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?’
‘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.’
‘Oh, he was white, but his hair and beard were gingery.’
‘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.

‘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.
‘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.’
‘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 . . .


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.’
‘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.’
‘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


‘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.’
‘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 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.’
‘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.’
‘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.’

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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


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.’
‘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.


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?’
‘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