A bit of a rush

I am sorry to say that this week has been so hectic that I haven’t had time to sit at my desk and compose an informative and entertaining blog.  The main event has been the launch of my new “speculative”  (read that as fantasy)  YA novel, Cold Fire, the fourth novel to feature September Weekes. The event was in my local library and I was delighted to be joined by friends and especially my publishers, Peter and Alison, from Elsewhen Press. Cold Fire is available as e-book (Kindle etc.) and paperback (order from bookshops, Elsewhen or me ).

I’ll leave you with some images that relate to Cold Fire and hope that normal service will be revived next week.

Katie CF2 copy

Aeddon on the back of a dragon, by Katie Ellis

Katie CF1 copy

The unicorns at the oak in Cwm Dreigiau, by Katie Ellis.  Postcards of both Katie’s images are free with copies of Cold Fire.

Abbey

The inspiration for Abaty Maesycymmer – Cymmer Abbey near Dolgellau

MHS C17 alchemy laboratory

The Alchemist in his laboratory with putti, in the collection of the Museum of the History of Science, Oxford.  The first inspiration for the story of Cold Fire.

Llyn y fan fach

Llyn y Fan Fach, home of the Lady of the Lake in Welsh myth, near Myddfai the home of the Physicians of Myddfai.

……………………….

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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.

 

 

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 office-bound

This weekend I am at Nine Worlds in Hammersmith, London.  It’s a big SF/Fantasy convention. As well as, I hope, enjoying some of the sessions, my main reason for attending is that my publishers, Elsewhen Press are a sponsor and exhibitor and I have been asked to compere a Q&A session with the authors of two books being launched. Artwork: David A. Hardy

The first is a well known name – John Gribbin.  He is famous for his popular science books (written with Mary, his wife) but he is also a long-time SF fan and writer.  His anthology Don’t Look Back collects stories written throughout his life.  They are mainly hard SF tales exploring a law of physics.

Zoe Sumra is an exciting young author. TheCover: Alex Storer Wages of Sin is her second novel in a universe of gangsters, interstellar corporations and spellweavers.  I’m hoping that by fielding the questions and prompting answers I may get a chance to do just a little promotion of my own books – but they will be for sale on the Elsewhen stand, along with my Jasmine Frame novels.

So, as I won’t be around on Saturday morning, here is the next episode of Viewpoint, the thirteenth (yes, 13!) Jasmine Frame prequel story.

