Jasmine asks questions

WP_20180803_14_21_17_Pro (2)For the last week we have been settling into our new home. There’s been a lot to do – unpacking, setting up new pieces of furniture, even some decorating (not my favourite job).  I was appalled by the amount of cardboard waste we generated but at least we have delivered it all to the recycling centre.  The polystyrene and polythene sheet was another matter – surely they can be recycled, the polythene especially, but apparently not.

We know no-one here although we have said hello to some of our neighbours but it has been pleasant just getting on with our own thing. Political issues have not been at the forefront of my mind although the pieces I have read have not eased my fears for the future. Nevertheless we are looking forward to getting familiar with our new home and meeting people.

Next weekend I will be at the 9Worlds convention in London otherwise known as the London Geekfest. It’s turned out I’m doing two talks, the first on creating positive trans figures in fiction, i.e. Jasmine, although I hope to widen out my talk into a discussion with the audience.  My second talk is about alchemy and chemistry in SF and fantasy or “Cavorite to Coaxium – super-materials in SF&F” which will, of course, include a plug for my September Weekes books. I seem to have drawn the short straw with the timings though – 5 p.m. on Friday for the former and 9 a.m. on Saturday for the latter. We’ll have to see if there is an audience.

Thanks to getting our home somewhat straight, I have at last been able to get back to some writing and have written the next episode of Negative, the Jasmine Frame prequel/sequel that fits in the short period of time between Painted Ladies and Bodies By Design. We’ve reached episode 7 and Jasmine is, at last, starting to investigate. . .

Negative: Part 7

‘You were close to her,’ Jasmine said as empathically as she could manage, ‘I’m sorry.’
The woman looked at her. ‘Thank you.’ There was a hint of a sob in her voice.
‘Do you know what happened here?’ Jasmine persisted. ‘Was she in a car accident?’
The woman shook her head. ‘I don’t know. The police won’t say; not yet.’ She turned and glanced up at the mist-shrouded cliff. ‘They say she could have fallen instead of being hit by a car. They’re waiting for the pathologist to tell them how she died.’
‘Oh, that’s awful.’ Jasmine was trying to think of comforting things to say but struggling. The eagerness to find out the facts, whatever they were, overrode her feelings of sympathy. ‘It was last night wasn’t it? What was she doing out here then?’
The woman looked at her with a face filled with anguish. ‘I’ve no idea. There was no reason for her to be here. She should have been home with me after work.’
‘After work?’ Jasmine said innocently. Of course, she knew Tegan’s work, or presumed she did.
‘Tegan worked in a hotel. Head waiter. She should have come home when dinner was finished. She usually got in by nine-thirty. She didn’t last night.’
‘You must have been worried.’
Her face creased up. Jasmine was afraid she was going to burst into tears. ‘When it got past ten, I was worried. I waited another hour then rang the police.’
‘Oh, did they start looking for her?’ Jasmine thought she knew what the answer would be.
‘No. They said some things which were supposed to reassure me and told me to ring again later if she hadn’t turned up. As if Tegan would go off for a night without telling me!’
‘They might have started searching sooner if they thought that your partner was suicidal.’
‘Suicide!’ The woman looked horrified.
Jasmine shrugged. ‘She wasn’t then?’
‘No, no, not Tegan. Okay, she wasn’t really happy at work, but it wasn’t so bad that she wanted to end her life. I’m sure of it.’
The mention of work increased Jasmine’s interest. ‘What was wrong at work?’
‘A new waitress. Tegan didn’t get on with her.’
She must mean Ceri, Jasmine thought. Apart from the bubbly Myfanwy who only worked two days, there was only Ceri working with Tegan.
‘Did she tell you why they didn’t get on?’
There was a small shake of her head. ‘Tegan said she was rude to her and didn’t do what she was asked to do. It was strange because she usually got along with everyone.’
That wasn’t Jasmine’s impression, but perhaps Tegan’s issues with Ceri affected her manner with guests. Or perhaps it was simply that Tegan didn’t get on with trans women.
Jasmine backpedalled in the tale. ‘So, did the police find her here?’
The woman shook her head vigorously. ‘No, that was a jogger. I don’t know who it was but they called the police and ambulance. It was too late to save her though. She was already dead. Someone at the police station remembered my call and they got me to look at . . . her.’ This time there was a sob. Jasmine reached out a hand and touched the woman’s arm gently.
‘I really am sorry. I shouldn’t have disturbed you. It’s a very sad time for you.’
‘No, no, talking about her, Tegan, about what’s happened, helps. It seemed unreal, a dream but now I know it’s something I have to deal with.’ The woman looked into Jasmine’s face. ‘Who are you?’
‘My name’s Jasmine, Jasmine Frame.’
‘I haven’t seen you before. Do you live here?’
‘No, I’m a visitor. I was out for a walk. Fresh air with added water.’ Jasmine was lying; she was out in the rain because she was eager to find out what had happened to Tegan.
‘Ah, I see. Well, thank you for stopping to talk.’
‘What’s your name? You told me your partner was Tegan.’
‘I’m sorry, I should have said. You told me your name. I’m Bob, short for Roberta.’
The rain became harder. Both women shrank into their jackets.
‘Look, I’d better go,’ Bob said, ‘that policeman has been waiting patiently for me to finish.’
Jasmine looked at the police car. Through the rain-spattered windows she could see the police officer watching them.
‘He brought you here, did he?’ Jasmine asked.
‘I wanted to see where she’d been, er, found. He offered to drive me up here. It’s such a lonely spot. Thank you again.’ Bob crossed the road to the police car. The officer leaned over and pushed the passenger door open. Bob got in and they drove off towards the town.
Jasmine pulled her jacket tight around her, not that it was stopping her getting soaked. The police car was out of sight almost as soon as it set off. Jasmine crossed the road to the cordoned off area, stepped over the tape and crouched down to the look at the bouquet. There was a sodden card stapled to the clear plastic. The ink was running but the words were still just legible. They read, “For my love, Bob”.
Jasmine surveyed the tarmac and the narrow strip of gravel between the road and the cliff. There was nothing to draw her attention, but she didn’t expect to find anything. Forensics would have done a thorough investigation and taken away any objects of interest. What was missing was interesting though. Even though the rain had washed away blood and other water-soluble bodily fluids spilled onto the roadway, some marks might have been expected to remain since the time of Tegan’s death. Tyre marks for instance. Jasmine paced up and down the crime scene, then stepped over the tape and walked in both directions along the road. There were no traces of any skidmarks. It wasn’t conclusive. The water on the road could have washed away the greasy rubber if it had been there, but surely some would remain to be observed by a detective’s practised eye.
So, Tegan wasn’t hit by a vehicle slamming on its brakes. Either it was a hit-and-run where the driver didn’t pause or slow at all, or Tegan wasn’t killed by the impact with a vehicle. Perhaps she had fallen from the cliff above. Jasmine gazed upwards. The rain was easing and the cloud breaking up. Visibility was improving. She couldn’t see the clifftop, but it was a long way up. A fall from that height would most likely be fatal. Tegan’s injuries would confirm whether she was killed by a fall or collision.
She began to retrace her steps back into the town. Tegan’s death was a mystery. Why hadn’t she returned home to her partner, Bob, when her shift at dinner ended? What was she doing either here on the road or up above, if indeed she got here under her own volition? And why was her relationship with Ceri so fraught if Bob’s opinion of her being a warm, loving person was correct?
Jasmine pondered as she trudged along the road, the sun beginning to warm her and dry her sodden clothes.

