Jasmine is considering

After a couple of weeks of idyllic holiday it is difficult to get back into routine, especially when there is so much to make one want to just curl up again – I won’t say what.  One thing did concern me. It was a report in the news over a week ago about the transwoman who committed suicide while in a male prison. I was concerned to read that she was only 19 and had been living as female since the age of 10.  But, and this is what got to me, she had little idea of what being transsexual means and had had no advice, medical or otherwise to help her transition. Despite all the publicity in recent years about various trans people, she still felt isolated and did not know where to go for help. She had not even begun to apply for a Gender Recognition Certificate, probably because she had not started any authorised medical treatment.

My understanding is that you do not need to go through surgery or even drug treatment to get a GRC but you do have to have a medical opinion that you are gender dysphoric. I have also heard that your mental state is taken into consideration. You can get to a sort of Catch 22 situation where if you are mad i.e. have mental health issues, you can’t get a GRC while a lot of people consider wanting to change gender a sign of madness.

This woman obviously had issues as she was convicted of crimes and sent to prison. What is appalling is that she received no care from the authorities that were responsible for her welfare while in custody. It also shows that there is still a lack of information about being trans available to the general public, despite the heap of material on the internet. We may be just 1% of the population but that just makes it that much more difficult for people who need help to make contact with those that can provide it. It also shows that the majority of people have a poor grasp of gender issues and do not understand how to help someone who is struggling to come to terms with their gender identity.

………………

IMGP5962I have a busy two or three weeks coming up so a new Jasmine novella will be on hold for a bit longer. In the meantime I’ll continue with other short stories I have stored away (there are lots).  This week I have a recent SF story I wrote (somewhat hurriedly) for a competition.  It didn’t get anywhere which I’m not surprised about.  I think it reads more like a synopsis than a short story.  It is also a familiar theme – colonisation of the Moon – but I hoped I had an original slant. Anyway, here it is.

