Jasmine flustered

It’s been one of those weeks when there have been things to do and people to see.  While things have been done and people seen I feel that I haven’t done all that I wanted to do – especially finish the novel. . .

I’m not going to comment on the news, depressing though it is. It’s not that I don’t think my opinion is unimportant it’s more that I have no solutions. I can’t see how we’re going to get out of the Brexit mess since any sensible solution requires people to be sensible, honest and prepared to change their minds and none of that seems likely. The madness of Trump only gets worse – will anyone ever trust the USA again? Meanwhile climate change continues, protesters protest and get denigrated, while those in authority do nothing, or sometimes the opposite of what is required. I am currently reading the Hugo award winner, Calculating Stars by Mary Robinette Kowal which includes a speeded up climate emergency caused by a meteorite. Despite the desperate situation, Kowal, shows people still reacting in a short term, “I’m alright Jack (now)”, manner.

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Another view of me at Narberth Book Fair

One thing  that did get me hot under the colour was a report of people protesting about new guidelines for schools dealing with trans kids. The guidelines suggest that the children be integrated i.e. not forced to use separate loos, changing rooms, etc. The protesters go on about the right of the majority to not feel uncomfortable or threatened by the presence of the trans-children. It struck me that if the references to trans in the protesters’ piece was replaced by  “gay” or “autistic” or “people of colour”,  (feeling uncomfortable about all those is not unknown), then the transphobia becomes obvious. How to get through to these people that one or two trans kids in a school are not a threat? They will be nervous, self-conscious, afraid of being singled out, aware that they are different, and most definitely, not out to abuse other children.

I had two writers’ group meetings this week. I wrote a story for the first but it is quite long. Also I was fairly proud of it and may use it elsewhere; I may even enter a competition!  The topic for my weekly group was “Moral Judgement”. Now there was a daunting title. I had an idea based on an article in New Scientist about the evolutionary origin of moral behaviour e.g. caring for other people not obviously necessary for survival of the species. But I did not have time to write it, yet.  Instead I was writing an article on the 2019 Nobel Prize for Chemistry which was announced on Wednesday. This year it was a highly relevant piece of research that was rewarded – the development of lithium-ion batteries. The problem is determining the three people most responsible for the breakthrough and delivery of the batteries for commercial use. I think the Nobel committee have made a good choice and you can read my article on the HarperCollins Freedomtoteach blogspot here.  How much does your life depend on lithium-ion batteries?

In lieu of a new story here’s something I wrote earlier, actually so long ago I can’t remember when. It is a somewhat exaggerated version of a repeated childhood experience, perhaps one that we all have.

Watching

It was warm snuggled under the bedclothes but Michael shivered and hugged his threadbare teddy.  Something had disturbed him and now he was wide awake.  He kept his eyes shut tight, pulled the sheets and blankets over his head and curled up as small as he could in the large bed.  He lay still and listened.
Were those footsteps?  He held his breath and waited for the sounds again.  A click and scrubbing against the carpet, a pause then the same small noise again.  It was footsteps, but not Mummy’s or Daddy’s familiar tread.  The steps were beside his bed.  He wanted to call out but his throat froze and no words would come.  He squeezed teddy to his chest and very, very slowly tugged at the sheets.  The edge reached the tip of his ear, a bit further and now the fleecy cotton was on his cheek.  If he opened his eyes he’d be able to see the edge of the bed. Would someone be standing there?
He peered through the narrow gap between half-shut eyelids.  It was dark but there was just enough light to see – nothing.  The door to his bedroom was closed and there was no-one between his bed and the wall.  Carefully Michael rolled on to his back holding teddy firmly.  At the bottom of his bed the wardrobe loomed wide and tall and black as black could be.  It grew larger as he stared at it and he looked into an endless tunnel.  It was a great dark mouth which was swallowing him up. He trembled and shook his head but still no sound could find its way through his lips pressed firmly together.  His eyes were trapped by the enveloping darkness.  He was about to fall.
He turned his head away.  Now he was facing the other side of his room.  In the darkness he could just see the solid dark cone of the lamp on his bedside table and the wall beyond it, the patterns of the wallpaper indistinct.  To the left was the outline of the chair beneath the window.  His eyes followed the vertical parallel lines of the chair back up to the window sill, hidden behind the folds of curtains.  Woven from thick fibres the unlined cloth allowed moonlight to enter the room in myriads of dim sparkles with the window frame forming a dark cross.  To the right of the central spar there was a silhouette.  Michael strained his eyes to make out the shape not wanting to be sure but yes, there were two legs, a body, and a head.  Someone was standing on the window ledge.
Michael stared, his heart thumping rapidly in his chest, the blood roaring in his ears.  How did they get up to his window?  What would they do now?  He waited for the crash of disintegrating glass; the curtains to billow out as the body came falling through the window to land on him, the breath and the life to be crushed out of him.  Still no scream would come.
He watched and waited.  The shape made no movement.
He watched and waited.

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Jasmine looks ahead

What does the future hold for us?  It is a little over two months till the PM’s self-imposed deadline for leaving the EU, “or else”. Hardly a day goes by without the news reporting some hardships likely to be caused by a “no deal” exit – food and medicine shortages, rubbish piling up, oil refineries closing down because it is no longer profitable selling British fuel abroad, etc. The Leavers cry “Project Fear” or “fake news” at every negative report but what is the truth? The fact is that the future is never quite what we expect; almost all decisions made by government or individuals have unintended consequences, some good, some bad. I don’t think the world (well the UK bit) will end on 1st Nov if we “leave” on 31st Oct but I am fairly sure that with this government in power and the situation in the world as it is at present, the future is not going to be comfortable.

What can we do? A dear Remainer friend suggested that as the government is in power legally (well, technically I suppose it is) there’s nothing to be done and we should just accept what comes. Really? I’m no protester.  The only time I went on strike was at school where all the pupils decided not to sing the hymn at assembly (I cannot remember the grievance and while the action was supported we soon caved in to the Deputy Head’s remonstration). I’m not one for marches either, not being fond of crowds or going in the same direction as everyone else. Nevertheless, I can see a future where I am forced to stand up for what I think is right, whether it’s support for minority groups (not just trans rights); protesting at erosion of civil rights and democracy or trade agreements with countries that leave us worse off one way or another; or demanding action on climate change.  Let’s see what happens. . .

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P1000572For a very long time I have been interested in literature on transgenderism. I read Myra Breckinridge (Gore Vidal) a long time ago along with Virginia Woolf’s Orlando and other novels. There was Jan Morris’ trans autobiography Conundrum and more recently Trans A Memoir by Juliet Jacques and Trans Britain edited by Christine Burns. I have also read a variety of novels which had trans-characters but which I will not name because they do not deserve the publicity. When I started writing about Jasmine Frame my intention was to write a good crime story while making Jasmine as real a transwoman as I could. I realise that as I am not transsexual (I’m gender fluid) my description  of Jasmine was second-hand but while I have no doubt made mistakes, most readers have been complimentary about the plots and the information on trans issues. Nevertheless my aim was to provide entertainment through the medium of a trans character with exciting action as well as contemplation about Jasmine’s position.

One of my readers and followers has published a novel and asked me to mention it. I purchased the e-book from Amazon myself – Summer Dreams by Helen Dale costs £4.99 This link will take you to Helen’s website where you can read a chapter and order the book. If you are not trans yourself and you want to know what trans-people dream of then this book is for you. It largely reads as a fantasy in which the protagonist, Vicky, gets all that she desires – a sugar-daddy boyfriend who gives her the opportunity to transition and achieve full female status in around two years, and a comfortable fulfilling life. Vicky is superb at everything she does whether it is passing as female (even before starting GR treatment), sailing, learning to scuba dive, flying a plane, dolphin spotting, running a business, changing the attitude of prison officers to trans prisoners, and bringing up kids. It is no misery memoir, nor a tale of trial and tribulation, but it will tell you a lot about the desires of transpeople, well, transwomen.

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This week’s writing group theme was “Pandora’s Box”. Now I could have gone subtle and used the title as a metaphor – but I didn’t. Here is an excerpt of the novel that has yet to be written (or planned, for that matter), introducing a new character, Dr. Merioneth Efans, archaeologist, adventurer and hero. Remind you of anyone? Oh, and he’s Welsh.

Merioneth Efans and Pandora’s Box

I stumbled over a boulder and emerged from the crowding pine trees. The bright sun on the bleached rocks dazzled me. I paused to breathe.
“Dych chi’n dod, Helen?” Efans called reverting to his native Welsh.
“Yes, I’m coming,” I replied struggling to see through squinting eyes. He seemed to be jumping up and down. “What are you doing, Meri?” I called. I scrambled over the bare rock towards him.
“Don’t you see. We’re here.” He gesticulated at the almost vertical cliff at the head of the gorge we had just climbed.
“What do you mean, Merioneth?” I demanded.
“It’s the Palace of Epimetheus, husband of Pandora, brother of Prometheus.”
I stared at the brilliant white rock. I rubbed the sweat from my eyes and peered again. Then I saw them, straight lines, sharp angles, columns with curly capitals, a Palladian pediment, not standing free but carved into the rock. My perception changed. I wasn’t looking at a natural cliff-face but the frontage of a building, yes, alright, a palace.
I crawled the remaining distance and Merioneth held out a hand to haul me onto the terrace at the base of the wall.
“How do you know it’s Epimetheus’s palace?”
Efans laughed. “It’s what we’ve come all this way for isn’t it and it’s here. Let’s get inside.”
I noticed there was a doorway between the columns. It was closed and looked as solid as the rock from which the walls were built, but Meri went and rested a shoulder against it. It was heavy but barely made a noise as it swung slowly open. I followed him inside.
We were in a huge hall with a ceiling lost in the darkness above us. Efans strode across the smooth floor which was surprisingly free of dust. Ahead of us, illuminated by the sunlight from the entrance was a set of four steps, each a metre high, surmounted by a throne built of the same white stone. A throne built for a god not a man.
Efans took the haversack off his back, placed it on the first step then hauled himself up.  He was about to climb the second when the roar of a gun firing echoed around the vast space. I span around to see a figure standing in the doorway.
“Ah, Dr Efans and Miss Harper. How lucky for me that you should be here already.”
I recognised that harsh, Slavic voice.
“Lucky for you, Dragic?” Efans replied.
“Yes, you can save me the trouble of searching. Have you found the box yet?” His silhouette approached with the gun clearly pointing at me.
“Now, boyo, that would be telling wouldn’t it.” Efans jumped down by my side. He grabbed the haversack and held it in front of him.
The Macedonian-Serb stopped two metres from me, the pistol still threatening.
“Empty that bag,” Dragic ordered.
Efans shrugged, crouched down, undid the straps and tipped the haversack upside down. A carved wooden box fell with a hollow thud onto the stone floor.
Dragic let out a gasp. “You have found it. Back away. Now!” He waved the gun from me to Efans. We both retreated.  Dragic bent down and picked up the box. He hugged it to his chest then backed away. Efans took a step forward and another shot ricocheted off the floor scattering fragments of marble.
“Don’t move.”  The Serb hurried backwards until he was almost at the doorway. I expected Efans to run after him but he grabbed me and pulled me to the side of the throne.
Dragic disappeared with a shout of “Fire!”. At once there was a huge explosion, deafening me and filling the air with smoke and rock dust. The entrance collapsed into a heap of rubble and we were in darkness.
Once I had done with all the coughing and could hear again, I pushed Efans away from me. He switched on the penlight he carried in his pocket.
I thought he looked suspiciously calm. “What now, Meri? Did you expect that?”
“I thought that Dragic wouldn’t want us following him out of the palace. That’s why I didn’t let you go after him.”
“I wasn’t about to chase a man with a gun, Meri. What was that game with the box. You’ve carried that all the way from Athens.”
In the dim light of the torch I could see him smiling. “Yes, I was quite taken by it and thought it might come in useful.”
“Useful? That horrible man has it now.”
“That’s right and he thinks he’s got Pandora’s Box.”
“But you bought it on a souvenir stall. It’s not the Pandora’s Box.”
“Of course not, but it’s got Dragic off our backs and the amusing thing is that he doesn’t even know that Pandora’s Box is not a box.”
Efans turned away from me and strode off into the darkness behind the throne.
“What do you mean, Merioneth? How are we going to get out?” I said hurrying after him wanting to stay close to the tiny pool of light
“First we’ll see what we can find and then, well, have you ever known a palace with just one entrance.”

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Jasmine confused

Do you ever have that feeling that you are the only sane person and everyone around you is mad? I think that’s supposed to be one of the signs that you’re mad yourself, except that in today’s world it feels normal. On the other hand I know that close family, friends and perhaps over half the UK agree with me. It is the rest who are bonkers. Unfortunately they include the tiny number that are Conservative MPs and party members who are going to decide our future.

There is one thing that unites the contenders for the party leadership and position of PM (7 at the time of writing). Actually it’s two things – they are all in favour of one form of Brexit or other and they are all flawed. By that I mean they have serious character defects. Without exception they have an over-inflated opinion of their own intelligence and expertise, they all lack humanity i.e. the ability to put other people before themselves, and they think that the UK has some clout left. Many of them are seriously contemplating leaving the EU without a deal. Seriously. Do they have no concept of what negotiation involves. Trust, first and foremost. If the  UK crashes out of the EU who else is ever going to believe that the UK will stand by its obligations and responsibilities. The UK will just be fodder for the predators out there = and pretending that the UK is still a “big hitter” is to be severely stuck in the past.

It is even worse that the front runner, the idiot that is the darling of the aged Tory party in the shires is the most flawed of the lot, a serial womaniser, a Walter Mitty who has no concept of what is the truth, and an incompetent. Some people have said that by referring to him as Boris is to make his character familiar, and cuddly. No it doesn’t. To call him Johnson is to confuse him with the many other honest people with that name. The only Borises I can recall are the drunken “hero” of the fall of the Soviet Union, and the typecast actor who played Frankenstein’s monster. To refer to someone in public office by their first name is to belittle them. Soldiers in WW2 sang rude songs about Adolf; the Emperor of France was always Napoleon, not M.Bonaparte; and Stalin was Uncle Joe. Of course a nickname reduces them further. The Guardian’s John Crace named Theresa May, “maybot” and from then on she was seen as a malfunctioning machine bound for failure and obsolescence. Stewart Lee, in the Observer, has tagged Boris Johnson with all the words he has applied to minority groups – Boris Piccaninny Bumboy Letterbox Johnson – a marvellous takedown.  I think those words should be inserted every time his name comes up as a reminder of the type of person he really is.

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WP_20190514_12_33_27_Pro (2)The Pope has decided that gender is up to God. It is not a choice. Perhaps he is right because no one would choose the abuse and hate that arises when someone announces that their gender, or lack of one, does not match their biological sex. Surely the identity one feels must come from a higher source. It certainly is not a trivial selection. So, I hope to see the RC church, its believers and governments that follow its doctrines doing their best to accept and assist trans and non gendered people. My expectations are low.

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I haven’t done any writing this week. I have been on holiday on the Llyn peninsula in North Wales (not Whales), or rather Gogledd Cymru. It is a marvellous area of conical volcanic hills, flats lucious farmland and coastal cliffs and bays. It is also predominantly Cymraeg speaking and confident in that fact. I’ve had a wonderful time. So, it’s back to the archive. Here is a piece I wrote in 2014 commemorating the start of WW1.  It seems appropriate following the marking of D-day and the questions about our relationship with Europe.

Fallen Apples

‘It’s not my fault,’ Bert said, picking up the basket and starting to re-fill it with the apples that had spilled onto the grass. I knelt beside him and began to help him.
‘What’s the matter, Bert?’ I asked.
‘Me mind keeps wandering,’ he said.
‘Where to?’
‘Belgium.’
I knew what he meant. The war across the channel was on my mind too. The reports weren’t good. The Germans had advanced through Belgium and into France with our boys and the French being beaten back. It had all happened so quickly since war was declared a month ago.  Bert’s older brother Sid had joined the army a couple of years ago and he was over there with the British Expeditionary Force. Like Bert I wondered how Sid was doing. What must it be like fighting in battle?
We both kept our thoughts to ourselves as we got on with the job of filling baskets with apples and loading them onto the cart. After a couple more hours we’d done all we could for one day so we walked the horse and cart back from the orchard to the farm and unloaded it into the cider barn.  It was still light when Bert and I trudged home. There were some new posters on the boards outside the general stores in town
‘Look at that,’ Bert said, ‘the boys ‘ave done it.’  The sheet that Bert pointed at reported that the Germans had been halted at the River Marne.
‘They’ve only stopped them,’ I pointed out, ‘the war’s not over.’  I pointed to the poster on the other board. Enlist now – your country needs you it said in bold colourful letters with a picture of Lord Kitchener pointing his finger directly at me.
‘What do you think Bert? Should we join up?’
‘They said the war would be over by Christmas,’ he replied.
‘Yeah, but they’re going to need more of lads if they’re going to push the Huns right out of France and Belgium.’
‘Perhaps you and me could ‘elp  and give Sid an ‘and.’ Bert said, ‘but what about the apples. Who’ll bring them all in?’
‘There’s other people,’ I said, ‘Your Pa wouldn’t mind a bit more work and there’s my sis. She’d love to earn a few coppers.’
‘Yeah, well I wouldn’t want to see them apples left rotting on the ground.’
‘They won’t. Let’s join up tomorrow.’
‘Aye.’

There wasn’t much left of the village we’d come to defend. Every building was damaged by the bombardment’s from both sides as the Germans had first taken it then been forced out. Bodies in German and British uniforms and of ordinary men and women lay amongst the muddy pools.  We were the reinforcements sent by General Haig to make sure that the line was held.
‘What’s this ‘ere place called?’ Bert asked as we marched up the rubble strewn street.
‘Givenchy,’ I replied.
‘Some place to spend Christmas.’
‘There’s a few more days yet.’
‘I don’t reckon this war is going to be over by then, do you,’ Bert said wistfully.
‘I think someone got it wrong, Bert.’
At the edge of the village we entered the trenches and were ordered to get out our shovels ready to do some digging of our own.
‘Keep your ‘eads down,’ the Sergeant ordered, ‘or the German snipers’ll have you.’ As he spoke there was the scream of a shell over our heads followed by a deafening thud as it exploded in the remains of a house a hundred yards behind us.  As we filed through the muddy corridors we met the defenders we were relieving.  Every one of them looked exhausted and over halfway to death, covered in muck and blood.
A few hours later. I knew how they felt. I too was covered in mud from shovelling and there was plenty of blood too from the bodies of the soldiers we carried out of the shell-damaged trenches.
‘They say these ‘ere trenches go all the way to the sea,’ Bert said as we carried one mangled corpse.
‘And to Switzerland, that way,’ I said nodding in the opposite direction.
‘Is this what war has become? Blokes rotting in holes in the ground while taking pot-shots at each other.’
Voices shouted, whistles blew. ‘Fix bayonets’ came the call. Bert and I dropped our burden and swiftly slotted our bayonets to the rifles that we’d been carrying over our backs. Our weeks of training had taught us that at least, even if we were barely prepared for the realities of war. Guns fired, and I heard the bullets buzzing over our heads.  More shells screamed over, exploding one after the other until the roar was continuous.
‘What’s happening?’ Bert shouted.
‘Counter attack,’ someone replied from nearby. We held our rifles at the ready staring up at the rim of the trench. Our own howitzers opened up and the chatter of the machine guns added to the din.
‘I wish I was back in the orchard,’ Bert bawled at me.  A wave of mud thrown up by a near-miss swamped us.
‘I’m sorry Bert,’ I spluttered, wiping the muck from my mouth with the wet sleeve of my uniform, ‘It’s my fault that you enlisted.’
‘Tha’s right, lad,’ He gave me his toothy grin, ‘Think of them shiny sweet apples lying in the grass while we moulder here.”
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Jasmine cheers

I’m not going to comment on politics this week. The same nonsense continues but there are pleasanter things to report on.

I watched the final episode of the first series of Pose this week. What was special about the show? One, it was feel-good, with the good characters coming out okay. Second it featured trans people, well okay, trans-women. They weren’t the victims, the vulnerable, the cardboard cutouts; they had personalities, story arcs and were strong despite the problems they faced.  If you haven’t discovered the show it is on BBC2 and is set in 1980s New York where the gay/trans community held regular balls to show off and celebrate themselves. Yes, they were at the edge of society, feeding off scraps, and suffering from the AIDS epidemic as well as discrimination. Yet through cooperation they survived and grew in stature. The trans actors may have been inexperienced but the characters they played were rich and varied.

This week I attended a workshop organised by my local writers’ group (well, Jane did all the organising). It was a wonderful day with 15 of us eager to learn. The tutor, Debi Alper lead the session and deserves congratulation. She took us through voice, point of view (PoV) and psychic distance, none of which I am going to explain here – there are websites and blogs that do. Debi got us writing, putting into practice what she had taught us. There was plenty to think about.  There was also a competition. Debi had read and commented on all ten of the entries from attendees. During the workshop, the ten pieces were read out and Debi gave her critique. She had chosen three as her finalists and p1000039invited the group to vote on one as the winner. It was me!  To say I was shocked and flattered is an understatement. My piece The Missing Essence was published here on 27th April. While I had given the theme (Earth Wind Fire) some thought, the writing was quite hurried and when I sent it off I felt it was a bit under-edited and perhaps corny and unsubtle in its approach. Was it even a story, I wondered. Anyway, Debi was very complimentary and the group loved it. So there it is; I have a prize (a flash notebook and booklet on writing).  It was a lovely day, helped even more by the manner in which the group (including guests from elsewhere) accept me as myself.

That result has lifted me. I had got a little despondent about my writing but that little bit of encouragement that suggests that I’m doing some things right, has helped to cheer me and spur me to getting on with the various projects I have on the go.

Here’s another short piece that I wrote a few years ago for a former writing group. I don’t think I’ve posted it before.  Actually it illustrates something that Debi was telling us about. It’s in 1st person so that is the PoV, but halfway through it changes. Now, according to Debi, head-hopping is a dangerous and difficult thing to do. She suggests some kind of link that helps the reader slide rather than leap between heads. Except that I haven’t done that. So does it work?

The Cavern

“Are you ready Ruth?”
I nodded my head then realised that in the dimly lit tunnel my gesture wouldn’t be seen. I called out and felt the line become taut. I shuffled towards the sinkhole grateful that they had allowed me to keep my lycra bodysuit; the gritty rock would have lacerated my skin. My legs dangled down the narrow shaft then I allowed the harness to take my weight.  I gripped the nylon rope above my head to make myself as thin as possible. Then I was encased as if in a stone coffin, my helmet scraping against rock.  I had to wriggle to ensure that I descended.  That was why I was stripped of the tools that usually filled my pockets and dangled from my belt.
I’d volunteered for this job but being the smallest member of the team and the only one who could pass through the hole, there wasn’t much choice really. Nevertheless, I was excited as everyone else to see what this chimney lead to.  We knew there was a cavern below and we hoped that, like the others, it would contain wonders; and what wonders we had already found – bones preserved from scavengers, complete skeletons of beings that were barely human.  Our predecessors or our competitors? Who knew?

My feet swung free and then with a final scrape of rock on my skin I was hanging in space. The grass rope creaked above my head. I shouted to my companions and they continued to lower me into the dark chamber. My toes touched ground and my knees buckled until I took my own weight.  I was relieved to release the binding around my chest so I could breathe easily again. I worried that I was standing on one of the mothers and shouted up for a light.
Minutes passed before a flaming torch appeared above me and cast a glow around the whole chamber. I saw that my worries were unfounded. The bodies were arranged in a partial circle around where I stood amongst rock dust. In the flickering light they seemed to move as if alive. I bent over each in turn to look more closely. Some still had skin drawn tightly against their skulls while others carried no flesh at all. I felt honoured to be in the presence of the mothers.
I called out again and received an answering grunt from beyond the shaft. I waited patiently in the company of the mothers until a trickle of falling dust and scraping sounds signalled that I was being joined by another. I took my mother into my arms, released her from the rope and carried her to a space in the ring of her ancestors.  I laid her gently beside them, her arms stiff against her thin body. Then I knelt, my hands on her forehead and groin, and asked her for her love and guidance as I became mother to all her children. Her authority and responsibility became mine.

Based on article in New Scientist magazine about the discovery of proto-human remains in South Africa cave systems by Lee Berger and his team.  The Ultimate Origin Story New Scientist p.36 30/09/17 no.3145

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Jasmine worries

Perhaps being out of the UK provides some  kind of perspective. My news of “home” ha come from Facebook, Twitter, MSN and The Guardian website. Perhaps they’re not the most balanced but with the BBC giving the impression of being a Farage and Leave zone these days none of it is good news. The local elections in England seem to have been forgotten while the EU elections, which the Tories of course think are pointless, gather all the headlines. The virulence of the anti-EU/migrant/anyone-not-white-English feeling from right-wing quarters is unprecedented – and they feel able to express it in public. Talk of a Remain Alliance is rejected (I don’t think electoral alliances are necessary in a proportional representation election) but the Remain parties do need to compare notes and get their campaigns working.

I note that the SNP is renewing calls for independence and there is even a growing independence movement in Wales despite Leave winning a small majority in Wales in 2016. I grew in Wales but lived in England for 47 years. I’ve always felt Cymraeg and I am increasingly annoyed by English attitudes. I would support increasing independence from England but how about joining up with our Celtic cousins (Scotland, Ireland, even Cornwall if they want to join) to form a true British alliance that is part of Europe.

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Amongst the increasing right-wing bitterness, there are more anti-gay and anti-trans feelings being expressed, around the world.  Any form of persecution is wrong but sometimes the trans message gets confused. Do trans people want gender equality i.e. the end of stereotyping? If everyone was equal how would you tell male from female (other then by a physical examination). In a truly non-gendered world, form of dress would not signify biological sex, nor would behaviour. Would trans-people be happy in such a world? I don’t know and cannot speak for others. As someone who feels non-binary and who is happy mixing up male and female styles of dress and appearance, I am just asking for acceptance.

This week’s piece of writing is on the theme Earth, Wind, Fire. That is, three of the classical elements if Wind is taken as an alternative name for Air. It is of course the name of a rock group which I have t admit to never having listened too. My idea for what it’s worth was to blend the two and try to express the personalities of the band members through metaphors of their elemental natures. Not sure if it works but here it is.

