Jasmine trapped

One week from now we’ll be at the UK Indie Lit Fest in Bradford.  40 independent authors promoting their works. I hope there’ll be lots of eager readers (and buyers) browsing. I’ll have all my novels for sale.

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For those of us who mix and match the genders a bit, the first of a two part documentary on BBC2, “No more boys and girls”, was a must.  The presenter, Dr Javid Abelmoneim, wonders if gender stereotypical behaviour in children can be altered. For his experiment he has chosen a primary school on the Isle of Wight.  As we know from our experience of living there, the IoW is not a multicultural environment so most if not all of the 23 pupils in the class are white.  Perhaps that was deliberate as a mixture of cultures and religions may have added too many variables to the investigation.

Javid first made the point that male and female brains show very little difference i.e. there is more variation in the brains of one gender than differences between the two. Next he carried out tests on the children to reveal how stereotypical their ideas and behaviour was. I am sure the editing picked out the extremes but the children really lived up to the worst gender stereotypes with girls showing low-esteem and a concentration on looks, while boys were, well, boisterous and unable to describe emotions other than anger. Then Javid looked at the gender environment in which children are brought up. He repeated the experiment where adults entertain babies unknown to them with a large collection of toys available – they always pick the toys that match the gender-specific clothes that the babies have been dressed in – soft toys and dolls for babies in dresses; cars, robots and blocks for babies in trousers.

The teacher of the class, was, unusually, male, and while I admire his bravery in putting himself up for this experiment, he displayed the most gender-discriminatory teaching manner imaginable.  He called all the girls “love” and the boys “mate” and directed the majority of his questioning to the boys. One of Javid’s interventions was to present the class with four people in careers that the children had already stated were not open to their gender – female car mechanic and magician, and male ballet dancer and make-up artist. The children reacted gleefully to the experience and seemed to get the message.

In a programme that is broadcast as much for entertainment as for education I am sure that the editing has been selective – the focus seems to be on four or five boys who are quite macho, and the same number of girls who are sensitive and low in self-confidence. What about the 2 in the class that statistically may grow up to be gay, or the one in five chance that one may be trans?  The amount of useful evidence Dr Javid can muster with such a limited experiment is dubious.  Nevertheless, I support the effort and the message that gender stereotypes are a cultural construct and that almost every adult is unconsciously responsible for maintaining this prejudicial behaviour with their every interaction with children from birth.

…………………………….

And so to episode 10 (yes, we’ve reached double figures) of the novella, Viewpoint, featuring transsexual detective, Jasmine Frame.

Viewpoint: Part 10

The two men froze, glaring at her. Jasmine was sure the smaller was Riley but her main thought was how to get out. She tensed, ready to spring for the doorway but while she felt she could force Riley out of her way she didn’t feel confident of making it past the tough-looking taller man. They stepped towards her, side by side, reducing Jasmine’s options.
‘Who’re you?’ Riley said.
‘I’m . . .’ Jasmine reached into her pocket to pull out her warrant card. It wasn’t there. She’d left it on the dining table when she set out on this private expedition. She was on her own. ‘…looking into the disappearance of Alfie Benson.’
‘What she on about?’ the tall man said in tones which suggested he wasn’t at the peak of cleverness.
‘Shaddup, Gary,’ Riley said, nudging his companion. He shook his head. ‘Don’ know that name.’
‘Perhaps you don’t but I think he was here, or perhaps you think Alfie was a she.’ Jasmine knew she was taking a risk by trying to drag a confession from Riley.
Her words spurred the sidekick to speak again. ‘Does she mean that queer tart we had, Paddy?’ Riley kicked him in the shins, and he let out a cry. ‘Hey whad yer doing?’
‘I told you to shaddap. This interferin’ cunt knows we kept a girl here now thanks to you opening your fuckin’ mouth. We need to shut her up. Get her.’
Riley advanced with Gary alongside. Jasmine stepped back, looking for an opening that wasn’t available. Her calves hit the bed and she toppled backwards. Riley and Gary dived on top of her. She lashed out with arms and legs, baring her teeth and biting any flesh that came close enough, but she couldn’t break free. A fist or a knee slammed into the side of her head and her body went numb. The light appeared to grow even dimmer.
‘Don’t kill her yet,’ she heard Riley say through the resounding waves of pain that echoed through her head. ‘We need to find out what she knows and who she’s told. Hold her down while I get the cord.’
Jasmine felt the weight of Gary pressing her into the thin mattress. He held her wrists in his fists and his knees pressed into the top of her thighs.
‘Don’ struggle or I’ll nut yer,’ Gary said. Jasmine released the tension in her arms and concentrated on breathing through the nauseating throbbing in her head.
With blurred sight, she saw Riley standing over her. He soon had her wrists tied to the head of the bed and her ankles to the foot showing a deft touch with the cords.. Alfie must have been held in this position, she thought, but what else did they do to him. She got some relief when Gary shifted off her and stood up. She tested the bindings but couldn’t move.
Riley sat on the edge of the bed facing her. ‘Now we can take our time to get answers from the bitch.’
‘Can we have some fun, Paddy?’ Gary said, looming over his boss.
‘Yeah, Gary, we sure can. Later.’ Riley placed a hand on Jasmine’s right thigh, above her knee. She felt his warm grip through her thick tights. She trembled. ‘Now, tell the truth and you may not get hurt, much,’ he hissed. ‘Who are you?’
‘Jasmine Frame. I’m a private investigator.’
Riley snorted, ‘A private dick, or private cunt. What are you sticking your pretty nose into?’
‘I told you. I’m investigating the disappearance of Alfie Benson.’
Through the pain in Jasmine’s head she saw Riley screw up his face as he considered her answer. His hand shifted up her thigh to the hem of her skirt.
‘I said I didn’t know that name but let’s be honest with one another since Gary gave the game away. Let’s assume you’re talking about the girl. Who hired you?’
Jasmine had no intention of being honest. The truth could get her killed sooner rather than a lie.
‘Friends in Weymouth. They wanted to know what happened to him.’
‘Friends!’ Riley’s surprise sounded genuine. ‘Taylor said she crawled back home ‘cos she had no friends.’
‘Kevin Taylor, his father, said that did he,’ Jasmine said.
Riley’s hand slipped beneath her skirt, gripping her thigh. There was realisation on his face that he had involved Taylor in the story. ‘Forget him. What I want to know is who really got you to look for this Alfie fella, and how you ended up here.’
Jasmine knew she had to keep Riley talking. If she clammed up and refused to answer his questions he might decide to use other methods to make her talk or perhaps just dispose of her.
‘If you had Alfie here you must know that he was transgender.’
‘Trans-what?’ Riley leaned forward and his hand shifted further up Jasmine’s groin. ‘What’s this he, she stuff? She was a miserable bitch and not a pretty picture. Both her tits had been chopped off.’
Jasmine tried to explain. ‘Alfie was born a girl called Lucy but he knew he was really a man. He didn’t want breasts. His mother died of breast cancer so he was able to have them removed.’
Riley seemed to ponder what she had said. ‘Taylor’s old woman died of breast cancer.’
‘Yes, that was Alfie’s mother. Taylor is his father.’ Jasmine was confused. Did Riley really not realise that Taylor had delivered his own daughter-turned-son to be abused and murdered.
‘Frigid cunt she was,’ Riley went on absent-mindedly reminiscing. ‘Didn’t like having a cock in her at all.’
Jasmine’s anger made her forget her position for a moment. She raised her head and spat out, ‘He was being raped, that’s why.’
Riley’s face turned thunderous. He leaned closer. ‘She had a fucking hole not a cock. She not he. All tarts want cock even if they make like they don’t. I bet you do too.’ His hand reached up to her crotch. Jasmine felt his hand close around her penis and testicles squashed against her groin by her knickers. He froze and his face turned pale. Jasmine closed her eyes and waited for her end.
The hand released her genitals and withdrew. Jasmine opened her eyes in surprise. Riley stood up and crept back as if wanting to put as much distance between himself and Jasmine.
Through gritted teeth he hissed, ‘You’re a fucking perv. A tranny.’
‘I’m a woman,’ Jasmine sighed. Even if she was going to die she was not going to relent in her belief in her identity.
‘You’ve a cock and balls,’ Riley insisted. ‘A fucking bloke. Gary! Do ‘im in. No bugger fools me and gets away wiv it.’
Out of the corner of her eye, Jasmine saw the tall man approach the bed. He held a long kitchen knife. Not a knife, she thought. She closed her eyes and waited for the thrust that would finisher her life. Somewhere in the distance she heard a door open and steps on the wooden floor of the hut.
‘What yer doin’ Riley?’
Jasmine recognised the Yorkshire burr of Kevin Taylor’s voice.

