Jasmine empathises

There is a row going on about whether human rights in the UK will be damaged by the Brexit Great Repeal Bill. I don’t want to see any reining back of our rights as human beings but I have to say that as a gender-fluid person I am feeling more comfortable when I am out and about. Either that or I’ve lost all feeling of being examined and judged.

While I dress in skirts or dresses, and wear jewellery and make-up I don’t try, any longer, to mimic a woman by wearing false breasts or a feminine wig. Yet visiting a number of different towns in recent weeks I have been struck by how comfortable I feel and the lack of strange looks.  Everyone who I have spoken to has treated me as a normal person which is very gratifying and encouraging.  I wish everyone, regardless of their colour, ethnicity, sexuality, gender identity or disability felt the same.

I hope I am not being naïve.

 

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With Sharon, a lovely person, especially as she purchased all three Jasmine Frame novels

Last week’s trip to Llanidloes went very well and I was fascinated by the tattooed convention goers. They are themselves, perhaps another maligned community, but for that weekend I (in male persona this time) was in the minority. But they bought some books which was great and I had a good time with the other authors and visiting an area of the country I adore.

 

I returned cheered and more optimistic about my writings and publications, so here is the next part of Viewpoint, the Jasmine Frame prequel. The three novels, Painted Ladies, Bodies By Design and The Brides’ Club Murder, follow sequentially over a fairly short time period after this story.

Viewpoint: Part 5

Jasmine let out a silent yell of glee and quickly wrote down the information in her notebook and on a slip of paper. She tapped at the computer keyboard and printed out a map, then stood up, picked up her jacket and strode to Sloane’s office.
‘There. I’ve got an i.d. on the victim.’ She dropped the notepaper in front of the DCI. ‘He was on the list of a Gender Identity Clinic. There’s his name and address although that is apparently over a year out of date.’
Sloane picked up the piece of paper and read out the name. ‘Alfie Benson. Male? Why do you say that this address in Weymouth is out of date?’
Jasmine had the answer. ‘The GIC says that he has not replied to their letters and emails for a year so they are not sure he was living there before he died.’
Sloane continued to stare at the note. ‘Why was, er, his body dumped in Kintbridge if he was living in Weymouth?’ he muttered.
‘Exactly.’ Jasmine turned away and started to walk out of the office.
‘Where are you going, Frame?’
‘Exeter.’
Sloane growled, ‘DS Palmerston told you to work here.’
‘I’ve done what she wanted. I’ve identified the victim. Now I’m going to speak to people who knew him.’
‘Why not go to Weymouth?’
‘Because I know there are people at the Exeter clinic who can tell me about Alfie. There may be no-one in Weymouth who knows him.’
‘DS Palmerston is in charge of the case, Frame. She’ll allocate her staff.’
‘I’m the best person to speak to the GIC staff. I attend one myself.’ Jasmine didn’t wait for Sloane to come up with any other reasons for her to stay. She hurried to the exit. Sloane didn’t follow nor call after her.

