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

 

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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.

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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.

Jasmine on the hunt

Further to last week’s comments, I’m delighted that A Fantastic Woman won the best foreign language film Oscar.  I hope we see more of Daniela Vega as she is a fine actress and singer as well as a powerful advocate for trans acceptance.  I’m not sure what’s going on in political circles but it seems that while most parties (in the UK) support individual freedoms and oppose discrimination they are being influenced by the minority of feminists who do not think that transwomen are women. That however is a separate issue to allowing people to free themselves of the constraints of gender.

Layout 1I am delighted that a review of The Brides’ Club Murder is on the Eurocrime website, written by Susan White. Read it here.   The Brides’ is available as e-book on Kindle or in paperback from me  for £9.99 inc p&p

 

 

 

The main news for this week though is the imminent publication of  Trained By Murder: A Jasmine Frame Collection. The Kindle version can be pre-ordered now with publication on 16th March.   Here’s the blurb.

Four stories, four locations, four deaths and four dilemmas give Jasmine Frame a training in the art of detection.  As James she is embarking  on a career in the police force and a marriage to Angela, while wondering what part Jasmine will play in her life. She strives to keep Jasmine secret from her colleagues but the urge to be female is ever-present. The examples and experiences of the transmen,  transwomen and crossdressers that she meets influence her decisions. She has decisions to make and crimes to solve.

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The collection  is a long novella or short novel in length. The stories are prequels to Painted Ladies and in Jasmine’s chronology come after the novella,  Murder in Doubt. If you don’t buy Kindles then you can order a pdf version from me for £2 payable by Paypal –  write to me here.

Back to the present, or rather another time in Jasmine’s detecting  life (pre Painted Ladies).  Here is the next episode of Pose.

Pose: Part 8

James returned to his computer and began a review of all the data collected on Terry North and on the murder of Avril. The two collided with the blood in Terry’s burnt-out van but James could see no other overlap. Colin grunted about needing a leak and hauled his bulk out of the room. James quickly scribbled some notes on a sheet of scrap paper, not his police notebook. He knew he shouldn’t be making copies of sensitive data but if he was to find Tina then some rules had to be broken. Colin returned with new supplies of snacks. James refused the packet of crisps he offered and bent his head to the screen.
Their shift came to an end, late of course, with no news from the investigating team. There were no clues to Terry’s whereabouts or the identity of the killer but from the tone of the messages circulating between the team members it looked like DI Crowley was now treating them as the same person.

James drove home thinking hard. What could he do? How could he trace Tina when the might of the Violent and Serious Crime Unit was failing? Was Tina really a paedophile and killer? He was struggling to match the exuberant if eccentric transvestite to the profile of a murderous child-molester. It was difficult, but he knew that the people who went after kids were expert at hiding their true personality and intentions.
Back in the flat, James spread out the bits of paper with his notes, to which he added what he knew about Tina which was not, as far as he knew, known to DI Crowley.
He called Samantha again. She answered quickly this time.
‘Hi, Sam. Have the police been in touch yet?’
‘No. Are you sure they will?’
‘Yes, if they haven’t already found Tina. Look have you any ideas where she might have gone.’
‘She could have driven anywhere in her van.’
‘That’s been found near Fobney Lock, wrecked.’ Another rule broken. Information not yet public given to someone not in the Police.
‘Really? How?’
‘I don’t know. Either someone nicked it or Tina had her own reasons for trying to dispose of it.’
‘Why?’
James wasn’t going to say that Terry/Tina was now the principal suspect in the murder of Avril Robinson.
‘I don’t know, but it’s even more vital that we find her. Look. Did you go anywhere with her apart from Butterflies and the Duchess?’
‘No. We went to the Duchess a few times. It’s supposed to be a trans-friendly pub.’
‘Supposed to be?’
‘Last time we were in there a bloke had a go at Tina.’
‘When was this?’
‘A few weeks ago.’
‘You didn’t mention it when Tina went missing.’
‘Er, it didn’t seem important. It was before Tina and his wife had their row.’
James sighed. Could it be important? ‘Tell me what happened.’
There was a pause before Samantha spoke again. ‘We were having a quiet drink and chat. It was quite early; not many people there.’
‘Other trans people?’
‘No, just gays. This guy was with a couple of other blokes. Been knocking the lagers back by the look of it. He staggered over to us and shouted at Tina.’
‘What did he say?’
‘Can’t remember exactly; it was pretty mashed up; usual abusive stuff.’
‘What Tina do?’
‘Just sat there. It just washed off her. She said, “Do go and sit down, Jed.”’
‘Jed! She knew him. She said his name.’
‘Yeah, I suppose she did. I hadn’t thought of that before.’
‘What happened?’
‘The guy’s mates came and dragged him off and they left the pub.’
‘What did Tina do?’
‘Nothing. We just got on with our drink. A few more of the girls arrived and we had a good evening. Why? Do you think it’s important?’
‘Could be. Just one thing. Tina was in her usual stuff?’
‘Yeah, a pink princess mini-dress.’
‘Thanks Sam, I’ll get back to you.’ James ended the call. He was thinking hard. Was it a coincidence? How many Jeds could there be? Was the guy in the pub Tina’s wife’s friend’s partner? The one who got moods on him, so Emma said.