…………………………to be continued

 

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Jasmine office-bound

This weekend I am at Nine Worlds in Hammersmith, London.  It’s a big SF/Fantasy convention. As well as, I hope, enjoying some of the sessions, my main reason for attending is that my publishers, Elsewhen Press are a sponsor and exhibitor and I have been asked to compere a Q&A session with the authors of two books being launched. Artwork: David A. Hardy

The first is a well known name – John Gribbin.  He is famous for his popular science books (written with Mary, his wife) but he is also a long-time SF fan and writer.  His anthology Don’t Look Back collects stories written throughout his life.  They are mainly hard SF tales exploring a law of physics.

Zoe Sumra is an exciting young author. TheCover: Alex Storer Wages of Sin is her second novel in a universe of gangsters, interstellar corporations and spellweavers.  I’m hoping that by fielding the questions and prompting answers I may get a chance to do just a little promotion of my own books – but they will be for sale on the Elsewhen stand, along with my Jasmine Frame novels.

So, as I won’t be around on Saturday morning, here is the next episode of Viewpoint, the thirteenth (yes, 13!) Jasmine Frame prequel story.

Viewpoint: Part 8

Jasmine was expecting a telling off from DS Palmerston but she wasn’t prepared for the stream of invective that poured from the detective’s mouth. There were F words and B words and more, including the T word, “tranny”, that merely confirmed for her that Palmerston was transphobic. She tried to let the torrent of abuse wash over her, after all words couldn’t harm her, but Palmerston’s final threat did hit home.
‘If you think that because you’re resigning from the force you can get away with anything, think again. I can get your pension stopped and have you on a charge of improper behaviour in no time.’
Jasmine tried to sound penitent but wasn’t sure she succeeded.  Denise Palmerston stood panting, recovering her breath. At last she spoke quietly and relatively calmly.
‘Tell us what happened.’
Jasmine described as briefly as possible her encounter with Mr Taylor and his shotgun and then her tailing of him to the park homes. She left out the fact that Taylor had rumbled her gender change.
‘You didn’t tell him that his daughter was dead,’ the DS stated.
‘No.’
‘Why not?’
‘I wanted to see his reaction, but he didn’t seem interested in knowing what had happened to Alfie.’
‘Perhaps being told that she was dead would have got a reaction,’ Palmerston said in a voice that insinuated that Jasmine hadn’t pushed the farmer sufficiently.
‘He was pointing a gun at me. I didn’t feel like testing his emotional reaction.’
Palmerston scratched her cheek. ‘Hmm. We need to speak to him. He can at least formally identify his daughter for us.’
‘Why do you think he visited this caravan, Jas?’ Tom asked. Like the others he had retreated into silence when Jasmine was receiving her roasting.
‘It’s a park home not a caravan site, permanent homes. I think the speed with which he went there after speaking to me means there must be a connection with what happened to Alfie.’
‘OK,’ said Palmerston, grabbing the initiative. ‘Kingston. You and I are going to pay Mr Taylor a visit and take him to view his daughter’s body. Shepherd and Hopkins, take a look at this park home. Find out who Taylor visited and why.’
‘Shouldn’t I go,’ Jasmine said, ‘I know which one he was parked at.’
Palmerston glared at her. ‘If you think you are stepping outside this office again during this investigation, Frame, you are in dreamland. You can direct Tom and Terry to the correct cabin and then you can write up your report on your joy ride yesterday.’
The senior detective urged DC Kingston to accompany her and they left. Jasmine was left with Tom Shepherd and Terry Hopkins.
‘Where was this park then?’ Tom asked.
‘I’ll show you on Google,’ Jasmine said. She went to her desk, called up the map and went to the satellite photo. It showed the cabins laid out in a grid with the driveway down the middle. She pointed out where she had seen Taylor’s Land Rover parked.
Tom peered closely at the screen. ‘There are quite a few homes on the site.’
‘I couldn’t tell how many are occupied,’ Jasmine said, ‘Most of them were dark.’
Tom pulled his waterproof from the back of his chair, ‘Well, come on Terry. Let’s go and have a look.’ He moved towards the door with Hopkins following.
‘Enjoy writing your report,’ Terry said over his shoulder as he left.
Jasmine grumbled under her breath as she sat down to do as she was told. It didn’t take her long to type out a bare account of her visit to Exeter and the stop-offs on the way back. Just the bald facts were recorded with no speculation or comments of what she was really thinking about Alfie Benson. When she had finished she read through the medical reports on Alfie that the clinic had sent through. It upset her reading what Alfie had gone through. There was the double-edged emotion of his mastectomy; the joy as a transman of losing his breasts versus the sadness at the death of his mother and fear of following her in contracting cancer. He had gone through the surgery and recovery all alone in Weymouth. After that, there was the long wait for further treatment which never materialised because of his drift into depression, no doubt exacerbated by the lack of progress in his transition and loneliness. Jasmine empathised with Alfie. She knew she was in for a long process to achieve the state of femininity that she desired and she knew there was no guarantee that she would ever get all the treatment that she wanted and needed free on the NHS. At least she had the support of Angela, soon to be ex-wife but still a friend, and her family (sister, Holly, was supportive). Her resignation from the Police Force was perhaps a backward step but she was resolute that she would not suffer the prejudice from Palmerston and others like her for any longer.