Jasmine glanced at the dashboard of the Fiesta. Petrol was low. She hadn’t thought about fuel when she leapt into the car and headed south out of Kintbridge. The old car wasn’t going to get all the way to Exeter on the fumes left in the tank. As the wipers half-heartedly dispersed the rain from the windscreen she saw the sign for a service station ahead. She pulled in, filled the tank and went into the shop to pay. It was then that she realised that it wasn’t just the car running on empty. It was past lunchtime and she hadn’t eaten since breakfast. She bought a BLT sandwich and tore open the packet before she got back into the driver’s seat. She set off again along the A303, munching on the bread.
It was another two hours and already getting dark when she reached the city. Now she had to find the clinic from the address and the map she’d pulled off the computer back in the station. She had a sudden desire for a satnav or one of those smart phones that included one. After one or two mistakes, she pulled into the parking area at the front of a large Victorian house, just as her mobile phone gave out its ring tone. She dug it out of her bag, saw that it was Palmerston and dropped it back in. The phone fell silent.
Jasmine approached the main door, found it unlocked and stepped into a hallway that had once been grand but now needed a fresh coat of paint on the walls and woodwork. A reception room was on the left. There were two people sitting waiting. One was a middle-aged woman in a knee length dress and sheer tights with shoulder length blonde hair. A wig, Jasmine guessed. The other was a young man wearing track suit bottoms and a hoody. They were sitting apart and avoided eye contact with Jasmine. She knew how they felt. When she had first attended her GIC she had felt like hiding and thought that everyone was staring at her and wondering about her gender.
A woman in white uniform sat at a desk. ‘Can I help you?’ she said in a welcoming voice.
Jasmine pulled her warrant card from her pocket and showed it to the receptionist. ‘I’ve come to speak to a nurse, Hazel Sullivan, who I’ve been in contact with.’
‘Ah, yes, Hazel is on duty. I’ll see if she is available.’ She picked up a phone and put through a call. She spoke quietly and soon put the phone down.
‘Hazel will see you now. She’s in the office next door to here.’
Jasmine said thank you and left the room noting that the two pairs of eyes of the patients, or clients, followed her covertly. As she looked up the hallway to see where she was headed, the door opened and a short, chubby, woman in a blue nurse’s uniform stepped out.
‘DC Frame?’ she said advancing towards Jasmine with her hand outstretched.
‘Yes, Ms Sullivan?’ Jasmine said shaking the hand.
‘Hazel. Come on in,’ she said as she turned and re-entered the room. Jasmine noted that it was furnished partly as an office with a desk and two chairs and partly a lounge with a small sofa and armchair grouped around a coffee table. Hazel pointed to the sofa.
‘Take a seat. This is where we chat to patients. It’s a bit more welcoming than the medical examination rooms.’
Jasmine nodded. She settled herself on the sofa and tugged her skirt down her thighs. ‘I’ve been in a similar room,’ she said.
‘Ah, yes. You’re GD too. How long have you been in the system?’ Hazel sat in the armchair and examined her closely.
‘It’s nearly two years since I decided to transition but only eighteen months since I began. Then it was six months before I got my first appointment.’
Hazel nodded. ‘Yes, it does take a long time, if you have to go with the NHS.’
‘Like Alfie?’ Jasmine was relieved to move the conversation away from herself.
‘That’s right, but he was with us longer than you have been.’
‘Oh, how long?’
Hazel leapt up to pick up a folder from the desk. She opened it.
‘Six years,’ she said, ‘He was just eighteen when he had his first appointment.’
‘So, he was twenty-four now, when he died.’
‘That’s right.’
‘That’s quite a while to be in the queue,’ Jasmine commented.
Hazel frowned. ‘It is, but Alfie was in and out of it a bit.’
‘Why?’
‘He had mental health issues – depression. There was always the question about his fitness for transitioning.’
‘That held up his treatment?’
‘Yes, and he was never able to apply for his Gender Recognition Certificate.’
‘But he lived as a man.’
‘Oh yes.’
‘And he had a double mastectomy,’ Jasmine added keen to confirm Alfie’s maleness.
Hazel nodded. ‘Yes, that was his one bit of luck, if you can call it that.’
‘What do you mean?’
‘His mother died from breast cancer when he was a teenager and his aunt, his mother’s sister, died of it soon after. Alfie had a test and was found to carry the BRCA gene. Do you know what that means?’
‘Yes. Alfie was likely to get it too.’
‘Alfie was offered the mastectomy as risk-reducing surgery. It would have been delayed if there was a chance pf Alfie having children but he insisted on having it immediately. All FtMs want rid of their breasts. He refused breast reconstruction but because he was under our care we managed to get some cosmetic treatment to give him a more masculine chest.’
‘But that was as far as he went?’
‘Yes. There was the possibility of having his ovaries removed for a similar reason but it was delayed and as I mentioned we have lost touch with him in the last year.’
‘What about hormones – was he on testosterone?’
‘Not with us. The question-marks over his mental state meant that we couldn’t prescribe him medication. There was one occasion when he got testosterone off the internet. He nearly got thrown off the programme for that.
Jasmine sighed. ‘So, he was probably depressed because he couldn’t get treatment for his gender dysphoria.’
Hazel shrugged. ‘Probably but that wasn’t the root cause of his mental problems.’
‘Oh, what was?’
‘Well, I’m not a psychiatrist, but his notes suggest that it was the loss of his mother just when he was going through puberty – growing the breasts, having periods, all that – and the abuse by his father.’
Jasmine’s eyes opened wide. ‘Abuse?’
‘He beat Alfie when he refused to wear dresses and when he had his hair cut short, and he raped him.’
‘Did this come to court?’
Hazel shook her head. ‘Alfie didn’t reveal it until he came to us and he didn’t want to go to the police. He left home at sixteen and was a bit of a mess. It’s quite amazing that he got himself together enough to even start coming here.’
Jasmine was struggling to take in what Alfie’s life must have been like to transition with a father like that. She realised that she had had it easy – an understanding wife, generally supportive family and friends and a helpful employer, up to a point. But the difficulties she had experienced with DCI Sloane and DS Palmerston gave her some feeling for the turmoil that Alfie had undergone. On top of the abuse from her father, Alfie had faced the catch 22 of not being deemed sane enough to go through life-threatening and altering surgery so was left in an intermediate state.
‘Alfie still had his original birth certificate,’ Jasmine stated. Without a Gender Recognition Certificate, he couldn’t have changed that document even though he’d changed his name.
‘That’s right. The name he was given at birth was Lucy Taylor.’
‘Oh, he changed his surname too?’ Jasmine had kept her surname when she transitioned but she knew that some transsexuals used the opportunity of changing their forenames to give up every aspect of their former lives.
‘Yes, Alfie didn’t want any reminder of his father. Benson was his mother’s maiden name.’
Jasmine scribbled in her notebook. She stopped and looked at Hazel. ‘So why did he stop responding to your letters and messages?’

