Jasmine in limbo

I worry about idolatry. (I’m also worried about May’s Brexit debacle and Trump’s UN performance, but those are for another day, perhaps). The way in which (new) Labour party members hero-worship Jeremy Corbyn is the cause of my worry. Idolatry can soon become fanaticism and fanaticism underpins dictatorship. The manner is which Corbyn is hailed as our saviour seems to me to be unrealistic and blinkered. For a start, if we are to claim that the UK is a parliamentary democracy then the leader of a party is only of a limited if significant importance. The tendency has been to form a personality cult around leaders from Margaret Thatcher onwards but the zeal with which the current Labour Party hails Corbyn is beyond anything that has happened before.

Does Corbyn deserve it? He comes across as an honest politician which is rare enough these days and he has values which he has stuck to. Actually that is part of my issue with him since I don’t think he has changed his mind or had a new idea in forty years. The current policies that his team have publicised is a rehash of former Labour/socialist manifestoes – and I do like some of them, but they are hardly fresh or innovative.  Corbyn seems to me to retain old attitudes to the environment (he’s only interested in renewable energy if it can be used to bash the oil companies) and his attitude to women and gender variant people is questionable.

I have my suspicions that Corbyn is a charismatic puppet for a group in the Labour Party with ambitions to establish a state as intolerant of dissent as the rightwingers in May’s party. Their fudge on the subject of the People’s Vote on Brexit is a case in point.

Politicians should earn our respect not our idolisation.  Unfortunately, at the moment I cannot think of one politician of any party who earns my respect for their past and present behaviour, with the possible exception of Caroline Lucas and unfortunately neither she, nor the Green Party, is going to be in a position to affect government policy.

………………..

WP_20180927_16_21_24_ProI am really enjoying attending my new weekly writers group. It’s nice to have a decent cup of coffee while we read our work and talk about writing. They are a lovely group of ladies (unfortunately, the group is almost but not quite exclusively female, not counting me). Today I was given the idea for an excellent murder technique.  Not sure when I can use it, probably not in a Jasmine story, but perhaps if I ever get round to writing my Gussy Harcourt thriller stories (set in 1860s Oxford) it could come in useful.

That’s the joy of writers’ groups – they stimulate the little grey cells and make you want to get down to writing.

Molly’s Boudoir is almost ready to go for typesetting but I’m afraid Jasmine is in limbo at the moment because I’ve run out of time. For this and the next two weeks a couple of hours each day is given over to a trip to the hospital (not for me but for Lou) so I haven’t yet put fingers to keyboard on the next Jasmine short. Patience please.  Don’t forget that their are six Jasmine titles available on Kindle and the first three are also available in paperback from me  viz. Painted Ladies, Bodies By Design, The Brides’ Club Murder, Discovering Jasmine, Murder in Doubt and Trained By Murder.

……………….

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Jasmine takes a leap

WP_20180803_14_21_17_Pro (2)This weekend I am at the annual NAWGfest – that is the National Association of Writers’ Groups Writing Festival at Warwick University.  It is a great opportunity to join in several workshops which are always stimulating and thought-provoking as well as meeting and socialising with people that I have got to know over the last few years. NAWG however has something of a split personality. Is it, as its title suggests, a sort of umbrella organisation for writing groups or is it an association for authors published or not.  If the latter then it overlaps somewhat with the Society of Authors, but that organisation is only for published writers. I have been a member of a number of writers’ groups but to my knowledge only one has been a member of NAWG and that one didn’t really participate in the association’s activities.  That was why I became an individual or “associate” member. There are possibly millions of people across the country who are writing, many thousands taking part in on-line or face to face writing groups but not many who take advantage of what NAWG offers, perhaps because of the cost. I find the encouragement I get from meeting other authors, engaging in activities which might not be directly related to my particular writing tasks but nevertheless develop my skills, and just talking about writing, very rewarding. I hope NAWG and its annual festival goes from strength to strength.

You may have noticed I haven’t commented on this week’s news. I am trying to blank it from my consciousness as if I think about it too much I could become very agitated and worried. I really do wonder where we will be in one year, five years, time.

So, let’s get back to fiction. We’ve reached the final episode of Negative. I hope you like the conclusion of this short story.  It fits in the small temporal gap between Painted Ladies and Bodies By Design and I doubt I will be able fit another plot into this period of Jasmine’s life. Next week I’ll say a bit more about Molly’s Boudoir, the fourth novel, and where I’m going with this blog. In the meantime, enjoy.

Negative: Part 11

Alun took a few faltering steps towards his mother who beckoned him with her hands and warm, encouraging words. Jasmine crawled along the cliff edge keeping her head down. The sirens grew louder and then blue lights appeared over the crest of the moorland. Alun froze, took a step back, then another.
Jasmine rose into a crouch, sprang. She intended a low rugby tackle but her shoulders hit Alun’s legs above his knees. He staggered. She closed her arms around his thighs as she toppled to the ground. He flexed his leg. His heel struck Jasmine’s breast. She held on. He slumped.
And rolled. Her arms were trapped under him. Her feet and ankles swung free. She could feel that there was nothing beneath them but air. Now she was holding onto Alun to save herself not to pull him down.
Hands grabbed her clothes, tugged on her, dragged her away from the edge. She spat tough grass from her mouth and looked up. Ceri’s mother was looking down at her and Alun, a uniformed police officer beside her.
‘I thought you both were going over for a moment there,’ the PC said. He dragged the passive Alun off Jasmine and helped him to his feet. Jasmine panted and pushed herself into a sitting position. To her side, inches away, was the drop, the road below out of sight, and the sea. The PC pulled Alun further from danger.
Another police officer offered a hand. Jasmine used it to pull herself up. Alun was already being taken away with his mother tagging along, crying and asking nonsense questions.
‘You okay?’ the officer that had helped Jasmine said.
‘Yeah, I think so.’ Jasmine rubbed her chest. Her false boobs had taken the brunt of Alun’s involuntary kick; her knees were a little sore from being dragged through the tough grass and bare rock; her heart was still thumping from the exertion and the terror.
‘Let me help get you back to the car,’ the officer said. Jasmine nodded and he took her arm allowing her to put some of her weight on him as they walked away from the cliff.

