Jasmine shivers

WP_20170616_16_16_42_ProIt’s strange that during the hottest June days for forty years I have been writing about Jasmine shivering with cold (see below). But at least I have been writing. It’s been lovely to have a week when I can get on with the business of authoring.  Apart from the second part of Viewpoint that follows, it is has included completing the final (?) edit and extra bits for Cold Fire, the fourth September Weekes novel out soon, and starting to plan a promotional push.  I may even get further with Jasmine’s fourth novel, Molly’s Boudoir.

I’ve signed up for the UK Indie Lit Fest in  Bradford  https://www.ukindielitfest.com/  on 26th Aug.  It promises to be a huge gathering of independent authors, and I hope general public looking to buy books.  That follows the smaller, but closer, Llanidloes Tattoo Festival  (yes, tattoos and books!) on 8th/9th July.  Looking forward to both but if you run a lit fest or any other fest for that matter and want a speaker, someone to complete a discussion panel, or simply to run a book stall, then get in touch (paintedladiesnovel@btinternet.com) – I’m up for it.

That’s enough of the self-promotion, let’s get on with the story.  Viewpoint is the latest novella that is a prequel to Painted Ladies, the first Jasmine Frame novel.  It’ll also be the last chronologically as it takes place just a few months before Painted Ladies starts.

Viewpoint: Part 2

She stamped her feet, wrapped her arms around herself and tried jogging on the spot but nothing could stop the shivering. Her legs felt as if they had bags of sand tied to them and her feet didn’t belong to her. While the cold numbed her mind, Jasmine’s eyes were filled with the pale shape of the body lying on the towpath. Through the veil of drizzle and her blurred vision some details registered on her consciousness. The body was naked and the person, she had to remember that this lifeless object had been a person, was female. Something didn’t seem right though, and then it penetrated to her – the chest was flat.
Jasmine leant down, almost stumbling over the corpse as the shivering affected her balance. There were scars that suggested breasts had been removed. Short black hair framed a face marred by bruises and grazes.
She overcame the urge to rest down beside the body and pushed herself upright. The wail of a siren came from across the canal and, shortly after, a blue flashing light appeared through the rain and stopped just short of the opposite bank. A uniformed figure ran across the hump-backed bridge over the channel and approached.
‘Did you report a body in the canal near here?’ The police officer called when he saw her. He negotiated the approach to the bridge and came along the towpath towards her. Jasmine pointed a shaking hand at the corpse. The PC halted, looked down and then up at Jasmine.
‘God!’ he said, ‘Are you alright?’
‘C..c..cold,’ Jasmine mumbled.
‘Shit! You’re soaked. Did you go in the canal?’
Jasmine nodded, unable to speak. The PC bent down to look at the corpse. He shook his head and stood up.
‘Can’t do anything for them. Let’s get you to the car.’ The officer put his arm around her and supported her. They staggered towards the bridge and went over to where the police car waited with its light still flashing and driver speaking into his phone. He looked through the rain spattered windscreen, and seeing them approach, opened his door.
‘Is this the casualty?’ the driver asked.
‘No, there’s a body on the bank. I think this is who reported it. She may be suffering hypothermia.’
‘Get her in the back. I’ll get the blanket from the boot.’
The PC opened the rear door of the Vauxhall Astra and eased Jasmine in. The other officer came up with a silver blanket which he unfolded and passed into the car to Jasmine. With shaking hands, she wrapped it around herself.
The officer who had escorted Jasmine rummaged in the boot.
‘I’ll set up the tapes. We have to make the site secure and stop other walkers bumbling into it. Although who else would be out on a morning like this I don’t know. You stay and watch her. See if she can tell us what happened.’ He ran off, back over the bridge.
The partner resumed his position in the driving seat, started the engine again and turned the heating control. He twisted in his seat to look at Jasmine.
‘How are you feeling?’
Jasmine was grateful to be out of the cold but she was still shivering and her limbs felt dead. ‘B..better,’ she managed.
‘I’d better call a paramedic to see you.’ The PC reached for his phone again and put in the call to the control centre. The car’s fan was blowing hot air over Jasmine and she managed to clamp her jaw so that her teeth didn’t chatter.
The policeman twisted round to face her again. ‘Was it you who reported the incident?’
Jasmine nodded.
‘Do you know the, er, victim?’
Jasmine shook her head.
‘They were in the water, were they?’
Jasmine nodded again.
‘And you went in and dragged them out?
Another nod.
‘Dead?’
And another.
Jasmine found she could take a deep breath rather than the snatched gasps which her uncontrolled shaking had allowed, but her limbs and body still trembled. The officer looked over her out through the rear window at something, and reacted by turning around and opening his door.
‘At last, the plainclothes guys show up.’ He got out. ‘Stay there. I’ll check on you in a mo.’ He closed the door, leaving Jasmine gratefully enjoying the growing fug of hot air in the car. She sat with her eyes closed, grimacing as the feeling returned to her fingers and toes with agonising prickling. There was a tap on the window beside her. She saw a familiar face through the pattern of running raindrops. She wound the window down a little.
‘Tom!’
DC Tom Shepherd peered through the gap.
‘Jasmine? What are you doing here? It wasn’t you that found the body was it?’
‘Yes, it was me.’
‘What were you doing here?’
‘I was out for a run.’
‘In this weather? The officer says you’ve got hypothermia.’
‘Rain doesn’t bother me when I’m running. I didn’t expect to be wading in the canal or standing around.’
‘How do you feel?’
‘Getting warmer.’
‘Good. Look stay there. I’d better go and check on this body you found and make sure they’ve got it cordoned off.’
‘Are you on your own?’
‘No, Derek’s in the car, reporting in. I’ll get him to come and join you and find out what happened.’
Jasmine nodded and Tom’s head moved away. She wound the window up and breathed deeply. She was relieved that it was DC Derek Kingston on duty with her friend and former partner. Kingston accepted her as a woman which wasn’t too surprising since as a young black officer he had no doubt experienced some prejudice himself. She was relieved it wasn’t the cynical older DC, Terry Hopkins, and especially not her nemesis, DS Denise Palmerston.
A few moments later the front passenger door opened and DC Kingston, dressed in a thick anorak, got in. He twisted to speak to Jasmine.
‘Hi, Jas. Tom says we’ve you to thank for this call out. What happened?’
Jasmine explained how she had noticed the body in the water and had gone in to check it wasn’t alive.
‘I’m not surprised you’re suffering from hypothermia. It’s bloody freezing.’
Jasmine shook her head. ‘I don’t think I’m that bad.’
‘No? Well, I think that’s the paramedic turning up. They’ll check you over.’
Jasmine noticed another flashing light reflecting off surfaces inside the police car. Kingston opened the door.
‘I’ll send him to you. Speak to you again soon.’ He got out.
A few moments later the paramedic, a her not a him, opened the door beside Jasmine and peered in. She asked Jasmine questions, did a few simple tests, and pronounced her fit.
‘But stay in the warm and get out of those wet clothes, a.s.a.p.’ She withdrew and closed the door. Once again, she was left alone for a few minutes until the driver of the police car returned.
‘I’ve been told to take you home so you can get dry,’ he said buckling himself in, ‘That’s if I can get us out of this congestion.’ Jasmine gave her thanks and tugged a seatbelt round herself.
With repeated backwards and forwards movements, the police car turned and manoeuvred around DC Shepherd’s car and they set off along a straight, rough track along the edge of a field. Jasmine estimated that it was about half a mile before they came to a cluster of buildings and a metalled road. The police officer turned left, picked up speed and soon they were in the outskirts of Kintbridge. The morning rush hour traffic delayed their passage through the town but soon they pulled up in the carpark outside Jasmine’s flat. The driver got out and opened Jasmine’s door.
‘I’ll see you in, make sure you’re okay,’ he said. Jasmine was reluctant to leave the growing warmth of the police car but realised she couldn’t stay put. She stepped onto the tarmac and pulled the foil blanket round her tighter. She hurried to her door, fumbling in her bumbag for her keys, her hands already starting to shake again.
‘Here let me help,’ The PC said from beside her. He took the key from Jasmine’s hand and inserted it in the door lock. He pushed the door open. ‘There you go.’ He followed Jasmine into the small, dismal flat. ‘Hey, it’s not very warm in here. Haven’t you got the heating on.’
‘I don’t usually have it too warm,’ Jasmine said, her voice beginning to wobble. She didn’t add that it wasn’t her preference but a means of saving money.
‘Well, I think you need it a bit warmer now. Where’s the controls?’
Jasmine nodded to the electric fire. The PC bent down and switched it on; all three bars. He stood up, turned and faced Jasmine.
‘There, I hope that’ll warm you up soon. DC Shepherd said you worked together.’
Not any longer, Jasmine thought.
‘I thought I recognised you,’ The officer went on. ‘Aren’t you the DC who’s having a sex change?’
Jasmine sighed. Why couldn’t she just be recognised for who she was and not her gender history. Who else would be asked such personal questions so early or even at all in a conversation.
Jasmine nodded. ‘That’s right. Look I need to get these clothes off.’ She let the foil sheet fall from her shoulders and started to unzip her running jacket. Waterproof it may have been but that didn’t allow for wading into canals.
The officer’s face showed horrified anticipation. He backed towards the door.
‘That’s right. Look, I’ll let you get on. I’m sure one of the detectives will look in on you soon. I’d better be getting back.’ He let himself out closing the door behind him. Jasmine let out an audible sigh, stepped closer to the electric fire and started to strip off her wet running clothes.