……………………to be continued

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Jasmine’s day out

I couldn’t let it pass without comment, could I. The big topic of the week. No, not that. School uniforms, of course. First there was the now annual revolt of boys adopting skirts because they were denied shorts as an alternative to long grey trousers in the hot weather. Then there was the discussion about school uniforms in general. Apparently some schools have imposed a supposedly non-gendered uniform policy on pupils i.e. they have to wear a stereotypical western male uniform of trousers and shirt, (and probably a blazer and tie). This is justified with some derogatory comments about skirts or dresses being “embarrassing”. The main reason for choosing trousers is supposed to be to prevent “upskirting”.

20180621_185132Having taught in boys’, girls’ and mixed schools, as well as being genderfluid with a predilection for wearing skirts and dresses, it won’t surprise you that I have an opinion on this. Only one school I taught at did not have a uniform. Dress code was smart so no jeans (at least I think that was it). While most students were sensible, a sizeable number, particularly girls but not exclusively, treated dress as a competitive sport. They were little rich kids so they could afford very expensive and trendy stuff. I recall one girl wearing a £500 (1980s prices) leather jacket to my practical chemistry class. Girls who arrived without an up-to-the-moment wardrobe were ridiculed.

It’s always been one of the arguments for uniform that it takes away this competitive element, stops the morning arguments about what Olivia (or Oliver) should wear and makes the school’s kids easy to pick out when outside school (that happens less often now there are fewer trips). But some schools have got tied up in knots about the actual dress rules and are struggling now that gender is an issue. Many schools are still stuck with a girls having a choice, skirts or trousers, while boys don’t policy. It is sexist as well as a restriction on those who want to express their gender questioning.

While there might still be a case for some uniform element, I think it is restrictive and displays a lack of acceptance of diversity on the part of the school management. There should be no distinction between male and female; boys should be allowed to wear skirts if they like and girls shouldn’t be forced into trousers. The upskirting argument is spurious – boys should be taught how to behave in modern society and that intruding on a person’s (girl or otherwise) privacy is not allowed. But I also feel that the western style of male dress is too narrow. In many cultures across the world, men wear forms of gowns or kilts. Young people should be able to adopt those styles if they wish.

So, let’s allow much more variety in our schools, even if there is an element of uniformity in colours or badges.

……………………..

In one week I will be at BLISS at the Prince of Wales Hotel in Southport, Lancs. where all my (paper) books will be on sale. I’m hoping for a good crowd of browsers (with some money to spend).

We’ve reached episode 4 of Negative, the Jasmine Frame sequel/prequel that fits between Painted Ladies and Bodies By Design. Things are warming up.

Negative: Part 4

‘When’s your day off?’ Jasmine asked, changing the subject.
‘Tomorrow. Hey, we could meet up and I could show you around.’
Jasmine felt her spirits lift. It would lovely to spend a day with this attractive and vivacious girl. ‘That’s lovely. Any ideas?’
‘Let’s jump on a bus and look over the castle. The old town’s got lots of lovely shops and cafes.’
‘Great. What time? Do you have a lie-in on your day off?’’
Ceri grinned. ‘Definitely. I don’t get up before six on my one day of freedom. Shall we meet at the bus station at nine-thirty?’
‘Suits me.’
They chatted for a bit longer before Ceri left to do some errands for her mother. Jasmine set off to walk around the headland. It was a good distance and she was pleased to feel her muscles working. The cliffs and the ever-changing view across the sea entertained her.
A bath followed by dinner completed her day. Ceri was cheerful when she served her. Myfanwy was again a jolly colleague. At the end of the meal Ceri said, ‘See you in the morning.’ Jasmine nodded and headed back to her room.

