Jasmine at rest

IMGP5962I’ve been on holiday and had a thoroughly relaxing time. So relaxed in fact that I have not done any writing, which is unusual when I am holiday. There’s been lot’s to do like reading and walking and gazing at the glorious views and lying on the sand with my eyes closed listening to the waves and watching the sunset (not the sunrise – haven’t been up early enough). It has been lovely just being. We have kept up to date with the news and there have been plenty of emails to delete every day but for once we have just not felt like bothering. I know that getting home will change all that but perhaps this feeling of “let it be” will continue. We have decided one thing – that I must do more to market Jasmine but how remains to be seen.

To fill in the gap, here is another of my older short stories. This one is fairly recent. I wrote it as a test to see if I could write an SF story based on an article in a random edition of New Scientist. The trouble is I am not sure how fictional it is or how far into the future it is set..

Potential for Evil

The room I was shown into reflected the contradictions of the British Security Service. An antique comfy sofa and dark wood panelling denoting the history of the service while the holographic projector on the mahogany desk signalled that technologically it was up to date. The projection blinked off as I entered like a bubble bursting and the figure behind the desk rose to greet me.
‘Ah, Professor Isabella Boyle.’ He pronounced each syllable of my title and name as if making sure he wouldn’t forget it. He was tall and dark and, I suppose, handsome in a 2020s sort of way. It looked rather dated today, like the pale blue summer suit he was wearing. He indicated the sofa and invited me to sit.
I settled into the soft, low cushions, thankful that I had chosen to wear trousers rather than a skirt despite the continuing summer heatwave.
‘You know who I am but I do not know your name,’ I said, perhaps showing a bit of irritation in my voice.  I had been summoned by my comm implant which let it be known that I couldn’t really refuse but with no information whatsoever about why my presence was required.
‘We don’t go in for identities here,’ he said lowering himself onto the sofa beside me, ‘It’s an historical thing I suppose. You can call me N if you like.’
‘N?’
‘It comes after M. Now Professor I want you to watch this.’
He wiggled his fingers and the projection formed in the air in front of us. ‘Resume, rewind, start,’ he said.
I saw a planar view of some dusty middle-eastern town. There were lots of people, men, women, children going about what seemed to be their normal business. They were surrounded by a cloud of buzzing insects which seemed to hover over or near each person.  As the picture moved I realised we were following one particular character, a young man. He seemed to know where he was going as he strode through the awning-covered streets until he came to the steps of a white concrete building. It appeared to me to be a meeting place where people got out of the extreme heat to eat, drink, chat, play games and do business.  The man we were pursuing stopped, took the bag he had been carrying off his shoulder and drew out a compact automatic firearm, bigger than a pistol. He held it in one hand and started firing.  Immediately people fell to the ground, bleeding, dying. Some fled but he shot them in the back. He turned, shooting continuously, spraying fire into every corner of the building, the gun automatically selecting targets, aiming and firing without any likelihood of missing. The assassin stepped forward and our viewpoint moved with him deeper into the shadows. Many people had no escape because the exits were blocked by those who had the time to start to flee. He carried on shooting, mercilessly cutting down everyone in line of sight.
He reached the far end of the building and paused. Now as well as the cries of the dying and the incessant chatter of his gun there was another noise – answering fire from outside the building. He stopped shooting, held up his hands and exploded. The image disappeared.
‘So?’ I said looking at N, ‘an act of terrorism in some foreign town. I can see plenty of those on newsfeeds if I wish – many closer to home.’
‘Of course,’ N said, a thin smile playing across his lips. ‘Didn’t you notice anything unusual?’
I thought for a moment, ‘The point of view followed the killer. You had a surveillance drone on him. Why couldn’t he be stopped?’
N smiled. ‘It wasn’t one of ours. We hacked it after the incident. The state follows everyone over the age of twelve with flybots but while it stores the uploads it doesn’t have the AI power to analyse them in real time so they’re only good for reviewing events not influencing them. The incident happened three days ago but what was interesting was who committed the atrocity.’
I was surprised at his use of the word “atrocity”.  It reminded me of my childhood when events like we had watched were not daily events. What had happened to make an atrocity an everyday occurrence?
‘A member of a rival faction?’ I suggested.
‘Could have been. There are plenty of jihadi groups vying for the reputation of being the most barbarous. Not that this was any more deadly than many others – just a hundred dead. No he wasn’t with one of them. His home was one of our supposed allies.’  He seemed particularly gleeful by that revelation.
‘How do you know? Whichever country he originated from he could have been a radicalised member of one of these terrorist organisations.’