Little more than an hour had passed when Tom and Terry returned. Jasmine greeted them cheerfully. Terry grunted and went to the coffee machine. He poured two cups but didn’t ask Jasmine if she wanted one. Tom shucked off his coat and sat in his chair.
‘Well?’ Jasmine asked, ‘You weren’t long. Did you find anything?’
Tom nodded and shrugged at the same time. ‘Yes, there was a guy at the hut. Name’s Patrick Riley. Little Irish bloke, walks with a limp. Used to work on Taylor’s farm until he got injured.’
Jasmine was eager for more. ‘So, he knows Alfie’s father. Did he admit to seeing him last night?’
‘Yes. He said Kevin, that’s Taylor’s first name, often calls in for a beer on a Wednesday evening. Despite having his accident while working for Taylor, Riley says they are still mates.’
‘So he’s prepared to cover for Taylor then,’ Jasmine grumbled, ‘Did you tell him about Alfie?’
‘We asked him if he knew Taylor’s daughter,’ Tom replied, saying the last word quietly as if expecting a rebuke.
‘What did he say?’
‘He said he knew Taylor had a daughter but he hadn’t met her and didn’t know where she was living.’
‘Where he was living. Didn’t you say that Alfie was a man?’
‘No, Jas. DS Palmerston says we’re investigating the death of Lucy Taylor, not Alfie Benson. We did ask if she had been mentioned in conversation last night but Riley said she hadn’t come up.’
‘He would say that wouldn’t he. Did he ask why you were asking questions about Alfie?’ Jasmine saw Tom’s sigh. ‘OK, Lucy.’
‘No, he didn’t Jas, and yes, I realise that is suspicious. We’d expect him to have been interested in why we were asking the questions. It didn’t look as if Lucy could have been held there against her wishes.’
‘No? Are you sure?’ Jasmine wasn’t convinced.
Terry Hopkins put his mug of coffee down. ‘The place was tiny, Frame. I had a look round while Tom was asking the questions. A single bed room, barely room for a bed, and a kitchen-living room. It was grubby but all in order; no sign of anyone being kept there or done in.’
‘Hmm.’ Jasmine wasn’t convinced by Terry’s powers of observation or deduction.
‘I think, Terry’s right, Jas,’ Tom said, ‘If Riley is involved in Lucy’s death, and there’s every chance he was, I don’t think she was kept in that hut.’
‘So, what now?’ Jasmine asked feeling frustrated at the lack of progress or indeed effort to make progress.
‘We see what DS Palmerston gets out of Kevin Taylor and suggests as the next move.’
Tom and Terry settled down to write up their report and Jasmine went back to staring at the satellite photo of the park home site. She counted almost two dozen rooftops of huts of varying sizes.

The door opened and Jasmine looked up to see Palmerston striding in with Kingston behind her. She gave an impatient wave of her hand to gather the team around her at the white board.
‘Mr Taylor has confirmed the identity of his daughter,’ Palmerston said, glaring at Jasmine as she spoke the last word. Jasmine did not fall for her senior officer’s ruse. ‘He says he has not seen her for six years and was not aware that she had had a mastectomy but he confirmed that his wife died of breast cancer.’
‘He had no idea where she’s been during that time?’ Tom asked.
‘He denied any knowledge of her whereabouts or lifestyle,’ Palmerston insisted.
Jasmine couldn’t keep silent. ‘Did you ask him why he threatened me with his shotgun?’
Palmerston glared at her, her nostrils flaring. ‘There has been a spate of farm thefts in the area so he has been patrolling with his gun. He thought you may have been nosing around his property looking for things to steal. Oh, and he says his gun wasn’t loaded.’
Jasmine huffed her disbelief.
‘What about you two?’ Palmerston looked at Tom and Terry. Tom gave a swift report on their conversation with Riley.
‘So,’ the DS drew breath, ‘Taylor and Riley are possible suspects in the murder of Lucy Taylor but we have no evidence to incriminate them as yet. Do we have any sightings of the people who dumped the body in the canal or the vehicle they used? Terry, you and Derek were down there yesterday. No witnesses?’
Terry Hopkins shook his head. ‘There are people living in the houses where the lane meets the road. A few of them said that people sometimes use the track to go fishing but no one saw anything on Tuesday evening.’
‘We need to know where the victim was living after she left Weymouth,’ Denise Palmerston said with a note of frustration in her voice. ‘Hopkins and Kingston, I want you find out all you can about Lucy and her father, relatives, family friends, anyone who Lucy may have been in touch with. Shepherd get on to our oppos in Weymouth. See if they can find anyone at all that knew her.’
‘Him,’ Jasmine said. ‘He was Alfie Benson in Weymouth. He was a man, living, working, socialising, not that he did much of any of that from what I can tell from his conversations with the GIC.’
‘Thank you, DC Frame,’ the DS said, not sounding particularly grateful. ‘I think we know how to do our jobs.’
‘What do you want me to do?’ Jasmine asked as politely as she could manage. She expected to be given another routine IT task.
‘You can get out of here,’ DS Palmerston said, ‘I’ve spoken to DCI Sloane and he agrees that your insubordination yesterday shows that you are temperamentally unsuited to being part of this team. You can go and stew in your little flat until you’ve served your notice.’

………………………..to be continued.

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Jasmine in the mood

I can’t let it go without a comment, even if the subject does bore you.  Yes, it’s the parliamentary debate on Article 50 – a travesty of democracy.  The Conservatives hold up the UK as a model of democratic government but in fact it’s broke. My understanding is that MPs are delegates not representatives (or perhaps it’s the other way round) meaning that once elected they have the responsibility to vote in parliament using their knowledge and experience in whatever way they think is correct i.e. not necessarily according to how their electors want them to vote. The referendum changed that to some extent although it is not written into the UK constitution as such.

