Jasmine and September

WP_20170826_14_01_13_ProAnother weekend, another Bookfair (or author-signing-event as they are sometimes called).  Today it is Wellington in Shropshire – almost local.  Let’s hope this event actually attracts keen readers who want to browse the books on offer and even buy some.  It will be my first opportunity to offer Cold Fire for sale, in advance of my official launch next week (Leominster Library 2.00 – 6.30 p.m. Thursday 19th Oct.).

Last Saturday I was in the position of reader at Crickhowell Literary Festival. A very pleasant event in venues scattered across the town. One talk, or rather discussion, featured two ex-policemen who had (or are) retiring having fallen to PTSD. They had turned to writing to express their feelings and ended up publishing books, one fiction (supposedly, although it reads more like an autobiography with added action) and the other an non-fiction account of his career and illness.  I don’t know how good the books are (I’m reading one and am not impressed) but both picked up publishing contracts with apparent ease. Why – because of their jobs (senior Met officers); because of their undoubtedly exciting life-stories; or, because they are good writers? I wonder.

I finally got round to watching the Horizon programme on transitioning by transsexual men and women. It followed half a dozen, mainly trans-women, as they embarked on the medical aspects of transitioning, not just gender-confirmation-surgery, but also vocal chord surgery, testosterone injections for transmen, et al. All the subjects made the point that social transitioning i.e. coming out to family, friends and colleagues, was the most difficult part however painful and difficult the surgery.  It was a good, straightforward account of what transsexuals have to go through to achieve the bodies they want (need?), with enough bloody detail to make you want to look away from time to time.  All the subjects seemed well-balanced and cheerful even if they had had difficult times earlier in their transition, but the programme did not attempt to make judgements or bang a drum for more gender clinics or increased availability of surgery.

20170930_130307I was interested, but not for myself.  It is Jasmine that is a transwoman seeking to achieve the body of a woman and prepared to accept the pain and discomfort that involves.  The fourth Jasmine Frame novel, Molly’s Boudoir, which I am writing in fits and starts at the moment, takes place as, and just after, Jasmine has her GCS, but even that won’t be the end of her transition.  Although in law a woman and now with a vagina she still seeks that alteration that makes her appear more feminine and thereby matches her self-image.  I am not the same.  For many years I have been uncertain of where I stood.  While I feel a degree of femininity, I have never wanted to go through everything that Jasmine wants. Now, I think I have found my place in the spectrum.  I’m gender-fluid; I am comfortable wearing feminine clothes, jewellery, make-up, but I oppose any sort of gender stereotyping, detest exceptional macho-male behaviour but do not see in  myself a girly or motherly woman.

As I mentioned, the 4th Jasmine novel is taking some time to write partly because of other things happening round here, and the time taken to promote Cold Fire along with my other novels. There is also a hint of a demand for another September Weekes novel (the fifth!) while I have ideas for other novels in different settings with different lead characters. Perhaps soon I’ll have more time to think and write. . . How many times has that been said.  Watch this space.

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Jasmine in her own words

As you read this, assuming it is just after it published, I am hopefully selling books at the Sandbach book-signing event. This is the second of these bookfairs that I’ve attended and there are more happening over the next year. I am hoping that there will be hordes of eager readers willing  to dip hands in pockets to buy books from me and the dozens of other authors.  If there aren’t then it will have been a waste of writing time.

51cn5-pvU3LGender remains up there in news and comment consciousness. I note that next week’s Horizon is concerned with transitioning and being transsexual.  Gender is also the subject of this year’s Royal Society science book of the year.  The prestigious award has been won by Testosterone Rex by Cordelia Fine (published by Icon Books).  Apparently Fine challenges the pre-eminent position of testosterone in driving male psychology and the fundamental role of biological sex in the development of gender identity and culture.  I haven’t read it yet but I am looking forward to doing so and seeing the responses. It has already received many reviews.

Gender fluidity is even a theme of  W1A the BBC spoof of, yes, the BBC. For those of you who don’t watch the sit-com it is concerned with the knots the BBC management ties itself in to try to appear balanced, inclusive, on message, and popular. The theme involves a retired footballer who has come out as trans, who wants to be a football pundit (on Match of the Day) but who is actually quite rubbish at it. If he is booted off the programme the management don’t want it to appear because he wears a dress, and so the farce builds. I love W1A and all its characters and I am hoping they have got this right. I hope it never slides into treating a bloke in a dress as being funny in itself.

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cover mediumLast week I completed the latest Jasmine Frame prequel, Viewpoint.  There will be a rest now for a few weeks while other things take precedence.  The main event coming up is the launch of the paperback version of Cold Fire – watch this space.  To fill the gap here is something I’ve been meaning to do for a while –  Jasmine speaking for herself. In fact it was suggested that this whole blog should be “written by” Jasmine.  Here is her autobiography.

Jasmine Frame – in her own words

While I was waiting for the date of my gender confirmation surgery, my doctors suggested I might like to write about myself, my journey, my life. So I have. In some ways, it is a final farewell to James Frame, in others it is a search for an explanation of who I am.

I was born in 1983 in Hastings on the south coast of England. Nothing special in that and nothing at all special in my early years. My father was an engineer on some big civil projects so was away quite often. My mother stayed home until I went to school and then went back to work for the county records office. She had a history degree and was an amateur archaeologist. Apart from me there was my sister, Holly who is four years older.

My earliest memories are of playing in a park with Holly and Mum. I have no early recollections of being gender confused or of denying I was a boy. I don’t think I was even conscious of gender until I was quite a bit older. However, I do recall playing with Holly and her friends. They never seemed to mind me being around when they were trying to get on with their own play but I do remember them using me as a sort of large and animated doll. I suppose lots of girls make use of their younger brothers in the same way and I am sure that we don’t all end up trans. Holly dressed me in her old dresses which for some reason Mum kept even when they no longer fitted. I seem to think I was quite happy to go along with the play and actually enjoyed the feel of the smooth and shiny satin and the swish of the dress on my legs. Holly went off to high school and more grown up interests while I got on with my own growing. I had girl and boy friends at primary school, played with Lego and cars as well as enjoying arty pastimes. I do realise now that I was a little bit of a loner, always content with my own company and not much of a team player. In fact, I didn’t get into team sports at all.

It was during my last year at junior school that I discovered that I could run a bit. My parents took up my teachers’ suggestions and enrolled me at the local athletics club. Throughout my secondary school career, I practiced regularly and often with boys and girls. I was county age-group champion at 400 and 800 metres at various times. The fact that I was competing in boys’ events was barely an issue.

It was only when puberty slugged me with a right hook that I became conscious of gender. It sounds silly but I don’t think I had thought about what growing up as a man or woman meant. Holly had her education and career mapped out, certainly not planning on getting married early and having children soon. With Mum taking on more hours of work as I got older I never saw men and women as being different with respect to employment. But growing facial hair, my voice breaking and getting erections made me realise that I was a boy – at least physically.

I was about fourteen when I began to have the thoughts. Perhaps they were a throwback to Holly’s dressing games but I realised that I didn’t want to turn into a hulking, macho, testosterone fuelled bloke. That’s when the urge to find another persona for myself started to take hold; and a different character meant different clothes. Although Holly was about to go off to university, she was still living at home and some of her clothes were left in her bedroom even when she was away. I began to experiment. Holly and I were a similar size then, in fact, I’m only slightly taller than her now.

