after I saw her.’
‘And the van?’
‘Oh, he must have driven off soon after. He weren’t here when we’d finished.’
Jasmine took a deep breath. She had the answer to what had happened to Diana – well the start of it anyway. She’d gone off with, or was taken by the man in the van.
‘Can you tell me anything more about this van? Registration, markings?’
‘Nah. On the outside it was just an ordinary white van. Now, darling, are you going to be nice now that I’ve answered your questions.’ He stepped towards Jasmine. She retreated raising her hands and preparing to defend herself.
‘I wouldn’t go after her,’ weasel said, ‘she can be vicious.’
‘I like a bit of high spirits,’ Big Dick said.
‘Not with me you won’t,’ Jasmine said, retreating.
Weasel stepped between them. ‘I wouldn’t bother, Dick, she ain’t even got a cunt.’
Jasmine backed off and then turned and hurried away. She glanced over her shoulder to see weasel and Big Dick still standing in the dark. Pushing passed the bodies milling around the cars, she broke into a run back to the Fiesta. She put the key in the lock and looked behind her. No-one had followed her and she sighed with relief. Thankfully the engine started without hesitation and she pulled out onto the main road heading home.

The boxes and carrier bags occupied most of the free floor space in the small living room lit by a bare bulb hanging from the ceiling. The flat was freezing cold and she had no idea how it was heated. What had the agent said? Storage heaters? She squeezed through into the tiny kitchen. There was a box on the narrow worktop with a post-it stuck to it. ‘Some supplies to start you off. A,’ Jasmine read. She smiled. Angie had done it again, thinking ahead while she had given no consideration to eating. She pulled packets and cans from the box – coffee, baked beans, sliced bread, sardines, soups, even some fresh apples. Enough to get her started in her lonely home until she made time to go to the supermarket. She filed the kettle and turned it on then opened the bread and slapped the crust and a slice on the grill pan. She pushed it under the grill then went into the bedroom. There was only room to move because there was just a single bed, unmade, but there was a large carrier bag sitting on it containing sheets, duvet and pillow.
Jasmine returned to the kitchen. The grill was still cold. She hadn’t turned the main switch for the cooker on. She did so and remained leaning against it, feeling the warmth slowly grow and removing some of the chill that she felt. Is this the reason that Debbie and Diana stayed together, Jasmine wondered, so that neither had to establish themselves in a new single home? They had been married much longer than she and Angela had but she knew how hard it was to split up from someone you loved even though the urge to become a woman was even stronger. While she understood the reasons Debbie and Diana had carried on living together, even after their divorce and Diana’s surgery, she couldn’t comprehend Diana’s craving for sex. Would she feel the same when the drugs had worked their changes on her body and the surgeons had re-shaped her genitals? She couldn’t see herself in the back of a car with a stranger on top of her and others peering in cheering and urging them on. Nevertheless that was what Diana had done and now she was gone. Jasmine was convinced she had been taken by the white van driver, probably against her will. That van was her only clue.
The smell of burning bread reminded her that the grill didn’t automatically turn off when the toast was done.
…………………………

Painted Ladies: A Jasmine Frame Story is available as an e-book (e.g. from Amazon) and paperback from all booksellers. Order a copy for £8.99 inc. p&p from paintedladiesnovel(at)btinternet.com and pay by PayPal.

Painted Ladies front cover jpeg

Jasmine learns about Diana

It’s been a week where I’ve been pretty satisfied with my own progress while being dismayed at the antics of our government. First, the relaxation of the planning laws to allow developers a free hand on brown field sites so that there will be no check on the quality of homes that are built. Secondly, also with planning, the removal of the carbon neutral objective for future housebuilding, again meaning that new houses will not have to be built to the high standards necessary for sustainability. Finally, although it won’t be the end of this government’s madness, the attacks on the BBC. Why do these idiots in government want to destroy an organisation that, somewhat bloated and pompous it may be, produces amazing programmes without the interference of advertising. I wonder how much the people who complain about the licence fee pay to Sky or Virgin or whoever?

Which looks best - with wig or

Which looks best – with wig or

or without

or without

So with my rant out of the way – to my writing.  Progress is being made in preparing Bodies By Design: The Second Jasmine Frame Novel for publication – more on that soon. I’ve also made progress with writing the third novel, which now has the title The Brides’ Club Murder; and finally, here is the next episode of the Jasmine Frame prequel, Split Mirror. Warning – it contains some sex.

 

 

 

 

Split Mirror: Part 4

Jasmine was shocked by Debbie’s coarse language. It seemed out of character. But there was defiance in her eyes as if daring Jasmine to question her use of the words.
‘You mean she wanted sex with a man,’ Jasmine said in her police voice.
Debbie’s nostrils flared and her cheeks turned red. ‘Yes, she wanted to make use of that nice new cunt of hers.
‘This started after her gender reassignment surgery,’ Jasmine said. It was a statement not a question. It was obvious really. That was when Diana became a woman able to have penetrative sex.
Debbie slumped as if maintaining the anger took too much energy. ‘We hadn’t talked about sex much. We did it, well, that is until her transition started making changes. You know.’ Jasmine nodded. ‘We talked about her operations, over and over, especially when it seemed they were never going to happen, but I hadn’t thought about what would happen to us when she had the sex change. Then she had to use those things, what were they? Dilators, that was it, every day. She wouldn’t let me see her, though.’
‘I understand,’ Jasmine said. ‘She had to keep her vagina open.’ Jasmine knew all that was involved as she waited for her turn to come, later rather than sooner so it seemed. Her testicles and the flesh of her penis would be removed, and the skin of the penis and scrotum inverted to form a vagina inside her abdomen and create the exterior features, the labia, with the glans forming her clitoris. She wasn’t looking forward at all to the procedure but it was the only way to become the woman she believed herself to be. Diana obviously felt the same. After the surgery the channel had to be kept open and stretched daily otherwise it would close up and heal.
‘So it was when she was recovering from the surgery and stretching her vagina that she said that she wanted sex with a man,’ Jasmine summarised.
Debbie nodded. ‘She didn’t talk about it but she did mention once that “now she had the apparatus, it needed to be tested out.” I think those were her words.’
Jasmine recalled that Donald had been an electrician for whom testing an appliance was normal practice. ‘And you think she’s been doing that?’ Jasmine thought it best not to mention that Diana may have been seeing more than one man.
Debbie nodded. ‘I think she’s been seeing someone – a man.’ She took a breath as if making a decision about what to say. ‘Of course someone who wanted sex would find her attractive with her pert breasts and smooth stomach. She was better looking than me.’ She shrugged, ’Diana has worked hard to make herself look attractive and perhaps a man wouldn’t notice her more masculine features.’
Jasmine knew what Debbie meant. ‘You mean her narrow hips and broad shoulders?’
‘That’s right.’
‘But you never talked about her, um, needs?’
‘No. I hope she might bring it up but we’ve talked less and less in recent months. I’m at work most days, not full time, though, while she has been working nights, stacking shelves at the supermarket.’
‘Where?’
‘The big one at the M4 junction.’
‘I know.’ The layby that Diana’s car had been had been seen in was nearby.
‘So you don’t know anything about this person that Diana was meeting?’
‘No, not a thing.’
Jasmine decided not to say anything about her suspicions or the discovery of the car until there was more evidence of Diana’s movements and actions.
‘Well, thank you for telling me this. I’ll pass on the information confidentially.’
A tear trickled down Debbie’s cheek and she sniffed. ‘You do think she’s alright, don’t you? You don’t think she’s left? I know we haven’t been close recently but well, I can’t imagine life without Diana.’
Jasmine wanted to reassure the woman but found she couldn’t tell lies. ‘I’ll make sure we investigate to try and establish her location.’ She knew it sounded formal but she couldn’t think of anything else to say. She put her mug down on the worktop. ‘I’d better be going. I’ll keep in touch,’ she added, heading from the kitchen towards the front door.

4

Jasmine sat in the car. It was dark and cold. As she started up and drove slowly out of the housing estate she was thinking of the heap of unopened boxes and carrier bags sitting in her flat. She should be heading home to start unpacking.
She came to the main road. It didn’t surprise her when instead of turning right towards her flat the steering wheel in her hand turned anticlockwise and headed further out of town. She couldn’t go home until she had investigated where Diana had apparently disappeared.

This close to the motorway and the big town there was still plenty of traffic at this time of the evening but as Jasmine turned onto the rough gravel surface of the layby she seemed to enter a different world. There were five big articulated trucks, three with foreign number plates, parked in parallel. There were no lights visible in any of the cabs but the trucks acted like the walls of a castle, defending the space that lay beyond them and stopping casual visitors from entering. She drove passed them. The parking area stretched another fifty yards away from the road and was bounded by shrubs and small trees.
Diana’s Micra was parked not far from the trucks. Jasmine stopped alongside it and got out, pulling her duffle coat around her. She walked around the small white car. There was no one in it and the windows were intact. Jasmine pulled a latex glove from her pocket and pulled it onto her right hand. She tugged at the door handles. The doors were locked. She bent to look inside. It was dark and she couldn’t see much but there didn’t seem to be anything to see – no bags or clothing or papers left on seats or in the footwells as far as she could tell. She stretched up and looked around. At the far end of the parking area there was a group of cars arranged in a circle like covered wagons in a Western. A couple had headlights on and others showed the dim illumination of interior lights. Shadowy figures stood near the vehicles or moved slowly between them.
She walked towards the circle of cars. One caught her eye. It was a big Volvo estate with its rear hatch open. Lights from the car parked behind it shone into it and its interior lights glowed. As Jasmine approached the side of the Volvo she made out a pair of feet and legs raised and waving and between them a hairy pair of buttocks rising and falling. Two-tone grunts came for inside although Jasmine realised that the higher pitched, female voice was actually saying ‘Yes! Yes!’ repeatedly.
A complete view through the side windows of the estate car was obscured by the men lined up on both sides of the car, staring in and urging the lovers on. Jasmine hung back but moved to the space between the Volvo and the car behind it. Now she had a view into the car. Despite the cold which made her hug her duffle coat around her the man and woman fucking in the back of the estate were naked. The light from the headlights flickered from the man’s balls as they wobbled between his legs.
‘Hey, luv. Enjoying the action?’
Jasmine spun around. She had been mesmerised by the sight of the two doggers entertaining the watchers and had not seen the little man in the dark coat creep up on her.
‘Um, what? Yes. No!’ She felt as though she had been caught doing something she shouldn’t, embarrassed that she found the sight of two people having sex in public gripping.
‘Want some yourself?’ The little man’s hand crept out to tug at the edge of her coat. She batted his hand away. In the harsh light of the headlights she saw disappointment on his face turn to irritation.
‘No. I’m looking for someone,’ she said, hoping to take his mind off her rejection.
‘Oh, yeah. You going to give us a show luv.’ His look of eager anticipation had returned.
‘No. I’m not. Do you know who owns that Nissan Micra parked over by the trucks?’ She pointed in the direction of Diana’s car which was invisible in the dark beyond the circle of doggers’ cars.
‘Why? You’re not a cop are you?’ He said it with incredulity as if the thought of a lone female police officer venturing onto a public sex site was impossible.
‘No, I’m not,’ Jasmine thought denial was a better bet than the truth and she had a belated thought about her own safety. ‘It belongs to a friend of mine.’
She saw a smile crinkle his stubbled cheeks. ‘The fucker with the lovely firm tits and the tight cunt. . .’
‘You’ve . . .’ Jasmine didn’t know what words to use. “Made love to her” did not describe the acts of sex going on the cars and she couldn’t bring herself to say “fucked her” to someone she didn’t know.
‘Yeah, along with half the guys here.’ The smile had turned leery and he nodded at the circle of men around the Volvo.
…………………………

