Cold Fire

cover mediumThis week is all about Cold Fire – my new fantasy novel for young adults and above, which is now available in paperback.  I am holding a launch at Leominster Library from 2 – 6:30 on Thursday 19th October and there will be some sort of launch at Novacon in November.

Cold Fire features September Weekes, the heroine of my trilogy, Evil Above the Stars. It follows on from the final paragraph of vol.1 Unity of Seven but is a free-standing novel, which I think can be read on its own.

The story takes place mainly in 1680 in the Wales and London  of a parallel universe to our own. Aeddon is a young man in the service of an alchemist. The alchemist learns about the discovery of “phosphorus” and desires to make it himself to see and make use of the cold fire it produces.  Aeddon describes the quest to find the ingredients to make the cold fire and witnesses the awful results that bring September into the story.

There are appearances by famous scientists of the period, Robert Boyle and Robert Hooke; there are dragons and unicorns and mermaids; there are Welsh legends and heroic action. Can September find the magic that will enable her to overcome the Malevolence in this world?

Copies can be obtained from any bookseller or the publisher Elsewhen Press.  Or you can order copies from me for £9.99 including post and packing.  Send your order with a postal address to this email address  . I will post your copy/ies and give you options of how to pay. Cold Fire is also available as an e-book in all formats.

Copies purchased from me will include a postcard of one of the water colours by Katie Ellis of scenes from the story.

Here is a short excerpt from Cold Fire

Cold Fire

Chapter 1
I am given a task by my Master

“Boy! Boy! Where are you? I have need of you!” My Master’s voice came to me from below. He was in the crypt where he performed his manipulations. I was in the kitchen, searching through the sorry remains of our larder for something my Master would find acceptable for his table. There remained just a few parsnips, some herbs and a piece of mutton that the flies had settled on. My Master rarely troubled himself about the source of his food but relied on me to set it before him, unless of course he was too deeply involved in his work to think of food at all. How we would obtain new food supplies, I knew not.
I answered his call immediately as I did not wish to feel a stroke of the birch rod that he kept to punish my many misdemeanours, real or imagined. I hastened down the stone steps into the dimly illuminated crypt of the old abbey. The pale March sun slanted through the small windows at the top of the vaulted walls revealing a space cluttered with urns, jars, chests, furnaces and shelves filled with the Master’s precious glass apparatus and other contrivances. The floor, which I had swept only the previous evening, was already covered in detritus from the Master’s experimentation as well as the droppings of the mice and doves that he kept for testing his nostrums.
My Master, Ezekiel Soulbury, was sitting at his table which was covered in papers, vellum rolls and books but he held in his hand a letter, which I presumed to be that which he had received with great excitement earlier in the day. It had been sent by his cousin from the city of London and such epistles invariably stirred my Master into some kind of activity, although usually of the ‘grumbling and muttered oaths variety’.
“Ah, there you are boy,” he said at the sound of my feet on the flagstones, “stoke the furnaces. We have much work to do. Stir the putti and set them tasks. Where are those mischievous cherubs? Come on, come on, don’t be idle. I need heat.”
This torrent of words poured out of my Master as he shook his head and beard of long grey hair. He waved his hand bearing the letter which stirred the dust floating in the air. It seemed that the letter had brought news of something that had inspired him to a new venture. I wondered what my part would be in it and how much more pain and suffering would be inflicted on me. My search for edible food was inevitably to be set aside as the Master embarked on this new enthusiasm.
I was unsure whether to follow the Master’s first instruction and collect wood for the furnace or his second which was to find his other assistants, the putti. They at least could take some of the effort from the first task if they could be so persuaded, but where were they?
“Yes, milord,” I replied, “I will set to immediately.”
“That you must, while I assemble the necessary apparatus.” The Master got up from his stool, momentarily catching his foot in the torn and threadbare robe which he wore over his rough woollen garb. Once he had had fine clothes of silk and satin but these had been scorched by fire, burned by acids or sold to raise funds for his endeavours.
The putti were obviously not down here in the cellar so I returned to the ground floor, whistling and calling for them. They had not come into the kitchen while I had left it nor were they in the cold dark hall. I climbed the wooden stairs to the upper floor and entered the Master’s little used but grand bedroom. There they were, dancing in the sunlight that shone through the unshuttered, glazed window. Three small, naked, plump boys with feathered wings fluttering a few hands-widths above the floor, circling and weaving as if engaged in some galliard or other.
“Quickly. Come with me,” I said, “The Master has tasks for you and me.”