The feel of a skirt, of a tight top, of tights and yes, finally, a bra, became familiar. At first it was exciting and arousing. I worried myself sick when once or twice I nearly spurted cum over Holly’s skirt. Soon though, becoming Jasmine ceased to have any masturbatory effect and simply became me in girl mode. It was the late 90s by now and I had access to a computer at home and the internet. I found out words for what I was – transvestite, transsexual I wasn’t sure which – but I did realise that being found out could make life difficult.

Fear of discovery did not stop me experimenting with Holly’s and Mum’s make-up. During holidays, when both were out of the house, I ventured out into town. I avoided the cafes and parks where my friends and school colleagues hung out, and instead went shopping. I used my pocket money to buy a few items of my own. With my blonde hair, quite long at that time, and fair complexion, I found I passed easily as a girl. Shop assistants, even if they sussed me, were eager to make a sale so I had few difficulties.

I became a little complacent I suppose and took to adopting my persona as Jasmine whenever I had the house to myself. That was why when I was 17, Holly discovered my secret. I’ve got to hand it to her, she was pretty calm and was soon advising me on styles of dress and cosmetics. She helped me keep my secret from Mum and Dad.

Going to Bristol to study for a history degree was a big move. I was free to be myself, or was I? Surrounded by other students I could have been drawn into a male world I suppose. As it happened the first guy I met turned out to be gay and he introduced me to other gays and lesbians. I was persuaded to let on that I was trans. And then I met Angela. She wasn’t a lesbian, no way, but she had friends who were and was very open. We hit it off straight away and for some reason she was as keen on Jasmine as James. For a time, I attended lectures and seminars as James but spent a lot of my social life, largely with Angela, as Jasmine, but gradually they all blurred together. Life was so busy and fun that I didn’t really consider where I stood on the gender spectrum or what would happen when university life came to an end. All I was sure of was that I wanted to be with Angela and she felt the same about me.

Of course, we were having sex, eagerly and often, from early in our relationship. She was the woman and I was the man – I had the penis. Making love was very pleasurable but I noticed that when we were having intercourse I could imagine that it was me being penetrated not Angela. It didn’t bother me – we were both feeling satisfied and I enjoyed being Jasmine.

Finishing university was a bit of a shock. We joined the real world embarking on careers, finding somewhere to live and fitting into society. I had settled on the police as a career. Why? Well I suppose my brief adventures with the law had sparked my interest and history seemed to have elements of crimes investigation. I was lucky to be recruited and to get on a training course. I had no real idea what the police reaction would be to my gender flipping although the Gender Recognition Act was just coming into force, but I thought it wise to keep Jasmine hidden from my superiors and colleagues. Angela was getting into her career in commercial accountancy and we decided to make our relationship official by getting married.

If I had thought that getting down to work as a police officer, with all the training that involved, and putting a home together, would make me a man I was wrong. Being Jasmine was a way of relaxing but I also found that increasingly my feelings about being a woman were growing. The urge to be female became more intense and I didn’t want to stop it. Angela was very understanding. Perhaps she had realised all along that that was the path we were on.

Becoming a detective and member of the Violent and Serious Crime Unit was the peak of my ambition, but it also brought increased stress. Now being Jasmine permanently became my greatest desire. I resisted it for a time because I knew, we both knew, that it would mean Angela and I splitting up. Then it was still necessary for married couples to divorce if one of them wanted to transition and obtain a GRC. Finally, though, the decision had to be made. Angela was supportive, so was Holly, but my mother wasn’t. Dad had died from cancer, a few years earlier and now she thought she was losing the other man in her life.

I started transitioning in the summer of 2010. I knew Angela and I would part. The sex in our relationship had always been important to her and she had always been straight. Whatever my fantasies had been she had always taken delight in having good old-fashioned heterosexual sex. I didn’t want to take that away from her but also didn’t want to be piggy in the middle of an “open” marriage. So we split, and I moved out. Angela was by now earning far more than my police officer’s salary and the financial separation was relatively straightforward. What I had not bargained for was my career falling apart. The police service management was helpful and supportive but that couldn’t be said for one or two of my colleagues. Perhaps I could have and should have stuck it out but I didn’t and so Frame Investigations was born.

Then Viv appeared on the scene. I’m dearly looking forward to having the body I’ve imagined myself to have for years. The future is a bit misty but I am looking forward to entering it as Jasmine Frame.

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Jasmine at an ending

In the last week there have been two minor bits of news that have got me fuming. The first was a secondary school’s announcement that it was introducing a gender neutral school uniform.  In other words all the students, male, female and gender-fluid, would have to wear the same outfit of trousers, shirt and, I think, blazer and tie. They said this was to be inclusive to transgender students. I don’t think they actually asked any pupils for their opinions or ideas before making the decision, perhaps they did, but I doubt it. The point is that the uniform is not gender neutral, it is male. Now, girls often wear trousers and a shirt but I doubt whether all girls want to wear trousers and a shirt all the time.  I’ll come back to that in moment.

The second item was the “Christian” mother and father who withdrew their “confused” six year old son from a C of E primary school because the school had allowed another pupil who had been classed as a boy to wear a dress.  It’s not clear whether the gender-variant pupil was making a permanent change from male to female or was taking it day to day. In this case the school was following the law of the UK, following the 2010 Equality Act, recognising that gender is not dependent on what bits you have between your legs and giving transgender people the same rights as every one else. Secondly the C of E recently adopted, at last, an inclusive and welcoming attitude to transgendered people of all ages.  The critical parents have no cause to complain about the school’s action and if they want to lock their child away from an inclusive and diverse society they can home-school him. I fear for their child. The other child I hope will continue to receive support from his school, parents and peers.

What irritates me is that both cases show people just not getting this gender thing. If a school really wants to have a gender neutral uniform policy then allow all students to wear what they like within a set list of trousers, skirts (or dresses), shirts, blouses, and whatever else is deemed necessary. The clothes themselves are not gender specific; it is people that make stereotypical assumptions about what people wear. There is nothing about a skirt that makes it exclusively female other than preconceptions. Also of course, gender identity isn’t just about clothes, but that’s a longer story.

Gender stereotypes are not only discriminatory to those who identify with a gender that does not match their physical attributes. They also have a negative effect on boys and girls generally.  99% of boys are happy being boys and probably never think about their gender. The same applies to 99% of girls. But stereotypical attitudes such as girls are weak, cannot do maths, while boys are boisterous and don’t do emotions, hold back boys’ and girls’ development in many different areas. I would advocate removing all stereotypical gender clues from homes, schools, everywhere in fact, and let children’s gender identity grow naturally. The result may be more rounded characters of boys and girls, and more toleration of those that are different to the 99%.

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Next Saturday I will at another Bookfair, once again offering my Jasmine Frame and September Weekes books for sale at very generous prices.  Come and have a look around Sandbach.21231716_1488469007907635_8734692676374905958_n

And finally, we’ve reached the final episode of Viewpoint, chronologically the last prequel before Painted Ladies.  Comments welcome.

