Jasmine flustered

P1000483It’s Friday evening and I haven’t written my blog! Actually I haven’t had time to think all week having had the family inc grandsons to stay (lovely but full on. . .) Also I have paid a visit to a local writing group of which I am not a member to talk about writing, publishing and gender identity.  A lovely morning and I sold a couple of books (yippee!). Then I was out today again, talking about gender identity.

So I haven’t paid much attention to the news and I am not going to comment on it other than to conclude, in John Crace’s words – we’re fxxxxd.

And that’s it really. What I can do is give you a taste of the new novel I’m working on – The Pendant and the Globe, inspired by a session at my weekly writing group.  Here is the opening chapter as it currently stands (first draft):

The Pendant and the Globe

1

She stepped over the corpse. The guardian was lying face down in the shallow stream. She glanced back into the dark tunnel. There was no pursuit. There were no guardians left to pursue her.  She ducked under the low lintel of the cave entrance and stepped onto the narrow ledge. The water tumbled over the edge falling to the pool a hundred feet below. The dark tops of trees obscured the valley floor but the sound of the water hitting the rocks below came to her. She raised her head, looking straight at Selene, the crescent moon. Its light illuminated the cavemouth, sparkling in the water and reflecting off the broad sword she held in her left hand. The long blade was streaked with blood, but it no longer shone with its own light. She rested the sword against the wall of the cave, its tip submerged, and looked at her left hand.  A long silver chain dangled between her wrist. She looped the chain over her head.  The necklace held her long black hair against her neck.
Slowly she opened the fingers of her left hand revealing the object for which she had despatched the guardians. There was a ring of iridium the width of her palm. Within it was the shape of a tree formed from a single length of platinum wire. The wire wound on itself to form a trunk, seven short roots and seven boughs that intersected with the circle. Threaded on each of the boughs were chips of precious stones – ruby, orange diamond, topaz, emerald, sapphire, azurite and amethyst. She had known what she sought but this was her first sight of the jewels in their setting. She smiled and let the pendant drop to her naked breasts. The metal ring was cold but the gems felt warm against her skin.
Taking up her sword she began to descend the steps cut into the cliff face. Irregular and uneven, they appeared natural indentations in the rock. The route to the cave was a secret to her no longer. The path passed behind the waterfall. She paused and extended her bare arms into the falling water, washing off the blood that was encrusted on them. Then she continued down to the pool.
She made a soft hum, like the beating wings of a bee. In moments she heard footfall between the trees. Her steed approached and stopped in front of her. She caressed the velvet of his antlers then stowed her sword in the scabbard strapped to his flank.  Grasping the thick fur on his neck she leapt onto the deer’s back and pressed her heels to his side. They turned and ran between the trees, twisting and turning and climbing away from the stream.
Soon they emerged above the treeline onto the open mountainside. She clung to the deer’s neck as he leapt from tussock to outcrop, barely touching the ground. Across the ridge and over the moorland they travelled. The air whipping over her naked skin chilling her but she did not care. She laughed into the wind. She had the Pendant.

“Do you have to leave?” the young man said
“My task is finished. I am done with this place,” the Traveller replied.
The young man tried again. “Can we not show our gratitude by holding a feast in your honour?”
The Traveller made a sound behind his white beard. It may have been a chuckle at the thought that they felt they owed him something or it may have been a snort of disdain that they considered that they could repay him for his efforts. “I have no need of feasts,” he said.
The young man sighed. “Where will you go?”
“Wherever I am needed.’
“We need you.’
Now the Traveller did indeed snort. ‘No, you do not. You have responsibilities, duties to each other and to your land. You do not need my presence in order to carry them out.”
The young man was crestfallen. It seemed he knew what the Traveller meant but would have been reassured to have the old man’s support.
“Well, we wish you well, Traveller, and hope to welcome you here again.”
“Do not wish for my return. It can only mean that troubles face you. Only you and your people can ensure that they do arise. Now I will take my leave of you.”
He turned his back on the young man and the throng of people that stood silently behind him. He walked through the gates of the city, out on to the arid plain and towards the Sun sinking towards the horizon.
From a deep pocket in the long, dark coat that he wore despite the heat, he drew out the Globe. He held it by the stand attached to the southern pole and, as he walked, he ran his finger over the outline of the continents incised into the dark metal.
Where next was indeed the question. There was always some place or people where his knowledge and skills were required; some threat that required his involvement. He had not walked far when his fingers encountered a hot spot on the Globe. It shone as brightly as the Sun in the tropics. He held the Globe up to examine it more closely and to check the location. It was as he feared. He knew it well, half a world away, and there was only one reason why he was being alerted.
He stopped and took a pair of dividers from his other capacious pocket. He spread the points to touch the Globe at his present location and the centre of the glowing spot. He put one foot forward. For a moment he had one foot in the afternoon and the other in the night. He completed the pace. The plain was gone and he was standing by a waterfall in moonlight.

…………………………….


Jasmine looking backwards and forwards

This week was the commemoration  of D-Day, 75 years ago. I am sure that for many youngsters it is as much ancient history as the Battle of Waterloo or the Battle of Agincourt. Perhaps not. Memories (or rather imagined scenes) of WW2 are kept alive by  films, TV programmes, and books. They maintain attitudes that may have existed during and immediately after the war i.e. anti-German feelings and overblown pride at what plucky Britain achieved. Those ideas maybe fed the Brexit fever and given some (many) people the impression that the UK can stand (and prosper) on its own. The truth is that was never possible. The UK survived the war only because of assistance from the USA and by calling on the dominions of the Empire. The USA is calling in its favours now and the dominions have got their own issues to deal with.

Is the commemoration, therefore, a diversion or a digression? No, I don’t think so, so long as the full story is presented. It’s not just about what happened on that “longest day” but the events that finally lead to the end of the war nearly a year later (more than a year if the war against Japan is considered). Many more servicemen were involved than the 130,000 involved on D day itself and from many parts of the world. The war was not won by the UK alone. Survivors of the war often said nothing about their involvement until they reached great old age so the truth about the horrors and tribulations have perhaps been forgotten.  The issues the war was fought over – freedom from tyranny and invasion – need to be remembered and considered in today’s political climate.

……………………………….

The Brexit party has no policies but its vision for the UK can be gauged from the words of its leaders. Ann Widdicombe hopes scientists will find a “cure” for being gay. Whether science identifies a genetic explanation for, and hence the possibility of altering,  sexual orientation, autism, ginger hair or whatever is irrelevant. What is important is whether the right to be what one perceives oneself to be is honoured.  As soon as a minority group is identified as needing a cure or treatment imposed on them they can be removed from society and eliminated. That is what these so-called-Christian populists want.

…………………………….

This week’s bit of writing needs some explanation. It was written, perhaps foolishly, to meet two different writing groups’ topics for the week. One was “the road not taken” and the other was “jealousy.” Having got an idea I think that the execution has ended up not really meeting either of those themes. The jealousy has become mild envy or covetousness and the road not taken, which was supposed to be a well signposted route, has become lost amongst the bushes. Also the last section got a bit rushed. Another thing is that I feel that the story may give the wrong impression of my views as it concerns WP_20190514_12_33_27_Pro (2)gender identity. It is a story about one fictional character.  May I make it clear that I feel that children and teenagers can be very certain of their gender identity and if it does not match their assigned gender then they should transition when they wish, perhaps be prescribed puberty blockers and go on to gender confirmation surgery once they have arrived at adulthood (currently age 16) if they feel it suits them. On the other hand I don’t think everyone has to choose to be male or female. Non-binary/gender fluid/gender queer is another option.

 

Sisters

My sister has beautiful long, fair hair with just a hint of curl. It feels so silky and shines in light. I wanted hair like it.  More than that I wanted her blue eyes, whipped cream skin and infectious giggle. I wanted to be my sister.
With Dad at work all the time and Mum busy around the house and so on, I was left in the care of my sister when I was little. Four years older than me, she viewed me as her plaything, her living doll. She dressed me in her cast-off princess dresses, painted my nails, put on lipstick and blusher on my cheeks. She combed my mousy brown hair and wheeled me around in the pushchair.
More and more as we grew older, I wanted to be like her, to be her. One day when she was dozing, I snipped off some of her curls. Why? Who knows? Perhaps I intended sticking them on my head or maybe I just wanted a bit of her to keep. I followed her everywhere. When she began dance lessons, so did I.

She came out of her bedroom to find me standing on the landing. I was wearing the pink satin dress, the last one I had. She’d moved on from princesses so there were no more hand-me-downs, and this was the only one that still fitted. I had brushed my hair and put ribbons in it. I’d put on bright pink lipstick that matched the dress.
“What are you doing?” she said.
“I wanted to tell you something,” I replied.
“What? I haven’t got time now. I’m meeting Milly and Saffron.”
“No. Please. I just wanted to say. . .”
“Say what?”
“I want to be a girl.” I paused. That hadn’t come out as I intended. “I mean, I am a girl. I know I’m a girl.”
“Don’t be silly. You’re a boy. You’ve got a willy.” She pushed me out of her way and hurried to the stairs. She paused and looked back at me.
“Oh, god. It’s my fault. All those years of dressing you and making you up. I’ve turned you into a freaking tranny.” She fled down the stairs.  A moment later the front door slammed. I went back to my room, threw myself on the bed and cried.

It was after bedtime when I heard footsteps on the stairs. They were too light for Mum or Dad. Anyway, they’d be asleep on the sofa supposedly watching TV. My door opened and I recognised the silhouette.
“Are you awake?” she whispered. I turned over to show her I was. “What you said earlier; did you mean it?”
I pushed myself up in the bed eager to try again.
“I want you and Mum and Dad and everyone to know I’m a girl, to let me be a girl when I start high school.”
She shook her head, “I gave you these stupid ideas, didn’t I?  All that dressing up.” Her face crinkled.
“No, no. I loved all that stuff. I enjoyed the dressing up, the make-up. Do you think I’d have let you do it if I didn’t want it?”
She stood up, backed away. “You were so little back then. I wasn’t thinking. We’re older now. You do your own thing, dancing and stuff.”
I grabbed her hand and dragged her back to me.
“I started dancing because you did.”
“But you’re so much better than me. You could do it for a job.”
I shrugged. “Perhaps. I’ll be a girl dancer.”
“But you’re a boy!”
I shook my head. “I can have my willy taken away. Doctors can do that. Then I’ll be a girl like you.”
“You really think you want to go through all that. The bullies will have a field day if you turn up at school in a skirt. Then there’s the drugs and the surgery. I’ve seen it on Youtube. It’s awful.”
“It’s what I want. Will you help me get Mum and Dad sorted?”
She looked at me with large sad eyes and didn’t say anything for a while.
“OK, but don’t say anything yet. Let me think about it.”

Next day a letter arrived saying I’d won a scholarship at Performing Arts school. After that there wasn’t time to think about anything except getting prepared for going away. At school I met musicians, actors and dancers, boys as well as girls. I loved it. The year passed in a blur of hard work and fantastic experiences. Back home for the summer holiday I noticed that I was now taller than my sister. Only her bust, another cause for envy, had grown in the last couple of years. She spent more time with her boyfriend than me while waiting for her exam results.
I continued to get taller. My shoulders widened, hairs grew in various places, my voice dropped, and I discovered what a willy can do. My hair was still long and I wore makeup, not only on stage. I pulled on a dress from time to time too. I took shit from some screwed-up people, but most couldn’t give a hoot. I didn’t know if I was a boy or a girl and didn’t care. I was me. But I still wish I had my sister’s hair.

………………………………………….

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.

WP_20180102_15_23_41_Pro

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.

jfjfjfjfjfjfjfjfj

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.

 

 

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.

wp_20161130_09_48_52_pro

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.

 

wp_20160919_14_49_07_pro

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.

Jasmine dejected

A couple of times this week I have been asked if I mind strangers staring at me or people who know me using my male name. As I am spending the weekend in the company of writers, many who I have known for a few years and who know that I am trans, it is an apt question. I presume that unless one is an attention-seeking extrovert then having someone look you up and down, wondering what you are, is not particularly welcome. It is something however, that I have to expect, especially since I gave up the disguise that a wig offers. I know that anyone who takes a second look at me will question my gender and perhaps conclude that my physical attributes don’t quite go with the skirt or dress, the dangly ear-rings and the lipstick. The problem is that people still have expectations about gender; stereotypes still rule.

Despite all the recent publicity for transsexuals (do I need to name them yet again?) I am sure most transwomen and men still wish to be in “stealth mode”  i.e. their past lives kept secret with no suspicions about their gender. Why go through all the pain and bother of building a new identity if you are out as a trans person? The point is I am not TS and am not living full-time as a woman so being trans is part of my everyday life.. To be blunt I am getting close to not caring what gender people see me as. I am happy if they accept me as me – someone who loves wearing clothes that were designed for female bodies, dramatic ear-rings, make up and varnished nails. By dispensing with the wig and having my own hair styled in a feminine manner, I have made a bit of stand, but anomalies remain. I wear a bra and enhancers though I have no breasts (not even man-boobs). My bust is a lie and yet it gives me satisfaction. I use a feminine name when I am “dressed” to boost my feminine credentials. Why? Because I still retain the binary stereotype in my psyche even when I am proclaiming myself as a non-binary, unique individual. I suppose being human is all about the fantasy picture one builds of oneself and it is difficult to see yourself as others perceive you. That is a reason why I appreciate having a partner who will give me an opinion about my appearance and stop me making too much of a fool of myself.

Painted Ladies front cover jpeg

I have said this before – Jasmine Frame is not me. I have however used my experiences and knowledge of transgenderism to build her personality and the situations she finds herself in. She is most definitely transsexual, at least she is by the time of the novels Painted Ladies and Bodies By Design, and is determined to achieve a state of womanhood that requires not just hormone treatment but surgery. The stories explore her experiences but I hope I have made and am making the plots interesting in their own right.  Here is part 5 of Perspective:

Perspective – Part 5

‘Off to chase more kids?’ “GG” Gorman called out as Jasmine passed the desk. She didn’t answer afraid that her voice might crack. She pushed the door open and descended the steps to the car park with tears forming in her eyes. It wasn’t the cold that caused them.
She got into the old red Fiesta and sat gripping the steering wheel. What was she going to do without the job to fill her days, and nights? Being a detective was the one thing that took her mind off all the problems of transitioning. At last, she turned the key in the ignition and felt a little grateful that the engine churned into a semblance of life.  She drove home paying little attention to the traffic.
The flat was cold. She couldn’t afford to leave the heating on while she was at work, but she put it on now, made a cup of black instant coffee and sat on her threadbare sofa with her coat on, cradling the hot mug.

She didn’t know how long she sat there, occasionally taking a sip of the drink, but when her mobile phone gave out its familiar piped ringtone, the mug had become luke-warm in her hands. She put the mug down and scrabbled in her bag. The small screen of the phone announced that it was Angela.  She imagined her soon to be ex-wife holding one of those shiny new smart phones.
‘Hi, Ange,’ she said, trying to sound cheerful.
‘Hello, Jas. I hoped I’d catch you on a Saturday afternoon. You’re not at work are you?’
‘I should be but I’m not.’
‘Oh. You’re not ill are you Jas? You don’t sound right.’  Jasmine wasn’t surprised by Angela’s concern. They’d been looking out for each other for ten years now.
‘No. I’m not ill, just fed up. I’ve been suspended.’
‘What! Why?’
Jasmine explained the events and consequence of the previous night and day. ‘Palmerston wants rid of me Ange, and Sloane’s going along with her,’ she ended.
‘And you’re going to let them push you out? That’s not like you Jas.’
Jasmine smiled. Angela had always encouraged and supported her even when she came to realise that it would mean the end of their marriage, the end of their relationship.
‘I’m not sure I can go on being put down, given the mundane jobs, having my femininity doubted.’
‘You have the right to transition, Jas. You are a woman, even though you haven’t had the, er, alterations yet. You’re a good detective. Sloane knows that.’
‘Palmerston has soured him. He never was comfortable with me changing. I think now he’s looking for any opportunity to avoid having to see me every day. Suspending me is a start.’
‘You can’t give in just like that.’
‘What can I do, Ange?’
‘What you always do, Jas. Stick at it.’
‘Stick at what?’
‘The job, the investigation, being a woman, being yourself.’
‘Hmm.’
‘Look, you said the suspects are two drag queens and the Horse and Barge ran a gay night last night.’
‘It’s an LGBT friendly pub, Ange.’
‘Well, why don’t we give it a look over this evening, Jas.’
‘We?’
‘Yes, you and me.  I’ve been busy too and could do with a bit of a social life. You need cheering up. Oh, and we need to meet up.’
‘Why?’
‘Because I’ve got a few bits of post for you and you’ve got those documents. You have signed them, haven’t you?’
Jasmine glanced at the pile of large envelopes on the dining table. They contained divorce papers and forms for handing over the house and mortgage to Angela.  They were untouched.
‘Uh, yes, of course.’
‘Right, well I’ll pick you up at nine. We’ll swap post and the I’ll run us into town. We can have a couple of drinks at the Horse and Barge and you can have a snoop around for any clues to the identity of those queens.’
‘Hmm. Okay.’ Jasmine wasn’t convinced but the opportunity for an evening with Angela was too good to pass over.
‘Right. Nine it is then.’ The call clicked off. Jasmine sat staring at the phone. What could she possibly find at the pub. Denise Palmerston and the team would be there now questioning the staff. They had probably already identified the two queens.  She looked again at the heap of formal letters. Perhaps she had better deal with them before Angela arrived expecting them completed.

Jasmine added her signature to the final sheet of paper and put the pen down. Her scribble hadn’t changed even though her name had but putting her mark on these documents was the final sign of the end of her former life with Angela.  In a few months the divorce would come through, and very soon Angela would be the sole owner of the house they had bought together. Angela could afford it now that her business career was advancing at speed. Jasmine wondered what sort of career future she had. Not much by the way things were going and yet she had all the expenses of her transition to come unless she relied on the NHS for everything, in which case it would be years before she became the complete woman she dreamed of being.
She put the documents ready to hand to Angela and then went to the kitchen to find something to eat. There was some pasta and some pesto and that was about it. It would have to do. After eating she considered what to wear as she was going out with Angela. They were going to a supposedly safe and welcoming venue so she decided to be as feminine as she could. She went to her bedroom and stripped off her sensible work suit. She dug out a short sleeved, fluffy jumper which had shrunk a little in the wash. It clung to the enhanced curves of her breasts and ended just below her ribs. No matter, she was proud of her flat stomach even if she didn’t have a waist to crow about. She decided that despite being November she would not wear tights, but pulled on a multi-coloured mini skirt that revealed her thighs. From the back of her wardrobe she dug out the knee-high boots with the three inch heels and tugged them on her legs.
She looked in the mirror. Tarty yes, but she felt feminine. Long hair wasn’t really possible for a police officer so she still had a fairly short blonde bob. She brushed it up and back combed it to give it a little more volume. Some colour to her eyes and cheeks and a bright red lipstick completed her look. Now she just had to wait for Angela to arrive in a couple of hours’ time.  Her little-used portable TV provided some entertainment.

It was ten minutes to nine when the doorbell rang. Jasmine glanced at her watch to check and smiled. Angela was always on time. She opened the door.  Angela looked her up and down, raising her eyebrows.
Jasmine responded, ‘Yes, I know, it’s probably not an appropriate look, but I feel like making a statement.’
‘And what statement is that?’ Angela asked, smiling as if she already knew the answer.
‘That I’m a girl.’
‘I’m not sure it will say that when you’re in a gay pub, but if you’re happy. . . Here’s your post.’ Angela handed over a slim pile of letters. Jasmine glanced at them noting that most of them were probably junk mail. She dropped them onto the table and picked up the thicker heap of documents.
‘Here’s the stuff you needed. All signed.’
Angela took the envelopes into her arms. There was a sad look on her face. ‘I know what it means, Jas, but it is what you want, isn’t it?’
No, she didn’t want to lose the one woman she had loved, and she didn’t want to lose the comfortable life they had had together, but all this was necessary if she was to be the woman that she wanted to be in law.
Jasmine nodded. ‘Come on, let’s have some fun.’ She picked up her bomber jacket and bag and stepped outside the door.

The main bar of the Horse and Barge was dimly lit and almost empty, but it was warm after the cold, and damp of night-time Kintbridge. Jasmine shucked off her jacket and held it over her arm as she and Angela approached the bar.
The round-faced barman smiled and said in a sing-song voice, ‘Hello ladies, what’s it going to be tonight?’
Jasmine didn’t have to ask Angela. She knew their favourite drink from many nights out together, particularly early in their relationship.
‘Two white wine spritzers please, with soda.’
The barman turned away to make the drinks.
‘I’ll get them,’ Angela said.
‘No, I can still afford a drink even if I’m suspended. You go and take a seat.’
Angela shrugged and walked off.  The barman returned with two large glasses half-filled with white wine. He held the soda dispenser above the glasses and squirted the fizzy liquid into each glass.
‘You’re a bit early for the entertainment,’ he said. ‘We’ve got a live band on at ten. A punk lesbian outfit. Should be a laugh.’
‘Oh, I thought it was a drag queen evening,’ Jasmine said innocently.
‘That was last night.’ The barman peered at Jasmine, ‘You don’t look as if you’re that type?’          Jasmine smiled. Was that a compliment? He didn’t think that she looked like a gay bloke dressed as a parody of femininity? What did he think she was? Probably not a real girl but TS or TV? It didn’t matter really, not tonight.
‘No, but I was expecting to meet a couple who are,’ she replied.
‘Well, there’s always a few in. Perhaps your friends will arrive later when things warm up.’
‘Were there many queens in last night?’
The bar man chuckled. ‘’Were there many? The place was heaving with them. It’s quite a joke actually because I had the police in here earlier asking me to describe two of them.’
‘Two?’
‘The cops said that two queens were involved in a bit of argy-bargy along at the car park.’
‘Were you able to help them?’
‘Nah. You couldn’t see anything here last night for stiletto heels, false tits and beehive wigs. I told the pigs I didn’t have an inkling which pair they were after.’
Jasmine didn’t like being referred to as a pig but wasn’t about to give herself away
‘You didn’t help them much.’
‘I can remember the days when they’d raid a place like this packed full of gays and lezzers and guys in bras and suspenders. I give them as little as I can get away with.’
Jasmine dropped her voice to a conspiratorial whisper. ‘Do you know who the police were interested in?’
The barman leaned forward. ‘Well, I can’t be certain, but I went outside for a breath of fresh soon after one and two of the guys came out and staggered off down Dock Lane. All the rest were still having fun when we chucked out at three.’
…………….to be continued

Jasmine finds a lead

Is becoming fearful about the future a sign of getting old? When I was younger during the 60s to 80s there was the threat of nuclear war hanging over us or of a Soviet invasion of Europe but the fear, if there was any, was an abstract thing and I don’t recall being bothered by it. Also, I don’t recall being too emotional about the financial situation although I do recall watching the Share index falling to about 150 points in a mid-70s crisis. Despite being a fairly keen Liberal and interested in politics, I never felt worried that the world may collapse around me. Perhaps I was just too concerned about my own state.

Now, I feel beset by problems although my own situation, being retired, happily married and pretty well out as transgendered, is pretty calm. The turmoil of the referendum nonsense and its possible dire outcomes, the threat of terrorism, the rise of a belligerent Russia, an expansionist China, and the general sickness of the Earth, all just add together to make one big bundle of worry. On top of that I have developed a deep loathing of the majority of politicians, leaders of big business, and anyone who spouts extremist/populist propaganda on right or left.

Perhaps it is a feature of growing old that we fear for the world of our children and grandchildren and it’s when we lose youthful optimism it’s time to hand over to the young.

At How the light Gets In, Hay, May '16

At How the light Gets In, Hay, May ’16

Right. After that depressing interlude, on with the story.  Here is the next part of the Jasmine Frame novella, Aberration. I realise that in this story she has spent rather longer as James than Jasmine but as it is from a period where she is still uncertain of her gender identity and resisting the idea that she is transsexual I think it is appropriate. Here he/she is getting somewhere at last. Don’t forget that Painted Ladies, Bodies By Design, Discovering Jasmine and Murder In Doubt are all available to buy.

Aberration – Part 7

Despite a rush to grab something to eat, James started his shift at the pub on time. Kevin was there as usual and Mel, another young woman who James had worked with occasionally. Mel pleased Kevin rather more than Andrea as she was slim with long hair and long legs that were largely bare thanks to the cute shorts that she wore. Her vest clung to her breasts. James noted how the eyes of the male drinkers followed her around the room when she emerged to pick up glasses.  Being Friday it was a busy evening and it was while James was wiping tables and Kevin was filling the dishwasher when he spoke to James conversationally rather than giving an order.
‘Did you send that card then?’
‘Card?’
‘To Andrea’s parents.’
‘No. I called on them and met her mother.’
‘Oh. How was she?’
‘Upset.’
Kevin shrugged, acknowledging that that was the obvious response.
‘I don’t think she could believe it was an accident or suicide,’ James added.
Kevin stared, ‘Suicide?’
‘Well, do you think she would end up in the river by accident? She doesn’t have to go near the river to get home.’
‘Well . . .’
‘You saw her on Wednesday evening. It was my day off. What mood was she in?’
Kevin considered for a moment. ‘Pretty much the same as always. Didn’t say much.’
‘Pretty much? What does that mean?’
‘I suppose she was a bit grumpier than usual.’
‘Grumpier?’
‘Well, edgy. She was in more of a hurry to get off.’
‘Why?’
‘She didn’t say. Never did explain her moods did she.’
James could have given reasons for Andrea’s reticence but he didn’t. Revealing too much of his connection with Andrea might have caused questions about his own personality.
He nodded. ‘She kept things to herself, but did anything happen that evening to make her, er, edgy?’
Kevin straightened up and thought. ‘Yeah, well, Ben and his mates were in.’
‘Ben?’
‘They had a go at Andrea before.’
James nodded. Now he knew who Kevin was talking about; the four thirty-plus louts who had teased and groped her.
‘Your friends,’ he accused.
Kevin shook his head. ‘No, we’re not friends, not really. I’ve known them for years. They come in from time to time and act as if they own the place.’
James wasn’t sure whether to believe Kevin’s denial. They seemed just the sort of blokes who Kevin might count as his mates.
‘What happened then? Did they have a go at Andrea?’
Kevin shrugged. ‘A bit, I suppose, but Mel was on too, so they had an eyeful of her. She could take it though.’
Doesn’t mean that she liked it, James thought. Mel was happy in her female body and perhaps had learned how to respond to randy, older men. Andrea didn’t because she didn’t feel female.
‘They spoke to Andrea as well as Mel?’ James asked.
Kevin shook his head, ‘I don’t know, yes, a bit I think, at least one or two of them did. Why is it important? She’s dead.’
‘That’s right – she’s dead. She ended up in the river an hour or two after leaving here and being hounded by those guys.’
‘They weren’t hounding her.’
‘Alright, but you said she became edgy later.’
‘Er, yeah.’
‘So, perhaps the one or two of your friends who spoke to her said something that got her worked up.’
‘They’re not my friends.’
‘OK, but am I right?’
‘Hey, hold on Jim boy. Why are you getting a heat on? You hardly knew the girl.’
James realised he was getting hot and bothered. He tried to brush it off.
‘Yes, well it’s not everyday someone you work with is fished out of the river.’
Kevin nodded and bent to put a few more glasses in the washer.
‘That’s a fact,’ he muttered.
‘So who was it, that tried chatting Andrea up?’ James insisted while trying to keep his voice cool and calm.
‘I wouldn’t call it chatting up. I only saw them exchanging a few words.’
‘Who?’
‘His name’s Josh. I don’t know him well but he often hangs round with Ben and the others.’
‘Does he live round here?’
‘No idea, but they’re all Reading guys so I ‘spect they live in town somewhere.’
‘They don’t come in here that often. Where else do they hang out?’
‘How should I know. I told you I’m not one of their mates. There are dozens of pubs and clubs around town; you know that. They move around looking for the talent.’
James considered what Kevin had told him. It seemed clear that he needed to meet this Josh and find out what he said to Andrea.  He tried to remember what the four men looked like but his memory was vague.
‘Which one was Josh?’ he asked.
‘The bald, short-arse,’ Kevin said as he slammed the door of the dishwasher.  James nodded as he saw the man in his memory of the four around the table.

James stirred as Angela moved around the flat. Of course, it was Saturday so she wasn’t at work. He groaned.
‘Oh, sorry James,’ Angela said. She came and sat on the edge of the bed. ‘I didn’t mean to wake you.’
James rubbed his eyes. ‘What time is it?’
‘Gone nine. Go back to sleep if you like. I’ll try and keep quiet.’
James pushed himself up the bed. ‘No, I’m awake now and I want to see you.’ They hadn’t seen each other awake since his day off on Wednesday apart from the sleepy conversation about Andrea’s death.
‘I want to see you too. It’s a nice day. Perhaps we can go out somewhere before you go to work.’
James grabbed Angela around the waist and pulled her on top of him.
‘Or perhaps we could just stay in,’ he said, leaning forward to kiss her.  Angela giggled. They kissed and cuddled. Angela slipped a hand between his legs. She pulled away.
‘Your mind’s not on it. What’s the problem?’ she said.
James sighed, ‘I’m sorry. I keep thinking of Andy, Andrea.’
Angela sat up, looking concerned. ‘Oh, is there news?’
James described his conversations with Mrs Pickford, the detective and Kevin.
‘Do you think this Josh guy killed Andy?’ Angela summarised.
James screwed up his face. ‘I don’t know. I am sure Andy was killed and Josh is the only lead I’ve got, but I’ve no idea what happened between them, if anything.’
‘You need to find him.’
‘But all I’ve got is his first name, a pretty vague description and that he often hangs out with the other three.’
‘And he visits the pubs and clubs in town.’
‘It’s a big town, Ange. I could be wandering around for months and never come across him.’
‘If he’s out a lot, other people may know who he is.’
‘So there’s a lot of people to ask.’
‘If you want it to be you that solves Andy’s murder yes. Or you could just tell the police.’
‘And they’d think I was nuts because there’s no evidence that Josh had anything more than a few casual words with Andy while he was doing his job.’
‘I don’t think you’re nuts.’
‘But the police will. They want a nice easy accidental death, or a slightly more troublesome suicide.’
‘Don’t you think they want the truth, James?’
‘I wonder.’
‘Well, if you’re joining them I hope you won’t take the easy path.’
James looked into Angela’s unblinking eyes. She gave him determination.
‘No, I won’t and I will get the truth about Andy’s death. Jasmine Frame will find it.’
Angela nodded. ‘I think you should be Jasmine. She was Andy’s friend. Come on, get dressed. I’ll come asking questions with you. It will be an excuse for getting out of this flat since we’re not going to be doing anything else while you’re in this mood.’

……………………….

Jasmine informs the Police

It has been difficult to find time to write this week (I’ve done this week’s episode though, see below) but it’s been a great time. The Leominster Festival events have gone well.  Deborah Moggach was great both in awarding the writing competition certificates and in her talk. The Choral Society rendition of Haydn’s Creation was fun and well-received. The Bookfair went well with more people looking around but it was difficult to make them part with their cash.  A performance by Canadian folk singer, Ian Sherwood, was brilliant.

Relaxing in the sun (yes, sun!) at Hay

Relaxing in the sun (yes, sun!) at Hay

We’ve also been to Hay twice. The first time was to How the Light Gets In. Some interesting talks but the performance by Marry Waterson, folk singer was dull. On Thursday we had an inspiring day at the Hay Lit Fest, in particular a talk about the bid to make the slate quarrying industry of Gwynedd a UNESCO world heritage site. Talks on the sunken cities of the Nile delta and the development of civilisation across Eurasia were also interesting. Finally, performance poet Roger McGough and his band Little Machine were excellent. The band’s musical settings of classic poems was worth hearing alone and Roger’s poems were hilarious or poignant or both.

A few more events in Leominster to get through over the weekend and then we can get back to normal. Normal?

Oh, and by the way, it’s just 3 weeks to Myth & Magic in Mid-Wales. Come and join us (see my SF & Fantasy page for details)

And so to the next episode of Aberration, the prequel to Painted Ladies and Bodies By Design set in the time when Jasmine is about to join the police force.

Aberration – Part 6

James walked back through the town barely paying attention to traffic or noticing passers-by. The conversation with Andrea’s Mum disturbed him. Neither she nor her husband apparently understood the turmoil Andrea/Andy had been going through, confusing her gender uncertainty with sexuality. The relationship with her father concerned James too. He was obviously violent on occasion even if Mrs Pickford insisted that it was never directed towards his daughter. There was nothing in their conversation that persuaded James that Andrea’s death was an unfortunate accident; the circumstances were too suspicious.  But what were the police thinking?
James took himself to the doors of the Police Station. He looked forward to the time, not many months hence when he would be entering this building as a police constable. Now though he felt nervous as he pushed the door open and joined a short queue at the desk.  It was a few minutes before the civilian employee looked up at him.
‘Can I help you?’
‘Yes, please. I have some information concerning the death of Andrea Pickford,’ he said trying to keep his voice level.
‘Death?’ The woman, was confused.
‘Her body was pulled out of the Kennet yesterday,’ James explained.
Understanding dawned, ‘Ah, that one. Are you a member of the family?’
‘No. I’m, er, a friend.’
The woman scribbled on a pad of forms.  ‘Can I have your name, sir?’
‘James Frame. Do you want my address too?’
‘Yes, please, sir, and a phone number.’  James supplied the details. ‘What information do you have, sir?’
‘I’d like to speak to the investigating officer.’
‘I’m not sure they’re available, sir. If you tell me what you want to say, I’ll pass it on.’
James set his face into a frown. ‘I think I need to discuss a murder with a police officer.’
‘Murder?’ her face looked paler.
‘Yes. I am sure Andrea was murdered.’
‘How do you know it was murder, sir?’
‘I’ll tell that to the investigating officer,’ James said, trying to be authoritative.
‘Alright, sir. I’ll see if there is anyone available.’  She got up and went to the back of the office. James watched her pick up a phone and speak inaudibly. She turned to glance at him a couple of times then put the phone down and returned to face James.  ‘Take a seat, please, sir. Someone will be down shortly.’
James thanked her as politely as he was able, which wasn’t much. It seemed that they had Andrea’s death down as an accident and his intervention might have stirred things up. He had just sat in one of the fixed seats at the side of the room when the door to the inner station opened and a man in a dark grey suit and red hair emerged. James thought that he didn’t look much older than himself but a couple of inches taller. He looked straight at James and still holding the door open spoke in a gentle, southern accent.
‘Mr Frame?’  James nodded and rose. ‘Come with me please.’
James stepped through the heavy door which closed behind them with a clunk of locks operating. He followed the young man down a corridor and through another door, that was held open for him, into a small interview room.
‘Take a seat please, Mr Frame. I’m Detective Constable Vickers.’ He pointed to a chair at a table. James lowered himself into the chair, sitting upright.  ‘Now, I’m told you have some information about the circumstances surrounding the death of Andrea Pickford.’
James took a deep breath. ‘Yes. I think she was murdered.’
DC Vickers eyebrows rose a few millimetres. ‘What evidence do you have for that statement. Were you with her when she died?’
‘No, I haven’t got any concrete evidence, but there was no reason for Andrea to be near the Kennet after work, and she wouldn’t have been wearing a mini-skirt. Not if it was her choice anyway.’
Vickers shrugged. ‘How do you know she was wearing a mini-skirt?’
‘Her mother said that you asked her if she recognised the clothes Andrea was wearing when she was pulled out of the water and they included a mini-skirt, a lace bra and a crop top.’
The DC nodded imperceptibly. ‘You’ve spoken to Mrs Pickford?’
‘Yes. I’ve just come from her house.’
‘Did you tell her your theory?’
‘No. I didn’t want to upset her any more than she is already.’
‘Why are you so sure that Miss Pickford was murdered?’
‘They weren’t Andrea’s clothes. Her mother said so. I know Andrea would never wear such stuff.’
‘You know her well? Are you in a relationship with her?’
‘No. I haven’t known her long and I’m certainly not her boyfriend.’
‘Because she was a lesbian. That’s what her father said she was.’
‘No. Because she was a trans-man.’
‘A what?’
James sighed. He’d have to explain it all. How much would that reveal about himself? ‘Andrea was a transsexual. She believed she was a man. He called himself Andy.’
‘I thought guys that wanted to be women were transsexuals?’
‘It happens the other way too,’ James said feeling depressed. It was 2004 and the Gender Recognition Act had been passed yet people like this young detective were still ignorant about the transgendered.
DC Vickers’s face showed confusion. ‘Did his, um, her parents know about this?’
James shook his head. ‘No. Andy was afraid to tell them because she was worried about her father’s reaction. He gets angry. I think he hits his wife. Andy kept his feelings secret from his parents letting them think he was gay, that is, that she was a lesbian.’
‘But she told you. Why?’
‘We met outside work when he was Andy trying to be as masculine as he could. He wanted to transition but couldn’t break it to his parents or afford to move out and get all the treatment.’
‘Er, treatment?’
‘Hormones, mastectomy, hysterectomy, phalloplasty.’
Most of the words passed the young officer by but he reacted to one. ‘You mean she wanted to have her breasts cut off?’
‘Yes. That’s usually the first stage for F to Ms.’
‘She wanted that?’
‘He did. Andy was a bloke inside. He played an act to his family and the people he worked with but he would never have dressed like a sexy girl. It revolted him.’
Vickers was shocked. ‘What do you think happened?’
‘I don’t know. Someone made Andy wear that stuff, killed him and dumped his body in the river.’
Vickers shook his head. ‘No, she definitely drowned. There were no marks on her body that suggested an attack. She’d drunk a fair amount of alcohol though, and had sex.’ He smacked a hand against his forehead. ‘Oh, god. I shouldn’t have said all that. Sloane will kill me.’
‘Sloane?’
‘The DCI. This is my first case. Just a simple case of accidental death he said. Prepare the evidence for the coroner.’
James shook his head. ‘Well, it’s not. You need to find out who got Andy drunk put him in those clothes, had sex with him, against his will I’d guess, and then pushed him in the river.’
The young detective looked bemused. His face was covered in a slick of sweat. ‘Look, don’t tell anyone that I let out those details.’
James shook his head. ‘No, I won’t but don’t you think I should make a statement.’
‘Um, yes. Sit still for a moment. I’ll be back.’ DC Vickers got up and hurried from the interview room. James remained sitting, still wondering if Vickers or the other officers, perhaps even this DCI Sloane, would believe him.  It was five minutes before Vickers returned. He looked as though he had regained his composure.  He placed a pad of paper on the table and sat down.
‘Okay. Let’s get this down.’

An hour passed before James at last left the police station. He’d set out what he knew about Andy and managed to do it without mentioning Jasmine. Vickers hadn’t thought to probe him on how he met up with Andy. James glanced at his watch. He didn’t have much time to get home, grab something to eat and get out to work. He hoped he had left Vickers and his fellow officers reassessing the case. They only had his word that Andrea was really Andy inside but surely the evidence from Mr and Mrs Pickford, backed it up. The task now was to identify the killers and James had no clues to go on.

………………………

Jasmine keeps a secret

Grange Court, Leominster - Bookfair Mon. 30th May 12 - 4 p.m.

Grange Court, Leominster – Bookfair Mon. 30th May 12 – 4 p.m.

This is the weekend when I get to meet lots of writers and show off my own books – it’s the Leominster Festival.  First there’s the Awards Ceremony for our writing competition – mainly primary schoolchildren, with Deborah Moggach giving out the certificates. That is followed by Deborah’s talk (perhaps I’ll have more on that next week as I’m writing this before it happens).  On Monday we have the Bookfair with about fifteen local authors (and publishers) displaying their books and hoping for sales.  That will be opened by local author of historical fiction, Anne O’Brien. She is an example to us all having started writing only after she retired ten years ago and now has a publisher eager for her work and a burgeoning reputation.

I’ll be offering all my books that are in paperback – the Jasmine Frame novels, Painted Ladies and Bodies By Design as well as the three volumes of Evil Above the Stars. Let’s hope there are some people who actually want to buy books.

By the way, if any readers live nearby, there are still vacancies for the  writing workshops run by Simon Whaley and Fay Wentworth on Monday starting at 11a.m. in Grange Court. They are on the theme of writing about nature and landscapes  in fiction and non-fiction.

copyright BBC.

copyright BBC.

Despite the festival taking up some time this week I have for you quite a long episode of Aberration, the latest Jasmine Frame novella length prequel.  Here James/Jasmine is questioning Andrea/Andy’s mother following the discovery of the body.