‘Ah, that’s where you are wrong. You see we have accessed his i.d. He worked for one of our “friends”.’
‘How did you find out?’
N smiled broadly. He was enjoying showing off. ‘We’re not as out of touch as the public sometime think. We have agents in the field. One of them managed to get hold of the bomber’s body, well, his head actually. It arrived here yesterday.’
‘So you were able to read his implant.’
‘Yes, we know exactly who he is, what he’s been doing, what porn he’s accessed, everything. Except we don’t know what this is.’  N reached into the inside pocket of his jacket and pulled out a small, clear plastic bag. He handed it to me.
The bag appeared empty until I held it up to examine closely. Inside was a bundle of fine wires, each much thinner than a human hair, almost too thin to see. Attached to the wires were slightly larger nodes.
‘Where was this found?’ I asked although I was beginning to get ideas.
‘I think it is called his prefrontal cortex – the PFC? Separate to his comm implant anyway.’
‘Why are you showing this to me?’ I asked although I was pretty sure of the answer now.
‘You’re a top neuroscientist, Professor,’ N said, beaming at me and taking care to look at my face and not my breasts. ‘We think you can explain what this was doing in the agent’s brain and what it has got to do with his actions on behalf of our “ally”.’
I took a deep breath. ‘I suppose you realise that it was connecting to the neurones in the part of the brain that you named. The PFC is responsible for our higher functions – rational thought, decision-making, that sort of thing.’ I dangled the packet in front of me. ‘This is a behaviour modification device.’
‘I guessed that. But what is it doing exactly?’
‘Ah. I would need to know exactly where it was situated.’
‘I can help you there,’ N said, and began waving his hands in the air again. A new image appeared in front of me, 3D this time, – a full colour scan of the brain. ‘You can manipulate it,’ N said.
I raised my hands and fingers to hold the image of the brain, turn it, expand it. I reached in to grasp the piece I wanted to examine more closely.  The silver neural modifier stood out from the grey brain cells.
It was as I thought. ‘It’s made him evil,’ I said.
‘Really?’ N said as if I had confirmed his own guesses.
‘Yes,’ I said. ‘A couple of decades ago it was discovered that a part of the PFC was involved in giving the person the potential for evil. That is the ability to perform violent acts frequently and without emotion and be willing to follow orders and adopt the belief system of the group which they have joined. It’s called Syndrome E.’
‘Your typical jihadi,’ N said nodding.
I pointed to the image that hung in the air. ‘This part of the PFC was found to be active in suppressing the moderate, altruistic, risk-averse instincts of other parts of the brain.  It seems that someone has engineered this implant to control the function – turn the evil on and perhaps off.’
‘So it seems. Thank you Professor. I suspected as much but needed your opinion as proof. You see N stands for Neurological Section Leader.’
I was confused. ‘But why would someone do that? Why put that thing in someone’s brain?’
N smiled again. ‘It seems that our ally has decided that trying to bomb our enemies into submission isn’t working. It isn’t. We’ve known that for decades but there hasn’t been any acceptable alternative. So they’ve decided to copy the enemy’s tactic of indiscriminate brutality.  Give them back the terror. But they needed a single minded, evil assassin happy to blow himself to bits if it killed enough innocent bystanders.’
‘Would they be able to find such a person?’ I asked realising immediately that I was being naïve.
‘Of course they could. Think of the Nazis, Irish IRA and protestant militia, Serbians in Bosnia, numerous American college boys.  Every nation has its reservoir of easily led, homicidal maniacs. The problem is controlling them.  With this device the guys in charge, like me, can turn anyone, or almost anyone, into a multi-murderer whenever we wish.’
I suddenly felt cold. ‘You said “we”.’
He gave me that broad grin again, like the cat that not only had the cream but a tasty dead bird as a side dish. ‘You don’t think we’re going to let our “friends” go on with this on their own do you? The Prime Minister wants our own Syndrome E Squad a.s.a.p. and as the leading authority on neural implants you are the person we are relying on to provide it, Professor.’
‘But how will releasing our own programmed killers end the war on terror?’ I asked.
‘It won’t,’ N replied.
‘Then, why?’
‘Because it will be a damn sight cheaper than operating the current fleet of drone bombers. Now, Professor, you’re not getting moralistic qualms about this are you? Not after developing the neural implant that has connected the whole population to the internet and allowed governments and corporations into everyone’s heads.
My uncertainty surfaced as an ‘Umm.’
‘I am sure I don’t have to remind you that under the state of emergency that has existed for the last twenty years your citizenship is dependent on you carrying out your government’s, that is my, wishes.’
I had no choice, unless I wanted to be deported from my own country. Any other that took me would make the same demands on my knowledge and skills. It appeared that from now on I would be harnessing the evil present in most, if not all minds, but perhaps I would also be able to insert an off switch.
‘When do I start?’