………………………..

20170930_130251 (2)Last week was spent in the wonderful countryside of Scotland’s Loch Tay. I took the opportunity to test the inclusiveness of the local community, especially the town of Aberfeldy and was not disappointed. Also for the first time I attended a family event, a wedding, in a dress. It was a wonderful occasion, I felt great and I don’t think I stood out that much, especially as most of the men were in kilts. My thanks are due to my step-niece and her new husband for showing wonderful understanding.

There will be more opportunities for purchasing Cold Fire and my other novels, starting with a Meet the Authors day in the library Wellington, Shropshire on 14th October. Following my launch on 19th October I will also be in The Castle Bookshop, Ludlow on 2nd Dec.

 

 

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Jasmine in her own words

As you read this, assuming it is just after it published, I am hopefully selling books at the Sandbach book-signing event. This is the second of these bookfairs that I’ve attended and there are more happening over the next year. I am hoping that there will be hordes of eager readers willing  to dip hands in pockets to buy books from me and the dozens of other authors.  If there aren’t then it will have been a waste of writing time.

51cn5-pvU3LGender remains up there in news and comment consciousness. I note that next week’s Horizon is concerned with transitioning and being transsexual.  Gender is also the subject of this year’s Royal Society science book of the year.  The prestigious award has been won by Testosterone Rex by Cordelia Fine (published by Icon Books).  Apparently Fine challenges the pre-eminent position of testosterone in driving male psychology and the fundamental role of biological sex in the development of gender identity and culture.  I haven’t read it yet but I am looking forward to doing so and seeing the responses. It has already received many reviews.

Gender fluidity is even a theme of  W1A the BBC spoof of, yes, the BBC. For those of you who don’t watch the sit-com it is concerned with the knots the BBC management ties itself in to try to appear balanced, inclusive, on message, and popular. The theme involves a retired footballer who has come out as trans, who wants to be a football pundit (on Match of the Day) but who is actually quite rubbish at it. If he is booted off the programme the management don’t want it to appear because he wears a dress, and so the farce builds. I love W1A and all its characters and I am hoping they have got this right. I hope it never slides into treating a bloke in a dress as being funny in itself.

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cover mediumLast week I completed the latest Jasmine Frame prequel, Viewpoint.  There will be a rest now for a few weeks while other things take precedence.  The main event coming up is the launch of the paperback version of Cold Fire – watch this space.  To fill the gap here is something I’ve been meaning to do for a while –  Jasmine speaking for herself. In fact it was suggested that this whole blog should be “written by” Jasmine.  Here is her autobiography.

Jasmine Frame – in her own words

While I was waiting for the date of my gender confirmation surgery, my doctors suggested I might like to write about myself, my journey, my life. So I have. In some ways, it is a final farewell to James Frame, in others it is a search for an explanation of who I am.

I was born in 1983 in Hastings on the south coast of England. Nothing special in that and nothing at all special in my early years. My father was an engineer on some big civil projects so was away quite often. My mother stayed home until I went to school and then went back to work for the county records office. She had a history degree and was an amateur archaeologist. Apart from me there was my sister, Holly who is four years older.

My earliest memories are of playing in a park with Holly and Mum. I have no early recollections of being gender confused or of denying I was a boy. I don’t think I was even conscious of gender until I was quite a bit older. However, I do recall playing with Holly and her friends. They never seemed to mind me being around when they were trying to get on with their own play but I do remember them using me as a sort of large and animated doll. I suppose lots of girls make use of their younger brothers in the same way and I am sure that we don’t all end up trans. Holly dressed me in her old dresses which for some reason Mum kept even when they no longer fitted. I seem to think I was quite happy to go along with the play and actually enjoyed the feel of the smooth and shiny satin and the swish of the dress on my legs. Holly went off to high school and more grown up interests while I got on with my own growing. I had girl and boy friends at primary school, played with Lego and cars as well as enjoying arty pastimes. I do realise now that I was a little bit of a loner, always content with my own company and not much of a team player. In fact, I didn’t get into team sports at all.