Life on the Moon

The dark sky. That’s what surprised me most when I got here. I spent lots of time staring at the sky back home. There wasn’t much else to do lying in a cot. I watched the clouds move, that’s all. Then they gave me the neuro-interface. Here, on the Moon’s surface with my suit working at one hundred percent to keep me cool and my visor filter at maximum, the sun’s still too bright to look at directly and yet the sky is black. Yeah, that’s what tells me I’m on the Moon. It’s not the lower gravity, that’s just a pleasure. The weight on my chest is less and my useless muscles don’t have to work so hard.
The thing is they didn’t mention it during training. I suppose those career guys who’d been up to orbit lots of times didn’t think of it. Perhaps they weren’t allowed the time to just stare out of the windows of the space station. Me, well, when I’m turned away from the Sun and see all the stars on that black background it still takes my breath away. That’s probably not a good way of putting it. A break in my breathing would set off all sorts of warning alarms and have the monitor reprimand me for wasting time – time we haven’t got.
I’m outside for almost all my ten-hour shift, keeping an eye or more accurately a few brain cells, on the drills and the rock shifting kit, making small adjustments here and there, occasionally taking control of the waldos and really moving stuff. I love it. I feel useful for the first time in my life. Useful and important.  When I hand over to one of the others I feel as if I’m giving up a part of my body. In some ways, I am.
Yesterday, when I got back from my shift there was a celebration going on. Li told me all about it. We’re friends. She’s so like me; in abilities if not looks or personality. The fuss was over the completion of Cavern 1. Now they can start filling it with all the kit they’ve been hauling up from Earth. That gear will make this place self-sufficient in water, oxygen, metals, and lots of other stuff. The bosses were pleased because the hole was dug ahead of schedule and that was all down to our team.
Soon we’ll finish Cavern 2. It’ll be great to start filling it with the permanent living quarters. The temporary surface pods are cramped and there’s always the chance of a meteor puncturing the skin. The next bunch to come up from Earth will find their cosy apartments all ready for them.  By then the bio domes should be producing real food. I’m looking forward to having something to chew on instead of the concentrated, dried, pre-cooked mush we get from Earth. Once we’ve got our own food supply we can really start calling ourselves colonists.
Some of the guys talk about going home when we’ve finished the heavy work. Not me. Why should I go back to that gravity-well where I can’t move a muscle and I’m treated like a dependent waste of space? Here I’m free and a respected member of the gang. I’d happily see out my life working as a farmer or extending the caverns. Li feels the same. We may pair up and take a shared apartment in Cavern 2; maybe even have kids. I wonder if they would be like us?
Anyway, who really wants to go back to Earth now? It’s not exactly a pleasant place to be these days. The guys who want to go back have family down there so perhaps that gives them a reason. There’s no one down there who wants me back, not when getting food and staying alive is such a struggle, even for people who have the use of their own limbs.
I saw a meteor today. You don’t see them very often because there’s no atmosphere for them to streak through. It caught my eye, well, my camera lens, when it reflected the sunlight. A brief flicker, then it was gone. Thinking about it, perhaps it wasn’t a meteor after all. It wasn’t moving fast enough. Some of the states on Earth don’t like what we’re doing and have threatened to lob a bomb at us. One or two of them still have the capability. That’s why we’re on the “other side” facing away from Earth. Some of the guys are upset that we don’t have a view of Earth but I don’t care. I don’t want to see what we’ve done to that place, or let the bad guys down there have a good view of what we’re doing.
………………..
It was a missile. Li told me that someone she knows in admin said that our defences took it out before it got anywhere near. They’re not expecting many more as they’ve started lobbing nukes at each other down there. That should take their minds off us. Mind you the chances of us getting more supplies look pretty slim. Just like the chances of some of the guys going home.  I’ll just get on with my job managing the machines fitting out Cavern 2. I’m a builder now not a digger.
…………………
That’s it. We’re on our own. The multi-nationals who were behind us don’t exist anymore, like their customers, or most of them anyway. Admin have cut our rations to tide us over until the first crops are ready in a few weeks. It’ll be tough but I don’t need much to eat.
Chatting to Li, she thinks that the company bosses knew this was going to happen. That was why there was such a rush to get the colony set up. She says they used up all their capital to move as much stuff up here as possible in the time that was left. They had to do it without the governments noticing as otherwise their resources would have been commandeered for the patriotic wars.
……………………..
Li and I moved into our new home today. It’s on floor 6, two hundred meters below the surface but handy for the elevators. We’ve got more room than we expected because there’s no more people coming up from down below.  We celebrated with a special dinner – a tube of protein paste saved from yesterday’s ration, re-hydrated rice and a fresh lettuce from our first crop.  Food may be short still, but we’re nice and cosy down here and the solar energy collectors on the surface are 100% as it’s mid-moon day. We selected a view of the surface for our video-screen. Some of the others have selected scenes of Earth relayed by the satellite. I don’t know how they can look at that spoiled place now. It’s not the blue, white and green globe it used to be but a dirty brown ball.
………………….
We had boiled egg today. Okay, Li and I had to share it, but it was a real egg; shell and everything. We spent as much time looking at it as eating it. I had no idea that we’d brought chicken embryos up with us. Once we got the bio pods up the chicks were incubated. Now they’re hens and laying.  We had bread with the egg; real bread made from grain grown in the bio pods. Food is still rationed, probably always will be, but we’re self-sufficient.  Li and I talked about raising a kid. Of course, we can’t actually make a baby by ourselves, not us two, but we’re going to have a chat with the meds.
……………………
We’re going to be a mum and dad!  I supplied the sperm and Li the egg and the cybermeds did the rest. Nine months’ time we’ll have a daughter called Selene. We decided against gen-eng so she’ll be like Li and me. Admin agreed to it. In fact, they suggested it. They need our brains but being immobile we don’t need as much food as the ables. Selene won’t be the first child. Dmitri and Makena are having theirs the traditional way, a few weeks sooner. Admin were delighted. Without the extra people that were expected from Earth we’re a small number. Now that the food situation is easing, they want more mouths to feed, and hands and brains to do the work.
……………………..
I’ve got a new job.  Admin have patched me into the colony’s mainframe. I’m making sure that all the systems are running to plan. I look after the farmbots in the bio pods, energy generation, the foundries extracting metals and making plastics, the water and oxygen extractors, life support, everything really. It’s not just me of course. Li does a shift and there are others like us.  I wonder if the guys who designed the neuro-interface that give us a life, guessed that one day we’d be running the first colony on the Moon. Okay, it’s probably the last as well, but we have a future, which is more than those poor folks on Earth have got.
………………………..
It’s a good job that we can override the default settings. A few of the guys who couldn’t go home to Earth got a bit upset. I had to cut their oxygen. They won’t cause any more problems.
I love this job. It means that I’m on the surface any time I like, looking out through the cameras on the bio pods, the solar collectors and the communications towers. I can see the ragged ridge that surrounds our crater, the grey dust that’s now criss-crossed with the tracks of our machines and I can look up and see the stars in that black sky.
………………………………

Jasmine meets the brides

Support for populist power-seekers is gathered by generating fears: the migrants/refugees will take our jobs/homes; all muslims are radicalised terrorists out to kill us; women are being attacked in public loos by men in dresses. None of these assertions are true and I refuse to use the current term of “alternative facts” for them as anything called a fact has evidence to verify it. By encouraging these fears, the alleged perpetrators can be turned into figures of hate and the people’s anger used to boost the support of those peddling the lies. That is the tactics of the Brexiteers and Trump-fanatics.  In certain parts of the USA it is also being used to build suspicion of people whose gender identity doesn’t match their birth anatomy.  Some states have passed laws that forbid transgendered people from using the lavatories they feel comfortable with although how the law-enforcers are supposed to prove who is entitled to use a particular toilet escapes me.