…………………to be continued

Jasmine goes to a festival

I am not going to write a political comment this week, not here anyway. Instead I want to tell you about the Leominster Festival. Now I know readers of this blog come from all around the world and have no interest in where Leominster is and what’s happening in its annual Festival.  That’s as it should be – this blog is about my writings and not about where I live. Nevertheless I would like to urge anyone who lives close enough to come and have a look at this lovely pace and join in our yearly extravaganza – in particular come and join in our literary events.

The Leominster Festival is a much smaller affair than well-known Festivals like Edinburgh Fringe, Hay, or Glastonbury but it has a bit of the flavour of each.  There is music, there are a variety of theatrical events and there is literature. The last is where I have an interest.

We run a writing competition. This year the theme was “Paint the town – with words” as the theme of the whole Festival is “Paint the town”. We don’t have huge prizes but we do have some vary nice certificates for all the shortlisted entrants courtesy of our sponsors, Orphans’ Press (there’s a story there). The entry isn’t large, which is good as there are just three of us doing the judging, and mostly comes from our primary school. We have an Awards Ceremony which I compere.  I am always delighted to find that the children on the shortlist have a wide variety of backgrounds and characters – and as many boys as girls are winners. We have a guest of honour to hand out the certificates. This year it is Anne O’Brien. She is a local author who writes historical fiction based on the lives of the formidable women who were daughters or wives of medieval kings. There are a number of writers that occupy the same genre but Anne is successful – a top ten best selling author no less. We have a short break after the ceremony and then Anne will give her talk – that’s a ticketed event.

On Saturday 10th June we will be holding our Bookfair which this year is part of the Family Funday.  As well as bouncing on the bouncy castle and eating ice creams and watching the various entertainers and the dog show, children can come to our tent and be enthralled by storytelling. Meanwhile, the parents and older children can browse the books by local authors that will be on display and for sale. The authors will be on hand to chat about their work and there will also be discussions on topics such as fantasy fiction, short stories and romance, and writing memoirs.

The Bookfair is an opportunity to sell.  All my books will be on sale and I hope, that just for once, people come with some cash in their pockets.

Bookfair poster

From what I’ve just described, perhaps you can understand why I haven’t done much writing recently. For a couple more weeks I am raiding my box (well, computer file, actually) of discarded stories, but then I will get down to writing: a new Jasmine novella in which she finally resigns from the police force (that’s not really a spoiler because that is where Painted Ladies, the first Jasmine Frame novel, starts), Molly’s Boudoir – the 4th jf novel, and a new project (I do like to have a few things on the go.)  Here, then is this week’s stopgap.  This is a short, light-hearted piece. I can’t remember precisely when I wrote it but it was a task for one of my writing groups. The assignment was to write a short piece for radio.

5 minute theatre –  Mission to Mars

[ theme music]
Presenter:  Welcome to this special edition of the Universe Tonight when we are going live to the USA for an interview with Professor Zarkov of NASA who is leading the team directing the Mars rover Curiouser and Curiouser. Good evening Professor.
Prof.Z (East European accent):  Good afternoon.
Presenter:  Thank you for joining us Professor.  I gather this is a busy time for you.
Prof. Z:  It is.  As you know the rover is currently traversing the Wells crater which has provided us with some interesting results.
Presenter:  What results are those Professor
Prof. Z:  Well, initially we noticed that the floor of the crater is completely flat and only covered with dust.
Presenter: That is unusual?
Prof. Z: Definitely.  Nowhere is completely flat and Martian landscapes usually have rocks and boulders in them.
Presenter:  So what does it mean?
Prof.Z:  We are about to find out.  Curiouser is using its moveable arm to drill into the surface.  We have a sound and vision feed from the rover.  Of course with the time delay we are hearing what happened about fifteen minutes ago.
[sound of metallic screeching]
Presenter:  That’s not a very nice sound, Professor.
Prof.Z:  It is a most unexpected noise.
Presenter:  Why?
Prof.Z:  Because it reveals the surface of the crater is not made of Martian rock at all.
Presenter:  What is it made of then?
Prof.Z: It seems to be…I can’t believe it… the spectroscopic instruments are saying that beneath the dust the surface is a mixture of iron, nickel, chromium.
Presenter: Those are metals.
Prof.Z:  Yes.  It’s stainless steel.
Presenter:  Does that occur naturally.
Prof.Z (getting  heated) : No of course not.  Are you stupid?
Presenter (flustered):  I’m sorry Professor Zarkov.  What is your opinion on this discovery?
Prof.Z:  Well, obviously it shows … good lord.
[Deep sounds of a tray being scraped across a floor]
 Curiouser’s position is changing.
Presenter:  You mean the rover is moving?
Prof.Z:  No, the floor of the crater is moving and carrying the rover with it.  I think I can see… (speaks away from microphone) yes, tell it to move the camera.  Yes, damn it I know it will take half an hour.  The floor of the crater seems to be, um, opening.
Presenter:  You mean the floor is hollow.
Prof.Z : Apparently.  A section some twenty metres in diameter has opened up.  I can just see down inside.  It’s dark but I think something is moving.
Presenter:  You mean there is something alive under the crater.
Prof.Z:  I didn’t say it was alive, you fool.  I just said it was moving.  Hold on. It’s climbing out of the hole.
[sounds of feet shuffling through sand together with other rustling, slurping noises]
Presenter:  This is remarkable Professor.  What is happening?
Prof.Z:  I don’t know.  It’s gone out of the field of view. The Rover is pointing its camera in the wrong direction.  Oh, it’s coming into sight.  Urgh!  It’s disgusting.
Presenter:  What does it look like?
Prof.Z:  It is difficult to describe.  Sort of crab-like, with an insect-like head and octopus-like tentacles.  It’s huge.  Purple goo is dripping from its legs and abdomen and orange smoke is rising from its carapace.  Oh, no, it’s tentacles are reaching towards the rover.  It’s lifting the rover up holding it close to its head.  Those must be eyes
[ booming noise which rises and falls in pitch]
Presenter:  What’s that noise, Professor?
Prof.Z:  It’s coming from the creature.  I think it may be speaking.
[The sound changes to a garbled voice which quickly resolves into English.
Creature:  This planet is an area of special scientific interest.  Fly-tipping is not allowed.  This material will be disposed of sustainably and a fine imposed on the owners.  Our bailiff is empowered to confiscate goods to the value of the fine plus expenses.
[noise of metal being compressed]
Prof.Z: It’s damaging Curiouser.
Presenter: Can’t you stop it? Tell the creature to leave it alone
Prof.Z: Of course not.  The rover wasn’t built to make conversation.  Good heavens, what’s happening now.
Presenter:  What Professor?
Prof.Z:   Something is rising from the crater.  It’s like a rocket except there aren’t any exhaust gases.  It’s rising into the sky. Oh. The camera feed has gone.  Curiouser and Curiouser has been destroyed.
Presenter:  This rocket-thing, Professor.  Where is it going?
Prof.Z:  You heard the creature.  They want to collect the fine.  The Martians are coming here.
[theme music]
The End.
…………………………..