Aberration: Part 5

Mrs Pickford turned away and sobbed.  James noticed a bruise on her cheek and realised that he’d been a bit abrupt with his question.
’I’m sorry, Mrs Pickford. I didn’t mean to upset you.’
Andrea’s mother sniffed and turned back to face him. ‘It’s not your fault. Every time I think of my dear girl, I cry. I want her to come back through that door, but the Police came and took us to see her body. I know I’m not going to see her again.’ She cried again.  James felt awkward. Should he put an arm around the grieving woman to comfort her? He decided against it. Perhaps if he could get her to talk.
‘You rang the Police because Andrea didn’t come home.’
Mrs Pickford nodded. ‘We were usually in bed and asleep when she got home from work. You know how late it is when the pub closes?’
James nodded. ‘Yes, I do the late shift. It’s nearly one when I get home.’
‘Sometimes I hear her come in and go to her room but usually its morning when I see her. Tony leaves early – he’s on the bins.  I do afternoons at the Spar down the road so I’m always around in the morning when Andrea gets up.’
‘When did you realise that she wasn’t home?’
‘It was nearly midday and I was about to go to the shop. I was surprised that she hadn’t appeared so I went upstairs and knocked on her door. I wondered if she wasn’t well but she didn’t answer. I opened the door and she wasn’t there.’
‘You didn’t think that she might have stayed overnight with friends?’
‘Andrea never did that and she always gave me a call if she was out for a while. She liked to check I was okay.’
‘You?’
Mrs Pickford waved her hands and looked flustered. ‘It doesn’t matter. I just know Andrea wouldn’t have stayed out without telling me.’
‘So, did you ring the Police then?’
‘No. I didn’t know what to do. I couldn’t think what Andrea was doing. Look, I was always worried about her, her father was too, really.  I know she had problems. . .’
‘Problems?’
‘Well, you know her. She’s always been a tomboy and never had a boyfriend, do you know what I mean?’
James knew what she meant but also realised that she didn’t have much idea about her own daughter’s, or son’s, inner turmoil.’
‘What about girl friends?’ James made sure he separated the “girl” from the “friends“ to spare Mrs Pickford’s embarrassment.
‘I haven’t seen Andrea with friends since she left school, but, um, I thought that she might be, you know, a le. . .  Her father thought so too.’
‘You didn’t talk about it, either of you, with her?’
The woman’s eyes opened wide.  ‘Talk? Tony? With Andrea? Tony’s not a talker.’
‘Andrea didn’t speak to you.’
She shook her head. ‘I suppose she got that from her father too.’
James took a deep breath. ‘So when did you call the Police?’
‘I waited till Tony, got home. I should have been in the shop but I rang in and said I wasn’t well. Mr Patel wasn’t very happy. But by the time Tony got in I was frantic. I couldn’t understand why Andrea hadn’t been in touch.’
‘She had a mobile.’
‘Yes. I tried her number but there was nothing.’
‘So, your husband, Tony, got home . . .’
‘He was angry. He gets like that when he’s tired after a hard day on the lorry. He said a few things about my girl, which I know he didn’t mean, really. Then he said if I was so worried I’d better call the Police; so I did.’
James waited for her to continue.
‘I suppose I expected them to say they couldn’t do anything but the woman took my description of Andrea. It was less than an hour later when a policeman rang back and asked me some questions. Then they came round and took us both to see. . . to see her body.’ The tears welled up again and her voice croaked.
‘So you were sure it was Andrea?’
‘Oh yes. Tony was too. She looked as if she was asleep. Well, not really, but her face was like when she was in bed.’
‘Did the Police tell you what had happened?’
‘They said they’d got her out of the Kennet.  What was she doing there? Oh, and they showed us some clothes.’
James’ heart beat faster. ‘Clothes she’d been wearing?’
‘That’s what they said, although I didn’t recognise them.’
‘What were they?’
‘A mini skirt, a lace bra and a pink vest.’
‘You hadn’t seen Andrea wear things like that?’
‘Andrea hasn’t worn a skirt since she was in junior school. In high school the girls were allowed to wear trousers, so she did, every day. You didn’t see her dressed in stuff like that did you?’
She looked imploringly at James as if hoping to be proved wrong.
James shook his head.
Mrs Pickford spoke again. ‘You said you’d worked with her for a short while but you seem very interested in her. Did she talk to you at the pub?’
‘Not really.’ James was happy to confirm their lack of communication at work. ‘There wasn’t time most nights and you’re right I haven’t known Andrea long but doing the same job, the late nights, I suppose I felt a bit of a bond with her.’
Andrea’s Mum produced a thin smile. ‘Well, thank you. I don’t suppose there will be many others who are sorry she’s gone.’ She sniffed.
James wondered if he could ask a favour that might be seen as an intrusion. ‘Do you think I could have a look in her bedroom? Just to have something to remember her.’
Mrs Pickford appeared slightly surprised but then nodded. ‘I don’t know what you might see that reminds you of her, but come upstairs.’ She went to the stairs which rose steeply against the side of the room. James followed her up to the small landing which had just two doors. Mrs Pickford went to the first door on the left, slowly turned the doorknob and opened the door. She stood by it and nodded to James to enter. He stepped passed her into the front bedroom of the house.
‘There. There’s not much which shows it’s a girl’s room is there?’ Andrea’s mother said.
James looked around and nodded. She was right on that point. There was a single bed against the front wall of the house under the window with a bright orange bed spread. A small wardrobe was against the far wall with a chest of drawers next to it. Closer, on the right, was a desk that doubled as a dressing table. James stepped into the middle of the room and turned around. There was small set of bookshelves beside the bed with a mirror above it. Above the bed was a poster of the Reading football team, last season’s squad. On the other available wall space were posters of heavy metal bands that James didn’t recognise. He crouched to look on the shelves. There were CDs of the bands on the walls along with fantasy novels and superhero comics. There was nothing anywhere to suggest that this room belonged to a woman in her early twenties, not a feminine woman. There were no cosmetics on the desk-cum-dressing table, just a deodorant and hair-brush alongside a CD player.
James itched to fling open the wardrobe and search through the drawers but knew that would be too intrusive while Andrea’s mother was looking on.  She saw him glance at the band posters.
‘I don’t know why she liked those groups, but at least she wore ear phones most of the time. Tony hated the noise they make.’
‘Her father got angry with her?’
Mrs Pickford pursed her lips and nodded almost imperceptibly. ‘He never hit her though.’  James noted the accidental emphasis.  ‘He just wanted his little girl back.’
‘Little girl?’
‘The girl with long dark hair that we dressed in pretty dresses and who loved her teddies.’
‘. . .and dolls?’ James added.
‘No, she never played with dolls. She ignored the Barbie we gave her one Christmas. She gave up wearing skirts and dresses when she could choose her clothes and then she cut her hair short. That made Tony really annoyed.’
‘What did he do?’
‘He blamed me for making Andrea the way she was.’ Mrs Pickford sucked in a breath as if realising that she was on the point of revealing more than she should.
James explained, ‘I don’t think it was anything you did that made Andrea the way she was. She just didn’t think or feel girly.’
‘No,’ her mother sighed.
James wanted to tell her about the conversations that Jasmine and Andy had had over coffee in the last few weeks, but he didn’t. He felt that while she seemed to accept that Andrea may be lesbian she wasn’t ready for the full truth of her gender identity. Perhaps she would never learn the truth. He glanced around the room again, fixing it in his mind.
‘Thank you for showing me this, Mrs Pickford. Did the Police tell you anything else, such as how Andrea got into the river or how she died?’
‘Didn’t she drown?’ The woman looked surprised as if she hadn’t considered any other possibility.
‘I suppose so. I don’t know,’ James said.
She shook her head. ‘They said they couldn’t tell us anything else. They asked a few questions such as when we’d last seen her and what she was wearing and what her mood was. I don’t think we helped them very much. She had just seemed normal.  The detective said they were still investigating and would let us know what they found out.’
‘So the police don’t know much. There’ll be a post mortem to prove that she drowned.’
Mrs Pickford raised a hand to her mouth, ‘Oh, will they have to cut her?’
‘I’m afraid so. It’s normal in cases of unexpected death. The coroner will need to know.’
‘You mean there will be an inquest?’
James nodded. Unless it turns out to be a murder case, he thought, and if they find a killer it will go to court; but he didn’t tell Mrs Pickford that.
‘I’d better go. I’m sorry I’ve taken so much of your time.’
Mrs Pickford tried to smile. ‘It’s no trouble. It’s lovely to meet someone who cared for Andrea even if you haven’t known her long. Will you come to the funeral? I don’t know when it will be yet.’
‘Yes, of course. You’d better have my phone number to let me know.’
They returned downstairs and Mrs Pickford wrote down James’ mobile number on a scrap of paper. Then they said farewells and James stepped out onto the street. He took a deep breath and strode away down Albert Street. His head was full of thoughts. What was Andrea doing wearing those clothes when she died? Where did they come from? James was quite sure that if he had searched Andrea’s bedroom he would not have found any similar items. What were the Police making of her death? There was a lot more he wanted to know.

……………………….

Jasmine receives a shock

rainbow flagTuesday 17th May is IDAHOT (or IDAHoT) day, the International Day for Action against Homophobia and Transphobia. Public buildings around the world will be flying the rainbow flag of lesbian, gay, bisexual pride. As usual trans gets lumped in with the  LGB or to put it another way transpeople join with LGB people to declare their opposition to discrimination and hate. Since being trans is about personal identity and not sexual preferences it is a questionable whether the T should be in LGBT. However as a smaller minority than the LGB crowd, transpeople need all the support they can get. I am quite happy to support gays and lesbians in their campaign against hate crime and prejudice and I appreciate their acceptance and support for transpeople of all genders or none. Nevertheless, I have been asked whether I feel included in the rainbow flag.
220px-Transgender_Pride_flag.svgThere is a transgender flag, in fact, there are many different designs. Apparently the most commonly seen (shown here) was designed by Monica Helms in 1999 although I can’t recall having seen it fly anywhere. Actually I think it is a terrible design. The blue stands for boys, the pink for girls and the white for intersex (those born with parts of both sets of genitals). It is wrong for so many reasons. First, I would like us to get away from this labelling of pink and blue for girls and boys. Second, the division into two genders leaves out the non-binary or dual gender (whatever term you want to use) people who do not identify with just male or female. Last of all, the structure of the flag suggests that female is confined within the male, reinforcing male supremacy.
The rainbow flag itself has problems. It is not a true rainbow which shows infinite gradations of colour but is in fact a variation on the Newtonian seven colour spectrum (with the blue and indigo combined into royal blue) and suggests divisions between the different “colours”. Oh, and the bottom colour should be a much darker violet.
Why have flags anyway?  Flags were invented to identify which side you were on in a battle or to show possession of a patch of land. Do we really want that symbolism?
Despite that I will show my support in the campaign against hatecrime of all forms on Tuesday by attending  the flying of the flag.

So after that, here is the next episode of Aberration, a prequel to Painted Ladies and Bodies By Design, featuring Jasmine Frame, transsexual detective.

Aberration: Part 3
 
The following evening, James found he was behind the bar with Kevin and another young man, but not Andrea. On the Friday evening though, Andrea was there washing glasses, serving customers, clearing tables. James attempted to engage her in conversation but she wouldn’t stop to chat insisting that there was more work to do. She was the same on Saturday and Sunday evenings, but as they were clearing up in the early hours of Monday morning, Andrea brushed passed James and slipped a piece of paper into his hand.  As he left the pub, James read the note in the light of a streetlamp. It gave the location of a Starbucks in the centre of town and a time, 11 a.m. It ended with a greeting or a request, “See you there. A”.  James smiled, put the slip of paper in his pocket and sauntered home.

Next morning was dry but cooler than it had been.  Nevertheless, Jasmine thought it was summer dress weather. She spent a long time getting ready, striving for that natural, everyday look that took ages to achieve. At last she felt ready to hit the Reading town centre and put on her comfy sandals for the walk.  She found the coffee shop easily enough and entered, surveying the customers for Andy. He was sitting at a table. He saw her as she stepped inside and rose to greet her. They exchanged a nervous kiss on each other’s cheek, then Andy insisted on buying Jasmine a coffee, black unsweetened.
They sat together at the table, set apart, a little further from the others, probably because it was near the loo.  Jasmine guessed that Andy didn’t want his voice overheard.
‘Thanks, Andy,’ she began, ‘It’s nice to get out. Do you come here often?’
Andy nodded, then spoke almost in a whisper. ‘Now and again. Often enough so they know me behind the counter.’
‘Why, here?’
‘It’s the opposite side of the town from home and my family aren’t likely to come in. They’re not fancy coffee drinkers.’ He sipped from his cappuccino.
Jasmine examined the young man. He facial features were a little softer than most blokes but his short hair and button up shirt and jeans meant he didn’t draw attention to himself. He slouched forward, round shouldered, resting his elbows on the table – a typical male pose.
‘You look good,’ Jasmine said.
‘So do you. Really girly.’
Jasmine glowed. ‘Thanks.’ She brushed hair from her face, leaned forward and said quietly, ‘Actually, wearing this wig is bloody hot. I wish I didn’t have to.’
‘Couldn’t you grow your hair? It’s blonde like the wig.’
‘I’d love to but I need short hair for the police force.’
‘They don’t like long hair then?’
‘It’s a matter of fitting in. I don’t want to be taken for a long-haired cissy.’
‘Don’t you want to be female all the time?’ Andy sounded mystified.
‘Hmm,’ Jasmine wasn’t sure how to explain herself, largely because she didn’t know how she felt. ‘Look, I love being Jasmine. It feels natural despite the wig and the false boobs, but I don’t really mind being James.’ James was a cardboard cut-out she stood behind, was more like how she felt. ‘But there’s the career in the Police, which I really want to do, and there’s Angela.’
Andy smiled. ‘Ah, Angela. She’s lovely.’
‘She is. I adore her and want to marry her. She’s really great about Jasmine. We have lots of fun together, but I don’t think she wants to live with her one hundred per cent of the time, especially a Jasmine with real tits and no cock.’
‘So you’re happy to stay as you are?’
‘I think so.’  We’ll have to see, Jasmine thought, we’ve barely set out on our life together. Being a student couple didn’t count. ‘But you’re not,’ she added turning the conversation round to Andy.
His face fell. ‘I can’t get it out of my head. It’s banging away all the time. The feeling that my body’s all wrong.’
‘Well, do something about it,’ Jasmine said with a resolution that she realised she hadn’t applied to herself. ‘You’re an adult. See a doctor. It’ll take time but once you’re on the hormones the changes will happen quickly enough.’
Andy shook his head, ‘But my folks will go bananas. They’ll think I’m an aberration. Wrong in the head.’
Jasmine reached forward to take Andy’s hand in hers. ‘I know it’s difficult. I haven’t told my mother and father anything about Jasmine either.’
‘But you said your sister knows.’
‘Yes.’
‘Well, I haven’t got any brothers and sisters and you don’t know my parents. If I told them I wasn’t their daughter anymore, I’m not sure what would happen.’
Despite Jasmine’s questioning Andy wouldn’t offer any more explanation so she steered the conversation to less problematic areas such as the Athens Olympics. After an hour in the coffee shop they left and went their separate ways.

The days passed. Jasmine celebrated Kelly Holmes’ two gold medals and was inspired to do her own runs most days. She quickly found her fitness returning. The evening shifts behind the bar continued to be a chore but they did at least supplement Angela’s meagre salary as a trainee. At least they were starting to settle into something of a routine and making the most of the time off they had together at the weekends – the daytime anyway. She shared shifts with Andrea some nights but they didn’t chat to each other a lot. Instead, every few days Jasmine met up with Andy for a Starbucks coffee. The staff soon got to recognise them and Jasmine realised that they thought they were a normal girl and boy dating. She could not detect any recognition or reaction to them both being transgendered and she enjoyed the opportunity to be out. When Jasmine told Angela about her observations she laughed.
‘Do I have to worry about you having an affair with another bloke, Jas?’
Jasmine blushed. ‘No. We’re just good friends.’
‘That’s what they all say,’ Angela chuckled.
‘I know, but what I really like is being accepted as me. It’s not like when we were at university surrounded by other students, some of them doing far more weird things than dressing up as the opposite gender. Meeting up with Andy in town is like when we go out shopping or whatever. I’m surrounded by ordinary people who couldn’t care less what I am, or what Andy is.’
Angela nodded. ‘Good. That’s how life should be.’

On a Tuesday night in the pub there were four men at a table, each well into his thirties, having a good time. They were knocking back the pints and whisky chasers and getting louder. James noticed that they seemed to know Kevin well and kept on drawing him into their banter and jokes. James also saw how they treated Andrea. Kevin had told her to serve the group so she was constantly being called out from behind the bar. Andrea had not given into Kevin’s request so was still dressed in her jeans and sloppy t-shirt. This didn’t seem to put off the men.  Hands gripped her thighs and buttocks as if assessing her like a prize ewe. When she leaned down to pick up glasses from the table, one or other of the men would lean forward to gaze at her breasts. James admired how she managed to keep her cool and do no more than ease the hands off her anatomy.  At last the group got up and left the pub blowing kisses to Andrea and Kevin.
Next day, Jasmine met up with Andy at the café. She collected the coffees, it was her turn to buy them and set them down at the table they had come to think of as theirs. Andy stared at the cup.
‘Are you OK, Andy?’ Jasmine said as she sat down.
‘Hmm.’
‘You’re not thinking about last night are you?’
‘Last night?’
‘The way those friends of Kevin pestered you.’
‘Oh, them. No, well I suppose a bit. Girls get that all the time.’
‘Yes, but you don’t have to put up with it. Kevin should have stopped them.’
‘He probably thought I should have been wearing a short skirt to please them a bit more.’
‘If he said that it would be sexual discrimination,’ Jasmine said.
Andy sniffed. ‘Well, he didn’t, and if I threatened him with the law I’d probably lose my job and I can’t risk that.’
‘So what’s the problem.’
He shrugged. ‘A bit of this, a bit of that I suppose.’
The more Jasmine pestered, the less Andy would say but she had never seen him as depressed or withdrawn.  They parted after half an hour hardly having conversed at all.  Jasmine returned home looking forward to an evening off with Angela.

The next day, Thursday, was cooler and damp. Almost autumnal, James thought as he set out for his daily run. He now had a few regular routes which all included sections of the Kennet and Thames river paths. This time, having reached the Kennet, he turned left towards Blakes’ Lock and the town centre. He hadn’t gone far when he met a small cluster of onlookers and his way was blocked by a police barrier.  James stopped and like the others looked upstream.  About fifty yards away a number of uniformed people were milling around on the bank and on the water were two inflatable boats.
‘What’s going on?’ James said to his companions.
A man in his mid-fifties in scruffy jacket and trousers, a fag hanging out of his mouth, coughed. ‘They’ve pulled a body out of the water,’ he said.
‘A dead body?’ James asked, realising it was probably a silly question.
‘’Course, it’s bloody dead. Do you think anyone would go swimming in this?’
James had thought the water seemed fairly clean as he ran beside the rivers but he wouldn’t choose to immerse himself in it.
‘Anyone know who?’ he asked of the gathering not expecting a sensible answer.
‘Someone said it was a girl. She was definitely wearing a short skirt when they pulled her out,’ said a man in an office suit holding an umbrella over his head.
James decided there was no point to standing and gawping and he wasn’t going to be able to follow this route. He turned and started to run in the opposite direction.

At five p.m. he entered the bar. Just Kevin was there, checking the bottles of spirits.  James looked around.
‘Where’s Andrea?’ She was usually there earlier, putting in the hours.
Kevin looked up at him, a blank look on his face. ‘She won’t be in tonight.’
‘Why not? Is she ill?’
‘No, she’s dead. They fished her body out of the Kennet this morning.’

………………..

Jasmine across the world

copyright BBC.

copyright BBC.

Well, not Jasmine so much as me and Lou.  We were on the BBC World Service last Saturday and featured on the BBC magazine website where apparently for a time (a few minutes, hours?) it was trending in the top ten articles. You can read it here.  The programme was part of the World Services “Identity” series looking  at how personal secrets are kept and shared.  Really it was a rehash of the programme we did two and half years ago and didn’t examine transgenderism or gender identity in any greater depth. Nor, more’s the pity, did it promote the Jasmine Frame series to any worthwhile extent with no links on the website. For this we gave up a couple of hours of our time, exposed ourselves to the media (the presenter and producer were quite sweet actually) and no money exchanged hands.

What is interesting, perhaps, is the result.  I didn’t expect much of a slightly boring, short interview with little publicity, although a friend did point out that there was a potential audience of a billion or so. What did happen was a brief small spike in views of this blog and a tiny, short-lived spike in e-book sales.  What was lovely were the comments here, on Facebook and in person from friends who heard or saw the feature. Thanks for the encouragement, folks. One irritating response was from a publisher, who I had not had previous contact with, asking me to review a  novel with a transgender character that they were putting out.  Cheek! Not even an offer of payment. I wondered if it was worth doing for the publicity but thought giving someone else a sale wasn’t worth my trouble.

Murder in doubt coverWhat the media exposure did do was spur me to put out Murder In Doubt on sale a few days earlier than I had planned (it was intended to coincide with this post). It is, chronologically, the second prequel novella featuring James/Jasmine Frame and follows after Discovering Jasmine.  An unedited version appeared here a long time ago.  James/Jasmine is starting his/her university career and, nervously, relishing the opportunities to be Jasmine. She meets Angela for the first time  and another trans-woman called Silla.  Soon she is investigating a possible murder and making surprising discoveries.   Murder In Doubt is available on Kindle, and for just one day you can get Discovering Jasmine free.

 

Look out for. . .

There is no new Jasmine Frame episode this week but a new story, called Aberration, will start next week.  Chronologically it follows Murder In Doubt.  James/Jasmine and Angela have graduated and are entering the world of careers and renting somewhere to live. Jasmine is getting used to living outside the cloistered community of university and is waiting to join the police force. It’s 2004 and the Gender Recognition Act has just been passed by parliament but is not yet law. Being Jasmine, she soon finds herself investigating a death which the police have misinterpreted.  The first episode will appear on Sat 30th April – be here!

Jasmine fears exposure

This week we reach the end of another Jasmine Frame story. Part 13 of Resolution is below. There are now eight completed novella length prequels to the first Jasmine Frame novel, Painted Ladies. They haven’t been written in any particular order but I am publishing edited versions gradually, in the chronological order of each tale. The first, Discovering Jasmine has been available as an e-book for a few months and the second, Murder In Doubt will be available very soon – watch out for next week’s blog.  The second novel, Bodies By Design, the first sequel to Painted Ladies is also available as a paperback and e-book while the third novel, The Bride’s Club Murder is complete and awaiting my decision when and how to publish.

20160122_132302I created Jasmine about fifteen years ago, not long after I started to reveal my own trans nature. I made Jasmine a transsexual, someone who wanted to live in the gender they identified with and if possible have all the medical treatment necessary to achieve a body that matched that identity as closely as possible. I hope that in the prequels I am showing how James/Jasmine reached that decision, because it isn’t easy nor is it cut and dried. While there are many FtM and MtF transsexuals making and realising that choice, there are also many “trans” or “gender variant” people who do not want to follow that path. I am one. I am quite certain I do not want to take drugs or have surgery. I am happy to feminise my appearance using cosmetics, jewellery, and clothes (and prosthetics) and having my hair styled and ears pierced, etc. but I am content for it to be temporary. I swap or oscillate between genders, like a quantum particle sometimes displaying features of both simultaneously. I use the term “transgender” but it is a catch-all term. Others use the terms non-binary or gender-queer amongst others to describe a feeling which sets them apart from people who are content with the male and female tags. I am still exploring and discovering my own gender identity and through the Jasmine Frame stories I hope to investigate other manifestations of gender uncertainty in individuals and relationships – especially where they involve a juicy murder.

The UK may be one of the more enlightened and accepting societies in which trans people can be who they want to be. However the situation is not perfect. Hate crime still exists and many professional people in positions of authority in medicine, the police, education, government etc. still have little or no knowledge of the experiences of trans people, the diversity of types of gender variance and the pressures on them.

Resolution: Part 13

James shivered. It was British summer warm but the water of the canal had been cold and now he was cooling rapidly.
Tom knelt by his side. ‘Are you okay, Jim? There’s blood on you.’
James looked down at his soaked and stained jacket and shirt. ‘Not mine.’
‘You’d better get those wet clothes off,’ Tom said, ‘The paramedic will be here soon.’
James tugged his jacket off and felt in the pocket. He dragged out the voice recorder.
‘You’d better look after this. I don’t know whether it still works after being in the water.’
‘You recorded your conversation?’
‘I hope so.’
James found his mobile phone. The screen was blank and it didn’t respond to him pressing buttons. Approaching sirens made him look up. A first responder and a couple of police cars were racing over the canal bridge.  In moments uniforms were bustling around them. The paramedic examined Dawson briefly then turned to James.
‘Let’s have a look at you.’
Through chattering teeth James asked ‘What about him?’ He nodded towards Dawson.
‘Nothing I can do for him,’ the paramedic said. ‘But let’s get you dried off and warmed up. Do you have any injuries?
James felt the bruise on his breast bone and a graze on his knee, but shook his head.
‘Better get you checked over nevertheless, since you’ve been in the canal.’
The paramedic gave him a foil blanket from his bag. He wrapped it around himself. An ambulance arrived and more police cars. DS Trewin got out of one car, took a look around then sauntered up to James. He crouched down.
‘Well, Jim. What have you been up to?’
James opened his mouth.
‘No, don’t tell me now. Let’s get you sorted out in A&E then we can have a chat.’
James found his voice. ‘Tom Shepherd saw what happened and he’s got the recorder. You’ll find stuff on Dawson on my computer.’
‘Thank you, Jim. We’ll talk soon.’ Trewin beckoned to the ambulance personnel, a man and a woman, and walked off to speak to Tom.
‘Can you walk?’ The female paramedic asked. James struggled to his feet. The woman gave him a helping hand towards the ambulance.

‘James! Are you alright?’ Angela rushed towards James with her arms reaching out to him. He rose from the hospital chair which he had been occupying for most of the last few hours. The NHS regulation gown flapped around his knees.
‘Angela, at last.’ He said as they wrapped their arms around each other. They hugged then Angela pushed him away and looked him up and down.
‘You’re well?’ she said, almost as if she expected him to be swathed in bandages.
‘I’m fine. Just a bruise,’ James placed a hand on his chest. ‘My clothes got ruined and my phone’s knackered. That’s why I could only leave you a voice message from a payphone.’
‘I picked it up when I came out of my meeting, but I was in London. You remember?’
‘Oh yes,’ James had forgotten where Angela had said she was spending her day.
‘I’ve got some clothes for you though. Here.’ She handed him a carrier bag. He looked in it – pants, t-shirt, shorts and flip-flops.
‘Looks like I’m on holiday.’
‘Well, they were easy to shove in the bag. You’re not on duty are you?’
James snorted. ‘No. Don’t think I will be for a few days, if ever. Alan Trewin called in and told me to go home and stay there until this is all over.’
‘What’s all over, James?’
‘Dawson, the guy who was following me, is dead. I was responsible, sort of. They’ll have to investigate that and the crimes he was involved in. I don’t know whether they’ll find out about Jasmine.’
Angela placed her hand on his cheek. ‘Well, you’re safe, and that’s all that matters to me. Come on. Get dressed so we can go home.’

The week went by for James in a mixture of nervous excitement and boredom. He spent it in their Reading flat with little to do except follow Angela’s instructions for packing. The contracts were exchanged on the house in Kintbridge so they would be moving in a week or so. He started sorting his and Jasmine’s clothes ready to be transported to the new house. He had no contact with police force colleagues other than brief daily calls from DS Trewin and visits from investigating officers from Birmingham, Sheffield and the Metropolitan Police.
The Sheffield investigators asked questions relating to James’ report on the Hargreaves murder and Greaves’ suicide. James had little to add and didn’t offer an opinion on the treatment of trans prisoners. They had no reason to suspect the existence of Jasmine and he wasn’t going to enlighten them.
The Birmingham detectives were interested to know about Dawson’s part in DS Sparrow’s death. They had got nowhere in tracing the driver of the burnt-out stolen vehicle that had run her down. Now they were able to follow up Dawson’s contacts and arrest a suspect. They had interviewed Tania again and James was relieved that she hadn’t revealed that it was Jasmine who had visited her and not James. The detectives left satisfied that they had Milla’s murder sewn up but upset that James had made the breakthrough.
The Met officers were also a little disgruntled that James had opened up the book of Dawson’s life in crime. To them he had been a peripheral figure in the drug supply business.  Now he was revealed as the middleman between the importers and the dealers with a remorseless way of dealing with those who got in his way. The experience in hiding his identity before and after his transition had stood him well in the murky world of crime. Now, following his death and exposure, his network was unravelling as informers came forward.
James also had a visit from Alan Trewin who had taken down his statement of the weekend’s events and James’ account of his meeting with Dawson. James neglected to report what he was wearing at the various times and Trewin revealed no knowledge of Jasmine. James guessed that Dawson had left no record of his intended blackmail.  Trewin made few comments leaving James more than a little uncertain of his future.
At midday on Friday, the phone in the flat rang. James dropped the pile of books he was carrying into the cardboard box and answered it.
Trewin’s voice greeted him. ‘Jim. The DCI would like to see you this afternoon. Be in his office at two. Don’t come any earlier and hang around, and don’t be late. Got that?’
‘Yes. . .’ The call terminated. They don’t want me chatting to Tom or the others, James thought as he hurried to start getting ready. He dressed in his other dark grey suit with a freshly ironed shirt and polished black shoes.

It was precisely two p.m. when James walked through the communal office and into Sloane’s private space. He’d sat in the police station carpark watching his watch till he judged it was time to go.
DCI Sloane looked up as James stood to attention in front of his desk. There appeared to be no warmth in the chief’s eyes.
‘Now Frame, what have you been up to?’ he paused but James didn’t think he was expecting an answer. ‘In the space of a few days since joining us you bring two cases, perhaps three or more, to a resolution but with the perpetrators dead so the cases will not be tested in court.’
James nodded, wondering where Sloane was leading.
‘Greaves was a bitter and confused fellow,’ Sloane continued, ‘but Dawson was a cunning and ruthless criminal. What this swapping between life as a woman and a man had to do with it I don’t know but the clues you provided have revealed a very nasty personality. We’ve rounded up the immigrants that he was intending to use as his new sales network. He intimidated them, making them think they had broken some employment laws and then blackmailed them to do what he wanted. The boys at the Met are following up various leads on his suppliers. The divers found the gun in the canal and it matches one used in other killings.’ Sloane took a breath and glared at James. ‘So, it seems we have a lot to thank you for, DC Frame.’
It didn’t sound as though Sloane was gushing with gratitude.
‘However, this Dawson business. First you involve yourself in the Sparrow case without authorisation from me or the Birmingham investigating officer. Then you inform no-one of the contact made with Dawson and finally you go off alone, or almost alone, to meet him when you know he is dangerous. What do you have to say, Frame.’
‘I’m sorry, Sir.’ How could he explain? ‘I wanted to see Tania, Milla’s partner, to tell her how sorry I was about Milla. Her sighting of Dawson came out by accident. The Birmingham people hadn’t asked the necessary questions. I would have informed you but then I discovered that Dawson was tailing me. He threatened me and I wasn’t sure what to do, Sir. I thought that meeting him again and getting him to confess might give me a way of . . .’ James wasn’t sure what he’d expected to happen.
‘Frame. I understand and I sympathise,’ There wasn’t much sympathy in Sloane’s grey features. ‘but you have to realise that police investigations are founded on teamwork. The heroic actions of a maverick cop only occur in crime novels. If you want to work alone then get out of the force and become a private eye.’ Sloane spoke the words with disdain. ‘Now, it does appear that you and Shepherd have struck up a bit of a partnership. He says that your swift reaction prevented Dawson getting another shot off at him and you did at least involve him in your half-baked scheme. In future, remember that in the V&SCU, we work together, we share information and we make each other’s safety paramount. Do you understand me, Frame?’
James had listened, waiting for the words that would say his career as a detective was over, but what had Sloane said – “In future”? Did that mean he was being kept on?
‘Frame?’ Sloane repeated.
James jerked to attention. ‘Yes, Sir, I understand, Sir. Teamwork, Sir.’
A hint of a smile formed at the corners of Sloane’s mouth. ‘That’s right. Don’t forget it. Now, thanks to you I have still to speak to a variety of police forces. I don’t want to see you again till eight a.m. on Monday morning, prompt. I’ll work out then which case deserves yours and Shepherd’s attention.’
James saluted, mumbled his thanks and backed out. He hurried through the outer office and out of the station. In the warm, polluted, Kintbridge air, he paused and looked around.  He was still a detective, still a member of Sloane’s team, and none of his colleagues knew about Jasmine.

THE END

……………………….

Jasmine makes a date

Back from the weekend in Manchester.  A SF&F convention is certainly a diverse gathering – all ages, sexualities, genders (including alien ones) and personalities. There was a trapped audience of a thousand but persuading them to spend their money on books still proved to be difficult. The same applies to all genres. More and more books are published and fewer and fewer people are actually buying. The writer is caught in the middle so we end up buying each other’s books and never making a living from our craft.  Still, it’s fun isn’t it.

Murder in doubt coverThe second Jasmine Frame novella will be published very shortly. It follows on from Discovering Jasmine  and is called Murder in Doubt. It is of course based on one of the serials published here. Here is a sneak preview of the cover.  More details soon.

Back to the present and the next episode of Resolution. We’re approaching a climax.

 

 

 

 

Resolution: Part 11

 James pulled on his dark trousers, tucked in his shirt and selected a tie from the rack.  Angela came into the bedroom, stopped and stared.
‘That’s your work suit. It’s Sunday. Aren’t you going to be Jasmine today?’
‘I need to call into the Station, Ange. I won’t be long, I hope.
‘Oh. Is it to do with that man that was following you? I’m worried James. If he is linked to Milla Sparrow’s death, aren’t you in danger?’
James wrapped his arms around Angela’s shoulders. ‘I don’t think he wants to kill me too. I’m going in because I need to write up my report on the Hargreaves case. We completed it on Friday evening and Sloane will want it on his desk by tomorrow morning.’
He looked into Angela’s eyes. They still were dark and worried.
‘Well, take care, and come back as soon as you can. I’m not sure I can relax with you out of my sight at the moment.’

The V&SCU office was empty which surprised James a little. Surely it wasn’t a quiet weekend for crime. Perhaps the other detectives were actually out on cases. James settled at his desk and booted up his computer. He didn’t start writing his report but instead took Eric Dawson’s card from his pocket and keyed the name and brief details into the police database. Dawson’s file appeared but didn’t tell him much. There was no link to his previous existence as a woman. There were notes in the record that linked Dawson to shady deals in Reading and London and incidents where people, predominantly criminals themselves, had been “removed”.  There was insufficient evidence to charge Dawson with any wrongdoing let alone convict him of any crime. James felt frustrated. He had to find a way of ridding himself of his tormentor before he revealed James’ dual gender.
The door to the office slammed open despite being on a stiff spring. James looked up to see the grey-suited Sloane striding across the room to his own office.
Seeing James didn’t slow him but he declared. ‘Ah, Frame. Glad you’re here. In my office, now.’
James launched himself from his chair and hurried after the DCI. Sloane rounded his desk and slumped into his seat. James stood in front of him.
‘I haven’t finished preparing the case against Michelle Greaves . . .’
‘There won’t be a case,’ Sloane said.
James was confused. ‘No case, Sir? But Michelle Greaves confessed to killing her wife on Friday evening in front of DS Trewin and myself.’
‘I know that, Frame. You both did a good job but it won’t be going to court. Not a criminal court at least.’
James shook his head in incomprehension.
Sloane went on without a pause. ‘Greaves is dead.’
‘Michelle Greaves?’ James whispered.
‘Yes. He killed himself in custody last night.’
‘How?’
‘Hung himself from the window catch by his bra.’
‘Bra?’
‘Yes, careless of them. We take belts away from prisoners to prevent this type of thing. The bra wasn’t actually holding up any part of his anatomy. No reason why he should have been allowed to keep it.’
‘But, Michelle was a woman,’ James mumbled.
‘What was that, Frame? Look it’s a mess. I’ve called Trewin in. I’ll need you both to write a full report of your interview with Greaves. See if there was any warning of him being a suicide risk.’
James replied cautiously, ‘She did ask if she’d be placed in a woman’s prison.’
‘Did he?’ Sloane’s bushy eyebrows rose. ‘Why? He was still physically male wasn’t he?’
‘She was transitioning,’ James explained as carefully as he could, ‘She was living as a woman while waiting for medical procedures to start. She wouldn’t have wanted to be among men in a male prison.’
‘Hmph. Well, perhaps the Sheffield lot didn’t take his mental state into consideration sufficiently. I’ll need that report from you and Trewin. It’ll be the coroner’s court for Greaves and for Elizabeth Hargreaves.’
Sloane picked up his phone and waved James away. James returned slowly to his desk. He couldn’t understand how someone could take their own life. Could the thought of being treated like a man have been so terrible for Michelle Greaves? Apparently it was. James tried to recall as much as he could of the interview with Greaves in the Sheffield Police Station. It seemed so long ago.

DS Trewin arrived and joined James in a brief discussion of the news, then he left James to prepare his account of the investigation alone. James completed it, saved it to the file and attached it to emails to Sloane and Trewin. Writing the report had helped him come to terms with Greaves’ death. He could see some kind of parallel between Michelle Greaves’ fear of being cast back into the role of a man and his own fear of being outed by Eric Dawson. He recognised that he shared with Greaves a vulnerability in gender identity that was a danger to them both. Greaves’ determination to be recognised as a woman had led to her Elizabeth’s and her own deaths. James realised that he would have to take care of his own mental state because of his fears about his mixed up gender. He could succumb to Dawson’s blackmail and become his tame monkey, or he could fight him and risk his gender confusion becoming public knowledge with whatever consequences that would have. He didn’t want the former so he would have to pursue the latter course however much that scared him.
James returned to his electronic trail of Eric Dawson. There were plenty of snippets of reports and hints about Dawson’s role in criminal activity. Now that he knew his appearance James was able to observe him in surveillance photographs of meetings of criminals. Dawson, he discovered was a link between the drug lords and the suppliers on the streets and in the clubs across the south-east as well as the go to man for removing troublesome clients and employees. Dawson had established his position and reputation despite his transgender history. Or was it “despite”? Perhaps he had gained his reputation for organisation and ruthlessness because of his adoption of a male persona. He may look a somewhat flabby specimen of a man but testosterone coursed through his veins and produced a masculine response to a crisis. Nevertheless, he had been born a girl and James felt sure Dawson must still harbour a feeling of insecurity about his female origins. James accessed his birth certificate. It was a new one, post Gender Reassignment Act certification. It told him that Eric Dawson, male, had been born in 1969 in Southampton. James would need a higher authority to delve into Dawson’s female history, but perhaps he didn’t need the truth to stick a needle in Dawson’s buried and almost forgotten fears.
A meeting would have to be arranged at which James would keep Dawson guessing as to whether he was going to be compliant or defiant. If he could play Dawson along, James hoped he could lead him into indiscretions and incriminate himself even if it meant Jasmine and James Frame were revealed as one and the same person. James’ fingers skipped across the keys, his eyes locked on the screen as he continued to build up his knowledge of everything there was to learn about Eric Dawson.
A long while later, James stretched and rubbed his eyes. He glanced at his watch, saw the time and felt a pang of anxiety about Angela. He must get back home to her to calm her anxieties. He wanted to get back into a dress again too. First though he had a phone call to make.

Next morning, following the briefing and some routine and boring paperwork James joined Tom Shepherd in the corner by the coffee machine.
‘Are you free this afternoon, Tom?’ James said in a quiet voice but trying not to be too conspiratorial.
Tom shrugged, ‘If nothing comes up, I suppose so. What’s up?’
‘I’m meeting someone and I’d like you to come along. You know, as witness, partners.’
‘What’s it about. The Hargreaves case is over now that Greaves has topped himself.’
‘No, it’s not that. It’s to do with Milla Sparrow.’
Tom frowned. ‘The DS that was killed? I thought the Birmingham lot were investigating that.’
‘Yes, they are but I’ve become involved because I knew her and we worked together on her last case here,’ James tried not to tell an outright lie. ‘I’m meeting someone who might give us a lead.’
‘Oh, right. What time?’
‘Two. We can go straight from lunch.’ When it won’t be so obvious that we’re missing, James didn’t add.

Before lunch James picked up surveillance kit from stores and hid the microphone and recording device under his clothes. He met Tom in the police canteen and after a they had each finished off a plate of sausage and chips they left in one of the cars assigned to their unit. James drove them out of Kintbridge.
‘Where are we meeting this guy,’ Tom said as they drove east along the main A road.
‘Not far,’ James replied. He felt a tightness in his stomach. His appointment with Dawson was just minutes away.

………………………………

Jasmine in the mind of a killer

A bit of a rush this week, so I’ll just say to the lovely reviewer on Am**** who gave Painted Ladies a brief but very positiveLayout 1 review: there is a follow-up; it’s called Bodies By Design and is available as an e-book or from me in paperback form .

Without any more ado here is a special long episode of the prequel, Resolution (spot the reason for the title). It’s a climax but nowhere near the end.

Resolution: Part 6

 Michelle Greaves blinked at the change in topic. She shook her head. ‘No.’
The door opened and an officer in uniform entered carrying a tray of mugs. ‘Tea?’ he said.
Trewin looked peeved briefly then nodded. The officer placed one mug on the table in front of him, another for James and the last in front of Michelle Greaves, removing an empty mug. ‘Thank you,’ Trewin said as the officer departed. He turned back to face Greaves. ‘Are you sure about that, Miss Greaves or do you prefer Miz?’
Greaves shook her head. ‘I don’t care, and yes, I’m sure.’
Trewin looked mystified. ‘Strange that, because we have a witness saying they saw someone with a close resemblance to you approaching Mrs Hargreaves’ house on Wednesday afternoon, shortly before she died.’
Greaves shrugged. ‘It wasn’t me. Why are you asking all these questions? The coloured woman said Elizabeth had died but I don’t understand what you expect me to tell you.’
Trewin sighed. ‘Elizabeth Hargreaves didn’t die naturally. You are her next of kin and we need to trace the person seen visiting her who resembles how you look here and now, dressed as a woman.’
‘I am a woman,’ Greaves said, apparently, James noted, more worried by a dispute about her gender than the suspicious death of her wife.
‘When did you go full-time?’ James asked. Michelle Greaves turned her head and examined him. She didn’t answer immediately but then her facial muscles stiffened. ‘I shouldn’t have to answer that,’ she said.
‘Why not?’ Trewin said.
‘You shouldn’t question my gender,’ Greaves said. ‘As far as you’re concerned I’m a woman.’
‘And we will treat you as one,’ Trewin said.
‘But you don’t have a GRC do you?’ James said.
Greaves’ eyes narrowed. ‘So what?’
James launched into an explanation. ‘That means you haven’t had a new birth certificate issued in your reassigned gender and you presumably have not completed the period required for living full-time in the gender you identify with.’
Greaves was flustered. ‘Well, I didn’t transition at work, but I was a woman for the rest of my life.’
‘BT, wasn’t it? Your employer?’ Trewin asked. Greaves nodded.
‘I understand they’re pretty good about employees wishing to transition,’ James said. ‘What was stopping you?  You could have had that GRC by now.’
Greaves gave him a look that would have made a charging rhino stop in its tracks. She made an effort to recover and appear relaxed.
‘It wasn’t convenient. I was happy being female outside work but didn’t want the hassle of coming out to all the people I worked with.’
‘So what changed?’ Trewin asked.
‘I got made redundant,’ Greaves said. ‘They gave me a good offer. At last I didn’t have to go to work. I could be the person I wanted to be all the time.’
‘When was that?’ Trewin said.
‘Last summer,’ Greaves answered.
‘What did Elizabeth think of it?’ James asked.
Greaves shrugged, ‘She was OK.’
James wasn’t convinced by Michelle’s answer and pressed further, ‘She had known about you being trans for a long time. There are photos of you together from way back.’
Greaves glared. ‘How did you see those photos?’
‘We had to search Mrs Hargreaves’ home for evidence relating to the cause of her death,’ Trewin explained. ‘Go on with your questions DC Frame.’
James took a breath. ‘Did Elizabeth’s attitude to your transgenderism change?’
Greaves eyes shifted back and for between James and Trewin before he composed his answer. ‘When we got together we were young and full of new ideas. Elizabeth quite liked the novelty of me dressing as a woman. She accepted me as Michelle, but she wasn’t too chuffed when I said I wanted gender reassignment. When I gave up working for BT we decided to split.’
‘You both agreed to separate?’ Trewin said.
‘Yeah,’ Greaves said.
‘So what was the purpose of your trip to Kintbridge on Wednesday?’ Trewin asked.  James hid a smile at his colleague’s attempt to catch Greaves out. It didn’t work.
Greaves responded fiercely. ‘I told you I wasn’t in Kintbridge on Wednesday. I’ve never seen the place.’
James felt a vibration in his jacket pocket. He pulled out his phone and saw that he had a call.
‘Excuse me,’ he said, rising quickly from his chair and hastening to the door. He thumbed the call key. As the door closed behind him he put the phone to his ear.
‘Tom. What is it?’
‘Hi, Jim. Are you there yet?’ There was a hint of fatigue in Tom’s voice. James felt lucky that he’d bagged the awayday.
‘Yes, we’re interviewing Greaves.’
‘What’s he saying?’
‘She’s denying being in Kintbridge at any time.’
‘You’ll like this then.’
‘What’s that?’
‘I’ve been through CCTV footage from Kintbridge Railway Station.’
James felt his heart beat increase. ‘What you got?’
‘I’ve got someone who looks very much like Michelle Greaves getting off the train from London at 3:10.’
‘Fantastic. Are you sure?’
‘Well, it matches the description from the neighbour and looks reasonably like the photos in that album you picked up.’
‘Thanks Tom. That might be just what we need.’
‘Glad to be of service,’ Tom said ending the call. James dropped the phone back in his pocket and returned to the interview room feeling lighter on his feet. He sat down again. Trewin looked at him with raised eyebrows. Greaves glared sullenly at him. There was a flicker of fear in her eyes. She’s realised that I’ve got some information that will show she’s lying, James thought.
‘So, Elizabeth was unhappy about you transitioning?’ James said.
Greaves grunted something that James felt was an affirmative.
‘Why didn’t you start divorce proceedings?’ James went on. ‘Your change of gender would have been suitable grounds. You could have been divorced by now and halfway through your real-life test.’
James could see the colour drain from Greaves face despite her thick make-up. ‘No comment,’ she said. ‘Am I under arrest?’
‘Not yet,’ Trewin said, ‘We’re just trying to see if you’re implicated in the murder of Elizabeth Hargreaves.’
Greaves shuddered at the word murder but said nothing.
‘And we have evidence that contrary to what you have told us, you were in Kintbridge on Wednesday,’ James felt a feeling of elation as he presented the new information, ‘There is CCTV footage of you getting off the train from London.’
Trewin looked at James with eyes wide. He nodded and leaned forward across the table. ‘So Miss Greaves. Perhaps you had better tell us the truth now. Did you travel to Kintbridge to kill your wife?’
Greaves roared, pushed against the table and jumped up. The table and chairs, fixed to the floor, didn’t move. Trewin and James both leapt up watching the woman carefully for signals of what she was going to do next.
‘Sit down please, Miss Greaves and answer our questions.’ DS Trewin said
Slowly, Michelle settled back into her chair looking from hooded eyes at Trewin to James and back again. Trewin and James sat.
Greaves spoke softly, ‘There’s no proof I was there when she died.’
‘You mean, because you removed the murder weapon,’ Trewin said with a half-smile. ‘We have the witness who saw you and would identify you. We have the CCTV footage, and unless you wore protective clothing and gloves for the whole of your visit to your wife, there will be DNA evidence which hasn’t been analysed quite yet. I suggest that you be honest with us. It will be easier for you.’
Michelle trembled. James wasn’t sure if it was from anger or fear. She covered her face with her hands. The row of gleaming red nails formed a palisade across her forehead.
‘Did you kill Elizabeth Hargreaves at some time on Wednesday afternoon or evening?’ Trewin asked.
Sobs came from behind Michelle’s hands. There was no reply.
‘Answer my question, please Michelle,’ Trewin said.
Michelle slowly lowered her hands and whispered, ‘I didn’t want to kill her.’
DS Trewin leaned forward. ‘You brought the murder weapon, a length of cable, with you and took it away again. That looks very much like premeditated murder to me.’
‘She made me do it,’ Greaves wailed.
‘She asked you to strangle her,’ Trewin scoffed, ‘Come off it, Greaves. You travelled from here, Sheffield, to Kintbridge, prepared to kill your wife and that is what you did.’
‘She left me no choice,’ Greaves cried.
‘No choice!’ Trewin thumped the table, ‘What choice did you give her? Her life or what?’
James spoke softly. ‘Tell us why, Michelle. Was it to do with your transition? Why didn’t you divorce?’
Michelle’s tear streaked face looked at James. ‘She wouldn’t.’
‘Wouldn’t what?’ Trewin said.
‘She wouldn’t divorce you? Is that it?’ James asked.
Greaves nodded almost imperceptibly. ‘She refused. She kept on refusing. I pleaded one more time. She laughed in my face. That’s when I had to do it.’
Trewin shook his head in confusion. ‘But why? You were living apart; you’d split your finances. You could have gone on living as you were until you filed for divorce yourself. What’s the big deal?’
Greaves sobbed again but didn’t answer.
‘Ah, but it was a big deal wasn’t it?’ James said, realisation dawning. ‘It was all about your GRC wasn’t it?’
Trewin looked at him nonplussed. ‘What are you talking about Frame?’
James faced his colleague. ‘In order to be issued with a Gender Reassignment Certificate the applicant must be single. Married couples must divorce first. If Elizabeth Hargreaves was refusing the immediate divorce, Michelle might have had to wait years before she could get her certificate, change her birth records and become the person she believes herself to be. The delay might have even slow down her treatment.’
Trewin nodded slowly, ‘I see.’ He looked at Michelle Greaves.
The trans-woman sniffed and stared at James. ‘You get it now do you? Our marriage had to end.’ she said.
‘I understand why you might have been driven to kill your wife but I don’t condone it,’ James said.
‘Tell us how your, er, transition, lead to the murder,’ Trewin said.
Greaves slumped and sighed. ‘She was a vindictive bitch. She was amused by my dressing early on but she lost interest in being with Michelle, and then she turned bad-tempered and catty.’
‘Was that because you were spending more and time in your femme mode?’ James asked.
Greaves shrugged, ‘I suppose so.’
‘Why didn’t you divorce when you started falling out?’ Trewin said.
‘We had the house and we were both working in London. Splitting and trying to find somewhere else to live seemed too difficult. We rubbed along, I suppose.’
‘Until you were made redundant,’ James stated.
Greaves nodded. ‘Yeah. I was certain that I wanted to transition, but Elizabeth wouldn’t talk about it. With no job I saw it as my chance to go full-time. She couldn’t bear seeing me as Michelle at home every day. She got more and more stubborn and angry. We rowed lots of times.  Eventually she agreed to split.  My redundancy package and the money from the house meant we could be fairly comfortable if we moved out of the city.’
‘But she wouldn’t agree to the divorce that would give you freedom to remove records of Michael Hargreaves,’ James said.
‘I thought she would when the house sold but she seemed to enjoy having that last hold on me,’ Greaves said, ‘She taunted me. She said I’d never be a true woman.’
Trewin ‘So you killed her to release you from your marriage.’
‘It was the only way,’ Greaves sobbed again and buried her head in her arms. James wondered at the power of the need to transition. Surely that wouldn’t be his future would it. He was satisfied with a double life as Jasmine and James, wasn’t he? How would Angela react if he decided to transition? He couldn’t imagine her being as disturbed as Elizabeth Hargreaves and refuse a divorce. He sympathised with Michelle Greaves but no conflict was so fierce as to make murder the appropriate resolution.
‘Thank you, Michelle,’ DS Trewin said, rising slowly to his feet. ‘You’ve made it much easier for yourself by admitting your guilt now.’
Michelle Greaves looked up at him, eyes bloodshot and mascara spread across her cheeks. ‘What will happen to me?’
‘You’ll shortly be charged with murder and held in custody. There will be a court hearing and I expect you will be put on remand prior to the case coming to court. As I said, your actions look premeditated but your gender disorder may be offered in mitigation. It will be up to your defence lawyer to find evidence concerning your wife’s refusal to start divorce proceedings. You will go to prison.’
More tears appeared in Michelle’s eyes? ‘Prison? A woman’s prison?’
Trewin was surprised. ‘Huh? Perhaps. I’m not sure. You’re living as a woman but you haven’t had a sex-change have you. You’ve still got a, er, . . . You’ll have to ask someone.’ He turned to James. ‘Come on Frame. The Sheffield lot can get the formalities done.’ Trewin headed towards the door.
James rose to his feet. Was that it? Case completed? Perhaps he wouldn’t be too late getting home after all and he would be able to set off early to investigate how Camilla Sparrow had died. He hurried after Trewin.
……………………..