Since Leave won the referendum (on lies and exaggerated fears) I expected the Article 50 bill to be won by the government but what actually happened was, as I said, a travesty. To keep to the spirit of the referendum, MPs should have voted as their constituents voted so the bill should have had a small majority of Ayes not the overwhelming landslide it got. Of course I would expect most of the Conservative sheep to follow the government despite most of them being Remainers prior to last June. Corbyn’s decision to push his MPs into voting Aye as well just smacks of fear (of UKIP). MPs from the cities that voted to Remain should have voted Noe.  The result is that we have a government that is working on behalf of the 52% of actual voters who voted Leave (that’s under 40% of electors). The 48% are left with little or no representation in parliament; certainly those of us living in England have none. The same will be true from now on as the negotiations get tricky and dirty and May and her befuddled followers will try to persuade us that the deals they are making are wonderful achievements while in fact being the equivalent of being relegated from the football league.

wp_20161205_16_08_46_proNow something more fun – the second part of Darkroom, a prequel story to Painted Ladies.  The publication of the 3rd Jasmine Frame novel, The Brides’ Club Murder will be very soon, but in this story Jasmine has yet to decide that she is transsexual. (Sorry about the photos getting a bit repetitive – I need to get more done.)

 

 

 

Darkroom: Part 2

Jasmine and Angela crossed the station concourse looking for the way out that would bring them on to the street nearest to the club.  Jasmine noticed the young woman in the short skirt and leather jacket that had been in their carriage, heading towards an exit. Jasmine took Angela’s hand and followed her. Jasmine lowered her head to speak softly in Angela’s ear.
‘I’m sure that girl that was on the train is a tranny. Don’t you think so?’
Angela nodded. ‘Yes. She looked good but her dress wasn’t quite right. A bit too risqué for a night out in London. And she was on her own.’
‘I think she’s going to the club. She’s just left the station ahead of us.’
They stepped out on to the street and Jasmine was grateful for her fake-fur coat as the icy wind blew up her legs. They set off along the road with Jasmine visualising the map she had looked at on her laptop.
‘It’s around the next corner and then just a hundred metres or so,’ she said.  They turned the next corner and Jasmine’s map-reading was proved correct. Directly ahead was the rectangular block of The Engine Shed illuminated by spotlights.  Something did surprise Jasmine however. The street was almost empty. There was just one other couple, bundled up in long coats heading in the same direction.
‘Where’s she gone?’ Jasmine said, standing still and looking up the dimly lit road with old brick buildings on both sides.
‘Who?’
‘The girl, the tranny. She was just in front of us, I thought.’
‘Perhaps you were wrong about where she was heading or perhaps she ran to get in out of the cold.’
‘Run? On those heels she was wearing?’
Angela chuckled. ‘Perhaps she’s better on heels than you are.’  She tugged Jasmine’s hand. ‘Come on. It’s too cold to stand around.’
They set off up the road to the club. Jasmine was eager to get inside, not just because of the cold but because she wanted to get into the spirit of the place and start dancing.  They were about halfway along the street when Jasmine saw something glittering on the floor, catching the light from the club. She stopped to pick it up. It was a silver chain about ten centimetres long with red and white jewels hanging from it.
‘Look at this,’ Jasmine said, holding it up so that Angela could examine it.
‘It’s a clip-on earring.’
‘Yes, and I think the girl was wearing ear rings just like this – long, dangly and sparkly.’
‘I think you’re right. You know that clip-ons can be loose, you wear them yourself.’
‘She can’t have noticed that she’d dropped one.’
‘Not if she was hurrying to get inside and warm. Come on. Perhaps we’ll see her and you can give it back.’
Jasmine tucked the earring into her clutch bag and they continued the last few yards to the club. The entrance was in the middle of the long wall of the old engine shed facing them. As Jasmine and Angela crossed the road a black taxi drew up and tipped out a quartet of girls giggling and staggering on their unfeasibly high heels.  They straightened up by leaning on each other and tugged their short skirts and dresses down their thighs.  Tossing the shoulder-length hair of what were, fairly obviously, wigs and laughing loudly they headed for the entrance. Jasmine and Angela followed them through the narrow double doors and were given a nod by the bouncer standing guard.
They entered a narrow corridor with a ticket booth on the left and a cloakroom on the right.  Jasmine ducked down to peer at the cashier.  She was another lady with an exuberant wig.
‘Five pounds for each of you darling, since you’re both girls.’
‘She’s not a . . .’ Jasmine wasn’t sure how to describe Angela.
‘I know, love, but all trans people and real girls get in for a fiver before midnight, and you get a glass of wine or a fruit juice free.’  Did she think she or Angela was the trans-girl? Jasmine wasn’t sure but suspected she’d been read.
‘Oh, thanks.’ She handed over a ten pound note and took the tickets. Angela took her ticket and they moved across to the cloakroom. Jasmine was pleased to see that their coats would be kept securely for the cost of just one pound. She stuffed the numbered slip and her ticket into her bag. It was then that she became conscious of the music travelling up the corridor. With Angela at her side, she advanced towards the sound.
They stepped into a huge dark space. This was where steam engines had come to be cleaned and serviced. The roof was high above but invisible. Windows in the walls were blocked so admitted not even starlight. Some distance above their heads had been strung spotlights in red, blue, green and white and glitter balls which cast moving shards and pools of light across the floor while laser beams flashed above their heads. While the lights fooled the eyes, Jasmine could see that the floor was empty of people but in the middle, was a stage stacked with speakers and the DJ’s desk. At that moment, the DJ was standing idly while the Beegees blared out.  Jasmine felt her limbs pulsing to the beat and looked forward to getting out on the dance floor but apparently, few others had the same inclination.
‘Where is everyone?’ Jasmine shouted into Angela’s ear.
‘I told you we were early,’ Angela said peering to left and right, ‘but there they are.’ She pointed to the left. People were clustered around a long, open hatch in the wall.
‘Ah, the bar,’ Jasmine said. ‘Let’s get a drink.’
They moved towards it, finding plenty of room. A male barman addressed them at a volume just audible above the music
‘What’ll it be girls?’
Jasmine spoke up. ‘The ticket lady said there was a free drink.’
‘That’s right. Red, white or orange.’
Jasmine glanced at Angela who nodded. ‘Two white wines please.’
The barman grabbed two wine glasses from the tray beside him and began to fill them from a bottle of white wine.
‘Your first time, girls?’ he said.
‘Um, yes,’ Jasmine replied.
‘There’s another bar in the quiet rooms over on the other side. Better if you want to chat or do other things.’ He winked.
‘Thanks,’ Jasmine replied, ‘When does the dancing start?’
‘You can start it now if you like. But it’s usually around midnight when the crowds arrive that the dance floor fills. It takes a lot of people to fill this place but we usually manage it. There you go girls. Have a good time.’
Jasmine picked up the two glasses and turned to Angela. Angela took her glass and sipped the wine.
‘Cheap stuff.’
‘It was free.’
‘Sort of.’
‘We’re not here for the booze.’
‘True.’
Jasmine looked to left and right where there were small gaggles of people. They were mostly girls, T-girls, in their party frocks but there was a scattering of men, mainly single, eyeing up the girls or engaging them with chat up lines that made them giggle.
‘I can’t see the girl on the train,’ Jasmine shouted
Angela shook her head. ‘No, but it’s difficult with these lights to make anyone out. Let’s take a wander around.’
‘She could be over in the quiet rooms.’
Angela nodded as they set off on their walk of exploration.
…………………
I’m pulled, dragged, carried off the street. My feet stumble over a step and then my shoes are rubbing against a wooden floor.  I can’t see much. It’s dark and the gloved hand covering my mouth and nose obscures my sight as well. Anyway, I can’t breathe and tying to suck air into my lungs is what is uppermost in my mind. Well almost. That and thinking – you idiot, you come up to the city for the first time, in your best girly kit and on your own. You deserve to die and you’re going to.
There’s something touching my legs. A chair. The hand on my arm allows me to sag onto it and the leather glove moves from my face. I gasp, feeling the pain and pleasure of cold air entering my lungs.  Nausea sweeps over me and I lean forward with my head on my knees.
‘Let’s see what we’ve got.’ A male voice, not rough, quite cultured in fact. Hands on my shoulders pull me upright. I stare into the darkness. A dark room. No light whatsoever, except. . . now there is.
He’s moved around in front of me and turned on a torch. It shines straight into my eyes. I blink and raise my hands to my eyes. My left hand catches my ear. I don’t why I notice this of all things but my earring’s not there. I check my other ear. The long chain dangles down to the collar of my jacket.
‘A pretty young thing,’ he says and steps closer, the torch still on me. I feel a hand between my knees, pushing my thighs apart. I resist. The hand withdraws and slaps me across the cheek. I gasp.
‘Don’t.’ he says. The hand returns between my legs. It pushes up, the fingers stretched out, seeking. The finger tips probe my thighs above my stockings, then press against my silk covered abdomen. The fingers dive, groping under my groin. They start to curl. He has my balls.
‘Ah. I thought I’d read you right, my dear. A tranny, complete and in full working order.’
He knows. My penis is straightening, stiffening. He squeezes. Tighter. I squeal.
………………………to be continued.

