Jasmine explores the crime scene

Inspiration. Guess the location and genre of the new novel.

Inspiration. Guess the location and genre of the new novel.

I did one of my favourite things this week. I started planning a new novel. Actually, it wasn’t quite the beginning as I had been mulling it over since last summer and even written a short prologue. But now I’ve got an outline and characters and settings, and I’ve done some research to help it all hang together. The danger is procrastination. Time spent on research or thinking up names is not writing however important they might be. The next thing is to begin at the beginning (or at the end; some writers work backwards) and that is quite daunting.

Anyway, there’s always the next Jasmine Frame piece. I got a bit carried away on this week’s episode of Resolution. It’s a bit longer than usual but I think it needed to be.  Here it is:

Resolution: Part 8

Jasmine wondered how she would feel if she lost Angela in the same way that Tania had lost Milla.  She imagined holding Angela in her arms but her mind baulked at thinking of her dead.
‘What happened next?’ Jasmine asked.
Tania sniffed. ‘Soon there was a crowd around us. I don’t know where everyone came from. A few cars stopped I think. Someone must have rung 999 because a police car and ambulance arrived soon. I was just dazed, sitting there beside Milla. Nothing made sense.’
‘The police officers questioned witnesses did they?’
‘I suppose so. I think people thought it was an accident, a hit and run.’
‘But you didn’t think so?’ Jasmine asked.
Tania shook her head and sat up. ‘No. I never thought it was an accident. He drove straight at us.  For a moment I saw the driver as the car left the road. He wasn’t panicked or anything. He was staring directly at me and Milla.’
‘Could you describe him?’ Jasmine asked, eager for some evidence.
Tania shook her head. ‘It was so brief. I just saw his eyes.’
Jasmine pressed her. ‘Was he white, dark-skinned? Hair colour?’
Tania considered. ‘White and fair. Yes, I’m sure.’
‘There, that’s something. You did take in what you saw.’
‘I didn’t tell the police that,’ Tania raised a hand to her mouth. ‘I should have.’
‘They questioned you?’
‘Yes. Straight after but I couldn’t remember anything then except his staring eyes.’
‘You were in shock. It’s understandable. Don’t worry.’
Tania frowned. ‘There was one other thing I noticed. As the car reversed back onto the road I was lying on the pavement. I saw its number plate. It was an RO number.’
‘A Reading plate?’
‘Yes. It’s a funny thing to stick in your head when your partner’s been run down. But I thought, they’ve come all the way from Reading to kill her.’
‘You told the Birmingham police that?’
‘Yes, but it wasn’t much use. They found the car next day a couple of miles away, burnt out.  It had been stolen from Kintbridge a few days before.’
‘They kept you informed of the investigation then?’ Jasmine said.
Tania shook her head. ‘Not really. I keep ringing them to find out what’s happening but they will only speak to Milla’s parents.
‘Oh?’ Jasmine didn’t understand.
‘I wasn’t her next of kin, you see,’ Tania explained. ‘As far as the West Midlands Police are concerned, Milla and I shared a house and that’s all.’ She sighed, ‘Getting a civil partnership was the next thing on our list. We hadn’t got round to it down in Kintbridge but here, with a new home and new jobs we thought we’d definitely tie the knot.’ Her voice cracked and she sobbed again. ‘Now we will never will.’
Jasmine felt a lump in her throat. How awful could it be. To be a couple in love, living together, sleeping together but not have the relationship recognised.
‘So Milla’s parents have been getting all the updates from Family Liaison have they,’ she said.
Tania wiped the tears from her eyes and shrugged. ‘I suppose so but they are so broken up about it they barely understand what’s going on. They’re quite elderly, Milla was their only child and born quite late. They’re traumatised.’
Jasmine nodded and reached again for Tania’s hand. ‘I understand. Do you know anything else about the investigation?’
Tania shook her head again. ‘Not really. It’s still going on.’
‘But they must realise that Milla was deliberately targeted by people down in Reading or Kintbridge. People who Milla had annoyed.’
‘Who could she have annoyed enough to want to kill her?’
‘That’s what I want to find out.’ Jasmine stood up. ‘Would you mind showing me where it happened, Tania. I know it must be difficult for you, but I’d like to see.’
Tania wiped her face and got up. ‘I understand. Let me find my shoes.’ She went into the hallway and returned with a pair of trainers that she tugged onto her feet. ‘Let’s go.’
Jasmine picked up her bag and followed Tania to the front door. Outside the Sun was approaching its zenith and the air was hot and dry. The cul-de-sac was quiet; the neighbours were either out enjoying the summer weather or keeping cool indoors. Jasmine felt sweat bubbling up under her wig. She wasn’t sure she could stand wearing the thing.  Perhaps she should grow her hair longer so that she didn’t have to.
Tania lead her back to the junction with the main road. They turned left and walked along the pavement, separated from the road by a strip of grass.  The road was straight and wide, an urban clearway with no parking allowed on this stretch. The new houses backed onto the road, hidden behind a high wooden fences. A few hundred yards ahead, though, Jasmine could see that the road narrowed. There were older buildings, shops, flats.  Jasmine walked alongside Tania. Cars, vans and a few lorries went by in both directions most keeping to the speed limit which Jasmine observed was forty miles per hour. Some cars were travelling faster.
About halfway to the shops, Tania grabbed Jasmine’s hand and stopped.
Her voice wobbled. ‘It was here.’
Jasmine squeezed Tania’s hand and turned around. She looked back along the road.
‘So, you were walking back home and the car came towards you on the left side of the road as it should have.’
‘Yes, that’s right.’
Jasmine looked down at the road and pavement. She released Tania’s hand and walked forward twenty or thirty metres, her head down.
She stopped. ‘Ah, here. There’s still a tyre mark on the kerb.’ She turned around and examined the verge. ‘The ground’s hard. It’s been pretty dry the last few weeks, but there’s a strip where the grass is worn away. The car must have been on two wheels at this point.’
‘It seemed to be flying towards us.’
Jasmine examined the grass closer to where Tania stood. She shook her head. ‘Difficult to see anything else. The grass is pretty thin because of the weather.’ She looked up at Tania, ‘But you’re standing where the car hit Milla?’
‘Yes.’ Tania said almost inaudibly.’
Jasmine walked towards her. ‘It came to a standstill a bit further on; then he reversed?’
Tania nodded and shivered. ‘He went over Milla again, got back on the road and drove off.’
‘In the same direction?’
‘Yes.’ Tania’s head drooped.  Jasmine realised that she was sobbing and put her arm around her shoulders.
‘Oh, I’m sorry, Tania. I didn’t think. I was just going over the sequence of events. How stupid of me. It must be dreadful being reminded of what happened.’
Tania sucked in a breath of air and looked at her. ‘It’s so vivid. It keeps replaying in my head but I think coming here is a good idea. It looks normal again. I know she’s not coming back and you going over things is sort of putting it in the past rather than always being my present.’
‘Oh. I think I understand,’ Jasmine gave her a squeeze.
‘Thank you, Jasmine. Shall we go on to the pub?’
‘Yes, OK.’ They walked on arm in arm. Jasmine expressed her thoughts aloud. ‘There must have been two of them.’
‘Two of who?’
‘The killers.’
‘There was only one person in the car. I’m sure I only saw one.’
‘Yes, of course. But he had to be told that you were heading home along this side of the road. The driver had to come from way back there. He wouldn’t know where you were until he received a tip off. He must have been waiting somewhere. The other person was watching you, saw you leave the pub and head home.’
Tania stopped and turned to look at Jasmine. ‘You mean someone watched Milla; watched us and chose the moment to kill her?’
Jasmine nodded. ‘That’s it. They must have been waiting for an opportunity. If they had decided on the car as the weapon, then they needed Milla to be on a stretch of road where they could build up speed and stand a chance of getting away afterwards. This road is ideal – fast, straight, and no parked cars.’
‘But we only decided to come out a few minutes before because Milla got home early for once. Do you mean they watched us and waited for an opportunity?’
‘I think so.’
‘How long for?’
Jasmine shrugged, ‘I don’t know. Perhaps the whole time since Milla joined you here.’
‘They watched everything we did.’ Tania shook. ‘I feel sick.’
The pub was at the start of the row of shops. They reached it and went inside. There was a long bar with a small sitting area and a larger eating space behind. The rear doors were open and Jasmine could see out into the back where people were sitting at tables in the bright sunshine.
Jasmine said, ‘Do you want to sit inside or out?’
Tania looked around the interior. It was stuffy and smelt of stale beer. ‘Outside.’
‘What would you like?’
‘A beer please, a pint. I’ll go and find some seats.’
Jasmine went to the bar to order while Tania went off. Clutching Tania’s beer and her own lemonade, Jasmine followed her and found her sitting at a table with an awning over it.
Tania smiled at her. ‘This OK for you, Jasmine. I presumed you wouldn’t want the Sun melting your make-up.’
Jasmine put the drinks down. Tania had reminded her that her foundation was probably getting streaked by the sweat running down her face. She hoped it didn’t show.
‘Can you tell?’
‘What?’
‘That my foundation’s running.’
Jasmine sat beside her. Tania examined her face.
‘It’s not too bad. You’ve got good skin. You look after yourself, but there again you are young. Like Milla.’
They sipped their drinks, or rather, Tania took a gulp of beer.
‘Do you mind me asking more questions?’ Jasmine said.
Tania put her glass down. ‘No. Go on.’
‘Where did you sit that evening? You said you had something to eat.’
Tania pointed across to a covered patio through which they had passed on their way from the bar.
‘Over there. It was a lovely evening but we preferred to be under some cover.’
‘I know this is difficult but think back. Look around. Was there anyone who might have been watching you? Someone on their own perhaps.’
Tania stared at the patio and then closed her eyes. She didn’t speak for some seconds.
‘Milla sat opposite me. We talked and talked. It was the first real chance we’d had since she came up. I only really had eyes for her. Although I was hungry and it was a lovely evening to be out I really wanted to get her home, get the clothes off her, feel her, have her hands caressing me.’ She wrapped her arms around herself. She turned to look at Jasmine, her cheeks flushed and her eyes wide and tear-filled. ‘Sorry, that sounds crude.’
Jasmine smiled, ‘No, not at all. I understand. You were in love.’ She imagined Angela in her own arms as they made love and wished, just for a moment, that that was what she was doing this very minute. ‘Did you notice anyone keeping an eye on the pair of you.’
Tania was silent again. Eventually she spoke. ‘The pub was busy. All the tables were occupied, mainly couples, some groups. Some families with kids, here on the grass. But yes, there was one man on his own. He sat a few tables away from us. I didn’t think he was paying us any attention.’
‘Was he eating?’
‘I don’t know.’
‘Can you describe him?’
Tania picked up her pint glass and slowly sipped the beer. ‘He was small and fat. Small, I mean, he was sitting down but he looked as if he was short. He had a thin beard and short hair.’
‘What age?’
‘Um, difficult. His face was smooth and pale where the beard didn’t cover it. Perhaps forty-ish.’
‘Colour?’
‘Oh, he was white, but his hair and beard were gingery.’
‘Dress?’
‘He was wearing a summer suit. You know, a light beige jacket and matching trousers. I think I noticed him because he looked smarter than most of the other blokes in their shorts and T-shirts.’
‘You said he was fat.’
‘Yes, well, you know, a big rear. Does that help?’
‘If he’s the one who was watching you, I’m sure it will be. Was he still there when you left?’
Tania considered again. ‘Yes, I think he was. We didn’t stay long actually. Just time to eat and have a drink. We were both eager to get back and into bed. Not to sleep . . .’
‘I get it. So this man would have seen you get up and leave the pub. He didn’t follow you?’
‘I didn’t notice.’
Jasmine held her chin and mused, ‘He could have waited till you got out of the front of the pub, seen you heading towards home and contacted his accomplice in the car.’
‘Do you think that’s what happened?’
Jasmine shrugged. ‘There’s no proof that it was the man you described but something like that must have happened for the driver of the car to have hit you where he did. It required a tip off at just the right moment.’
‘He watched us and chose the time to murder

Inspiration. Guess the location and genre of the new novel.

Milla.’
‘That’s about it,’ Jasmine agreed.
…………………

Jasmine meets a partner

It doesn’t take much to get encouragement. Book sales aren’t rocketing (upwards, that is) and when you read about someone who got a book deal after self-publishing their novel, as happened with the writer of an SF novel I have just read, one can’t help being envious. But yesterday someone who I only met recently and don’t know particularly well said they had bought the Painted Ladies e-book and that they were loving it – that gave me the lift, especially as I hope they will go on to buy Bodies By Design and Discovering Jasmine.

Chronologically, the first prequel

Chronologically, the first prequel

A comment by a follower of these weekly rambles and episodic novellas also gave me a boost. She liked the episode from a couple of weeks back where Jasmine was in a bit of a pickle. Which brings me to the state of the Jasmine Frame prequels. I have now completed seven of them. That’s over 170,000 words for anyone who’s interested.

As you know I write an episode each week from the barest outline.  I have tried to make sure that I keep James’/Jasmine’s back story consistent with what I wrote in Painted Ladies which was completed over four years ago and in the sequel, Bodies By Design. I have now completed a draft of the third novel, The Brides’ Club Murder, which takes Jasmine’s story on.  While I have managed, I think, to keep the main characters – Jasmine, Angela, Tom, Sloane – “intact”, I have been less careful with the minor characters and a few have become confused or names have been duplicated.  I’m afraid some names have to change, and will change when I edit the prequels for publication (as I have done with Discovering Jasmine). The reason I am going on about this is that it affects the new story starting below.

Some stories ago I introduced a member of Sloane’s team called DC Keith Money.  It was a while later when I realised that actually he was the same character as appears in the novels called DC Terry Hopkins. From now on Money ceases to exist and is replaced by Hopkins.  So when you read this new story, Resolution, which actually follows on chronologically from Flashlight, please remember that Hopkins is Money. Also I realise that I should have made Milla Sparrow a Detective Sergeant in Flashlight rather than a lowly DC. In Resolution she is referred to as a DS.

I hope that’s all clear now, so let’s get on with the fun.

Resolution: Part 1

James Frame skipped up the steps to Kintbridge Police Station.  The August sun felt warm through the dark grey cloth of his new suit. It was his first morning as a full-time member of the Violent and Serious Crime unit and he was happy. He had achieved his dream of becoming a detective but he knew that this was just the start.  
He entered the public foyer. It was empty at this time of the morning but the grey-haired duty officer was leaning on the counter examining a document. He looked up as James approached. James noted that he was a sergeant in uniform with a couple of female civilian staff sitting at desks behind him.
The sergeant drew himself upright, ‘Yes Sir, how can I help you?’
‘I’m James Frame, DC Frame,’ James said feeling unusually nervous. This wasn’t the first time he had reported for duty at a new station but the first time without the protective shell of a police uniform to mark him out as a member of the force. He did however have his i.d. card which he showed to the desk sergeant.
The older man glanced at it. ‘Ah, yes. We were expecting you DC Frame. There is a staff entrance around the back which you will be able to use when you have had your orientation.’
‘Of course,’ James replied feeling like the new boy at school.
‘I’m Sergeant Gorman, Geoff Gorman. Most people here know me as GG. I’m sure we will get to know each other pretty soon especially as you’re one of DCI Sloane’s bright young chaps.’
James nodded and offered his hand, ‘Please to meet you Sergeant Gorman.’ His hand was shaken perfunctorily. Gorman turned to speak to his staff.
‘Mandy, please show DC Frame the way to DCI Sloane’s office please.’
A young blonde woman got up and left the room.  She reappeared a few moments later through the door at the end of the foyer. She smiled at James. He hurried to join her while she held the door open.
‘Thank you,’ he said, ‘I suppose I’ll soon know my way around.’
‘Oh, it’s quite a maze,’ the woman said, leading him passed interview rooms to a flight of stairs. They climbed a couple of flights and then walked along another corridor until they approached a glass-panelled door.
The woman stopped and pointed to the door, ‘V ‘n SC’s through there.’
‘Thanks,’ James said, leaving her and striding to the door. He pushed it open and stopped. A large room with desks arranged in a grid pattern each with a computer monitor, faced him. There were half a dozen people gathered around the door to an office on the far side of the room. A head of grey-flecked hair showed above the group. James had already met Sloane a few times and recognised him immediately.
Sloane’s eyes focussed on him, ‘Ah, Frame. Come and join us.’
James weaved through the desks until he joined the group who had turned to face him.
‘This is our last new recruit, DC Frame,’ Sloane said as he approached the gathering. ‘You remember DC Hopkins, don’t you, Frame.’  Hopkins was in his forties and wearing a crumpled brown suit. He looked at James but his expression was blank. James nodded and smiled. He knew Hopkins was a long-standing member of Sloane’s team so probably someone to get on well with.
‘This is DS Trewin,’ Sloane continued indicating the man standing on his left. He had short black hair and was about a foot shorter than Sloane. ‘He took Sparrow’s place a month or so ago.’ Then Sloane pointed to a young man standing next to Hopkins who was at least as tall as Sloane and as dark as Trewin. ‘And you join on the same day as DC Shepherd. Welcome to the Violent and Serious Crime Unit.  You’ll meet the others in due course.’
James and Shepherd exchanged nods and examined each other. Shepherd seemed a similar to age to himself, James noted but his height and build made him appear like an elder brother.
‘Trewin, Shepherd and Frame, with me. The rest of you, back to work.’  The three other detectives, a woman and two men of which one was dark-skinned, immediately turned on their heels and scattered to desks. James followed Shepherd and Trewin into Sloane’s office. Trewin stood by the side as James lined up next to Shepherd facing Sloane who settled himself into his leather chair.
‘I’m not going to give you two a long speech,’ Sloane began, looking from James to Shepherd and back. ‘You’ll soon learn the standards I expect from you. Initially you will be working at the direction of DS Trewin. He knows his way around well enough now so he can get you settled in. Right off you go.’
Trewin began to move to the door and DC Shepherd turned on his heels. James was about to follow.
‘Frame, stay a moment.’ Sloane said. James froze. Trewin and Shepherd left and the door closed behind them.
‘Yes, Sir?’ James said wondering why he had been singled out.
Sloane frowned at him and spoke in grave voice, ‘There’s something I should tell you, Frame.’
Oh, god, James thought, what is he going to say? Does he know about Jasmine?
‘You got to know DS Sparrow quite well when you were seconded to us.’
‘Milla? Yes, Sir.’ It had only been a few days but he and DS Camilla Sparrow had worked closely together on a trio of drug related deaths. Milla had moved to Birmingham leaving the vacancy filled by Trewin.
Sloane took a deep breath before continuing. ‘Well, I think you should know that DS Sparrow has died.’
‘She’s dead!’ James was mystified. Milla Sparrow was a young, fit woman looking forward to her new posting and life with her partner in the Second City.
‘Yes, I’m afraid so, Frame.’
‘How, Sir?’
‘A hit and run accident. She was a pedestrian and was hit by a car that mounted the pavement.’
James felt a great sadness. He hadn’t expected to meet Milla Sparrow again and he had hardly got to know her well but she had been a great friend to him, and she knew about Jasmine.
‘When did it happen, Sir?’
‘About a month ago. The funeral was last week.’ Sloane replied, not appearing too certain of the facts.
‘That must have been only just after she moved up there, Sir.’
‘That’s right. I think she’d been in her new post for a fortnight. Your affair at the Marquis was her last case here. She took some leave afterwards.’
James shook his head. ‘How did it happen? What did the driver have to say?’
‘The driver is unknown. Hasn’t been traced. As I said, it was a hit and run.’
‘An accident?’
Sloane shrugged which meant his whole bulk moved up and down. ‘That’s all Frame. Go and join Trewin and Shepherd.’
James muttered a thank you and drifted out of Sloane’s office in a daze. He couldn’t imagine Milla Sparrow becoming the victim of a road traffic accident; she was far too alert and careful. What had really happened to her? Sloane appeared to not know more or to be concerned by anything other than her sad loss to policing.
Trewin and Shepherd were standing next to a desk close to Sloane’s office. James joined them.
Trewin addressed them in a Cornish accent, ‘You two can have these two desks.’ He pointed to the two other desks in the row.  ‘DCI Sloane tends to stick with surnames, but I’m Alan.’ He grabbed James’ hand and shook it.
‘James, or Jim,’ James said.
‘Tom,’ Shepherd said holding out his hand to be shaken by James.
‘Hi,’ James replied.
‘Ok. Get logged in and find your way around,’ Trewin went on, ‘No doubt I’ll have something for us in due course. Life is not usually dull round here, I’ve found. Do you know Kintbridge, Jim?’
‘Not really,’ James said. ‘I’ve been in Reading for the last few years but never came out here much. We’ve had a look round while we’ve been house-hunting though.’
‘We? You’re married?’
‘Yes, Sir.’
Trewin nodded, ‘And you Tom?’
‘No, Sir. I do have a girlfriend but . . .’
‘I understand. Well, get settled.’ He shooed them towards their own desks. James sank into the chair and woke up the computer.
‘Hey, Jim,’ Tom called in a breathy whisper from behind him. James swivelled.
‘Yes?’
‘What did Sloane want to see you on your own for?’
James smiled. DC Tom Shepherd was obviously not one for hanging back.
‘He wanted to tell me that a detective I’d worked with had died.  DS Sparrow the one that Trewin has replaced.’
‘Died? That’s harsh. How did you know him?
‘Her. I spent a few days in plainclothes working with her in May.’
Tom’s eyes widened. ‘You mean you’ve already worked for Sloane?’
‘Only briefly. It was a temporary secondment.’
‘You must have impressed him.’
‘Why?’
‘To get onto the Unit so soon. My name has been on the list for over a year and only now did Sloane decide to give me a try.’
‘Well, we’re both here now so I suppose it’s up to us to show Sloane he’s made the right decision.’
‘Yeah. Everyone says he’s quite a taskmaster.’
‘So I hear,’ James agreed.
There was a shuffle as DS Trewin stood up from his desk in front of James. He turned around to face them.
‘With me you two. We have a call out.’
‘What is it, Sir?’ James asked hurrying to follow the DS who was already striding to the exit.
He called over his shoulder, ‘A body.’
 
 

Jasmine joins the team

Since writing the last blog we have spent a day in London visiting two exhibitions – The Celts at the British Museum and Cosmonauts at the Science Museum.  There are no connections between the two other than my interest in Celtic history, art and culture and anything to do with space. Celtic civilisation influenced my vision of the Land, Gwlad, in Evil Above the Stars but you won’t find any direct links to Celtic history there.

What did strike me about both exhibitions was the possibilities for “what if”. The Celts defeated Rome early in its history. What if they prevented the rise of the Roman Empire? The Russians were almost ready to go for the Moon except their big rocket kept failing. What if the Russians got to the Moon before the Americans? So many possibilities for alternate histories.  Ideas, ideas . . .

butterfly

Anyway back to ideas that I have got round to developing – the latest prequel to Painted Ladies and the origins of Jasmine Frame, transsexual detective.  Here is the next episode in Flashlight.

Flashlight: Part 5

‘Inspector Metcalfe said you had asked for me, Sir,’ James said aware that there was an uncertainty in his voice.
‘Yes, Frame,’ Sloane replied. ‘We need some extra staff on this case. My sergeant and the rest of the team are otherwise engaged. You know about the Marquis club which may be the source of the drugs that killed the victim and you seem to know something about these transsexuals.’
James saw DC Money’s eyebrows rise.
‘I hope I can assist you, Sir,’ James said.
‘I hope so too, Frame. Now Money, you’d better start your summary again.’
The detective constable looked at his notebook. ‘Preliminary lab tests show that Peck was killed by a massive overdose of heroin. It looks like she was injected with a dose that was much purer than the average street supply but the post-mortem suggests that Peck wasn’t a frequent user.  There were no signs of hypodermic marks on the body. Peck isn’t on any list of known addicts.’
‘Thank you, Money,’ Sloane said. ‘What have you got, Sparrow?’
The female officer looked at her own notebook. ‘There is no sign of drugs in the victim’s flat other than the dregs in the syringe used to administer the fatal dose. But SOCO think it looks as though the victim’s belongings have been searched, Sir. The drawers and wardrobe had signs that they’d been disturbed.’
‘Are you sure he wasn’t just untidy?’ Money asked.
James noticed Money’s use of the male pronoun.
Sparrow frowned. ‘The friend says that Natalie was meticulous about her clothes – a bit OCD in fact. Everything had its place.’
‘Alright’ Sloane said interrupting before Money could respond. ‘Let’s accept that Peck’s flat has been searched and items possibly removed. It reinforces the differences between this death and the others.’
‘Others?’ James found himself blurting out.
‘Yes, Frame. Sparrow will get you up to speed soon.  This investigation started out looking at the deaths of two known addicts in the last week. Like Peck they were killed by an overdose of unusually pure heroin. But it looks as though Peck was murdered using the drugs that he was dealing.’
‘Were the other victims trans?’ James asked.
Sloane looked surprised as if the idea had never arisen. ‘Money?’ he said.
Money shook his head. ‘No Sir.  Murray was a rent boy, pulling tricks to pay for his habit. Butler was a single bloke, occasional user, bit of a loner.’
Sloane scratched his chin as he mused, ‘the only link is that the heroin that killed each of them probably came from the same pure batch.’
‘The sample Constable Frame provided was the same, Sir.’ DC Sparrow said, reaching behind her to pick up a sheet pf paper from the desk she was resting her bottom on.
‘You have a lab report already?’ Sloane said.
Sparrow nodded. ‘Just a preliminary one, Sir. You did ask for it to be fast-tracked. It’s confirmed as being heroin of unusual purity. It’ll take longer to get a full analysis and comparison.’
Sloane turned to James. ‘Well there you are Frame. The sample you purchased has suggested a link between this Marquis place and the three deaths, including the murder of one of the dealers.’
James felt a glow as if he had already made a contribution to the team’s work
‘What does it mean Sir?’ Money asked.
‘Can’t you work it out, Money?’ Sloane said with a note of exasperation. ‘We’ve got a new batch of heroin probably being sold by new suppliers muscling in on existing dealers’ territory. I’d surmise that Peck was killed by the oldsters using his own stock and that his death was a warning to the incomers. If we don’t get to the bottom of it soon we could have a major gangland feud on our hands.’
‘That’s serious, boss.’ Money said.
‘You’re right for once. So we’ve got to get to work.  This link with the Marquis suggests that the new owners may be involved. You get on to them Money. See if they have any history.’
‘Yes, Sir,’ DC Money said pushing himself erect and moving around the desk to sit at the computer.
‘What about, me?’’ Sparrow asked.
‘Go over the files on Murray and Butler, with Frame, here. See if you can find out who their supplier was. Perhaps there is a link with Peck.’
‘Yes, Sir.’ Sparrow said. James felt pleased that he was going to work with the young woman instead of Money.
‘Well, get on then,’ Sloane said impatiently as he headed for the door, ‘I need to report to the Superintendent. Warn him that we might have an intrusion from outside the area and the consequences that could bring.’  He departed.
DC Sparrow went to sit at Sloane’s desk. ‘Come and sit down next to me she said smiling at James, ‘Oh, we don’t have a spare chair.’
‘Don’t know why we have to work here anyway?’ Money grumbled. ‘We could just as easily do this investigation from Kintbridge.’
‘Oh stop grumbling, Keith,’ Sparrow said grinning, ‘don’t mind him, uh, I don’t know your first name Constable?’
‘It’s James. I’ll go and find another chair. I know this building pretty well.’
James hurried out into the corridor feeling elated. He was part of a plainclothes investigation team working on a big case involving drug gangs and murder. It was what he’d always wanted.
It took moments to find a vacant chair and return to the office. He placed the chair next to DC Sparrow who was sorting through the papers that Sloane had left on the desk.
‘Well done, James,’ she said and again James received a warm smile, ‘By the way I don’t think DCI Sloane introduced me fully. My name is Camilla, but most people call me Milla.’
‘Oh, thanks. My friends call me Jim,’ James replied.
‘Glad to have you with us, Jim. I’ve got a feeling we’re going to be pretty busy. Sloane likes to get results quickly.’ Milla picked up a sheaf of papers. ‘Have a look through these.  This is what we’ve got on Murray and Butler.’
‘I thought it would all be online,’ James said.
‘It is,’ Milla said, ‘but Sloane likes paper. He’s a bit old-fashioned.’
Money, head close to his screen, grunted. ‘A bit?’
‘We don’t have a spare computer here at the moment, Jim. I need this one.’ Sparrow pointed to the screen pushed to the edge of the desk. ‘I know it’s cramped in here but make yourself as comfortable as you can.’
‘I’ll manage,’ James said. He put the pile of papers down on the edge of the desk leaving plenty of room for Milla to work. He began reading the reports on the deaths of the two overdose victims. Most of it was factual reports of the discovery of the bodies and the reports by scene of crime officers and the pathology team. James looked for clues about the victims lives. Murray’s body had been discovered by his flatmate in the shabby bedsit they shared. It was clear that they were both gay, sometime partners, and both selling themselves to other gay men to pay for their drug habits. There wasn’t much on where they picked up their clients and James realised he would have to speak to the surviving partner himself.
There was even less on the other victim who lived alone and apparently had a decent job in the town. He’d been found by a middle-aged woman who he employed to clean his flat one day a week. He didn’t seem to have any close friends – no-one at his place of work had shown much interest in his death and all his family lived up north. I wonder if the cleaner knows more about his lifestyle, James thought, cleaners usually have an opinion or two on their employers.
James put the papers down. ‘Do you think we should talk to this partner of Murray and Butler’s cleaner again?’ he said to whichever of Money or Sparrow was interested. He hadn’t yet worked out which was the senior. Money was the older but Sparrow seemed most switched on and alert.’
‘Yeah, if you like,’ Money said, eyes still locked on his screen.
Sparrow looked at James. ‘Why, Jim? What do you think they can tell us?’
‘Perhaps they know more about the victims than they’ve said so far. We may find a link to Natalie and the Marquis.’
‘Good idea, let’s go.’ Milla tapped a key, reached down for her shoulder bag and stood up. ‘You didn’t think Sloane would let you out on your own do you?’ She said to James’ surprised face. ‘We work in pairs when we’re out of the office, Jim. This is the Violent and Serious Crime Unit. You never know what we might come across.’