James was still musing when the door opened. Angela staggered in, heaving her heavy briefcase. James jumped up to welcome her, take her bag and coat and give her a cuddle and kiss.
‘I’ll put the kettle on,’ James said, eventually.
‘What’s up?’ Angela said, noticing the scraps of paper on the table. While James made coffee, he described his day and his intention to find Tina. He ended with the latest discovery.
‘It doesn’t seem like much of a lead,’ Angela said from the depths of the sofa.
‘No, but it’s all I’ve got. I must get out and find Tina, whether he’s the murderer or not.’
‘You’re going out investigating?’
‘I have to.’
‘But if DI Crowley finds out what you’re doing he’ll be wondering why.’
‘I know,’ James said.
‘So you need a disguise. You’ve got to be Jasmine the investigator.’
James realised that Angela was right.
‘And what’s more,’ Angela continued, ‘it’ll be safer and better cover if I come with you.’
‘But you’ve had a long day. You’re knackered.’
‘Thanks a bunch.’
‘You know what I mean.’
Angela grinned. ‘Yes. Perhaps I need a change. Studying figures can pall after a while. Let’s do it.’

Jasmine was dressed for a variety of venues – short skirt, opaque tights, thick jumper over a silk cami. Angela, similarly dressed, sat beside her as they drove in the Fiesta towards the outskirts of the town.
‘Where are we heading?’ Angela asked.
‘To where it’s all been happening,’ Jasmine replied, ‘Tina’s home, or rather the home of his wife’s friend, Sharon.’
‘You’re hoping that her bloke, Jed, is there?’
‘That’s it.’
‘Do you think he knows where Tina is?’
‘I’m not sure but there’s a chance he’s got something to with all this. This meeting Tina and Jed had in The Duchess was just before Emma chucked Tina out. That was after Emma had her chat with Sharon and got paedophile and transvestite muddled.’
‘Perhaps she didn’t.’
‘What?’ Jasmine glanced at Angela.
‘Get them muddled. Perhaps Tina is the paedophile who killed the girl.’
Jasmine frowned. ‘That is a possibility. I hope not.’
They pulled up outside number 12, Sharon’s house according to Emma. They got out and went up the path to the door. There was no bell. Jasmine tapped on the plastic door. It was answered by a short woman with bleached blonde hair.
‘Hi,’ Jasmine began, ‘Sharon?’
‘Who’s asking?’ the woman looked closely at Jasmine and Angela.
Jasmine didn’t answer the question. ‘Is Jed in?’ she asked.
Sharon frowned. ‘What do you want Jed for? Who’re you?’
Jasmine decided to tell an outright lie. ‘We met him in The Duchess. He said to call on him. Now Sharon looked confused. ‘The Duchess? That’s in town init? We’ve never bin there.’
‘Jed has,’ Jasmine said.
Sharon’s face darkened with anger. ‘To meet you?’
‘Not us. He was talking to Tina. You know, Emma’s bloke.’
The woman looked confused then comprehension dawned. ‘You’re fucking paedos like Terry.’
Jasmine sighed inside. ‘No, I’m transgender not a paedophile. Tina, or Terry, is like me.’
‘Nah, you’re all fucking weirdoes. I remember now. Jed came in one night and said he’d seen Terry dressed up like a fucking little girl. Jed said he was one of ‘em paedos.’
