Jasmine asks the questions

I know it is wrong to judge people on their appearance, but is it wrong to judge them on their thoughts and actions? I find I am doing it more and more and it’s scary.  It began, of course, with that confounded referendum. Since then, when I meet someone for the first time and get a hint that they were/are a “Leaver”, various thoughts go through my mind: They succumbed to the lying propaganda of the Leave brigade once; do they still follow what is said in certain, unmentionable, newspapers and other media sources? Is their reasoning so faulty that they cannot see the harm that leaving the EU will bring? They voted to remove immigrants, so are they racist? What is their opinion on other minorities?

I don’t necessarily know or learn the answers to these questions but my suspicions remain and I find that I don’t want to be associated with the person if I can help it. Am I being stupid or is my fear shared by others?  I didn’t used to care too much what people voted in elections (although UKIP supporters stretched my goodwill somewhat) but this referendum has caused or highlighted divisions that were suppressed before.  As we stumble ever closer to leaving the EU the strains are growing stronger and I really do fear for the future.  And that’s before even considering the situation elsewhere in the world.

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Let’s get away from such issues and get back to my fictional world where Jasmine Frame is a living, breathing transsexual detective.  Here is the next part of the latest prequel to Painted Ladies and its sequels.

 

Reflex: Part 4

DS Sharma lead James into the interview room. Matthew, or Melissa as James was sure he preferred, was slouched in a chair pushed back from the table. His eyes were dark hollows and his skin was pasty. He appeared exhausted but looked up as they walked in. A glint of recognition came into his eyes and he shuffled into a more upright position. The woman sitting in the chair next to Matthew also looked at James, scanning up and down his uniform as if deciding whether he was a proper police officer.
Sharma sat down and beckoned James to sit beside him, opposite Matthew. The DS flicked the switch on the recording unit.
‘Resuming interview at. . . two-twenty p.m. PC Frame has joined us.’ He nodded to James.
What do I say, James thought. The boy was looking at him, an appeal in his eyes.
‘Hello, Melissa. Is that what you’d like to be called?’
She nodded.
‘I’m James. Do you remember that we met last night?’
Another nod.
James searched for a question that would draw some words from the young person.
‘Do you remember when you first realised you were a girl.’
Melissa frowned and shook her head.
‘You don’t remember?’ James expressed a little surprise.
With a voice that croaked, the girl replied, ‘No. I mean it’s not that I don’t remember it’s just that I’ve always known I was a girl.’
‘You weren’t confused?’ James asked.
Melissa leaned forward, dragged her chair closer to the table, her eyes focussed on James. She was suddenly animated.
‘I was confused because people kept on talking about me as if I was a boy, but I knew I was girl. I can remember that from when I was about four I think.’
‘I see,’ James said, wondering what effect that had on the young child. His own experience wasn’t quite as marked. He could recall wondering why he was treated like a boy while uncertain as to what he was. That confusion was still with him almost every minute of the day. ‘So how did you learn that you were supposed to behave like a boy.’
Melissa’s face sagged. ‘My father. . . my father made me.’
‘How?’
‘He hit me, shut me in my bedroom, took my dresses away.’
‘You had dresses?’
Melissa shrugged. ‘One or two. Mum bought them for me when I asked her. She let me wear them when my father was out.’
‘Oh, so your mother knew about Melissa. Has she always known?’
Another shrug, ‘I guess so.’
‘Did she do anything to stop your father hitting you and locking you up?’
‘Now and again, but he hit her too.’
James nodded. He was beginning to get a picture of family life in the Chapman household.
‘For how long has this been going on – your father beating you and your mother.’
‘As long as I can remember. Anytime he thought I wasn’t behaving like a boy.’
‘You’re fourteen aren’t you Melissa, so it’s been ten years or more?’
Melissa nodded.
‘Did anyone else know that you were really a girl.’
The trans-girl shook her head, ‘Mum made me promise not to tell anyone. She said my father would be really angry if he found out that someone else knew.’
‘You never played dressing up games with friends?’
‘I never had friends. I didn’t want to play with boys and I was afraid what would happen if I got friendly with girls.’