Jasmine feels her guilt

Well, we’re a week into the new year and the sky hasn’t fallen yet. However, Brexit hasn’t even begun yet and Trump isn’t President for a week or two, so it’s a bit soon to feel confident. Anyway, let’s ignore the world situation and concentrate on my plans.

First of all, you will find below, the final episode of Falloff. This has been the latest of eleven novella-length (some longer than others) prequel to Painted Ladies. As prequels, these stories are all set in the time before or during James Frame’s career as a police officer and his relationship with Angela. During this period he moves from being uncertain about his/her gender to starting his transition  to the woman Jasmine has become to believe herself to be. Falloff, incidentally is the first Jasmine Frame story I have written that takes place outside the UK.

Two of the novellas have been published (after considerable editing) as Discovering Jasmine and Murder In Doubt. I would love to publish the other nine, perhaps as separate e-books or packaged as an omnibus, but that will have to wait for the funds to appear.

There will soon be a third novel to purchase though. The Brides’ Club Murder is now in production  and will be out shortly. There’ll be more news very soon.

I have outline plots for two more Jasmine novels that will see her through the final (and most difficult) stages of her transition, but it will be a few years before I complete those. I will be writing more prequels as there are still time slots in James/Jasmine’s life to fit in a few more stories. However there may be a gap of a few weeks while I get on  with some other pressing work.

wp_20161228_15_25_50_proI have lived with Jasmine in my head for over fifteen years now and I have stated before that she is not me nor are her experiences mine. I think, that as a transgendered or gender-fluid person I have some idea of what a transsexual, such as Jasmine, feels while not necessarily sharing them. What I have learned over the last couple of decades is that the gender map is much more varied and complex than I or most people believe. Legal protection for all genders is a necessity.

Getting back to writing, I have another fantasy novel close to completion but whether it will be published is another unknown. I have various other small projects on the go and a desire to get down to an SF novel. Of course I will also be putting my thoughts on various matters that interest me, if no-one else, here That all means that 2017 is going to be a fascinating year – let’s hope we survive it.

 