A few minutes later Jasmine found herself sitting on a hard, plastic seat in an interview room at the town police station. She had barely noticed where the police car was taking her when she had been shown into the rear seat and they had set off down the hill. Her thoughts had been going over those last few moments; her fear that Alun was about to throw himself off the cliff, her own narrow escape from falling; she wondered if the police understood what had happened, the reason for Alun’s flight; did they realise that Ceri had nothing to do with Tegan’s death.
The door opened and a detective walked in, a short, thin woman with lank hair. She carried a mug which she put down on the table in front of Jasmine.
‘This is for you. Sweet tea. I believe you’ve had a bit of a shock. What’s your name?’
‘Jasmine Frame.’ She looked at the pale beige liquid in the mug. A coffee perhaps was desirable but not this sugared water. ‘Thanks,’ she said, nevertheless.
The detective sat down opposite her. ‘I’m DS Huws, Glynys Huws. Sorry to put you in here. It’s not very comfy, but we need to ask you some questions. Like what was going on up there on the cliff?’
‘I thought Alun might jump,’ Jasmine said.
‘You know him then?’
‘No. I know his sister, Ceri.’
‘Ah, yes, Ceri Powell. Mrs Powell says she found you alone at her house.’
Jasmine took a deep breath and began her story. ‘I’d gone to see her, find out what was happening to Ceri. Only Alun was at home. We had a talk but he became agitated. I got knocked over as he ran out.’
‘Knocked over?’
‘Well, knocked out I think. He didn’t mean it. I cracked my head against the door. That’s how his mother, Mrs Powell found me.’
DS Huws showed concern. ‘How’s your head now?’
Jasmine felt her skull. The headache had dulled; she was hardly conscious of it amongst the other scrapes and bruises of her contribution to saving or arresting Alun.
‘OK,’ she said, ‘I don’t feel concussed.’
The detective smiled. ‘Why did Mr Powell become, er, agitated?’
‘I had got him to tell me what he did with Tegan Jones.’
‘What he did?’ The detective’s eyes widened.
‘Ceri had nothing to do with Tegan’s death.’ Jasmine explained about Tegan’s transphobic treatment of Ceri and Alun’s brotherly response. The detective listened.
‘So, Alun Powell confessed to you that he abducted Miss Jones, knocked her unconscious, took her to the top of the headland and dropped her off the cliff.’
‘No, not the last,’ Jasmine shook her head vigorously. ‘He left her on the edge. Her fall was an accident.’
‘I’m not sure the death of Tegan Jones can be called an accident.’
Jasmine shrugged. She reluctantly had to agree with the detective on that point. ‘No, not an accident, but not a deliberate act.’
‘If we corroborate your story then perhaps it will be manslaughter not murder. But how did you get involved. You’re not a local. Is it because you and Ceri Powell are both . . .’
‘Transsexual women. That’s not why I came here,’ Jasmine explained, reluctant to talk about herself. ‘We recognised what we are and became friends, but I’ve only known Ceri a few days since I met her at the hotel where she works. I came for a rest.’
‘A rest? A holiday? On your own?’
‘Yes, on my own. It was more recuperation than holiday.’
The detective examined her. ‘What do you do, Miss Frame?’
‘I’m a detective.’

Jasmine sat on the slightly more comfortable seat in the waiting area, a mug of cooling black coffee resting on her knee. Mrs Powell sat a metre from her, but they weren’t conversing. She was deep in her thoughts no doubt contemplating the future with Alun in custody, facing an appearance in court and perhaps, probably was more likely, a sentence in prison. The DI in charge of the case had allowed her to sit in while Alun was interviewed, his “learning difficulties” recognised.
Jasmine was waiting to hear that she was not required for any more questioning, but she was reluctant to leave the older woman alone, even if they weren’t talking.
A door opened and a sergeant in shirt sleeves emerged followed by Ceri. Mrs Powell leapt to her feet and embraced her daughter. Jasmine stood up and waited for an opportunity to greet her friend.
‘The DI says you can all go now,’ the sergeant said, ‘We’ll keep Mr Powell in the cells over night and give you a call in the morning when he is going to be interviewed again. Do you need a taxi?’
Ceri parted from her mother and spoke first. ‘No, I want to walk in the fresh air. It’s not far.’
The custody officer said good bye and retreated through the locked door.
Ceri stepped towards Jasmine. ‘Thank you for what you did.’
‘What did I do?’
‘Saving my brother.’
Jasmine frowned. ‘I’m afraid I haven’t saved him from the responsibility for Tegan’s death.’
‘I know, but you saved him from falling from the cliff, and he didn’t mean for Tegan to die. You said that.’
‘That’s true. I knew it wasn’t you, but I didn’t know what had happened until Alun told me.’
‘He didn’t know what he was doing,’ Ceri said.
‘He’s a child really,’ Mrs Powell added. ‘They won’t put him in prison with criminals, will they?’
‘The police will treat him as kindly as they can,’ Jasmine explained, ‘but there is the matter of justice for Tegan.’
Ceri bowed her head and looked at the floor. ‘I know. I hated the things she said to me. When they were questioning me, accusing me of killing her, I felt at first that she deserved it, but then it came to me that she was just mixed up. No one deserves to die. I wish I hadn’t complained so much about her to Alun.’ She sniffed and her mother put an arm around her.
Jasmine revealed her thoughts. ‘I don’t know why Tegan was transphobic and I don’t think her partner, Bob, understands either.’
Ceri looked at her. ‘You spoke to her? Bob?’
‘Yes, she and Tegan were obviously very much in love.’
‘She’ll want Alun put away for life,’ Ceri snivelled.
Jasmine shrugged. ‘That’s why we have courts and judges. A jury will probably conclude that Alun is guilty of manslaughter, but the judge will decide how responsible he was and what a fitting punishment really is. It’s not up to the victim’s family or supporters. Alun will be protected.’ Jasmine hoped that what she said was true.
‘Let’s go home,’ Mrs Powell said, taking Ceri in her arms. The three of them walked out of the entrance of the Police Station and commenced the short walk back to their house. The streets were empty now and the sky was dark. Jasmine looked at her watch surprised at how late it was. It was gone midnight. She said farewell to Ceri and her mother and continued towards the hotel. She got her mobile out of her bag relieved that it hadn’t been lost on the hillside and also that it was still working. There was a text she hadn’t read earlier. The Benefits Agency wanted her to start an investigation. She had a job to go home to. Her holiday was over.

THE END

Jasmine at the scene of the crime

I feel a bit cut off from reality this week. Perhaps it’s because we are between two lives as we pack up our home and prepare for our long-awaited move. Maybe it’s because the news has also become unreal, or surreal. The government seems to have entered a quantum superposition over Brexit in which it tries to mollify both the brexiteers and the remainers in its own party with a white paper which makes no sense whatsoever. I really don’t know where we’re headed but it certainly isn’t towards calm prosperity.

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WP_20180713_13_38_49_ProLast Saturday we were in Southport in Lancashire. It’s a strange place. It’s supposed to be a seaside town but we didn’t see the sea. The Victorian promenade is actually a good quarter of a mile from the sea front but the actual waves are another half a mile further away except for a very short period at high tide. There was plenty of other evidence that it was a seaside resort though with fish and chips, amusements, entertainments and a pier with “Dotto” trains.

Of course, we weren’t there to get the seaside experience. The idea was to sell books at the BLISS bookfair. That didn’t happen. There were plenty of authors with books on display but the book-reading-and-buying-public didn’t turn up. It really does call into question the purpose of these events. Is it so that a group of authors can socialise or is it to promote, and sell, books? It looks increasingly like the former.

And so on with the latest case for Jasmine Frame. She’s supposed to be enjoying a rest in another holiday town, but she can’t resist a murder investigation. Here is part 6 of Negative.