James felt a weight of sadness on his chest. He had kept Jasmine secret for years and it had been a huge relief when she was revealed to his sister, Holly. When he went to university, the freedom to be who he wanted to be was a joyous relief. How had Melissa survived for so long with just the support of her mother?
‘I can’t imagine how difficult it was for you, Melissa,’ he said, looking into the girl’s eyes. She seemed to absorb his sympathy. ‘Had things been getting better or worse?’
‘Worse.’
‘In what way?’
Melissa dropped her head and muttered. ‘I was afraid.’
‘Afraid? Of your father?’
‘Yes, but not just him.’
‘What else?’
‘Becoming a man.’
Mellissa’s meaning dawned on James. ‘You mean puberty.’ Melissa nodded. James recalled the same horror when he found changes happening in his body, changes that made it more difficult for him to pretend to himself that he was a girl.
Melissa lifted her head up to reveal tears running down her cheeks. ‘I knew what was going on. They told us at school. But I didn’t believe it. I dreamt of my breasts growing, my dick dropping off. Of course, it didn’t happen. Instead I started to get hairs on my chin and hard-ons. My body isn’t me anymore.’
‘You could have got help,’ James said thinking about the agencies that helped young transsexuals to transition in their teens, but he realised as he said it that it was nonsense. There was no help available to Melissa.
‘I know,’ Melissa gave an ironic laugh, ‘I use the internet you know. I know about Mermaids and the Portman Clinic. I’ve read about other trans kids, boys and girls. I thought of sending an email, asking for help, but I knew that they couldn’t do anything for me until I was sixteen without my parents’ – my father’s – consent.’
‘You felt trapped?’
‘I s’pose that was it.’
‘Did you do anything?’
Melissa glared at James, ‘I bought girl’s clothes and make up and hid them. I dressed up whenever my father was out.’
‘Did your mother know?’
‘Of course she did. She helped me put on eye shadow and stuff.’
‘Did your father find out?’
The girl shrank in on herself. She whispered, ‘A couple of times.’
‘What did he do?’
‘He beat me and Mum; threw my girl’s stuff out. Said he’d do me in if it happened again.’
DS Sharma had been listening to the conversation, taking notes, but now he leaned forward.
‘So, what was different about last night?’
Melissa jerked upright in her chair. ‘I. . . I don’t know. He should have gone to work for the evening, but he came back.’
Sharma pressed on, ‘What were you wearing when he came in?’
‘Jeans and a t-shirt.’ That wasn’t the answer James expected.
‘What happened?’ Sharma asked
Melissa trembled. ‘He went mad. He ran at us, knocked Mum over and slapped me.’
The DS frowned. ‘Why did he do that? You weren’t wearing girl’s clothes.’
‘Mum was brushing my hair and putting grips in.’
‘What?’ Sharma said.
James answered instead. ‘He realised that your mother was giving you a feminine hairstyle. That was enough for him to lose his temper.’
‘Don’t put words in his mouth, Frame,’ Sharma said, glaring at James.
‘Sorry.’
Sharma turned back to Melissa. ‘Is PC Frame correct?’
‘Yeah. He was always going on to me to get my hair cut. He cut it himself once. He wanted me to have a buzzcut but Mum stopped him.’
The DS eased himself back on his chair. ‘Okay so your father realised that you and your mother intended having a girly evening while he was at work. That might have made him angry. What happened next?’
Melissa shook her head. ‘I don’t know. One moment he was slapping me around the kitchen and the next he stopped and looked down at his chest. There was blood. . .’
‘You stabbed him with the kitchen knife.’
The girl shook, not with denial but with fear. ‘’I don’t know, I must have.’
Sharma pressed on. ‘Where did the knife come from? Did you get it out of the drawer?’
, ‘No, no. It was just there.’
‘On the table or the worktop?’
‘I suppose so.’
‘You picked it up and stabbed your father?’
Melissa covered her face with her hands. ‘I don’t know. Maybe I did.’
James asked, ‘Where was your mother, Melissa?’
The girl looked at him, confusion in her eyes. ‘Um, I don’t. . .on the floor?’
DS Sharma leaned forward. ‘It was you, Matthew Chapman, that thrust the knife into Eric Chapman, your father.’ He spoke as if pronouncing a verdict.
Melissa looked at him, her face blank. ‘Er, no, yes, I think, I’m not sure.’
The children’s support officer spoke. ‘I think that’s enough Detective Sergeant. Matthew is distraught.’
‘Thank you.’ DS Sharma stopped the recording. ‘We’ve got what we needed. You can take the boy back to the secure unit now.’
‘Girl,’ James said. ‘Her name is Melissa.’
‘It says, Matthew on the birth certificate,’ Sharma growled, ‘He’s a boy.’
Melissa was being helped out of the chair.
‘We’ll talk again, Melissa,’ James said, ‘You can tell me how you feel.’
‘Yes, we will interview you again,’ Sharma said, ‘but not today. Come on Frame. I want a word with you.’ He strode out of the interview room.