Jasmine shook her head. ‘He got it wrong,’ she hoped that was true, ‘Tina’s missing.’
‘Yeah. Emma chucked him. Good fucking job.’
‘We want to find him.’
‘So you can play little girls together,’ Sharon sneered.
‘To protect him. From himself mainly.’
‘He can go fuck himself. Mucking around with his little girl.’
Jasmine’s eyebrows rose. ‘Who said he’d done that?’
‘Jed did.’
‘If Jed knows stuff about Tina perhaps he knows where he’s gone. Can we speak to him?’
‘Jed won’t speak to you pervs.’
‘We’ll take that chance. Where is he?’ Since he hadn’t appeared Jasmine assumed he wasn’t with Sharon.
‘OK, if it’ll get you off my doorstep. He’s at his lockup, sorting out a mate’s car.’
‘Where is it?’
‘Behind the shops on Basingstoke Road.’
‘Thank you, Sharon.’ Jasmine backed away from the door. Sharon closed it without further word.
Jasmine turned to Angela. ‘That was helpful.’
‘She wasn’t pleased to meet you,’ Angela said.
‘No, but she didn’t seem too attached to Jed.’
‘You made her wonder what he was doing in The Duchess. That’s if she knows it’s a gay meeting place.’
Jasmine shrugged. ‘Perhaps. Let’s see if we can find his lock-up.
They got back into the Fiesta and set off through the roads of the estate until they came to a busier straight road.
‘This is Basingstoke Road,’ Jasmine said. She turned left and drove slowly along the road. They came to a short parade of shops with a couple of stores and take-aways. There was a lane up the side which they drove up. There was a parking space at the back of the shops with a couple of workshops. One had an up-and-over garage door with a peeling board above it. Just about illuminated by the Fiesta’s headlights, Jasmine read, “Jeds Motors”. No apostrophe.
‘This looks like it,’ Jasmine said, getting out of the car. ‘Let’s have a look.’
Angela followed him to the garage entrance. The door was closed but Jasmine grasped the handle, twisted and pulled. It lifted with a metallic groan.
‘Not very secure,’ Jasmine said, ‘Let’s have a look.’
‘Should we?’ Angela said, ‘It’s private property. We’ll be trespassing.’
‘I know but I want a look around. You stay here and watch.’ Jasmine ducked under the door and stepped into the dark garage.

………………………..to be continued.

 

Jasmine ventures out

Is civilisation, western or otherwise, doomed? A recent article in New Scientist listed various pointers that suggested it was.  On the other hand there have been articles in newspapers about Steven Pinker’s book on The Enlightenment which, it is suggested, has an optimistic view of present times. Pinker says that from the late-seventeenth to mid nineteenth century,  European and American philosophers, scientists, engineers, humanists, politicians etc. propelled western civilisation  to its current level of power and prosperity with its people experiencing improved health, longer lifespans, better education and various rights and freedoms, such as democracy.  Unfortunately I think both views are correct.