 

Jasmine Frame in “Darkroom”

There’s so much that has happened this week that is worrying but I can’t comment on it all – and I don’t want this blog to become merely a vehicle for my rants and fears. I’ll merely make one comment on the news.

I am delighted that the UK Supreme Court decided that the government must go to parliament to vote on the start of the EU exit procedure. It won’t hold up May of course, particularly as the Labour party doesn’t know which way to turn. No, it’s important for the future. It has reaffirmed in law that the UK is a parliamentary democracy in which the big decisions are made by MPs voted for by us. It’s not a perfect system by any means, but it is better than an authoritarian prime-minister and a few cabinet ministers thinking they can do what they like.  We’ll need that check on the government when May comes back from doing a deal with Trump and we find she’s sold out the NHS or given the American oil companies freedom to frack where they like, or something like that, in order to have that “special relationship trade deal”.

Another frustration has been more personal. I was persuaded by the offer of money to do some work for an (un-named) educational publisher. I have to make an almost insignificant contribution to one of the new GCSE science courses. I’m pretty disgusted. The way the GCSE specifications (the syllabus for old hands) is interpreted makes a nonsense of teaching science in  a relevant, progressive manner. Theories and concepts are torn from from experience in the real world. The rush to publish, because the curriculum changes almost faster than publishers (and teachers) can keep up, means there is little thought about the experience of the students and why science is being taught at all. It’s simply – learn this for the exam.

I’m going back to my fiction (as soon as I can). It may not be making me much cash but at least it consists of my ideas.

Layout 1Talking of which, I’m starting a new Jasmine Frame short story or novella (we’ll see how long it gets). It is set shortly after the events of the previous prequel, Falloff.  Like nearly all the prequels, the working title is drawn from a glossary of photographic terms. It may mean something, it may not. I’m also experimenting a bit in this one, as you’ll see.  Let me know what you think.

