Jasmine troubled

It’s been another week when the news has been less than uplifting. Was the collapse of Carillion due to mismanagement or greed, or both? The fact is that many thousands of ordinary people are now not sure about their future while the rest of us may be faced with extra costs via taxes and lower savings interest rates because of government incompetence and arrogance.

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Tea in Debenhams

I mentioned last week the new ITV programme, Transformation Street.  I’ve now watched the first episode and can comment.  Like so many programmes focussing on transgender people, it delights in the gory details – pictures of excised breast tissue and testicles. I’m not sure what the point of doing that is, unless it is to justifiably emphasise that this is serious stuff. The programme is largely one long ad for a private gender clinic and its charismatic surgeon, who does all the surgery from facial feminisation through, breast enhancement and removal to the big ones – gender reassignment or confirmation as it is now called. As always, the individuals reveal how everyone has their own story, as do the partners and family of the transgender person. The gratitude shown by the patients as they recover from their surgery is striking.  I’d like to see them again many months after their operation. Many, probably most, are satisfied with their treatment but a few find that modifying their appearance doesn’t answer all their problems.  The programme did reveal the immense costs of going through the full transition particularly if one wants all the cosmetic treatment. Some will spend their entire life savings (and more) to get what they want. These costs also explain why the NHS struggles meet demand for gender identity treatment.  Is the programme of value? Well, it didn’t offer any judgements in the first episode but viewed as a source of information it performs a role. For surgery-porn junkies it probably hit the mark. For keeping trans in the public eye I’ll give it full marks, for anything else I’ll wait and see.

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I have at last begun a new Jasmine Frame story, called (for now) Pose. The first episode is below but I think it needs just a short introduction.  I know stories should be able to stand alone but as there are now so many Jasmine tales this one perhaps needs to be placed in context. Chronologically, it follows after the recently concluded story, Reflex, but takes place about one year later in, autumn 2007. This is the one period in Jasmine’s Painted Ladies front cover jpegcareer where there is a bit of a gap.  The prequels to Painted Ladies cover the years 2000, starting with Discovering Jasmine, and ending with Viewpoint (so far unpublished) set in December 2011 which concerns Jasmine’s last case in the police force.  Four of the stories which cover the period 2004 to 2006 will shortly be published in the collection provisionally titled, Jasmine Frame: Training for Murder. There are eight stories in the period 2009-2011 which may get published at a later date. So there is this gap, 2006-2009, where Jasmine is a police officer, married to Angela, but struggling with her identity. Pose deals with some serious issues – I hope you enjoy it.

Pose: Part 1

‘No, no, no!’ James pushed back on his chair and turned his face away from the computer display. Alongside him, DC Colin Green, glanced from his screen.
‘Bad one, eh?’
James shook his head, not in disagreement but trying to free his mind of the image. ‘Sick.’
Colin grunted and looked back at the images flicking past on his computer.
James thought and then declared, ‘No, not sick.’ Colin looked at him, eyebrows raised. ‘Sick implies that the guys looking at this stuff are ill, that it’s not their responsibility. They don’t have an illness, they’re evil. And I don’t mean they’re under the influence of the devil. They’ve made their very own hell for these kids.’
DC Green pushed his chair back. ‘Come on, Matey. I think you need a break. I could murder a bacon sarnie.’ He heaved his bulk off the office chair, which sighed gratefully. James stood too, and they squeezed past the desks, the tower of processors and the evidence bags of CD-ROMs, hard drives, memory sticks and floppy discs. James pushed the door open and emerged into the relative airiness of the corridor. The windowless office of the Child Protection Unit Electronic Evidence Section was little more than a cupboard hastily equipped with a couple of desks, keyboards, display units, processors and a variety of file readers.

James cradled the cup of black coffee in his hands and looked at DC Green munching into his ketchup dripping, bacon and egg sandwich. He wasn’t everyone’s image of the criminal-catching detective. He was overweight for a start, would barely pass the fitness test for an on-the-beat constable, and his unbuttoned shirt had obviously been nowhere near an iron. Yet he was dedicated. James knew that from observing him for the last four months and he looked to him for help in hacking into recalcitrant files and online accounts.
‘How do you cope with it?’ James asked.
Green took his eyes off the sandwich. ‘What?’
‘The disgust.’ Actually, it wasn’t just disgust he felt at the images they were duty-bound to examine. There was fear too. Fear of being drawn in by the overt sexual images. It hadn’t happened, but he was scared that one day he might find himself aroused by what he saw. The thought was appalling but he already felt that his penis had an existence all of its own, separate to the feminine persona that inhabited his skull. It was nonsense really. He knew that his cock and balls didn’t have a mind of their own despite that it sometimes appeared like it; but the fear remained.
Colin shrugged. ‘It’s a tough job that we do. You have to build a shell around yourself.’
‘A shell?’
‘Yeah. You can’t let anything you see or hear touch you. Just record it, label it, prepare it to be used as evidence. That’s our job.’
James nodded. Our job, yes, just another task for the twenty-first century police officer. He’d been delighted when he had been invited to join the Vulnerable Persons Department and assigned to the Child Protection Unit in Reading. It was his first experience of plainclothes work, his first post as a detective. Except that, ever since, he had spent most of his days in that claustrophobic, cramped closet, hunched over a computer. His apparent familiarity with a computer keyboard had indicated to his bosses that he would be a suitable recruit to the Electronic Evidence Section. He probably did have more experience with computers than officers that had joined straight from school or after some other career, and yes, he had owned a laptop since he was in the sixth form at school, but he wasn’t a computer geek like Colin, or Baz, his other EES colleague. Nevertheless, he was a fast learner and picked up the techniques of searching the internet and accessing files and digging through mobile phone records. He’d been aware of the easy availability of porn on the internet, who wasn’t, but just a few months in the job had shown him how the increasing sophistication of search engines and file sharing websites, the growth of social networks like MySpace and the rival Facebook, and the decreasing cost of mobile phones, made life easier for those who were drawn to the margins of sexual desire – the illegal, sickening and abusive gutters.
‘You’ll cope,’ Colin added. ‘You’re a natural.’
James didn’t feel as confident as Colin’s compliment suggested. He drank his coffee. Colin wiped the egg yolk from his plate with the last piece of bread, popped it in his mouth and chewed.
‘Better get back to it,’ he said through the mouthful, ‘The DI wanted the report on this lot today.’
James groaned at the thought of the hundreds of images still to be accessed, logged and classified, but he heaved himself to his feet. He noticed that Colin had a drip of ketchup on his collar.

…………………………

As soon as they arrived at the country village hall, Angela went to the hatch to collect a couple of drinks and chat to Susan. Jasmine looked around noting who was present at this month’s Butterflies meeting. Belinda, the President and organiser was chatting to a couple of older members. Jasmine had only managed to attend half a dozen times in the last year, but she recognised the regulars, and they were all regulars. There were no new faces, not tonight. She crossed the room to approach a couple of the girls. They were younger than the rest of the attendees, though still several years older than herself. She felt she had more in common with them. For a start they were in modern fashions rather than “classics”, or to be frank, what mother might have worn. Jasmine did have some doubts about Tina, however. She favoured a teenage, or even pre-teen, style. In public, she would look odd, weird even, but in the private, inclusive atmosphere of the Butterflies she was accepted, as she wanted to be.
As Jasmine approached Tina and her companion, Samantha, she examined this evening’s outfit. Being September, it was still warm enough for summertime wear. Tina wore a baby-doll dress in pale pink which just reached to mid-thigh and had short puffed sleeves. It was tied at the waist with a black ribbon. Through the semi-transparent cloth Jasmine could see suspenders holding up white stockings and a lacy bra. On her feet were white strappy sandals with high block heels. Her long blonde hair, which Jasmine knew was a good quality wig, was bedecked with little pink bows. She carried a handbag in the shape of a pink plastic teddy bear.
‘Hi, Jas,’ Tina greeted her in her artificially high-pitched sing-song voice. It grated on Jasmine for being so unnatural, but she had learnt it was part of Tina’s attempt to build a persona for herself as a young teen. It was make-believe. Jasmine knew that she was a mid-thirties electrician with a wife and a young daughter.
‘Hi,’ she replied and nodded to Tina and Samantha, ‘How are things?’
Samantha smiled at Jasmine. Her style was more adult – denim miniskirt over light blue leggings and a bright yellow t-shirt.
‘Tina’s got problems,’ Samantha confided.
‘Oh?’ Jasmine said.
Tina leaned into the group and spoke in a stage whisper. ‘My wife’s giving me hassle.’
‘About dressing?’ Jasmine asked.
‘Yeah.’
‘But she accepts that you do dress?’
Tina responded grumpily, ‘Tolerates, would be a better way of putting it although that seems to be wearing thin.’
‘Why?’ Jasmine wondered what was going on between Tina and her wife.
‘She won’t let me in the house dressed when Lucy’s awake.’
‘You had to get changed here did you?’ Jasmine asked. Some members arrived as men and did a transformation in the hall’s small Ladies loo.
‘No, I stopped in a layby and did a quick swap. I don’t know about going home. She might go crackers if I turn up at home like this.’
Jasmine inquired further, ‘Why is she less tolerant than she was?’
Tina shrugged. ‘She says that now that Lucy is nearly six and at school, she might get confused if she sees her father in a dress.’ Wearing clothes the girl might herself wear to a school-friend’s party, except for the suspenders and bra, she might be confused, Jasmine thought. ‘It might be partly what I spent on my new boobs,’ Tina added.
‘You need to talk,’ Samantha advised.
Tina looked rueful. ‘I think we’re passed that. She hasn’t spoken to me for days.’