Falloff: Part 10

She ran from the bedroom, heart pounding. She bounded down the stairs to the foyer and out onto the lawn beside the swimming pool. There, again, there was the body.  Gemma was lying face down, her legs twisted and her arms bent under her. Jasmine knelt by her side, leaned down and listened for breath. There was none. She felt for a pulse. There was none.
‘Ah, Seňor/Seňora Frame. Again, I find you beside the body of a young woman.’
Jasmine turned her head and saw the familiar pale beige trouser legs. She looked up to see Inspector Alvarez looking down at her. She opened her mouth to speak but nothing would come out.
‘I think we spoke earlier about a murderer returning to the site of his crime. I had not expected my words to prove to be so exact as this.’
Jasmine struggled to her feet and faced the policeman. ‘But I didn’t do this. I’m not the killer. She was.’ She pointed at the dead girl.
Alvarez nodded slowly. ‘Exactly. It was not you I was accusing, but maybe you can explain why you are once again the first on the scene.’ He examined her face, frowning, ‘and also, how you got that bruise on your face in the short time since we last spoke outside your room.’
Other people were arriving now, Angela and Carrie among them. A circle of onlookers formed around the body but no one approached closer than a couple of metres. It was obvious that nothing could be done for the girl.
Jasmine touched her tender cheek. ‘It was her, Gemma. She hit me before she jumped.’
Alvarez looked up. ‘She jumped from the balcony of the bedroom she shared with Seňorita Carrie?’
Jasmine nodded.
‘I presumed they were in their room,’ Alvarez said, ‘though they refused to answer my knock. I was about to return with a master key obtained from the manager. Did they open their door to you?’
‘No, I climbed over the balcony from our room,’ Jasmine said. Alvarez’s eyebrows rose, but he did not express any surprise.
‘Why did you do that?’
‘I could hear them having an argument or something.’
‘So you decided to intervene.’
‘Yes, I thought one of them was going to hurt the other.’
Alvarez frowned. ‘Just because they were arguing? Why did you leap to such a conclusion?’
‘Because I thought Carrie had killed Raquel.’
The inspector appeared confused. He looked down at the body, ‘But this is not Seňorita Carrie.’
‘No. I got it wrong.’
‘Hmm. Why did you suspect the other young woman?’
Jasmine sighed. She was at last going to have to reveal the piece of information she had withheld. She knew Alvarez was not going to be happy.
‘When I got to Raquel last night she wasn’t quite dead,’ she began, ‘She let out a breath which sounded a bit like she was trying to say a name.’
‘You didn’t tell me this earlier,’ Alvarez growled.
‘No, well, I wasn’t sure. It could just have been a sigh.’
‘What was it she might have said.’
‘I thought it sounded like “Car”.’
‘Car?’
‘When I discovered that her boyfriend, er, her ex-boyfriend, was called Carl, I thought it must have been him.’
‘You suspected that Seňor Carl killed Seňorita Raquel?’
‘Yes, but it couldn’t have been him as he was seen at the dance club.’
Alvarez nodded. ‘That is true. However, I don’t think you have finished the account of your investigation, Detective Frame.’ The sarcasm oozed from the policeman’s statement.  Jasmine felt embarrassed. Yes, of course she should have passed on what she had heard, or thought she heard.
‘I didn’t think any more of it until I learnt that one of Raquel’s girlfriends was called Caroline or Carrie.’
‘So you suspected her.’
‘Yes.’
‘When you crawled across the balcony, at considerable risk to your own safety, were your suspicions strengthened.’
‘No. I was surprised. It was Gemma abusing Carrie, not the other way around.’
‘Abusing?’
‘Gemma had Carrie on her knees and was pulling her hair. She was making her promise not say anything about Raquel.’
Alvarez nodded, ‘You intervened?’
Jasmine rattled out what had happened. ‘I pulled Gemma off Carrie. She fought like a hellcat but Carrie helped me. I thought we had Gemma calm after that but she broke free, lashed out at me and then leapt over the balcony.’  The words came to a shuddering halt as she surveyed the result of her intervention; the sprawled, lifeless body of the young woman on the grass.
‘Do you know the reason for these two deaths?’ Alvarez persisted.
‘It was my fault.’ It was Carrie’s sob-choked voice that answered.
Inspector Alvarez looked at her with sad eyes. ‘Ah, Seňorita. What do you have to tell us?’
Carrie stepped forward with Angela’s arms around her.  She glanced at the body then looked away but couldn’t raise her eyes to the policeman or Jasmine.
‘Raquel and I were lovers,’ she whispered.
Alvarez shrugged. ‘That may have displeased Seňor Carl, but why Seňorita Gemma?’
‘Because Gemma and I were also lovers.’
‘Ah, a love triangle of three young women,’ Alvarez said.
‘A love square with Carl as well,’ Jasmine added. Alvarez looked at her and shook his head.
‘I don’t think Seňor Carl had much say in what happened, eh, Seňorita?’
Carrie shook her head.
The Inspector took a deep breath. ‘I need to hear your story Seňorita but not here and not in front of this crowd.’
Jasmine looked around and was surprised to see how big the band of gawkers had got. Now though, uniformed police had arrived and Alvarez gave instructions for them to clear the onlookers and let the body be dealt with. He returned to take Carrie’s arm and started to lead her away. Over his shoulder, he addressed Jasmine.
‘I will be back to speak to you again in the morning. Whether you are Seňorita or Seňor Frame is up to you.’
It was another hot day with a cloudless blue sky, but James was in no hurry to leave the bedroom. He felt that hotel staff and guests would be looking at him, not so much because of his appearance as Jasmine the previous evening, but because of his involvement in the two deaths. Angela had gone down to the dining room and returned with breakfast croissants and fruit. Now they awaited the promised visit by Inspector Alvarez. They sat in the shade on their balcony.
There was a light tap on their door. Angela got up to open it and returned with the police officer. James noted that he wore the same suit and wondered whether the Inspector had managed to get out of it at all since their meeting in the night.  Angela offered him her seat on the balcony. Alvarez sat down and appeared to be grateful to have the rest. Angela went back into the bedroom.
‘Well, Seňor,’ Alvarez began, his voice betraying his fatigue, ‘we appear to have solved the two deaths. A murder and a suicide.’
James nodded. ‘That’s what I thought. But why?’
Alvarez shrugged. ‘I love women but I do not understand them, particularly young seňoritas and especially those who, ah, only love other seňoritas.’
‘Lesbian jealousy,’ Angela said, returning with a glass of iced water for the policeman. He took it, with a nod of gratitude and took a sip.
‘That is it,’ Alvarez said after a moment. ‘Seňoritas Raquel, Gemma and Carrie, were all lovers of each other with Gemma the dominant Seňora. When Carl appeared, Gemma’s control over Raquel was broken. Raquel was briefly in love with him but missed the tender caresses of Carrie. She, how do you say, “dumped” the boy and drew the girl into her arms, away from the manipulations of Gemma.’  He paused to take another cool drink before continuing. ‘The night before last, Raquel and Carrie returned early from the dancing. A short while later, after, I think, you had yourselves returned, Gemma came knocking. Raquel let her in. Gemma ordered Carrie to leave and then launched an assault on Raquel which ended with her fall from the balcony. She thought it would look like suicide but Raquel’s struggles to hold on damaged her fingertips and she also had Gemma’s skin under her finger nails.’
‘So you knew that Gemma was the killer,’ James said.
‘That information wasn’t given to me by our forensic officers until this morning.’
‘Too late,’ James said, shaking his head.
‘It may not have been too late if Seňorita Gemma’s bullying of Seňorita Carrie had not been exposed.’
James heard Alvarez’s words. Gradually understanding came.
‘You mean, if I hadn’t burst in on Gemma threatening Carrie, she wouldn’t have leapt off the balcony and you could have arrested her this morning.’
Alvarez nodded slowly, ‘Of course I may be wrong. Seňorita Carrie may have resisted Seňorita Gemma’s demands and violence may still have occurred, but. . .’ He shrugged.
James felt cold. His mouth sagged open. He was responsible for Gemma’s death.
Alvarez leaned towards him and placed a hand on his shoulder.
‘Do not be troubled, Police Officer Frame. The seňorita was unstable. She had, after all, killed Seňorita Raquel, who she had loved, or at least loved to dominate. As a detective, one learns that investigations can have unforeseen consequences.’
James stared at Alvarez. ‘But . . .’ he began but ran out of words. Alvarez held a finger to his lips.
‘No, Seňor. When you are a detective you will understand. Perhaps you will also learn that holidays with your delightful wife are not for investigating but for having fun, as Seňorita Jasmine perhaps.’
The End

 

 

 

 

 

Jasmine abroad

What is there to rant about this week? Quite a lot unfortunately, but I can’t bear to work myself into a tizz considering the agonies of the American election; the Brexit farce and the economy; war with Russia (yes, I think we are actually at war, although at the moment it is people outside Europe who are getting hurt); climate change and extinction (ours, perhaps).  I’ve been thinking about trying to be green while still living the life we want to live. That means personal transport.  Over three years ago we changed our car. I wanted one that was fuel-efficient and hence kept our carbon footprint as small as possible. Keeping within our limited budget was also, obviously, a priority. We went for a Ford Fiesta with the Econetic diesel engine. It has been super. On long journeys we have regularly achieved over 70 miles to the gallon (sorry about the old units but that’s still how I think in everyday life) and close to that on local journeys. She had plenty of power to get out of difficulties, would cruise all day (and did when we took her Germany and up to Scotland) and has been very reliable.

But, she’s a diesel. I have been dismayed by the reports over the last couple of years about the damaging emissions from diesels. Now, I know that it is old engines and commercial traffic that are the main culprits but even the diesels in small cars give out up to 10 times more NOx than petrol engines to say nothing about particulates. I feel a little bit duped that we were persuaded that diesels were the way forward. Obviously they are not.  If we lived in a big city then the answer would be public transport and belonging to a car share club giving us a choice of vehicles for whatever purpose we needed one. But living in a small town in a rural county that won’t work.  We need our own vehicle to get around locally, visit family and friends further afield, and for holidays. So what is it to be?  An electric car – too expensive and not enough range for the longer journeys; petrol hybrid – perhaps expensive to purchase; efficient petrol engine – are they good enough?

I’ll let you know later what we decide.

san-antonio

Now on to Jasmine Frame. This week I’m starting a new prequel story set in 2005, so some years before the timeframe of  the Painted Ladies and Bodies By Design novels, but after the two e-book published novellas Discovering Jasmine and Murder in Doubt. Here is the first episode of Falloff.  Let me know what you think.