As with all things American, thanks to the media, social and traditional, similar issues are beginning to arise in the UK. Here however the law is different.  The UK has the 2004 Gender Recognition Act. A bearer of a gender recognition certificate is, in law, the gender they say they are, regardless of the bits of anatomy between their legs. Those people are also protected from the discrimination by the 2010 Equality Act.  For the rest of us the picture is less clear.  Transsexual men and women who have not had time to get the certificate or have not met the criteria and gender fluid people like myself who flip, have no such protection. Nevertheless, we occasionally have to use a loo and we choose that most appropriate for our appearance. Although we may not have the weight of the law behind us anyone wanting to stop us has to be certain that we are not the gender we are presenting as. The evidence is hidden in our knickers and very few people have the right to delve in there. Thus no transgendered person should ever have their gender questioned by an ordinary citizen.

imgp5648I don’t believe that there has ever been a case of a man in a dress attacking a woman in a wash room. The fear is completely unwarranted. Neither do I think anyone would be harmed at seeing another person washing their hands, combing hair or applying make-up and appearing a little effeminate or masculine, depending on which facilities we’re talking about. In other words it is a manufactured fear which is being used by some to generate anger towards those whose are in a minority.  The solution is to accept people for who they say they are rather than ban them or provide them with alternative facilities (as is happening in some schools). This only serves to discriminate by setting the minority apart from the majority.

I hope sense will prevail, but I doubt it.

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The Jasmine Frame story, Darkroom, was concluded last week, so before I began a new novella I thought we’d take a look at the new novel, the 3rd., The Brides’ Club Murder.  The novel is a traditional whodunit set in a country hotel.  Jasmine is called in to help solve the murder of the the leader of the Wedding Belles. She meets the suspects who are members or partners of members of the group and finds that they have a selection of motives and opportunities which take some sorting out.

There is one 5* review on Amazon but there are two other reviews:

Another great story and Jasmine becoming more understandable and sympathetic all the time. I like the way you brought out all the characters and their location on the non-binary spectrum, and the fact that there were all the loves, hates, power struggles, resentments,wishing the boss dead, that you get in any group of people( club,workplace,etc). V. Wood-Robinson

The 3rd JF novel . . . is a terrific read, a whodunit with a setting that will be familiar to many BS members, a transgender weekend.  I’m glad that we’ve never had a murder at one in real life. The novel is filled with interesting, well-portrayed characters and Penny Ellis has done well to introduce enough friction between the en-femme guests to leave a reader guessing as to the culprit’s identity. . . This is the best novel in the series so far. . . Beaumont Magazine

So, here is a excerpt. where Jasmine, known as Sindy undercover, is meeting the Belles for the first time.