It was during my last year at junior school that I discovered that I could run a bit. My parents took up my teachers’ suggestions and enrolled me at the local athletics club. Throughout my secondary school career, I practiced regularly and often with boys and girls. I was county age-group champion at 400 and 800 metres at various times. The fact that I was competing in boys’ events was barely an issue.

It was only when puberty slugged me with a right hook that I became conscious of gender. It sounds silly but I don’t think I had thought about what growing up as a man or woman meant. Holly had her education and career mapped out, certainly not planning on getting married early and having children soon. With Mum taking on more hours of work as I got older I never saw men and women as being different with respect to employment. But growing facial hair, my voice breaking and getting erections made me realise that I was a boy – at least physically.

I was about fourteen when I began to have the thoughts. Perhaps they were a throwback to Holly’s dressing games but I realised that I didn’t want to turn into a hulking, macho, testosterone fuelled bloke. That’s when the urge to find another persona for myself started to take hold; and a different character meant different clothes. Although Holly was about to go off to university, she was still living at home and some of her clothes were left in her bedroom even when she was away. I began to experiment. Holly and I were a similar size then, in fact, I’m only slightly taller than her now.

The feel of a skirt, of a tight top, of tights and yes, finally, a bra, became familiar. At first it was exciting and arousing. I worried myself sick when once or twice I nearly spurted cum over Holly’s skirt. Soon though, becoming Jasmine ceased to have any masturbatory effect and simply became me in girl mode. It was the late 90s by now and I had access to a computer at home and the internet. I found out words for what I was – transvestite, transsexual I wasn’t sure which – but I did realise that being found out could make life difficult.

Fear of discovery did not stop me experimenting with Holly’s and Mum’s make-up. During holidays, when both were out of the house, I ventured out into town. I avoided the cafes and parks where my friends and school colleagues hung out, and instead went shopping. I used my pocket money to buy a few items of my own. With my blonde hair, quite long at that time, and fair complexion, I found I passed easily as a girl. Shop assistants, even if they sussed me, were eager to make a sale so I had few difficulties.

I became a little complacent I suppose and took to adopting my persona as Jasmine whenever I had the house to myself. That was why when I was 17, Holly discovered my secret. I’ve got to hand it to her, she was pretty calm and was soon advising me on styles of dress and cosmetics. She helped me keep my secret from Mum and Dad.

Going to Bristol to study for a history degree was a big move. I was free to be myself, or was I? Surrounded by other students I could have been drawn into a male world I suppose. As it happened the first guy I met turned out to be gay and he introduced me to other gays and lesbians. I was persuaded to let on that I was trans. And then I met Angela. She wasn’t a lesbian, no way, but she had friends who were and was very open. We hit it off straight away and for some reason she was as keen on Jasmine as James. For a time, I attended lectures and seminars as James but spent a lot of my social life, largely with Angela, as Jasmine, but gradually they all blurred together. Life was so busy and fun that I didn’t really consider where I stood on the gender spectrum or what would happen when university life came to an end. All I was sure of was that I wanted to be with Angela and she felt the same about me.

Of course, we were having sex, eagerly and often, from early in our relationship. She was the woman and I was the man – I had the penis. Making love was very pleasurable but I noticed that when we were having intercourse I could imagine that it was me being penetrated not Angela. It didn’t bother me – we were both feeling satisfied and I enjoyed being Jasmine.

Finishing university was a bit of a shock. We joined the real world embarking on careers, finding somewhere to live and fitting into society. I had settled on the police as a career. Why? Well I suppose my brief adventures with the law had sparked my interest and history seemed to have elements of crimes investigation. I was lucky to be recruited and to get on a training course. I had no real idea what the police reaction would be to my gender flipping although the Gender Recognition Act was just coming into force, but I thought it wise to keep Jasmine hidden from my superiors and colleagues. Angela was getting into her career in commercial accountancy and we decided to make our relationship official by getting married.