Darkroom: Part 1

James pushed the door open, wheeled his case into the room, looked around at the bare plain walls and sighed. ‘Well, I suppose it is cheap for London.’
Angela followed, towing a considerably smaller overnight bag. Her eyes took in the standard budget hotel fittings.
‘It’ll do. It’s not as if we’re planning on spending much time here. You want to be out and about, don’t you? Come on, get yourself changed and cheer up.’ She sat in the single, small easy chair and kicked off her shoes.
James lifted his case onto the bed and opened it revealing an assortment of clothes – female clothes.  He took out a couple of dresses on their hangers and hung them on the rail in the narrow alcove that did the job of a wardrobe.
‘I know you think it’s sad that I’ve been longing so much for this weekend.’
‘I think it’s sad that you don’t feel you can be yourself back home in Reading.’
‘You know the reason.’
‘Oh, I understand.’ Angela reached for the magazine in her handbag. ‘You’re getting paranoid that every police officer in Reading who sees you as Jasmine will recognise the shiny, new PC, Jim Frame and report you as a tranny to the Chief Constable.’
‘Well, yes, that’s it. I can’t help feeling nervous.’
‘Oh, come here, you silly thing.’
James crossed the room and stooped into Angela’s outstretched arms. They hugged and kissed. Angela took a breath and pushed him away. ‘Go on. Transform yourself.’
James grinned and returned to the case. He withdrew a washbag and headed for the en-suite shower room.
 An hour later, Jasmine was ready. She looked at herself in the long mirror, the one piece of luxury in the room. The purple dress, purchased specially with money Angela had given her at Christmas, fitted perfectly. It clung to her false curves on the top half of her body but her narrow hips and insignificant waist were hidden by the folds of the puffball. She pushed the long blonde hair of the wig from her face and checked her make-up. Satisfied, she put her feet into the high heeled shoes and pulled on her short, fake-fur coat. She turned to face Angela.
‘There I’m ready. Shall we go?’
Angela looked up from her magazine. She had been changed into her party gear for some time. She glanced at her watch.
‘It’s still only nine. You know the club doesn’t really get buzzing till midnight.’
‘I know, but I want to make the most of it. It’s not as if we’ll be doing this very often.’
Angela put her magazine down and got to her feet. She smiled. ‘Of course. Let’s go.’  She put her coat on and together they left the hotel room.
‘Walk or tube?’ Angela asked.
Jasmine looked at her feet as they descended the stairs. ‘I know it’s only supposed to be fifteen minutes on foot but I don’t think I can manage that in these shoes.’
Angela laughed. ‘You’re out of practice. A real girl can walk any distance in heels.’
‘Really?’
‘Well, perhaps not. Tube it is.’
The hotel was right beside the railway station, one reason why they had chosen it. A few minutes later they were standing on the Circle Line platform with lots of other people up in the city for the Friday evening entertainments.  A train arrived and Jasmine and Angela joined the rush to get seats.
Jasmine looked up and down the carriage. Many of their fellow travellers were young people like themselves obviously on their way to clubs and parties. There were couples and small groups and a smattering of singles. One young woman attracted Jasmine’s attention. Obviously alone, she sat hunched up against the end of the bench seat.  There was something about her dress and the way that she sat that made Jasmine examine her closely. She nudged Angela gently.
……………………….
I tug the hem of the skirt down my smooth, nylon-sheathed thighs. It’s not that I’m cold, in fact the tube train is unusually warm for a February evening. No, it’s a sort of involuntary reflex, a desire for modesty. That’s silly really because I chose to wear the short, filmy skirt and the sheer stockings. No one made me. It’s the same as how I’m curling up in the corner of my seat as if trying to make myself invisible. That would probably have the opposite effect if anyone was interested in me at all. A couple of young women at the other end of the carriage have glanced at me a couple of times. They’re dressed as if they’re off to a party too. Now-one’s staring at me. Don’t I want to be seen? After all, that’s the point, isn’t it, of being out, yes, actually out – being seen in public. It’s not my first time out of course, but it is my first trip into London.
I make myself relax. I sit up straight in my seat, tug my bag into my side, feel my knees touching. This is what I’ve been planning for weeks. A girly night out at a club, in London. This part, the getting there, was always going to be the most nervy stage. That and getting home again after; and taking my first steps into a club full of trannies. Ok, the whole evening is nerve-wracking . . .but I love it.
I’m used to sneaking out of my flat without being seen but standing on the platform at the station made me feel really exposed. Of course, I arrived a long time before my train was due, so that made it worse. The cold almost made me wish I hadn’t chosen a short skirt and 10 denier stockings. Almost. It’s the swish of the skirt against my thighs that is one of the feelings I love most.
I don’t think anyone has given me more of a look than any of the other party girls heading into the city. In fact, I’m sure one or two of the blokes have been eyeing me up with no idea what I’ve got between the thighs that they’ve had a glimpse of.
The train’s slowing down. This is where I get off. Those two young women are moving too.  My heart’s thumping. Perhaps I’ll stay on the tube and go all the way round back to the mainline station and catch the next train home. I dismiss the thought and get to my feet just as the train comes to a halt.
I step out onto the platform and head for the exit. On the escalator, I stand with my feet firmly together. Is that man a few steps behind looking up my skirt at my silk knickers? The thought that he might be gives me a strange do I/don’t I feeling.  Then I’m through the barriers and heading onto the street. The blast of cold is a shock and I pull the zip up on my leather jacket. Perhaps I should have worn my coat after all.
I’ve rehearsed this stage over and over, poring over the map to make sure I know exactly how to get from the tube station to the club. Luckily, as the website says, it’s only a two-minute walk. The club is right beside the railway line. It’s dark and there aren’t many people around. That’s not surprising as its early for dedicated clubbers; it’s not even nine-thirty yet.
I turn a corner and there is the old brick building ahead of me with a big sign in lights saying simply “The Engine Shed”. The lights draw me and I quicken my step. I’m about fifty yards away and my thoughts are already inside, imagining the music, the chatter, the press of other trannies.
A hand grips my arm. I halt, almost stumbling on my heels but the arm holds me up. I look. The face is dark, hidden by a hood that is itself in shadow. I open my mouth to speak. Another gloved hand covers it.
……………….to be continued.

Jasmine, el Travestido

I’m not going to rant or write an essay today. I just want to wish everyone a Happy Christmas or the joys of the season and hope you have a great time whatever or whoever you are celebrating.

I’d also like to say thank you to readers of this blog. There’s not a vast number of you out there but you seem to stick at it, so thanks a lot. The main  purpose of this weekly publication  is to promote my stories, particularly the Jasmine Frame novels and novellas. I enjoy the weekly responsibility, not a chore, of producing an episode, hoping of course that it is taking the current story further while not disrupting the life-story of Jasmine that I have put together over the years.  If I had been as governed by schedules as the TV stations I would have arranged a climax this week, like the final instalment of Strictly or the Apprentice or Humans, etc. But I haven’t. So Falloff will continue for two or three weeks yet (I think). Then, who knows.

Here are some images of 2016:

Best wishes for 2017

 

Now here’s the latest episode of Falloff.