……………………..

Jasmine learns of a death

A previous leafletting exercise.

A previous leafletting exercise.

It’s been hate-crime week – no, not promoting it, trying to get people to report it.  I spent an hour in a supermarket handing out leaflets. I find it a quite difficult subject to approach someone with. If they look as if they belong to a minority group then closing in on them brandishing a leaflet can look as though they’ve been singled out – not the effect we’re looking for. On the other hand the majority, white, heterosexual couples are not normally concerned about hate-crime.  My technique, rightly or wrongly, was to approach everyone in the same way and suggest that if they knew someone who might be the subject of a hate-crime then they should report it.

The majority of people took a leaflet although whether they then read it I doubt. A number of people refused a copy and some of those were people that I would put in one of the protected minority groupings. Perhaps they try to avoid all contact out of fear. A few people showed some interest. There was no-one who, I felt, avoided me because of who I was – a bloke in a skirt – which shows that either I am passed noticing or that generally people don’t care.

Whether the “report hate-crime” message gets through is another matter.  The reported incidence of hate-crimes is relatively low in most places but is thought to be wildly inaccurate. Those people who experience hate-crime either have no faith in the police ability to make things better for them or they are afraid of repercussions or both. As I am lucky to have never experienced any problems when I’ve been out and about I do not have any personal knowledge but I can imagine that living with the threat of abuse because of who you are must be one of the most stressful things there can be.

discovering jasmine final coverI did make transphobia the “crime” in one of Jasmine Frame’s earliest adventures.  Discovering Jasmine appeared here first but is now available, in edited form, as an e-book – see the Jasmine Frame Publications page.

Talking of which here is the second episode of the new Jasmine Frame novella, prequel, Flashlight.

Flashlight: part 2

‘Gosh, James, you look awful. Do you feel OK?’
Angela stood in centre of the living room staring at James as he entered. James wasn’t surprised by Angela’s declaration. He slumped into the sofa and looked up at his enervated but concerned wife through half-lidded eyes.
‘I’m not ill, just drained.’
Angela knelt beside him, her face a picture of compassion. ‘A difficult day?’
‘Yes. We had a body.’
‘Oh, but you’ve been to a death before. Why has this one affected you so much?’
James pulled himself into a sitting position and placed a hand on Angela’s shoulder. ‘I’ll tell you all about it, I need to, but can I have a cup of coffee, first.’
‘Of course.’ Angela jumped up and ran into the kitchen. James heard the kettle being put on and mugs being prepared. A variety of thoughts competed for attention in his head.
‘God, it slipped my mind,’ he called, one memory rising to the surface. ‘You had your exam today. How’d it go?’
‘Fine,’ Angela called from the kitchen.
‘They’re all finished?’
‘Yes. Just got to hope I get the results and then I can start matching your pay.’
James snorted. ‘You’ll soon be earning way more than a police salary from all those corporate types.’
Angela returned with two mugs in her hands.
‘One black coffee for you sir,’ she said handing over one mug. ‘I was hoping we could have a bit of fun tonight, like we did last Wednesday, but you’d better get your dead body experience off your chest first.’ She sat next to James on the sofa.
‘Hmm. It’s Wednesday again. I’d forgotten. I wonder…’
‘Wonder what?’ Angela said, pausing in sipping her got coffee.
‘I’ll tell you the story first.’ James took a deep breath. ‘Gavin and I got a call this morning to go to a block of flats. A friend of the one of the occupants was worried that she hadn’t been seen for a few days. The friend had got hold of a key from a neighbour and let herself in. She found the occupant on the floor in the living room. She rang for an ambulance on her mobile and we got the call too. The paramedics were there first but they couldn’t do anything. She was dead already, cold.’
‘How did she die?’
‘The paras said it looked like a drug death. We found a syringe near the body.’
Angela gripped James’ arm with her spare hand. ‘Oh, that’s awful. But why are you so upset, James. You’re trained to deal with things like that. God knows how. I’d be a mess.’
‘It’s because I recognised her,’ James said looking into Angela’s eyes.
‘You knew her? Who was she?’
‘No, I didn’t know her. I recognised her. She was the girl, the trans-girl, who offered me drugs in the Marquis last week.’
‘She was a druggie?’
‘Well, that’s the strange thing. She was dealing drugs but when the paras examined her they said they couldn’t see signs that she was a frequent injector. Of course they couldn’t do much, it was a job for the pathologist.’
‘Did you say you recognised her?’
James bit his lip, ‘I almost blurted it out but I remembered how we’d met. If I admitted seeing her I’d have to give myself away as trans too.’
‘Hmm, perhaps.’
‘That’s why I am wreck. I’ve spent all day wondering if I’m going to have to out myself and what will happen.’
‘Oh, James. Would it really be that bad?’
‘You’ve met some of the lads, Ange. We’ve all been through diversity training so they’ve learned how to speak nicely to Asians and gays. But trannies? It’s the last free zone for bloke humour. I’m not sure I could take it, let alone what it might do to my career.’
Angela placed her mug on the floor and put her arms around James.
‘Ok, love. I understand. What did you do?’
‘Well, of course there was procedure to follow. Get everyone out of the flat, seal it off and stand guard while SOCO and the plainclothes guys arrived. It was pretty boring actually, plenty of time to stand, think and worry. But I caught a few things.’
‘Such as?’
‘Well, Natalie, that’s what her friend called her, was a pre-op transsexual – on hormones but hadn’t had any surgery. She was mid-twenties. According to her friend, who’s also trans, but a bit older, she didn’t have a steady job, did a bit of bar work, that sort of thing.’
‘Was that a problem?’
‘Well, the Gender Identity Clinics like you to hold down a proper job if at all possible during your real-life trial.’
‘I see.’
‘But her friend said Natalie wasn’t a drug user. She didn’t mention the dealing, at least from what I overheard.’
‘So are you going to tell the investigating officer what you know?’
‘I’m not sure. Things may be a bit more complicated.’
Angela gave her confused look. ‘What do you mean?’
‘Just before the end of our shift, DCI Sloane arrived.’
‘Who’s he?’ Angela’s expression hadn’t changed.
‘He’s head of the Violent and Serious Crime unit, based over in Kintbridge.’
‘So?’
‘He wouldn’t turn up for an accidental drug overdose unless there was something more to it.’
‘Like what?’
‘Well, perhaps Natalie was murdered and it was made to look like she’d killed herself or perhaps there’s a big drug racket going on.’
‘You don’t know?’
‘No. DCI Sloane didn’t speak to me or Gavin. I don’t think he even noticed us. He’s got a reputation.’
‘What kind of reputation?’
‘He gets things done but you don’t get in his way. He’s a big guy, physically and in the force.’
‘Are you going to tell him what you know then?’
‘Yes, but not yet.’
‘What do you mean?’
‘If I just tell him that this girl offered me drugs, he’ll want to know when and where and what I was doing in the Ladies at the Marquis. I’ll have to explain about Jasmine and all for nothing really. I don’t know anything about what Natalie was doing. Was she working alone? Did the club know what she was up to? Where did she get the drugs from?’
‘I see…’
‘I want to be able to tell Sloane more than I saw this girl selling drugs in a Ladies loo.’
‘How can you do that?’
‘You said you wanted to celebrate. How about another evening at the Marquis? You did say it was trans-night every Wednesday.’
Angela pushed herself away from James and looked at him closely.
‘Aren’t you going to get into trouble withholding information, James? It sounds dangerous.’
‘I could be in trouble already, Ange. It hit me as I was coming home. It’s why I looked pretty sick when I walked in.’
‘Why?’
‘It hit me. If I’d reported being offered drugs at the Marquis straight after we’d been there last week, the place may have been raided; Natalie may have been arrested or something and she might still be alive. Her body was in the flat for days. She might have died soon after I saw her.’
Angela covered her mouth with her hand. ‘Oh, James, do you really think so.’
‘Yes, Ange. Natalie may have got involved in drug-dealing to pay for her transition. Even though I’m not like her, I think, we have something in common. I think I owe it to her to find out more before I go to DCI Sloane.’
Angela stood up and stared down at James, her face full of anger. ‘This is about you, James, not this Natalie. You can’t decide whether you want to be Jasmine full time can you?’
James stood up and opened his arms to embrace Angela. She stepped away from him.
‘You’re right, Ange. I don’t know,’ he said, feeling the anguish in his chest. ‘I know I love you and don’t want to lose you. You’ve always been good to me when I’ve been Jasmine.’
Angela sighed. ‘I know, I like Jasmine. It’s always been fun when we’ve been two girls together. But I love James.’
‘Exactly, which is why I want to stay as we are.’
‘For now perhaps, James, but I’m not sure that will always be your answer.’
James was silent. He knew Angela was right. His feelings about his body and his gender altered by the day. Some days the urge to become Jasmine was very strong, others just a niggling itch.
He spoke softly. ‘I am concerned about how and why Natalie died, and why she was dealing drugs. It’s not just about me.’
‘I know,’ Angela said and stepped into his arms.
‘So, do you fancy another evening of dancing?’
Angela looked into his eyes. ‘Yes, as long as you are careful.’

………………….

Jasmine again!

Layout 1

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

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

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

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

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

Split Mirror: Part 11

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

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

Jasmine digs deeper

Layout 1First of all a sneak preview of the cover for Bodies By Design which will be available as an e-book and paperback in September.  More of that in the coming weeks.

Earlier this week I read something on Linked-in that chimed with some thoughts I have had in the past. It was recounting the continuing spat between radical feminists and trans activists. The feminists pointed out that the media fall on a man who suggests that women’s brains are different to men’s causing women to be emotional and weepy and all that. Remember what happened Prof Tim Hunt when he described female scientists as tearful and prone to falling in love. On the other hand, famous trans women like Caitlin Jenner are feted for their stories of “feeling like a woman trapped in a man’s body” and how they knew they were female because of all the emotions they felt. The feminists don’t think trans people should get away with this arguent. Although I am trans or non-binary or whatever label you want to use, I think I side with the feminists on this. Too often trans people, particularly cross-dressers, present a stereotypical image of what a woman is – either the sexy young things (cf Caitlin Jenner in Vanity Fair) or the elderly mother figure. Many transsexuals claim, like Jenner, that they are female because their minds are different to what they think a man’s should be.

15 July 1 - CloseupI really don’t know what differences there are, if any, between a male brain, a female brain or indeed a trans brain. I don’t know whether my identification with being trans is because the neurone connections in my brain resemble a woman’s. All I know is I like wearing clothes which are generally found in the female part of the catalogue, I like wearing dangly ear rings, I like wearing lipstick and I like having my hair done in what may be considered a more feminine style. What I’m getting to is that I’m getting pretty fed up with the distinctions that are made between male and female, not just by the authorities but by feminist groups, trans groups and many other groups. I would just like to be considered as me.

 

 

So to the sixth episode of Split Mirror – the Jasmine Frame prequel to Painted Ladies. Enjoy!

Split Mirror: Part 6

 5

‘God, Jas. Have you been here all night?’
Jasmine looked up from her computer screen and saw Tom Shepherd standing over it. Her eyelids felt heavy and she blinked.
‘No, not all night.’ She yawned and stretched her shoulders.
‘Well, it looks like it. You look knackered.’
Jasmine thought that was probably a pretty fair statement. She stood up and stretched her back and arms. Her breast enhancements moved in her bra and she quickly shoved them back into place and sat down again.
‘Thanks for the compliments,’ she replied finally.
‘Well, what’s the problem? Did you spend all night unpacking?’ Tom was showing real concern for her.
She thought of the boxes still filling her living room. ‘No, I haven’t started unpacking yet. I couldn’t sleep. Things on my mind.’
‘What things?’ Tom’s face showed fear as he realised that he might have been prying, ‘Sorry. Is it this split from Angela or your, um, transition, you know . . .’
Jasmine shook her head. ‘No, none of that. Well a little bit I suppose. I miss Ange and the flat’s a dump. But no I was thinking about Diana Stretfield.’
Now Tom looked mystified. ‘Stretfield? I don’t recall a case with that name.’
‘The missing person.’
‘Oh, from yesterday. The woman who came in. But I thought we hadn’t picked up that case.’
‘That’s what Sloane and Palmerston said.’
Tom’s worried look returned. ‘You’re not disobeying Denise again are you?’
‘I needed confirmation, Tom.’
‘Confirmation of what?’
‘That Diana is a trans-woman.’
Tom sighed, moved round the desk and pulled up a chair beside Jasmine’s. He folded his frame into it.
‘I see. It got to you personally did it. What did you do?’
‘I went to see her.’
‘The woman who reported the missing person?’
‘That’s right.’
‘Is she a trans-woman?’
‘No, Tom. Debbie Stretfield was married to Donald Stretfield who became Diana. They divorced but still live together.’
‘Right, got it. You’ve got to admit Jas, this trans stuff gets pretty confusing.’
‘Yes, Tom. I know exactly how complicated it gets.’
‘So you met this woman.’
‘Yes.’
‘I presume the other woman, the trans-woman still hasn’t turned up.’
‘That’s right.’
‘So what did you find out?’
‘Diana has completed her transition; had all the surgery and so on. She’s a complete woman.’ Jasmine realised that there was a wistfulness in her voice.
‘That’s what you want. Is that right, Jas?’
‘Yes, Tom. But it takes years. The Stretfield’s used all their savings to pay for a lot of it, but both of them lost their jobs. Diana had to wait for the NHS to do the final gender reassignment surgery.’
‘That’s when she was given an, um, . . .’
‘Vagina. You can say it, Tom.’
Tom’s face coloured, ‘Yes, I know, but. . . Anyway, what has this got to do with her going missing?’
‘It seems that once she had recovered she became eager to try out her new equipment.’
Tom looked vague for a moment then understanding dawned. ‘Ah, you mean she wanted to have sex with a man.’
‘Yes, it seems to have become an obsession with her, but she was still living with Debbie. The only way she could think of to achieve her wish was to slip out for an evening of dogging.’
‘Dogging!’ Tom laughed.
‘Yes, you know that layby on the A4 near the motorway junction.’
‘I know it. I’ve been down there a couple of times when there have been reports of things getting out of hand.’
‘So have I, Tom. I went there last night.’
‘You did what?’
‘Diana’s car had been reported abandoned there so after I left Debbie I went there. I didn’t tell her that was where Diana went.’
‘But you went on your own to a known public sex environment?’
‘Yes, Tom.’
‘Was there anyone there?’
‘Yes, quite a few.’
‘They could have attacked you.’ Tom paused as if thoughts were going round in his head. ‘You’re a woman. You might have been raped. No. If they found you were still a . . ., I mean you still have a . . . They might have killed you, Jas!’
Jasmine let Tom stumble on. ‘None of that happened.’ Although she knew Ton was right and that she had put herself in a vulnerable position.
‘What did you see? Was there stuff going on? Did you speak to any of them?’
‘I saw people having sex watched by other people, men; and, yes, I spoke to a couple of the “participants”. They both knew Diana, I think they’d both had sex with her at one time or another and they knew she was trans but since she was able to satisfy them they didn’t seem too bothered.’
‘Did they know where she was?’
‘No, but one of them, Big Dick . . .’
‘Because he had one?’ Tom giggled
‘Yes, Tom. Big Dick said he saw her the night before last, Wednesday, and she may have gone off with a guy who had a high sided white van.’
Tom’s face showed interest. ‘Did they know this guy?’
‘No. He wasn’t a regular at the PSE. But it looks as though he might be someone who goes from site to site. His van was padded inside.’
‘Just what you need for driving off with a kidnappee.’
‘Exactly, Tom.’
‘Have your reported this to anyone? You’re not sitting on it hoping to trace this Stretfield woman, are you?’
Jasmine sighed. ‘I’m not that stupid, Tom. I’ve informed missing persons of all that I know.’
‘Registration number?’
‘No. It was dark of course, and Big Dick didn’t see it. Of course there were other people there on Wednesday evening who may have seen it, but I didn’t question them all.’
‘No of course not, Jas. Did they, er, molest you?’
Jasmine snorted. ‘They showed interest in me. Asked me to join them in the back of a car, so I didn’t hang round. The uniform boys and girls can go down there this evening and speak to everyone they can get hold of. Perhaps they’ll be able to trace this van and the driver.’
Tom didn’t speak for a few moments then he looked at Jasmine and at her computer screen which had reverted to its screen saver. ‘But you’ve been here for a while, haven’t you Jasmine. What are you up to?’
‘I told you. I couldn’t sleep. I kept on thinking about Diana. If I’m right, she’s been in the hands of this white van man for going on thirty six hours. She may well be dead. I kept imagining what this guy might have wanted to take her away for. If he’s not satisfied with fucking women in a public place what else does he get up to in his fancy van?’
‘So?’
‘So I came in early, about five, to start digging.’
Tom nodded slowly, ‘Ah, I see. You’ve got an idea.’
‘Well, not much of one. I thought since he hadn’t been seen at this PSE before perhaps he’s picked up women from other sites.’
‘That’s a good one.’
‘So I’ve been through all the missing person reports for the last year.’
‘That must have been a huge number, Jas.’
‘Of course it is, but I limited it to women, not young girls, they don’t tend get to dogging sites, and I started with Berkshire and then widened it out to the M4 corridor.’
‘Why?’
‘Well, this site is close to the motorway. He’s got a white van. I thought there was a chance he might drive up and down it for some work reason.’
‘Hmm, yes. Did you get anywhere?’
‘Perhaps. I’ve found two case of women who have gone missing in the last year who were known to visit particular PSEs.’
Tom’s eyes widened, ‘Really? Where?’
‘One outside Cardiff and the other near Swindon. They’re both similar sites to the one here – overnight lorry parks a few hundred yards off the motorway.’
‘The women – have they turned up?’
‘No. Not a sign. No bodies, no clues.’
‘Did the local police link the two cases?’
Jasmine shook her head and tapped her keyboard to wake up the computer. ‘It doesn’t look like it. There’s no link between the two reports flagged. Two doesn’t make a pattern, three perhaps does.’
‘That’s true. Did they question the doggers?’
‘Some. At both sites the women were known by sight and er, other attributes, but no names. That’s the point about dogging isn’t it – no questions sex with strangers.’
‘Was there anything at all in the reports?’
Jasmine’s fingers played over her keyboard and files appeared on the screen. ‘The investigations weren’t very thorough. They were missing persons inquiries and the women were single. With no evidence that they’d been abducted, or worse, not a lot was done. Nobody that the police interviewed reported the women going off with anyone in particular. But I’ve been through the recorded notes and in both cases someone mentions a white van.’
‘Didn’t they follow it up?’ Tom sounded critical.
‘Why should they? It’s not the only unfamiliar vehicle mentioned in the reports. No one says they saw the women get into it, and no one has looked at the two sets of records looking for correlations.’
‘Until now.’
‘Correct.’
‘Have you told anyone about this, Jas?’
‘Not yet, Tom. I’ve just spent the last few hours digging it out. I haven’t compiled a report yet.’
‘You’re going to have to tell Palmerston. Or Sloane.’
‘I know, but there’s something else.’
‘What’s that?’
‘I think I’ve seen the white van.’
……………………..

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

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Jasmine Frame in Split Mirror

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

In Malvern in March

In Malvern in March

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

 

 

 

 

Split Mirror: Part 1

1

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

2

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

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

Painted Ladies front cover jpeg

Jasmine timeline

This week life has been a little more normal, whatever that means. It’s been sunny and warm – nice enough to be out in sumer skirts and dresses.

summer - last year!

summer – last year!

I’ve been able to get on with the next (the third) Jasmine Frame novel as well as getting some other jobs done.  I am thinking about the next prequel novella but have decided to give you, dear readers, a rest for a week.  However, there are now eight novel or novella length Jasmine Frame stories counting the current novel in preparation so I thought you might like to see a timeline of Jasmine’s life and how the stories fit in. I’m not going to give away too many details about Jasmine though. You’ll have to read the stories to find out about her, her gender identity and the cases she tackles as a transsexual detective.

Jasmine Frame Timeline
  • 1983 January 23rd: James Frame born (Hastings, sister Holly is 4)
  • 2000 August: Discovering Jasmine  (novella)
  • 2001 November: Bristol University. Soft Focus (novella)
  • 2004 James/Jasmine graduates & joins the police.
  • 2005 July:  marries Angela Madison
  • 2009 June:  Joins ‘Violent and Serious Crime Unit’ in Kintbridge
  • 2009 November: Blueprint (novella)
  • 2010 July: Commences transition; Self-portraits (novella, previously called The Switch)
  • 2010 November:  Close-Up (novella)
  • 2012 January: Jasmine resigns from the police
  • 2012 May: Painted Ladies (novel – published)
  • 2012 August: Bodies by Design (novel)
  • 2012 November: Brides (novel, provisional title, in preparation)

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

Painted Ladies front cover jpeg

 

Who is September?

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

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

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

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

Seven is a theme of Evil Above the Stars

Seven is a theme of Evil Above the Stars

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

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

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

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

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

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

Painted Ladies cover

Close-up: Jasmine receives attention

Did some work this week with my agent on editing Bodies By Design, the second Jasmine Frame novel. It is now a much tighter novel, allbeit a little shorter. Let’s hope it attracts some interest. Otherwise it’s been another busy week with not a lot of time for fresh writing. Nevertheless here is the next epsiode of the prequel, Close-up.

Close-up: Part 12

DCI Sloane walked around Jasmine’s desk to peer at the screen.
‘Where is the suitcase now?’ he asked.
‘I think Amber dumped it before she called on Ashley Stiles,’ Jasmine replied. She touched the keyboard to bring up a map showing the route Amber Markham would have taken from the station to Ashley Stiles’ home in Coot Close. Pointing to the screen, she said, ‘There’s all this rough ground behind Ashely’s house. Amber had time to go there, dump the case and then get back to Coot Close by six-thirty.’
‘Not a lot of time,’ Sloane commented.
‘No, so she couldn’t have hidden very thoroughly,’ Jasmine added.
Sloane straightened up, scratching his chin. ‘You may be onto something her Frame.’ He turned to Tom Shepherd. ‘Pick up Palmerston from the Parnell place. She can leave SOCO to do their jobs. Get over to Aldermaston and organise a search of this rough ground. I’ll round up as many uniformed officers as I can to assist. Kingston and Money are in Reading following a trail of addresses that may lead us to Markham and Harris.’
Tom started to move.
‘And take Frame with you,’ Sloane went on. Jasmine sat up. Was Sloane at last sending her out on a task? ‘Drop her off at A and E to get checked over.’ Jasmine slumped. ‘If they don’t keep you in, Frame, you will go home and wait for me to call you. Do you understand?’
Jasmine swallowed. ‘Am I suspended, Sir?’
‘You’re off sick. I haven’t decided whether to suspend you yet. Now go and get your head looked at.’
Reluctantly, and also a little painfully, Jasmine pushed herself from her chair and followed Tom from the office.

Jasmine fastened her seat belt in Tom’s Mondeo. ‘Take me with you to Aldermaston.’
‘No way, Jas. Sloane said to take you to the hospital and that’s what I’m doing. Then I’ll pick up Denise. You know she wouldn’t let you disobey Sloane and he’ll be telling her what’s happening right now.’
Jasmine sat silent as Tom manoeuvred through the town centre traffic. Sloane’s words were final. She was off the case and all she had to look forward to would be a long wait in Kintbridge Hospital.
It didn’t take long for Tom to deliver her to the entrance to A&E. She got out of the car and Tom drove off quickly. As she expected, the reception staff saw that she was walking, talking normally and not complaining of anything other than a sore head, so it was nearly two hours before she was shown into a cubicle. A doctor examined her and decided to send her for a scan which entailed another couple of hours wait.
‘There’s no evidence of any internal damage,’ the doctor said looking from the screen to Jasmine. ‘So I suggest you go home and rest and take painkillers if you need them.’
Jasmine found herself discharged and stranded at the hospital with no transport as the afternoon turned to dusk and rain started to fall. She took out her phone and rang Angela.
‘Hi, Ange. Are you at home?’
‘Yes, Jas. What’s up?’
‘Can you pick me up?’
‘Why? Where are you?’
‘At Kintbridge Hospital.’
‘Why are you there without a car? You haven’t been hurt have you?’
‘I’m OK. Sloane sent me for a check-up.’
‘You have been hurt. I’m on my way.’
The call was cut off before Jasmine had a chance to explain.