If I had thought that getting down to work as a police officer, with all the training that involved, and putting a home together, would make me a man I was wrong. Being Jasmine was a way of relaxing but I also found that increasingly my feelings about being a woman were growing. The urge to be female became more intense and I didn’t want to stop it. Angela was very understanding. Perhaps she had realised all along that that was the path we were on.

Becoming a detective and member of the Violent and Serious Crime Unit was the peak of my ambition, but it also brought increased stress. Now being Jasmine permanently became my greatest desire. I resisted it for a time because I knew, we both knew, that it would mean Angela and I splitting up. Then it was still necessary for married couples to divorce if one of them wanted to transition and obtain a GRC. Finally, though, the decision had to be made. Angela was supportive, so was Holly, but my mother wasn’t. Dad had died from cancer, a few years earlier and now she thought she was losing the other man in her life.

I started transitioning in the summer of 2010. I knew Angela and I would part. The sex in our relationship had always been important to her and she had always been straight. Whatever my fantasies had been she had always taken delight in having good old-fashioned heterosexual sex. I didn’t want to take that away from her but also didn’t want to be piggy in the middle of an “open” marriage. So we split, and I moved out. Angela was by now earning far more than my police officer’s salary and the financial separation was relatively straightforward. What I had not bargained for was my career falling apart. The police service management was helpful and supportive but that couldn’t be said for one or two of my colleagues. Perhaps I could have and should have stuck it out but I didn’t and so Frame Investigations was born.

Then Viv appeared on the scene. I’m dearly looking forward to having the body I’ve imagined myself to have for years. The future is a bit misty but I am looking forward to entering it as Jasmine Frame.

……………………………

 

 

 

Jasmine decides

As I said last time, I spent last weekend at the Nine Worlds convention (or “geek fest” the organisers call it) in Hammersmith, London.  I enjoyed myself chairing a Q&A session 9Worldswith John Gribbin and Zoe Sutra who were launching their books, published by Elsewhen.  I attended a number of other sessions, some better than others, the highlight being a talk on how to build a spaceship that generated quite a few ideas (and arguments). There were lots of people in costume, most of whom meant nothing to me but they impressed me with their dedication and handiwork. Perhaps most noticeably, both in the convention programme and simply looking around was the emphasis on diversity.  This showed up in a variety of ways – there were as many women as men of all ages, there were a variety of ethnicities represented, there were people with disabilities, and most important for me, there were a good number of non-binary people.  It was an opportunity for everyone to be whoever they wanted to be, whether it was Princess Leia, a fairy, or someone proud to be neither overtly male or female.  I’m looking forward to next year.

Next up is the UK Indy Lit Fest in Bradford on 26th August.  There will be over forty authors like me there, with books to sell either self-published or published by small independent publishers. I really do hope that there will also be plenty of people looking around, browsing and buying books. If you are going, you can pre-order my books by completing this form.

UK Indie fest banner

My latest Elsewhen book, Cold Fire, is now available as an e-book on all platforms.  The paperback will be available soon – watch this space as they say.

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And so to Jasmine Frame’s latest adventure in Viewpoint. Here is episode 9.