Falloff: part 1

His lips brushed over the silky skin of her breast.  The softness, the curve, the smell of her, filled his mind. Angela lay motionless beneath him as he delighted in touching her body.
Her body stiffened. ‘What was that noise?’
James lifted his head. ‘What noise? My ears are still ringing from the club.’
‘So are mine, but I’m sure I heard something.’
James listened. There were the typical noises of holidaying young people who filled the Hotel Arena, the rumble of late night traffic, a distant siren, but nothing that drew his attention.
‘What did you hear?’
‘A cry and a bump.’
James pushed himself onto his knees. ‘A cry and a bump?’
‘Yes.’
‘Where?’
‘Just outside our window.’
James got off the bed and walked to the window. He pushed the thin curtain aside and stepped onto the balcony.
‘You’re naked, James.’
‘I know. It doesn’t matter. I’ll just have a quick look.’
A warm, gentle breeze caressed his skin. He looked out across the promenade with its rows of lights to San Antonio’s bay, dark but for the moonlight. He turned left and right. There was no one else on the adjacent balconies. He was about to turn back to Angela but he glanced down to the to the pool and lawn three floors below. Something pale lay on the grass. He saw arms and legs, a body. He froze, his hands gripping the rail.
‘Can you see anything?’
James sucked in air, turned away and ran back into the bedroom. In the semi-darkness, he searched for clothes. There was his dress, cast onto the floor when they returned from the club, along with his high-heeled sandals, bra and knickers, Angela’s clothes too. He scrabbled around on the chair found his bathing shorts, hopped as he pulled them up his legs.
‘What is it?’ Angela said, an anxious tone in her voice.
‘Someone. I think someone’s fallen.’  James ran from the room, down the corridor to the lift. Too impatient to wait, he pushed through the swing door to the stairs. He leapt down two, three steps at a time, till he reached the ground floor and ran across the foyer to the side doors that lead to the pool. He sprinted across the lawn till he came to the crumpled form of a girl.  She was naked but for a pair of the skimpiest knickers, her skin white, her long golden hair spread out like rays of sunshine. Her limbs made strange angles with her torso. Blood trickled from her mouth.
James knelt beside her and lowered his head to listen for breathing. There was the faintest puff of moist air on his cheek, then a whisper.
‘Car. . .’  Then no more.
Feet pounded on the ground behind him. James pushed himself up and looked around. The night manager was standing over him.
‘Qué ha pasado?’
James shrugged.
‘Quién es? Who?’
‘I don’t know her name. Ambulance, get an ambulance.’  The manager ran back towards the hotel. He passed Angela, wrapped in a beach robe running towards him. She stopped at his side and bent over the girl.
‘It’s the girl from next door,’ she said.
‘Yes, I thought so. She must have fallen. It’s three floors. I think she’s dead.’
Other people were emerging from the hotel, shouting and running towards them. They were night porters, bar staff and holidaymakers returning from the all-night clubs and bars. They saw an attraction and gathered around. Some pressed close to the girl, reaching down to move her.
James extended his arms to protect her. ‘No, don’t. Her back may be broken.’  The gawkers froze, eyes wide and staring, forming an impenetrable circle. James leaned down again but could detect no hint of breathing.
It was just a few minutes but felt like an eternity before sirens approached and then the growing crowd was pushed aside and men and women in uniforms were there. James found it difficult to take his eyes off the dead girl but someone took James’ arm and pulled him away.
‘Policía. Come please.’
James looked at the young man in the short-sleeved uniform of the Spanish police.
‘You know this girl?’ he asked.
James shook his head, ‘No, I mean I don’t know who she is but I think we were on the same package.’
‘Package?’
‘The same holiday. She was in the room next to us.’
‘Why you here?’
‘We, my wife heard her fall, I think. I looked over the balcony and saw her on the ground.’
‘Ah. What is your name?’  He took out a notepad and noted James’s and Angela’s names and room number.
James found himself standing next to Angela a little way from the activity around the body. The crowd had been urged back but still they looked on. The ambulance crew did not appear to be doing much. James presumed that his fears for the girl’s life were accurate.  Minute by minute more police officers arrived.
A man in a pale beige suit, with a cigarette hanging out of the corner of his mouth approached them. James thought he looked about forty with his lined face and small moustache.
The policeman removed the cigarette from his mouth. ‘Seňor Frame?’  James nodded.  ‘I am Inspector Alvarez. You discovered the body?’
James noted that he spoke English with little trace of accent. ‘Well yes, I was the first person here.’
‘You heard her fall, I’m told.’
Angela spoke, ‘I heard a cry and then a faint thud.’
Alvarez nodded. ‘That was all?’
‘I think so,’ Angela said, ‘I wasn’t listening. We were in bed.’
‘Ah, I see. In bed but not asleep. You, seňor, heard nothing?’
James shook his head. ‘I don’t think so. Nothing particular.’
‘But you got out of bed to have a look?’
‘That’s right.’
‘Did you see anyone apart from the body. Someone on the balcony perhaps?’
‘No. I didn’t see anyone anywhere except the girl on the ground.’
‘You knew it was the girl?’
‘No, I wasn’t even certain it was a person. I didn’t see who it was until I got down here.’
‘You recognised her?’
‘I recognised her as a girl I’d seen before but I don’t, er, didn’t know who she was.’
‘Where had you seen her before?’
‘At the airport, Luton; on the plane, on the bus from the airport to here. In the hotel oh, and at the club last night.’
‘Which club?’
‘El Danza.’
‘You saw her a lot, but you still don’t know who she was.’
‘We’re with the same tour operator I suppose. She was with a group of other people, Angela and I were separate. We’re on our honeymoon.
Alvarez smiled. ‘Ah, honeymoon on Ibiza. Very romantic. That’s why you are in bed but not asleep. So, you don’t know why this girl should be on the ground dead?’
James shook his head, ‘I suppose she fell.’
The detective nodded. ‘It looks like that. An accident perhaps. Too much alcohol, the girl unsteady on her pretty feet, tips over the balcony. Or perhaps she jumped.’
‘Suicide!’
Inspector Alvarez shrugged, ‘When these girls are on holiday, they are unsuccessful in love, full of emotion and drink so end their lives.’
James thought it was a rather abrupt conclusion to make.
‘You are here for a while, on your honeymoon Seňor and Seňora Frame?’
‘Just a week? We fly home next Sunday,’ James said.
‘I know where to find you. Perhaps I will have to speak to you again. Enjoy the rest of your stay on Ibiza.’  The police officer turned away from them and walked slowly back to where the body lay.
Angela took James’ hand. ‘Come on, let’s go back to our room. There’s nothing more you can do.’
‘I’m not sure I feel like sleep, or anything else,’ James said as they walked back to the hotel.
Angela tugged on his arm drawing him close to her. ‘I’d just like to feel your arms around me, holding me safe.’
…….to be continued.

Jasmine in clink

wp_20160919_09_48_13_proI was on holiday this week and for the first time I crossed the border – the Scottish border. There are plenty of remote spots in Scotland and we chose one of them – the Morvern peninsula, looking across the Sound of Mull. Apparently fewer than 300 people live on the peninsula which has an area of at least 400 square miles. That’s plenty of space to be alone with one’s thoughts. One thought or perhaps a set of them was what is it like to live in a community that means neighbours are  the people twenty miles away, the nearest town, Fort William, is fifty miles and there is probably more social life going on across the water on Mull. And yet, wifi in the cottage was good, newspapers appeared in the village shop by noon, the post was collected every morning, and the roads, though single track with passing places, were notably lacking in potholes unlike at home in Herefordshire. To conclude, a great place for a holiday, but not sure if I’d want to live there.

Relaxing means writing as far as I am  concerned, so despite the vacation, here’s the next episode of Perspective, the prequel to Painted Ladies.

Perspective: Part 8

The teenager looked out from under the hood of his sweat shirt. He stiffened but didn’t run.
‘You! Wha’ do you wan’?’
‘I want to talk, Nate. Find out what really happened on Friday night. How did Wizzer really get killed?’
Nate pushed himself away from the wall and leaned towards Jasmine.
‘This is ‘arrassment. I told that woman detective, that proper woman, wha’ ‘appened.’
‘Well, tell me again. How did Wizzer get knifed? Why did you run away, a tough street boy like you, Nate? Hero of how many muggings?’
‘I don’t have to. She said you were off the case. You’ve got no right to ask me questions. You’re a fake. A fake woman and a fake copper.’ He shoved Jasmine in the chest and ran off.
Jasmine was about run after him, to grab him and make him tell her the truth, but she didn’t know how to do that. Not when she didn’t have the authority of the police service behind her. She did follow him, at a walk, and saw him turn off the pavement and into one of the houses. Jasmine walked up to the house, stopped and looked at it. It was well-looked after, with freshly painted window frames and curtains at the windows. A face appeared at one of the bedroom windows, before moving away.
‘Got you,’ Jasmine whispered, ‘I know where you live now, Nate.’  She turned away and walked the streets back to where she had left her car.