‘Oh, Jasmine what did you do that for?’ Angela said.
They were in the slow-moving rush hour queue, on their way home. Jasmine had explained the events leading up to her fall.
‘I had a hunch that Parnell might have something to say when he learned that his friend Harris had fucked both the girls he flashed at.’
Angela inched the car forward. ‘But what is this bloke Harris up to?’
‘I don’t know but from the counsellor’s reports he seems an obsessive, controlling character. I think that having got to know Parnell and perhaps got bored with his cross-dressing he decided to have some fun with his two flashing victims. Something must have happened to Jack Markham and Harris decided to use Parnell in a cover up. Perhaps he hoped Parnell would get blamed for Jack’s disappearance or Parnell was just supposed to get rid of the buggy and make sure that the trail went cold.’
‘So why did Harris kill Parnell?’
‘I’m not sure. Maybe he was angry that his plan hadn’t worked and that we’re onto him. If he’s the type of character that expects things to go the way he imagined he may put the blame for failure on the people he tries to control.’
‘If he’s killed Parnell because of that, is anyone else in danger?’ The traffic was beginning to move as they reached the edge of the town centre. Angela accelerated up the hill out of the town centre.
Jasmine didn’t answer while she pondered. Who else might Harris think he controlled? There was Amber Markham. If she was at his home in Reading then perhaps Kingston and Money would find her. There was Ashley Stiles and her child, but their home would be swamped by police including Tom and Denise Palmerston, searching for the suitcase.
‘If he goes back to either of the women he’s going to run into our lot,’ Jasmine said.
‘Is there anyone else?’ Angela said turning into the road that led to their housing estate.
‘I can’t think of anyone. Parnell, Markham and Stiles, they’re the three people Harris has been involved with.’
‘Anyway, it’s not your problem anymore is it? Sloane has put you on sick leave.’
‘At least I haven’t been suspended. Yet.’
Angela glanced at her. ‘Is that a possibility?’
‘If Palmerston has her way, yes it is. I visited Parnell once before without authorisation. That got him taken in for questioning.’
‘So Ryan Harris’ plan failed because of what you did.’
Jasmine reflected. ‘I suppose so.’
‘What if Parnell told Harris about your role?’
‘What do you mean?’
Angela turned into Bridle Lane. ‘Parnell knew were trans?’
‘Yes, he guessed.’
‘Do you think Harris might blame you for the failure of his plan?’
‘He might think I’m possibly more responsible than Sloane or one of the others.’
‘Hmm.’ Angela turned into their drive and brought the car to a stop. They got out and Angela put her door-key in the lock. She turned the key, pushed the door open and stepped inside. Jasmine followed. She had one foot on the doormat.
A blow hit the back of her neck. She tumbled forward, cannoning into Angela. Falling.
From behind her came a male voice, gloating, triumphant. ‘Got you, you gender bender.’
……………..
Painted Ladies: a Jasmine Frame story, is available as a papaerback and e-book from all booksellers including Amazon

Penny Ellis author of the Jasmine Frame series of crime thrillers

Penny Ellis author of the Jasmine Frame series of crime thrillers

Close-up: Jasmine has a headache

A busy weekend so I’m a little late getting down to this week’s blog. Let’s go straight to the next episode of the Jasmine Frame prequel, Close-up.

Close-up: Part 11

 Chapter 4

‘Are you all right, Love. You had a bit of a fall.’
Jasmine knew she should open her eyes, see who the voice belonged to, but it seemed too much effort. Her head felt as if it was made of lead and her limbs of jelly. Then she felt the aches. Her body was twisted, her legs bent, one arm underneath her. Straightening herself became more important than keeping her head still. She opened her eyes. There was a wrinkled face above her, surrounded by grey hair.
‘Ooh, you are awake, Love. That’s good. Do you think you can move?’
She had to answer this time. There was no real pain in any part of her body except her head. She experimented with straightening her legs, putting out a hand to push herself into a sitting position. Her head felt as if it was going to roll off her shoulders. She squeezed her eyes closed, opened them again. Her view was clearer and the right way up. An old lady was leaning over her, examining her.
‘I heard you tumble down the stairs, Love. That was quite a fall.’
‘Harris?’ Jasmine mumbled, her mouth feeling disconnected to her brain.
‘What, Love?’
Jasmine swallowed, tried again. ‘Did you see Harris? Which way did he go?’
‘I didn’t see anyone else, Love. Was there someone?’
‘He came down from up the stairs. He knocked me over.’
‘It wasn’t very nice of him to run off. Let me help you.’ The old lady held out her hand. Jasmine reached out for it, gripped it, then realised that she was more likely to pull the frail woman over instead of being pulled up. She summoned a huge effort and forced herself to her feet. Pain rattled around her head and she felt sick for a moment.
‘I’ve got to see upstairs,’ Jasmine said, placing a hand on the steel rail and hauling herself onto the first of the steps.
‘Where, Love?’
‘The top flat. Parnell.’
‘Don’t forget your bag, love.’ The old woman bent to pick up her bag which had fallen a couple of feet away. She held it out. Jasmine took it, slung it over her shoulder and began the climb. Each step sent her head ringing. It wasn’t solid lead after all, but a bell with the clapper bashing against the sides. Her breath was coming in short gasps and the nausea had spread from her stomach to her gullet by the time she reached the top landing. She paused and swallowed allowing her dizziness to lessen a little. The door to Parnell’s flat was open. She tapped on it, took a deep breath.
‘Parnell. Are you there? Police.’
There was no reply. She stepped inside, took two more steps into the lounge. She didn’t need to call again. Parnell was on the floor, face down. Blood had spread across the carpet from the wound on the side of his head. Jasmine went forward, glancing around to make sure she wasn’t going to stand on something that may be vital evidence. She crouched down beside Parnell, knew before she felt his neck that he was dead. There was no pulse.
The throbbing in her head retreated to the background as her training took over. She stood, backed carefully from the room, reached in her bag for her phone, thumbed the team’s principal contact number.
‘Hello, DS Palmerston.’
‘I am at Parnell’s flat. He’s dead.’
‘Frame? What are you doing there? Did you say he’s dead?’
‘Yes. Harris was here. I saw him leave.’
‘Why didn’t you stop him?’
‘He knocked me down the stairs.’
‘Are you sure Parnell is dead?’
‘Yes. No pulse. He has a blow to the head.’
‘Don’t touch anything Frame.’
‘Of course not.’
‘We’re on our way and I’d like an explanation for what you were doing there.’ The call terminated. Jasmine went out to the landing and rested both hands on the bannister. She tried to breath evenly, hoping the nausea would subside before Palmerston arrived with the scene of crime team.

‘Are you sure you shouldn’t go to A&E and get your head checked,’ Tom said
Jasmine sat at her desk trying not to move her head. She didn’t want to look around or up to see him in case her headache got worse .
‘I haven’t got concussion, just a sore head where I banged it. That’s all. It’s better than it was a couple of hours ago. I’ve taken paracetamol.’ Along with her hormone tablets; she had not forgotten that she could start her course of gender altering drugs. She tried to focus on the screen, to look as though she was doing something useful.
‘I don’t understand what you were doing there, Jas,’ Tom said, again.
‘I told you. After you said that Harris had dated and presumably had sex with both the girls that Parnell flashed at, I wanted to see his reaction, to see if it triggered any other stuff he might know.’
‘I’m not even sure you should have been thinking of releasing that information, Jas.’
‘Well, I didn’t get to see Parnell, did I. Not alive.’
‘You’re sure it was Harris.’
‘It was only a glimpse before he collided with me but he matched the descriptions.’
‘Well, we have a murder and a possible suspect. What are you doing now?’
‘I’m looking for Amber Markham.’
‘Why?’
‘We need to find out where she’s been.’ And she needed to show she was doing something useful.
‘Of course we do. Where are you looking?’
‘At Aldermaston station. I’m into National Rail’s CCTV. Your notes of your interview with Ashley Stiles said she travelled by train.’
Tom nodded. ‘That’s right. It’s the best way to get from Kintbridge to Aldermaston without a car.’
‘And Stiles said she arrived about half-six.’
‘Yes.’
‘There were trains that arrived at six-oh-six and six-twenty eight. It’s about five hundred metres from the station to Coot Close, where Stiles lives, so Markham couldn’t have been on the latter.’
‘No.’
Jasmine tapped keys. ‘So I’m looking at the footage from six o’clock. There’s the train arriving. It’s on time. A few people get off; it’s a commuter train for people who work in Kintbridge.’
Tom leaned over her shoulder looking carefully at the screen. ‘I guess so.’
‘There’s Markham.’ Jasmine froze the picture and pointed. The small, slight, hatless, figure of Amber Markham in a short skirt, boots and fluffy jacket was blurry but recognisable.
‘She’s carrying something.’
Jasmine expanded the image. ‘A small suitcase.’
‘She didn’t stay overnight with Stiles. She was there for less than an hour.’
‘Hmm, why carry a case for a short, chat with a friend. Did Ashley Stiles mention Markham bringing any stuff to her? Or taking it away – baby clothes, that sort of thing?’
‘No, she didn’t mention anything like that. What does Markham do?’ Tom waved his hand over the keyboard. Jasmine advanced the recording frame by frame. They watched Amber Markham walk off the platform with the other travellers until she left the camera’s field of view.
‘She arrives at Aldermaston Station at six minutes passed six. She doesn’t arrive at Stiles’ house until around half past. It shouldn’t take more than about ten minutes to get to Coot Close even with a case to carry.’
Tom shrugged. ‘Perhaps she waited for a taxi.’
‘A taxi to travel half a kilometre! Anyway she’s hasn’t got much cash. The train ticket must have stretched her.’
‘I don’t know.’ Tom straightened up.
‘We need to ask Stiles what Markham was doing with the case.’
‘Yes, Jas, I suppose we do, but I reckon Sloane and Palmerston will be more interested in finding Harris now that we have a murder.’
‘But it all ties together doesn’t it?’
‘What does?’ Sloane’s voice growled. Jasmine looked up to see him looming over her computer screen.
‘Uh, Sir.’ Jasmine started to rise.
‘Don’t get up, Frame, just give me a reason why I shouldn’t suspend you for attending the scene of a crime without authorisation.’
Jasmine gulped. ‘I discovered Parnell’s body, Sir.’
‘I know. What were you doing there?’
‘I thought Parnell might have more information and I was in town not far away.’
‘You told me you had to pick up a prescription.’
‘That’s right, Sir.’
‘You didn’t say that you were going to visit a suspect as well.’
‘I didn’t know then, Sir. It was only when Tom told me that Harris knew both Parnell’s victims I thought he might have something more to tell us.’
‘Didn’t you think it was up to your superior officers to decide whether such information should be divulged and what questions should be put to Parnell?’
Jasmine didn’t reply. She knew she had been in the wrong.
‘Well, Frame?’
‘I didn’t think, Sir, but…’
‘But, what?’
‘Harris, Markham, Parnell. They’re all linked, Sir.’
‘Obviously. They knew each other.’
‘And Jack Markham, Sir. The child is at the centre of this.’
‘That’s likely.’
Jasmine took a deep breath knowing that she had to get her ideas out in one go. ‘Markham involved Parnell in her plan to stage the fake abduction. Harris must have put her up to it since he was the one who knew where Parnell lived but he was living with Markham and her baby having previously been with Stiles and her child.’
‘So?’
‘I think the abduction is a cover for the killing of Jack by Harris or Markham or both.’
‘Possible. Where’s the body?’
Jasmine stabbed a finger at the still picture of Markham leaving the railway station. ‘In that suitcase.’

……………………………

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

Presenting a copy of Painted Ladies to Gender Matters

Presenting a copy of Painted Ladies to Gender Matters

Close-up: Jasmine follows a lead

A step forward to publication of Evil Above the Stars: vol.1 Seventh Child this week with the editorial comments and suggestions from the publisher Elsewhen. Glad to say there was nothing too difficult to amend. Also worked on volume 3 Seven Times Seven. Gave some time to article writing, particularly to mark the announcement of the Nobel Prizes for Physics and Chemistry. I like to see if I can write something to make the chemistry of the prize work understandable for school kids (OK, more able ones). You can see if I’ve been successful by going to http://freedomtoteach.collinseducation.com/ this coming week

Of course, I’ve also written the next episode of the Jasmine Frame prequel, Close-up, which is below. We’ve reached the 10th!

Close-up: Part 10

A uniformed police officer entered the interview room while Jasmine was noting down Parnell’s description of Ryan Harris. When she had finished she stood up.
‘Can I go now?’ Parnell asked, again.
‘Perhaps. I’ll have to check with DCI Sloane,’ Jasmine replied. She moved to the door and spoke to the officer. ‘Look after Mr Parnell here, please, until we decide whether he can leave.’
Jasmine returned to the team office and knocked on Sloane’s door. He called for her to enter and as she did so saw him putting his phone down. He looked at her with his glaring eyes as if expecting her to transfer her report telepathically.
‘Well, Frame?’
‘Parnell’s description matches the others we have of Ryan Harris. It must be the same man.’
‘Hmm. This is an interesting development along with what I have just heard.’
‘What’s that, Sir?’
‘Forensics have found traces of blood and tissue in Markham’s flat. In the child’s bedroom to be precise. The room had been cleaned thoroughly but not well enough. They found traces of other bodily fluids, vomit, faeces, urine. Probably the child. They haven’t matched it yet, but it looks like we may have a murder or serious assault to solve.’
‘Yes, Sir.’ Jasmine was thinking through who the suspects might be; Amber Markham and her supposed boyfriend, obviously; the child’s father, possibly; Parnell? ‘What should we do about Parnell, Sir?’
‘Let him go for now. He seems to be a pawn in the game. This fellow Harris, must have told Markham of Parnell’s whereabouts. I wonder what he’s up to?’
‘Who, Sir?’
‘Harris. I want you to find out all you can about him; and get on to Palmerston and the others. Tell them that the child was probably injured, perhaps killed, in Markham’s flat. We need to find the child alive or dead.’
‘Yes, Sir.’ Jasmine hesitated wondering if Sloane had any other instructions.
‘Get on with it then.’
Jasmine returned to her desk and began calling up records while thumbing her phone. Denise Palmerston didn’t answer but Tom Shepherd did.
‘Hi, Jasmine. Got some news?’
‘I have. Jack Markham may have been hurt or even killed in Amber’s flat. Forensics found blood where he slept.’
‘Oh, right. That makes it more serious.’
‘Yes, and Amber’s boyfriend, Ryan Harris, knew Parnell and probably told Amber where he lived.’
‘That’s interesting.’
‘Are you with Ashley Stiles?’
‘Yes, Palmerston’s talking to her. I slipped out to answer your call.’
‘What has she said?’
‘Well, you were right. She has kept in touch with Amber. They met up from time to time. Amber called on her a couple of days ago actually. Stiles thinks she seemed a bit upset but wouldn’t talk about it.’
‘How did Amber get to Aldermaston? She doesn’t have a car. Did someone, her boyfriend perhaps, give her lift?’
‘I’ll ask.’
‘Oh, and see if Stiles knows anything about Ryan Harris.’
‘I will. Is that it? I’d better get back in there.’
‘That’s all. Let me know what you find out.’
The call ended and Jasmine rang Derek Kingston to pass on the new information. Then she phoned downstairs to arrange for Parnell’s release. At last she was able to look for information on Ryan Harris.
Two hours later she was following a trail of clues and becoming more and more interested in the young man. Her mobile rang and Jasmine picked it up expecting one of her colleagues but it was Dr Gould.
‘Hi, Jilly.’
‘Hello, Jasmine. I thought I’d give you a personal call to let you know that your prescription is ready to pick up. You’ll be getting an official email of course.’
‘That’s great. Thanks for letting me know.’
‘You can start taking the pills straight away but we’ll need to keep an eye on the effects. Let me know if you don’t feel well. We may have to adjust the dose of the oestrogens or the anti-androgens.’
Jasmine was excited. She could start the course of drugs that would help make her female.
‘Thanks, Jilly. That’s great.’
‘Got to go. See you soon.’ The connection broke. Jasmine stared at the phone. She had to get out to the chemist and pick up her pills; she was so eager to start her treatment. Of course it would be months before the changes became obvious, but that didn’t matter. She was on the way to becoming the woman she knew she was. But how could she get out? Perhaps if she reported what she had learned to Sloane he’d allow her a few minutes to run into town. She left her desk and approached his office.
When Sloane had replied to her tap, she opened the door.
‘Sir, I’ve found out a few things about Ryan Harris.’
‘Well, don’t stand there. Tell me.’
Jasmine took a step into the office and looked at the notepad she had in her hand.
‘I looked back at the records and found that around the time that Parnell was arrested, there were a number of complaints from young women about a young man watching their homes. One of the women recognised him and identified him as Ryan Harris. He was only sixteen at the time so he was just given a warning and advised to speak to a counsellor. I rang Parnell’s counsellor and she confirmed that Ryan Harris had been on her list about five years ago and that he did attend group sessions with Parnell. She wouldn’t give me details over the phone but she did say he had something of an obsessive personality.’
‘Good. So you’ve confirmed Parnell’s story. Anything else?’
‘I have an address in Reading, Sir, where he lived when he was having the counselling sessions. It looks like it’s his parents’ home.’
‘Let me have it. We need to speak to that young man.’
Jasmine handed over the slip of paper with the address written on it. Sloane picked up his phone and poked at the keys. She guessed that Sloane wasn’t going to send her off to find Harris.
‘Thank you, Frame. Is that all?’
‘Yes, Sir. Except, do you mind if I go out for a few minutes. I have to pick up a prescription.’
‘What. Oh, yes, if you must. Don’t be long. This case is moving.’
‘Thank you, Sir. I won’t.’
Jasmine backed out of Sloane’s office, hurried back to her desk grabbing her coat, bag and phone.

It only took a few minutes at a fast walk to get to the High Street from Police HQ. There were few shoppers around as it was still not yet ten o’clock, but it was a dry morning after yesterday’s rain. The local chemist’s shop that she used was almost empty and it took moments for her to pick up the packet of drugs. Jasmine grasped it in her hand as if it was a prize she had won. She was eager to return to the police station, rip off the packaging and take her first daily dose but as she left the shop her phone rang. She pulled it from her bag and answered. It was Tom.
‘Hi, Jas. Thought you’d like to know.’
‘Know what?’
‘We asked Ashley about Ryan Harris.’
‘And?’
‘She knew him.’
‘She did! How?’
‘Ashley met him in a café, here in Aldermaston, a little over a year ago, soon after she’d had her baby. Her child is a bit older than Markham’s.’
‘They just met?’
‘Well apparently, Harris was friendly, they got chatting. She was feeling a bit lonely and worn out having to look after the kid on her own.’
‘What happened?’
‘They became friends. Harris visited her at her house. She never went to his home and of course, with the child to look after, she couldn’t get out much.’
‘Were they lovers?’
‘I guess so.’
‘But they’re not together now?’
‘No. Ashley said he got a bit demanding, obsessive. She finally threw him out and told him it was all over.’
‘Did he leave her alone?’
‘No. That was the point. He pestered her for weeks then suddenly stopped calling on her.’
‘Sounds like about the time he started going out with Amber. Does Ashley Stiles know that Amber was seeing Harris?’
‘No. Ashley says she knew Amber had a new man but Amber hadn’t told her who it was. They didn’t meet up that often.’
‘How did Harris behave with Stiles’ child?’
‘Apparently he was very good with the kid at first but later urged her to get child minders to take the kid so that they could be on their own together.’
‘Sounds like he was nice to the child to get in her good books.’
‘That’s right.’
‘Well, I found an old address for Harris, and I think Sloane is sending Kingston and Money to check it out.’
‘That’s great. We’re getting somewhere. We’re heading back in a few minutes. See you at HQ.’
The call ended. Jasmine stood in the street, prescription in one hand, phone in the other, thinking. Parnell would probably be home by now. What would he make of Harris’ liaisons with both the girls that he’d flashed at? Perhaps it would stir up some other useful information from his memory. Decision made, Jasmine dropped the mobile and drugs into her bag and strode down Waggoner’s’ Passage towards the river and the old mill where Parnell lived.
In a couple of minutes she reached the old brick building and started to climb the steel staircase. As she reached the first landing, she heard the crash of a door flung open above her and feet running down the stairs making the steel ring like a bell. She looked up as a figure appeared on the flight of steps above her, a young man, scruffy beard and long hair, dirty jeans and sweatshirt, thin. Instantly she knew it was Harris. He leapt down the steps two or three at a time towards her.
‘Harris. Stop!’ she said stepping into his path. He raised his arm, not slowing at all. His hand hit the side of her head and his body cannoned into hers. She was lifted off her feet by the impact. Spinning round she grabbed for the hand rail; missed. Harris was passed, leaping down the last flight. Jasmine tumbled down the steps, head over heel. Her head cracked against the steel post at the bottom. Darkness descended before the ground ended her fall.
…………….

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

"Jasmine and Me": readings and discussion about the Jasmine Frame stories and transgenderism

“Jasmine and Me”: readings and discussion about the Jasmine Frame stories and transgenderism

Close-up: Jasmine has some questions

A varied week this week. I’ve been editing Bodies by Design, the second Jasmine Frame novel, continuing with the writing of the third volume of Evil Above the Stars, and of course writing this week’s episode of Close-up. I’ve even done some marketing of Painted Ladies by offering my presentation “Jasmine and me” to writers’ groups. I wonder if it is a good idea to have a number of projects going simultaneously – but I like it.  So here is the next episode of Close-up.

Close-up: Part 9

DCs Kingston and Money sauntered into the office closely followed by DCI Sloane with DS Palmerston tagging along behind. Sloane stood in front of the whiteboard and gestured impatiently to the team to gather round.
‘Report please, Detective Sergeant,’ he said as they assembled in a rough semicircle.
‘Still no sign of Markham, Sir,’ Denise Palmerston said.
‘What about the child?’ Sloane asked.
‘No leads there either, Sir,’ Palmerston replied raising her hands to indicate her frustration.
‘Are we even sure the kid exists?’ Keith Money said. ‘’The buggy Markham was pushing was empty. Perhaps it’s a phantom baby like some women have phantom pregnancies.’ Derek Kingston giggled.
‘Don’t be an idiot,’ Palmerston said, ‘Markham’s parents and the boy’s father talked about him and social services confirmed that Jack exists, and we only have Parnell’s word that the buggy was empty.’
‘And Jasmine’s analysis of Amber Markham’s movements,’ Tom said.
Palmerston’s nose wrinkled in a sneer. ‘Oh, yes, Frame’s “analysis”.’
Jasmine felt anger rushing through her arteries and veins. She wanted to respond to Palmerston’s dismissal of her work but gritted her teeth and said nothing.
‘Are you suggesting that Parnell may be lying to us?’ Kingston asked.
‘It’s a possibility but unlikely,’ Sloane said with a raised eyebrow at Palmerston. ‘You found the pushchair cover where Parnell said it would be. It matches the one in the CCTV on Markham’s pushchair. Soco have taken his flat apart overnight but found no evidence that a child has been in the flat. I think we have to take his word, at least where the child is concerned.’ Palmerston looked as though she wanted to disagree while Kingston and Money nodded.
‘Jasmine’s got a lead,’ Tom said. The other four detectives looked at Jasmine with wide-open eyes. Palmerston’s cheeks coloured.
Sloane spoke, ‘What have you got, Frame?’
‘The other girl that Parnell flashed at, Ashley Stiles, lives in Aldermaston, Sir. I have her address.’
‘Why didn’t we know about this Stiles woman?’ Sloane said, glaring at each of his officers.
‘None of Markham’s family or neighbours mentioned her,’ Palmerston said. ‘There’s no evidence that Markham and this woman are still in touch. It is six years since Parnell was in court.’
‘At the time, they were close friends,’ Jasmine said, ‘I see no reason why they shouldn’t still be even though Ashley has moved away from Kintbridge.’
‘Denise. You and Shepherd, get over to Aldermaston, now,’ Sloane said. ‘Let’s find out from Stiles how much contact she has had with Markham.’ Palmerston started to move with the reluctant acceptance that this was an obvious thing to do. Jasmine passed to Tom the address she had scribbled on a sticky-note. Tom winked at Jasmine and hurried to open the door for the DS.
Sloane turned to Kingston and Money. ‘Get back to Markham’s address and ask the neighbours again when they last saw Markham with her child. We need to establish exactly when the baby disappeared, if indeed it has. Also, detailed sightings of this man Markham was supposed to be dating. What’s his name?’
‘Ryan Harris, Sir,’ Kingston said.
‘I want him traced a.s.a.p.’
‘Yes, Sir,’ both officers chorused.
‘Well, go on then.’ Sloane waved for them to depart and started to make his way to his office.
‘What about me?’ Jasmine said finding herself alone again. Sloane turned to look at her apparently having forgotten she was still standing just a few feet from him.
‘I want more on this Stiles woman, Frame. How much contact has she had with Markham? And this Harris, fellow. Why has he made no appearance even though he was supposed to be living with her?’
‘Do we have a description, Sir?’
‘It’s in the files. Look for it Frame.’ Sloane resumed his walk to his office.
‘What about Parnell, Sir?’ Jasmine called after him. Sloane paused again.
‘What about him?’
‘We still have him don’t we Sir?’
‘He’s down in the cells. I need to decide if we charge him with anything. We can’t keep him much longer and Soco have completed their search.’
‘Can we speak to him again, Sir?’
‘Why?’
‘He might know if Amber has had contact with Ashley Stiles. Amber might have mentioned her when she confronted him and got him to help her with the buggy.’
Sloane turned and stepped back towards Jasmine, stroking his chin.
‘That is a good point, Frame. You had better accompany me down to the interview room. We’ll have a few more words with Mr Parnell.’
Excitement gripped Jasmine. She was going to interview a suspect. Sloane hadn’t let her get this close to an interviewee since she transitioned. The fact that there was no-one else on the team left to ask was beside the point. She hurried after Sloane as he took big strides towards the door.
 