Viewpoint: Part 9

The pale autumn sun hung over the canal, glinting off the murky water. Jasmine’s feet pounded the towpath. It had stopped raining and the air had a freshness to it. She was running to dispel the frustration and anger and also to overcome the feelings left by yesterday’s jog with its macabre conclusion. Another unexpected wade through the cold water was not on her list of desirables. She was approaching the bypass bridge and there, underneath the roadway, was Harold’s old boat and Harold himself stroking a paintbrush along its multi-coloured wooden superstructure. His wiry haired dog of no identifiable breed sat patiently beside him watching as he worked.
Jasmine slowed to a stop when she drew level with the old boatman. The dog approached her and lowered its head to sniff her running shoes. Harold turned and spoke to her in his Yorkshire accent.
‘Hello again lassy. Don’t often see tha at this time of day.’
Although Jasmine had occasionally stopped to chat she was surprised that Harold was familiar with her routine of early morning or evening runs.
‘I needed to get out. I finished early today,’ she said.
‘Ah well, no doubt you think it does tha some good.’
‘Running lets me think,’ Jasmine said.
‘Well now, a gentle walk with Robbie here before closing up for t’night does that for me,’ Harold said.
‘Which way do you usually go?’
Harold nodded to the setting sun, ‘Away from the town, lass.’
‘As far as Renham lock?’
Harold looked into her eyes. ‘That I do. Give Robbie a chance to do his business and nose around after rabbits. You’ve a ken for what I saw a couple of nights ago.’
Jasmine’s stomach churned. What had he seen? ‘Tuesday night, yes. Did you see anything, er, unusual?’
‘Now what does tha mean by unusual? I saw three fellas up at the lock dropping stuff in the water. Tha’s not so unusual. Plenty of them fly-tippers thinking that the canal makes a useful rubbish dump.’
‘Did you see what it was?’
‘No, but it was quite a weight. Took two of them to heave it off the bank. I reckoned it was a dead sheep or summat.’
‘You know a body was found there yesterday morning.’
He nodded. ‘Aye, and it was thou what found it, weren’t it? I saw you run past, earlyish, and didna see you come back. Then there wus all them sirens. I wandered up to have a look but when I saw the coppers I turned back. Some other dog walkers said what was happening and I put two and two together.’
Jasmine shivered at the memory of the cold water. ‘I saw the body in the water. It had come back to the surface. I went in and dragged it out. Did the police officers come to speak to you?’
‘Na. Why would they trouble themselves to walk all the way down here to hear what I had to say?’
It should have been Terry and Derek who’d been asking questions but they had focussed on the possibility of eyewitnesses on the track from the road. Unless you knew the canal, like she did, you wouldn’t know that there were people like Harold on it at all times of the year.
‘Could you describe the men, Harold?’
Harold sniffed. ‘It was nigh on dark. They wuz shadows more than anything, but definitely three fellas, one of them small and he had a limp.’
Jasmine was excited. Riley? With Taylor and someone else perhaps?
‘What about their vehicle, Harold? Did you see that?’
‘Like I say, it was dark. I couldn’t get a number.’
‘No, I understand. But the type of vehicle?’
‘Oh, it was one of them old Land Rovers, short wheelbase, pick-up.’ He had described Taylor’s Land Rover. Of course, there were plenty of them around, but it confirmed her suspicions well enough for her. Harold’s observations could be vital evidence.
She asked him a question. ‘You’ve moored here a while, haven’t you?’
Harold nodded, ‘For as long as the Board will leave me be. No doubt they’ll be along in a day or two to move me along a bit.’
‘You’ll still be on the canal though?’
‘Oh, aye. I only move as far as I have to. Perhaps a couple of miles the other side of Kintbridge or back towards Thirsbury.’
‘I’ll be able to find you again, then.’
‘Tha might have to run a bit further lass.’
‘No problem.’ She turned to face back into the town.
‘Not going on this time then?’ Harold asked.
‘No, there’s work to do,’ Jasmine said, taking her first stride.

