Let’s get the advertising out of the way.
From today until Tuesday 8th you can get Discovering Jasmine for Kindle Free. Go here to get your copy.
Discovering Jasmine introduces Jasmine when she is the seventeen years old James, just learning what his need to be feminine means. It leads to her first case, defending an older transsexual. Discovering Jasmine is a novella length story.
Right, that’s done.
So what has caught my eye this week. Well, I suppose it’s the resignation of Defence Secretary Michael Fallon for “inappropriate behaviour”. He wasn’t, perhaps, the most obvious candidate to be the first to fall in the Westminster sex-pest scandal but I thought his attempts to wriggle were contemptuous. First, he seemed to think that there has been a huge change in morals in the fifteen years since he groped a journalist – not in my mind there hasn’t. It is approaching a hundred years since women got the vote and more than thirty since they achieved (if that is the right word) equality in law. I think treating women as objects to maul and grope was wrong fifteen, thirty, more years ago. Secondly he made his apology only to the servicemen which he oversaw in his cabinet post. There was no real apology to women in general for his attitude to them or to men for again bringing masculinity into disrepute. Who knows who else will be revealed as a perpetrator of this misogyny. What I find interesting is that the aftershocks of the Weinstein affair, in the UK at least, have caught up politicians more than any other group.
Now to return to Jasmine Frame and the second episode of the new prequel story, Reflex.
Reflex: Part 2
They drove slowly through the estate.
‘Have we got a description?’ James asked.
‘Sort of,’ Sarah replied. ‘Matthew is a little small for his age and slight. He’s got long dark hair and he’s wearing skinny jeans and a jumper.’ James thought the boy sounded like many others of his age but since the dark streets were deserted there wasn’t anyone to check.
They carried on along estate roads, but James noticed that although Sarah was driving slowly they were moving away from the scene of the crime.
‘Are we headed somewhere?’ James asked.
‘I have an idea. Not sure if it’s right,’ the PC answered.
‘What is it?’
‘Well, if you’d done something really bad. . .’
‘Like kill your father?’
‘Yes, so you had to get away. Where would you go?’
James considered. ‘I don’t know. A dark hole where I couldn’t be found?’
Sarah shrugged. ‘OK, that’s a possibility, anywhere else.’
‘I don’t know Abingdon, I don’t know where I’d go.’
‘If you were at home in Reading?’
‘Uh. I’m not sure. Down by the river. The river path is deserted at night and you can get right out of town.’ And you can jump in and drown yourself, James thought.
‘That’s it. We’re headed for the river. I’m taking the shortest route. Matthew hasn’t had that long, so he might still be heading this way.’
‘Well, it’s a long shot I suppose, but apart from searching every side street I can’t think of any other idea.’
Now they were driving along a straight road with playing fields and park on either side. Then there was water.
‘Where are we?’ James asked.
The road became a track with moored boats to the left. They reached a car park. Sarah stopped and turned off the engine.
‘Come on. We’re on foot now. Get the torches.’
James reached into the glove box and pulled out a couple of LED torches. They got out and James followed Sarah along an unlit path that headed into woodland. They turned the torches on.
‘This path does a circuit of a peninsula,’ Sarah explained, ‘Alternatively there’s another that heads down the riverbank.’
‘A quick round trip can’t hurt,’ James said, ‘It’s pretty secluded.’ The trees provided plenty of cover for a boy that wanted to hide himself with just brief glimpses of the moonbeam-dappled surface of the river beyond. James thought their task was pretty hopeless but couldn’t think of a better idea. He almost couldn’t believe it when a cast of the torch light illuminated a figure between the trees. Was it a person or were his eyes confused by an oddly shaped tree stump?
‘There,’ he said pointing and starting to trample through the undergrowth towards the silhouette. His guess was confirmed when the figure moved.
‘Matthew, stop!’ Sarah called but the boy went on towards the river. James stumbled over a tree root, regained his balance, ran on. He saw Matthew stop.
‘Don’t come any closer. I’ll jump in,’ the boy said. James froze. He was twenty feet from the boy, with just grass and small shrubs between them. Matthew stood on the ends of a muddy bank that shelved into the water. James could see the river was flowing quite rapidly.
‘Alright,’ he said shining his torch on the lad. ‘We want to help you. It’s no point staying out here.’
‘You can’t help me,’ the boy sobbed, ‘After what I did.’
James couldn’t say things weren’t so bad because there were fewer things worse than killing your father. The boy probably didn’t even know his father was dead. Telling him now wouldn’t help matters. He took a few steps forward. Matthew didn’t move.
‘You can get through this. We’re not going to hurt you,’ James want on. Sarah stayed in the trees while James edged forward keeping the light on the boy.
‘I didn’t mean it,’ the boy’s voice broke. ‘He came at me. The knife was just there.’
The boy was facing him, his back to the river. James was just a few steps away. He shone the torch on Matthew, not directly in his eyes but illuminating his head and body. His face was streaked. Tears or sweat? There was something not quite right. James examined the boy’s face. There was a bruise on his left cheek bone but there was colouration around his eyes and his lips. James saw his own face in mirror. He recognised what he saw. The boy was wearing make-up.
James reached out to him. Matthew flinched, stepped back, overbalanced, was falling. James leapt forward and grabbed him. He hugged the boy to his body. Matthew went limp and cried.
‘I didn’t mean to. . .’ he said through sobs. ‘I just picked it up and held it. He came forward and . . . and. . .’
‘It was a reflex,’ James said, ‘self-defence.’ He wasn’t sure that was an excuse which would stand up in court.
The boy nodded his head. James looked down at him. There really was a sizeable bruise on the lad’s left cheek. The skin was grazed.
‘Why did your father hit you?’
‘He wasn’t supposed to see me. He was early. I was showing Mum.’
‘What were you showing her?’
‘My new eye-shadow.’
‘Do you often wear make-up, Matthew?’
‘I’m not Matthew, not really. I’m Melissa.’
James hugged him/her tighter. What a mess. How was he supposed to react? Say, “Yes, I understand, I’m trans too”. That would reveal Jasmine to his colleagues and his superiors. He wasn’t ready for that.
‘You’re trans?’ He said. Melissa nodded.
‘That is why your father attacked you?’ Another nod.
‘Your mother knows?’ And another.
‘Anyone else?’ A shake of his head.
‘Okay, I’m Jim Frame. I’ll help you.’
PC Ward was at his side.
‘Well done, Jim. Let’s get him back to the car.’
They walked back through the trees, The boy, or rather girl, at James’ side clinging to him. They got back to the police car and put Matthew/Melissa on the back seat. James sat beside him. Sarah got in the driving seat.
She let out a long, slow sigh. ‘Okay. We’re heading for the police station, Matthew. This is going to be hard for you, but you’ll be looked after. No-one’s going to hurt you.’ She turned the ignition.
No-one but yourself, James thought, and put an arm around the trans-girl.
……………………………. to be continued