‘Tell us about yourself, Sindy,’ Melody said reaching for her glass. ‘We don’t know anything about you at all.’
‘Um,’ Jasmine took another slug of wine and soda while composing her reply.
‘Well, who is this gorgeous creature, you’ve found, you love birds?’
The loud but slurred voice with the Irish accent made Jasmine turn her head and she found a figure looming over her.  She had a wig of brown hair that cascaded over her shoulders with highlights that matched the lemon yellow of her lace dress. The capped-sleeve dress clung to her prominent breasts and slim but waistless body, ending at mid-thigh. Her legs were cased in sparkly sheer stockings and she wore an impossibly high pair of black patent leather, platform stiletto shoes. Possibly it was the shoes but more probably it was the alcohol that caused her to sway unsteadily while desperately trying to avoid spilling the sparkling wine from the glass she held.
‘Hello, Samantha,’ Geraldine said with a note of resignation in her voice. ‘Do you think you had better sit down? Here, have my chair.’ She started to rise.’
‘No thank you, Geraldine,’ Samantha had difficulty pronouncing the name, ‘I want to sit next to this delightful person.’
Geraldine continued to stand up. ‘Alright, I’ll find you a chair.’ She went in search of another vacant and moveable seat.
‘This is Sindy,’ Melody said.  Samantha put her spare hand on the arm of Jasmine’s chair and leaned down.
‘How do you do, Sindy?’ She wavered like seaweed in the tide, ‘I don’t seem to have a spare hand to shake with you.’
‘That’s alright, Samantha.’ Jasmine was sifting through her memory of names and facts about members of the Wedding Belles. She came up with Samantha Nolan, cross-dresser recently separated. There was also something about a brief exchange with Valerie Vokins. ‘You’re one of the Wedding Belles?’ she went on.
Samantha’s head hovered over Jasmine, wobbling as if it was attached to her neck by a spring. Her words came out in a drunken garble. ‘That’s right. Are you? I don’t think we’ve met before.’
Here I go again, Jasmine thought. ‘It’s my first time. Valerie fitted me in. I wanted to thank her but now she’s dead.’
Samantha swayed. ‘Miserable old goat. Do you know what the old fart did? He let it out to my wife that I dressed. She walked out on me.’
‘Was it deliberate? Perhaps Valerie-Vernon didn’t know that your wife was unaware that you were a cross-dresser.’
‘Oh, the bugger knew what he was doing alright. He wanted me out of the Belles but I showed him.’
‘Really? How.’
‘By coming here of course.  He couldn’t refuse my booking. I’m making the most of this weekend now that I don’t have to hide. But I’ll be skint once she’s taken me to the cleaners.’
‘She?’
‘My wife.’
Geraldine appeared behind Samantha carrying a chair. She placed it on the floor carefully behind her legs. ‘You can sit down now Samantha.’
Samantha swayed and wine slopped from her glass.
‘Careful!’ Geraldine said, as the drops of wine fell onto the carpet.
Samantha’s knees bent and she slumped into the chair. She recovered and bent towards Jasmine. ‘That’s better. Now we can have a lovely girly chat can’t we.’
Geraldine returned to her seat and took Melody’s hand.
Geraldine called across the table. ‘Give the girl a chance, Samantha.  She’s only just arrived and she hasn’t been before.’
Jasmine wanted to interrogate Samantha some more about her relationship with Valerie Vokins but wondered whether the cross-dresser was in the mood for questions. She seemed more determined on flirting.
‘That’s a lovely dress. I like sequins,’ Samantha said, reaching out a hand to touch the shoulder of Jasmine’s dress. Her face was so close that Jasmine could see through the wig and the thick make-up.  Samantha was considerably older than her slim figure, high, pert breasts and young woman’s dress suggested. Mid-fifties perhaps? Trying to live the youthful female life she’d never had?
‘Are you dressing more now that you are separated from your wife?’ Jasmine asked as innocently as possible.
‘I’ll say,’ Samantha replied, giggling. ‘Every chance I get. And I’m buying clothes. Spend it before she gets her hands on it, I say. I’ve got a sexy new wedding dress for tomorrow you’ll see. Now why haven’t I caught up with you, you gorgeous young thing, before.’
‘I haven’t been to one of these events before,’ Jasmine answered truthfully.
‘Where do you live, darling?’
‘Hastings.’
‘Don’t you go up to the clubs in London? I’m sure I would have seen you there.’
‘No, I don’t.’
‘You must. We’d have so much fun. Let’s get another drink. I want to spend more of Jill’s divorce money.’  Samantha lurched unsteadily onto her platforms.  Jasmine realised her own glass was empty.
‘Don’t you think you’ve had enough, Samantha?’ Jasmine said.
Geraldine chipped in, ‘Yes, Samantha, you’re drunk enough already.’
Melody warned, ‘You’ve got to be fit to show off your new dress tomorrow.’
Samantha wobbled towards the bar. ‘I’m going to get another drink and I’ll get you one too, Sindy.’
Jasmine got up and took Samantha’s arm to support her. She called over her shoulder to Geraldine and Melody, ‘I’ll look after her.’
Geraldine and Melody were also rising from their chairs. ‘Thank you, Sindy,’ Melody said, ‘We’re off to bed. See you in the morning.’
Jasmine escorted Samantha through the crowd to the bar. There they stood next to a tall, thin, coloured woman with a massive afro-style hair-do and a very short white dress.
‘Ha!’ Samantha shouted, ‘My room-mate. Hi there, Tammy!’
Tammy’s expression did not show delight at seeing Samantha. ‘Oh, hello, Samantha. Sloshed again, I see.’  Her sober male voice reminded Jasmine of Viv with his Caribbean lilt.
‘This is Sindy,’ Samantha slurred, ‘she’s new. Isn’t she gorgeous and young?’
Tammy looked Jasmine up and down, examining her obvious wig, her colourful but relatively thinly made-up face compared to most of the other “women”, and her figure.  After a pause she held out a dark hand with pale blue nails.
‘Pleased to meet you Sindy. You’re not a Belle are you?’
‘Yes, she is,’ Samantha said before Jasmine could reply, ‘Vokins fitted her in late. What do you think of that?’
Tammy’s eyes widened. ‘The conniving old bigot.’
‘Why do you say that?’ Jasmine said.
‘Because he is, or was,’ Tammy said. ‘He put me off for weeks before he gave me the last bed available, so he said; sharing with Samantha. Filling the spaces became more important than keeping the gathering racially pure.’

………. Buy the e-book from Amazon Kindle or go to Jasmine Frame Publications for details for purchasing the paperback edition.

 

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Jasmine makes a guess

I read last week that a US toy manufacturer is producing a doll modelled on a well-known teenage trans-girl. I think it’s great that the girl has got recognition for her struggle to be recognised in the gender she identifies with but I wonder – how can you tell the doll is trans? The pictures show a feminine face and hair-style but what about the model of her body? In my limited experience, boy and girl dolls are equally lacking in genitalia although the female version may have breasts. So does the trans doll come with a mixture of male and female clothes and tiny enhancers to fill the doll-sized bra. I wonder how often children who have Barbies and Kens play cross-dressing games. What does Ken look like in a dress and Barbie in an Action-Man outfit?  What other trans icons could be put out as models, perhaps like Star Wars figures rather than dolls – Grayson Perry, Caitlin Jenner?

I’m being facetious, I know. There are far more serious issues facing trans-people, particularly in the US. I have just read that Trump has withdrawn Obama’s Federal guidance that held back the States wishing to ban trans-people from the washrooms that they feel comfortable using. Is it the beginning of a fundamentalist backlash against LGBT?