…………………..to be continued.

 

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Jasmine on the spot

There have been so many bits of news this week that have annoyed me and increased my anxiety about the world but they are political and I don’t want to fill this blog with my diatribes. Still, it is worrying times.

20170930_130251 (2)There was one thing that amused me.  I was out in the street and was approached by a fellow that I never expected to speak to me nor I to him. He told me that we need to “do our own thing” and “hold our heads high” and that he thought I was great for doing what I do. I realised that he was referring to my gender fluidity.  At the time he spoke, I was in typical male garb but I had seen him out and about when I was dressed in a skirt and boots. Since I gave up wearing a wig and merely have my hair done in a more feminine style, a little make up and change of clothes is not going to disguise me. It was proof that I am out as my bi-gendered self and pleasant to be complimented on it. Perhaps society isn’t going down the pan.

Anyway, to Jasmine.  The next episode of the prequel to Painted Ladies is below. In Reflex, Jasmine spends most of her time as James and is not sure what her/his future holds. It is interesting to be writing this novella length story at the same time as writing Molly’s Boudoir which takes place much later in Jasmine’s transition.  Don’t forget that the other two novels, Bodies By Design and The Brides’ Club Murder are available as e-books and paperbacks.

 

Reflex: Part 3

Daylight was still a few hours away when James slid into bed beside Angela. She stirred and murmured but he didn’t want to wake her up. He lay there, feeling her warmth, while thinking about his night’s shift, his first active service on a response team and he had had a murder. Or was it manslaughter. Surely, Matthew had not intended to kill his father. In fact, James wondered whether the boy, or girl, should be charged at all. Could it be proved that he was defending himself from the larger man? James wondered what trauma the young transgirl had been through in her life – discovering herself while meeting opposition from one of the people who should be protecting her.
He had drifted into a light sleep when Angela got up to start her day. He turned over.
‘Morning love,’ he muttered.
Angela was apologetic. ‘Oh, I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to wake you up. You must be knackered.’
‘Mmm.’
‘How did it go, your first night on patrol?’
James pushed himself up his pillow and told her the story of the night. She sat down beside him and wrapped her arms around him as he described finding Matthew/Melissa, her arrest and then taking her to the police station before being handed to the children’s services while the investigation proceeded.
‘What will happen to her?’ Angela asked.
‘For a start it will be “him” as far as the investigating officer and the CPS are concerned. Melissa hadn’t begun to transition because I think, only she and her mother knew the truth about her gender identity.’
‘Okay, but he’ll have to go to court?’
‘I expect so. The charge will depend on whether they think he was defending himself or intended to harm or kill his father.’
‘What’s the evidence against him?’
‘I’m not sure, but that knife being so handy is a problem. Did Matthew have it with the intention of causing injury to the father who he disliked? He had the opportunity and they will dig around to find the motive for wanting to kill his father.’
‘But they will understand that he is really Melissa; that she is trans.’
‘I’m not sure Ange. She’ll be traumatised by what has happened and she may not be in a state to describe how she feels.’
‘What about the mother? Won’t she support her child?’
‘I don’t know. She’s lost a husband. I don’t know how close they were.’
‘Oh, James, what a mess.’
James bowed his head. ‘Yes. I really feel for the kid. How would I have felt if my father had found out about me when I was that age, and took against it.’
‘Your father never did know about Jasmine.’
‘I know, and because he’s dead now I will never know if he could understand why I have to be Jasmine now and then.’
‘Your mother knows.’
‘Yes, but she can’t accept that part of me wants to be a woman.’
‘She can’t let go of the boy she raised.’
James shrugged, ‘Which is why I wonder how much Melissa’s mother is on her side.’
Angela stood up. ‘I’d better get ready for work. What are you going to do about Melissa?’
James lay back. ‘What can I do? It’s in the hands of the investigating officer from the Violent and Serious Crime unit. He’ll interview Matthew and his mother and anyone else they think of, then pass the case to the CPS. I’ve written up my report with Sarah. That’s the end of my involvement.’