Painted Ladies front cover jpegPainted Ladies: A Jasmine Frame Story is available as an e-book in all formats (eg. Kindle at Amazon) and a paperback obtainable from all booksellers or by sending an email and paying £8.99 (inc post and packing) to Paypal at paintedladiesnovel@btinternet.com

 

Jasmine Frame in Split Mirror

We had some guests to stay for the first half of the week and so spent quite a bit of time doing the tourist thing in our own locality.  It was quite eye-opening. I knew our area was very attractive but on sunny days, with the trees in full leaf, the fields green and lush, the hills folding over each other and wild flowers in the hedgerows, I felt a deep joy at being able to live here. The town too looked marvelous, showing off its heritage and I was able to ignore the litter and the dog shit for a while. It was useful, for a writer, to hear people who were strangers to the area comment on its attractions; it helped me to think outside myself.

In Malvern in March

In Malvern in March

In my Jasmine Frame stories I am trying to reveal the life of someone who doesn’t exist but who like everyone has desires and joys and problems. Jasmine is different because of her gender identity issues but is not me although we share aspects of transgenderism. This week I have started a new prequel short story/novella.  Unlike the last one it is from later in Jasmine’s life and set in Kintbridge, a short time before the events of Painted Ladies, Bodies By Design and the current novel I am working on.  We’ll see where it goes but I hope it will explore another aspect of transgender life as well as being a valid crime adventure.  By the way, all the titles of these prequels are provisional.  When I edit and publish them I may change the titles.

 

 

 

 

Split Mirror: Part 1

1

Jasmine lifted the last box from the rear of the Fiesta and placed it on the tarmac. She slammed the hatch closed.
‘Can I give you a hand with that?’ Angela called emerging from the entrance to the flat in the drab concrete block.
Jasmine bent her knees so that her short skirt didn’t rise up the back of her thighs too revealingly and lifted the box. ‘’No, it’s OK. It’s not too heavy.’ She staggered across the carpark avoiding the few patches of ice that remained from earlier in the morning. She mounted the few steps and went through the open door of her flat.
Angela reached out her hands. ‘Here, let me help you.’ Together they lowered the box to the floor to add to the other boxes and carrier bags that they had brought in earlier. The room was barely warmer than the outside since the door had been open for so long while they unloaded.
‘Do you want me to help you unpack?’ Angela asked as she looked around the living room floor which hardly had room to stand.
Jasmine glanced at the watch on her wrist. It was nearly 11:30. ‘No, there’s no time. I’m on duty in half an hour. Thanks for your help though.’
Angela gave her a sad-eyed look. ‘Well, I couldn’t let you move out all on your own could I. After all it’s an important decision – separating, living apart.’
‘Almost as important as starting my transition,’ Jasmine said.
‘For me I think it is more important,’ Angela said. ‘After all, I’ve lived with Jasmine since we first met but this sort of signals the end.’ A tear dribbled down her cheek.
Jasmine too found herself choked with sadness. She gathered Angela into an embrace.
‘Look, we’ve talked this over time and again. We have to divorce so I can get my GRC and you don’t want to spend the rest of your life with a woman.’
Angela sniffed. ‘It sounds as though I’m desperate to find a man with a working cock.’
Jasmine felt a mixture of emotions; regret at failing to satisfy Angela’s sex-drive but relief that her medication had all but removed the embarrassing response of her male genitalia.
‘You’ll find someone soon enough, Ange.’
Angela stepped back and pulled a hanky from the pocket of her jeans. ‘I don’t want another man. Not yet. I’m not ready.’ She blew her nose and dabbed her eyes, while giving the room another inspection. ‘I do wish you’d bought some new furniture for this place or taken some from our place.’
Jasmine looked at the small, well-used sofa and dining table that would double as a desk. ‘The furniture in the house wouldn’t have fitted here, and I’m trying to save money. I need as much as possible to pay for parts of my transition that the NHS won’t support.’
Angela nodded and shivered. ‘I know, but you can see why this place is cheap. It’s a bit of a dump, and cold.’
‘It’ll warm up when I get the heating on,’ Jasmine said, ‘and I won’t be here much, with work taking up so much time.’
‘Yes, but you’ve got to look after yourself,’ Angela smiled and Jasmine knew she was recalling all the meals missed and late nights when she had failed to get off duty on time. ‘You will come to dinner on Saturday,’ she added.
‘Yes, of course – if I can get away. Look I must get changed and get off.’
‘I put the suitcase with your clothes in the bedroom.’
‘Thanks.’
‘Well, I’d better let you get ready then.
‘I’m afraid so.’
Angela stepped close, placed a kiss on Jasmine’s cheek, then picked up her bag from the table and headed to the door. ‘Be careful,’ she said and left, pulling the door closed behind her.
Jasmine stepped around the boxes and went into the small bedroom. As Angela had said the case containing most of her clothes was sitting on the bed. She opened it and looked at the heap of female clothing. There was nothing here that suggested she had once been James Frame. She no longer owned anything that belonged to James, other than her running shoes and they were in a carrier bag somewhere. Angela was right; this was an important moment; the start of her life as Jasmine Frame, a single, independent woman.
She pulled off the old jumper, denim skirt and opaque tights that she had worn for the move and dressed in her work outfit – sheer tights, smart knee length skirt, fresh cotton shirt and jacket. She looked at herself in the mirror on the second-hand wardrobe. Now where had her extensive collection of cosmetics ended up? She wasn’t quite sure. Oh, well, she would have to search for that later. She returned to the living room and dug her powder compact and lipstick from her shoulder bag. She repaired her make-up, pushed fingers through her blonde hair to lift it and gave a final look around the piles of possessions that she would have to find a home for. That was a task for later. Now, work beckoned.

2

Jasmine pushed open the door to the office of the Violent and Serious Crime Unit and saw that DCI Sloane was calling a briefing. DCs Shepherd and Money were rising from their desks and DS Palmerston stood beside the white board.
Sloane looked in her direction as she entered and addressed her with a growled. ‘Ah, Frame. Just in time.’ Denise Palmerston glared at her as if she had been skiving for the morning. Tom Shepherd flashed her a smile while Keith Money scowled at her. She joined the other officers around Sloane.
‘First of all well done to Shepherd and Money for putting a stop to that car crash scam.’ Palmerston gave a little clap while Tom and Keith looked smug. Jasmine recalled that she had actually been the one that had viewed the CCTV footage that identified the drivers who had been setting up crashes to claim insurance cash, even if it had been Shepherd and Money who had made the arrests.
‘I want the paperwork done a.s.a.p.’ Sloane went on. The faces of the two male officers drooped. ‘Now, we have been asked to help with a small case of a missing person. Before anyone says anything, I know it’s not within our usual remit but the uniform branch are short-staffed at the moment.’
‘How can we help?’ Palmerston asked, keen to oblige the boss.
‘There’s a woman downstairs who says her partner has gone missing. She is somewhat upset. Palmerston, you find out what it’s all about. Her name is Deborah Stretfield. Frame can take notes.’
Oh, thank you, Jasmine thought. I get to leave the office and assist Madam Palmerston.
‘That’s it everyone. Back to work.’ Sloane said striding off to his office.
‘Come on Frame. Dump your coat.’ DS Palmerston said to Jasmine as she headed towards the door. Jasmine ran to her desk and dropped her overcoat over her chair.
Tom settled his tall frame in his seat at the desk alongside hers. ‘Move complete?’
‘Yes, I’ll catch up with you later.’ Jasmine hurried after Palmerston.