Negative: Part 6

Jasmine gasped. It hadn’t occurred to her that Tegan might be a lesbian despite having observed her, largely at a distance, for a few days.
‘Had they been together long,’ she asked.
‘Oh, yes, for ages. Years. That’s what upset me I suppose.’
‘What did?’
‘Well, her being lesbian. I thought LGBT people stood up for each other, but she’s been at me ever since I started my transition. I nearly didn’t take the job because of her. I wish I hadn’t.’
Jasmine sighed. ‘She’s not unusual. Most lesbian and gay people are supportive of trans men and women but there are a few. . .’
‘Why? Why was she so up her arse about me being a woman?’
‘Some women, not just lesbians, just don’t see a transwoman as a woman, especially if they’ve still got a penis. If you’ve got a cock, you must be a man with a man’s attitude to women. That’s what they think. Before you transition you’ve had all the privileges of being a man so therefore you can’t understand what a woman has to go through, lesbian or straight.’
Ceri looked wide-eyed. ‘That’s a load of balls. I always knew I was different to other boys and I got bullied for being different even before I realised what I was. Privileges, Pah!’
Jasmine went on. ‘Sexuality gets in the way too. If you’re a trans woman who’s keen on blokes are you gay or straight? What if you fancy girls? Tegan probably had conflicting emotions when she looked at you.’ I certainly do, Jasmine thought. You look gorgeous and sexy but am I seeing you with the male eyes I used to have or are the female hormones I’ve been taking sending my brain mixed messages. I’m still not ready to decide on my sexuality. ‘I’, not condoning her attitude,’ Jasmine added, ‘It’s just how some women think.’
Ceri was thoughtful. ‘Why couldn’t she have talked about it instead of being a bitch?’
Jasmine nodded. ‘The question is who might have got pissed off with her enough to kill her.’
The colour faded from Ceri’s cheeks. ‘You don’t mean me, do you? She pissed me off enough times, but you don’t think I killed her?’
‘No, of course not.’ Jasmine replied automatically but when she thought about it, of course Ceri had a motive, and opportunity. But no, sweet, beautiful Ceri couldn’t be a murderer, could she? Jasmine dismissed the thought. Ceri’s reaction to the police officer’s questions and to the news of Tegan’s murder wasn’t that of a killer or someone trying to pretend they’re not the killer. Unless she was a very good actor. Of course, all trans people are actors; they’ve spent their early lives pretending to be their birth gender and then when they transition they have to act out a new public role before it becomes part of their nature and they blend in. Jasmine shook her head. No, it couldn’t be Ceri. But if not, who? And how?
‘Someone killed her though,’ Jasmine said eventually.
Ceri stared at her. ‘Who?’
‘I don’t know but the police will be investigating. You had better be prepared to answer more questions when they find out that you and Tegan didn’t exactly get on.’
‘But I had nothing to do with it,’ Ceri insisted.
‘I know, but they will ask questions like, where were you last night?’
‘When?’
‘After Tegan went off duty. You know what time that probably was.’
‘Between eight and nine. Um, I was at home.’
‘With your Mum and Dad, oh, and your brother?’
Ceri considered her answer. ‘Mum was there. I’m not sure about Dad and Alun.’
‘Well, you only need your Mother to provide an alibi and you’re in the clear.’
‘Of course,’ Ceri sipped her coffee and looked away from Jasmine. Ceri glanced at the clock on the wall behind the counter. ‘Oh, I’d better get off. I said I’d help Mum with the shopping.’ She glugged her coffee, put the mug down and got up.
‘See you later then,’ Jasmine said.
‘Later?’ the girl replied.
‘Dinner? You are going to be serving dinner, I hope,’ Jasmine grinned to show she was joking.
‘Oh, god, yes. I hope he gets Myfanwy in. I don’t want to do it all myself. Breakfast was bad enough.’ She pulled her summer-weight mac around her and hurried out.
Jasmine drank the remaining drops of her coffee and got up. She had a day to kill with nothing to do except investigate a murder.

Jasmine was surprised to find herself heading along the Undercliff. The road around the headland was quiet today. The mist and rain rolling in off the sea cut the visibility to a hundred metres or so. There was no view out to sea or indeed up to the clifftops. The tourists were sensibly staying indoors. Jasmine trudged along the tarmac, feeling rainwater dripping down her neck.
The town was out of sight and the road had narrowed where it cut into the cliff. The roadway was made narrower still by the area next to the rockface cordoned off by police tape. It was a small crime scene, barely larger than a parking space for a car. Jasmine guessed that a larger zone had been designated when the body had been discovered but now that the body had been removed and the forensic examination apparently completed, just this small patch was still being protected. A small police car parked beyond the tape showed that the spot where the body had been discovered was still secure.
Not wanting to draw attention to herself, Jasmine walked passed slowly, observing carefully but not making it obvious that that was what she was doing. There was, in fact little or nothing to see. No blood stains, no chalked body outlines, no skid marks or any other sign of a vehicle, but the water on the road may have obscured those anyway. There was one bunch of flowers, white roses, wrapped in clear plastic, leaning against the rock face.
The police officer stayed in his car, but Jasmine could see him watching though his rain-spattered windscreen. There was one other person at the scene, standing on the opposite side of the road, looking out into the grey sea. Jasmine thought it was a man at first, dressed in trainers, jeans, and a waterproof with short, wet hair. As she passed by though, she saw the figure in profile and noticed a feminine silhouette. She wanted to walk on but her investigative instincts urged her to pause and engage the person.
Jasmine stopped and faced the woman. ‘Is this where the body was found? I heard there’d been an accident along here.’
The woman turned to face Jasmine. Her cheeks were white and damp, not just with rain, Jasmine thought.
‘Accident?’ she said in a soft, vague voice. ‘No, not an accident.’
‘Someone died though?’ Jasmine felt guilty making it seem that she was an innocent passer-by. The woman nodded slowly and sniffed.
‘Did you know her?’ Jasmine asked, hoping that she didn’t appear to be prying, even thought she was.
‘I thought I did. I thought I knew everything about her,’ the woman said turning to look at the crime scene. ‘but I don’t know what she was doing out here.’
Jasmine guessed this must be Tegan’s partner that Ceri had mentioned. It wasn’t surprising that it should be her facing the weather to stand in a vigil at the Tegan’s scene of death.
‘What was she like?’ Jasmine asked.
The woman faced Jasmine, but her eyes looked at some distant point as she called up her memories. ‘She was warm and loving, funny and deep, kind and she was my rock.’
Is she describing the Tegan Ceri and I know, Jasmine asked herself.

……………………to be continued

 

Jasmine reluctant

Well, that was a surprising week wasn’t. Fancy Federa losing at Wimbledon from matchpoint! Then there was the government in turmoil over Brexit. Actually that is normal, but the resignations of Johnson and Davies were a bit unexpected. Of course they couldn’t do the honourable thing and resign when asked to back the PM. No, first they gave her their support, then they resigned. But that behaviour is not really a surprise since they have both lied and squirmed since before the referendum. But where does it leave May and the Brexit negotiations? I’ve no idea.

Then there’s Trump’s visit to the UK after causing mayhem at NATO. Nothing surprising there either (I’m writing this  on Thursday evening – perhaps he’s declared himself king of Engerland by the time you read this). I’d have thought that, by now, skilled politicians would have worked out how to neutralise his disruptive behaviour. Apparently they haven’t, which is worrying. The thing is – he’s dangerous. Satire is a useful weapon but just considering him a joke is not. I don’t think he’s particularly bright or the “ideas man” but he knows how to stir things up and sow discord. Other leaders have not found a way to counteract his rudeness, his willingness to tell outright lies and his immediate recall to Twitter to spread his chaos. Our “leaders” whatever their political colour have to find a way to cope without the spin-doctors and the protocol experts.

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WP_20180414_09_47_33_ProToday I am (I hope) at BLISS in Southport, joining a couple of dozen other authors at the Prince of Wales Hotel displaying and signing our books. I hope there will be people attending who are not only keen readers but who also have deep pockets. I have 10 titles for sale – viz. the 3 Jasmine Frame novels – Painted Ladies, Bodies By Design and The Brides’ Club Murder – the Evil Above the Stars trilogy and Cold Fire, my two Angela Meadows erotic novels and the Elsewhen SF anthology. That’s plenty to keep your bedside table creaking on its legs.

However, for free you can read the next episode of the Jasmine Frame sequel/prequel, Negative, here.