Viewpoint: Part 14

DC Kingston looked blank for a moment, then nodded.
‘I see. Stay here. Taylor’s in the next room, but when Tom and Terry have finished talking to him they may send him back to the cells. I’ll be back soon.’ He turned and left the room leaving Jasmine sitting with a cold cup of coffee and cold slice of toast. She ate the toast.

Almost half an hour passed and Jasmine was fidgeting with boredom. At last the door opened and Derek entered.
‘We’ve got response teams looking for your Harold up and down the canal. Tom and Terry have just finished Taylor’s interrogation. He didn’t answer any of their questions. The custody officer is going to take him, back to the cell in a minute or two. Come and stand in the corridor.’
Jasmine got up and followed her colleague. They stood a few feet along from the door into the other interview room. The moments passed and Jasmine wondered what she should say to Taylor.
A burly uniformed officer passed them and opened the door. A few seconds later, Kevin Taylor emerged. He looked more dishevelled than before, with another day’s growth of beard and heavy eyes.
Jasmine stepped into his path. He stopped and looked at her without registering recognition.
‘I didn’t meet Alfie, but I know what he went through,’ Jasmine began.
‘Don’ know an Alfie,’ Taylor recited like a well-rehearsed refrain.
‘You called him Lucy, but he’d never been your daughter. You knew it, really. Before he left you beat him for saying he was a boy and making himself look masculine.’
Taylor stared at her, not responding, but his eyelids flickered.
Jasmine went on. ‘When he went to Weymouth he got help. He managed to have his breasts removed. But it wasn’t because he was trans. Do you know why he was able to get it done?’
Taylor stood impassive but his head almost moved from side to side.
‘It was because of his mother, your wife, who had supported him. Alfie had her genes and had a high risk of getting breast cancer. So, they gave him the mastectomy that helped him become the man he knew himself to be. But you, his only remaining parent, denied him.’
‘He wasn’t my girl,’ Taylor blurted.
‘Not your girl, but the same person he’d always been. The child of you and your wife, left in your care after his mother died.’
‘It was a bloke that appeared on my doorstep. He said he was my son. I told him I only had a daughter.’
‘He wanted your help. A father’s help.’
Taylor cried out. ‘He wasn’t my girl.’
‘He was the same person,’ Jasmine repeated.
‘She’d had things done to her. Like my darling Rosie. It made me angry to see how she’d changed.’
‘So angry that you had to get rid of him?’
‘Riley said he’d see to her.’
‘He took him away, kept him prisoner, hurt him. You gave your son to two heartless thugs who thought they could have their sadistic fun with someone they barely thought of as human, because you had rejected him. They beat him, raped him, killed him.’
Jasmine saw Taylor’s eyes widening in horror.
‘I didn’t mean them to kill her,’ he appealed. ‘I didn’t know what Riley and Owen were like. When he told me that Lucy was dead I didn’t know what to think.’
‘But they had to get rid of the body so you helped them.’
‘I didn’t know what else I could do.’
‘You helped them put the bodyin the back of your car and drove it to the canal.’
‘Yes.’
‘And dumped the body of your son in the water.’
Taylor raised his hands to his face and sobbed. ‘Yes.’
Derek Kingston stepped forward and took Taylor’s arm. ‘I think we’d better go back into the interview room, Mr Taylor. Perhaps you will answer some questions now that we’ve heard you admit to helping dispose of your son’s body. Maybe you’d like the solicitor that you refused earlier.’
Taylor, shrunken, with tears streaking his grubby cheeks, nodded, and was led by the custody officer back into the interview room.
Derek turned to Jasmine. ‘Thanks. We got our breakthrough. Why don’t you go down to the canteen and get a fresh coffee.’
Jasmine nodded and trudged off reluctantly. She wanted to complete the job and get Taylor’s signed statement admitting his part in Alfie’s death, but she accepted that she wasn’t going to be given that opportunity.

She sat alone at a table, with a steaming mug of instant coffee, munching a soggy sausage roll. The canteen was quiet at this time of day, just a few officers and civilians chatting on their break. The canteen wasn’t very cheery but it was a place of refuge from the often-frenzied work taking place on the floors above. She took a sip of coffee thinking it would probably be the last time she would have to drink the not very palatable fluid.
‘Derek said he’d sent you down here.’
Jasmine looked up to see Tom standing over her. ‘Hi, Tom.’
‘Sloane asked me to find you. He wants to see you.’
Jasmine put her mug down. Another coffee that would turn cold. She stood up. ‘Okay then. I don’t suppose he wants to congratulate me.’
‘You did get us a result, Jas. Derek said how you got Taylor to break down. That was great work.’
‘I was letting my feelings out, that’s all. I just wanted that chance to tell him about his son, making him see that Alfie was the same person as Lucy. The little girl he thought he had brought up had become a young man. Unfortunately, a depressed and disappointed young man.’
‘Well, however you did it, Taylor is now answering questions and with the evidence we’ve got and a witness statement from your mate Harold, we’ve found him by the way, the case against Riley and Owen is wrapped up.’
They climbed the stairs to the V&SCU office. The main room was empty but the door to Sloane’s own office was open.
‘You’d better go in,’ Tom said, urging Jasmine forward. She crossed the room and tapped on the door before stepping into the inner sanctum of Sloane’s domain. He looked up from the pile of files he had in front of him.
‘Ah, Frame.’ His nose creased as his eyes took in Jasmine’s tights, skirt, bosom and lipstick. Jasmine stood in front of his desk not surprised that she was not invited to sit down.
‘I understand that the body in the canal case is all but completed,’ the DCI said.
‘Yes, Sir,’ Jasmine replied wondering what was coming next.
‘So, you can go home and resume your final leave prior to the termination of your employment at the end of the month,’ Sloane continued.
‘Yes, Sir.’
Sloane sniffed and drew in a breath. ‘I am sorry that this is the conclusion of our acquaintance.’
‘Yes, Sir.’ Jasmine found herself stuck in a rut of affirmatives with nothing else to say.
Sloane hadn’t finished however. ‘When you joined this unit, Frame, I had high hopes for you and indeed at first you showed that you had the potential to be a fine detective. But, this change you’ve undergone, are, um, undergoing, has unbalanced you. You have become insubordinate, impetuous, careless of your safety, and have placed responsibilities on your colleagues. That is not good in a member of a team, so while I am sad to lose an officer I think you have made this parting inevitable.’
Jasmine felt her cheeks beginning to flush. ‘Please, Sir, may I say something.’
Sloane’s eyebrows rose in surprise. ‘Yes, of course, Frame.’
She summoned the words for what she felt. ‘The Police Force has been very helpful concerning my transition, Sir, but I don’t think my senior officers in this unit have been so understanding. I was side-lined and left to do the in-office tasks instead of joining in other aspects of investigations. Jobs which I had shown I had an aptitude for. Even in this case, DS Palmerston ignored the information that I supplied regarding the victim.’
Sloane puffed out his cheeks. ‘DS Palmerston has been a very successful senior investigating officer. In fact, I recommended her for promotion to Detective Inspector and as a result she is moving to another post, in Warwickshire, I believe.’
‘Palmerston is leaving?’ Jasmine said, feeling simultaneously victorious and disappointed.
‘Yes. It means I have two places to fill – one for a DS and one a DC. But that won’t concern you Frame. I understand you are becoming a private detective.’ His nose and mouth creased with disdain. ‘I hope you are successful in your new career.’
‘I will be, DCI Sloane, I will be.’ Jasmine turned on her heels and strode out. She passed Tom as she crossed the office.
‘Oh, Jas,’ he called, ‘here are your car keys.’ He held out the Fiesta’s key fob. She took it.
‘Thanks, Tom.’
‘I hope she starts okay. Derek had a bit of trouble last night bringing her back.’
‘She’s temperamental, Tom.’
‘Like her owner.’ Tom’s voice dropped to a whisper, ‘I heard you having a go at Sloane about Denise. I didn’t know she was leaving.’
‘Well, there you are Tom, your chance to get your Detective Sergeant post. Good luck.’
She walked out of the office, waving goodbye to Tom and her career as a police officer.