Jasmine in jeopardy

First of all a serious matter. This week has seen the publication of the House of Commons Report on Transgender Equality. The Women & Equalities Committee has been receiving submissions for some months on all matter of transgender issues. I have given it a quick read and I am impressed. For a start it recognises that trans is not just about people suffering gender dysphoria and undergoing gender reassignment. It recognises that there are people who identify as non-binary or agender who do not want to be medicalised or undergo hormone treatment or surgery.  That is a big step forward.

The Report recommends: changes to the Gender Recognition Act – to remove the requirement for medical assessment and allowing self-determination of gender; the Equality Act – expanding protected minority status to all aspects of gender identity rather than just gender reassignment and putting transphobia on the same legal basis as other hate-crimes; re-affirming the right of anyone to be known by any name they wish (there is no such concept in the UK of a “legal name” which one must give when asked); and moves to de-gender a lot of bureaucracy such as allowing an X on passports denoting either no gender or gender withheld.

I applaud the members of the committee for their diligent work and thank all those that submitted comments or took part in the hearings. If all the conclusions and recommendations of the Report are followed up (and I have only mentioned a few) then life for many trans people, of various gender identities, will be much improved.

Not transsexual, not gender dysphoric, just trans

Not transsexual, not gender dysphoric, just trans

One comment in the Report, dealing with trans in the media suggested that it would be a step forwards if trans characters in drama actually had something in their characterisations beyond being trans such as being a nurse, doctor, police officer (actually commentator, MP Ed Vaizey said “policeman” which was a bit a faux pas). So come on media companies – take on Jasmine Frame!

And so to the final episode of Flashlight, the seventh prequel to Painted Ladies and Bodies By Design. Don’t worry. there will be an eighth, starting soon.

Flashlight: Part 15

His field of vision was filled by the shining blade as if he was looking through a telescope. James struggled to think of something, anything, other than that sharp edge slicing through flesh. With his eyes focussed on that sparkle of reflected light, he twisted to the right, pushing Dick behind him. The movement seemed to be in slow-motion while his thoughts raced. The point of the knife gathered momentum towards him, slashing at his left arm.
He watched the blade slice through the sleeve of his jacket and felt a searing line of heat as the tip caught his upper arm.  Nothing stopped the knife though. It emerged from the cloth and carried on millimetres from his chest. As the blade passed he grabbed the wrist with his right hand and pulled.
The hand’s owner, already off balance, toppled head first past James. James released his grip on the arm and the attacker continued to fall across the corridor until his head met the dado rail on the wall, a metre above the floor. There was a loud thud and he fell to the floor.
Time returned to its normal pace. James sucked in a breath and found himself standing over the unconscious bovver boy with Dick cowering beside him. Sirens sounded and tyres screeched on the road outside the club.
‘He cut you,’ Dick said.  James looked at his left arm. The neatly torn sleeve was red and blood trickled down his arm. James felt nauseous, his nightmares realised. Being cut and scarred was what he always dreaded. He clamped his right hand over the injured arm, not sure how deep the wound was.  He looked along the corridor and then turned to Dick.
‘Don’t move,’ he warned, ‘There are more of them. Check that he’s alive.’
Dick crawled to the side of the assailant and bent to examine him.
‘He’s breathing, but out cold.’
‘Watch him. I don’t want him dying on us but I don’t want him getting away either.’ James was undecided what to do next.
Shouts of “Police!” and boots stomping on the club’s wooden floor gave James a feeling of relief. There were answering cries from the clubbers and the invaders. The corridor was suddenly filled by two officers in riot gear. They stopped and stared with their batons raised.
‘Don’t move!’ the leading officer said, ‘Who are you?’
‘DC Frame,’ James shouted and nodded to the floor. ‘This guy attacked me with a knife, the other one is helping with the investigation.’ He released his grip on his left arms and reached with a bloody hand into his jacket for his i.d. He presented it to the officer who glanced at it and then lowered his baton.
‘Are you hurt, Sir?’
‘A bit. Not sure how serious it is. Look, take care of this pair will you, but keep them separate.’
The officers moved forward, one bending over the skinhead and the other taking Dick’s arm. James gripped his arm again trying to staunch the trickle of blood.
Another figure filled the corridor. ‘Well, Frame. You’ve made quite an impact.’ It was DCI Sloane, looking as fresh and composed in his grey suit as ever despite it being the middle of the night.
‘Hello, Sir,’ was all James managed.
‘Two major incidents in one night, two back-up teams in riot gear. Not bad for your first case.’ James wondered if he detected a chuckle amongst the gruffly spoken statements.
‘I think we’ve broken up the drug ring based here,’ James said.
Sloane nodded, ‘So Sparrow informs me, and we have about a dozen suspects to question. We’re going to be busy for a day or two, but we need to get you treated first. I can see you’re bleeding.’

It was late-afternoon and James was sitting at a desk in the cramped office in Reading Police Station. James’ arm was sore despite the painkillers. A few stitches had knitted the skin and muscle together and his arm was held in a sling to stop putting tension on the wound.  He yawned. After a couple of hours in A&E he had grabbed a few hours’ sleep but it wasn’t enough and the day had been busy processing the arrests. He was supposed to be typing up his account of the proceedings but it was slow work using just one finger on his right hand. He was having trouble accounting for his time in the lock-up garage with Baker and her accomplices, while dressed as Jasmine.
The door opened and DC Sparrow swept in. ‘Yes!’ she said punching the air.
James stared at her. ‘What…?’
‘Baker and Jefferson have admitted providing the overdoses to Murray and Butler who worked for the other drug gang,’ Milla said, bubbling with excitement, ‘and Baker has identified the pair that attacked her and ransacked her flat; the same couple we think that gave Natalie Peck her fatal dose.’ Despite working throughout the day without a break she seemed filled with energy.
‘What about the gang that attacked the Marquis last night?’ James asked.
Milla grimaced. ‘They admit to a bit of old-fashioned gay-bashing but we’re having trouble connecting them to the old mob in Reading. We’ll see if they stick to their story when they realise they are in for enhanced sentences for hate crime in addition to GBH on a police officer for one that attacked you.’
James didn’t feel victorious. ‘So the people that Murray and Butler worked for and who got Natalie murdered will get away with it and carry on business as usual?’
Milla nodded, ‘I’m afraid that’s true, but come on cheer-up, we’ve had a great result. Time to celebrate with the others. What are you doing?’
James glanced down at the computer screen. ‘Trying to write my report. How do I describe what happened in the lock-up?’
‘You don’t,’ Milla grinned, ‘You were with me, in the car the whole time, until I sent you back to the club. That girl, Kylie, who Baker and Jefferson have mentioned was an un-identified tranny they were recruiting. Somehow in the confusion she got away. No trace of her.’
James felt a weight lift from him. ‘And that’s it? I’m in the clear. No-one will know about Jasmine?’
‘That’s right. Sloane and the Chief Constable are delighted with us busting the new drug suppliers, solving the three deaths and putting a bunch of yobs behind bars. They’re not interested in some kid in a frock who got mixed up in it but had done nothing wrong.’
‘Thanks Milla.’
‘My pleasure, James. It was fun working with Jasmine. I hope she gets a chance to do more investigations in future. Perhaps you’ll feel confident about coming out someday. Look I’ve just got to go and have a few words with the uniform guys. Shall I see you in the King’s Head soon?’  The King’s was the local pub frequented by off-duty police officers.
James nodded. ‘I’ll get this finished and see you there.’
‘Great.’ Sparrow left. James got back to tapping on the keyboard but a few minutes later the door opened again and Sloane’s bulk filled the doorway.
‘Ah, Frame. I just met Sparrow and she said you were still working on your report. That can wait till tomorrow. You’ve had a busy twenty-four hours. I think you need to rest.’
‘Thank you, Sir.’
‘You’ll be back in uniform for your next shift, Frame.’
‘Uh, yes, I suppose so, Sir.’ James hadn’t thought about his return to normal duties. Despite enjoying his usual work, it felt like a bit of a let-down.
‘But, ahem, with Sparrow leaving very soon there will be a post vacant on my team. I trust you will apply for it.’ Sloane stared sternly at James as if he might disobey the instruction.
Did he just hear what he thought he’d heard? Joy and excitement lifted his mood. He was going to be a detective, permanently.

THE END

Jasmine at work

I’ve been saying it, as others have, for a long time but now there is scientific support – there is no such thing as a male or a female brain and no support for the binary view of gender.  The results are reported in this week’s New Scientist magazine (Brains are not male or female, New Scientist p.8 issue  no.3050 5/12/15).  1400 brains of people aged from 13 to 85, were scanned and could not be sorted into two categories, male and female. People who identified as either male or female shared some but by no means all of 29 features thought to be associated with gender with a spectrum of responses.  Qualities that have been associated with one gender or the other such as obsession with sex (male), gossiping (female), mathematics ability (male) were found to be no predictor of gender. The research team concluded that there are not two types of brain and “that we all lie along a continuum of what are traditionally viewed as male and female characteristics”.

It appears that we are all individuals and while our particular characteristics will determine our gender identity it is cultural influences which have forced people into the gender straitjacket. Those influences are very strong as was revealed in article in last week’s Guardian where even children’s nurses were testing language development by choosing gender stereotypical topics regardless of the particular interests of the child.

The moral is, do not accept any statement of the sort “Men are from Mars and Women from Venus”, or, only a man can read a map. That is complete, utter, nonsense. And resist being forced into classing yourself as either male or female if you feel your are neither, both or in-between.

IMGP4799

There. Now onto the next episode of Flashlight, the Jasmine Frame prequel to Painted Ladies and Bodies By Design. We’ve reached part 10 and Jasmine makes her first tentative appearance as a plainclothes police officer.

Flashlight: Part 10

James stared into the wardrobe. What did he have that was suitable to be worn as a female detective?  Female uniformed officers wore pretty much the same outfit as the men but in plainclothes they were more diverse even if a dark suit was the most common choice of both genders. It wasn’t a dilemma that had influenced Jasmine’s shopping pattern previously.
He had to make a decision quickly because he didn’t want to keep Milla waiting. She was sitting in their lounge, catching up with DC Money on her phone. What would Angela think, he thought? Another woman witnessing his transformation into Jasmine Frame.
He made his choice and pulled a plain dark blue skirt from the wardrobe and a light blue t-shirt from the chest of drawers. He stripped naked and quickly pulled on knickers, sheer tights, and bra. She tucked in her silicone breasts and put on the skirt and t-shirt. Jasmine looked in the mirror. It was a sensible enough outfit for a police detective, especially if she put a light jacket over it.  There was another necessity – make-up. She hurried into the bathroom and quickly applied foundation, eye shadow and lipstick. It was a familiar routine and she could do it without much delay. Finally, back in the bedroom she pulled the blonde wig on to her head. She didn’t like wearing it but with her hair cut short for her male look, the wig aided her femininity. She slipped her feet into a pair of black pumps and emerged into the lounge.
‘Well,’ Milla said looking up from her phone. ‘I don’t think I would have recognised you as being PC Jim Frame. You look great. Most women detectives favour trousers. . .’
‘I don’t have any female trousers – not for the summer anyway.’
‘That’s OK. I sometimes wear a skirt. Are you ready?’
‘Yes.’ Jasmine checked her pockets again; keys, phone, notebook, warrant card – except she wouldn’t be able to show that – handcuffs.
‘Right, let’s go. I’ve got Amy Baker’s address from Keith.’
Jasmine followed Milla from the flat, locking the door behind her.
‘How’s DC Money getting on with his investigation?’ Jasmine asked as they went down the stairs.
‘He’s made some progress. He’s spoken to a couple of his informants and apparently the regular drug dealers are on edge because of the new stuff appearing. No leads on Natalie’s killers yet though.’
‘It could be dangerous if there’s a drug war starting,’ Jasmine said.
They reached the car and quickly set off for the address that Milla had received. Jasmine recognised that it was just a few streets away from where she and Gavin had found Natalie Peck’s body.
They pulled up outside the three story Victorian terrace house, now split into at least five flats.
‘This doesn’t look right,’ Milla said pointing out the broken glass in the bay window of the ground floor of the property.
Jasmine got out of the car and looked into the garden. There was a drawer on the untidy lawn with knickers and bras spilled out of it. Milla ran up to the front door. It was open. Jasmine followed her into the hall of the building.
‘This is Amy’s flat,’ Milla said pointing to the door which had a number 1 on it. It too was ajar. Milla tapped. There was a groan from inside. Milla pushed the door open. Jasmine saw at a glance that it was actually just a bedsit with kitchen, living space and bed all in one room and that it was a mess. Cupboards and drawers were open and their contents strewn over the bed, floor and small sofa.
Amy was lying on the floor. Jasmine recognised her but as she knelt by her side she saw that she did not look the same as she had in Natalie’s flat. There was a darkening bruise around her left eye and a small trickle of blood from her swollen nose. She was stirring, trying to sit up.
Jasmine put her arms around her shoulders.
‘Do you feel OK to move, Amy?’ Jasmine said. ‘Where does it hurt?’
‘All over,’ the woman moaned. ‘Ow, my head.’ She put a hand to her forehead, gently touching her left eyebrow. Her hand jerked away. Jasmine helped her to her feet and put her onto the sofa.
Milla was searching around the room, turning over the belongings scattered everywhere.
‘How long ago did this happen?’ she asked.
Amy looked at Milla, ‘Not long. A few minutes? I may have been out of it. Who are you?’
‘DC Sparrow. This is DC Frame.’
‘What are you doing here?’ Amy asked in a shaky voice.
‘Can I get you some water?’ Jasmine said, moving to the kitchen area.
‘Yes, please.’
There was broken glass and crockery on the floor and around the sink unit and work top. Jasmine stepped carefully and found a glass that was in one piece. She washed it under the tap and filled it with cold water. She returned to Amy and handed it to her.
‘Thanks.’
‘Who was it?’ Milla asked.
Amy took the tumbler from her lips. ‘I don’t know. Two men, one black, one white, young. I’ve never seen them before. Why did you come?
‘We came to ask you some more questions about Natalie Peck.’
‘Oh.’
‘Is this related to what happened to Natalie?’ Jasmine asked.
‘I don’t know,’ Amy said, ‘Why did Natalie die?’
‘We think she was killed by a drug gang,’ Milla explained, ‘What did you know about Natalie’s drug dealing?’
Amy shook her head slowly. ‘I don’t know anything. I told that other detective that.’
‘Well, what were the men looking for when they turned you over?’ Milla pressed.
‘I don’t know,’ Amy repeated.
DC Sparrow pressed on. ‘Were they looking for the drugs that you have been selling?’
‘I don’t,’ Amy glared at Milla with her left eye partly closed. ‘I don’t know what they were looking for.’
Milla sighed. ‘I think we’d better get you to A&E, Amy.’ She turned to Jasmine and handed her the car keys, ‘You take her. I’ll stay here and call in soco and some officers to keep an eye on the place. I’d better get Keith down here. We’ll need to speak to the neighbours in this property and next door. See if anyone saw anything.’
‘Okay. What should I do when I’ve got Amy to the hospital?’ Jasmine said.
‘Stay with her. It doesn’t look as though she’s poorly enough to be kept in but that eye needs looking at. I’ll come and join you as soon as I’ve handed over to Money.’
‘And it gets me out of the way,’ Jasmine said.
Milla stepped closer to her and whispered, ‘Yes, I know you don’t want other officers to see you, but get to know her more. There must be a reason why the drug gang came looking for stuff here. Do they think she was dealing too?’
Jasmine bent down to speak to Amy. ‘Do you feel OK to come in the car. We’ll get the nurses to sort you out?’
Amy nodded and pushed herself painfully from the sofa.
Jasmine gave her a helping hand towards the door. ‘Do you want a coat? It’s quite warm out but we don’t want you feeling shivery.’
Amy pointed to a heap of coats fallen behind the door. Jasmine picked out a light waterproof and handed it to Amy. They left the flat with Milla already speaking rapidly into her phone.

Jasmine put Amy into the passenger seat then they drove off towards the hospital.
‘Have I met you before?’ Amy said still sounding a bit groggy.
‘No,’ Jasmine lied, ‘but I know you were a friend of Natalie Peck and were supporting her through her transition.’
‘Oh, yes.’
‘Had you known her long?’
Amy spoke slowly, ‘We met at a support group, a couple of years ago. I was getting over my g.r.s. and she was hoping to start.’
‘She must have been grateful to have you helping her along. It’s a long and difficult process.’
‘Hmm, yes.’
‘Was there anyone else? Family, friends? Did she have any financial support?’
‘No, no-one, nothing. A few people we both knew, other TSes, but no-one close.’
‘No work?’
‘Some odd jobs. Employers don’t want trannies, especially when they’re stuck in between.’
Jasmine nodded.
‘What about you? Have you got a job?’
Amy snorted then groaned. ‘Sort of. Cashier at the supermarket. But they only want me on nights.  Zero-hours contract. You know. Like it or lump it.’
‘I understand. Natalie must have found money a problem. The NHS doesn’t cover everything a transitioning trans-woman needs and neither does job-seeker’s allowance.’
‘You seem to know a lot about transition,’ Amy said, turning her head painfully to examine Jasmine. ‘Are you. . .?’
‘Transitioning? No.’ Jasmine stared at the traffic ahead, ‘But I understand how Natalie could have been driven into drug dealing.’
‘She wasn’t on drugs – not that sort of drug anyway.’
‘I know but she was selling them to people who were.’
‘I don’t know anything about that.’
‘Somebody thought you did.’
They pulled into the hospital approach road. Jasmine found a parking space then helped Amy out of the car and into the A&E department.
……………….

Jasmine revealed

The name is Frame, Jasmine Frame

I’ve lived with Jasmine Frame in my head for about fourteen years now. Strangely, I can’t recall exactly when I decided to start writing stories about a transsexual detective. I chose the surname Frame because it seemed slightly unusual and had certain allusions such as “being framed”, and “in the frame”, hence the story titles with photography or art or mirrors in them. For the forename I wanted something a little bit exotic (so I thought) which a trans person might choose as their femme name. Jasmine Frame seemed to have a pleasant ring to it. I thought it might be unique but there are apparently a few Jasmine Frames in the world and it’s become a fairly common girl’s name. Jasmine’s original, male name came later when I started to create her backstory. I chose James as it shared the initial (as my male and femme names do) was unmistakeably male, (Jamie is genderless, but James is not), was fairly common when she was born in 1983 and is a middle class name (at least I think it is).

I’ve now written (almost) three Jasmine Frame novels, I’m on the sixth novella and there are two early short stories. That means I have also made up quite a long list of other names. Some characters appear frequently, such as Tom Shepherd, DCI Sloane and Angela, others are short-lived (literally) or are bit-part players. For each, choosing their name is a pleasure and a chore. The name has to feel right – don’t ask me what that means as I can’t define it precisely. I avoid surnames that may be confused with other characters and have grammatical problems (any name ending in s for example). I try to choose forenames to match the age of the character and their background. Choosing names of characters from other ethnic groups is quite difficult as I don’t know many personally; names of cricketers are a frequent source.

Many of the names I have used are pretty nondescript and possibly fairly common but today I had the shock of chatting to someone for the first time who turned out to have the name of one of my characters. I’m not saying who. Strangely it wasn’t one of the commoner surnames that I have used. My first thought was that I must change the name in the story – perhaps I will if and when it is edited for publication – but then I thought, so what. It was a fairly random process of selection and pure chance that I should choose a name already in use. What I should say is that all the characters and events in my stories are fictional and no named character has any intentional similarity to a real person of the same name.

Taking a selfie in the dark with the flash on the wrong side.

Taking a selfie in the dark with the flash on the wrong side.

So, on with the current prequel. In the ninth episode of Flashlight, Jasmine/James it put on the spot.

Flashlight: Part 9

DC Sparrow didn’t say anything but continued to look around the dingy, dirty lavatory. She sniffed, turned and headed towards the exit.
‘Come on, Jim. We’ve seen enough here for now. Let’s go and have a chat.’
James followed her as they retraced their steps and strode out of the club. They didn’t see the cleaner again. They walked swiftly along the lane back to the main street still without speaking. They came to a coffee shop, a familiar chain, and Milla entered with James on her heels.
‘What do you want, Jim?’
‘Black please.’
‘Take a seat. I’ll get them.’
James looked around. There were a few tables occupied and there were easy chairs as well as the usual café furniture. He chose a small table with just the two chairs where there weren’t any near neighbours. He sat down and realised he was trembling slightly. Milla was going to question him he was sure; ask him what he had to explain.
Milla arrived quite soon with James’ black coffee and her cappuccino. She sat down opposite James and stared at him. He waited for the inevitable question.
‘So, you’re trans.’
‘What!’ James flushed, ‘Yes, but how. . .’
There was a smile on Milla’s face, a self-satisfied smile. She was pleased that her deduction had been proved by his reaction to be correct.
‘I’ve been watching you, Jim, since we met yesterday and listening to you. You visit a club that caters for the LGBT crowd on nights that are particularly aimed at trans people. Yes, I’ve looked at the Marquis’ website. You’ve shown special interest whenever a trans connection has arisen – Natalie of course, Butler’s liking for transwomen, the trans-man that sold you the heroin; I’ve seen you frown when Sloane and Money refer to Natalie as “he”; and you visit a ladies’ loo. Simple really.’
James felt sick. ‘Is it really that obvious?’
‘No, of course not. I doubt Sloane or Money have noticed anything at all, but I’ve spent more time with you and being a bit out of the ordinary myself, I suppose I tune in to these clues of diversity in others.’
James relaxed a little. Milla was right. As a female police officer, still a minority, and as an out lesbian –  a minority in a minority, not rare but scattered and isolated perhaps – she would be sensitive to the attitudes of her colleagues. He was the same; always aware of comments about trannies made, often inadvertently, by people who didn’t know his background; the unthinking prejudice of people who didn’t think they were in the company of a transgendered person
‘So, come on, Jim. Tell me about it. What is it with you? Frilly knickers under the trousers or are you on hormones?’
James winced but lifted his cup and sipped his still hot coffee. He’d never been one of the lingerie-hidden-by-male-clothes brigade and taking female hormones was something he thought about but had not broached with Angela. How much should he, could he, tell? Angela was the only person who really knew most of what there was to know about James and Jasmine.  There had been other friends in their circle at university but since being in the force it was something they had kept private, wary of the effect on his career if he was found out. Now it seemed he might be. He had to trust Milla; there was no choice.
‘It’s neither,’ he said quietly, examining Milla’s face; she was listening closely,’ but more in some ways. Uh, this is difficult. I haven’t had to explain what I feel for a long time. Angela has always known. In fact, she met Jasmine before James.’
‘Jasmine?’
‘My femme name. I chose it when I was a kid, when I started playing around with girl’s clothes – my sister Holly’s at first. I realised then that there was this urge, this need, inside me to be a girl.’
‘You’re transsexual?’
James shrugged. ‘I don’t know. At first all I knew was that I felt, sort of, comfortable when I was Jasmine. Then I thought that I must be a transvestite or cross-dresser because I swapped between being James and Jasmine. I wasn’t especially unhappy being a boy, or a man, so I didn’t quite feel like one of those people who get suicidal if they can’t transition. I suppose it was because Angela and I met when we were pretty young.’
‘She goes along with it?’
‘More than that. She accepts that Jasmine and James are one person, that sometimes I’ll look like a man and sometimes I’ll be female. Actually she sees more of Jasmine these days.’
‘Why?’
‘Being Constable James Frame when I’m on duty means I’m more eager to be Jasmine when I’m at home, with Angela.’
‘Just at home?’
‘No, I, we, go out. We try to avoid places round here where we might meet up with people that know me as James but we go to Kintbridge, Basingstoke, other places. There’s a trans support group, Butterflies, that meets not far out of town. We get to it when I can.’
‘But you’re not thinking of transitioning and becoming DC Jasmine Frame?’
‘No.’ That wasn’t the truth and James knew it. Day by day the feeling in him was growing that Jasmine was the person he wanted to be, that his gender identity was female. He kept it to himself, not even Angela knew the true strength of his feeling although he wondered if she suspected. They were a few years passed the first flush of lust in their relationship but they were still young. Most people in love, Angela included, might expect to have sex more often than they were doing it.
‘Hmm.’ Sparrow pondered.
‘Look, can you keep it secret,’ James appealed. ‘There are officers who are alcoholics, gamblers, having affairs. They keep a lid on things and can sometimes get through it. This isn’t like that at all, I’m not harming anyone; it doesn’t affect my ability to perform as a police officer. It’s private.’
Milla looked at him, her eyes searching his. ‘I understand that Jim. I have no intention of telling tales about you. It doesn’t matter if you spend all your time in a dress when you’re not on duty. If you want to keep it secret, I won’t tell anyone.’
James sighed. A weight seemed to lift off him. ‘Thanks.’
‘But,’ Milla said. James tensed. ‘This case seems to have transgender issues woven through it. The Marquis is the focus and it caters for trans people as well as gays and lesbians. Your knowledge of the trans world could be invaluable.’
‘That’s what Angela said,’ James said. ‘She said I should tackle it as Jasmine.’
Milla nodded. ‘I’d like to meet Angela. I think we’d get on. She’s right. We need Jasmine Frame on this case.’
James tingled with anticipation. Joy at the thought of being Jasmine but fear at being outed. ‘But what about DCI Sloane. I don’t want him to know about me. Not yet, perhaps not ever if I have any chance at joining the unit. Nor Money.’
Neither spoke. Both lifted their coffee cups to their lips finding them cool. At last Milla spoke. ‘We can do it. Sloane is hardly in the office. He just calls in to see how we’re doing. Keith does his own thing. You and me are a team, Jim. We can do our investigating together – you as Jasmine – and the others don’t need to know.’
Relief washed through James. ‘OK. Thanks Milla. What do we do now?’
Milla got out her notebook and flicked through the pages. ‘We need to talk to the people who run the Marquis but they’re not going to be around till this afternoon, are they.’
‘That’s what the cleaning guy said.’
Milla glanced at her watch. ‘We’ve got a few hours yet. Hmm.’ She paused. ‘I think we need to find out more about Natalie.’
‘Yes,’ James said, ‘There was her friend who found her body.’
Milla searched her notebook. ‘That’s right, Amy Baker.’
‘She’s trans too.’
‘Is she?’
‘You didn’t know?’
‘It didn’t come up when Keith questioned her, but he was only concerned about Natalie then.’
‘She’s post-op, completed all the treatment, except the hormones – you have to take those for the rest of your life.’
‘How did you find all this out, Jim?’ Milla asked.
‘It wasn’t much, a few moments of conversation. The paramedics were dealing with Natalie’s body. Gavin and I were waiting for SOCO and you lot to arrive. Gavin was dashing around putting up tape, while I was looking after Amy. She was pretty emotional.’
‘Not surprising since her friend was dead.’
‘Which is possibly why she revealed herself to me. I said about Natalie being trans and Amy said she was supporting her through her transition because she had been through it herself. That was all really.’
‘She told Keith that she had no idea where the drugs had come from,’
James frowned. ‘I wonder? She may have been covering for her friend, even though she was dead.’
‘You could be right. We need to speak to her again. I have her address.’
James started to rise from his chair. ‘Great. Let’s go and see her.’
Milla grinned at him. ‘First, I’m taking you home.’
‘Why?’ James was confused.
‘I think we might get more out of Amy if she met Jasmine.’
……………………….

Jasmine Frame in “Flashlight”

IMGP4720Juggling lots of different activities this week.  Sending off packages containing Bodies By Design – yes, there have been sales (get your copy now by emailing  paintedladiesnovel@btinternet.com  and look at the Jasmine Frame Publications page for prices); sorting out business for various committees, getting ready for the Applefair in Leominster (books for sale); writing some science stuff; and writing the first episode of the new Jasmine Frame prequel, Flashlight.  This one fits in just before Blueprint which was the very first prequel I wrote.  What I have not been doing is writing the next Jasmine Frame novel. I will get round to it, I promise.

So, here is the first episode of Flashlight.  Hope you like it.

Flashlight – part 1

The beat of “Day ‘n’ Nite” crashed through Jasmine’s head. In the brief flashes of light she watched Angela’s face change to blue, red, yellow, purple, green.  Angela’s eyes were closed as she danced to the pulse of the music. Jasmine ignored the hot press of steaming bodies with their mix of odours of sweat, perfume and other substances not so legal. She was simply enjoying being with Angela and being herself. The nylon fringe of her dress brushed against her bare thigh, rising and falling like the long tresses of her wig. She didn’t mind that her foundation was bubbling and her eye shadow slipping. She was enjoying being female and out with her wife.

There had been no thoughts of a night on the dancefloor when James got back to their rented flat. It had been a long shift and it was already eight p.m. He dropped his bag and shrugged off the blouson he’d worn to and from the police station.
‘Hi, James,’ came Angela’s call from the living room. James pushed the door open and stepped into the cramped space. Angela was sitting at the dining table working on her laptop as she had been most of the time  she was home in recent months.
James sank into the saggy sofa, let out a sigh of relief and closed his eyes. ‘How are you getting on, Ange?’
Ange closed the laptop. ‘I’ve had enough of corporate takeovers.’
James’ eyes opened and stared at her. ‘Don’t you have an exam soon?’
‘Yes, next week. But I’ve done enough for now. I seem to spend all my time in front of a screen. I want a change. How about you?’
‘I’m knackered.’
‘Long day.’
‘Yeah, and a lot of tramping around the countryside.’
‘Doing what?’
‘Looking for a bunch who’d been fooling around at a lock on the canal and killed a swan.’
‘Killed a swan? Don’t they belong to the Queen?’
‘Something like that. This one got eaten. They’re probably travellers.’
‘So you’ve been walking the towpath?’
‘Yes. All the way from the edge of town to Theale and back.’
‘Did you find them?’
James sighed. ‘Nope.’
Angela stood up, and took a step towards James and knelt in front of him.
‘I’m sorry you’re tired but I was hoping we might go out this evening?’
‘Out? It’s Wednesday. There’s work tomorrow.’
‘Yes, but you’re on a late and I’m on a study day. We could lie in a bit.’
Angela had obviously been waiting for his return to present her plan.
‘Where do you want to go?’
‘I found it on the internet today.’
James grinned. ‘When you were supposed to be revising?’
‘Yes. It was boring.’
‘What did you find?’
‘There’s a new club and tonight they’re having a transgender night. Well, it’s every Wednesday actually.’
‘A trans dance night?’
‘Yes.’
‘Where is it?’
‘The Marquis.’
James frowned. ‘I thought that place closed.’
‘It’s reopened. Had a makeover. Website looks pretty cool. They specialise in dance music.’
‘Oh,’ James was tempted although his legs protested that they didn’t need any more exercise.’
‘Come on James. You know you love to dance. I do too. And there’s that new dress you bought.’
‘Ah yes,’ James thought of his latest impulse buy. An up to the minute flapper dress in silver satin, with a long fringe and little else to cover the legs. ‘It’s in town. What if I’m seen?’
‘Can you see any of those blokes at the station going to a trans session at a club.’
‘Uh, No.’
‘Well then, even if we did see someone we know they’d hardly recognise you dressed. You know you can pass.’
James really did like Angela’s idea but he felt drained at the moment. ‘I need something to eat before we go though. I’m starving.’
Angela stood and headed towards their tiny kitchen. ‘I’ll fix you a toastie. Now go and start sorting yourself out.’
James hauled himself out of the settee and began undoing the buttons of his short sleeve uniform shirt.
‘Do you think that dress will be okay for an evening out?’
‘It’s perfect and it’s been a lovely day so you won’t be cold getting to the club. You won’t feel cold at all once we start dancing.’
It had taken less than an hour for James to shower, shave, eat the toasted sandwich, dress in bra, knickers and “the dress”, put on her make-up and wig and fasten the high heeled sandals to her feet. Angela had taken even less time to transform her appearance.  Once they were out of the block of flats Jasmine felt able to relax. Now they were just two young women heading off for a night’s entertainment but she still worried in case any of their neighbours saw this tall, rather boyish, figure and matched it with PC James Frame of the Reading Constabulary.

“Show me love” started to fade out as the DJ announced a change of mood – a bit of nostalgia. The familiar intro to Abba’s Supertrooper began. There were cheers from some of the older dancers.  Rather deep-voiced cheers. Jasmine leaned, just a little, and bellowed in Angela’s ear.
‘I need a break, and a drink.’
Angela nodded, grabbed Jasmine’s hand and guided her between the packed bodies beyond the edge of the small dancefloor to the bar. Angela quickly attracted the attention of a barman. He was wearing a yellow strapless dress and blonde wig but his dark beard gave him away.
‘What can I get you girls?’ he asked.
‘Two large glasses of water, please,’ Angela replied.

Having gulped down half her glass, Jasmine put her head close to Angela’s. ‘The dancefloor is smaller than it used to be, isn’t it?’
Angela looked around. ‘Yes. They’ve put in all these extra rooms.’ She pointed to the closed doors to the left and right.
‘What are they for?’ Jasmine asked.
‘Do you really need to ask?’ Angela giggled. ‘You can be naïve at times, Jas.’
‘You mean, drinks and music aren’t enough these days.’
‘You’ve got it Jasmine, The website made a lot of their cosy “quiet rooms” for intimate liaisons.’
‘But they’re not private. I’ve seen people coming and going from them.’
‘No. People can watch as well as take part.’
‘Cheap entertainment,’ Jasmine said.
‘That’s it. Low costs, high income. Look at all the people here tonight. They’re not all trans.’
‘The Marquis never used to be this full.’
‘No Jas, which is why it closed. The new owners have a revised business plan.’
‘You’re not studying now, Ange.’
‘I’m like you, Jas, never off-duty. Not completely.’
Jasmine breathed deeply. Angela was right. She often brought work home. She shouldn’t, she knew, but some of the incidents she was called to just had to be talked through to make them understandable.
‘I need the loo,’ she said.
Angela nodded. ‘OK. Take care. The ladies will be busy.’
‘Yes, it’ll be full of women and men playing at being women – like me.’
‘Playing?’
‘Well, no, practicing maybe.’
Angela grinned as Jasmine moved away looking for the signs to the toilets. She found the ladies quickly enough and when she opened the door she saw that Angela’s prediction was correct. Although the light was dim it was, unlike the dancefloor, constant so she could instantly make out the figures at the wash basins and the mirrors. Some were obviously men in dresses repairing their heavy make-up, but for most it was difficult to tell their genetic gender. It wasn’t the ladies attending to their cosmetics that took up the space however. There was a couple pressed against the wall snogging; a person in a dress not unlike Jasmine’s, on her knees with her head moving back and for against the groin of another “girl” who had her skirt hitched up to her waist and her knickers pulled down to her knees.
Jasmine pushed open the door of the nearest cubicle and dimly saw a pair of bare buttocks, tensed as their owner thrust against a figure bent over the loo. She pulled the door closed and moved to the second cubicle. It too was occupied. A slim, girl with short spiky black hair was sitting on the seat, but from the state of her dress was not engaged in any toilet activity.  There was a wad of banknotes in her lap and a handful of small clear plastic bags in her hand.
‘Hi, love,’ the girl said, ‘Are you buying?’
Jasmine drew back and hurriedly shut the door. She was off duty. She didn’t want to get involved with a drug dealer, not tonight. Two people emerged from the third cubicle and Jasmine gratefully pushed passed them to get into it. She locked the door, pulled up her dress and tugged her knickers down. She sat.

‘I’ve been offered drugs,’ Jasmine shouted into Angela’s ear.
‘I wondered what took you so long. What was it? Skunk?’
‘No, Heroin or cocaine I think. I didn’t hang round for long enough to take a close look.’
‘Are you surprised, Jas?’
Jasmine thought about what she’d seen and wondered what her position as a police officer was. Should she report that she had witnessed drug dealing to say nothing of public displays of sexual activity? But it probably counted as normal for 2009. If she reported it she would have to explain why she was attending a dance-night for trannies. She hoped her next visit to the Marquis would not be in uniform on a raid.

………………………

Jasmine again!

Layout 1

Bodies By Design – the 2nd Jasmine Frame novel is now available as an e-book on kindle, price £1.99 from Amazon.

The paperback will be on sale very soon, and can be ordered from booksellers or from paintedladiesnovel@btinternet.com for £9.99 inc post & packing.  Here’s the back cover blurb

Jasmine Frame is back …
Three months after the events of Painted Ladies, Jasmine responds to a call for help and finds herself involved in a murder case by the special request of DCI Sloane. But who or what was the victim? What was the motive? Jasmine’s investigation leads into the murkier regions of the transgender scene. Meanwhile her own transition is progressing and she is about to take an irreversible step to lose her masculinity. What are the parallels between her situation and that of the murder victim? Did both hope to achieve bodies by design?

I am delighted to at last have a sequel to Painted Ladies available for existing fans of Jasmine and for new readers and I am really looking forward to seeing the paperbacks. If you would like to have a copy for review please contact me at the email address given above.

But for another taste of Jasmine Frame here’s the latest episode of the prequel, Split Mirror.