Negative: Part 5

Jasmine felt a wave of nausea pass through her, as if she’d drunk too much alcohol. It wasn’t alcohol, she hadn’t had a drink since she’d arrived here, but she knew the cause of her discomfort – a body, a death, a victim. Perhaps Tegan’s death was an accident, but the tone of the police officer’s questioning suggested a mystery. It wasn’t a simple road accident then.
Ceri seemed as nonplussed as Jasmine. ‘How?’ she asked.
‘I’m afraid that I can’t tell you that,’ the PC replied. Perhaps he didn’t know the whole story, Jasmine thought, definitely not all the details. The SIO, the senior investigating officer, would be keeping important facts secret if there was any crime contributing to the woman’s death.
‘The last time you saw Tegan Jones was Tuesday evening?’ The officer went on.
‘Yes,’ Ceri replied in a quiet voice.
The PC turned to the proprietor. ‘Was she working yesterday?’
The little man flustered. ‘I think so. I wasn’t here. I wasn’t told of a problem. Myfanwy. . .’
‘Myfanwy?’ The officer interjected.
‘Our stand-in waitress,’ the owner continued, ‘she didn’t report anything being wrong yesterday.’
Jasmine coughed. The other three people turned to face her. ‘Tegan Jones was waiting at dinner last evening,’ she said.
The officer turned a page in his notebook. ‘Who are you?’
‘Jasmine Frame. I’m a guest. I had dinner here last evening. Miz Jones was here while I was.’
‘What time was that?’ The PC asked while scribbling notes.
Jasmine had to think. She hadn’t noted the exact timings of her movements the previous evening. What had she watched on TV when she returned to her room?
‘It was quite early, I think, when I finished dinner – seven thirty-ish,’ she said.
‘Thank you, madam,’ the PC said. ‘You didn’t note what kind of mood she was in did you?’
Jasmine shook her head. ‘I’m sorry, she didn’t serve me and I didn’t have any conversation with her. Miz Jones didn’t seem to converse much; not with guests. I couldn’t say what her emotional state was or whether it was different to normal.’
‘Thank you, I think that’s all for now.’ The officer completed his note, turned and left the dining room with the proprietor on his heels. Ceri approached Jasmine. Her face was drained of colour.
‘I can’t believe she’s dead,’ Ceri said, her voice shaking.  Jasmine got up from her seat and wrapped her arms around the girl. ‘I’ve wished her dead any number of times for being so nasty to me, but. . .’
‘It’s okay. You can’t blame yourself for thinking those things. She was nasty.’ Jasmine was trying to be comforting. ‘Her death means she’s not going to bother you again.’
Ceri sniffed. ‘But how? What happened to her? Why did the police come asking questions?’
Jasmine was thinking the same things. She didn’t want to think about another death but she couldn’t help it. Questions about the investigation just kept popping into her head. She released Ceri from her hug.
‘There is obviously some doubt about when and perhaps how Tegan died. The police can’t have witnesses from the time of death; not yet anyway. That’s why they’re trying to trace her last movements.’
‘I want to know what happened,’ Ceri said firmly.
‘The police won’t be letting much out yet. Not until they have the story straight. But there are other ways of finding out some things.’
‘How?’
And so it begins, Jasmine thought. No I am not investigating this woman’s death, but she could see that Ceri was eager to know more.
‘This is a small town,’ Jasmine said, ‘How do you normally find out what’s going on.’
Ceri didn’t have to think for long. ‘Facebook and my mother.’
‘There you are then. I expect you’ll know more than that police officer soon.’
The girl looked around her. ‘I’d better clear up here. Then I’ll ask around.’
‘You do that,’ Jasmine said starting for the door.
‘Shall we meet for coffee?’ Ceri called.
Jasmine paused and turned. ‘Yes, if you like. Same place?’
Ceri nodded and began stacking plates.

Ceri didn’t appear at the time of their previous meetings but Jasmine didn’t wait on the pier because a wind carrying flurries of rain was blowing in from the sea. She went into the café, queued for a coffee then sat in their corner seat.
Her cup was empty when Ceri strode in. She came straight to Jasmine.
‘I’m sorry. I was stuck on my phone. I was on Facebook and texting my mates, then my mother rang to tell me the news.’
‘The news?’
‘About Tegan. She held me up.’
‘That’s okay. Sit down, I’ll get the coffees.’
Jasmine returned to the table with Ceri’s cappuccino and another black coffee for herself. She sat down and smiled at the young woman.
‘Well tell me. What’s the town got to say?’
‘It’s all over Facebook,’ Ceri said, not really surprised. ‘It’s the most exciting thing that’s happened here in months. Usually it’s what tourists get up to but the season hasn’t really got going yet.’
‘So what is being said about Tegan?’
Ceri took a deep breath. ‘Well some of the posts name her and some don’t.’
‘That’s to be expected. For some people it’s just an exciting event and they don’t know or care who the victim was. What are they saying? Is there a location?’
‘A location?’
‘Where her body was discovered.’
‘Oh yes, On the Undercliff.’
‘Where’s that?’ Jasmine had an idea but wasn’t certain.
‘The road round the headland.’
‘Oh yes. I walked it the other day. It’s a few miles long, do you know where?’
Ceri was looking at her phone, her thumb flicking over the screen.
‘Yes, here we are. It’s about a mile out of town on the east side.’
Jasmine frowned as she recalled her walk. ‘I know. The cliff’s pretty sheer there. The road is tucked right against the rock.’
‘That’s the place.’
‘Any suggestions of how she died?’
Ceri’s face creased. ‘There are all sorts of ideas. They can’t all be right.’
Jasmine grinned. It was as she expected. ‘It’ll all be supposition,’ she said. ‘The police won’t have released details, but gossip gets out. Perhaps there’s some truth there somewhere. What do they say?’
‘Oh, that she was knocked down while out walking, or jogging. That’s nonsense, I don’t think Tegan ever jogged anywhere and she wouldn’t have gone for a walk after work last night or before the breakfast shift.’
‘Okay, so we can reject a typical hit and run. If she’d been hit by a driver who stopped, the police wouldn’t be asking questions about where she was last night. What else?’
‘She fell from the cliff.’
‘From what you said about her not going for a run or walk, that sounds pretty unlikely too.’
‘That’s what I thought.’
Jasmine pondered. ‘Anyway, it seems we know that Tegan’s body was found on the road a mile out of town, under a cliff, and not in a car.’
‘That’s right, Jasmine.’ Ceri nodded.
‘So how did she get there? Is that where she was killed or was her body dumped there?’
‘Dumped!’
‘It’s how bodies are got rid of.’
‘Do you mean? No, you can’t. . .’
‘Tegan was murdered. Yes I do.’ Jasmine felt a mixture of excitement and resignation. Too many deaths had impacted her life in recent years. If it wasn’t actually normal to be thinking of causes of death and motives for murder it was certainly a familiar state of mind for Jasmine. ‘What did your mother have to say?’
‘Uh, Mother? Oh she said, “good riddance”. She knows what Tegan’s been like to me.’
‘Did she think Tegan’s death was suspicious?’
Ceri’s eyes opened wide. ‘I thought she was joking. She said “I expect her partner’s got fed up with her and bumped her off”.’
‘Your mother said partner, not husband? Tegan’s not married?’
‘No, didn’t I tell you? Tegan’s partner’s a woman. Tegan’s a lesbian. I mean, she was.’

 

 

Jasmine is not at home

With the Conservative government embroiled in another scandal caused by its own incompetence while the looming Brexit disaster grows on the horizon, I have been wondering why our politicians appear so useless, and that goes for the opposition too. I don’t believe all politicians are “in it for themselves”, though some are; some really do think they can improve things, however misguided their thinking may be. The problem is the type of person attracted to politics. You have to be single-minded. Politics is a long hard slog.  Unfortunately I think it is the long, hard slog to get elected that politicians enjoy more than anything, it’s what gets their endorphins going.