………………………………. to be continued.

 

 

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Jasmine hears an alibi

Brrr…it’s a bit cold. Well, it is here in the UK although I don’t suppose -5C (night-time) counts as cold in some places.  One good result is that it has been clear and sunny during the days which has been wonderful (our solar panels have been generating a bit more than usual for this time of year). It was especially lovely when we visited Tenby in Pembrokeshire last week as you can see in the photos.

I wanted to be cheerful about something as otherwise I might come over as being depressed. The news from the US doesn’t get any better.  I still can’t say it – President Trrrrr, – I feel a bit like Kryten from Red Dwarf trying to lie.  The situation elsewhere isn’t, much better.  Perhaps a bright spot is Botswana.

We have been to see the film “A United Kingdom” about the marriage of Seretse Kama to Ruth Williams and his struggle to be recognised as King of Bechuanaland.  I won’t go into the full story but the lying and duplicity of the British governments, Labour and Conservative with their toadying to South Africa’s apartheid policy  in the late 1940s and 1950s was only balanced by the love and determination of the married couple. That they won and Seretse went on to become the first President of independent Botswana was wonderful. I may be wrong but it seems that Botswana is one of the few countries which having gained independence hasn’t later descended into corruption and factionalism. I wonder if it was because Bechuanaland was previously an independent kingdom and its borders weren’t dreamed up by western politicians.

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A selfie in the mirror.

Changing tack – the third Jasmine Frame novel is now heading for publication but here is the fifth episode of Falloff, the Jasmine Frame prequel.

Falloff – Part 5

‘Are you going to tell Alvarez?’ Angela said.
James frowned. ‘I’ve got no evidence that Carl killed Raquel,’ he said.
‘Except the girl’s final breath.’
James wondered why Angela was being sarcastic about Raquel’s dying word. He had a hunch.
‘Exactly. I’m sure she was trying to tell me something before she died and it looks like she was trying to say his name, but I can’t put Carl in the room when she fell.’
‘So forget it,’ Angela said, pulling off her t-shirt and shorts to reveal her bikini. ‘We’re on holiday, remember? I know Raquel’s death was a shock but it’s none of our business. Let’s do what we came here for, well some of it.’
‘What?’
‘Relax. There’s a pool down there in the sun and if we’re lucky there may be a couple of sunbeds beside it, still free.’  She grabbed her beach towel.
James stripped down to a pair of swimming shorts and picking up his own towel followed Angela from the room.
There were in fact just two unoccupied loungers left, side by side on the grass beside the pool.  James sat down and looked around at the young people enjoying themselves, soaking up the rays and splashing about in the pool. It wasn’t the same carefree atmosphere of the previous day. A few small groups were in conversation. James guessed that the night’s incident was still the burning topic of discussion.
Angela lay down beside him and closed her eyes. He looked at her body, naked but for the small triangles of cloth that barely covered her breasts and pubis. He adored her curves and her smooth skin. As he looked around he saw other young women similarly attired and felt a twist in his gut. It wasn’t lust but envy. He wished he had bodies like them. He wished he too was wearing a bikini with an hour-glass figure. As Jasmine, he had never dared to wear a one-piece swimsuit, let alone a bikini, as he was fully aware that his masculine figure was a giveaway, even without considering the bulge in his pants. Nevertheless, the desire to be like the bikini-clad young women was almost overpowering, along with the feeling of guilt. Angela was so accepting of Jasmine, apparently enjoying their nights on the dance floor as two girls but was unaware of the deeper urge that he felt. That was because he kept on denying it, asserting that Jasmine was another side of his personality, to the entirety of it.
James sighed, lay back and closed his eyes. He wanted to empty his mind and just soak up the sun (not for long, with his pale skin he would burn soon). He couldn’t do it; two sets of thoughts kept competing for his attention. The first was his gender identity, an ever-present dilemma; the second was the identity of Raquel’s killer. Who could have pushed her off the balcony even as she scrabbled to hold on? Carl? He seemed to fit the mould, but now James began to feel doubts. While he seemed unhappy about being questioned by the Inspector, again, his emotional response to Raquel’s death seemed to be one of confusion rather than guilt. Had Raquel really dumped him just a day into their holiday?
Her heard the familiar sound of regular breathing of someone asleep next to him. He opened his eyes and looked at Angela. Yes, she was asleep. He mustn’t drop off too and let her burn.  A young man and woman were walking along the side of the pool towards him. He pushed himself up on his elbows and examined them. They were two of Raquel’s companions.  They noticed him watching them, returned the gaze and then spoke to each other. They approached him.
The boy spoke. ‘You’re the guy who discovered Raquel aren’t you? In the room next door?’
James shielded his eyes from the sun. ‘Yes. You were with her weren’t you. We saw you all together at the airport.’
‘That’s right,’ the girl answered, ‘I think we saw you there too.’
James hauled himself upright from the lounger. ‘I’m James. My wife is Angela,’ He nodded to her sleeping form
‘I’m Andy and this is Jess.’  They shook hands.
‘I’m sorry about Raquel,’ James said.
A cloud came over the boy’s and girl’s face.
‘It’s awful,’ Jess said, ‘and it must have been dreadful for you, finding her.’
James nodded. ‘Hmm, yes. I guess you’re all upset, especially Carl?’
‘Carl? You know him?’ Andy’s query wasn’t one of surprise that James should know his name him but more a guarded, “why mention him” sort of question
‘We met him outside our room. We saw him and Raquel together at the airport.’
Jess glanced at Andy then spoke. ‘They were together then but not last night.’
‘Oh, what happened?’ James was eager to know but tried to make his question sound innocent.
Jess answered, ‘They had a huge bust-up yesterday morning after our first night clubbing. Raquel chucked him out of their room.’
‘What did they argue about?’
‘Oh, something stupid,’ Andy said with an attempt at a laugh, ‘Carl was looking at another girl. Raquel’s a bit edgy. Oh god, I didn’t mean that.’
Jess stroked his arm. ‘It’s alright, Andy. I keep forgetting she’s gone too. You’re right, she could go off on one.’
‘So, they weren’t together at El Danza last night?’ James asked, pushing for more evidence.
‘No. We all went there together although Carl and Raquel weren’t speaking to each other. I didn’t see Raquel again but Carl got hitched up with some other girl and was still there when we came back at three.’
‘You saw him?’
‘Yes.’
‘What about earlier, around two?’
Andy frowned. ‘Two o’clock. Was that when Raquel, er, fell.’
James shrugged as if he was not that interested. ‘Something like that.’
Jess nodded. ‘Yes, I saw him. It must have been about then. He had a hand inside the girl’s knickers.’
‘You’re very interested in it all,’ Andy said.
James tried to appear nonchalant but concerned; a difficult combination. ‘Yes, I suppose I am. It was a bit of shock to find her, you know. . .’
‘Of course,’ Jess said, ‘Come on Andy, let’s get out of this place. I can’t stop thinking of what happened while we’re here.’ She tugged on his arm.
‘Yes, okay.’ The boy allowed himself to be dragged away, ‘Thanks mate,’ he called back over his shoulder.
James turned back to his lounger and saw that Angela was awake.
‘What was all that about?’ she said.
‘Raquel’s friends giving Carl an alibi.’
‘Oh, how?’
‘Apparently, he was making out with another girl at the club while Raquel was falling from the balcony.’
‘So there goes one of your theories.’
James’ shoulders dropped, ‘I suppose so, but I still think she meant to say something.’
Angela stood up. ‘Well, instead of theorising I want to cool off. Let’s swim.’ She ran and jumped into the pool.