Viewpoint: Part 8

Jasmine was expecting a telling off from DS Palmerston but she wasn’t prepared for the stream of invective that poured from the detective’s mouth. There were F words and B words and more, including the T word, “tranny”, that merely confirmed for her that Palmerston was transphobic. She tried to let the torrent of abuse wash over her, after all words couldn’t harm her, but Palmerston’s final threat did hit home.
‘If you think that because you’re resigning from the force you can get away with anything, think again. I can get your pension stopped and have you on a charge of improper behaviour in no time.’
Jasmine tried to sound penitent but wasn’t sure she succeeded.  Denise Palmerston stood panting, recovering her breath. At last she spoke quietly and relatively calmly.
‘Tell us what happened.’
Jasmine described as briefly as possible her encounter with Mr Taylor and his shotgun and then her tailing of him to the park homes. She left out the fact that Taylor had rumbled her gender change.
‘You didn’t tell him that his daughter was dead,’ the DS stated.
‘No.’
‘Why not?’
‘I wanted to see his reaction, but he didn’t seem interested in knowing what had happened to Alfie.’
‘Perhaps being told that she was dead would have got a reaction,’ Palmerston said in a voice that insinuated that Jasmine hadn’t pushed the farmer sufficiently.
‘He was pointing a gun at me. I didn’t feel like testing his emotional reaction.’
Palmerston scratched her cheek. ‘Hmm. We need to speak to him. He can at least formally identify his daughter for us.’
‘Why do you think he visited this caravan, Jas?’ Tom asked. Like the others he had retreated into silence when Jasmine was receiving her roasting.
‘It’s a park home not a caravan site, permanent homes. I think the speed with which he went there after speaking to me means there must be a connection with what happened to Alfie.’
‘OK,’ said Palmerston, grabbing the initiative. ‘Kingston. You and I are going to pay Mr Taylor a visit and take him to view his daughter’s body. Shepherd and Hopkins, take a look at this park home. Find out who Taylor visited and why.’
‘Shouldn’t I go,’ Jasmine said, ‘I know which one he was parked at.’
Palmerston glared at her. ‘If you think you are stepping outside this office again during this investigation, Frame, you are in dreamland. You can direct Tom and Terry to the correct cabin and then you can write up your report on your joy ride yesterday.’
The senior detective urged DC Kingston to accompany her and they left. Jasmine was left with Tom Shepherd and Terry Hopkins.
‘Where was this park then?’ Tom asked.
‘I’ll show you on Google,’ Jasmine said. She went to her desk, called up the map and went to the satellite photo. It showed the cabins laid out in a grid with the driveway down the middle. She pointed out where she had seen Taylor’s Land Rover parked.
Tom peered closely at the screen. ‘There are quite a few homes on the site.’
‘I couldn’t tell how many are occupied,’ Jasmine said, ‘Most of them were dark.’
Tom pulled his waterproof from the back of his chair, ‘Well, come on Terry. Let’s go and have a look.’ He moved towards the door with Hopkins following.
‘Enjoy writing your report,’ Terry said over his shoulder as he left.
Jasmine grumbled under her breath as she sat down to do as she was told. It didn’t take her long to type out a bare account of her visit to Exeter and the stop-offs on the way back. Just the bald facts were recorded with no speculation or comments of what she was really thinking about Alfie Benson. When she had finished she read through the medical reports on Alfie that the clinic had sent through. It upset her reading what Alfie had gone through. There was the double-edged emotion of his mastectomy; the joy as a transman of losing his breasts versus the sadness at the death of his mother and fear of following her in contracting cancer. He had gone through the surgery and recovery all alone in Weymouth. After that, there was the long wait for further treatment which never materialised because of his drift into depression, no doubt exacerbated by the lack of progress in his transition and loneliness. Jasmine empathised with Alfie. She knew she was in for a long process to achieve the state of femininity that she desired and she knew there was no guarantee that she would ever get all the treatment that she wanted and needed free on the NHS. At least she had the support of Angela, soon to be ex-wife but still a friend, and her family (sister, Holly, was supportive). Her resignation from the Police Force was perhaps a backward step but she was resolute that she would not suffer the prejudice from Palmerston and others like her for any longer.
Little more than an hour had passed when Tom and Terry returned. Jasmine greeted them cheerfully. Terry grunted and went to the coffee machine. He poured two cups but didn’t ask Jasmine if she wanted one. Tom shucked off his coat and sat in his chair.
‘Well?’ Jasmine asked, ‘You weren’t long. Did you find anything?’
Tom nodded and shrugged at the same time. ‘Yes, there was a guy at the hut. Name’s Patrick Riley. Little Irish bloke, walks with a limp. Used to work on Taylor’s farm until he got injured.’
Jasmine was eager for more. ‘So, he knows Alfie’s father. Did he admit to seeing him last night?’
‘Yes. He said Kevin, that’s Taylor’s first name, often calls in for a beer on a Wednesday evening. Despite having his accident while working for Taylor, Riley says they are still mates.’
‘So he’s prepared to cover for Taylor then,’ Jasmine grumbled, ‘Did you tell him about Alfie?’
‘We asked him if he knew Taylor’s daughter,’ Tom replied, saying the last word quietly as if expecting a rebuke.
‘What did he say?’
‘He said he knew Taylor had a daughter but he hadn’t met her and didn’t know where she was living.’
‘Where he was living. Didn’t you say that Alfie was a man?’
‘No, Jas. DS Palmerston says we’re investigating the death of Lucy Taylor, not Alfie Benson. We did ask if she had been mentioned in conversation last night but Riley said she hadn’t come up.’
‘He would say that wouldn’t he. Did he ask why you were asking questions about Alfie?’ Jasmine saw Tom’s sigh. ‘OK, Lucy.’
‘No, he didn’t Jas, and yes, I realise that is suspicious. We’d expect him to have been interested in why we were asking the questions. It didn’t look as if Lucy could have been held there against her wishes.’
‘No? Are you sure?’ Jasmine wasn’t convinced.
Terry Hopkins put his mug of coffee down. ‘The place was tiny, Frame. I had a look round while Tom was asking the questions. A single bed room, barely room for a bed, and a kitchen-living room. It was grubby but all in order; no sign of anyone being kept there or done in.’
‘Hmm.’ Jasmine wasn’t convinced by Terry’s powers of observation or deduction.
‘I think, Terry’s right, Jas,’ Tom said, ‘If Riley is involved in Lucy’s death, and there’s every chance he was, I don’t think she was kept in that hut.’
‘So, what now?’ Jasmine asked feeling frustrated at the lack of progress or indeed effort to make progress.
‘We see what DS Palmerston gets out of Kevin Taylor and suggests as the next move.’
Tom and Terry settled down to write up their report and Jasmine went back to staring at the satellite photo of the park home site. She counted almost two dozen rooftops of huts of varying sizes.