In the corridor outside the interview room, Palmerston paused and turned to Jasmine. ‘I’ll talk to Mrs Stretfield. We don’t want her confused, do we. You take notes.’
Jasmine felt her cheeks become hot. She knew exactly what the Detective Sergeant was referring to. She hadn’t begun speech therapy yet so her voice still sounded somewhat male. She usually tried to raise her tone but knew that her control was not perfect. Perhaps the woman would notice and wonder at her gender but it was still annoying of Palmerston to refer to it. The police force had, after all, affirmed her post while she was going through transition.
Palmerston stepped into the interview room with Jasmine behind her still seething. A woman was sitting at the table. She seemed to be in her mid to late forties with straight black hair cut in a bob. She was still wearing her coat although she had undone it revealing a plain cord skirt and woolly jumper. She made a move to stand up but Palmerston waved to her to remain seated. Jasmine joined the DS in the seats opposite the woman. Jasmine took her notebook and pen from her jacket pocket and prepared to jot down what she heard.
‘I’m DS Palmerston, Mrs. Stretfield…’ Palmerston began.
‘It’s Miss not Mrs. I am not married,’ Deborah Stretfield said.
‘I’m sorry,’ the DS apologised, ‘I understood you are here to report that your partner is missing.’
Miss Stretfield nodded. ‘That’s right my partner, Diana.’
Jasmine scribbled the names and noted “same-sex partnership”.
Palmerston drew a breath as she took in the statement. ‘I see. When did you last see Diana?’
‘At lunchtime yesterday. Then I went to work. Diana was going to leave shortly after.’
‘And when did you expect her home?’
‘By the evening. She only went to Reading to do some shopping.’
‘She went by car?’
‘Yes. The car wasn’t there when I got home.’
‘Can you give us the car’s details, please<’
‘It’s a Nissan Micra, white, RV02HDC.’ Jasmine copied the words into her notebook.
‘Were you worried when she did not arrive home last evening?’ Palmerston asked.
Miss Stretfield looked at her then her eyes moved away. ‘Yes, but I thought she might have called on a friend or perhaps the car had broken down, and she’d get back later.’
‘Doesn’t your partner have a mobile phone Miss Stretfield?’
‘No, we can’t afford one of those things.’ Some colour came to Deborah Stretfield’s cheeks showing some embarrassment.
‘So you left it to this morning before informing us of Diana’s disappearance.’
‘I…I didn’t want to bother you. I thought she would definitely be home this morning or would have phoned from somewhere. But…but….’ Miss Stretfield started to sob.
‘I’m sorry Miss Stretfield…’
The woman mopped up her tears with a tissue. ‘Please call me, Debbie.’
‘We’ll do our best to trace your partner, Debbie. What is Diana’s surname?’
‘Stretfield.’
‘Oh. You have the same name. You are in a civil partnership.’
‘No, not yet. We have just kept the same name. I have a photo of Diana, if that will help.’ She passed an envelope across the table. Palmerston slid it to Jasmine who picked it up. Jasmine opened the envelope and took out the small photo print. It gave her a bit of a shock.
‘This photo looks like you,’ she said. Palmerston glared at her and then looked down at the photo in Jasmine’s hand. It showed a woman with a straight black bob hair style identical to Debbie Stretfield’s.
‘People do say we look like sisters,’ Debbie said.
……………………..
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 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 meets some women

A little late in posting this week’s epsiode of Soft Focus.  I have had to catch up the time needed to do the writing as this week has been a little busy. This isn’t a political blog, except perhaps where it affects trans people, so I’m not going to make comments about the election except to say that the result was a surprise, in some respects, and raises a lot of questions about our futures, both in the next year or two and the next fifty.

Anyway, to return to the main topic of this page – Jasmine Frame, independent transsexual detective. I hope that now the matter of the election is out of the way I will have the time needed to get Bodies By Design published, promote Painted Ladies, complete the third novel in the series and edit the five prequel novellas into a collection  for pulication in some form or other. Lots to do – exciting isn’t it. So at last, here is the next epsiode of Soft Focus.

In Malvern in March

In Malvern in March

Soft Focus: Part 9

Angela set off determinedly along Pembroke Road towards the city centre.
‘Where are we going, Angela?’ Jasmine asked, walking quickly to keep up.
‘The Triangle.’
‘Why there?’
‘That’s where we’ll find The Women.’
‘Oh. Why?’
‘You’ll see.’ Angela was obviously not in a mood for chat. They strode on side by side, both deep in thought. Jasmine re-ran her imagined sequence of the events of the last night. Now it wasn’t Martie who pushed Sila off the bridge it was another figure, clouded and indistinct in Jasmine’s view. Could it be a woman?

They reached the triangle of busy roads lined by shops and cafés. Jasmine noticed a couple of huddles of banner waving protesters. The nearest small cluster of men and women displayed boards reading “No war in Afghanistan” and “Islam is not the enemy”. Angela led Jasmine passed them and towards another group of people on the pavement outside a store also holding up placards and shouting loudly. As they approached Jasmine saw that the figures were women, all wearing jeans and a variety of anoraks or coats. The raised boards said things like “Stop sexism – ban lads’ mags”, “Say nuts to Nuts”, “Unload Loaded”. The slogans were repeated in the choruses of the women.
‘What are they doing?’ Jasmine asked although she had guessed the answer.
‘Trying to stop the sale of magazines and newspapers that treat women as sex objects,’ Angela answered.
‘They are the Radical Women?’
‘Largely. I don’t know them all but there’s Rachel. She’s the leader.’ Angela pointed to the centre of the small throng. A young woman with spiky hair was handing out leaflets with a semi-circle of the banner waving, chanting women behind her.
‘I think I saw her at the LGBT party last night,’ Jasmine said, searching her memory.
‘Yes, she was there with her partner Jo.’
‘Rachel’s the one we need to speak to then, is she?’
‘Yes, come on.’ Angela strode into the group of protesters and approached Rachel who was reaching out to passers-by attempting to avoid the group. ‘Hi, Rachel,’ she said.
Rachel paused in her attempts to hand out leaflets and looked at Angela. A frown was replaced by recognition.
‘Hi. Angela isn’t it? Come to join the campaign?’
‘Not at the moment. We want to ask you a question.’
Rachel looked at Jasmine who had stepped up to Angela’s side.
‘A question? What question? We’re rather busy here, you know.’
Angela nodded apologetically, ‘I see that but it is quite urgent. Did you see or speak to Sila last night?’
Rachel’s eyebrows shot up with surprise at being asked such a question. She glanced from Angela to Jasmine and back. ‘I saw him, yes, at the LGBT party last evening. I heard he’d jumped off the bridge.’
‘Yes, Sila’s dead,’ Angela said. ‘We’re trying to trace her movements before she fell.’
‘We think someone was with her,’ Jasmine added.
Rachel shook her head. ‘Well, it wasn’t me. I’ve got no idea what his movements were. I’m sorry that he’s killed himself but it’s got nothing to do with us.’
‘You keep calling Sila him and he,’ Jasmine said.
‘Yeah, of course. He was a man wasn’t he?’ It was a statement not a question.
A mixture of annoyance and disbelief filled Jasmine. ‘She was a woman.’
‘A woman has a vagina,’ Rachel said, stating a simple fact.
Jasmine spoke slowly and carefully, trying to avoid the anger that was welling up inside her. ‘Sila was transsexual. She knew she was really a woman.’
‘That’s crap,’ Rachel said, ‘He had a penis and testicles. He was born a man and as a man he thought he could mince into our movement as a parody of a woman.’
‘No, you’re wrong,’ Jasmine’s voice rose in volume and pitch. ‘Sila believed that she was a woman. She was waiting for the treatment to turn her into the woman she wanted to be.’
‘Nonsense. You can’t change your genes. A bit of cosmetic surgery doesn’t change who you are.’
Angela spoke. ‘Rachel, I think a sex-change is a bit more serious than cosmetic surgery.’
‘It’s called gender re-assignment surgery, actually,’ Jasmine said as calmly as she could manage although her heart was beating fast. ‘It’s not about sex it’s about giving the person the body that matches their gender identity.’
Rachel stepped closer to Jasmine and glared into her face. Jasmine could feel her gaze taking in the foundation covering her shaved chin, her hair as short as her own but with a more masculine cut. Rachel was obviously reassessing her first impression of her.
‘You know a lot about Sila,’ Rachel said coolly. ‘Are you a bloke trying to pass yourself off as a cute girl?’ Jasmine heard the last word as a sneer, an infantile female who wore short skirts and revealing tops; a traitor to the gender.
Jasmine’s first reaction, as always if she was threatened with outing, was to deny it, to insist that she too was a woman but the words didn’t come out. She couldn’t claim to be as feminine as Angela or Rachel or even as much as Sila who was living the female life full time.
‘I’m trans, but not like Sila. I’m a transvestite, a cross-dresser.’ There, she’d said it, revealed the truth about herself. The blood throbbed in her temples.
Rachel snorted and took a step away from her. ‘I thought so. A wanker who fancies himself so much that he even has to dress like the woman he wants to fuck.’
‘No, it’s not like that,’ Jasmine insisted. ‘I feel that I should be female. I support women and equality and feminism and all that.’
‘Nah, you’re just getting a thrill from acting like a tart. Just like Sila.’
Angela spoke quietly trying to keep the exchange calm and civil. ‘You’ve got it wrong, Rachel. Sila really did think she was woman and wanted to join your group because she shared your aims.’
‘That’s rubbish,’ Rachel said, ‘How could a man understand the oppression of women, when they just treat us a dolls for sex and trample on us. I told Sila last night, once and for all, to get lost and to stop trying to join us.’
‘You did speak to her last night,’ Jasmine said.
‘Yeah, for two moments.’ She turned to address her supporters. ‘We sent him packing didn’t we? Told him to stop pretending to be a woman and crawl back into the cess-pit of male tossers where he belonged.’ The placard-waving line nodded and jeered their agreement.
‘You rejected her,’ Jasmine said.
‘No. We told him the truth. A man could not be a member of the Radical Women’s Movement, not even one who had his balls chopped off.’ Rachel said with more nods from behind her.
‘What did Sila do?’ Angela asked.
Rachel shrugged. ‘I don’t know. We went off for a drink and left him.’
‘You didn’t see her again?’ Jasmine said.
‘No.’
‘You didn’t follow her out to the bridge?’ Jasmine persisted.
‘No. Are you suggesting we pushed him off the bridge?’ Rachel stepped towards Jasmine with her fists clenched. The other women clustered around shouting “tranny”, “imposter”, “man”.
Angela pushed between Jasmine and Rachel, keeping them apart.
‘We’re not suggesting anything at all, Rachel. If you say that you and your friends didn’t see Sila again then that’s all we want to know.’
Rachel stepped back with a thunderous expression on her face. ‘Neither I nor my group had anything, anything I say, to do with Sila last evening, or at any time, and we certainly did not see her after we left the Union. Now get lost both of you. I don’t want to share the air with another Barbie doll drag artist.’
Jasmine opened her mouth but Angela grabbed her hand and dragged her away. The gang of women jeered and shouted until Jasmine and Angela had mingled with the Saturday shoppers.
Jasmine’s heart hammered in her chest. She felt rejected and humiliated. She wanted to hide in the crowd but feared that they were looking at her and recognising her as the impersonator that Rachel referred to.