Jasmine warned

Are you offended?  Do you think you have the right not to be offended?  A few things have come my way this week which caused me to think about taking offence.  First of all an article by Eddie Mair in the Radio Times referred to those warnings you get before TV and radio programmes about language or nudity. In particular he was troubled by the warning before a talk show of “opinions which some viewers may find offensive”.  Mair questioned what these opinions might be and why he needed to be warned. Why did someone have to pre-guess what opinions listeners may be offended by?

Today I saw a clip on Facebook of an interview on American TV with one of Trump’s team. He didn’t care whether anyone was offended by anything that Trump or his supporters said.  He thought that for too long people who took offence have been pandered to and that in the Trump future people who had these feelings didn’t matter. This seemed to give a free-rein to racism, homophobia, etc.

Finally I saw a report of a BBC radio programme with Nick Grimshaw and David Walliams during which they played a game of trying to guess the gender of callers from their voice. Not surprisingly, trans people were offended that people’s gender should be questioned and ridiculed for the sake of a few minutes of entertainment. It might encourage people to point (and do worse) to people who didn’t fit their stereotypical view of male and female.

Penny ears

I hear no hate

I have often told people that I can’t be offended if they ask me questions about what it means to be trans. I don’t want people to be put off by the thought that I might be hurt because they don’t understand. I hope that by asking the questions they can learn, even if they use words or express opinions that I don’t agree with.

A lot is made of our right to freedom of speech (and freedom of the press). I have disagreed with attempts to deny certain people (for example radical feminists who deny that MtF transsexuals are women) a platform to express their ideas. So long as there is a debate and that both (or more) sides have a chance to give their opinions, backed up by explanation, then I am happy. What does annoy me, I might even say offends me,  is the wild sloganising that characterised the American election and the Brexit referendum; slogans with no basis in fact and often downright lies accepted as truth. I am worried that people in power in the USA, UK and elsewhere are feeling confident enough to spout baseless, hurtful opinions that can only be socially divisive.

I believe we have the right to give opinions. We do not have the right denigrate someone for their race, religion, abilities, sexuality, gender, gender identity, age or any other personal attribute. I believe we have the responsibility to back up our opinions with reason and fact. I believe we have the duty, not to feel offence, but to refute any opinions which we disagree with or which we think are harmful. If we do feel hurt and offended what people say it is not sufficient to simply complain about it, instead the offensive opinions must be opposed and answered.

There, that’s todays rant over. I hope you weren’t offended.

And now to part three of Falloff, the Jasmine Frame prequel. It’s July 2005,  Jasmine and Angela are on honeymoon, enjoying sun, sea, sand and dancing, but a death disturbs the peace.

Falloff: Part 3

James looked up into Angela’s face lit by the pale night-time light diffusing through the curtains. Her expression showed horror.
‘Murder?’ she said.
James pulled her down against him, wanting to hold her tight and feel secure.
‘Her nails must have got shattered fighting an attacker, and scrabbling to hold on to the balcony.’
‘That’s awful. Someone deliberately made her lose her grip and let her fall?’
‘It fits.’
‘But who? One of her group?’
‘They were in and out of each other’s rooms.’
Angela shook her head as far as she could while held in James’ arms. ‘But they seemed to be having a good time. They were all friends. Weren’t they?’
‘I wasn’t watching them closely enough to know, but they seemed okay with each other.’ He paused. ‘Mind you she was all over that big guy at the airport but I don’t remember seeing her actually with him yesterday.’
They were silent for a few minutes but James knew that Angela hadn’t fallen asleep.
‘What are you going to do?’ she said eventually.
‘What can I do? I’m just a visitor here on holiday as far as the Spanish police are concerned.’
‘But you could tell that detective, Alvarez, about her fingers.’
‘I’m sure he’ll have noticed them himself.’
They were quiet again until James had another thought.  ‘There was another thing though.’
‘What?’
‘She wasn’t dead when I got to her. She was still breathing and said something. Well, she made a sound.’
‘What kind of sound?’
‘Well, it may have been just a groan. It was very soft but it sounded like a name, or part of one.’
‘What name?’
‘Car.’
‘That’s something else for you to tell the detective.’
‘Hmm, yes, if he comes to question us again.’
They fell silent and while thoughts continued to pass through James’ mind, he drifted into sleep.
There were more people in the dining room for breakfast than there had been the previous day. For the late and all-night revellers, it was an unaccustomed gathering. Looking around the pale, tired faces and the quiet talk, James guessed that the news of the death had circulated and the young people wanted to discuss it, to make some kind of sense of the tragedy.   A few people who they had nodded to or spoken a few words to previously approached them and asked if they knew about the girl who had fallen. James and Angela nodded but he didn’t reveal his part in the discovery of the body or his suspicions.
The whispered speculations made James feel uncomfortable so after hurriedly eating a croissant and drinking a coffee they made a speedy return to their room.  As James bent to put the key in their lock a familiar voice spoke from behind him.
‘Ah, Seňor and Seňora Frame.’ It was Inspector Alvarez, the detective.
James straightened up and turned. The policeman’s eyes were heavy and his face a little more grizzled than it had been in the night, but he still seemed alert.
‘You have had breakfast perhaps?’ he continued.  James and Angela nodded. ‘And you slept well?’
‘No, not really,’ James admitted.
Alvarez nodded slowly, ‘Well, that is not a surprise. No doubt you were thinking about the girl. Your neighbour.’
‘Yes,’ James said wondering when the policeman was going to get to the point.
‘I am sorry your holiday has been affected by this incident.  May I see in your room please?’
‘Of course,’ James replied. He pushed the door open and invited the detective to step inside. He and Angela followed.
James watched as Alvarez scanned the room. He eyes paused on the unmade bed.  I bet he’s wondering if we had sex after returning to bed last night, James thought. His eyes moved on to the two dresses and sets of female underwear still lying scattered on the floor. Then Alvarez went to the window, pushed the curtain to the side and stepped through the open door onto the balcony.
‘You had the door open when you were in bed last night?’ he asked.
‘Yes,’ Angela replied. ‘The room was still hot when we got back but there was a nice breeze blowing.’
‘There’s no air conditioning in the room,’ James explained.
‘Ah, Hotel Arena is not expensive,’ Alvarez said.
‘That’s right,’ James agreed wondering what the point was.
‘So affordable for young people with not a lot of money, Right?’
James shrugged, ‘Yes, that’s why we booked it.’
Alvarez turned and stepped to the rail around the balcony. He looked to the left from where the girl had fallen and then leant over to look at the ground. He turned around and returned to the bedroom.
‘You said you heard a cry and then a thud.’
‘I did,’ Angela said.
‘I didn’t notice it. Angela told me,’ James added.
‘Because your concentration was on other things,’ Alvarez said without a smile.
‘I suppose so,’ James said not wanting to go into details. Was the guy being voyeuristic?
‘But you didn’t hear anything else from the room next door?’
‘I don’t know,’ Angela said, ‘Nothing that caught my attention.’
‘There were all sorts of noises. Like now,’ James said. They all froze listening to the sounds that surrounded them. There was traffic noise from the road along the seafront, and from people around the pool. There were sounds of conversations, of taps running, of loos being flushed, of beds creaking from rooms above and below and to the right of their room.
‘Even in the middle of the night?’ Alvarez said.
‘Yes. You know that lots of the people were coming back from the clubs at all hours, partying in their rooms, and the traffic never stops.’
Alvarez nodded. ‘The walls are thin.’
James recalled the noises from their first night, the rhythmic thumping of a mattress above them as a couple had vigorous intercourse.
‘It’s a cheap hotel,’ James repeated.
Alvarez cocked his head to one side and looked at Angela. ‘So why did you notice the cry the girl made as she fell and the thud as she hit the ground?’
Angela’s mouth dropped open. ‘Um, I don’t know. I suppose they were different types of sound.’
The detective nodded, ‘The cry that escaped the girl’s lips as she lost her balance and the impact of her landing would have a different quality to the more familiar sounds.’
‘That’s the reason,’ James said a little more forcefully than he intended. He couldn’t decide whether Alvarez was doubting them.  The policeman gave him a thin smile.
‘Let us see if you can remember more. Sit down please, Seňor, Seňora.’  James and Angela sat side by side on the edge of the bed. Alvarez eased himself into one of the two small armchairs by the window.
‘Now, you arrived back in the room before most of the other guests.’
‘Yes.’ James agreed, ‘We were still a bit tired and not up for really late night dancing.’
‘Ah, you like the dancing to the music the clubs play.’
‘It’s one of the things we like doing together,’ Angela said. James caught her eyeing the crumpled dresses they had each worn.
‘So you came back and got into bed?’  James and Angela nodded. ‘But you didn’t fall asleep?’
James answered. ‘No. We weren’t quite that exhausted and it is our honeymoon.’
‘Of course,’ Alvarez kept a straight face, ‘Now remember. You are in bed, your minds may have been on other things, but think about the noises.  Did you hear a door open?’
James’ mind was a blank. He recalled sliding under the thin sheet and beginning to explore the familiar contours of Angela’s body. That totally absorbed him.
‘Yes, I may have done,’ Angela said.
‘The girl’s room, on that side?’ Alvarez pointed to their left.
Angela nodded slowly, ‘I think so.’
‘Once, twice, more times?’
‘What?’ Angela said.
‘The door. Did you hear it open and close more than once?’
Angela sat rigid, her eyes closed. James watched her as her brow crinkled.  ‘I think so. Yes, a while after the first time.’
‘And was there conversation?’
Angela shook her head slowly, ‘I don’t know, there may have been. There were voices from various places, I couldn’t tell.’
Alvarez let out the smallest of sighs. He stood up. ‘Thank you Seňora Frame.’ He started to move towards the door.
‘Wait!’ James said. The policeman paused, looked at him and frowned.
‘Yes, Seňor?’
‘What do you think happened to the girl? What was her name?’
‘Her name is Raquel Thomas,’ The detective replied immediately, ‘And I think she fell to her death.’
‘But how? Was it an accident, suicide or, um, murder?’
The detective glared at James, unblinking. ‘That is my job to find out, Seňor Frame.’
‘Which do you think it was?’
‘I am sorry. I do not discuss my thoughts. Do you have an opinion?’
James opened his mouth, paused. Should he say what he had observed? He took a breath, swallowed. ‘I think she was murdered.’
The policeman’s expression did not change. ‘Do you have evidence for that conclusion, Seňor Frame.’
‘Her fingernails were broken and her fingertips were bloody.’
Alvarez smiled. ‘Ah, you noticed that. You are a detective Seňor Frame?’
‘I’m a police constable, at home in England.’
The detective took a deep breath and frowned. ‘Well, PC Frame, thank you for your opinion and observation but please remember that you are on vacation here. The death of Seňorita Thomas is my case and I do not allow interference.’
James shook his head violently. ‘No, of course not.’
‘Enjoy your honeymoon Seňor, Seňora. Do what honeymooners do.’ Alvarez turned, pulled the door open and departed.
……to be continued.