Later, James reported for duty. He met up with PC Ward in the briefing room and they chatted about the previous night’s events. The Sergeant came in and gave them and the other response teams an update on the present situation and issued orders for the shift.
‘What about us?’ Sarah said when she and James weren’t given any instructions.
The Sergeant replied, ‘I want you to hold on here for a while. DS Sharma wants to speak to you.’
‘He’s the SIO in last night’s case,’ James said.
‘That’s right. He’ll be along shortly.’ The Sergeant went out and the other teams set off leaving James and Sarah alone.
‘Why does he need to speak to us?’ Sarah said to the wall as much as to James. ‘Our report was okay.’
‘I think so,’ James said.
‘It’s a simple case, isn’t it? Manslaughter. The kid will get a few years in a youth offender institution.’
James shrugged, ‘I suppose so.’
The door opened, and the Detective Sergeant who had appeared at the scene of the crime the previous evening entered. He looked from Sarah to James.
‘PC James Frame?’ James nodded. ‘You picked up Matthew Chapman, last night.’
‘We found him,’ James agreed.
The DS shook his head. ‘No, I mean it was you, PC Frame, that spoke to him, stopped him from jumping in the river and persuaded him to come into custody.’
‘Er, yes,’ James replied.
‘Well, I have a request to make,’ DS Bhanu Sharma said. ‘The boy is refusing to talk to me or my colleagues. Either he’s too choked up by what he’s done or he’s blocking us. We need to get him to admit to what he did, but he says he’ll only speak to you, PC Frame.’
‘Oh,’ James muttered feeling confused.
‘Why?’ PC Ward said, ‘We were both there. I read him his rights and we brought him in in the car.’
‘All he says is that PC Frame understands. I think he means about this wanting to be a girl thing his mother’s mentioned. What do you know about it Frame?’
James felt ice spread from his chest to the top of his head. His principal horror was his colleagues discovering about Jasmine, laughing about his desire to wear female clothes and act like a girl. He couldn’t imagine being able to survive the nightmare of his other life being talked about. His career in the police would be over.
‘Um,’ was all he managed.
‘What is it man? Do you know anything about this transvestism thing this boy’s got?’
The words came out slowly. ‘Uh, I think the term is transsexual, Sir.’
‘Isn’t it the same thing?’ the DS said.
‘No, a transsexual wants to live their life in the gender they identify with which isn’t their biological gender.’
‘What does that mean?’
‘Matthew said he’s really a girl and that he wants to be called Melissa.’
Sarah stared at James with her mouth open. ‘Did he tell you that last night?’
James nodded.
‘But you didn’t put it in the report,’ PC Ward said
‘I didn’t think it was factually relevant to us finding him and arresting him.’
‘Anything the suspect says is important,’ DS Sharma said, ‘As a police officer you should know that. You’d better revise your report, but first tell me what you know about this trans stuff.’
‘Um,’ James searched for an answer, ‘It was at university.’ He began.
‘What was? Come on, man,’ Sharma said.
‘I knew someone who was transgender.’
‘Transgender. What’s that?’ the DS asked.
‘It’s a sort of general term for people who have questions about their gender. It includes transvestites and transsexuals.’
‘Questions about their gender! Pah! Okay, so did you know this guy well?’
‘Yes, I got to know her pretty much,’ James relaxed a bit. Perhaps this imaginary friend could take the pressure off him. She could be an amalgam of Jasmine and other TG people he and Angela had met. ‘She was called Tamsin,’ he concluded, the name having popped into his mind.
‘This Tamsin was a bloke?’ Sharma asked.
‘She’d been born a boy and had the body of a man, but she lived as a woman and wanted to have gender reassignment surgery.’
‘What’s that?’
‘A sex change. That’s what the papers call it.’
‘But he’d still be a guy.’
‘When we were at uni, but now, since 2004. . .’
‘2004?’
‘The Gender Recognition Act. She could apply for a certificate now, recognising her change of gender and get a new birth certificate.’
The DS stroked his chin. ‘You think that is what Chapman wants?’
James shrugged. ‘I don’t know, Sir. We only exchanged a few words, but I got the impression that Melissa is pretty certain that she is a girl and that her father didn’t approve.’
‘Hmm, well, we’d better get you into the interview room. Perhaps he’ll open up to you and spill the beans on his relationship with his father and whether he intended to kill him.’
Sarah stepped in, ‘Jim, are you sure you knew this Tamsin well enough to cope with Matthew or Melissa or whoever?’
James faced Sarah, ‘I think so, Sarah. I’d like to have a go with Melissa.’
‘Come on then, PC Frame,’ the DS said heading for the door, ‘Time is money and my boss won’t want to have to spend too much on this case. See what you can get out of the kid.’