Jasmine followed Sloane into the interview room. Parnell was already sitting at the table. He looked up angrily as Jasmine and Sloane took their seats.
‘When can I go home?’ Parnell asked. ‘I haven’t done anything wrong.’
‘Apart from causing a hazard to navigation in the canal, you mean,’ Sloane growled, ‘or wasting police time by colluding with Amber Markham in the fictional abduction of her baby.’
‘She made me do it,’ Parnell whined.
‘Well, we’ll think about releasing you after we have asked you a few more questions.’
‘About what?’ Parnell looked defensive, unsure about what was going to come next.
‘Ashley Stiles.’ Sloane said. Parnell’s eyebrows rose. ‘You do remember the name?’
Parnell dropped his head.
‘Yes, I remember the name. She was Kylie’s friend.’
‘Kylie?’ Sloane said
Jasmine leaned towards Sloane. ‘That’s Amber’s former name, Sir.’
‘Oh, yes. Did Kylie/Amber mention her to you, Mr Parnell?’
‘No.’
‘Are you sure?’
‘I said, no.’
‘Have you had any contact with Ashley Stiles since you were in court?
‘Of course not.’ Parnell shook his head violently.
‘Why of course? You weren’t expected to have contact with Markham but you have.’
‘She recognised me and followed me home.’
‘That is what you told us she led you to believe.’
Parnell looked mystified. ‘What do you mean?’
‘Well, I find it quite hard to believe that she recognised who you were when she saw you out in the street dressed as a woman. Frame here looks very different to her former self and she is not even wearing a wig.’
Acute embarrassment gripped Jasmine, mixed with anger that Sloane could make reference to her former existence as a man.
‘Well…’ Parnell examined Jasmine then shook his head.
Sloane pressed on. ‘That is unless you are an unusual transvestite who makes no attempt to pass as a woman despite wearing female clothes.’
Parnell was affronted. ‘I do my make-up well and I have some very good wigs. I’ve been told I look very feminine and pass easily.’
‘Who tells you that?’ Sloane snapped. Jasmine knew that Parnell lived alone and had no family nearby. She had had the impression that he was a loner and she couldn’t see him as one who socialised in transgender groups.
‘Uh…’
‘Who, Mr Parnell? Who do you meet dressed as a woman? Who told Amber Markham where you live and that you cross-dress?’
Parnell’s face showed confusion. He shook his head. ‘No, it can’t be.’
‘Who can’t it be?’ Sloane insisted.
‘It can’t be Ryan.’
Jasmine’s heart beat rapidly when she heard the name.
‘Who is Ryan?’ Sloane said.
‘We met after my case. I visited a counsellor to help me to stop. She had group sessions. He was in the group.’
‘What’s his surname?’
‘Harris.’
Jasmine almost couldn’t believe it. Another connection with Amber Markham. It couldn’t be a coincidence. Surely not. Sloane turned to her.
‘Ryan Harris. Is he on the sex offender’s register, Frame?’
‘I don’t think so, Sir. If he was and he’s being living in the locality I’m sure his profile would have come up.’
‘Hmm.’ Sloane turned back to face Parnell. ‘Tell us all about Ryan Harris. What was he seeing the counsellor for?’
‘He had been warned about following people.’
‘Stalking?’
‘I suppose so. A few women had complained about him hanging around their homes.’
‘So just a warning. He didn’t have any convictions?’
‘I don’t think so. He never admitted to having any.’
‘OK. So you met, you talked. How well did you get to know him?’
Parnell smiled. ‘He was a good friend. He was sorry that those girls had got me arrested. We hung out together. He came to my flat.’
‘How did he find out about you being a transvestite?’ Sloane asked.
‘He knew from the start. In the group sessions we had to talk about ourselves and what we’d done. I spoke about dressing. We talked about it after. Ryan was interested.’
‘But it wasn’t just talk was it. You said you were complimented on your appearance.’
‘Ryan persuaded me to dress for him. He said I looked as good as a real woman.’
Jasmine wondered how honest Ryan Harris had been if Parnell was telling his story truthfully. How well did Parnell pass for female when he was dressed? The pictures of him in his brightly coloured mac on the CCTV didn’t provide much evidence of his skills. He was short and stout, not a very feminine shape.
‘So Harris knew about your conviction, the statements of the two girls, your transvestism and he knew where you lived.’
Parnell nodded. ‘Yes.’
‘Are you still friends? When did you last see him?’
‘I don’t know what happened. He stopped coming round, he changed his phone. I couldn’t contact him. I haven’t seen him for over a year.’
‘He dropped you.’ Sloane said. Jasmine thought he was being unnecessarily heartless.
‘Perhaps,’ Parnell said forlornly.
‘Right. Well we’ll need a description of Ryan Harris. See if it matches. You take over, Frame. I’ll get a uniformed officer to join you.’ Sloane stood up and walked out.
‘DCI Sloane has left the room,’ Jasmine said for the benefit of the recording.
‘Why are you so interested in Ryan?’ Parnell asked.
‘He could be important. We’re not sure. You dressed for him?’
‘Yes. He said he liked how I looked.’
‘What sort of things did he like you to wear?’
A blush came into Parnell’s face. ‘You know. You went on about what I wear yesterday afternoon. You know what it’s like dressing up. You’re one.’
‘I am transsexual. I am not a transvestite.’ Her response was unnecessary she knew, but Parnell had riled her by suggesting they were similar. Parnell screwed up his face. ‘What did Harris want you to wear?’
‘Female things.’
‘I know that, but what sort of female wear.’
‘He brought me some stuff to try on.’
‘Such as.’
‘Mini-skirts, leather-look, tops with sequins.’
‘And you wore those with stockings and suspenders.’
‘Yes.’
Jasmine had to stop herself from grinning. She tried to imagine the plump, middle-aged Parnell in a short, shiny skirt with his stocking tops showing and couldn’t without grimacing.
‘He got you to dress like a tart.’
‘He said I looked great.’
Jasmine suppressed a laugh. ‘Perhaps he thought you did. Did he come on to you?’
‘Oh, no. He was straight.’
‘So why was he so keen on seeing you dressed up?’
Parnell shook his head and suddenly looked very sad. Jasmine had the impression of a loner grateful for the companionship of a younger man.
‘Did you offer him sex? Is that why he stopped visiting you’
‘No! You may fancy it with a man but I’m not gay. I just like being dressed.’ Jasmine hadn’t yet worked out whether as a woman she wanted sex with a man but the vehemence of Parnell’s denial almost convinced her that he thought he was certain he didn’t, but she wondered whether Parnell himself understood his desires. Perhaps she had pushed him enough.
‘OK. We’d better just get his description down then I can see if it matches with the other statements we have.’
‘Can I go home then?’
‘Perhaps. That’s up to DCI Sloane.’
 
Painted Ladies: A Jasmine Frame Story is available as a paperback and e-book from all booksellers.
Painted Ladies cover

Close-up: Jasmine goes home

I’ve spent this week editing my second Jasmine Frame novel, Bodies by Design – again. It’ll probably need to be done a few more times before it gets published (there isn’t an “if” in that sentence). I find editing difficult as I oscillate from thinking my writing is rubbish to imagining that it’s actually not too bad. Sometimes I can be really ruthless and change whole segments, at others I agonise over changing a word or a phrase. On this occasion I found one glaring error – I’d changed the name of a minor character halfway through and hadn’t noticed it on the previous edit. Anyway I hope the writing is now somewhat tighter and the manuscript less error strewn. And now fingers-crossed…

It’s fun to get back to some new writing so here is the next episode of the Jasmine Frame, prequel.

Close-up: Part 8

 Chapter 3

Jasmine brought the old Fiesta to a halt behind the smart, new Mini. Angela was back after three nights away on business. That gave Jasmine’s mood a lift. Angela’s new job had benefits, such as the new car and a higher salary but it was taking her away from home a lot more. Not that that should be bothering Jasmine, after all, they were technically separated despite still sharing the house they had purchased as a married couple. Angela had set the legal wheels in motion to secure their divorce in time for Jasmine to acquire her Gender Recognition Certificate. The only problem was that Jasmine wasn’t looking forward to the parting. Angela had been her lover, her confidante and her support so she didn’t want to envisage life as a single woman. It was the being single that worried her, living as a woman was what she dearly wanted.
‘Hi, I’m home,’ Jasmine called as she closed the front door behind her.
‘I’m in the kitchen,’ came the reply. Jasmine followed the voice and found Angela putting spread on slices of bread. They kissed each other daintily on each other’s cheek.
‘I just got in myself,’ Angela said. ‘Just needed a sandwich. What about you? I thought you were doing an early shift today.’
Jasmine couldn’t remember eating during the day and discovered that she was famished. She dropped her bag on the floor and took off her jacket. At least the light and the warmth in the house allowed you to forget the cold, miserable November outside.’
‘Yes, I need something, I’m starving. It’s been a busy day.’
Angela reached for a glass from a wall cupboard and filled it from a bottle she had just opened.
‘Here have a glass of wine. You look fed up. What’s the problem? You were seeing Dr Gould today. Wasn’t that good news?’
Jasmine took the glass from Angela’s outstretched hand, took a swig and leaned back against the cupboard. The reminder of her appointment with her GP cheered her a little. She smiled.
‘Yes, I did see her and it is good news. I’m on the gender reassignment programme and can start the drugs. I’ll pick up the prescription tomorrow I expect. I’ll have at least two different ones.’
‘Oh yes, the anti-androgens to counteract your testosterone and the oestrogen’ for the feminisation.’
Jasmine chuckled to herself; Angela knew almost as much about the gender reassignment process as she did. ‘That’s right. Jilly just needs to get the dosage right for me.’
‘So, that’s the good news. What’s making you miserable?’ Angela slapped a slice of bread on top of her sandwich.
Jasmine took another mouthful of wine feeling the alcohol going to her head on her empty stomach.
‘Work,’ she said. ‘We had a new case dropped on us this morning that’s occupying everyone on the team. That’s why I’m late. I had to go back on duty after my appointment. In fact I’m not sure I’d be home now if Sloane hadn’t sent me.’
Angela frowned. ‘What happened?’
Jasmine thought through the events of the day. ‘Where do I start?’
‘How about at the beginning. You had a new case. A murder?’
‘Could be. No body yet but it’s turned out to be not what we thought at the start. But it was the same as every other case since I transitioned. Sloane sent out Tom, Kingston, Money and Denise Palmerston.’
‘She’s his new DS?’
‘That’s right. They all went off leaving me to stare at a screen all day.’
‘Oh, Jas. Again?’
‘Yes. Again. And when we had a couple of people in to question I got excluded from that too. It’s getting me down, Ange. Sloane just won’t let me do my job.’
Angela grimaced. ‘I know it’s frustrating Jas, but perhaps you just need to give him time. Let him get used to you being a woman.’
‘How much time does he need? It’s been nearly four months.’
‘I don’t think that is very long where Sloane is concerned. You’ve got to be patient, Jas. I suppose you did what you were asked to do.’
‘Oh, yes, I dug up some very interesting information on the case and spoke to someone heavily involved.’
‘How did you do that?’
‘I called on him after my appointment.’
Angela frowned. ‘What did Sloane make of that? Wasn’t that sort of disobeying him?’
‘I wasn’t expecting my little private investigation to be important but it turned out that it was. I think that is why Sloane took me off duty. He thought he was heading off a row with Palmerston.’
‘He thought?’
‘It didn’t work. She had a go at me before I left. Denise Palmerston is a feminist who doesn’t like transwomen.’
‘Oh. I can see your problem. There’s not a lot you can do but keep out of her way.’
‘That’s impossible when she’s my immediate boss.’
‘Hmm. Would you like me to put a ready-meal in the microwave? There’s a lasagne in the freezer.’ Angela turned away and bent to look in the bottom of the fridge-freezer. It was typical of her, to move onto a task she could do and leave the insoluble problem to stew for a while.
‘Thanks, that’ll be fine.’
Angela found the packet she was looking for and straightened up. ‘Was anyone else difficult?’
‘Money accused me of having it easy being stuck in the office all day. Mind you he was out in the cold and wet most of the time, supervising a search and house to house, so I can almost forgive him.’
‘Well, go and get out of your work clothes and have another glass of wine. Your supper will be just a few minutes.’ Angela took the wrapping off the meal.

Jasmine laid her fork in the empty dish as Angela entered the lounge. She had changed into her pyjamas. Her nipples and the curve of her breasts showed clearly through the thin material of the top. Jasmine longed for the day when she could slob around casually and appear as naturally feminine. She had changed out of her workday suit but had pulled on a loose dress over her bra and tight fitting knickers. Both undergarments were necessary to maintain her female shape – the bra to hold her breastforms and the knickers to hide away her male genitals.
‘How was that?’ Angela asked as she sank onto the sofa beside Jasmine. Jasmine placed the tray with the almost clean lasagne dish on the floor.
‘OK actually. It’s filled the hole.’ She picked up her wine glass and took another sip.
‘Good. Look, Jas, as we’re both sitting here together for once, I wonder if we can have a chat.’
That sounded ominous. Jasmine knew that Angela’s “chats”, which were different to everyday chats, meant something serious.
‘Yes, OK. I can’t remember the last time we were both on this sofa.’
‘I’ve been hoping we would find a moment. It’s about the house, Jas.’
‘The house?’ Jasmine glanced around the room apprehensively. ‘There’s no problems are there, a leak or something.’
‘No, nothing like that. It’s just – what are we going to do about it when we separate properly.’
‘We sleep in separate rooms now.’
‘Yes, Jas, but you know that’s not enough. We’re getting divorced. I know we’ll still be friends but we agreed we’ve got to go our separate ways now that you’ve transitioned.’
Fear of being parted from Angela gripped Jasmine. ‘It’ll be a while before the divorce comes through won’t it?’
‘Yes, another eighteen months or so since we’re not using lawyers or rushing it through.’
‘So, what’s the rush?’
‘We need to show we’re not cohabiting, and we need to start developing our own lives.’
‘Oh.’ Other than becoming a woman and continuing with detective work, Jasmine hadn’t really thought much about having a life. But they had discussed the separation and divorce before and Jasmine knew that she had to give Angela the freedom to meet other people, perhaps even another man she wanted to have sex with. ‘OK, what are you suggesting?’
‘Well, I couldn’t have done it before but I’ve been doing some calculations and with my new salary I think I can buy out your share of the house and take out a mortgage myself.’
‘I see.’ It wasn’t a solution she had thought possible. Selling up and both finding their own rented places had been the plan.
‘It’ll give you some capital to work with. Not a lot. The recession knocked back house prices so there isn’t a lot of equity, but it should help you get set up somewhere.’
‘Yes, thanks, I hadn’t realised…’
‘So you can start looking around for somewhere for yourself.’
‘I suppose so.’
‘There’s no rush of course. It’ll take a couple of months to sort out the mortgage.’
‘Of course.’ She was going to move out of the house they had shared for so many years, and live alone. Jasmine was terrified.

It was just after six that Jasmine arrived in the empty office. A troubled night disturbed by thoughts of Angela’s plan and Amber Markham’s disappearance with or without her baby, had at least spurred her to rise early. It appeared that her colleagues hadn’t been gone long. There was still warmth in the air and the odour of bodies testing the claims of deodorant manufacturers. A few years ago there would have been the smell of stale cigarette butts and ash to contend with but now it was just the scattered coffee cups that testified to the long hours some had put in.
Jasmine sat at her desk and switched on her computer. There were still some loose ends she wanted to follow up from last evening’s revelations about Parnell and Amber Markham.

‘Hello, Jas. You’re in early.’
She had been so intent on her screen that she had not seen Tom Shepherd arrive, yawning.
‘Well, since I imagine I got off earlier than the rest of you I thought I should show willing.’
‘Just as well. Sloane’s called a briefing for seven. I only got off at two.’
‘Neither he nor Palmerston let me know there was a briefing.’
Tom shrugged.
‘No sign of Amber Markham then?’ Jasmine continued.
‘No.’ A hint of pink coloured Tom’s cheeks.
‘It wasn’t your fault she got away, Tom,’ Jasmine said. ‘Nobody knew then that she wasn’t the innocent victim.’
‘That’s true and Sloane has been good about it, but I still feel I should have been keeping a closer eye on her.’
‘Where have you been looking for her and the baby?’
‘Where you’d expect. Her mother’s place, her father’s, other family members, the lad who is Jack’s father. None of them say they’ve seen her or Jack and there’s nothing to suggest they’re lying. We haven’t located the guy she was living with most recently. He’s supposed to be in Reading but no address has come up yet.’
‘What about her friend?’
‘What friend? We’ve tried all the people she knew in Kintbridge.’
‘The girl she was with when Parnell flashed them.’
Tom stared at Jasmine. ‘Who?’
‘Ashley Stiles. The same age as Amber. They were together when Parnell exposed himself. According to the court records they were mates at school and lived close together then.’
‘Her name hasn’t come up. She can’t be in Kintbridge now.’
‘You’re right. Ashley has done the same as Amber and got herself a baby but she moved out of town.’
Tom’s mouth and eyes were open wide. ‘Do you know where she’s gone?’
‘Yes. Thankfully she hasn’t changed her name. I’ve tracked her down to an address in Aldermaston.’
…………………….

Painted Ladies: A Jasmine Frame Story is available as a paperback or as an e-book from all booksellers.

Jasmine is being read about in public libraries

Jasmine is being read about in public libraries

Close-up: Jasmine receives some information

It’s been an interesting week, writing-wise. First of all I spent last Saturday at the World Science Fiction Convention, LonCon3, at Excel. It was my first time at an SF convention so it was fun to see many people in costume, to see the displays of SF and Fantasy art and the dealers stands. Best of all was meeting Pete and Al of Elsewhen Press and a number of their authors. They are a variety of ages and backgrounds and write across the sub-genres of SF and Fantasy. They made me welcome and I am looking forward to the publication of the first two parts of Evil Above the Stars – Seventh Child and Power of Seven.

Then we had a visit by Elizabeth Gowing, who was speaking to our U3A group about her love of Kosovo and the Edwardian English traveller Edith Durham who preceded her. We had a good chat about publishing. She had a publisher for her first book but set up her own company for the second while her partner has a publishing contract for his Victorian spy novels. She has put a tremendous effort into publicising her books and giving talks. She puts me to shame and makes me feel I really must do more to get “Jasmine and Me“, my talk about transgenderism including readings from Jasmine Frame stories, more well known, and I must speed up getting Bodies By Design, the second Jasmine Frame novel, published in some form.

Anyway, on to Close-up, the third of my prequels to Painted Ladies.

Close-up: Part 3

Was not finding baby Jack alive or dead, good news or bad news? Jasmine wasn’t sure but DC Kingston seemed to need some reassurance.
‘I think so, Derek, but …’
‘Shepherd, Frame, pay attention.’ Sloane’s voice boomed out as he strode into the room with Denise Palmerston at his heels. ‘Money tells me they’ve found the pushchair.’
‘We heard, Sir,’ Jasmine said, ‘I’ve got DC Kingston on the line.’
‘Good, keep him on,’ Sloane said.
‘Did you hear that, Derek?’ Jasmine said into the phone.
‘Loud and clear,’ Kingston replied.
‘Tell Kingston and Money to wait by the lock. Keep gawpers away and wait for Soco to arrive. We’ll have to call in the divers to search the river for the baby. Tell Kingston not to let any boats through the lock. We don’t want them churning the water up.’
‘Have you got that, Derek?’ Jasmine asked again.
‘Yes.’
‘Palmerston, I want you down there supervising. Organise a proper search of the area. Shepherd, pick up a female officer from Family Liaison and take Miss Markham down to the lock to have a look at the pushchair. See if she can identify it. Then take her home. Perhaps she’ll be a bit calmer and able to give us a full story in her own surroundings. Any questions? No. Right. Get on with it.’
Denise Palmerston and Tom headed for the exit. Sloane headed for his office. Jasmine was about to say goodbye to Derek Kingston and put the phone down but a couple of questions came into her head.
‘Hey, Derek,’ she called down the phone.
‘I’ve got to go, Frame. Money is calling me.’
‘Wait a second. How was the pushchair found? They don’t float too well.’
‘There’s a boat coming up through the lock. They found it jammed against the lock gate when they tried to open it. A couple of officers were searching the area for the missing kid as the boaters were dragging it out of the water.’
‘Where’s the boat now?’
‘We’re holding it in the lock. I heard Sloane say not to let any boats through.’
‘What state is the pushchair in?’
‘Looks okay. Can’t have been in the water long.’
‘Is it folded or open?’
‘Uh, difficult to tell. Half open I guess. Why?’
‘Oh, I don’t know. I just wondered.’
‘Well, I’ve got to go. There’s a crowd forming and Money needs me.’ The line clicked off. Sloane’s voice roared from inside his office.
‘Have you got that list of sex offenders yet, Frame?’
‘Yes, Sir,’ Jasmine called back, grimacing at the maleness of her raised voice.
‘Any addresses close to where the pushchair has been found?’
‘I’ll search, Sir.’ Jasmine returned to the list and called up a map with the addresses of the named offenders tagged. She zoomed in on the map until only the area around the lock was visible. One flag remained.
‘There’s one, Sir.’
Sloane emerged from his office at a considerable pace, rounded the desks and stood behind Jasmine looking at the screen.
‘Who is it?’
Jasmine leaned close to the screen to read the small print on the tag.
‘Stephen Parnell.’
‘Don’t know the name,’ Sloane said shaking his head.
Jasmine remembered his name from the list.
‘He’s only on the register because he exposed himself to a couple of teenage girls, Sir.’
‘How close is he?’
‘About as near as he could be, Sir. He lives in the flats in the old mill beside the weir, a hundred metres from the lock.’
‘Hmm. Well, we’d better check him over. Never ignore what’s under your nose, Frame. Give his details to Money and tell him to give this Parnell fellow a call. See if he will let him have a look over his place. Tell him not to give too much away. We’re still looking for a missing child.’
Sloane returned to his office while Jasmine called Money and passed on the instructions. As she put the phone down one of the civilian workers entered carrying a jiffy bag. She dropped it onto Jasmine’s desk and went out with hardly a word spoken. Jasmine broke the seal and took out a dvd disc. She loaded it onto her computer and was soon reviewing the recorded CCTV views. Flicking through the different camera files she noted which views were available. It was soon apparent that there was no direct view of the delicatessen on the bridge. The CCTV control room had been unmanned during the morning so the cameras were on automatic – recording the scene in the frame of the camera lens but not moving around or zooming in and out. She had a view of the side of the road and the bridge opposite the deli and views up and down the High Street on the other side of the bridge from early morning until after Amber Markham had declared her baby missing. It was going to be a long job trying to track her movements and observe whether there were any suspects in the passers-by. She glanced at her watch. It was already 1 p.m. She’d come in early today so she could finish her shift by 2:30 when she had a doctor’s appointment. It didn’t look as though anyone was going to get away today, unless baby Jack was found alive and well, but this appointment was important to her. She sighed and set the recoding running.

She tried not to blink in case she missed a fleeting appearance of Amber Markham on the screen but after an hour Jasmine was forced to freeze the recording and rub her eyes. She had already tagged Amber on the recordings from most of the cameras. Usually she was seen pushing the pushchair but a couple of times she was on her own, presumably from when she was searching for her missing baby. This had been a quick scan. A more thorough search would be needed to detect anyone showing a suspicious interest in the child and his mother. She was getting anxious. The time of her appointment was approaching and she needed to ask Sloane whether she could go off-duty for an hour in order to keep it. Sloane, though had left the office for the control room and she was reluctant to ring through and ask his permission while he was with other officers. The phone rang. She picked it up and recognised DC Money’s gruff greeting.
‘Sloane told me to report to you since you are looking into the sex offenders,’ he said.
‘That’s right.’
‘Well, I’ve called on Parnell. Smarmy bugger, fell over himself to be obliging once he’d answered the door. He was wearing a dressing gown and said he was about to have a shower. Invited me in immediately when I said we were looking for a missing child, as if he wanted to prove he had nothing to do with it. There was no sign of the kid in his flat and he denied seeing the woman and the child.’
‘So he’s not a suspect, then.’
‘No evidence to suggest he is, Frame, but that’s up to Sloane. Mind you it amazes me.’
‘What?’
‘A thicko perv like Parnell still has a girl.’
‘How do you know?’
‘There was a pair of stockings and a bra on the bed and woman’s dresses in the wardrobe. She wasn’t there though. Got to go. The divers have turned up at last.’ He ended the call.
Jasmine sat, pondering. What Money said had set her thinking. She returned to the sex offender’s list and called up Parnell’s file.
Sloane burst through the door, heading at speed to his office.
‘Sir?’ Jasmine called. Sloane slowed a little.
‘What is it, Frame?’
‘I have an appointment with my GP at two-thirty, Sir. Can I keep it, please?’
Sloane stopped mid-step. A flush rose up from his tight white collar. Jasmine imagined him thinking how on earth one of his team could possibly think of leaving their desk during an investigation. Then he seemed to remember that this was the twenty-first century and people, even transsexuals, had rights. He slumped and continued his march across the room.
‘If you need to, Frame.’
‘Thank you, Sir.’ Her words were lost as the door to Sloane’s office slammed closed. Jasmine looked at her watch. She could make her appointment if she was quick. She picked up her bag and hurried to the door pausing to grab her coat off the hook.
She left the building almost at a run. There was no quick way to reach the surgery. It was across the town centre and would have taken as long to drive there and find a parking space as it was to run. Anyway she was a runner; she enjoyed running, though not in knee-high boots and encumbered by tights, a skirt, and winter coat. It was cold and wet and she had to serve around shoppers that shuffled along looking pretty fed up. Traffic on the streets that weren’t pedestrianized, deluged the pavements as they passed through the puddles stretching from the blocked gutters. Despite being fit it took her several minutes to cover the mile to the health centre and she was feeling hot and sweaty when she finally pushed the door open and entered the reception area. The clock told her that she had arrived with a couple of minutes to spare. She approached the desk.
‘I’m Jasmine Frame. I have an appointment with Dr Gould,’ she said to the bored-looking receptionist.
‘Can you sign in on the screen,’ the young woman said pointing to a large TV screen beside the desk. Jasmine fliustered and followed the on-screen instructions until she had confirmed her arrival. At least her name appeared correctly and gave her gender as female. She went to sit in one of the many empty seats and drew an envelope out of her bag. It was the subject of her meeting with Dr Gould. She had been accepted onto the gender reassignment programme. Now she could start to achieve her dream.

……………….
Painted Ladies: A Jasmine Frame Story is available in paperback and as an e-book from any bookseller.

The scene of the opening of Painted Ladies - in daylight

The scene of the opening of Painted Ladies – in daylight

Close-up: Jasmine faces Amber

A little early this week as the weekend is going to be busy. On Saturday I’m at LonCon, The World Science Fiction Convention, mainly to visit the stand of Elsewhen Press who will be publishing my Evil Above the Stars series (well volumes 1 and 2 anyway).  So with no more ado here is the second episode of my new Jasmine Frame prequel.

Close-up: Part 2

Jasmine felt the anger and embarrassment grow in her like a hailstone turning into a block of ice. She knew her voice wasn’t perfect yet. It kept slipping down an octave. Was she really so obviously trans? She didn’t need to wear a wig because her own hair had been growing for a few months and was styled in a lovely, flattering bob. She dressed as femininely as possible although Sloane made it obvious that he thought she showed too much leg and she tried to make her make-up not appear like a mask even though she had sometimes to go for too many hours between shaves. She so wanted to be accepted as the woman she felt herself to be but still the little unconscious slips let her down.
She could have reacted to Amber Markham’s accusation, made a fuss, asserted her rights as a transitioning transsexual, but she stopped herself blurting out a denial. She was a police officer trying to assist this woman who was understandably distraught at the disappearance of her baby. Jasmine took a breath and tried to speak as calmly and softly as possible
‘I am a woman, Ms Markham. May I take your photo?’ Jasmine raised her phone to frame the young woman, thumb poised on the record button.
Amber leaned back in her chair, turning her face away from the phone.
‘I’m not having no freak taking my bloody photo.’
‘What’s going on here?’ Palmerston’s voice was authoritative though not an uncontrolled shout. Jasmine hadn’t heard her enter the interview room and she turned now to see the detective standing in the doorway. Jasmine had admired her since she’d joined the team a month ago. She was a strong, independent woman who seemed sure of her position as a rising star of the police service. DS Denise Palmerston was obviously female but preferred to wear trousers when on duty. She hit back at men who tried to bully her with usually a cutting and witty comment. DC Money had soon met his match. Sloane had been a little suspicious of her at first but now seemed to respect her as his number two.
‘I don’t want a fucking perv eyeing me up on his phone,’ Amber said, her face contorted into an ugly sneer.
‘DC Frame is doing her job,’ Palmerston said, ‘The photo is to aid the search for Jack. Can you please stand up, Amber. I’ll take it if you like.’ She took the phone from Jasmine’s hand. Amber slowly got to her feet, twisting her body so that she faced Palmerston rather than Jasmine. The phone flashed, twice.
‘There, DC Frame, one of those should be sufficient. Go and get on with your work.’ Palmerston returned the phone to Jasmine’s hand and pointed to the door.
Feeling a blush rising up her cheeks and a bitter, acid taste in her mouth, Jasmine took the phone and strode out of the room. In the corridor she met Tom carrying a steaming paper cup.
‘Are you alright, Jas?’ he said.
‘Don’t ask,’ Jasmine replied, hurrying passed him.

