Had my photograph taken twice this week. The first was for some work I am doing with the police on hatecrime and the second was for the website backing up an interview we’ve done for the BBC World Service (more of that in a few weeks I expect.)
I suppose we all find it a bit strange seeing ourselves. Is that person in the mirror or the photo really me? Our inner image is always different somehow. I do know that while I would like to get rid of my spectacles (please don’t suggest contacts) whenever I take my glasses off in a photo I look like a mole squinting in the light.
I see Fay Weldon has written a trans version of her Life & Loves of the She-Devil novel from decades ago, working on the principle that men are becoming women because they see women as holding the power today. I’m not sure it’s quite like that (!?) but she can write what she likes. The same as I will support anyone’s right to speak their mind so long as they are not advocating harm to anyone. I do not go along with this “denial of platform” movement, or for that matter those people who want to deny, or somehow change, history by pulling down old statues.
I made a discovery this week; another trans writer, of SF&F – Cheryl Morgan. I’m following her blog now – perhaps she’ll find her way here sometime. I haven’t written any trans SF myself, just the Jasmine Frame crime stories. Talking of which here’s the next gripping (I hope) episode of Resolution.
Resolution: Part 12
‘Who is he anyway?’ Tom asked as they drove slowly through the many traffic lights of Reedham.
James didn’t want to give too much away. ‘His name’s Dawson. He’s a middle man. He didn’t get picked up with the lot supplying drugs from the club in Reading that Milla and I busted, but he was their contact with the suppliers in London.’
‘And he was involved with Sparrow’s killing?’
‘He arranged it.’
‘He sounds dangerous. Do you know what you’re doing, Jim?’
James turned into an industrial estate and pulled into the kerb just short of the bridge over the railway line.
‘I hope so. Here’s where you get out, Tom.’
‘Dawson is only expecting me. I’m going over the canal. There’s a row of houses on the bank by the lock. That’s where we’re meeting. Follow me but keep out of sight.’
‘I’ll call you when I need you.’
Tom frowned but opened the car door. ‘Okay. I’m not sure I like it. Be careful, Jim.’
‘I will. Off you go.’ James urged Tom out of the car and as soon as the door closed he drove on. He went up and over the canal and dropped down into the open space between the terrace of worker’s cottages and the canal. There was another car parked there – a silver Toyota Auris. Dawson was standing on the moorings below a pair of lock gates, gazing into the water.
James got out of the car and walked to join Dawson. When he heard James’ shoes scrunching on the gravel Dawson turned to him.
‘Ah, it’s DC James Frame today is it. Been at work with your colleagues have you?’
‘Yes,’ James said.
‘But you’d prefer to be Jasmine, I bet.’ A leery smile spread across his face.
‘You’d know all about it,’ James said. ‘I expect when you were a girl you always felt the urge to be a boy.’
Dawson frowned. James was pleased. Dawson hadn’t expected him to answer his taunts with his own.
‘But I followed my dream,’ Dawson said, ‘You’re stuck with your worries and fears about being found out.’
It was true. James did feel trapped between wanting to be Jasmine and not wanting to lose Angela. But he wasn’t going to let Dawson needle him.
‘You may be living as a man, Dawson, but what do all your criminal buddies think of you. I’m sure they’re not all trans-loving liberals. Do all your “clients” even know your history? Perhaps you are hiding your past like I’m wary of revealing my future.’
Dawson sniffed, glanced away for a moment watching the ducks on the water. He turned back to James, glaring.
‘I have a reputation for not standing for any nonsense. Enough about me. You’re here. If you wanted me to reveal your liking for wearing tights and bra and frilly dresses you wouldn’t be. You’re here because you’re scared and so you’ll do what I want.’
‘Maybe,’ James admitted.
‘So let’s get down to business.’
James put a hand in his trouser pocket, trying to appear relaxed, and pressed the on button on the voice recorder.
Dawson grinned. ‘Well, you and Sparrow set me back a bit. There were some losses. Sparrow had been a nuisance for some time.’
‘So you had to get rid of her.’
‘Yes. She was too frigid to bend. I made sure she was disposed of.’
‘You had her killed.’
Dawson raised his hands. ‘Alright. What’s it to you; you’re not interviewing me now, are you, but yes, I had her killed.’
James frowned but inside he was cheering. That was one confession recorded.
‘You though are different. You’re new to Sloane’s unit and with the bridle I’ve got on Jasmine you could be useful.’
‘How?’ James genuinely didn’t understand what purpose Dawson had for him.
‘You’re right at the heart of serious crime investigations. You’ll be able to tell me what Sloane and his grunts know about the businesses my clients are involved with.’
‘You want me to leak our findings.’
‘That’s right. Keep me and my friends at least one step ahead of the plods.’