The Enlightenment did result in amazing advances in science, medicine, technology that transformed our i.e. western, way of life. It had its negatives too – exploitation of peoples in other parts of the world (even though the end of slavery is seen as part of enlightenment philosophy), and degradation of the environment through increased consumption and waste. It didn’t stop and may even have encouraged the rise of despots such as Napoleon, and fanatical regimes such as the Nazis and other fascists, and communists. Unfortunately, I think fading optimism for enlightenment themes such as the search for knowledge and the freedom to be individuals is allowing the rise of right-wing populism and fundamentalism, both of which aim to curtail our personal freedoms and the application of science.  Brexit, the dismissal of “experts”, Trump and other political upheavals, are just the most obvious signs.

Faced with environmental breakdown (articles in New Scientist provide evidence week after week) in addition to this threat to our comfortable way of life, I am afraid that I must be numbered with the pessimists.

tree-desert-namibia-dead-vlei-68661.jpeg

A future world? Perhaps not

Still, life goes on doesn’t it. To be more cheerful, Trained By Murder: A Jasmine Frame Collection will soon be available on Kindle or as a special purchase in pdf form.  Publication Day is 16th March. Four long short stories of Jasmine Frame in her early days of investigation. There will be more details soon.  Here though is the next episode of the latest Jasmine Frame story.

Pose: Part 6

It was dark now and raining. The streets were empty and not all the streetlights were lit. Creeping along in the Fiesta, peering down cul-de-sacs and lanes between garages had produced no sign of Tina’s red van.
‘Look, Samantha, I don’t think we’re getting anywhere dong this,’ Jasmine said.
Samantha grunted agreement.
‘Angela should be home now. I’ve hardly seen her this weekend and I need something to eat.’
‘Do you mean you’ve had enough of searching for Tina?’ Samantha said.
‘Yes, I do. She may have gone away in her van or gone off to stay with a friend somewhere. One thing we can say, is that her van’s nowhere on this estate.’
‘Yeah, you’re right. OK. Drop me off back in town.’
Jasmine gave an almost audible sigh of relief and accelerated towards the town centre. It wasn’t that she wasn’t worried about Tina. She was concerned about where the crossdresser had gone after the attack on her digs, but Jasmine couldn’t think of anything useful they could do to locate her. If Tina was sensible she would put away her childish clothes for a while and only appear as Terry. Perhaps Emma would let him back home to be with the daughter he apparently loved.
Jasmine dropped off Samantha back at The Duchess where they had met and set off home for an evening with Angela.

It was just after lunchtime next day when he walked on duty. Colin and Baz were hunched over the computers.
‘Any news?’ James asked.
‘’bout what,’ Colin muttered not bothering to look away from his screen.
James shrugged and looked over his shoulder to see what he was examining. ‘I don’t know. Anything. The murdered girl, Avro. Have we got anywhere with identifying her killer, the paedophile.’
‘Nah,’ Baz responded, ‘Not enough info. The SIO has organised a big search of the area where the body was found.’
‘By the river?’
‘Yeah. They’ve expanded the area all the way to Fobney Lock and beyond.’
‘There’s a lot of empty land around there,’ Jasmine said with his limited recall of the course of the River Kennet.
‘Lots of places where a paedo can hole up with his victim,’ Baz said. She leaned forward to peer at her screen. ‘O-oh. An alert. Looks like they’ve found something.’ She tapped at her keyboard.
Jasmine peered at the scrolling text messages. ‘What’s happening?’
‘DI Crowley’s calling SOCO to a site near the water treatment works.’
‘Where’s that?’
‘Where I said, Fobney Lock.’
‘What have they found?’
‘A burnt-out van.’
‘Any details?’
‘A red LDV. No reg. yet.’
James’ heart thumped in his chest. ‘Did you say a red LDV van?’
‘That’s right,’ Baz replied.
‘I’ve got to go,’ James said heading for the door.
‘Hey,’ Colin called, ‘I’m supposed to be going off duty.’ The door closed behind James.