Back in the flat she couldn’t settle. She wanted to be active, working on the case, any case, but could not think what she could do. There was only one solution when she felt like this. She changed into her running kit and set off on her accustomed route. Ten k or so, largely along the canal towpath, deserted at this time of year, usually calmed her down and answered the questions she had posed herself.
She felt as though she had come to some sort of a decision as she turned into the car park outside her block of flats. She was hot, sweaty and breathing a little faster than when she was at rest but felt good. The sight of a police car parked alongside an unmarked but familiar Ford Mondeo made her halt with her heart beating faster than it had throughout the run. She mounted the steps to her flat.
‘Hi, Tom. What brings you here?’
Tom Shepherd and the uniformed police officer turned away from her front door. Both examined her.
‘There you are, Jas.’ Tom said, his voice flatter than usual. ‘We were looking for you.’
‘Well, here I am; minding my own business; keeping myself fit.’
‘But you haven’t been, have you?’ Tom said
‘What? Keeping fit?’
A pained expression passed across Tom’s face. ‘Don’t be silly, Jas. You know what I mean. You’ve haven’t been minding your own business.’
‘Haven’t I?’ Jasmine tried to look innocent but she knew she wasn’t succeeding.
‘We’re here to arrest you for impersonating a police officer.’
‘I am a police officer.’
‘Not when you’re suspended, Jas.’ Tom nodded to his companion, ‘Arrest her.’
The uniformed police constable recited the familiar rights of the accused and the charge then reached for Jasmine’s arm. Jasmine shook him off.
‘This is her doing, isn’t it? Palmerston’s.’
The officer reached out again and took a firm grip on Jasmine’s left arm.
‘She had no choice, Jas. Mrs Gayle complained about you pestering her son.’
‘Pestering! I had a few words that’s all.’
‘And you just happened to be on the estate where Nate and his friend lived. Come on, Jas.’
Jasmine shook her arm but the grip on it was firm.
‘Alright, Tom. I understand, you’re just doing your job, but can I get changed into something more suitable before you lead me off to the cells.’
‘You know that’s not usual, Jas.’
‘It is necessary for me. Come on Tom. I’m not a criminal.’
Tom looked undecided. He looked at the constable who remained impassive then shrugged.
‘OK but be quick. Denise won’t like it if she thinks we’ve been soft on you. She was furious.’
The policeman released her arm and Jasmine fumbled her key out of the bag fastened around her waist. She inserted it in the door lock.
‘I’m sure she was,’ she said pushing the door open. ‘Come in. Make yourselves comfortable. Make a coffee if you like, Tom. You know where everything is.’
‘We haven’t got time for coffee,’ Tom said following her into the living room. ‘You’ve got five minutes no more.’
His tone of voice convinced Jasmine that while Tom didn’t like what he was doing she could not push their friendship much further. She ran into her bedroom tearing her running gear off. A minute under the shower, another minute drying, a couple of minutes dressing in a jumper and knee-length linen skirt (she knew that cells weren’t always comfortably warm) and a few more minutes doing her make-up.
She emerged into the living room. ‘There!’
Tom looked at his watch. ‘That was ten minutes not five. Come on.’ Jasmine followed him out of the flat not bothering to pick up her bag. It would have to be handed over in the police station. She locked the door and followed the police officers to the police car. Another uniformed officer was sitting in the driving seat. The rear passenger door was opened and Jasmine got in. They drove off with all three of them keeping their thoughts to themselves.

They entered the police station through the rear entrance into the custody suite. It was a strange experience seeing the familiar procedure from the point of view of the accused. She knew the custody sergeant, not well, but well enough to exchange greetings on normal occasions. Now he acted as if they had never met, going through all the questions and checks. In a short time she was shown into a cell and the door closed behind her. There was a heavy clunk of bolts locking into place.
Jasmine sat on the plastic shelf that performed the role of a bed without a mattress, pillow or blankets. The cell was bare and despite the warmth of the air felt chill. The hard surfaces made every sound reverberate; the same effect as singing in bathroom. Not that she felt like singing. She realised that this was probably the final straw for Sloane. If she didn’t get booted out of the Force then he wouldn’t keep her on his team but she wasn’t going to give Palmerston the satisfaction of having her formerly sacked. She had already decided what to do on her run and this incarceration just confirmed it for her. If she had the opportunity she would resign and set herself up as a private detective. There must be all sorts of cases for her to investigate around Kintbridge. She knew that most of them would involve a husband or wife who had lost the trust of their spouse but maybe there would be business partners who had suspicions about each other’s honesty. She knew it would be difficult to get started but surely she had the knowledge, the skills and the contacts to make it work. One thing troubled her – would her provisional status as a woman hold her back. No, she wouldn’t let it.
The sky,, glimpsed through the high window darkened but she passed the time planning her future, fantasising over the cases she might get. She was barely aware of how much time had gone by when the locks clunked and the door swung open. Tom stood by the door.
‘You can go, Jas,’ he said.
Jasmine stood up and smoothed her skirt down her thighs.
‘What do you mean, I can go? I haven’t been interviewed yet or written a statement.’
‘That doesn’t matter for now, Jas. Denise says the charge will be kept pending for a while.’
‘What on earth do you mean by that Tom? What’s Palmerston up to? If she wants to accuse me, she can get on with it.’
‘She doesn’t have time at the moment, Jas, so unless you want to stay here for the night you can go home.’
‘Why is she busy? What’s up Tom?’
Tom stepped inside the cell and whispered, ‘I shouldn’t be telling you this but we’ve got the drag queens.’
‘Really? That didn’t take long.’
Tom bent his head to talk conspiratorially. ‘Once we got the CCTV photos of them they were soon identified by other people who had been in the pub that were known to the landlord. Denise has arrested them on the charge if murder.’
‘So she thinks this pair of queens, on a night out, deliberately attacked and killed Wizzer.’
Tom shrugged. ‘That’s just about it.’
Jasmine stepped passed Tom. ‘Well, she’s wrong.’ She marched down the corridor to the custody desk.

……… to be continued.

 

Jasmine considers her future

wp_20160902_10_44_17_proNot a lot of writing done this week as there have been one or two distractions – two AGMs for a start. I have also been mulling over a few things which perhaps I’ll say and show more of in the near future.  I have decided to have a go at a few agents with The Brides’ Club Murder, having won an up to date copy of The Writers’ and Artists’ Yearbook in the NAWGfest draw. Who knows what might happen. I don’t want agents and publishers to write Jasmine Frame off as niche interest only. I hope her stories have mainstream appeal while exploring the trans community. With trans people and trans issues such a focus of interest for the media, and crime always a favourite, Jasmine surely has an appeal to publishers. It is just a question of making that first contact.

Anyway, in Perspective, Jasmine is clinging on to her interest in the murder investigation. Here is episode 7.