The End

 

Jasmine answers questions

NAWG Fellowes & me (2)As expected, NAWGFest17 at Warwick University was stimulating and great fun, from the Open Mic session on Friday evening (I did my 5 mins) through the workshops to the Gala Dinner. I attended two excellent sessions on historical fiction (thanks to Tim Wilson), filled in some of the gaps in my knowledge of police procedure (thank you Stephen Booth) and had my vocabulary of emotion  and senses stretched by Anita Loughrey.  It was Anita who won this year’s Minitale Award (100 word story) but I got a certificate for being shortlisted (yippee!).  They were the last of the awards made by Lord Fellowes after the dinner.  The winners and runners-up of the many, many other competitions deserve all the praise.  After the Fellowes’ departure, Peter Robinson (author of the Insp Banks series) gave a fascinating and humorous talk about his life which said a lot for determination, and a little luck.  As always I came away revitalised and looking forward to next year.  Why don’t you join us.

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Munroe Bergdorf was in the news this week having apparently accused all white people of being racist. Bergdorf is a British, mixed-race, trans-woman who is a (very attractive) model.  From her background you would expect her to have quite a knowledge and understanding of prejudice and discrimination. I can understand her statement, which of course got taken out of context by certain media people.  She says that all white people in the UK, USA and elsewhere are still benefitting from the spoils of slavery and colonialism and so share responsibility for the past and present persecution of other races. While it is true that western wealth rests on the exploitation of other peoples, not just historically, I am not sure it is right to infer that all white people are therefore racist. Do children carry guilt for the sins of their fathers and mothers? Do we all bear the stain of original sin? I don’t think so.  While many white people are racist, homophobic, transphobic, etc., it doesn’t follow that we all are. We do have a responsibility to ensure that all people, whatever colour, gender, etc. can live freely in a sustainable lifestyle – which is certainly not the case at the moment. Nevertheless, the bile directed at Munroe only served to rather prove her more right than wrong.

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The climax of Viewpoint was a week or so ago but the story is not over yet. Here is the next episode of the Jasmine Frame prequel.

Viewpoint: Part 13

The alarm woke Jasmine. She reached out an arm to switch it off and groaned as her muscles complained. She forced herself to sit up. There was no chance of going out for a run this morning but she was determined to get up and ready before Tom or whoever came to collect her. She’d given herself plenty of time she thought. It was only 6:30 a.m.
It took her longer than usual to get showered but the hot water did soothe and loosen her muscles. There were still red rings around her ankles and wrists where the cords had constricted her but at least the skin wasn’t broken. She dressed slowly, finding it difficult to bend to pull her tights up her legs.
She was thankful she had risen early when at seven-fifty her mobile rang. It was Tom.
‘Hi, Jas. How are you?’
‘Been better but not too bad.’
‘Good. I just thought I’d let you know that Terry is on his way to pick you up.’
‘That’s early.’
‘Palmerston wants to get you in to take your statement. I think she wanted you off guard. You are ready?’
That would be just like the DS, Jasmine thought. ‘Just. Haven’t had breakfast yet, but then I haven’t got anything in to have anyway.’
‘I’ll pop some toast in the toaster for you and have a cup of coffee ready.’
‘Thanks. See you soon.’
Jasmine had hardly switched off the phone before the doorbell rang. She looked around for a coat to wear. Her puffer jacket was still covered in mud and dead leaves. A woollen jacket that she usually kept for formal occasions was the only substitute. She answered the door while pulling it over her shoulders.
Terry Hopkins stood on the doorstep, glowering.
‘At last. I was beginning to think you weren’t up. You ready, Frame? I seem to be acting like your chauffeur rather too often.’
‘Nice to see you too, Terry,’ Jasmine replied as cheerfully as she could manage. She grabbed her bag and keys and stepped out. ‘I’m ready. Ready and eager.’
Hopkins harrumphed and went to his car. Jasmine joined him in the front and they drove to the police station in silence.