The door opened and Jasmine looked up to see Palmerston striding in with Kingston behind her. She gave an impatient wave of her hand to gather the team around her at the white board.
‘Mr Taylor has confirmed the identity of his daughter,’ Palmerston said, glaring at Jasmine as she spoke the last word. Jasmine did not fall for her senior officer’s ruse. ‘He says he has not seen her for six years and was not aware that she had had a mastectomy but he confirmed that his wife died of breast cancer.’
‘He had no idea where she’s been during that time?’ Tom asked.
‘He denied any knowledge of her whereabouts or lifestyle,’ Palmerston insisted.
Jasmine couldn’t keep silent. ‘Did you ask him why he threatened me with his shotgun?’
Palmerston glared at her, her nostrils flaring. ‘There has been a spate of farm thefts in the area so he has been patrolling with his gun. He thought you may have been nosing around his property looking for things to steal. Oh, and he says his gun wasn’t loaded.’
Jasmine huffed her disbelief.
‘What about you two?’ Palmerston looked at Tom and Terry. Tom gave a swift report on their conversation with Riley.
‘So,’ the DS drew breath, ‘Taylor and Riley are possible suspects in the murder of Lucy Taylor but we have no evidence to incriminate them as yet. Do we have any sightings of the people who dumped the body in the canal or the vehicle they used? Terry, you and Derek were down there yesterday. No witnesses?’
Terry Hopkins shook his head. ‘There are people living in the houses where the lane meets the road. A few of them said that people sometimes use the track to go fishing but no one saw anything on Tuesday evening.’
‘We need to know where the victim was living after she left Weymouth,’ Denise Palmerston said with a note of frustration in her voice. ‘Hopkins and Kingston, I want you find out all you can about Lucy and her father, relatives, family friends, anyone who Lucy may have been in touch with. Shepherd get on to our oppos in Weymouth. See if they can find anyone at all that knew her.’
‘Him,’ Jasmine said. ‘He was Alfie Benson in Weymouth. He was a man, living, working, socialising, not that he did much of any of that from what I can tell from his conversations with the GIC.’
‘Thank you, DC Frame,’ the DS said, not sounding particularly grateful. ‘I think we know how to do our jobs.’
‘What do you want me to do?’ Jasmine asked as politely as she could manage. She expected to be given another routine IT task.
‘You can get out of here,’ DS Palmerston said, ‘I’ve spoken to DCI Sloane and he agrees that your insubordination yesterday shows that you are temperamentally unsuited to being part of this team. You can go and stew in your little flat until you’ve served your notice.’

………………………..to be continued.

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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 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.
………………………………..

Seventh Child and more Discovering Jasmine

I’m learning – at least I hope I am. Once upon a time writing meant putting pen (or pencil) to paper.Then  it was tapping the keys on a typewriter. Now I’m perfectly happy writing on screen but that’s not enough these days. If you want people (that is more than just a few friends and family) to read your creations you have to learn how to promote them. But you have to be careful – it can’t be all sell, sell, sell. Apparently you have to be subtle, cosy up to people, comment on their efforts and sort of slide in mentions of your own offerings.

Seventh Child cover, designed by Alison Buck

Seventh Child cover, designed by Alison Buck

So, I will just say that this week has been exciting with the publication in e-book formats of Evil Above the Stars vol.1 Seventh Child published by Elsewhen Press. You can purchase it here and find out more about it here.   Now the hard work starts, trying to get reviews, pushing it up the lists so it gets noticed. Perhaps it will be easier when volume 2 Power of Seven is published in a week or two or perhaps when the paperbacks come out in March. The struggle for readers will be interesting. All comments will be appreciated.

While September’s adventures in EAtS are at the forefront at the moment I am still thinking of Jasmine and trying to promote her story and cases. Here is the next episode in the prequel to Painted Ladies.