Tegan was back on duty at breakfast and spreading chill with her dark frowns. Jasmine did note that she was polite to the older woman filling in for Ceri. Was Tegan a bully who picked on more junior colleagues or was it because Ceri was trans that she persecuted her? Jasmine wasn’t certain but was happy that it was Myfanwy who served her with a smile and a chuckle.
As Jasmine got up to leave the dining room, Tegan approached her.
‘You’ve been meeting Ceri,’ Tegan said.
‘I have,’ Jasmine replied. She had considered saying it was none of Tegan’s business but decided to see where the glum woman was going with this conversation.
‘We have a rule that staff should treat all guests the same.’
‘That’s what I would expect of any hotel,’ Jasmine said.
‘So we don’t allow staff to meet up with guests socially,’ Tegan went on.
Jasmine felt a flush come to her cheeks. ‘I think you’ll find that what a member of staff does in their own time is their own business, and who a “guest” or anyone else meets outside of this building is none of yours or anyone else’s concern.’ Jasmine pushed past the woman and marched somewhat faster than she intended from the dining room.
She got herself ready for a day out and was at the bus station with plenty of time to spare. She was still angry at Tegan’s effrontery but decided that she wouldn’t mention it to Ceri. The bus drew up at the stop and Jasmine got on. She glanced at her watch. It was nine-thirty and there was no sign of Ceri but the bus was not due to leave for another ten minutes.
With a minute to go, she saw the girl running towards the bus with her golden hair blowing out behind her. As she leapt on, her short skirt rose revealing her smooth, tanned thighs and a flash of large knickers. She flopped down beside Jasmine.
‘Sorry I’m late. I knew I had time to catch the bus but I got stuck with my brother.’
‘Oh, what did Alun want?’
‘Nothing really. Just checking on me I suppose.’
The bus pulled away. Ceri fidgeted beside Jasmine but pointed out places that related to her lifetime in the town. Then they were on the road along the estuary and approaching the bridge into the old town with its castle a prominent landmark. Soon they were disembarking and Ceri lead Jasmine through the narrow streets. Jasmine enjoyed her guided tour but felt there was something behind Ceri’s never-ending chatter and constant impatience to show her something else.

They stopped their tour for a late lunch in an olde-worlde café which Jasmine cheerfully paid for. She felt she had to repay Ceri for her company.
‘I’ll have to catch the bus back soon,’ Ceri said putting down her fork.
‘Oh, that’s okay,’ Jasmine replied feeling a little surprised because she had thought she had Ceri for the day. ‘I mustn’t take up all your time.’
‘No, I’m sorry. I didn’t know. There are things. . .’
‘It’s really no problem. It’s been very good of you to show me round.’
Ceri started to get up. ‘You don’t have to come with me, now.’
‘Oh,’ Jasmine hadn’t considered what she would do. ‘Are there buses later.’
‘Oh yes. Every hour until late this evening. But you’ll want to be back at the hotel for dinner won’t you.’
‘Mmm, yes.’
Ceri stood up. ‘I’ll see you tomorrow then. Breakfast.’
‘Yes, ‘Bye Ceri. Thanks.’
The girl was gone in a flash of gold hair. Jasmine was left contemplating her sudden departure. Had she known all along that she would have to leave at this time? What was it that demanded her return? Had she read a text while Jasmine wasn’t looking that made her decide to leave? It was probably of no concern of hers. She should be grateful for the young woman giving up the time she had on her one free day of the week. Jasmine finished her drink and decided to resume her wandering around the town, at a slower pace than Ceri had set.

Despite Myfanwy’s smile, dinner was served in the gloom caused by Tegan’s scowls and curt responses to queries from guests. Jasmine ate quickly and returned to her room for a quiet evening of TV and reading. She realised that she had fallen into a comfortable routine of sightseeing, meals and relaxation, with her meetings with Ceri a highlight of stimulating conversation. Not that they discussed weighty matters. The closest they got to that was comparing notes about their transitions and their hopes for their future lives as women.
Jasmine was still getting tired at the end of the day despite her lack of stress. Would she ever be ready to go back to investigating? She hoped so.

Jasmine woke the following morning to find the light entering her room, dull. There were raindrops on the window and grey clouds in the sky. She stayed in bed until it was almost too late for breakfast. There was only one laid-up table, her own, when she entered the dining room. Just one other couple were finishing their meal. Other tables were still covered with the detritus of breakfast eaten. Neither waitress was in evidence.
Jasmine sat in her usual seat and waited. A few minutes passed before Ceri appeared from the kitchen. Some of her long golden hair had escaped from her bun and she looked harassed. She approached Jasmine.
‘Good morning, Ceri. How are you after your day off?’ Jasmine asked feeling that as Tegan wasn’t in sight she could be friendly.
Ceri took her notebook from her pocket. ‘Oh, er fine. What would like this morning.’ Jasmine gave her usual order which Ceri jotted down. Tegan had still not appeared to glower at them.
‘Isn’t Tegan on duty today?’ Jasmine asked.
‘No, she isn’t. I’ve had to do everything.’ There was an impatient tone to Ceri’s reply.
‘Oh. Is she ill?’
Ceri shrugged. ‘I’ve no idea. I don’t think she called to say she wasn’t coming in. I’ll get your breakfast.’ She hurried off. She returned with the coffee jug, and then with toast and Jasmine’s cooked breakfast. In between she dashed around clearing tables, doing the job of two waitresses.
Jasmine was alone now, taking her time over her bacon and egg. Ceri passed close to her with her arms loaded with crockery.
‘Does this happen often?’ Jasmine said.
Ceri paused. ‘First time. I’ve never known Tegan miss a shift.’ She departed for the kitchen.
Jasmine had finished her final piece of toast, washed down with black coffee when the door to the dining room opened. The proprietor of the hotel, a short man with thin strands of black hair plastered across his bald head, entered followed by a uniformed policeman.
They both glanced at Jasmine, the hotel owner perhaps surprised to see a guest still at breakfast. Ceri emerged from the kitchen and stopped dead. An ‘Oh,’ escaped from her lips.
‘Hello Ceri,’ the owner said, ‘the police officer would like a word with you.’
‘With me? Why?’ Ceri looked confused.
The policeman stepped forward. ‘You normally work with Miss Tegan Jones.’
‘Yes.’
‘When did you see her last?’
‘The day before yesterday,’ Ceri replied still bemused.
‘Not yesterday?’ the officer said, ‘Wasn’t she at work yesterday?’
The owner raised his hand. ‘Oh, I forgot. Yesterday was your day off wasn’t it Ceri. Myfanwy was on with Tegan yesterday.’
Ceri nodded in agreement. ‘Yes, why? What’s happened?’
‘The body of Tegan Jones was found earlier this morning. We’re trying to trace her movements.’
Ceri stared. ‘The body?’