…………………………..

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

Painted Ladies front cover jpeg

Jasmine at the scene of the murder

Back to something like normal after last weekend at Dysprosium and back to thinking and working on Jasmine Frame stories.  Publication of Bodies By Design is top of the list and perhaps there is some progress there; getting on with Jasmine Frame 3, provisionally titled The Brides, is next, and lastly, although first priority, is the next episode of the prequel, Soft Focus, which is below.

I was interested in the media attention given to pre-pubescent transsexuals in the last week, with the Theroux TV programme, items on the news and on radio.  It is almost as if the media have switched their sensationalist focus from aging trannies (such as your truly) to the youngsters who are declaring their transgender identity as soon as they can express themselves.  I think I’ll have more to say and write about that in future.  I hope the time has come when someone like Jasmine Frame isn’t special for what she is but for her personality and her deeds.  It doesn’t stop me thinking up “situations” to place her in though.  Enjoy the next episode of her evolution as a transsexual detective

A recent portrait of the author.

A recent portrait of the author.

Soft Focus: Part 5

They carried on walking, Angela’s hand in James’. Neither spoke. James wondered whether Angela was thinking the same things as he was; a curious mixture of fascination with the questions surrounding Silla’s death along with enjoyment of being with someone, a girl, who seemed to like him and questioning where that might lead.
A few minutes brought them onto the approach road to the bridge. Ahead was the nearer of the two brick encased towers that supported the curving chains of the suspension bridge. There was high wall on their right which stopped abruptly revealing a vista across the gorge. James and Angela took the few steps to the railings topped by a wire fence and looked at the view. For a moment James forgot why they had come here. The scene was stunning. The cliff was just a few metres from them, an almost sheer wall of rock clothed in vegetation which dropped to the floor of the valley far below. A grey ribbon of road hugged the base of the cliff with the cars on it like tiny models, but most of the gorge was occupied by the estuary. The tide was out so there was only a narrow channel of brown water bounded by a wide margin of smooth, glistening mud.
They walked on towards and passed the tower so that they were on the bridge itself. The cars on the narrow roadway were ignored as all their attention was taken by the slowly changing perspective of the cliffs and the river below. They stopped at the centre of the span and stood pressed against the railing looking down.
Angela squeezed James’ hand. ‘I didn’t think I was scared of heights but this gives me the frights.’
James spare hand gripped the iron rail. It was reassuringly firm. The over-engineered strength of the Brunel’s bridge all around him was also reassuringly firm. Nevertheless he empathised with Angela.
‘You’re right. It’s amazing. I’m glad I’ve come to see it but I don’t understand how someone can throw themselves off.’ They both looked up at the modern protective fence that surmounted the old railings.
‘You’ve got to be determined to climb up there and then jump,’ Angela said, ‘but people do, I’ve heard the reports on the news.’
James looked up at the inverted arch of the suspension chain. ‘Don’t they have CCTV to catch people before they go over?’
‘I’m sure they do,’ Angela replied, following James’ searching eyes. ‘Sometimes they can’t get someone here quick enough to stop the jumper.’
James verbalised his thoughts. ‘Hmm. I suppose the video is evidence for the inquest.’
‘It would show if the person was alone when they went over.’
‘Proof that it was suicide and not murder.’
‘That’s right, James. So the Police will know that Silla killed herself.’
James looked at Angela. ‘Except, Ange, You said that Silla didn’t fall into the river.’
Their eyes met. ‘That’s right, I’d forgotten. She wasn’t on the bridge itself. She fell from the approach.’
James took Angela’s arm and they retraced they steps, faster than before. They returned to where the footpath skirted the tower on a balcony and looked over the rail.
‘I thought Tiff said Silla nearly landed on a car,’ James said, ‘but the road goes under the main span of the bridge.’
‘Tiff was exaggerating,’ Angela replied. ‘I heard that a driver had seen Silla fall. She must have come down somewhere over there.’ Angela pointed to the side of the gorge. ‘There are trees and bushes to slow the fall. It’s not as big a drop.’
‘But just as fatal.’ James concluded. He examined the bridge. The fencing wasn’t as high on the approach and he couldn’t see a TV camera aimed at the path. ‘Maybe there isn’t CCTV of this part of the bridge. It could be there is no proof that Silla was alone when she fell. It’s possible that she was thrown over.’
‘You’re convinced Silla was murdered, James?’
‘I don’t believe that she was in the mood to come down here, climb over the fence and jump off, either here or the middle of the bridge. What about you, Ange?’
Angela chewed her lip, thinking, then made up her mind. ‘I agree. What do we do about it?’
James turned away from the parapet and took Angela’s arm. ‘I don’t know. Let’s get a coffee and think about it.’

They were in a cafe in Clifton village, not one of the chain of modern coffee-bars but an old-fashioned, cramped place with a few circular wooden tables and bentwood chairs. The coffee was good though, and cheap. James held his cup to his lips, sipping and looking at Angela across the rim. He was looking at her with something beyond lust. She was certainly desirable. Her long waves of brown hair framed a round face with large eyes and strong features. Now that she had removed her coat James could admire her figure which though slim had curves which she did not hide in a slouchy sweater but were revealed by a fitted jumper. He felt an unfamiliar desire to strip her of her clothes in order to caress the smooth, white skin beneath and feel that curved flesh. But there was also the wish to just be with this young woman, to discover more about her, to talk about this and that, to pour out his feelings. It wasn’t just an unfamiliar feeling it was one he had never anticipated.
Angela’s eyes looked back at him across her cup. She put the cup back on its saucer. ‘So, why are you so sure that Silla didn’t intend to die?’
‘I’m not sure,’ James said, ‘I know I only met her for a few minutes, I didn’t know her at all, really, but I have this feeling that she had too much she was looking forward to, things she wanted to happen; she wouldn’t just give it up.’
Angela’s eyes were focused on James, searching for the tiniest evidence of his emotions. ‘Is it because you identify with her as a transsexual? Do you feel like her?’
‘No, yes, oh, it’s complicated. She was living as a girl; she had started on gender reassignment; it may only have been months before she became the woman she thought she was. That’s not me.’
‘No?’
‘I don’t spend all my time as Jasmine, as you can see.’ James knew he wasn’t being completely honest with Angela or himself. Did he want to be Jasmine all the time? Did he in fact feel that he was Jasmine all the time even when he was dressed as James? Despite days, months and years of considering those questions he was still not certain of his answers.
‘OK. You’ve admitted to being a transvestite. That’s fine. I’m looking forward to seeing Jasmine again, she’s fun. But you seem to think you have enough in common with Silla to understand what motivated her.’ Angela sat up straight and laughed. ‘Gosh, I sound as though we’re in a seminar discussing principles of psychology.’
‘Perhaps that’s what I need,’ James nodded. ‘A psychological grilling that can draw out my reasons for feeling as I do about Silla.’
‘I’m not sure I know enough to do that without hurting you, James. The point is you, we, think that Silla was killed. What do we do about it?’
James took another sip of coffee while he considered his answer. He put the cup down deliberately. ‘We have to find out who did it.’
Angela’s dark brown eyebrows rose. ‘Isn’t that a police job?’
‘Well, OK, we have to tell the police. Get them to investigate.’
‘They won’t be interested if all you can say is you believe she was murdered. They’ll want evidence.’
James knew that Angela was right. Police work was all about finding evidence, a bit like what historians did, which was why he was studying history. ‘Right, but I could tell them about what happened in the party last night. You know, my meeting with Silla and then her set to with the gay lads.’
‘But you don’t know why the gays shoved her.’
‘Yes, but Andy can tell us.’ James drained his coffee cup and stood up. He went to the counter to pay their bill. Angela joined him a few moments later, pulling her coat over her shoulders.
She whispered, ‘Are you saying you think the gay boys killed Silla?’
The waitress dropped the change into James’ hand. He mumbled a thanks and turned to Angela.
‘No. I hope not. I’m sure Andy wouldn’t have been part of it. He’s been great to me. He encouraged me to come to the party as Jasmine.’
They left the café, bodies touching, heads close together.
‘So why is their bundle with Silla important?’
‘I’m not sure it is but it will help explain what Silla was getting up to, her state of mind and all that. Andy may give us a clue as to where she went afterwards and give us a lead to the killers.’
They headed back towards the university.
‘So once you’ve spoken to Andy, we go to the Police?’ Angela asked.
‘Let’s see what Andy says. Are you coming with me?’
‘Oh yes. I like being with you James, as much as I enjoyed getting to know Jasmine.’
……………………

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

Discovering Jasmine – and September

This has been an exciting week.  I have received a preview version of volume 1 of Evil Above the Stars. Seventh Child introduces September Weekes, a 16 year old inadvertent hero of my fantasy series. Seventh Child will be out as an e-book in January and as a paperback in March. I am particularly pleased with the cover designed by Alison Buck of Elsewhen Press.  Volume 2, Power of Seven will follow swiftly after.

Seventh Child cover, designed by Alison Buck

Seventh Child cover, designed by Alison Buck

But back to Jasmine Frame and the second part of the fourth of my prequels to Painted Ladies. I’m still looking for ways to get Bodies By Design, the second novel in the series, out to readers, so any bright ideas will be well-received.

Discovering Jasmine: Part 2

The police officer twisted in his seat to look directly at Jasmine. He seemed to be examining her carefully for the first time, taking in her bare legs and arms and satin-clad torso.
‘I wouldn’t use that word to describe yourself if I were you lad,’ he said quietly, ‘Not if you don’t want to be labelled a weirdo or a cocktease and end up like the poor sod you helped.’
‘Why?’ Jasmine’s voice trembled. What was wrong in being the girl she felt herself to be?
‘Guys don’t like trannies,’ the officer turned around again and looked up at his mirror. ‘They think they’re going to con them into gay sex. If you want to get beaten up come into town in the evening dressed like you are.’
‘But… but, you’re supposed to protect people from getting attacked.’
‘We can’t be everywhere lad, and there’s enough real girls to scrape off the pavements after an evening on the booze without worrying about twats who think they’re girls but have dicks. What were you thinking of?’
Jasmine didn’t answer. She was thinking about how the evening had started with her dreams turning to reality.