‘What sort of things. I’ll need to know so that I can keep you informed about the operations you’re involved in.’
‘Of course. I’ll let you know. Actually there’s one coming up. You and Sparrow caused a hiatus in our infiltration of the Reading drugs scene but it’s back on track. We have a new delivery system coming on stream.’
‘Through the Marquis club?’
‘Don’t be an idiot, Frame. We’re not so daft as to use the same depot. No, this time we utilising our European friends.’
‘I don’t understand.’
‘The guys who’ve come over from eastern Europe looking for work. They’re keen to supplement the pittance they’re getting for doing the jobs no-one else wants.’
‘Not all of them are criminals.’
‘No of course not, but enough to provide an efficient distribution network.’
‘Where’s the stuff coming from.’
‘Our supply chain centred on east London. I’ll let you have some details so you know which to ignore. It will be useful if you can remove some of our competition from the picture.’
‘What about the money you collect?’
‘Ah, that goes back through our bankers. I’ll give you a heads-up on that too. We wouldn’t want you pulling in our guys for questioning would we. But it’ll be a real help if you go after the old Reading bunch. Get them out of the way for us.’
James saw Dawson’s eyes focus at something over his shoulder. He cursed inwardly. He’d got the wrong side of the trans-man allowing him a view of the bridge across the canal. Had he caught sight of Tom?
Dawson stepped forward between James and the water, pushing James to the side with his right arm, and reaching into his jacket pocket with his left.
‘You’ve been followed you fool,’ he spat.
He drew out a pistol. He’s left handed, James found himself noticing. Dawson brought up the gun and fired. The sound of the shot reverberated off the lock gates, the terrace of houses, the sides of the bridge and the steel walls of the warehouse on the opposite bank. James turned to see Tom stumbling and crouching by the garden wall of the houses. There was no cover nearby.
‘DC Shepherd I believe,’ Dawson said taking aim.
James leapt at him, reaching for Dawson’s left arm. He grabbed the forearm, dragging the gun down while his other arm circled his shoulders. They were in a bear hug teetering on the smooth curved bricks that edged the moorings.
Dawson fought to release his arm, but James pulled the gun between their bodies. He was on tip toe. Dawson’s back arched. They were off balance, falling.
The gun fired. James felt a thud against his chest just before he hit the water on top of Dawson. His grip on the other man loosened and they parted under water. James kicked for the surface. His feet hit the sloping base of the canal as his head broke the surface. His feet found purchase and though they sank into the ooze, he stood, buoyed up by the water which lapped around his chest. He looked down at himself. He chest hurt from the thump he’d received but there was no blood. The shot hadn’t hit him. It must have been the recoil that hurt.
James twisted around. Dawson was floating a little further out in the middle of the canal, face down, his suit and shirt ballooned.
‘Jim! Are you alright?’ Tom’s voice came from the bank.
James glanced at him then back at Dawson, still floating without movement.
‘Get a life-ring or a rope or something,’ James called and half stepped, half swam towards Dawson. The centre of the canal was deeper and James felt his shoes and sodden clothes tugging him under. The current from the leaking lock was starting to take Dawson downstream towards the bridge. James kicked out and swam a few strokes until his grasping fingers encountered cloth. He gripped Dawson’s unconscious body, turned him, held him close. But he was sinking, his chin barely above the water.
There was a splash nearby. A plastic life-ring. James kicked his legs. With one arm around Dawson he reached out. His spare hand found the ring. He pulled it towards himself, the extra buoyancy allowing him to hold his head up.
‘Have you got a grip?’ Tom called.
‘Pull!’ James called with his remaining breath. He felt the tug as Tom began heaving in the ring with its catch. James found the soft weedy bottom of the canal beneath his feet again but with Dawson’s weight resting on him he couldn’t balance. Tom continued to pull them close to the bank.
At last, James’ head touched the brick canalside. He pushed with his feet sliding his body into an almost upright position against the wall.
‘Can you get Dawson out?’ he panted.
Tom reached over him, laying on the ground and grabbed the unresponsive body. He dragged him from the water onto the bank. When Dawson was lying with just his feet dangling over the edge, Tom came back to James.
‘Do you need help, Jim?’
James realised he was exhausted. There was no way he was going to be able to haul himself and his wet clothes out of the cold water.
‘Yes, please, Tom,’ he sighed.
Tom knelt and reached down and put his hands under James armpits. The muscles in his arms felt like steel hawsers against James’ skin. Tom grunted and heaved. James rose from the water. He flailed, trying to get a grip on the brickwork. His knees cleared the bank and he bent his legs to crawl onto the land. Tom released him with a groan.
James lay panting and shivering only vaguely hearing Tom speaking into his phone.
After a few moments James found enough breath to speak.
‘He’s dead. Bullet wound through his chest.’ Tom said.