James was in his car and racing out of town. He only had a vague idea where he was going but he was following the River Kennet as closely as possible as he traced its course upstream from where it joined the Thames. He was heading south along the A33 when he noticed signs of police activity – a police car parked on a junction. He took the minor road running into an area of new industrial building and scrubby, empty land. There were more police vehicles parked by the side of the road. A narrow lane went off to the right.
James took the track and was amazed to find himself in countryside with hardly any sign of the large town that lay less than a half a mile to the north and east. He stopped behind a SOCO van parked at the edge of the lane. James got out and stood looking around. There were a few buildings ahead on the left but to the right was a patch of bracken and trees with a rough track across it. That seemed to be where the activity was. Blue tape waved in the breeze and police officers were moving to and fro. James advanced to the tape barrier. A constable barred his way. James showed his warrant card.
‘I’m Constable Frame, with CPU,’ he said. The officer looked at his clipboard.
‘Can’t see your name down here.’
‘I’m on this case,’ James insisted.
‘You’ll have to speak to your senior officer then.’
‘Okay, I’ll have a look for DI Crowley.’ James backed off. A group of white coveralled people approached the officer from within the cordon. While they were conversing, James stepped off the track into the waist-high bracken, moving parallel to the taped boundary. It was hard going with the stems grasping at his legs. Soon however, a couple of conveniently placed shrubs cut off his view of the officer on sentry duty. James turned and approached the taped zone. He ducked beneath it and now could see the focus of the attention. The men and women in overalls were clustered around the partially burnt wreck of a van. James was able to confirm that it was an LDV and it was red. Was it Tina’s? Was it a coincidence that a van like Tina’s should turn up here in the search zone for the murdered girl. It wasn’t even far from where Tina and Emma North lived. Their estate was just the other side of the A33.
James kept low and circled the vehicle as close as he could while keeping out of sight of the officers examining it and the ground around it. The front of the van was badly burned but the rear seemed undamaged. The back doors were open but James was too far away to see what was inside. The crime scene investigators were making a close examination of the contents of the van but there didn’t seem to be a body at the focus of their interest. James did notice the number plate hanging from the rear of the van – R251BRD. They will have identified the owner by now, James thought. He headed back the way he had come. He got onto the muddy track and brushed bits of undergrowth from his clothes.
‘What are you doing here, Constable Frame?’
James looked up to see DI Crowley walking towards him.
‘Good afternoon Sir. I heard that you had made a discovery and wondered if anything had been found to add to the information we’re working on back at the unit.’
‘There was no need for you to come out here. Anything we find will be passed to you at the station.’
James realised he had no other excuse for his presence. He had to distract the DI.
‘I gather a van has been discovered. Has the registration given us the name of the owner?’
‘It’s registered to a Terrence North,’ the inspector said. ‘Name mean anything to you?’
James couldn’t admit to knowing the man when he only knew him as Tina and when he was Jasmine. ‘It’s not a name that has come up in the investigation, Sir, but if we have his details we may be able to see of there are any links to the texts and other material we’ve got on Avril’s phone and laptop.’
‘Well, I suggest you get back to the station and get to work on it. No point you being out here.’
‘No Sir. I’ll head off, Sir. Um, there haven’t been any other developments have there?’
‘Developments?’
‘Any indications of Mr North’s whereabouts?’
‘No. We’re locating his address and will start enquiries soon.’
‘Is there any evidence linking him to the girl’s murder, Sir?’
Crowley frowned, ‘Not yet, though forensics have found blood inside the van. Now less of the questions, Frame. If you get back to your work, I can get on with mine.’ The senior officer set off towards the barrier.
James walked back to his Fiesta and negotiated a multi-point turn. He set off towards the town, but once back on the A33 he had a change of mind. He turned off to the right and in moments was amongst the streets that he had driven around the previous evening. Terry/Tina could easily have driven the van to where it was found to get away from the gang that was pestering him. It was still close to his home. It was also very close to where the body of Avril Robinson had been found.
He drove slowly past Emma North’s home. There was no sign of the woman, her daughter or Tina. He approached a roundabout and the route that would take him back to the town centre. Two police cars, blue lights flashing, passed him. James could guess where they were headed.

…………………… to be continued