On her return to her flat, Jasmine undressed. She replaced the brightly coloured vest, shorts and shoes with black tights, a short black skirt, black polo neck and black ankle boots. She glanced out of the window. The sky was darkening but it wasn’t yet fully night-time. Not time yet. She toasted some bread and spread it with peanut butter. As she munched on it she felt excitement. Denise Palmerston would be furious if she knew what she planned, but that, sort of, made Jasmine more determined to follow through with her plan.
Harold’s information confirmed for her that Taylor and Riley were responsible for Alfie’s death. She was sure they had held him before he had died, either at the farm or at the park home site. She was going to look at the latter first. Tom had said that Riley’s hut was small but there were plenty of others on the site. Embarking on a search alone was against her instructions and contrary to police protocol, but she felt she was on her own now. If Palmerston wasn’t going to take Alfie’s death seriously then it was up to her.
It was dark now and the evening rush hour would have died down. After putting on her dark puffer jacket and black leather gloves she left the flat, checked that she had a torch, with batteries, in the glove compartment of the Fiesta and set off. Retracing her journey the previous evening, she drove to the edge of town and turned along the lane past the park homes. She drove on a couple of hundred yards and pulled off the road on to a suitable verge. She locked the car, dropped the keys into the pocket of her jacket and set off back up the road gripping her torch.
Before she reached the entrance to the park she climbed over a gate into a ploughed field and walked alongside the hedge that bordered the site. At the corner, there was a wooden gate. It was locked but Jasmine quickly clambered over it and dropped into knee-high grass. The shadows of the huts loomed against the night sky with the glow of the town beyond.
She crept to the nearest cabin. The grass was trimmed neatly around it and there were pots of shrubs either side of the front door. Jasmine moved onto the second. This too looked cared for and occupied. She continued along the well-spaced row until she came to the hut closest to the far hedge. This one was smaller than the others and the long grass grew up above the columns of breeze blocks that supported the floor of the hut. Jasmine crawled around the hut not daring to use her torch but feeling the ground. The grass was beaten down in front of the doorway and in two narrow strips. A vehicle had parked here not many days ago.
Jasmine approached the hut, raising her head to peer through the dirty windows. There was nothing to see as curtains covered the windows. She pressed her ear to the window and listened. No sounds from inside. Surely the hut was unoccupied. She moved to the front door, tested the handle. It was locked. That wasn’t surprising but perhaps she would have some luck round the back of the hut. Her reward was finding a small window open an inch or two. She inserted her hand through the gap and was able to lift the latch. The window swung open. It was a small gap but with her slim figure she could wriggle through. She entered head first, groping with her hands for the floor to support herself before she tumbled in.
She folded herself into a crouch and waited. There was no sound. The hut was empty. As she suspected, she was in a bathroom; a none too clean bathroom. There was the stink of mould, urine and faeces. She took her torch from her pocket and turned it on. The light revealed a grubby wash basin, loo and bath. Were the stains merely dirt or blood? They looked suspiciously like the latter to Jasmine.
She pushed on the door and it swung open. A scan with the torch showed a small bedsitting room with an old, iron-framed single bed against one wall with a bare mattress. There was a threadbare rug covering part of the rough wood floor, a small dining table and chairs and no other furniture at all. In one corner was a sink unit and old gas cooker. Jasmine could hardly imagine living here and she wondered whether in fact anyone did, voluntarily. She crossed to the bed and shone the torch on the head and foot. There were cords looped around the rails at the four corners, with loose, cut ends. Someone had been tied down, hand and foot, spread-eagled. Had it been Alfie? She was looking closely at the stains on the mattress when the front door creaked open.
Jasmine spun around, her heart thudding, her legs ready to run. But there was no escape. Two figures filled the doorway: a short man and one that was taller. The light bulb hanging from the centre of the ceiling flicked on giving out a dim, yellow light.
‘What the ‘ell?’ The shorter man said in a distinct Irish accent.

……………………….to be continued.

 

 

 

 

Jasmine shivers

WP_20170616_16_16_42_ProIt’s strange that during the hottest June days for forty years I have been writing about Jasmine shivering with cold (see below). But at least I have been writing. It’s been lovely to have a week when I can get on with the business of authoring.  Apart from the second part of Viewpoint that follows, it is has included completing the final (?) edit and extra bits for Cold Fire, the fourth September Weekes novel out soon, and starting to plan a promotional push.  I may even get further with Jasmine’s fourth novel, Molly’s Boudoir.

I’ve signed up for the UK Indie Lit Fest in  Bradford  https://www.ukindielitfest.com/  on 26th Aug.  It promises to be a huge gathering of independent authors, and I hope general public looking to buy books.  That follows the smaller, but closer, Llanidloes Tattoo Festival  (yes, tattoos and books!) on 8th/9th July.  Looking forward to both but if you run a lit fest or any other fest for that matter and want a speaker, someone to complete a discussion panel, or simply to run a book stall, then get in touch (paintedladiesnovel@btinternet.com) – I’m up for it.

That’s enough of the self-promotion, let’s get on with the story.  Viewpoint is the latest novella that is a prequel to Painted Ladies, the first Jasmine Frame novel.  It’ll also be the last chronologically as it takes place just a few months before Painted Ladies starts.