………………………..to be continued.

 

 

Jasmine’s back

WP_20180414_09_47_33_ProIn four weeks I’ll be at the Prince of Wales Hotel in Southport, Lancashire for the BLISS Book Lovers event (Sat. 14th July.)  It’s another of those bookfairs where the authors display their books and engage visitors with enthralling chat about their work. It really works best if there are lots of people wandering around who aren’t the participating authors. For that reason I have a few free entry tickets available for anyone wanting to attend.  Just send me a message on paintedladiesnovel@btinternet.com and if they haven’t all gone I’ll see that you get a ticket. Also send me a message if you want to pre-order any of my books for delivery at the event.  They will all be priced at £8 on the day except for Painted Ladies, which is free with either Bodies By Design or The Brides’ Club Murder. The Evil Above the Stars trilogy will be £21 for all three volumes.  There will also be free bookmarks and postcards of scenes from the September novels, particularly Cold Fire.

Of course, if you can’t get to Southport you can order the books direct from me by sending a message to me at the same email address above.  All books are £9.99 inc p&p each and the free offer for Painted Ladies stands. The package of the three Evil Above the Stars books is £25.

……………….

And so Jasmine returns. I’ve had a rest from writing Jasmine Frame stories for a couple of months although the fourth novel, Molly’s Boudoir, is still on the stocks. This new story is something of an innovation.  It is both a sequel and prequel.  It fits into the short period of time between the events of Painted Ladies and Bodies By Design. I am not going to give away any of the plot of Painted Ladies other than to say Jasmine is recovering.  You’ll have to wait and see how the story develops but I do want it to be a little more reflective.  Jasmine is stuck at the stage in her transition where she’s living as a woman and taking hormones but the body she wants is a distant goal because of the time it takes to get Gender Confirmation  Surgery. She’s alone and self-employed and has just completed a traumatic case so she has reason to be reflective.

By the way I’d welcome beta readers for Molly’s Boudoir.  If you would like to read it in its pre-copyedit state and are prepared to make comments (positive and negative) then please send me a message on the email address above. In  return you’ll get my grateful thanks and a signed (yes, really) paperback copy when it is published.

So here is the first episode of Negative.

Negative: Part 1

The forest of wind turbines on the horizon in a flat calm sea seemed to be unchanging. It was only the rattle of the railway carriage that told her that she was moving. She kept her face close to the window gazing at the scene. It had been a long time since she’d seen the sea, but it was almost like coming home having grown up in a coastal town. This was a different bit of sea though and turning away to look out of the other side of the carriage she could see that she was travelling through unfamiliar country. Hills clothed in bright green grass and dark trees rose steeply from the narrow coastal strip and beyond, partially hidden in cloud, were the dark blue hints of higher mountains.
Jasmine looked back at the sea. She needed a holiday, a break, a change of scene, but it felt a little like she was running away. Angela had recommended it, as did Jilly, her GP. While her injuries were healing, the dreams still disturbed her nights. She woke feeling she couldn’t breathe. The media interest in her, though lessening, was irritating and stopped her from getting back to work. Not that she was sure she would have much work. Frame Investigations might be defunct. Who wanted a private investigator whose picture had appeared in the local and national newspapers and on the internet?
She’d argued. She didn’t want to go away. She wanted to curl up in her drab, small flat. She was alone. What was she going to do on a vacation? Anyway, she couldn’t afford it.
Angela had argued back. The change would do her good, refresh her. She’d meet new people; people who didn’t know her. She had some money coming from the Police for her work and in victim compensation, and why didn’t she use some of her savings. That was for her transition, she’d responded.
Angela had replied, ‘Your wellbeing now is more important than having money in the bank for whatever surgeries you decide you might need in the future.’ Jasmine had wanted to retort that future treatment was what was going to make her what she wanted to be, but she had accepted Angela’s point.
So here she was, on a train to somewhere unfamiliar. On her own because, of course, Angela had her own career she couldn’t desert at short notice and anyway they were divorced now. There was no-one else.

The train pulled into the terminus station. Jasmine collected her small case and stepped onto the carriage accompanied by a couple of dozen fellow travellers. It was summer, but not yet school holiday time so the season hadn’t really taken off. Her companions were largely grey-haired. Though they might have noticed her in her t-shirt and short skirt, none seemed to take any interest in her. She checked the map on her phone and strode out of the station towing her case behind her. The hotel she’d booked wasn’t far. It was in one of the streets that lead down to the seafront, but she noted, didn’t have a direct view of the sea. It was a small independently run establishment. The grey stone Victorian building looked as though it had had a coat of paint applied to its woodwork but didn’t seem to have had any recent improvements. Not seedy anyway. She’d booked it because it was cheap, offered breakfast and dinner and had a single room spare for a fortnight – that was as long as she thought she’d survive being on holiday.
The owner showed her into the room. Its narrow window looked out at the row of buildings in the next street with just a peek at the hill that rose beyond the town. He was welcoming and explained the idiosyncrasies of the plumbing and informed her of the mealtimes. She examined his face. Had he guessed what she was? Did his eyes display any sense of judgement? No, he was treating her as she thought he would any other guest who happened to be a single woman, taking care not to fuss over her in case it was interpreted as being sexist.
After asking if there was any other assistance she needed, the proprietor left her alone. Jasmine unpacked her bag and then decided to explore. She left the hotel and walked down to the seafront. Although the sun was still shining it was now late afternoon, her journey had taken most of the day, and there was a cool breeze blowing in off the water. Her bare arms and legs felt a bit chilly. To keep warm, she strode out along the promenade. She passed retired couples and families with young pre-school children, but the wide concreted pavement wasn’t crowded. On one side were the large, at one time grand, hotels and on the other, brightly painted wooden huts offering the usual seaside goods for visitors – buckets and spades, sunhats, ice cream, soft drinks, and fast food accompanied by the sickening smell of over-cooked fat.
She went to the iron rail that marked the boundary between the shore and beach and gazed out at the curve of the bay with the mountains on the right and the headland to the left. Why was she here? She knew no-one and knew nothing about this area. It was simply a retreat, somewhere to be herself, unknown and hopefully unbothered. For a moment she wondered what the attitude of the locals was to transitioning transwomen. Were they likely to be more or less accepting than in the cities and towns she was familiar with? She didn’t know, and it gave her a little anxiety about what she might discover. Holiday-makers, surely, were only interested in their own enjoyment so would be unconcerned by her, that is unless there were some young, single men looking for women to satisfy their vacation lust. She’d have to avoid them.
She wasn’t sure what she would spend her time her doing. There were plenty of things to do and see, walks to do and she’d brought a few books. Swimming in the sea was out. No bathing costume helped her look more feminine, and her scars would show. Relax, that was the main thing – and recuperate; dispel the nightmares of the slashing knife, ripping through her skin, chopping at her penis and scrotum. Yes, she wanted rid of them, but in a controlled, clean, anaesthetised manner where they would be used to build her new genitalia. She shivered, not just with the breeze on her shoulders, and turned to walk back to the hotel.