Holly pushed her up the stairs.
‘Get undressed and have a shower. Wet your hair.’
Jasmine hurried into her bedroom wondering what Holly had in mind. She sat on her neatly made up bed to undo the sandals and kick them off, then pulled the ear-rings from her lobes and set them on her desk next to her computer monitor. Standing she dropped the skirt to the floor and pulled the T-shirt over her head. Finally she tugged the bra around her chest until she could unfasten the severely strained hooks. The rolled up socks spilled onto the carpet. Suddenly her room had become untidy.
She kept her pants on and went to the bathroom. Jasmine halted in surprise to find Holly in there. She was holding out a razor, her own.
‘You’ll have to use this. I’ve put a new blade in for you.’
‘What for?’
‘Your underarms, and your legs. You can’t go out in a summer dress, James, unless your legs and pits are smooth. I’m wondering about your arms too.’ She grabbed Jasmine’s right arm and peered closely at it. ‘I think you’re o.k. You’re so fair.’
Jasmine took the razor and looked at it uncertainly.
‘People will notice.’
‘Who looks at a bloke’s armpits? But when you are a girl you can’t go flashing hair every time you raise your arms.’
‘How do I…’
‘In the shower. Soap well. Use my shower gel. It’s got a nice perfume. Now get in there. I’m going to see what I can do about your boobies.’ Holly left the bathroom. Jasmine stood for a moment. She hadn’t considered all the preparation that went into a girl’s evening out and shaving her body hair was a big step. It was one she could take easily though. She stepped into the shower.
She spent three times as long as normal under the water. Finally Jasmine emerged from the cubicle, dripping and hairless. Her armpits felt a little sore and she wondered how often Holly put herself through the process of shaving.
Having towelled herself dry she pulled her pants back on. They were much tighter than those she usually wore when she was male but when she tucked her private bits between her legs they were held firmly and didn’t protrude. She smoothed a hand down her abdomen to confirm that she had a female profile.
Jasmine opened the bathroom door.
‘Come to my room, James.’ Jasmine followed Holly’s voice into her bedroom. As the elder child Holly had the bigger room even though she was away most of the time at university. Drawers and wardrobe doors were open and Holly sat on the bed amongst a pile of clothes.
‘Good. Let me check.’ Holly leapt up and stopped Jasmine in the centre of the room. She smoothed a hand down both of Jasmine’s legs and raised her arms to examine her armpits. Then she stood back. ‘Turn around. Let me have a look at you.’
Jasmine pirouetted slowly and felt her cheeks and neck warming up. Showing her body to her sister was embarrassing.
‘Hmm. You know what the problem is don’t you?’ Holly said.
‘What?’ Jasmine said returning to face her.
‘You’re such a handsome guy.’ Holly sighed. ‘Are you sure you want to be a girl?’
Jasmine thought about her answer for a few moments. Holly’s question was one she kept on asking herself.
‘I know I’ve got a boy’s body but I feel that I should be a girl, at least some time.’
Holly nodded and pursed her lips.
‘Well, OK. The trouble is all that running you do has given you legs any girl would die for, but it’s also given you broad shoulders and a large chest. What with your narrow hips, well you just don’t have a female figure at all.’
‘I know,’ Jasmine’s head drooped. Was she being silly expecting to pass as a girl on a night out?
‘Never mind,’ Holly clapped her hands, ‘we’ll see what we can do. Make the most of those legs and arms and that mop of blonde hair you’ve got. First we must give you some breasts but there’s no way you’ll get one of my bras around you. What size chest are you?’
‘Forty.’
‘Mum’s never that big.’
‘I know. I’m stretching her old bra to its limit.’
‘Well it’ll have to do. Go and get it.’
Jasmine hurried to her room and picked up he discarded bra and socks. She returned to Holly’s room. Holly grimaced at the grey garment with its frayed edges.
‘You won’t need the socks,’ Holly said, standing with her hands behind her back
‘But I’ll need something to fill out the cups,’ Jasmine complained.
‘Of course you do, but socks are no good; they’re not heavy enough. Breasts have weight I can tell you.’
Jasmine had long admired Holly’s ample pair but had not thought it appropriate to comment on her sister’s attributes.
‘What do you suggest then?’ Jasmine asked.
‘These,’ Holly revealed her hands each holding a plastic bag. ‘I’ve filled two bags with rice. They should fill out your cups. Not perfect, I know but, well, there’s nothing else I can think of.’
‘Won’t the rice leak out?’
‘I hope not. I’ve tied them up tightly. Look.’ She shook the two bags. No grains of rice came out. ‘Let’s try them out.’
Jasmine put the bra around her chest and stretched the ends until she was just able to put the hooks through the eyes. She tugged the cups around to the front then pushed the straps over her shoulders. Holly handed her the bags of rice and she tucked them in the cups. She faced Holly.
Holly rocked her head from side to side, examining her chest, then pummelled and massaged the false breasts into shape. She stepped back.
‘I don’t think that’s bad at all, James. Have a look at yourself.’
Holly had a long mirror on her wardrobe. Jasmine used it often when Holly was away. She looked at herself now and was surprised to see how feminine her profile was.
‘They look great. Thanks, Hol.’
‘Right now put this on.’ Holly hand Jasmine a silver-grey, satin dress. It weighed nothing in her hands. ‘I bought it for a party at uni. It’s from T.K.Maxx. It turned out to be a bit big for me. Should fit you though.’
Jasmine dropped it over her head. It slipped down her body as insubstantial as a cloud of cigarette smoke. The top of the dress caught on her breasts and she had to tug it down for the final fit. There were two spaghetti-thin, silver straps over her shoulders and the neckline just skimmed the top of the bra. The dress clung tightly to her false beasts and under her arms then fell like a waterfall to her thighs ending about six inches below her groin. Her legs, arms and shoulders remained bare.
Holly looked her over. ‘A pity you have to have your bra straps showing but that looks fine. You can’t see that you have no waist.’
‘Fine?’ Jasmine said, ‘I feel practically naked but for my pants and bra.’
‘Yes, but it’s so feminine and just right for a warm summer evening in a hot, crowded club. Now shoes. What size are you?’
‘Eight.’
‘I’m a seven. It’s going to have to be those sandals you were wearing earlier. At least they’ve got heels so they’ll accentuate your legs. Now let’s get started on your make-up.’

I was a couple of hours before Jasmine was allowed to look at herself again. In that time her finger and toenails had been shaped and given a silver coating, her hair had been back-brushed and sprayed into a strikingly feminine style, her face had been buffed and smoothed with foundation and powder, her eyes had been mascaraed and kohled so that they seemed double their normal size and her lips had been coated and glossed a bright red. Holly fetched her sandals and helped her put them on her feet, then she stood up.
‘Have a look at yourself, James. I think you’ll do.’
Jasmine stood in front of the mirror, rotating and looking over her shoulders to see herself at every angle. It was amazing. She was the girl she dreamed of being.
‘It’s fantastic. I hardly recognise myself,’ Jasmine said, indeed Holly’s expertise with brushes and cosmetics revealed how much she had to learn. ‘Thanks, Hol.’
‘It was fun,’ Holly said surveying her handiwork, ‘It reminded me of when Sophie and Milly and I used to take turns to doll each other up when we were teenagers. We spent hours in each other’s bedrooms doing all this stuff.’
A feeling of sadness came over Jasmine. She couldn’t have that shared experience of learning how to be a woman. How could she have the confidence to go out and mingle with people when she had so much learn?
‘I just have to get myself ready, and then we can hit the town. But I can’t go calling you James when we’re out. What did you say you called yourself, Tamsin was it?’
‘Jasmine. I’m Jasmine, Holly.’
………………..

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

Painted Ladies cover

Who is September?

Last week I completed, Close-up, the third prequel to Painted Ladies, featuring Jasmine Frame, my transsexual detective character. There will be another story coming along in the near future and I have high hopes that the sequel to Painted Ladies, Bodies By Design, will find a publisher soon or instead will be self-published as an e-book. I am also planning to put edited versions of the prequels online. Then there will be the further sequels…

But this week my focus is on my other character, September Weekes. I have been completing the edits of volume 2 of Evil Above the Stars: Power of Seven and I have been getting very excited about the publication of both volumes in the new year by Elsewhen Press. They will appear first as e-books then as paperbacks with a launch at Eastercon. So who is September?

As a character she came to me some years ago – a feisty, teenager with issues. Why the silly name? Well, she’s the last child of parents who solved the name choosing problem by using the names of months for their first five children – April, May, June, Julie and Gus (Augustus). What could they do with the sixth? Well they had to continue the theme didn’t they. Anyway I like it – especially when contracted to Ember or Em. Being the last member of a large family proved to be important.

Then the idea of a fantasy novel grew out of a scene that I developed for a short piece for Ludlow Writers’ Group. I think it was for a Hallowe’en time meeting and so involved witches or druids. The story featured a teenage heroine and so September had her opportunity. She changed a bit and grew white hair. At the opening of the novel there is little that is heroic about her – she’s plump, a bit silly, lacks self-esteem, is bullied at school and treated as dim by her teachers. She is on a journey of self-discovery as well as a quest and “task”. I don’t want to give spoilers of what happens in Evil Above The Stars but I think it is a gripping story in original settings with interesting adversaries and intriguing concepts involving celtic myth, alchemy and Ptolomaic cosmology. Oh, yes, and the number 7 has special significance.

Seven is a theme of Evil Above the Stars

Seven is a theme of Evil Above the Stars

I think it is intruguing that while the number 7 features in all our lives (7 days, 7 colours in the rainbow, etc.) the seven pointed star is actually quite a rare motif, certainly less common than four, five, six and eight pointed stars. I like the one shown in the picture because if you trace it out it seems to go on and on, never repeating although, of course, it does. It’s symmetry is also less comfortable than the more familiar star patterns.