I’ve decided to open up a new occasional page for my rants about the state of the world – got to the “PRE on the World” page if you want to read them.

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Jasmine Frame in The Brides’ Club Murder

Layout 1Watch this page for the publication of The Brides’ Club Murder: the 3rd Jasmine Frame novel scheduled for the first week of March with a special offer on the paperback edition of Painted Ladies.

And so to the latest, that is, the fifth, episode of Darkroom, the Jasmine Frame prequel. What is Jasmine getting into?

Darkroom: Part 5

Jasmine knelt in front of Diana while Angela hugged her. What an ordeal the girl had gone through.  Jasmine felt an anger and determination to find the person who had traumatised the young transvestite. She seemed to be struggling to find the words to describe what had happened to her.
‘Should we call an ambulance for her?’ Jasmine said softly.
Angela shook her head. ‘I don’t think so. I think she just needs to gather herself.’
‘But we need to find out what happened to her so we can so something.’
‘Give her time, Jas.’
Jasmine bit her lip. ‘We saw you on the tube,’ she said to Diana.
Diana swallowed and spoke in a cracked voice. ‘I remember you too. I thought you both looked pretty and I wished I could look like you.’
Jasmine was pleased that at last Diana had responded. ‘We thought you were on your way here like us, but we lost sight of you in the street.’
Diana nodded. ‘It was cold. I was hurrying.  I didn’t see him until he grabbed me and pushed me through the door.’
‘He was behind you? He followed you from the station?’
Diana shrugged. ‘I don’t know where he came from.’
‘What did he look like?’ Jasmine leaned forward to hear Diana’s whispered reply.
‘I don’t know. I didn’t see him. It was dark inside.’
‘Yes, I know.’
‘He had a torch. He shone it in my eyes. I couldn’t see anything.’
‘He was alone?’
Diana nodded. ‘I think so. I didn’t hear anyone else.’
Angela listened as Jasmine continued to question Diana. ‘What happened when he got you into the building?’
‘I . . . I was scared.’
‘Of course.’
‘He dragged me into the room and pushed me onto the chair.’
‘The chair was there in the middle of the room?’
‘Yes, yes, I think so.’
‘Then what did he do?’ Jasmine asked.
Diana sobbed, her words emerging in a broken gurgle. ‘I just like being a girl. I’m not gay.’
Angela hugged her tighter. ‘Yes, yes, we understand. He abused you?’
Despite her head being held firmly in Angela’s arms, Diana nodded.
‘OK, we don’t have to go into all that if you don’t want to,’ Jasmine said realising that she was sounding like the police officer she was in her male life. ‘When he’d, um, finished, what happened.
Diana sniffed. ‘He knocked me over and kicked me. That’s all I can remember until you came. I think I was unconscious.’
Jasmine nodded. ‘And that’s how we found you. I wonder how long it had been since he left?’
Angela released her grip on Diana, allowing her to breathe and sniff wetly.
‘He just left Diana there. He could have killed her with that kick to the head but he didn’t care,’ she said.
‘Yes, but he had it all planned,’ Jasmine agreed. ‘He must have had that dark room in the warehouse prepared with the single chair and the entrance door unlocked. Then he waited at the station until a likely target came along. He chose the time before the club filled up when the street from the station was pretty quiet and dark.’
‘He was waiting for Diana?’
‘Someone like her – young, trans, alone, nervous.’
‘He was taking a risk.’
‘That’s probably part of the fun for him. Having chosen his victim, he follows her and times his attack just as she reaches the door of the warehouse. Provided there’s no-one really close he’s got her inside unnoticed.’
‘If we’d been a bit quicker and right behind Diana, he wouldn’t have got away with it,’ Angela said, the regret obvious in her voice.’
‘No. He would have given up on Diana and gone back to wait for another target. Maybe there wouldn’t be anyone suitable.’
‘That would be frustrating for him.’
‘Yes. Perhaps he has a plan B. Another way to find a tranny to molest.’
…………………………..
I listen to them talking about me, talking about that monster who did those things to me. I remember his hand between my thighs, groping, squeezing, tugging.  I can’t tell them what he did. No one has touched me down there, not since I was little kid and my mother bathed me.  I feel again his thing filling my mouth so I can’t breathe, his hands holding my head as he moves. I don’t want to think about it. I can’t describe it to them. No, I can’t.
……………………..
The door opened letting in a blast of music and Debs, a vision of sparkling gold.
‘Is this the injured girl?  She rushed towards them and knelt, the split in her dress parting to reveal her smooth, nylon-sheathed legs.
‘Yes,’ Jasmine replied, ‘This is Diana. She was on her way here at the same time as us but was attacked and dragged into the warehouse on the other side of the road. He abused her.’
‘That’s dreadful. Are you calling the police?’
‘Diana doesn’t want to; not yet.’
Debs let out a sigh of relief. ‘Hmm. I don’t really want the cops prowling round here but I like the idea of sex-maniacs lying in wait for our girls even less. We have to do something.’
‘Diana couldn’t see him so we’ve no description of the attacker. Of course, there may be semen on Diana’s clothes or on the floor of the warehouse where he attacked her. The police may be able to get a DNA match.’
‘If we informed them,’ Debs added.
‘Do you think Diana is his first victim?’ Angela asked.
Jasmine looked at Debs waiting for an answer. She thought then slowly shook her head.
‘I don’t know. I haven’t heard of anything like this, but perhaps his other victims don’t want to talk about it either.’
Jasmine spoke, ‘He left Diana for dead. There was no way she could have freed herself if we hadn’t found her. Even if it is the first time he’s tried this stunt he knows this area and I’d say he knows this club and its patrons well.’
Debs looked surprised. ‘You mean he’s a regular?’
Jasmine shrugged. ‘I don’t know about that but I’d say he knows about the girls who come here, what time the place gets busy. Perhaps he has tried picking up trannies here to get a bit of what he wants.’
Debs shook her head, ‘I can’t believe it. Yes, I know we have “the admirers” who come to court the girls, and yes, a bit of, er, intimate behaviour goes on in these quiet rooms. It’s what some of the girls come for; to play out their fantasies of being desirable sex objects.’ Her face darkened. ‘But I’m not having someone coming to my club and forcing themselves on my girls.’
‘Good, but identifying him is the problem,’ Jasmine commented.
Debs stood up. ‘Look, I’ve got to go. It’s nearly time for the live entertainment and I have to do my compere bit.  Look after Diana and I’ll come back and see you shortly.’  She turned and left giving them another burst of dance music as the door opened and closed.
Angela looked at Jasmine. ‘Do you think the guy who attacked Diana comes here to meet TVs?’
‘I’m sure he’s been here on several occasions. The question is, where is he now?’
Diana shivered. ‘I feel sick.’
Angela leapt up and threw her bag over her shoulder. ‘Oh, I hope it’s not concussion. Let me take you to the loo.’ She gripped Diana’s arm and helped her to her feet. The two of them staggered to the door.
‘Shall I come too?’ Jasmine asked.
‘Call an ambulance. I don’t want Diana collapsing on us.’  They left the room.
Jasmine sat in the dimly lit room and took her mobile phone from her clutch bag. There was no signal. She stood up and walked to the door to the adjoining room staring at the small screen. There was no change so she carried on walking from one small, dark, quiet room to another.  A couple of rooms were occupied by shadowy figures engaged in soft chatter, snogging and fumblings under clothes but Jasmine barely noticed. She continued in her quest for a signal.
She turned a handle and pulled the door open. The next room was darker than the others. She stepped into it and let out a small cry of joy. She had a signal. The door closed behind her.  The only light was from the screen of the phone. She tapped one nine, then another, then the phone flew out of her hand as something slammed against her wrist. She gasped and looked up. A bright torch light shone in her eyes.
A soft, smooth voice of a man spoke from behind the light. ‘Well, what have we got here, said the spider to the fly.’
……………………………to be continued