Viewpoint: Part 2

She stamped her feet, wrapped her arms around herself and tried jogging on the spot but nothing could stop the shivering. Her legs felt as if they had bags of sand tied to them and her feet didn’t belong to her. While the cold numbed her mind, Jasmine’s eyes were filled with the pale shape of the body lying on the towpath. Through the veil of drizzle and her blurred vision some details registered on her consciousness. The body was naked and the person, she had to remember that this lifeless object had been a person, was female. Something didn’t seem right though, and then it penetrated to her – the chest was flat.
Jasmine leant down, almost stumbling over the corpse as the shivering affected her balance. There were scars that suggested breasts had been removed. Short black hair framed a face marred by bruises and grazes.
She overcame the urge to rest down beside the body and pushed herself upright. The wail of a siren came from across the canal and, shortly after, a blue flashing light appeared through the rain and stopped just short of the opposite bank. A uniformed figure ran across the hump-backed bridge over the channel and approached.
‘Did you report a body in the canal near here?’ The police officer called when he saw her. He negotiated the approach to the bridge and came along the towpath towards her. Jasmine pointed a shaking hand at the corpse. The PC halted, looked down and then up at Jasmine.
‘God!’ he said, ‘Are you alright?’
‘C..c..cold,’ Jasmine mumbled.
‘Shit! You’re soaked. Did you go in the canal?’
Jasmine nodded, unable to speak. The PC bent down to look at the corpse. He shook his head and stood up.
‘Can’t do anything for them. Let’s get you to the car.’ The officer put his arm around her and supported her. They staggered towards the bridge and went over to where the police car waited with its light still flashing and driver speaking into his phone. He looked through the rain spattered windscreen, and seeing them approach, opened his door.
‘Is this the casualty?’ the driver asked.
‘No, there’s a body on the bank. I think this is who reported it. She may be suffering hypothermia.’
‘Get her in the back. I’ll get the blanket from the boot.’
The PC opened the rear door of the Vauxhall Astra and eased Jasmine in. The other officer came up with a silver blanket which he unfolded and passed into the car to Jasmine. With shaking hands, she wrapped it around herself.
The officer who had escorted Jasmine rummaged in the boot.
‘I’ll set up the tapes. We have to make the site secure and stop other walkers bumbling into it. Although who else would be out on a morning like this I don’t know. You stay and watch her. See if she can tell us what happened.’ He ran off, back over the bridge.
The partner resumed his position in the driving seat, started the engine again and turned the heating control. He twisted in his seat to look at Jasmine.
‘How are you feeling?’
Jasmine was grateful to be out of the cold but she was still shivering and her limbs felt dead. ‘B..better,’ she managed.
‘I’d better call a paramedic to see you.’ The PC reached for his phone again and put in the call to the control centre. The car’s fan was blowing hot air over Jasmine and she managed to clamp her jaw so that her teeth didn’t chatter.
The policeman twisted round to face her again. ‘Was it you who reported the incident?’
Jasmine nodded.
‘Do you know the, er, victim?’
Jasmine shook her head.
‘They were in the water, were they?’
Jasmine nodded again.
‘And you went in and dragged them out?
Another nod.
‘Dead?’
And another.
Jasmine found she could take a deep breath rather than the snatched gasps which her uncontrolled shaking had allowed, but her limbs and body still trembled. The officer looked over her out through the rear window at something, and reacted by turning around and opening his door.
‘At last, the plainclothes guys show up.’ He got out. ‘Stay there. I’ll check on you in a mo.’ He closed the door, leaving Jasmine gratefully enjoying the growing fug of hot air in the car. She sat with her eyes closed, grimacing as the feeling returned to her fingers and toes with agonising prickling. There was a tap on the window beside her. She saw a familiar face through the pattern of running raindrops. She wound the window down a little.
‘Tom!’
DC Tom Shepherd peered through the gap.
‘Jasmine? What are you doing here? It wasn’t you that found the body was it?’
‘Yes, it was me.’
‘What were you doing here?’
‘I was out for a run.’
‘In this weather? The officer says you’ve got hypothermia.’