………………….to be continued

 

Jasmine empathises

There is a row going on about whether human rights in the UK will be damaged by the Brexit Great Repeal Bill. I don’t want to see any reining back of our rights as human beings but I have to say that as a gender-fluid person I am feeling more comfortable when I am out and about. Either that or I’ve lost all feeling of being examined and judged.

While I dress in skirts or dresses, and wear jewellery and make-up I don’t try, any longer, to mimic a woman by wearing false breasts or a feminine wig. Yet visiting a number of different towns in recent weeks I have been struck by how comfortable I feel and the lack of strange looks.  Everyone who I have spoken to has treated me as a normal person which is very gratifying and encouraging.  I wish everyone, regardless of their colour, ethnicity, sexuality, gender identity or disability felt the same.

I hope I am not being naïve.

 

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With Sharon, a lovely person, especially as she purchased all three Jasmine Frame novels

Last week’s trip to Llanidloes went very well and I was fascinated by the tattooed convention goers. They are themselves, perhaps another maligned community, but for that weekend I (in male persona this time) was in the minority. But they bought some books which was great and I had a good time with the other authors and visiting an area of the country I adore.

 

I returned cheered and more optimistic about my writings and publications, so here is the next part of Viewpoint, the Jasmine Frame prequel. The three novels, Painted Ladies, Bodies By Design and The Brides’ Club Murder, follow sequentially over a fairly short time period after this story.