 

The Missing Essence

Pete Earth slung the bass guitar low on his hips, planted his feet a metre apart on the stone floor and strummed a deep chord. Pitched too low to be heard by the ears, it thrummed through the ground. Feeling the vibrations through his bones, Ty Wind picked up his strat and plucked out the notes of a melody that hung in the air like streamers of mist. Spiky ginger-haired, Serena Fire, raised her head and let out a cry that soared like a rocket fizzing to the roof.

The mix of bass rhythm, languid tune and searing treble grew in pace and volume but something was amiss. The timing of Wind’s finger-play jarred with Earth’s chords and Fire’s smouldering lyrics sputtered off key. The track crashed to a conclusion in a chaotic cacophony. Wind felt it like an icy blast from the Arctic, while a tectonic plate scraping passed another expressed Earth’s discomfort.

Serena turned on her colleagues, cheeks burning.

“Flaming hell, guys. We crashed and burned there. What’s up?”

Despite the energy of his playing, Pete’s mud-brown hair lay flat on his head. He growled, “We’re a rock band. We need a drummer.” He nodded to the empty set of drums at the centre of the studio.”

Serena flared. “Well, I want to be a star. What are you doing about it Ty?”

The lead guitarist waved his waved his arms, his fair hair mussed as if by a fierce gale. “I put out a message over the aether,” he said.

“Oh, yeah,” Serena gave him a glare that could have scorched the bark off a tree. “And what came of that?”

Wind replied breezily, “Actually, I got a reply.” He frowned, “I thought she said she would be here by now.”

There was a creak as the heavy door of the studio opened. A figure seeped through the gap. She was tall with blue, tight-fitting jeans and a sailor top. She had hair as black as the deepest ocean that shone with a blue iridescence in the studio lights. Her skin was as white as a frothing waterfall.

“Hi,” she said with a voice smooth as the surface of a pond, “I’m Flo, Flo Water. I think you advertised for a drummer.”

Wind wafted over the floor to greet her.

“That’s right. I’m Ty, short for Typhoon.”

“That’s what he tells everyone,” Earth grunted. “It’s Tyson really. Welcome, Flo.”

“You say you’re a drummer,” Serena fired at her, “Let’s see you drum.”

Flo shrugged and drifted to the set of drums. The others watched as she seemed to fill the space amongst the kit stretching arms and legs to test her reach. She picked up the sticks and started to tap the snare drum. To the insistent beat like drips falling from a tap she added a swish on the cymbal like rain falling on a tin roof. She increased the tempo until with a torrent of limbs she unleashed the sound of a tsunami crashing against a cliff. The roar was enough to stir Earth into tapping a foot. Flo settled into a rhythm of waves breaking on a beach as Pete added rumbling chords that throbbed through the floor. Ty launched a riff resembling a tornado that whirled around the studio and Serena let out a scorching chorus that singed the roof.

The studio filled with sound that shook the walls, each of the musicians contributing their energy. Earth erupted with glowing lava, Fire flickered with flame, Wind grew as hot as a Saharan dust devil and drops of sweat flew off Water’s flailing limbs like spray from breakers As the song reached a crescendo of harmony, all four stopped abruptly on a beat, leaving the reverberations fading away. Serena fell to the floor like a guttering cinder; Flo slumped over the drums like a spent fountain and Ty sagged like a sail without wind. Pete was still.

“Well, I think that says enough,” Pete muttered, “we’ve got all the elements of a band.”

……………………………..

 

 

 

 

Jasmine confused

The one thing everyone has asked for concerning Brexit, particularly business people, is certainty. We need to know what is going to happen when (if?) we leave the EU. Most MPs, most business people and, I think now, most citizens, don’t want to leave and do not want the uncertainty of a botched, no deal exit. Yet, confusion reigns. May does her utmost to annoy everyone – Parliament and the 27 leaders of the EU included – while saying she speaks for “the people”.  One thing is certain – she doesn’t speak for me. The funny thing is I don’t think she speaks for the ardent leavers either, so who does she speak for? We are now in the situation  of the EU imposing dates because our government has failed to make any plans at all or to say what it wants. We have a couple of weeks for a majority in Parliament to come together behind some course of action – preferably and most sensibly the revocation of Article 50 to reset things to where they were three years ago,  followed by a further (non-mandatory)  referendum to gauge voters inclinations (hopefully to remain in the EU), followed by a general election to give a mandate to someone who isn’t May.  The damage done to the country over the last three years (to say nothing of the effects of austerity, and so on, since the 2008 crash) won’t be repaired soon. We have to regain of the confidence and goodwill not only of our European colleagues but our overseas trade partners such as Japan (which invested such a lot here since the 1980s and basically saw it being trashed by Brexit).

But who knows where we’ll be on 12th April.

…………………………….

I was on the radio on Monday evening – BBC Hereford & Worcester. The occasion was the announcement by musician Sam Smith that he considers himself non-binary.  I’ve been the go to person for H&W for while when anything trans related gets tackled on the 20190318_141238evening rush hour prog. The presenter, Andrew Easton, asked some sensible, if basic, questions which were actually about me rather than Sam Smith, and we went on rather longer than was planned I think. I talked about the “spectrum of gender identity”, rejecting male and female stereotypes, and the toxic effect of gender inequality on women in all areas of society. We talked about titles, and whether there is any necessity for them any longer on documents such as passports (surely biometrics provide a much more secure check than whether someone is Mr or Ms.), and the need for non-gendered toilets and changing areas  (easily provided if given a bit of thought and more efficient in the long run). I think it went well. Andrew ended by politely asking how old I was since it might have been thought a “snowflake” issue given Sam Smith’s relative lack of years. I told him I was 66 that day – so I got a Happy Birthday broadcast on  regional radio.

………………………..

This week’s piece for my writers’ group was a bit of an experiment.  The topic was “digging my heels in”. My literal brain immediately had an image of just that, which connected with an incident that occurred to Jasmine Frame in Painted Ladies.  So I wrote another take on it but written in the 2nd person. (the character is neither Jasmine, nor me).  It is quite unusual to use 2nd person in fiction but N K Jemisin uses it for one of the three character strands that run through her triple Hugo winning trilogy, The Broken Earth. It seems to me quite effective at putting the reader in the position of the protagonist although it doesn’t necessarily let you know what they are thinking (1st person does that). Let’s see what you think. Here is Heels:

Heels

You stand in front of the long mirror, turn from side to side, peer at the image. It is not you. Not the you that you see in your mind. You recognise it though, that nose that is too large, the thin lips, the short, thinning hair, the wide shoulders and the narrow hips. It’s not all bad. Your new red bra covering the enhancers has given you something of a figure, and the matching knickers are covering what’s below.
You sigh and pull on the tights and the red dress. The hem is just above your knee, sexy but not tarty. You sit down at the dressing-table and start applying your make-up. You’ve done this many times so you know what works and what doesn’t. When you’re finished you stand and slip the brunette wig onto your head and look in the mirror again. That’s better. The wig and make-up may be a disguise, but you are behind it looking out.
You slide your feet into the red shoes with the three-inch, almost-stiletto, heels. You stand again and face the long mirror.  You’ve practised wearing the heels, day after day. You strutted around the flat holding your head up, forcing your legs and back to be straight. You toppled and almost fell often, but gradually you learnt how to keep your balance and walk while always on tiptoe. It was agony at first, the shoes rubbed your heels and your toes hurt. It was worth it. Now you’re ready.
A beep comes from your phone. You grab it and search out the text message. It’s just a smiley but it means that Carol is outside. You glance through the curtain. Yes, there is her car on the road. She’s managed to park right by your gate. You put your coat on, the shiny black, pvc mac, and pick up your handbag.
You hurry from the door to the car. It’s a dark, damp evening, so perhaps none of the neighbours have seen you, or recognised you.
“Hi, Nikki,” Carol says as you slide into the passenger seat. Her voice is lower than yours, but she doesn’t care. “Ready for it then?”
“You bet,” you reply. Does your nervousness show in your voice? You hope not. You’ve been looking forward to this evening out. You don’t want to appear to be the novice that you really are.
“Let’s hit the town then.” Carol presses her foot on the accelerator.

The club is crowded. The flashing lights make it almost impossible to discern the variety of bodies, drinking, dancing and chatting, well, shouting at each other. The air hot and damp and full of smells of cheap perfume, sweat and a few other substances. You sip your g&t while looking around, taking in the sights and the sounds. How many of the girls are like you? How many of the girls are girls?  There are men too, some with the girls, some circulating, eyeing up the others, the unattached.
“Let’s dance,” Carol shouts in your ear. She takes your hand and hauls you up. You stagger a little getting your balance on those three-inch heels. Then you follow her into the mêlée of gyrating bodies. The noise is deafening but there is rhythm. You start to move to the beat, enjoying the feeling of your make-believe breasts oscillating up and down. For a few moments you lose touch with your surroundings, just enjoying being a dancing girl.
Bodies press against you. You open your eyes. A man has inserted himself between you and Carol. He’s in a shiny, grey suit with a white shirt and thin black tie. His hair is slicked down and combed to one side. He could be your age, perhaps younger. He’s examining you, eyes flicking from the top of your wig down passed your boobs to the hem of your dress which is flapping as you dance.
He gives you a smile. It’s not a cheery, friendly smile. It doesn’t make you feel happy. He comes closer. It could be the press of the other bodies, but you think it’s deliberate. He wants to be close to you. He places a hand on your right hip. You shudder. It wasn’t what you were wanting or expecting. What were you expecting? Definitely not contact.
He leans forward so his lips are by your ear.
“Nice dress,” he shouts. He straightens up again, the leer back on his face. You try a smile, but you aren’t sure if it looks like one.
His hand is still on your hip. You’ve almost ceased dancing because you’re afraid the hand might move with you. He’s looking into your eyes. You’re looking back. Wondering.
You’re not prepared for his next move. His other hand shoots up your dress and grabs you between your legs. He’s found something to grab hold of. Now his smile becomes a laugh. His grip tightens. You can’t move. You can’t think.
He edges forward again, his feet between yours, your crotch held tight. “I thought so. Tranny.”
You have to get away. You don’t want what he wants, whatever that might be. One thought comes into your brain. You lift your right foot. You slam it down heel first. On his foot.
His hands release you. He falls back. His scream is audible above the music. You stand and stare.
Carol grabs your hand. “Let’s get out of here.”
She guides you from the club, pausing just to pick up your coats. You’re outside.
“Run. Before they see we’ve gone. He and his mates will do you in if they catch you.”
You hurry after her, your heels clattering against the pavement. You’re not thinking of keeping your back straight now.
You reach the car. Carol’s already inside starting the engine. You move off as you pull the door closed.
You sigh. Carol glances at you as she manoeuvres onto the road and speeds up.
“What did he do? Grab your balls?”
You nod. You’re shaking.
“Did you push him or something?”
“I dug my heel into his foot.”
Carol laughs.

…………………………

Jasmine at year’s end

Well, we made it through Christmas. Actually at the time of writing (27th Dec.) I’m having a pleasant time with nothing to grumble about. It feels as if the world has stopped, although it hasn’t and probably there are things happening that we should be worried about. The big worries come with the new year. I really have no idea what 2019 will bring. If the UK falls off the Brexit cliff, it’s anyone’s guess. Similarly if Trump fires off in one direction or another, or Putin is emboldened to exert his power somewhere or other. It really is a dangerous time.

WP_20180927_16_21_24_ProPersonally, having moved to a new town we’re looking forward to continuing to develop our new lives and I hope to provide support to trans and gender-questioning folk in the surrounding area. Having published the fourth Jasmine Frame novel at my own expense to join the other three novels and three novellas/collections, I have to consider where to go next. There is one more novel in the pipeline but do I continue trying to think up plots for novellas to put on this blog – I’m not sure.

In the meantime I wish all my readers, family and friends a healthy, happy and worry-free 2019 and offer the following seasonal offering for your entertainment.

 

Christmas plc

Santa Claus was feeling fresh and eager as he walked across the ice. It was the 1st December and the start of preparations for Christmas. At the entrance to the North Pole operations centre he paused.  There was a new sign. In big letters it read “Christmas Delivery Systems plc” and underneath, in smaller letters, “A subsidiary of Festive Holdings Ltd.” Beneath that in a friendly italic font Santa read, “Helping you get the Christmas you deserve.”  It all meant nothing to Santa. He shrugged and made his way to his office.
That’s where he had a surprise.  The room had been given a new coat of paint, a thick carpet and contained a huge desk. In an executive chair sat a bald gnome with skin the colour of fresh grass.  He looked up as Santa entered and greeted him.
“Ah, there you are Claus. I was wondering when you’d turn up.”
“Who are you and what are you doing in my room?” Santa asked.
“Pippin Green’s the name. I’m CEO of Christmas Delivery Systems plc. I’ve decided this will be my office.”
Santa was bemused. ‘I don’t understand,” he said.
“Of course not, Claus. You’ve been on vacation haven’t you. For quite a while it seems.  Well, while you were absent, the government of Gnomeland decided to privatise the Christmas present delivery service. Festive Holdings won the bid for the franchise and we have entered into a public-private-partnership, hence the formation of Christmas Delivery Systems plc.”
Santa Claus muttered words privatise, partnership, and franchise not really understanding what it all meant.  “But it’s my job to deliver presents to the children at Christmas.”
“Yes, of course, Claus, but we must move with the times. There must be some changes. Modernisation, cost savings, that sort of thing.”
“What sort of changes?” Santa said feeling the hint of a worry.
“Well, for a start, look at you,” the Gnome said.
Santa looked down at his red coat and black boots. “What do you mean?”
“Time for a new uniform.  Corporate branding, you know.” The gnome pointed to a sequinned blue and gold leotard hanging from a coat hanger on the wall. “That’s your new suit.”
Santa gulped. He’d put a bit of weight on during his annual rest. “I’m not sure that will quite suit my shape,” he said
“Ah, that reminds me,” the gnome said, searching for a sheet of paper on his desk. “I have your occupational health report here. It tells me that you are obese. You’ll have to lose weight otherwise we cannot take the risk of keeping you in employment. Perhaps early retirement. . .”
“Definitely not,” Santa huffed, “You’ll be asking me to remove my beard next.”
Green shook his head. “No, no. Beards are in at the moment. It gives you quite a hipster look.”
Santa decided he’d heard enough. “Well, I’d better get on. I’d like to see the reindeer.”
“Ah, I’m afraid that won’t be possible,” The gnome said.
“Why not?”
“They’ve been sold to a wildlife park.”
“What on earth for?” Santa exclaimed.
“Well, the SPCR, that’s the Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Reindeer, said that making the creatures fly throughout the night and haul that heavy load was cruel treatment, and as they are an endangered species they have to be protected.”
“Endangered species!” Santa blurted.
“Yes. How many flying reindeer do you see these days?”
Santa shook his head. “Well, what is going to pull the sled then?”
“Ah, that’s been condemned.”
“Condemned?”
“Health and safety. No seatbelts or air bags and being open-top it needed a roll-bar which it didn’t have.”
“How can we deliver the presents without a sled?” Santa roared.
Green waved his hands. “Now, Claus calm down. We’re leasing a fleet of drones to deliver presents to each individual home.”
Santa didn’t understand. “Well, how am I to get around to put the presents in the children’s rooms?”
The gnome sucked his teeth. “Ah yes. That was your modus operandi wasn’t, Claus. It has to stop.”
“Stop!”
“Yes, it’s a safeguarding issue. The Children’s Department weren’t happy about a man, with no personal connection to the family, entering children’s bedrooms in the middle of night without an escort.”
“But it’s always been me that delivered the presents to the children.”
The Gnome got out of his chair and went to the door.
“That’s another matter of concern. Come with me Claus.”
Santa followed wondering what the gnome was on about.  In the office next door there were three characters dressed in the sparkly blue and gold leotards.
“Who are these people?” Santa asked.
“These are your fellow Christmas Persons,” Pippin Green said. The two gnomes and the troll greeted Santa warmly. Green went on, “We thought that just having one white, male Christmas Person could be construed as discriminatory.  To improve the diversity of the service we have appointed a female gnome, that’s Gertrude here.”  A slim gnome with long green hair curtsied. “Then there’s Jerome. You can see why he’s in the team,” a blue-skinned gnome greeted Santa. Green turned to the troll who was bursting out of the leotard. “And this is Gerald.”
“But he’s a troll,” Santa said.
Green sucked in a breath. “Oh, you can’t say that. Gerald believes he’s a gnome trapped in a troll’s body and we respect that.”
“So, this lot are helping deliver the presents,” Santa said with a sigh.
“All of you together. It’s equality,” Pippin Green replied.
Santa shrugged. “If you say so. Well, let’s go and see how the elves are getting on with the packing.”
Green shivered. “Actually, there is a slight hiatus in that department.”
“What do you mean?” Santa said beginning to fear the worst.
“No elves.”
“What do you mean no elves.”
“Well, we discovered that some of the elves in your employment were actually migrant leprechauns and piskies. Under the terms of the withdrawal agreement. . .”
“Withdrawal agreement?” Santa exclaimed.
“Gnexit,” Green said. “While you were away, Gnomeland negotiated its withdrawal from the Union of Fairy-tale Kingdoms and closed its borders to migrant workers.”
Santa sighed and wished he hadn’t woken up this morning. “What about the rest of the elves, the ones born in Gnomeland.”
“They went on strike,” Green said.
“On strike at Christmas?” Santa roared, “Why?”
“They say they object to the zero hours contract.”
“What zero hours contract?”
“The one I introduced when Christmas Delivery Systems plc took over the franchise,” the gnome explained. “The elves said that meant they wouldn’t get paid for eleven months in the year.”
“But they work 48 hours a day in December,” Santa said.
“Not any longer. The working-time directive says shifts, must be no longer than eight hours in one day,” Green said.
Santa slumped. “It can’t be done. Christmas is a disaster.”
“Oh, no. Disaster is a word we don’t have in our dictionary,” Green said. “We have amended the target to delivery of 50% of the presents by 24th December next year. That way we can manage with fewer elves. With more Christmas Persons we will be able to make Christmas great again.”
Santa Claus heard the theme from Peer Gynt by Edvard Grieg and wondered where it was coming from.  Pippin Green pulled a smart phone from his pocket and held it to his ear. He rapidly turned a pale green, almost yellow. He lowered the phone and stared blankly.
“What now?” Santa asked.
“I’ve just been told that Christmas Delivery Systems plc has been declared bankrupt because the business is loss-making. Festive Holdings have pulled out of the partnership.”
“Who’s going to deliver the Christmas parcels now?” Santa said.
“Amazon of course,” Green said, “They can get into every home.”
“I’m not having that,” said Santa with a sudden feeling of determination. “Children expect a visit from Santa at Christmas and that’s what I’m going to do.”
“You’re going self-employed?” Green said.
“If that what it takes,” Santa replied, “Now I need to reclaim that sled and rescue my reindeer from the zoo. And I’ll need some helpers. How about you lot?” The three Christmas Persons nodded eagerly.
“Good. Go and round up some elves to help.”
“It won’t work,” Green complained.
“We’ll see about that,” Santa Claus said stomping off. “Christmas will come to every house and I’ll be there.”

………………………..

 

Jasmine in paperback

WP_20181206_12_52_45_ProThe paperback version of Molly’s Boudoir arrived sooner than I expected, thanks to speedy work by the printers. Now you can purchase your own copy from me by sending a message to me here. The e-book on Kindle is available here.

There have been some great reviews already. What wouldn’t I do for a best seller? (Well, quite a lot of things actually).

Part 7 of the Jasmine Frame prequel, Monochrome is below.

……………….

What to make of the debate on the Brexit “Deal”? What a mess.  Will it actually come to a vote as planned next week or will Conservative MPs find some way to wriggle out of their obligations to do the best for the county. While it was a referendum that got us into this mess, surely, whichever side you are on, the only sensible and democratic solution is to have another one, with May’s half-baked “deal” and Remaining in the EU as options  – there aren’t any others as “No Deal” is madness.

Taking one’s mind off all the troubling news (not just Brexit), I have been reading Trans Britain, edited by Christine Burns (pub. Unbound). It is a collection of essays that detail the course of transgender rights and action over the last seventy years. It highlights the discrimination felt by trans people in the past and present and doesn’t back away from referring to the growing problem of anti-trans factions who seek to push trans people back into a ghetto. It also makes clear that there isn’t one type of trans person. We are in fact all individuals.  While some might want to transition between binary genders, there are an increasing number of people who reject the old western stereotypes of masculine and feminine and are finding ways of being themselves without declaring a gender. I can see no reason why anyone should want to deny an individual the right to be themselves if they are not harming another person.

………………………

Monochrome: Part 7

Jasmine froze as she frantically weighed up what to do. Could she escape through the front door? Both men were bigger and heavier than she was. While she could possibly take one on, she didn’t think she stood much chance against the two of them. Then there was Nat and Ffion to think about. She had no chance of getting both through the door.
How about the rear entrance? Turn and make a run for it? She had no idea whether the back door was even unlocked or what they would find in the garden. They could be trapped. Again, getting the three of them away seemed most unlikely.
What about brazening it out? She was a plain clothes police officer and the house was surrounded. It wouldn’t take the men much effort to expose that piece of wishful thinking.
She was out of ideas and staring stupidly at the two men. While she was still dithering, Ffion skipped to the leading man, tossing her head of hair.
‘Hello Ari, have you brought something nice for me?’ She put her arms around his waist. He placed a hand on her shoulder.
‘Who are this pair of fuckers?’ he said.
It was Nat’s turn to step forward. ‘You know me, Ari. I’m Nat. Sid knows who I am. Well he ought to, he’s fucked me enough times.’
The guy behind, perhaps a little younger, Jasmine thought, blinked a couple of times and frowned.
‘What you doing here, Nat?’
Nat replied in a much lighter sing-song sort of voice to her usual tone. ‘Ffion’s my friend. I thought I’d drop in and see how she was doing.’
‘No, I meant. What you doin’ in town?’
‘Oh, you know that your mates dropped me off on the coast, do you?’
The leading man called Ari, nodded. ‘You’re that mad bitch. The one that said she was a lad now, even though you’ve still got a cunt.’
‘That’s me,’ Nat said cheerfully.
‘You need teaching a lesson.’ Ari released his grip on Ffion, shoving her out of his way. She stumbled back into the lounge. Ari took a step towards Nat. Nat retreated till she rested against Jasmine. The man stooped and peered at Jasmine.
‘Who’s this then? Do you know ‘er, Sid?’
‘Na,’ the younger man grunted.
‘This a friend of mine,’ Nat said, ‘She brought me back.’
‘Since when you ‘ad friends in the country, Nat,’ Sid said.
‘Wouldn’t you like to know,’ Nat replied.
Ari frowned. ‘You shouldn’t have come here,’ he growled. ‘Not with ‘er.’
Jasmine sensed that Ari wasn’t sure what to do. He obviously exercised power over the young girls, but someone older, mature, he was less sure about. Jasmine had to act before he decided he should impose himself.
‘Well, I’m sorry it’s not a convenient time to visit Ffion,’ she said, trying to sound as if calling into a drug and sex den where underage girls were abused was a daily occurrence. ‘We’ll be off and let you get on. I’m sure Ffion needs looking after. She doesn’t seem too well.’ She didn’t think that speech would have a useful outcome but at that moment there was a knock on the door. Sid being closest turned and opened it before Ari could stop him, if that had crossed the older man’s mind.
Angela stood on the doorstep.
‘Oh, hello. I came to tell Jasmine that she’s needed. We’d better get off.’
Jasmine took the cue.
‘Thanks, Ange, we were just coming.’ She grabbed Nat’s hand and strode down the hall, easing past Ari and Sid without having to push them out of the way. ‘Sorry to have taken your time.’ The two men stood, open-mouthed. Jasmine and Nat got to the door. Jasmine urged Angela to move. The three of them hurried down the path to the road. Angela had parked the Fiesta right beside the men’s Mercedes. They bundled in, and without waiting to secure seatbelts, Angela drove away.
Jasmine turned around in the front passenger to seat to see Ari and Sid appear at the door and stare after them. Angela drove them quickly away from the residential area.
Jasmine let out a long breath. ‘Thanks, Ange. I’m not sure how we were going to get out of that. You knocked at just the right moment.’
‘I got worried when I saw that pair get out of the car. They looked as though they could be violent.’
‘That’s what I was afraid of,’ Jasmine said, ‘Is she right, Nat?’
‘Sid’s a bit of a softy but Ari is nasty. Mind you they’ll all knock you about to bit if they think they’re not getting what they want.’
‘Did you see the girl you know, Nat?’ Angela asked.
‘Yeah. She’s there. Doesn’t know what’s happening to her. Out of her brain.’
‘And we’ve left her there with them,’ Jasmine said. ‘What will they do to her?’
‘Probably try to find out what we were saying to her,’ Nat replied, ‘Slap her around a bit. Give her some booze or skunk or something. Then use her. That’s what they want really.’
Jasmine was worried. She felt as though they had deserted the young girl. ‘If she tells them we were trying to get her away from there. Do you think they’ll hurt her?’
Nat shook her head. ‘I doubt if Ffi realised what we were doing. They’ve addled her brains. She thinks they’re looking after her.’
‘Even when they beat her up?’ Angela said as they pulled into a car park in the shopping centre.
‘She’ll think that it’s her fault; that she’s done something wrong. I used to think that until something clicked in my head.’
‘We’ve got to get her away,’ Jasmine said.
‘Well, they won’t keep her there,’ Nat said. ‘Ari will be suspicious about you two and he knows I’m awkward.’
‘What will they do with her?’
‘Take her to another place. They won’t leave her on her own again, that’s for sure.’
Jasmine was certain that the police must be alerted to Ffion’s predicament. ‘Do you know these other places?’
Nat shrugged. ‘Some of them. I’m not sure they took me to all the buildings they use. They’re not just houses. Some of them are in business places, and they took me to cheap hotels to meet other guys.’
‘We’ve got to report what’s going on to the local police,’ Jasmine said.
’Will they believe me?’ Nat sounded doubtful.
‘It’s not just you. There’s me and Angela now as well. I’ve seen Ffion and those two guys.’
‘I didn’t see Ffion,’ Angela said, ‘Don’t you think the police will need more evidence?’
Jasmine considered. ‘Perhaps you’re right. Nat, can you take us to one of these other places where they kept you?’
‘Yeah, okay.’
Nat directed Angela to drive to the edge of the town. They entered a small industrial estate with small factory and warehouse units.
‘It’s down there,’ Nat said, pointing down a side road. Angela stopped the car.
‘Have you got your camera, Angela?’ Jasmine asked.
Angela reached for her hand bag and dug out a small digital camera. Jasmine took it.
‘What are you going to do?’ Angela asked.
Jasmine opened her door. ‘Take a look around. Perhaps take some photos.’
‘I’m coming too,’ Nat said.
‘Okay, come on. Take the car out of sight, Ange, and keep your phone handy.’
‘Alright, but take care.’
‘Of course.’ Jasmine and Nat stepped out of the Fiesta and Angela drove off. ‘Show me which unit they used,’ Jasmine said to Nat.
They walked up the road that was devoid of traffic. The units they passed seemed unused, some were derelict. The metal clad building at the end did at least look in better condition with a name board over the vehicle access. Sammi’s International Foods it read.
There were a couple of windows at the side of the building. Jasmine guessed it was the office part of the warehouse. She looked around to check there was no one outside the unit and then crept up to the wall of the office with Nat behind her. She rested her head against the wall but could hear nothing from inside. Could she get a peek inside the window? She inched along the wall, pressed against it. She reached the window frame, leaned forward a few degrees. She had a view of a typical office, with desks and filing cabinets. It was unoccupied.
She heard a car approaching. She inched along the wall until she could see the entrance to the warehouse. A Mercedes had pulled up. It looked like the one that Ari and Sid had arrived in. The metal roller door clanked as it rose until the Merc was able to drive in. Another car arrived and parked. Three men in business suits got out and entered the warehouse.
‘What’s going on, Nat?’ Jasmine whispered.
Nat spoke into Jasmine’s ear. ‘They’ve come to do business. They’ll be handing out the girls.”