 

Jasmine in lists

I’ve been thinking about misogyny i.e. hatred of women. Some time ago a police force in England announced that it was considering treating acts of misogyny like other hate-crimes of minority groups. This means that all incidents are logged even if no actual crime can be said to have taken place (e.g. swearing at someone can be an offence in a public place but not in a private home). There are enhanced punishments for those convicted of a hate-crime. Women may not be a minority group but they are certainly targeted in various ways, from wolf whistles in the street to rape and murder, simply for being women. This is the indicator of a hate-crime.

Many men would no doubt say that they do not hate women and the whistles and comments and groping are signs that they are actually attracted to the object of their attention. That is not the point. That sort of behaviour shows that they hate the idea of a woman as an independent, thinking person with the same rights as themselves. The case of Trump (I hope that he will soon be forgotten and we don’t have to keep using him as an example) shows this. Treating any women as a plaything and bragging about it in “the locker-room” or the saloon bar or wherever to other blokes reveals the true misogynist nature of the man.

Of course whenever this kind of crime comes up we are reminded of George Orwell’s thoughtcrime. Is it wrong to think of women in this way? Well, I don’t think people should be prosecuted for their thoughts but I do think it shows that we have a long way to go to educate men and boys that women and girls have the right not to be the object of their attention whether verbal, manual or sexual, at least until they have consented. Education does not mean brain-washing, it means explaining and developing an understanding. It is disappointing if some men still show their misogyny in the way that they talk to other men but it is their actions towards women that should be punished.

A final thought. Some feminists refuse to accept transwomen as women or allies in the fight against misogyny.  I think that though wrong they have some reason for their actions. There are some transvestites (not, I think transsexuals) who reinforce outdated stereotypes of women and think that by dressing as women they can act like the fluffy-headed dolls that they perceive women to be. As someone who feels that I reside somewhere in the middle of the male-female spectrum that attitude appalls me as much as it would any woman.

…………………….

discovering jasmine final cover

Murder in doubt cover

Painted Ladies front cover jpegLayout 1

 

 

 

 

 

Following the end of the Jasmine Frame story, Perspective, last week I’m taking a rest this week.  There have now been ten novellas and three novels which are listed below in chronological order

Discovering Jasmine    2000    novella   e-book          James ventures out as Jasmine

Murder in Doubt            2001     novella  e-book          James meets Angela at university (formerly Soft Focus)

Aberration                       2004     novella  unpublished   James living with Angela after uni.

Flashlight                        2009     novella  unpublished  PC Frame seconded to V&SCU

Resolution                       2009     novella  unpublished  sequel to Flashlight

Blueprint                         2009      novella  unpublished  James reveals Jasmine to Tom

Self-portrait                   2010      novella  unpublished  Jasmine starts transition

Close-up                          2010      novella  unpublished   starting hormone treatment

Split Mirror                      2011      novella  unpublished   moves to flat, alone.

Perspective                      2011      novella  unpublished   resigns from police force

Painted Ladies                 2012     novel     e-book/pbk    called in to catch serial killer

Bodies By Design            2012     novel     e-book/pbk    assisting Sloane to trace killer

Brides’ Club Murder       2012    novel     unpublished   solving a country house murder.

Jasmine decides

This may be considered navel gazing but I thought this week I would consider further where I see myself in the gender selection-box. You may be satisfied with just male and female but actually it’s rather more complex than that. First of all let’s get this straight – gender is not sex and gender identity is not related to sexuality. For the vast majority of people sex is determined by whether or not they have a Y chromosome. If you do then under normal circumstances you were born with penis and testicles and a body that from puberty brims with testosterone; if not, then you have ovaries, uterus, vagina, clitoris etc. and at puberty felt the effects of oestrogen. A small proportion of children are born with genetic or congenital abnormalities that render them intersex, i.e. their sex can not be determined at birth.

Gender and gender identity are something  else. As you grow up you become the sum of your genes and experiences. This process doesn’t stop at puberty or adulthood; you change throughout your life. You develop a feeling of who you are and where you sit in masculine-feminine spectrum. For most people this probably isn’t even a question they ever ask themselves. Their gender identity matches their body’s appearance and that’s all that matters. For a considerable percentage of us though, there is a mis-match in the person we think we are and what we look like.

Gender isn’t just male or female. If you think about all the people you know then you will realise that all the men don’t have the same personalities and neither do the women. There is a whole range of behaviour that positions a person somewhere on the gender spectrum.