Discovering Jasmine: Part 4

She was falling from her first step as the high heels skidded from under her, but by pumping her legs and with pure willpower Jasmine maintained her momentum. The woman was fending off the blows with her bare arms as Jasmine crashed into the attackers. Two were sent spinning to the ground with Jasmine between them. Her knees and knuckles grazed the concrete. Stunned, she pushed herself to her knees.
One of the boys stood over her with something in his hand. A triangle of silver.
‘You stupid fucker,’ he said. His arm swung. Jasmine leaned back. Something snagged on her dress and bra strap then sliced through them and on across her breast. Rice grains trickled from the gash.
‘What? Another sodding trannie!’ He pulled his arm back again.
A blast on a whistle. A siren. Shouts.
‘Cops!’ A different boy’s voice
‘Let’s get out of here!’ The boys ran away. For a moment Jasmine was alone with the woman slumped against the railings then there were people crowding around, muttering, calling for help.
Holly’s arms on her. ‘James are you alright?’
Her legs didn’t want to work, nor her voice, as she relived those milliseconds. Then more authoritative voices, fully clothed, with belts loaded with devices, urging the onlookers back.
‘Are you hurt, Miss?’ One of the police officers said, addressing her.
Jasmine found some words. ‘Uh, I’m okay. I think.’
‘Let’s get you into the car while we sort out this other person.’
Strong arms lifting her onto her feet, onto her heels, supported her as they staggered a few metres to a police car. She was put into the rear seat. The door closed shutting out the noise.
‘Holly?’ Jasmine whispered, but Holly wasn’t there. She could see her standing not far from the car, talking to the police officer. Another siren, an ambulance arriving.