……………………….to be continued.

Jasmine’s calm disturbed

Another falls. The voters of another supposed free democracy have fallen for the strong talk of a right-wing, authoritarian nationalist. Brazil joins the other largest, most powerful nations in choosing (?) one such – USA, China, Russia, India. Back in the 1930s when nations fell by arms or the vote to fascists – Germany, Italy, Spain, Portugal – there did remain a group of democracy supporting allies – the UK and its dominions, the USA, France (until 1940). Now though, I wonder if there will be any nations with clout left to stand up for internationalism, tolerance, peace, and the future of the planet. Definitely not the UK under a Conservative government.

I noticed somewhere a comment that 1/3 of the USA distrusts the media and thinks that the press are “enemies of the people”. There was surprise at this as if only Trump supporters think the media are biased. On the contrary I, and I expect many like me, distrust and abhor the rants of such as Fox News, the Daily Mail, The Sun, the Daily Telegraph et al. Even the BBC with its emphasis on balance rather than evidence-based truth gives us an extra push down the slide into chaos and disaster.

The problem is the silent majority who don’t support the rabble-rousing populists. They will remain silent and comfortable in their own cosy if a little hard-pressed worlds while minorities like immigrants, gays, trans, are first denigrated, then denied rights and finally eliminated. When a senior female policewomen says that the police don’t have the time or the resources to fight hate-crimes against women (that’s what misogyny is, after all) then you can see where we heading.

Yes, I’m pretty depressed about the new this week.

…………………………………

WP_20180927_16_21_24_ProSo, to relieve the gloom, a reminder that Molly’s Boudoir will be available as e-book and paperback shortly and if you would like a pre-pub pdf version free in return for an Amazon review then contact me here. And here is the second episode of the new prequel, Monochrome.

Monochrome: Part 2

She stirred and realised that she had been asleep after all. She spread her legs expecting to find Angela’s but she was the sole occupant of the bed. Her eyes opened.
‘’Morning James, or is it Jasmine today?’ Angela entered the bedroom carrying two mugs. ‘You are awake?’
‘Um, yes. What time is it?’
‘Gone nine.’ Angela placed one mug on the table on Jasmine’s side of the bed.
‘It’s a long time since I’ve slept in this late when I haven’t been on nights.’
‘That’s good. You’ve looked exhausted for weeks. That’s why you, both of us actually, needed this holiday.’
Jasmine nodded. The pressure of the work in the PPU, short-staffed as it was, had meant little time off let alone weekends. The nightmares were just one symptom of her stress. The chance to take a week’s overdue leave had been grabbed.
‘I know,’ she replied, ‘and thanks for your suggestion in the night. I am Jasmine until James has to go back to work.’ That was a prospect she didn’t want to think about for a few days.
‘Good. Well take your time, drink your coffee. I’ll do a fry up and then we can get out and look around.’
‘Fine, but first come here. I may feel feminine but this body still has male responses.’
Angela laughed and dived under the covers.

They had an exhilarating walk northwards along the coast path. Jasmine was grateful for her body-warmer over the tunic and leggings because while sunny and dry there was a chill north-easterly blowing. They returned to the isolated cottage with its views over the cliff before the October sun had sunk to meet the sea.  The room that was dining room, lounge and kitchen was cosy. Angela began to fill the kettle while Jasmine headed into the compact shower room which formed the only other part of the ground floor. She shivered. The small window had become unlatched and was flapping in the wind. Jasmine secured it, leaving just a small gap for fresh air to enter.
As Jasmine emerged, Angela was tutting.
‘I thought I brought four tins of baked beans. We had one this morning but there are only two left.’
‘Perhaps we left one behind.’ Jasmine chuckled, ‘Surely a commercial accountant can count beans!’ They both laughed as they drank coffee.
They ate, drank wine, played cards with a pack they found, read and talked but by nine they were both ready for bed. They climbed the steep wooden steps to the mezzanine bedroom in the roof. To make room, Jasmine decided to store the clothes she had travelled in as James in the suitcase.
‘Have you seen my jumper?’ she said.
‘Which jumper?’ Angela asked while undressing.
‘The red one I was wearing yesterday. It should be with the jeans and shirt. I took them all off at the same time.’
Angela sniggered, ‘Maybe James put it away for once.’
Jasmine shrugged. ‘I can’t think where. Oh well, it’ll turn up.’ Naked but for her knickers she crawled under the duvet.

Relaxation and exercise resulted in another good night’s sleep. Jasmine awoke the following morning refreshed, and, like Angela, ready for another exploration of the coast. They set off eagerly, southwards with the wind behind them. By midday, however, the cloud cover increased, spots of rain became showers which grew in intensity and wetting effect. The breeze became a gale, which made walking along the sometimes precipitous cliff path difficult if not actually dangerous. By then they had turned back, bending into the north-westerly. Jasmine held her hand to her head to keep her long blonde wig from flying away like some rare seabird.
Jasmine was grateful when she saw the grey smudge of the cottage appear through the ground-hugging rain clouds. They ran the last few yards up the field to the front door. Angela pushed the door open, stepped inside and cried out.
Jasmine pushed passed her and saw a figure rise from the sofa and run to the shower room.
‘Hey! Stop!’ she shouted and leapt across the room. The bathroom door slammed in her face. She pushed it open and stepped inside. The short, slim person already had head and shoulders outside the window and was wriggling to get hips through. Jasmine grabbed the feet and tugged. The intruder had no way of resisting and slid back inside. Jasmine dropped the feet and grasped the waist, dragging the youth to the floor. He twisted and squirmed but Jasmine used knees and arms to hold him firm.
‘Stop! I won’t hurt you,’ Jasmine said. The youngster lay still. Jasmine looked at his short, brown hair, red jumper, James’ jumper, torn skinny jeans and worn trainers. Then she looked again. There were humps under the jumper. Breasts? Was it he or she?
Jasmine stood up, watching carefully for any further bid to escape.
‘Come on, get up. What are you doing here? Why are you wearing my jumper?’
‘Take it easy, Jasmine,’ Angela stood in the doorway, ‘she’s a kid. Looks like she’s been having a hard time.’
Jasmine saw the bruises on her face, and the marks on her wrists. Was she a kid? Teenager certainly. Thief?
The girl got to her feet slowly, looking all the time at Jasmine. She was shaking.
‘Come here love,’ Angela said reaching out for the girl’s hand, ‘You look worn out.’
She allowed Angela to guide her back into the lounge. She sat on the sofa with Angela beside her and Jasmine standing over her. The girl gave her quizzical look.
‘Are you a bloke?’ she said.
Jasmine frowned, saw the girl was looking at the top of her head, raised her hand. Her wig was lopsided. She felt a moment of panic at being exposed. PC James Frame’s short, masculine blonde hair should have been hidden by the shoulder-length tresses. She straightened the wig roughly.
‘It doesn’t matter what I am. Who are you?’ Jasmine’s failed to keep her tone in her upper register. The girl’s eyes showed terror and she shrank into a ball on the sofa. ‘I’m going to phone the Police,’ she went on looking for her mobile. ‘They need to know about this thief.’
‘Can’t you see she’s scared stiff, Jas.’ Angela put her arm around the girl. ‘You see things in black and white.’
‘But what’s she doing breaking into our cottage?’ Jasmine felt the anger bubbling inside her.
Angela hugged the trembling teenager.
‘Let’s hear from her before you bring in the heavy mob.’ Angela spoke softly to the girl. Won’t you tell us what you’re doing here?’
The girl glanced at Jasmine, gazed at Angela, swallowed and said. ‘Okay, if it stops you calling the fuzz.’

………………………….to be continued.

Jasmine in Monochrome

This time last week I was in Chester at FantasyCon, the annual meeting of the British Fantasy Society. It was held in a smart, large hotel in the centre of town and was pretty busy. It was my first time at a purely fantasy event but since my September novels are more fantasy than anything else I thought it would be appropriate. I had a very pleasant day meeting some nice people but was surprised that there were fewer cosplayers than I’ve seen at other events.

I attended the launch of three new books published by Elsewhen but only managed one other session as I found that I was involved in three myself. The first panel discussion was on Young Adult and teenage fiction. First of all, we agreed that the difference between YA and adult stories was the lack of explicit sex in the former with less-graphic violence. My fellow panelists went on about the teenage years being the time when people were finding their identity and tackling issues. That is true but it seemed to me that they were suggesting that adult life is not like that. I am quite sure that many teenagers live quite content lives, many are certainly confident and not all are troubled bundles of insecurity. What’s more, I don’t think it stops when you become an adult (actually, does that happen at 18, 21, 25, 30+?). When I look back at my comfortable life unaffected by unemployment, tragedy (both parents have passed on but that is not unexpected), or ill-health (touch wood!) it doesn’t look as though I have had troubles to face. But those of you who have read this blog for a while know that I have long had questions about my gender identity and in the last eighteen years, thanks to the support of Lou, I have tested and changed my self-image. I think many other people of mature age will also have “travelled on a journey” of self-discovery. In fact I think that if as adults we remained the people we were at the end of our teenage years we’d be pretty boring stick-in-the-muds.

WP_20181018_15_35_48_ProI also gave my “Cavorite to Coaxium” presentation which is as much SF as fantasy but that didn’t seem to bother the organisers or the small audience.  Finally, I sat on a panel discussing “queer characters” in fiction. I can’t recall any particularly queer characters from recent fiction (Orlando by Virginia Wolff – recent?) except for my very own Jasmine Frame, but I’m not that interested in seeing queer characters featured because they are queer. I want to see LGB, trans and non-binary characters in roles traditionally given to straight characters with being queer part of their personality not a plot device. I feel that one problem is that some queer authors are so involved in queer culture that they miss opportunities to bring in a wider readership. The bulk of the population still does not understand the terms or what people stand for; education is still a necessity. With the backlash from the right-wing gathering pace in some places, trans and non-binary people, in particular, need all the support they can get.

Molly’s Boudoir, the 4th Jasmine Frame novel is now in the final stages of preparation for publication. I am planning a publication date of 30th November.  A reminder that if you would like to receive a free pdf pre-publication version in return for an Amazon review on 30th Nov. please contact me here.

And now, at last, a new Jasmine Frame short story, Monochrome, well the beginning anyway. It is set in late 2008 when Jasmine was 25 years of age, well before the time that  Painted Ladies is set.. It follows on from Pose written earlier this year and comes before Flashlight written in late 2015. I hope you enjoy it although perhaps enjoy is the wrong word for this short episode.

Monochrome

October 2008

1

They passed before him in a never-ending file. Children, teenagers, boys, girls, white, black, brown, each bruised, bloody and naked. He wanted to leap up and stop them moving, to hug and hold each and every one; but he couldn’t. He was stuck in the chair, an office chair with five wheels, arms and a backrest that should move to support his back but didn’t. There were no bonds holding him down but nothing would make his legs work. One boy, about eight years old with short black hair stepped out of the line and came towards him. His skin was pale except where it was coated in blood or dirt or both. He reached out his hand in supplication. The rest of the parade had disappeared. It was just the boy standing on a featureless plain. Grey walls closed in from the distance. Close they came until they framed the boy. The box resembled a computer screen. Still the boy appealed to him. James cried out. A wordless cry of frustration and pain.
‘There, now. It’s only a dream,’ a voice whispered in his ear.
An arm reached across his chest tugged his shoulder. He rolled over. His cheek came to rest against soft flesh. He opened his eyes to darkness. Where was he?
The images of children faded into memory from whence they had come, and he remembered.
‘I’m sorry Ange. Did I wake you?’ He slid a hand down her naked body feeling the familiar curves and the warmth of her skin.
‘It doesn’t matter,’ Angela said. ‘Was it the same dream?’
He nodded, his head moving against her breasts. ‘It’s those pictures of the children. They just don’t stop. They’re always there behind my eyelids.’
‘You need to rest. You’ve been working too hard.’
‘We’re on holiday, aren’t we?’ The bedroom of their rented cottage was familiar again.
‘Yes, but I don’t think a fortnight by the sea will be enough for you. You can’t go back to that job again.’
‘But there’s so much to do in the PPU. All those children being abused, exploited and hurt.’
‘I know, love, but let someone else take over. You’ve been doing it for eighteen months now.’
‘Seventeen.’
‘Close enough. You’ve hardly had a break. You need a change. If you don’t apply for a transfer I think you may be damaged. You do agree, don’t you?’
He held her tight. He knew she was right. The stress of investigating child sexual exploitation cases online had been building for the last year. They had had successes, arrests, convictions, websites removed, but the number of cases kept on increasing. The evidence he had uncovered, the images, the videos, were constantly in his consciousness. He knew Angela was right. If he carried on, then he would become mentally ill. The message requesting a transfer was sitting on his laptop waiting to be sent.
‘I want a transfer to CID,’ he said, ‘but they’re not recruiting at the moment.’
‘Then go back into uniform. Another chance to be a detective will come along. I’m sure of. It.’
‘Perhaps.’
‘Go back to sleep. And remember, we’re on holiday. You don’t have to be PC James Frame for the next two weeks. You can be Jasmine all the time if you like.’
Jasmine smiled and hugged Angela tight. What would she do without her to soothe and support her?

…………………….. to be continued.

Jasmine needs reviews

Layout 1I am reversing things a little this week to make an appeal for reviews of the Jasmine Frame books. As I have reported previously, the next novel, the 4th, Molly’s Boudoir, is about to be published.  I am hoping for a launch date for the e-book and paperback around the end of November – just in time for Christmas!  I’d would really like to get some publicity on Amazon for this event and that means getting reviews. First of all, if you have read any of the existing three novels or the three novellas then please, please write a review on Amazon. For Molly’s Boudoir, I will send a prepublication pdf version free to any of you who contact me, in return for a review on the publication date.  Send me an email here if you’d like to take part.

The Jasmine novels are set in and around the town of Kintbridge.  In Molly’s Boudoir the main action takes place in the small town of Thirsbury, west of Kintbridge.  Kintbridge is a fictional version of Newbury in West Berkshire and Thirsbury is modelled on Hungerford.  All the locations in the books are based on real places but I give them different names so I can make small changes to suit my plot. It also doesn’t help that the town centre pub mentioned in Painted Ladies disappeared a few years before I published the novel because the whole area was redeveloped into a new shopping centre. For me Kintbridge is still the Newbury of the 2000s.

…………………….

I have never understood hate aimed at groups of people that share a characteristic whether it is racism, homophobia, transphobia or whatever. There are individuals that one doesn’t get on with or dislikes (I can’t think of anyone at the moment), but not whole groups, with the exception of the Brexiteers in parliament, Trump supporters in the Republican Party, and  autocrats running various countries. When I say “understood” perhaps I mean “don’t empathise with” because that sort of hate is, I think, a sign of weakness. Misogyny is one such hate. Are some men so fragile that they cannot bear a woman to match, or exceed them in any way? To hate half the human race seems to me to be an admission of inadequacy. And yet it is still very common and indeed with the rise of the populists/autocrats, is increasing. It is not just a feature of the alt-right. The Soviet Union made much of giving roles to women that were unknown in the west at the time – engineers, pilots, cosmonaut – but how many women did we ever see in those pictures of the leaders of the politburo watching parades at the Kremlin.  There are as few prominent women at the top of the Labour Party as there are in the Conservatives. I would like to see true equality where the gender of any individual is an irrelevant factor in anything that they do or say.

WP_20180913_14_43_11_Pro (2)Another hate I despise is that which suggests that giving trans people rights somehow lessens the rights of women. A piece on the Thursday PM on Radio 4 was, I feel,very one-sided. A male spokesperson for the radical feminist view that transwomen are not women was allowed to spout his distortions of the truth while Ruth Hunt of Stonewall was berated for not controlling trans-activists who respond to this garbage. Hunt pointed out that Stonewall policy was to support the current law of the land i.e. transwomen in possession of the Gender Recognition Certificate are legally women in every respect. This was the first time that I have felt that the BBC did not stick to its famous “balance”. A warning – denying that trans-people have particular rights denies every individual the right to be themselves.

…………………….

Jasmine’s day out

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

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

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

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

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

……………………..

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

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

Negative: Part 4

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

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

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

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

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

………………………..to be continued.

 

 

Jasmine makes a friend

WP_20180516_13_29_08_ProDo you have hate-figures? Hate is a very negative emotion and one shouldn’t place that feeling on any person but there are definitely some people or groups of people that I am more than irritated by. Certain politicians who I won’t name are one group. Estate agents used to be another. We’ve bought and sold house a number of times and the agents always seemed an obstacle to movement rather than a help. However at the moment, our current agents are delightful, working day after day to secure the move we want to make. No, the figures who have risen to number one in my list of detestable characters are solicitors.

In the past I have accepted that they have a job to do. They’ve done it and been paid handsomely for it. Perhaps it took them longer than we hoped but they seemed to get on with the task without causing unnecessary hindrance. The last time we moved was nine years ago.  The situation seems to have changed since then. As in all walks of life, the internet has interfered. Now you can contract with an on-line solicitor probably based in a town far from where you live. Apart from not having a solicitor close enough to call on for face to face meetings it means that you are dealing with a call centre staffed by legal assistants (assuming they have any qualification at all). All they can deal with is what they see on their screens. The result – delay after delay; letters, emails and phone calls unanswered; each solicitor in the chain waiting for the next in line to do something.

We went with a local solicitor but at least one member of our chain of four has used an online solicitor. A process that could take as little as three weeks, that usually takes six weeks has taken three months and counting (that’s not counting the other delays due to people dropping out, partly we suspect because of the delays). Our impression is that all solicitors have lost sight that they are serving clients who are engaged in the stressful business of moving from one home to another. They sit in their offices and call centres awaiting the post – yes, despite the possibility of transferring letters and documents online they still seem to rely on the mail.

Frustration is just one of  the words I’d use to describe the emotion of waiting for completion.

……………………………

I’m still writing! Below is the second episode of Negative, both a sequel and a prequel to the Jasmine Frame novels.

Negative – Part 2

‘Yes, please,’ Jasmine replied giving the young waitress a broad smile.
The girl looked at the empty seat. ‘Is there someone else. . .’ she said hesitantly.
‘No, I’m on my own.’ How Jasmine wished that Angela was with her. The memories of fun times together, the companionship, the love, the sex, startled her with their force. She gasped.
‘Are you alright,’ the waitress asked.
Jasmine sucked in air. ‘Yes, well, a glass of water. . .’
The girl hurried away and returned moments later with a jug of water and a tumbler. She placed them on Jasmine’s table. ‘Would you like more time?’ The girl’s voice control had slipped a little, descending a few tones.
Jasmine smiled at her. ‘No, sorry about that. I’m not sure what happened. I am ready.’ She picked up the menu and read off the soup and a fish dish. She was ready to eat but didn’t want anything too heavy.
The waitress scribbled in her notebook, gave Jasmine a smile and left her. Jasmine noticed the other waitress’s eyes following her. There was a scowl on her face.

The food wasn’t bad, better than your average cheap hotel fare. Jasmine felt that it had been prepared with care for her personally rather than being mass produced slop. She wished she had brought something with her to read as in the gap between courses she had nothing to do other than sit and listen to conversations while trying to avoid looking like she was eavesdropping on the private chat. Other than the waitress no one else spoke to her. Was that because all the pairs were just focussed on their own relationships or because as a single person she was considered odd, an interloper, who might have a divisive effect on a couple. None of what she heard was particularly interesting. She discovered a few places in the town to avoid and learned of some others worth a visit.
When she had finished she thanked her waitress who looked surprised to be acknowledged. The older member of staff glowered at them. Jasmine pushed her chair back, stood and casually walked from the dining room. She returned to her room, watched a bit of TV, read her book and then discovered that like previous evenings since her stay in hospital she had become tired and was ready to settle into bed much earlier than she was accustomed to.

She woke early. The morning light was shining through the thin curtains even though her window faced north. She got up, went to the window and pushed the curtains back. The sky was blue and cloudless. A sunny day by the seaside. What could be better? It should have filled her with joy but there was a darkness inside her. What did she need to dispel it? A companion? Someone to chat to? Someone to tell of her dreams that came every night – the blade that slashed at her arms defending herself, her chest, abdomen and her penis and testicles. The presence of the last was perhaps the worst part of the nightmare.
She made a cup of coffee using the room’s facilities and went back to bed. It was too early for breakfast. She read again and listened to the sounds of the hotel waking up.
It was approaching nine-thirty when she descended to the dining room for breakfast. There were still a few couples there eating. She sat at the same table as the previous evening. The young trans-girl approached.
‘Good morning,’ the waitress said, ‘What would you like?’
Jasmine decided, ‘Scrambled eggs, toast, fruit, coffee, please.’
‘There’s fruit on the buffet table. Help yourself. I’ll bring your coffee.’ The girl departed. Jasmine explored the breakfast bar and collected a bowl of mixed fruits. The girl was pouring coffee into her cup when she returned.
‘You’re on breakfast and dinner times?’ Jasmine said.
The waitress smiled, ‘That’s right, six days a week.’
‘We’re going to see a fair bit of each other over the next couple of weeks, I think. I’m Jasmine and you are . . .?’
‘Ceri,’ she replied but glanced to the other side of the room where the older waitress was standing glaring at them with her mouth in a grimace. ‘but she doesn’t like me talking to guests.’
Jasmine followed Ceri’s gaze, ‘She?’
‘Tegan.’
‘She can’t stop me talking to you,’ Jasmine said and then realised that was unfair on the young woman. If the older waitress was vindictive to Ceri for some reason, then Jasmine befriending her would not improve her situation. ‘I’m sorry, I won’t get you into the trouble.’
Ceri gave her a sad smile. ‘It’s not your fault. It’s, er, complicated.’
‘I understand,’ Jasmine said in an almost whisper, ‘I think we have something in common.’
A startled look passed across Ceri’s face. She took the coffee jug to refill another guest’s cup. A few minutes later she returned with Jasmine’s plate of eggs and a rack of toast.
‘Enjoy your breakfast,’ she said and hurried away.

It was a lovely warm morning on the seafront. Jasmine walked along the beach which was occupied by couples with young children digging in the sand and older people snoozing in deckchairs. She felt herself drawn to the end of the beach where the pier jutted out into the sea. She climbed the steps up to the wooden deck and walked past the stalls selling holiday goods until she was over the water. Below her the rollers were sweeping into the shore, breaking over the mixture of pebbles and sand that made up the beach. It was hypnotic watching them and she stood for minutes in a sort of trance.
Eventually she looked up, back along the pier and saw a woman walking towards her. Her long golden hair flowed out behind her. She wore large round sunglasses and brightly patterned dress that although it had a fairly high neckline left her shoulders and arms bare and hardly covered her long legs at all. She had flat, white sandals on her feet.
Jasmine stared at the girl, then realised that she was familiar. It was Ceri.
‘Hi,’ Jasmine called as the girl drew near to her. Ceri paused, looked at her, and took a step closer.
‘I’m sorry. I was far away. I didn’t notice you, um, . . .’
‘Jasmine,’ she reminded her.
‘Oh, yes. You told me your name at breakfast.’
‘So, Tegan let’s you out sometimes then.’ Jasmine wondered if the cliché would irritate the young woman.
Ceri smiled. ‘Thank goodness. Breakfast is usually done by ten-thirty and I don’t have to be back to set up for dinner until five-thirty. The day is mine to do what I want.’
‘And what do you want?’
She shrugged, ‘Well, I just love this old pier, especially when it’s not too busy. It’s packed in August, if the weather’s good.’
Jasmine gazed at the sea and the mountains in the distance. ‘It’s certainly a stunning view.’
‘I look into the distance and think about where I might be sometime in the future.’
‘You have plans?’
Ceri shrugged again. ‘It depends.’
‘As you said earlier. It’s complicated. I know what you mean.’
The girl frowned. ‘You said we had something in common. Do you know I’m . . .? Are you . . .?’
‘I think we need to talk. Would you like a coffee?’
‘Um, yes. There’s a decent café at the end of the pier.’
They walked side by side to the low, wooden building. There were a few people inside, but Ceri and Jasmine were able to take a quiet, corner table with a view over the open sea. They ordered their coffees – Jasmine a black and Ceri a frothy cappuccino.
‘You guessed I was trans,’ Ceri said. There was disappointment on her face. ‘I try so hard.’
‘You look fantastic,’ Jasmine wanted to encourage her, ‘but you know there are the little signs. I’m aware of them because I know I have them too – facial features, broad shoulders, not much waist.’
‘And the voice. I know. I try to keep it up but it slips.’
‘It’s difficult, I know. I’ve taken lessons from a speech therapist and still I have problems. But, you’re young, how long have you been transitioned?’ she paused wondering how ready the girl was to talk about herself. ‘I’m sorry, I’m being nosey. You don’t have to talk about it if you don’t want to.’
Ceri’s eyes widened. ‘No, I want to. It’s fantastic to find someone who understands. There aren’t many trans-people in this small town.’
‘You grew up here?’
‘Yes. All my life. I still live with my Mum and Dad.’
‘They support you?’
‘Mum, yes. Dad less so.’
Jasmine nodded. ‘That’s common. My father never knew I was trans. He died before I started to transition. It must have been difficult for you.’
Ceri shrugged. ‘I knew there was something different about me when I was a kid, but I was fourteen before I told my Mum. I was getting scared and angry about the things that were starting to happen. You know, hair, voice breaking, getting erections.’
Jasmine nodded. She remembered those things very well indeed. She encouraged Ceri to continue.
‘When I told my Mum, she understood immediately. I’d always insisted on keeping my hair long,’ She stroked her golden tresses, ‘and I was never really into playing boys games.’
‘Your Mother helped you.’
‘Yeah. She took me to the doctor, googled it, got in touch with Mermaids. School agreed for me to go into Year 10 as a girl. I wanted to go on the puberty blocking drugs but the time it took to get an appointment at the gender clinic and then they said I must wait to be certain I wanted it. . .’ she shrugged. ‘I wished I’d come out years sooner so that it could have been sorted when puberty kicked in.’ She sighed, ‘Anyway, I was living as a girl, at home and school, and I only had to wait until I was sixteen.’
‘How was it, at school, living here?’
‘What do you think?’
‘Difficult?’
‘Yeah.’