For those of us who question our gender identity there are a number of pigeon-holes in which we can place ourselves, that’s if we are prepared to be pigeon-holed at all.

Transsexuals – are people who identify with a gender different to their physical sex. i.e. MtF or FtM. For many this feeling is so great that they detest the body that doesn’t fit with their self-image. They may decide to live as the person they identify as which will involve transition and may or may not include medical and surgical procedures to achieve that. Improvements in medicine and changes to the law and societal attitudes have enabled more people to transition in recent years. The media still focusses on celebrity transitions but is less sensationalist thanks to TV shows like Transparent and Boy Meets Girl.

Transvestites – are people who dress up in the clothes of a gender different to their sex. This applies almost exclusively to men dressing as women since in western culture the acceptable clothing choices available to women now include most, if not all, male attire. The thing about transvestism is that it reinforces gender stereotypes e.g. the tarty/show-girl look, the dress-like- Mum style, and so on. The transvestite almost feels obliged to adopt a look that enables them to pass as female (i.e. wearing wigs, false breasts and other enhancements). The term was originally applied to men who dressed up to get aroused so it has sexual connotations that I dislike.

Cross-dresser – means the same as transvestite but tends to be used by those men who dress as women for non-sexual reasons, but in other respects means the same as the above.

Transgender – is an umbrella term that covers all identities and behaviours where perceived gender and physical sex are at odds.

Gender queer and non-binary – are more recent terms adopted by people who reject the traditional labelling of male or female. Their appearance may be difficult to categorise as masculine or feminine e.g. Eurovision winner Conchita Wurst who wore feminine dresses while sporting a full beard.

Androgyny – a mixture or union of male and female (hermaphrodites with male and female sexual organs are androgynous). Previously, a woman who adopted a male appearance was labelled as androgynous (think flat-chested, short-haired Twiggy, or Tilda Swinton) but now the process is being reversed, with males adopting a feminine appearance without seeking to change or enhance their body shape.

wp_20160919_09_48_13_proHaving thought I was a cross-dresser and occasionally wondering if I was transsexual I now feel that I fall into one of the last two categories. I don’t want to mimic a stereotype of a woman but I like the choices in dress, accessories and make-up that woman have available. How I look may make observers question what they see but I am no longer trying to fool them into believing I am something that I am not.

……………………..

So, to the final episode of Perspective, the Jasmine Frame prequel to Painted Ladies and Bodies By Design (available from me and all good bookstores). Jasmine is definitely transsexual, by the way. This episode sets Jasmine up for Painted Ladies but, who knows, I may be able to fit in another story.

Perspective: Part 12

Jasmine listened as Palmerston went over the case with reports from Tom Shepherd, Terry Hopkins, Derek Kingston and the other members of the team. Not once was she asked for information or a comment. She sat in her chair feeling increasingly as if she wasn’t really there, that her position as a detective in the Violent and Serious Crime Unit was a dream.
The meeting didn’t last long. DS Palmerston wrapped it up and the group began to disperse to deal with other work. DCI Sloane started to move towards his office. He beckoned to Jasmine.
‘With me, now please, DC Frame,’ he said. Jasmine stirred herself and followed him.
Sloane took his seat behind a desk covered with piles of files and the computer monitor and keyboard gathering dust on the side.  Jasmine stood in front of the desk feeling a little like a naughty school boy, or girl, summoned for punishment by the headmaster.
‘It’s up to the CPS now,’ Sloane said as if continuing a conversation from another time and place, ‘Gayle will probably be charged with manslaughter but as he is still legally a child, he’ll be free soon.’
Jasmine blurted out, ‘What about the injury to his mother, carrying an offensive weapon and the robberies?’ She regretted her words immediately. It sounded as if she had a grudge against Nate Gayle. She was still pretty sore about being mugged and she thought Nate knew what he was up to despite his tender year but she didn’t actually have any ill feelings towards the boy. DS Palmerston was the hate figure in her eyes.
Sloane replied calmly, ‘We accept that Mrs. Gayle’s injury was an accident. As you heard, certain items were found in Gayle’s bedroom that did not belong to him but we have no statements from their owners and with William Smith dead it’s unlikely that the CPS will pursue that aspect of the case.’
Jasmine nodded. She didn’t totally agree with her DCI’s conclusions but perhaps now was not the moment to press her opinions.
‘The outstanding matters relate to your involvement, Frame,’ Sloane continued. ‘Your continued interference, even after suspension, was insubordination at the highest level. Indeed, it could be argued that Mrs Gayle’s wounding was partly caused by your presence in her house without her permission.’
Jasmine opened her mouth to complain, but Sloane held up his hand to stop her and went on. ‘Yes, I know your actions helped to slow the bleeding and you called for assistance, but you should not have been there or anywhere in the vicinity. Explain yourself, please Frame.’
Jasmine took a breath. ‘I’m sorry, Sir, but I felt that DS Palmerston was following the wrong line of enquiry. She ignored what I had reported about my, er, meeting with Gayle and Smith, and my opinion on the involvement of the drag queens.’
‘The DS was following procedure and collecting evidence and statements,’ Sloane growled.
‘And excluding me, Sir, as she had done on every case she has been in charge of since she joined the unit.’
‘Are you accusing Detective Sergeant Palmerston of discrimination, DC Frame?’ Sloane’s neck had turned a shade of crimson and the colour was rising up his cheeks.
‘Now that you mention it, Sir, yes I think it is. She doesn’t like me or what I am and doesn’t want me working with her.’
‘You are deluded, Frame. DS Palmerston is a very able officer who makes efficient use of the resources and personnel that are available.’
‘She hasn’t made efficient use of me, Sir.’
‘The trouble is, Frame, that since you began this, this, what do you call it, transition, you see prejudice everywhere.  I thought you had the makings of a good detective once. . .’
‘When I was a man?’
‘Well, since you put it that way – yes. Having decided you want to be a woman you have been distracted.’
‘I didn’t decide to be a woman, Sir. I am a woman. I decided that I needed to live in my true identity instead of continuing to live an act.’
Sloane’s upper lip crinkled and his eyebrows rose. Was he disgusted or merely confused?
‘Look here, Frame. I know that we as your employers have to allow you to do this thing of yours but in my opinion your performance as a member of this unit has become less than satisfactory and in particular your disobedience with respect to DS Palmerston is unprofessional in the extreme.’
Jasmine was unable to stop herself. ‘Unprofessional. That’s rich. She’s the one who is unprofessional, side-lining and undermining me at every opportunity.’
‘That’s enough,’ Sloane roared, his face now approaching beetroot colour. ‘You will remain suspended while your future in this unit, and perhaps in the force, is considered. I do not want to see you again in this office or station until you are summoned to explain yourself. Is that clear?’
Jasmine matched Sloane’s lack of restraint. ‘You can stick your summons, Sir. I’m resigning.’ She turned and marched from the office holding her head up. She heard gurgling noises from behind her but didn’t turn to see the look on Sloane’s face. She stared straight ahead as she crossed the larger office but saw in her peripheral vision that the whole team was gazing at her. There was silence. No one called to her and then she was through the door and walking down the corridor.
It was a mile or more to the Gayle’s house. Her car had been left there the previous evening when she was taken away by DC Kingston and she needed it back.  It was a dull, chill, winters’ day but Jasmine appreciated the fact that it was dry. Being wet would have added one thing more to her list of miseries.
Did she have to resign on the spot in front of Sloane? Shouldn’t she have given it some thought, awaited the outcome of inquiry into her behaviour? No, she could guess what the result would be if DS Palmerston had any influence over it. She would be demoted at best, kicked out of the police force at worst. Pleading that she was a special case because of her transition was not on; she wouldn’t make that excuse, but she couldn’t think how to overcome Palmerston’s prejudice. She didn’t want to give up her dream job but she was convinced that she had done the right thing. There were implications; she knew that. Being without a steady job didn’t just mean she had no source of income for everyday living expenses, it also meant that she wouldn’t have the funds for the treatments she needed during her transition. What would be the reaction of the Gender Clinic? They might think that she was mentally unstable and refuse to support her through the process on the NHS. It could put back the changes to her body that she needed for years if not for ever.
By the time she saw the old red Fiesta sitting outside the house in the otherwise deserted street, she was thoroughly miserable. The car was inside a cordon of blue and white tape that blocked off the pavement as well as the front garden of the Gayle’s house. There was a solitary police officer standing guard at the front door. He looked up as Jasmine approached as if woken from a reverie brought on by boredom. He watched her step over the tape and approach the car. She put the key in the lock and pulled the door open.
‘Hey, what are you doing?’ he called out, advancing down the garden path.
‘Taking my car,’ Jasmine replied.
‘It’s in a restricted area.’
‘I know; I came here in it last night.’
‘You can’t move anything from a restricted area.’
‘Yes, I can when it has nothing to do with the case and belongs to me.’
‘Who are you?’
‘Detective Constable Frame.’ How many more times would she say that, she wondered.’
‘Frame? I think I know that name.’ The PC had stopped at the gate and looked nonplussed.
‘Look, if you’re anxious, call in to your boss and check that it’s alright for me to take my own car away.’
‘Er, yes, I’ll do that.’ He muttered into his radio. Jasmine leaned on the roof of her car with the driver’s door open.  There were a few minutes of two-way conversation including a hiatus while the officer waited for a reply. Finally, he stood up straight and looked happier.
‘They say that’s alright. You can take the car away.’
‘Thank you,’ Jasmine gave him a broad and appreciative smile.
‘I’ll undo the tape for you,’ he said, moving to the front of the car and unwinding the tape from the bollards. Jasmine got in, inserted the key and turned the ignition. Now was not the time for the car to refuse to start, she thought. The starter motor groaned and the engine fired. She puffed out the breath she had been holding. Then she waved polite thanks to the PC and pulled away.
As the car warmed up her mood improved. She was her own boss now, not bound by police regulations and hierarchy. She would pursue the idea she had had a day or two ago – become a private detective. Surely, there would be lots of demand for someone with CID experience. Of course she would be a success. Also, there was the proceeds from the sale of her share of the house to Angela. It wasn’t a lot but it would provide some capital for her business until the revenue from successful investigations came in. What should she call herself? She thought about it. Frame Investigations – that was it. She smiled. A new life beckoned as the independent female private eye.
…………the end.