I have had a couple of brief periods involved with politics.  Most recently I got elected to our town council and was a councillor for three years. It was an awful experience. It could have been a full-time job except it was unpaid. I became disillusioned by trying to reach a consensus with other councillors whose only aim seemed to be to keep themselves in public view and dealing with uncaring elected and unelected officials in the county council. I was relieved to stand down. However, I observed that my political colleagues only really became lively when elections were on.  It was that simple competition to get people’s votes that excited them. So many MPs are career politicians (okay, many of the Conservative MPs may have little sidelines like running off-shore accounts) that it is only fighting elections that they know how to do.  The people with experience, skills and ideas that may actually do the country some good are not turned on in the same way.  So, in local and national government we get the egoists, the megalomaniacs, and the deluded.

………………………

WP_20180414_09_47_33_ProJasmine is still taking a rest although of course the three novels, Painted Ladies, Bodies By Design and The Brides’ Club Murder are still available on Kindle and as paperbacks from paintedladiesnovel@btinterent.com. Also available on Kindle are the novellas/collections  Discovering Jasmine, Murder In Doubt, and Trained By Murder.

Here however is the third episode of my SF long short story or novel fragment, depending how you look at it, Benefactors.

 

 

 

 

 

Benefactors: Part 3

‘Yes. One of the permutations of the bases produced what I can only describe as a non-random sequence.’
‘Oh? What do you mean?’
‘Well, your string of base letters translates into a series of numbers which in decimal start out as 1, 2, 3, 4, up to sixty-four. Then it goes into prime numbers 1, 2, 3, 5, 7, 11, 13 and so on. Then it gives some other figures. . .’
‘What figures?’
‘Universal constants, pi to a dozen places, e, G. Where does this come from Helen?’
‘I’ll come and see you,’ Helen pressed “end”. Now she felt the same excitement as Jock Fraser and realised why he had felt it necessary to visit her. It wasn’t something that she felt she could talk about over the public netlink. Who knew who might be interested in her research.

So rarely did she actually meet her colleagues in person, Helen had forgotten how extensive the campus was. It was a good ten-minute walk to the IT building. When she opened the door to his office she saw Darmaan standing in the middle of the room staring at a semi-circular holographic screen hovering in the air a couple of feet from his face. When his eyes focussed on her the screen dissolved.
‘Ah, Helen. Where did you get this DNA code? Or is it something you’ve put together to fool me? It’s not April 1st is it?’
Helen grinned, ‘No, it’s real, at least I think it is. It depends what you find in the rest of it.’
‘The rest?’
‘It’s on here.’ Helen handed over Jock’s memory store.
Darmaan examined it. ‘You don’t see many of these. Who doesn’t exchange data over the net?’
‘Perhaps old people like me who don’t fully trust the net or perhaps people who spend their time out of reach of it.’
Darmaan still looked mystified. ‘Where do they go then? Jupiter?’ He squeezed the button between his fingers and his screen re-appeared with the start of the DNA sequence. Darmaan waved his hands, scrolling through line after line and page after page of letters.
‘Hey, there’s a huge amount here. What is it?’
Helen shrugged. ‘I don’t know. As I understand it some people have suggested using DNA as a way of storing libraries of information for posterity.’
‘What’s the point?’ Darmaan said, still staring at the pages flashing by.’
Helen took a breath. ‘They build the artificial sequence of DNA and then insert it into the nuclei of plant cells. Then they culture the plants and harvest the seeds. When they have checked the genome, the sequence was embedded in it.’
Darmaan nodded grudgingly, ‘I can see it being a possibility for long term storage but surely even with your latest sequencers it would be too slow for practical use.’
‘Yes. That’s why it hasn’t really been developed commercially, but it’s incredibly compact with each bit of information held by a single group of atoms, and not requiring anything special for preservation other than a cool, dry environment.’
‘So this is from these experimental seeds is it?’ Darmaan seemed disappointed.
‘Um, no. The experimental plants don’t even hold a short story let alone a whole library.’
Darmaan glanced at the still scrolling screen. ‘But this is vast. Where does it come from?’
Helen described Jock Fraser’s visit to her office.
‘A thousand-year-old tree? That’s a joke, surely. Do you believe him?’ Darmaan stopped the readout and dismissed the screen.
‘Why should he be telling me tales? I’d never met him before.’ Helen wondered whether Jock was indeed part of some conspiracy to set her up but that seemed even more ridiculous. ‘Look can you decode some more of it and see what’s there?’
Darmaan shrugged, ‘Yes, now I’ve got the key and set up the algorithm for finding familiar data it’s just a question of time.’ He called up the screen, wiggled his fingers and then held out the pebble to her. ‘You can have this back. I’ve copied it onto my net storage.’
Helen felt that she should give a warning. ‘Don’t tell anyone else what you are doing, just in case it is a fraud. I don’t want to be associated with any whacky science.’
Darmaan grinned, ‘Ever the cautious one, aren’t you, Professor? On this occasion I think you’re probably being wise.’