Viewpoint: Part 5

Jasmine let out a silent yell of glee and quickly wrote down the information in her notebook and on a slip of paper. She tapped at the computer keyboard and printed out a map, then stood up, picked up her jacket and strode to Sloane’s office.
‘There. I’ve got an i.d. on the victim.’ She dropped the notepaper in front of the DCI. ‘He was on the list of a Gender Identity Clinic. There’s his name and address although that is apparently over a year out of date.’
Sloane picked up the piece of paper and read out the name. ‘Alfie Benson. Male? Why do you say that this address in Weymouth is out of date?’
Jasmine had the answer. ‘The GIC says that he has not replied to their letters and emails for a year so they are not sure he was living there before he died.’
Sloane continued to stare at the note. ‘Why was, er, his body dumped in Kintbridge if he was living in Weymouth?’ he muttered.
‘Exactly.’ Jasmine turned away and started to walk out of the office.
‘Where are you going, Frame?’
‘Exeter.’
Sloane growled, ‘DS Palmerston told you to work here.’
‘I’ve done what she wanted. I’ve identified the victim. Now I’m going to speak to people who knew him.’
‘Why not go to Weymouth?’
‘Because I know there are people at the Exeter clinic who can tell me about Alfie. There may be no-one in Weymouth who knows him.’
‘DS Palmerston is in charge of the case, Frame. She’ll allocate her staff.’
‘I’m the best person to speak to the GIC staff. I attend one myself.’ Jasmine didn’t wait for Sloane to come up with any other reasons for her to stay. She hurried to the exit. Sloane didn’t follow nor call after her.