…………………….

Inspired by Roots of brutality, Laura Spinney, New Scientist p.40, no.3047, 14/11/15

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Jasmine is handed a clue

15 July 1 - CopyAs I don’t really follow social media that closely, I hadn’t noticed the waves created by Caitlin Jenner’s transition and exposure. It has apparently set off a fierce battle between the extreme feminists and trans activists. Some have even suggested that Jenner be stripped of the Olympic medals she won as a man because she no longer is. While Jenner’s sexy photo shoot suggests that her experience is somewhat different to that of most trans women and men and indeed other non-binary people I do think that using her as a tool to beat other transgender folk is disgusting.  I am getting quite tired of the gender wars and feel that we should all be fighting/arguing for equality and acceptance for all individuals with gender irrelevant. How one dresses and appears should be a matter of personal choice.

Anyway, that’s all the ranting for this week. Here is the next episode of the Jasmine Frame prequel.

Split Mirror: Part 8

Jasmine slipped back into the office and made her way to her desk, keeping her eyes off any of the other occupants just in case they were watching her. She wanted to be invisible or inconspicuous. Sitting in her chair, she focussed on her screen simply checking emails except she wasn’t reading them.
She was thinking about how she could have dealt with Palmerston. If she was a bloke she might have swung a fist at the detective sergeant’s smooth chin. But she had been a bloke, outwardly anyway, and she knew she wouldn’t have attacked a senior officer or anyone else for that matter. She could defend herself and restrain a suspect but violence appalled her, as did macho guys who seemed to think it was the solution to every argument. Of course if she was still a bloke she wouldn’t have been the subject of Palmerston’s vitriol, nor been in the Ladies loo.
If she had always been the woman she believed herself to be or indeed had completed transition so long ago that her trans status was unknown to low and middle ranked officers like Palmerston, she still might have swung at the DS – if she thought violence was the answer. But Palmerston would be more likely to think her an ally in the women’s revolution than a sworn enemy.
Once again, she had to accept that being “in between” was the worst of all possible worlds. Men, heterosexual ones, were wary of her, thinking that she might trap them into homosexual acts. On the other hand, women like Palmerston saw her as a threat to the sisterhood, reinforcing gender stereotypes because she wore skirts and lipstick and stuffed enhancers in the bra that she didn’t need to wear because she had no tits of her own, yet.
Would it always be like this? As long as she remained in the Violent & Serious Crime Unit, while she remained in the police force, she would be known as the tranny-officer and forever side-lined by more senior officers like Sloane and Palmerston. Her chest felt heavy and a tear trickled down her cheek. What was the point of staying in the job?
‘Hey Jas, are you OK?’ It was Tom again. She turned her face towards him letting him see her tear-filled eyes. ‘I thought you’d be happy. We’ve taken on your case. Isn’t that what you wanted?’
Jasmine gave him a thin smile. Yes, of course it was what she wanted. The plight of Diana Stretfield must come before her feelings. She swallowed the lump in her throat.
‘Yes, Tom, it is but Palmerston . . .’ She paused because Palmerston had approached Tom from behind him.
‘Palmerston, what, Jas?’ Tom asked.
‘Shepherd!’
Tom jerked around at Palmerton’s call. ‘Ma’am?’ he said.
‘You’re with me. Come on.’ She turned and marched away. Tom leapt to his feet reaching for his coat at the same time.
‘That’s why I’m unhappy. You get to go out while I’m left here,’ Jasmine whispered to Tom’s departing back.
She did have things to do however. She sent emails to the officers in charge of the missing persons in Cardiff and Swindon, informing them of the situation in Kintbridge and making a number of requests for information and assistance. After a few minutes she sat back and thought. It would be a while before she got any responses so what should she do while she waited? Hunger and tiredness made themselves felt and she remembered that as well as not having slept last night she had been at her desk since before six this morning and it was now – she glanced at the big clock on the wall – gone ten. She was entitled to a break and despite what Denise Palmerston might prefer she wasn’t chained to her desk. She could go out in her own time.
She stood up, picked up her bag and collected her coat. Derek Kingston was the only other officer at his desk.
‘I’m going to get some breakfast or lunch or whatever, Derek,’ she said as she passed him.
‘OK, Jasmine,’ he replied in a friendly manner. Derek was one officer, other than Tom who treated her like a real person and a member of the team, perhaps because he had experienced some prejudice as a young, black PC.