Jasmine sat at her desk looking at the photos she had downloaded from her phone. She examined the image of Amber Markham. She was young but looked tired, exhausted even. She was thin and with bare legs, the polka dotted miniskirt and the thin, shiny red jacket, seemed totally unprepared for a cold, wet November day. Jasmine expanded the image of her face. The dark rings around the eyes, the lank hair, the expression of misery. Was that due to her feelings towards Jasmine, her anxiety at the loss of her child or something else? She zoomed out again. At least her appearance was distinctive enough that she should be able to pick her up on the CCTV recordings when they arrived.
She saved the photos and returned to the list of sex offenders. It was a surprisingly long list, more than filling the screen. They were drawn from an area of five miles radius from the centre of Kintbridge. She read down the list, noting the addresses, their record of attendance at monitoring sessions and their offences. There were the rapists and the groomers and the child molesters who had served their time in gaol, and the other less severely punished characters, the flashers and those who perhaps through opportunism or simple stupidity had found themselves arrested for having sex with an underage girl or boy. Some of them no doubt had IQs considerably lower than their victims. Nevertheless their names were now listed and cropped up whenever a sex offence was recorded. Jasmine could see none with a known interest in babies or who had been charged with stealing a child, for any reason. There were no obvious suspects.
Tom Shepherd sauntered into the open plan office and wandered over to Jasmine’s desk.
‘You OK, Jas.’
‘Fine, thanks. How’s Ms Markham?’
‘She’s calmed down a bit. I gather from Palmerston that she had a go at you.’
Jasmine sighed and grimaced. ‘She read me straight away, Tom. What can I do? I try so hard.’
‘You’re doing fine, Jas. You look really good.’
‘But until I get on the hormones, get my own breasts, have the op, I’m still a bloke in drag.’
Tom shook his head. ‘No Jas. Look I can’t understand what you go through, but every day that passes makes you more of a woman.’
‘But you’ve got used to me. You just see Jasmine now, not a man who’s trying to be a woman. But when I meet new people, and they have a good look at me, they see through me. No wonder Sloane won’t let me out let alone interview anyone.’
‘Oh, come on Jasmine. It’s not that bad.’
‘Yes, it is. One close look from Amber Markham and she was accusing me of being a pervert and working herself into a state.’
‘She was already in a state, Jas.’
‘So how can I be an effective detective if I can’t calm down someone like that.’
‘It’ll come, Jas. As you say, once you get on your programme, get all the things done you say you need, nobody will know you were once a guy. Sloane will come round. He knows you’re a good cop.’ Tom laid a hand on her shoulder and squeezed. It was the first time he’d touched her since she’d transitioned. It was more reassuring than she could have expected.
‘Thanks Tom. Look we’ve got work to do. What’s Amber told you?’
Tom rolled a chair from an adjacent desk to sit beside Jasmine. He sat and spread his legs comfortably.
‘She says she walked into town with Jack in the pushchair. She lives on the estate over the other side of Reading Road.’
‘Got it.’
‘She says she wanted something from the delicatessen on the bridge, but because it was busy and there wasn’t much space inside, she left Jack in the buggy outside. When she came out it was gone. She says she ran up and down High Street until she bumped into the CSOs. You know the rest.’
Jasmine mulled over the story.
‘Background?’
‘She’s a single mother, nineteen. Lives in a one bed flat. Survives on benefits.’
‘Jack’s father?’
‘Not on the scene. Lives in Reading apparently. She says she hasn’t seen him since Jack was born. There is boyfriend but she says he doesn’t live with her.’
‘I guess Sloane is following them both up.’
‘He will be, you can bet on it.’
Tom’s account went round and round in Jasmine’s head.
‘What was she doing in the deli?’ she asked.
‘Buying something, I suppose,’ Tom replied.
‘What?’
‘I don’t know. I could check. Why?’
‘She’s on benefits. What’s she doing shopping in the deli, Tom?’
‘What’s wrong with that, Jas?’
‘The deli is expensive. She’s managing on a tiny budget. Unless she’s got some unusual tastes I can’t see her as a regular, upmarket delicatessen shopper.’
‘Just because she’s poor, Jas, doesn’t stop her going into a posh shop if she wants to.’
‘I’m not being classist,’ Jasmine said. ‘I shop in that place. I often call in to pick up things that Angela has asked me to get – stuffed olives, Italian salami, that sort of thing. You don’t see many single mothers like Amber Markham in there.’ She was sure she wasn’t being prejudiced. People’s behaviour and shopping patterns were somewhat determined by their backgrounds, and how full their purses were.
‘Well, I don’t know why you’re making a fuss, Jas. The girl says she was in there and the shop assistants say she was there – that was the first place the CSOs asked questions.’
The phone on Jasmine’s desk rang. She grabbed it and put it to her ear.
‘Frame? It’s Kingston. We’ve found a pushchair. It looks like the description of the missing one.’
‘Where did you find it, Derek?’
‘In the canal, just above Town Bridge Lock.’
‘The baby?’
‘No sign. I think that’s good news isn’t it?’
………

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

Close-up: Jasmine Frame’s new case

Well, after a week off I couldn’t wait any longer to start a new Jasmine Frame story. This month’s Writing Magazine includes an article by Simon Whalley quoting me as saying that I like to have a few projects on the go, and it’s true. I’m currently writing the third volume in the September Weekes, Evil Above The Stars trilogy/series, I’m thinking about the next Jasmine Frame novel and a few other ideas, and now I’ve added another prequel to the mix.  I don’t know whether it helps or hinders my writing to swap between stories, characters and even genres but I like it. When I get a bit tired of writing one story I can go to another.

Close-up is the third prequel to Painted Ladies and is set a few months after The Switch (which I am going to re-title, Self Portraits when I revise it). It’s still over a year before the events of Painted Ladies so there’s space for yet more cases. As usual with these episodic tales we’ll see where it goes. Let me know what you think.

Close-up: Part 1

 Chapter 1

Jasmine looked up from her screen covered in rows of numbers. What had disturbed her concentration? The answer was DCI Sloane, flinging the door of his office open and striding across the floor, his polished shoes squeaking. He reached the middle of the long white board that filled one wall, turned and faced the rows of desks, some of them occupied by Jasmine and her colleagues.
‘Gather round, ladies and gentlemen,’ he said in his gruff but polite voice. It wasn’t always polite.
‘What’s up Boss?’ asked DC Keith Money, the eldest of the team, hauling himself out of his chair. Jasmine stood, too, smoothing her grey skirt down her nylon-covered thighs. She gave the hem an extra tug to pull it closer to her knee. She saw Sloane’s eyes glance in her direction then flick away.
‘We’ve been asked to investigate a missing child,’ Sloane answered. Money slouched against the front desk and Jasmine stood by his left side. Money flinched away from her.
‘Is that really a job for the Serious and Violent Crime Unit?’ Money said in a mutter.
‘Shut up Money,’ DS Palmerston said, taking up a position on his right, ‘DCI Sloane will explain if you keep your mouth shut.’ The big blonde woman gave him a jab in the ribs with her elbow to emphasise her point.
The other two members of the team, Detective Constables Shepherd and Kingston joined the ragged row.
‘Thank you, Palmerston.’ Sloane said pausing to take a deep breath. ‘Since the child has allegedly been abducted it is likely to be an S and V, so you can put aside your present work for the time being.’
Jasmine sighed with relief. Her head had been buzzing trying to come to terms with the balance sheets, invoices, expense claims of their current money laundering case.
‘That’s good news, isn’t it, Jas,’ Tom Shepherd leaned to whisper in her ear.
‘What was that Shepherd?’ Sloane asked.
‘Hope we can assist, Sir,’ Tom said.
‘I hope so too, Shepherd, otherwise you don’t deserve to be on my team,’ Sloane said. Jasmine noticed Tom’s face redden while Palmerston sent him an arrow-like glare and Derek Kingston gave him a nudge.
‘Enough,’ Sloane said, ‘Two CSOs on routine street patrol in Kintbridge High Street were approached by a woman in a state of distress saying her baby had been taken, along with the pushchair, from outside a shop near the Kennet Bridge.’
‘When was this, Sir?’ Palmerston asked, raising her head from her notebook.
Sloane glanced at his watch.
‘About forty-five minutes ago at ten thirty a.m. Uniformed officers are with the woman now in the High Street and we’ve been asked to coordinate the search for the child and determine what, if any, crime has been committed. As our current investigation is not at a crucial phase I have agreed to commit all the unit, at least for a few hours.’
There were general mutterings of agreement as all five members of the team asserted their willingness to join the search.
Sloane went on, ‘Palmerston. Meet the uniformed officers in the High Street. Interview the woman, find out all you can about her, whether she noticed anyone watching her, what she was doing when the chair and its occupant went missing. Take Shepherd with you. Money and Kingston, I want you in the High Street questioning passers-by. The CSOs and other officers will assist. I hope to have a description of the baby and the pushchair with you by the time you get there.’
‘Where do we meet the uniforms, Sir,’ Money asked.
‘They’re outside M and S,’ Sloane said, ‘should be about half a dozen of them by the time you get there. I’ll be coordinating the investigation from downstairs, initially.’
The four detectives started to move leaving Jasmine feeling left out and a bit silly. Sloane turned and took a step towards the exit.
‘What about me, Sir?’ Jasmine said. Sloane turned and looked at her. His top lip curled in distaste.
‘What’s the matter, Frame?’
‘What do I do, Sir? Can I join the search?’
Sloane cleared his throat. ‘No, Frame, I want you here. Take reports from the team. In the meantime, assuming the worst and we do have an abduction, start getting together information on the sex offenders that are in town, and anyone convicted of child snatching. Oh, and collect as much CCTV as you can get.’ He turned away from her and strode out of the room.
Jasmine groaned and returned to her seat. She thumped the desk. Another office job. When would Sloane let her out to join an investigation? Not once since she started her transition three months ago had she been allowed out to a crime scene let alone speak to a victim, witness or suspect. She closed down the files on the finance case and typed in her password to the national records. Stretching back in her chair, while the system loaded she felt her silicone breasts move against her chest and start an itch. She slipped a finger inside her low-necked woollen top and bra and gave the skin a scratch. At least there was one advantage to being left alone in the office.
She lifted her phone, dialled the CCTV monitoring centre and using the soft and feminine voice she’d been practising, requested copies of the discs for the relevant cameras that kept watch on the town centre. When she put the phone down she fed in her search terms on the sex offenders register and watched the screen as the list of names grew.
The phone rang and Jasmine snatched it up.
‘Jas, Tom here.’
‘Hi, Tom. What’s up?’
‘Jas? I can’t hear you.’
Jasmine sighed and spoke louder, losing the feminine tone, ‘I’m here Tom. What is it?’’
‘Sloane said to speak to you.’
‘That was nice of him.’
‘What’s the matter? You sound peeved.’
‘So would you be if you’d been left behind again to do the IT stuff.’
‘Oh, I see. I’m sorry Jas. I’m sure Sloane will come round eventually.’
‘It’s taking a time. Anyway, what have you got?’
‘Palmerston is talking to the woman; well she’s barely more than a girl. Her name’s Amber Markham. The missing baby is Jack, seven months old. It’s pretty cold and wet out here.’
‘Well, it is November. I wouldn’t mind a bit of cold and wet. Anything would be a change from this dump.’
‘You’re welcome to it. We’re bringing Mizz Markham back to the station. Hope that we can get her to give us a sensible account.’
‘Good. I’ll need a picture of her so I can search for her on the CCTV.’
‘You’ve got that job have you?’
‘Do I ever have anything else to do but stare at a screen?’
‘It’s not that bad is it, Jas?’
‘It is.’
‘We’re on our way. See you in a couple of minutes.’ The connection was cut. Jasmine put the phone down and stood up. At least she could meet Tom, Palmerston and the Markham woman as they arrived. She took her mobile out of her bag and walked out of the office.

The temperature in the public area was a few degrees below the office. Jasmine felt the restricted entry door lock loudly behind her. Desk Sergeant Geoff Gorman looked up from his paperwork at the front desk.
‘What are you doing here, Frame?’ He said.
He acts like I shouldn’t be here, Jasmine thought. She felt his X-ray eyes seeing through her female dress to the male bits she still had underneath. She shuffled uncomfortably.
‘I’m meeting Palmerston, Shepherd and the mother of the missing baby.’
‘Oh, well, don’t make the place look like a freak show.’
Anger knotted Jasmine’s stomach and she was about to say a few words to the grey haired older officer which might have got her into trouble for insubordination. The entrance doors opened letting in a gust of icy wind. DS Palmerston entered, followed by Tom guiding a slim girl in a mini skirt and inadequate shiny zip up top.
‘Take Amber through and get her something to warm her up,’ Palmerston said, turning to the desk. Jasmine held her i.d. to the door and pulled it open for Tom and the girl to enter. Amber glanced at her as she passed, her eyes seeming to linger on her.
‘Come in, please Amber,’ Tom said leading her into the more pleasant of the interview rooms, the one with white walls and padded seats. The girl flung herself onto one of the chairs looking dazed.
‘Tea or coffee?’ Tom asked.
‘Coffee,’ Amber said. ‘Can I have a fag?’
‘Not in here. I’m sorry,’ Tom said. ‘I’ll leave Miss Markham with you, Jas, while I get the coffee.’
He left. Jasmine stepped forward and pulled a chair from behind the desk so she could sit close to Amber without it looking like a formal questioning.
‘I’m sorry about your baby, Mizz Markham. Jack is it? I’m sure we’ll find him.’
Amber looked at her with her wide, tired and painted eyes. She didn’t say anything.
‘Do you mind if I take a photo of you? It’s so I can check the CCTV. See if we can spot you and whoever may have taken Jack.’ She held up her phone.
‘You speak weird, like a bloke. Are you a fucking tranny?’
…………

Painted Ladies: A Jasmine Frame Story is avaialble as a paperback or e-book from all booksellers.

Jasmine probes Dan’s father

Not a lot of time this week so straight in to the next episode of The Switch, a story featuring Jasmine Frame, transsexual detective and prequel to Painted Ladies.

The Switch: Part 15

Jasmine stared at Parry as he slowly pushed himself up off the floor.
‘You didn’t kill him?’
Parry stood up and glared at Jasmine. She prepared herself for another attack.
‘I said he was dead already.’
‘I think you had better tell me what you saw.’
Parry drew in breath as if to object but then let it out in deep sigh and shrugged.
‘OK. I need a beer. Fancy one?’
‘Uh. Yes, please.’
Parry went into the kitchen and returned a few moments later with a couple of cans. He chucked one to Jasmine, she caught it, then he slumped on the sofa.
‘Come and join me,’ he said. Jasmine weighed up the risks. Parry seemed calmer now but as Daniel had told her, he had a quick temper. She decided to accept his offer and sat at the far end of the sofa. She pulled the ring on the can and took a sip. It was cold, fizzy, and tasteless but probably could be called, beer.
‘Whatever Jenny might think, this is the first time I’ve had a skirt on this sofa. Just my luck it’s got a cock under it, that’s if you haven’t had it off yet.’
Jasmine ignored Parry’s rambling. This was not the time to start a discussion on trans privacy.
‘What happened Saturday night?’ She said, after what she considered a suitable pause.
‘You said you’re a police officer. Are you investigating Daniel?’
‘I’m off duty, not officially on the case. I’m trying to prove that Daniel had nothing to do with McLeery’s death, but Dan is the official chief suspect.’
‘It couldn’t be Dan. He was here all evening, and all night.’
‘You don’t actually know that as you left him alone here.’
‘Yeah, well, it doesn’t matter if he nipped out after me. I told you. McLeery was already dead.’
‘So tell me what happened.’
Parry took a long swig from his can, belched, and sighed.
‘I could have killed him. I might have done if I’d got to him. He’s been a little shit since he was a kid, and he just got worse.’
‘Did you know he had his eyes on Dan?’
‘No. It hadn’t occurred to me. I’d seen McLeery with a bunch of girls dressed like whores. I didn’t connect Emma with them. She was my little girl. Of course, she dressed like a boy, cut her hair, called herself Daniel. To me she couldn’t be less sexy. Why should a girl-fancier like McLeery look at Emma, and think she was an easy lay?’
‘Dan told you about him.’
‘Yeah and it made my wild. I decided to have it out with him. I waited till Emma was asleep then left. I went to that blockhouse on the edge of the Common first. Emma had said that’s where he tried to take her.’
‘That’s right. That’s where I first met Dan.’
‘There’s was no one there, so I blundered around in the dark, just following paths. I got to the pond. That’s where I found him. He was lying face down with his head smashed in. There was a length of steel pole by his side.’
‘He wasn’t in the water?’
‘No, that was me.’
Jasmine was unbelieving.
‘You pushed his body into the water?’
‘Yeah and the pole.’
‘Why? You’ve made yourself an accessory.’
Parry shook his head.
‘I don’t know. I panicked. Probably I’d had more of these than I should.’ He waved his can. ‘I thought perhaps that Emma had done it before coming out to me.’
‘But that was hours before. The body would have been found.’
‘I realise that now. I wasn’t thinking straight. And I was still angry at him. Even though he was dead I wanted to punish him for what he planned to do to my girl.’
‘OK, so you didn’t kill him but disposed of the body.’
‘Yeah, I suppose so.’
‘So, who killed him?’
‘I don’t know.’
‘Did you see anyone else on the Common?’
‘No,’ he paused, ‘yes, there was someone. I was staggering along the path and there was someone else on one of the other paths that crossed it.’
‘Someone? Who? What did they look like?’
‘I don’t know who it was. It was dark but it was a girl, white skin, dark hair, legs up to her armpits, barely wearing a skirt. I didn’t see her face, she was going away from me.’
‘Tamsin!’
‘Who?’
‘McLeery’s number 1 girl.’
‘Really. Don’t know her.’
‘I met her earlier. She was upset about Kyle being dead and what he intended for Dan. They were friends when they were younger.’
‘There was a Tammy. Came to parties Emma had.’
‘That’ll be her. She denied killing Kyle, denied seeing him after Saturday morning.’
‘She lied.’
Jasmine leapt up. ‘So it seems. I need to see her again.’ She bent to put the beer can on the floor. ‘The police will need to speak to you, Mr Parry. You’re going to be in a bit of trouble for not reporting the death.’
‘Yeah, well I guessed that.’
‘The sooner you tell them the better it will be for you and the sooner that Dan is off the hook.’
Parry grunted an agreement. ‘Where are you going to look for this Tamsin?’
‘I only know one place. The same place you looked. That’s where I met her earlier.’ Jasmine didn’t wait for anymore conversation but hurried from the flat and back to the car. She raced back to Kintbridge, right foot to the floor, the small Fiesta engine whining like a swarm of angry wasps.
She turned off the main road onto the road that climbed up to the Common and joined the perimeter road. The car almost rolled as she took the turning on to the Common and braked outside the old security station.
Jasmine jumped from the car with the engine still running and ran to the door. She gave it a shove and it swung open. There was light inside.
‘Tamsin?’ Jasmine stepped in. Tamsin was there but she wasn’t alone. So were Kyle’s mates, one holding the girl’s arms behind her back, the other groping her naked breasts.

………………….

Jasmine makes Daniel an offer

Elsewhen Press have put out a press release announcing my forthcoming fantasy series, “Evil Above the Stars“.  Read it here Press Release 140606.

Here it has been a busy week with the Leominster Festival on. On Friday we had a “Writers’ Showcase” where I did a “Jasmine & Me” session. Lots of lovely comments and interesting questions about Painted Ladies and Bodies By Design and about Jasmine’s life as a transsexual detective. IMGP3662 Then in the evening we had a discussion with author Phil Rickman  (Merrily Watkins crime and John Dee historical crime thrillers). He said that one of his favourite characters is a cross-dressing Welsh shaman. Perhaps he/she should meet Jasmine…

Anyway, here is the next episode of The Switch.

The Switch: Part 11

Daniel shrugged and looked down at his empty coffee cup.
‘Where do you want me to start?’ he mumbled.
‘Let’s take it from Saturday morning when you left home after your mother had gone out.’ Jasmine said in a quiet voice.
‘Why do you want to go back to then?’
‘The police will want to track all your movements. So I want to know too.’
‘Well, Mum went shopping and I left soon after.’
‘You packed your bag.’ Jasmine nodded to the sports bag at Daniel’s feet.
‘Yeah.’
‘So you planned to stay out for some time.’
‘I suppose so.’
‘Oh, come on Daniel. You told me on Friday evening that you felt you had to get away from Kyle and his gang. I didn’t think you meant next day – did you?’
Daniel looked up at Jasmine. She guessed her face showed her annoyance at Daniel’s evasive answers. He looked sad and vulnerable, a boy barley into his teens not sixteen.
‘After you left, I thought about what had happened. Actually it stopped me falling asleep when I went to bed. I knew that Kyle and his mates would keep after me and that the chances were that they’d get me soon and each of them would have a go with me.’
‘Not pleasant thoughts. So you came to a decision.’ Jasmine sipped her hot coffee.
‘Yeah. I decided I had to leave.’
‘What did you pack in your bag?’
‘Why do you need to know that?’
‘It shows your intentions.’
‘Oh. Well, I put in a spare pair of jeans and a clean t-shirt with a couple of pairs of pants.’ Daniel paused.
‘Anything else?’
‘A toothbrush, my phone and charger and my wallet,’ he paused, ‘and a spare bandage and my pills.’
‘Bandage?’
‘For flattening my chest.’ Daniel pressed a hand against his chest. Of course, he still had breasts. The lad had to bind himself every day to stop them sticking out from his shirt and giving away his birth gender. Jasmine could imagine how uncomfortable that must be. It made tucking her superfluous bits away seem an easy task.
‘Yes, I see. And the pills?’
‘My testosterone tablets.’
‘Ah, yes. You are on the programme then?’
‘Since my birthday. I’ve been with the GR doctor for a couple of years. I wanted to go on the anti-puberty drugs, but my Dad wouldn’t give permission. But now I’m old enough to make my own decisions.’
‘How long have you been taking them?’
‘A couple of months.’
‘Seen any changes?’
‘I’m not sure. I think I’m starting to get a bit of facial growth.’
Jasmine looked at Daniel trying not to make it obvious that she was searching his face for signs of a beard. His chin still looked soft and smooth. She smiled at the thought that their desires were exact opposites. Daniel wanted to grow a beard or at least have to shave while she would be delighted to be able to give up the, sometimes twice daily, chore. Daniel was ahead of her though – she hadn’t even started taking hormones to feminise her appearance.
‘I’m sure it won’t be long,’ she said.
‘I want my voice to break too,’ Daniel said.
‘That’ll come,’ Jasmine reassured him. ‘So you packed everything you needed for at least a few days away and you left home. What did you think you would gain by being away a few days?’
‘I wasn’t planning on it being just a few days.’
‘What were you planning then?’
‘I don’t know. I just had it in my head that I had to get away from Kintbridge and something would turn up.’
‘Like what? Kyle dying?’
‘No. I don’t know. I wasn’t thinking straight.’
‘Right. That I can understand.’ Jasmine took a mouthful of coffee. ‘So you headed across the Common.’
Daniel looked mystified. ‘How do you know?’
‘You were seen on the Common with Kyle.’
‘Who by?’
‘Just some walkers who saw two youths together answering yours and Kyle’s descriptions. Was it you?’
Daniel sighed. ‘Yes. I couldn’t believe it. The one person I want to keep out of the way of and I bump into him five minutes after leaving home.’
‘You bumped into him?’
‘Yeah. Mad isn’t it. Head down, just thinking about, well nothing really, and I actually walked into him.’
‘What did he do?’
‘I think he must have been far away too but he grabbed hold of me. I tried to get away but he held me tight and then he realised who I was.’
‘Was he pleased?’
‘Not really. He didn’t have his sidekicks with him so I think he was headed somewhere. To see Tamsin perhaps.’
‘No, he’d left her a while before.’
‘You’ve spoken to her?’
‘Yes. I found her in that security hut by the entrance to the Common. She was grieving over Kyle.’
‘I suppose she thought he loved her,’ Daniel said in a cynical growl.
‘You don’t think he did?’
‘The only person he loved was himself.’
‘I’m not sure if even that’s true. Bullies often pretty low on self-esteem,’ Jasmine offered the benefits of her psychological profiling training. ‘But where was Kyle off to then?’
‘One of the other girls, perhaps.’
‘Others?’
‘Yeah. Tamsin was his chief bitch, but they passed a couple of others around them. He didn’t want me at any rate, not without his back-up.’
‘He let you go?’
‘I tried to get his arms off me and he slapped me around a bit and called me all the usual names, but he didn’t come after me when I got away.’
‘So you carried on your way.’
‘Yeah.’
‘Kyle didn’t chase you.’
‘No.’
‘You didn’t arrange to meet him?’
Daniel’s dark eyebrows shot up. ‘No. Why should I? He’s the last person I want to meet.’
‘OK. So where did you go next?’
‘I walked across the Common to the road and caught a bus here.’
‘Why here?’
‘It’s somewhere else. There wasn’t any other reason really.’
‘So you got here, when? Early Saturday afternoon. What did you do?
‘Looked round the shops; got something to eat; nothing much.’
‘What about sleeping?’
‘I found somewhere to doss down. It was a warm night.’
‘You slept rough?’ Jasmine was horrified. A young person like Daniel could easily have been picked up or worked over by all sorts of unsavoury people. ‘Did you have any problems?’
‘No. It was ok.’
‘Really?’ Jasmine didn’t fancy spending a night in the open in Basingstoke or any town, summer or any time.
‘So what did you do yesterday?’
‘Same as before. Wandered around, ate and went to see a film.’
‘You had enough money for the cinema.’
‘I got some cash from my account. I didn’t realise at the time that the police might be tracking me.’
‘They weren’t then, but if they are now, they’ll have found a record of the transaction so they’ll know you’ve been in Basingstoke.’
Daniel glanced around as if expecting police to burst into the coffee-shop.
‘I’d better move somewhere else then.’ He started to rise from his chair. Jasmine grabbed his arm and tugged him back into the seat.
‘I shouldn’t think they’re on to you yet, Dan. Take it easy.’
Daniel was on edge but he remained seated.
‘What film did you see?’ Jasmine asked.
‘Iron Man.’
‘I thought that came out a few years ago.’
‘It’s the sequel, Iron Man 2.’
‘Oh.’ Superhero films weren’t on Jasmine’s list of favourites, classic film was her taste. ‘And then you slept rough again.’
‘Yeah.’
‘You can’t carry on doing that.’
‘Why not?’
‘Come on Dan. You’re a smart kid. Either the police will pick you up or some other guys, not nice ones will. And even if you can use your card, what happens when you run out of cash and can’t afford burgers and fries or whatever.’
Daniel shrugged.
‘Speak to the police,’ Jasmine urged, ‘then you can go home. Kyle’s not there to bother you anymore.’
‘No.’
‘No, what?’
‘I can’t go to the police. I can’t face it.’
Jasmine could tell from Daniel’s determined expression that she wasn’t going to be able to make him hand himself in just yet. His story wasn’t a convincing alibi either. Apart from the visit to the cinema which could perhaps be proved he didn’t have much proof of what he’d been up to for two days.
‘I don’t suppose you kept receipts for your meals and the cinema ticket, did you?’ she asked.
‘No, why?’
‘The times of the transactions would support your alibi.’
‘I don’t need an alibi. I didn’t have anything to do with Kyle’s death.’
‘The police will check your alibi and it’s got more holes than substance at the moment.’
‘Well, that’s tough. I’m not going to see the police anyway.’
‘So you’re just going to hang out here are you?’
‘Yes. No. I’ll get some cash out and then go somewhere else. London.’
‘And hang around the streets and parks with all the other drug addicts and dropouts.’
‘Yes.’ Daniel didn’t look to happy about that possibility.
‘What about your mother?’
‘What about her?’
‘She’s worried about you.’
Daniel’s head dropped. He didn’t reply. Jasmine was thinking. She had to protect Daniel and question him further to see if she could find any clues to who did kill Kyle. There was only one thing to do.
‘Come home with me,’ she said.
Daniel looked up. ‘Back to Kintbridge?’
‘Yes. You can stay with me. We’ll get a message to your mother that you’re safe and well.’
‘I’m not going to the police.’
‘We won’t contact the police unless you want to.’
Daniel mulled the proposition over while Jasmine considered the consequences. Their third bedroom was a study. The second bedroom was Jasmine’s room where she now slept having given up the double bed to Angie. Where would she put Daniel?
‘Ok. I’ll come.’
‘Good. Let’s go.’ Jasmine drained the last drops of cooling coffee.
‘Isn’t there a problem?’ Daniel asked.
‘What?’
‘Didn’t you come by bus?’
Jasmine had forgotten. ‘Um, yes.’
‘Well, if we both go back by bus someone might see us walking to your house. I don’t think that’s a good idea.’
Jasmine wondered how she could be so stupid. ‘You’re right, Daniel.’