Falloff: Part 8

‘I like Seňorita,’ Jasmine replied feeling a little uncomfortable.  She saw a twinkle in Alvarez’s eyes. He’s pleased to have found out something about me, she thought. ‘What brings you here, Inspector? There hasn’t been another incident has there?’ Jasmine nodded at Carl. He was leaning on his dark-haired companion, his eyes unfocussed.
‘No more incidents, Seňorita Frame,’ the inspector said, ‘but this is about the time that Seňorita Thomas fell to her death last night. I came to see who was here at this time, and here you all are.’ Alvarez looked pleased.
‘Why is us being here interesting?’ Jess asked.
Alvarez stepped closer and said in a quitter voice, ‘Because a murderer often returns to the scene of the crime at times of significance.’
‘Really,’ Andy said, incredulous, ‘is that true?’
The inspector nodded, ‘Surprisingly often, yes.’
‘Hold on,’ Jess said, ‘You said murderer. Do you mean someone pushed Raquel off the balcony?’
Alvarez nodded, ‘An accident is unlikely, and from what you have told me about the unfortunate young lady, she was not one likely to kill herself.’
Jess covered her mouth with a hand, ‘No, but, I hadn’t thought. . . So someone killed her. Oh, dear.’  Andy put his arms around her.
‘Do you have any suspects?’ Angela asked.
‘Ah, Seňora, it would be a mistake for me to tell you, but most killings are by someone known to the victim.’ The policeman looked around the young people sitting and standing around him. ‘However, Seňor Carl was observed at El Danza at the time of Seňorita Raquel’s fall, so he is innocent.’  His absolution did not seem to have any effect on Carl. He leaned on his new girlfriend, his eyes almost closed.
Alvarez addressed him, ‘Why did you say the hotel was full of lesbians and perverts, Seňor?’
Carl’s head wobbled, he swallowed a few times before a sound emerged from his mouth, ‘’Cos it is. Look at him, the fucking weirdo,’ He pointed a trembling finger at Jasmine.’
Alvarez stared at Carl, ‘Seňor Frame appears to be content that he is a travestido. He can be what he likes here. We have no laws that say what clothes a man can or cannot wear.’  Jasmine was pleased to have the inspector’s support. Alvarez went on, ‘Where are the lesbians that seem to offend you, Seňor?’
Carl’s gaze wandered erratically around the lounge. He shrugged, then threw up on the marble floor.
‘I think you ought to go to bed,’ Alvarez said. He clicked his fingers to the barman.  The inspector spoke quietly in Spanish to Carl’s girlfriend. She nodded and with a degree of reluctance helped Carl towards the lift.  The barman appeared armed with bucket, mop, and an outsize bottle of disinfectant. With a look of severe distaste, he began to clear the mess.
Alvarez turned to the group. ‘Two of Seňorita Thomas’ friends are not here?’
‘Gemma and Carrie went to bed,’ Jess said.
‘They share a room, I think?’ Alvarez said.  Jess and Andy nodded. ‘Are they the pair that, Seňor Carl believes are lesbians?’
Jess and Andy looked at each other. Jasmine watched their wordless communication. After a few moments, Jess faced Alvarez and nodded.
Alvarez made some scribbles in his notebook. ‘What about, Seňorita Raquel?’
Jasmine blurted, ‘But she was with Carl.’
The police officer frowned at her interruption. ‘She was until the day before her death. Do you know why she and Carl separated?’ He glared at Andy and Jess. They both shook their heads almost imperceptibly.
‘Are you sure?’ Alvarez persisted, ‘You were on holiday together; you must have talked about why a pair of your friends were unhappy and had parted company.’
Andy and Jess shook their heads more vigorously. The inspector frowned and puffed out through his lips.
‘Well, I shall leave for tonight, seňoritas y seňor,’ he nodded to Andy, ‘Perhaps you will be able to help me more after you have had your sleep.’ He turned and sauntered out of the lounge.
There was no conversation until the policeman had gone.
‘Raquel was murdered,’ Jess said.
‘I didn’t think she could have killed herself,’ Andy muttered.
‘Any ideas who could have done it?’ Jasmine enquired, ‘After all, as Alvarez said, you are all friends.’
Jess frowned, ‘Well, except for Carl.’
Angela leaned forward, ‘What do you mean?’
‘The five of us have been friends at college for a long time. We decided to go on holiday but left it to the last minute to get a cheaper package. Then a few weeks ago, Raquel hooked up with Carl and decided to bring him too. That’s why we got three double rooms.’
‘So, Carl and Raquel hadn’t been together for long,’ Jasmine said. Jess nodded. ‘They were still getting to know each other.’
‘I suppose so,’ Andy agreed.
‘You said they had fallen out because Carl was eyeing up other girls. Was that really the reason?’
Andy and Jess looked into each other’s eyes again, then they both shrugged.
‘Well, Carl does letch all the girls, but it was him that walked out on Raquel rather than her throwing him out.’
Jasmine’s interest grew, ‘Why?’
‘Raquel said that he’d found out about her,’ Jess said.
‘Found out what?’
‘Raquel’s bi.’
‘Ah. Had she had a relationship with Gemma or Carrie?’ Jasmine had put two and two together and hoped that it made four.
Jess gasped, then slumped and nodded. ‘Yes, Raquel has been, er, close with them before she met Carl.’
‘But Gemma and Carrie are a couple now?’
‘Yes, of course. They chose to share, even before Raquel and Carl got together.’
There was silence for a moment. Jasmine thought about what the revelations meant.
‘But who could have pushed Raquel off the balcony?’ Jess said, ‘Alvarez thinks it was one of us, but it wasn’t me or Andy. We were still dancing.’
Jasmine nodded, ‘You should have told Alvarez about Raquel being bisexual, but it doesn’t matter. He suspects either Carrie or Gemma of being Raquel’s killer, anyway.’
………………to be continued

Jasmine on the beat

Christmas is coming. . .

There is a lot about Christmas that I enjoy but there are two things (perhaps more) that bother me.

The first is – what am I celebrating? Of course I was brought up to believe that it is the celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ, the Son of God, etc. etc. I’m not sure whether I ever did believe all that but I certainly don’t now. I do accept that there probably was a bloke who may have been called Jesus who was a charismatic leader around 0 AD in Judea who probably got executed by the Roman occupiers on behalf of the Jewish leadership, but he was certainly not born on 25th Dec. and the miraculous stuff was added afterwards.  Nevertheless I am happy to get together with the family and have a great feast; send cards to family and friends (even if I don’t see them from one year to the next) and sing carols (I love sacred music even though I don’t believe the words). I’m not celebrating the pagan mid-winter festival that the Christians hi-jacked although mid-winter is a good time to have a bit of a party and holiday. I suppose that’s it. We need a few occasions when everything stops and everyone can celebrate, worship, or do what they wish. I don’t want to stop anyone, of any religion, from celebrating whatever mystery they wish. On the other hand I do wish Christmas didn’t start in September.

My other problem is presents. There is nothing like the enjoyment of seeing someone open a present you have wrapped up (perhaps all of an hour or so beforehand) and seeing their happy face. Opening presents oneself is almost as big a pleasure. When the kids were younger our present-opening session used to last for two to three hours and much fizzy stuff was drunk. The problem is the “Christmas list”. I like surprises but, unfortunately, so many unexpected presents turn out to be something that gets put away in a cupboard as unwanted or not fit for purpose. So we write down the things we would like to receive which means the element of surprise is lost. Unless of course you can actually forget what you asked for – I know one or two who express surprise when they open  a present taken from their list but I wonder if they are just saying it so that the giver feels happier.

 

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Drinking gluwein in a Bavarian hut on The Hayes, Cardiff – a day out and a spot of Christmas shopping. Hair a bit flat due to hat wearing.

 

Anyway, onto the next episode of Falloff, the Jasmine Frame prequel. Is it a coincidence that I have set this story in the summer heat of Ibiza while we pass through winter?