After kicking off her shoes and lying on the bed to read a not very interesting novel for a while, her watch told her it was time for dinner. Did one dress for dinner in hotels these days? She wasn’t sure but decided to change from the clothes she had travelled in. Instead she put on a calf-length dress with a thin cardigan. She powdered her face and re-did her lipstick. She looked in the mirror. What impression did she give? A young(ish) woman on her own in a small holiday hotel. Would people wonder why she was alone and perhaps examine her for reasons for her aloneness? Would their examinations note the wide shoulders, the mannish angle of her nose, and firm jaw-line? Would they suspect her for what she was?
She was used to these worries although it was the first time for a long time that she had been in a new place to test them. She took a deep breath, picked up her bag, checked her new smart phone was in it and stepped outside her door.
The dining room was half full. Most of the occupied tables by couples although one had two pairs sitting at it. Glances noted her entry, but none lingered. A waitress, dark hair, probably in her forties, indicated that she could sit at any of the smaller tables set for two, and left her to choose. She went to a table at the corner of the room which, while unobtrusive, gave her a view of the diners. She sat, pulling the hem of her dress under her bottom and looked at the brief menu.
There was a buzz of conversation around her. She caught snippets of conversation about the day’s activities, and discussions of the news of the moment – the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee celebrations and preparations for the London Olympics, now less than two months away and the media, at least, becoming frantic that the organisation was incomplete.
Jasmine was approached by the second of the waitresses on duty. She was young, slim and tall, at least as tall as Jasmine’s five foot nine. Her long blonde hair was tied in a bun so that it wouldn’t flop into the dinner plates when she served the diners. Like the other waitress she was dressed in the typical waiting uniform of short, black skirt, black tights and black pinafore but the younger girl’s skirt ended higher on her thighs. She gave Jasmine a thin smile but there was a nervousness about her, her eyes not looking directly at her, that caused Jasmine to examine her. She noted the heavy foundation on her chin and cheeks, and the bold colour of her eye and lip make-up. The shirt was tucked into the skirt but the girl didn’t have much of a waist. The hand that gripped the notebook had painted nails but was large with stubby fingers.
“Are you ready to order?” the girl said in a way that Jasmine suspected she’d prepared herself to speak rather than just spill the words out. She smiled at the girl and the thought came to her, what were the chances that the hotel I chose to stay in had a trans employee?

………………………..to be continued.

 

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 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.

trained by murder ver3

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 worried

WP_20180223_21_21_14_ProI don’t usually follow the Oscars but this year I am interested to see which film wins the non-English language category.  One of the contenders is A Fantastic Woman. I was able to see it last week, before it went on general release in the UK, as part of the Borderlines Film Festival (this covers Herefordshire, Shropshire and Worcestershire and is the largest rural film festival in the country).

The reason for my interest is, of course, that the film is about a transgender character acted by a transwoman. The film is written and directed by Sebastian Lelio.  When planning the story of Marina Vidal he consulted Daniela Vega, a transwoman who is a singer and had done some film work. Lelio soon realised that Vega was the perfect person to play the part of Marina.

A Fantastic Woman is a love story, a tale of loss and an exploration of the treatment of transgender people in Chile. Once Marina appears, the camera rarely leaves her and we get a deep insight into her life and feelings. Unlike many stories concerning trans people, Marina is not searching for her identity, or trying to come to terms with being trans. She isn’t struggling to make a living on the edge of society. Marina is secure in her identity, has a job as a waitress and as a professional singer, and has a loving relationship with an older man – at the start of the film anyway. When things go wrong, as they inevitably do, we discover how society treats people like Marina. I don’t suppose Santiago, Chile is a lot different to many other places. It is chilling the way police, hospital workers, and the family of her lover speak to her with calm platitudes and apologies which cover up a deep prejudice and negation of any rights she might have as a human being. The word “sorry” has rarely sounded so much like a threat. There is a bit of traditional transphobic violence but for the most part Marina has to face rejection and discrimination. Not giving too much away – she comes through it.

Daniela Vega plays the part of Marina superbly. It is surprising and disappointing that though the film is up for an Oscar, Vega isn’t. Vega has said that she doesn’t mind that cis-people have played trans parts in many past films and TV shows (Transamerica and Transparent for two) as acting is acting, but her performance shows why a trans-actor fits the role of Marina far better than a cis-man or cis-woman could. Daniela is a beautiful woman but certain features such as her broad shoulders and strong chin betray her birth gender.  As Marina, she often does not wear a bra and does not use false breasts to enhance her partially developed bust. This means that in a crucial scene she can be taken for a man even while topless. It is hinted, though never categorically stated, that Marina (and Vega herself) has not (yet) had gender-confirmation surgery. Being “pre-op” might make a trans-woman lack confidence, but this doesn’t seem to be the case in Marina’s or Daniela’s case. Daniela is also a superb mezzo-soprano classical and jazz/modern singer.