Jasmine followed DC Hopkins into the station foyer and through the security door. She took a step onto the stairs.
‘No, Frame,’ Terry growled. ‘The DS says you’re to go to the interview room to give your statement, not the office.’
‘What?’ Jasmine said. ‘Aren’t I a member of the investigating team?’
‘No, you’re not. Didn’t I hear Palmerston chuck you off it yesterday before you set off for your little adventure.’
‘But I have important information to hand over.’ Jasmine felt indignant but not really surprised by Hopkins’ treatment of her.
‘Which Palmerston says you can put in a statement like any civilian witness.’
‘Civilian!’
‘Well, isn’t that what you want to be in a few days. A member of the public.’
Jasmine gave up trying to argue. ‘Okay. Which one?’
‘Room 2. I think they’ve started on Taylor again in room 1 by now.’
Jasmine followed Terry further down the corridor until he stopped at a door and pushed it open. She entered the drab but brightly-lit room and sat in the chair on the suspect’s and witnesses’ side of the table. Hopkins pulled the door closed and left her alone.
A few minutes later, the door opened and Derek Kingston entered carrying a mug in one hand, a plate in the other and a file of papers under his arm.
‘Tom said to give you these,’ he said placing the mug and plate in front of Jasmine. There were two slices of buttered toast on the plate. Jasmine picked up one slice and started munching. She had known she was hungry but now she realised she was ravenous.
‘DS Palmerston will be here in a minute,’ Derek went on as he sat in the chair opposite her.
Jasmine had managed to stuff all of one slice into her mouth before the DS arrived. She glared at the plate and mug but said nothing and sat beside DC Kingston. Jasmine examined her face as it glowered at her. There was a slight flush, and watery glint in her eye. She’s barely under control, Jasmine thought.
‘So, despite my express order to go home and have nothing more to do with this case you decided to go off on your own,’ Palmerston began.
Jasmine decided it wasn’t a question that needed an answer. She shrugged and stared at the senior officer.
Palmerston continued, ‘Your foolhardy interference has complicated the case and could have got you killed.’
‘That wasn’t part of the plan,’ Jasmine admitted.
‘Plan! You didn’t have a plan.’
‘I found the hut where Alfie had been kept and heard Riley and Gary say things that incriminate them in his murder.’
‘That would have been a lot of good if you were now lying in a shallow grave in the woods.’
Jasmin reluctantly had to admit that that would have been the outcome if Tom and Derek hadn’t turned up when they did. She kept quiet.
‘As it happens, my plan brought results,’ Palmerston said with quiet satisfaction. ‘Shepherd and Kingston followed my orders, followed Taylor to his meeting with Patrick Riley and Gary Owen where we will find evidence of Lucy Taylor’s imprisonment and murder.’
Jasmine noted Palmerston’s words. ‘They haven’t confessed then.’
Palmerston sniffed. ‘Not yet. Owen has incriminated himself but Riley and Taylor are refusing to admit any part in the girl’s death.’
A cough of a laugh escaped from Jasmine’s throat. ‘Well, they can’t wriggle out of what they intended for me.’
‘False imprisonment and actual bodily harm is all,’ Palmerston said. She looked at Jasmine’s wrists which rested on the table, noting the red rings. ‘You didn’t need the hospital so your injuries weren’t much and they say they were just going to frighten you off by putting you in the hole they had dug.’
Now Jasmine laughed loudly. ‘Oh, that’s good. Why would they drive me all the way out there to frighten me?’
‘I’m not bothered about whether they were going to frighten or kill you, Frame. I want an admission of guilt in the killing of Lucy Taylor from all three of them. Now tell us what you were doing there last night and what you heard. DC Kingston will write it down.’
Jasmine sighed and recounted all that had happened the previous evening from getting into the grounds of the park homes until her rescue by Tom. Derek read his notes back to her and she signed them. As soon as it was finished, DS Palmerston got up and stalked out of the room. Derek was about to follow.
‘Hey Derek. Haven’t you found evidence of Alfie being in the hut and her body being carried in Taylor’s Land Rover?’
The DC paused and turned.
‘SOCO have taken various samples from the hut which may prove that Alfie, er, Lucy, was there and had been harmed but there’s so much muck in the back of the pick-up that they’re unlikely to prove that she was carried in it. There’s enough evidence to implicate Riley and Owen but not Taylor.’
‘But it was the three of them that dumped Alfie’s body in the canal,’ Jasmine complained.
‘How do you know that?’
‘Harold saw them.’
‘Harold?’ Derek took a step towards her
‘The boatman. Moored under the bypass. He was walking his dog up by Renham Lock and he saw the three of them dump something in the canal. His description matches Taylor, Riley and Owen. They took it from a vehicle which he described as being very much like Taylor’s truck.’
‘We haven’t got any of that.’
‘No, of course you haven’t. Palmerston didn’t think to send any of you along the canal to see if there were any boaters around that night.’
‘When did you speak to this Harold, guy?’
‘Yesterday afternoon. I went for a run when I got sent home. It was after I heard what he said that I decided to investigate a bit more.’
‘You should have told us.’
‘I was off the case. Remember?’ Jasmine realised that she sounded petulant and obstructive. ‘Okay. I should have rung in. But I was angry. Right?’
Derek looked sympathetic. ‘I understand, Jas. I know you haven’t been treated well and I’m sorry you’re chucking it in, but we could do with Harold, here.’
‘Well, he’ll be on the canal somewhere, not too far away. He lives on an old working boat called Nile.’
Kingston nodded. ‘Taylor’s the problem. He’s pretty cool, cold even. Says he hasn’t seen his daughter since she left home years ago. But if we have a witness that puts him with the other two when her body was dumped. . .’
‘You’ve got to get him to face the fact that his daughter became a man. I think I can do it, Derek.’
‘Denise won’t let you interrogate him.’
‘I know, but perhaps a meeting can be arranged.’ Jasmine winked at Derek.

………………….to be continued.

 

 

Jasmine fears for her life

When this blog goes live I will (or should) be at the UK Indie Lit Fest in Bradford.  There, I hope to meet lots of other writers and sell lots of books – we’ll see.  Next week it’s off to Warwick for the annual NAWG festival which promises to be fun – more of that later.

Not a lot of time for writing in the last week thanks to preparations for the weekends and other stuff.  However I did manage to complete reading Eddie Izzard’s autobiography, Believe Me.  It’s not a long account and reads a little like his stand-up style – stream of consciousness with thought-provoking and amusing asides.  While I found his tales of childhood, school and the decade of training for his career in front of audiences enlightening but I was, of course, most interested to read about his transvestism. It didn’t disappoint.

51KeV+2+txL._AC_US218_Eddie tells of discovering at a pretty young age his urge to put on women’s clothes but it wasn’t till he was starting his comedy career and living in London that he dared to go out dressed. His early trans history seems like many – a fumbling, nervous journey to finding  the styles and appearance that at least partly satisfied the desire to be feminine. Gradually he became more confident and confessed his transvestism to friends and family. I hadn’t realised that it wasn’t till the nineties, when he was already a growing success on the stand-up circuit, that he first went on stage in any feminine guise.  Having found that it didn’t deter audiences he kept at it but made sure that he didn’t become known as a purely trans-comedian. He would do one show in male clothes and another in feminine dress without changing his material.

WP_20170824_12_54_04_ProGradually he came to a similar conclusion about himself as I have done.  He doesn’t attempt to pass as a woman but just confesses to liking wearing heels, makeup, nail varnish and items of feminine clothing.  He seems pretty content.  Izzard calls it “action transvestism”.  I think it is being non-binary or at least blurring the lines between male and female.  Now when I go out, fully dressed and made up in female guise but without boobs or wig, I can’t imagine that I “pass” but it seems to work and I have yet to experience a negative response.  We’ll see this weekend, up north. . .

And so to this week’s episode of Viewpoint, the Jasmine Frame novella.  She’s got herself into a bit of pickle has our Jasmine.  Can she get herself out of it?