…………………….to be continued

Jasmine on the hunt

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

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

 

 

 

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

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

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

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

Pose: Part 8

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

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

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

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

………………………..to be continued.

 

Jasmine involved

As I said last week, time ran out on me, leaving me unable to write a comment on the week.  You’d think that there was plenty of time in seven days, especially as I no longer have the day job to fill a considerable portion of the time. Nevertheless, tales of the unexpected conspired to fill my blog-writing slot.

I had, and still do want to comment on my first appearance at a Society of Authors meeting, the inaugural Welsh section gathering as it happened. It was a very enjoyable session and I met a number of very interesting and friendly people. Of course in any group of writers we were soon sharing publishing experiences. Some have been far more successful than me with contracts with the big publishers, but I think most of us were in the same boat – struggling for sales because of the problems of marketing our wares. The rise of the internet, e-books and print-on-demand publishing has, made it a lot easier and cheaper to publish and be published but has made the chore of marketing so much more difficult. You can’t see the leaf for the jungle.  With everybody leaping up and down shouting “read me”, it is very difficult to stand out.  Some manage it (and I have to say it, sour grapes and all that, it’s not always the most well-written offerings). Anyway membership of the SoA provides advice and assistance and fellow authors to share ideas with. I’m looking forward to the next meeting.

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I need some new photos. This is from Dec. 2017

I’ve also spent a considerable amount of time in the last fortnight giving Trans-awareness talks. I enjoy talking and describing what being trans in all its varied forms is all about. I find people interested to learn about us but often confused despite the higher visibility of trans issues in today’s media. I am keen to get across an understanding of the wide range of trans-people. Fully transitioned, gender-confirmed, men and women are a small minority of the total. What’s more, many of us have no wish to be medicalised or to be pushed into permanent slots on the gender spectrum.

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And so to Jasmine. The new story, Pose, is getting going now I think. We’ve got to episode 3.  I hope it is clear when the events are happening. It is still a few years before Painted Ladies takes place and the sequels. Remember that you can purchase all the novels and the two early (chronologically) prequels as e-books and the three novels are available in paperback from me – here.

Pose: Part 3

Colin was in the rest room pouring his first coffee of the day when James arrived.
‘You look bright eyed and the rest of it,’ Colin growled.
‘Uh, I don’t mind early mornings,’ James replied. An evening without alcohol, that wasn’t too late ending, helped. ‘Any news?’
Colin took a tentative sip from his steaming mug. ‘You mean, the missing girl?’ James nodded. Colin screwed up his pudgy features. ‘Nah.’
‘Doesn’t look good,’ James said. She’d been missing for a day and a half, including two nights. He could imagine the parents trying to keep their hopes up, but the investigating team would be fearing the worst. ‘Better see if there’s anything more we can find out,’ he added.
Colin shrugged and, coffee in hand, followed James to their little office. They booted up their computers and called up the files they’d downloaded from the girl’s internet provider and mobile phone company.
‘There’s just not enough in the metadata to identify the groomer or get his location,’ Colin said. James agreed while noting the number of times the missing girl and her supposed abductor had exchanged messages. Had they arranged where to meet?
There was a knock on the door and it opened to reveal a young police officer.
‘I was told to deliver this to you,’ he said holding out a small clear evidence bag.
Colin took it. ‘Is that the girl’s phone?’
The PC nodded. ‘The DI thinks it is.’
Colin opened the bag and tipped the phone out onto his desk. It was a Nokia, a model from a couple of years ago, decorated with stars, stickers and Tippex writing.
‘Where was it found?’ James asked.
‘On waste ground near the Kennet on the edge of town.’
‘Show me.’ James beckoned the officer to squeeze into their cramped office and called up Google maps on his screen. He zoomed into the south-western edge of the town which showed the River Kennet meandering towards its junction with the River Thames. The PC peered at the screen and then pointed at a spot close to the river.
‘Who found it?’ James asked.
‘A jogger. It was just by the path. He handed it in and luckily the desk officer recognised it from the description the parents had given.’
‘That’s quite a way from where she lives,’ James said. ‘Was she taken there do you think?’
‘DI Crowley has started a search of the area.’
James knew the spot. He’d passed by there himself on some of his longer runs. ‘So, was it deliberately dropped, or did she just lose it there?’ The officer shrugged. ‘What about her laptop? That’s missing too.’
The constable shook his head, ‘It was just the phone.’
There was beep from the phone. Colin was tapping keys.
‘It’s still on,’ James said.
‘Yeah. Battery’s good on this model,’ Colin muttered. ‘Now let’s see what texts she’s had.’
‘Um, I’d better head back,’ the PC said.
‘Yes, thanks. Tell DI Crowley, we’re on it,’ James said as leaned across to see what Colin was doing. The young man sidled out of the door.
‘Here we are,’ Colin, said. ‘The last message from the guy. Friday afternoon. He tells her to meet him at Sandford Park.’
‘Where’s that?’ After three years living in Reading, James was still not familiar with every part of the town.
‘It’s in Woodley.’
‘That’s the east of the town. Where she lives isn’t it?’
‘Yeah,’ Colin said, reading the text. ‘He tells her exactly where he’ll be. On Comet Way.’
‘On the road?’
‘Yeah.’
‘So he’s in a car.’
Colin half shrugged, half nodded. ‘Guess so.’
‘Does he give her a time?’
‘Six fifteen.’
‘That’s not long after she was last seen.’
‘Only three quarters of an hour after this message too.’
James moved his mouse, shifting the area of the map shown on the screen. Then he scrabbled around the bits of paper they’d collected. He found what we wanted.
‘Got it. Her home is about half a mile from the park. If she left around six she could easily get to the meeting point in time. How does she know who she is meeting?’
’Dunno,’ Colin said. ‘He doesn’t give a description of himself.’
‘Is she expecting a boy of her own age who’s on foot or perhaps a bike, or is she expecting an older guy in a car?’
Colin didn’t reply at once. He was thumbing buttons on the phone.
‘From the texts she had from him I’d say she was expecting a kid. But you’re probably better at the lovey-dovey stuff than I am; you’ve got a girl.’
‘Um, I guess. Let’s see.’ James took the phone from Colin and flicked through the stored texts. It was easy to see which ones were from the “boy” rather than the girl’s parents. They were in textspeak with a significant lack of vowels. Neither did they resemble messages from her girl friends as they were complimentary and urged her to meet up so they could get to “know” each other.
‘He was keen to get her,’ James noted.
‘And she was eager to meet him,’ Colin added. ‘Have you read her replies?’
‘Yes. She fell for it didn’t she.’
‘Did she ever.’
‘We can let DI Crowley know where and when they met. Perhaps there’s some CCTV at the park which will pick them up.’

…………………………….

James got back to the flat that he and Angela rented in the late afternoon. He was feeling despondent. The body of the girl had been discovered around mid-day, not far from where the phone was found. She had been strangled and it looked as though she had been raped. Despite having all the messages between the murdered girl and the boy or man she had arranged to meet, they had got no closer to identifying him and no CCTV had turned up of their meeting place. James wondered whether he’d made any contribution at all to catching the killer.
He slumped onto their old, saggy sofa. Angela had used the opportunity of a Sunday on her own to catch a train into London to meet some old friends. She wouldn’t be back for a few hours and apart from the household chores which he had promised to share, there was little else to do.
His phone buzzed. He pulled it out of his pocket and looked at the number. It looked familiar but not so familiar that he recognised who it was. He accepted the call and raised the phone to his ear.
‘Jasmine?’ It was a male voice, but she recognised it.
‘Samantha. How are you?’
‘Okay. Look you said you’d help sort out Tina.’
Jasmine didn’t recall making that promise. ‘You said you’d let me know if you heard anything. Have you met her?’
‘No. That’s the trouble. I’m worried about her.’
‘Why?’
‘I went to the address she’d given me – her digs.’
‘Right.’
‘A real dive. An old council house divided up into bedsits. I think the other rooms are full of Romanians.’
‘OK. I gather she wasn’t there.’
‘No. I spoke to some of the guys. They don’t speak much English, but they knew her. Knew she was trans.’
‘Were they abusive?’
‘No. But some other blokes had been.’
‘Other blokes?’
‘Yeah. Some British wankers turned up a couple of nights ago. They made a fuss.’
‘Oh,’ Jasmine was shocked and confused.
‘The foreign guys thought it was aimed at them at first, but they realised that it was Tina they were shouting at.’
‘What happened?’
‘They smashed a window – Tina’s. They went after that.’
‘Was Tina there?’
‘I think so, but the Romans told me they haven’t seen her since.’
‘Where did she go?’
‘I don’t know. I was hoping you might help me look for her. Perhaps talk to the Romans again and find out a bit more what went on.’
‘Hmm.’ Jasmine was reluctant to commit herself.
‘I think she needs help. Our help.’
Jasmine decided. ‘OK, I’ll come and take a look. Where shall I meet you?’
‘At the Duchess.’
‘You’re dressed.’
‘Of course.’
Jasmine had to think quickly. Did she want to meet up with Samantha and go looking for Tina as James or Jasmine. As the former she was a police officer. This task looked to be a little extracurricular. Jasmine it would be.
‘Give me half an hour or so.’
‘Great. Thanks Jasmine.’ The call ended.

It took twenty minutes to change into leggings and a chunky tunic top, put on her long blonde wig and dab some foundation and lipstick on. Another ten minutes in the light Sunday traffic took her to the Duchess. Samantha was standing outside the pub dressed in a leather jacket over a woollen dress with heeled over the knee boots. Jasmine thought she was ready for a night out. Samantha bent down to peer into the Fiesta as she pulled up. Jasmine beckoned for her to get in.
‘Hi,’ Jasmine greeted her, ‘Give me directions.’

 

Jasmine compromised

WP_20171215_16_16_28_ProIt’s the festive season so I am not going to go on a rant or raise any controversial topics now. After a year when I have spent a lot of the time scared about the future I just want to have a few days of pleasure and conviviality when worries can, hopefully, be set aside. So I wish all of you all good tidings. May you enjoy this celebratory period.

Here’s a photo taken on a day out Christmas shopping in Cardiff.

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Here is the concluding episode of Reflex to, I hope, get you thinking and looking  forward to the next Jasmine Frame novel and/or story and whatever else I decide to inflict on you.

 

 

Reflex: Part 9

‘No, no. I didn’t,’ Wendy Chapman cried, ‘He did lie to me. He said he was doing overtime and that he’d be late home.’
James shook his head, ‘I don’t think so Mrs Chapman.’
‘Why not? Why don’t you believe me?’
‘Because of the knife.’
The woman stared at James. ‘What do you mean?’
James stood up. ‘When I spoke to Melissa at the unit she said you were a bit OCD about tidiness, especially in the kitchen and with knives in particular.’ He walked from the lounge into the kitchen. It wasn’t a huge room. There were units and services on three sides and a small dining table against the fourth wall next to the side door. The whole room was sparkling clean and there wasn’t a thing on any surface.
‘There!’ James said pointing, ‘Nothing. Not a utensil, bit of food, not even post or a shopping list. I’ve never seen a kitchen so tidy.’
Wendy Chapman had followed him. ‘So what? I like to keep the place clean and tidy. It’s not easy with a family in the house.’
‘I’m sure it isn’t, but you manage it. Melissa commented on it. And yet on that evening a sharp knife, big enough to cause serious injury was left on the work top handy enough for Melissa to grab it when her father attacked her.’
Now there was fear and worry on Wendy’s face. ‘It was an accident. I forgot to put it away. Melissa just grabbed it. You said it yourself it was self-defence.’
‘I did and it was, but I don’t think that was the intention.’ James examined the woman’s face searching for confirmation that his idea was correct.
She frowned. ‘What do you mean, “the intention”?’
James took a deep breath. ‘I don’t think it was an accident that that knife was left out on the surface. I don’t think you make those kind of mistakes Mrs Chapman. I think you put that knife on the work top close to you and Melissa deliberately.’
She shook her head and shrugged. ‘Why do you think I did that?’
‘I believe you knew that your husband would be home earlier than you said to Melissa. You were expecting him to barge into the kitchen and find you doing his son’s hair in a girly style. You knew he would be angry and would attack Melissa.’
Her eyes narrowed. ‘You think I put the knife there so that Mel could grab it and kill my husband.’
‘That’s what it looks like. You set up your trans-daughter so that she had no time to escape when her father burst in and attacked her and you provided the weapon for her self-defence.’
Mrs Chapman shrugged. ‘What if that was how it happened? It doesn’t make any difference. Melissa didn’t plan to kill her father. She didn’t murder him. And he attacked her first.’
‘I don’t think that was what you planned, Mrs Chapman,’ James said in a quiet voice not wanting to stir up the mother.
Her face lost all colour. ‘What do you mean?’
‘I think that you had observed what was happening to your son, or rather daughter. He was growing up, going through puberty. He was getting bigger, stronger, turning from a sexless little boy into a young man. He hated it. He believed himself to be a girl. The physical changes he was undergoing were destroying his dream of being a woman. His father was preventing him from being himself, stopping him from getting help.’
The woman flapped her hands. ‘Yes, yes, so what?’
‘Melissa was dressing more often and being discovered more often. Her father, your husband was beating her more often. You probably had one of two fears, or perhaps both.’
‘What fears?’
‘One that Eric might kill Melissa in a fit of temper. Or alternatively Melissa might plan to kill her father herself to get her freedom and stop being hurt by him.’
‘Nonsense. Eric didn’t want to kill her and Melissa couldn’t hurt anyone.’
‘Are you sure, Mrs Chapman? I think you did fear either of those things happening. You had to protect Melissa and not let her be drawn into planning the murder of her father.’
She shook her head but didn’t speak. James went on.
‘So you made your own plan. It had to look like a spontaneous act of self-defence. You knew your husband would be home soon after his shift finished, around five-thirty. You offered to style Melissa’s hair but instead of doing it in a bedroom with a mirror, the sensible place, you did it here where Eric was bound to burst in on you. You placed a knife within easy reach. Your reach. You expected Eric to attack Melissa as soon as he saw what was happening. You would then grab the knife, kill or at least badly injure him and that would be it. You would be arrested but probably get off because you were defending yourself and your child. Melissa would be blameless and free of her father’s persecution. You planned the death of your husband. You are his murderer.’
Wendy screamed and ran at James beating at his chest with her fists. He grabbed her wrists and held her firmly.
‘It didn’t happen like that,’ she cried.
‘No. Eric attacked you first and knocked you to the floor. Then he set on Melissa but she grabbed the knife and killed him. Your plan had gone wrong and Melissa was going to be accused of manslaughter or conspiracy to murder.’
The woman froze in his arms. She tugged her hands free and stepped back.
‘You’ve got no proof,’ she accused.
James shrugged. ‘No, I haven’t. An accidentally-placed knife, an angry man arriving home unexpectedly and an unfortunate death. No one ultimately responsible.’
She glared at him with piercing eyes. ‘Why?’
James frowned, ‘Why what?’
‘Why have you taken so much trouble to work it all out? Why have you come her today? Why did you visit Melissa when she was in the unit? What is it that made you get so involved in my husband’s death?’
‘I was concerned about Melissa,’ James said.
‘You don’t know her. You didn’t know Matthew,’ she paused. ‘I know. It’s because she’s trans. You’re really interested in a boy wanting to be a girl.’
‘Well, yes, I am. My friend. . .’
‘Your friend,’ she laughed, ‘Tamsin was it? Really? You use words like “femme names” and “being dressed”. I’ve done my research mister policeman. I know those are terms transvestites use. This Tamsin isn’t a friend of yours, is she? She’s you. You’re a tranny. That’s why you were so concerned for my daughter.’
She’d guessed. James was horrified. If this story got out his career in the police would be over.
‘No, no, I’m not Tamsin.’ He knew his denial didn’t sound genuine. Mrs Chapman backed away from him.
‘Of course, I have no proof you’re a transvestite interfering with my daughter’s case; like you’ve got no proof that I planned my husband’s death.’
‘No?’ James wasn’t sure what she was implying.
‘So, if neither of us say anything, no one will be any the wiser, will they.’
‘Umm.’
‘You can continue with your career as a police officer with no black marks against your record and Melissa can begin her transition with me, her loving mother, supporting her every step of the way.’
‘Um, that’s right.’
‘Everyone’s happy.’
‘I suppose so.’
‘Right Constable. You leave now and never come back or interfere in the lives of me or my daughter again. You say nothing and I’ll say nothing.’
‘I see. OK, yes, that’s what we’ll do.’
James backed to the side door opened it and stepped outside. He was in the narrow passageway alongside the house. The door closed. He walked back to the car, got in and drove off.
It was a long enough drive home to think about the conversation. Was doing what Mrs Chapman said and saying nothing a denial of justice? Well, yes, it was. Eric Chapman was not getting justice for his death, but did he deserve it? He was a violent bully who may have killed his daughter at some point. Surely Melissa deserved the chance to begin her new life with a loving mother at her side. Was giving up his career as a policeman worth getting justice for Eric Chapman? He didn’t think so. He would just have to continue his life knowing that he had let a woman who planned a murder go free to live with what she had done.

…………………..The End.

Jasmine deduces

One of the things I have found most difficult in the last eighteen months (i.e. post-referendum etc.) has been the division and growing anger directed from one side to the other.  This is mainly down to the media and especially those newspapers on the side that apparently “won”.  I have never liked the Daily Mail but used to ignore the fact that some people obviously found it readable.  I occasionally looked at the Telegraph but mainly because its sports coverage was comprehensive. Now, with the repeated vile and rabble-rousing attacks on anyone who invokes the democratic institutions of the UK to get the government to think again about its ruinous approach to Brexit, the EU, and foreigners, I am finding my patience sorely tested. It is increasingly difficult to respect anyone who shares those organs opinions and I detest the path the country is taking. It seems that those people in power, and  by that I mean in the cabinet and in the media who persist in pushing for this mad divorce and doing down anyone who opposes them, have scant regard for the breaks and balances that have been installed in our unwritten constitution over the centuries. They are on course to provoking serious unrest, particularly when their ill-planned policies (actually un-planned is probably closer to the truth) are enacted and the consequences become clear.  And as for the USA . . .

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WP_20170825_16_59_34_ProHaving got that off my chest let’s get on with what I prefer to spend my time doing – writing stories.  The penultimate episode of Reflex is below.  I am planning to include the complete story along with three others in a volume of Jasmine Frame prequels that will be available on Kindle in the spring. No title yet – still thinking!

Reflex: Part 8

Days passed by in the body-clock confusing pattern of shifts. James became familiar with the work of a response officer – every call different, every day the same. He developed a respect for the professionalism and efficiency of his partner PC Ward and she in turn came to trust him as her buddy. Every day brought fresh cases to test his knowledge of the law and police procedures, so he found himself with little time to think about previous callouts. Nevertheless, in the rare moments when there wasn’t some work to be done he wondered about Matthew/Melissa. He had worried that there might be consequences of his visit to Melissa while she was in custody, but after a few days his fears subsided. There was no news because there was no contact from DS Sharma or anyone else involved in the case. Nevertheless, he wondered what had really happened on that evening and who was responsible for the tragic results.
James was on a morning shift two weeks later when walking through the police station he saw DS Sharma approaching him. Sharma saw him and paused.
‘Ah, PC Frame. I’m glad I’ve seen you. I have some news for you.’
‘Oh,’ James managed.
The DS frowned at him. ‘Yes, the charges against Matthew Chapman have been dropped. We took your view that given the evidence of repeated physical attacks on the boy by his father, the use of the knife in self-defence was unfortunate but justifiable. We expect the coroner to judge the death a case of misadventure.’
‘So Melissa is free?’ James said feeling a burst of joy.
‘The boy has gone home to his mother.’
‘That’s wonderful news. Er, what was the evidence that convinced you and the CPS?’
Sharma pursed his lips deciding whether he should pass on the information. ‘The medical examination of the boy revealed bruises and other marks consistent with beatings over a period of time. Mrs Chapman confirmed that her husband frequently hit her son.’
‘She should have reported it and not let it go on.’
Sharma nodded. ‘That’s right, but women often suffer abuse and allow their children to be abused, for a long time without alerting us or the Children’s Services. If that knife had not been left on the worktop it is probable that Eric Chapman would still be beating his son now.’
James agreed.
‘Thank you for your assistance, Constable.’ The detective moved on leaving James thinking. It was that knife that made the difference. He went to the office and sat at the computer.

James changed out of his uniform and got in his car. He was ready for the drive home and he’d have a few hours before Angela got back from work. He was looking forward to spending the rest of the day relaxing as Jasmine. But there was something in his thoughts as he drove across the town towards the A34. His mind made up, he turned off the main road and into the housing estate. A few minutes later he drew to a halt outside 18 Milton Drive. It looked very much the same as the last time he had been here, although that had been at night.
He got out, paused on the path then strode towards the front door. He pressed the doorbell. There was a wait of a few seconds before the door was opened by Mrs Chapman. She looked at him, puzzled, then recognised him.
‘You’re that policeman that was with that Asian detective.’
‘Yes. I’m PC Frame.’
‘What’s wrong?’ she raised a hand to her face, ‘Nothing’s happened to Melissa has it?’
‘No, Mrs Chapman, I’m not on duty.’
Now she looked slightly angry. ‘Why are you here then?’
‘I heard that the charge had been dropped. I wanted to ask about Melissa. You used her femme name.’
Wendy Chapman’s eyes explored James. Finally, she pushed the door wider.
‘You’d better come in.’
She led James into the lounge and urged him to sit on a well-used sofa.
‘Melissa said that you visited her when she was in that children’s prison.’
‘The secure unit, that’s right. I shouldn’t have but I needed to know how she was. I was delighted that they were letting her dress.’
Wendy replied dreamily, ‘Dress as a girl. Yes. It’s what she wanted. What she always wanted.’
‘And you’re letting her live as Melissa full-time?’
The mother nodded. ‘It seemed to thing to do. She hasn’t gone back to school, not yet anyway. She started at the special unit in town yesterday.’
‘I see,’ James wasn’t sure how to answer as he didn’t know anything about the facility Mrs Chapman had referred to. He presumed it was for the children who had problems in mainstream schools, perhaps with bullies.
Wendy was looking at him closely. ‘I remember now. You were one of the police who got here after it happened, when Melissa had run off.’
‘That’s right. My colleague and I picked her up over by the marina.’
She shook her head. ‘I don’t know what Mel might have done if you hadn’t.’
James nodded. ‘I was glad we found her fairly quickly.’
‘And then you were with Detective Sharma. . .’
‘He asked me to sit in on the interviews.’
‘. . .because you knew someone who was trans. That’s what he said wasn’t it?’
James nodded.
‘A girl called Tamsin?’
‘Yes.’
‘You understood what Melissa was feeling. It was you that said that what Melissa did wasn’t deliberate.’
‘That’s right. She was defending herself,’ James said, ‘Her father had hit her so often for dressing up as the girl she felt herself to be, that she just grabbed the only weapon that was available to stop him hurting her again. That was what happened, wasn’t it?’
Wendy Chapman, sniffed and nodded. ‘You know how strong the urge was for Melissa to be herself.’
‘I do.’
‘It didn’t matter how often Eric found out what she was doing and punished her for it. She couldn’t, wouldn’t stop.’
‘But you encouraged her didn’t you,’ James said.
The woman stared at him. ‘What do you mean?’
‘You bought stuff for her, clothes, make-up. You helped her. That evening you were styling her hair.’
‘She wants to be a girl so much. I had to help her.’
‘But didn’t that make her father even more angry?’
She nodded.
‘He beat you too.’
She nodded again.
‘So why did you stay. Why didn’t you take your child away to keep her and yourself safe?’
She gave him a look of surprise. Was it because she had never considered escaping her abusive husband or surprise that he should ask the question?
‘Um, er, he wasn’t a bad man. Often, he was a good father. He just had these rages when he thought that Matthew wasn’t behaving as a boy should.’
‘You could have got help, advice.’
She shrugged. The thought had never occurred to her.
‘Something was different that evening wasn’t it?’ James said.
Wendy looked at him, uncertain. ‘What do you mean.’
‘Well,’ he began, ‘you were down here in the kitchen where Mr Chapman would see you the moment he came into the house. You could have been doing Melissa’s hair upstairs where you’d have a few seconds warning of his arrival.’
‘We weren’t expecting him to come home then.’
‘Are you sure?’
‘Yes. He was due home soon after eight. He was doing overtime. Melissa and I thought we had a couple of hours at least.’
‘Melissa might have thought that but I’m not sure you did.’
Mrs Chapman glared at him, ‘What are you saying?’
‘I checked with the factory. There was no overtime planned for that evening. Mr Chapman’s shift finished at its scheduled time of five o’clock. Either Mr Chapman told you a lie about the time he was due home, or you knew he would arrive home while you were doing Melissa’s hair. You were expecting him to walk in on the pair of you.’