A Fantastic Woman is a lovely, moving film. Daniela Vega is a true star and beacon for all transgender people, particularly those whose gender identities perhaps lie between the male and female extremes.

And so to Jasmine Frame.  Next week there will be news of the publication of  Trained By Murder, but here is the next episode of Pose, a prequel to Painted Ladies.

 

Pose: Part 7

James squeezed into the IT room. Colin turned his head and glared at him.
‘About time. Where did you get to?’
James recited his excuse. ‘Uh, I thought if I went to where the van had been found I might pick up some information to help us.’
Colin scowled. ‘That’s an investigating officer’s job. Any data they want us to look at will be sent here. No need to go gallivanting off. I’m late going off shift thanks to your wandering.’ He hauled himself out of his seat.’
James apologised and squashed himself against the wall so that Colin could pass him on his way out. Technically DC Colin Green was his senior officer in the CPUEES, not that Colin usually exerted his authority. He sat down in the vacated chair still warm from Colin’s buttocks. He logged himself into the computer and accessed the files accumulating for the case of the murder of Avril Robinson.
Baz paused her key tapping. ‘What’s up Jim?’
‘Er?’ James replied as he found the link to the data on Tina’s van.
‘Why did you dash off like that? Colin’s right, any info will land up here as quick as a pizza delivery.’
James tried to think of a reason that would be convincing. Perhaps the truth, if not the whole truth, would be required.
‘I thought I recognised the description of the van.’
‘Oh, where from?’
‘Someone I know said a friend of theirs had one like it.’
‘Oh.’
James thought that Baz didn’t sound convinced.
‘Was it?’ she asked.
‘What?’ he said trying to look as though he was concentrating on the screen.
‘The friend of your friend’s van?’
‘Um, yes, I think so. Must have got nicked by kids who dumped it and set it on fire.’
‘Perhaps, but Crowley is putting a lot of resources into it. It’s pretty close to where the girl was found and it’s the only clue that’s turned up so far, other than her phone.’
‘Yes, I guess so.’ The DVLA record of the van had appeared on James’ screen along with data on Terry North. He’d picked up a few points on his driving licence but didn’t have any other criminal record.
‘I’ve got a message to look for the movements of the van on CCTV,’ Baz said. ‘Can you help, Jim.’
‘OK.’

By the end of his shift, James was getting worried. They had not found any footage showing Terry’s van, but they had been provided with Terry’s mobile phone number. Emma North had been interviewed by police officers and had provided information about Terry, including the address he was supposed to be living at. James had read the reports as they came in. Emma hadn’t mentioned Terry’s crossdressing, but officers had paid a visit to the shared house and talked to the Romanians. DI Crowley’s team now knew that Terry had been missing for a couple of days. The search was on.
James was feeling despondent when he reached home. He found Angela curled up on their saggy sofa watching TV. They greeted each other, kissed and then Angela asked him about his day.
‘There’s still no sign of Tina?’ Angela asked when he had finished.
‘No, but Crowley is getting excited by the thought that he’s on the trail of Avril Robinson’s killer.’
‘He thinks Terry/Tina did it?’
‘Maybe. Terry’s a “person of interest”.’
‘Do you think he did it?’
James wasn’t sure of his answer. ‘I can’t believe that Tina would do that to a young girl, but sometimes people you know are capable of things you find incredible.’
Angela frowned. ‘Does it matter that you’ve met Tina? You don’t know Terry.’
James shrugged and shook his head. ‘If Crowley finds out that there’s a link between me and Terry because we met at Butterflies, I’m not sure what will happen. If it gets out that I’m Jasmine, well . . .’ Being exposed as a cross-dresser was James’ biggest dread. It came above his fear of knives.
‘But meeting Tina at Butterflies has got nothing to do with the murder of this girl,’ Angela said trying to soothe him.
‘At this stage of an investigation, any bit of information could be important. That’s what detectives do, they collect every possible fact they can and then work out which are relevant. They found Tina’s clothes at that dump of a place Terry was living at. Crowley will be wondering what they mean, and I bet he’ll jump to the same conclusion as Emma North’s friend – transvestite equals paedophile.’
‘Really? Are you sure?’
James felt sick. ‘You know what little most people know about being trans. With a murdered child on his mind, Crowley is going to see those princess dresses of Tina’s and the lights are going to start flashing.’
‘Suppose you’re right,’ Angela hugged him close to her.
‘There’s another thing,’ James said, ‘The Romanians may have told the officers that Sam and I were looking for Tina. Crowley will wonder who we are and why we were looking for Tina.’
‘Did you tell the Romanians who you were?’
‘No, but the woman, Christina, knew that we were trans like Tina.’
‘There’s no way DI Crowley can link Jasmine to you then,’ Angela said.
‘I hope not,’ James said, not totally convinced.