………………..

Painted Ladies: A Jasmine Frame Story is available as a paperback and e-book from all the usual sources.

Jasmine receives some news

It’s been a busy few days since the Easter break. I’ve had some good comments about Bodies By Design, the first sequel to Painted Ladies which takes Jasmine Frame further in her transition while solving another case. I must decide where to go with it.  I’ve also been working on the murder mystery my writers’ group is planning – it should be fun. This has left little time to get on with the editing/writing work on my fantasy series but that must take precedence in the coming weeks. Isn’t the life of a writer exciting? It sure is.

Anyway, here is the next episode in The Switch, the Jasmine Frame prequel.

The Switch: Part 5

Chapter 3

Angela had already set off for an appointment in London, and Jasmine was contemplating another day of form filling and a visit to the post office to send them off special delivery. It was a warm, sunny summer’s morning and Jasmine was enjoying the freedom of wearing a light dress. When she was back at work it would be formal skirts and jacket or even trousers.
She was taking her last sip of the first black coffee of the day when the doorbell sounded. There was a tall, dark figure visible through the front door, that Jasmine recognised. She flung the door open.
‘Hi, Tom. Have you forgotten that I’m on leave?’
DC Tom Shepherd’s face showed a flash of surprise followed by a serious frown.
‘How could I forget,’ he mumbled, ‘I said good bye to my mate James on Friday.’
‘l’m still your mate, Tom,’ Jasmine said.
‘Are you? You’re changing. You’re not going to be the bloke I knew anymore.’ Jasmine sighed. Was this going to be how it was like from now on, with even her friends holding back now that she was a woman full-time?
‘Come in. I’ll make you a coffee.’
Tom followed her through to the kitchen and watched as she put the kettle on. ‘You’ve seen Jasmine before,’ she went on, ‘and you’ve known longer than most people that this is what I’ve wanted. What’s the problem?’
‘I know, but it never seemed real before, and you look different to how I’ve seen you as a woman at other times.’
‘I’m not wearing a wig. That’s the difference. Angela’s hairstylist has done a good job on my own hair. It’s a bit short but I like it.’ She tossed her head from side to side giving Tom a better view of the cut.
‘It looks nice,’ Tom muttered. Jasmine poured water into a mug for Tom and another for herself. She added milk and sugar to Tom’s and handed the mug to him
‘So, why are you here? I can’t believe that Sloane has let you take time off for a social visit.’
Tom set the mug down again and took out his notepad. Jasmine was surprised by the sombre expression on his face.
‘No, it’s not a social visit, Ji…Jas. Sloane sent me because he thought your appearance may have frightened one of the others.’ Jasmine snorted.
‘What’s it all about?’
‘It’s a murder inquiry.’
Jasmine’s eyes opened wide. ‘A murder? So, why call on me?’
‘The victim’s body was found in a pond on the Common last evening. He’d been hit on the head with blunt instrument, probably a length of pipe, before he drowned.’
‘He? A man?’
‘A youth. He’s been identified as Kyle McLeery.’
Jasmine felt the adrenalin course through her blood. She felt light-headed and flushed.
‘Kyle? I know a Kyle.’
‘We know. When we did the name search you came up along with a Daniel Parry. You put in a report about an incident on Friday evening on the Common between Parry and McLeery.’
‘That’s right.’
‘Jones and Hedges confirmed that you had called them to the old security gate entrance to the Common and that you were there with a boy.’
‘Kyle and his mates had gone by the time Jones and Hedges arrived.’
‘Parry is wanted on suspicion of the murder of McLeery.’
‘Daniel is a suspect?’ Jasmine gasped, ‘But he’s missing.’
‘So we’ve discovered. We called at his home this morning and talked to his mother. She said she hadn’t seen him since Saturday morning. Your name came up again.’
‘Yes. It would. She called me last night and I went round to see her.’
‘Apparently Daniel Parry is really a girl.’
Jasmine felt her temper fray a little.
‘No, he’s really a boy. He has the physical features of a girl because he is waiting for surgery. He’s a transsexual, like me, except he transitioned a while ago and he’s F to M.’
‘Alright, Jas. There’s no need to get worked up about it. Perhaps we’d better sit down and talk about it quietly.’ Tom picked up his mug and ushered Jasmine through to the lounge. He slumped into an armchair spreading his knees. Jasmine sat on the sofa making herself as small as possible.
‘We know Daniel is transsexual,’ Tom went on, ‘and that’s another reason why Sloane sent me to talk to you. Since you know the boy he thought you could tell us all you know about him.’
‘I’ve only met him once, two days ago,’ Jasmine protested.
‘Oh,’ Tom was surprised, ‘Sloane thought that since you and he are, well, you know, the same, you knew each other which was why you were with him when he confronted McLeery on Friday.’
‘It seems that Sloane thinks I know every trannie in Kintbridge. I came across Dan by chance when I was on a run and he wasn’t confronting Kyle he was being threatened with rape.’
‘I see,’ Tom said making notes in his pad, ‘So there was a history of animosity between them.’
‘Animosity!’ Jasmine roared, ‘Kyle McLeery is a thug. With his gang he’s been terrorising Daniel and other people on his estate. He had a go at me in town yesterday. Threatened me too.’
‘So, you’re not unhappy that he’s out of the way,’ Tom said, eyes on his pad as he wrote furiously.’
‘What are you suggesting Tom. Am I a suspect too?’
Tom looked up and saw the furious look on Jasmine’s face.
‘Technically I suppose I have to include you, but no of course not.’
‘Well, I’m glad Kyle won’t be able to carry out his wishes but I’m not happy he’s dead, particularly if it gets Dan into a spot of bother.’
‘Do you think Parry did it?’
‘What?’ Jasmine thought. She didn’t want to think that Daniel could have murdered Kyle but what about self-defence? Daniel would fight, that was certain but he couldn’t have overpowered Kyle and his buddies, and they must have been with Kyle if he had gone after Daniel again. ‘When did Kyle die?’
‘Late afternoon or early evening.’
‘Yesterday?’
‘Yes.’
Jasmine shook her head. ‘No, I’m sure it wasn’t Daniel. He left Saturday morning and took a bag with him. I think he just wanted to get away for a few days, out of Kyle’s way.’
‘That doesn’t sound like much of an alibi, Jas. He could have planned to meet McLeery on the Common, killed him and then taken off.’
‘No, I don’t believe it. Dan was the victim. He might fight for his life but he didn’t strike me as a lad who would set out to murder his tormenter.’
‘You sound like you know Daniel well, Jas.’
‘I don’t. We chatted once and I’ve talked with his mother. That’s all.’
‘Well, we need to find him. There may be forensic evidence, DNA. He’ll have to answer questions.’
‘Of course, but don’t forget to consider other possibilities.
‘Yes, Jas. Where were you yesterday?’
‘I was here all day until I went out at about nine to see Jenny Parry. Angela was here all day too. It wasn’t me, Tom.’ Tom was still writing.
‘Of course, Jas. Just a formality. You know that.’
‘There must be other suspects, other motives.’
‘Nothing yet, but of course we’ll keep an open mind, Jas.’
‘Of course.’ Jasmine didn’t share Tom’s confidence.
Tom put his mug down on the carpet and stood up.
‘Well, I’d better be going. I’ve got to visit Parry’s friends; see if they know where he may have gone. You’ll let us know if you hear anything Jas?’
‘Of course.’
‘Well, enjoy your leave.’ Tom headed to the door. Jasmine followed and held the door while watching him get in his car and drive off. Enjoy her leave? She wished she was back on duty, fully involved in this case. She couldn’t accept that Daniel had killed Kyle. There must be another story there somewhere, and where was Daniel?

 

Jasmine receives a call

It’s been one of those weeks where it seems that not much progress has been made but there have been lots of little things to fill the time. There’s been work on our writers’ group murder mystery, a short story for another group, revisions of September volume 2 for the publisher, and of course the next episode in the Jasmine Frame stiory where she is embarking on her transition as a transsexual detective – here it is.

The Switch – Part 4

When Jasmine got home she had recovered from the encounter with Kyle but was delighted with her bright red and immaculately painted toe and finger nails which matched her bright red lipstick. When she looked in the mirror she saw again how hairstylist Helen had cleverly worked her short(ish) hair to give her a style that she loved. And she held in her hand a set of photos that would establish her new identity on passport, driving licence and other personal documents. Angela too was pleased with her new look and suggested dinner out to celebrate.
It was Jasmine’s first venture to a public meeting place without her faithful wig. For a moment as they entered the smart pub/restaurant side by side she felt exposed and vulnerable without the long locks to hide behind. No-one took much notice of them. Perhaps one or two men did take more than a casual look at two women entering without men in tow but Angela’s firm request for a table for two stifled any possibility that a man might step forward to make contact. Jasmine’s confidence grew as they walked into the dining area. She didn’t even stand out because of her height – in the high heels that she favoured Angela was taller than her.
It was a pleasant meal. As usual, Jasmine and Angela chatted to each other animatedly. It was while they were eating their desserts, concoctions of multi-flavoured ice-creams, that Jasmine realised that they may not have many more such occasions. Soon they would separate, she to forge her new life as a woman, and Angela… What would she do, Jasmine wondered, when she was single again? Would she look for a new man? Someone to satisfy her. The thoughts dampened Jasmine’s spirits as they headed home.
Sunday was a work day. Jasmine made a start on all the forms she had to fill in to change her name and gender while Angela had accountancy work. She had taken on a new role which promised a higher salary but brought more work and more travel. It also meant a new company car.
‘We’ll have to get rid of Rose,’ Angela said. Rose was her nickname for the red Ford Fiesta she had run since they moved to Kintbridge. It was a few years old when they had bought it and, much-loved as it was, was showing its age now.
‘Unless,’ Angela added, ‘you need a car of your own when we separate.’ Jasmine hadn’t given cars much consideration. There was always a police car available when she needed transport for work. She either walked or cycled to the Police HQ each day, or her buddy Tom Shepherd picked her up. She rarely drove the Fiesta as Angela generally took the wheel when they went out together and she hardly ever went out alone as either James or Jasmine. But perhaps when they did part she would need a car. Once again the thought of parting from Angela gave Jasmine pangs of, if not actual regret, then certainly of sadness.
It was getting towards dusk and Angela was about to join Jasmine in front of a DVD when the phone rang.
‘Hello. Is that Jasmine,’ the caller said. It was a female voice that Jasmine vaguely recognised.
‘Yes. Who is that?’
‘It’s Jenny Parry.’ Daniel’s mother.
‘Hello, Mrs Parry…’
‘Is Daniel with you?’
The voice was strained and worried.
‘No, he’s not Mrs Parry. Is something wrong?’
‘I haven’t seen him since yesterday morning. He didn’t come home last night and he’s still not here.’
‘I see. Have you been in touch with his friends? He told me he had a few he was close to.’
‘Yes, I have the numbers of some boys and girls. He’s known them since primary school. I’ve tried them but they haven’t seen him either.’
‘Has he spent a night away before without telling you?’
‘He doesn’t like being somewhere where he has to undress. He likes me to bind him, you know, cover his breasts. But there’s been a couple of times when he hasn’t come home. He stayed at friends’ places but came back the morning after. He knows I get worried, you know, with Daniel being like he is, I get bothered about what’s happening to him.’
‘Yes, I understand, Mrs Parry. Is there anyone else he could be with? Family?’
‘There’s no-one. No-one I’m in touch with.’
‘His father?’
There was an ironic laugh at the other end of the phone.
‘He’d be the last person to have Daniel in his house.’
‘Hm, Right. Have you contacted the police?’
‘Yes, but they weren’t interested. They said 16 year olds often go wandering for a day or two.’
Jasmine knew that it would be another day or so before the police would show real concern.
‘Look, I’ll come round to you if that’s what you’d like. See if we can work out where he might be.’
‘Oh, yes please. I’m so worried. Dan tries to show that he’s a confident, easy-going boy but I know that there are things going on that worry him.’
‘I’ll be there in a few minutes, Mrs Parry.’
Jasmine put the phone and explained what was happening to Angela. She was sympathetic but warned,
‘Don’t stay too long. You’re off-duty and on leave. If it is police business leave it to them.’
‘I’ll just go and try to reassure her,’ Jasmine said throwing a cardigan over her t-shirt and slipping her feet into a pair of pumps.
‘Take Rose,’ Angela said chucking the car keys at Jasmine.
‘It’s only a few hundred yards.’
‘Yes, but it’s getting dark and I’m not sure I’d walk on that estate on my own.’
It was a new feeling for Jasmine to be a vulnerable female in a short skirt in an unfamiliar environment. She took note of Angela’s warning.

It was just a few minutes later that Jasmine pulled up at the Parry house. Jenny Parry opened the door as she got out of the car. She must have been watching through the curtains.
‘Thank you for coming,’ she said almost weeping with a mixture of worry and gratitude.
‘Dan hasn’t been in touch at all?’
‘No. He’s got a phone but it must be switched off and he hasn’t replied to any texts I have sent.’
Jasmine entered the house.
‘Did he say where he was going or what he intended doing when you last saw him?’
‘No. I’d gone to the shops when he left. Before I went out he said he’d be going out for a while.’
‘Did he take anything with him? An overnight bag, change of clothes, that sort of thing?’
‘I don’t know?’ Jenny Parry covered her mouth with her hand, ‘Do you think he’s left home?’
‘I don’t know but shall we have a look in his room?’
‘Oh, yes. Come up stairs.’
Jasmine followed Jenny up the narrow flight of stairs to one of the two bedrooms. Jenny pushed the door open and flicked the light switch. Jasmine joined her in the bedroom. It was a small room, a stereotypical boy’s room – an unmade single bed, a small desk with a pretty old model desktop computer on it, a wardrobe, a few shelves with an assortment of books and ornaments – largely model cars – and posters on the walls showing pictures from computer games – fantasy swordsmen and scantily clad heroines.
There was a scattering of clothes over the floor.
‘Can you see if there are any clothes missing?’ Jasmine asked.
Jenny opened the wardrobe. There were hangers holding school uniform and a couple of other pairs of trousers and shirts. There were also shelves with T-shirts, boxer shorts and socks.
‘Is anything missing?’ Jasmine asked. There didn’t seem to be many clothes even if the garments on the floor were included.
‘It’s difficult to tell,’ Jenny said. ‘I don’t think there’s much missing, but I can’t see his sports bag anywhere.’
‘How much could he get in that?’
‘Oh, it was only a small one. A pair of trainers, trousers, a few other bits and pieces.’
‘Right, so it looks as though Dan’s taken the bag and perhaps a few items of clothes. Anything else he might have with him?’
Jenny looked around the room, searching the desk and the shelves.
‘Well, his phone is definitely not here. I can’t see the charger either; and his wallet, that’s gone.’
‘Did he have much cash?’
‘I don’t know. A couple of pounds perhaps. He does have a cash card for his bank account, but no credit cards or anything like that.’
‘Well, it’s not certain of course, but it does look as though he intended going away for a couple of days,’ Jasmine mused.
‘But why? He was safe at home.’
‘Safe? Did you know he was in danger?’
‘Of course he was in danger. He’s a boy in a girl’s body. There are bullies around who’d pick on him because of who he is. You’re the same – well almost. Don’t you get people having a go at you?’
Jasmine reflected on her good fortune in being in a good job able to live where she wanted.
‘Being older is a help and with my police training I can look after myself.’
Jenny gasped, ‘You’re in the police?’
‘Yes,’ Jasmine had forgotten that Jenny didn’t know.
‘Even though you’re a trans-whats-it.’
‘I’m on leave while I start my transition but my bosses are being helpful.’ Well, most of them, I’m not sure that Sloane is exactly helping, Jasmine thought.
‘How did Daniel meet you?’ Jenny was inquisitive now.
‘I was having a run on the common. I met up with Dan. He was having a bit of trouble with some other youths. A lad called Kyle.’
‘Oh, him. He’s always marching around the estate as if he owns the place.’
‘He’s a bully,’ Jasmine said not adding that Kyle was also a potential rapist.
‘Do you think, Dan has left home to get away from Kyle?’
‘I don’t know. Perhaps he’s decided to get away for a few days to allow Kyle’s attention to wander. If he’s not back tomorrow give me another call and I’ll make sure the police take it seriously.’
Jenny looked very grateful indeed.
‘Thank you.’
Jasmine backed out of the bedroom and headed down stairs.
‘Let me know if you have any news,’ she added as she reached the front door, ‘and try to get some sleep. Don’t worry. I’m sure Dan is fine.’ She knew she was spouting platitudes which Jenny Parry would take no notice of. They didn’t convince her either. What was Daniel up to?
………………………

Jasmine Frame in “The Switch” – all new story

A little early this week in posting this blog but I’m excited because I have started a new Jasmine Frame story.  It is set between the events of Blueprint and Painted Ladies so is both a sequel and a prequel. It occurs at another important stage in  Jasmine’s transition that sees her involved in another case.  Like Blueprint I will be posting an episode each week, the difference being that this time I have some idea where it is going. What I don’t know is how long it will be or what convolutions will occur in the plot as we go along.

My other source of excitement this week was the news that a publisher is interested in publishing my fantasy novel, Evil Above the Stars featuring the heroine, September Weekes.  The publisher is Elsewhen Press, a small publisher of SF and Fantasy. Like my Jasmine Frame stories, I have been developing September’s adventures for a few years now. I couldn’t be more delighted that it looks as though they’ll be available to an audience. More news as it develops.

So, here is the first episode of The Switch.

The Switch: part 1

Chapter 1

The soles of her running shoes barely touched the concrete pavement as she loped along at a swift but comfortable pace. Despite it being the end of a long working day at the end of a long working week she felt exhilarated and bounding with energy. A weight had been taken off her. No longer would she have the burden of living two lives. From now on she was only Jasmine Frame. James was no more. Ahead of her stretched three weeks of leave from the Kintbridge police force; three weeks to sort out the legal papers; three weeks to acclimatise to being Jasmine full-time.
There was still plenty of light on this July evening but the temperature was comfortable now. Running was easy. The shoulder-length blonde wig was a bit of an irritation as were the silicone inserts in her sports bra, but they were necessary. They made her feel more feminine but she longed for the day when her body would match her image of herself. The wig could be discarded soon but it would be some years before she had breasts of her own to fill the bra cups. She hadn’t even started the gender altering drugs yet, and as for surgery, well, that was in the distant future.
She crossed the road and joined the gravel path that circled the common land that had been an air base. Where once there had been the roar of jet bombers now there was peace but for the call of birds. Sometimes she met other joggers and dog walkers, but this evening she was alone.
Or so she thought. She heard voices, young raucous voices, angry voices. She crested a low rise. Now the path dropped down to one of the old access roads onto the airfield. There were five young people by a disused gatehouse. Their noise and movements attracted Jasmine’s attention as she jogged towards them. There was one girl with long dark hair who slouched a couple of metres apart from the other four who appeared to be boys. Three of them were surrounding the last, jostling and shoving him. The three were taller and tougher looking than the subject of their attack. He tried to evade them but was unable to escape their triangle. Two of his assailants grabbed him and dragged him towards the open door of the concrete hut. From the shouts and swearing Jasmine gathered that it wasn’t some game in progress. This was an assault.
Jasmine stopped and pulled her phone from her belt. She thumbed the contact to the police station and spoke urgently.
‘Back-up required, youths fighting, north entrance to Enborne Common off Bowdown Road.’ She sprinted down the path towards the road. The three boys were trying to push the other through the doorway but he had a foot up on the door jamb pushing back while he waved his arms trying to keep them free. The girl hung behind not helping the assailants or their victim.
‘Stop. Police,’ Jasmine shouted realising that she had used her male voice. The girl and the boys looked around and paused in their pushing. The short boy shook himself free.
‘Fuck off,’ one of the boys shouted towards Jasmine and grabbed the boy’s arm
‘Leave him alone,’ Jasmine roared. ‘The police are on their way.’ She waved her phone to emphasise the point. The two other boys looked at the one holding the victim.
‘Come on Kyle. Let’s go. The fuzz are coming,’ one said.
Kyle glared at Jasmine, his lip curling. Jasmine could see him matching her masculine voice to her bosomed vest and blonde curls.
‘Don’t listen to him, guys. It’s a freak, a perv.’ Kyle took a firmer grip on the small lad who was struggling to get free.
Jasmine took a few steps closer, stretching to her full height, unfortunately no greater than Kyle’s, and adopting a pose with her arms and fists that suggested that she could look after herself in a fight. She was confident she could take Kyle alone but knew she couldn’t defend herself against all three, or four if the girl decided to join in. What was she getting into? At least there were no knives in sight. Knives were her worst fear.
‘Leave it Kyle,’ the other boy spoke up, ‘Perhaps the trannie has called the police.’ A siren sounded in the distance and all the young people stiffened. Jasmine smiled, it may not have been the car she’d called for but it was a useful coincidence.
‘There. They’ll be here in moments,’ Jasmine said in as calm a voice as she could manage, striving to raise her pitch. The three bigger boys and the girl gazed towards the road. The victim wriggled free of Kyle and ran towards Jasmine. Kyle moved to follow. Jasmine grabbed the small lad and held him protectively.
‘If you run, you may avoid being arrested,’ Jasmine added.
‘Come on, Kyle. It’s not worth it,’ the girl said. Kyle stopped a couple of metres from Jasmine and the boy. His fists clenched and the muscles in his bare arms tensed. Was he going to attack? Jasmine prepared to push the lad away while she defended him.
The same or a different siren sounded, closer. The other two boys ran off. The girl tugged on Kyle’s shoulder. After a moment he relaxed and allowed himself to be pulled away. He turned and with the girl ran off in the same direction as the others.
Jasmine was left with the victim of the attack. The top of his head was barely up to her shoulder. The sides of his head were shaved and there was a tuft of spiky black hair on top. His cheeks and chin were smooth and soft. He wore a loose T-shirt and baggy knee-length cotton shorts. Jasmine thought he must be about twelve or thirteen and perhaps rather than being short was actually quite tall for his age.
‘Hi, I’m Jasmine. Who are you?’ Jasmine asked, smiling broadly to reassure the young lad.
The boy frowned.
‘I’m Dan,’ his voice was a soft treble, ‘Are you a trannie?’
Jasmine sighed. She wasn’t surprised that she’d been read. The aggressive Kyle had spotted her. It wasn’t surprising when her shouted police voice didn’t match her waxed arms and legs to say nothing of her now slightly skewed wig.
‘Yes, I’m trans,’ she admitted. ‘What was all that about?’
Dan ignored her question
‘Are the police really coming?’
‘I hope so. I called for back-up.’
‘You’re a cop?’
‘Yes.’
‘They have trannies then.’
‘A few.’ Jasmine had been listening to Dan’s questions and watching him. His interest in her didn’t seem to be the fascination with the weird or the disgust that being read often generated. This young boy intrigued her. ‘You haven’t answered my question, Dan. Why were Kyle and his friends all over you?’
Dan didn’t reply at first. Jasmine watched various emotions pass across his face. Finally he spoke.
‘He was going to fuck me.’
Jasmine knew that her shock must have registered on her face. Did Dan know what he was implying? She had to spell it out.
‘What? You’re underage. Does Kyle want to be known as a gay paedo?’
‘It’s not like that. I’m sixteen and he wants to show everyone that I’m a girl.’

…………………………

James and Tom discuss suspects

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

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

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

Blueprint: Part 23

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

Jasmine digs deeper

First a thank you to the new followers of this blog. I hope you stay with me and enjoy the episodes of the Jasmine Frame story as I post them. Your comments will be very welcome.

This week I joined the Literary Festivals website. It lists a lot of authors, many of them very famous indeed, who make themselves available to talk and join discussions at the many festivals around the country. I would very much like the opportunity to do the same to promote the Jasmine Frame novels and discuss transgenderism on a broader stage. So if anybody out there is involved with a Festival – I’m available.

Actually I am giving my “Jasmine and me” talk next week in Tenbury, Worcs. I’m looking forward to the experience and hoping for a good audience. Of course it’s sales of Painted Ladies I would really like. I do wish that marketing was as easy and enjoyable as sitting in front of the computer and writing stories.

Talking of which here is the next episode of Blueprint – the Jasmine Frame, transgender detective, prequel.