……………………………..to be concluded

 

Jasmine answers questions

NAWG Fellowes & me (2)As expected, NAWGFest17 at Warwick University was stimulating and great fun, from the Open Mic session on Friday evening (I did my 5 mins) through the workshops to the Gala Dinner. I attended two excellent sessions on historical fiction (thanks to Tim Wilson), filled in some of the gaps in my knowledge of police procedure (thank you Stephen Booth) and had my vocabulary of emotion  and senses stretched by Anita Loughrey.  It was Anita who won this year’s Minitale Award (100 word story) but I got a certificate for being shortlisted (yippee!).  They were the last of the awards made by Lord Fellowes after the dinner.  The winners and runners-up of the many, many other competitions deserve all the praise.  After the Fellowes’ departure, Peter Robinson (author of the Insp Banks series) gave a fascinating and humorous talk about his life which said a lot for determination, and a little luck.  As always I came away revitalised and looking forward to next year.  Why don’t you join us.

……………………

Munroe Bergdorf was in the news this week having apparently accused all white people of being racist. Bergdorf is a British, mixed-race, trans-woman who is a (very attractive) model.  From her background you would expect her to have quite a knowledge and understanding of prejudice and discrimination. I can understand her statement, which of course got taken out of context by certain media people.  She says that all white people in the UK, USA and elsewhere are still benefitting from the spoils of slavery and colonialism and so share responsibility for the past and present persecution of other races. While it is true that western wealth rests on the exploitation of other peoples, not just historically, I am not sure it is right to infer that all white people are therefore racist. Do children carry guilt for the sins of their fathers and mothers? Do we all bear the stain of original sin? I don’t think so.  While many white people are racist, homophobic, transphobic, etc., it doesn’t follow that we all are. We do have a responsibility to ensure that all people, whatever colour, gender, etc. can live freely in a sustainable lifestyle – which is certainly not the case at the moment. Nevertheless, the bile directed at Munroe only served to rather prove her more right than wrong.

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The climax of Viewpoint was a week or so ago but the story is not over yet. Here is the next episode of the Jasmine Frame prequel.

Viewpoint: Part 13

The alarm woke Jasmine. She reached out an arm to switch it off and groaned as her muscles complained. She forced herself to sit up. There was no chance of going out for a run this morning but she was determined to get up and ready before Tom or whoever came to collect her. She’d given herself plenty of time she thought. It was only 6:30 a.m.
It took her longer than usual to get showered but the hot water did soothe and loosen her muscles. There were still red rings around her ankles and wrists where the cords had constricted her but at least the skin wasn’t broken. She dressed slowly, finding it difficult to bend to pull her tights up her legs.
She was thankful she had risen early when at seven-fifty her mobile rang. It was Tom.
‘Hi, Jas. How are you?’
‘Been better but not too bad.’
‘Good. I just thought I’d let you know that Terry is on his way to pick you up.’
‘That’s early.’
‘Palmerston wants to get you in to take your statement. I think she wanted you off guard. You are ready?’
That would be just like the DS, Jasmine thought. ‘Just. Haven’t had breakfast yet, but then I haven’t got anything in to have anyway.’
‘I’ll pop some toast in the toaster for you and have a cup of coffee ready.’
‘Thanks. See you soon.’
Jasmine had hardly switched off the phone before the doorbell rang. She looked around for a coat to wear. Her puffer jacket was still covered in mud and dead leaves. A woollen jacket that she usually kept for formal occasions was the only substitute. She answered the door while pulling it over her shoulders.
Terry Hopkins stood on the doorstep, glowering.
‘At last. I was beginning to think you weren’t up. You ready, Frame? I seem to be acting like your chauffeur rather too often.’
‘Nice to see you too, Terry,’ Jasmine replied as cheerfully as she could manage. She grabbed her bag and keys and stepped out. ‘I’m ready. Ready and eager.’
Hopkins harrumphed and went to his car. Jasmine joined him in the front and they drove to the police station in silence.

Jasmine followed DC Hopkins into the station foyer and through the security door. She took a step onto the stairs.
‘No, Frame,’ Terry growled. ‘The DS says you’re to go to the interview room to give your statement, not the office.’
‘What?’ Jasmine said. ‘Aren’t I a member of the investigating team?’
‘No, you’re not. Didn’t I hear Palmerston chuck you off it yesterday before you set off for your little adventure.’
‘But I have important information to hand over.’ Jasmine felt indignant but not really surprised by Hopkins’ treatment of her.
‘Which Palmerston says you can put in a statement like any civilian witness.’
‘Civilian!’
‘Well, isn’t that what you want to be in a few days. A member of the public.’
Jasmine gave up trying to argue. ‘Okay. Which one?’
‘Room 2. I think they’ve started on Taylor again in room 1 by now.’
Jasmine followed Terry further down the corridor until he stopped at a door and pushed it open. She entered the drab but brightly-lit room and sat in the chair on the suspect’s and witnesses’ side of the table. Hopkins pulled the door closed and left her alone.
A few minutes later, the door opened and Derek Kingston entered carrying a mug in one hand, a plate in the other and a file of papers under his arm.
‘Tom said to give you these,’ he said placing the mug and plate in front of Jasmine. There were two slices of buttered toast on the plate. Jasmine picked up one slice and started munching. She had known she was hungry but now she realised she was ravenous.
‘DS Palmerston will be here in a minute,’ Derek went on as he sat in the chair opposite her.
Jasmine had managed to stuff all of one slice into her mouth before the DS arrived. She glared at the plate and mug but said nothing and sat beside DC Kingston. Jasmine examined her face as it glowered at her. There was a slight flush, and watery glint in her eye. She’s barely under control, Jasmine thought.
‘So, despite my express order to go home and have nothing more to do with this case you decided to go off on your own,’ Palmerston began.
Jasmine decided it wasn’t a question that needed an answer. She shrugged and stared at the senior officer.
Palmerston continued, ‘Your foolhardy interference has complicated the case and could have got you killed.’
‘That wasn’t part of the plan,’ Jasmine admitted.
‘Plan! You didn’t have a plan.’
‘I found the hut where Alfie had been kept and heard Riley and Gary say things that incriminate them in his murder.’
‘That would have been a lot of good if you were now lying in a shallow grave in the woods.’
Jasmin reluctantly had to admit that that would have been the outcome if Tom and Derek hadn’t turned up when they did. She kept quiet.
‘As it happens, my plan brought results,’ Palmerston said with quiet satisfaction. ‘Shepherd and Kingston followed my orders, followed Taylor to his meeting with Patrick Riley and Gary Owen where we will find evidence of Lucy Taylor’s imprisonment and murder.’
Jasmine noted Palmerston’s words. ‘They haven’t confessed then.’
Palmerston sniffed. ‘Not yet. Owen has incriminated himself but Riley and Taylor are refusing to admit any part in the girl’s death.’
A cough of a laugh escaped from Jasmine’s throat. ‘Well, they can’t wriggle out of what they intended for me.’
‘False imprisonment and actual bodily harm is all,’ Palmerston said. She looked at Jasmine’s wrists which rested on the table, noting the red rings. ‘You didn’t need the hospital so your injuries weren’t much and they say they were just going to frighten you off by putting you in the hole they had dug.’
Now Jasmine laughed loudly. ‘Oh, that’s good. Why would they drive me all the way out there to frighten me?’
‘I’m not bothered about whether they were going to frighten or kill you, Frame. I want an admission of guilt in the killing of Lucy Taylor from all three of them. Now tell us what you were doing there last night and what you heard. DC Kingston will write it down.’
Jasmine sighed and recounted all that had happened the previous evening from getting into the grounds of the park homes until her rescue by Tom. Derek read his notes back to her and she signed them. As soon as it was finished, DS Palmerston got up and stalked out of the room. Derek was about to follow.
‘Hey Derek. Haven’t you found evidence of Alfie being in the hut and her body being carried in Taylor’s Land Rover?’
The DC paused and turned.
‘SOCO have taken various samples from the hut which may prove that Alfie, er, Lucy, was there and had been harmed but there’s so much muck in the back of the pick-up that they’re unlikely to prove that she was carried in it. There’s enough evidence to implicate Riley and Owen but not Taylor.’
‘But it was the three of them that dumped Alfie’s body in the canal,’ Jasmine complained.
‘How do you know that?’
‘Harold saw them.’
‘Harold?’ Derek took a step towards her
‘The boatman. Moored under the bypass. He was walking his dog up by Renham Lock and he saw the three of them dump something in the canal. His description matches Taylor, Riley and Owen. They took it from a vehicle which he described as being very much like Taylor’s truck.’
‘We haven’t got any of that.’
‘No, of course you haven’t. Palmerston didn’t think to send any of you along the canal to see if there were any boaters around that night.’
‘When did you speak to this Harold, guy?’
‘Yesterday afternoon. I went for a run when I got sent home. It was after I heard what he said that I decided to investigate a bit more.’
‘You should have told us.’
‘I was off the case. Remember?’ Jasmine realised that she sounded petulant and obstructive. ‘Okay. I should have rung in. But I was angry. Right?’
Derek looked sympathetic. ‘I understand, Jas. I know you haven’t been treated well and I’m sorry you’re chucking it in, but we could do with Harold, here.’
‘Well, he’ll be on the canal somewhere, not too far away. He lives on an old working boat called Nile.’
Kingston nodded. ‘Taylor’s the problem. He’s pretty cool, cold even. Says he hasn’t seen his daughter since she left home years ago. But if we have a witness that puts him with the other two when her body was dumped. . .’
‘You’ve got to get him to face the fact that his daughter became a man. I think I can do it, Derek.’
‘Denise won’t let you interrogate him.’
‘I know, but perhaps a meeting can be arranged.’ Jasmine winked at Derek.

………………….to be continued.

 

 

Jasmine in the earth

WP_20170826_14_01_13_ProWe had a lovely day at the UKIndieLitFest in Bradford last weekend. There were lots of writers competing for the book buyers which were always going to be scarce.  Nevertheless we gave away a few copies of Painted Ladies, sold a few others and did lots of good promotional stuff.

Now it’s NAWGFest weekend; two full days at Warwick Uni.  I hoping  to see some familiar faces and make some new friends, and even sell a few more books.  I’m also looking  forward to going to Sandbach on 23rd Sept for their Author-Book-Signing Day – more opportunities.  Soon after that we will be into the launch of Cold Fire in paperback (it’s already available as an e-book).  I’ll have some interesting things to show you when the time is a bit closer.cover medium

Back to our brief visit to Bradford.  We had a evening in the city centre looking for somewhere to eat. Bradford is of course a very diverse community and I felt it very welcoming. Just before we went we watched one of the BBC Gay season programmes about the abuse of and vicious attacks on LGBT people, some very recent. It is dreadful what harm a very small number of people can do and knowing that these things can happen can make people fearful of stepping outside their door. The fear of terrorist attacks has a similar effect. But I am sure (I hope) the number of serious hate-crimes against gay and trans people is relatively low.  I don’t want to feel threatened every time I go out but I am wary, and fairly selective of where I go.

Talking of attacks, Jasmine is in the hands of a vicious trio in Viewpoint. Does she survive?  Of course she does.  It’s a prequel to Painted Ladies and the other novels.  But you can find out what happens by reading part 12 below.

Viewpoint: Part 12

A shadow of a figure crouched down beside her.
‘God! You are alive, aren’t you?’
Jasmine fluttered her eyelids to show Tom that she was indeed living. It was about all that she could move.
‘Can you breathe?’ Tom inserted a finger to pull the cord from her mouth but only succeeded in making it dig into the back of her head even more and pushing the cloth down her throat. He pulled a penknife from his pocket and flicked it open.
‘Lie still. It’s going to be difficult to cut the string without nicking you.’
Lying still was okay. Tom slid the blade between her cheek and the binding and sawed at it. The cords broke and Jasmine felt release but the cloth was still wedged in her mouth. Tom tugged it out and she at last felt cold air enter her lungs. She breathed in deeply and closed her eyes in relief. Tom moved to her wrists and then her ankles, freeing her limbs. Excruciating pins and needles in her arms and legs were the result. She groaned.
‘Are you alright, Jas? They didn’t hurt you, did they?’
Jasmine managed a shake of her head but no words would come out of her mouth yet.
Tom bent down to her and scanned his torch over her body. The light dazzled her and she screwed up her eyes.
‘Are you sure you’re okay?’
Jasmine gasped and said in a hoarse whisper, ‘I’ll be fine. Now.’
Tom stood up. ‘Derek! Read them their rights then get them to a car. Keep them apart. Don’t let them talk to each other. There are questions they need to answer.’
Jasmine heard Derek Kingston reciting the arrest. Tom leant down to her with an arm outstretched.
‘You must be soaked. Can I help you up?’
Jasmine hadn’t given a thought to where she was lying. Now she noticed that the leaf litter was sodden and she was too. She lifted a leaden arm. Tom took hold and gently pulled her to her feet. Her knees buckled rather than take her weight and she started to slide down Tom’s body. He grabbed her with both arms and hauled her upright.
‘Sorry,’ she muttered, ‘My legs don’t seem to want to hold me.’
‘That’s okay, Jas. We’ll head back to the car.’
Tom half dragged, half carried her through the woodland to where the Land Rover was parked. Tom’s unmarked Mondeo was there too and three police cars. Jasmine rested against the roof of Tom’s vehicle while he opened the doors. The three men, handcuffed and lead by police officers followed and were taken to separate cars.
Tom, opened the rear door and helped Jasmine into the seat. DC Kingston joined them.
‘You stay here, Derek,’ Tom said, getting into his driving seat. ‘That Land Rover needs looking at and we’ll need photos of the digging they were doing. You should have assistance soon.’ As he finished a police four-by-four arrived and two more uniformed officers got out.
Tom turned the key in the ignition and closed his window. Jasmine felt the warm air from the heater and recalled that it was less than two days since she had experienced a similar welcoming blast.
They drove along the rough, dark track until they reached a road. Jasmine peered into the blackness. If Tom had not appeared when he had, she thought, it would have been a long time before her body was found, buried in the depths of the wood.
‘Thanks Tom. You saved my life.’
She caught Tom’s eyes in the car mirror.
He didn’t respond to her gratitude. ‘What were you doing there, Jas?’’
‘They brought me in the Land Rover.’
Tom sighed. ‘I know that. What I meant was, what were you doing at the cabin?’
And so it starts, Jasmine thought. My inquisition.
‘I was sure that Alfie had been held captive at that park,’ she began, ‘but Terry Hopkins had said that Riley’s hut was too small for him to have been kept there. I guessed that there would be an empty cabin that they had used. I didn’t think Palmerston was concerned so I thought I’d have a little look myself.’
‘You found it.’
‘Yes. It was obvious really. The hut appeared to have been unoccupied for some time but there were fresh tracks in the grass outside it. I managed to get in to have a look round. Then Riley and his mate turned up and I was stuck.’
‘You shouldn’t have gone on your own, Jas. You shouldn’t have gone at all. Denise took you off the case.’
‘I couldn’t let it be, Tom. She wasn’t going to do anything.’ Jasmine was annoyed at the whine that had crept into her voice.
Tom twisted his head round to glance at her briefly. ‘Actually, she did, Jas. She thought Taylor required watching. Derek and I drew the evening shift. We spent a couple of hours sitting outside his farm gate twiddling our thumbs until he left in the Land Rover. We tailed him to the park. He stopped off at Riley’s place but there was no one in. He got back in the car and headed further into the park.’
‘You followed him?’ Jasmine asked getting excited by Tom’s tale.
‘Well, I thought we’d be noticed if we drove in. Derek went on foot. He found Taylor’s car parked outside the hut. Riley and his friend were loading something onto the back; he didn’t know then what it was. Taylor set off and Derek had to run like Bolt to get back to me. We almost lost them then but luckily Taylor wasn’t driving fast. Perhaps his old crate can’t go at speed. We tailed him all the way to the wood and luckily none of them noticed. Derek followed them in and came back and reported what they were doing.’
‘Preparing to bury me.’
‘Well, we didn’t know it was you, but yes.’
‘So you called in back-up.’
‘That’s right, but told them to arrive without sirens and lights.’
‘Just in time.’
‘Yes. I’m not sure how much time we had left. That hole they dug was plenty big enough.’
Jasmine shivered. She could almost feel the cold wet earth around her but couldn’t imagine being dead. Tom drove on in silence. When they got in to the centre of Kintbridge Jasmine noted that Tom was not heading to the police station.
‘Hey, Tom. Where are we going?’ she cried.
‘I’m taking you home, Jas, unless you think you need the hospital.’
‘No, I’m fine.’ In fact, her arms and legs were still sore and she felt lousy but that wasn’t the point. ‘But we need to question Taylor, Riley and Gary; get their confessions to Alfie’s murder.’
‘You’ve forgotten something, Jas.’
‘What?’
‘You’re off the case. You’re not going to be doing any questioning.’
‘Aw, Tom.’
‘Don’t do that. DS Palmerston is in charge and she’d have my balls if she found I’d let you take part in the interrogation.’
‘But, they said things when they had me in the hut. I know they kept Alfie there and they killed him.’
‘And we’ll need to know what you heard, Jas. Do you really want to face Palmerston, or even Sloane now, in the state you’re in?’
Jasmine became conscious of her wet and mucky clothes and then remembered.
‘Er, Tom, we can’t go to my flat.’
‘Why not?’
‘I haven’t got my key.’
‘Where is it?’
‘In my bag, in my car.’
Tom braked and pulled into the side of the road. He turned around to face her.
‘And where’s that.’
Jasmine managed a thin smile. ‘Back at the cabin site, well, a few yards from it.’
Tom sighed, twisted back, glanced in his mirror and pulled the car round in a U-turn.
‘Okay, we’ll go and pick it up.’

It took a few more minutes to drive out of the town again and onto the lane that lead to the park-home site. Tom slowed as they approached the gates. There was a police car parked at the entrance with its lights on and there were lights showing at various parts of the grounds.
‘Can we. . .’ Jasmine began.
‘No, Jas, we’re not going in. SOCO will be going over both huts and Palmerston may even have got officers questioning the other inhabitants. Where’s your car?’
Jasmine pointed through the windscreen. ‘Another hundred metres or so.’
Tim drove on slowly until the dark outline of the Fiesta appeared, parked on the verge. Jasmine felt in the pocket of her jacket and was relieved to find her key was still there. The car stopped and Tom got out to open the rear door. Jasmine swung her legs round, put her feet on the tarmac and tried to stand up. She almost made it.
‘O..oh. Careful there, Jas.’ Tom caught her as she crumpled up. He lowered her back onto the back seat. ‘I’ll get your bag. Give me your keys. Where is it?’
Jasmine fumbled in her pocket feeling bemused by her weakness. She pulled out the car key and placed it in Tom’s waiting hand.
‘Um, thanks, Tom. It’s under the passenger seat.’
Tom moved away and Jasmine contemplated her fatigue. She felt sore all over and so lethargic that ever moving again seemed impossible.
Her bag dropped onto her lap.
‘There. Let’s get you home.’
‘What about my car key?’
‘I’ll keep it and get your Fiesta brought back into town. Is that OK?’
As Jasmine wasn’t in a mood to make plans herself she indicated her agreement.

Tom drew to a halt at the steps to her flat. He got out and opened her door.
‘Go and have a shower and get some sleep. I’m sure Denise will want to speak to you early in the morning. One of us will come and pick you up I expect.’
Jasmine slid across the seat noting that she was leaving a damp and grubby patch on the upholstery. This time, Tom helped her to her feet and escorted her to her door with an arm under her armpit. She inserted the key into the lock and pushed the door open. Tom’s arms guided her into a dining chair.
Jasmine looked up at him. ‘Okay, Tom. I’ll manage now. Thanks for looking after me, again.’
‘Don’t expect me to make a habit of it, but I’m glad we got to you before. . .’ He turned away and pulled the door closed behind him. Jasmine sighed and faced the challenge of getting to her feet.

……………………..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 meets the brides

Support for populist power-seekers is gathered by generating fears: the migrants/refugees will take our jobs/homes; all muslims are radicalised terrorists out to kill us; women are being attacked in public loos by men in dresses. None of these assertions are true and I refuse to use the current term of “alternative facts” for them as anything called a fact has evidence to verify it. By encouraging these fears, the alleged perpetrators can be turned into figures of hate and the people’s anger used to boost the support of those peddling the lies. That is the tactics of the Brexiteers and Trump-fanatics.  In certain parts of the USA it is also being used to build suspicion of people whose gender identity doesn’t match their birth anatomy.  Some states have passed laws that forbid transgendered people from using the lavatories they feel comfortable with although how the law-enforcers are supposed to prove who is entitled to use a particular toilet escapes me.

As with all things American, thanks to the media, social and traditional, similar issues are beginning to arise in the UK. Here however the law is different.  The UK has the 2004 Gender Recognition Act. A bearer of a gender recognition certificate is, in law, the gender they say they are, regardless of the bits of anatomy between their legs. Those people are also protected from the discrimination by the 2010 Equality Act.  For the rest of us the picture is less clear.  Transsexual men and women who have not had time to get the certificate or have not met the criteria and gender fluid people like myself who flip, have no such protection. Nevertheless, we occasionally have to use a loo and we choose that most appropriate for our appearance. Although we may not have the weight of the law behind us anyone wanting to stop us has to be certain that we are not the gender we are presenting as. The evidence is hidden in our knickers and very few people have the right to delve in there. Thus no transgendered person should ever have their gender questioned by an ordinary citizen.

imgp5648I don’t believe that there has ever been a case of a man in a dress attacking a woman in a wash room. The fear is completely unwarranted. Neither do I think anyone would be harmed at seeing another person washing their hands, combing hair or applying make-up and appearing a little effeminate or masculine, depending on which facilities we’re talking about. In other words it is a manufactured fear which is being used by some to generate anger towards those whose are in a minority.  The solution is to accept people for who they say they are rather than ban them or provide them with alternative facilities (as is happening in some schools). This only serves to discriminate by setting the minority apart from the majority.

I hope sense will prevail, but I doubt it.

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The Jasmine Frame story, Darkroom, was concluded last week, so before I began a new novella I thought we’d take a look at the new novel, the 3rd., The Brides’ Club Murder.  The novel is a traditional whodunit set in a country hotel.  Jasmine is called in to help solve the murder of the the leader of the Wedding Belles. She meets the suspects who are members or partners of members of the group and finds that they have a selection of motives and opportunities which take some sorting out.

There is one 5* review on Amazon but there are two other reviews:

Another great story and Jasmine becoming more understandable and sympathetic all the time. I like the way you brought out all the characters and their location on the non-binary spectrum, and the fact that there were all the loves, hates, power struggles, resentments,wishing the boss dead, that you get in any group of people( club,workplace,etc). V. Wood-Robinson

The 3rd JF novel . . . is a terrific read, a whodunit with a setting that will be familiar to many BS members, a transgender weekend.  I’m glad that we’ve never had a murder at one in real life. The novel is filled with interesting, well-portrayed characters and Penny Ellis has done well to introduce enough friction between the en-femme guests to leave a reader guessing as to the culprit’s identity. . . This is the best novel in the series so far. . . Beaumont Magazine

So, here is a excerpt. where Jasmine, known as Sindy undercover, is meeting the Belles for the first time.

‘Tell us about yourself, Sindy,’ Melody said reaching for her glass. ‘We don’t know anything about you at all.’
‘Um,’ Jasmine took another slug of wine and soda while composing her reply.
‘Well, who is this gorgeous creature, you’ve found, you love birds?’
The loud but slurred voice with the Irish accent made Jasmine turn her head and she found a figure looming over her.  She had a wig of brown hair that cascaded over her shoulders with highlights that matched the lemon yellow of her lace dress. The capped-sleeve dress clung to her prominent breasts and slim but waistless body, ending at mid-thigh. Her legs were cased in sparkly sheer stockings and she wore an impossibly high pair of black patent leather, platform stiletto shoes. Possibly it was the shoes but more probably it was the alcohol that caused her to sway unsteadily while desperately trying to avoid spilling the sparkling wine from the glass she held.
‘Hello, Samantha,’ Geraldine said with a note of resignation in her voice. ‘Do you think you had better sit down? Here, have my chair.’ She started to rise.’
‘No thank you, Geraldine,’ Samantha had difficulty pronouncing the name, ‘I want to sit next to this delightful person.’
Geraldine continued to stand up. ‘Alright, I’ll find you a chair.’ She went in search of another vacant and moveable seat.
‘This is Sindy,’ Melody said.  Samantha put her spare hand on the arm of Jasmine’s chair and leaned down.
‘How do you do, Sindy?’ She wavered like seaweed in the tide, ‘I don’t seem to have a spare hand to shake with you.’
‘That’s alright, Samantha.’ Jasmine was sifting through her memory of names and facts about members of the Wedding Belles. She came up with Samantha Nolan, cross-dresser recently separated. There was also something about a brief exchange with Valerie Vokins. ‘You’re one of the Wedding Belles?’ she went on.
Samantha’s head hovered over Jasmine, wobbling as if it was attached to her neck by a spring. Her words came out in a drunken garble. ‘That’s right. Are you? I don’t think we’ve met before.’
Here I go again, Jasmine thought. ‘It’s my first time. Valerie fitted me in. I wanted to thank her but now she’s dead.’
Samantha swayed. ‘Miserable old goat. Do you know what the old fart did? He let it out to my wife that I dressed. She walked out on me.’
‘Was it deliberate? Perhaps Valerie-Vernon didn’t know that your wife was unaware that you were a cross-dresser.’
‘Oh, the bugger knew what he was doing alright. He wanted me out of the Belles but I showed him.’
‘Really? How.’
‘By coming here of course.  He couldn’t refuse my booking. I’m making the most of this weekend now that I don’t have to hide. But I’ll be skint once she’s taken me to the cleaners.’
‘She?’
‘My wife.’
Geraldine appeared behind Samantha carrying a chair. She placed it on the floor carefully behind her legs. ‘You can sit down now Samantha.’
Samantha swayed and wine slopped from her glass.
‘Careful!’ Geraldine said, as the drops of wine fell onto the carpet.
Samantha’s knees bent and she slumped into the chair. She recovered and bent towards Jasmine. ‘That’s better. Now we can have a lovely girly chat can’t we.’
Geraldine returned to her seat and took Melody’s hand.
Geraldine called across the table. ‘Give the girl a chance, Samantha.  She’s only just arrived and she hasn’t been before.’
Jasmine wanted to interrogate Samantha some more about her relationship with Valerie Vokins but wondered whether the cross-dresser was in the mood for questions. She seemed more determined on flirting.
‘That’s a lovely dress. I like sequins,’ Samantha said, reaching out a hand to touch the shoulder of Jasmine’s dress. Her face was so close that Jasmine could see through the wig and the thick make-up.  Samantha was considerably older than her slim figure, high, pert breasts and young woman’s dress suggested. Mid-fifties perhaps? Trying to live the youthful female life she’d never had?
‘Are you dressing more now that you are separated from your wife?’ Jasmine asked as innocently as possible.
‘I’ll say,’ Samantha replied, giggling. ‘Every chance I get. And I’m buying clothes. Spend it before she gets her hands on it, I say. I’ve got a sexy new wedding dress for tomorrow you’ll see. Now why haven’t I caught up with you, you gorgeous young thing, before.’
‘I haven’t been to one of these events before,’ Jasmine answered truthfully.
‘Where do you live, darling?’
‘Hastings.’
‘Don’t you go up to the clubs in London? I’m sure I would have seen you there.’
‘No, I don’t.’
‘You must. We’d have so much fun. Let’s get another drink. I want to spend more of Jill’s divorce money.’  Samantha lurched unsteadily onto her platforms.  Jasmine realised her own glass was empty.
‘Don’t you think you’ve had enough, Samantha?’ Jasmine said.
Geraldine chipped in, ‘Yes, Samantha, you’re drunk enough already.’
Melody warned, ‘You’ve got to be fit to show off your new dress tomorrow.’
Samantha wobbled towards the bar. ‘I’m going to get another drink and I’ll get you one too, Sindy.’
Jasmine got up and took Samantha’s arm to support her. She called over her shoulder to Geraldine and Melody, ‘I’ll look after her.’
Geraldine and Melody were also rising from their chairs. ‘Thank you, Sindy,’ Melody said, ‘We’re off to bed. See you in the morning.’
Jasmine escorted Samantha through the crowd to the bar. There they stood next to a tall, thin, coloured woman with a massive afro-style hair-do and a very short white dress.
‘Ha!’ Samantha shouted, ‘My room-mate. Hi there, Tammy!’
Tammy’s expression did not show delight at seeing Samantha. ‘Oh, hello, Samantha. Sloshed again, I see.’  Her sober male voice reminded Jasmine of Viv with his Caribbean lilt.
‘This is Sindy,’ Samantha slurred, ‘she’s new. Isn’t she gorgeous and young?’
Tammy looked Jasmine up and down, examining her obvious wig, her colourful but relatively thinly made-up face compared to most of the other “women”, and her figure.  After a pause she held out a dark hand with pale blue nails.
‘Pleased to meet you Sindy. You’re not a Belle are you?’
‘Yes, she is,’ Samantha said before Jasmine could reply, ‘Vokins fitted her in late. What do you think of that?’
Tammy’s eyes widened. ‘The conniving old bigot.’
‘Why do you say that?’ Jasmine said.
‘Because he is, or was,’ Tammy said. ‘He put me off for weeks before he gave me the last bed available, so he said; sharing with Samantha. Filling the spaces became more important than keeping the gathering racially pure.’