Why are both the main characters in my novels feminine? I don’t know really. There is a trend for active, intelligent women in novels these days but I suppose I feel more comfortable writing from a feminine point of view. Of course it is for readers to decide whether I have given my characters credible personalities. Actually there are a lot of differences between Jasmine and September. Jasmine is a mature, transsexual woman while September is a girl approaching adulthood who has no gender identity issues but hasn’t developed her sexuality yet. While there are no doubt similarities in my writing style in both series, they deal with very different subjects and the backgrounds, scenes, plots etc. etc. are wildly different.

I like having two (or more!) threads to my imagination and I find it quite easy to move from Jasmine’s life in Kintbridge to September’s somewhat more extensive universe. Again it is up to the reader to decide if I have been successful but I can only point to one of my heroes, Iain (M.) Banks who also seemed able to hop between very different worlds of imagination. I don’t have Banks’ talent but I hope I can cite him as my inspiration.

I am currently writing the third volume of September’s adventures. It remains to be seen whether there will be more.

You can find out more about the publication  of the September books and other Elsewhen Press publications here Elsewhen

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

Painted Ladies cover

Close-up: Jasmine chooses the moment

Lots of people write. A lot write simply for the pleasure of seeing their ideas appear on paper or screen. Others write for a circle of friends such as a writers’ group and enjoy the feedback they receive. Many hope to sell their work to magazines or as books, paper or e, either self-published or with a publishing deal. The money is a confirmation of the worth of their work. I fit into all three categories. It is fun putting imagination to work in writing a story and I value the comments and suggestions from my writers’ group friends, but I am conceited enough to believe that there are people out there who will be willing to pay to read my creations. The problem is reaching those generous people who are prepared to hand over their hard-earned cash. I have been down the self-published route and while it is good to have control over the publishing process it takes a considerable outlay and you have to work like stink to get your money back – something  I haven’t done for a variety of reasons.

I am lucky to have a publisher, Elsewhen Press, for my fantasy series, Evil Above the Stars, which is coming out in the new year. I don’t expect to make a fortune but I am committing my time and not my savings to see the books, Seventh Child and Power of Seven published. I hope that EAtS (as we refer to it) is a success for Elsewhen and justifies their investment.

SEven is theme of Evil Above the Stars

Seven is a theme of Evil Above the Stars

I would like the same for the Jasmine Frame series and in particular, Bodies By Design the follow-up to Painted Ladies. I believe that she is an interesting character, regardless of gender identity issues, and that my writing is sufficiently competent for the series to make money for a publisher. Finding that lucky company is the problem. It seems that some publishers would like to wrap up all the rights to a story while making paltry efforts in marketing  and offering little reward to the author. I have hopes that Jasmine’s fate will be in better hands.

This blog is an attempt to get a wider audience for my writings and introduce readers to Jasmine through the novella length, episodic prequels that I have posted which explore the early stages of Jasmine’s transition from male to female. Talking of which, Close-up, the third of the prequels, reaches its conclusion today. There will be a break for a week or two while I look at other issues on this page, but Jasmine will be back in another story very soon.  Anyway, here’s the last episode of Close-up.

Close-up: Part 14

The muted ringtone of Jasmine’s phone sounded from inside her bag. Jasmine’s legs tensed. Harris’s head turned towards the bag that lay on the floor by the front door where Jasmine had dropped it.
Jasmine sprang up, her left hand reaching out for Harris’ right arm. The knife wavered in the corner of her eye but she focussed on his face. Her thighs thrust her forward and her fingers encircled his wrist. Her grip tightened as his head turned to her, his mouth open in surprise. Palm open, she rammed her right hand into his chin pushing his head back. She held the knife-wielding hand away from her. Harris fell backwards pulling Jasmine with him. As his head hit the carpet, Jasmine smashed his hand against the floor. Harris’ grip loosened and the knife fell out.
Jasmine straddled Harris’ prone body. She held his right arm down and reached to grab his left. The phone continued to ring.
She breathed in and her head filled with pain. It was if her skull was being filled to bursting point by heavy water that sloshed from side to side. Her vision blurred.
‘Jas. What can I do?’ Angela asked.
‘Come and kneel on his chest. Hold him down while I untie you.’ Jasmine pulled Harris’ arms across his body. There was no resistance but a moan came from him. ‘Quick, before he comes round and starts to move.’ Jasmine shuffled onto Harris’ thighs as Angela stepped over him and sat down heavily. Harris let out an ‘oof’. Jasmine undid the knots she had tied a few minutes before.
‘Sorry, I didn’t think to tie a slipknot like you did, Ange.’ Jasmine pulled the tights away releasing Angela’s arms.
Angela rubbed her wrists. ‘I’m glad those years in the Brownies finally proved useful.’
‘Help me turn him so we can get him trussed up.’
Together they rolled Harris over with no resistance from him. Still the phone rang, the jangling making her head worse.
Jasmine handed the tights to Angela. ‘You seem to know your knots. Tie him firmly. I’ll get the phone.’ She reached for her bag, pulled it open, dug out the mobile, and lifted it to her ear.
‘Tom?’
‘Jasmine. Are you at home?’
‘Yes …’
‘Good. We’ve got Amber Markham and found the suitcase.’
‘Great. We’ve got Harris.’
‘What?’
‘He jumped us when we got home.’
‘Harris was waiting at your house?’
‘Yes. We managed to overcome him. Get a car here.’
‘Are you both alright?’
‘I’m OK. A bit of a headache. Angela’s alright, I think.’ Angela nodded to her. ‘She’s sitting on him now.’
‘There’ll be someone with you in a few moments. I’d better go.’
‘Thanks, Tom.’ Jasmine dropped the phone onto the stairs and looked down at Harris. He attempted to lift his head up and extend his legs.
‘Don’t move or I’ll put you out again, Harris.’ Jasmine said.
‘Can I kick him?’ Angela asked as if she was eager to do him some injury.
‘Just stay sitting on him. Are you really OK?’
‘Yes. How about you? Is your head bad?’
Jasmine thought about her answer. If she held her head still there was just a heavy throbbing with an additional ache in her neck where Harris had hit her.
‘I’ll be OK. I’m sorry that this shit gave you a fright.’
‘Uh, I don’t think I had time to be scared. What was he going to do?’
‘Let’s ask him.’ Jasmine knelt down beside Harris and lowered her head to his. ‘What was it you said you wanted to do with us, Harris?’
He replied groggily, ‘I wanted you to help me get away.’
‘There was no chance of that. Half the force would be after you. You said you might kill Angela and me. Why?’
‘It’s your fault.’
‘My fault?’
‘You got Parnell picked up and linked him with Amber, Ashley and me.’
‘If I hadn’t someone else would have.’
‘Yeah, but you’re like Stephen, a trannie.’
An urge to smash her fist into Harris’s face filled her. ‘I am not like Parnell. I am a woman.’
Harris sighed, ‘Yeah, Yeah.’
‘You thought you were smart, Harris, didn’t you? Making Parnell think you were his friend, encouraging him to dress and persuading the two girls that had got him convicted to have sex with you. Then this farcical plot to cover up Jack’s murder. You forgot all the CCTV cameras that picked up Amber’s movements and Parnell being on the sex register. Amber’s story unravelled almost as soon as she tried telling it.’ It made her feel better showing Harris what a jerk he’d been.
‘It would have worked if Amber and Parnell had done it like I told them to.’
‘Controlling people is more difficult than finding where they live and watching them. You’re just a Peeping Tom, getting your kicks by violating people’s private lives. You’re worse than Stephen Parnell.’
‘He’s a perv.’
‘And you’re not!’ Jasmine laughed. The doorbell rang.
Jasmine got to her feet and opened the door. Two uniformed officers stood there.
‘DC Frame?’ one said.
‘Yes. Come in. You’ve come to collect him.’ She pointed to Harris. ‘I think you can get off him now, Ange.’
Angela stood up. Harris wriggled and tried to get up but the police officers stepped in and hauled him to his feet. One held him firmly by the upper arm while the other snapped hand cuffs around his wrists and untied the tights.
‘These yours, ma’am?’ the PC said holding out the tights to Jasmine.
‘Yes. I think those are mine.’
There was a rap of knuckles on the door and she turned to find DCI Sloane filling the doorway with Tom standing behind him.
‘Ah, all secure, then Frame?’ Sloane said.
‘Yes, Sir,’ Jasmine replied.
‘Have you formally arrested him?’
‘No, Sir. I thought as I was on sick leave or suspension I should leave it to someone else.’ In fact, reciting his rights hadn’t occurred to her.
‘Yes, well, Shepherd can do it. Take Harris outside.’ The two officers prodded Harris. Jasmine and Sloane stepped aside as he was escorted out.
Sloane pushed the door closed and looked at Angela. ‘Are you alright, Mrs Frame? I was told that Harris attacked you.’
‘It’s Bevan, Chief Inspector. I went back to my maiden name when Jasmine transitioned. I’m fine. He attacked Jasmine and threatened her with a knife. I just did what I was told.’
Sloane looked a little confused. ‘But, nevertheless, you overpowered Harris, Frame?’
‘When he told Angela to tie me up she used a slipknot,’ Jasmine explained with pride for her not yet ex-wife, ‘and then she got him talking while I managed to get myself free.’
‘Very good, Miss, ah, Bevan.’ Sloane nodded. ‘What did he tell you?’
‘The whole story, I think,’ Jasmine said, ‘including that Amber killed her baby.’
‘She says it was Harris.’
‘Tom said she’d been found.’ Jasmine was eager to get the full story even though her head was aching and she really wanted to lie down.’
‘Hmm, yes. Kingston and Money had to follow a trail of Harris’ acquaintances as his parents didn’t know where he was living. They found Miss Markham in a squat that Harris had been sharing.’
‘And you’ve found Jack’s body.’
‘Yes, Frame. Your hunch was correct. The case was hidden in undergrowth behind Stiles’ house. The pathologist is trying to identify the cause of death. Now I think I had better leave you to recover from your injuries.’
‘Thank you, Chief Inspector,’ Angela said. ‘The hospital said that Jasmine was supposed to rest.’
‘I’m sure that is the best thing. We’ll be in touch tomorrow, Frame.’
‘Am I suspended, Sir?’
‘We’ll talk tomorrow.’ Sloane turned away, opened the door and stepped outside. As the door closed, Angela took Jasmine’s arm and guided her into the lounge.
‘I’ll make some tea. I expect you need to take some more tablets, don’t you Jas?’
‘Yes, I do.’ Jasmine lowered herself into the sofa trying to avoid sudden movements of her head. With the excitement over she only had the headache to concentrate on. Angela went into the kitchen and prepared tea, while Jasmine sat with her eyes closed.
‘Here you are,’ Angela said returning with two mugs of steaming tea.
Jasmine reached for one mug. ‘I’m sorry, Angela.’
‘What for?’
‘Getting you involved in this. Getting you attacked.’
‘It was you he attacked.’
‘But he was threatening to kill both of us. If you hadn’t made it possible for me to get free …’
‘And if you hadn’t floored him, Jas.’ Angela smiled at Jasmine’s modest shrug. ‘He was dangerous, and he had a knife. You were great.’
‘Thanks. You were too.’
Angela waved a hand to dismiss Jasmine’s praise. She sat beside her. ‘I was thinking while the kettle boiled.’
‘About what?’
‘What I said about you moving out, Jas. What if Harris had attacked you when you were on your own somewhere? Perhaps we should stick together.’
Jasmine swallowed a painkiller tablet and took a sip of hot tea. ‘Thanks, Angela, but it was my stupidity that revealed our address to Harris. I shouldn’t have allowed it to be public knowledge. But you were right. It’s time I got a place of my own and let you, Miss Bevan, get on with your own career and life. I need to pursue my job on my own. If I still have one.’
………………….