Blueprint: Part 21

‘Geraldine? I met her at Betty’s earlier today,’ Jasmine said recalling the tall, manly looking transvestite who had been rather evasive.
‘Oh, you would have done. She is always hanging around at Betty’s,’ Caroline replied.
‘Why is she there so often?’
‘I don’t know why Betty puts up with her. Well I do – Betty is a kind lady. But Geraldine is not a good advert for Betty’s skills and would barely pass if she ventured out dressed. She doesn’t though which is probably a good thing.’
‘Why did you mention her then?’
‘Well, she had one of those digital cameras. She acts as Betty’s photographer. It’s one way she pays Betty back I suppose. If one of Betty’s clients wants a photo taken, Geraldine is there to take it.’
‘So she produces prints and knows how to enhance photos.’
‘What do you mean?’
‘Improve them. Make them brighter, chop out bits, perhaps even make the model look more attractive.’
‘I suppose so. Geraldine does a good job. Betty has a number of the photos on the walls of her salon. They look pretty good to me.’
Jasmine recalled that she hadn’t ventured past Betty’s sitting room so hadn’t seen the photos.
‘Have you got any of Geraldine’s photos, Caroline?’
‘No. I didn’t go to Betty for advice, just for company. I didn’t need Geraldine snapping away at me.’
‘What about Petula? Did she have a photo taken by Geraldine?’
‘I doubt it. Unless Geraldine took one when she wasn’t noticing. Petula tried to avoid Geraldine.’
‘Oh. Why was that?’
‘She felt uncomfortable in her company. Petula didn’t like cross-dressers who stood out.’
‘Like Geraldine and Rosalind.’
‘Rosalind wasn’t so bad. She was just a beginner.’
‘Was Petula rude to Geraldine?’
‘Oh, Petula would never be rude, but I think her body language made it obvious she did not wish to be near Geraldine.’
‘Did Geraldine notice?’
‘Oh, I should think so.’
It seemed that the circumstantial evidence was stacking up against Geraldine. She had the skills and the opportunities to make the photos sent to Petula and it seemed a motive if she was aware that Petula resented her.
‘Petula told you what she felt about Geraldine.’
‘We discussed her, yes.’
‘Did you discuss things between Petula’s visits here?’
‘Yes. Not frequently, but occasionally Petula would ring when it was convenient, and there were emails.’
‘Oh, you have a computer.’
Caroline’s nostril’s flared.
‘I’m not an ignoramus. I worked with computers at the bank until I retired. Of course I have a computer.’
Jasmine was a little taken aback at Caroline’s sudden display of temper, but she carried on.
‘Did Petula contact you in the weeks before she died?’
Caroline did not reply immediately as if she was deciding what her answer should be.
‘I think there were a couple of messages.’
‘Did she mention any worries? Things that were troubling her.’
‘No.’
‘But as far as I have discovered you were her main companion, the one trans-person she saw most often and spent most time with. Her only other regular outing was the Butterflies club in Kintbridge and that was for just a few hours once a month.’
‘What are you saying?’
‘I’m just surprised that as you were so close she didn’t confide in you.’
‘We talked about lots of things.’
‘But not about what was driving her to suicide.’
Caroline was quiet and then shook her head and whispered, ‘No.’
‘But you’re out much more than Petula. You live as Caroline except when your daughter and grandchildren visit, at least I presume you have since your retirement. Was that after your wife died?’
Caroline nodded, ‘I retired a year after. There wasn’t any point working anymore.’
‘So you’ve been living as a woman for four years.’
Caroline’s eyes lit up again, ‘I am a woman.’
Jasmine recognised the emotion. She felt the same – a woman inside her head but with a male body.  Did Caroline have a woman’s desires? With no partner at home did she look for more than companionship in the men or women, trans or otherwise, that she met?  Jasmine was uncertain about herself. Angie was still there for her although sex had slipped off the menu. While oscillating between appearing as male and female, she put thoughts about her sexual preference out of her mind. But what about if or when she transitioned, if she parted from Angie. What then? Would she seek a male or a female partner? She wasn’t sure so couldn’t say what Caroline’s preference was.
‘Petula wasn’t though was she?’ Jasmine asked.
‘What do you mean?’ Caroline hissed.
‘Well, she spent the vast majority of her time as a man, Peter. He still had his wife and she seems to have had no complaints about his masculinity. Peter was a cross-dresser. Dressing was a hobby which he was very good at but I don’t feel that he ever considered transitioning.’
‘What do you know about Petula?’
‘We met once. We talked and I have been exploring her life.’
‘Well, I don’t know what you are getting at. We met once a month and were friends.’
‘Is that all?
‘What do you mean?’
‘Did you want to be more than friends?’
‘I beg your pardon!’
‘Did you want to be lovers?’
Caroline shot onto her feet.
‘How dare you suggest such a thing. We never had sex. I think you had better go now.’
Jasmine rose. Caroline’s response was interesting. Had she made a move and been rebuffed?
‘You can’t suggest a reason why Petula took her own life?’
Caroline moved to the front door and opened it.
‘No. We were just friends. I accompanied her on her outings. I’ll admit to feeling sorry for her. She was stuck in the closet, afraid to come out to her wife or anyone else. Just sneaking off for her little trips. I gave her my time to help her. Now please go. I have washing up to do and then I have other friends to meet.’
Jasmine walked to the door. She smiled as sweetly as she could.
‘Thank you Caroline. You’ve been very helpful but there may be more questions I have to ask.’
‘I’ve told you all I know.’
Caroline shuffled forward, urging Jasmine through the doorway. Jasmine stepped out into the porch and the door closed behind her. The cold rain blew into her face reminding her of where she was and the long drive in front of her. At least she had something to mull over on the road south.

……………………………

Jasmine is found out

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

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

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

Here’s Blueprint.

Blueprint: Part 20

Chapter 6

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

Painted Ladies for Christmas

It’s been quite a few months now since I started making sure I posted something every week and Blueprint, the Jasmine Frame prequel has reached epsiode 16 (I didn’t know it was going to be so long when I started it). So, as this is the last post before 25th December I would like to say thnk you to everyone who has read the blog or is receiving the updates and wish you all a very Merry Christmas or Winter Festival, whichever it is you celebrate. There’s still time to download the e-book of Painted Ladies – a Jasmine Frame story (by P R Ellis) and if you order the paperback it’ll be with you  by New Year, and since I’m doing the plugs I’ll remind you that I am available to do my “entertainment”  called  Jasmine and me – adventures in murder and frocks.

The news is that, not having any other pressing work, I’ve been able to get on with the second Jasmine Frame, transsexual detective, novel, Bodies by Design, and have actually reached the end. It’s not finished and there’s a lot of work to be done on it yet, but the complete story does now exist.

So, finally, here is the next episode of Blueprint.

Blueprint – Part 16

Chapter 5

 The rain had got harder as Jasmine satnaved her way from the city centre out to the suburbs of Manchester following the address that Audrey had written down.  At last she turned into a street of 1930s semi-detached houses.  The road was narrow with just space for one car when there were parked vehicles on either side. A short drive led up to the garage beside of each house but the houses were tightly packed. Jasmine peered through her rain-obscured window looking for the numbers.  Some had numbers on the gate post, some on the front door and some none at all.
At last she found the number she wanted, fifteen, in large white figures on a door painted dark green. There was a small car, a Nissan, in the short drive but there was a space outside the house on the road. Jasmine parked and turned the engine off. She got out and ran to the porch to lessen the amount of rain that fell on her wig. She pressed the bell-push. A bell rang inside.
She had to wait for a minute before she saw through the patterned glass a figure approaching. The door was opened by a short lady who appeared to be in her late sixties or even early seventies.  She had grey hair tied up in a bun and spectacles perched on the end of her button nose, but was smartly dressed in blouse, cardigan and plain pleated skirt all in cheerful browns and reds.
‘Hello. Can I help you?’ The lady said.
‘Hi,’ Jasmine said, ‘I hope I’ve got this right. Is this Betty’s boudoir?’
The little lady looked Jasmine up and down and Jasmine felt she was being assessed.  Her hair style, make-up, dress sense were each being graded and the data filed away.
‘I’m Betty,’ she said. ‘I don’t think you’ve made an appointment have you?’
‘No,’ Jasmine replied. ‘I’m Jasmine Frame from Kintbridge in Berkshire. I’m a police officer.’
Jasmine held up her identity card as proof.  Betty took a close interest in it.
‘I see. It says Detective Constable James Frame.  Is this an official visit or have you come for advice because you are a transvestite.’
‘I’m on police business,’ Jasmine said,wincing as she did not consider herself a transvestite but a trans-woman.
‘Oh dear. Well you’d better come in, young lady, and tell me what it’s all about.  Then perhaps I can give you some advice. Your skirt is a little short.’
Jasmine felt herself colouring up and tugged the hem of her skirt down her thigh. Betty held the door wide and ushered Jasmine in. She closed the door behind her and led the way into the front room. It was a small lounge, with a floral three piece suite and glass cabinets filled with small china and glass pieces.
‘Take a seat, love,’ Betty gestured, ‘I have another client with me at the moment. I’ll be back in a minute or two. Can I bring you a cup of tea?’
‘Yes, please. No sugar.’  Jasmine sat obediently in an armchair and was careful to jam her knees together.  Betty left and Jasmine examined the room while she waited.  There were a few photos on the wall breaking up the floral wallpaper. They appeared to show Betty with a tall man of similar age to her.  The photos showed the couple at various ages from a black-white wedding portrait where they looked very young to a colour photo where both appeared middle aged. Jasmine noted that Betty’s hair was not completely grey in that photo so it must be a few years old.
Betty returned carrying a small tray with a cup and saucer and a small plate of fairy cakes. She placed the tray on an occasional table alongside Jasmine’s chair.
‘My client may join us soon, but she is a little nervous of meeting someone she doesn’t know,’ Betty said sitting down on the end of the sofa, ‘so how can I help you.’
Jasmine drew the increasingly crumpled photos from her bag.
‘I’m looking for anyone who knew this person.’ She passed the photos to Betty.  Betty pushed her glasses up he nose and examined the images.
‘That’s Petula,’ she announced. Jasmine stomach leapt. At last, she thought, someone who knew her.
‘That’s right. Petula or Peter Thwaite.’
‘I only ever met Petula although of course I knew she was a transvestite and lived most of her life as a man.’
‘She was a client?’
‘Yes, for a time.’
‘Oh. That doesn’t sound as though you have seen her recently.’
‘I haven’t.’
Jasmine’s stomach ceased its excited clenching.
‘Can you tell me when you last saw her?’
‘Oh, I’d have to look at my notes.  I keep details of all my clients. But it must be well over a year since Petula visited me.’
Dash, Jasmine thought. Not recent at all, but Petula was still coming north up to the last month.
‘Did you know her well?’
‘Oh yes. I know all my ladies very well. It is part of my service to get to understand them. I find out what they get out of dressing; what their purpose is; what their likes and dislikes are; where they want to go if indeed they want to leave my house dressed.’
‘So what did you find out about Petula?’
Betty looked thoughtful for a moment then spoke.
‘I would have to go through my notes on her but it must be four or five years ago since she wrote to me and asked for an appointment. I don’t know how she found my address but someone must have given it to her.’
‘I was told you don’t advertise.’
‘Oh no. That would be vulgar. All my ladies come by personal recommendation and I decide after a first meeting if I can be of service to them.’
‘What does your service involve?’
‘Advice on appropriate clothes to wear to suit their age and figure. I keep a small stock. I suggest suitable undergarments to help the clothes look their best. I also advise on hairstyles, and keep a number of wigs if required. I also do their make-up and train the ladies how to do their own.  Then if they are satisfied with their appearance, and they usually are, we may go out to a shopping centre and have some lunch or tea.’
‘You do this for all transgendered people?’
‘Trans-women. Transsexuals becoming full-time and transvestites who only dress occasionally.’
‘May I ask how you got into this business?’  Jasmine was impressed and intrigued by Betty’s description of her service.
‘It was necessity,’ Betty said firmly, ‘My Tommy died suddenly leaving me with very little pension.  I wanted to keep this house so I had to find a way to earn some money.’
‘Oh, I see, but how did you choose to help trans-women?’
‘I saw a couple out shopping in Manchester one day, when I was desperately trying to think of things I could do at my age.  It was nearly ten years ago now.  These ladies stuck out like they had flashing lights on their head. Their styles were all wrong for a day of shopping. I watched them then while they were talking over a dress that suited neither of them I told them so. We got talking and that was it. Betty’s Boudoir was born.’
‘That’s quite amazing,’ Jasmine said.
‘It is, isn’t it. I can hardly believe how bold I was myself. But I’ve done very nicely, thank you very much, and I have lots of lovely ladies who visit me and go out with now.’
‘And what about Petula?’
‘Well, I arranged for her to come for her preliminary visit.  I knew she had to come a long way but she seemed determined.’
‘You said you didn’t know her as Peter, so she must have come dressed as Petula.’
‘That’s right. I can remember her now standing on my doormat. She had some quite good quality clothes on but oh, her colours. Nothing matched and she looked a bit like a sack of potatoes.’
‘So you offered to help her.’
‘Yes. She was very shy at first but she followed my suggestions. She arranged to come up once a month, always on a Thursday. Gradually I got her appearance to improve and she relaxed enough for us to start going out. I helped her choose decent lingerie to wear underneath and she bought some very nice, classic outfits. She became a smart, mature woman.’
‘Did she talk much?’
‘About what?’
‘Her life in Kintbridge? Her wife?’
‘I knew she was married but she was very secretive. Although she became much more confident out and about she was very scared of being discovered by her wife. She didn’t think her wife could possibly understand her urge to dress as a woman.’
‘That was what troubled her most I think.’
‘Now Detective Constable. I’ve told you quite a lot. Perhaps you can tell me why you are asking these questions. Has something happened to Petula?’
Jasmine drew in a lungful of air before replying.
‘I’m afraid so. She died last Friday. She killed herself.’
Betty raised her hands to her cheeks.
‘Oh dear me. Why did she do that? Did her wife find her dressed?’
‘No. She did it to stop her wife finding out.’
‘Oh dear, dear. The poor woman and poor Petula. The wife still doesn’t know?’
‘That’s right but I’m afraid that it is going to come out at the inquest.’
‘Why?’
‘Because Petula was driven to suicide by something that made her suspect that she was about to be outed.’
‘What was that?’
‘This photograph of her was one of a series sent to her home by post at weekly intervals. This first one is mild enough although it shows her clearly enough as a woman.  But the subsequent pictures become increasingly pornographic.’
Betty looked confused.
‘But that doesn’t sound like Petula. She was very shy of showing her body.’
‘That’s right. They’re fakes. A collage of Petula’s head on a different body.’
‘And she thought if her wife saw them she would be horrified and she couldn’t face the consequences.’
‘That seems to be the reason why she killed herself.’
‘But that’s horrible. Who would do such a thing,’ Betty paused as her face turned white. ‘You don’t suspect me?’
‘No. I don’t think so. But I need to find out who she was meeting up here after she stopped coming to you.  Why did she stop?’
‘I don’t know. I got a letter saying she wouldn’t be attending one of our sessions and that was the last I heard from her.’
‘But she carried on coming up here on those Thursdays. She must have been meeting someone.’
‘That’s true… I wonder?’
As Betty pondered, Jasmine felt her stomach take another leap. Did Betty have an idea?
‘What is it?’
‘Well,’ Betty began hesitantly, ‘As she became more confident we began to go out as a small group of ladies, three or four of us. We’d take lunch together in a pub or restaurant after a little bit of shopping. Ladies that lunch – that sort of outing.’
‘The same group every time.’
‘No… but there were one or two ladies who came more frequently. Petula became quite friendly with them.’
‘Can you remember who they were?’
‘I’ll have to check my diary.  I always record who my appointments are with and who I accompany.’ Betty got up. ‘I’ll go and get my books and look through them. I’ll see if Geraldine would like to come to have a chat.’  She left the room.
Jasmine lifted the cup of tea and put it to her lips. It was now only lukewarm but she drank it down and then selected a fairy cake. Was she really on the threshold of finding the person who Petula had met? She seemed so close.
The door to the lounge opened and a tall figure entered wearing a smart, knee-length black dress.
‘Hello, I’m Geraldine,’ she said in a husky whisper.
……………………………

Jasmine Frame on the trail

An early post this week as I’m going to be a little occupied over the weekend.

A bit of a let down this week as we thought the BBC World Service, The Why Factor on “Cross-dressing” (their term) was going to be broadcast on Friday 6th. The trailer appear on their website along with a rather garish photo of two drag queens kissing.  I sent a message saying I didn’t think the picture quite matched the content of our interviews.  Anyway on Thursday the schedules were changed and a different topic was put in. So, what happens next is anybody’s guess.

Before we come to the next episode of Blueprint, just a reminder that Painted Ladies – a Jasmine Frame story is available as a paperback or e-book from all suppliers. It’s had some great reviews on Amazon, Goodreads, Netgalley and Eurocrime.

Blueprint, part 14

Tom pulled the clothes out one by one. There was everything a woman could need – bras, knickers, slips, blouses, skirts, dresses, cardigans, coats.  Then there were the additional bits not needed by real women – false breasts (Jasmine noted they were a larger size than what she used) padding to fit around the hips and buttocks (Jasmine couldn’t imagine wearing that) and jars of heavy foundation and cleanser. There was eye shadow, blusher, lipstick, nail polish and remover; and jewellery – bracelets, necklaces, rings, ear rings.  There wasn’t a lot of each but it added up to quite an assortment when it was spread out on the lounge carpet.
‘Did he need all this?’ Tom asked.
‘Well, it’s not as much as it looks really.  Think of it as a woman’s complete wardrobe.’
‘I’d have trouble getting all my clothes and stuff into that one case,’ Angela admitted.
‘Hmm yes, I’ve seen how much stuff Sophie has,’ Tom nodded in  agreement, ‘But this bloke, Thwaite – he wasn’t a woman.’
‘No, he was a secret cross-dresser,’ Jasmine said, ‘but it seems he still managed to get out at least twice a month – one evening at Butterflies and his away day in Manchester.  He needed a variety of clothes for his various outings, summer and winter.’
‘He went for quality not quantity,’ Angela said, bending to look closely at a skirt, ‘These are best high street purchases.’
‘I wonder,’ Jasmine pondered, ‘Did Petula do her buying on her Manchester trips?’
‘It would be impossible to tell,’ Angela said, ‘The big chains have shops everywhere.’
Tom reached into what appeared to be an empty case and drew out put a brown file. It was smaller than normal paper size but was quite thick.  He flicked open the cover.
‘I think you may be able to trace some if not all the stuff,’ Tom said, ‘These are receipts.’
‘Let me see,’ Jasmine said eagerly stretching out her hand. Tom hesitated then handed over the file. Jasmine flicked through the sheaf of paper slips all neatly punched and filed.  ‘They’re in date order, everything Petula purchased by the look of it. Right up to October,’ she pointed to the date on the top receipt.
‘Well, he was a banker,’ Angela said, ‘Obviously wanted to keep his expenditure under control.
‘Especially as he was keeping it secret from his wife,’ Tom added.
Jasmine continued to thumb through the papers, rapidly becoming frantic.
‘But it’s no use,’ she slammed the file shut, ‘They are just her purchases. There’s nothing here about where she stayed, ate or visited.  She must have kept those records separate.’
‘If he kept them at all,’ Tom said.
‘So you still only have the list of places you made,’ Angela said.
‘Yes. There’s nothing here to help me track where Petula goes on her days out except for the shops where she buys her stuff.’
‘Perhaps that was all she did,’ Tom said, starting to pack the clothes back in the case.
‘Why go to Manchester every month if only to go shopping,’ Jasmine said, ‘No, I’m sure she was meeting someone, some people. I’ve just got to hope that it was at one of the trans venues.’
‘Well, good luck,’ Tom said, ‘Give us a hand here, I don’t think all this stuff will go back in.’
They put aside concerns about contamination and helped Tom stuff the clothes into the case, finally forcing it shut.
‘Well, if that’s all we can do, I’ll get off.’ Tom got to his feet lifting the case.
‘Wait a moment. I need car for tomorrow.’ Jasmine said.
‘I’ve got things to do tomorrow Jas. You can’t have my Clio.’ Angela complained.
‘No. I need a police car so I can keep in touch. I’ll have to use yours, Tom.’
‘Hey. How am I going to get home?’
‘I’ll give you a lift now, and pick you up on Monday morning if you like.’
Tom looked doubtful, ‘Well OK then.’
‘Let’s go then and make the most of what’s left of the evening.’

Chapter 4
               
Jasmine was ready for a break by the time she reached the outskirts of Manchester. She was tired and stiff from the long drive from Kintbridge via the A34, M40, M42 and M6.  She had passed the various roadside motels where Thwaite had spent nights before his away days.  Jasmine had done the trip in one go, leaving before dawn and, thanks to the light Sunday morning traffic, it was still only 10 a.m.  She made her way to the city centre and then to a car park on the edge of the Canal Street gay village.  Most of the venues she had on her list were in or close to this area.  First though, she needed coffee.
Jasmine was the only customer in the cafe when she sat down with her coffee.  The young girl who served her smiled at her with thick glossy red lips. A T-girl? Jasmine wondered.  She looked wonderful and perfectly natural. As Jasmine took a sip from her cup she wondered whether she would ever feel relaxed working as the person she felt she was. Perhaps though there was a difference in serving in a coffee house in a gay area and being a member of a largely male team in a police station.
She looked at her list and at the map she’d downloaded.  Her first try would be Transmutations. “We change every element of your appearance” said the strapline on their website and went on to list all the latex enhancements, wigs, cosmetics and clothes that may be needed to make a man look and feel like a woman.  It could be a place someone like Petula would go to purchase items for her transformation or meet up with someone to go shopping.
She downed her coffee, slung her bag over her shoulder and waved to the girl behind the counter as she left. The streets were only just starting to fill up with visitors on this dull, grey November Sunday  as she began following her map.  Transmutations was in a quiet back street, with a discreet frontage that barely hinted at the joys and mysteries that awaited the man daring to enter. Jasmine pushed the door open and stepped into a large area divided up into many alcoves offering all sorts of wares. Jasmine was just taking in the sight of row upon row of heads with wigs of all styles and colours and racks of glittering ball gowns when she was approached by a middle-aged woman dressed immaculately in classic black shop assistant garb.
‘May I help you Madam?’ The woman said. It wasn’t a deep voice so Jasmine was unable to decide whether she was a real woman or another T-girl. It seemed this was going to be a frequent dilemma for her on this mission.  Why should I, of all people, care, she thought. Men, women they are just being the person they want to be and doing a job as well.  The scale of the shop and the other assistants that Jasmine saw moving elegantly from one display to another, showed there was a market for catering for men’s need to be women.
‘I hope so,’ Jasmine replied, ‘I’m trying to trace someone.’
The woman frowned, ‘One of our assistants?’
‘No, one of your customers. At least she may be a customer.’
‘She?’
‘Well he, but, well, he may have come as she.’
‘I understand,’ the woman said with a cold edge to her voice, ‘but we do not divulge information about customers or indeed acknowledge whether people are customers. Certainly not to people unknown to us. I do not recall that you are a client yourself.’
Jasmine had feared that getting a lead would be difficult. Thwaite was secretive himself so he would have chosen places that were equally if not more confidential in their dealings with clients.
‘No I’m not a client. Would you recognise me if I was?’
‘Oh yes. We pride ourselves on knowing our regular customers,’ the woman stretched her neck lifting her head proudly, ‘I am sure we could offer you service. We have dressing rooms available this morning.’
Would she have resorted to a place like this, Jasmine wondered. A mega-store for turning men into the women they fantasised themselves as being. Perhaps if she hadn’t had Angela to talk to, to guide her, she may have needed the advice that was available at places like Transmutations, at a price.
‘No, as I said I’m looking for someone who may have known this cross-dresser,’ Jasmine thrust out the photo of Peter Thwaite that she had had at the ready in her coat pocket. The eyes of the woman did not flicker.
‘I said we cannot confirm or deny the identity of a client.’
‘Perhaps she came already dressed,’ Jasmine plucked out the photo of Petula.  It was a bit fuzzy having been  cropped and enlarged from the first of the anonymous photos. Still there was no sign of recognition in the woman’s face.
‘If you do not have business here I must ask you to leave,’ the woman said.
Jasmine sighed and dug in her bag for her warrant card.
‘Perhaps this will allow you to answer. I’m a police officer.’
The woman’s eyes focussed on Jasmine’s identity details.
‘That says Detective Constable James Frame,’ she said with a hint of a smile forming around her lips.
‘Yes, well I’m trans too, and I’m looking for anyone who knew this cross-dresser.’
‘Why?’ The woman asked.
‘Because she is dead and I’m trying to find out why.’
The colour disappeared from the woman’s face.
‘I see. You had better come with me.’ She turned and led Jasmine to the back of the shop where there was a row of doors a few feet apart. She opened one and showed Jasmine into a small room laid out as a dressing room, with a couple of compact easy chairs, a high chair at a dressing table with a full-length mirror beside it and a wardrobe rail.
‘Please take a seat,’ the woman said.  Jasmine sat on one of the easy chairs and the woman sat beside her.
‘I am sure you understand why we do not divulge information about clients,’ she said.
Yes, I do and I’m sure that if Peter or Petula Thwaite was one of your customers he would have been very pleased to hear it. He was a secret dresser. His wife knew nothing, but he visited Manchester once a month until he committed suicide last week.’
The woman’s hand rose to her mouth.
‘Oh, dear,’ she sighed.
‘Do you know her?’ Jasmine insisted holding out both the photos.
‘No, I don’t recognise him or her,’ the woman replied.
‘And you are sure you would if she was a client.’
‘If she had been here more than once I would certainly recognise her. I’ve worked here for ten years. We photograph all our regular clients, with their permission of course, so that we can replicate styles and appearance when they return. I am quite sure that I have not seen this person here, but I’ll check the name in our records if you like. Thwaite you say.’ She rose to her feet.
‘That’s right. Peter. Petula was her femme name.’
‘I’ll just be a few minutes.’
‘Thanks.’  The woman left.
Jasmine was left to imagine how clients felt being shown into this room, stepping into dresses selected by the assistants, fussed over while make-up was applied and wigs fitted.  Admiring oneself in the mirror and posing for the photographs. It wasn’t what she wanted but she could see how some, many, men would pay for the pleasure.
………………………

Jasmine gets investigating

Been out putting up posters for my talk “Jasmine and me” (8 p.m. Wed. 27th Nov, The Sitting Room, Ludlow) and desperately hoping I get an audience. I haven’t actually prepared anything yet but I have been thinking about the presentation – how many readings, which bits from Painted Ladies, Bodies by Design, Blueprint or other Jasmine Frame material? How much about me, and how much should I go into Jasmine’s future as a transsexual detective? How can I make it amusing? Not long now to find the answers.  Not much time for writing this week either but here is the next bit of Blueprint.

Blueprint – Part 10

James scratched his head. There were so many things he wanted to know about Peter/Petula Thwaite and the photographer who had sent the prints that precipitated his/her suicide.
‘We’ve got to track Thwaite’s movements yesterday before he locked himself in his garage,’ James said at last.
‘His wife said he went to work,’ Tom said.
‘Yes, but he obviously didn’t stay there as he was sitting in his car with a pipe from the exhaust in the afternoon.’
‘Hmm yes, that old car with the un-cleaned up exhaust.’
‘The car that gave him his cover.’
‘What do you mean?’ Tom asked
‘His wife thought he went to the car club two Saturdays a month, but in fact it was only one. The other was to attend Butterflies.’
‘He was pretty devious wasn’t he?’
‘He had to be to keep his cross-dressing a secret.’
‘OK, so we need to know what he did before he killed himself. What else?’
‘We’ve got to trace who sent these,’ James pointed to the five photos. Tom stared down at them.
‘Hmm. Any clues? What about the postmarks?’
James bent to examine each envelope closely.
‘Some of them are illegible but I think this one says Birmingham, and this one Manchester.’
‘Not local then.’
‘No,’ James agreed, ‘Perhaps forensics can read the smudged ones.’
‘They may get something from the prints,’ Tom said, ‘identify the paper and the printer, that sort of thing.’
‘Maybe, but I can’t see that leading us to Thwaite’s persecutor,’ James said. There didn’t seem to be any clues to the person who had driven Thwaite to kill himself. ‘The other thing I want to know,’ James went on, ‘is what happened to his clothes?’
‘His clothes?’ the mystified look had returned to Tom’s features.
‘Her clothes to be more accurate. Petula had at least one outfit as well as wig and make-up. Thwaite kept it secret from his wife. I presumed he hid it in the garage, but you didn’t find anything there.’
‘No. Not that I was looking for female clothes,’ Tom said, ‘but that garage was clean enough to be used as a dressing room. Perhaps he did keep stuff hidden there.’
‘And he got rid of it before he killed himself.’
‘We do need to track his movements, don’t we?’
‘Yes. Let’s start at the bank. That’s where he should have been. It’ll be open this morning. Let’s go.’
James leapt to his feet. With something to do he felt energised. The investigation was under way.