Jasmine – a new cover

There is no new Jasmine Frame story this week.  I’ve been busy on other matters and anyway, I think a break between stories is probably a good idea.  One thing I’ve been doing is getting all the extra bits ready for the publication of  The Brides’ Club Murder, Jasmine’s third novel. One of these bits is the back cover blurb, which is also what you’ll see when you look up the ebook on a certain website. I find blurbs difficult.  They have to be gripping and exciting enough to attract a reader (and buyer) but not give too much of the plot away. I admit that when I’m choosing a book the blurb is one of the first things I look at and my decision will have a lot to do with what impression the blurb had. On the other hand I’m not sure what it is in a blurb that makes me buy the book. The result is I’m never sure if I’ve got my own blurbs right.

I had to write two blurbs. One for the back cover of The Brides’ and another for the next book in the series, the 4th which I’ve called Molly’s Boudoir. The problem is of course that I haven’t written that novel yet, but I want readers of the 3rd to know that there will be a 4th. It’s a bit like the James Bond films  which end with “James Bond will return” except that I’m trying to give a hint about the plot. I have a plot outline and I know it will take place just after Jasmine’s, at last, had her gender reassignment surgery, but that is it. J K Rowling has said that she had all of the seven Potter books in her head right from the first. I wonder. Were they carefully plotted stories or a vague outline of the story arc over the seven years of Harry’s life that the novels cover?

Nevertheless, The Brides’ will be out soon and some time in the next year or two I’ll get down to Molly’s Boudoir.  So here as a taster is a preview of the cover and blurb for The Brides’ Club Murder.

Layout 1

A country house hotel

A death

Ten suspects

Jasmine Frame has a weekend to identify the killer before the attendees of the Butterfly Ball disperse. She must pretend to enjoy the strange activities of the Wedding Belles, but, with her gender reassignment still some way off she is uncomfortable confined with a party of transvestites. Nevertheless, she relishes a mystery. What drove a member of the group to kill and are they prepared to kill again?