………. Buy the e-book from Amazon Kindle or go to Jasmine Frame Publications for details for purchasing the paperback edition.

 

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Jasmine has a shock

Back to a familiar subject – the media and transgender. In the last couple of weeks there have a been a few items that have given me cause for thought.  First was Jenni Murray’s comment that trans-women aren’t real women. I haven’t heard the full context of what she said but it seems that she fell into a trap of disclosing her prejudice. My first thought was what does she mean by a real woman?  It can’t be someone with breasts and a vagina because many trans-women have those.  Perhaps it’s the presence of ovaries, but what about the women who have had them removed for various reasons – do they cease to be real women.  I can’t think of a single feature or lack of it that makes a woman real or fake unless we’re talking about the possession of two X chromosomes (even that is complicated by various chromosomal abnormalities). I’m sure Jenni doesn’t want to lump all women together in some outdated stereotype but she is reinforcing the stereotypical view of women with her discriminatory opinion.

Victoria Coren Mitchell did a piece in the Observer on Jenni Murray’s comment. I can’t recall her main point, if there was one, but she seemed to be commiserating with Jenni for being trapped in one of those topics where voicing an opinion is not allowed. The situation where speakers get banned from university campuses because their views may cause offence. We ought allow ourselves to be offended and respond with a reasoned argument and not close our minds to the views. I am offended my nearly every statement that emerges from this Conservative government, but that’s another matter. I don’t agree with shouting someone down simply because I think they are wrong. So I think Jenni Murray should be responded to but not gagged.

Which brings me to my last point.  There has been some discussion about Ricky Gervais.  Apparently, he made fun of transgendered people, specifically Caitlin Jenner, in a comedy skit. Was it offensive? I think we all need to be able to laugh at ourselves and perhaps all comedy has a degree of offence in it.  Being transgender has its ridiculous moments but I don’t like being ridiculed. My rule is to replace “trans” or some other term for a minority group with “black” or “disabled”.  If the joke becomes offensive to those groups then the original was obviously offensive too.

…………………………..

imgp5544That’s enough of that.  Don’t forget to go to the Jasmine Frame publications page to find out about the new novel, The Brides’ Club Murder. Here however, is the next episode of the prequel novella, Darkroom.

Darkroom: Part 8

The tube was quieter than earlier in the evening. Most of the passengers were single people, wearing work clothes, slumped in their seats. Jasmine guessed they were night-workers, cleaners, restaurant and bar staff, tired after a long shift. There were a few other people like themselves heading home after an evening of entertainment or perhaps going on somewhere.  Jasmine reflected on how different she felt now compared to earlier on the train. She wondered if Diana shared her feeling. Instead of the anticipation of showing off herself off as a woman, of meeting others like her enjoying themselves, there was the sense of being sullied by their attacker, a reinforcement of the worries that probably every woman and person trying to be a woman faces on a night out.
They arrived back at the mainline station and having checked that there was no train for Diana until after four a.m. they took the short walk back to the hotel. Diana stood in the middle of the room and stared, vacantly at the double bed.
Jasmine pointed at the couch under the window.
‘Look that’s a bed too. There’s spare pillows and blankets in the wardrobe.’
‘Why don’t you lie down and have a rest. We’ll make sure you get to your train,’ Angela said.  Diana nodded, went to the couch and sat down. She took her shoes off and lay on her side, tucking her legs up against her chest.
Angela took the blanket from the wardrobe and lay it over Diana.
‘There you are. Get some sleep if you can.’
Diana muttered a kind of thank you and lay with her eyes open.
Jasmine unzipped her dress and let it drop to the floor. She covered her underwear with a thin dressing gown and got into the double bed. Angela copied her and quickly climbed in beside her.
‘I hope Diana is alright,’ Jasmine said, looking at the curled-up figure.
‘I don’t think her head injury is serious,’ Angela whispered, ‘She was walking okay from the station, but I’m sure she’s troubled by what happens.’
‘I suppose we’ll see if she wants to catch the early train.’
She did. The rustle of Diana’s shoes on the carpet was enough to alert Jasmine that she was moving. Although she felt exhausted, Jasmine couldn’t fall asleep because of all the thoughts about the evening that passed through her mind.
‘Are you going for the train?’ Jasmine asked as quietly as possible to avoid disturbing Angela.
Diana froze as if she had not expected to hear her voice.
‘Yes,’ she said.
‘I’ll come with you,’ Jasmine said, swinging out of bed. ‘I don’t think stations are pleasant places in the early morning.’
Angela’s spoke her voice groggy with sleep. ‘I’ll join you.’
‘Sorry, I was trying not to disturb you,’ Jasmine said.
Angela gave her a tired smile, ‘I wasn’t sleeping very deeply.’
Jasmine pulled on the skirt and a thick top she had worn on the previous day’s journey and Angela quickly dressed too.
‘There,’ Jasmine aid, glancing in the mirror and deciding her make-up would do for a dark, cold morning, ‘We’re ready.’
The station was even more deserted than it had been a couple of hours earlier. Jasmine glanced at the departures board and noticed that a number of trains had “CANCELLED” beside them.
‘What’s up?’ she said, ‘There weren’t any problems earlier.’
‘My train’s OK,’ Diana said, ‘The cancelled trains were heading south. I’m going east.’
‘South?’ Angela queried, ‘That’s where we were isn’t it? Where the club is?’
Jasmine nodded. ‘I wonder what’s happened.’  They escorted Diana to her train and saw her through the barrier. Just before boarding her carriage, Diana turned and raised a hand.
‘I hope she’s safe?’ Angela said as she waved in return.
‘Safe, yes. Feeling safe, probably not. I think it will be a while before Diana is confident enough to take another night out; as Diana at any rate.’
Angela nodded and they turned away to return to the hotel. As they crossed the concourse, Jasmine saw a railway worker walking on a path that intersected with their own.
‘Why are all those trains cancelled?’ she asked.
The middle-aged man sniffed and looked at her. His eyes showed that he suspected she wasn’t a real girl. ‘Body on the line.’
‘A body!’ Angela gasped.
The man shrugged. ‘Happens all the time. Driver reports hitting something and when we turn up we find bits spread from here to Timbuctoo.’
‘Suicides?’ Jasmine asked.
‘Mostly. Selfish cunts who don’t care what it does to the driver. Sometimes though they’re dead first.’
‘What do you mean?’ Angela said.
‘Handy way of getting rid of body isn’t it. Have a train mash up the corpse for you, if you’re a murderer, that is. The gangs and criminals do it to cover their traces.’
Jasmine found certain thoughts running through her head.
‘Where was this body found?’
‘Why you lost one?’ The railway man chuckled. ‘I can’t say exactly,’ he went on, ‘somewhere down towards The Tower.’
‘That’s. . .’ Angela began. Jasmine grabbed her arm and dragged her away.
‘Thanks. We’ll have to wait till they’re running again, ‘ Jasmine said, walking away and leaving the railway man staring after them.

They were back inside the hotel before Angela spoke again.
‘That body. . .’
‘Yes, I know,’ Jasmine interrupted, ‘it was found near where we were.’
‘The club, the Engine Shed, was right on the lines.’
‘Of course, it was.’
‘You don’t think? Surely Debs didn’t intend. . .’ Angela froze as they climbed the stairs.
‘. . .killing the guy who attacked Diana and me.’  Jasmine shook her head. She didn’t want to entertain the thought.  ‘Look, we don’t know that this body on the line was him. It could be just a coincidence. The man at the station says it happens all the time.’
Angela was shaking now, her voice cracking. ‘But Debs said she would make sure he didn’t trouble girls again. She got her men to take him out the back exit. That probably opens onto the railway lines.’
Jasmine wrapped her arms around her and urged her up the stairs.
‘She wouldn’t be so daft to dump him close to the club. As I said it’s probably a coincidence.’
They returned to their room and quickly stripped off their clothes.  They fell into bed arms enclosing each other.  Soon Angela’s breathing showed that she was asleep but Jasmine kept on thinking.  What had Debs meant?

…………….to be continued.

Jasmine in paperback

WP_20170310_15_03_46_ProIt’s been a busy week with the e-book of The Brides’ Club Murder going live (have you bought your copy yet?) and then on Tuesday, a boxful of the paperbacks arrived a week earlier than expected.  So, if you want an actual hard copy of the third Jasmine Frame novel, get in touch (go to the Jasmine Frame publications page for details.)

I also spent a pleasant evening with the members of a university writers’ group. It was an opportunity to ramble on about how Jasmine got created, me being trans, and what I have learned from self-publishing the Jasmine stories, having the September (Evil Above the Stars) series published by a small independent and working for educational publishers. I enjoyed myself and I hope they did too. It was interesting to hear about their writings – quite a variety of crime, fantasy and romantic/literary.  I’m sure some of them will achieve more financial success than I’ve managed.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: writing a novel is only part of the story; not even half of it. The publishing process is time-consuming (and expensive if you’re self-publishing as professionally as possible) and then there is the marketing. I can see why many people make a career of marketing because if it is to be done properly then it is a full-time job. I freely admit that I am useless at it. I get embarrassed about singing the praises of my own work even though I do actually think it’s pretty good and I struggle to find ways to reach out to the potential customers who I am sure are out there amongst the seven billion inhabitants of this planet.

Layout 1

Here’s one way I’ve tried to promote Jasmine Frame – the weekly episodes of prequels to Painted Ladies. We’ve reached episode 7 of the latest, Darkroom.

Darkroom: Part 7

Jasmine and Debs reached the relative quiet of the entrance vestibule. Angela emerged from the Ladies’ loo with Diana behind her. Angela saw Jasmine immediately and gasped.
‘Jas! What’s happened to you? Your face is covered in blood.’
Jasmine touched her forehead.  It was sticky.
‘He’s here,’ she said.
‘Who?’ Angela frowned.
‘The guy who attacked Diana. He attacked me in the end quiet room.’
Angela’s face screwed up in a mixture of horror and pity. ‘He abused you lie he did Diana?’
Jasmine shook her head violently. ‘No. I got away and locked him in the room.’
Angela peered closely at her face. ‘It’s his blood?’
‘Yes, I made a mess of his nose.’ Debs pushed passed them towards the main entrance. ‘We’ve got him, Ange. We can call the police and get him locked up.’
Diana shook her head violently. ‘No. No police.’
‘Are you feeling alright?’ Jasmine asked, wondering if Diana still needed attention. ‘I didn’t call an ambulance because I couldn’t get a signal. That’s why I ended up with “him”.’
Diana appealed. ‘I feel, um, alright. No police and no ambulance. Please.’
Angela spoke for her. ‘Her pupils look normal so I think perhaps she doesn’t have concussion.’
‘Well, what are we going to do with the guy?’ Jasmine said feeling at a loss.
‘Think about it Jas,’ Angela said. ‘If you get involved with the police it will come out who you are.’
‘And word that I’m trans will get back to my senior officers.’
‘Yes.’
Debs approached with two security men behind her. One was the senior of the pair of doormen and the other was a younger, heavily built man that Jas had not seen before.
‘Take us to him then,’ Debs said.
Jasmine shrugged. She turned and led the small party back into the dance hall and across to the quiet rooms. They passed through the room which still had the snoggers in it.  They looked up as Jasmine lead the group to the door but showed little interest.  The key was still in her hand. She unlocked the door, pulled it open and stepped back for the security men to enter. Debs followed and flicked a switch on the wall. Small ceiling lights came on providing a dim illumination over the whole room.  Lying sprawled across a space between the chairs and sofa was the man. He was wearing a dark overcoat over dark trousers and black leather shoes.
Jasmine, Angela and Diana followed Debs and the security men into the room.
‘Is this the guy?’ the senior bouncer asked.
‘If he’s got a broken nose, then he’s the man that attacked me,’ Jasmine said.  The guard approached the prone body, bent down and nudged him. There was a groan and the man twitched his arms and legs. He started to lift himself up revealing, in the semi-darkness his ruined face. The two guards grabbed him under the arms and pulled him to his feet. He hung on them, his legs crooked.
Jasmine turned to Diana. ‘Is it the man who attacked you?’
Diana shrugged. ‘I don’t know. He shone the light at me. I couldn’t see his face. The only bit of him I saw was his penis when he thrust it at me.’ Her voice trembled.
‘I don’t think you’ll recognise that now,’ Debs said with an ironic chuckle, ‘I doubt that he’s aroused at this moment.’
‘He used the torch to dazzle me too,’ Jasmine said. She picked up the torch from where it lay on the floor. She flicked the switch. A bright beam shone across the room.
‘I’m sure that’s the same torch,’ Diana said, not too certainly.
‘Seems it’s the same guy, then,’ Debs said. She approached the man slumped in the arms of the two guards. She peered closely into his bloody face. ‘You disgusting piece of shit. I’m not having people like you attacking my girls.’
‘What can we do?’ Jasmine said. ‘Call the police?’
Debs turned to face Jasmine. ‘Leave him to me. We’ll make sure he doesn’t trouble trans-girls again.’ She turned back to face the guards. ‘Take him out of the back exit.’
The guards took a firm grip on the limp body and hauled him out of the room, his toes dragging against the hard floor.
Debs went too. Jasmine started to follow but Debs stopped and turned to her.
‘There’s no need for you to come. I’ll handle this now. Go and clean up. Have a drink. Enjoy the party.’  She turned on her high heels and strode out after the guards and their captive.
‘But. . .’ Jasmine began. Angela took her arm and pulled her back.
‘Leave it Jas. Here’s your bag and phone. They were on the floor. Let’s go and get this blood off your face.’ She led Jasmine back across the hall to the toilets with Diana trailing behind.
Angela dabbed a wet paper towel at Jasmine’s face.  Jasmine winced.
‘Ow. Actually, that’s a bit sore.’
‘You headbutted him?’ Angela leant forward to examine Jasmine.
‘It was the only way I could get at him.’
‘You’ve got a bit of a bruise but concealer will hide it.’ She gently rubbed a little cream onto the affected area. ‘At least the blood doesn’t show up you’re your dress.’
Jasmine looked down at her purple tulip dress and noticed that though a little creased it seemed to have survived the ordeal pretty well.
‘There. I think you’ll do.’ Angela stepped back to admire her rescue work. Jasmine looked in the mirror and saw herself looking back. Her image didn’t reveal the turmoil that was going on in her mind: the memory of what the attacker had intended for her; what he had done to Diana; and now, what Debs and her men had planned for him. Should she have allowed him to be dragged off to suffer whatever punishment Debs had in mind. She was a police officer, supposed to enforce the law. But if Diana was unwilling to speak to the police or even reveal herself to an A&E nurse, and with her own identity a worry to herself, what else could she have done?  She applied her dark lipstick and forced a smile onto her reflection.
‘Shall we dance?’ Angela said cheerily, although Jasmine could sense a false edge to her voice.
‘I don’t think I’m in the mood anymore,’ Jasmine said.
‘What about you Diana?’ Angela said, turning to the girl who was standing behind them, silently watching, or thinking. She shook her head.
‘Shall we get a taxi then?’ Angela asked, ‘Do you want to join us Diana? You came from the same direction.’ Diana nodded.
‘Are you staying in town or catching a train?’ Jasmine asked
‘Train.’
‘Will there be one at this time.’ Jasmine glanced at her watch, ‘It’s not one yet.’
Diana shrugged. ‘I’ll wait,’ she muttered.
‘At the station? At night?’ Angela shook her head. ‘Why don’t you come back to the hotel with us, at least until there’s a train due.’
Diana managed a thin smile. ‘Thank you,’ she whispered.
‘Let’s get our coats and find a taxi then,’ Angela was spurred into action.
…………………to be continued.

Jasmine makes a guess

I read last week that a US toy manufacturer is producing a doll modelled on a well-known teenage trans-girl. I think it’s great that the girl has got recognition for her struggle to be recognised in the gender she identifies with but I wonder – how can you tell the doll is trans? The pictures show a feminine face and hair-style but what about the model of her body? In my limited experience, boy and girl dolls are equally lacking in genitalia although the female version may have breasts. So does the trans doll come with a mixture of male and female clothes and tiny enhancers to fill the doll-sized bra. I wonder how often children who have Barbies and Kens play cross-dressing games. What does Ken look like in a dress and Barbie in an Action-Man outfit?  What other trans icons could be put out as models, perhaps like Star Wars figures rather than dolls – Grayson Perry, Caitlin Jenner?

I’m being facetious, I know. There are far more serious issues facing trans-people, particularly in the US. I have just read that Trump has withdrawn Obama’s Federal guidance that held back the States wishing to ban trans-people from the washrooms that they feel comfortable using. Is it the beginning of a fundamentalist backlash against LGBT?

I’ve decided to open up a new occasional page for my rants about the state of the world – got to the “PRE on the World” page if you want to read them.

………………

Jasmine Frame in The Brides’ Club Murder

Layout 1Watch this page for the publication of The Brides’ Club Murder: the 3rd Jasmine Frame novel scheduled for the first week of March with a special offer on the paperback edition of Painted Ladies.

And so to the latest, that is, the fifth, episode of Darkroom, the Jasmine Frame prequel. What is Jasmine getting into?

Darkroom: Part 5

Jasmine knelt in front of Diana while Angela hugged her. What an ordeal the girl had gone through.  Jasmine felt an anger and determination to find the person who had traumatised the young transvestite. She seemed to be struggling to find the words to describe what had happened to her.
‘Should we call an ambulance for her?’ Jasmine said softly.
Angela shook her head. ‘I don’t think so. I think she just needs to gather herself.’
‘But we need to find out what happened to her so we can so something.’
‘Give her time, Jas.’
Jasmine bit her lip. ‘We saw you on the tube,’ she said to Diana.
Diana swallowed and spoke in a cracked voice. ‘I remember you too. I thought you both looked pretty and I wished I could look like you.’
Jasmine was pleased that at last Diana had responded. ‘We thought you were on your way here like us, but we lost sight of you in the street.’
Diana nodded. ‘It was cold. I was hurrying.  I didn’t see him until he grabbed me and pushed me through the door.’
‘He was behind you? He followed you from the station?’
Diana shrugged. ‘I don’t know where he came from.’
‘What did he look like?’ Jasmine leaned forward to hear Diana’s whispered reply.
‘I don’t know. I didn’t see him. It was dark inside.’
‘Yes, I know.’
‘He had a torch. He shone it in my eyes. I couldn’t see anything.’
‘He was alone?’
Diana nodded. ‘I think so. I didn’t hear anyone else.’
Angela listened as Jasmine continued to question Diana. ‘What happened when he got you into the building?’
‘I . . . I was scared.’
‘Of course.’
‘He dragged me into the room and pushed me onto the chair.’
‘The chair was there in the middle of the room?’
‘Yes, yes, I think so.’
‘Then what did he do?’ Jasmine asked.
Diana sobbed, her words emerging in a broken gurgle. ‘I just like being a girl. I’m not gay.’
Angela hugged her tighter. ‘Yes, yes, we understand. He abused you?’
Despite her head being held firmly in Angela’s arms, Diana nodded.
‘OK, we don’t have to go into all that if you don’t want to,’ Jasmine said realising that she was sounding like the police officer she was in her male life. ‘When he’d, um, finished, what happened.
Diana sniffed. ‘He knocked me over and kicked me. That’s all I can remember until you came. I think I was unconscious.’
Jasmine nodded. ‘And that’s how we found you. I wonder how long it had been since he left?’
Angela released her grip on Diana, allowing her to breathe and sniff wetly.
‘He just left Diana there. He could have killed her with that kick to the head but he didn’t care,’ she said.
‘Yes, but he had it all planned,’ Jasmine agreed. ‘He must have had that dark room in the warehouse prepared with the single chair and the entrance door unlocked. Then he waited at the station until a likely target came along. He chose the time before the club filled up when the street from the station was pretty quiet and dark.’
‘He was waiting for Diana?’
‘Someone like her – young, trans, alone, nervous.’
‘He was taking a risk.’
‘That’s probably part of the fun for him. Having chosen his victim, he follows her and times his attack just as she reaches the door of the warehouse. Provided there’s no-one really close he’s got her inside unnoticed.’
‘If we’d been a bit quicker and right behind Diana, he wouldn’t have got away with it,’ Angela said, the regret obvious in her voice.’
‘No. He would have given up on Diana and gone back to wait for another target. Maybe there wouldn’t be anyone suitable.’
‘That would be frustrating for him.’
‘Yes. Perhaps he has a plan B. Another way to find a tranny to molest.’
…………………………..
I listen to them talking about me, talking about that monster who did those things to me. I remember his hand between my thighs, groping, squeezing, tugging.  I can’t tell them what he did. No one has touched me down there, not since I was little kid and my mother bathed me.  I feel again his thing filling my mouth so I can’t breathe, his hands holding my head as he moves. I don’t want to think about it. I can’t describe it to them. No, I can’t.
……………………..
The door opened letting in a blast of music and Debs, a vision of sparkling gold.
‘Is this the injured girl?  She rushed towards them and knelt, the split in her dress parting to reveal her smooth, nylon-sheathed legs.
‘Yes,’ Jasmine replied, ‘This is Diana. She was on her way here at the same time as us but was attacked and dragged into the warehouse on the other side of the road. He abused her.’
‘That’s dreadful. Are you calling the police?’
‘Diana doesn’t want to; not yet.’
Debs let out a sigh of relief. ‘Hmm. I don’t really want the cops prowling round here but I like the idea of sex-maniacs lying in wait for our girls even less. We have to do something.’
‘Diana couldn’t see him so we’ve no description of the attacker. Of course, there may be semen on Diana’s clothes or on the floor of the warehouse where he attacked her. The police may be able to get a DNA match.’
‘If we informed them,’ Debs added.
‘Do you think Diana is his first victim?’ Angela asked.
Jasmine looked at Debs waiting for an answer. She thought then slowly shook her head.
‘I don’t know. I haven’t heard of anything like this, but perhaps his other victims don’t want to talk about it either.’
Jasmine spoke, ‘He left Diana for dead. There was no way she could have freed herself if we hadn’t found her. Even if it is the first time he’s tried this stunt he knows this area and I’d say he knows this club and its patrons well.’
Debs looked surprised. ‘You mean he’s a regular?’
Jasmine shrugged. ‘I don’t know about that but I’d say he knows about the girls who come here, what time the place gets busy. Perhaps he has tried picking up trannies here to get a bit of what he wants.’
Debs shook her head, ‘I can’t believe it. Yes, I know we have “the admirers” who come to court the girls, and yes, a bit of, er, intimate behaviour goes on in these quiet rooms. It’s what some of the girls come for; to play out their fantasies of being desirable sex objects.’ Her face darkened. ‘But I’m not having someone coming to my club and forcing themselves on my girls.’
‘Good, but identifying him is the problem,’ Jasmine commented.
Debs stood up. ‘Look, I’ve got to go. It’s nearly time for the live entertainment and I have to do my compere bit.  Look after Diana and I’ll come back and see you shortly.’  She turned and left giving them another burst of dance music as the door opened and closed.
Angela looked at Jasmine. ‘Do you think the guy who attacked Diana comes here to meet TVs?’
‘I’m sure he’s been here on several occasions. The question is, where is he now?’
Diana shivered. ‘I feel sick.’
Angela leapt up and threw her bag over her shoulder. ‘Oh, I hope it’s not concussion. Let me take you to the loo.’ She gripped Diana’s arm and helped her to her feet. The two of them staggered to the door.
‘Shall I come too?’ Jasmine asked.
‘Call an ambulance. I don’t want Diana collapsing on us.’  They left the room.
Jasmine sat in the dimly lit room and took her mobile phone from her clutch bag. There was no signal. She stood up and walked to the door to the adjoining room staring at the small screen. There was no change so she carried on walking from one small, dark, quiet room to another.  A couple of rooms were occupied by shadowy figures engaged in soft chatter, snogging and fumblings under clothes but Jasmine barely noticed. She continued in her quest for a signal.
She turned a handle and pulled the door open. The next room was darker than the others. She stepped into it and let out a small cry of joy. She had a signal. The door closed behind her.  The only light was from the screen of the phone. She tapped one nine, then another, then the phone flew out of her hand as something slammed against her wrist. She gasped and looked up. A bright torch light shone in her eyes.
A soft, smooth voice of a man spoke from behind the light. ‘Well, what have we got here, said the spider to the fly.’
……………………………to be continued

Jasmine opens a door

I’m in one of those periods when there’s a lot on the go but not one main, all-consuming activity. I’ve all but finished a bit of work for an educational publisher; the contract for Cold Fire is signed but I doubt much will happen for a few months;  The Brides’ Club Murder is with the printer and I’m working myself up to start the promotion; I’ve started thinking and researching for the 4th Jasmine novel, Molly’s Boudoir; I’ve looked over my talk, Salt, Soap and Soda which I’ve given this week; and there have been tasks for all sorts of different organisations. It’s exciting in some ways but also leaves a feeling of not actually having done much. Writing this blog is the one thing I do every week. Why? Well, I was informed that to sell one’s books one has to have an online presence. This is it, but I’m not sure it has much visibility or penetration of the market. I suppose I am just useless at marketing – that’s a statement, not an excuse.

imgp5551Another reason for setting myself the weekly  deadline of this blog is that I like it. It means I have to think about what to write about (or not as this bit of rambling shows) and most weeks, it means writing an episode of the Jasmine Frame stories. I’ve heard that to become a something like a competent writer you need to have at least written a million words. Well, thanks to nine novels, eleven novellas and uncountable short stories I think I’ve done that.  Note, I said competent, not good or best-selling.  You need to have learnt something over the million words to become that. I’m certainly not troubling the best-seller lists but hope that my writing has developed. You can tell by reading the next (the fourth) episode of the Jasmine Frame story, Darkroom, below.