………….to be continued.

 

 

Jasmine returns

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A selfie of me at the Pride event that was part of the Ludlow Fringe Festival

I did something earlier this week that I didn’t used to do.  I was giving a talk about being transgender and mentioned both my male and femme names. At one time I would never reveal my male identity when I was being Penny, but my use of two names is one of the remaining  indications that I can’t completely get rid of my gender stereotypes. I may have given up wearing a wig and false breasts to accentuate my femininity but I still present myself as male or female.  Gender fluid, I think I am, but non-binary is a difficult concept to realise. Most people still want to categorise you as one or the other and forms still demand a title without giving a genderless option – unless you happen to be a Dr or Rev.  Most important is the need to blend in rather than making an issue out of my gender.

I chose my femme name a long time ago because I didn’t consider that my male name, Peter, worked for me as a female.  Yes, I know there are feminine variants such as Peta and Petra (I have known women with both those names) but I didn’t feel comfortable with them. I wished I had one of those names that could be used for either gender. There are names used by both genders, such as Evelyn, Hilary, Leslie/Lesley, Lee/Leigh and Robin (male in UK, female in USA) or names that have a genderless diminutive e.g. Chris (Christopher/Christine), Alex (Alexander/Alexandra), Nicky (Nicholas/Nicola) etc. There are new names which are genderless  such as the hippy names  River and Willow, and others, like Jayden, that I don’t know where they come from .  As I am not going to change my legal name then I think I am stuck with Peter and Penny although I may use them interchangeably.

Choosing names for characters is one of the important but fun parts of planning a story. A character’s name must not be anachronistic and can convey their origins both in ethnicity and class.  I chose Jasmine as the femme name for my transsexual detective, back in 2001, because I thought it sounded a little unusual and exotic. In fact it is a much more common girl’s name than I thought but I’m afraid Jasmine is Jasmine now. Many of the trans characters I have created have pairs of names that connect such as Glen and Glenda when Jasmine was acting as a transvestite and Sandy/Sandra (both spoilers from Painted Ladies.). Vernon/Valerie and Gerald/Geraldine (The Brides’ Club Murder), David/Diana (Darkroom), Andy/Andrea (Aberration) are some of the many others. I don’t think that trans people do choose names like that but I think it helps readers to connect the male and female sides of the character.