 

You may have noticed that there isn’t a rant, either, this week. There’s plenty to rant about but I think I’m suffering from rant exhaustion. I’m on tenterhooks (what a lovely word – look it up) as to what the future holds but I am tired of people repeating the same observations and arguments about Brexit, Trump, et al. Those of us who oppose those lurches towards a right wing dystopia really have to find new means of achieving a majority and I don’t think more dodgy dossiers help.  I’ve heard it a few times this week – we’ve got to stop talking only to those who think the same as us – but it’s scary getting out there.

 

 

 

Jasmine climbs in

I’m posting this on the last day of 2016 which I suppose means that a review of the year is called for. Well, I am not going to go on at length about how awful it’s been. There have certainly been events which seem to foreshadow the descent into a dystopic future but perhaps I read too much SF. Let us hope that all our fears come to naught (or nought?) although my hope is a little weak. Also, in the last year we have lost a lot of people who have entertained us well in their lives.  It may be just a matter of statistics or, as one reporter said – our heroes are getting older just like us. Here’s a few of the names that made me feel sad for a moment or two – Victoria Wood, Alan Rickman, Keith Emerson, Greg Lake, Robert Vaughan, Carrie Fisher.

The year has had its good times though.  The Olympics was one, although realising that it was four years since I was  Gamesmaker was a bit of a shock. Personally, there was the publication  of the third part of my fantasy series Evil Above the Stars, Unity of Seven; my first visit to Scotland; and celebrating Lou’s significant birthday. It was also the year when I decided to stop pretending to be something I am not; I gave up the sham of wearing silicone false breasts to give myself a more female figure, like I previously stopped wearing a female wig. Now I’m presenting the feminine me through my choice of clothes, accessories and make up and loving it. What that makes me in terms of labels – trans, gender-fluid, non-binary – I don’t know, but who cares.

Now we have to look forward to 2017. Though we may enter it, trembling with fearful anticipation, we have to look for the positives. I will be publishing  the third Jasmine Frame novel, The Brides’ Club Murder (more of that in the next few weeks) and hoping to persuade my fantasy publishers to take Cold Fire, the 4th September Weekes novel (though separate to Evil Above the Stars). I’ve got ideas for at least five articles on the history of chemistry for Collins Freedomtoteach blog.  Once Cold Fire is put to bed and Brides’ is published it will be time to choose my next project – the 4th Jasmine or something else? Don’t worry, I’ll tell you all about it here.

So, here we go, another rollercoaster of a year coming up, I think.

Best wishes for 2017

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And so to the penultimate (probably) episode of Falloff, the Jasmine Frame novella.