Viewpoint: Part 11

‘Er, ‘ello, Mr Taylor. Didna ‘spect to see you ‘ere again.’ Riley replied.
Jasmine opened her eyes to see Gary lowering his arm and stepping away from her. She heard Riley shuffling and the hard sound of boots on the wooden floor.
‘I didn’t expect to see you here either Riley but when you didn’t answer yer phone I thought I’d better come lookin’ for yer.’
‘Sorry, Mr Taylor. I left ma phone in ma cabin.’
‘Yer a fool Riley. What yer doing with another girl here? Yer know the cops have been snooping around.’
‘She wuz ‘ere when we came to clean up the place.’
The heavy steps came closer, and Jasmine found herself looking up into the stubbled face of Alfie’s father.
‘Yer bloody fools,’ he shouted, turning on Riley and his mate. ‘Do yer know who this is?’
‘’im said he was a private dick. ‘im’s a bloke dressed as a tart.’
‘I know,’ Taylor roared, ‘but he’s a copper. He was at my place last night. I don’t know how he did it but somehow, he linked you t’me. That’s why you and I have had visits today from the fuzz.’
‘But they don’t know about this place,’ Riley complained, ‘That’s why we came to clean it up like, so that there’s no sign of yer girl.’
Taylor’s voice rose another pitch. ‘Don’t call her my girl. It wasn’t my princess you did away with. The cops will know of this place now. Unless. . .’ he subsided to almost a whisper, ‘he’s on his own in which case we just have to get rid of him.’
‘That’s what we were goin’ to do,’ Riley sounded proud of himself.
‘Not here, you fucking idiot,’ Taylor shouted. ‘There’ll be more mess to clear up. Get him in the Landie and we’ll cart him off to somewhere where the cops won’t find him.’
‘Where?’ Riley asked.
‘Dunno. Not the fucking canal again tha’s for sure. Just get him out of here and make sure he can’t get away.’
Gary had been standing silently, his knife-holding arm hanging by his side. ‘Don’t we get to have some fun?’
Jasmine heard Riley let out a sigh. ‘Don’t you get it, Gary? It’s an ‘im not an ‘er. He’s got a cock not a cunt. Come on, do as Mr Taylor says.’
The two men turned to Jasmine. Gary held her down while Riley untied her ankles from the bed but quickly re-bound them together. She tried to wriggle but Gary cuffed her around the head and out his considerable weight on her. Riley did the same with her arms, rolling her over to fasten her wrists behind her back, then stuffed a filthy rag in her mouth and bound cord around her head. She found she had to concentrate on sucking air into her lungs. Gary picked her up as if she was a sack of potatoes, tossed her over his shoulder and carried her out of the hut into the dark. He dropped her, not at all carefully onto the straw covered rear of the Land Rover. The lights of the hut went out.
‘Get in the front,’ Taylor ordered. Soon the engine started and they began to move. Jasmine was bounced up and down as they travelled along the rough track. Each bump threw her up an inch or two; each fall on the hard surface of the pick-up bruising her and making her worry about getting her next breath. Jasmine was relieved when they reached a smoother, metalled road and the bouncing lessened although the speed increased and the cold wind froze her body.
Jasmine could see nothing of their journey, nor interpret the motion of the vehicle, and had to use nearly all her concentration to breathe and overcome the pain of the cords biting into her wrists and ankles. She had enough sense though, to note that the surroundings remained dark revealing that they were still in the country.
After a time in which the pain in her arms and legs went through numbness to agony, the Land Rover slowed and started to buck again. Treetops closed over the clouded sky. Jasmine had no idea where they were other than they were off even the minor roads and in a wooded area.
The vehicle stopped and Jasmine heard the doors of the cab open.
‘Keep you voices down,’ Taylor hissed. ‘Gary get the fucker; Riley bring some tools. Yer going to have dig, the two of you.’
Jasmine was picked up and thrown over the big man’s shoulder. They set off into the rough ground under the trees. After a few minutes Gary stopped.
‘Is this far enough, boss? Me back is killing me.’
There was a pause then Taylor spoke. ‘Yeah, it’ll do, I s’pose. Dump him and get digging.’
Jasmine was dropped. She hit the ground with a thump that would have hurt a lot more if the floor of the wood hadn’t been covered with a thick layer of leaf litter. She lay still, struggling for air. She heard the sound of a pick-axe thudding into the earth, a spade grinding into the ground and soil being thrown. With her face almost pressed into the muck she saw the merest reflections of pale, yellow light from a single torch. There was almost no feeling in her limbs now other than an undefined, excruciating ache. Even if she could loosen the bonds she didn’t think she’d be able to move. Escape seemed impossible. She didn’t want to die; she couldn’t bear the thought of dying but hope was dribbling away with every moment.
‘Police! Don’t move! Drop the tools!’ A shout, the voice familiar. Two, three bright white torchlights. ‘You’re under arrest. Don’t try to get away. You are surrounded.’
Jasmine recognised the caller. It was Tom Shepherd.
‘What were you intending to bury?’ Tom asked. The torch-light grew weaker then stronger until a beam entered her partly open eyes.
‘Jasmine?’

……………to be continued

Jasmine trapped

One week from now we’ll be at the UK Indie Lit Fest in Bradford.  40 independent authors promoting their works. I hope there’ll be lots of eager readers (and buyers) browsing. I’ll have all my novels for sale.

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For those of us who mix and match the genders a bit, the first of a two part documentary on BBC2, “No more boys and girls”, was a must.  The presenter, Dr Javid Abelmoneim, wonders if gender stereotypical behaviour in children can be altered. For his experiment he has chosen a primary school on the Isle of Wight.  As we know from our experience of living there, the IoW is not a multicultural environment so most if not all of the 23 pupils in the class are white.  Perhaps that was deliberate as a mixture of cultures and religions may have added too many variables to the investigation.

Javid first made the point that male and female brains show very little difference i.e. there is more variation in the brains of one gender than differences between the two. Next he carried out tests on the children to reveal how stereotypical their ideas and behaviour was. I am sure the editing picked out the extremes but the children really lived up to the worst gender stereotypes with girls showing low-esteem and a concentration on looks, while boys were, well, boisterous and unable to describe emotions other than anger. Then Javid looked at the gender environment in which children are brought up. He repeated the experiment where adults entertain babies unknown to them with a large collection of toys available – they always pick the toys that match the gender-specific clothes that the babies have been dressed in – soft toys and dolls for babies in dresses; cars, robots and blocks for babies in trousers.

The teacher of the class, was, unusually, male, and while I admire his bravery in putting himself up for this experiment, he displayed the most gender-discriminatory teaching manner imaginable.  He called all the girls “love” and the boys “mate” and directed the majority of his questioning to the boys. One of Javid’s interventions was to present the class with four people in careers that the children had already stated were not open to their gender – female car mechanic and magician, and male ballet dancer and make-up artist. The children reacted gleefully to the experience and seemed to get the message.

In a programme that is broadcast as much for entertainment as for education I am sure that the editing has been selective – the focus seems to be on four or five boys who are quite macho, and the same number of girls who are sensitive and low in self-confidence. What about the 2 in the class that statistically may grow up to be gay, or the one in five chance that one may be trans?  The amount of useful evidence Dr Javid can muster with such a limited experiment is dubious.  Nevertheless, I support the effort and the message that gender stereotypes are a cultural construct and that almost every adult is unconsciously responsible for maintaining this prejudicial behaviour with their every interaction with children from birth.

…………………………….

And so to episode 10 (yes, we’ve reached double figures) of the novella, Viewpoint, featuring transsexual detective, Jasmine Frame.