There are no new names of characters yet in Viewpoint, the new prequel to Painted Ladies, but we’re only at part three so far.  Here it is.

Viewpoint: Part 3

Jasmine let the hot water cascade over her for minutes longer than her usual showers. She knew the electricity meter would be spinning but she waited till the last vestige of cold had been driven from her body. All the while she saw that cold corpse lying on the towpath. She tried to make sense of what she had seen. When she finally turned the shower off she felt she had an image of the person it had been, and she was worried.
She stepped from the cubicle and quickly wrapped a towel around herself, not merely to dry her body and keep warm but to avoid having to see herself naked. Her body didn’t match her self-image. Surgery was needed for the most dramatic transformation but that was a long way off. Nevertheless, now she was taking the drugs she was hoping for some changes but the hormones had yet to make a noticeable change to her figure. The doctor at the gender clinic had not been too confident of her developing the breasts she desired and nothing could change her broad shoulders and narrow pelvis. Still, she had hopes that one day her body would be recognisably female.
Once dressed in thick tights, a colourful but short woollen skirt and a thick jumper over her bra and false breasts, she prepared her breakfast. She was later than usual and there were things to do – not a lot, but she needed to continue preparations for going into business. She was munching a piece of toast and peanut butter when her mobile phone gave out its urgent ring.
She picked it up and wasn’t surprised to see that it was Tom Shepherd calling. Of course, they would want a statement from her on the discovery of the body.
‘Hi, Tom,’ she said cheerfully.
‘Jas! How are you? Have you warmed up?’
‘Yes, I’m fine now, Tom, but it was cold out there.’
‘Yeah. Look, you’re needed here.’
‘Where?’
‘The station.’
‘For my statement?’
‘Not just that. Sloane wants you on the case.’
Jasmine felt her muscles tense and heart beat increase.
‘But, Tom, I’m not part of the team any more. I resigned. Remember?’
‘I know that, Jas, but you’re still employed to the end of the month, aren’t you?’
‘Yes, I know, but what is it called? Gardening leave? I’m not expecting to work as a police officer anymore. I’m sure Palmerston doesn’t want to see me in that office again.’
There wasn’t an immediate reply but Jasmine heard conversation at the other end, and one familiar raised voice. The muffled exchange was brief.
‘Frame, are you there?’ It was DS Denise Palmerston’s voice blaring at her from the phone.
‘Yes I am. I thought I was talking to DC Shepherd,’ Jasmine said as calmly as she could manage.
‘Well, it’s me telling you to get yourself to this office, now!’
‘I’m not part of the V&SCU,’ Jasmine insisted, knowing that she was just dragging out the inevitable. What DS Palmerston wanted she invariably got.
‘Do you want me to send out a car to arrest you for obstructing an investigation.’
‘No, but . . .’
‘You are still a police officer, DC Frame. Get here now.’ There was an abrupt click of the call being ended. Jasmine imagined that if Palmerston could have slammed the phone down on its cradle she would have done. Perhaps, fortunately, you couldn’t make the same gesture with a mobile phone.
She wondered why her senior officers were so keen to call her into the Violent and Serious Crime Unit’s office. It surely wasn’t because Denise Palmerston valued her assistance on a case; her tone revealed her discomfort at that prospect. So why had DCI Sloane taken the initiative of bringing her in? That presumably was the cause of the DS’s anger – having to accede to her boss’ request. Jasmine wasn’t looking forward to facing the female detective again but she was intrigued enough by the case and the reasons for her recall to want to find out more. She pulled on her boots, put on her old puffer jacket, grabbed her bag, dropped her phone in it and was about to open the door when she remembered the electric fire. It had been blasting out heat on full power now for a couple of hours and she had got used to the comfort. She turned the fire off knowing that the flat would be cold when she returned but did not want to deplete her meagre funds.
She got into the red Fiesta and turned the ignition key. She was always grateful when the engine started but was not sure how she could perform as a private detective, which would presumably mean a lot of time spent on the streets, with the battered old Ford. At least it was pretty undistinguished and she could not foresee being able to afford a newer model until her income grew, if ever.