Split Mirror: Part 11

Jasmine leaned back in her chair. Her heart was beating fast. Could Cox have been more blatant? To advertise his taste in lovemaking through his van registration number was simply arrogant. But this was the number plate that Debbie must have seen not the one on the van that Tom investigated. Tom would surely have noted the unauthorised distribution of the numbers and the not-so-hidden meaning. Yet they were the same number. Cox must be running two vans on the same plates; identical vans with one set up for his business and the other for his pleasure. She breathed deeply. Cox was the kidnapper; she was sure of it. But where did he keep his vans and where was Diana? He must run his business from somewhere.
It only took moments to search the Kintbridge directories and then Jasmine reached for her phone. Palmerston’s line was engaged, so was Tom’s. They’d be busy setting up their cordon and rounding up the doggers now. She waited till Tom’s voicemail cut in.
‘Tom. Stop what you’re doing, it’s a waste of time. Cox is the abductor, I’m certain. I’m going to his garage – it’s on the Mill Lane industrial estate. Meet me there soon as you can.’
She ended the call grabbed her bag and coat and ran from the office. It crossed her mind that she was disobeying DS Palmerston’s orders but it didn’t matter. If there was chance to find Diana Stretfield she had to take it.
Crossing the car park she pulled her coat on and fumbled for her car keys. The key missed the keyhole in the door twice before it slid in. She lamented the lack of remote locking on the old Fiesta. Sitting in the driver’s seat she muttered a prayer as she turned the key in the ignition. The engine groaned into life causing her to smile. Prayers did work occasionally then.
It was less than a mile to the industrial estate but it always seemed an unfamiliar world of metal clad boxes of various sizes. She drove slowly along Mill Lane peering through the February darkness for some sign of the building she was looking for. There it was, a small, single storey shed between two larger, more recent blocks, with Cox’s name above the entrance. She drove passed before she stopped and got out, remembering to pick up her big torch.
Jasmine stood by her car and examined her surroundings. At this time of night all the warehouses, workshops and offices were empty and shut-up. There were few street lights and only one or two of the buildings were lit up. Cox’s garage, set back from the road, in the shadow of its neighbours was the darkest of all. She walked slowly onto the forecourt. No other vehicles went by and there were no pedestrians. She was alone. She hoped that Tom had picked up the message and was at this moment racing to support her.
The front of the building was a concertina door wide enough for two cars. Jasmine found the handle, gripped it and tried to turn or tug it. It was immoveable although the doors rattled. There were no windows but no light crept from beneath or above the entrance. Cox didn’t appear to be present. She walked to the left side of the building. There was a bigger gap here to the neighbouring warehouse than on the other side. Her shoes crunched the gravel as she walked up the driveway to the back of the garage. The darkness deepened and she flicked her torch on.
She reached the end of the side wall and took a step beyond. The torch illuminated a concrete hard-standing and, as she lifted it, the back of a tall white van. The reflective number plate sent the light back to her, RUF SEKS. This was it – the unmarked white Renault Traffic; not the one that Tom has seen. A few steps took her to the back of the van. She reached for the handle.
A metallic crashing was followed by a shaft of light showing in a small dirty window in the back wall of the garage. The sound of the doors at the front of the garage being folded back went on for a few more moments. Jasmine retreated to the corner of the building. There was the reverberating grumble of an engine as the vehicle drove into the garage. The engine stopped.
Jasmine switched off her torch and pressed against the side wall. She leaned forward to peer around the corner. A door opened and the back of the van was suddenly in light. A silhouette moved from the door to the rear of the van, tugged the doors open and reached inside.
Cox, surely it as him, dragged the body from inside the van until its feet fell to the ground. Then he put his arms around the naked torso, lifted it from the floor of the van and lowered it to the concrete.
The body lay in the trapezium of light cast by the open door. Dark shoulder length hair, open mouth gagged, breasts, ankles and wrists bound. It’s Diana, Jasmine thought. I’m too late, she’s dead. Then there was a faint groan and the knees bent. No, she’s still alive, Jasmine rejoiced.
Cox bent over the naked, bound woman. ‘It was fun while it lasted but you’re in the way now,’ he muttered. ‘Time to go.’
He reached into the thigh pocket of his overalls and drew out a large wrench. He straightened up and lifted the wrench above his head.
‘No!’ Jasmine shouted. One, two, three paces, and she was in the air, the torch clattering to the ground. She thudded into Cox’s side, her hands reaching for his wrist. He toppled over, falling with Jasmine on top. His hand hit the concrete and the wrench slipped from his grasp. Jasmine was astride him, grabbing his wrists pressing them to the concrete above his head.
Cox was bigger than her, stronger perhaps but she had gravity on her side, still had her masculine muscle tone, and more importantly, skill. He wriggled, struggled to push her off, but she used his movements to roll him on to his front and twist his arms behind his back. He growled and tried to throw her off but she gave his wrists and extra twist. He howled and lay still.
A siren sounded at the front of the garage, a screech of tyres, then faint shouts.
‘Jasmine! Where are you?’
‘Tom!’ She called as loudly as she could, ‘Round the back.’
Feet running on gravel, getting louder, then panting and, ‘what the. .? Is that Cox?’
‘Help me, Tom. I need to check Diana.’
Tom was at her side, resting his knees on Cox’s back, taking his wrists from Jasmine and snapping handcuffs around them. Jasmine moved to Diana’s side. Flat on the concrete with her arms bound behind her back and ankles chained together, she was shaking her breathing through the gag coming in short, fast gasps. Jasmine pulled her coat off, laid it over the naked woman, lifted her so that the coat wrapped around her and hugged her to her own body.
‘She’s freezing Tom. Call an ambulance.’
‘OK. Get her inside it might be warmer there.’ Tom stood up and, still keeping a foot on Cox’s back, pulled his phone from his pocket. Jasmine half dragged, half carried Diana through the open door into the garage. The front of the garage was open and the space for vehicles was partly filled by the van covered in Cox’s advertising, but there was the usual clutter of tyres, tools and spare parts in one corner and a desk covered with oil smudged papers in the other. There was a battered leather revolving chair at the desk. Jasmine heaved Diana to the chair and gently lowered her into it. She pulled her coat around the woman and reached to the back of her head to find the buckle of the leather straps that held the ball gag in her mouth. She undid them and pulled the gag from Diana’s mouth. It came away with a “pop”. The woman gasped.
Jasmine bent down to peer at her face, ‘Diana, how do you feel?’
Diana’s face was white, her lips pale and she was still shivering uncontrollably. She moaned rather than answering. Jasmine bit her lip, worried. She looked around the untidy office area. There must be heating somewhere here. Cox couldn’t work in the freezing cold. She saw an electric fire under the desk, traced the mains lead back to the socket and switched it on. The heater lit up and immediately gave out warmth.
‘An ambulance is on its way,’ Tom called from outside, ‘and so is Denise.’
Even as he spoke, Jasmine heard another siren approaching and then a Mondeo appeared on the forecourt followed by a police car. She watched Palmerston get out and stride towards her.
‘What do you think you are doing, Frame, leaving your post?’
‘He was going to kill her,’ Jasmine protested. ‘Diana would have been dead if I hadn’t got here in time.’
‘Where’s Cox?’ Palmerston demanded.
Jasmine nodded to the open door. ‘Out there. Tom’s got him.’
Palmerston, turned and looked down at Diana. ‘How is she?’
‘I think she’s suffering from hypothermia. An ambulance is coming.’
Palmerston snorted. ‘I’ll see that you’re reprimanded for disobeying orders, Frame.’ She stalked out to assist Tom. Two uniformed policemen arrived looking confused and unsure what to do.
Jasmine knelt and examined the steel cuffs and chains binding Diana’s feet. They were locked in place. She turned to the policemen.
‘See if you can get the keys out of Cox,’ she nodded at the door, ‘or find me a bolt cutters or hacksaw or something to get these things off her.’
The officers split up and one started searching through the scattered tools while the other joined Tom and Palmerston outside.
Another siren sounded, a different tone. The ambulance at last, Jasmine thought.

………
Painted Ladies front cover jpegPainted Ladies: A Jasmine Frame story is available as a paperback and ebook from all booksellers including Amazon

Jasmine alone

Not a lot of time this week for writing but things are moving with publication of Bodies By Design – the 2nd Jasmine Frame Novel, as both a paperback and e-book and the novella Discovering Jasmine as an e-book.  I hope I’ll have a publication date and lots of info next week.

Rebecca Root has been getting plenty of publicity for her role in the new BBC sitcom Boy Meets Girl – an interview in Guardian Weekend and a feature in Radio Times are just the ones I’ve seen. I’ve got high hopes for the series in presenting transpeople in comic situations where the joke is not “silly bloke in a dress” but the ridiculous situations we find ourselves in.  Ms Root comes across as a likeable and sensible woman and I hope she has lots of success with this role and others. It will be great to see a transwoman playing a transwoman. It would be even better seeing a transwoman playing a woman’s role but the whole point is that once transition is complete there is no distinction so really we shouldn’t notice. On the other hand I wouldn’t want to insist that all trans-roles should be played by trans-people, after all acting is about playing a part. In classic theatre there is a lot of playing with roles – all male and all female Shakespeare, women taking traditional male roles and vice versa (e.g. Helen Mirren as Prospero/a in The Tempest). How about an all-trans Hamlet? Theatre (and film) should not be censored in any way.

I’d love to see Rebecca Root playing Jasmine – okay she’s a little old for the part and not blonde, but make-up does wonders.

Anyway here is the next episode in the prequel to Painted Ladies. It’s building up to a climax – just wait.

Split Mirror: Part 10

Jasmine ended the call and dropped her phone on to her desk. Almost at once it beeped and she grabbed it up again, thinking Tom had got back to her straight away, but it was only a text alert. The receptionist at her GP surgery was reminding her that she had an appointment at five o’clock today. She had forgotten about it and wondered how she could have done. These appointments with Dr Jilly Gould were important to her as they moved her forward in her transition even if each step seemed to be infinitesimal in size. She hoped that this time Jilly would be happy with the effects of the hormones she had been taking for three months, not that she had seen much change in her body shape yet. Perhaps there would be news from the gender reassignment clinic. Oh, how she hoped to be given a date for her surgery but she knew that was unlikely. She would have a few more years yet to practice patience.
The phone rang and vibrated in her hand. She jumped in her seat realising that she had been day-dreaming. She glanced at the screen; this time it was Tom. She pressed the answer button and held the mobile to her ear.
‘Tom. Did you get my message?’
‘Yes, Jas, but it’s a downer I’m afraid.’
‘The wrong van?’
‘Yes. Sorry, Jas. It was parked on the pavement outside the houses. A Renault Traffic, high top.’
‘That’s right.’
‘Plastered with the name of the owner, Steve Cox, and his phone number. He’s a car mechanic; does motorway rescues. Nice guy, early forties, still lives with his mother. She’s a bit dotty but said he’s very proud of his van now he’s got his name all over it. I’m coming back in. I’ve told Palmerston. I expect she’ll be speaking to you any moment.’
Jasmine felt a weight in her stomach. She’d so hoped that they were on Diana’s trail even though it had been a long shot. ‘Thanks Tom,’ she said and ended the call. She looked over the top of her monitor and saw DS Palmerston advancing towards her.
‘Frame. Your information proved to be of no use, as I expected.’ There was obvious glee in her voice. ‘Now I suppose we have to go about finding Stretfield the proper way although I still think there’s a good possibility that she has just walked out on her look-alike partner with or without this unknown van driver. At least it gives us a chance to disrupt the obscenities occurring in that layby.’
Jasmine listened to her monologue without comment awaiting the instructions that she knew would be coming. She wasn’t disappointed.
‘Put together a team to round up those sex maniacs this evening. We’ll need about a dozen uniformed officers and see if Kingston and Money are free to come along with Shepherd. We’ll need transport and a mobile incident vehicle so we can interview them individually on the spot. Inform highways and the area commanders. Make sure we can all speak to each other. I want to set up the cordon at twenty hundred. Got it?’
Jasmine certainly had. She knew she had an afternoon of phone calls and form-filling to set up an operation of this size.
She nodded. ‘What about me Ma’am?’
Palmerston looked confused. ‘What do you mean?’
‘What role do I have in the operation?’
Surprise made the DS’s eyes widen. ‘You’ll be here of course. Monitoring communications.’
Of course, Jasmine thought, how had she ever expected anything else? Left behind as usual, playing no real part in the proceedings.
‘We’ll find out if this white van man really does exist. Get on with it Frame.’ Palmerston turned on her heels and headed for Sloane’s office.
Jasmine breathed in deeply and got down to work. She’d be lucky if she had everything arranged in time for her doctor’s appointment.

7

‘I’m really sorry I’m late, Jilly,’ Jasmine said as she pushed the door of Dr Gould’s office open. The young GP glanced at her screen.
‘Only a couple of minutes, Jasmine. I hadn’t got round to thinking of taking my next patient yet. Busy?’
Jasmine sat in the chair beside Jilly’s desk, tugged her skirt down her thighs, and put her fingers through her hair. ‘Yes. A rushed job on. I’ve got to go straight back but I didn’t wasn’t to miss seeing you.’
‘So we’re not going to get that quiet drink and chat this evening, then.’
Jasmine laughed. It felt like her first real laugh for days. This mythical drink and chat was a constant source of amusement since they had never yet managed to coordinate their busy working days to allow them a couple of hours together. ‘One day,’ she said.
Jilly’s face took on a serious expression. ‘I’m glad you managed to get here though. It’s important that we keep these regular appointments so I can monitor your reactions to the hormones. Could you take your shirt off, please Jasmine?’
Jasmine obliged but felt embarrassed sitting in just her bra when it was only supporting her silicone falsies. Dr Gould used her instruments to measure her heart beat and blood pressure and took a sample of blood. She kept up a stream of questions and chat.
‘Have you noticed any changes?’
‘No, no really. My breasts feel a sensitive and sore at times but I don’t think they’ve grown.’
‘It’s early days yet, Jasmine. It’s not quite three months is it?’
‘Nearly. I started in November.’
‘And don’t forget you’ve got the antiandrogens fighting your testosterone and well as the oestrogens. I’m not even sure we’ve got the dose right yet. It’s a delicate balance and the reason for all these tests.’
Jasmine nodded. ‘I understand Jilly. I’m just impatient to be fully a woman.’
‘I know, Jasmine.’ Dr Gould tipped her head on one side and gazed at her. ‘Well, I don’t really. I can’t really understand what it must be like to feel that your body is not in tune with your identity. You’re teaching me an awful lot. I appreciate it. You can dress now.’
Jasmine gratefully began to pull her shirt on.
‘What about moods?’ Jilly asked.
‘What about them?’ Jasmine asked feeling a bit wary of Jilly’s question.
‘Well, you are like a girl going through puberty with all these hormones sloshing around inside you and you know what they are like. How do you feel?’
‘It’s difficult to say,’ Jasmine replied. She didn’t want to confess to the times she burst into tears or snapped at Angela or Tom or other colleagues or the days when it was a struggle to even get out of bed. ‘Work has been difficult,’ she admitted, ‘but that’s because my senior officers keep leaving me out of operations so I’m stuck in the office.’
‘Perhaps they think they are protecting you while you go through your transition.’
Was Sloane protecting her? Perhaps, but not Palmerston.
‘Our DS has got it in for me. She hates transwomen.’
‘Oh, that’s a pity. You shouldn’t have to face abuse in the workplace. What does Angela say?’
‘We’re not together anymore. I’ve moved out.’
‘Oh, when? Where?’
Jasmine struggled to recall since she had hardly spent any time in the flat but an image of untouched boxes and bags came to her. ‘Um, Wednesday. It’s a one bedroom flat on Bristol Road. I haven’t had a chance to do anything to it yet or even unpack.’
‘But you have started your life as a single woman.’
‘Yes,’ Jasmine said knowing that her tone of voice revealed her feelings.
‘You miss Angela?’ Jilly asked.
‘Yes,’ Jasmine admitted, ‘I know we had to split up for Angela’s sake. She doesn’t want a lesbian relationship. But, well, we got on.’
‘You were, are, very close Jasmine. It’s bound to be hard for you for a while. But try and stay positive and this problem with your colleagues – don’t let it get to you.’
Jasmine knew what the doctor was getting at. Any sign of depression or mental ill health and she would be off the gender reassignment waiting list. It was a sort of catch 22. Some people thought she must be mad to want to alter her body but only if she was judged completely sane would she be allowed to do it.
‘I won’t,’ she said. ‘If that’s it, Jilly, I’d better head back to work.’ Jasmine rose to her feet
‘Yes, that’s all for now, Jasmine, but we need to meet fairly frequently to make sure your hormone balance is correct.’
Jasmine was already heading for the door. ‘Sorry I’ve got to rush. Thanks Jilly.’

Over two hours had gone by since her return to the office. Jasmine was alone, the room strangely quiet and peaceful. DS Palmerston had been in along with Tom Shepherd, Kingston and Money. They had collected their instructions and Jasmine had confirmed all the arrangements. Now they, along with the uniformed officers were on their way to round up and question the doggers at the public sex site. Jasmine had nothing to do except seethe at being left on her own. All she could do was listen in to the communications between the police officers but there was none at the moment. She deeply resented being left out of the operation and allowed herself to dwell on her bitterness. It wasn’t even likely that they’d glean anything useful from interviewing the participants and voyeurs in the sex play. The chances were slim that anyone recorded the registration of the white van in the dark layby while there was exciting activity taking place.
Jasmine couldn’t avoid being disappointed that Tom had turned up the wrong van but something about it bothered her. She pulled out her mobile phone and rang Debbie’s number.
‘Hello?’
‘It’s me Debbie, DC Frame, Jasmine.’
‘Oh, hello. Do you have any news?’
‘No. Sorry Debbie but we really are doing all we can. Look I have a quick question.’
‘Yes?’
‘The van you saw up the road. It was plain white, no markings, wasn’t it?’
‘Yes. That’s right.’
‘And you’ve seen it a few times?’
‘Yes.’
‘How recently?’
‘Oh, I don’t know. Not long ago. A week or two.’
‘You can’t remember anything else about it can you? It’s number plate?’
There was silence for a few moments. ‘No, I can’t, I’m sorry. Wait! There was something strange about the number. It had the two numbers in the middle like they do now but they were split up.’
Jasmine felt excited but wasn’t sure what Debbie meant. ‘You mean the letters and numbers were separated into two bits.’
‘That’s right.’
She had an inspiration. ‘As if the numbers were acting as letters and making words with the letters?’
‘That’s right, I suppose, but I can’t remember the letters making any sense to me,’ Debbie answered. ‘I’m sorry I can’t help anymore.’
‘No, that’s fine Debbie. You’ve been a great help. Good bye.’ Jasmine ended the call and eagerly played her fingers over her keyboard calling up information on her computer. She wanted to find out what vehicles Steve Cox had previously owned. It took just moments and there it was. A white Renault Traffic. The same model as his current van but a little older. It had been scrapped. At least the records said it had been.
Jasmine compared the details of the two vans. She stared at the registrations, the older RV54YTK and his current van RU55EKS. 5s could be Ss and a 4 used as an A. She scribbled the sequences on a piece of paper separating the numbers. Then she saw it. Of course a 5 could also be twisted into a sort of F. RVS AYTK meant nothing, but what about RUF SEKS?
………………………

Painted Ladies front cover jpegPainted Ladies: A Jasmine Frame Story is available as a paperback and e-book from all booksellers including Amazon

Jasmine is handed a clue

15 July 1 - CopyAs I don’t really follow social media that closely, I hadn’t noticed the waves created by Caitlin Jenner’s transition and exposure. It has apparently set off a fierce battle between the extreme feminists and trans activists. Some have even suggested that Jenner be stripped of the Olympic medals she won as a man because she no longer is. While Jenner’s sexy photo shoot suggests that her experience is somewhat different to that of most trans women and men and indeed other non-binary people I do think that using her as a tool to beat other transgender folk is disgusting.  I am getting quite tired of the gender wars and feel that we should all be fighting/arguing for equality and acceptance for all individuals with gender irrelevant. How one dresses and appears should be a matter of personal choice.

Anyway, that’s all the ranting for this week. Here is the next episode of the Jasmine Frame prequel.

Split Mirror: Part 8

Jasmine slipped back into the office and made her way to her desk, keeping her eyes off any of the other occupants just in case they were watching her. She wanted to be invisible or inconspicuous. Sitting in her chair, she focussed on her screen simply checking emails except she wasn’t reading them.
She was thinking about how she could have dealt with Palmerston. If she was a bloke she might have swung a fist at the detective sergeant’s smooth chin. But she had been a bloke, outwardly anyway, and she knew she wouldn’t have attacked a senior officer or anyone else for that matter. She could defend herself and restrain a suspect but violence appalled her, as did macho guys who seemed to think it was the solution to every argument. Of course if she was still a bloke she wouldn’t have been the subject of Palmerston’s vitriol, nor been in the Ladies loo.
If she had always been the woman she believed herself to be or indeed had completed transition so long ago that her trans status was unknown to low and middle ranked officers like Palmerston, she still might have swung at the DS – if she thought violence was the answer. But Palmerston would be more likely to think her an ally in the women’s revolution than a sworn enemy.
Once again, she had to accept that being “in between” was the worst of all possible worlds. Men, heterosexual ones, were wary of her, thinking that she might trap them into homosexual acts. On the other hand, women like Palmerston saw her as a threat to the sisterhood, reinforcing gender stereotypes because she wore skirts and lipstick and stuffed enhancers in the bra that she didn’t need to wear because she had no tits of her own, yet.
Would it always be like this? As long as she remained in the Violent & Serious Crime Unit, while she remained in the police force, she would be known as the tranny-officer and forever side-lined by more senior officers like Sloane and Palmerston. Her chest felt heavy and a tear trickled down her cheek. What was the point of staying in the job?
‘Hey Jas, are you OK?’ It was Tom again. She turned her face towards him letting him see her tear-filled eyes. ‘I thought you’d be happy. We’ve taken on your case. Isn’t that what you wanted?’
Jasmine gave him a thin smile. Yes, of course it was what she wanted. The plight of Diana Stretfield must come before her feelings. She swallowed the lump in her throat.
‘Yes, Tom, it is but Palmerston . . .’ She paused because Palmerston had approached Tom from behind him.
‘Palmerston, what, Jas?’ Tom asked.
‘Shepherd!’
Tom jerked around at Palmerton’s call. ‘Ma’am?’ he said.
‘You’re with me. Come on.’ She turned and marched away. Tom leapt to his feet reaching for his coat at the same time.
‘That’s why I’m unhappy. You get to go out while I’m left here,’ Jasmine whispered to Tom’s departing back.
She did have things to do however. She sent emails to the officers in charge of the missing persons in Cardiff and Swindon, informing them of the situation in Kintbridge and making a number of requests for information and assistance. After a few minutes she sat back and thought. It would be a while before she got any responses so what should she do while she waited? Hunger and tiredness made themselves felt and she remembered that as well as not having slept last night she had been at her desk since before six this morning and it was now – she glanced at the big clock on the wall – gone ten. She was entitled to a break and despite what Denise Palmerston might prefer she wasn’t chained to her desk. She could go out in her own time.
She stood up, picked up her bag and collected her coat. Derek Kingston was the only other officer at his desk.
‘I’m going to get some breakfast or lunch or whatever, Derek,’ she said as she passed him.
‘OK, Jasmine,’ he replied in a friendly manner. Derek was one officer, other than Tom who treated her like a real person and a member of the team, perhaps because he had experienced some prejudice as a young, black PC.

The canteen was the nearest source of food but she couldn’t face mixing with the other officers today nor the greasy bacon and fried eggs. Instead she headed out into the town. As she stepped through the entrance to the police station an icy blast of February air hit her. She wrapped herself in her coat and strode out quickly, the exercise warming her and starting to take away the depression that Palmerston’s attack had left within her. She reached the main shopping street and walked down it to her favourite café. It may be one of a nationwide chain, but the staff were always pleasant and it was usually fairly busy so she didn’t feel too exposed. This morning it was quite quiet and there was no queue to order her usual black coffee. She also ordered a cheese and tomato baguette as hunger was making her dizzy.
There was a vacant seat at a small table hidden in a corner which she went to and made herself comfortable. She sipped her coffee while she awaited her food thinking about what Diana Stretfield might be going through, if she was actually still alive. What was the purpose of the van driver’s visits to dogging sites? Was it to find a willing subject for public sex who he then persuaded to go with him, or having lured the subject into his van did he drive off with them against their will? Once he had the subject alone in his van, what did he do next? Kill them and dispose of the bodies or keep them for his private pleasures, at least for a time? No bodies had been discovered that matched the Cardiff and Swindon abductees but that didn’t mean much. There were plenty of ways of disposing of bodies so that they wouldn’t be found. Whatever she thought of Sloane and Palmerston, their demand that she should find that white van was the key and she didn’t know how she could do it.
Her baguette arrived and she was biting into it when her mobile phone rang. She dug it out of hr bag conscious that other customers were looking at her. The number was unfamiliar.
‘Hello,’ she said trying to keep the pitch of her voice slightly raised so that she sounded feminine, ‘this is Detective Constable Jasmine Frame.’
‘Jasmine. That other detective has been to see me, the one that was with you that didn’t seem interested.’ It was Debbie Stretfield and she didn’t sound very happy. ‘There was a tall man with her.’
‘That’s right, DS Palmerston and DC Shepherd have taken on the case,’ Jasmine replied as sweetly as possible.
‘Well, that woman told me that our car has been found near the motorway at a place where people go for sex and that was why Diana was there. She said Diana has probably been abducted.’
‘That’s what we think happened, Debbie.’
‘Did you know any of this last night when you came to see me?’
‘I wasn’t sure about it and didn’t want to worry you unduly,’ Jasmine replied realising that she wasn’t being completely honest.
‘You’re like Diana, Jasmine. I want you to explain to me what Diana was doing.’
‘I . . .’
‘Not on the phone. I want to see you.’
She couldn’t refuse the woman could she? Even if it meant disobeying Palmerston again.
‘OK. I’m in town. Come and join me for a coffee.’
‘I haven’t got a car. The woman detective said that the police would be keeping it to examine it for evidence.’
Jasmine had forgotten that the old Micra was the Stretfield’s only car. ‘Alright, I’ll drive out to you but meet me where your road meets Reading Road.’
‘Why don’t you come to my house?’
She didn’t want there to be any chance of Palmerston or another police officer seeing her with Debbie.
‘I’ll explain when I meet you.’ She would have to think of some excuse.
‘Alright then. Soon?’
‘I’m on my way.’ Jasmine ended the call, gulped down her coffee and stuffed the baguette wrapped in a paper napkin in her bag. She hurried from the café, and walked as fast as she could without breaking into a run and making a spectacle of herself. Back at the station, she went straight to her old Fiesta and drove onto the Kintbridge one way system.

It only took a few more minutes to get onto Reading Road and she saw Debbie waiting on the corner of the road leading into the housing estate. She pulled up and leaned across to open the passenger door. Debbie Stretfield got in and looked at her suspiciously.
‘Why didn’t you come to my house?’ Debbie asked as Jasmine re-joined the traffic heading east out of the town.
‘Because DS Palmerston doesn’t like me meeting people,’ Jasmine had decided to tell the truth.
‘Because you’re TS?’
‘That’s it.’
‘Does she know you visited me last night?’
‘Yes. That’s why she’s been forced to take up the case. It was me that found out what Diana has been doing and what might have happened to her.’
‘You?’
‘Yes.’ Jasmine described what she had done and found out after their previous conversation.
Debbie listened silently but Jasmine glanced at her a few times as she drove on seeing a range of emotions pass across her face from anger to sadness.
‘Thanks for being honest with me, Jasmine. Your sergeant didn’t explain much. Do you have any idea why Diana visited this sex place?’
‘I don’t really, I’m sorry,’ Jasmine said, ‘I haven’t completed my transition yet so I don’t really understand why Diana was so desperate to have sex with men. But I think that was the only reason she visited the site. She didn’t have any sort of relationship with any one person.’ Jasmine didn’t add that she couldn’t imagine exposing herself to the dangers in the way that Diana had.
There was silence for a few moments then Debbie spoke. ‘One thing your detective did mention was a white van, a tall one.’
Jasmine stared at Debbie almost forgetting the road in front of her.
‘She told you about it?’
‘Yes. Just said that it had been seen at this place Diana went to.’
‘That’s right.’
‘Well, I’m sure I’ve seen a van like that on our estate.’

………….

Painted Ladies front cover jpegPainted Ladies: A Jasmine Frame Story is available as an e-book and paperback from all booksellers including amazon

Jasmine gets her answer

Ellifont logo greyWell, I am, or to be more accurate, ellifont™ is, now an official publisher.  I have the ISBN numbers for Bodies By Design and other Jasmine Frame books. In addition the proofs are being checked and the cover is all but done and ready to be unveiled in a week or so. Soon, very soon, I will have to make plans for the marketing. I wish I had the magic formula for getting Jasmine Frame known to a wider audinece.  There is so much publicity about trans people at the moment – trans actors, trans models, even a trans sit-com on BBC, but none of it compares with Jasmine – a trans-woman making a living as a detective.

 

15 July 1 - CopyI’m also getting exercised by the place of non-binary people in society. That’s the phrase used for people like me who haven’t transiitoned to a gender different to that we were born in but vacillate between appearing as male and female. People like us are not protected by law in the same way that transsexuals are but there is a move to get the Gender Recognition Act changed so that you don’t have to have a medical diagnosis to get your gender changed. It still won’t help me but is a welcome move away from the authoritarian imposition of gender identity.

So to Split Mirror, the Jasmine Frame prequel story to Painted Ladies. It’s actually set about seven months before PL. There’s a bit more crude language and references to sex in this episode – hope you like it.

 

 

Split Mirror: Part 5

In the stark light of the headlights, the men surrounding the Volvo were mere silhouettes. Jasmine had no way of knowing whether they were people she’d want to be within a mile of, but the thought that Diana had allowed some of them, many of them perhaps, to grope her and have sex with her made her feel sick. Had the need to prove she was a woman, to show that she could function as a sexually complete female, been so strong in her? Jasmine shared the desire to have the body she believed she should have but she could not put herself in Diana’s place and imagine giving herself to any and every man that wanted sex in a public place.
She looked at the little man. He was still eyeing her up. He disgusted her and she just wanted to be away from this place. But she had come to find out about Diana. She had to know more.
‘Did you see her here last night?’ she asked.
He shook his head, ‘Nah, I wasn’t here. Why do you want to know? Checking up on your friend?’ The last word was said in a tone that suggested a more intimate relationship. Jasmine ignored it.
‘She was here. Her car still is but she isn’t, is she? She hasn’t been home.’
The man frowned and he withdrew from her. ‘Look, I don’t know anything about her. Perhaps she went off with one of the blokes. Sometimes the women fancy fucking somewhere more comfortable.’
‘I want to know who she went with,’ Jasmine insisted.
‘I told you, I don’t know nuffin.’
Jasmine glanced around the men concentrating on the action in the cars. ‘Who would know? Any of these guys?’
‘Perhaps,’ the weasel backed off.
Jasmine reached out, grabbed his coat and pushed him back until he was against the bonnet of car with its headlights on. She raised her knee, pressed it into his groin and ground it against his balls. He yelped.
She withdrew her knee, a bit. ‘If you don’t help me look for my friend, the police are going to be here asking lots more questions and putting a stop to your dirty little games.’
The worried look was replaced by a grin on the man’s face. ‘You’re like her aren’t you? One of them transsexuals.’
Jasmine tightened her grip on his collar. ‘How did you know Diana was trans?’
His smile became a sneer. ‘Pretty obvious when you get close to her init. She weren’t a youngster, yet those tits could have been a teenager’s. And she wanted her cunt filled as if she’d just discovered fucking.’
Jasmine was disgusted by his talk but she couldn’t disagree with his explanation. She released her hold a little.
‘What about you?’ he went on. ‘You look a bit younger. Have you got a nice new pair of knockers and a new fanny?’
Jasmine shook her head. ‘I haven’t got that far yet.’ She wondered why she felt compelled to reply. Was it to deny feeling the urge that Diana had?
‘Still got your cock have you. Well don’t worry. Some of the guys aren’t too bothered about where they stick their tools.’
‘Stop your filth,’ Jasmine retightened her grip, ‘Just help me find out what happened to Diana.’
‘I can’t if you keep strangling me with me own coat,’ he said. Jasmine dropped her hands and stepped back. The man straightened up and raised his chin to stretch his neck.
‘That’s better. I can see you’re bothered about your mate but I said I wasn’t here last night.’
‘Someone else then?’ Jasmine glanced around at the sizeable crowd.
‘Well, perhaps Big Dick saw her. He’s often here for a bit of nooky. Come on.’ He slipped across the front of the car and into the dark space within the circle of vehicles. Jasmine followed. Her eyes quickly adjusted to the dark. She was amazed by the number of people clustered around the cars, some in various states of undress despite the cold. They moved in a zig zag as the little man searched for the person he called Big Dick.
‘There,’ he said quickening his step towards a 4×4. A man was moving away from it adjusting his flies. He was no more than a couple of inches taller than Jasmine with no sign of a gut. In fact Jasmine thought he looked pretty fit.
‘Big Dick!’ her guide called, ‘This tart’s asking about the trannie bitch.’
‘What about her?’ he asked, stopping and peering through the dark at Jasmine.
‘I guess your name’s not Richard,’ Jasmine said.
He grinned, ‘Nope. Do you want to see?’ his hand reached down to his flies again.
‘No, I just want to know if you saw my friend, Diana, last evening. She was here.’
‘Why should I tell you?’
‘Because she’s missing and I thought that if you’ve had any sort of relationship with her you might be just a little bit concerned and prepared to help.’
He scratched his chin. ‘Yeah, well, she has been kind of obliging. Eager to fuck any of the guys who fancied it, which means most of them who ain’t gay. She gave me a good time. Tight though.’
‘Look I don’t need that. I just want to know what she did last night. Did you see her?’
‘Yeah, reckon I did. She’d had a couple of the regular guys then there was a new bloke.’
‘Someone new to this?’ Jasmine indicated the circle of cars.
‘Don’t know about that but I’ve never seen him here before with his fancy van.’
‘A van?’
‘Yeah, a high-sided Transit. A real passion wagon. Had the inside padded and a thick mattress done out in black fur and drapes.’
‘So you saw Diana in this van.’
‘Yeah.’
‘Did you see her leave it?’
Big Dick screwed up his face. ‘Can’t say I did. Mind I was occupied elsewhere after I saw her.’
‘And the van?’
‘Oh, he must have driven off soon after. He weren’t here when we’d finished.’
Jasmine took a deep breath. She had the answer to what had happened to Diana – well the start of it anyway. She’d gone off with, or was taken by the man in the van.
‘Can you tell me anything more about this van? Registration, markings?’
‘Nah. On the outside it was just an ordinary white van. Now, darling, are you going to be nice now that I’ve answered your questions.’ He stepped towards Jasmine. She retreated raising her hands and preparing to defend herself.
‘I wouldn’t go after her,’ weasel said, ‘she can be vicious.’
‘I like a bit of high spirits,’ Big Dick said.
‘Not with me you won’t,’ Jasmine said, retreating.
Weasel stepped between them. ‘I wouldn’t bother, Dick, she ain’t even got a cunt.’
Jasmine backed off and then turned and hurried away. She glanced over her shoulder to see weasel and Big Dick still standing in the dark. Pushing passed the bodies milling around the cars, she broke into a run back to the Fiesta. She put the key in the lock and looked behind her. No-one had followed her and she sighed with relief. Thankfully the engine started without hesitation and she pulled out onto the main road heading home.

The boxes and carrier bags occupied most of the free floor space in the small living room lit by a bare bulb hanging from the ceiling. The flat was freezing cold and she had no idea how it was heated. What had the agent said? Storage heaters? She squeezed through into the tiny kitchen. There was a box on the narrow worktop with a post-it stuck to it. ‘Some supplies to start you off. A,’ Jasmine read. She smiled. Angie had done it again, thinking ahead while she had given no consideration to eating. She pulled packets and cans from the box – coffee, baked beans, sliced bread, sardines, soups, even some fresh apples. Enough to get her started in her lonely home until she made time to go to the supermarket. She filed the kettle and turned it on then opened the bread and slapped the crust and a slice on the grill pan. She pushed it under the grill then went into the bedroom. There was only room to move because there was just a single bed, unmade, but there was a large carrier bag sitting on it containing sheets, duvet and pillow.
Jasmine returned to the kitchen. The grill was still cold. She hadn’t turned the main switch for the cooker on. She did so and remained leaning against it, feeling the warmth slowly grow and removing some of the chill that she felt. Is this the reason that Debbie and Diana stayed together, Jasmine wondered, so that neither had to establish themselves in a new single home? They had been married much longer than she and Angela had but she knew how hard it was to split up from someone you loved even though the urge to become a woman was even stronger. While she understood the reasons Debbie and Diana had carried on living together, even after their divorce and Diana’s surgery, she couldn’t comprehend Diana’s craving for sex. Would she feel the same when the drugs had worked their changes on her body and the surgeons had re-shaped her genitals? She couldn’t see herself in the back of a car with a stranger on top of her and others peering in cheering and urging them on. Nevertheless that was what Diana had done and now she was gone. Jasmine was convinced she had been taken by the white van driver, probably against her will. That van was her only clue.
The smell of burning bread reminded her that the grill didn’t automatically turn off when the toast was done.
…………………………

Painted Ladies: A Jasmine Frame Story is available as an e-book (e.g. from Amazon) and paperback from all booksellers. Order a copy for £8.99 inc. p&p from paintedladiesnovel(at)btinternet.com and pay by PayPal.

Painted Ladies front cover jpeg

Jasmine goes alone

Well, I did promise it – the chance to see me in feminine mode but without the wig.  I had a few outings this week so I gave it a try. Not sure I am completely happy with the results – in the photos anyway – but I felt okay. It was certainly more comfortable in the warm weather but I did feel a bit exposed. As I said last week a wig can be a bit like a mask, providing a disguise that many people do not bother to look beyond, particulalry if it is a good, feminine style. Without it I am less likely to pass so it is making a statement – I am who I am, gender identity confused. Responses have been encouraging so we’ll see how it goes.

windswept but wigless

windswept but wigless

shades of grey

shades of grey

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Anyway back to the more interesting topic of writing. It’s been a pretty good week with work done on Frame 3 and quite a long episode of the Jasmine Frame prequel, Split Mirror below. As always comments would be very welcome.

Split Mirror: Part 3

Sloane’s cheeks and neck turned red. ‘Until we have a body or some evidence that this trans-woman has been abducted it is a case for Missing Persons, not us. Get back to your duties DC Frame.’
It was no use pressing the matter further. Jasmine turned her back on Sloane and walked out of his office. She returned to her desk and tagged a note to the case file about her deductions concerning Diana Stretfield without actually declaring her as a transwoman. After printing out the photo of Diana Stretfield that she had uploaded she looked at the work in her inbox, still seething at Sloane’s rebuff. There were a number of open cases with tasks for her to do. As she worked through each, she was thinking that she would rather be out speaking to victims and witnesses, looking at crime scenes, not for forensic evidence as such but to get a feel for the circumstances of the crime, and interviewing suspects. Yet here she was sitting at a computer screen, collating reports, looking through CCTV recordings, checking that evidence was filed and labelled correctly. It was a drag – a time consuming drag.

3

She raised her head, stretched her arms and looked around. The office was empty but for her, with the computer screens blank. Even the light in Sloane’s office was out. Everyone else had gone home without a word to her. The wall clock said 7 p.m. Time she went home too; to her new home. The thought of all the unpacking made her groan aloud.
Jasmine picked up her coat and bag and made her way from the building and to her car. The old Fiesta was freezing cold and reluctant to start but eventually the engine chugged to life and she lurched onto the dual carriageway through the centre of Kintbridge.
She came to the big roundabout. The rush hour was ended but there was still plenty of traffic. The left hand lane would take her to her new flat. A horn blared and a car cut inside her. She wrenched the steering wheel and found herself in the next lane heading on around the roundabout and off heading east. Why? She smiled. She didn’t want to head home to the unpacking just yet did she? No, this direction took her towards the Stretfields’ home. Sloane may not want her taking an interest in the case but she was off duty now and it was now more than twenty four hours since Diana Stretfield had left home. She would just call on Debbie Stretfield and offer her support.
She wasn’t particularly familiar with the 1970s estate on the north-eastern edge of the town but she found her way to the Stretfields’ house easily enough. It was in a terrace of small, two bedroomed properties. She stopped in the parking bay a few yards from the row of houses and stepped out into bitterly cold evening. The gate hung on by one hinge and the little patch of front garden was overgrown. The house itself looked in need of some repairs. There’s not much money here or not a lot of love, or neither, she thought. She pressed the bell push but no sound of chimes or bell came to her. She tapped on the door instead.
Debbie Stretfield opened the door an inch or two, peered at her, then pulled the door wide.
‘It’s you.’
‘Yes, Miss Stretfield. I’m DC Frame.’
‘Have you got some news about Diana?’
‘She hasn’t returned home then?’
‘No.’ There was a pause then Debbie added, ‘You’d better come in.’
Jasmine stepped into the small porch. Debbie closed the door behind her, squeezed passed and pushed the door into the lounge open. A single standard lamp illuminated the furnishings which consisted of just a sofa, coffee table and an old CRT TV. There was also a couple cardboard packing cases as used by removers stacked under the stairs. The walls were bare, the carpet looked frayed and the curtains old but everything looked clean. A poor home, Jasmine thought.
Debbie directed Jasmine to sit on the sofa and she placed herself at the opposite end, sitting upright with her knees pressed together.
She smoothed her skirt over her lap. ‘Why have you come if you don’t know what has happened to Diana?’
Jasmine wondered that too. ‘I thought that as it has been a few hours since we spoke that Diana might have come back or got in touch.’
‘I’ve heard nothing from her or you people. I don’t know what to do. Who else can I get to look for her?’
‘Police officers have been alerted to look out for her,’ Jasmine said, feeling that Debbie needed reassuring that her appeal had not fallen on completely deaf ears.
‘That other woman you were with didn’t think it was important.’
You’re right, Jasmine thought. ‘DS Palmerston is a busy person, Mrs Stretfield, Debbie, but I can assure you that we will be giving Diana’s disappearance attention, especially as time passes.’
Debbie’s face didn’t show much satisfaction at Jasmine’s statement.
‘Is there anything more you can tell me about Diana?’ Jasmine went on.
Debbie looked at Jasmine with a confused look. ‘Like what?’
‘Well, has she spent nights away on her own before?’
‘Well, of course. We may look alike but we’re not Siamese twins. There are occasions when we’ve been apart.’
‘I’m sorry Debbie, I didn’t make my question clear. Have there been occasions when Diana has spent the evening or a whole night away when you haven’t known where she is.’
Debbie turned her face away and was silent.
There was a pause as Jasmine waited for a reply. She decided to push gently, ‘Debbie. Do you have an answer?’
Debbie stood up and walked away from the sofa with her back to Jasmine. ‘Yes, she has – but she’s always been home by morning.’
‘Frequently? Recently?’
‘It’s been getting more frequent, every couple of weeks now. It started a year or so ago.’
‘Do you know what Diana is doing on those occasions?’
‘No.’ The answer wasn’t a confident denial but more of a qualified, I’m not sure but I can guess.
‘Does it have anything to do with Diana being a transwoman?’ There she’d said it. Jasmine felt embarrassed that she had brought the matter out into the open.
Debbie spun round looking shocked then shrugged. ‘I suppose it was bound to come out although Diana wouldn’t let me refer to it anymore. How did you find out? Her past is supposed to be secret. She has that certificate and a new birth certificate.’
‘I checked records, Debbie. You were married to Donald Stretfield until your divorce and there is no mention of Diana before then except for that birth certificate.’
‘We didn’t do a good job of covering up the past then, did we?’
‘You shouldn’t have to. The point of the Gender Recognition Act is to give trans-people the chance to live their lives in their assigned gender without fear of being outed.’
Debbie’s expression showed recognition dawning. ‘I wondered earlier. . . your voice. You know a lot about it . . . You’re the same as Donald aren’t you?’
Am I, Jasmine wondered. ‘I’ve just started my transition, Debbie, and I’ve separated from my wife. I’m a long way behind Diana I think.’
‘I think I’ll put the kettle on,’ Debbie said heading into the kitchen. Jasmine got up and followed her. The kitchen was a similar size to the lounge with an old scratched dining table and chairs by the window. ‘Tea or coffee?’ Debbie asked.
‘Black coffee please,’ Jasmine answered.
Debbie filled the kettle. ‘It took a long time for Diana to feel that she was complete as a woman. Actually I’m not sure she did feel that, but she stopped having treatments. Perhaps it was just that we couldn’t afford them anymore.’
‘It is expensive, especially if you have all the extras which don’t seem like extras,’ Jasmine agreed knowing what lay ahead of her.
Debbie spooned instant coffee into two mugs. ‘She had the gender reassignment on the NHS but we paid for the breast enhancement, the laser treatment and electrolysis, the facial feminisation, larynx trimming. It used up all our savings and we lost the house we used to have.’ She looked around the 70s style kitchen. ‘We haven’t always lived in this dump.’ She poured hot water into the mugs. ‘Sugar?’
‘No thanks.’
‘That’s just as well. I think I’m out.’
‘But you stayed with Diana through everything?’
Debbie touched her lips to the hot mug, moved it away and looked wistful. ‘Yes. I suppose I never thought about us splitting.’
‘So Donald being trans wasn’t a shock to you?’
Debbie shrugged. ‘When we got together over twenty years ago a bit of play in bed seemed exciting. Donald liked to wear stockings and suspenders and baby doll nighties. We laughed a lot. It developed of course. He dressed more and we started going out together as two sisters.’
‘He already looked like you did he?’
‘Yes. When we got married everyone said we looked like brother and sister. Don was only an inch taller than me, we had the same dark straight hair and similar features. He kept himself slim.’
‘So you were happy about his dressing?’
‘Why rock the boat? We were doing well. Don was an electrician and I worked in a travel agent. We didn’t have kids – Don didn’t want any and I wasn’t bothered. Don’s dressing was a sort of hobby I could help him with.’
Jasmine drank from her mug and said, ‘But transitioning must have been a shock?’
Debbie nodded, ‘It was. It was the millennium. Don said he wanted to make a fresh start and become the woman he’d always dreamed of being.’
‘You didn’t think of leaving him then?’
‘For a moment, but we were good together. I thought I understood Don; thought I could help her through it.’
‘But living together as two women? My wife didn’t want that. That’s why we’ve separated.’
‘I can honestly say that sex didn’t cross my mind. We were still doing it. It was only when Don started on the drugs and began to lose his erections that I realised what it meant. I know it sounds as if I’m stupid but I still thought we could make love in other ways.’
‘It took a while to complete the transition?’
‘Years. Diana waited ages for the NHS to do the big op but she had the other bits done in stages. But then she lost her job.’
‘How?’
‘The company didn’t really like her transitioning. She was made redundant at the first opportunity. They said she had lost the confidence of customers.’
‘She could fight that now.’
‘I suppose so – this was eight years ago. I lost my job too when the internet started cutting into travel agents’ business. So we started to run out of money but still Diana needed more work done.’
‘And still you stuck it out.’
‘Yes, well by then we had so little money left that it was cheaper to stick together.’
Jasmine put her empty mug down on the worktop. ‘So what’s changed? Why has Diana started taking herself off for nights?’
Debbie glared at her, eyes wide. ‘She wants cock.’