The canteen was the nearest source of food but she couldn’t face mixing with the other officers today nor the greasy bacon and fried eggs. Instead she headed out into the town. As she stepped through the entrance to the police station an icy blast of February air hit her. She wrapped herself in her coat and strode out quickly, the exercise warming her and starting to take away the depression that Palmerston’s attack had left within her. She reached the main shopping street and walked down it to her favourite café. It may be one of a nationwide chain, but the staff were always pleasant and it was usually fairly busy so she didn’t feel too exposed. This morning it was quite quiet and there was no queue to order her usual black coffee. She also ordered a cheese and tomato baguette as hunger was making her dizzy.
There was a vacant seat at a small table hidden in a corner which she went to and made herself comfortable. She sipped her coffee while she awaited her food thinking about what Diana Stretfield might be going through, if she was actually still alive. What was the purpose of the van driver’s visits to dogging sites? Was it to find a willing subject for public sex who he then persuaded to go with him, or having lured the subject into his van did he drive off with them against their will? Once he had the subject alone in his van, what did he do next? Kill them and dispose of the bodies or keep them for his private pleasures, at least for a time? No bodies had been discovered that matched the Cardiff and Swindon abductees but that didn’t mean much. There were plenty of ways of disposing of bodies so that they wouldn’t be found. Whatever she thought of Sloane and Palmerston, their demand that she should find that white van was the key and she didn’t know how she could do it.
Her baguette arrived and she was biting into it when her mobile phone rang. She dug it out of hr bag conscious that other customers were looking at her. The number was unfamiliar.
‘Hello,’ she said trying to keep the pitch of her voice slightly raised so that she sounded feminine, ‘this is Detective Constable Jasmine Frame.’
‘Jasmine. That other detective has been to see me, the one that was with you that didn’t seem interested.’ It was Debbie Stretfield and she didn’t sound very happy. ‘There was a tall man with her.’
‘That’s right, DS Palmerston and DC Shepherd have taken on the case,’ Jasmine replied as sweetly as possible.
‘Well, that woman told me that our car has been found near the motorway at a place where people go for sex and that was why Diana was there. She said Diana has probably been abducted.’
‘That’s what we think happened, Debbie.’
‘Did you know any of this last night when you came to see me?’
‘I wasn’t sure about it and didn’t want to worry you unduly,’ Jasmine replied realising that she wasn’t being completely honest.
‘You’re like Diana, Jasmine. I want you to explain to me what Diana was doing.’
‘I . . .’
‘Not on the phone. I want to see you.’
She couldn’t refuse the woman could she? Even if it meant disobeying Palmerston again.
‘OK. I’m in town. Come and join me for a coffee.’
‘I haven’t got a car. The woman detective said that the police would be keeping it to examine it for evidence.’
Jasmine had forgotten that the old Micra was the Stretfield’s only car. ‘Alright, I’ll drive out to you but meet me where your road meets Reading Road.’
‘Why don’t you come to my house?’
She didn’t want there to be any chance of Palmerston or another police officer seeing her with Debbie.
‘I’ll explain when I meet you.’ She would have to think of some excuse.
‘Alright then. Soon?’
‘I’m on my way.’ Jasmine ended the call, gulped down her coffee and stuffed the baguette wrapped in a paper napkin in her bag. She hurried from the café, and walked as fast as she could without breaking into a run and making a spectacle of herself. Back at the station, she went straight to her old Fiesta and drove onto the Kintbridge one way system.