Helen managed to do a whole day’s normal work including meetings with students and colleagues without constantly checking to see if Darmaan had sent her a message. Nevertheless, when she finally had a bit of time to herself in her office it was as much as she could do to check her other messages. Why was this crazy puzzle exciting her so much? Surely it was a hoax.
The beep announcing a call had hardly reverberated before Helen answered. Darmaan’s face appeared.
‘Hi, Darmaan. You look tired. Have you been watching your screen all day?’ she said. The young man’s eyelids looked heavy and his dark skin had lost its usual lustre
‘Yes. I haven’t been able to take myself away from it. This is incredible. I mean it. It can’t have come out of the cells of an old tree.’
‘What have you found?’
Darmaan sighed, ‘It gets complicated. After the initial simple stuff, it goes into sets of coordinates.’
‘You mean positions of things?’
‘Yes.’
‘What sort of things?’
‘Stars. I put them through the online astronomical atlas. It came up with some of the brightest stars in our sky: Sirius, Betelgeuse, Rigel and so on.’
‘Oh, and?’
‘Some others you can’t see with just your eyes, but they’re in the catalogue. They’re stars similar to the Sun but quite a distance away so they’re pretty faint.’
‘How far?’
‘The nearest is over three-thousand light years from here.’
Helen was confused. What did it mean? ‘Is that it?’ she asked.
Darmaan laughed. ‘That’s just the start. It goes into mathematical and physical equations next. Simple stuff like Pythagoras, Newton and Einstein, but quickly works up to stuff which is beyond me.’
‘Is it correct?’ Helen said, still not understanding what Darmaan was implying.
‘Well, the simple stuff is. I can’t tell about the rest. It’ll need a team of top theoretical physicists to decide what it means. But that‘s just for starters. There’s a section on chemistry, too.’
‘Chemistry?’
‘Yeah. It starts with a comparison of the masses of atoms of elements in the periodic table which provided a key for the elements. My pattern recognition software then picked out a modelling programme. It gave me a molecule of hydrogen, then water and ammonia, ethanol. Soon it was into sugars and proteins and stuff I have no idea about.’
‘So the sequence is a kind of catalogue of science.’ Helen said.
‘Or a guide, but there are other stretches which look like an actual DNA sequence except they don’t match any of the stuff your genome analysis recognises.’
‘Have you finished?
Darmaan laughed again. ‘No way. My program is still trundling through it.’
‘I don’t get it, Darmaan,’ Helen said, shaking her head.
The door to her office opened, held by Sarah. ‘I’m sorry, Professor, these people . . .’
Two men pushed passed her, one short and plump and the other tall and slim.
Helen waved her screen off, cutting the call to Darmaan. ‘What do you . . .’
The short man interrupted her, ‘Professor Patel. My clients have instructed me to recover property illegally given to you by one of their employees.’
Helen stood up, leaned on her desk, glaring at her uninvited guests. ‘Clients? Employee? What do you mean?’
‘Please calm down Professor. I cannot name my clients but the employee was a Doctor Johann Fraser.’
‘Jock?’
‘That is the name he goes by. He gave you something, a memory storage device.’
‘He did give me a button. He said it was his.’ Helen held it in her hand.
‘The device may be his but the data on it belongs to my clients. Dr Fraser broke his contract by divulging the information. You must return it to me.’
‘How do I know that you are who you say you are?’
‘My identification and the injunction is on your personal netlink now.’
Helen summoned her screen and the face of the small man appeared with the phrase “Identity Recognised” alongside it. Beneath was a legal document. She scanned it and saw that it went on for page after page of lawyers jargon but she got the gist; it authorised the recovery of data belonging to “the company”.
‘It doesn’t give your name or the name of your clients,’ Helen said still suspicious.
‘You don’t need those. The Net recognises my authority. Please hand over the memory store.’
Helen reached out and dropped the button into the little man’s waiting hand.
The tall man spoke up, ‘The data has also been removed from your cloud account and that of your associate, Dr. Darmaan Shamarke.’
Helen felt her cheeks burn, ‘You’ve hacked my netlink.’
‘Yes, Professor,’ the tall man said, ‘In accordance with His Majesty’s Government’s Anti-terrorism Network Surveillance Act of 2024.’
‘Anti-terrorism? What do you mean. It was scientific data.’
‘It was given to you by someone with links to people associated with a terrorist organisation.’
Helen gasped, ‘Jock Fraser! What’s he got to do with a terrorist group. He said he was a botanist.’
The tall man drew himself up to his full height. ‘I am not at liberty to reveal the identity of his associates but I assure you that the deletions have been made in accordance with the laws governing His Majesty’s Government Anti-Terrorism Authority.’
Realisation came to Helen. ‘The company and the government have done a deal haven’t they. They realise that there’s something in the DNA of that tree which is of vital importance. It’s data that should be available to all scientists for humanity’s sake.’
The tall man’s face was impassive, ‘I should warn you Professor that if you divulge what you know of this information that Dr Fraser stole from his employers you will be arrested and will undergo a neurological adjustment by deep brain stimulation.’
Helen shivered. She could see that the threat was real. She let her shoulders sag.
‘Thank you, Professor,’ the little lawyer said cheerfully, ‘We’ll leave you now. Thank you for your compliance.’
The two men left her office. Helen stared out of the window, thinking. A few minutes later she saw a two-person quadcopter rising from the patch of grass outside her faculty building. A moment later, Darmaan burst into her room.
‘We’ve been hacked,’ he said.
‘I know,’ Helen said, ‘I’ve just had a visit from two men. I had to give Jock’s button to them and they said they’ve wiped all the data from the Net.’
‘But why?’ Darmaan held up his hands in exasperation.
‘The government and the company, Jock’s employers, know that the tree is remarkable.’
‘But it’s thousands of years old; older if the tree Jock took the DNA from is descended from trees with the same genome.’
‘Don’t say anything more Darmaan. We’re probably being watched. Let’s take a walk, but keep your voice down.’

…………………..to be continued

 

 

Jasmine fears discovery

The Labour Party has got itself into a pickle and may have harmed the prospects of trans people. It is all about the question of when is a woman a woman. Under current law, a holder of a gender recognition certificate (GRC) is legally the gender they identify with and not the gender they were registered with at birth, regardless of whether the person has completed gender confirmation surgery. This means that there are quite a number of legal women who have penises. Well under 10,000 GRCs have been issued since the Act was passed in 2004 although it is reckoned that there are half a million transgender people in the UK. There are an unknown number people living as women who have male birth certificates and vice versa.  The problem is that to get a GRC requires an examination and report from two medical personnel to diagnose that the subject has gender dysphoria.  The subject has to live for at least two years in the gender they identify with before the GRC is issued and must confirm that they will remain in their chosen gender for the rest of their lives. It can take months if not years to get appointments with the gender clinics on the NHS and many years to get treatment even if the subject is deemed healthy enough.

Many transpeople say that the difficulty in obtaining a GRC and the medicalisation of gender is wrong. The government has said it will look into legalising the self-declaration of gender.  The Labour Party has jumped the gun and said that its members can self-declare.  This makes some trans-women who do not have a GRC eligible for the women-only shortlists that the party has for a number of parliamentary candidates.  The result has been to stir up opposition to transpeople within the party with various women who call themselves feminists and organisations including Mumsnet saying that transwomen should not be considered as women for the purposes of candidate selection (for a start).

This dispute has brought out all the transphobes raising the usual bogus arguments such as women being attacked in lady’s toilets by men self-declaring as women. It is nonsense. There is nothing to prevent a man hiding out in a women’s washroom, perhaps disguised as a woman, now, and has nothing to do with whether they hold a GRC, self-declared or not. There is no case of it having happened anywhere and it is ridiculous to base arguments against self-declaration on the unlikely probability of it ever happening.

WP_20180223_21_21_16_Pro (2)Personally, I think that gender should cease to be a legally declared attribute. Employers should not need to know whether an employee is male or female or neither for purposes of salary, pensions, maternity/paternity leave or anything else.  Government doesn’t need to identify a person by their gender, not now that we have other biometric data available such as fingerprints, iris patterns or even facial recognition. But there is a long way to go to get any sort of consensus on this and related issues.

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Trained By Murder is now available on Kindle – get your copy. Go to my Jasmine Frame page to find out about all the Jasmine Frame publications.  Meanwhile, we have reached the final episode of Pose, one of the many prequels to the first novel, Painted Ladies. I’d love to hear your opinion on this and other stories and will answer questions about Jasmine.

Pose: Part 10

Baz was waiting for him outside the IT office.
‘You’re late,’ she said looking at her wristwatch.
‘I thought I was on time,’ James said. Whatever time it was it was early and he felt exhausted after the events of the previous evening.
‘Yeah, but we needed to get started a while ago. You heard the news?’
‘News?’
‘Don’t you listen in to police radio?’
‘Er, no.’
‘Well, you should then you’d get advance notice of what to expect.’
James wasn’t sure how Baz managed to intercept the police communication system, but she was far more adept at the technical aspects of their job than he was.
‘So, what’s up?’ He tried to be interested but nonchalant but could guess what was coming. Baz opened the office door and they stepped into their cramped domain.
‘They’ve found the suspect for Avril’s murder, but he was dead and there’s another guy who seems involved.’
James tried to look confused. ‘What? I don’t get it.’
Baz flopped down into a chair. ‘I’ll explain,’ she said in an exasperated voice. ‘Crowley was looking for a guy called Terrence North.’
‘Yes, I know that.’
‘Well, they found his body out at the lakes, along with this other guy.’
‘He was dead too?’
Bas looked at him quizzically. ‘Eh? No. Seems he was about to dump North’s body in the water.’
‘Who is he?’ James was relieved that he hadn’t killed Jed but wondered what he’d told DI Crowley so far.
‘Jed Pike. Runs a car repair lock-up off the Basingstoke Road.’
The phone rang. Baz picked it up and listened for a few moments before putting the receiver down. James looked at her expectantly.
‘There’s some stuff on its way that they’ve found in Pike’s garage,’ she said
‘Stuff?’
‘Mobiles and a laptop.’