……………………

Painted Ladies: A Jasmine Frame Story is available as e-book or paperback from all bookseller including Amazon.

Painted Ladies front cover jpeg

Jasmine follows a hunch

How do you like the weather? It’s amusing that one day of really hot British summer produces endless news reports but it was hot on Wednesday.  I found that even sitting at the computer trying to write was draining – that’s my excuse anyway. But the warmth has forced me into a change I have been thinking about for some time.  I’ve ditched the wig!

For the last fifteen years I have worn a wig whenever I have been out as Penny (except for one or two occasions when a summer hat was used instead).  I’ve always felt that the wig helped my feminine appearance and influenced my gender identity, but it is also a mask. It is quite amazing how a different colour, length and style of hair can make you, me, anyone, almost unrecogniseable. In the summer however, it turns me into a sweaty blob with my foundation bubbling and eye shadow running, and it feels unbearable.  Going without the wig is quite a step.  I am stepping outside as me, exposed, allowing myself to be read as trans more easily and perhaps making myself a target for name-calling, if nothing worse. We’ll see, but for comfort the experiment must be made. I hope that by next week I’ll have some photographic evidence.

Here are some previous wig appearances!

2010

2010

2013

2013

2015

2015

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Anyway, to Split Mirror, the new Jasmine Frame prequel novella. I write these stories in episodes having written out a very brief outline.  Sometimes the plot evolves as I go along. In this case, something I learned during the week gave me a bright idea about how Split Mirror could develop.  As it happens it means no changes were necessary to part 1, so here is part 2 for your entertainment.

Split Mirror: Part 2

Palmerston got up from her seat. ‘‘We’ll circulate all the details Miss Stretfield. I’m sure your partner will turn up soon but thank you for coming in.’ She stood at the table waiting for the tearful woman to move. It was a few moments before she took the hint, gathered up her bag and stood up. The DS escorted her out of the interview room and into the corridor where she pressed the button to release the lock on the exit to the foyer. Debbie Stretfield muttered her thanks and left.
Jasmine followed Palmerston back up the stairs.
‘I told you not to speak,’ Palmerston said over her shoulder.
‘I was surprised by the similarity between them,’ Jasmine said through lips stiffened by anger.
‘You confused her. You could see it on her face.’
Jasmine thought it was worry about the loss of her partner that had been visible on Debbie Stretfield’s face but she didn’t comment.
‘What are we going to do about finding Diana?’ she asked instead.
‘Post the photo and the details of her car on the system.’
‘Is that all?’
Palmerston paused on a landing and turned to face Jasmine. ‘The woman has been away from home for less than a day. There are all sorts of reasons for why she didn’t come home last night. We’ve spoken to the woman as DCI Sloane promised we would. That’s enough.’
‘But, she was worried. She had no reason to expect her partner to be out all night.’
‘Look Frame, if you want to get involved with what goes on with couples join the Domestic and Families team or go to Traffic if you want to look at cars. We’re the Violent and Serious Crime Unit. We are interested in acts of terrorism, drug dealing, people trafficking, child sex rings, corporate fraud, serial rapists and unresolved murders and a host of other important crimes. We’ve got plenty of work to be getting on with.’ Palmerston strode off down the corridor and shoved open the door to their office. Jasmine followed a few paces behind seething at the arrogance of the woman.
She got to her desk and booted up her computer. Alongside her, Tom Shepherd was bent over his keyboard writing his report. He straightened up stretched and turned his head to her.
‘Hi, Jas, anything interesting?’
Jasmine replied in a whisper, ‘I don’t know. DS High and Mighty Palmerston thinks it’s a waste of our time, but I’m not sure. There’s something . . .’
‘You sound pretty pissed off.’
‘I am. Palmerston told me not to speak as my masculine voice might confuse the interviewee.’
Tom’s dark eyebrows rose. ‘She said that?’
‘Well, not quite, but that was what she meant.’
‘She’s out of order.’
‘I’ll say.’
‘I’m sorry, Jas. Look, I’d better get this done. I was supposed to be off duty ten minutes ago.’ He turned back to his screen.
He doesn’t want to talk about it, Jasmine thought, how Sloane, Palmerston and the others treat me and leave me out of the exciting stuff. She sniffed and got down to the mundane job of loading Diana Stretfield’s details and photo onto the police computer system. Something that Debbie Stretfield said had set her wondering and she started calling up data from the national records. She was soon busily following a trail and barely noticed when Tom rose and said good bye. A half hour had gone by before she sat back in her chair, stretched and nodded. It was then that a message pinged into her inbox. The brief note made her eyes widen.
She got up and looked round the office. Palmerston wasn’t at her desk or anywhere to be seen. Jasmine walked to the door of DI Sloane’s office and knocked lightly. Immediately there was a gruff response of ‘Come In!’ She entered. As usual Sloane’s desk looked like a relic from the 1980s or earlier. There were piles of folders with the computer screen pushed to the side unlooked at. Sloane looked up from the report he was reading.
‘Frame. What can I do for you?’
Jasmine stepped into the office and stood in front of the desk like a child confronted by her headmaster. ‘It’s that missing person case that you sent DS Palmerston and me to look at, Sir.’
Sloane looked vague. ‘Palmerston said that the case was filed and that uniform could look after it.’
‘Yes, well I’ve turned up some points of interest, Sir.’
‘Points of interest? What do you mean Frame?’ Sloane stared briefly at Jasmine but she noted that his eyes quickly flicked away. He couldn’t bear to look at her for more than a few moments. His body language suggested he wanted Jasmine out of his presence a.s.a.p.
‘The woman that Palmerston interviewed, Deborah Stretfield, said that her partner, Diana Stretfield had left home for Reading sometime yesterday afternoon in a white Nissan Micra and had not returned. I have just had a report that the car has been recorded as parked in a layby on the A4 at Theale, just before the junction for the motorway.’
‘Parked? What about the driver?’
‘No mention of Miss Stretfield, Sir.’
‘Well, she’s gone off somewhere and left the car. What is unusual?’
‘The police officers logged it twice, Sir. Once last evening and again this morning.’
‘So she went off with someone overnight. Why were the officers interested in a car parked in a layby?’ Jasmine could see Sloane’s face reddening. His renowned impatience was setting in.
‘It’s just that that layby is used by lorry-drivers and as a PSE, Sir.’
‘PSE?’
‘A Public Sex Environment, Sir.’
‘I know what the letters mean, Frame. You’re saying that this woman’s car has been parked all night at a site used by people engaged in sexual activities but there is no sign of her.’
‘Yes, Sir.’
‘Well, offensive though it may be, unless someone makes a complaint about activities in breach of The Sexual Offences Act there is nothing that we can do. Are you suggesting that this woman has deliberately parked at this layby to take part on the behaviour?’
‘I don’t know, Sir. . .’
Sloane’s eyes flared and he roared, ‘In that case get back to your other work. There is no case to investigate.’
When she had first joined the V&SCU as James Frame, Sloane’s outbursts had been scary but usually appropriate. Since her transition she had had to face his distaste for her changed appearance on too many occasions and she was losing patience with his bigotry.
‘But, I think you need to know I’ve also made some deductions about Diana Stretfield, Sir.’
Sloane’s face turned redder. ‘What deductions, Frame?’
‘Well, Sir. It was something the other Miss Stretfield said. She told us she was divorced but that she and her partner, Diana, had kept the surname Stretfield. “Kept”, Sir, not adopted or taken.’
‘Get on with it Frame?’
‘I’ve checked the records. Deborah Stretfield was married to a Donald Stretfield. They divorced in 2006. I can find no trace of Diana Stretfield in records prior to 2007, Sir, except for her birth certificate which seems to be a modern form and not one scanned from 1963 when she was born.’
Sloane seemed calmer but shook his head in confusion, ‘I’m not getting your drift, Frame.’
Jasmine took a deep breath. ‘I think Diana Stretfield is a trans-woman, Sir who transitioned in 2006 and received her Gender Recognition Certificate in 2007. She had to divorce from her wife Deborah to get it but they have continued to live together and have a striking similarity in appearance, at least, superficially.’
Sloane still looked confused. ‘Why didn’t the other Miss Stretfield, the one who reported her partner missing, say she was a trans, er, person.’
‘Possibly because Diana no longer consider herself trans. She has probably completed her transition and is physically a woman. She would not want to be outed as a transsexual – that is the whole point of the GRC, Sir.’
‘You’re obsessed with trans-thingummy stuff, Frame. Stop wasting time finding it in every case you are asked to investigate.
‘I didn’t request the case Sir, but I think that Diana Stretfield’s history as a transsexual is relevant to her disappearance.’
Sloane sighed. ‘Well what difference does it make, Frame? There is no evidence that she has come to any harm and it is still less than twenty four hours since she left her home. Pass on your deductions to the missing person team it’s not a case for us.’
‘I think her absence is worrying, Sir. I think she may have gone to that layby deliberately to have sex with men. We know that PSEs can be dangerous places and as a trans woman she is vulnerable. The fact that she didn’t return after the night’s activities suggests that something serious may have happened to her.’
…………………

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

Painted Ladies front cover jpeg

Jasmine Frame in Split Mirror

We had some guests to stay for the first half of the week and so spent quite a bit of time doing the tourist thing in our own locality.  It was quite eye-opening. I knew our area was very attractive but on sunny days, with the trees in full leaf, the fields green and lush, the hills folding over each other and wild flowers in the hedgerows, I felt a deep joy at being able to live here. The town too looked marvelous, showing off its heritage and I was able to ignore the litter and the dog shit for a while. It was useful, for a writer, to hear people who were strangers to the area comment on its attractions; it helped me to think outside myself.

In Malvern in March

In Malvern in March

In my Jasmine Frame stories I am trying to reveal the life of someone who doesn’t exist but who like everyone has desires and joys and problems. Jasmine is different because of her gender identity issues but is not me although we share aspects of transgenderism. This week I have started a new prequel short story/novella.  Unlike the last one it is from later in Jasmine’s life and set in Kintbridge, a short time before the events of Painted Ladies, Bodies By Design and the current novel I am working on.  We’ll see where it goes but I hope it will explore another aspect of transgender life as well as being a valid crime adventure.  By the way, all the titles of these prequels are provisional.  When I edit and publish them I may change the titles.

 

 

 

 

Split Mirror: Part 1

1

Jasmine lifted the last box from the rear of the Fiesta and placed it on the tarmac. She slammed the hatch closed.
‘Can I give you a hand with that?’ Angela called emerging from the entrance to the flat in the drab concrete block.
Jasmine bent her knees so that her short skirt didn’t rise up the back of her thighs too revealingly and lifted the box. ‘’No, it’s OK. It’s not too heavy.’ She staggered across the carpark avoiding the few patches of ice that remained from earlier in the morning. She mounted the few steps and went through the open door of her flat.
Angela reached out her hands. ‘Here, let me help you.’ Together they lowered the box to the floor to add to the other boxes and carrier bags that they had brought in earlier. The room was barely warmer than the outside since the door had been open for so long while they unloaded.
‘Do you want me to help you unpack?’ Angela asked as she looked around the living room floor which hardly had room to stand.
Jasmine glanced at the watch on her wrist. It was nearly 11:30. ‘No, there’s no time. I’m on duty in half an hour. Thanks for your help though.’
Angela gave her a sad-eyed look. ‘Well, I couldn’t let you move out all on your own could I. After all it’s an important decision – separating, living apart.’
‘Almost as important as starting my transition,’ Jasmine said.
‘For me I think it is more important,’ Angela said. ‘After all, I’ve lived with Jasmine since we first met but this sort of signals the end.’ A tear dribbled down her cheek.
Jasmine too found herself choked with sadness. She gathered Angela into an embrace.
‘Look, we’ve talked this over time and again. We have to divorce so I can get my GRC and you don’t want to spend the rest of your life with a woman.’
Angela sniffed. ‘It sounds as though I’m desperate to find a man with a working cock.’
Jasmine felt a mixture of emotions; regret at failing to satisfy Angela’s sex-drive but relief that her medication had all but removed the embarrassing response of her male genitalia.
‘You’ll find someone soon enough, Ange.’
Angela stepped back and pulled a hanky from the pocket of her jeans. ‘I don’t want another man. Not yet. I’m not ready.’ She blew her nose and dabbed her eyes, while giving the room another inspection. ‘I do wish you’d bought some new furniture for this place or taken some from our place.’
Jasmine looked at the small, well-used sofa and dining table that would double as a desk. ‘The furniture in the house wouldn’t have fitted here, and I’m trying to save money. I need as much as possible to pay for parts of my transition that the NHS won’t support.’
Angela nodded and shivered. ‘I know, but you can see why this place is cheap. It’s a bit of a dump, and cold.’
‘It’ll warm up when I get the heating on,’ Jasmine said, ‘and I won’t be here much, with work taking up so much time.’
‘Yes, but you’ve got to look after yourself,’ Angela smiled and Jasmine knew she was recalling all the meals missed and late nights when she had failed to get off duty on time. ‘You will come to dinner on Saturday,’ she added.
‘Yes, of course – if I can get away. Look I must get changed and get off.’
‘I put the suitcase with your clothes in the bedroom.’
‘Thanks.’
‘Well, I’d better let you get ready then.
‘I’m afraid so.’
Angela stepped close, placed a kiss on Jasmine’s cheek, then picked up her bag from the table and headed to the door. ‘Be careful,’ she said and left, pulling the door closed behind her.
Jasmine stepped around the boxes and went into the small bedroom. As Angela had said the case containing most of her clothes was sitting on the bed. She opened it and looked at the heap of female clothing. There was nothing here that suggested she had once been James Frame. She no longer owned anything that belonged to James, other than her running shoes and they were in a carrier bag somewhere. Angela was right; this was an important moment; the start of her life as Jasmine Frame, a single, independent woman.
She pulled off the old jumper, denim skirt and opaque tights that she had worn for the move and dressed in her work outfit – sheer tights, smart knee length skirt, fresh cotton shirt and jacket. She looked at herself in the mirror on the second-hand wardrobe. Now where had her extensive collection of cosmetics ended up? She wasn’t quite sure. Oh, well, she would have to search for that later. She returned to the living room and dug her powder compact and lipstick from her shoulder bag. She repaired her make-up, pushed fingers through her blonde hair to lift it and gave a final look around the piles of possessions that she would have to find a home for. That was a task for later. Now, work beckoned.

2

Jasmine pushed open the door to the office of the Violent and Serious Crime Unit and saw that DCI Sloane was calling a briefing. DCs Shepherd and Money were rising from their desks and DS Palmerston stood beside the white board.
Sloane looked in her direction as she entered and addressed her with a growled. ‘Ah, Frame. Just in time.’ Denise Palmerston glared at her as if she had been skiving for the morning. Tom Shepherd flashed her a smile while Keith Money scowled at her. She joined the other officers around Sloane.
‘First of all well done to Shepherd and Money for putting a stop to that car crash scam.’ Palmerston gave a little clap while Tom and Keith looked smug. Jasmine recalled that she had actually been the one that had viewed the CCTV footage that identified the drivers who had been setting up crashes to claim insurance cash, even if it had been Shepherd and Money who had made the arrests.
‘I want the paperwork done a.s.a.p.’ Sloane went on. The faces of the two male officers drooped. ‘Now, we have been asked to help with a small case of a missing person. Before anyone says anything, I know it’s not within our usual remit but the uniform branch are short-staffed at the moment.’
‘How can we help?’ Palmerston asked, keen to oblige the boss.
‘There’s a woman downstairs who says her partner has gone missing. She is somewhat upset. Palmerston, you find out what it’s all about. Her name is Deborah Stretfield. Frame can take notes.’
Oh, thank you, Jasmine thought. I get to leave the office and assist Madam Palmerston.
‘That’s it everyone. Back to work.’ Sloane said striding off to his office.
‘Come on Frame. Dump your coat.’ DS Palmerston said to Jasmine as she headed towards the door. Jasmine ran to her desk and dropped her overcoat over her chair.
Tom settled his tall frame in his seat at the desk alongside hers. ‘Move complete?’
‘Yes, I’ll catch up with you later.’ Jasmine hurried after Palmerston.

In the corridor outside the interview room, Palmerston paused and turned to Jasmine. ‘I’ll talk to Mrs Stretfield. We don’t want her confused, do we. You take notes.’
Jasmine felt her cheeks become hot. She knew exactly what the Detective Sergeant was referring to. She hadn’t begun speech therapy yet so her voice still sounded somewhat male. She usually tried to raise her tone but knew that her control was not perfect. Perhaps the woman would notice and wonder at her gender but it was still annoying of Palmerston to refer to it. The police force had, after all, affirmed her post while she was going through transition.
Palmerston stepped into the interview room with Jasmine behind her still seething. A woman was sitting at the table. She seemed to be in her mid to late forties with straight black hair cut in a bob. She was still wearing her coat although she had undone it revealing a plain cord skirt and woolly jumper. She made a move to stand up but Palmerston waved to her to remain seated. Jasmine joined the DS in the seats opposite the woman. Jasmine took her notebook and pen from her jacket pocket and prepared to jot down what she heard.
‘I’m DS Palmerston, Mrs. Stretfield…’ Palmerston began.
‘It’s Miss not Mrs. I am not married,’ Deborah Stretfield said.
‘I’m sorry,’ the DS apologised, ‘I understood you are here to report that your partner is missing.’
Miss Stretfield nodded. ‘That’s right my partner, Diana.’
Jasmine scribbled the names and noted “same-sex partnership”.
Palmerston drew a breath as she took in the statement. ‘I see. When did you last see Diana?’
‘At lunchtime yesterday. Then I went to work. Diana was going to leave shortly after.’
‘And when did you expect her home?’
‘By the evening. She only went to Reading to do some shopping.’
‘She went by car?’
‘Yes. The car wasn’t there when I got home.’
‘Can you give us the car’s details, please<’
‘It’s a Nissan Micra, white, RV02HDC.’ Jasmine copied the words into her notebook.
‘Were you worried when she did not arrive home last evening?’ Palmerston asked.
Miss Stretfield looked at her then her eyes moved away. ‘Yes, but I thought she might have called on a friend or perhaps the car had broken down, and she’d get back later.’
‘Doesn’t your partner have a mobile phone Miss Stretfield?’
‘No, we can’t afford one of those things.’ Some colour came to Deborah Stretfield’s cheeks showing some embarrassment.
‘So you left it to this morning before informing us of Diana’s disappearance.’
‘I…I didn’t want to bother you. I thought she would definitely be home this morning or would have phoned from somewhere. But…but….’ Miss Stretfield started to sob.
‘I’m sorry Miss Stretfield…’
The woman mopped up her tears with a tissue. ‘Please call me, Debbie.’
‘We’ll do our best to trace your partner, Debbie. What is Diana’s surname?’
‘Stretfield.’
‘Oh. You have the same name. You are in a civil partnership.’
‘No, not yet. We have just kept the same name. I have a photo of Diana, if that will help.’ She passed an envelope across the table. Palmerston slid it to Jasmine who picked it up. Jasmine opened the envelope and took out the small photo print. It gave her a bit of a shock.
‘This photo looks like you,’ she said. Palmerston glared at her and then looked down at the photo in Jasmine’s hand. It showed a woman with a straight black bob hair style identical to Debbie Stretfield’s.
‘People do say we look like sisters,’ Debbie said.
……………………..
Painted Ladies: A Jasmine Frame Story is available as an e-book and paperback from all booksellers, including Amazon

Painted Ladies front cover jpeg

Jasmine finds an ending

Talking about Painted Ladies in Malvern

Talking about Painted Ladies in Malvern

Well that’s it.  The Festival is over and I’ve completed the fifth Jasmine Frame prequel. Actually the Leominster Festival was good fun, Jasper Fforde was brilliant and we had good audiences for all the events. We could have done with more booklovers at the Bookfair but we learn…  I also made my debut (?!) in an open mike event giving a very short “Jasmine & Me” talk. Got a few laughs in the right places.

Anyway with no more ado, here is the concluding episode of Soft Focus. It’s a bit longer than usual, as it rounds off the story.  As always, I’d love some comments.  There will be a new story starting in due course.

 

 

 

Soft Focus: Part 14

More people were leaving Debenhams than entering when Jasmine and Angela reached the store, heading home after a day’s shopping. They went inside and found the place almost empty. Upstairs at the café, the servers were tidying and cleaning in preparation for shutting down for the day. A young woman served Jasmine, nevertheless, with a couple of glasses of cola. Jasmine picked up the drinks and followed Angela to one of the many vacant tables. She looked around the brightly lit, empty space, examining the few customers remaining. Was Patricia here already? None of the people seemed to fit the image that Jasmine had in her mind.
Jasmine sat opposite Angela and took a sip of the sweet fizzy drink. Over the top of her glass she saw Angela look up. A soft voice came for behind her.
‘Hello. Are you Jasmine?’
Jasmine looked up and saw a middle-aged lady in a red raincoat and rain hat standing beside her. She jumped to her feet. Her chair scraped against the floor as it was pushed backwards.
‘Patricia?’ Jasmine held out her hand and looked at the woman. She was a similar height to herself, with wispy strands of grey hair poking out from below the hat. Her face was heavily made up with red lipstick that matched her coat and hat.
‘Yes,’ she said, pulling out the chair beside Jasmine and sitting down. ‘And you must be Angela.’ She held out her hand across the table to Angela. Angela shook it and smiled.
‘Can I get you a drink?’ Angela said.
‘No, thank you,’ Patricia replied, ‘I haven’t got long. I’ve got to get to work soon.’
Jasmine was intrigued. ‘What do you do?’
‘Just cleaning. I work in a nursing home. That kind of place always needs staff. They were the only jobs I could get after I transitioned.’
‘How long has it been since, er…’ Jasmine asked.
‘My op? Gender reassignment they call it now. It was a sex-change in my time. It’s coming up to ten years since I had the surgery. Of course it’s never really over – I still have to take the pills.’
‘Ten years? So you were quite, um …’
‘Old? Is that what you mean, young lady?’
Jasmine blushed. ‘I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to be rude.’
Patricia chuckled. ‘Oh, don’t worry, I know you didn’t mean it. You’re young. Anyone over twenty five is old to you I expect.’ Jasmine shook her head to deny the charge but she knew that Patricia was correct. ‘You’re right. I was in my forties when I completed the transition, but it took years. My former employer got rid of me when I started so I had no money to hurry the process and had to wait patiently for the NHS to deal with me.’ Jasmine noted the hint of bitterness in Patricia’s voice.
‘You got the sack for wanting to be a woman?’ Angela said.
‘Yes. It wasn’t unusual in those days,’ Patricia said. ‘It’s a long story, but we didn’t meet to talk about me. You want to know about Silla.’ Patricia’s voice cracked as she said the name.
Jasmine nodded. ‘Yes, please. You said you knew her well.’
Patricia shrugged. ‘I did say that but I wonder if anyone knew her really well. She was very protective of herself. She had to reason to.’
‘Oh, why? Did you know her long?’ Jasmine asked. Angela leaned forward to catch Patricia’s soft voice.
Patricia took a deep breath. ‘It’s about a year. She contacted me when she started at the university. How much do you know about Silla?’
Jasmine shook her head slowly. ‘Not a lot. We met,’ she didn’t add, once. ‘I know she was waiting for her treatment but that’s about it.’ Angela nodded her agreement.
Patricia looked from Jasmine to Angela and back. She seemed to make a decision. ‘Well, I think it will do me good to tell you. Silla’s dead and perhaps her story will come out so I don’t think I’m giving away any secrets.’ Patricia took a hanky from the handbag cradled on her lap and dabbed her eyes. ‘As I said, it was a year ago when she called the number on my website, like you did and asked for help in transitioning. We talked for a long time then, over an hour, and then many, many times since.’
‘Did you meet her?’ Angela asked.
‘Occasionally. Like this, in a public place. I am wary of meeting callers and Silla was always edgy.’
‘You didn’t see her at home?’ Jasmine asked.
‘I don’t give out my address and to be frank I wouldn’t advise trans people to come visiting in my neighbourhood. It’s not the nicest but is the only place I can afford. I wanted to help Silla, like I do my other clients, but self-preservation comes first. Perhaps you haven’t experienced the hate that some people show to trans-people,’ Patricia glared at Jasmine.’
Jasmine shook her head. ‘No, not really. I know it happens.’
‘You’re not full time then?’
‘No.’
‘Think about it very, very carefully. If you do transition you have to be prepared for prejudice.’
‘Yes, I suppose so. Did Silla meet it?’
Patricia laughed. It was more of a grunt. ‘I’ll say. From people she didn’t know and those who should have been looking out for her.’
Jasmine waited patiently. Patricia looked at her. ‘Silla told me her story. Not all at once, but I put it together over the first few conversations we had. She had known that she was different from an early age and experimented dressing up as a girl using her sister’s clothes.’
So far so familiar; Jasmine had done the same.
‘Silla’s father found her dressed one day, beat her black and blue and told her never to do it again. She did of course and eventually got caught again. I don’t know how many beatings she endured. Her mother was no help; scared of her father, I suppose, so told on Silla whenever she found out. But nothing stopped Silla. She knew she was really a girl. A bright girl too. She found out what she had to do to transition and to get the treatment she wanted. But she had to wait. She could have left home at sixteen, but she waited even though it meant more beatings. She knew that to really get away from home she needed a university education. As I said, she was bright. She stayed on at school to take her A levels and got herself a place here. On the day her results came out she told her family she was no longer Kevin John McBride. Her father threw her out and she hasn’t been home since.’
‘That’s awful,’ Angela said.
‘It’s not a unique story,’ Patricia said.
‘Go on,’ Jasmine urged. ‘What happened to her next?’
‘Well, Silla, as Silla, didn’t have any friends up in Liverpool so she got herself down here and camped outside the university offices until they took notice of her and got her into accommodation and registered with the NHS.’
‘Didn’t that make her happy?’ Angela asked, ‘She’d got away from her abusive home life and was being looked after here. Wasn’t that enough?’
Patricia shrugged. ‘You might think so. Perhaps Silla had been damaged by the beatings. She found it difficult making friends because of the years of keeping her true self hidden and she was frustrated by the slowness of the reassignment process and the hoops she had to pass through.’
‘Hoops?’ Angela asked.
‘Such as the psychiatric tests.’ Patricia answered. ‘You have to be judged to be sane to be allowed to go forward through the NHS system. Mind you, how sane are you if you want bits of your body chopped off, surgery that in itself is dangerous and a life where the law doesn’t acknowledge you as the person you feel you are.’
Jasmine shivered. The mention of surgery gave her an image of a knife cutting through flesh. She couldn’t imagine wanting that but if she too wanted to become a woman then that is what she would have to have done to her. Perhaps she was merely a cross-dresser; someone who played at being female from time to time.
‘She got frustrated at the time it was taking,’ Patricia went on.
‘But it’s only been a year,’ Jasmine said. ‘It can take much longer than that.’
‘You know that,’ Patricia agreed, ‘I know that, boy do I know it. But Silla was impatient. And she was having other problems. She fell out with every group she approached – the radical women, the gays, even the other transsexuals she met.’
‘Are there any others?’ Angela asked.
‘Oh yes,’ Patricia replied, ‘But unlike Silla they keep their identities secret. They don’t want the people around them guessing that they’re trans. Silla was annoyed that they wouldn’t take part in action to change the law.’
‘What law?’ Angela asked, with a mystified look on her face.
Jasmine answered. ‘The law the prevents transmen and women from changing their birth certificate when they transition and hence means they can’t marry in their new gender, and employers, and other people can find out who they used to be.’
‘Oh,’ Angela frowned as she took Jasmine’s explanation in. ‘Why don’t trans people fight for a change?’
‘Some do,’ Patricia said, ‘Silla was prepared to but few other are. They’re scared of being found out and the consequences of that.’
‘So Silla was angry at everyone,’ Jasmine summarised.
‘Yes, even me. She said I wasn’t doing enough because I keep my identity hidden behind the website and phone number. I’m not about to go marching and carrying a placard around my street. No thank you. But she kept calling for a chat.’
‘But why did she kill herself?’ Jasmine asked.
‘Well, things kept building up. Her treatment had been put on hold while she had more psych tests. The psychologists told her they were concerned by her instability – she shouted at them. That just made her more angry. She was abused by some yobs outside a pub and the police weren’t interested. She had more arguments with other students. She rang my mobile last night when I was at work. I couldn’t talk for long – I’m only allowed a fifteen minute break.’
Jasmine leaned in, eager to learn more. ‘What did she say?’
‘She was upset, rambling, saying, “what is wrong with me? Why can’t I get on with people?” Then she said something about even swearing at a young tranny who felt she needed to wear a wig.’
Jasmine froze, her mouth open.
‘She ended the call then,’ Patricia continued. ’I tried ringing her number when I clocked off an hour or so later, but she didn’t answer.’
‘You didn’t speak to her again?’ Angela asked. Jasmine was still immobile.
‘No. It was late, I was exhausted. I went to bed and didn’t wake up till my phone rang. It was the police saying they wanted to talk to me about Silla’s death.’
Jasmine saw Angela looking at her. ‘What’s the matter Jasmine? You’ve gone white.’
Jasmine managed to whisper three words. ‘It was me.’
‘What do you mean?’ Angela said, her face screwed up in incomprehension.
‘Silla killed herself because of me.’ Jasmine said, sadness tearing a hole in her heart.
‘I don’t understand,’ Patricia said.
Jasmine felt tears forming in her eyes and running down her cheek. ‘It was me she told you about. I was the tranny she had a go at.’
‘But you’re not wearing a wig,’ Patricia said.
Jasmine brushed her hand through her short blonde hair. ‘No. Angela says I don’t need to, but last night I thought I did – to look feminine. I was wearing a long blonde wig when I met Silla. She was friendly enough at first but when I told her I’m not going for GRS she blew up. She must have felt that I wasn’t supporting her; that I was just playing at dressing up and not taking being trans seriously like her.’ Jasmine could feel a sob building in her throat. ‘I…I tipped her over,’ she stuttered.
Patricia reached out an arm and rested her hand on Jasmine’s shoulder. ‘No, Jasmine. You didn’t cause Silla’s death. She killed herself because she was depressed about her slow progress and the damage done to her over the years by her family. None of us, neither me nor her doctors knew how near the edge she was. The point is if she had been diagnosed as depressive she may not have bene allowed to go through with the treatment anyway. Perhaps she realised that and was able to hide it. I told she was bright.’
Angela reached across the table and took Jasmine’s hand. She squeezed it gently. ‘Patricia’s right Jasmine. It’s not your fault. You didn’t do anything to cause Silla’s death. She was sick.’ She turned to Patricia. ‘Thank you for telling us about Silla. It must have been a shock for you too.’
Patricia nodded. ‘It was. Lots of trans people commit suicide before, during and after their transition but Silla was the first I knew well, or thought I did. Look I’ve got to get to work.’ She rose to her feet. ‘You’ve got my number, Jasmine. Call me some time and we can talk about Silla again, or about yourself.’
‘Thanks,’ Jasmine muttered as Patricia turned and walked away.
Angela also stood up and circled around the table to put her arms around Jasmine’s shoulders. She bent down and kissed her cheek.
‘Come on, let’s go too. You can close your case, Detective Frame. We know what happened to Silla McBride, now.’
Jasmine reached up and took Angela’s hand and pushed herself to her feet. ‘Yes, I suppose so. I don’t want to go through what she did. I guess I’m not transsexual.’
‘Well, I don’t mind whether you’re Jasmine or James, I’d like to get to know you better and I want to cheer you up. You said you like dancing. How about the Union? There’s a DJ tonight.’

THE END

…………………………..

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

Painted Ladies front cover jpeg

 

Jasmine learns the truth

A busy week, largely due to preparations for the Leominster Festival. If any of you out there are close enough then come to hear best selling author, Jasper Fforde talk about his humorous, satirical, surreal novels (The Nursery Crime series, The Thursday Next series and the Last Dragonslayer series.) – 7 p.m. Friday 5th June at Grange Court (tickets £5). Then on the next day (Saturday 6th) we have a free Bookfair, also at Grange Court – 20 authors in search of readers, plus workshops for writers (there is a fee for the workshops).

In the picture at Hay Festival 2015

In the picture at Hay Festival 2015

We did manage one day in Hay. Starting at the Literary Festival, we had a good browse in the bookshop and attended two events.  The first was very amusing. James Ward spoke about his book “Adventures in Stationery”.  It was for anyone who loves a new pen or eagerly anticipated the start of a school year by getting their pencil case filled with new pencils, rubbers, etc. Actually it was a very good history of important(?) inventions – the paperclip, the drawing pin, the felt/fibre tip pen, the highlighter pen.  I hadn’t realised how much I was in the vanguard of felt tip pen users when in around 1965 I, and my mates, used them instead of old-fashioned crayons for our Geography maps and illustrations – they’d only been invented a couple of years earlier.  Probably the last time I was in the vanguard for anything. James had excellent comic timing and really made the subject matter gripping (that’s not a pun on paperclips).

Following an interesting discussion of NIMBYism in renewable energy provision we moved to the How the Light Gets In festival – the rival and smaller but simultaneous philosophy festival.  There we attended a discussion on “the sublime”. Interesting, if as usual with philosophy, with little in the way of outcome or agreement other than that the sublime is, well, “Wow!”

Not much time to work on Jasmine this week but here is a slightly shorter than usual episode of Soft Focus, the (5th) prequel to Painted Ladies.

Soft Focus – Part 12

DC Thomson led Jasmine and Angela out of the interview room, along the corridor, up a stairs, down another, brighter corridor and into another room. This was a more cheerful environment, with carpet and chairs around a large segmented table. There were windows looking out over the traffic clogged roads of the city centre. The detective signalled to Jasmine and Angela to sit down. These seats did at least move.
‘Don’t go anywhere, girls. I’ll be back in two ticks.’ Thomson left them alone.
‘Why has he brought us here?’ Angela said. Jasmine looked around the room. It seemed to be a meeting room for police officers with a white board on the wall, noticeboards with typed and scribbled notes and a large TV on a mobile stand.
‘I don’t know,’ Jasmine replied.
It was indeed, just a few moments before the DC returned with a videotape in his hand. He went straight to the TV stand, pressed a couple of buttons and inserted the tape into the player beneath the TV. The TV screen lit up and Jasmine saw flickering dark pictures. She began to realise what Thomson intended.
‘Is this a tape of CCTV recordings?’ She asked.
‘Yes,’ Thomson replied, concentrating on the screen and holding down a button on the player. ‘I think what this tape shows will provide an answer your suspicions. There.’ The DC lifted his finger and stood up straight looking at the TV screen. He stepped back allowing Jasmine and Angela an unimpeded view.
The picture was fuzzy dark grey but a line of street lights provided some sort of perspective to the picture. Peering at the screen Jasmine was able to make out lines that represented a pavement. A blurry vehicle appeared at the top of the screen and quickly moved across it and out of view at the bottom.
‘Is that the suspension bridge?’ Jasmine asked.
‘Yes,’ DC Thomson said. He leaned forward to read the small numbers at the top of the screen. ‘At two-forty this morning.’
‘But Silla didn’t fall from the middle of the bridge,’ Jasmine said.
‘This isn’t the main span, this is showing the approach from the east.’
‘We didn’t think there were cameras there,’ Angela said.
‘There are. High up on the towers. They’re mainly used to check on traffic congestion on the approach road, but they also help to pick up potential suicides. Most head onto the centre span but some people, knowing that that stretch is watched all the time, jump from here. Watch.’
No movement showed on the screen for another minute or so and then a figure appeared at the top left walking along the pavement. Is that Silla, Jasmine asked herself. The image quality was poor, the lighting bad, the figure small and distant. It could have been anyone. The figure approached the tower until it reached the bottom corner of the picture. Then it stopped, leaned against the rail and seemed to be looking over into the gorge.
Jasmine felt her heart beating fast with anticipation. Was it really Silla? What was she going to do? Where were her assailants?
The figure reached up and grasped the safety fence above the old cast iron rail. She, presuming it was Silla, clambered up. She stood on the rail for a few moments, then cocked her leg over the fence. Her other leg followed and there, for a moment, she hung on the outside of the bridge. Her face shone white as she faced the lights and the camera. She seemed to look up, then pulled her hands away and fell backwards. She disappeared from view.
Jasmine leapt from her seat her hands raised as if to catch Silla. ‘No!’ She fell back on to her seat again. ‘That can’t have been Silla,’ she said knowing immediately that it was a stupid thing to say.
‘We only had one other jumper last night,’ DC Thomson said softly. ‘The cameras only show this one person falling from the bridge.’
Jasmine shook her head. ‘But, but. She can’t have just jumped. Where were the people who pushed her?’
Angela moved closer to Jasmine, enfolded her in her arms and leaned down to put her head close to Jasmine’s.
‘It must be Silla, Jasmine. Don’t you see? She wasn’t murdered. She killed herself.’
Tears filled Jasmine’s eyes. There was a lump in her chest. ‘Why?’ She appealed.
DC Thomson sat in a chair next to Jasmine. ‘I understand why you thought, hoped, that someone had killed Silla. It’s difficult to put yourself in the position of someone who is so pissed off with life that they’ll jump into space knowing that that is their end. But while you’ve been talking to the people she didn’t get on with I’ve been meeting her friends.’
Jasmine looked up into the detective’s face. ‘Friends? I didn’t think she had friends.’
‘Do you mean the girls she shared with?’ Angela asked.
Thomson shook his head. ‘No, not them. It’s clear that they didn’t get on with her either. No I’m talking about her transsexual friends, or rather friend, singular.’
‘Who was that?’ Angela said.
‘I haven’t met any others at uni., yet,’ Jasmine said, mystified. ‘There must be others. I suppose they keep their head down, unlike Silla. They don’t want their original identities discovered.’
Thomson shook his head. ‘This person isn’t at the university. She lives in the city though. She’s older, been through it all. A sort of mentor more than a friend.’
‘How did you trace her?’ Jasmine asked.
‘What’s her name?’ Angela inquired.
‘She’s called Patricia. Her number was on Silla’s mobile phone. We found it in her room. She hadn’t taken it with her when she went off to jump.’
‘How did you know that Patricia was her, um, mentor?’ Jasmine said.
‘The number of calls she had logged was a clue. Silla spoke to Patricia a few times every day. I called her and then met her. She told me Silla’s story.’
‘Story?’ Angela said.
‘Her life,’ Thomson continued, ‘her history of treatment for, what is it called, uh, Gender Dysphoria? The reasons why she killed herself.’
……………….
Painted Ladies: A Jasmine Frame Story is available as an e-book and paperback from all booksellers including Amazon

Painted Ladies front cover jpeg

Jasmine decides

I’m getting ahead of myself this week as I am writing this on Wednesday for publication on Saturday morning. I had the next episode of Soft Focus in my head and wanted to get it down before other things got in the way and filled the rest of the week.
I often wish that other things didn’t intrude so that I could devote all my time to writing – Jasmine Frame stories, SF/Fantasy and other ideas that float around my brain. Then I wonder whether in fact spending all my time at my desk would stifle my imagination and writing would become a bore. I’m unlikely to find out because I have never been single-minded about things; I couldn’t even make up my mind between chemistry and physics at university and throughout my career I would devote time to this and that whereas a determined individual might have pursued one straight route to the top – of something.  The trouble (is it a problem?) is that I am interested in all sorts of things but carrying out a task in one topic can allow me to procrastinate in another. One thing I’m not pursuing with due diligence at the moment is promoting the Jasmine Frame stories as much as I should, and that must change.  There, an aim and objective.  But while we await developments, here’s the next episode of the tale of Jasmine Frame as a student.

Summer is nearly here again

Summer is nearly here again

Soft Focus: Part 10

They were some distance from the women’s protest before Jasmine started to feel comfortable again. The caterwauling of Rachel and her followers attracted the notice of the passers-by who had given Jasmine a more thorough examination than usual. She felt exposed and vulnerable. Now though the Saturday shoppers wandered by without a second look at her. She was grateful to be anonymous again, simply a young a woman out for the afternoon with her friend. Awareness returned and she noticed that they were walking down the hill towards the cathedral and the docks.
‘Where are we going now?’ Jasmine said to Angela who was at her side.
‘I don’t know. I’m just keeping up with you. You set off so quickly from Rachel and her gang that I thought you just wanted to get away.’
‘I did.’
‘Are you, OK?’ Angela’s voice showed concern and that gave Jasmine a warm feeling. It was a strange feeling, a new feeling. Someone, who wasn’t related to her, cared for her.
‘Yes. I am now. But those women! They hated Silla. They hated me.’
Angela stopped and grabbed Jasmine’s hand. Jasmine was jerked to a halt. She turned to face Angela whose large, wide brown eyes were fixed on her face.
‘Don’t worry about them. They think they are standing for all women but they don’t. Not all women think that trans-people like Silla are fakes. I don’t think you are a fake. I’m not sure I understand this gender thing but I knew a few girls at school who were anorexic and I think they were similar – their image of themselves didn’t match their bodies.’
Jasmine nodded slowly. ‘It’s not quite the same, anorexia and gender dysphoria but I know what you mean. I don’t think I hate my body. I’m not sure. But Silla certainly did. Even in just the short talk we had I could see that she was desperate to change hers.’
‘That’s right. So I’m prepared to believe that Silla was a woman inside her head and there’s at least some of that in you. Rachel and her mates can’t see that. They just see the part of the person that’s on show and think that anyone with the body of a man must have the character and emotions of a man, and in their eyes that’s all bad.’
Angela’s forthrightness surprised Jasmine. She was expressing ideas that Jasmine had thought of but rarely put into words.
Angela continued. ‘But I don’t think Rachel or any of the others had anything to do with Silla’s death.’
Jasmine considered. Rachel’s denial of any role in Silla’s plunge from the bridge was certainly vehement, and Jasmine sensed that it was the truth.
‘I don’t know how good I am at picking out liars but I think you’re right, Angela. Like Martie, Rachel didn’t like Silla, not at all, but I don’t think she was bothered enough about her to kill her. What do we do now?’
‘Well, I don’t know about you, Jasmine, but I’m starving.’
Jasmine hadn’t been thinking about food but now that Angela mentioned it she realised that she was hungry too. Just two coffees in the whole day so far left a big hole.
‘So am I. Where shall we go? Back to the Union, or to your flat or mine. I’m not sure there’s much food in our place.’
‘I don’t think I can wait much longer. Let’s go in a café, there’s lots down here.’
Jasmine clutched her shoulder bag, mentally counting how much money she had inside it. ‘I haven’t got much cash.’
‘I’ll treat you,’ Angela said grabbing Jasmine’s arm and guiding her into the Burger King that happened to be the nearest cafe.