It took just a few minutes to drive into the centre of town and to pull into the police station carpark. That action felt both familiar and strange – it wasn’t something she had expected to be doing after walking out a couple of weeks ago. She tried to feel confident as she entered the building and strode passed the desk.
Sgt Gorman glared at her and growled, ‘I thought you weren’t coming back.’
‘Sorry to disappoint you GG but this is as unexpected for me as it is for you.’ Jasmine continued through the secure door without a hesitation. She climbed the stairs to the unit office and only paused, for just a moment, as she pushed the door open. There was a small group of people standing around the whiteboard, the sign that a case conference was taking place. Tom Shepherd turned his head, saw her and smiled. He drew himself up to his full two meters plus height and nodded for her to come and join him. The other two male officers, Derek Kingston and Terry Hopkins, like Tom were facing DS Palmerston who was at the board.
‘Ah, we have Detective Constable Frame,’ Palmerston said. ‘We are pleased to see you, aren’t we gentlemen.’ Her tone revealed the exact opposite but Kingston responded with a smile towards her. Hopkins managed to hide any emotion at her reappearance. ‘Come and join us and give us the wisdom of your experience,’ Palmerston continued in the falsely gracious voice. Jasmine took her place beside Tom, and undid the zip on her jacket. She wasn’t going to make it look as though she had slipped comfortably back into her old environment, but it was warm in the office.
‘We were going over the facts in the case,’ the DS explained. ‘We have a body with no clothes or means of identification so our first problem is finding out who this woman was.’
Jasmine half raised her right hand as if in a classroom. ‘Um,’ she muttered to draw attention to herself while wondering if she needed to or even desired it.
‘Yes, DC Frame,’ Palmerston’s eyes glared at her as if wishing to strike her dead for daring to interrupt. ‘You have a contribution to make.’
‘Yes,’ Jasmine said, ‘I don’t know how much has been reported about the body, but I don’t think the deceased was a woman.’
Palmerston’s eyebrows rose and her cheeks took on a pink tinge. Jasmine felt, rather than saw, the three men stiffen beside her. They were either expecting the DS to explode in rage or had been jerked out of their complacency by her words.
Denise Palmerston spoke softly and slowly, ‘I know you were suffering from the early stages of hypothermia at the time, DC Frame, but I am sure that you in particular might have noticed that the body lacked a penis. In fact, she has, according to the pathologist, the complete female genitalia – vulva, vagina and clitoris. But of course, you don’t consider them a necessary part of being a woman do you.’
The three male officers squirmed. Jasmine told herself to remain calm. To have made such a blatant reference to her pre-op transsexual status Palmerston was obviously going to the limit to incite her.
‘Yes, I did observe that, ma’am,’ Jasmine said equally quietly and carefully, ‘I also observed that the body had had a double mastectomy. Coupled with the short hair and a hint of beard growth I suggest that the person was a transitioning transman, a female to male transsexual.’
‘There are other reasons for having a mastectomy,’ Palmerston’s voice had risen a few tones. ‘Cancer for example. She was a woman.’
Jasmine took a deep breath. ‘We have different viewpoints,’ she said, ‘but I think the possibility that I suggested should be taken into consideration when seeking the i.d.’
‘I think DC Frame has a point.’
The three men and Jasmine turned to see the speaker, DCI Sloane, standing in the doorway of his office as imposing as ever in his three-piece grey suit.
Sloane went on, ‘I think you should take the possibility that this person presented as a male in planning the investigation.’ He turned around and returned to his office. Jasmine wondered how much he had been listening to the exchange between her and Palmerston.
The DS sniffed, shook her head and pulled herself upright. ‘We shall use all the evidence available to identify the victim and determine what and who caused her death.’

…………………..to be continued.

 

 

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.

………………

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.

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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.