Jasmine summoned

I have a book called Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds. It is a reprint by Wordsworth Reference but was written by Charles Mackay and published in its complete form in 1852. It therefore predates such twentieth century delusions as Nazism, pyramid selling and that tartan trousers were once thought to be the height of fashion. Mackay examines such cases as the South Sea Bubble, Tulipmania, the Crusades, witch hunts and fortune-telling, amongst others. In each story whole communities apparently lost all reason in following a rush to penury or self-destruction.  It occurs to me that Mackay would have plenty to tackle today such Trump’s apparent popularity in part of the USA, the ease with which brits fell for the Leavers lies and the denial of the evidence for climate change and ecological breakdown.

Day after day, I become more worried about where we, that is, the people of the world, are headed.  I lived through the Cold War with no great fear of nuclear annihilation but I think now human civilisation is heading willingly if ignorantly towards its end. We hear talk about the current generation of young adults, the millennials, as being the first to fare worse than their parents. That applies in the UK, and across all of the west, but is a mild step back compared to other potential calamities. I think disaster beckons if there is continuance of the state of mind that sees a Trump as a saviour, or supports the blinkered isolationist view that bred Brexit, or stokes the violence of jihad, or continues to burn coal and oil regardless of the consequences or ignores our reliance on the Earth to sustain us. Back in the Cold War we thought that civilisation would end almost overnight in a nuclear holocaust. Now I think it will come in an almost imperceptible worsening of conditions across the world and close to home. In fact it is already happening with the growing number in poverty in the UK and elsewhere despite the millennium promises to life people out of it; the accelerating deterioration in ecologies across the world; the increasing belligerence of world and regional powers (Syria as one case in point); and a hardening of attitudes of ordinary people to what is dismissed as political correctness. How long will it take? I hope I am being optimistic in saying we’ll last out my lifetime but I fear for our grandchildren.

 

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Me and a wall

 

 

After that bit of dismal thought let’s move on to something trivial – the next episode of Perspective. We’re into the penultimate part following last week’s bloody action, but there are still some things to be worked out.  This was intended as the last prequel to Painted Ladies and Bodies By Design chronologically, but we shall see if I can fit another story in that explores Jasmine’s gender identity while investigating crimes.

 

 

Perspective: Part 11

DS Palmerston strode towards the front door but was forced to pause as the paramedics wheeled Mrs Gayle out on a stretcher. Jasmine remained sitting on the stairs, waiting for the onslaught to begin.
‘What did you think you were doing, Frame,’ Palmerston moaned as she resumed her march into the house.  Jasmine shrugged.  ‘You’ve been arrested for obstructing the case and here you are causing more mayhem.’
‘I had to get the truth out of Nate Gayle.’
‘And that meant getting his mother injured, did it?’
‘I didn’t mean that to happen. I got Nate wrong.’
‘Damn right you did. You pushed him over a cliff.’
‘No, it wasn’t like that.’
‘You’ve been on his back from the start. It’s called harassment, Frame.’
Jasmine grabbed the bannister and pulled herself up.  She felt unsteady and her head hurt.
‘Look, ma’am, all I’ve been trying to do is show you that it wasn’t those two drag queens that killed Wizzer.’
Palmerston waved her hand dismissively. ‘They both deny it but they had plenty of time to get their stories to tie up.’
‘What stories?’
‘They say they were approached by the two boys who then started arguing and fighting. The two men then ran off and didn’t get involved.’
‘That sounds likely to me. Why don’t you believe them?’
‘They’re providing an alibi for each other. They’re bigger than the two boys.’
‘But they were in drag gear, presumably high heels, tight skirts or dresses. Not the clothes for launching an attack on two streetwise kids.’
Palmerston frowned. ‘Gayle said they shouted racist abuse.’
‘Gayle said. Can’t you see that although he’s a boy not a man, he’s not an innocent kid. I thought Wizzer was the boss, the instigator, but I was wrong. It was Nate all along.’
‘He told you that did he?’ Palmerston spat, ‘You got a confession?’
Jasmine felt the heat rise up her neck. ‘He was angry and blurted it out. Wizzer usually did as he was told including brandishing the knife but it was Nate that took the stuff. For some reason Wizzer decided he deserved more and that was what started the argument. I don’t think Nate meant to kill him but he’s pretty careless when he’s got a knife in his hand.’
‘That’s what got his mother injured?’
‘Yes. He was waving it at me and spun around when his mother spoke to him.’
‘You’re going to have to give a statement, Frame.’
‘Of course.’
‘Go and sit in the car. SOCO can take over here.’
‘What about Nate?’
‘We’ll pick him up. Go.’
Jasmine brushed passed the DS and stepped outside. It was raining again. She went to Palmerston’s car and got into the back seat. Derek Kingston was in the driving seat.
‘You in trouble again, Jas,’ the DC said.
‘Yeah, real trouble I expect, but if I’ve persuaded that woman that she got the story wrong then it’s worth it.’
‘Worth losing your career? You do know that Sloane has been threatening you with all sorts of dire consequences?’
‘I can guess.’
More police cars and a van drove up. Jasmine watched as officers in overalls entered the house while other officers set up tape barriers.
Palmerston returned to the car and bent down to speak through Kingston’s window.
‘Get out Kingston. You stay here looking after things. I’ll take Frame back to the station, take her statement, and make sure we’ve got enough officers out searching for Gayle.’ She tugged the door open and Kingston got out. Palmerston took his place, started the engine and reversed out of the cluster of vehicles.  Jasmine saw Palmerston’s eyes in the driving mirror.
‘Don’t say another word, Frame, until we’re at the station.’