Viewpoint: Part 10

The two men froze, glaring at her. Jasmine was sure the smaller was Riley but her main thought was how to get out. She tensed, ready to spring for the doorway but while she felt she could force Riley out of her way she didn’t feel confident of making it past the tough-looking taller man. They stepped towards her, side by side, reducing Jasmine’s options.
‘Who’re you?’ Riley said.
‘I’m . . .’ Jasmine reached into her pocket to pull out her warrant card. It wasn’t there. She’d left it on the dining table when she set out on this private expedition. She was on her own. ‘…looking into the disappearance of Alfie Benson.’
‘What she on about?’ the tall man said in tones which suggested he wasn’t at the peak of cleverness.
‘Shaddup, Gary,’ Riley said, nudging his companion. He shook his head. ‘Don’ know that name.’
‘Perhaps you don’t but I think he was here, or perhaps you think Alfie was a she.’ Jasmine knew she was taking a risk by trying to drag a confession from Riley.
Her words spurred the sidekick to speak again. ‘Does she mean that queer tart we had, Paddy?’ Riley kicked him in the shins, and he let out a cry. ‘Hey whad yer doing?’
‘I told you to shaddap. This interferin’ cunt knows we kept a girl here now thanks to you opening your fuckin’ mouth. We need to shut her up. Get her.’
Riley advanced with Gary alongside. Jasmine stepped back, looking for an opening that wasn’t available. Her calves hit the bed and she toppled backwards. Riley and Gary dived on top of her. She lashed out with arms and legs, baring her teeth and biting any flesh that came close enough, but she couldn’t break free. A fist or a knee slammed into the side of her head and her body went numb. The light appeared to grow even dimmer.
‘Don’t kill her yet,’ she heard Riley say through the resounding waves of pain that echoed through her head. ‘We need to find out what she knows and who she’s told. Hold her down while I get the cord.’
Jasmine felt the weight of Gary pressing her into the thin mattress. He held her wrists in his fists and his knees pressed into the top of her thighs.
‘Don’ struggle or I’ll nut yer,’ Gary said. Jasmine released the tension in her arms and concentrated on breathing through the nauseating throbbing in her head.
With blurred sight, she saw Riley standing over her. He soon had her wrists tied to the head of the bed and her ankles to the foot showing a deft touch with the cords.. Alfie must have been held in this position, she thought, but what else did they do to him. She got some relief when Gary shifted off her and stood up. She tested the bindings but couldn’t move.
Riley sat on the edge of the bed facing her. ‘Now we can take our time to get answers from the bitch.’
‘Can we have some fun, Paddy?’ Gary said, looming over his boss.
‘Yeah, Gary, we sure can. Later.’ Riley placed a hand on Jasmine’s right thigh, above her knee. She felt his warm grip through her thick tights. She trembled. ‘Now, tell the truth and you may not get hurt, much,’ he hissed. ‘Who are you?’
‘Jasmine Frame. I’m a private investigator.’
Riley snorted, ‘A private dick, or private cunt. What are you sticking your pretty nose into?’
‘I told you. I’m investigating the disappearance of Alfie Benson.’
Through the pain in Jasmine’s head she saw Riley screw up his face as he considered her answer. His hand shifted up her thigh to the hem of her skirt.
‘I said I didn’t know that name but let’s be honest with one another since Gary gave the game away. Let’s assume you’re talking about the girl. Who hired you?’
Jasmine had no intention of being honest. The truth could get her killed sooner rather than a lie.
‘Friends in Weymouth. They wanted to know what happened to him.’
‘Friends!’ Riley’s surprise sounded genuine. ‘Taylor said she crawled back home ‘cos she had no friends.’
‘Kevin Taylor, his father, said that did he,’ Jasmine said.
Riley’s hand slipped beneath her skirt, gripping her thigh. There was realisation on his face that he had involved Taylor in the story. ‘Forget him. What I want to know is who really got you to look for this Alfie fella, and how you ended up here.’
Jasmine knew she had to keep Riley talking. If she clammed up and refused to answer his questions he might decide to use other methods to make her talk or perhaps just dispose of her.
‘If you had Alfie here you must know that he was transgender.’
‘Trans-what?’ Riley leaned forward and his hand shifted further up Jasmine’s groin. ‘What’s this he, she stuff? She was a miserable bitch and not a pretty picture. Both her tits had been chopped off.’
Jasmine tried to explain. ‘Alfie was born a girl called Lucy but he knew he was really a man. He didn’t want breasts. His mother died of breast cancer so he was able to have them removed.’
Riley seemed to ponder what she had said. ‘Taylor’s old woman died of breast cancer.’
‘Yes, that was Alfie’s mother. Taylor is his father.’ Jasmine was confused. Did Riley really not realise that Taylor had delivered his own daughter-turned-son to be abused and murdered.
‘Frigid cunt she was,’ Riley went on absent-mindedly reminiscing. ‘Didn’t like having a cock in her at all.’
Jasmine’s anger made her forget her position for a moment. She raised her head and spat out, ‘He was being raped, that’s why.’
Riley’s face turned thunderous. He leaned closer. ‘She had a fucking hole not a cock. She not he. All tarts want cock even if they make like they don’t. I bet you do too.’ His hand reached up to her crotch. Jasmine felt his hand close around her penis and testicles squashed against her groin by her knickers. He froze and his face turned pale. Jasmine closed her eyes and waited for her end.
The hand released her genitals and withdrew. Jasmine opened her eyes in surprise. Riley stood up and crept back as if wanting to put as much distance between himself and Jasmine.
Through gritted teeth he hissed, ‘You’re a fucking perv. A tranny.’
‘I’m a woman,’ Jasmine sighed. Even if she was going to die she was not going to relent in her belief in her identity.
‘You’ve a cock and balls,’ Riley insisted. ‘A fucking bloke. Gary! Do ‘im in. No bugger fools me and gets away wiv it.’
Out of the corner of her eye, Jasmine saw the tall man approach the bed. He held a long kitchen knife. Not a knife, she thought. She closed her eyes and waited for the thrust that would finisher her life. Somewhere in the distance she heard a door open and steps on the wooden floor of the hut.
‘What yer doin’ Riley?’
Jasmine recognised the Yorkshire burr of Kevin Taylor’s voice.

…………………………to be continued

 

Jasmine decides

As I said last time, I spent last weekend at the Nine Worlds convention (or “geek fest” the organisers call it) in Hammersmith, London.  I enjoyed myself chairing a Q&A session 9Worldswith John Gribbin and Zoe Sutra who were launching their books, published by Elsewhen.  I attended a number of other sessions, some better than others, the highlight being a talk on how to build a spaceship that generated quite a few ideas (and arguments). There were lots of people in costume, most of whom meant nothing to me but they impressed me with their dedication and handiwork. Perhaps most noticeably, both in the convention programme and simply looking around was the emphasis on diversity.  This showed up in a variety of ways – there were as many women as men of all ages, there were a variety of ethnicities represented, there were people with disabilities, and most important for me, there were a good number of non-binary people.  It was an opportunity for everyone to be whoever they wanted to be, whether it was Princess Leia, a fairy, or someone proud to be neither overtly male or female.  I’m looking forward to next year.

Next up is the UK Indy Lit Fest in Bradford on 26th August.  There will be over forty authors like me there, with books to sell either self-published or published by small independent publishers. I really do hope that there will also be plenty of people looking around, browsing and buying books. If you are going, you can pre-order my books by completing this form.

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My latest Elsewhen book, Cold Fire, is now available as an e-book on all platforms.  The paperback will be available soon – watch this space as they say.

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And so to Jasmine Frame’s latest adventure in Viewpoint. Here is episode 9.