Falloff: Part 9

‘No! It couldn’t be Gemma or Carrie,’ Jess cried. ‘They were both very close to Raquel.’
Jasmine shrugged, ‘Perhaps, but nevertheless they are the main suspects.’
Andy hauled himself to his feet. ‘I’ve had enough of this. Are you coming Jess?’
Jess looked up at him. ‘Where? Bed?’
Andy took her hand and pulled her to her feet. ‘No, somewhere, anywhere away from this place. All this talk of murder pisses me off.’  He tugged Jess’ hand and with some reluctance she followed him out of the hotel.
‘Well, I’m ready for a good night’s sleep,’ Angela said with a yawn to follow.
‘Me too. If Alvarez wants to question Gemma or Carrie that’s his job.’ Jasmine replied, finding that she did indeed feel drained of energy.  They went to the lift, hand in hand, and pressed the button for their floor.
The lift doors opened and they stepped out into their corridor.  Inspector Alvarez was there, thumping on a door two rooms beyond their own.  He stopped when he saw them.
‘Ah, Seňoras. You have come to settle for the night?’
‘Yes,’ Jasmine said. ‘Is that Gemma’s and Carrie’s room?’
‘That is so. I would like to question them but they are not replying to my call.’
‘Perhaps they’re not in,’ Angela said.
‘Perhaps not.’ The policeman shrugged and stepped away from the door. ‘I shall return in the morning.’  He walked passed Jasmine and Angela, towards the lift. ‘Good night.’
Jasmine and Angela waited till the lift door had closed on the Inspector before entering their own room.
‘But Gemma and Carrie came up, didn’t they?’ Angela said, frowning.
‘We saw them get into the lift. Perhaps they just didn’t want to talk to Alvarez and kept quiet.’ Jasmine crossed their bedroom to the French windows and stepped on to the balcony. She looked to the left, across the balcony of the adjacent room from which Raquel had fallen, to the next. There did not appear to be a light on but by leaning out over the balcony rail she was able to see that the door on to the balcony was open. She listened carefully. Over the night-time noises of traffic on the road below, music from the clubs and bars, and voices of the many people still out on the promenade, it seemed that she could hear voices from the room. One of the girls was speaking loudly in a tone that made Jasmine come out in goose-bumps.
She looked at the gap between their own balcony and that of the adjoining room. It was barely a foot wide. Jasmine pulled her dress up to the top of her thighs and swung her leg over the rail, putting her foot down into what had been Carl and Raquel’s balcony. She glanced down. The ground around the swimming pool was dark but she recalled the sight of Raquel’s pale body lying on the grass last night. She put the memory and the fear of falling out of her mind.
Jasmine transferred her weight on to the foot and brought her other leg over. Angela appeared at the door.
‘What are you doing Jas?’ she called.
‘Shh!’ Jasmine said holding a finger to her lips. She walked slowly and silently to the other end of the balcony. The voice was louder but she still could not make out the words or which of the girls was talking. She repeated the manoeuvre, climbing onto the girls’ balcony and advanced to the open door.
There were no lights on but, in the moonlight, she could see one of the girls kneeling facing the other who was standing with her back to the window. Jasmine wasn’t sure who was who but she knew that what she was seeing wasn’t a tender love scene. The standing girl had both hands wrapped in the kneeling girl’s long hair and was tugging it, eye-wateringly hard. The dominant girl was speaking in a voice that hissed with malice.
‘You will do as I say, Carrie. You will tell that policeman that we were together all last night.’
‘Yes, yes, Gemma. Stop it, you’re hurting me. Please.’
‘You won’t say anything about Raquel?’
‘No, Gem. Ow!’
Jasmine stood in the doorway. ‘What shouldn’t Carrie say, Gemma?’
Gemma opened her hands and span around.
‘Who! What are you doing here?’
‘I thought I heard someone was in trouble and came to help,’ Jasmine said as calmly as possible but now that she could see the expression of fury on Gemma’s face, her heart was beating fast.
‘It’s none of your business.’
‘Oh, I think it is. If one person is hurting another then it’s everyone’s duty to stop it.’
The situation confused Jasmine. She was expecting it to be Carrie who was the aggressive one because if it had been her name that Raquel had whispered in her dying breath then surely, she was the killer. It had been Carrie who had been surly in the club while Gemma was full of bonhomie. But Carrie was on the floor rubbing her head. It was Gemma who stepped towards Jasmine, her face twisted into a grimace of hate. What had gone on between these two girls and Raquel?
‘What shouldn’t Carrie say about Raquel?’ Jasmine repeated, ‘That they were lovers?’
‘Nooo.’ Gemma launched herself at Jasmine, her hands outstretched. She hit Jasmine on her chest, squashing her false boobs. Jasmine fell back across the balcony. Her back hit the handrail sending a bolt of agony through her. Gemma was on her, fingers groping for her neck, pushing her head back over the void.
Jasmine felt her weight shifting, her centre of gravity moving over the pivot of the rail against her back. She reached up with her arms, but shoving Gemma away only pushed herself further over the drop. Lifting her feet to kick at Gemma made her sense of losing her balance worse. She felt herself teetering as Gemma’s hands closed around her throat.
‘Stop Gem!’
The pressure on Jasmine lessened. The hands released her neck. Her knees buckled and she slid down the rail until her bottom touched the floor of the balcony. Carrie had her arms around Gemma’s waist and was pulling her backwards while the girl flailed her arms.
Jasmine pushed herself to her feet and made a grab for Gemma’s wrists as she struggled to free herself from Carrie’s grip. Gemma kicked out wildly but Jasmine stepped between the girl’s legs and pushed her and Carrie back through the door into the bedroom. The maul toppled, Carrie released her grip and rolled free as Jasmine pinned Gemma down, pressing her hands to the floor.
‘Get Angela,’ Jasmine gasped as she struggled to hold the wriggling Gemma down.  Carrie scrambled to her feet and ran to the door, fumbled with the lock, pulled the door open and went.
Jasmine pressed down on the girl with all her weight, just holding her until she gradually subsided and lay still.  Padding feet announced arrivals. The ceiling light came on.
‘What’s happened? Jasmine? Are you alright?’ Angela said.
Jasmine shifted her weight onto her knees, taking it off the girl who lay on the wooden floor. She continued to hold Gemma’s wrist and was ready for any sign that the girl was going to resume her struggle. Gemma lay still, her face turned to the side.
‘Help me hold Gemma,’ Jasmine said, ‘She may just think she can run away.’  Angela came to her side, knelt down and took Gemma’s hand. Jasmine swung herself to the side of the girl while still holding her other arm. Jasmine got to her feet and with Angela helped Gemma to stand.
‘What’s been going on?’ Angela said.
‘I think we have Raquel’s killer,’ Jasmine said.
Gemma twisted, wrenching her hand from Angela’s grasp. She swung her arm with the weight of her body behind it, slamming her hand into Jasmine’s face. Jasmine’s grasp slipped from Gemma’s wrist. She raised a hand to cup her injured cheek. Gemma turned and ran to the balcony.
‘No, Gemma!’ Carrie cried.
Jasmine turned and through one eye saw the girl vault the rail and disappear into the darkness.
……………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.

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A selfie in the mirror.

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

Falloff – Part 5

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

Jasmine warned

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

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

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

Penny ears

I hear no hate

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

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

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

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

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

Falloff: Part 3

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