Before their computers had finished booting up, there was a knock on the door and a young police officer squeezed into the room. He handed over a couple of evidence bags.
‘DI Crowley said you needed to get into these,’ he said.
Baz took the packages with a look of eager glee on her face. The officer withdrew. Baz opened the bags and emptied the contents. There was a battered Dell laptop and three old model Nokia phones. Baz passed James the laptop.
‘You get into this. I’ll see where the mobiles take us.’
James felt that he should ask for more guidance. ‘What are we looking for? I thought Crowley thought that North was the paedophile.’
‘Perhaps he was, but what was Pike doing with his body? If Pike killed North why did he do it? What’s the connection between them?’
James knew the answers to that last question, but he wasn’t going to let on. The first two questions were a mystery he’d like to solve but he was scared stiff that he might give away his involvement in the story.
Baz went on speaking, ‘So, while Crowley is questioning Pike let’s see what we can find out about him shall we?’
‘Hmm, yes.’ James got busy firing up the laptop and using the techniques he’d learned from Baz and Colin on how to get passed the rudimentary security that people like Jed Pike used. It took him a considerable time. Meanwhile Baz busied herself with the handsets, occasionally letting out little chirps of glee when she had some success.
A couple of hours passed before James made a breakthrough. He stared with satisfaction as the screen of the laptop filled with all the files stored in its hard drive. Then he felt the blood drain from his face as he saw the album after album of pictures appear. He opened one and groaned.
‘What’s up, Jim,’ Baz said, looking up from the phone she was working on.
‘Pike was the paedophile,’ James said, ‘Look at this stuff.’
Baz rolled her chair closer to his and looked down at the screen. James flicked through the images hardly able to look at what was pictured.
‘Ooh. They’re hard,’ Baz said. ‘This will be enough to put him away for a long time. Did he know these kids?’
‘He’s got MySpace and Facebook accounts,’ James replied.
‘Well that’s suspicious for a start. Who, other than kids, uses those sites? See if you can get into them.’
James connected the laptop to his own computer and was soon delving into the messaging services.
‘It is him,’ he said, ‘it was him who groomed Avril Robinson.’
‘I know,’ Baz said with a victorious tone, ‘I’ve found his texts to her arranging for them to meet.’
The emotions of disgust and relief surged through James. Disgust at what they were discovering about Jed Pike and relief that Tina’s reputation was likely to be restored. He and Baz, copied and saved the materials they had discovered. Baz sent a message to Crowley’s team summarising their findings.
‘I think we deserve a coffee, Jim.’
‘Won’t DI Crowley want to speak to us?’
‘He’s got access to the stuff now. He can put it to Pike. There’s more for us to do but we can take a break. I’m gasping and I need a pee.’
They left the room, locked it and went down to the canteen to get a drink. Baz left James alone, so he got out his own mobile. He found that having been switched off he’d missed a number of messages from Samantha. He went to find a secluded spot and rang her.
‘Jasmine! Thanks for calling back. I heard it on the news.’
‘What news?’
‘Tina’s dead. They found her body.’
‘That’s right.’
‘They said another bloke, Jed Pike, had been arrested. Is that the Jed that had a go at Tina in the Duchess?’
‘I think so.’
‘He murdered Tina?’
‘Loos like it, Samantha. Look I can’t say much.. It’s all kicking off here. Have the police been in touch with you yet?’
‘Me? No.’
‘Good.’ James hoped the interest had shifted to Jed now and that Terry/Tina would be seen as the unfortunate tranny who had somehow got in his way. ‘Look, if they do come asking questions about knowing Tina, please try and leave me out of it.’
‘Yeah, I get it Jasmine. But I want to know the whole story when we can get together again.’
‘Perhaps the next Butterflies meet,’ Jasmine agreed, hoping that Samantha could keep her promise.
They ended the call and James hurried back to the office. Baz was waiting again.
‘Crowley rang me on my mobile,’ she said.
‘Oh?’ James said, nervous of what the DI might be thinking, ‘What does he want us to do now?’
‘He was thanking us actually. They’ve got enough to charge Pike with the murders of Avril Robinson and Terrence North and a whole host of other paedophile charges, thanks to what we found and what they got at the garage.’
‘Oh. What did they find there?’
Baz chuckled. ‘Either Pike’s a total numpty or just super-arrogant. They found Avril’s clothes and a wrench with blood on it; either North’s or Avril’s or possibly both. They’ve also found that Pike and North knew each other; their partners are friends. So that’s the link sorted. There’s a thought that Pike used North’s van to dispose of Avril’s body perhaps to implicate him in her murder.’
James wasn’t sure whether to be relieved at Baz’s news or worried that his visits to Emma and Sharon might come up when the two women were interviewed. Jasmine wasn’t in the clear yet but perhaps there was nothing to connect Jasmine with James. He risked a question.
‘Is there any explanation of why Pike killed North?’
Baz shrugged. ‘That’s what Crowley wants us to do next. Go through both of their phone calls and texts and emails to see if they were in touch with each other. Come on, there’s still work to do.’ She pushed the door open to the IT room. James followed and sat in front of his computer. The crimes were solved. Now all he had to do was keep himself out of the records of the cases. He began to tap keys.

The End

Jasmine: a collection

Trained By Murder: A Jasmine Frame Collection – the new e-book containing four Jasmine Frame stories is now available on Kindle.  More below.

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The scary-index has ratchetted up another notch or three, thanks the to the Russians bumping off one of their many traitors and paying no heed to the risk of contaminating the population of Salisbury with their nerve gas. The story reads like a Le Carre novel without the subtlety, but the consequences are worrying. It’s further proof of Putin’s fear of the world and need to be popular amongst his people, not that he needs their approval to win his forthcoming election. It’s also proof of a growing instability in the world with egotistical madmen (however you want to define mad) in power in the three (perhaps more) largest and most powerful countries of the world.

Any response to Russia will probably be ineffectual but dangerous. One can but hope that sense still holds some sway in the those endless corridors in which power is supposed to reside and that no-one gets trigger-happy.  For all of my life we have feared a nuclear war which would probably have been over pretty quick with just the few left to suffer the aftermath. But is that the worst scenario? Surely the type of war on civilians we have seen in Syria and Yemen and elsewhere is worse.

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Tea in Debenhams

I am thankful that in my lifetime I have never been asked to put my own life on the line in wartime as our parents’ generation were. I don’t know how I would react. I feel cowardly in the face of physical violence with or without weapons (unless it’s brandishing a foil in a fencing match – but that’s friendly competition). I want peace but I can see that sometimes pacifism is not a viable option.  I have just spent a short while studying the double Nobel Prize winning chemist, Fred Sanger who was a Quaker and conscientious objector in WW2. While I respect Sanger’s ideals, I don’t think that, in circumstances like those of 1939-40, refusing to defend one’s home is justified. A day away from being officially a Senior Citizen, or OAP if you like, I hope I will never have to face that dilemma but unfortunately I can see growing numbers of people around the world will, as a result of the increasing instability, shortage of resources and climate change.

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trained by murder ver3Yes, it’s hereTrained By Murder is now available as a Kindle e-book priced at £2.15 (and the equivalent in other currencies.).

Trained by Murder is a set of four stories that fit into a short period, between Murder in Doubt and Painted Ladies, when James joined the Police service, and married Angela. While outwardly living his life as James he spends much of his off-duty time as Jasmine and is struggling to understand where his gender identity lies. The four stories average 13,000 words in length.

In Pushed to Murder, while working as a barman, a jog along the Rover Kennet in Reading brings James some disturbing news and a problem.

Death on a Honeymoon tells the story of James’ and Angela’s not so idyllic nuptial break on Ibiza where he meets a particular Spanish detective.

Vengeance is Murder finds Jasmine enjoying a weekend break in London with Angela that provides a dilemma that will stay with her for the rest of her life.

Death in Self-defence sees James on response duty in Abingdon, trying to get justice while hiding her double identity.

A pdf version of Trained By Murder is available from me, price £2.  Order it by sending an email here.

A paperback version will be available from Amazon soon.

The next full length novel, Molly’s Boudoir is on its way.