Falloff: Part 6

Night had fallen but it was still hot. James and Angela had lounged around at the hotel all day and eaten in the hotel restaurant. Now they were sitting beside the pool again, watching the young people splashing in the water and looking beyond to the lights on San Antonio’s sea front.
‘Come on James, let’s do something,’ Angela said. She sat up and gave him a friendly shove in the ribs.
‘Ow! What did you do that for?’ he replied.
‘You’ve been moping around all day. We haven’t done anything other sit around or swim in the pool, and that meal. . . well!’
‘What was wrong with it?’ James couldn’t remember what he’d eaten.
‘If we’re in Spain I want to eat Spanish food, not stuff served up for English kids.’
James considered. The menu had consisted of typical English dishes: fish & chips, pizza and chips, chicken tikka and chips, even roast beef and chips. ‘It’s what the kids who come to Ibiza to party want I suppose.’
‘That’s it,’ Angela said, sitting up straight, ‘They come to party. We did too, didn’t we; to dance in the clubs.’
‘Hmm.’
‘Come on, brighten up. What’s on your mind?’
James sighed, ‘I can’t help thinking about Raquel and who would have wanted to kill her.’
‘Well, you know it wasn’t Carl so that put an end to your dying breath clue.’
‘I suppose so.’
‘So, come on. Put it out of your mind. Let’s have fun. Look, do you want to be Jasmine or not?’
A little light lit up amongst the gloom in James’ head. It was true that he had been feeling glum with no further theories for identifying Raquel’s killer, but the thought of being Jasmine was guaranteed to brighten his mood.
‘You’re happy to go clubbing with Jasmine again?’
‘Yes, of course. You know I enjoy it as much as you do.’
‘Well, OK then.’ James swung off the lounger and stood up. He held out his hand to tug Angela to her feet. ‘Let’s get partied up then.’
They walked along the promenade, passed the yachts bobbing in the harbour, arm in arm like two girlfriends. They were dressed similarly; both striding out in strappy sandals swinging their short, sleeveless, white dresses, though Jasmine’s knickers and bra were rather more substantial than the tiny wisps of cloth that Angela had underneath her dress. Jasmine was a little self-conscious because she had again come out without her long blonde wig. Wearing it was just too hot but she felt a little exposed without her disguise.
They joined the queue waiting for entry to El Danza and looked around. The loud dance music made conversation difficult even outside the venue but Jasmine felt her muscles starting to pulse in time to the beat. The queue moved forward quickly and soon they were inside and joining another less orderly crowd at the bar.
Jasmine handed over her cash and reached across the bar for the two tall glasses of white wine and soda packed with ice. She turned and brushed a girl’s shoulder with a cold glass.
‘Sorry,’ she shouted over the music.
The girl turned her head to look at her. ‘That’s okay.’ Their eyes met, they stared at each other for a moment, then recognition arrived. Jasmine refrained from saying anything and would have made a quick escape except the press of bodies prevented it.
‘You’re James,’ Jess said. She looked at Jasmine’s face with her gelled-up hair, sparkly eye shadow, dark red lipstick, long dangly earrings, then down at Jasmine’s bosom. ‘But, you’re. . . you’re. . .’
‘Jasmine,’ she said.
‘But you were James earlier, by the pool. Weren’t you?’ Jess seemed to doubt her own memory for a moment.
Jasmine couldn’t, didn’t want to, deny it and she was trapped with the girl. She had to reply. She nodded.
‘You’re a tranny,’ Jess exclaimed with a giggle. There it was said, that word that defined her and made her out to be a weirdo who dressed like a woman, sometimes. Jasmine managed a wan smile.
‘But you’re married, aren’t you?’
‘Yes,’ Jasmine said wondering why that was a surprise.
‘Where’s your wife?’
James nodded to the edge of the crowd around the bar. ‘There. I’ve got a drink for her.’
‘She’s with you?’
‘Yes, we like dancing together.’
‘That’s weird.’ The man in front of Jess turned around with a trayful of shot glasses held above his head. Jasmine realised it was Andy. She groaned.
Jess shouted in Andy’s ear. ‘Look. it’s James who found Raquel. He’s a tranny.’  Andy looked at Jasmine slowly taking in what Jess had said.
‘Oh. Hi,’ was all he managed.  The crowd parted a little and the three of them spilled out into space. Angela stepped forward and took a glass from Jasmine’s hand, and noticed the boy and girl.
‘Hello,’ she said glancing back to Jasmine to see how she was taking the meeting.
‘You must come and meet the others,’ Jess said, ‘They’d love to see you, er, to thank for you what you did.’
Jess grabbed Jasmine’s arm and starting dragging her to the edge of the dance floor. Andy and Angela followed. Jasmine saw two more girls looking at them and through the darkness and the flashing lasers she recognised them as the other two girls in Raquel’s party.
Jess bounced up to the two girls and shouted at them, ‘I know it doesn’t look like it but this is James who found Raquel last night.’
Jasmine stood still, feeling embarrassed. The two girls stared at her with dark eyes wide.
‘You’re a tranny!’ They screamed in unison. Jasmine tried to look accepting and pleased that she had been exposed but failed. One of the girls stepped forward, leaned towards Jasmine and spoke into her ear.
‘I think you look wonderful. What do you call yourself?’
Jasmine felt a sense of relief. Perhaps it wasn’t going to be so bad. ‘It’s Jasmine.’
‘That’s a lovely name. I’m Gemma.’ She put her arm around Jasmine and tugged her towards the other girl. ‘and this is Caroline, although she prefers Carrie.’ The girl gave Jasmine a half a smile and looked away. Andy handed out the glasses of spirit. Carrie raised hers to her mouth and swallowed the whole shot.
Jasmine raised her own glass and sipped her drink while a thought banged around inside her head. Caroline, Carrie, Car. . . was this the name Raquel had whispered, not Carl?
There was another tug on her arm. It was Angela. Her glass was empty.
‘Come on,’ she urged, ‘They’ve started Filthy/Gorgeous.’  Jasmine listened and recognised the beat and opening lines of the Scissors Sisters track. It was one that she and Angela had adopted as their own in the weeks leading up to the wedding. Jasmine lifted her glass to her mouth and took a long swig. Then, as Angela dragged her to the heaving mass of bodies on the dance floor, she stretched out her hand holding the glass. Gemma took it.
Jasmine and Angela were squashed together barely able to move to the beat. Angela’s head bobbed from side to side, her eyes closed. Jasmine bent to her ear.
‘Her name’s Carrie,’ she bellowed.
Angela opened her eyes and looked at her. ‘Who?’
‘The last girl. Raquel’s friend.’
Angela continued to bounce with the rhythm.
‘Do you get it, Ange?’
‘What?’
‘I said her name’s Carrie.’
Angela stopped still and stared at Jasmine. ‘So now you think she’s Raquel’s killer, do you?’
…. to be continued.