It only took a few more minutes to get onto Reading Road and she saw Debbie waiting on the corner of the road leading into the housing estate. She pulled up and leaned across to open the passenger door. Debbie Stretfield got in and looked at her suspiciously.
‘Why didn’t you come to my house?’ Debbie asked as Jasmine re-joined the traffic heading east out of the town.
‘Because DS Palmerston doesn’t like me meeting people,’ Jasmine had decided to tell the truth.
‘Because you’re TS?’
‘That’s it.’
‘Does she know you visited me last night?’
‘Yes. That’s why she’s been forced to take up the case. It was me that found out what Diana has been doing and what might have happened to her.’
‘You?’
‘Yes.’ Jasmine described what she had done and found out after their previous conversation.
Debbie listened silently but Jasmine glanced at her a few times as she drove on seeing a range of emotions pass across her face from anger to sadness.
‘Thanks for being honest with me, Jasmine. Your sergeant didn’t explain much. Do you have any idea why Diana visited this sex place?’
‘I don’t really, I’m sorry,’ Jasmine said, ‘I haven’t completed my transition yet so I don’t really understand why Diana was so desperate to have sex with men. But I think that was the only reason she visited the site. She didn’t have any sort of relationship with any one person.’ Jasmine didn’t add that she couldn’t imagine exposing herself to the dangers in the way that Diana had.
There was silence for a few moments then Debbie spoke. ‘One thing your detective did mention was a white van, a tall one.’
Jasmine stared at Debbie almost forgetting the road in front of her.
‘She told you about it?’
‘Yes. Just said that it had been seen at this place Diana went to.’
‘That’s right.’
‘Well, I’m sure I’ve seen a van like that on our estate.’

………….

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

Jasmine asks the question

With my solo book promotion events out of the way (for now) my next focus is the Leominster Festival which I am helping to organise. First up we have a talk by Jasper Fforde  (7p.m. Fri 5th June, Grange Court).  His humorous but meticulously crafted crime stories in the Nursery Crime and Thursday Next series and his Herefordshire based Last Dragonslayer children’s books promise to make his talk an exciting event.  Then there is the Bookfair, all day on Sat 6th also at Grange Court. There are writing workshops with Simon Whaley and Fay Wentworth and a host of local authors displaying, selling and talking about their work – me included. Should be a great day.

So with that bit of advertising out of the way let’s turn to Jasmine Frame. Being transgender is barely newsworthy any more, thank goodness, and most people know someone who is trans in some way or other. Nevertheless the media, social and otherwise, still get excited by an outing.  I gather someone called Bruce Jenner, “famous” for something or other, has revealed that he is to become a woman.  So perhaps Jasmine isn’t unusual anymore. Nevertheless I think she is still unique as a lead transsexual detective and people still do not understand what being trans means. Therefore I commend the next episode of Soft Focus to you, my readers.