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

Painted Ladies cover

Close-up: Jasmine receives attention

Did some work this week with my agent on editing Bodies By Design, the second Jasmine Frame novel. It is now a much tighter novel, allbeit a little shorter. Let’s hope it attracts some interest. Otherwise it’s been another busy week with not a lot of time for fresh writing. Nevertheless here is the next epsiode of the prequel, Close-up.

Close-up: Part 12

DCI Sloane walked around Jasmine’s desk to peer at the screen.
‘Where is the suitcase now?’ he asked.
‘I think Amber dumped it before she called on Ashley Stiles,’ Jasmine replied. She touched the keyboard to bring up a map showing the route Amber Markham would have taken from the station to Ashley Stiles’ home in Coot Close. Pointing to the screen, she said, ‘There’s all this rough ground behind Ashely’s house. Amber had time to go there, dump the case and then get back to Coot Close by six-thirty.’
‘Not a lot of time,’ Sloane commented.
‘No, so she couldn’t have hidden very thoroughly,’ Jasmine added.
Sloane straightened up, scratching his chin. ‘You may be onto something her Frame.’ He turned to Tom Shepherd. ‘Pick up Palmerston from the Parnell place. She can leave SOCO to do their jobs. Get over to Aldermaston and organise a search of this rough ground. I’ll round up as many uniformed officers as I can to assist. Kingston and Money are in Reading following a trail of addresses that may lead us to Markham and Harris.’
Tom started to move.
‘And take Frame with you,’ Sloane went on. Jasmine sat up. Was Sloane at last sending her out on a task? ‘Drop her off at A and E to get checked over.’ Jasmine slumped. ‘If they don’t keep you in, Frame, you will go home and wait for me to call you. Do you understand?’
Jasmine swallowed. ‘Am I suspended, Sir?’
‘You’re off sick. I haven’t decided whether to suspend you yet. Now go and get your head looked at.’
Reluctantly, and also a little painfully, Jasmine pushed herself from her chair and followed Tom from the office.

Jasmine fastened her seat belt in Tom’s Mondeo. ‘Take me with you to Aldermaston.’
‘No way, Jas. Sloane said to take you to the hospital and that’s what I’m doing. Then I’ll pick up Denise. You know she wouldn’t let you disobey Sloane and he’ll be telling her what’s happening right now.’
Jasmine sat silent as Tom manoeuvred through the town centre traffic. Sloane’s words were final. She was off the case and all she had to look forward to would be a long wait in Kintbridge Hospital.
It didn’t take long for Tom to deliver her to the entrance to A&E. She got out of the car and Tom drove off quickly. As she expected, the reception staff saw that she was walking, talking normally and not complaining of anything other than a sore head, so it was nearly two hours before she was shown into a cubicle. A doctor examined her and decided to send her for a scan which entailed another couple of hours wait.
‘There’s no evidence of any internal damage,’ the doctor said looking from the screen to Jasmine. ‘So I suggest you go home and rest and take painkillers if you need them.’
Jasmine found herself discharged and stranded at the hospital with no transport as the afternoon turned to dusk and rain started to fall. She took out her phone and rang Angela.
‘Hi, Ange. Are you at home?’
‘Yes, Jas. What’s up?’
‘Can you pick me up?’
‘Why? Where are you?’
‘At Kintbridge Hospital.’
‘Why are you there without a car? You haven’t been hurt have you?’
‘I’m OK. Sloane sent me for a check-up.’
‘You have been hurt. I’m on my way.’
The call was cut off before Jasmine had a chance to explain.

‘Oh, Jasmine what did you do that for?’ Angela said.
They were in the slow-moving rush hour queue, on their way home. Jasmine had explained the events leading up to her fall.
‘I had a hunch that Parnell might have something to say when he learned that his friend Harris had fucked both the girls he flashed at.’
Angela inched the car forward. ‘But what is this bloke Harris up to?’
‘I don’t know but from the counsellor’s reports he seems an obsessive, controlling character. I think that having got to know Parnell and perhaps got bored with his cross-dressing he decided to have some fun with his two flashing victims. Something must have happened to Jack Markham and Harris decided to use Parnell in a cover up. Perhaps he hoped Parnell would get blamed for Jack’s disappearance or Parnell was just supposed to get rid of the buggy and make sure that the trail went cold.’
‘So why did Harris kill Parnell?’
‘I’m not sure. Maybe he was angry that his plan hadn’t worked and that we’re onto him. If he’s the type of character that expects things to go the way he imagined he may put the blame for failure on the people he tries to control.’
‘If he’s killed Parnell because of that, is anyone else in danger?’ The traffic was beginning to move as they reached the edge of the town centre. Angela accelerated up the hill out of the town centre.
Jasmine didn’t answer while she pondered. Who else might Harris think he controlled? There was Amber Markham. If she was at his home in Reading then perhaps Kingston and Money would find her. There was Ashley Stiles and her child, but their home would be swamped by police including Tom and Denise Palmerston, searching for the suitcase.
‘If he goes back to either of the women he’s going to run into our lot,’ Jasmine said.
‘Is there anyone else?’ Angela said turning into the road that led to their housing estate.
‘I can’t think of anyone. Parnell, Markham and Stiles, they’re the three people Harris has been involved with.’
‘Anyway, it’s not your problem anymore is it? Sloane has put you on sick leave.’
‘At least I haven’t been suspended. Yet.’
Angela glanced at her. ‘Is that a possibility?’
‘If Palmerston has her way, yes it is. I visited Parnell once before without authorisation. That got him taken in for questioning.’
‘So Ryan Harris’ plan failed because of what you did.’
Jasmine reflected. ‘I suppose so.’
‘What if Parnell told Harris about your role?’
‘What do you mean?’
Angela turned into Bridle Lane. ‘Parnell knew were trans?’
‘Yes, he guessed.’
‘Do you think Harris might blame you for the failure of his plan?’
‘He might think I’m possibly more responsible than Sloane or one of the others.’
‘Hmm.’ Angela turned into their drive and brought the car to a stop. They got out and Angela put her door-key in the lock. She turned the key, pushed the door open and stepped inside. Jasmine followed. She had one foot on the doormat.
A blow hit the back of her neck. She tumbled forward, cannoning into Angela. Falling.
From behind her came a male voice, gloating, triumphant. ‘Got you, you gender bender.’
……………..
Painted Ladies: a Jasmine Frame story, is available as a papaerback and e-book from all booksellers including Amazon

Penny Ellis author of the Jasmine Frame series of crime thrillers

Penny Ellis author of the Jasmine Frame series of crime thrillers

Close-up: Jasmine has some questions

A varied week this week. I’ve been editing Bodies by Design, the second Jasmine Frame novel, continuing with the writing of the third volume of Evil Above the Stars, and of course writing this week’s episode of Close-up. I’ve even done some marketing of Painted Ladies by offering my presentation “Jasmine and me” to writers’ groups. I wonder if it is a good idea to have a number of projects going simultaneously – but I like it.  So here is the next episode of Close-up.