Jasmine sat alone in the interview room. There was a cup of tea on the table in front of her which she didn’t want. A black coffee would be preferable or a glass of water which would do her more good. Her head and neck ached. In the bright light of the room she could see clearly the blood staining her front from her breasts to her shins.  Mrs Gayle’s blood. She wondered how she was doing; was she even still alive.
The door opened and Tom Shepherd entered accompanied by DC Hopkins.
‘Hi, Jas,’ Tom said, ‘We’ve come to take your formal statement.’
‘Not Palmerston?’
‘She’s busy organising the search for Nate Gayle. We’ve got cars driving round the estate and officers on foot checking the alleyways and gardens.’
‘He could be hiding anywhere.’
‘Yes, but its cold and wet. He’s not going to be comfortable. In fact, he could be in danger himself if we don’t find him quickly.’
The two detectives sat down opposite Jasmine.
‘You look a mess, Frame,’ Hopkins sneered, ‘and you’ve caused a mess.’
‘You must have headed off to the Gayle house right after I dropped you off,’ Tom said, ‘Why, after everything that was said about you going off on your own thing?’
Jasmine sighed. ‘I thought Nate’s mother might get him to admit what really happened.’
‘Did she?’ Tom asked.
‘Sort of, but I didn’t realise that Nate was the leader and a knife carrier. How is Mrs Gayle?’
‘Hanging on,’ Hopkins growled, ‘You’re in deep shit for causing all this, Frame.’
‘Thanks Derek,’ Jasmine muttered, ‘I think I know that.’
Tom arranged the pad of paper in front of him. ‘Let’s get your statement down, Jas. Then we can move on.’Bang! Bang! Bang!  Was the noise in her head? Jasmine stirred in her bed, opened her eyes. A grey light filtered through her thin curtains. She glanced at her watch on the bedside table. It said nine a.m. She’d had six hours sleep since the police car had brought her home, but she still felt groggy.
The banging came again. Someone knocking on her front door. She pushed herself out of bed and grabbed her dressing gown. She had it around herself by the time she got to the door and tugged it open. Tom Shepherd was there, again.
He looked at her. ‘Oh, you are here. I wondered. . .’
‘Wondered what, Tom?’
‘Since you weren’t answering I thought you might have gone off on your own again.’
‘I’ve been sleeping, Tom. I had a headache.’
‘Oh, yes, so you said. How is it?’
‘Better, not perfect.’ She felt the side of her head. The lump seemed to have subsided. ‘Why are you here, Tom? Not arresting me again?’
Tom shuffled his feet. ‘No, but Sloane sent me to fetch you to a meeting.’
‘A meeting?’
‘Yes, to wrap up the case and with him, I think.’
‘He could have rung.’
‘He wanted to make sure you were there on time.’
‘When is it?’
Tom looked at his watch. ‘Nine-thirty.’
Jasmine snorted. ‘Well, thanks for the warning. That doesn’t give me time to get ready properly.’
Tom bowed his head, ‘I think that was the idea, Sloane’s in a mood. Look you’d better be getting dressed.’
‘Oh, come in then and close the door.’
Jasmine went back to the bedroom. She seethed. Sloane knew that she needed a bit more time than most people to get herself prepared to face the outside world. At least she’d had a shower last night when she got home to wash off the blood and clear her head. She ran her shaver over her face, knowing that it wasn’t enough, pulled on the first clothes she could lay hands on and slapped foundation on.
She returned to the living room. Tom was standing by the front door.
‘There, I don’t feel comfortable but is that quick enough for Sloane do you think?’
‘You look okay, Jas. A bit, um, what should I say, less. . .’
‘Well-groomed, feminine?’
‘No, erm. . . You’re fine.’
She didn’t want to embarrass him anymore. He was still her friend. ‘Come on then. I suppose my car is still outside the Gayle’s house.’
‘Yes. There’s no time to pick it up now, Jas.’
‘I know. Get me to this meeting.’

All the eyes were on her as Jasmine entered the unit’s office. It made her feel nervous thinking that her colleagues were examining her, and judging her appearance as a woman. She was angry that Sloane had not given her time to get her make-up completed to her satisfaction.
Sloane was standing by the whiteboard, apparently already addressing the team. He beckoned to Jasmine and Tom to join them.
‘Ah, Frame. Please don’t get the idea that your suspension is in abeyance. I nevertheless felt it would be appropriate for you to be at this conference. Take a seat.’
Jasmine pushed a chair from behind a desk and positioned it behind the other detectives facing Sloane. She sat down. Tom joined her.
‘Now, DS Palmerston will bring you up to date on the latest situation,’ Sloane said. His female deputy stood up and faced the group.
‘First of all, the hospital reports that Mrs Gayle’s condition has stabilised. She is still unconscious but the bleeding has been stopped. She should make a full recovery.’  There were mutterings and nods of heads around the room. Jasmine felt a sense of relief. It was bad enough feeling a little responsible for her injury but if the woman had died she didn’t know how she would have coped.
‘Also, Nathan Gayle has been found in an alleyway less than a hundred metres from his home. He was pretty cold and wet but is recovering in a cell. He’s been worried about his mother and has been talking to us.’
Sloane spoke, ‘Which leads me to the announcement that the two previous suspects in the death of William Smith have been released without charge. DS Palmerston will explain what we now know happened on Friday night.’
Jasmine stared at the DS. Did she look embarrassed? Her cheeks were a little flushed but her eyes hardly flickered and when she spoke it was with her usual self-confidence.
‘Gayle has agreed that his previous statement was incorrect and that the fatal injury to William Smith was accidental and occurred during a tussle between the two of them. The two men who we originally suspected were bystanders and should have come forward as witnesses.  Gayle will be charged but he is a minor.’
Jasmine allowed herself a small smile. Her version of events had been accepted, at last, but was she vindicated?  She didn’t expect that much joy from Palmerston.
………………….to be concluded

Jasmine bloodied

We change throughout our lives. Life would be pretty boring if we didn’t develop, learn new things and have new experiences. Even our memories change. They’re not packed in our brains like books in a library, more like the foods in a larder which are taken out from time to time, used and replenished. My own feelings have changed over time and recently I made a fairly important decision.

I discovered I was transgendered (to use the term loosely) when I was in my late 20s. Since 2000, with the support of my dear Lou, I have been “out” and developing my female persona. While I decided that I was not transsexual because I didn’t despise my male body nor want to change it, I did think that I needed to pass as a woman. I think I was quite successful at that, at least from a distance. To achieve the look, in addition  to the female clothes, make-up and jewellery I wore a wig and a bra filled with silicone boobs. The wig was a good disguise and the boobs gave me a more feminine silhouette.

For the last three years I have been out just about as far as it is possible to be out. I now assume that anyone I meet knows that I’m trans (even if they don’t) and I have also mixed up my two public images quite a bit. I’ve always felt that I was one person with male and female characteristics but to fit in with society’s expectations I have appeared either as a man or as a woman. Gradually though, my understanding of myself has changed. First it struck me that the disguise offered by the wig was hiding who I was (it was also pretty uncomfortable in summertime). A year ago I gave up wearing the wig and have since had my hair styled in a more feminine manner.

wp_20160919_14_50_22_proNow I have decided that stuffing a bra to give myself a bust is also presenting a false impression of who I am. I don’t have a bust and I don’t want to pretend I have one anymore.  I have decided to just be me – the me that likes to have a feminine appearance wearing dresses, skirts or tunics over tights or leggings with tops in a variety of colours and styles. The me who loves to wear dangly ear rings and necklaces. The me who likes to wear lipstick, eye-shadow and foundation. Strangely, losing the boobs has not made me appear or feel less female (I think) although I now have the fun of choosing styles of clothes that suit someone who is tall, flat-chested, and mature (yes, I need to have regard for my age).

What does that make me? Do we still need labels? Am I transgender or is the term non-binary more appropriate though less well-known outside gender identity circles? Whatever term you want to use, I am the me I am now. Who knows who I’ll be in the future.

………………..

After that long ramble here is the tenth (yes, we’ve got that far) episode of Perspective, the prequel to Painted Ladies and Bodies By Design which fills in the career of Jasmine Frame, transsexual detective.