Darkroom: Part 4

Jasmine shook her head. Why had the girl dropped an earring in this nondescript street? The brick wall of the warehouse and the pavement were uniform. There was no apparent reason for her progress to be interrupted.  Perhaps she had just lifted a hand to her head and brushed her ear, knocking the clip from her earlobe.  Then she saw it. It was set back a few centimetres into the dark wall –  a wooden door.  Jasmine took the few steps towards it and tried the handle. She expected to find it locked and was surprised when the handle turned and the door moved a little. The door fitted tightly in its jamb but with a bit of a shove it opened revealing. . . well, not revealing, in fact. The inside was as black as a cellar. The dim streetlight only penetrated a metre across a dusty wood floor.
‘I’m going to have a look inside,’ Jasmine said.
‘Why?’ Angela asked from behind her.
‘Because it’s open. I’m wondering why.’
‘You’ll need this then.’ Angela held out a small torch.
‘Where did that come from?’
‘My bag of course. Real girls keep all sorts in their handbags.’
Jasmine shrugged and took the torch from her, turned it on and directed the beam through the doorway. A narrow corridor was revealed.  Jasmine took a step inside.
……………………..
I open my eyes. What’s happened to me? Where am I? I can’t see anything. Am I blind? I’m lying on my side, still. I tense my arms but my wrists are still bound tightly behind the chair. My hands feel numb and my shoulder aches. My head throbs. I can’t think straight.
Then, a sound. Footsteps. Is he coming back? A moan escapes from my throat. What’s he going to do next? Is this it? Is he going to kill me?
…………………….
Jasmine swung the torchlight from side to side as they advanced slowly along the corridor. She stopped at a doorway on the left. She scanned the light around the room. It was empty, except for dust, and probably spiders and other animals. She resumed the slow progress along the corridor with Angela at her back.
‘Did you hear that?’ Jasmine whispered.
‘What?’
‘I don’t know. A sound. Ahead I think.’
‘Be careful.’
Jasmine took a few more steps. The torch lit up another door ahead of them, closed. She reached her hand forward; touched the door. It swung open. The cone of light lit up more dusty floorboards and something else; the legs of a bentwood chair lying on its side, and two other legs.
Jasmine leapt forward to the side of the girl. The torch showed that her wrists were tied to the back of the chair with packing twine.
‘Are you alright?’ Jasmine said, stooping over the girl’s head. The black wig was askew covering her face.  She moaned.
‘We need to get her untied,’ Jasmine said, looking at the binding but not sure how to start. The knots looked as though they had been tugged tight.
‘I’ve got a penknife,’ Angela said, digging into her bag again.
‘I need to get a larger bag than this,’ Jasmine said, brandishing her small clutch bag in her hand.
‘Here. It’s not a big one.’ Angela handed her the knife which, with the blade pulled out, was no more than ten centimetres long. Jasmine gave her the torch
‘It’ll do. Shine the light on her wrists.’ Jasmine began hacking at the plastic cords. The blade wasn’t particularly sharp but it took just a few moments to cut through the bindings.  The girl’s arms came free and sagged.  Jasmine stood up and pulled the chair away. For a moment, she looked down at the girl. Her knickers and what was left of her stockings were around her ankles, but her shoes were still on her feet.  Her skirt was pushed up revealing a white expanse of thigh and buttock. She still had her red leather jacket on but it was open and her blouse was ripped open. False boobs poked out from the black lace bra.
‘Are you hurt?’ Jasmine asked leaning down.  There was mumble that could have been a no. There was no sign of blood so Jasmine decided to take a risk. She tugged the torn knickers from the girl’s ankles.
‘Help me get her up, Ange. We’d better get her out of here.’
She pushed her arms under the girl’s body and lifted. Angela took her arms and helped her into a sitting position. Together they hauled her onto her feet with their arms supporting her. She lolled against Jasmine’s shoulder.
Almost inaudibly the girl mumbled, ‘You’re not him?’
‘No, we’re helping you,’ Jasmine replied, taking a firmer grip on her waist.
‘Where can we take her?’ Angela asked as they stumbled along the narrow corridor.
‘It’ll have to be the club. There’s nowhere else round here.’
‘We should call the police; and an ambulance.’ Angela added.  They reached the door onto the street.
‘Yes, but let’s get her inside first. You can see she’s freezing.’  Jasmine heaved her up and with Angela draping the girl’s arm around her neck they set off up the road to the Engine Shed. They crossed the road to the entrance. The queue had grown and the waiting clubbers stared at them.  The security guards saw them immediately.
‘What’s up?’ the elder bouncer said.
‘She needs help. Can we get in, please?’
‘Yeah, of course.’ The guard pushed the queue back and stood to the side of the door as Jasmine and Angela helped the girl through. ‘What happened to her?’ he asked.
‘We don’t know, but she was attacked by someone.’
‘She’s trans?’
‘Yes.’
‘Well, you find the weirdo who did this to her and we’ll sort him out.’
‘Thanks,’ Jasmine grunted as they pushed through the doorway.  There was a crowd around the ticket office and cloakroom, and the corridor passed the loos was milling with girls coming and going.  The sound of the music seemed even louder than it had been earlier. Jasmine found that her head was spinning so she wondered how the t-girl felt.
‘Let’s get her to a quiet room,’ Angela shouted. ‘Then we can see what she needs.’
Jasmine nodded and they lifted the almost dead weight of the girl.  They carried her across the now thronging dance floor to the row of quiet rooms.
Jasmine lowered the girl onto a sofa as Angela pushed the door closed.
………………………..
I felt the cold as if watching snow from the other side of a window.  The music was random noise that hammered at my ears. The lights dazzled and confused me. None of it affected me. Now, I am in the almost quiet, the almost dark, lying on a soft settee. The air is warm but I shiver, partly from cold and partly from the memory of what has happened to me. These people saved me. How? One has gone leaving the other leaning over me. She speaks with a voice that reminds me of myself. She’s trans too.
‘Are you OK? Did he hurt you?’
There are pins and needles in my hands and arms. The blood returning to my arteries and veins. My wrists hurt where the cords cut in. I push myself into a sitting position. I shake my head. That hurts. Which question am I answering?
‘What’s your name?’ he/she asks.
‘Dave. . .’ I pause. That’s the other me. The one that isn’t pounced on by sex monsters. ‘Diana,’ I say.
‘Diana, I’m Jasmine. I’m with my wife Angela. We’re at The Engine Shed. The Be Club. Do you remember?’
I nod. Yes, I remember. I was on my way to the club. When was that? Eons ago. Before. . .
‘Do you mind me asking? Are you TV, like me, or TS?’
I open my mouth to answer. Nothing comes out. It’s not a question I’ve ever been asked before. I cough and swallow. My mouth is dry.
‘TV.’ It comes out as whisper.
‘Right. Ah, here’s a drink for you.’
The other woman, comes and stands over me. She’s holding a glass of water. I raise my hand to take it but my hand shakes, and water starts to spill.  She grabs it and helps me carry it to my lips. I sip the water. It’s cold but refreshing.  My head clears a little.
‘Thank you,’ I say.  The wife, Angela, sits beside me. The TV, Jasmine is still kneeling in front of me.
‘Are you injured?’ Angela asks.
My whole body aches, my wrists are still sore, the side of my head is tender, but after I explore my senses I decided that physically I’m not badly hurt. But inside I am shaking with fear and anger.  I shake my head and take another sip.
‘Can you tell us what happened?’ Jasmine asks, ‘Or do you want to wait to tell the Police.’
I have an image of sitting in a bare room with a policeman asking questions and writing down what I say. The thought appals me. How could I tell a policeman what has happened to me? He’ll laugh and say it’s my own fault for going out dressed as a girl.
‘Not the Police,’ I mutter.
‘OK,’ Jasmine says, nodding her blonde head.  Is it a wig? It looks much more real than mine. I realise that my wig is perched on the side of my head. I push it straight.  Jasmine smiles at me.
‘That looks better,’ she says. ‘Do you want to tell us instead? You might feel better if you share it.’
Angela puts her arms around my shoulders and gives me a squeeze. I feel her soft, real breast against my shoulder.
Jasmine is right. I should tell them what happened, but I wonder if I can describe it. The shame is numbing. I nod and try to find the words.
……………….to be continued

Jasmine searches

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No ranting this week – it’s exhausting; just some news.  First, The Brides’ Club Murder, the 3rd Jasmine Frame novel, is ready for publication.  I’m planning on 1st March for the e-book (Kindle) version and soon after for the paperback.  If anyone can offer to write a review and get it published around the same time I will supply a pdf review copy – just send a message here with your contact details.  Then I must get on with the 4th novel called Molly’s Boudoir.

Second bit of news is that Elsewhen Press have picked up my recently completed fantasy novel, Cold Fire.  It’s the fourth in the series featuring September Weekes but isn’t part of the Evil Above the Stars trilogy and is a free-standing novel. I hope that it will be out as e-book and paperback within the next year. More news as it comes.

So, on with Darkroom, the Jasmine Frame prequel.

Darkroom: part 3

The DJ was pumping out Duran Duran as Jasmine and Angela crossed the dance-floor.  On the far side, they came to a door that let them into a row of connected rooms.  Closing the door behind them, Jasmine found that they were in a dim, carpeted room with the music coming through the walls as a distant and muffled bass thud.
‘You can hear yourself speak in here,’ Jasmine said, experimenting in the empty room. Angela lead Jasmine along a convoluted path through the squishy sofas and bean bags to the door to the next room. This was also relatively quiet and dark but for a few small spotlights over a bar. There, a woman, turned away from them, was fiddling with the optics.  No, not a woman, Jasmine thought on further examination of her figure, a cross-dresser or perhaps a transwoman. She wore an elegant lowcut, gold dress that sparkled in the spotlights. She turned as Jasmine and Angela approached.
‘Hi, I’m Debs,’ she said in a cheery baritone.  Her face revealed her to be in her forties, heavily made up but her bob of golden hair seemed to be her own. ‘Can I get you a drink? Oh, I see you’ve got a couple already.’
Jasmine looked into her glass. It was still half full.
‘I’m okay for now. We’re just looking around.’
‘Your first time?’
Jasmine nodded.
Debs smiled. ‘Well, welcome to “Be” the place where you can be who you want, go be-yond expectations; the place to be for a good time.’  Jasmine recognised the straplines in the club’s advertising.
‘Oh, you must be. . .’
‘Debbie Webb, the fool who spends her time running this place.’
‘It’s pretty successful, isn’t it?’
‘Always a struggle to make ends meet, I’m afraid.  It would help if more people would come before the pubs close so that we could sell more booze.’
Jasmine glanced around. ‘It is a bit quiet.’
‘Livens up after eleven. No one comes over this side until they’ve warmed up a bit, with alcohol and dancing. Then they want somewhere a bit cosy and quiet. Were you two looking for a bit of privacy? There are more, um, intimate, rooms further along.’
‘No, we’re married,’ Jasmine replied more hastily than she intended.
‘So what?’ Debs said, smiling, ‘You haven’t lost all the passion yet, surely?’
Angela dug Jasmine in the ribs. ‘It’s less than a year, actually, and no we haven’t turned into a middle-age couple yet.’
‘Were you just exploring, then?’ Debs asked.
‘Sort of,’ Jasmine said.
‘We were looking for someone,’ Angela added.
‘Oh, who?’ Debs asked.
‘We don’t know her name; don’t know her at all, actually,’ Jasmine started to explain. ‘She was in the tube carriage with us. We thought she looked trans and she was dressed for an evening here.’
‘Short skirt, high heels?’
‘That’s right. We followed her out of the station and she appeared to be coming in this direction, but then . . .’
‘What?’
‘Well, we lost her. We turned the corner and she wasn’t in front of us anymore.’
‘So?’ Debs shrugged.
‘We thought she might have hurried here because she was cold and got inside before we got in sight of the Shed.’
‘If you don’t know her, why are you searching for her?’ Debs asked.
Jasmine opened her clutch bag. She picked out the earring and held it up.
‘Because I found this on the pavement just across the road. I’m sure I saw her wearing earrings like this when we were close to her on the tube. I think she dropped it. I want to give it back.’
Debs leaned over the bar to examine the jewellery. ‘Not valuable but I’m sure she’d be grateful if you gave it back to her, though, if she was here I’m sure you would have found her by now.’
‘Perhaps she’s stopped off at a pub,’ Angela said, ‘You said that’s what most people do before coming here.’
Debs shook her head. ‘Not within a quarter of a mile of here. It’s all disused warehouses. If you saw her coming in this direction there’s no other place she could have gone to.’
Jasmine pondered. Where can the girl have got to?
‘Look excuse me,’ Debs said moving from behind the bar. ‘I need to go and get the float so we can open this bar up. Perhaps your girl was in the loo when you were looking around.  Enjoy your night.’  She departed, letting in a blast of Wham! when the door opened.
‘Let’s go and have a dance,’ Angela said. ‘It’s what we came for. I’m sure the girl will turn up.’
Jasmine put the earring back in her bag. There was a niggle at the back of her head that wouldn’t go away.
‘You’re right. Come on.’ She took Angela’s hand and lead her out into the vast hall. A few intrepid souls had begun to dance close to the DJ’s redoubt. As they crossed the black-painted, concrete floor arm in arm with the patterns of light from the glitterballs falling on them, she felt the beat penetrating her muscles and bones. The urge to dance came upon her.
……………………….
I’m gagging, striving to suck breath into my lungs. Failing. He pushes my head away. I topple over. I can’t stop myself falling as my wrists are tied behind the back of the chair. My shoulder hits the floor. The shock starts me breathing again. My beating heart and the blood rushing through my head blurs the words he’s saying to me. I hear just a mumble. Footsteps on the wooden floor. He’s closer. I tense, not sure what he’s going to do next. There’s a shadow, darker than the rest of the room. His shoe. It’s swinging towards my head. Impact. Lights. Pain, . . .
………………………..
Jasmine felt the sweat running down her neck into her bra, between her two silicone falsies. They irritated, sticking to her chest. She puffed. The last number had been fast and wild. She loved it.
‘I need to cool down,’ Angela bellowed into her ear, while taking her hand. She tugged Jasmine towards the edge of the dance floor. Jasmine was amazed. Somehow the club had filled up without her noticing.  It wasn’t packed yet, but now there were groups of girls, real and trans, and males, leaping and gyrating to the current beats which had replaced the 80s disco.
They reached the bar which now was obscured by clubbers waiting for a drink.
‘What do you want?’ Angela shouted at her.
‘Water, that’s all,’ Jasmine replied, realising that an hour of energetic exercise had left her thirsty. Angela pushed through the crowd leaving Jasmine on the fringe. Jasmine looked around noting the groups of transgirls, young and not so young, having a good time; the male “admirers” chatting up singles and couples.  There was no sign of the girl from the train.
Angela returned after a few minutes bearing two pint glasses of water. She handed one to Jasmine who took a long swig.
‘Debs was right about it filling up,’ Angela commented.
‘Yes, but I can’t see the girl,’ Jasmine replied, ‘Let’s have another look around.’
Angela shrugged but followed Jasmine as she eased her way through the crowd.   They circled the bar, walked around the outer rim of the dance floor and did another survey of the quiet rooms.
‘It’s no good,’ Jasmine said, ‘Some parts are too crowded now to see if she’s here and others are too dark.’
‘Let’s give it up. The earring’s not worth much; Debs said so.’
‘It’s not about the earring,’ Jasmine said, ‘It’s about the girl. I can’t understand how we lost her.’
‘Are you worried about her?’ Angela’s face showed surprise.
‘Sort of.’
‘Let’s ask the doorman and at ticket office, then. They may remember her if she has got in.’
Jasmine nodded and they made their way to the corridor where there was a steady current of clubbers arriving, collecting tickets, dropping off coats and entering and leaving the loos, the ladies’ loos mainly.
They reached the entrance. Two bouncers were now controlling the flow.
‘Have you seen a girl, a t-girl, in a red leather jacket,’ Jasmine asked. The security man who had been on duty all evening frowned.
‘Can you give me a bit more, luv?’
‘High heels, sheer tights or stockings, a short, loose skirt, red jacket, dark hair, well a wig I think, about my height. Oh, and she may have had just one earring. Like this one.’ Jasmine held up the earring.
The bouncer’s face puckered and he shrugged. ‘Doesn’t ring any bells. I would have lost count if I’d been counting, all the trannies who matched that description tonight.’
‘Oh, well, thanks.’ Jasmine turned away then paused and returned. ‘Look. Can we go out and come in again?’
‘Yeah. If you’ve got your ticket.’
Jasmine re-joined Angela. ‘I’m going to the loo to repair my face.’
Angela nodded. ‘I’ll join you.’
The ladies loo was crowded with cross-dressers touching up their lipstick and mascara. Jasmine and Angela managed to get a look in the mirror, squashed side by side.
‘I’d like to go outside and have a look around,’ Jasmine said.
‘Really? Why?’
‘I want to check where we found the earring,’ Jasmine replied, ‘Why did she drop it there?’
Angela shrugged, ‘We’d better get our coats then. It’s probably even colder outside now.’
They handed over their numbered tickets to reclaim their coats then squeezed passed the doormen onto the road. There was a queue of eager clubbers waiting to be passed as acceptable by the two diligent bouncers.
Jasmine and Angela crossed the road to the dark Victorian warehouses and slowly retraced their steps along the pavement.
‘It was here I think,’ Jasmine said, looking from the ground up at the building.
…………………….to be continued

Jasmine climbs in

I’m posting this on the last day of 2016 which I suppose means that a review of the year is called for. Well, I am not going to go on at length about how awful it’s been. There have certainly been events which seem to foreshadow the descent into a dystopic future but perhaps I read too much SF. Let us hope that all our fears come to naught (or nought?) although my hope is a little weak. Also, in the last year we have lost a lot of people who have entertained us well in their lives.  It may be just a matter of statistics or, as one reporter said – our heroes are getting older just like us. Here’s a few of the names that made me feel sad for a moment or two – Victoria Wood, Alan Rickman, Keith Emerson, Greg Lake, Robert Vaughan, Carrie Fisher.

The year has had its good times though.  The Olympics was one, although realising that it was four years since I was  Gamesmaker was a bit of a shock. Personally, there was the publication  of the third part of my fantasy series Evil Above the Stars, Unity of Seven; my first visit to Scotland; and celebrating Lou’s significant birthday. It was also the year when I decided to stop pretending to be something I am not; I gave up the sham of wearing silicone false breasts to give myself a more female figure, like I previously stopped wearing a female wig. Now I’m presenting the feminine me through my choice of clothes, accessories and make up and loving it. What that makes me in terms of labels – trans, gender-fluid, non-binary – I don’t know, but who cares.

Now we have to look forward to 2017. Though we may enter it, trembling with fearful anticipation, we have to look for the positives. I will be publishing  the third Jasmine Frame novel, The Brides’ Club Murder (more of that in the next few weeks) and hoping to persuade my fantasy publishers to take Cold Fire, the 4th September Weekes novel (though separate to Evil Above the Stars). I’ve got ideas for at least five articles on the history of chemistry for Collins Freedomtoteach blog.  Once Cold Fire is put to bed and Brides’ is published it will be time to choose my next project – the 4th Jasmine or something else? Don’t worry, I’ll tell you all about it here.

So, here we go, another rollercoaster of a year coming up, I think.

Best wishes for 2017

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And so to the penultimate (probably) episode of Falloff, the Jasmine Frame novella.

Falloff: Part 9

‘No! It couldn’t be Gemma or Carrie,’ Jess cried. ‘They were both very close to Raquel.’
Jasmine shrugged, ‘Perhaps, but nevertheless they are the main suspects.’
Andy hauled himself to his feet. ‘I’ve had enough of this. Are you coming Jess?’
Jess looked up at him. ‘Where? Bed?’
Andy took her hand and pulled her to her feet. ‘No, somewhere, anywhere away from this place. All this talk of murder pisses me off.’  He tugged Jess’ hand and with some reluctance she followed him out of the hotel.
‘Well, I’m ready for a good night’s sleep,’ Angela said with a yawn to follow.
‘Me too. If Alvarez wants to question Gemma or Carrie that’s his job.’ Jasmine replied, finding that she did indeed feel drained of energy.  They went to the lift, hand in hand, and pressed the button for their floor.
The lift doors opened and they stepped out into their corridor.  Inspector Alvarez was there, thumping on a door two rooms beyond their own.  He stopped when he saw them.
‘Ah, Seňoras. You have come to settle for the night?’
‘Yes,’ Jasmine said. ‘Is that Gemma’s and Carrie’s room?’
‘That is so. I would like to question them but they are not replying to my call.’
‘Perhaps they’re not in,’ Angela said.
‘Perhaps not.’ The policeman shrugged and stepped away from the door. ‘I shall return in the morning.’  He walked passed Jasmine and Angela, towards the lift. ‘Good night.’
Jasmine and Angela waited till the lift door had closed on the Inspector before entering their own room.
‘But Gemma and Carrie came up, didn’t they?’ Angela said, frowning.
‘We saw them get into the lift. Perhaps they just didn’t want to talk to Alvarez and kept quiet.’ Jasmine crossed their bedroom to the French windows and stepped on to the balcony. She looked to the left, across the balcony of the adjacent room from which Raquel had fallen, to the next. There did not appear to be a light on but by leaning out over the balcony rail she was able to see that the door on to the balcony was open. She listened carefully. Over the night-time noises of traffic on the road below, music from the clubs and bars, and voices of the many people still out on the promenade, it seemed that she could hear voices from the room. One of the girls was speaking loudly in a tone that made Jasmine come out in goose-bumps.
She looked at the gap between their own balcony and that of the adjoining room. It was barely a foot wide. Jasmine pulled her dress up to the top of her thighs and swung her leg over the rail, putting her foot down into what had been Carl and Raquel’s balcony. She glanced down. The ground around the swimming pool was dark but she recalled the sight of Raquel’s pale body lying on the grass last night. She put the memory and the fear of falling out of her mind.
Jasmine transferred her weight on to the foot and brought her other leg over. Angela appeared at the door.
‘What are you doing Jas?’ she called.
‘Shh!’ Jasmine said holding a finger to her lips. She walked slowly and silently to the other end of the balcony. The voice was louder but she still could not make out the words or which of the girls was talking. She repeated the manoeuvre, climbing onto the girls’ balcony and advanced to the open door.
There were no lights on but, in the moonlight, she could see one of the girls kneeling facing the other who was standing with her back to the window. Jasmine wasn’t sure who was who but she knew that what she was seeing wasn’t a tender love scene. The standing girl had both hands wrapped in the kneeling girl’s long hair and was tugging it, eye-wateringly hard. The dominant girl was speaking in a voice that hissed with malice.
‘You will do as I say, Carrie. You will tell that policeman that we were together all last night.’
‘Yes, yes, Gemma. Stop it, you’re hurting me. Please.’
‘You won’t say anything about Raquel?’
‘No, Gem. Ow!’
Jasmine stood in the doorway. ‘What shouldn’t Carrie say, Gemma?’
Gemma opened her hands and span around.
‘Who! What are you doing here?’
‘I thought I heard someone was in trouble and came to help,’ Jasmine said as calmly as possible but now that she could see the expression of fury on Gemma’s face, her heart was beating fast.
‘It’s none of your business.’
‘Oh, I think it is. If one person is hurting another then it’s everyone’s duty to stop it.’
The situation confused Jasmine. She was expecting it to be Carrie who was the aggressive one because if it had been her name that Raquel had whispered in her dying breath then surely, she was the killer. It had been Carrie who had been surly in the club while Gemma was full of bonhomie. But Carrie was on the floor rubbing her head. It was Gemma who stepped towards Jasmine, her face twisted into a grimace of hate. What had gone on between these two girls and Raquel?
‘What shouldn’t Carrie say about Raquel?’ Jasmine repeated, ‘That they were lovers?’
‘Nooo.’ Gemma launched herself at Jasmine, her hands outstretched. She hit Jasmine on her chest, squashing her false boobs. Jasmine fell back across the balcony. Her back hit the handrail sending a bolt of agony through her. Gemma was on her, fingers groping for her neck, pushing her head back over the void.
Jasmine felt her weight shifting, her centre of gravity moving over the pivot of the rail against her back. She reached up with her arms, but shoving Gemma away only pushed herself further over the drop. Lifting her feet to kick at Gemma made her sense of losing her balance worse. She felt herself teetering as Gemma’s hands closed around her throat.
‘Stop Gem!’
The pressure on Jasmine lessened. The hands released her neck. Her knees buckled and she slid down the rail until her bottom touched the floor of the balcony. Carrie had her arms around Gemma’s waist and was pulling her backwards while the girl flailed her arms.
Jasmine pushed herself to her feet and made a grab for Gemma’s wrists as she struggled to free herself from Carrie’s grip. Gemma kicked out wildly but Jasmine stepped between the girl’s legs and pushed her and Carrie back through the door into the bedroom. The maul toppled, Carrie released her grip and rolled free as Jasmine pinned Gemma down, pressing her hands to the floor.
‘Get Angela,’ Jasmine gasped as she struggled to hold the wriggling Gemma down.  Carrie scrambled to her feet and ran to the door, fumbled with the lock, pulled the door open and went.
Jasmine pressed down on the girl with all her weight, just holding her until she gradually subsided and lay still.  Padding feet announced arrivals. The ceiling light came on.
‘What’s happened? Jasmine? Are you alright?’ Angela said.
Jasmine shifted her weight onto her knees, taking it off the girl who lay on the wooden floor. She continued to hold Gemma’s wrist and was ready for any sign that the girl was going to resume her struggle. Gemma lay still, her face turned to the side.
‘Help me hold Gemma,’ Jasmine said, ‘She may just think she can run away.’  Angela came to her side, knelt down and took Gemma’s hand. Jasmine swung herself to the side of the girl while still holding her other arm. Jasmine got to her feet and with Angela helped Gemma to stand.
‘What’s been going on?’ Angela said.
‘I think we have Raquel’s killer,’ Jasmine said.
Gemma twisted, wrenching her hand from Angela’s grasp. She swung her arm with the weight of her body behind it, slamming her hand into Jasmine’s face. Jasmine’s grasp slipped from Gemma’s wrist. She raised a hand to cup her injured cheek. Gemma turned and ran to the balcony.
‘No, Gemma!’ Carrie cried.
Jasmine turned and through one eye saw the girl vault the rail and disappear into the darkness.
……………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 heats up

Nothing seasonal this week. I’ve been thinking about a topic that has been bubbling up over the last year –  AI, artificial intelligence. It’s been talked about for decades, like nuclear fusion, and apparently just around the corner are a whole range of conscious thinking machines. There has been lots of talk of the singularity when such intelligences surpass us and start reproducing themselves. Some people see this as a prelude to a Terminator-style disaster scenario where the conscious machines decide to destroy us all. Even serious thinkers like Stephen Hawking have given warnings of dire events to come when computers become conscious. Mark Carney, Governor of the Bank of England foresees sentient robots as a threat to the world of work.  I’m not sure that we have to wait for the achievement of recognisably intelligent computers to be worried.