Chapter 3
 
The manager rose to greet James and Tom as they entered her office. Most of the room was taken up by a vast desk which she leaned across to shake their hands.
‘Sit down, please,’ she said indicating the two stainless steel framed chairs pressed against the desk. James sat quickly while Tom struggled to fold his long legs into the limited space.
‘I presume you know about Peter Thwaite,’ James began.
The woman looked sombre, her expression complemented by her navy blue uniform jacket.
‘I heard about it his morning,’ she said, ‘dreadful.’
‘What did you hear?’ Tom asked. The woman looked a bit shocked as if the question was superfluous.
‘My colleagues told me that he had committed suicide yesterday afternoon, in his car.’
‘He should have been here, is that correct?’ Tom asked.
‘Well, I wasn’t in. Mr Preston, the manager was on duty yesterday, but yes, I suppose Peter should have been at work. Instead he was …’ There was a glint in her eye as if a tear was forming.
‘You’re deputy manager, Miss Sutton?’ James asked, reading her name badge. The woman nodded. ‘Peter Thwaite worked for the bank a long time. Hadn’t he reached manager level? Did you know him well?’
The woman flushed as if James was questioning her right to a position of authority.
‘I’ve known Peter for quite a few years and yes he does, did, hold a senior position, but while we say he worked here it’s more accurate to say he was based here.’
‘What do you mean?’ Tom asked.
‘Peter used this branch as his headquarters. He wasn’t on the regular staff.  He was on the savings and loans side, training and appraising the advisors across the whole region.’
‘So he travelled around.’ James said.
‘That’s right.’
‘What about yesterday?’ Tom asked.
‘Well, I don’t know what he was supposed be doing but the staff said he came in in the morning. He was late actually. Peter was never late. Then he left soon after saying he was sick.’
‘How soon?’ James leaned forward with interest.
‘I’m not sure. You’ll have to talk to Sue Marsh. She was downstairs all morning. I think she saw him come and go.’
‘But he definitely said he was ill?’ James pressed.
‘Yes,’ Miss Sutton insisted, ‘a few of the staff commented on how pale he looked.’
‘So he arrives late, stays a while, then leaves claiming he’s sick.’ James reiterated. The woman nodded.
‘You say his work covered the region,’ Tom said, ‘Was he supposed to be somewhere else yesterday.’
‘I don’t know. You’d have to look at his diary,’ Miss Sutton said.
James looked at the paper-free desk in front of the deputy manager which was occupied only by a large computer screen and keyboard.
‘I presume that’s an on-line diary,’ James said
‘Of course,’ the woman seemed surprised to consider there could be any other.
‘Can you access it?’ James asked.
‘Yes.’ Her fingers flittered over the keyboard. She turned the screen so that James and Tom could see also it. ‘There.’
Tom peered closely at the rainbow coloured spreadsheet.
‘It’s blank for yesterday,’ he announced.
‘That means he wasn’t booked to go anywhere. He must have been intending to work here. A lot of his work was done by email and video conferencing,’ Miss Sutton explained.
‘But he did travel to other branches?’ James asked trying to make sense of the text and hieroglyphics in the diary.
‘Oh, yes, two or three days a week.’
‘He worked hard then?’ James said. ‘His wife suggested he rarely took holidays.’
Miss Sutton looked doubtful.
‘Peter did work hard but he took his time off. He always had at least one day off a month.’
‘Really?’
‘Yes, look,’ Miss Sutton scrolled the screen through the months and pointed at the days that were marked as leave.
‘They look like Thursdays,’ James said trying to follow the moving screen, ‘the second or third of the month.’
‘The third. Peter always took the third Thursday off. Something to do with that old car of his I suppose.’
‘The car he used for cover for his Saturday nights,’ Tom commented.
‘What?’ The woman asked mystified.
‘Nothing,’ James said waving his hand. He was staring at the screen. ‘Can you scroll through again, slowly? There seems to be something about those third Thursdays.’
The woman caressed her mouse. James’ attention was fixed on the flowing dates.
‘Yes, there is a pattern. I’ll need a print out to check.’
‘What pattern?’ Tom asked.
‘It’s the Wednesdays before his days off. He always seems to be out somewhere, Swindon, Oxford, Abingdon, Banbury.’
‘They’re all branches in the region,’ Miss Sutton said.
‘Where does the region extend?’ James asked.
‘Central South – Hampshire, Dorset, Wiltshire, Berkshire, Oxfordshire.’ Miss Sutton recited.
‘So he could have visited Portsmouth, Weymouth, other places south of Kintbridge but always on the day before his day off he heads north or west.’
‘So what?’ Tom asked shaking his head.
‘Did Peter Thwaite ever stay overnight on his trips?’ James asked.
‘Yes, occasionally,’ Miss Sutton agreed, ‘If he was visiting branches close together it would make sense putting up somewhere rather than driving back home.’
‘That’s it,’ James said. He pushed himself back in his chair feeling satisfied
‘What is?’ Tom asked still with a look of puzzlement on her face.
‘I bet that if we asked Mrs Thwaite she would say that once a month Peter Thwaite was away on a Wednesday night because he was visiting branches in the same area on the Wednesday and Thursday.’
‘But he wasn’t. He was off on the Thursday,’ Tom said.
‘Exactly. So where was he going on the Thursdays and why did he make sure he was in the north of his region?’
……………………………………….

Jasmine Frame is revealed

Well, I wish I could report that this week I have sold x copies of Painted Ladies, had an offer of publication of all the Jasmine Frame novels with TV and film rights to follow, but no, none of that has happened. It’s been a pretty normal, busy week and once again I have failed to get on with Bodies by Design. I am, however, looking forward to my date for giving my first presentation of ‘Jasmine and me’ (The Sitting Room, Ludlow, 8p.m. Wed. 27thg Nov) when I’ll do some readings and talk about Jasmine the transsexual detective and about my own experiences of transgenderism.

Here though is the next episode of Blueprint, the Jasmine Frame prequel.

Blueprint: part 9

‘Butterflies. It’s a club for people like Petula – cross-dressers and other transgendered men and women.’
Tom looked confused.
‘Really. Where is it? I haven’t heard of a club with that name in Kintbridge.’
‘Oh, Butterflies is just the name of the group of people. The club meets in a village hall out of town.’
‘Right. But what were you doing there? Had Thwaite asked to meet you?’
‘No, I’d met Petula there before but we hadn’t talked much.’
‘You’d been before? Why?’
James took a deep breath. This was the moment he had been dreading since he joined the police force. As a teenager and as a student he had thought he could get away with not telling anyone. Dressing as a woman was a passing phase; the feelings he had about being female, about wanting to be accepted as a woman, were surely a fantasy. Time and living with Angela had proved that was not the case. Angela was the first person he had confessed his feelings to. She supported him, seemed to actually enjoy being with Jasmine, had encouraged him to talk and to think deeply about his future.  They had come to the decision not long ago that ultimately he would have to turn his dream into reality and become the woman he felt himself to be. But taking that step required planning and he had been putting off revealing his intentions to his senior officers as well as to friends and colleagues.  Now it looked as though he had lost the luxury of choosing the time for his announcement. Petula’s suicide needed investigating and he would have to reveal himself as Jasmine Frame, transsexual detective constable.
James could see Tom waiting for an answer to his question.
‘I’m a member of Butterflies myself, Tom,’ James said quietly and hesitantly, ‘I’m transsexual.’
Tom didn’t say anything for moments that stretched into seconds. James could almost see the wheels turning. Tom wasn’t dim, in fact he, like James, was on a fast track to promotion, but he did seem to be slow on the uptake.
‘You mean, you put on women’s clothes and make-up and stuff.’
‘It’s a bit more than that actually. I am a woman inside here,’ James tapped his forehead, ‘but yes, I put on feminine clothes, make-up, jewellery and a wig – my haircut is a bit too masculine at the moment to pass.’
Tom took in what he said.
‘And you go out dressed like that?’
‘Yes.’
‘To this club, Butterflies?’
‘There and other places.’
‘Does Angela know?’
‘Yes. She’s always known. We often go out together when I’m Jasmine.’
‘Jasmine?’
‘My female name.’
‘Oh, like Thwaite is Petula?’
‘That’s right.’
‘But his wife doesn’t know.’
‘No. That’s just one of the differences between us. I didn’t know Petula very well but I had the impression that she was at the cross-dressing end of the transgender spectrum.’
‘Transgender spectrum?’  Tom was looking confused again.
‘Look, it’s difficult to explain. Perhaps we can sit down and talk about it sometime, but there’s probably almost as many ways of being transgendered as there are people. I feel that I am really a woman and want to live my life as a woman.  I think Petula enjoyed dressing up from time to time, looking and acting feminine and meeting with like-minded people but did not want to change her life at all.’
‘I’m having trouble getting a handle on this Jim. Why did Thwaite do it?’
‘It’s an urge, a driving force, but he felt he had to keep it secret from everyone who knew him as Peter, including his wife. He was very upset at the thought of her discovering Petula. Obviously even more upset than I thought as he’s dead.’
‘You think this last photo tipped him over.’
‘Yes. It’s shocking isn’t it,’ James glanced at the photo of the man and woman having sex, ‘to people not used to porn. I guess he thought that his wife might think that he wanted to be the woman in the photo. He may have felt incapable of coping with the shame of being found out.’
Tom scratched his cheek.
‘Right, so let me get this straight. This guy has been dressing up as Petula secretly for years, always terrified that his wife might find out. Then these photos start arriving and he gives them to you. Why? When was it?’
‘It was last Saturday at the monthly Butterflies meeting. Some of them know I’m a police officer because I can’t get to meetings often. Petula approached me with the photos. She was upset and worried and asked if I could do anything to find out who was sending them. I took them but I didn’t have the slightest idea how to start. It was Angela who promised I’d look into it, actually.’
‘Angela was with you?’
‘Yes, as I said, she often comes out with me.’
‘So what have you done about it?’
‘Nothing. It’s been a busy week and I haven’t had a chance to even think about how to start the investigation. I suppose I hadn’t realised how upset Petula was or that the photos would keep coming.’
‘Well, we’ll have to investigate it. The person who sent the photos may have been intending to blackmail Thwaite. At the very least least he’s partly responsible for tipping Thwaite over the suicide line. The coroner will need to know why Thwaite was unbalanced. We’d better log these photos as evidence, write up what you know and plan where we go next.’
He’s shifted into detective mode, Jasmine thought. Good old Tom. If there’s a problem, tackle it by following procedure. He’s ignoring what I told him, blanking it out of his consciousness.  It was a familiar response, James had found, when informing people of his transsexualism. A couple of years ago he had told his mother; she had even met Jasmine on a couple of occasions but she still acted as if she knew nothing about his feelings or intentions.
‘You’re right, Tom. We must do all those things. But we’re also going to have to explain to Sloane. He’s going to have to find out about Jasmine.’
‘Jasmine? Oh, you mean, you being, uh,…’ Tom’s voice trailed off and his expression took on a vacant appearance.
‘Yes, Tom. Sloane and everyone will have to know that I want to be the woman I know I am.’
Tom shook his head.
‘I don’t get it, Jim. You’re a great police officer; you’ve got a career as a detective ahead of you.’
‘Detectives can be women.’
‘Yes, of course, but you, you’re my mate. You’ve got me out of a few scrapes. You go running.’
‘Women run too.’
‘I know that. Look, you know what I’m trying to say. You’re a good bloke.’
James sighed.
‘It’s a front, an act that I’ve developed over the years to hide my real feelings, to protect myself from people’s reactions because I know that standing here in my CID suit I don’t look at all like a woman. But that can change and over the last few years I’ve realised I’ve got to make it change. It’s just that I’m not quite ready to go public.’
Tom shook his head.
‘I don’t understand, but I see you’ve got a problem. You’re Sloane’s protégé but I don’t know how he’ll react if he finds out you want to be DC Jasmine. He’s a bit unPC in his attitudes.’
‘That’s just part of it,’ Jasmine agreed, thinking of all the other colleagues who might mouth the diversity training they’d received but didn’t really believe it. ‘And I need to let Angela know what’s going to happen. We’ve discussed it often enough but hadn’t set any dates or timetable.’
Tom didn’t say anything and the silence stretched on and on. James searched Tom’s face trying to work out what he was thinking. Eventually Tom spoke.
‘Look. Sloane’s given us a few days to wrap up this investigation. It’s Saturday today. I know he’s a 7/7 sort of guy but he’s probably not expecting to hear from us before Monday and with most of the admin staff off for the weekend it’ll be Monday before the evidence and your statement go through the system.  Let’s sit on it till then, see how far we can get in the investigation. That gives you today and tomorrow to sort out things with Angela.’
James felt relief wash over him. It would be at least two days before the news spread through the station.
‘Thanks Tom. That’ll be something.’
‘Right. So where do we start?’
…………………………

Across country to Nottingham

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

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

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

Jasmine Frame visits Butterflies

A bit late with this week’s post because I was out all day on Saturday and didn’t have time to write the second episode of the Jasmine Frame prequel, Blueprint – see below.

It’s been a busy week of marketing Painted Ladies. There was a big feature, with photos in the Hereford Times. It made page 3! Not a review, unfortunately, but a bit of exposure that might boost sales.  That led to a short interview on BBC Hereford & Worceter’s Drivetime slot which went pretty well. Painted Ladies is available as paperback and e-book from all booksellers.

Anyway, to the next bit of my serialised story about Jasmine before the Painted Ladies period

Blueprint part 2

Jasmine fitted her feet into patent black high-heeled shoes, and picked up the matching clutch bag from the bed. She checked that she had the essential lipstick, compact and hanky. The last choice was what coat to wear.  It was pretty cool out, not surprising for November and the sequinned dress was not really warm. There was only one choice really, the mid-length, fawn, fake-fur coat.

‘Are you nearly ready?’ Angela called up from downstairs.

‘Coming,’ Jasmine replied, putting the coat on then steeping out of the bedroom.  She was growing in confidence on high-heeled shoes but she took each step of the stairs with care; too often she had almost twisted an ankle by toppling. Angela met her at the bottom with her coat on and her car keys in her hand.

‘I’ll drive then, if you’re wearing those shoes,’ she said nodding at the high heels.

‘Thanks. What are we going to do about eating?’

‘There’s Susan’s sandwiches and cakes at Butterflies.’

‘Yes, I know, but I’m starving. Tom and I didn’t get any lunch.’

Angela looked thoughtful for a moment.

‘Well, let’s go into town, get a pizza or something before going out to Butterflies. It doesn’t matter if we arrive late.’

‘That’s right. Yeah, let’s go to a restaurant first, but not in Kintbridge.’

‘Still afraid of meeting some of your colleagues? They wouldn’t recognise you.’

‘No, but they might remember you. We’ve been to a enough does together for them to know who you are.’

‘Anyone seeing me with you would just assume I’m out with a friend.’

‘Yes, but if they decided to come and have a chat they may become suspicious.’

‘You’re still nervous aren’t you? Even though you’re spending most of your time as Jasmine, when you’re not at work.’

‘I suppose so. I’m still not sure what would happen if I bumped into one of the senior officers.’

‘Probably nothing at all. Mind you the chance of meeting them on a night out in Kintbridge is pretty slim.’

‘OK. Let’s give it go.’ Jasmine opened the front door and stepped into the cold night air, glad of her fur.

Angela parked her small VW in one of the city car-parks and together they walked the couple of hundred yards into the town centre. Arm in arm with Angela, Jasmine felt confident and content. It was in the queue at the restaurant that she felt nervous. A few minutes standing still in the light gave people a chance to give her more than a passing glance. They might wonder at this tall (in her heels) woman with the broad shoulders and narrow hips. In fact no-one seemed to give her a second look and in a few minutes Jasmine and Angela were seated at a table for two and giving their order to a waiter.

‘I’m glad we’ve come here first,’ Angela said, leaning forward a little so that she didn’t have to shout across the table to be heard.

‘Why?’ Jasmine replied.

‘Because we don’t get much chance to talk with Sloane keeping you going all hours of the day or night.’

‘It’s because Tom and me are new to his team. He’s trying us out, seeing what we’re good for, whether he wants to keep us.’

‘Yes, I can understand that but he is not giving much thought to your home life.’

‘I don’t suppose that ever crosses his mind. I don’t think he has one himself – always on the job.’

The waiter interrupted them to deliver two small glasses of wine. When she had moved away, it was Jasmine’s turn to lean forward.

‘What did you want to talk about, anyway?’

‘Us, actually.’

Jasmine felt a tingle of anticipation in her stomach. She was dreading having these conversations.

‘What about us?’

‘Come on Jas. Don’t go silent on me. You know what I mean. You’re out most of the day. When you get home you change into Jasmine. I hardly get to see James. I love you whoever you are but I want to know where you’re going. Where we’re going. Do you want to become Jasmine, full time?’

Jasmine sighed. It was the question she often asked herself. She sipped her wine before answering.

‘I don’t know Ange. I am comfortable when I’m Jasmine and always feel I’m playing a role when I’m James but at the moment I haven’t got time to work things out. I love being on Sloane’s team, even though he’s difficult. It’s what I’ve always wanted to do.’

‘I know that Jas.’

‘And I love you. I want to be with you.’

‘I know that too.’

‘So I really don’t know where I’m going. I’m sorry Ange.’

The pizzas arrived and they ate while chatting about less important matters. Angela seemed content to put off the difficult discussion for another day.

It wasn’t long before they were back in the car heading away from the bright town lights and out into the dark country lanes. Jasmine recalled how difficult it had been to find the village hall where Butterflies met for their first visit when they were new to the area. The hall was isolated from the village it served, but that made for a discreet and quiet venue for a transgender club. There were a dozen cars lined up as Angela pulled into the small car-park with faint sounds of the Beegees coming from the hall.

‘Sounds like the disco fans are here,’ Angela said getting out of the car.

‘Their period,’ Jasmine noted referring to the age of most of the members.

They entered the hall and found about twenty people inside.  All appeared to be women but Jasmine knew that all but one or two were either transsexuals or cross-dressers. Just four were dancing to the music while most of the rest sat at tables in conversation. At least the music wasn’t so loud that shouting was necessary in order to be heard.  They were approached by a large woman in a brunette wig and weighed down with heavy jewellery at her neck and wrists.

‘Good evening. Jasmine and Angela isn’t it?’ The woman said, smiling broadly and ushering them in.

‘That’s right,’ Jasmine said

‘I’m sorry most of the sandwiches and cakes have gone.’

‘That’s OK, Belinda. We’ve eaten.’

‘That’s alright then. We missed you last month.’

‘I was busy.’

‘It’s her work,’ Angela offered by way of explanation, ‘She’s hardly home.’

‘Oh, yes,’ Belinda nodded, ‘I understand. You’re a policeman aren’t you?’

‘A detective now,’ Angela said proudly.

‘With lots of crimes to solve?’ Belinda asked.

‘Quite a few.’ Jasmine agreed.

‘Well, get a drink and relax. I’m sure everyone will be pleased to see you both again.’

Jasmine and Angela went to the hatch where the drinks were served and collected a lemonade for Angela and another red wine for Jasmine.

‘Shall we dance, Jas?’ Angela asked.

‘I’m not sure 70s disco is our thing is it?’

‘We used to dance to anything. You loved it.’

‘I still do.’ It was what had brought them together. They met on the dance floor at the students’ union and found that their rhythm and movement merged. Each took the cue from the other so that their bodies seemed to merge into one.

Angela put her glass down on a table and took Jasmine’s hand.

‘Come on then.’

Another woman approached them. Jasmine recognised her from previous visits to Butterflies and thought she was one of the cross-dressers – a man living his fantasy for a few hours before returning to a male life somewhere. She was dressed in a short, sleeveless green dress with sparkly flesh-coloured tights, green high heeled court shoes and a light brown wig with curls that tumbled over her shoulders. She had a large handbag slung over one shoulder. Jasmine wondered if she was feeling cold as the hall wasn’t warm and her outfit seemed more suited to a summer party.

‘Hi. You’re Jasmine, aren’t you?’ she said.

‘That’s right, um, I can’t remember your name.’ Jasmine struggled with her recall.

‘It’s Petula.’

‘Oh, hi, Petula.’

‘Look, you’re a policeman aren’t you?’

‘Yes.’ Jasmine wondered if she had been right to give out that piece of information.

‘I thought so. Look, I wonder if you could help me?’

‘How?’

Petula opened her handbag and drew out an envelope.

‘I’d like you to take a look at this.’

Blueprint – Jasmine Frame before transition

It’s been a busy week since Painted Ladies was officially published on 1st September. Last night (Friday) we held a launch party where there were drinks and nibbles, readings, signings and books sold. In fact marketing took up quite a bit of the week what with interviews with our local journalist and photographs taken down by the river.  There have also been some new encouraging comments about Painted Ladies so I hope more people wil be encouraged to buy, buy, buy.

I did find time to move along a bit with Bodies by Design – the second Jasmine Frame story.  It is still going to be some time before that appears so I thought for those wanting to know more about Jasmine Frame I would provide weekly episodes of a prequel which will develop as it moves along.  The first part can be read below.

Blueprint – part 1

‘Is that you James?’

James closed the front door and called out his reply.

‘Who were you expecting Ange?’

He looked up as Angela appeared at the bend in the stairs. Her red lips were drawn into broad smile.

‘You of course. You don’t think I’d have my lover turning up now, just when you’re due home.’

James giggled.

‘No. If anyone knew how to time an affair it would be you.’

‘Thanks.’ She reached the last but one step, stopped and rested her arms horizontally on his shoulders. ‘At least you’re back when I was expecting you.  Detective Chief Inspector Sloane didn’t need his favourite detective late this evening then?’

James put his arms around Angela’s waist, lifted her up and swung her into the hallway, planting a kiss on those red lips as he did so. He lowered her until her feet touched the floor then pulled his head away.

‘I don’t think Sloane has a favourite. I’m not sure he even likes any of us. He’s just a little less grumpy when we do something right.’

‘So what did he have you doing today?’

‘Oh, interviewing some kids involved in a fight outside The Haughty Hippo last night.’

‘A punch-up?  Surely that’s not serious enough for the Violent and Serious Crimes Squad?’

‘One boy pulled a knife and threatened a few of the others.  That was enough to get the Chief Constable going. You know he’s got this campaign to combat knife crime.’

‘So Sloane’s crack team of detective was called in, were they?’

‘Just Tom Shepherd and me.’

‘I see – give the new boys something easy to prove that they won’t mess up.’

‘Sort of.’

‘Were you OK?’  A concerned expression had replaced the amusement on Angel’s face.

‘What do you mean?’

‘Well, you and knives…’

James brushed away her concern.

‘Oh yes. I only had to question the kids, not confront them.’

The smile returned to Angela’s face.

‘So it’s all wrapped up.’

‘Yeah.  The idiot with the knife will find himself with a criminal record but it was all straight forward; plenty of witnesses.’

‘Good, so we’ve got the evening together and no chance of Sloane calling you out.’

‘That’s right, unless something big kicks off.’

‘Right, well, you go upstairs and start getting ready while I wait in front of the television. We are going to Butterflies aren’t we?’

James noticed that Angela was dressed for an evening out; a red dress with patterned tights.

‘It’s that Saturday, so, yes, I suppose so.’

‘Well, go on then. It’s gone six-thirty already and it always takes you ages to get ready.’ She pushed him towards the stairs and gave his bottom a playful slap. James ran up the stairs uttering a voluntary yelp.

 

Standing in the shower with the hot water trickling down his body was a pleasure after the day with the grubby kids who’d spent twelve hours in the cells.  He shaved his face carefully and then ran a lady razor over his armpits.  Stepping out of the shower cubicle into a warm and spacious bathroom James reflected on how wonderful it was to have their own new house after years in student digs and rented flats. He knew how lucky they were to have his detective constable’s pay and Angela’s fast growing salary as an accountant to get a mortgage.  With the banks reluctant to lend and prices in Kintbridge still high, even after the crash, buying a house was a big responsibility for a couple in their mid-20s.

James sauntered into his bedroom still rubbing his backside with the towel which he dropped on the floor. He chose a pot of moisturiser from the dressing table and rubbed into his legs and arms, examining his limbs for hairs as he did so. Although blonde they grew somewhat coarsely and he sometimes felt in need of a waxing – but not now that it was winter.  He put the top back on the tub and opened a drawer, taking out a pair of large, elasticated knickers.  He pulled them up and carefully tucked his penis and testicles between his legs.  He looked in the full length mirror. He was satisfied that there was no sign of a bulge between his legs.

From another drawer he drew out a black bra, efficiently fastened it around his smooth and muscular but flat chest and tucked in the two false breasts that had lain beneath the bra. He sat on the side of the single bed and drew a pair of sheer black tights up his legs and smoothed them to remove all wrinkles. Opening the wardrobe he paused. Which dress should it be for this evening at Butterflies? There wasn’t much doubt really; it had to be the new midnight blue sequins.  He lifted it off the hanger and dropped it over his head. It fell to mid-thigh.  He looked in the mirror.  His shoulders were a bit broad and he had no waist to speak of but the shimmering sequins disguised his lack of female shape.  He was nearly there.

James sat on the stool in front of the dressing table and began his transformation.  Foundation, applied not too thickly, eyebrow pencil, eye liner and shadow, blue of course, mascara, thick and black, rouge, bright red lipstick. Finally he reached for the long blonde wig that sat on its stand.  He tugged it over his short fair hair. He was so grateful to Angela for teaching him how to apply cosmetics and choose the right wig so that the face that now stared back at him looked not like a pantomime dame, but what he really felt he was – a young woman.  Jasmine Frame looked out of the mirror.

Scene setting – Painted Ladies

Setting the scene is important in most novels but especially so in crime and detective fiction.  Just think of all those literary and TV cop shows with their familiar backdrops both real and fictional.  Morse in Oxford, Rebus – Edinburgh, Marple – St Mary Mead, Scott & Bailey – Manchester and many, many more even before we head for the States, or Scandanavia.  A good author can make the urban or rural setting a crucial part of the story, perhaps even central to the plot as the Oxford colleges often are in Morse and Lewis.

In finding a home for Jasmine Frame and the sites for events in Painted Ladies I had a number of choices to make.  First of all, fictional or real?

Devising a whole town and its environs is hard.  You have to develop the whole layout of the streets, buildings and wild places in your imagination and that is some task.  So a real place then, but where?  Well, where you live of course; it reduces travelling time for research. Home is the area you know well.  You know where the important places are and how long it takes to get from A to B.  Moving from the area, as I have done, does present a problem for the sequels but memory, a street map and occasional return trips will have to suffice.

Then the final problem.  Do you base your story on the true location with accurate street names and all the rest or do you fictionalise it.  It may be a kop out but I’ve settled on the latter.  It means I don’t have to have everything exactly as it is on the ground. For example one pub featured in Painted Ladies has now disappeared under a new shopping centre. Changing names also helps prevent silly anachronisms and incongruities jumping out at readers.

So where are the “mean streets”, the seedy dives, the crime scenes, that Jasmine Frame inhabits?

Kintbridge is a large town in the former Royal County of Berkshire.  It is on the River Kennet at a crossroads between a major route from the south coast to the Midlands and the old road from London to Bristol. The picturesque Kennet Canal is a notable feature.  The town is reasonably prosperous with the usual pockets of deprivation and dens of iniquity.  There’s nothing particularly distinctive about its architecture but it’s not a bad place to live. Jasmine’s lived there a few years now and is familiar with its main streets, its back roads, its housing estates and pubs. She knows where things happen and the places to avoid late at night – if you’re wise. Unfortunately, at least one character in Painted Ladies is not so sensible.

Image

a pleasant spot in Kintbridge – as referred to in Painted Ladies.