He was at the station early the following morning. Colin arrived to find James waiting to get started.
‘You’re keen this morning,’ Colin mumbled. He sat down at his screen and pulled a chocolate bar from his pocket.
‘This case is important,’ James said, sitting beside him
‘You mean the Robinson murder. It’s just one case. There’s lots of others.’ He chewed while his computer was booting up
‘Yes, but you know what I mean.’
‘Well, at least it’s getting somewhere. Look we’ve got the phone record for this Terrence North guy.’
A knot of apprehension formed in James’ stomach. He looked at his own screen. Yes, there they were – a list of all the calls made on Terry’s mobile.
‘I’ll go through them,’ James said.
‘Okay,’ Collin agreed, ‘I’ll see what other evidence has come in.’
James searched through the phone data. The first thing he noticed was that Terry/Tina had not answered or made any calls since Saturday afternoon. There were several callers including a number that James recognised as being Samantha’s. He bit his lip. That was one step closer to linking him with Tina.
James soon had a list of the people who had tried to contact Terry since Saturday. Apart from Samantha, there was his wife Emma and someone who Terry was supposed to be doing some work for. He could find no calls that related to Avril Robinson or her family. That didn’t mean much, James reflected. They already knew that the calls the girl had made had been to a pay-as-you-go number. If Terry was the paedophile he wouldn’t have used his usual phone to groom the kid.
It was late morning when Colin let out a grunt.
‘What’s that?’ James said.
‘Forensics have got a match for the blood found in that van,’ Colin said.
James’ heart raced. ‘Who for?’
‘The dead girl, Avril Robinson.’
A wave of cold passed through James body. ‘Are they sure?’
‘As good as. Not a DNA match yet. That’s on its way. But still, it looks like the girl was in the van anyway, doesn’t it?’
‘I suppose so.’ Now the hunt for Terry would intensify, James thought, and Crowley would be wanting to speak to anyone who had any contact with him. He’d be sending someone to speak to Samantha. He pushed his chair back and stood up.
‘Just got to go to the loo,’ he said and hurried out of the room. He walked out of the rear entrance of the police station and took his phone from his pocket. He dialled Samantha’s number. It rang for a while.
‘Don’t go to voicemail,’ he muttered. At last, just when he’d almost given up hope, his call was answered.
‘Hi, Jasmine. What’s up. News about Tina?’
‘Samantha. Look, the police are looking for Tina. They’ve got your phone number so someone will be wanting to speak to you.’
‘Oh, why?’
‘Because you’ve tried to contact her.’
‘Right. OK. Why are the police looking? Do they think something has happened to her?’
James knew he shouldn’t give away facts to do with the case. ‘Yes, and if they find out you’re trans they may guess that you were one of the pair who called on the Romanians.’
‘They know about us?’
‘They know a pair of trannies visited the house where Tina was living. They don’t know it was you and me. Look, they mustn’t find out that I’m Jasmine.’
There was a brief silence. ‘Oh, I get it. You don’t want your mates in the police to find out you’re trans too.’
‘That’s right.’
‘OK. If they ask I’ll say I only know you as Jasmine. That’s the truth actually.’
‘Thanks. Look, I’ve got to go. Good luck.’ He ended the call.
He wasn’t sure how interested Crowley and his team would be in Jasmine, but he reckoned the only way to ensure that he and Jasmine weren’t linked was to be the first to track down Terry or find the kidnapper of Avril who had used the van. Surely they weren’t the same person.

…………………………………to be continued

Jasmine explains

There’s been a chorus of pots calling out kettles this week. I’m referring to the scandal of the Oxfam aid workers exploiting local sex-workers in Haiti and elsewhere. It is disgusting that a small number of employees of the charity take advantage of vulnerable women (is it just women?) but the threats by government minsters to cut the charity’s grant from the foreign aid budget smacks of hypocrisy and opportunism on the part of those Tories who want to see foreign aid reduced. It is stupid to penalise the work of the charity because of the actions of a small number of people and the failure of the management to deal with them satisfactorily.

We have seen, not just in recent months, that sexual predators find opportunities in lots of professions and places of work, including the House of Commons.  No organisation should be complacent and the old methods of allowing, in particular, senior staff to resign and move on to other lucrative posts when their odious behaviour is found out, must stop. Sexist, misogynistic and sexually exploitive behaviour must be eliminated from all areas of society and men must learn to treat women (and other genders) equally and with respect.

……………………………

trained by murder ver3And now for the good news.  The publication of  Trained By Murder: A Jasmine Frame Collection is approaching and the cover by Scott Wood is now revealed.  The collection is made up four longish short stories set in 2004-2006 so still some years before the events of Painted Ladies.  Here’s a trial blurb:”

“James Frame is embarking on a career in the police force and sharing a life after university with Angela Madison. Jasmine makes a large contribution to his identity but he/she is unsure if the future lies with James or Jasmine. In Reading, Ibiza, London and Abingdon James’/Jasmine’s dual life collides with incidents of life and death that develop her skills as a detective. She is trained by murder.”

Trained By Murder will be available on Kindle.

Back to the current prequel.  Pose has reached the fifth episode and Jasmine has to do some explaining.