Doing my bit in the kitchen in a pause from writing

Doing my bit in the kitchen in a pause from writing

Soft Focus: Part 8

As they passed the large Victorian houses that lined both sides of Pembroke Road Jasmine took hold of Angela’s hand. She was surprised when Angela pulled her hand away and instead hooked her arm around hers. They continued to walk arm in arm.
‘Lovers hold hands,’ Angela whispered. ‘Friends link arms.’ Jasmine was confused. She had known Angela for less than twenty four hours but already felt a close attachment to her. They weren’t lovers yet, but for the first time in her life there was a real person who she felt a desire to make love to – as a boy. She had thought Angela’s feeling were moving in the same direction. Hadn’t they held hands earlier?
While Jasmine debated the evidence for a relationship, Angela whispered again. ‘I’ll hold hands with James.’
Jasmine’s thoughts became more excited. Her dreams of lust may become reality, but what did Angela’s words mean? Why not hold her hand now? The answer came in a flash of insight.
Jasmine also spoke softly. ‘Does that mean you are more worried about being thought of as a lesbian than you are about being the girlfriend of a transvestite?’
Angela giggled and pulled on Jasmine’s arm. ‘You’re right. I just said that without thinking. There’s no reason why I should mind appearing as a lesbian; some of my friends are lesbians; but, I suppose I don’t want to seem to be one because I’m not. On the other hand you being a boy and a girl is exciting.’
Jasmine was reassured but a little confused. ‘I think we’ll have to pick over those words again sometime. Look we’re here.’
They had reached number 115. The house was not in such a good state of repair as its neighbours and obviously divided into flats.
‘Andy said the basement, didn’t he?’ Jasmine asked. Angela nodded, released his arm and strode down the driveway at the side of the house. Jasmine hurried after her and caught her at a pair of steps leading down to a doorway. They both looked for a bell but failed to find one. Angela knocked her knuckles against the door. There was a wait of a few moments before they heard shuffling noises on the opposite side of the door. It opened to reveal a pale, slight, young man, with curly blonde hair, naked but for a pair of baggy, white Y-fronts.
‘Oh, hello, girls. What brings you here?’ Jasmine wasn’t sure whether the camp accent was real or put on.
‘Is Martie in? We’d like to speak to him,’ Jasmine said.
‘You want to see Martie. Does Martie want to see you?’ The final ‘you’ was said with a screwed up nose as if the thought was a little distasteful.
‘Can you ask him, please?’ Angela said with just a hint of impatience.
‘Oh, okay.’ The young man turned away but kept hold of the door. ‘Martie! There are some females here that say they want to speak to you.’
A deep voice roared from somewhere deep inside the flat. ‘Females? What sort of females?’
The almost naked young man turned to face them again. Jasmine wondered that he wasn’t shivering with so much skin exposed to the November air. His eyes examined Jasmine and Angela.
‘Young women. Quite pretty actually,’ he called back.
‘What the fuck!’ the voice, presumably Martie’s, bellowed again. The shout was followed by the appearance of its owner. Martie wasn’t tall, maybe just an inch more than Jasmine, but he was heavily muscled as revealed by the skin-tight white T-shirt that he wore along with torn, stained jeans. His head was covered by the merest fuzz of hair and his face by a scruffy beard. Jasmine guessed he had had his head shaved not that long ago. She didn’t remember him from the disco the previous evening, but then her attention had been focussed on Sila sliding across the floor. He reached the door and shoved the slim boy out of the way.
‘Get back inside,’ he growled. The boy retreated.
‘Hello, Martie,’ Angela said in a sweet and friendly voice.
He glared at her. ‘Who are you?’
‘I’m Angela and this is my friend, Jasmine.’
Martie transferred his gaze to Jasmine. She felt him examining every part of her body, almost as if he could see through her clothes and her disguise.
‘I don’t know you. This is a gay zone. We don’t have girls, lesbian or otherwise. You don’t look like lezzers. What do you want?’
Jasmine blurted out. ‘We were wondering what you and Sila did last night after the party.’
Martie’s jaw dropped and his mouth gaped open. Angela’s elbow poked into Jasmine’s ribs. Had she posed the question in the wrong way?
When Martie finally answered, his manner was anger. ‘Sila? That fucking, tranny-arsehole. What d’ya mean, what did I do with her?’
Jasmine swallowed and decided to press on. ‘We know you and she had an argument which ended with you pushing her to the floor.’
‘So what? She was being fucking annoying.’
‘So did you meet her again later?’
‘Why the blazing fuck would I want to see that limp prick again. One minute with her at the start was enough.’ He paused for breath. ‘And anyway, why are you cockteasers asking me questions.’
‘We’re just trying to trace her movements after you had your row.’ Angela said as softly and calmly as possible.