Jasmine glanced at the dashboard of the Fiesta. Petrol was low. She hadn’t thought about fuel when she leapt into the car and headed south out of Kintbridge. The old car wasn’t going to get all the way to Exeter on the fumes left in the tank. As the wipers half-heartedly dispersed the rain from the windscreen she saw the sign for a service station ahead. She pulled in, filled the tank and went into the shop to pay. It was then that she realised that it wasn’t just the car running on empty. It was past lunchtime and she hadn’t eaten since breakfast. She bought a BLT sandwich and tore open the packet before she got back into the driver’s seat. She set off again along the A303, munching on the bread.
It was another two hours and already getting dark when she reached the city. Now she had to find the clinic from the address and the map she’d pulled off the computer back in the station. She had a sudden desire for a satnav or one of those smart phones that included one. After one or two mistakes, she pulled into the parking area at the front of a large Victorian house, just as her mobile phone gave out its ring tone. She dug it out of her bag, saw that it was Palmerston and dropped it back in. The phone fell silent.
Jasmine approached the main door, found it unlocked and stepped into a hallway that had once been grand but now needed a fresh coat of paint on the walls and woodwork. A reception room was on the left. There were two people sitting waiting. One was a middle-aged woman in a knee length dress and sheer tights with shoulder length blonde hair. A wig, Jasmine guessed. The other was a young man wearing track suit bottoms and a hoody. They were sitting apart and avoided eye contact with Jasmine. She knew how they felt. When she had first attended her GIC she had felt like hiding and thought that everyone was staring at her and wondering about her gender.
A woman in white uniform sat at a desk. ‘Can I help you?’ she said in a welcoming voice.
Jasmine pulled her warrant card from her pocket and showed it to the receptionist. ‘I’ve come to speak to a nurse, Hazel Sullivan, who I’ve been in contact with.’
‘Ah, yes, Hazel is on duty. I’ll see if she is available.’ She picked up a phone and put through a call. She spoke quietly and soon put the phone down.
‘Hazel will see you now. She’s in the office next door to here.’
Jasmine said thank you and left the room noting that the two pairs of eyes of the patients, or clients, followed her covertly. As she looked up the hallway to see where she was headed, the door opened and a short, chubby, woman in a blue nurse’s uniform stepped out.
‘DC Frame?’ she said advancing towards Jasmine with her hand outstretched.
‘Yes, Ms Sullivan?’ Jasmine said shaking the hand.
‘Hazel. Come on in,’ she said as she turned and re-entered the room. Jasmine noted that it was furnished partly as an office with a desk and two chairs and partly a lounge with a small sofa and armchair grouped around a coffee table. Hazel pointed to the sofa.
‘Take a seat. This is where we chat to patients. It’s a bit more welcoming than the medical examination rooms.’
Jasmine nodded. She settled herself on the sofa and tugged her skirt down her thighs. ‘I’ve been in a similar room,’ she said.
‘Ah, yes. You’re GD too. How long have you been in the system?’ Hazel sat in the armchair and examined her closely.
‘It’s nearly two years since I decided to transition but only eighteen months since I began. Then it was six months before I got my first appointment.’
Hazel nodded. ‘Yes, it does take a long time, if you have to go with the NHS.’
‘Like Alfie?’ Jasmine was relieved to move the conversation away from herself.
‘That’s right, but he was with us longer than you have been.’
‘Oh, how long?’
Hazel leapt up to pick up a folder from the desk. She opened it.
‘Six years,’ she said, ‘He was just eighteen when he had his first appointment.’
‘So, he was twenty-four now, when he died.’
‘That’s right.’
‘That’s quite a while to be in the queue,’ Jasmine commented.
Hazel frowned. ‘It is, but Alfie was in and out of it a bit.’
‘Why?’
‘He had mental health issues – depression. There was always the question about his fitness for transitioning.’
‘That held up his treatment?’
‘Yes, and he was never able to apply for his Gender Recognition Certificate.’
‘But he lived as a man.’
‘Oh yes.’
‘And he had a double mastectomy,’ Jasmine added keen to confirm Alfie’s maleness.
Hazel nodded. ‘Yes, that was his one bit of luck, if you can call it that.’
‘What do you mean?’
‘His mother died from breast cancer when he was a teenager and his aunt, his mother’s sister, died of it soon after. Alfie had a test and was found to carry the BRCA gene. Do you know what that means?’
‘Yes. Alfie was likely to get it too.’
‘Alfie was offered the mastectomy as risk-reducing surgery. It would have been delayed if there was a chance pf Alfie having children but he insisted on having it immediately. All FtMs want rid of their breasts. He refused breast reconstruction but because he was under our care we managed to get some cosmetic treatment to give him a more masculine chest.’
‘But that was as far as he went?’
‘Yes. There was the possibility of having his ovaries removed for a similar reason but it was delayed and as I mentioned we have lost touch with him in the last year.’
‘What about hormones – was he on testosterone?’
‘Not with us. The question-marks over his mental state meant that we couldn’t prescribe him medication. There was one occasion when he got testosterone off the internet. He nearly got thrown off the programme for that.
Jasmine sighed. ‘So, he was probably depressed because he couldn’t get treatment for his gender dysphoria.’
Hazel shrugged. ‘Probably but that wasn’t the root cause of his mental problems.’
‘Oh, what was?’
‘Well, I’m not a psychiatrist, but his notes suggest that it was the loss of his mother just when he was going through puberty – growing the breasts, having periods, all that – and the abuse by his father.’
Jasmine’s eyes opened wide. ‘Abuse?’
‘He beat Alfie when he refused to wear dresses and when he had his hair cut short, and he raped him.’
‘Did this come to court?’
Hazel shook her head. ‘Alfie didn’t reveal it until he came to us and he didn’t want to go to the police. He left home at sixteen and was a bit of a mess. It’s quite amazing that he got himself together enough to even start coming here.’
Jasmine was struggling to take in what Alfie’s life must have been like to transition with a father like that. She realised that she had had it easy – an understanding wife, generally supportive family and friends and a helpful employer, up to a point. But the difficulties she had experienced with DCI Sloane and DS Palmerston gave her some feeling for the turmoil that Alfie had undergone. On top of the abuse from her father, Alfie had faced the catch 22 of not being deemed sane enough to go through life-threatening and altering surgery so was left in an intermediate state.
‘Alfie still had his original birth certificate,’ Jasmine stated. Without a Gender Recognition Certificate, he couldn’t have changed that document even though he’d changed his name.
‘That’s right. The name he was given at birth was Lucy Taylor.’
‘Oh, he changed his surname too?’ Jasmine had kept her surname when she transitioned but she knew that some transsexuals used the opportunity of changing their forenames to give up every aspect of their former lives.
‘Yes, Alfie didn’t want any reminder of his father. Benson was his mother’s maiden name.’
Jasmine scribbled in her notebook. She stopped and looked at Hazel. ‘So why did he stop responding to your letters and messages?’

………….to be continued.

 

 

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.