Jasmine sat in the plastic chair munching on her burger and looking across the table at Angela. She wondered how the young woman could make even stuffing a large bun in her mouth look elegant. She didn’t feel anything like as adept.
Jasmine swallowed and cleared her mouth. ‘So who did kill Silla?’
Angela shrugged, and through a mouthful of fries, managed to say. ‘We’ve crossed off Martie and Rachel.’
‘I suppose there are other gays and radical women who might have done it,’ Jasmine said.
‘I suppose so, but where do we start? It could be anyone.’ Angela took another large but delicate bite into her cheeseburger.
Jasmine had to agree with her. Martie and Rachel were the most outspoken of Silla’s critics and no other potential tranny-bashers, either male or female, had revealed themselves. She shrugged and continued eating.
‘What about other trans-people?’ Angela mumbled through a full mouth.
‘What do you mean?’
‘Well, what if there was another trans-person who had fallen out with Silla for some reason?’
‘Why?’
‘I don’t know. Perhaps they were angry at the way Silla was drawing attention to transgendered people.’
‘I don’t know any other transsexuals or transvestites. Not here anyway.’
Jasmine saw Angela’s eyebrows rise in disbelief. She put her burger back in its box. ‘Really? But there must be hundreds at the university out of the thousands and thousands of students.’
‘I’m sure there are. Well, dozens anyway, but I haven’t met them. Not yet.’
‘Why not?’
‘I suppose it’s secrecy. A lot of transsexuals, most, just want to get on with their lives; fitting in to society in the gender they feel they belong to. They don’t want to draw attention to themselves and get outed. Silla was unusual in that she made a lot of noise about being TS.’
‘Hmm. I get that.’
‘And the others like me, the cross-dressers, well, they probably don’t want anyone to know about it either in case they get ridiculed or worse. Transvestites will come out when there’s an occasion when other people are having a bit of laugh, a fancy dress party or something. Then they can pull on a dress and a wig and it’s a big joke. If anyone thought they were serious they’d probably die of embarrassment.’
‘I see. But there are advice groups at the university for trans-women and men.’
‘I know but I haven’t joined them. I didn’t think they were for me. I’m not transitioning.’
‘But you did join the LGBT group. You came out as Jasmine last night.’
Jasmine chuckled. ‘That was Andy. We got thrown together sharing the flat and sort of hit it off the first week. One night we got drunk over a few beers in the Union and he confessed that he was gay. I kind of decided I had to give him something back so told him I was a tranny.’
‘So he got you to come out.’
‘Yes, I wanted to. I want to be Jasmine a lot but I was scared. You know, new place, new people. Andy said that the LGBT group would be the place to start; that they’d all be understanding and welcoming. So I decided to give it a go.’
‘I’m glad.’ Angela reached for Jasmine’s hand and gave it a squeeze.
‘But the point is,’ Jasmine continued, ‘Silla was the first and only other transgender person I’ve met since coming here.’
Angela screwed up her empty fries carton and put it in the burger box. ‘So we haven’t got any more suspects.’
‘No.’
‘There’s nothing more we can do, then.’
‘Yes, there is,’ Jasmine was determined not to let the investigation into Silla’s death fizzle out. ‘We must report to the police.’
Angela looked surprised. ‘Report what?’
‘What we know about Silla. The discussions we’ve had with Martie and Rachel and our suspicions about how she died.’
‘Do you think they’ll want to know that?’
‘Silla’s dead.’ Jasmine was adamant. ‘The police have to investigate her death properly. We have a duty to tell them everything we know.’
Angela screwed up her face. ‘OK… if you say so.’
‘Where’s the police station?’ Jasmine rose from her seat.
‘Down the hill, and somewhere up towards The Haymarket, I think.’
‘Right come on. We mustn’t waste any more time before we pass on our information.’
Jasmine gathered up her rubbish and shoved it into the disposal bin. She strode from the café with renewed determination. Angela followed.

……………………

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

Painted Ladies front cover jpeg

Jasmine meets some women

A little late in posting this week’s epsiode of Soft Focus.  I have had to catch up the time needed to do the writing as this week has been a little busy. This isn’t a political blog, except perhaps where it affects trans people, so I’m not going to make comments about the election except to say that the result was a surprise, in some respects, and raises a lot of questions about our futures, both in the next year or two and the next fifty.

Anyway, to return to the main topic of this page – Jasmine Frame, independent transsexual detective. I hope that now the matter of the election is out of the way I will have the time needed to get Bodies By Design published, promote Painted Ladies, complete the third novel in the series and edit the five prequel novellas into a collection  for pulication in some form or other. Lots to do – exciting isn’t it. So at last, here is the next epsiode of Soft Focus.

In Malvern in March

In Malvern in March

Soft Focus: Part 9

Angela set off determinedly along Pembroke Road towards the city centre.
‘Where are we going, Angela?’ Jasmine asked, walking quickly to keep up.
‘The Triangle.’
‘Why there?’
‘That’s where we’ll find The Women.’
‘Oh. Why?’
‘You’ll see.’ Angela was obviously not in a mood for chat. They strode on side by side, both deep in thought. Jasmine re-ran her imagined sequence of the events of the last night. Now it wasn’t Martie who pushed Sila off the bridge it was another figure, clouded and indistinct in Jasmine’s view. Could it be a woman?

They reached the triangle of busy roads lined by shops and cafés. Jasmine noticed a couple of huddles of banner waving protesters. The nearest small cluster of men and women displayed boards reading “No war in Afghanistan” and “Islam is not the enemy”. Angela led Jasmine passed them and towards another group of people on the pavement outside a store also holding up placards and shouting loudly. As they approached Jasmine saw that the figures were women, all wearing jeans and a variety of anoraks or coats. The raised boards said things like “Stop sexism – ban lads’ mags”, “Say nuts to Nuts”, “Unload Loaded”. The slogans were repeated in the choruses of the women.
‘What are they doing?’ Jasmine asked although she had guessed the answer.
‘Trying to stop the sale of magazines and newspapers that treat women as sex objects,’ Angela answered.
‘They are the Radical Women?’
‘Largely. I don’t know them all but there’s Rachel. She’s the leader.’ Angela pointed to the centre of the small throng. A young woman with spiky hair was handing out leaflets with a semi-circle of the banner waving, chanting women behind her.
‘I think I saw her at the LGBT party last night,’ Jasmine said, searching her memory.
‘Yes, she was there with her partner Jo.’
‘Rachel’s the one we need to speak to then, is she?’
‘Yes, come on.’ Angela strode into the group of protesters and approached Rachel who was reaching out to passers-by attempting to avoid the group. ‘Hi, Rachel,’ she said.
Rachel paused in her attempts to hand out leaflets and looked at Angela. A frown was replaced by recognition.
‘Hi. Angela isn’t it? Come to join the campaign?’
‘Not at the moment. We want to ask you a question.’
Rachel looked at Jasmine who had stepped up to Angela’s side.
‘A question? What question? We’re rather busy here, you know.’
Angela nodded apologetically, ‘I see that but it is quite urgent. Did you see or speak to Sila last night?’
Rachel’s eyebrows shot up with surprise at being asked such a question. She glanced from Angela to Jasmine and back. ‘I saw him, yes, at the LGBT party last evening. I heard he’d jumped off the bridge.’
‘Yes, Sila’s dead,’ Angela said. ‘We’re trying to trace her movements before she fell.’
‘We think someone was with her,’ Jasmine added.
Rachel shook her head. ‘Well, it wasn’t me. I’ve got no idea what his movements were. I’m sorry that he’s killed himself but it’s got nothing to do with us.’
‘You keep calling Sila him and he,’ Jasmine said.
‘Yeah, of course. He was a man wasn’t he?’ It was a statement not a question.
A mixture of annoyance and disbelief filled Jasmine. ‘She was a woman.’
‘A woman has a vagina,’ Rachel said, stating a simple fact.
Jasmine spoke slowly and carefully, trying to avoid the anger that was welling up inside her. ‘Sila was transsexual. She knew she was really a woman.’
‘That’s crap,’ Rachel said, ‘He had a penis and testicles. He was born a man and as a man he thought he could mince into our movement as a parody of a woman.’
‘No, you’re wrong,’ Jasmine’s voice rose in volume and pitch. ‘Sila believed that she was a woman. She was waiting for the treatment to turn her into the woman she wanted to be.’
‘Nonsense. You can’t change your genes. A bit of cosmetic surgery doesn’t change who you are.’
Angela spoke. ‘Rachel, I think a sex-change is a bit more serious than cosmetic surgery.’
‘It’s called gender re-assignment surgery, actually,’ Jasmine said as calmly as she could manage although her heart was beating fast. ‘It’s not about sex it’s about giving the person the body that matches their gender identity.’
Rachel stepped closer to Jasmine and glared into her face. Jasmine could feel her gaze taking in the foundation covering her shaved chin, her hair as short as her own but with a more masculine cut. Rachel was obviously reassessing her first impression of her.
‘You know a lot about Sila,’ Rachel said coolly. ‘Are you a bloke trying to pass yourself off as a cute girl?’ Jasmine heard the last word as a sneer, an infantile female who wore short skirts and revealing tops; a traitor to the gender.
Jasmine’s first reaction, as always if she was threatened with outing, was to deny it, to insist that she too was a woman but the words didn’t come out. She couldn’t claim to be as feminine as Angela or Rachel or even as much as Sila who was living the female life full time.
‘I’m trans, but not like Sila. I’m a transvestite, a cross-dresser.’ There, she’d said it, revealed the truth about herself. The blood throbbed in her temples.
Rachel snorted and took a step away from her. ‘I thought so. A wanker who fancies himself so much that he even has to dress like the woman he wants to fuck.’
‘No, it’s not like that,’ Jasmine insisted. ‘I feel that I should be female. I support women and equality and feminism and all that.’
‘Nah, you’re just getting a thrill from acting like a tart. Just like Sila.’
Angela spoke quietly trying to keep the exchange calm and civil. ‘You’ve got it wrong, Rachel. Sila really did think she was woman and wanted to join your group because she shared your aims.’
‘That’s rubbish,’ Rachel said, ‘How could a man understand the oppression of women, when they just treat us a dolls for sex and trample on us. I told Sila last night, once and for all, to get lost and to stop trying to join us.’
‘You did speak to her last night,’ Jasmine said.
‘Yeah, for two moments.’ She turned to address her supporters. ‘We sent him packing didn’t we? Told him to stop pretending to be a woman and crawl back into the cess-pit of male tossers where he belonged.’ The placard-waving line nodded and jeered their agreement.
‘You rejected her,’ Jasmine said.
‘No. We told him the truth. A man could not be a member of the Radical Women’s Movement, not even one who had his balls chopped off.’ Rachel said with more nods from behind her.
‘What did Sila do?’ Angela asked.
Rachel shrugged. ‘I don’t know. We went off for a drink and left him.’
‘You didn’t see her again?’ Jasmine said.
‘No.’
‘You didn’t follow her out to the bridge?’ Jasmine persisted.
‘No. Are you suggesting we pushed him off the bridge?’ Rachel stepped towards Jasmine with her fists clenched. The other women clustered around shouting “tranny”, “imposter”, “man”.
Angela pushed between Jasmine and Rachel, keeping them apart.
‘We’re not suggesting anything at all, Rachel. If you say that you and your friends didn’t see Sila again then that’s all we want to know.’
Rachel stepped back with a thunderous expression on her face. ‘Neither I nor my group had anything, anything I say, to do with Sila last evening, or at any time, and we certainly did not see her after we left the Union. Now get lost both of you. I don’t want to share the air with another Barbie doll drag artist.’
Jasmine opened her mouth but Angela grabbed her hand and dragged her away. The gang of women jeered and shouted until Jasmine and Angela had mingled with the Saturday shoppers.
Jasmine’s heart hammered in her chest. She felt rejected and humiliated. She wanted to hide in the crowd but feared that they were looking at her and recognising her as the impersonator that Rachel referred to.

…………………………..

Painted Ladies – A Jasmine Frame Story is available as an e-book and paperback from all booksllers including Amazon

Painted Ladies front cover jpeg

Jasmine at the scene of the murder

Back to something like normal after last weekend at Dysprosium and back to thinking and working on Jasmine Frame stories.  Publication of Bodies By Design is top of the list and perhaps there is some progress there; getting on with Jasmine Frame 3, provisionally titled The Brides, is next, and lastly, although first priority, is the next episode of the prequel, Soft Focus, which is below.

I was interested in the media attention given to pre-pubescent transsexuals in the last week, with the Theroux TV programme, items on the news and on radio.  It is almost as if the media have switched their sensationalist focus from aging trannies (such as your truly) to the youngsters who are declaring their transgender identity as soon as they can express themselves.  I think I’ll have more to say and write about that in future.  I hope the time has come when someone like Jasmine Frame isn’t special for what she is but for her personality and her deeds.  It doesn’t stop me thinking up “situations” to place her in though.  Enjoy the next episode of her evolution as a transsexual detective

A recent portrait of the author.

A recent portrait of the author.

Soft Focus: Part 5

They carried on walking, Angela’s hand in James’. Neither spoke. James wondered whether Angela was thinking the same things as he was; a curious mixture of fascination with the questions surrounding Silla’s death along with enjoyment of being with someone, a girl, who seemed to like him and questioning where that might lead.
A few minutes brought them onto the approach road to the bridge. Ahead was the nearer of the two brick encased towers that supported the curving chains of the suspension bridge. There was high wall on their right which stopped abruptly revealing a vista across the gorge. James and Angela took the few steps to the railings topped by a wire fence and looked at the view. For a moment James forgot why they had come here. The scene was stunning. The cliff was just a few metres from them, an almost sheer wall of rock clothed in vegetation which dropped to the floor of the valley far below. A grey ribbon of road hugged the base of the cliff with the cars on it like tiny models, but most of the gorge was occupied by the estuary. The tide was out so there was only a narrow channel of brown water bounded by a wide margin of smooth, glistening mud.
They walked on towards and passed the tower so that they were on the bridge itself. The cars on the narrow roadway were ignored as all their attention was taken by the slowly changing perspective of the cliffs and the river below. They stopped at the centre of the span and stood pressed against the railing looking down.
Angela squeezed James’ hand. ‘I didn’t think I was scared of heights but this gives me the frights.’
James spare hand gripped the iron rail. It was reassuringly firm. The over-engineered strength of the Brunel’s bridge all around him was also reassuringly firm. Nevertheless he empathised with Angela.
‘You’re right. It’s amazing. I’m glad I’ve come to see it but I don’t understand how someone can throw themselves off.’ They both looked up at the modern protective fence that surmounted the old railings.
‘You’ve got to be determined to climb up there and then jump,’ Angela said, ‘but people do, I’ve heard the reports on the news.’
James looked up at the inverted arch of the suspension chain. ‘Don’t they have CCTV to catch people before they go over?’
‘I’m sure they do,’ Angela replied, following James’ searching eyes. ‘Sometimes they can’t get someone here quick enough to stop the jumper.’
James verbalised his thoughts. ‘Hmm. I suppose the video is evidence for the inquest.’
‘It would show if the person was alone when they went over.’
‘Proof that it was suicide and not murder.’
‘That’s right, James. So the Police will know that Silla killed herself.’
James looked at Angela. ‘Except, Ange, You said that Silla didn’t fall into the river.’
Their eyes met. ‘That’s right, I’d forgotten. She wasn’t on the bridge itself. She fell from the approach.’
James took Angela’s arm and they retraced they steps, faster than before. They returned to where the footpath skirted the tower on a balcony and looked over the rail.
‘I thought Tiff said Silla nearly landed on a car,’ James said, ‘but the road goes under the main span of the bridge.’
‘Tiff was exaggerating,’ Angela replied. ‘I heard that a driver had seen Silla fall. She must have come down somewhere over there.’ Angela pointed to the side of the gorge. ‘There are trees and bushes to slow the fall. It’s not as big a drop.’
‘But just as fatal.’ James concluded. He examined the bridge. The fencing wasn’t as high on the approach and he couldn’t see a TV camera aimed at the path. ‘Maybe there isn’t CCTV of this part of the bridge. It could be there is no proof that Silla was alone when she fell. It’s possible that she was thrown over.’
‘You’re convinced Silla was murdered, James?’
‘I don’t believe that she was in the mood to come down here, climb over the fence and jump off, either here or the middle of the bridge. What about you, Ange?’
Angela chewed her lip, thinking, then made up her mind. ‘I agree. What do we do about it?’
James turned away from the parapet and took Angela’s arm. ‘I don’t know. Let’s get a coffee and think about it.’

They were in a cafe in Clifton village, not one of the chain of modern coffee-bars but an old-fashioned, cramped place with a few circular wooden tables and bentwood chairs. The coffee was good though, and cheap. James held his cup to his lips, sipping and looking at Angela across the rim. He was looking at her with something beyond lust. She was certainly desirable. Her long waves of brown hair framed a round face with large eyes and strong features. Now that she had removed her coat James could admire her figure which though slim had curves which she did not hide in a slouchy sweater but were revealed by a fitted jumper. He felt an unfamiliar desire to strip her of her clothes in order to caress the smooth, white skin beneath and feel that curved flesh. But there was also the wish to just be with this young woman, to discover more about her, to talk about this and that, to pour out his feelings. It wasn’t just an unfamiliar feeling it was one he had never anticipated.
Angela’s eyes looked back at him across her cup. She put the cup back on its saucer. ‘So, why are you so sure that Silla didn’t intend to die?’
‘I’m not sure,’ James said, ‘I know I only met her for a few minutes, I didn’t know her at all, really, but I have this feeling that she had too much she was looking forward to, things she wanted to happen; she wouldn’t just give it up.’
Angela’s eyes were focused on James, searching for the tiniest evidence of his emotions. ‘Is it because you identify with her as a transsexual? Do you feel like her?’
‘No, yes, oh, it’s complicated. She was living as a girl; she had started on gender reassignment; it may only have been months before she became the woman she thought she was. That’s not me.’
‘No?’
‘I don’t spend all my time as Jasmine, as you can see.’ James knew he wasn’t being completely honest with Angela or himself. Did he want to be Jasmine all the time? Did he in fact feel that he was Jasmine all the time even when he was dressed as James? Despite days, months and years of considering those questions he was still not certain of his answers.
‘OK. You’ve admitted to being a transvestite. That’s fine. I’m looking forward to seeing Jasmine again, she’s fun. But you seem to think you have enough in common with Silla to understand what motivated her.’ Angela sat up straight and laughed. ‘Gosh, I sound as though we’re in a seminar discussing principles of psychology.’
‘Perhaps that’s what I need,’ James nodded. ‘A psychological grilling that can draw out my reasons for feeling as I do about Silla.’
‘I’m not sure I know enough to do that without hurting you, James. The point is you, we, think that Silla was killed. What do we do about it?’
James took another sip of coffee while he considered his answer. He put the cup down deliberately. ‘We have to find out who did it.’
Angela’s dark brown eyebrows rose. ‘Isn’t that a police job?’
‘Well, OK, we have to tell the police. Get them to investigate.’
‘They won’t be interested if all you can say is you believe she was murdered. They’ll want evidence.’
James knew that Angela was right. Police work was all about finding evidence, a bit like what historians did, which was why he was studying history. ‘Right, but I could tell them about what happened in the party last night. You know, my meeting with Silla and then her set to with the gay lads.’
‘But you don’t know why the gays shoved her.’
‘Yes, but Andy can tell us.’ James drained his coffee cup and stood up. He went to the counter to pay their bill. Angela joined him a few moments later, pulling her coat over her shoulders.
She whispered, ‘Are you saying you think the gay boys killed Silla?’
The waitress dropped the change into James’ hand. He mumbled a thanks and turned to Angela.
‘No. I hope not. I’m sure Andy wouldn’t have been part of it. He’s been great to me. He encouraged me to come to the party as Jasmine.’
They left the café, bodies touching, heads close together.
‘So why is their bundle with Silla important?’
‘I’m not sure it is but it will help explain what Silla was getting up to, her state of mind and all that. Andy may give us a clue as to where she went afterwards and give us a lead to the killers.’
They headed back towards the university.
‘So once you’ve spoken to Andy, we go to the Police?’ Angela asked.
‘Let’s see what Andy says. Are you coming with me?’
‘Oh yes. I like being with you James, as much as I enjoyed getting to know Jasmine.’
……………………

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

Painted Ladies front cover jpeg

Jasmine makes friends

Another full week. There was another event with the Malvern Book Promotions group – good fun but not a successful marketing event as the audience were largely writers not buyers.

In full flow at Rachel's Gallery in Malvern

In full flow at Rachel’s Gallery in Malvern

There has however been some lovely news which is covered on my SF and Fantasy page. Here though I’m really getting in to the next Jasmine Frame prequel – Soft Focus.  I’ll have to see how that title works out. This story is from an early stage in Jasmine’s journey to womanhood and her career as a detective but a significant one as will become clear.

Soft Focus: Part 2

First they had to cross the communal kitchen-cum-dining-room-cum-lounge of their shared flat. This was the bit that bothered Jasmine most. Andy was the only one of her recently met flat-mates that knew that Jim Frame was trans. Jasmine sighed with relief when the multipurpose but small room turned out to be empty.
‘The guys are out,’ Jasmine observed.
‘Probably in the bar with their other sciency friends,’ Andy replied. ‘Come on.’
Jasmine knew she would have to reveal herself to her new acquaintances soon, preferably before the gossip got to them. Ross, Gavin and Meirion seemed like good guys but she wondered what criteria the university authorities had used to put them together. Probably none at all as they apparently had little in common. Andy was the first of her flat mates she got to know when they had met up by chance at the LGBT stand at the Freshers’ Fair. They weren’t together much as her history and politics course couldn’t be much more different to his computing studies.
They left the flat, descended the stairs to the entrance and stepped out into a typical late October, Saturday evening, that is, dark, damp if not actually raining and a breeze which had a cold nip to it. They walked the few hundred metres to the Students’ Union building along streets which were busy with pedestrians, not all of whom were students, but the majority were. Jasmine looked anxiously around as she always did when she was out. Was anyone taking an unusual interest in her? She caught some pairs of eyes looking her up and down but they belonged to young men and she thought theirs was a look of lust rather than suspicion. She was satisfied that they were seen simply as a boy and girl, a pair of students out for the evening together. Together? No, she didn’t consider that she and Andy were a couple. He had said she was fanciable but he was gay so was immune to her feminine attributes. What about her? Did she want attention from a boy? It was a question she often asked herself. She wanted boys, and girls, to accept her as a woman but the thought of going further, of kissing, petting, having sex with a boy didn’t seem to be something that aroused her. On the other hand, pretty girls did. Knowing her own feelings only made her confusion about her status seem more complicated. What was she? A boy who liked dressing up as a girl. What did that make her?
They climbed the steps into the SU building and found their way to the room the LGBT club had hired for its party. It was supposed to be an opportunity to welcome new members, that is, innocent first years, but Jasmine guessed it was really a chance to get pissed on cheap wine and beer and for older members to eye up the new intake. There were only a dozen or so people in the dimly lit room as Jasmine and Andy entered. The DJ was still sorting his gear so the music was playing relatively quietly. They crossed to a corner where a make-shift bar had been erected. A young man wearing a tight white t-shirt and black jeans stood behind it.
‘Got your membership cards?’ he asked. ‘First drink’s free to members.’
Jasmine opened her shoulder bag and searched among her tissues and lipstick for the small card which she was thankful she had remembered to bring. She found it and thrust it out alongside Andy’s.
‘Great,’ the barman said.’ What do you want?’ Andy selected a bitter beer while Jasmine asked for a white wine. Andy was handed a can and Jasmine received a small plastic cup filled with a pale green liquid. She tasted it. White wine was a far as its identity went. Sweet with an acidic after taste, it was no doubt cheap. They stepped away from the bar and sipped their drinks.
‘There’s someone I know over there,’ Andy said pointing to a trio of men near the DJ’s stage. ‘Do you mind if I go and…’ Jasmine guessed that he wanted to talk to the boys alone.’
‘Go on. I’m fine. I’ll just watch what’s going on.’
‘Thanks, Jim, I mean Jasmine. I’ll keep an eye on you. Make sure you’re okay, like.’
Jasmine waved him away and he hurried to join the group of lads, presumably gay or computer nerds or both. Jasmine sipped her wine and looked around. More people were coming into the room and the volume of the music had increased. Lights had started to flash but there wasn’t anyone dancing yet. Someone approached her wearing a flowery, sleeveless dress over blue jeans. She had breasts but a short boyish hair cut and long multi-coloured earrings.
‘Hi, you’re new,’ she said with a voice that had a male timbre to it and a strong Liverpool accent. ‘I’m Silla – with an ess.’ She transferred her can of beer into her left hand and held out her right. Jasmine took it and they shook hands limply.
‘I’m Jasmine.’
Silla looked at her, ‘I’d guess from your dress that you’re not a lezzer.’
‘Um, no, I’m not.’
‘So, my guess is you’re trans. That right?’
‘Yes. How did you guess?’ Jasmine hardly needed to ask. She knew what Silla’s answer would be.
‘Most of the lesbians will be wearing jeans and a shirt. But I’m trans too so I know one if I see one.’
‘Oh, I see.’
‘Except I’m also a lesbian. I fancy girls. Do you? But now you’re going to ask why I’m wearing this dress over my jeans.’
‘Um, yes.’
‘Because the fucking Gender Identity clinic make you wear a fucking skirt or dress to prove that you really do want to be a woman.’
‘Oh, you’re having gender reassignment surgery are you?’ Jasmine hadn’t met many transsexuals and Silla was certainly the most outspoken of them all.
‘Yeah, well, when I get lucky and win the NHS lottery. I’m on the hormones but when I’ll get rid of this,’ she grabbed her crotch, ‘is anyone’s guess.’ She took a swig of beer and then went on. ‘Look it’s great to have another trans member. We’re organising a protest; fighting for the right to be recognised as women.’
‘What do you mean?’ Jasmine asked.
‘You know. Be allowed to get our birth certificates changed when we have the chop. It’s fucking disgusting that everyone will still know that my name was Kevin John even when I’ve got my own boobs and a cunt.’
‘Kevin John?’ Jasmine repeated.
‘Yeah, my father named me after Kevin Keegan and John Toshack – his bloody heroes. I want a bit of paper that says that my real name is Silla McBride and it always has been.’ Even in the flashing coloured light Jasmine could see that Silla’s face was red with emotion.
‘Why do you spell it with an ess?’
‘My Mum used to play Cilla Black records when I was a kid thinking I was a girl so I sort of identified with her. I’ve stuck with it but that “Blind Date” nonsense, pimping for heterosexuals, put me off her. So I changed the spelling.’
‘I see.’
‘What about you? Where are you on the programme?’
‘Programme?’
‘The GI clinic.’
‘Oh, I’m not,’ Jasmine answered.
‘You’re not?’ Silla stepped back from her and looked her up and down again. ‘You’re not a tranny are you?’
‘What do you mean?’ Being a tranny was how Jasmine thought of herself.
‘A fucking bloke who wears a skirt to get a hard-on.’
‘No!’ Jasmine’s retort was louder than she intended. She noticed a few heads nearby turning in her direction.
‘That’s what it looks like in your tarty miniskirt and long blonde wig. It is a wig isn’t it. You can’t be a real trans-woman wearing a wig. Fuck you, you transvestite.’ Silla strode off. Jasmine stood shaking and mystified by Silla’s sudden anger.
‘Are you OK, love?’
Jasmine turned to see she had been joined by three young women, all three in the “lesbian uniform” as Silla had described it. Two had hair cut short but one had auburn tresses that touched her shoulders.
‘Uh, yes, thanks.’
‘Silla’s like one of the Taliban. A bit of an extremist when it comes to feminism and transgenderism,’ one of the short-haired girls said. ‘She was at a women students’ meeting we went to.’
‘Funny thing is the really radical women won’t let her join because she’s still got a penis,’ the other cropped girl giggled, ‘What do you want to drink, Angela?’
The auburn haired girl smiled, ‘A white wine please.’
‘We’ll get it. You stay and look after this young lady,’ the first girl said with an emphasis on “lady”.
The two short-haired girls moved off, squeezing through the growing crowd.
‘You’re Angela?’ Jasmine said.
‘That’s right, and you are?’
‘Jasmine.’ She looked at the girl. Although she was apparently wearing the same outfit as her two companions Jasmine now noticed certain differences. The jeans were fitted and revealed the curve of her buttocks. The top buttons of her shirt were undone revealing a pretty lace bra, and she was wearing eye-shadow and lipstick unlike the other girls. ‘The other two …’ she started struggling to find the appropriate words.
‘Sid and Tiff. They’re my flatmates. Lesbians. They dragged me out with them rather than leave me on my own.’
‘Oh, so you’re not a lesbian.’
‘No way. We just got thrown together.’
‘You’re a first year.’
‘Yeah, you too?’
‘Yes.’
‘But, Jasmine, you’re not a lesbian are you. Why are you here?’
Jasmine had been waiting for this. Silla had dragged her gender identity from her and if she couldn’t be honest at an LGBT party where else could she be?
‘I’m trans, a cross-dresser. My real name’s James. James Frame.’ Jasmine expected Angela’s face to show distaste and for her to make an excuse to walk away, but instead there was a sparkle in Angela’s eyes and a broad grin.
‘Really? That’s fascinating. Why? What do you like about dressing as a girl?’
‘Here’s your wine, Ange,’ Sid or Tiff thrust a plastic cup into Angela’s hand, ‘We’re going to get some dancing and snogging done. You OK?’
Angela took the cup, ‘Yes, Jasmine and I are getting to know each other.’
………………….

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

Painted Ladies front cover jpeg

Who is September?

Last week I completed, Close-up, the third prequel to Painted Ladies, featuring Jasmine Frame, my transsexual detective character. There will be another story coming along in the near future and I have high hopes that the sequel to Painted Ladies, Bodies By Design, will find a publisher soon or instead will be self-published as an e-book. I am also planning to put edited versions of the prequels online. Then there will be the further sequels…

But this week my focus is on my other character, September Weekes. I have been completing the edits of volume 2 of Evil Above the Stars: Power of Seven and I have been getting very excited about the publication of both volumes in the new year by Elsewhen Press. They will appear first as e-books then as paperbacks with a launch at Eastercon. So who is September?

As a character she came to me some years ago – a feisty, teenager with issues. Why the silly name? Well, she’s the last child of parents who solved the name choosing problem by using the names of months for their first five children – April, May, June, Julie and Gus (Augustus). What could they do with the sixth? Well they had to continue the theme didn’t they. Anyway I like it – especially when contracted to Ember or Em. Being the last member of a large family proved to be important.

Then the idea of a fantasy novel grew out of a scene that I developed for a short piece for Ludlow Writers’ Group. I think it was for a Hallowe’en time meeting and so involved witches or druids. The story featured a teenage heroine and so September had her opportunity. She changed a bit and grew white hair. At the opening of the novel there is little that is heroic about her – she’s plump, a bit silly, lacks self-esteem, is bullied at school and treated as dim by her teachers. She is on a journey of self-discovery as well as a quest and “task”. I don’t want to give spoilers of what happens in Evil Above The Stars but I think it is a gripping story in original settings with interesting adversaries and intriguing concepts involving celtic myth, alchemy and Ptolomaic cosmology. Oh, yes, and the number 7 has special significance.

Seven is a theme of Evil Above the Stars

Seven is a theme of Evil Above the Stars

I think it is intruguing that while the number 7 features in all our lives (7 days, 7 colours in the rainbow, etc.) the seven pointed star is actually quite a rare motif, certainly less common than four, five, six and eight pointed stars. I like the one shown in the picture because if you trace it out it seems to go on and on, never repeating although, of course, it does. It’s symmetry is also less comfortable than the more familiar star patterns.

Why are both the main characters in my novels feminine? I don’t know really. There is a trend for active, intelligent women in novels these days but I suppose I feel more comfortable writing from a feminine point of view. Of course it is for readers to decide whether I have given my characters credible personalities. Actually there are a lot of differences between Jasmine and September. Jasmine is a mature, transsexual woman while September is a girl approaching adulthood who has no gender identity issues but hasn’t developed her sexuality yet. While there are no doubt similarities in my writing style in both series, they deal with very different subjects and the backgrounds, scenes, plots etc. etc. are wildly different.

I like having two (or more!) threads to my imagination and I find it quite easy to move from Jasmine’s life in Kintbridge to September’s somewhat more extensive universe. Again it is up to the reader to decide if I have been successful but I can only point to one of my heroes, Iain (M.) Banks who also seemed able to hop between very different worlds of imagination. I don’t have Banks’ talent but I hope I can cite him as my inspiration.

I am currently writing the third volume of September’s adventures. It remains to be seen whether there will be more.

You can find out more about the publication  of the September books and other Elsewhen Press publications here Elsewhen

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

Painted Ladies cover

Close-up: Jasmine chooses the moment

Lots of people write. A lot write simply for the pleasure of seeing their ideas appear on paper or screen. Others write for a circle of friends such as a writers’ group and enjoy the feedback they receive. Many hope to sell their work to magazines or as books, paper or e, either self-published or with a publishing deal. The money is a confirmation of the worth of their work. I fit into all three categories. It is fun putting imagination to work in writing a story and I value the comments and suggestions from my writers’ group friends, but I am conceited enough to believe that there are people out there who will be willing to pay to read my creations. The problem is reaching those generous people who are prepared to hand over their hard-earned cash. I have been down the self-published route and while it is good to have control over the publishing process it takes a considerable outlay and you have to work like stink to get your money back – something  I haven’t done for a variety of reasons.

I am lucky to have a publisher, Elsewhen Press, for my fantasy series, Evil Above the Stars, which is coming out in the new year. I don’t expect to make a fortune but I am committing my time and not my savings to see the books, Seventh Child and Power of Seven published. I hope that EAtS (as we refer to it) is a success for Elsewhen and justifies their investment.

SEven is theme of Evil Above the Stars

Seven is a theme of Evil Above the Stars

I would like the same for the Jasmine Frame series and in particular, Bodies By Design the follow-up to Painted Ladies. I believe that she is an interesting character, regardless of gender identity issues, and that my writing is sufficiently competent for the series to make money for a publisher. Finding that lucky company is the problem. It seems that some publishers would like to wrap up all the rights to a story while making paltry efforts in marketing  and offering little reward to the author. I have hopes that Jasmine’s fate will be in better hands.

This blog is an attempt to get a wider audience for my writings and introduce readers to Jasmine through the novella length, episodic prequels that I have posted which explore the early stages of Jasmine’s transition from male to female. Talking of which, Close-up, the third of the prequels, reaches its conclusion today. There will be a break for a week or two while I look at other issues on this page, but Jasmine will be back in another story very soon.  Anyway, here’s the last episode of Close-up.

Close-up: Part 14

The muted ringtone of Jasmine’s phone sounded from inside her bag. Jasmine’s legs tensed. Harris’s head turned towards the bag that lay on the floor by the front door where Jasmine had dropped it.
Jasmine sprang up, her left hand reaching out for Harris’ right arm. The knife wavered in the corner of her eye but she focussed on his face. Her thighs thrust her forward and her fingers encircled his wrist. Her grip tightened as his head turned to her, his mouth open in surprise. Palm open, she rammed her right hand into his chin pushing his head back. She held the knife-wielding hand away from her. Harris fell backwards pulling Jasmine with him. As his head hit the carpet, Jasmine smashed his hand against the floor. Harris’ grip loosened and the knife fell out.
Jasmine straddled Harris’ prone body. She held his right arm down and reached to grab his left. The phone continued to ring.
She breathed in and her head filled with pain. It was if her skull was being filled to bursting point by heavy water that sloshed from side to side. Her vision blurred.
‘Jas. What can I do?’ Angela asked.
‘Come and kneel on his chest. Hold him down while I untie you.’ Jasmine pulled Harris’ arms across his body. There was no resistance but a moan came from him. ‘Quick, before he comes round and starts to move.’ Jasmine shuffled onto Harris’ thighs as Angela stepped over him and sat down heavily. Harris let out an ‘oof’. Jasmine undid the knots she had tied a few minutes before.
‘Sorry, I didn’t think to tie a slipknot like you did, Ange.’ Jasmine pulled the tights away releasing Angela’s arms.
Angela rubbed her wrists. ‘I’m glad those years in the Brownies finally proved useful.’
‘Help me turn him so we can get him trussed up.’
Together they rolled Harris over with no resistance from him. Still the phone rang, the jangling making her head worse.
Jasmine handed the tights to Angela. ‘You seem to know your knots. Tie him firmly. I’ll get the phone.’ She reached for her bag, pulled it open, dug out the mobile, and lifted it to her ear.
‘Tom?’
‘Jasmine. Are you at home?’
‘Yes …’
‘Good. We’ve got Amber Markham and found the suitcase.’
‘Great. We’ve got Harris.’
‘What?’
‘He jumped us when we got home.’
‘Harris was waiting at your house?’
‘Yes. We managed to overcome him. Get a car here.’
‘Are you both alright?’
‘I’m OK. A bit of a headache. Angela’s alright, I think.’ Angela nodded to her. ‘She’s sitting on him now.’
‘There’ll be someone with you in a few moments. I’d better go.’
‘Thanks, Tom.’ Jasmine dropped the phone onto the stairs and looked down at Harris. He attempted to lift his head up and extend his legs.
‘Don’t move or I’ll put you out again, Harris.’ Jasmine said.
‘Can I kick him?’ Angela asked as if she was eager to do him some injury.
‘Just stay sitting on him. Are you really OK?’
‘Yes. How about you? Is your head bad?’
Jasmine thought about her answer. If she held her head still there was just a heavy throbbing with an additional ache in her neck where Harris had hit her.
‘I’ll be OK. I’m sorry that this shit gave you a fright.’
‘Uh, I don’t think I had time to be scared. What was he going to do?’
‘Let’s ask him.’ Jasmine knelt down beside Harris and lowered her head to his. ‘What was it you said you wanted to do with us, Harris?’
He replied groggily, ‘I wanted you to help me get away.’
‘There was no chance of that. Half the force would be after you. You said you might kill Angela and me. Why?’
‘It’s your fault.’
‘My fault?’
‘You got Parnell picked up and linked him with Amber, Ashley and me.’
‘If I hadn’t someone else would have.’
‘Yeah, but you’re like Stephen, a trannie.’
An urge to smash her fist into Harris’s face filled her. ‘I am not like Parnell. I am a woman.’
Harris sighed, ‘Yeah, Yeah.’
‘You thought you were smart, Harris, didn’t you? Making Parnell think you were his friend, encouraging him to dress and persuading the two girls that had got him convicted to have sex with you. Then this farcical plot to cover up Jack’s murder. You forgot all the CCTV cameras that picked up Amber’s movements and Parnell being on the sex register. Amber’s story unravelled almost as soon as she tried telling it.’ It made her feel better showing Harris what a jerk he’d been.
‘It would have worked if Amber and Parnell had done it like I told them to.’
‘Controlling people is more difficult than finding where they live and watching them. You’re just a Peeping Tom, getting your kicks by violating people’s private lives. You’re worse than Stephen Parnell.’
‘He’s a perv.’
‘And you’re not!’ Jasmine laughed. The doorbell rang.
Jasmine got to her feet and opened the door. Two uniformed officers stood there.
‘DC Frame?’ one said.
‘Yes. Come in. You’ve come to collect him.’ She pointed to Harris. ‘I think you can get off him now, Ange.’
Angela stood up. Harris wriggled and tried to get up but the police officers stepped in and hauled him to his feet. One held him firmly by the upper arm while the other snapped hand cuffs around his wrists and untied the tights.
‘These yours, ma’am?’ the PC said holding out the tights to Jasmine.
‘Yes. I think those are mine.’
There was a rap of knuckles on the door and she turned to find DCI Sloane filling the doorway with Tom standing behind him.
‘Ah, all secure, then Frame?’ Sloane said.
‘Yes, Sir,’ Jasmine replied.
‘Have you formally arrested him?’
‘No, Sir. I thought as I was on sick leave or suspension I should leave it to someone else.’ In fact, reciting his rights hadn’t occurred to her.
‘Yes, well, Shepherd can do it. Take Harris outside.’ The two officers prodded Harris. Jasmine and Sloane stepped aside as he was escorted out.
Sloane pushed the door closed and looked at Angela. ‘Are you alright, Mrs Frame? I was told that Harris attacked you.’
‘It’s Bevan, Chief Inspector. I went back to my maiden name when Jasmine transitioned. I’m fine. He attacked Jasmine and threatened her with a knife. I just did what I was told.’
Sloane looked a little confused. ‘But, nevertheless, you overpowered Harris, Frame?’
‘When he told Angela to tie me up she used a slipknot,’ Jasmine explained with pride for her not yet ex-wife, ‘and then she got him talking while I managed to get myself free.’
‘Very good, Miss, ah, Bevan.’ Sloane nodded. ‘What did he tell you?’
‘The whole story, I think,’ Jasmine said, ‘including that Amber killed her baby.’
‘She says it was Harris.’
‘Tom said she’d been found.’ Jasmine was eager to get the full story even though her head was aching and she really wanted to lie down.’
‘Hmm, yes. Kingston and Money had to follow a trail of Harris’ acquaintances as his parents didn’t know where he was living. They found Miss Markham in a squat that Harris had been sharing.’
‘And you’ve found Jack’s body.’
‘Yes, Frame. Your hunch was correct. The case was hidden in undergrowth behind Stiles’ house. The pathologist is trying to identify the cause of death. Now I think I had better leave you to recover from your injuries.’
‘Thank you, Chief Inspector,’ Angela said. ‘The hospital said that Jasmine was supposed to rest.’
‘I’m sure that is the best thing. We’ll be in touch tomorrow, Frame.’
‘Am I suspended, Sir?’
‘We’ll talk tomorrow.’ Sloane turned away, opened the door and stepped outside. As the door closed, Angela took Jasmine’s arm and guided her into the lounge.
‘I’ll make some tea. I expect you need to take some more tablets, don’t you Jas?’
‘Yes, I do.’ Jasmine lowered herself into the sofa trying to avoid sudden movements of her head. With the excitement over she only had the headache to concentrate on. Angela went into the kitchen and prepared tea, while Jasmine sat with her eyes closed.
‘Here you are,’ Angela said returning with two mugs of steaming tea.
Jasmine reached for one mug. ‘I’m sorry, Angela.’
‘What for?’
‘Getting you involved in this. Getting you attacked.’
‘It was you he attacked.’
‘But he was threatening to kill both of us. If you hadn’t made it possible for me to get free …’
‘And if you hadn’t floored him, Jas.’ Angela smiled at Jasmine’s modest shrug. ‘He was dangerous, and he had a knife. You were great.’
‘Thanks. You were too.’
Angela waved a hand to dismiss Jasmine’s praise. She sat beside her. ‘I was thinking while the kettle boiled.’
‘About what?’
‘What I said about you moving out, Jas. What if Harris had attacked you when you were on your own somewhere? Perhaps we should stick together.’
Jasmine swallowed a painkiller tablet and took a sip of hot tea. ‘Thanks, Angela, but it was my stupidity that revealed our address to Harris. I shouldn’t have allowed it to be public knowledge. But you were right. It’s time I got a place of my own and let you, Miss Bevan, get on with your own career and life. I need to pursue my job on my own. If I still have one.’
………………….

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

Painted Ladies cover

Jasmine at a dead end

A busy weekend so I’m pretty late this week. Nevertheless there is another episode of The Switch below.
By this time next week we will have held the Writers’ Slam at the Leominster Festival – 13 writers stepping up to the microphone to read their work. I hope we get a good audience and people want to buy our books, particularly, of course, Painted Ladies. It’s the first marketing opportunity I’ve had for a couple of months so really need to get the sales going.

Just one more thing. An interesting full page article in today’s Observer by the mother of a trans five year old.  The child has insisted she is female since she could first speak. The parents finally gave in after a couple of years’ struggle and now she is a happy little girl (still with a male body, of course). The article was a response to a bit of typical Mail On Sunday sniping at the NHS providing puberty-delaying drugs to similar gender dysphoric children. The article makes the point that in the UK it is actually very difficult to get children taken seriously when they say they are a different gender to what they were born with and that there is considerable research data saying how successful the treatment is in preventing psychological anguish (eating disorders, suicide etc.).