Close-up: Part 9

DCs Kingston and Money sauntered into the office closely followed by DCI Sloane with DS Palmerston tagging along behind. Sloane stood in front of the whiteboard and gestured impatiently to the team to gather round.
‘Report please, Detective Sergeant,’ he said as they assembled in a rough semicircle.
‘Still no sign of Markham, Sir,’ Denise Palmerston said.
‘What about the child?’ Sloane asked.
‘No leads there either, Sir,’ Palmerston replied raising her hands to indicate her frustration.
‘Are we even sure the kid exists?’ Keith Money said. ‘’The buggy Markham was pushing was empty. Perhaps it’s a phantom baby like some women have phantom pregnancies.’ Derek Kingston giggled.
‘Don’t be an idiot,’ Palmerston said, ‘Markham’s parents and the boy’s father talked about him and social services confirmed that Jack exists, and we only have Parnell’s word that the buggy was empty.’
‘And Jasmine’s analysis of Amber Markham’s movements,’ Tom said.
Palmerston’s nose wrinkled in a sneer. ‘Oh, yes, Frame’s “analysis”.’
Jasmine felt anger rushing through her arteries and veins. She wanted to respond to Palmerston’s dismissal of her work but gritted her teeth and said nothing.
‘Are you suggesting that Parnell may be lying to us?’ Kingston asked.
‘It’s a possibility but unlikely,’ Sloane said with a raised eyebrow at Palmerston. ‘You found the pushchair cover where Parnell said it would be. It matches the one in the CCTV on Markham’s pushchair. Soco have taken his flat apart overnight but found no evidence that a child has been in the flat. I think we have to take his word, at least where the child is concerned.’ Palmerston looked as though she wanted to disagree while Kingston and Money nodded.
‘Jasmine’s got a lead,’ Tom said. The other four detectives looked at Jasmine with wide-open eyes. Palmerston’s cheeks coloured.
Sloane spoke, ‘What have you got, Frame?’
‘The other girl that Parnell flashed at, Ashley Stiles, lives in Aldermaston, Sir. I have her address.’
‘Why didn’t we know about this Stiles woman?’ Sloane said, glaring at each of his officers.
‘None of Markham’s family or neighbours mentioned her,’ Palmerston said. ‘There’s no evidence that Markham and this woman are still in touch. It is six years since Parnell was in court.’
‘At the time, they were close friends,’ Jasmine said, ‘I see no reason why they shouldn’t still be even though Ashley has moved away from Kintbridge.’
‘Denise. You and Shepherd, get over to Aldermaston, now,’ Sloane said. ‘Let’s find out from Stiles how much contact she has had with Markham.’ Palmerston started to move with the reluctant acceptance that this was an obvious thing to do. Jasmine passed to Tom the address she had scribbled on a sticky-note. Tom winked at Jasmine and hurried to open the door for the DS.
Sloane turned to Kingston and Money. ‘Get back to Markham’s address and ask the neighbours again when they last saw Markham with her child. We need to establish exactly when the baby disappeared, if indeed it has. Also, detailed sightings of this man Markham was supposed to be dating. What’s his name?’
‘Ryan Harris, Sir,’ Kingston said.
‘I want him traced a.s.a.p.’
‘Yes, Sir,’ both officers chorused.
‘Well, go on then.’ Sloane waved for them to depart and started to make his way to his office.
‘What about me?’ Jasmine said finding herself alone again. Sloane turned to look at her apparently having forgotten she was still standing just a few feet from him.
‘I want more on this Stiles woman, Frame. How much contact has she had with Markham? And this Harris, fellow. Why has he made no appearance even though he was supposed to be living with her?’
‘Do we have a description, Sir?’
‘It’s in the files. Look for it Frame.’ Sloane resumed his walk to his office.
‘What about Parnell, Sir?’ Jasmine called after him. Sloane paused again.
‘What about him?’
‘We still have him don’t we Sir?’
‘He’s down in the cells. I need to decide if we charge him with anything. We can’t keep him much longer and Soco have completed their search.’
‘Can we speak to him again, Sir?’
‘Why?’
‘He might know if Amber has had contact with Ashley Stiles. Amber might have mentioned her when she confronted him and got him to help her with the buggy.’
Sloane turned and stepped back towards Jasmine, stroking his chin.
‘That is a good point, Frame. You had better accompany me down to the interview room. We’ll have a few more words with Mr Parnell.’
Excitement gripped Jasmine. She was going to interview a suspect. Sloane hadn’t let her get this close to an interviewee since she transitioned. The fact that there was no-one else on the team left to ask was beside the point. She hurried after Sloane as he took big strides towards the door.
 
Jasmine followed Sloane into the interview room. Parnell was already sitting at the table. He looked up angrily as Jasmine and Sloane took their seats.
‘When can I go home?’ Parnell asked. ‘I haven’t done anything wrong.’
‘Apart from causing a hazard to navigation in the canal, you mean,’ Sloane growled, ‘or wasting police time by colluding with Amber Markham in the fictional abduction of her baby.’
‘She made me do it,’ Parnell whined.
‘Well, we’ll think about releasing you after we have asked you a few more questions.’
‘About what?’ Parnell looked defensive, unsure about what was going to come next.
‘Ashley Stiles.’ Sloane said. Parnell’s eyebrows rose. ‘You do remember the name?’
Parnell dropped his head.
‘Yes, I remember the name. She was Kylie’s friend.’
‘Kylie?’ Sloane said
Jasmine leaned towards Sloane. ‘That’s Amber’s former name, Sir.’
‘Oh, yes. Did Kylie/Amber mention her to you, Mr Parnell?’
‘No.’
‘Are you sure?’
‘I said, no.’
‘Have you had any contact with Ashley Stiles since you were in court?
‘Of course not.’ Parnell shook his head violently.
‘Why of course? You weren’t expected to have contact with Markham but you have.’
‘She recognised me and followed me home.’
‘That is what you told us she led you to believe.’
Parnell looked mystified. ‘What do you mean?’
‘Well, I find it quite hard to believe that she recognised who you were when she saw you out in the street dressed as a woman. Frame here looks very different to her former self and she is not even wearing a wig.’
Acute embarrassment gripped Jasmine, mixed with anger that Sloane could make reference to her former existence as a man.
‘Well…’ Parnell examined Jasmine then shook his head.
Sloane pressed on. ‘That is unless you are an unusual transvestite who makes no attempt to pass as a woman despite wearing female clothes.’
Parnell was affronted. ‘I do my make-up well and I have some very good wigs. I’ve been told I look very feminine and pass easily.’
‘Who tells you that?’ Sloane snapped. Jasmine knew that Parnell lived alone and had no family nearby. She had had the impression that he was a loner and she couldn’t see him as one who socialised in transgender groups.
‘Uh…’
‘Who, Mr Parnell? Who do you meet dressed as a woman? Who told Amber Markham where you live and that you cross-dress?’
Parnell’s face showed confusion. He shook his head. ‘No, it can’t be.’
‘Who can’t it be?’ Sloane insisted.
‘It can’t be Ryan.’
Jasmine’s heart beat rapidly when she heard the name.
‘Who is Ryan?’ Sloane said.
‘We met after my case. I visited a counsellor to help me to stop. She had group sessions. He was in the group.’
‘What’s his surname?’
‘Harris.’
Jasmine almost couldn’t believe it. Another connection with Amber Markham. It couldn’t be a coincidence. Surely not. Sloane turned to her.
‘Ryan Harris. Is he on the sex offender’s register, Frame?’
‘I don’t think so, Sir. If he was and he’s being living in the locality I’m sure his profile would have come up.’
‘Hmm.’ Sloane turned back to face Parnell. ‘Tell us all about Ryan Harris. What was he seeing the counsellor for?’
‘He had been warned about following people.’
‘Stalking?’
‘I suppose so. A few women had complained about him hanging around their homes.’
‘So just a warning. He didn’t have any convictions?’
‘I don’t think so. He never admitted to having any.’
‘OK. So you met, you talked. How well did you get to know him?’
Parnell smiled. ‘He was a good friend. He was sorry that those girls had got me arrested. We hung out together. He came to my flat.’
‘How did he find out about you being a transvestite?’ Sloane asked.
‘He knew from the start. In the group sessions we had to talk about ourselves and what we’d done. I spoke about dressing. We talked about it after. Ryan was interested.’
‘But it wasn’t just talk was it. You said you were complimented on your appearance.’
‘Ryan persuaded me to dress for him. He said I looked as good as a real woman.’
Jasmine wondered how honest Ryan Harris had been if Parnell was telling his story truthfully. How well did Parnell pass for female when he was dressed? The pictures of him in his brightly coloured mac on the CCTV didn’t provide much evidence of his skills. He was short and stout, not a very feminine shape.
‘So Harris knew about your conviction, the statements of the two girls, your transvestism and he knew where you lived.’
Parnell nodded. ‘Yes.’
‘Are you still friends? When did you last see him?’
‘I don’t know what happened. He stopped coming round, he changed his phone. I couldn’t contact him. I haven’t seen him for over a year.’
‘He dropped you.’ Sloane said. Jasmine thought he was being unnecessarily heartless.
‘Perhaps,’ Parnell said forlornly.
‘Right. Well we’ll need a description of Ryan Harris. See if it matches. You take over, Frame. I’ll get a uniformed officer to join you.’ Sloane stood up and walked out.
‘DCI Sloane has left the room,’ Jasmine said for the benefit of the recording.
‘Why are you so interested in Ryan?’ Parnell asked.
‘He could be important. We’re not sure. You dressed for him?’
‘Yes. He said he liked how I looked.’
‘What sort of things did he like you to wear?’
A blush came into Parnell’s face. ‘You know. You went on about what I wear yesterday afternoon. You know what it’s like dressing up. You’re one.’
‘I am transsexual. I am not a transvestite.’ Her response was unnecessary she knew, but Parnell had riled her by suggesting they were similar. Parnell screwed up his face. ‘What did Harris want you to wear?’
‘Female things.’
‘I know that, but what sort of female wear.’
‘He brought me some stuff to try on.’
‘Such as.’
‘Mini-skirts, leather-look, tops with sequins.’
‘And you wore those with stockings and suspenders.’
‘Yes.’
Jasmine had to stop herself from grinning. She tried to imagine the plump, middle-aged Parnell in a short, shiny skirt with his stocking tops showing and couldn’t without grimacing.
‘He got you to dress like a tart.’
‘He said I looked great.’
Jasmine suppressed a laugh. ‘Perhaps he thought you did. Did he come on to you?’
‘Oh, no. He was straight.’
‘So why was he so keen on seeing you dressed up?’
Parnell shook his head and suddenly looked very sad. Jasmine had the impression of a loner grateful for the companionship of a younger man.
‘Did you offer him sex? Is that why he stopped visiting you’
‘No! You may fancy it with a man but I’m not gay. I just like being dressed.’ Jasmine hadn’t yet worked out whether as a woman she wanted sex with a man but the vehemence of Parnell’s denial almost convinced her that he thought he was certain he didn’t, but she wondered whether Parnell himself understood his desires. Perhaps she had pushed him enough.
‘OK. We’d better just get his description down then I can see if it matches with the other statements we have.’
‘Can I go home then?’
‘Perhaps. That’s up to DCI Sloane.’
 
Painted Ladies: A Jasmine Frame Story is available as a paperback and e-book from all booksellers.
Painted Ladies cover