‘Rain doesn’t bother me when I’m running. I didn’t expect to be wading in the canal or standing around.’
‘How do you feel?’
‘Getting warmer.’
‘Good. Look stay there. I’d better go and check on this body you found and make sure they’ve got it cordoned off.’
‘Are you on your own?’
‘No, Derek’s in the car, reporting in. I’ll get him to come and join you and find out what happened.’
Jasmine nodded and Tom’s head moved away. She wound the window up and breathed deeply. She was relieved that it was DC Derek Kingston on duty with her friend and former partner. Kingston accepted her as a woman which wasn’t too surprising since as a young black officer he had no doubt experienced some prejudice himself. She was relieved it wasn’t the cynical older DC, Terry Hopkins, and especially not her nemesis, DS Denise Palmerston.
A few moments later the front passenger door opened and DC Kingston, dressed in a thick anorak, got in. He twisted to speak to Jasmine.
‘Hi, Jas. Tom says we’ve you to thank for this call out. What happened?’
Jasmine explained how she had noticed the body in the water and had gone in to check it wasn’t alive.
‘I’m not surprised you’re suffering from hypothermia. It’s bloody freezing.’
Jasmine shook her head. ‘I don’t think I’m that bad.’
‘No? Well, I think that’s the paramedic turning up. They’ll check you over.’
Jasmine noticed another flashing light reflecting off surfaces inside the police car. Kingston opened the door.
‘I’ll send him to you. Speak to you again soon.’ He got out.
A few moments later the paramedic, a her not a him, opened the door beside Jasmine and peered in. She asked Jasmine questions, did a few simple tests, and pronounced her fit.
‘But stay in the warm and get out of those wet clothes, a.s.a.p.’ She withdrew and closed the door. Once again, she was left alone for a few minutes until the driver of the police car returned.
‘I’ve been told to take you home so you can get dry,’ he said buckling himself in, ‘That’s if I can get us out of this congestion.’ Jasmine gave her thanks and tugged a seatbelt round herself.
With repeated backwards and forwards movements, the police car turned and manoeuvred around DC Shepherd’s car and they set off along a straight, rough track along the edge of a field. Jasmine estimated that it was about half a mile before they came to a cluster of buildings and a metalled road. The police officer turned left, picked up speed and soon they were in the outskirts of Kintbridge. The morning rush hour traffic delayed their passage through the town but soon they pulled up in the carpark outside Jasmine’s flat. The driver got out and opened Jasmine’s door.
‘I’ll see you in, make sure you’re okay,’ he said. Jasmine was reluctant to leave the growing warmth of the police car but realised she couldn’t stay put. She stepped onto the tarmac and pulled the foil blanket round her tighter. She hurried to her door, fumbling in her bumbag for her keys, her hands already starting to shake again.
‘Here let me help,’ The PC said from beside her. He took the key from Jasmine’s hand and inserted it in the door lock. He pushed the door open. ‘There you go.’ He followed Jasmine into the small, dismal flat. ‘Hey, it’s not very warm in here. Haven’t you got the heating on.’
‘I don’t usually have it too warm,’ Jasmine said, her voice beginning to wobble. She didn’t add that it wasn’t her preference but a means of saving money.
‘Well, I think you need it a bit warmer now. Where’s the controls?’
Jasmine nodded to the electric fire. The PC bent down and switched it on; all three bars. He stood up, turned and faced Jasmine.
‘There, I hope that’ll warm you up soon. DC Shepherd said you worked together.’
Not any longer, Jasmine thought.
‘I thought I recognised you,’ The officer went on. ‘Aren’t you the DC who’s having a sex change?’
Jasmine sighed. Why couldn’t she just be recognised for who she was and not her gender history. Who else would be asked such personal questions so early or even at all in a conversation.
Jasmine nodded. ‘That’s right. Look I need to get these clothes off.’ She let the foil sheet fall from her shoulders and started to unzip her running jacket. Waterproof it may have been but that didn’t allow for wading into canals.
The officer’s face showed horrified anticipation. He backed towards the door.
‘That’s right. Look, I’ll let you get on. I’m sure one of the detectives will look in on you soon. I’d better be getting back.’ He let himself out closing the door behind him. Jasmine let out an audible sigh, stepped closer to the electric fire and started to strip off her wet running clothes.

…………………to be continued