Viewpoint: Part 9

The pale autumn sun hung over the canal, glinting off the murky water. Jasmine’s feet pounded the towpath. It had stopped raining and the air had a freshness to it. She was running to dispel the frustration and anger and also to overcome the feelings left by yesterday’s jog with its macabre conclusion. Another unexpected wade through the cold water was not on her list of desirables. She was approaching the bypass bridge and there, underneath the roadway, was Harold’s old boat and Harold himself stroking a paintbrush along its multi-coloured wooden superstructure. His wiry haired dog of no identifiable breed sat patiently beside him watching as he worked.
Jasmine slowed to a stop when she drew level with the old boatman. The dog approached her and lowered its head to sniff her running shoes. Harold turned and spoke to her in his Yorkshire accent.
‘Hello again lassy. Don’t often see tha at this time of day.’
Although Jasmine had occasionally stopped to chat she was surprised that Harold was familiar with her routine of early morning or evening runs.
‘I needed to get out. I finished early today,’ she said.
‘Ah well, no doubt you think it does tha some good.’
‘Running lets me think,’ Jasmine said.
‘Well now, a gentle walk with Robbie here before closing up for t’night does that for me,’ Harold said.
‘Which way do you usually go?’
Harold nodded to the setting sun, ‘Away from the town, lass.’
‘As far as Renham lock?’
Harold looked into her eyes. ‘That I do. Give Robbie a chance to do his business and nose around after rabbits. You’ve a ken for what I saw a couple of nights ago.’
Jasmine’s stomach churned. What had he seen? ‘Tuesday night, yes. Did you see anything, er, unusual?’
‘Now what does tha mean by unusual? I saw three fellas up at the lock dropping stuff in the water. Tha’s not so unusual. Plenty of them fly-tippers thinking that the canal makes a useful rubbish dump.’
‘Did you see what it was?’
‘No, but it was quite a weight. Took two of them to heave it off the bank. I reckoned it was a dead sheep or summat.’
‘You know a body was found there yesterday morning.’
He nodded. ‘Aye, and it was thou what found it, weren’t it? I saw you run past, earlyish, and didna see you come back. Then there wus all them sirens. I wandered up to have a look but when I saw the coppers I turned back. Some other dog walkers said what was happening and I put two and two together.’
Jasmine shivered at the memory of the cold water. ‘I saw the body in the water. It had come back to the surface. I went in and dragged it out. Did the police officers come to speak to you?’
‘Na. Why would they trouble themselves to walk all the way down here to hear what I had to say?’
It should have been Terry and Derek who’d been asking questions but they had focussed on the possibility of eyewitnesses on the track from the road. Unless you knew the canal, like she did, you wouldn’t know that there were people like Harold on it at all times of the year.
‘Could you describe the men, Harold?’
Harold sniffed. ‘It was nigh on dark. They wuz shadows more than anything, but definitely three fellas, one of them small and he had a limp.’
Jasmine was excited. Riley? With Taylor and someone else perhaps?
‘What about their vehicle, Harold? Did you see that?’
‘Like I say, it was dark. I couldn’t get a number.’
‘No, I understand. But the type of vehicle?’
‘Oh, it was one of them old Land Rovers, short wheelbase, pick-up.’ He had described Taylor’s Land Rover. Of course, there were plenty of them around, but it confirmed her suspicions well enough for her. Harold’s observations could be vital evidence.
She asked him a question. ‘You’ve moored here a while, haven’t you?’
Harold nodded, ‘For as long as the Board will leave me be. No doubt they’ll be along in a day or two to move me along a bit.’
‘You’ll still be on the canal though?’
‘Oh, aye. I only move as far as I have to. Perhaps a couple of miles the other side of Kintbridge or back towards Thirsbury.’
‘I’ll be able to find you again, then.’
‘Tha might have to run a bit further lass.’
‘No problem.’ She turned to face back into the town.
‘Not going on this time then?’ Harold asked.
‘No, there’s work to do,’ Jasmine said, taking her first stride.

On her return to her flat, Jasmine undressed. She replaced the brightly coloured vest, shorts and shoes with black tights, a short black skirt, black polo neck and black ankle boots. She glanced out of the window. The sky was darkening but it wasn’t yet fully night-time. Not time yet. She toasted some bread and spread it with peanut butter. As she munched on it she felt excitement. Denise Palmerston would be furious if she knew what she planned, but that, sort of, made Jasmine more determined to follow through with her plan.
Harold’s information confirmed for her that Taylor and Riley were responsible for Alfie’s death. She was sure they had held him before he had died, either at the farm or at the park home site. She was going to look at the latter first. Tom had said that Riley’s hut was small but there were plenty of others on the site. Embarking on a search alone was against her instructions and contrary to police protocol, but she felt she was on her own now. If Palmerston wasn’t going to take Alfie’s death seriously then it was up to her.
It was dark now and the evening rush hour would have died down. After putting on her dark puffer jacket and black leather gloves she left the flat, checked that she had a torch, with batteries, in the glove compartment of the Fiesta and set off. Retracing her journey the previous evening, she drove to the edge of town and turned along the lane past the park homes. She drove on a couple of hundred yards and pulled off the road on to a suitable verge. She locked the car, dropped the keys into the pocket of her jacket and set off back up the road gripping her torch.
Before she reached the entrance to the park she climbed over a gate into a ploughed field and walked alongside the hedge that bordered the site. At the corner, there was a wooden gate. It was locked but Jasmine quickly clambered over it and dropped into knee-high grass. The shadows of the huts loomed against the night sky with the glow of the town beyond.
She crept to the nearest cabin. The grass was trimmed neatly around it and there were pots of shrubs either side of the front door. Jasmine moved onto the second. This too looked cared for and occupied. She continued along the well-spaced row until she came to the hut closest to the far hedge. This one was smaller than the others and the long grass grew up above the columns of breeze blocks that supported the floor of the hut. Jasmine crawled around the hut not daring to use her torch but feeling the ground. The grass was beaten down in front of the doorway and in two narrow strips. A vehicle had parked here not many days ago.
Jasmine approached the hut, raising her head to peer through the dirty windows. There was nothing to see as curtains covered the windows. She pressed her ear to the window and listened. No sounds from inside. Surely the hut was unoccupied. She moved to the front door, tested the handle. It was locked. That wasn’t surprising but perhaps she would have some luck round the back of the hut. Her reward was finding a small window open an inch or two. She inserted her hand through the gap and was able to lift the latch. The window swung open. It was a small gap but with her slim figure she could wriggle through. She entered head first, groping with her hands for the floor to support herself before she tumbled in.
She folded herself into a crouch and waited. There was no sound. The hut was empty. As she suspected, she was in a bathroom; a none too clean bathroom. There was the stink of mould, urine and faeces. She took her torch from her pocket and turned it on. The light revealed a grubby wash basin, loo and bath. Were the stains merely dirt or blood? They looked suspiciously like the latter to Jasmine.
She pushed on the door and it swung open. A scan with the torch showed a small bedsitting room with an old, iron-framed single bed against one wall with a bare mattress. There was a threadbare rug covering part of the rough wood floor, a small dining table and chairs and no other furniture at all. In one corner was a sink unit and old gas cooker. Jasmine could hardly imagine living here and she wondered whether in fact anyone did, voluntarily. She crossed to the bed and shone the torch on the head and foot. There were cords looped around the rails at the four corners, with loose, cut ends. Someone had been tied down, hand and foot, spread-eagled. Had it been Alfie? She was looking closely at the stains on the mattress when the front door creaked open.
Jasmine spun around, her heart thudding, her legs ready to run. But there was no escape. Two figures filled the doorway: a short man and one that was taller. The light bulb hanging from the centre of the ceiling flicked on giving out a dim, yellow light.
‘What the ‘ell?’ The shorter man said in a distinct Irish accent.

……………………….to be continued.