Pose: Part 5

Jasmine stopped the car outside the small terraced house that Samantha had indicated. She reached for the handle of her door.
‘I’m not coming,’ Samantha said.
Jasmine looked at her companion who seemed to be trying to make herself as small as possible. ‘Why not?’
‘She doesn’t like me.’
Jasmine chuckled. ‘Are you surprised? She would see you as encouraging her husband. You’re the one to blame for Terry’s behaviour.’
Samantha shrugged. ‘Yeah, I know that. You go and speak to her if you want to.’
‘OK. I think we need to find out if she’s seen Tina recently. What’s her name?’
‘Emma,’
‘And their surname?’
‘North. Good luck.’
‘Thanks.’ Jasmine opened her car door and stepped out. She walked up to the front door, noting that the garden was tidy and the front of the house at least, appeared looked after. She pressed the doorbell. The door was opened by a young woman in jeans and t-shirt. She looked at Jasmine blankly.
‘Mrs North?’ Jasmine asked.
‘Yeah. What d’you want?’
‘I’m a friend of your husband, Mrs North.’
She looked suspicious. ‘How d’you know Terry?’
Jasmine didn’t want to deceive the woman. ‘I don’t know Terry. I know him as Tina.’
The young woman’s nose wrinkled in disgust but then she examined Jasmine more closely.
‘You’re a woman not one of them pervs.’
Jasmine sighed. It was a pleasure to be taken for a woman, but this was one occasion when she had to admit to what she was and perhaps alter Tina’s wife’s misconceptions.
‘I’m transgender, Mrs North.’
She pushed the door closed. ‘I don’t want nuffin to do with you lot.’. Jasmine placed the sole of her boot in the way.
‘Please, Mrs North. We’re concerned about Terry.’
The door pressed against Jasmine’s foot.
‘Whass that mean?’
‘He’s gone missing from his address.’
Emma North shrugged. ‘I ain’t bovvered. Get your foot out of my door.’
‘Look I know you didn’t like how Terry dressed when he was Tina. . .’
‘It was disgustin’.’
‘And Terry was wrong not to discuss it with you.’
‘Nuffin to talk about. He was wrong in the ‘ead.’
Jasmine nodded. ‘I know, but he was the father of your daughter. You were happy together once.’
‘Once,’ she snorted, ‘Until he went bonkers. Doin’ hisself up like a kiddy.’
‘I can understand that it upset you, Mrs North.’
Her eyes were examining Jasmine, perhaps seeing her properly.
‘You look like a normal woman not like what Terry did.’
‘That’s what I want to be, Mrs North, a normal woman. Tina wanted to be something different.’
‘A pee-do-file, that’s what he wanted to be.’
Jasmine was astonished. ‘What do you mean, he wanted to be a paedophile?’
‘That’s what my mate, Sharon said he was when I said that Terry wanted to be a little girl. She said that’s called being a pee-do.’
‘Um, no, Emma, that’s not what a paedophile is. For some reason Terry liked dressing up like a teenage girl, or perhaps younger. I don’t know why. I don’t understand him either. But that doesn’t make him a paedophile.’
The woman looked confused.
‘Can I come inside so we can talk about it?’ Jasmine said gently, hoping that Emma North would accept her. The pressure of the door on Jasmine’s foot lessened.
‘I’m not sure. My girl’s inside.’
‘I understand. You don’t want your daughter confused.’
The door opened wider. ‘She’s watching telly. Come in the kitchen. Keep quiet.’ She let Jasmine step into the hallway, closed the door then guided her into the small kitchen.
‘I’ll see she’s happy,’ Emma said leaving Jasmine standing by the cooker. She returned a few moment later smiling. ‘She’s glued to a cartoon.’
Jasmine smiled, ‘Kids like a good cartoon don’t they. How old is your daughter?’
‘Five, nearly six.’
‘Terry loves her, doesn’t he?’ Emma nodded. ‘You’ve never been worried about leaving Terry with her, have you?’
The mother appeared to think the question odd. ‘No. He used to be a good dad. Played with her lots.’
‘But you asked him to leave because of his dressing.’
Her expression changed to anger. ‘I didn’t want Lucy seeing him looking weird.’
Jasmine nodded, ‘I understand. But that doesn’t make Terry a paedophile.’
‘No?’
‘A paedophile abuses children; touches them inappropriately, sexually; hurts them. Terry never did anything like that did he?’
Emma’s eyes widened in a look of horror. ‘No. I’d ‘ave killed him if he hurt my little girl.’
Jasmine said very slowly, ‘Right. Terry is a transvestite not a paedophile.’
Emma nodded slowly.
‘Now,’ Jasmine went on, ‘Did you tell anyone else that you thought Terry was a paedophile.’
The woman shook her head.
‘Did you tell Sharon where Terry was living?’
Emma nodded. ‘Yeah. I told her I didn’t like him bein’ so close. One day I saw him out in his gear. He looked a right wanker.’
Jasmine bit her lip. ‘You haven’t seen or heard from Terry in the last couple of days?’
Emma shook her head. She had turned pale. ‘Nuffin’s happened to him has it?’
‘I don’t know Emma,’ Jasmine tried to speak as neutrally as possible, ‘He hasn’t been seen since Friday evening after a group of people went to the house where he lives, shouted and threw a stone at his window.’
‘Eh?’
‘They called Terry a “Paedo”. They thought he’d abused your daughter and should be punished for it.’
‘Oh god!’
‘Perhaps Terry has just decided to go away from here. Somewhere where he’s safe. Has he got family somewhere?’
Emma shrugged. ‘They live up north but he never goes there. He fell out wiv ‘is Dad years ago.’
‘Is there anywhere else he might have gone?’
She shook her head.
‘Where does Sharon live?’
Emma pointed to the back of the house. ‘The street behind ‘ere. Number twelve. Why do you want to know?’
‘Someone told the people who attacked Terry’s digs where he was living and that he was thought to be a paedophile. Unless you can think of anyone else you talked to about it, it must have been Sharon.’
Emma looked thoughtful. ‘I ‘spect she told her bloke.’
‘Who’s that.’
‘Jed. He’s lived wiv ‘er for a couple of years. I dunno what Sharon sees in ‘im. He gets moods on ‘im.’
Jasmine had an impression of the man which she didn’t want to explore with Emma.
‘Ok, well thank you Mrs North. I’ll be off now. Thanks for speaking to me.’ Jasmine began to walk back to the front door.
Emma North followed her. ‘Look. If you find Terry, tell ‘im he’s not seeing Lucy unless he’s dressed proper.’
Jasmine smiled at her. ‘OK. I hope we find him.’ She let herself out of the door and hurried back to the car.
Samantha spoke as she got in. ‘She let you in then.’
‘Yes. We had a chat.’
‘What did she tell you?’
‘Her friend Sharon told her that Terry must be a paedophile because he likes dressing like a girl. Seems they didn’t understand what the word really means.’
‘So this friend started the rumour?’
‘It was her or her boyfriend.’
‘Did Emma have any idea where Tina’s gone?’
Jasmine shook her head. ‘No. She thought it was unlikely that he’s gone home and didn’t have any other suggestions.’
Samantha frowned. ‘If Tina’s frightened about staying in that house with the Romanians she could be sleeping rough.’
‘The nights are getting a bit chill for that. What does Terry do for a living? Perhaps he’s hanging around where he works.’
‘He’s a handyman; a bit of this a bit of that. He works all over the town. Gets round in a van.’
‘Would you recognise it?’
‘Yeah, Tina gave me a lift a few times. It’s an old LDV, red.’
Jasmine turned the key in the ignition. ‘Well, let’s have a drive round and see if we can find it. I think he’ll try to stay as close to home as possible to be near his daughter.’ She drove slowly down the street.

…………………….to be continued.