Anyway, here’s Jasmine…

The Switch: Part 9

The shadow of the open door formed a monochrome slash across the girl’s sullen, painted face. Jasmine struggled to imagine Tamsin and Daniel/Emma as young girls, playing on swings or with their dolls. Did Daniel ever play at princesses or other girls’ games?
‘Ten years. That’s a long time to be friends,’ Jasmine said.
‘Yeah, well, we haven’t been close for a while,’ Tamsin replied with a sniff.
‘Since Emma became Daniel?’
‘Longer really. Emma didn’t want to be in our gang. She did her own thing.’
‘Kyle didn’t like that?’
‘No. You’re either with us or against us, he said.’
‘So Kyle was keen to teach him a lesson, was he?’
‘Sort of. He said Dan wasn’t a real boy. He still had female bits so Kyle was going to show him how real boys treated girls.’
‘What did you feel about that?’ Jasmine searched Tamsin’s face for clues. Did she know what had happened since Saturday?
‘It didn’t matter what I thought. Kyle got his way.’
‘But you knew Daniel. You understood what he was going through.’
Tamsin shrugged and didn’t say anything.
‘You felt for Daniel?’ Jasmine insisted.
‘Yeah, alright,’ Tamsin stamped her foot, ‘I wasn’t happy about it.’
‘Did you try to stop what Kyle was planning?’
The girl stared at Jasmine with her mouth open in surprise.
‘Stop Kyle! He’s a madman when he gets one on him. I don’t want to end up face down in the pond, thank you.’
‘But you’re his number 1. Doesn’t he listen to you?’
Tamsin turned away from Jasmine.
‘He doesn’t listen to any girl. If you were a real girl instead of a perv in a skirt you’d know what it’s like. He’d only listen to his mates and only if it suits him. Anyway why are you talking about him as if he’s alive? Kyle’s dead.’
‘Do you know anything about that, Tamsin?’
Tamsin turned back to face her with misery written in her features. ‘No.’
‘When did you see him last?’
‘Saturday morning. He was going to pick me up Saturday evening, but he didn’t turn up. I looked for him everywhere. I couldn’t find him.’
‘You tried here?’
‘Of course.’
‘Was there any sign he’d been here?’
Jasmine bent down to look at the mattress and the debris on the floor. There were a number of fag ends and used condoms to go with the empty cans and bottles.
‘What do you mean?’
‘This litter. Is it new?’
‘How should I know?’
‘You don’t clear the rubbish now and again?’
‘No. Why should I?
Jasmine straightened up.
‘Oh, I just thought if it was a place you used often, you might want to keep it tidy.’
‘What are you on? It’s somewhere to get out of the rain and have a fuck not a fucking dream home.’
It was Jasmine’s turn to shrug. How much self-respect did the girl have if she was prepared to have sex in such a filthy environment? It wasn’t exactly a love nest.
‘Some people said they saw Kyle and Daniel together on the Common on Saturday. Did you know that?’
Tamsin shook her head vigorously.
‘Kyle left me some time after 10. Said he had some stuff to do.’
‘Where was that?’
‘In the play park on the estate. We shared a can of coke.’
‘I saw him in town with his two mates after that. You didn’t see him again?’
‘I told you, I didn’t. Look are you going to let me go?’
‘I haven’t been stopping you from leaving, Tamsin,’ Jasmine said.
‘You’ve asked enough fucking questions.’
‘I want to find out where Daniel is and what happened to Kyle. Do you think Daniel could have killed Kyle?’
‘No way. Daniel was a weed. Even as a girl he wasn’t very butch. Kyle would have hammered him if they got into a fight.’ Jasmine agreed, if they were both unarmed, but what if Daniel had wielded a length of steel pipe? Could he have caught Kyle a lucky blow? It seemed unlikely unless Kyle had been unaware of his attacker’s approach. She didn’t want to imagine Daniel in that role; not yet anyway. Tamsin had obviously not heard about the pipe and Jasmine resolved to keep that to herself.
‘That’s what I thought. The police seem to think otherwise. Who could have killed Kyle do you think – one of the gang?’
‘Na. They’re all a bunch of wankers. Just did what Kyle said and took their chances when they could.’
‘Isn’t it strange that Kyle was apparently on his own?’ Jasmine asked.
‘No. Kyle liked to be on his own. He said he liked wandering around the Common enjoying the quiet.’
‘And meeting up with you, and other girls?’
The girl’s look could have pierced Jasmine.
‘Perhaps.’
‘He could have come up here alone to meet another girl.’
‘He could, but he was supposed to be meeting me to come up here not some other slag.’
Jasmine wasn’t sure she would have trusted Kyle that much.
‘OK. Anybody else? Another gang perhaps?’
‘The Common was our place. If any other gang came up here they could expect a battering.’
Jasmine was surprised by the ferocity in Tamsin’s assertion. She knew that the police were called to the occasional fracas involving kids but she hadn’t realised the depth of feeling between the gangs in Kintbridge. It sounded like the inner-city not a peaceful country town.
‘So, no ideas on Kyle’s killer, then?’
‘No,’ Tamsin said moving towards the door. She paused. ‘You will try and find out who did it, won’t you? You being a cop and all that.’
‘I will Tamsin, and I want to discover what’s happened to Daniel. Look, if you hear anything let me know.’
‘How?’
Jasmine thought. She didn’t have any of her cards with her and anyway they gave her phone number at HQ. ‘Pop a note into Daniel’s mother. You know where he lives.’
‘Yeah.’
The girl was gone and Jasmine was left alone in the filth of the blockhouse. Its only redeeming feature was that it didn’t smell damp. She searched through the muck on the floor and lifted the saggy mattress but could not see anything that indicated Daniel had been there, or not for that matter. She stepped outside, back into the bright summer light. She waited a moment while her eyes readjusted then continued her jog, completing the circuit to her home.
In the bedroom she stripped off her sweat-soaked running clothes and went into the bathroom, avoiding catching sight, in the long mirror beside the door, of her naked body and the bits she considered incongruous and unsightly. She turned the shower on and then heard the ‘phone ringing. She hurried, back into the bedroom and grabbed the handset.
‘Yes,’ she said.
‘Jasmine? It’s me, Daniel.’
……………………..
 

A scare for Jasmine

It’s been one of those satisfying weeks when I’ve managed to get on with a variety of writing tasks, clearing the desk to commence writing the third volume of my fantasy series. Before we come to the next episode of The Switch, however, there is something that has incensed me – the case of the five year old boy Romeo Clarke chucked out of a Rugby after-school club  for wearing princess dresses. (read here)

Not surprisingly given the subject matter of my Jasmine Frame stories and my own trans status this story gave me a lot to think about.  There are of course lots of questions about where our sense of gender-identity comes from – is it programmed in the DNA or is it a result of the behaviour of parents, family, friends and the rest of the community in which we grow up? What effect does having older sisters (in this case there are three) who dress up their sibling in their cast-off princess clobber? I have no doubt that the young lad loves wearing the bright, shiny clothes now but does that mean he is transsexual or will become trans/gay or whatever? There are certainly many imponderables but the one wrong is the enforcement of stereotypical behaviour on children and people of any age. In a truly equal society there should be no such thing as gender-specific clothing (or behaviour) and anybody should be free to wear whatever clothes they like  and have whatever appearance they like without having to face the hostility or prejudice of anyone else.

The attitude of the school/church constitutes transphobia and is equally discriminatory to girls as well as boys. Their response that because it said “boy” on the child’s admission form therefore he must wear a certain type of dress shows a mindset that is discriminatory. It shows that they consider that anyone of non-standard appearance can be singled out for abuse. The hurt caused to the boy in being excluded from the club is, to my mind, a hate crime. This case has garnered considerable publicity but I am sure that the state of mind exists in many other members of society and in particular in those who take on positions of authority. It shows that we have to be constantly on guard against attempts to counter the improvement in equality rights in recent years.

I could ramble on a lot more but let’s get to Jasmine’s current case and the next episode of The Switch

The Switch: Part 7

Jasmine paused, tensing as anxiety gripped her. As a trans-woman she wanted to avoid confrontation but she saw there was no way of avoiding the two teenagers. They glared at her with undisguised hate. Her training surfaced. She had been taught how to defuse situations like this, learned how to calm emotions and help people behave sensibly; but she had no back-up. She was on her own. She walked casually towards the gate, taking care to appear unafraid at the young men’s intimidatory stances.
‘Hello,’ she said as she reached the gate where her passage was blocked.
‘You’re the trannie who’s friends with the cunt who thinks she’s a boy, aren’t you,’ one of the lads said. Jasmine decided to ignore the derogatory terms and respond to the question as if it had been phrased in good-mannered English.
‘I have met Daniel. That is correct. It’s up to him to say whether we are friends.’
The boy looked a bit confused but went on.
‘She killed Kyle. You’re going to tell us where she is so we can get her.’
Jasmine edged back from the gate out of reach of the boys.
‘There is no evidence that Daniel had anything to do with Kyle’s death and I’m sorry I won’t be telling you anything, boys.’
‘I think you will,’ the other boy said pulling a craft knife from his jean’s pocket. He concealed it from the growing crowd behind but thrust it towards Jasmine. The blade was short but sharp. ‘We’ll cut your pretty girly face, if you don’t tell us where she is,’ he went on in a hissed whisper.
‘Or we’ll cut your balls off,’ the other said, ‘you’d like that wouldn’t you.’
‘I’d advise you not to make threats,’ Jasmine said as calmly as she could.
‘You know, don’t you,’ the first boy said.
‘Know what?’ Jasmine asked.
‘What Danny-boy did to Kyle. Perhaps you were there. Perhaps you did it. She’s a soft girl really, but you’re a tough guy with a cock in your knickers. You could have killed Kyle instead of Danny. You did it didn’t you?’
Jasmine was surprised by this leap of logic and wondered how she could counter it and get away from these two hyped and nervy young men. She wasn’t convinced that the crowd would help her if she got into a tussle with the two boys. She didn’t see the two uniforms approaching along the road.
‘Now lads, what’s going on here?’ It was PC Jones.
‘This paedo killed our mate,’ the knife-carrying youth said before he turned to see that it was a police-officer addressing him. PC Hedges positioned himself behind the other boy.
‘I think you two had better get away from here before you say anything more that might get you in to trouble,’ Jones said. The two boys glared at the officers but then deflated and slunk off.
‘Thank you, officers. That pair were getting a little aggressive,’ Jasmine said smiling warmly at her two colleagues.
‘What did they have to get aggressive about?’ Hedges asked.
‘They’re members of Kyle McLeery’s gang. They were with him on Friday evening when they attacked Daniel Parry. You know, when we met on the Common.’
‘And they think you were involved in McLeery’s death?’ Jones said.
‘They’ve jumped to that conclusion,’ Jasmine agreed.
‘In that case I suggest you keep away from here, Miss Frame,’ Jones continued. Jasmine was taken aback by his tone. There seemed to be a hint of an accusation mixed with a disdain for her freedom of movement.
‘I’m sorry Jones, but I have been consoling Mrs Parry. Her son is missing and she has learned that he is a suspect in a murder. I’m helping her.’
‘But I understand that you are on leave, Miss,’ Hedges said, also with added emphasis on the female title. ‘You’re not on this case.’
Jasmine knew she had no authority to argue with the two uniformed officers.
‘As a citizen,’ she added.
‘In that case I must ask you to do as we say and stay away from here,’ Jones said. Jasmine felt a flush rising up her neck but stopped herself from responding angrily.
‘Why are you two here anyway?’ she asked instead.
‘The estate’s part of our beat,’ Jones said, ‘and DCI Sloane asked us to keep an eye on the Parry house in case the boy returned and also to prevent any of the neighbours taking matters into their own hands.’ He nodded at the small crowd of passive watchers.
‘Well, thank you for being around when I needed you,’ Jasmine said trying to mean what she said.
‘Just doing our duty, Ma’am,’ Hedges said with a sneer.
‘I’d keep an eye on those two boys,’ Jasmine said ignoring the officer’s attitude, ‘I don’t think Kyle McLeery went far without them by his side. I wouldn’t mind a bet that they no more about what happened to him than they let on.’
‘I’m sure DCI Sloane is aware of that,’ Jones said, ‘Now are you going to move on Miss.’
Jasmine opened the gate and stepped onto the pavement.
‘OK, I’m going. Make sure you look after Mrs. Parry,’ she said
‘We know our duty,’ Jones growled.
Jasmine walked down the street noticing that the eyes of the watchers followed her all the way to the corner.

Back home, Jasmine paced in circles around her lounge. She was fuming about Jones and Hedges attitude, and the accusations of the Kyle’s young henchmen. The realisation came that getting worked up about it wasn’t going to help. She flung herself into the sofa and drummed her fingers on the soft cloth-covered arm. If she was to help Jenny Parry and find Daniel, before Kyle’s mates got to him, she needed information. There was only once source of information that she knew – Tom Shepherd. She picked up her phone and dialled his mobile number. The number rang for a few moments before a voice spoke through a growl of background noise.
‘DC Shepherd. Who’s speaking please?’
‘Hi, Tom. It’s me, Jasmine.’
‘Oh, hi, er, Jas. I didn’t recognise your home number.’
‘That’s because I’m not usually home. Where are you?’
‘In the car. I’ve been to the path lab.’
‘Oh, have you got some information?’
‘Information about what, Jas?’
‘Kyle McLeery.’
‘Perhaps, but I can’t tell you Jas. You’re on leave.’
‘I know Tom, but look, I’ve said I’d help Mrs Parry get Daniel back, so I need information.’
‘We’d like to see Daniel Parry too, but you can’t go barging around as if you’re on the case, Jas.’
‘Oh, come on Tom, I’m not elbowing myself onto the case. I just want to help the woman and prove that the boy didn’t kill Kyle.’
‘Well, that remains to be proved. We’ve got some DNA evidence that doesn’t match McLeery so it might come from the killer. We’ll be looking to see if it matches the Parry boy. I’m on my way to his home now – a forensic team are on their way too.
Jasmine could imagine how upset Jenny would be when a team of overalled officers and Tom descended on her.
‘Look, why is Daniel even a suspect? He was scared of Kyle and wanted to keep out of his way.’
‘Being scared of him doesn’t make him incapable of killing,’ Tom said. ‘The reason he’s on our list is as I told you – his name and yours came up when we did a search. Oh, and some dog-walkers saw a boy matching Parry’s description with McLeery on the Common on Saturday.’
‘When on Saturday?’
‘Early afternoon.’ That was after Kyle had abused her in the middle of Kintbridge, Jasmine thought, but after Daniel had apparently left home.
‘How good is the identification?’
‘OK, but I suppose it doesn’t rule out there being another dark, short-haired, slight male being in the vicinity of the Common.’
‘Dozens I should think. Was Kyle alone?’
‘The reports only noted the two of them.’
‘That’s unusual in itself. Kyle usually had his tame thugs with him – for support.’
‘Not on this occasion,’ Tom said.
‘And that’s it – the last sighting of Kyle McLeery before he was pulled out of the pond?’
‘Yes. His mother didn’t see him at home. There’s no father or siblings, not in Kintbridge anyway. His friends say they didn’t see him either.’
‘And it was the last sighting of someone who could have been Dan Parry?’
‘Yes. Look Jas, I shouldn’t be telling you all this.’
Jasmine ignored Tom’s complaints.
‘Have you found the murder weapon?’
‘A length of steel tube was dragged out of the pond. It matches the injury on McLeery’s head. We may get some forensic from it. Look you’ve done it again. I mustn’t say any more. Good by Jas. Stick at home and enjoy your leave.’
The phone clicked and went silent. Jasmine grinned. She was glad that Tom couldn’t get out of their habit of discussing cases. They were buddies, partners, a team, a successful one as Sloane well knew. He hadn’t told her much but she had a few facts and a few conjectures to work on. Now all she had to do was track Daniel’s movements after he left Kyle on the Common, if indeed it was him. Where did he go?
…………………..

Penny sightseeing in south-west Ireland, April 2014

Penny showing solidarity with Romeo Clarke – in a skirt

Jasmine looks ahead

Below is the final episode of Blueprint, the Jasmine Frame prequel to Painted Ladies. When I started it over  six months ago I had no idea where it was going which is probably not the best way to write a crime story. Nevertheless it has been fun thinking up episode after episode while making the plot relatively logical and consistent. I think I have discovered rather more about Jasmine even having completed the draft for the second full length novel, Bodies by Design. One thing I have had to do is get my timings sorted. Blueprint takes place in November 2009 while Painted Ladies is in May 2012. That leaves a window of eighteen months for further developments to take place.

Blueprint has ended up at around 39,000 words i.e. half a novel or a novella. It needs severe editing but I hope to make it available for anyone who wants to read it in its entirety.

Just a reminder that Painted Ladies is available in paperback from all suppliers and as an e-book in all formats, currently at £1.99.

Blueprint –  Part 28

James stood behind Sloane’s desk with Tom standing stiffly to attention beside him. He barely reached Tom’s shoulder and felt small and insignificant. He looked at the thinning, short, grey hair on the top of DCI Sloane’s head. His head was bent down reading their report, the one that they had spent hours last evening writing after their return from Manchester. James suppressed a yawn – it had been a tiring few days and there wasn’t the adrenalin rush that usually came when a case was successfully closed.  The result of their investigation into Thwaite’s suicide rather depended on Sloane.
Sloane was on the last page of the report. His head tilted up and he looked from Tom to James. He spoke in his deep growl.
‘Not a bad job, Shepherd, Frame. You have made a thorough job of reporting your investigation. What do you expect me to do with it now?’  He closed the report and brandished it in his right hand.
‘I thought you would pass it to the coroner for Peter Thwaite’s inquest, Sir,’ James said.
‘Hmm. That’s what I thought you would say,’ Sloane said. ‘The question is whether that is a wise course of action.’
‘Wise, Sir?’
‘Yes, Frame. Consider your findings. You have concluded that Thwaite was not being blackmailed or threatened, he was not in any financial difficulty and had not been engaged in any criminal activity.’
‘That’s correct, Sir.’ James nodded. Tom said nothing but maintained his upright stance.
‘So the coroner’s verdict can only be that Thwaite killed himself while he was disturbed.’
‘Yes, Sir.’
‘And the reason for that disturbance, you say, was his fear that his wife would discover his transvestism.’
‘That’s right, Sir.’
‘And that fear was accentuated by these stupid photos sent by Barclay.’
‘Yes, Sir,’
‘At least, that is your supposition.’
‘I your pardon, Sir, what do you mean?’
‘I mean that you are guessing that that is the cause of his suicide.’
‘There was evidence, Sir.’
Sloane flicked through the pages of the report.
‘Yes,’ he agreed, ‘Your one conversation with Thwaite at this dressing-up club, and the statement of the person who sent the photos. It does not seem conclusive, Frame.’
‘But there was no other explanation, Sir,’ James was mystified. Sloane had congratulated them on the report but now he was pulling it to pieces.
‘Did you explore any other explanations?’ Sloane’s eyebrows rose as he stated his query.
James flustered. ‘There weren’t any other leads Sir. We checked his bank accounts and expenses and found nothing to suggest that Peter Thwaite had money worries, nor any suggestion that he was having an affair and his wife seemed to have no inkling of a breakdown in their relationship.’ James glanced at Tom but did not catch his eye and Tom remained resolutely silent.
‘Ah, his wife.’ Sloane paused before adding. ‘Actually he was having an affair, one which he kept a total secret. The affair with Petula.’
James wondered whether Sloane had got confused.
‘Petula was himself, Sir.’
‘I’m fully aware of that, Frame, but this sneaking out to social events and liaisons, the hidden case full of clothes, it is as if he was carrying on an affair.’
‘I suppose so, Sir.’
‘And you think, he killed himself to avoid this becoming public knowledge.’
‘Yes, Sir. I think he felt that the shame of being revealed as a cross-dresser and knowing the hurt that he thought it would cause his wife brought on the loss of sanity that made him kill himself.’
‘And you want to reveal all this in court. Announce it to his wife in public.’
James realised what Sloane had been getting at.
‘You mean that our report will have the effect that Thwaite killed himself to prevent, Sir.’
‘Yes, Frame. Thwaite went to extraordinary lengths to hide his transvestism from his wife and others who knew him, even killing himself to avoid having to explain himself.’
‘Are you saying we should respect his wishes now that he is dead, Sir?’
‘I am more concerned for the living. His wife.’
‘What do you mean, Sir?’
‘Should she be left in ignorance of the reasons for her husband’s death, ignorance of his secret life that excluded her? Or, should she be informed of what he has been doing for years, deceiving her and killing himself because he couldn’t face her with the truth?
James felt the blood drain from his face. Tom shifted uneasily on his feet. What was the correct thing to do?
‘I don’t know, Sir.’
‘And neither do I, Frame, at least at this precise moment. Leave your report with me and I will consider whether to pass it to the Coroner, or…’ Sloane took a breath.
‘Or what, Sir?’
‘Put it through the shredder.  You may go now, Shepherd.’ Sloane dropped the report onto his desk.
‘Thank you, Sir.’  Tom did an about turn and marched from the office. James began to follow him.
‘Not you, Frame.’
James froze, turned to face Sloane again. ‘Sir?’ he questioned.
‘Your investigation,’ Sloane tapped his fingers against the report, ‘benefited from you questioning certain people in your disguise as a female, Frame.’
‘Um. It wasn’t a disguise, Sir,’ James wondered again if Sloane was confused or just avoiding reality.
‘You played a role that was designed to get the confidence of these transvestites.’
‘I think Caroline Barclay was transsexual rather than transvestite, Sir.’
‘Semantics is beside the point, Frame.’
‘Yes, Sir.’
‘I approve of the use of initiative when it serves the purpose of collecting evidence. Do you understand, Frame?’
James wasn’t sure where Sloane was heading but he nodded.
‘But I want you to remember, Frame,’ Sloane continued, ‘that above all else you are a detective. Being a detective is more than a job. It is a vocation. When you are on a case, one that puzzles you and tests you, it is the most important thing in your life. It dominates your waking thought, perhaps even your sleep and dreams. Your only objective is to solve it. Your family will come to accept that on those occasions your priorities lie with your investigation. At no time does your life outside this office influence your work as a detective. Do you understand?’
James was trying to take in what Sloane had said but he felt that he had the gist of it. Nothing mattered except the job so his wish to be Jasmine was of no consequence and would be given no consideration by Sloane. DCI Sloane had obviously never suffered from self-doubt and was completely comfortable in his devotion to his career.
‘Frame?’ Sloane prompted.
‘Yes, Sir, I understand,’ James said in as neutral a voice as he could manage, ‘Thank you, Sir.’
‘Right. Well I’m glad that is clear. Off you go now, there’s work to do.’ Sloane dismissed him with a flick of his fingers.
James re-joined Tom by his desk. Tom looked up at him from behind his computer screen.
‘Did Sloane want to speak to you about Jasmine?’
‘Sort of?’
‘What do you mean?’
‘He’s basically told me to forget everything except my job.’
‘Everything?’
‘Everything. He’s not interested in hearing about my desires and concerns. He thinks my gender identity is unimportant compared to the demands of detective work.’
‘Well, I suppose that’s alright then. He doesn’t care whether you are James or Jasmine.’
‘No, I don’t think that’s it. He thinks I shouldn’t be wasting my time on frivolous concerns like whether I am male or female or how I should present myself. He wants me to put all that out of mind and carry on as I am.’
Tom shrugged.
‘But he’s wrong,’ James said firmly, ‘Who I am affects how I work and I know I can be as effective a detective as Jasmine because that is the person I want to be.’
‘Perhaps Sloane will realise that if you do this transition thing, Jim.’
‘It’s something I will find out not long from now,’ James said collapsing heavily into his chair. His mind was made up. He would become Jasmine Frame, detective, full-time.

Jasmine and Tom head north

We had a great day in Birmingham last weekend visiting the Museum and Art Gallery. First of all we saw the six Grayson Perry tapestries “The Vanity of Small Differences” based on his TV series on class and taste. They really are interesting – full of detail and amusing insights into people’s lives, loosely based on Hogarth’s “Rake’s Porgress”.  The main purpose of our visit though, was to visit the exhibition “Mapping My Journey” mounted by Gender Matters as part of LGBT history month. It traces the history of transgender and the personal histories of various trans men and women both living and dead.  It was very interestng and well worth a visit. A personal highlight was to see a copy of Painted Ladies and a photo of me on display with a description of Jasmine Frame, transsexual detective, as an example of trans in fiction.

So, here is more about Jasmine – the next episode of the prequel to Painted Ladies and Bodies by Design.

Blueprint – Part 25

Minutes passed as they leafed through the papers in the file on Thwaite.
‘It’s no good, Jim. We’ve got to speak to the suspects,’ Tom said.
James nodded, ‘But which one?’
‘I don’t know, but we can decide on the drive up to Manchester.’
James groaned as he contemplated the long haul up the A34, M40 and M6 for the second time.
‘It’s OK, I’ll drive,’ Tom added, ‘You can work out who we’re going to interview.’
‘Thanks.’  James wasn’t sure that being a passenger for three to four hours was any better than being the driver. The one good thing about police work was that it did not usually necessitate long car journeys.
‘Are you going to get changed?’ Tom asked in a strange half whisper.
‘Changed?’
‘Into your – what did you call it? Your female persona.’
James opened his eyes with surprise. Tom was suggesting he become Jasmine again.
‘Why?’
‘Well, these suspects only know you as a woman…’
‘A trans-woman.’
‘Yes, OK, but they may be more responsive if they think they know you. If two burly plods come asking questions…’
‘Speak for yourself.’
‘OK, but do you see?’
James thought hard.  Tom could be right.
‘Yes, they may be more prepared to talk to another trannie that they’ve met before.’
‘Right, well you get off home and change,’ Tom chucked the car keys to James, ‘I’ll go and enter the lion’s den and tell Sloane what we’re doing. He can get on to the people in Manchester.’
James was quite happy for Tom to face Sloane again.
‘OK. I will. I’ll give you a call when I’m back in the car park. I’m not revealing Jasmine to this lot, not yet anyway.’
Tom grinned, ‘It might make their day. Don’t take too long on your makeup; we’ve only got today.’
James snorted in reply and hurried off. Fifteen minutes later he was back home, mounting the stairs while tearing off his jacket and tie.  The house was empty, Angela had already gone to work. In his dressing room, James completed undressing and pulled on knickers and bra.  What should she wear? Yesterday, she had dressed casually in skirt and woolly top but perhaps today, accompanying Tom Shepherd, she should be a little more formal.  She had one suit consisting of a knee-length skirt and fitted jacket in pale grey polyester. With sheer neutral tights and a white blouse it would like she really was a female detective. She dressed quickly but spent a few minutes getting her face right and putting her blonde wig on straight. It was a quick turnaround but in under forty minutes she was back in the police car park and texting Tom.
Jasmine got out of the car and walked around it to get in again in the passenger seat. Tom arrived grasping a file of papers. He dropped it onto Jasmine’s lap as he sank into the driving seat. He started the engine while pulling the seatbelt across his chest.
‘I thought you’d need that lot to look at on the drive,’ Tom said, pulling out of the car park, ‘There’s a few new sheets from forensics.’
‘Is there?’ Jasmine flicked through the pages in the file. ‘How was Sloane?’ She asked.
‘OK,’ Tom nodded as he turned onto the main road out of town and accelerated up to the speed limit. ‘He said he’d let us know if we’re to meet anyone when we get up north.’
Jasmine watched Tom as he drove. His eyes were fixed on the view through the windscreen. While it was good driving technique it didn’t appear normal. Usually when two people were in a car together their eyes glanced at each other while they conversed, the driver maintaining concentration on the road but checking the facial expressions of their companion.
‘What’s the matter, Tom?’ Jasmine asked. Tom’s head didn’t move. His neck might have been in a brace.
‘Nothing, why?’
‘You haven’t looked at me since you got in, Tom.’
Tom continued to stare ahead.
‘There’s a fair bit of traffic.’
‘I know, but it’s not that busy. You could glance at me.’
‘Why? Do I need to look at you?’
‘No, but I thought it would be natural to have a look, check me out.’
Tom’s hands tightened around the steering wheel.
‘I can’t, Ji… I mean, what do you call yourself?’
‘Jasmine.’
‘Jasmine. Yes.’
‘Why can’t you, look at me, Tom?’
‘It’s…it’s…’ Tom blinked but his eyes didn’t move. ‘It’s you. I’m not sure what I’m supposed to feel.’
‘Feel?’
‘Yes. You sound like Jim. Well your speech is a bit higher pitched, but it’s definitely you. But you’re dressed like a girl.’
‘I’m a woman, Tom, not a girl.’
‘Yes, OK, but skirt, stockings,’
‘Tights.’
‘OK, tights and breasts.’
‘Yes.’
‘Well you look, um, er,…’
‘I look what?’
‘Damn it, you look, uh, good.’
‘Well, thank you, Tom, but how do you know. You haven’t looked at me.’
‘I can see you out of the corner of my eye.’
‘So you’ve seen enough to see that I’m attractive?’
‘Yes.’
‘So?’
‘You’re my buddy. My male buddy. I’m not supposed to be attracted to you.’
Jasmine sighed. She’d wondered for a long time how her colleagues would react to her. She’d expected revulsion, ostracism perhaps, even insults from the ones who had forgotten their diversity training.  Fear of being attracted to her was not a response she had counted on. Thinking about it though it made sense. She always went to great lengths to appear as attractively feminine as possible and when men saw what looked like a pretty, sexy, young woman it triggered their natural responses. But the knowledge that under the false breasts, the nylons and the foundation she was male caused conflict.
‘I’m sorry, Tom. I know it’s only the second time you’ve seen me and it takes some getting used to. I feel pretty relaxed being me but I should have realised how much I confuse you. You are reacting as any heterosexual man does to a pretty woman and I’m flattered that I’ve set off that reaction. I want to appear female but it doesn’t mean I’m out to seduce you or any other man.’  She wasn’t even sure if she fancied men. Sorting out her sexual preferences as Jasmine was a subject she had yet to face.
‘I’m still your partner,’ she went on. ‘We’re on a case. For now that’s all that matters. I hope that away from this we can sort out how you and I can be friends whether I’m Jim or Jasmine.’
Tom’s head did turn now. Just a few degrees. Enough for his eyes to focus briefly on her for a moment before returning to scan the road ahead.
‘I’m sorry, Jasmine,’ Tom said, ‘I was being stupid. Of course you are still you under all that stuff. But, god! You make a pretty good woman.’
‘Thanks. That is the biggest compliment you could make.’
‘My pleasure,’ Tom grinned. His body relaxed a little. ‘Now are you going to work out who we are visiting?’
Jasmine chuckled and looked at the file on her lap. She found the report from the forensic department that Tom had referred to. Most of it detailed the findings at Thwaite’s house – fingerprints on his car, on the doors into the garage and on the hose that fed the exhaust fumes into the saloon. The last page was different. It was a report on the photo of Thwaite that Jasmine had handed over. It confirmed that it was a collage of two pictures, the one of Petula and the other a screen grab of some porn. That was familiar, but the next paragraph she had to read through a couple of times before she realised the significance.
‘This is interesting,’ she said.
‘What is?’
‘There’s a forensic report here on the last photo sent to Thwaite. It says the original of the photo of Petula had a random arrangement of colour dots which were of variable size.’
‘What does that mean?’
‘It means it wasn’t taken with a digital camera. They produce a regular pattern of pixels.’
‘So the picture was taken…’
‘On film.’
‘Right. So?’
Jasmine flicked through her pocketbook checking her notes on Geraldine, Rosalind and Caroline.
‘I think Geraldine and Rosalind have digital cameras, but Caroline told me she didn’t. She still uses a film camera.’
‘Caroline?’ Tom turned his head and took a long look at Jasmine.
‘Yes, Caroline.’
‘Are you sure?’
‘Keep your eyes on the road, Tom.’ Tom’s head flicked to face forward. ‘It’s possible Caroline took the photo of Petula used in the prints,’ Jasmine mused, ‘It’s just one bit of evidence. There must be more, if I look hard enough.’ She began to turn over the pages in the file, looking at each with renewed interest.
……………….

James and Tom discuss suspects

I’ve been busy on three fronts with Jasmine Frame this week. I’ve put together a new flier for my ‘Jasmine & me’ presentation and been in contact with some literary festivals and readers groups. It is quite clear that if Jasmine is going to be publicised I’ve got to get out and meet people. That will be true even if I find a publisher for Painted Ladies and the rest of the series. Which is something else I’ve done – sent off a package to an agent.

I’ve also moved on with editing Bodies by Design. I’m not changing huge sections which feels fine but I wonder if I’m critical enough. The trouble with writing is that you feel you are living the story. Editing sections, perhaps even removing whole incidents, is a little like changing your memories.

The next episode of Blueprint has also occupied me for a while. It’s amazing that it is now up to its 23rd episode and has reached 30,000 words. I’m having to be careful that I don’t contradict things I wrote in earlier episodes. I hope I’m keeping the story bubbling – it is reaching a climax, I promise, and in the not too distant future. I think it’s going to end up as a novella rather than a novel, but that’s fine.

Blueprint: Part 23

Tom Shepherd ran through the freezing drizzle and jumped into the car beside James.
‘I thought you were never coming,’ Tom said glancing at his watch. James put his foot on the accelerator and pulled away from the block of flats where Tom lived.
‘I sent you a text to say I was running a few minutes late.’
‘A few minutes! It’s gone seven thirty already. What kept you?’
‘I was knackered after yesterday.’
‘Long day up in Manchester?’
‘Long drive, especially last night.’
They reached the main road into the centre of Kintbridge and come to a halt.
‘There I knew it,’ Tom said, ‘Get here after half seven and you’re in the rush hour.’
‘I’m sorry,’ James said, ‘You did say you wanted a lift.’
‘Well, since you had my car, I think I deserved one.’
James pulled into the outside lane and drove forward a few car lengths.
‘It won’t take long.’
‘So you spent the whole day as, uh, Jasmine, did you?’ Tom asked, his voice taking on a strained quality.
‘Yes. I said I would.’
‘You didn’t find it strange acting like a woman all day?’
‘I wasn’t acting,’ James said, he tugged on the lapel of his suit, ‘if anything I’m acting when I’m wearing this.’
‘You mean being a woman is more natural for you than being a bloke?’
‘Yes, Tom.’ James sighed. How could he explain his feelings to someone who had no concept of what it was like to feel in your head that you were someone while your body suggested someone else? Tom was a great mate but obviously had never questioned his identity, gender or otherwise.  ‘I know it’s hard for you and I find it difficult to put into words but for years, possibly as long as I remember, I have felt more comfortable being feminine than in pretending to be a guy.’
‘And Angela’s happy about this?’
‘Happy? Probably not. We’re happy together and she’s always supported me, but when we got married I don’t think she planned on having a woman for a partner.’
‘If you’ve felt like this all your life why did you marry Angela?’
They’d crept towards the roundabout. Police HQ was just off to the left.  James signalled and pulled into the inside lane.
‘We got married because we loved each other and back then I didn’t understand my feelings about myself. I hadn’t reckoned on how powerful my need to be female was or would become.’
‘So you’re prepared to end your marriage and lose everything so you can become Jasmine fulltime.’
‘It sounds awful put like that, Tom, but the answer is yes.’  James pulled into the car park beside the police station and turned off the engine.
‘Let’s go and get a coffee,’ Tom said, stretching his legs out of the car door, ‘I think we need to talk before going up to the office.’
‘So, did you find out anything?’ Tom gazed at James across his mug of coffee.  They were sitting in a corner of the canteen in the basement of the police station.  It was quiet, just a few officers taking a break at this time in the morning.
‘I found a few people who met Petula on her trips to Manchester.’
‘Suspects?’ Tom looked eager.
‘Perhaps.’ James described his meeting with Geraldine, the transvestite who hung around Betty’s Boudoir.
‘She did it,’ Tom said confidently, ‘or is it he?’
‘She was she when I met her,’ James said, ‘and yes she’s a possible. She may have had a grudge because Petula snubbed her, and she took photos, but…’
‘But what?’
James described his interview with Rosalind, the beginner transvestite.
‘Oh, it must have been him, er, her. If Petula was embarrassed by her and dropped her then that could have been reason enough for Rosalind to get her own back.’
‘Maybe,’ James was doubtful. It just didn’t sound so convincing after he’d told the story.’
‘Well, who else is there? You’ve talked about a Geraldine and a Rosalind.’
‘There’s Caroline,’ James said.
‘I thought you said she was the person who Petula drove all the way up north to see.’
‘Yeah. It sounds as though they were great friends. Meeting up once a month for lunch and a shop.’
‘Is that all they did?’
‘Ah, that’s a good question. Caroline got pretty upset when I suggested that there may have been another reason for their meetings.’
‘Sex?’
‘She denied it vehemently.’
‘Where’s there’s smoke…’
‘Could be or perhaps it was just very far from her thoughts and I surprised her.’
‘OK, but why would she be sending those photos to Petula.’
‘I don’t know, but there was something in her story that didn’t seem quite right.’
‘What?’
‘I’m not certain. It’s just speculation. You see Caroline and Petula were quite different types of trans.’
‘What do you mean? They were both men dressed up as women weren’t they?’
‘Yes, but there’s more to it than that.’
‘Really?’
James could see that Tom was confused as if he’d just discovered the world was round after thinking it was flat all his life.
‘Caroline lived her life as a woman,’ James explained. ‘Had done since she retired after her wife died. She only put on male clothes when her daughter and grandchildren visited. Otherwise she’s relaxed about it; she’s accepted who she is. Even her neighbours know. I can’t be sure but I’d go as far as saying that Caroline is transsexual.’
Tom nodded slowly. ‘That’s what you said you are, isn’t it. You want to be a woman.’
‘I am a woman and Caroline sees herself as a woman,’ James corrected. ‘Petula though, was different, at least in her circumstances. She didn’t dress up much. She didn’t have many clothes – just a case full. She was scared to death, literally, of her wife finding out, or anyone else outside of her trans circle. Perhaps in her dreams she was a woman but the urge to dress up, strong though it was, wasn’t powerful enough for her to give up her life as Peter Thwaite.
‘Hmm So Peter/Petula was not transsexual?’
‘I’d say she was a cross-dresser. I may be wrong and misinterpreting what I’ve learned about her but that’s my opinion.’
‘So one is transsexual and one is a cross-dresser, and they’re different.’ Tom shrugged, ‘so what?’
‘They don’t always get on,’ James said.
‘Why not? They face the same sort of reactions from people don’t they.’
‘Yes, but a transsexual faces it all the time if they are living the role. A cross-dresser can step out of their femme persona any time. Some transsexuals may think that a cross-dresser isn’t taking things seriously enough, is just playing at being a woman and belittling their own struggle.’
‘They can be a bit “holier-than-though” can they, these transsexuals.’
‘Occasionally, some are,’ James agreed, ‘but you have to set it against the difficulties so many transsexuals face keeping jobs, families, friends while fighting to get treatment.’
‘OK. So you think Caroline’s friendship with Petula may have soured when Petula carried on wanting to go back to her wife and life as Peter.’
‘It’s just a thought. I’ve got no proof.’
Tom sighed and leaned back in his chair, stretching.
‘So we’ve got three suspects. No evidence against any of them but each may, just may, have a motive.’
‘That’s it,’ James said.
‘Where do we go from here?’
‘I don’t know. I think I’m missing something.’
There was a beep from the mobile phone in James’ pocket. Tom’s let out a similar tone. They both pulled out their phones and looked at the screens.
‘Sloane wants me,’ they said simultaneously as they both stood up.
‘What are we going to tell him?’ Tom asked as they hurried from the canteen.
‘The truth,’ James replied.
‘Even about your trip to Manchester and about Jasmine?’
‘It was going to happen sometime. I just wasn’t expecting it to be like this.’ James called out as Tom leapt up the stairs three steps at a time.
………………..

Jasmine is found out

Since the purpose of this blog is to get a wider audience for my writings, particularly those involving Jasmine Frame, I suppose I should remind followers that Painted Ladies: A Jasmine Frame story is available as a paperback and e-book from all booksellers. As the weeks pass I realise what a difficult job marketing a book is. For a start there are so many of us in the same position, so many hopeful writers wishing for the big publishers to come along with a book deal or those of us who have self-published jostling to get our work noticed.  Another plug – I’m willing to do my talk/entertainment, Jasmine and me, anywhere (in the UK) for the chance to promote and sell a few books.

As for writing this week, well, there was a bit of the bread and butter (educational stuff), some jam (a short story for one of my writing groups) and a little cake (the episode of Blueprint below). But no real meat, that is, I didn’t work on Bodies by Design this week but I am still hoping for something other than a rejection from a publisher.

On other matters, there’s been a lot in the media about the demise of Hayley Cropper from Coronation Street. That’s one less trans character on TV. There must be room for a transsexual detective.

Here’s Blueprint.

Blueprint: Part 20

Chapter 6

It was dusk as Jasmine drew up outside Caroline/Geoff’s smart little house. The rain was coming down hard now and Jasmine was not looking forward to the long night-time drive home.  There was no car in the driveway so Jasmine presumed that Geoff’s daughter and grandchildren had already left. She got out of the car, ran to the front door and sheltered in the small porch waiting for her ring of the doorbell to be answered.
Through the patterned glass she saw a figure come down the stairs and approach the door.
‘Oh, it’s you. You did come back,’ Caroline said as she opened the door. She was wearing a smart grey woollen dress over opaque tights and a neat auburn wig that made her look ten years younger. There was no sign of a male paunch and her dress clung to her shapely figure. There was an obvious but not obtrusive layer of foundation on her smooth face with bright red lipstick. Blue shadowed eyes peered from feminine shaped spectacles with diamante crystals on the arms.
‘I said I would. I gather your family have left,’ Jasmine said stepping into the hall.
‘Yes, not long ago but I had enough time to change back to Caroline. Come on through.’ Caroline led Jasmine into the lounge where she saw that the tea things had been cleared away and there was no sign of the whirlwind that a visit of two young boys would have undoubtedly caused. Caroline pointed to the small sofa and sat down in an armchair. Jasmine sat and carefully arranged her legs so that her skirt did not ride up.
‘You were upset when I told you earlier that Petula was dead,’ Jasmine said. She wondered if getting straight to the point might catch Caroline off-guard.
‘Yes. It was a shock,’ Caroline said straight-faced.
‘Why? Were you close?’
A hint of pink showed through Caroline’s foundation and her eyelids flickered but otherwise her face remained expressionless.
‘I suppose we were. We met regularly and got on together. But why are you asking these questions? You said she killed herself but she lives a long way from here, down south. Are you from down there?’
‘Yes, I’m from Kintbridge where Petula lived.  Something or someone drove her to suicide and I want to know why.’
‘But why come here?’
‘Petula didn’t go out a lot and yet once a month she drove up here. I know she visited Betty’s until last year and now I know that she and you were friends. When did you see her last?’
‘It was in October. As you say, her monthly visit. We should have been meeting next Thursday.’
‘So you carried on meeting monthly after she stopped going to Betty’s?’
‘That’s right.’
‘Why did you change the arrangements?’
‘I suppose we decided we didn’t need Betty anymore. That sounds very ungrateful; Betty provides a marvellous service.’
‘You mean that you and Petula got on so well you didn’t want Betty in the way.’
‘Well, I’m not sure it was like that. Petula and I are both careful with money and it wasn’t cheap going through Betty. We decided we could have a good time just the two of us and save some cash.’
‘But it wasn’t just the two of you was it? What about Rosalind?’
‘Oh her. She was at the last lunch we had with Betty and overheard Petula and me making our arrangements to meet separately. Petula thought it would be polite to invite her to our first lunch. She came, but it was a mistake.’
‘Why?’
Caroline hesitated.
‘Well, I don’t like to sound rude, but, well, she wasn’t very good.’
‘You mean she didn’t pass as a woman very well.’
‘Um, yes.’
‘She made people take a second look at you and Petula, making passers-by wonder about you too.’
‘Well, yes, I suppose there was a bit of that.’
‘Rosalind was new to dressing. She wasn’t sure about herself.’
‘She needed Betty. We couldn’t help her.’
‘You ditched her.’
Caroline avoided Jasmine’s eyes.
‘We decided not to invite her again.’
Jasmine thought they had been selfish and given little thought to Rosalind’s state of mind, but it was Petula she was investigating not Rosalind.
‘So it was just you and Petula from then on.’
‘Yes.’
This wasn’t really getting anywhere, Jasmine realised, but she felt that the relationship between Caroline and Petula was important. After all, Caroline was the only person, apart from one or two members of Butterflies, who apparently knew Petula well.
‘Why do you think you and Petula got on so well?’
Caroline thought for a moment before speaking.
‘I suppose we were similar in many ways. We were similar ages and in the same business – banking. We were both married or had been – my wife was killed in a road accident five years ago. We liked the same styles so talked for hours about clothes and wigs and all the other stuff we trannies use. You understand don’t you?’
The false breasts, the substantial underwear to hide one’s manhood, the heavy foundation, yes Jasmine knew all about it.
‘But you weren’t exactly the same were you. You have a daughter and she knows about your two personas.’
A momentary expression of regret passed over Caroline’s face.
‘That’s right. My wife knew all about Caroline when she was alive. Not that she fully approved, but poor Petula just couldn’t bring herself to tell her wife.’
‘So Petula was a secret cross-dresser while I imagine you are more open about it.’
‘Well, I can’t hide Caroline anymore, and don’t want to. I spend most of my time as Caroline now. All the neighbours know. It’s just my daughter won’t accept it and won’t allow me to appear in front of the boys.’
‘While Petula had to keep her female persona hidden away in a suitcase and spent most of her life as Peter.’
‘That’s right.’
‘Petula must have envied you, Caroline.’
‘Perhaps, but I envied her too.’
‘Why?’
‘She still had her wife. They seemed to get on OK despite the secret that Petula kept from her. I miss my wife dreadfully. Still.’
‘So you shared your regrets and desires.’
‘We did. And I was very grateful to her for it. I looked forward to each visit. You must understand – you’re not full-time or fully transitioned are you?’
Jasmine was surprised. How did she know?
‘Uh, no. I’m a man at work but female most of the rest of the time. How did you guess?’
‘I’ve been a trannie for a long time and met lots of people. I can see the signs.’
‘Such as?’
‘You wear a wig. Transsexuals of your age don’t usually need to. I can see signs of a shadow on your chin so you haven’t had electrolysis yet; your voice goes deeper every now and again so you’re not used to using your female voice all the time; and you are particular about how you sit, making sure you appear feminine. It all shows that you are still practising at being a woman, you’re not doing it every moment of your life.’
Jasmine was staggered by Caroline’s assessment. It summed up exactly where she was.
‘You’re right. I’m thinking about transitioning but haven’t decided when or discussed it with my wife.’
‘But you have a wife that understands?’
‘As much as anyone can understand what being trans feels like.’
‘There you are.’
‘What?’
‘That explains why Petula and I got on so well. We understood each other.’
Jasmine nodded. Where did this leave her investigation? Could Caroline give any information about who would hound Petula to her death?
‘Do you have any photographs of Petula or the two of you together?’
‘Yes, I do have a few. Do you want to see them?’
‘Yes, please.’
Caroline stood up and crossed the room to a unit of cupboards and shelves. She opened a door and pulled out a photograph album. She flicked through the pages and then passed the open book to Jasmine.
‘These were taken on one of our jaunts back in the summer. The waiter kindly took a couple of the two of us ladies together.’
There were four pictures on the page all taken in the garden of a pub or restaurant. Two showed Caroline and Petula standing side by side by a table with flowerbeds and trees in the background. The others were individual photos of Caroline and Petula taken across the table. Petula looked very much as Jasmine remembered her from Butterflies. Together the two of them could have been sisters, cousins or two old female friends enjoying a lunch together.
Jasmine looked closely at the photos.
‘Were these taken with a digital camera?’
‘Oh no. They’re old-fashioned film. I’ve had my camera for ages, but it’s getting very difficult to find film. I think I will have to think about getting one of those digital cameras.’
‘Have you got a camera on your mobile phone?’
‘Do I? I’m not sure. I hardly ever use it. I’ve had it since before my wife died. Why? What’s all this about photos?’
Jasmine ignored Caroline’s question.
‘Did any of the others take photos using a digital camera?’
‘Others?’
‘People you met through Betty. Rosalind for example.’
Caroline was thoughtful.
‘I think I do remember Rosalind having one of those tiny digital cameras. Why is it important? Oh, of course, there was Geraldine.’
…………………….