The police station was just a short drive from sea-front. The car pulled up at the front entrance. The police officer jumped out and opened Jasmine’s door. She pushed herself out and stood up. Her knees were stiffening up.
‘Come inside,’ the officer said. ‘It won’t take long to get your statement down then we’ll run you two kids home.’
Holly joined her and they entered the police station. The PC spoke to the desk officer then lead them on to an interview room. He stood by the door as Jasmine and Holly entered.
‘Take a seat. I’ll get you a nice cup of tea.’
The door closed.
Jasmine and Holly sat next to each other at the table in the centre of the room.
‘Are you sure you’re alright, James?’ Holly said. She seemed to have given up all pretence of calling her by her female name.
‘I’m fine,’ Jasmine muttered, examining her knees, knuckles and torn dress. ‘They’re just grazes where I hit the ground.’
‘But look at that slit in the dress and bra. A sharp knife did that. You could have been cut badly. Why, James? Why did you do it?’
Holly’s words came to Jasmine through a fog of fatigue and disappointment at the end of her evening of being a girl. She saw again that glistening triangle of steel coming towards her and an image filled her mind of a blade slicing through flesh, of blood spurting and tissues parting. A wave of cold passed over her. That’s what could have happened if the boy had stretched out his arm another centimetre or so. It would have been her skin and muscle that would have torn not just the clothes. Her blood that would have spilled. Her chest may have been scarred or perhaps he might have caught her throat and her life might have trickled away through an opened artery. She shivered, her arms, legs and body shaking involuntarily.
‘What’s the matter?’ Holly asked, ‘You’ve gone white.’
‘The…the knife,’ Jasmine whispered.
‘Yes, I said, you were lucky.’
‘I w…was.’
‘Oh, James. Is that it? The shock of being attacked with a knife. I didn’t know you were scared of knives.’ Holly clamped her arms around Jasmine, stilling her shaking limbs. Jasmine felt her warmth passing through the thin layers of cloth between them.
‘I…I didn’t know I was s…scared of knives,’ Jasmine said.
‘Here you are.’ The police officer’s voice came from the doorway as he pushed the door open with his foot. He set down two paper cups of steaming weak tea on the table along with a pad of paper he had tucked under his arm, then sat opposite Jasmine and Holly.
‘Are you feeling okay? You look a bit, um, shaky.’
Jasmine felt the trembling in her limbs subsiding. Holly let go of her.
‘I’m fine. Just got a bit shivery,’ Jasmine said.
The PC’s face showed concern. ‘You’re cold? You haven’t got a coat or anything? I could get you a blanket.’
‘No. I’m fine. It’s passed off now.’ Jasmine cupped her hands around the tea, feeling the heat.
‘Right then let’s get the details down.’ He pulled out a cheap ballpoint pen from his shirt pocket and held it above the pad of paper. ‘What’s your full name?’
Jasmine paused. She was going to have to reveal who and what she was. She knew she was being silly because her partly bared chest made it obvious, but putting the truth into spoken language was difficult.
‘James Lyndon Frame.’
The officer looked up, his eyebrows raised. ‘Lyndon?’
‘It’s a family name. I don’t use it.’
‘Oh. Where do you live?’
James recited the address.
‘And you, miss?’ The PC continued.
‘Holly Ann Frame. Same address.’
‘You’re brother and sister? You’re very alike.’
James saw a thin smile cross Holly’s face. ‘Yes, although we don’t usually look so similar.’
‘So you were out together. Just taking a walk along the seafront?’
‘Yes, well, no,’ James stuttered. ‘We’d been to The Safe. You know, the dance club, and we were on our way to Hypnotism.’
‘I see. Moving upmarket were you,’ the officer chuckled.
James didn’t know what to say.
‘I thought it would be less, um, threatening,’ Holly said.
‘Threatening?’ the PC queried.
‘Well, you know. The Safe is rather full of lads on the pull. Jame…Jasmine was getting a bit too much attention.’
The officer looked closely at James.
‘So you’re Jasmine when you’re, uh, dressed as a girl?’
James nodded.
‘Do you do this often?’ the officer continued. James shook his head.
‘It was his first time,’ Holly explained.
‘A pity it ended like it did,’ the police constable said. ‘So you were walking along the promenade. What time was that?’
James shrugged.
‘I didn’t notice the time,’ Holly said, ‘but it all happened very quickly, it was just a couple of minutes before you arrived.’
‘So just after twenty three hundred, eleven o’clock,’ the PC said. ‘Tell me what happened.’ He looked at James.
‘Um. We were just walking along. I heard shouts. Someone said ‘trannie’. I looked and saw this gang of guys surrounding the woman.’
‘Did you know them?’
‘No!’
‘What did you do?’
‘I went to help her?’
‘Why?’
‘They were attacking her. Beating her up.’
‘What did you do?’
‘I just ran at them.’
‘Did you think they’d run away?’
‘Yes. No. I don’t know. I just knew I had to help her.’
‘Why did you feel that so strongly? Would you normally take on five fit men alone?’
‘No. I just felt she needed my help?’
‘Why your help particularly?’
‘Because…because we were the same. We are both trans…’ James couldn’t finish the word.
The officer scribbled on the sheet of paper.
‘I’m sure she appreciated your support but I don’t think you are that similar.’
James stared at the officer.
‘You know her?’
‘Oh, yes. We’ve met Cleo before, on many occasions actually. She’s a transsexual, had the op, the whole sex-change thing. Says she’s a woman and insists on being treated like one. But, well, she’s too well known and will get herself into situations like this.’
James felt a flush rise up his neck. ‘You mean she asks for trouble?’
‘Well, I don’t suppose she wants it,’ the policeman shrugged, ‘but let’s say she takes offence easily and doesn’t help herself. Anyway what happened when you launched your rescue?’
‘I’m not sure,’ James shook his head trying to recall the events. ‘I collided with one or two of them, fell on the ground. Then as I got up one of them swung a knife at me.’
‘A knife?’
‘Yes.’ James saw it again and shivered. ‘He had it gripped in his fist. It was a short blade, triangular.’
‘Ah, a craft knife, Stanley knife. That sort of thing.’ The officer wrote urgently. ‘He took one swipe at you, and then?’
‘That was all. They ran off. You must have appeared.’
‘Yeah, lucky we were cruising the seafront. It could have got a lot worse. Here have a look at what I’ve written down.’ He pushed the pad across the table. James and Holly bent their heads to read.
James nodded. ‘That’s it. That’s what happened.’
The PC smiled. ‘Good, anything you want to add, Holly?’
Holly shook her head. ‘No. It was all so sudden. We were walking along then James was flying and crashing into the bunch of lads. I’d hardly taken in what was happening. There was a lot of noise then you guys appeared and that was it.’
‘But you saw the, uh, woman being attacked before James launched his rescue mission.’
‘Oh, yes, I heard the lads call her some vile names and I saw them hitting her.’
‘Right, well that’s it then. Sign the statement. Drink up your tea then we can get you home.’
‘What happened to Cleo?’ James asked, his hand gripping the cooling tea cup.
‘An ambulance took her off to be checked over,’ the officer replied.
‘Does she live nearby?’
‘Oh, yes, up on the council estate. Why? Are you thinking of visiting her?’
‘Um, I’m not sure. Yes, perhaps.’
‘Well, think carefully about it and don’t go dressed like you are now. Trannies and other misfits aren’t popular up there. You can’t miss her place though. She’s got a ground floor flat which has been graffitied rather a lot.’
‘Oh. Thanks.’ James wondered how someone could cope with being perpetually targeted for just living as who they felt themselves to be.
Holly put her empty cup down and took James’ arm. ‘Come on, James. I’m not sure you should be thinking about seeing this Cleo person.’
James stood and shook his arm free. ‘I will see her. I must.’

…………………

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

"Jasmine and Me": readings and discussion about the Jasmine Frame stories and transgenderism

“Jasmine and Me”: readings and discussion about the Jasmine Frame stories and transgenderism