Perspective: Part 7

Jasmine stretched her arms and legs, slowly surfacing from the unconsciousness of sleep. She was too cosy to open her eyes. The soft duvet and sheets, the firm but comfortable mattress, the warm air, each conspired to keep her snuggled under the covers. It had been a relaxing night’s sleep. A vague thought surfaced that perhaps she should have a hangover after all the wine, that perhaps Angela wouldn’t want her sleeping on.
Angela! Her eyes snapped open and memory returned. She was in the spare bed in their old house, Angela’s house as it soon would be. This wasn’t right. She should be alone in her own flat. She started to push the covers back, realised that she was naked except for the knickers that kept her “appendage” out of sight.
There was a tap on the door. Jasmine hugged the duvet around her.
‘Jas? Are you awake? I’ve got you a cup of tea.’
Tea? She hadn’t had a cup of tea in bed since she had moved out. She cleared her throat then called, ‘Yeah, I’m awake. Come in.’
The door opened a fraction and Angela peered in. She’s checking if I’m covered, Jasmine thought. Angela pushed the door wide and set a mug down on the bedside table. She was fully dressed in a fawn, cowl-necked woollen dress. Jasmine thought she looked smart, work smart.
‘How are you feeling?’ Angela asked, her eyes showing concern.
‘Fine, yes, fine,’ Jasmine replied checking that her first impressions were correct.
‘You shouldn’t be, nor me, after all that wine we got through.’
‘Was it one bottle or two?’
‘The best part of two.’
Jasmine shook her head, ‘I haven’t drunk so much since I moved out.’
‘Well, I’m glad you’re not sitting in that flat knocking back the booze.’
‘No time for that.’ The real reason was that she spent as little time as possible in the dreary flat and was watching her spending too closely to go buying bottles of wine, or spirits.
Angela retreated to the door. ‘Look there’s no real rush. You can stay if you like, but I’m seeing a client at eleven, in Abingdon.’
‘A client? On a Sunday?’
‘A private job. I’m helping with his business accounts. A bit of extra expertise.’
Jasmine knew that Angela was an increasingly high-flying corporate accountant but she understood little about her work.
‘Oh, I see. What’s the time now?’
‘Nine-thirty.’
‘Nine-thirty!’ Jasmine couldn’t remember sleeping in so late. Certainly not since she and Angela ceased to share a bed. She started to twist her body in preparation for leaping out of bed, remembered that she was almost naked. She felt embarrassed about revealing her manly body even to someone who had explored every square centimetre of it. She froze. ‘I’d better get out of your way,’ she muttered.
‘As I said, there’s no rush. I can leave the spare key with you and you could lock up after I’ve gone.’
Jasmine shook her head. That sounded too much like the old days when they had both called this house home. ‘No, I’d better go.’
‘Well, you can use the bathroom. I’ll get you a dressing gown.’ Angela left but reappeared a few moments later. She tossed her own fluffy gown onto the bed then left again.
Jasmine pushed the covers back and put her feet on the floor. She reached for the dressing grown and held it to her face.  There was the hint of Angela’s perfume and more, the odour of a woman. Jasmine wrapped it around herself merging with it.
Standing in the shower, enjoying the comforts of plentiful hot water and a warm environment she reflected again on what she had given up. She knew that Angela wasn’t tempting her to return, as Angela had been her fiercest supporter of her transition while saddened at their break-up. Nevertheless, the home comforts were beguiling. Jasmine dried herself off and borrowed Angela’s razor to shave her face. It wasn’t too successful and she realised that she would have to redo the chore when she got back to her flat. Unplanned nights away were really not an option.  That point was reinforced when she came to dress. She had to put the frankly, rather tarty clothes she had worn the previous evening back on.  Neither did she have all her cosmetics with her. She called down to Angela and got her permission to use hers. When she was moderately satisfied with her appearance she remembered one final daily chore – her hormone tablets. At least she always carried them with her. She popped them down with the remaining drops of the tea.
Down in the kitchen there was orange juice, toast and marmalade and coffee awaiting her. Jasmine glanced at her watch. It was already ten o’clock.
‘It’s okay. You’ve got time to eat your breakfast if you want a lift,’ Angela said.
Jasmine didn’t want to walk the couple of miles back to her flat in the high-heeled boots. She gulped down the juice.
‘Yes, please. I won’t hold you up.’  She gobbled the toast and threw back the coffee which had had time to cool. ‘There,’ she announced, ‘I’m ready.’
Angela had already put on her coat and collected her handbag and briefcase. ‘Let’s go.’
Jasmine waved to the departing Angela and let herself into the cold, dingy flat. She put the heating on. She wasn’t going to freeze on this cold, November day. As she changed into more sensible clothes she reflected on the conversation she and Angela had while they had drained the almost two bottles of wine.  More of it was coming back to her.
First there were her complaints about her job: DS Palmerston’s antipathy, DCI Sloane’s discomfort in her presence, the side-lining in investigations, the monotonous office work.  Angela had advised sticking in there, seeing it through, things would improve but Jasmine had her doubts. A new idea had taken root; one she had never previously contemplated. Perhaps a career in the police force wasn’t for her now she had transitioned to become a woman, but investigating was in her nature. Was there an alternative, as a freelance detective. It seemed unlikely but held an appeal.
Then there was the case. Angela had seized on Jasmine’s mugging by Nate and Wizzer and Palmerston’s apparent exclusion of it in her analysis of the events that lead to Wizzer’s death. Angela questioned the motive of two drag queens attacking two mixed race youths on a cold, damp winter night. Angela’s comments reinforced Jasmine’s hunch. There was something wrong with Palmerston’s version of the affray.
She sat at her dining table and switched on her laptop. While it took its usual long minutes to boot up she considered what she could do. The first thing was to see what the local media thought of the incident.  She soon found reports by the local newspapers and radio stations and a clip from a regional TV report. It was taken outside a scruffy terraced house showing a handful of bunches of garage flowers and a woman being interviewed. She was pale, dark eyed, tearful and barely coherent. Jasmine gathered she was Wizzer’s mother grieving for her lost son. The camera panned back to show the street and Jasmine recognised and located it. Presumably Nate Gayle lived nearby. She had an idea.
Even in the old Fiesta it was just a couple of minutes’ drive to the sixties, former council estate. She drove slowly along the road in which Wizzer’s house stood. There was still a small police car parked outside and one or two more sad looking bouquets propped against the wall.  Jasmine drove around the corner and parked alongside a car of similar vintage to hers that lacked two of its wheels and had polythene instead of glass in the front passenger’s window. She got out, made sure the Fiesta was locked and began to walk. There were few people about on this damp Sunday morning and she wondered whether she would be successful.
She had traversed most of the streets on the small estate, most with houses more looked after than Wizzer’s, when her heart suddenly beat faster.  Slouched against the side wall of a row of garages was a familiar character. He didn’t look up or take any notice of her until she was a few feet away and his escape routes were limited.
She spoke in as friendly a voice as she could muster. ‘Hello again, Nate.’
………to be continued

Jasmine ejected

wp_20160902_10_44_30_proI had a lovely time last weekend at NAWGfest16. Warwick University was, as usual, a building site (will it ever stop growing?) but the bedrooms, the food  and the conference venues were all pretty satisfactory.  That is, except for the Rootes building where the meals, including the conference dinner, were held. It has just about the worst acoustics of any building I know. The noise from conversations builds up until you can barely hear the person next to you speaking.  But enough of grumbles. The best thing was winning  a trophy – yes, me; for writing. My entry in the Minitale competition was judeged “Best Tale”! Now, I know the other awards are for longer, more developed pieces and the winners probably deserve more congratulation, but the Minitale is a bit special as it is judged on the day of the awards and entries can be made up till 2:30 on the Saturday afternoon. Oh, and entries are made under a pseudonym (I won’t tell you mine in case I want to use it again, not that it was particularly original).  Writing a minitale is not a complete doddle as it has to be exactly 100 words long and needs to be a complete story, not just a scene. I don’t know how many were entered but it’s usually 30 or so and there were 4 in the shortlist. Here is my winning piece.