Jasmine decides on a plan

Another busy week and not much opportunity to promote Painted Ladies. Nevertheless there have been some good bits of news. Apparently Diva magazine ran a review although I haven’t seen it yet, and at last there is a review on Eurocrime the big crime fiction reviews website  http://eurocrime.co.uk/reviews/Painted_Ladies.html  Also I have got on a bit with Bodies by Design – the exciting action packed climax is in sight!

Finally there has been some good publicity for my “entertainment” Jasmine and me, at The Sitting Room in Ludlow at 8pm. on Wed. 27th Nov. I hope there will be an audience.

So, here is the next episode of Blueprint and the start of Jasmine Frame’s first outing as a transsexual detective.

Blueprint, part 11

James and Tom thanked Miss Sutton for her help and left the bank after checking Peter Thwaite’s timings with the cashier, Sue Marsh.  They sat in a coffee shop mulling over what they had learnt.
‘He arrives late, stays a while, then leaves,’ Tom said, taking a sip of his cappuccino.
‘Looking pretty sick – or worried,’ James added, blowing on his black coffee.
‘Why was he late for work?’
‘I think he was shook up by the arrival of that last photo. The post must have arrived before he left for work or else none of this would have happened.  He stuffed it in another envelope and posted it off to me sometime in the morning, perhaps before he got to the bank.’
‘Why come to work at all if he had decided to end it all?’ Tom shook his head.
‘Perhaps he hadn’t reached that decision. But he had to get out of the house, away from Mrs Thwaite. He left the bank when he knew she would have gone to work herself.’
‘So he goes back, collects his female clothes and …what?’
‘Gets rid of them.’
‘How?’
‘Wheely bins, recycling points, charity shops. I can’t see someone like Peter Thwaite dumping them by the road side, he’s too clean and particular for that.’
‘Do we need to find those clothes?’ Tom’s expression showed that he thought the task would be impossible.
‘It would help to determine his movements and prove that he had decided to get rid of signs of his cross-dressing.’
‘Hmm. I suppose the charity shops are the easiest to check. We may get lucky if someone recognises his photo.’
‘Right Tom. You do that.’
Tom grimaced. ‘Thanks. What are you going to do, Jim?’
‘Go back to the bank and see if they can show me his own transactions. See if I can track down where he stayed on those Wednesday nights when he was away.’
‘Why is that important?’
‘Because I think that on those secret days off he was meeting or in the vicinity of the person who took the photos.’
‘Ah, I see.’
‘And once I’ve got that information I’ll have to do some travelling myself.’
‘Shall I come too?’
‘I think it best if I go alone.’
‘Why?’
‘Because I’ll be meeting up with other trans folk and I’ll be Jasmine.’
Tom’s coffee cup stopped half way to his lips.
‘What? Oh, this other character you have.’
‘It’s not another character, Tom.’
Tom looked over the rim of his coffee cup, his dark eyebrows raised.
‘I am Jasmine,’ James said firmly, ‘One day I’ll discard this pretence at being male. James will disappear and I will be Jasmine Frame full-time.’
Tom put the coffee cup down and looked straight at James, then shook his head.
‘It’s no good, Jim. I can’t see you as a woman.’
‘You will, and perhaps sooner than I expected, if we get anywhere with this investigation and it all comes out – about Thwaite and me.’
‘I’m not sure it’s something I’m looking forward to.’
‘I’m not either. I don’t like being the centre of attention. In fact when I’m dressed as Jasmine I’m pretty careful I’m not the centre of attention. Look, I don’t know what image you’ve got in your mind. I don’t go round looking like a drag queen, nor did Petula for that matter. We both look like women when we are dressed, at least on first sight.’
‘I suppose I need to see you to believe it.’ Tom said.
‘That can be arranged. Look we had better get on. When you get back to the office get those photos out of my desk and take them down to Forensics. See what they can tell us about the postmark and anything about the photos. Oh and get me some copies, and bring them to me at home if you can spare the time.’
‘OK. It looks as though my weekend with Sophie has gone up in smoke anyway.’

They parted, Tom to visit the many charity shops in the town centre and James to return to the bank. He emerged after an hour or so with a sheaf of bank statements. He returned to police HQ and drove home.
Angela was ironing in the kitchen, nodding her head to old clubbing numbers, the ones they used to dance to in the old days when they had time for such past-times. James paused in the doorway watching her for a moment and missing those sessions on the dance floor. Why did they stop? He wondered. As if he didn’t know. It was when he took to dressing as Jasmine every time they went out and Angela got fed up of being approached by other men thinking she needed a bloke to dance with.
‘Oh. Hi,’ she said noticing him. She put down the iron and stopped the music player. ‘Have you finished?’
‘No, but I’m not going back to the station. We need to talk.’
‘OK.’ Angela looked pensive as if she knew where the talk would lead. ‘Have you had any lunch?’
James glanced at his watch noticing it was gone one o’clock.
‘No. I hadn’t thought about it.’
‘I haven’t either. I wanted to get this ironing out of the way. I’ll put something on while you get changed. I suppose that’s what you want to do.’
‘Yes.’
‘Then we’ll have this chat.’

A few minutes later Jasmine re-joined Angela in the kitchen as she poured hot soup into bowls. There hadn’t been time to put her make-up on but Jasmine felt comfortable in opaque tights, an above-the- knee cord skirt and fluffy jumper. She flicked the long blonde hairs from out of her eyes and sat down at the table.
‘Is this about the suicide?’ Angela asked, between mouthfuls of soup.
‘Yes. Sloane’s given Tom and me a few days to look into the reasons behind Thwaite’s suicide. I’ve shown Tom the photos and told him about Thwaite being a cross-dresser.’
‘And how you met Petula?’
‘Yes. Tom now knows about me, about Jasmine.’
Angela nodded.
‘What about Sloane?’
‘Not yet. As I said he’s given us a few days to investigate and Tom agreed we didn’t need to report till Monday.’
‘But it will come out that your trans.’
Jasmine held her breath for a moment.
‘Yes.’
Angela stood up, taking her empty bowl to the dishwasher. She put the bowl down and turned to Jasmine.
‘Well, we knew it would happen even if it wasn’t supposed to be now.’
‘I’m sorry Ange. I didn’t mean to rush into announcing it.’
‘I don’t want you to rush into anything Jas,’ Angela eyes flared, ‘Just because you have to let Sloane and everyone know you are who you are, you must take your time over your transition. Tell the right people, get them on your side. You can’t suddenly cast James Frame aside.’
Jasmine knew Angela was correct.
‘You’re right. This’ll just be a heads up and then I’ll start going through the formalities. But I don’t know how Sloane’s going to take it. Well, I do – with difficulty. Tom’s having enough trouble taking it in and he’s a modern sort of guy.’
‘Yes, well take care. Don’t assume that everyone will be easy with you suddenly appearing on duty as a woman. They may have to accept it but they won’t necessarily like it.’
‘I know.’ In truth, Jasmine felt nervous. For years she had dreamt of going public, letting everyone know she was a woman not a man, at least in her own sense of identity, but now it was actually starting to happen she trembled with nervousness.
‘I’ll support you. You know I will.’ Angela came and stood behind Jasmine, pressing her hands against her shoulders. ‘So where are you going with the case.’
Jasmine took a deep breath.
‘It seems that once a month Thwaite took a day off from work without his wife knowing and spent the night and the day away somewhere.’
‘Where?’
‘Somewhere outside the local area. Up north I’d say. I’ve got his bank statements to see if I can trace the place he stayed and anything else he paid for.’
‘You’ve got an idea, though haven’t you?’
‘Yes. I think he was on a trannie awayday. Perhaps visiting a trannie club or dressing venue or something. I think it’s where the photographer latched onto her.’
‘Well, then, Detective Jasmine Frame you’d better hunt the miscreant down. Make sure he pays for driving Petula to her death.’

…………………………………………..

Not fifty shades, but infinity

Another busy week with little time to write – how many more times am I going to have to say that? Struggling to keep far too many balls in the air at the moment and a little diappointed that I haven’t had any opportunities to promote Painted Ladies recently. I did have a very pleasant conversation with a friend and reader who was very keen to know what happens “next”. That encouragement was the other side of the scales to a review that has made me brood a bit. The review was generally good but made a couple of points which I took issue with. The critic seemed to think that I should have covered more of the strands of transgenderism in Painted Ladies than I did. Heck its a story! Jasmine is a transsexual detective but that t-word is one fairly long term for a whole range of characters and experiences. She is based partly on a few people I have met, a little on my own experience and a lot on my imagination, but she is an individual not a ragbag of every type of TS and cannot and will not espouse every possible view of gender dysphoria. Painted Ladies covers just one short period in her transition. The sequels will cover more.

Secondly, the plot of Painted Ladies involved transvestites of a certain age. There is a continuum between male and female. It may not even be a single strand. Many points in this spectrum are occupied by transgendered individuals who can be labelled as transsexual, transvestite, cross-dresser or any one of the many other terms that are used. To be brief there are all sorts of gender identities. I chose a small number of them for the characters of Painted Ladies. There will be others in the stories that follow. The main point is to make all the stories interesting and exciting reads for non-trans as well as trans readers. If I’ve succeeded at that then I’m happy.

So after that rant. Here is the next part of the Jasmine Frame prequel –

Blueprint: part 8

James took each photo out of its envelope in turn and laid them in sequence across his desk. He looked up. Tom’s face was creased in a mixture of confusion and distaste.
‘What have these got to do with Thwaite?’ Tom asked.
‘Can’t you see?’ James said stabbing at the first photo with a fore finger. ‘The head – it’s Peter Thwaite, or Petula as she called herself.’
Tom leaned down to examine the first photo, then the second, third and fourth. He straightened up.
‘I don’t get it. I see the woman’s head in each of the photos is the same, but what do you mean, it’s Peter Thwaite?’
‘Don’t you recognise the face?’
‘I only saw him when he was dead.’
‘And that photo of him with his wife.’
‘Oh, yes.’ Tom looked again at each of the prints. ‘I suppose it could be him. Someone’s pasted his face into these photos of women. Except his face looks made up. He’s got lipstick on and earrings.’
‘It’s not just his face. It’s his hair too.’
‘What do you mean? Thwaite had short, greying hair. Nothing like this.’
James took a deep breath.
‘The head in each of these photos is of Petula Thwaite. That is Peter Thwaite when he was in his female persona.’
‘Female persona?’
‘Peter Thwaite was a cross-dresser, a transvestite if you like.’
Tom let out a long drawn out ‘oh’ as realisation took hold.
‘I see. But that’s not his body.’ Tom pointed at the naked female reclining on the couch.
‘No, someone has cleverly photoshopped Petula’s head onto real women.’
Tom bent down again to stare at each picture.
‘Hmm. That’s right. I can see the joins.’  He straightened up and fixed his eyes on James. ‘But, I don’t understand. Where have they come from? Did you find them at Thwaite’s house? Have you logged them in?’
James sighed.
‘No I haven’t logged them as evidence – yet. They weren’t at the house. Petula gave them to me herself.’
James saw Tom’s eyes unfocus as he struggled to follow what James had said.
‘Petula? That’s Thwaite when he’s dressed as a woman.’
‘Yes.’
‘You met her, him, heck, I don’t know.’
‘Yes.’
‘Before he killed himself.’
‘Obviously.’
‘How did you meet him, her?’
James opened his mouth to speak although he was still not sure what to say, but before a sound came out, his attention was drawn to a young woman crossing the office towards them. It was one of the civilian workers from the front office downstairs.
‘DC Frame,’ she called.
‘Hi, Dawn. What can we do for you?’ James said, grateful for the break.
‘This came for you in the morning post.’  As she approached them, Dawn raised her right hand grasping a large buff envelope.
‘Thanks,’ James said taking it from her.
‘No bother,’ she replied turning on her heels.  James looked at the envelope. It had a first class stamp and was clearly addressed to DC Frame at Police HQ, Kintbridge, in precise but flowing handwriting. Its thickness suggested there was more than one sheet of paper inside. James carefully tore the end of the envelope open and reached in to pull out another similar envelope folded in half. He opened it out flat. His heart thumped when he saw the name and address. It was to Mr P. Thwaite. Like the four other envelopes sitting on his desk, the address was written in firm, capital letters in biro.
‘It’s another one,’ James said, his voice trembling in anticipation.
‘Another what? Another photo?’ Tom said nodding towards the prints on the desk.
‘Look, the writing is the same.’ James showed Tom the envelope he was holding.
‘These were all sent to Thwaite at his house?’
‘Yes. On each of the last five Fridays. They’re in order.’ James pointed to the four on the desk.
‘Oh, I see. They’re getting more suggestive, bluer.’
‘That’s right.’
‘So let’s see what the new one is.’
The envelope James was holding had already been slit open neatly by a paper knife. He inserted his hand into it and felt the glossy-faced card of a photoprint. He drew it out. It was upside down, the plain white surface looking innocent, pure, but marred by the crease across it. He turned it over. Tom whistled.
There were two people in the photo. A woman with Petula’s head turned, facing out of the picture, and a man. Both were naked. The woman knelt on a bed while the man stood behind thrusting his penis into her vagina.
‘That’s a bit hard core,’ Tom said, ‘Let me have a close look.’ James handed him the photo and examined the two envelopes.  The one addressed to Thwaite was postmarked Thursday while the envelope addressed to him had a noon Friday postmark.
‘He must have received it yesterday morning,’ James said, ‘and posted it on to me before going home to kill himself.’
‘Hmm, yes,’ Tom muttered with his nose almost touching the print. ‘I can see the join again. I’d say the main picture is a screen grab of an internet porn shot.’
‘That makes sense.’
‘What doesn’t make sense is what these photos are for. Why were they sent to Thwaite? Why did he kill himself?’
‘Thwaite killed himself because he was scared of his wife finding out that he was a cross-dresser,’ Jasmine said. ‘These photos increased the risk of being discovered but why they were sent I’ve no idea.’
‘Was there a message with them?’ Tom asked
‘Petula said there wasn’t.’ James looked in the fifth envelope. It was empty. ‘There’s nothing here.’
‘You keep using this name Petula. You still haven’t explained, Jim. How did you meet and why have you got the photos?’ Tom gave James a determined stare. There was a pause during which all James could hear was the blood rushing through his arteries.
‘I met her at Butterflies’
‘Where?’
………………………….

Jasmine and me

It’s been a frustrating week. Other work has meant that I haven’t had time to move on with Bodies by Design although it has been on my mind, along with plots for the other sequels. I also need to devote time to marketing Painted Ladies as copies won’t sell themselves. At least I’ve got my evening at The Sitting Room in Ludlow on 27th November to plan. It’s going to be called “Jasmine and me: transgender fiction and reality”. I’ll read excerpts from Painted Ladies and Bodies by Design and perhaps some of the other stories involving Jasmine Frame such as Blueprint. I’ll talk about Jasmine and about myself. I hope that there will be enough people there to do some signing at the end. Once again publicity will be needed to attract an audience.

Anyway, all that is still to come. Here’s the next part of the prequel series.

Blueprint, Part 7

Neither spoke for a moment, then Angela got up.
‘Have you had anything to eat recently?’
Jasmine thought. What time is it now? She glanced at the neat little gold watch on her wrist. Gone nine o’clock. It was over eight hours since she’d grabbed a sandwich in the canteen at Police HQ. She hadn’t felt hungry but she did now.
‘No. I could do with something.’
‘I had lasagne when I got in. There’s a portion left. I’ll heat it up. Do you want to get some salad.’
They both busied in the kitchen until Jasmine’s meal was ready for her. She sat at the dining table and stuck her fork into the steaming pasta. Angela leaned against the cupboards sipping her wine.
‘Did he leave a note?’
‘Peter Thwaite? A brief one. Didn’t explain why he was about to kill himself.’
‘So the wife still doesn’t know?’
‘That’s right.’
‘What about his female clothes? Where did he keep them?’
‘I thought they would be in his car or somewhere in the garage. It’s clean enough to act as a dressing room, the garage that is, but Tom did a search and didn’t find any women’s clothes.’
‘Was he looking for them?’
‘No. He doesn’t know Peter Thwaite is also Petula, does he.’
‘I suppose not.’
‘But he still didn’t come across Petula’s gear.’
They were silent as Jasmine ate a few more forkfuls of lasagne and salad. The flavour was ignored while she pondered.
‘So he must have got rid of them,’ Angela said, eventually.
‘Looks like it.’
‘He’s gone to great lengths to make sure his wife doesn’t find out that he’s a cross-dresser hasn’t he.’
‘Including killing himself.’
‘Will it come out?’
‘That depends.’
‘On what?’
Jasmine was thinking. What were the possible consequences of Petula’s suicide?
‘If Sloane decides it is just a simple case of suicide then the papers will be passed to the coroner for the inquest. There may be some attempt to find out what Thwaite’s state of mind was but Sloane won’t want to devote a lot of time to an investigation. So the fact that he was a trannie may not be revealed.’
‘But it’s not a simple case of suicide is it?’
‘It looks like it, but you’re right, it’s not. Those photos must have pushed him over and someone is responsible for them.’
‘You’re going to have to tell Sloane aren’t you?’
‘Should I? As you said, Peter Thwaite has done all he could to stop his wife finding out his secret. Shouldn’t we respect that? It’s only you and I that know about the photos.’
‘And let the joker with the photos get away with murder. That’s what it looks like to me, Jas.’
Jasmine was surprised at Angela’s vehemence.
‘You’re right, as usual, Ange. I’m going to have to work out how to do this.’
‘Sleep on it. Come on have a glass of wine and relax.’

It was Saturday morning but Sloane was in his office early as usual. He was sitting there reading their report when he called Tom and James in.
‘Straightforward case of suicide,’ DCI Sloane said with a tone of finality
‘Looks like it, sir,’ Tom said, standing stiffly in front of the desk.
‘There’s no apparent reason for him taking his own life,’ James said. He was dwarfed as usual by Tom’s height and felt he was skulking at his partner’s side.
‘What are you suggesting, Frame? That he was murdered?’ Sloane his eyes raised to examine James. They seemed to want to search inside James’ brain.
‘No, I’m sure Peter Thwaite killed himself, sir, but there’s no indication why.’
Sloane scanned through the report again.
‘That is true. Your report does not suggest a reason for his decision to kill himself.’
‘Perhaps we should try and find out a little bit more about him,’ Jasmine went on.
‘Hmm. Yes, the coroner will want some indication as to why his mind was unbalanced.’ Sloane scratched his chin while Tom and James stood silent. ‘Can’t afford much expenditure on an investigation,’ Sloane went on, ‘It’ll have to be just you two. You’ve got until Tuesday to come up with the answers.’
‘Three days sir?’ Tom said.
‘I believe it’s four counting tomorrow, Shepherd.’
‘It’s Sunday, tomorrow, sir.’
‘So? Crime doesn’t stop for Sundays. If there’s a job to be done detectives work twenty four-seven.’
James sensed Tom shrink beside him.
‘Yes, sir,’ Tom said miserably.
‘Well, get on with it, or it will only be three days.’ Sloane closed the folder and added it to a pile in a tray and opened the next on the heap in front of him.  James hurried out Sloane’s presence and returned to his desk in the larger outer office which was deserted. He sat in his chair as Tom came and loomed over him.
‘What did you go and do that for? Now we’ve got to work tomorrow. I was hoping for a relaxing day with Sophie.’
James strained his neck to look up at his friend.
‘Oh, yes, Sophie. How did it go last night?’
‘She was a little pissed off at how late I was but she said yes. Well, she asked the question and I said yes.’
‘Congratulations. You’re getting married.’
‘Yes. We were going to tell her parents tomorrow, but now you’ve scuppered that.’
James realised that his concern for Petula had ramifications.
‘I’m sorry, Tom.’
‘Well, I guess you didn’t really want to give up a Sunday off, but I’ll ask again. Why did you do it? It might have been Monday before Sloane decided to look into Thwaite’s mental state if you hadn’t brought it up, and then he may have just passed it on to the uniform guys to complete the job for the inquest.’
‘I felt that since we’d started the investigation we should finish it,’ James said.
‘Why? There’s probably no crime involved. Thwaite was probably just feeling down.’
‘Down enough to kill himself by sitting in his car with a gas pipe stuffed through the window.’
‘Well, who knows? Perhaps he’d been depressed for some time.’
‘His medical notes would tell us that but I don’t think they will, Tom.’
‘How do you know? What is it about this guy that is getting you so worked up, Jim?’
James pulled the drawer of his desk open and pulled out a sheaf of buff envelopes. He spread them out on his desk.
‘These,’ he said.
………………………….

Jasmine faces a dilemma

One of those weeks when I haven’t been able to get on with the second Jasmine Frame novel, Bodies by Design, as much as I’d like although there is the next episode of Blueprint below. I have had some nice moments with Painted Ladies this week however. There have been some more very encouraging reviews including one from a lady who writes for Eurocime, the big crime review website. I do hope these good comments encourage people to go out and buy Painted Ladies either in paperback or e-book form. Jasmine still seems to be unique as a transsexual detective but it is gratifying that people think the story is a page turner.  Anyway here is the next bit of Blueprint.

Blueprint, part 6

‘Have you had a look around the garage?’ James asked.
‘Yeah,’ Tom replied more concerned with watching Dr Patel at work in the Rover.
‘Find anything?’
‘Such as?’
‘I don’t know. A clue as to why he killed himself.’
Tom turned to look at James.
‘Nope, didn’t find anything like that. He keeps a clean garage though. The floor is painted and clean enough to eat your dinner off. All the tools, and he’s got plenty of them, are hanging on their marked hooks or in special places in the drawers.’ Tom pointed at the workbench against the wall with the window onto the back garden. There was a wardrobe in the corner.
‘What’s in the wardrobe?’ James wondered if that was where Peter Thwaite kept Petula’s clothes. ‘Have you looked inside?’
‘Yeah, of course I looked. There’s just some overalls and jackets for working in the garden or on the car. As I said, he seems a pretty careful and organised guy. Everything has its place. Obviously devoted a lot of time to the car.’
‘His wife said he did.’
Dr Patel grunted and backed out of the car. He stood up and revealed his white moustache and hair. He was short enough so that even James was able to look down on his shiny bald head.
‘Well, gentlemen, I’ve done as much as I can here,’ he said in his familiar public school accent which carried just a trace of his Mumbai birthplace.
‘Anything you can tell us, Doc?’ James asked.
‘Nothing but the obvious I’m afraid. He almost certainly died of carbon monoxide poisoning a couple of hours ago.’
‘Any signs that he was forced into the car?’ James asked.
‘There are no marks on his body implying that he was assaulted. There are no injuries to his fingers suggesting that he tried to get out. I gather the wife was able to open the door and switch the ignition off.  Were you thinking that Mr Thwaite was murdered, DC Frame?’ Dr Patel placed his instruments in his case.
Tom looked at James incredulous.
‘No, I was just checking all the possibilities.’
‘Well, of course I do not deal in certainties but I would say it was highly probable that Mr Thwaite arranged to be poisoned by the exhaust gases of his car and that it was his intention to die.’
‘Suicide then,’ Tom said firmly.
‘Precisely,’ Dr Patel said closing his case with a snap. ‘Now I shall be off and when the body is delivered to me I will carry out the autopsy which I am quite sure will confirm my initial findings. Goodbye gentlemen.’ He lifted his bag and stalked off towards the garage doors which one of the waiting SOC officers lifted.
‘Why do you keep on going on suggesting that Thwaite was murdered, Jim? All the evidence says suicide.’
James stroked his chin, feeling the stubble which he longed to get home to remove.
‘I know. It looks like suicide and probably is suicide but there is no apparent reason why he should take his own life.’ Except the one that I can think of, he added to himself, that he was so scared of his wife discovering he was a transvestite that he couldn’t bear to go on living.
‘Well, there’s nothing left for us here. The SOCOs will clear up the details and that will be it. We can get off. I’m supposed to be going out with Sophie this evening.’
‘We’ll have to write a report first. You don’t want Sloane coming in tomorrow and not finding it on his desk.’
‘All the more reason for getting away now, Jim. Come on.’ Tom too headed towards the partly raised garage doors. James followed.
‘You don’t want to let Sophie down?’
‘No. In fact I’m hoping we’ll make a decision tonight.’
‘A decision?’
‘When we’re getting married.’
‘Oh, great. Congratulations.’
‘Well, it’s not certain yet. I’ve got to let her suggest a date. You know she likes to be in charge.’
‘Hmm. I think that’s a common female trait.’
‘You know a lot about feminine characteristics don’t you, Jim.’
James realised that the conversation was moving in a direction he didn’t want to follow.’
‘I am married, Tom.’
‘Oh yes.’

Chapter 3
Angela was already sitting in front of the TV with a glass of white wine in her hand, when James finally got home. He dropped his briefcase containing the notes and law books for his sergeant’s exams by the stairs and blew her a kiss as he started up the stairs.
‘I’ll be down in a minute. There’s something we need to talk about.’
Angela twisted around in the sofa and frowned at him.
‘Something serious?’
‘Could be. I won’t be long. I need to get out of this clobber.’

Ten minutes later Jasmine joined Angela on the sofa. Jasmine felt more comfortable in a paisley-patterned blouse over a grey pencil skirt and sheer tights. She flicked long blonde hairs from her new shaved cheek.
‘Come on then. What do you have to tell me?’ Angela’s eyes searched Jasmine’s face for signs of her emotional state. She thinks I’ve got something personal to say, Jasmine thought.
‘It’s work,’ Jasmine said noting that Angela visibly relaxed.
‘Oh? You don’t usually bring work home. What’s the problem?’
‘Petula’s dead.’
Angela looked blank for a moment, then gasped.
‘Oh, Petula. The trannie who received the photos.’
‘That’s the one.’
‘How?’
‘Suicide. At least it looks like she, he, meant to kill himself.’
‘Was it the pictures? He was very upset last week Did his wife find out?’
‘No, she hasn’t said anything about him, Peter his name is, being trans. There’s no sign of anything to suggest he was. But he made sure his life ended.’
‘What are you going to do, Jas?’
‘I don’t know.’

……………………………………………

Across country to Nottingham

To Arnold in Nottingham yesterday (Saturday) for the New Writers UK Festival. Nice venue but somewhat secluded. Not many people just there to buy so not the most lucrative days. Nevertheless, met the organisers and some other people and went to a couple of talks. The first revealed that I still have a lot to learn about marketing. The second by Steve Dunne, a crime writer from Derby made me envious. He started, like me, by self-publishing his first crime novel through Troubador back in 2008, but then got publishing deals, first with Harper-Collins then with Hodder-Headline. Not big, life-changing deals but enough to encourage him and take him out of the self-publishing money pit.

Any way the result is that I will redouble my efforts, promote Painted Ladies more – anyone fancy a reading or talk title ‘Jasmine and me: transgenderism in fiction and reality.’ Also I will press on with Bodies by Design and hope to get that out one way or another by next summer, and there are more Jasmine Frame stories to come.  For now here is the next epsiode of Blueprint.

Blueprint, part 5
‘Peter Thwaite. I see,’ James said, playing for time. How many P.Thwaites could there be in Kintbridge? Not many he thought. ‘Do you have a recent photo?’
The woman stopped sobbing and looked up at him with a question in her eyes.
‘Why do you need a photo?’
‘Oh, just for records.’ How should he treat this? Did Linda Thwaite have any idea about her husband’s double life, if indeed it was him?
‘There’s one there, on the mantelpiece,’ she said before dissolving into snuffles and sobs again.
James took the two steps to the fireplace and immediately saw the photo she referred to. It was of the two of them, husband and wife, beside a car, an old Rover. The car was old but the photograph seemed recent. The woman looked like a smiling, cheerful version of the woman sobbing in the arms of the policewoman. Would women sob in his arms if he became Jasmine full-time, he wondered. He picked up the photo and looked at it closely. If the man had long curly brown hair instead of the greying short cut, and thick make up and red lips would it be Petula. He rather thought it could be.
‘When was this taken?’ James asked.
‘A couple months ago, early summer. I went with Peter on one of his runs with his car club. I don’t usually go, but it was a nice day out.’
‘The car club?’
‘For those old Rovers. Peter was always in the garage polishing it. He kept it spotless. Twice a month they met up, on a Saturday evening. I didn’t go usually. It was just men talking about engines and gearboxes and miles to the gallon.’
‘Twice a month?’
‘That’s right. He went last Saturday so the next one will be not tomorrow but next Saturday.’
Her voice broke up as another fit of sobbing commenced. Only once a month actually, James thought, but a good cover for his evenings at Butterflies.
‘He loved that car,’ Mrs Thwaite croaked, ‘but now it’s killed him.’
‘Why do you say that, Mrs Thwaite?’
‘I found him in it, with the pipe from the exhaust and the engine running.’ Her shoulders shook and she buried her face in PC Barnett’s shoulder. The policewoman looked up at James with a resigned expression.
‘I’m sorry Mrs Thwaite, Linda, but I do need to ask these questions. Was there a note or anything…?’
She waved an arm in the direction of the coffee table in the middle of the floor without moving her head.  There was a folded piece of white paper and a small, white, open envelope sitting on the glass-topped table.  James reached into the pockets of his suit and pulled out a pair of rubber gloves. He pulled them onto his hands and then reached for the paper and envelope.  The envelope had a single word written on it, ‘Linda’. He unfolded the paper. It was a sheet torn from a pad of quality letter paper. James wondered how many people bought paper like this these days, not many he thought. The days of formal letter writing were past. There wasn’t much written on the sheet. Just two brief sentences – ‘I’m sorry darling. I can’t go on any longer.’  For suicide notes it wasn’t very helpful; no explanation of the suicide’s reasons for ending their existence. James refolded the letter and replaced it in the envelope. He placed it back on the table.
‘We’ll bag it up soon,’ he said. ‘I’m sorry Mrs Thwaite, but I have to ask this. Do you know of any reason why Mr Thwaite should take his own life?’
The woman pushed herself away from the policewoman, turned on the sofa to face him and sat upright.
‘I can see you are going to ransack our lives to find a reason, but no, I cannot think of a reason. Peter was moody. Some days, most days, he was pleasant, considerate, happy.  Other days he seemed irritable, silent, brooding, but I suppose we all go through ups and downs.’
‘He didn’t give a reason for those down days?’
‘No, he wouldn’t discuss them. Said it was nothing to be concerned about.’
‘Had they become more frequent?’
Mrs Thwaite paused as if a sudden awareness had dawned.
‘Well, yes, I suppose they had. This last month he has seemed to have had them more often.’
‘But you can’t think of any reason. No financial worries?’
‘No, Peter has a good salary from the bank. And I contribute a bit – I have a job in a store in town – so we don’t have any need to be concerned about money. Peter works hard, that’s why I was surprised.’
‘What surprised you?’
‘Well, that he was home. He usually works later than me on a Friday. But I got home and I could hear the engine running in the garage. The outside door was closed so I came in and went through the kitchen to the garage and when I opened the door…Well!’
‘Well what?’
‘The smell of smoke from the engine. It filled the garage. I didn’t know what to do. I wanted to close the door and get away so I could breathe, but I realised that the engine should be turned off. I didn’t understand it. I covered my face with my hanky and ran to the car and that was when I saw Peter.’
‘How was he?’
‘He was lying back in the front seat with the hose poking through the window.’
‘I see. It must have been a great shock.’
Mrs Thwaite bit her lip to stop it trembling and James could see more tears forming in her eyes. She nodded slowly.
‘You think that Mr Thwaite, Peter, arranged it himself. That he intended to kill himself.’
She looked up James, with a look of incomprehension.
‘How else could it have happened? It wasn’t an accident that the hose was attached to the exhaust pipe.’
‘No, it wasn’t an accident,’ James said.
PC Barnett frowned at him. She thinks I’m handling this badly, James thought. Perhaps I am but how can I let on that I know something that the wife, who’s known him years and years, doesn’t. He tried again.
‘Was there anything that happened today that could have put Mr Thwaite into a bad mood?’  Bad enough to kill himself, James nearly added.
Mrs Thwaite shook her head.
‘It was a fairly normal morning. We had breakfast. Peter went into his study then off to work – he walks. I had to take my car to the garage for a service. I should have gone to pick it up by now. Then I walked into town to work too.’
‘He didn’t get any post, email, telephone call that might have disturbed him?’
‘I don’t think so. He didn’t mention anything.’
‘Hmm. Thank you Mrs Thwaite. I’ll leave you with PC Barnett for now. I’ll see what my partner is up to. You say I can get into the garage through the kitchen?’
‘That’s right.’ The woman remained sitting upright on the sofa, a glazed expression on her face.
James stepped towards the open door but paused.
‘Oh, if you think of anything we should know, tell PC Barnett. I’ll speak to you again soon.’
James walked along the hall, into the bright, modern kitchen and through an open door into the garage. It had a window onto the back garden but the lights were on and members of the SOC team were setting up more powerful spotlights. It was a long garage, but narrow. Most of the space was taken up by the brown Rover 2000. A G reg., James noted. The bodywork of the car gleamed in the lights, reflecting the work put in by Peter Thwaite.  A white-overalled figure was leaning in through the open driver’s door. James recognised the portly figure of Dr Patel, the pathologist. Tom Shepherd was standing at the back of the car watching.
‘What does the Doc say then?’ James said as he looked around.
‘Straightforward case. Used to get more of these before the days of catalytic converters on cars. They’ve cleaned up the exhaust so it takes longer to knock yourself out.’
‘But these old Rovers don’t have them.’
‘Nope. Would have finished him off in a few minutes. Mind you he would have been coughing his guts up before he went out.’
‘No chance that someone else could have set it up to look like suicide?’
Tom stared at James, wide-eyed.
‘Why on earth do you suggest that?’
‘Well, you know. Checking all the possibilities.’
‘I suppose the SOCOs will dust the hose and the car for fingerprints but I don’t imagine they’ll find any other than his, the poor sod.’
‘So that’s it then. A simple suicide.’
‘Yeah. Guy had enough and the car provided a handy method. Straightforward.’
James wasn’t so sure.
…………………………………………..

Jasmine takes a case

A busy week with news that the article about me and Painted Ladies made it into the Dailys Mail, Express and Star as well as a couple more local papers. I do hope the publicity encourages people to go out an buy, buy, buy.  Next Saturday I’ll be at the New Writers UK Festival in Nottingham hoping to spread the word further, and I’ve also heard of a fairly new website that promotes independent writers’ work  at   http://www.writers-room.org/

I hope it will prove helpful.

Here is the next part of my serialised, prequel, Blueprint.

Blueprint, part 4

‘You’ve got to do something,’ Angela said.
Jasmine looked at the four photos and shook her head.
‘I don’t know what I can do. I’m not sure that anyone has broken the law.’
‘Really?’ Angela stabbed a finger at the naked “Petula”, ‘Isn’t it illegal to send offensive material through the post.’
‘Yes, but I’m not sure whether this would count as offensive today,’ Jasmine said.
’Well, what about stalking then. That’s against the law.’
‘I know, but it would be difficult to present a few items of unsolicited mail as stalking.’ Jasmine turned to Petula. ‘ You haven’t noticed anyone watching you or following you, have you?’
Petula shook her head vigorously.
‘No, not at all. If I’m out, dressed, then I keep a careful lookout for anyone taking a special interest in me. You know why.’
‘Yes, in case they read you as a cross-dresser and decide to make a fuss,’ Jasmine agreed. ‘We all develop three sixty degree vision.’
‘So are you saying you can’t help Petula, Jas?’ Angela glared at Jasmine.
‘Well, I don’t see how I can get the police to open an investigation.’ Jasmine said trying to keep things calm.
‘Oh, I don’t want the police involved,’ Petula flustered, ‘Linda would be sure to find out. I hoped you might be able to find out who’s doing this, uh, privately.’
‘You could do that, couldn’t you?’ Angela wheedled.
Jasmine realised that she couldn’t get away with doing nothing even if it did appear that someone was just playing a silly game on Petula.
‘Well, OK, I suppose I could try and look into it myself.’
‘Oh, thank you.’ Petula grabbed Jasmine’s hand and pumped it up and down. Jasmine was surprised at how emotional Petula was. ‘I really can’t imagine what would happen if Linda saw these photos and found out about me.’
‘If you’ve kept you’re dressing secret for so long, I’m sure it would be a big shock for her.’ Jasmine said.
Petula’s face cracked and she began to sob.
‘Oh, I couldn’t bear it.’
Angela comforted her.
‘Now I’m sure Jasmine will make sure that you dressing remains a secret.’ She glared at Jasmine. ‘Let’s get you a drink.’ Angela guided Petula to the hatch where the drinks were served.
Jasmine began to put the photos back into the respective envelopes, looking at each one carefully in turn. Close-up they revealed the differences between the exposures of Petula’s head and the model’s body. The head shots had obviously been blown up from pictures taken at a distance outdoors, while the photos of the model looked to have been taken in a studio.
Angela returned.
‘She’s pretty upset about these photos,’ she said, ‘Do you think you can do anything?’
‘No,’ Jasmine said shaking her head, ‘I don’t know where to start. If it was a criminal investigation we’d check the photos and envelopes for DNA and see if we get a match or at least a profile, but I can’t get tests done if it is not a proper case. I’ll take them away and see if I get some ideas but let’s hope the person who sent them has had enough of his game and that they stop.’
‘And Petula can go on deceiving her wife.’
‘You sound disapproving.’
‘Perhaps I do. Look, I think I understand how you feel about wanting to be a woman but you were open with me from the start. OK, you say you can’t tell me how far you want to go and I believe you but at least we’re in it together. But I don’t understand how someone like Petula can go on like this for decades without her wife suspecting something or how Petula justifies keeping it secret.’
‘Me neither, but I know Petula’s not alone.  There are hundreds, thousands of secret cross-dressers out there.’
‘So it seems. Look have you had enough of being amongst trannies, Jas?’
Jasmine chuckled and looked around the room at the middle-aged “women” engaged in chats or dancing arthritically to the seventies disco hits. ‘Yes, I think so.’
‘Good, let’s go home and have a better look at those photos.’

Chapter 2

‘Hey, Jim, we’ve got a callout.’
James Frame woke suddenly from his daydream to see DC Tom Shepherd waving from the door to DCI Sloane’s office. James had been imagining life as Jasmine, the daily routine of dressing as a woman, of being accepted as a woman as she went about her business as a police detective, a sergeant or perhaps even inspector. He looked at his watch.
‘Damn, another hour and we’d be off-duty. It had better be exciting.’
‘A suspicious death. Come on, we can’t leave the uniform boys to it.’
‘Okay, I’m coming.’ James hauled himself out of his chair and squeezed passed the empty desks. Most of the team had already left for the weekend. It had been a quiet week of routine questioning after a domestic dispute turned violent and pursuit of a hit-and-run driver but nothing to tax the violent and serious crime team.
‘Where are we going?’ James asked as he caught up with Tom.
‘Just across town. The report suggests a suicide.’
‘Nothing too extraordinary?’
‘Probably not.’
Tom stopped the Mondeo in a quiet road of 1930s semis. There was a police patrol car outside one driveway with tape already blocking it off.  James got out and followed the bigger man up the drive to the garage attached to the house. A police officer stood at the garage doors.
‘What’s the story, Officer?’ Tom asked.
‘Bloke killed himself in his car, by the look of it. The old hose to the exhaust pipe trick. The pathologist is in the garage now.’
‘Anybody else around?’
‘The wife’s in the house. PC Barnett is with her.’
‘I’ll go and see how she is,’ James said, ‘if you check with the pathologist, Tom.’
‘Right,’ Tom said stepping inside the garage.
James went to the front door and found it on the latch. He stepped inside and called out,
‘Hello, I’m DC Frame.’ The carpet was soft under his shoes as he walked into the lounge. A police woman had her arms around another woman who sat shaking on a sofa. The officer looked up at him.
‘This is Mrs Linda Thwaite. She discovered her husband in the car in the garage.’
Jasmine felt the blood drain from his face.
‘Linda Thwaite? What was her husband’s name?’
‘His name’s Peter,’ the woman said through sobs.

Seize the moment

There’s a lot to do at the moment. I am trying to get on with the second Jasmine Frame novel, Bodies by Design, and making quite good progress, but the main thing that has been occupying me has been the marketing of Painted Ladies.  The official publication date is next Sunday, 1st Sept.  Go to

http://www.troubador.co.uk

for details about purchasing the paperback or e-book (it’s available from all booksellers). I am very pleased with the response I’m getting – the reviews online have been good, and I send a big thank you to the Castle Bookshop in Ludlow which is stocking it.  There is a lot to do though to put it in front of people and stimulate purchases.

Perhaps, however, this is a good time to be bringing up the subject of transgenderism thanks to the publicity about Chelsea (formerly Bradley) Manning. I understand that she was about to start transitioning when she got into a “little spot of bother” thanks to releasing lots of things the USA government thought should be secret. Now she’s been given a 35 year sentence she wants to start the process.  Unfortunately the penal system in the USA is not as understanding as in the UK so she may be denied her right to change gender.

Painted Ladies is a crime thriller and nothing to do with buying or selling secrets and Jasmine Frame is the law not a victim of it. Nothing is stopping Jasmine from achieving her dream except a lack of the necessary cash and the slow moving NHS.  Nevertheless the fact that a transitioning transsexual is in the news may help give Jasmine and Painted Ladies some added impetus. Many transsexuals have obstacles placed in their path but few have the whole weight of the USA government bearing down on them. Mind you, for anyone trapped in an existence they despise it can seem as if the whole world is against you.

Jasmine has rarely been as low as that thanks to a a supportive (former) wife and an understanding GP. Her difficult decisions were, coming out as transsexual to her wife (Angela) and her family and friends, then deciding to transition and finally to leave the police force. The consequences of all these turning points in her life affect the person she is portrayed as in Painted Ladies and the sequels. Simply saying she is a transsexual or transgendered detective covers a great deal of heart-searching, worry and courageousness.