And finally, here is the next episode of Pose, another Painted Ladies prequel

Pose: Part 9

Jasmine took a small torch from her shoulder bag and took a look around. It was little bigger than a domestic garage but had a ramp and inspection pit. There was a work bench at the back with what appeared to be a door to another room behind. Apart from bits of car and cans of oil and other liquids there was nothing else to see. Jasmine moved towards the back of the garage. She pushed the door. It opened onto a narrow storeroom. Jasmine shone the torch around. She gasped. There was a glimpse of red satin. She stepped inside for a better view.
It was Tina in her princess dress sprawled on the floor amongst the cans and cardboard boxes. Jasmine knelt, reaching out a hand to feel a pulse. There wasn’t one but there was a sticky mess at the back of her head.
Jasmine backed out of the cupboard and hurried back through the garage. She stepped outside and pulled the door down. Angela approached her.
‘Did you find anything?’
Jasmine took her arm and dragged her back to the Fiesta. ‘Yes. Tina.’
‘Why didn’t she come. . .’ Angela’s mouth dropped open. ‘She’s dead?’
‘Yes.’ Jasmine unlocked the car door, got in and urged Angela to join her.
‘What are we going to do?’ Angela asked her face pale in the moonlight.
‘I don’t know. If we call the police we’ll have to identify ourselves and explain what we’re doing here.’
‘But you can’t leave Tina in there.’
‘She’s dead, Angela. We can’t do anything for her.’
‘We can. We can see that she gets a proper burial or whatever. What about her wife and daughter? What’s Jed going to do with her?’
Jasmine shook her head. She felt lost. She hadn’t been close to Tina but the shock of finding someone she knew battered to death along with her dilemma of not wanting to be identified seemed to have frozen her mind.
Lights appeared from the lane. An old Land Rover drove passed where they were parked, turned through 180 degrees and backed up to the garage door. A man got out.
‘It must be Jed,’ Angela said.
The man opened the garage doors, went back to his car and reversed inside. The doors closed.
‘What’s he doing?’ Angela asked.
‘Well, it could be he’s doing some car mechanics or perhaps he’s getting rid of Tina’s body.’
‘What should we do?’
‘Wait and see.’

A half an hour of sitting in the dark, cooling car, afraid to speak to each other and mulling over the problem passed. The garage doors opened. The Land Rover drove out and stopped. The driver got out, closed the door, returned to the car and drove off. Jasmine started the Fiesta’s engine and followed at a discreet distance.
‘Can you read his registration number?’ Jasmine asked. ‘If we lose him we need to be able to report what vehicle he’s driving.’
‘No, it’s too dark and I think the number-plate is covered in muck.’
‘Damn. We’ll just have to make sure we don’t lose him.’
For a while they travelled south on the main road out of the town. Before they reached the motorway, the Land Rover turned off onto an industrial estate and then onto a narrow lane. Jasmine slowed, letting the distance between them increase. It would be easy for Jed to see he was being followed if they were too close behind on the country road. The road took some wide curves, but they were usually able to see the rear lights of the Land Rover in the distance.
Then the lights disappeared. Jasmine drove slowly and came to the point where an even narrower side road branched off. There was a large building set back from the road.
‘He must have turned up here,’ Jasmine said spinning the steering wheel. She turned the headlights off and drove tentatively along the lane.
‘There he is,’ Angela cried. The dark angular bulk of the Land River against the almost leafless upward reaching branches of the trees was just visible about a hundred yards ahead. They stopped.
‘Call the police and tell them someone in a Land Rover is acting suspiciously,’ Jasmine said, opening her door.
‘But I don’t know where we are?’ Angela said as she dug her mobile phone from her bag.
‘Take the car and see what that building on the corner was. That should be a landmark.’
‘OK,’ Angela got out and ran around to the driver’s side
‘Oh, and don’t give your name.’
‘No, right.’
Angela reversed slowly back the way they had come, veering from side to side of the narrow, dark road. Jasmine crept forward. She kept to the side of the road almost hidden by the hedges and shrubs that lined the road. Closer to the Land Rover she could see that the tail-gate was open but there was no sign of Jed. She stopped, hearing her breathing and the rustle of movement in the undergrowth at the side of the road.
Jasmine pushed through the bushes and, with her eyes adjusted to the darkness, saw a figure moving through the bracken ahead of her. He was weighed down by a heavy bundle carried over his shoulders. Ahead of him there was a shimmer of light on water, part of the large system of lakes in flooded gravel workings.
Jasmine crouched down and tried to move forward, half crawling, half walking. She knew her tights would be ruined. She moved slowly but Jed, with his burden was making slow progress too. Nevertheless, he didn’t go directly to the bank of the lake. He kept to the narrow strip of land that divided the workings into separate bodies of water.
She was close enough now to hear him panting, using the bracken and small shrubs to keep herself hidden. He moved towards the water and let the body slip from his shoulder to the ground. Jed straightened up and seemed to be regaining his breath.
Jasmine wondered if Angela had made contact with the Police and had been able to give their location. Would they respond or just consider it a minor incident? Fly-tipping perhaps. If she allowed Jed to dump Tina’s body in the water and get away the police wouldn’t know where to look unless Jasmine guided them. But she couldn’t do that. She had to delay Jed somehow.
Jed bent down and began to drag the body towards the water’s edge. Jasmine edged forward. She was only a couple of metres from him now but he was intent on his task.
She screamed and launched herself at him. She hit him like a battering ram, tumbling him. He grunted. Jasmine fell in a heap but was quickly picking herself up. Where was he?
Jed was rising to his feet, looking around, startled by her attack. Jasmine threw herself at him again rugby-tackling his legs. They fell together. Jed kicked out, connecting with one of Jasmine’s false boobs. She rolled away and got to her feet. Jed was getting to his knees. Jasmine aimed the toe of her boot at his head. There was a thud as her kick hit home. Jed collapsed.
Jasmine stood up, breathing hard. She heard sirens. Blue lights were moving along the lane. She couldn’t stop here any longer. The police would find the Land Rover and start searching. She hoped Jed would stay put for long enough. She had to get away. Was the strip of land they were on a peninsular or an isthmus? There was only one way to find out. She moved on, away from the flashing lights, through the rough bracken with water on both sides.
It seemed an age but was probably only a few minutes when some buildings loomed against the sky ahead of her. She stumbled from the undergrowth onto a small parking area occupied by a couple of cars. Then she was on a made-up road again. She staggered along it, trying to jog but feeling bruised and cut by thorns and brambles.
She reached a junction with a slightly wider road. Which way should she go? How was she going to get home? The flat was miles away. She was out in the country. She must look a complete mess. Jasmine started walking, slowly, uncertainly, warily.
Lights came towards her. A car. She stepped to the side into the bushes. Perhaps she hadn’t been seen. The car drew level and stopped. The window wound down.
‘Jas?’
‘Angela?’ Jasmine’s heart beat faster with surprise and joy.
‘Get in, quick.’
Jasmine ran around the Fiesta and got into the passenger seat. Angela drove off.
‘How did you find me?’ Jasmine asked as she buckled herself in.
‘I didn’t.’ Angela stared ahead into the darkness. ‘After I rang the police I had to get away so I drove on along the road. But then I thought, how on earth are you going to get home? So I’ve driven up and down this bit of road a few times, wondering where you might be.’
‘The police. . .?’
‘I kept away from them. I could see their lights coming from the other direction.’
‘We need to get far away now, Ange. They’ll be piling in once they find Jed and Tina.’
‘Will they find them?’
‘There’s a good chance.’ Jasmine described what had happened as they drove along the country road back towards the lights of the town.

……………………………to be continued.