Foreign Aid

     The children pressed around him. “Tell us about when the aliens came, Grandad.”
     He sighed and settled in his old chair. Few were left that recalled the event.
    “Listen,” he said. “Their great spaceships landed across the world. The aliens spoke to every one of us. ‘Let us give you solutions to your problems,’ they said, ‘Food, energy, medicines, repair the climate; a better future for everyone.’ But the people replied, ‘We don’t want orange strangers among us. We want independence.’ The aliens departed not wanting to impose their assistance.”
     A small girl whispered. “Is that when the dying began?”

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There, you may not think much of it but I’m proud of my win.  I also won a prize in the draw as well so it was a profitable weekend.  The workshops and the talks were enlightening and the company very accepting and pleasant.
For those of you who might want to join us next year,  NAWG is the National Association of Writers’ Groups to which you can belong as a member of a participating writers’ group or as an individual, “associate”, member (which I am).  You can find out more at http://www.nawg.co.uk/

One thing I didn’t do at NAWGfest was resolve what to do with the 3rd Jasmine Frame novel. Trawling agents was one suggestion but many of the writers are into self-publishing (often with more marketing success than me) so that remains a popular and likely option. Anyway, for now, here is the next part of the prequel to Painted Ladies and Bodies By Design.

Perspective: Part 6

‘That pair probably weren’t my friends,’ Jasmine said, ‘but perhaps you could describe them.’
The look the barman gave Jasmine made her wonder if she’d aroused his suspicions. ‘How do you know you’d recognise your mates when they’re done up in drag?’
‘Well. . .’ she began trying to think of an explanation. At the edge of her vision she saw the entrance door open and a familiar figure enter. The woman strode to the bar brandishing a card holder.
‘I’d like to see the proprietor or the manager, please,’ DS Denise Palmerston said in a voice that demanded obedience.
The barman turned from Jasmine. ‘That’ll be me. Can I finish serving this customer first?’
Jasmine saw Palmerston glance at her, then take a long, second look.
‘Frame! What are you doing here?’
Jasmine pointed to the two glasses sitting on the bar as yet unpaid for. ‘Having a drink with Angela,’ she said.
The DS’s eyes narrowed and her complexion appeared pink even in the dim light in front of the bar.
‘I said, what are you doing here?
‘It’s an LGBT friendly establishment. I feel safe here.’ Jasmine tried the explanation knowing that she wasn’t going to fool Palmerston.
‘You know these premises are implicated in a serious crime. You are suspended, therefore you have no business in going near this or any other place connected to the incident.’
‘I was just . . .’
‘Get out now or I will arrest you for interfering in a police investigation.’ Palmerston ended on a high pitched shriek.
Angela appeared at Jasmine’s side.
‘What’s happening, Jas?’
‘DS Palmerston is insisting that we leave, Ange. I think we should be allowed to enjoy our drink together.’
‘I won’t give you another warning, DC Frame,’ Palmerston said, ‘If you ever want to work as a police officer again, you’d better do as I say, now.’
‘Come on, Jas,’ Angela took Jasmine’s arm and dragged her towards the door, ‘You don’t want any trouble.’
‘Hey, what about paying for these drinks,’ the barman called.
‘Speak to her,’ Jasmine nodded towards the Detective Sergeant as Angela pushed her through the swing door.
The cold air was a shock. Jasmine shivered and pulled on her jacket. A tall figure was standing by the entrance. He saw her at the same moment as she noticed him.
‘Jas! What are you doing here?’
‘Palmerston’s just asked me that, Tom.’
‘Well?’
‘I could say that Angela and I came for a drink to cheer me up after my suspension.’
‘But that wouldn’t be the full story would it?’
Jasmine shrugged, ‘Well, I did think I might find out something about the two queens who allegedly attacked Wizzer.’
‘The two drag queens that CCTV picked up walking down Dock Lane at one-oh-ten, last night.’
‘You went through the footage then.’ That should have been her job not that it was one that she wanted. ‘Why is Palmerston dishing out orders inside then?’
‘The picture quality is so poor there’s no chance of getting an identification. Palmerston thinks that as they almost certainly came from here, there may be CCTV from inside which is better. We need to find out who those guys were.’
Jasmine frowned. ‘Hopkins and Kingston were here earlier. Didn’t they ask for the CCTV discs?’
‘No, but it wasn’t till your friend Nate mentioned the two drag queens that we knew who we were looking for.’
‘So you’re accepting his story about him and Wizzer being attacked by two guys in high heels?’
‘Why not? He and the dead boy are the victims. Palmerston believes his statement.’
Angela tugged on Jasmine’s arm. ‘We’d better go otherwise you’ll get Tom into trouble.’  Jasmine allowed herself to pulled away.
‘I won’t let that woman push me out,’ Jasmine cried into the November drizzle.
‘Don’t annoy her then, Jas,’ Tom replied.
Angela and Jasmine returned to the car.
‘Well!’ Angela said, gripping the steering wheel, ‘that was a pleasant chat, not. Where now, ace detective? Any other crime scenes to drop in on.’
Jasmine slumped. ‘If I can’t trace those queens, there’s nothing I can do. Mind you Palmerston is going to have fun even if there is footage of the two leaving the pub. With all the queens there last night, effectively in disguise, picking them out let alone identifying them will be difficult.’
‘Kintbridge is a small town, Jas. Surely most of the gay men know each other.’
‘Perhaps.’ Jasmine didn’t want Palmerston to succeed; she burned with hate at the woman who was denying her the right to do her job, but she knew that it was only a matter of time before the two queens would be sitting in an interview room.
Angela tried to soothe her.  ‘Well, I’m still thirsty. Let’s go home and have a drink,’
‘Home? I haven’t got anything.’
‘Sorry, I meant my home.’
Jasmine was surprised by a tear forming in her eye. ‘Our home.’
‘I’m sorry, Jas. I didn’t mean to upset you.’
Jasmine wiped the tear away. ‘I shouldn’t be. It’s all yours now, or will be very soon. It’s not ours anymore.’
‘I shouldn’t have suggested it. Where else can we go? Another pub?’
‘No, your place will be fine,’ Jasmine said, making an attempt to smile, ‘I’ve got to get used to us not being a couple, your house not being my home. It was because of me that we split up.’
Angela started the engine and drove away from the car park. A few minutes later they pulled up in the familiar driveway. With its lights on the house looked cosy and inviting. Jasmine got out and stood by the front door for Angela to unlock the front door.  Jasmine followed her into the hallway and stepped into the lounge. The warmth was like a comfortable cardigan. This had been home. Jasmine sat down in her accustomed place on the sofa.
‘White wine? I don’t think I have soda,’ Angela called from the kitchen.
‘That’s fine.’
Jasmine undid the zips of her boots and tugged them off. She tucked her legs up onto the sofa as Angela came into the room.
‘You’re not going to be able to drive me home after knocking that back,’ Jasmine said eyeing the two large glasses in Angela’s hands.
‘That’s OK. You could stay the night,’ Angela said, and added, ‘Don’t worry, it won’t jeopardise our quickie divorce if we sleep in separate rooms. The spare bed is made up.’
Jasmine didn’t want to offer any more arguments. She took the glass that Angela held out to her and swallowed a large mouthful of dry, white wine.
‘So the case,’ Angela said settling down beside Jasmine, ‘I get the feeling that you have doubts about the guilt of these two drag queens that Denise is chasing.’
……………… to be continued