Martie laughed. ‘I know her movements. She took a step off the bridge and forgot she hadn’t grown wings as well as tits.’
‘You know she’s dead?’ Jasmine said.
‘Yeah, I heard,’ Martie guffawed, ‘It’s all around the city isn’t it. So why are you two cunts asking questions?’
‘We want to know what happened to her. Why she fell from the bridge.’ Jasmine said. They didn’t seem to be getting anywhere with their conversation. There must be an art to asking the right questions, Jasmine thought.
‘She jumped because she was a mad bitch. Couldn’t make up her mind whether she wanted cock or cunt.’
‘She was transitioning,’ Jasmine said.
‘Transitioning, my arse. Yeah, she thought she should be a woman but the lezzers didn’t want her because she still had a dick, so she pestered us thinking we’d go after anything with a cock and balls.’
‘Did you?’ Jasmine asked. Martie stepped out of the doorway and thrust his head into Jasmine’s face.
‘No. I don’t go for wankers in a skirt even if their boobs are rubber. Give me a small tight arse and a hard cock. Is that straight talking enough for you?’ Martie’s gaze bored into Jasmine’s eyes. ‘You’re like her aren’t you?’
‘Uh, no. I’m not like Sila.’
‘Yes you are. You’re a tranny. A guy in frilly knickers and a bra.’
‘Sila was a woman, a transsexual woman.’
Martie grabbed the collar of her quilted jacket. ‘Trans-fucking-nothing. Didn’t know what she was or how to have it.’
‘She was waiting for reassignment.’ Jasmine gasped as the cloth tightened around her neck.
‘Why are you even bothered? Do you want to be like fucking Sila?’
Angela pushed her arm between them. ‘We just want to find out how and why Sila died.’
Martie released his grip and edged backwards. ‘You’re fucking nuts. I told you I don’t know what happened to her. She was a pain in the neck. Disturbed. She did for herself.’
‘Are you sure?’ Jasmine asked, tugging her jacket down.
‘What do you mean am I sure? Did I see her when she took her leap without a bungee? No I didn’t.’
‘Did you push her off the bridge?’ Jasmine stiffened waiting for Martie’s expected lunge at her.
Instead he laughed. ‘Have you got a death-wish like her? No, I didn’t give her a helpful push, I didn’t see her again after she was a pest in the disco. I don’t know or care why she topped herself. She was just a mixed up tranny.’
Angela intervened. ‘Do you know anyone who might have been involved in her death?’
‘Involved? You mean drove her to it. You could try the Radical Women. They hated her as much as me and my mates did. Now get lost you fucking tarts before I give you a pasting.’ He backed through the doorway and slammed the door.
Angela grabbed Jasmine’s arm and dragged her up the driveway to the road.
‘Well, that went according to plan,’ Angela said.
Jasmine shrugged. ‘What plan?’
‘Exactly. We should have worked out what questions to ask him first before blundering in there.’
Jasmine shook her arm free of Angela’s. ‘I thought we could have a quiet conversation and find things out.’
‘So you jump straight in with “what did you and Sila get up to after the party?”’
Jasmine realised Angela had a point. ‘That’s not quite what I said.’
‘Close enough.’
‘I didn’t expect him to be so aggressive, so crude.’
‘Not all gays are cuddly softies, or nice boys like Andy.’
Jasmine began to trudge up the street. She’d messed up; failed to ask the right questions to obtain useful information.
Angela ran to catch her up. ‘Look it’s not all bad. We got some answers from Martie.’
Jasmine paused mid-step and looked at Angela. ‘Really? Like what?’
‘Like that Martie didn’t kill Sila.’
Jasmine shook her head. ‘How do you know? He hated her.’
‘I just got this feeling from hearing him going on badmouthing her. He didn’t like Sila. He didn’t want any sight of her. He’s only interested in the boys that give him what he wants like that kid that answered the door. He wouldn’t have wasted last night dragging Sila up on to the bridge and throwing her off.’
‘Are you sure?’ Jasmine felt that Angela was probably correct but Martie had scared and appalled her. How could someone who was himself a member of a minority group be so dismissive of someone in another?
Angela nodded. ‘Pretty certain.’
‘Why did Sila keep on at that sewer-tongued bully?’ Jasmine decided that she didn’t understand the dead transsexual at all.
Angela shrugged. ‘Who knows? Perhaps getting a response from Martie at least showed Sila that she was being noticed.’
Jasmine considered Angela’s words. How lonely must Sila have been as she faced her struggle to transition? ‘Well, where do we go next?’
Angela took hold of Jasmine’s arm again and they walked slowly up the road. ‘Well there are other gay boys that Sila may have attached herself to and then there’s Martie’s suggestion.’
‘The Radical Women?’
‘Yep. They can be a tough lot too.’
Jasmine snorted. ‘Well, for the sake of equality, let’s see how they react to being accused of murder.’
…………………….
Painted Ladies: A Jasmine Frame Story is available as an e-book or paperback from all booksellers including Amazon

Painted Ladies front cover jpeg