Perspective: Part 10

Jasmine approached the front door of the small terraced house. She pressed the doorbell and waited. Soon there was the sound of steps approaching and the door was opened by a woman with long dark hair and a pale face.
‘Mrs Gayle?’ Jasmine asked. The woman nodded.  ‘I’m Detective Constable Frame. I’m here in connection with the death of William Smith, a friend of your son, Nate.’
A worried expression appeared in the woman’s face. ‘What about it? Nate has answered all your questions.’
‘I thought you should know that two young white men have been arrested for the attack. They are being questioned at the moment.’
Mrs Gayle shrugged but Jasmine thought she appeared nervous. ‘So?’
‘I was wondering if there was anything else you or Nate could tell us.’
‘Like what?’
‘Such as how the men could see that Nate and Wizzer were mixed race in the dark and the drizzle.’
‘What?’ Now the woman looked confused. She stared at Jasmine in the light from her hallway. ‘What did you say your name was? Frame? Didn’t I complain about you pestering my son.’ She pushed the door closed but Jasmine stuck her foot in the way.
‘You did Mrs Gayle, and I’m sorry about that, but I think that what happened is not quite what Nate has told us.’
The woman was indignant. ‘Nate said those men, well, men dressed as women, attacked him and William and called them vile, racist names. Don’t you believe him?’
‘Not exactly. Not after he’d robbed me.’
‘Not Nate.’ The tone was firm and certain.
‘Yes, Nate and his mate.’
There were thuds of feet on stairs and Nate appeared behind his mother.
‘What’s going on, Mum. Oh, it’s him. The tranny cop. I thought we’d got you off my back.’
‘Not quite,’ Jasmine said placing her weight against the door to ensure it couldn’t be closed.
Mrs Gayle turned to speak to the boy. ‘She, er he, says you robbed her, Nate. Tell me the truth. You still haven’t told me why you were out that late. I thought you were in bed.’
Nate shrugged. ‘I went out with Wizzer.’
‘Why?’
‘To hang out together. Do stuff.’ Nate turned away and padded down the hallway. Mrs Gayle followed.
‘What do you mean? Nate. Tell me, I’m your mother.’
Jasmine stepped inside the doorway and closed the door behind her. She was in the house now and she was going to get some answers from the lad.
Nate turned to face his mother. ‘We were having a bit of fun.’
‘After midnight? You sneaked out without telling me so you could have fun with that boy.’
Nate looked over his mother’s shoulder and saw Jasmine standing behind her.
‘What are you doing in our house?’
‘Getting some answers, Nate. Look, I know it wasn’t the two queens who killed Wizzer. Tell me what really happened. Perhaps it was an accident. Perhaps you and Wizzer argued, the knife came out and it was Wizzer who got stabbed.’
‘Na, it was the fucking weirdoes. They attacked us.’
‘Why should they Nate? I’ve seen them. They may have been having a laugh at the drag night but outside in the dark and wet they aren’t the type to go picking a fight with two streetwise lads.  Why were you and Wizzer arguing? Was it about your takings – the credit cards, the phones, my cash.’
‘What is she talking about, Nate?’ Mrs Gayle said, ‘What takings? Did you rob her like she says?’
‘Oh, shut up, you old slag.’ Nate shoved his mother against the bannister of the stairs and advanced towards Jasmine. She crumpled onto the floor. He slipped his hand in his jeans pocket and pulled out an object. A blade sprang from it.
Jasmine retreated until her back was against the door. Nate approached holding the knife out in front of him.
‘The little wimp tried to keep more than I gave him.’
‘You gave him?’ Jasmine didn’t understand, ‘You were divvying out the takings?’
‘Yeah, of course. Wizzer did as he was told, usually, but then he started to whine about deserving more.’ He shoved the knife forward. Jasmine winced and pressed back against the door. Even the sight of a knife made her tremble.
His mother picked herself up and reached a hand up to Nate’s shoulder.
‘Don’t you speak to me like that, Nate.’  She grabbed his shoulder and tugged. Nate span around, the blade sweeping in a large arc, an arc that intersected with the woman’s midriff. She let out a cry and crumpled to the floor. Blood spurted out onto the carpet.
Nate leapt across his mother towards the door to the kitchen. Jasmine ran after him, taking one step over the fallen woman and diving for the boy’s legs. They fell to the floor, the knife falling from his hand as Nate’s head crashed against the kitchen door. Jasmine recovered first, knelt with a knee in the boy’s back and pulled his arms behind his back. She regretted not having her set of handcuffs with her, but she wasn’t on duty and they were sitting in the drawer of her desk at the Police Station.
Nate wriggled. Jasmine pressed harder against his back and gave his arms an extra tug. He squealed.
‘Lie still or I’ll do you some real injury,’ Jasmine said. ‘I’ve got to get some help for your mother.’
Nate subsided. His mother groaned and writhed.
‘Stay still,’ Jasmine ordered, ‘or you’ll bleed to death.’ Jasmine was worried that that was exactly what was happening. She had to get help.  Jasmine’s shoulder bag had miraculously remained around her neck. With her spare hand she fumbled in it for her phone. One handed she dialled three nines and requested an ambulance and the police.
‘Can I trust you not to run, while I try to help your mother,’ Jasmine asked. The boy grunted something like an affirmation. Jasmine let his arms go and shifted her weight off his back. She turned to look at the woman.  Her jumper and leggings were soaking with blood and Jasmine could see that more was seeping out onto the floor.  The woman was haemorrhaging to death. Jasmine pressed her hands against the area of the woman’s abdomen from which the blood seemed to be leaking hoping to stem the flow.  It was all she could do until the paramedics arrived.
There was a scrambling, shuffling noise behind her. She turned her head to see what Nate was up to. A blow caught her temple, wrenching her neck.  There were bright lights amid darkness. The darkness won.
Sirens and door banging penetrated the blackness. She stirred. Her head ached but Jasmine was alert enough to recall what had happened. She found she was lying across Mrs Gayle, her front as bloodied as the injured woman who was now unconscious.
There was another hammering on the door. Jasmine struggled to her feet and turned the knob of the lock. The door swung open. There were two paramedics and a uniformed policeman.
The paramedics looked at her, their eyes wide. They made to move towards her.
‘No, not me. I’m fine. It’s her,’ she pointed to the woman on the floor. The paramedics pushed passed her and descended on Mrs Gayle.
‘What’s happened here?’ the officer asked.
‘Mrs Gayle was injured by a knife held by her son. It was an accident but he’s run off,’ Jasmine summarised. She put her hands to the side of her head which felt sore. She was trying to make sense of what Nate had said.
‘And who are you?’
‘DC Frame. I came to question the boy.’ Jasmine searched in her pocket for her warrant card then remembered that Tom had relieved her of it.
‘DC eh? Where’s your partner?’
‘I’m on my own.’
The PC’s eyebrows rose. ‘Who is your senior officer?’
Jasmine couldn’t avoid saying it, much as she wanted to. ‘It’s DS Palmerston. I think she’ll be at Kintbridge police station.’
‘I’ll get on to him.’
‘Her.’
‘Oh, OK. Are you alright? You look a bit pale but I guess that’s not your blood,’ he nodded to the staining down the front of her jumper and skirt.
Her neck ached and there was a lump on the side of her head. She took a deep breath.
‘No, I’m ok. Perhaps I had better be getting back.’
‘I don’t think you should leave until your superior officer arrives. Let me give her a call.’
‘Oh, alright.’ Jasmine leaned against the wall of the hall felling dizzy and nauseous. She listened to the officer speak into his radio. After a minute or so it sounded as if he had been put through to the DS. Jasmine could hear her high-pitched whine of a voice expressing surprise and anger. The conversation finished.
‘She says she’s coming,’ the PC said, ‘she sounded a bit surprised that you were here.’
‘I bet.’
The officer looked at the backs of the paramedics bent over the woman. ‘Is she going to be OK?’
‘I don’t know,’ Jasmine said, ‘but don’t you think you should put out a call to pick her son up.’
‘Oh, yeah. That’s right.’
Jasmine described the young man and the officer passed on the details to the headquarters staff. She sat on the stairs while the officer talked and the paramedics worked on Mrs Gayle. She was wondering whether she had got the story wrong. She had thought that Wizzer was the boss and Nate the lackey.
The PC finished talking as there was the distant sound of another siren. Less than a minute later, Jasmine saw through the open doorway, an unmarked car screech to a halt next to the ambulance. The easily recognisable figure of DS Palmerston got out and strode towards the house. The street and vehicle lights were enough for Jasmine to see the anger on her face.
……………..to be continued.