For a start we don’t understand what consciousness is. How does a bundle of neurones with an admittedly vast number of connections make me, me, with all my memories, emotions, dreams, thoughts and sense of being me?  We really don’t know, despite the advances in brain mapping using MRI scans. What has been discovered is that our consciousness sits on top of a great deal of involuntary activity so that our conscious decisions often lag behind the commencement of an action.  If we don’t understand our own consciousness how can we recognise it in a machine, Turing test or no Turing test.

Actually I don’t think we need fully conscious computers to destroy our civilisation. I think what we’ve got already is doing a good job of it. The point is that we have come to rely on computers to run our society in all sorts of ways. The machines follow certain algorithms (sets of complex instructions) to perform their tasks. In many cases no-one knows exactly what outcomes those algorithms will lead to in specific situations.  As a result the stock exchanges around the world, running algorithms that check share prices etc. every microsecond have suffered shortlived crashes for no apparent reason. These have cost some people billions.

Perhaps more important, to society if not the economy, are the algorithms used by the multinational internet based companies – Amazon, Google, Facebook et al.  These are now deciding who you should want to talk to, what news and views you want to hear, what you want to read and buy. They are having a real and deep influence on what we think and believe. Either of their own accord or having been hacked by persons unknown, these organisations have fanned the rise of extremism and fundamentalism and influenced our democracies in the referendum vote, the American election and probably referenda and elections across Europe and the world. I think it is very dangerous and I’m not sure what we can do.

 

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On that happy note, let’s get on with the next episode of Falloff, the Jasmine Frame prequel novella.  Don’t forget you can buy e-books of two novels and two novellas for Kindle (yes, I know, it’s Amazon – we’re all about to be swallowed up) or you can purchase the two novels in paperback form from me.  Go to the Jasmine Frame  publications page.

 

 

 

 

 Falloff: Part 7

‘I don’t know,’ Jasmine shouted, ‘Could be.’  Angela pulled Jasmine towards her and resumed dancing to the beat.
‘What are you going to do?’ she said into Jasmine’s ear.
Jasmine shrugged, ‘What can I do? It’s not really anything to do with me. It’s Alvarez’s case.’
Angela drew back and looked at her. The flashing lights and lasers made interesting patterns on her face.
‘I’m not sure I believe you, Jas,’ she said above the thudding music, ‘you can’t usually let a mystery lie unsolved.’
Jasmine didn’t reply and they carried on dancing, sometimes arm in arm, sometimes apart, always focussed on each other regardless of the other bodies pressed around them. Jasmine allowed herself to be carried away by the dance tracks, but she was thinking.
What did Raquel’s final utterance mean. Was she saying Carl’s name because she regretted the split with him? Was it Caroline/Carrie she was referring to because she was the murderer or simply because she was a friend? Jasmine couldn’t provide the answers and realised that she would need to get to know Raquel’s friends a lot better if she was going to find any solutions.
It was several songs later that Angela took Jasmine’s hand and guided her out of the heaving mass of jigging bodies. They were both covered in a  sheen of perspiration and Jasmine found that she was breathing harder than usual.
‘I need a break,’ Angela bellowed.
‘And a drink,’ Jasmine replied. They made their way back to the bar and purchased another two wine and sodas. Then they followed a draught of slightly cooler air to an open rear exit from the club which let them into gardens with fountains and olive trees and various nooks and crannies with seats and benches.  Quite a few of the young people had found their way out here away from the heat and noise of the dancefloor. There was kissing and petting and more going on in the semi-private hideaways. The moon was bright and there were plenty of lights illuminating the activities. Jasmine and Angela wandered, sipping their drinks, looking for their own refuge from the crowds.
They rounded a wall topped by a trellis and a climbing plant to find a secluded corner. There were two couples embracing. Jasmine took in the scene at once and tugged on Angela’s hand. He drew her back out of sight of the two pairs of lovers, who were probably too engaged to notice them.
‘Did you see who that was?’ Jasmine hissed as she pulled Angela further away.
‘No?’
‘It was Andy and Jess on one bench and Gemma and Carrie on the other.’
‘You mean the two girls were snogging each other?’
‘Yes, and a bit more,’ Jasmine had an image in her head of hands groping in intimate places
‘So they’re lesbians.’ Angela’s tone was one of acceptance not shock.
‘Presumably.’ Jasmine pulled Angela behind a wall and embraced her.
‘What are you doing?’ Angela said.
‘Keeping out of sight.’
‘Of Raquel’s friends?’
‘Yes.’
‘And what else?’
‘We’ll see what they do.’
‘They could be there for hours fondling each other,’ Angela said.
‘Perhaps. You watch.’ Jasmine lowered her head to Angela’s neck and began to kiss the warm, damp skin lightly.
‘You realise that anyone wandering passed will think we’re two lesbians too,’ Angela muttered, her voice turning silky as Jasmine’s lips soothed her.
Jasmine paused, ‘So what?’
‘Nothing. Carry on. I like it.’
Jasmine had covered both of Angela’s shoulders with kisses before Angela hissed. ‘They’re moving.’
Jasmine paused and listened. She heard footsteps on the concrete paths and low, but not whispered, voices.
‘Let me know when they’ve passed by,’ she said. She continued to kiss Angela’s neck but was aware of people nearby.
‘They’ve gone.’
Jasmine stood up and released Angela. ‘Let’s follow them and see what they do.’
‘Ok, but it could be embarrassing if they catch sight of us tagging along behind them.’ Angela said.  Jasmine took her arm and lead her along the zig-zag path. The two pairs of friends were ahead but kept disappearing and re-appearing as they passed the concrete structures and trees.
The music grew louder as they approached the main building again. There were more people around the entrance taking the cool air. Raquel’s friends went inside and Jasmine and Angela followed. They circled the dance floor where hundreds of young people were still enthusiastically throwing themselves around in enjoyment of the music and the freedom of being on holiday.
The four friends bypassed the bar and headed for the main exit with Jasmine and Angela a discreet distance behind.
Jasmine glanced at the gold watch on her wrist. It was gone 1 a.m. but that was still early for most of the young, holidaying clubbers. They stepped out onto the promenade and saw the two couples heading back the way they had come.
‘Let’s follow them and see if they go back to the hotel,’ Jasmine said. Angela shrugged and linked arms with Jasmine as they began the slow walk amongst the crowds who were still enjoying the warm night and the lights.
When they were less than a hundred metres from the Arena Hotel and it was obvious that the two couples were heading there, Jasmine leant towards Angela and whispered.
‘Let’s catch them up and say hello. Act surprised to bump into them again.’
‘OK. I don’t know why, but you’re in charge Detective Frame.’ They increased their pace and caught up with the four at the entrance to the hotel.
‘Oh, hello again,’ Jasmine said in a conversational tone, ‘You’ve given up dancing too.’
The expressions on the faces of the three women and one man showed a range of emotions. Andy appeared impatient, Carrie scowled, Gemma looked surprised and wary. Jess, however, greeted them warmly.
‘Hi, Jasmine, Angela. Why aren’t you two still dancing?’
‘It got too hot in that oven,’ Angela replied,
‘It was pretty crowded,’ Jess acknowledged.
‘Why didn’t you stay?’ Jasmine inquired.  Andy frowned but it was Jess who answered again.
‘I suppose we didn’t really feel like dancing after, well, you know.’
Jasmine nodded. ‘Hmm, yes. Look can I get us all a drink. At least it’s cheaper here than at the club.’
Gemma and Carrie looked at each other, then shook their heads.
‘We’re pretty knackered,’ Gemma said, ‘ so we’ll head off.’ She attempted a smile, ‘Thanks all the same.’ The two girls headed into the hotel hand in hand.
‘That’s very good of you,’ Jess said, ‘but we should buy you a drink after what you did for Raquel last night.’  Jasmine waved her hand in refusal.
Andy looked miserable but managed a slight nod of the head. They walked together into the hotel’s lounge and bar. Jasmine marched up to the barman who gave her a look of mystified recognition but took her order. The room was considerably quieter than earlier in the evening so the four of them were able to sit on easy chairs around a low glass table. Jasmine found herself sticking to the cheap vinyl that covered the seats although the room with its marble floors and large open windows was pleasantly cool.
Andy sat morosely drinking his beer and Angela sipped her white wine. Jess, on the other hand, was bright eyed and examining Jasmine carefully in the better light of the lounge.
‘You make a good looking girl,’ she said.
‘Well, I’ve had quite a bit of practice,’ Jasmine replied, then changing the subject added, ‘I’m sorry the other two didn’t join us.’
‘Carrie’s very upset about Raquel,’ Jess said, ‘It took an effort to make her come out this evening.’
‘She and Gemma seem pretty close,’ Jasmine said, referring to how they went to the lift in each other’s arms rather than the secretive snogging and groping she and Angela had witnessed earlier.’
‘They are quite,’ Jess replied. She looked over Jasmine’s shoulder to the entrance hall where there was a bit of a commotion taking place. Jasmine turned to see Carl sprawled on the floor with a small orange tree in a tub lying by his side and a dark-eyed brunette standing over him. Carl got to his feet, staggered, grabbed the girl’s hand and stumbled into the lounge. His eyes seemed to rotate for a few moments before they focussed on the four people sitting together. He approached in a drunken limp.
‘Well, if ‘t i’n’t Raquel’s friends.,’ he slurred. He bent forward, swaying from side to side, his hand held by the girl being his only support. He peered at Jasmine.
‘You’re the guy who found her. Wha’ yer doin’ dressed as a tart?’
Jasmine wasn’t sure that his question needed a reply but she said calmly. ‘Hello Carl. I’m trans.’
Carl hauled himself upright. ‘Not a fucking tranny. Is this place full of lezzers and pervs.’
‘Now, Seňor, we don’t want language like that here do we.’
Jasmine turned around to see Inspector Alvarez in his crumpled, light beige suit standing behind him. The policeman looked around the gathering before ending his gaze with a piercing stare at Jasmine.
‘Ah, Seňor Frame or should I say Seňorita Frame.’
……………to be continued

 

 

Jasmine bloodied

We change throughout our lives. Life would be pretty boring if we didn’t develop, learn new things and have new experiences. Even our memories change. They’re not packed in our brains like books in a library, more like the foods in a larder which are taken out from time to time, used and replenished. My own feelings have changed over time and recently I made a fairly important decision.

I discovered I was transgendered (to use the term loosely) when I was in my late 20s. Since 2000, with the support of my dear Lou, I have been “out” and developing my female persona. While I decided that I was not transsexual because I didn’t despise my male body nor want to change it, I did think that I needed to pass as a woman. I think I was quite successful at that, at least from a distance. To achieve the look, in addition  to the female clothes, make-up and jewellery I wore a wig and a bra filled with silicone boobs. The wig was a good disguise and the boobs gave me a more feminine silhouette.

For the last three years I have been out just about as far as it is possible to be out. I now assume that anyone I meet knows that I’m trans (even if they don’t) and I have also mixed up my two public images quite a bit. I’ve always felt that I was one person with male and female characteristics but to fit in with society’s expectations I have appeared either as a man or as a woman. Gradually though, my understanding of myself has changed. First it struck me that the disguise offered by the wig was hiding who I was (it was also pretty uncomfortable in summertime). A year ago I gave up wearing the wig and have since had my hair styled in a more feminine manner.

wp_20160919_14_50_22_proNow I have decided that stuffing a bra to give myself a bust is also presenting a false impression of who I am. I don’t have a bust and I don’t want to pretend I have one anymore.  I have decided to just be me – the me that likes to have a feminine appearance wearing dresses, skirts or tunics over tights or leggings with tops in a variety of colours and styles. The me who loves to wear dangly ear rings and necklaces. The me who likes to wear lipstick, eye-shadow and foundation. Strangely, losing the boobs has not made me appear or feel less female (I think) although I now have the fun of choosing styles of clothes that suit someone who is tall, flat-chested, and mature (yes, I need to have regard for my age).

What does that make me? Do we still need labels? Am I transgender or is the term non-binary more appropriate though less well-known outside gender identity circles? Whatever term you want to use, I am the me I am now. Who knows who I’ll be in the future.

………………..

After that long ramble here is the tenth (yes, we’ve got that far) episode of Perspective, the prequel to Painted Ladies and Bodies By Design which fills in the career of Jasmine Frame, transsexual detective.

Perspective: Part 10

Jasmine approached the front door of the small terraced house. She pressed the doorbell and waited. Soon there was the sound of steps approaching and the door was opened by a woman with long dark hair and a pale face.
‘Mrs Gayle?’ Jasmine asked. The woman nodded.  ‘I’m Detective Constable Frame. I’m here in connection with the death of William Smith, a friend of your son, Nate.’
A worried expression appeared in the woman’s face. ‘What about it? Nate has answered all your questions.’
‘I thought you should know that two young white men have been arrested for the attack. They are being questioned at the moment.’
Mrs Gayle shrugged but Jasmine thought she appeared nervous. ‘So?’
‘I was wondering if there was anything else you or Nate could tell us.’
‘Like what?’
‘Such as how the men could see that Nate and Wizzer were mixed race in the dark and the drizzle.’
‘What?’ Now the woman looked confused. She stared at Jasmine in the light from her hallway. ‘What did you say your name was? Frame? Didn’t I complain about you pestering my son.’ She pushed the door closed but Jasmine stuck her foot in the way.
‘You did Mrs Gayle, and I’m sorry about that, but I think that what happened is not quite what Nate has told us.’
The woman was indignant. ‘Nate said those men, well, men dressed as women, attacked him and William and called them vile, racist names. Don’t you believe him?’
‘Not exactly. Not after he’d robbed me.’
‘Not Nate.’ The tone was firm and certain.
‘Yes, Nate and his mate.’
There were thuds of feet on stairs and Nate appeared behind his mother.
‘What’s going on, Mum. Oh, it’s him. The tranny cop. I thought we’d got you off my back.’
‘Not quite,’ Jasmine said placing her weight against the door to ensure it couldn’t be closed.
Mrs Gayle turned to speak to the boy. ‘She, er he, says you robbed her, Nate. Tell me the truth. You still haven’t told me why you were out that late. I thought you were in bed.’
Nate shrugged. ‘I went out with Wizzer.’
‘Why?’
‘To hang out together. Do stuff.’ Nate turned away and padded down the hallway. Mrs Gayle followed.
‘What do you mean? Nate. Tell me, I’m your mother.’
Jasmine stepped inside the doorway and closed the door behind her. She was in the house now and she was going to get some answers from the lad.
Nate turned to face his mother. ‘We were having a bit of fun.’
‘After midnight? You sneaked out without telling me so you could have fun with that boy.’
Nate looked over his mother’s shoulder and saw Jasmine standing behind her.
‘What are you doing in our house?’
‘Getting some answers, Nate. Look, I know it wasn’t the two queens who killed Wizzer. Tell me what really happened. Perhaps it was an accident. Perhaps you and Wizzer argued, the knife came out and it was Wizzer who got stabbed.’
‘Na, it was the fucking weirdoes. They attacked us.’
‘Why should they Nate? I’ve seen them. They may have been having a laugh at the drag night but outside in the dark and wet they aren’t the type to go picking a fight with two streetwise lads.  Why were you and Wizzer arguing? Was it about your takings – the credit cards, the phones, my cash.’
‘What is she talking about, Nate?’ Mrs Gayle said, ‘What takings? Did you rob her like she says?’
‘Oh, shut up, you old slag.’ Nate shoved his mother against the bannister of the stairs and advanced towards Jasmine. She crumpled onto the floor. He slipped his hand in his jeans pocket and pulled out an object. A blade sprang from it.
Jasmine retreated until her back was against the door. Nate approached holding the knife out in front of him.
‘The little wimp tried to keep more than I gave him.’
‘You gave him?’ Jasmine didn’t understand, ‘You were divvying out the takings?’
‘Yeah, of course. Wizzer did as he was told, usually, but then he started to whine about deserving more.’ He shoved the knife forward. Jasmine winced and pressed back against the door. Even the sight of a knife made her tremble.
His mother picked herself up and reached a hand up to Nate’s shoulder.
‘Don’t you speak to me like that, Nate.’  She grabbed his shoulder and tugged. Nate span around, the blade sweeping in a large arc, an arc that intersected with the woman’s midriff. She let out a cry and crumpled to the floor. Blood spurted out onto the carpet.
Nate leapt across his mother towards the door to the kitchen. Jasmine ran after him, taking one step over the fallen woman and diving for the boy’s legs. They fell to the floor, the knife falling from his hand as Nate’s head crashed against the kitchen door. Jasmine recovered first, knelt with a knee in the boy’s back and pulled his arms behind his back. She regretted not having her set of handcuffs with her, but she wasn’t on duty and they were sitting in the drawer of her desk at the Police Station.
Nate wriggled. Jasmine pressed harder against his back and gave his arms an extra tug. He squealed.
‘Lie still or I’ll do you some real injury,’ Jasmine said. ‘I’ve got to get some help for your mother.’
Nate subsided. His mother groaned and writhed.
‘Stay still,’ Jasmine ordered, ‘or you’ll bleed to death.’ Jasmine was worried that that was exactly what was happening. She had to get help.  Jasmine’s shoulder bag had miraculously remained around her neck. With her spare hand she fumbled in it for her phone. One handed she dialled three nines and requested an ambulance and the police.
‘Can I trust you not to run, while I try to help your mother,’ Jasmine asked. The boy grunted something like an affirmation. Jasmine let his arms go and shifted her weight off his back. She turned to look at the woman.  Her jumper and leggings were soaking with blood and Jasmine could see that more was seeping out onto the floor.  The woman was haemorrhaging to death. Jasmine pressed her hands against the area of the woman’s abdomen from which the blood seemed to be leaking hoping to stem the flow.  It was all she could do until the paramedics arrived.
There was a scrambling, shuffling noise behind her. She turned her head to see what Nate was up to. A blow caught her temple, wrenching her neck.  There were bright lights amid darkness. The darkness won.
Sirens and door banging penetrated the blackness. She stirred. Her head ached but Jasmine was alert enough to recall what had happened. She found she was lying across Mrs Gayle, her front as bloodied as the injured woman who was now unconscious.
There was another hammering on the door. Jasmine struggled to her feet and turned the knob of the lock. The door swung open. There were two paramedics and a uniformed policeman.
The paramedics looked at her, their eyes wide. They made to move towards her.
‘No, not me. I’m fine. It’s her,’ she pointed to the woman on the floor. The paramedics pushed passed her and descended on Mrs Gayle.
‘What’s happened here?’ the officer asked.
‘Mrs Gayle was injured by a knife held by her son. It was an accident but he’s run off,’ Jasmine summarised. She put her hands to the side of her head which felt sore. She was trying to make sense of what Nate had said.
‘And who are you?’
‘DC Frame. I came to question the boy.’ Jasmine searched in her pocket for her warrant card then remembered that Tom had relieved her of it.
‘DC eh? Where’s your partner?’
‘I’m on my own.’
The PC’s eyebrows rose. ‘Who is your senior officer?’
Jasmine couldn’t avoid saying it, much as she wanted to. ‘It’s DS Palmerston. I think she’ll be at Kintbridge police station.’
‘I’ll get on to him.’
‘Her.’
‘Oh, OK. Are you alright? You look a bit pale but I guess that’s not your blood,’ he nodded to the staining down the front of her jumper and skirt.
Her neck ached and there was a lump on the side of her head. She took a deep breath.
‘No, I’m ok. Perhaps I had better be getting back.’
‘I don’t think you should leave until your superior officer arrives. Let me give her a call.’
‘Oh, alright.’ Jasmine leaned against the wall of the hall felling dizzy and nauseous. She listened to the officer speak into his radio. After a minute or so it sounded as if he had been put through to the DS. Jasmine could hear her high-pitched whine of a voice expressing surprise and anger. The conversation finished.
‘She says she’s coming,’ the PC said, ‘she sounded a bit surprised that you were here.’
‘I bet.’
The officer looked at the backs of the paramedics bent over the woman. ‘Is she going to be OK?’
‘I don’t know,’ Jasmine said, ‘but don’t you think you should put out a call to pick her son up.’
‘Oh, yeah. That’s right.’
Jasmine described the young man and the officer passed on the details to the headquarters staff. She sat on the stairs while the officer talked and the paramedics worked on Mrs Gayle. She was wondering whether she had got the story wrong. She had thought that Wizzer was the boss and Nate the lackey.
The PC finished talking as there was the distant sound of another siren. Less than a minute later, Jasmine saw through the open doorway, an unmarked car screech to a halt next to the ambulance. The easily recognisable figure of DS Palmerston got out and strode towards the house. The street and vehicle lights were enough for Jasmine to see the anger on her face.
……………..to be continued.

Jasmine on the case

I don’t usually comment on sport in this blog. After all, sport is not important in the great issues that face us is it? Well I think it is, actually, since for many of us sport of one sort or another is our main form of entertainment – watching that is, not doing it. I think a lot of our attitudes, to say nothing about economics and politics, is influenced by sport. This piece isn’t about the Olympics but a cricket match. I’ve enjoyed cricket since I was a kid and I still try to get to one match each season. Last night I went to a county T20 match.  For those of you who aren’t cricket followers, that is the short (very short) form of the game where each side gets 20 overs (that’s about 80 minutes) batting each. It means that a match can be wrapped up in under three hours which is fine for the busy working men and women of today and the TV spectators.

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Flamethrowers at cricket

With so few balls to face (120 in total), the batting side can’t patiently build a score waiting for the loose balls to hit, they have to go for the runs from the start, taking risks. It can be exciting if simplistic, losing the subtleties and skills of the longer forms of the game. That’s okay. The excitement of 20:20 is like the sugar rush from sucking a toffee (no, it’s not as long-lasting as that, more like a fruit pastille) compared to the three, or more courses, of a restaurant dinner that is a test match. It’s a bit of entertainment and in today’s world not many can or want to sit around for a four-day county match or a five-day test match. What annoys me is how the presentation of the 20 over matches has infantilised the game. There are the extra rules to make the game even more “exciting” – the free ball following a no-ball in which the batsman can’t be given out and the “scatterplay” or whatever it was called, where for an over all the fielders had to stand on the boundary. Why? Neither rule seemed to provide any incentive to the batsmen or the bowlers.  Then there’s the razzamatazz: the loud music from the speakers arranged around the boundary, between every over (6 balls) and wickets, the flame throwers (vertical, I’m relieved to say, although a pigeon or two may have got singed) every time a 4 or 6 was scored, together with fireworks for a  wicket. All thoroughly pointless. If the game is not exciting enough of itself then it is no point being played.

There was a good crowd, largely wanting to see the home side do well (they didn’t), and quite a few children who enjoyed the pyrotechnics  and bashing each other with blow-up cricket bats but watched hardly a ball bowled. This was a sport struggling to make itself appealing to a mass audience and in so doing rubbishing the skills developed by the players over many years of practice. It was a sport desperately trying to attract fans’ money with an Emperor’s new clothes display. What will they do in a few years time when the crowds grow bored with the familiarity of the noise and the effects and the simplistic game?

There, that’s enough of that. Next week – Trans at the Olympics.

 

To more vital matters – here’s the second part of Perspective, the Jasmine Frame prequel to Painted Ladies and Bodies By Design.

Perspective: Part 2

                 There was a different feel to the Violent and Serious Crime Unit’s office when Jasmine arrived for her shift mid-morning next day. There was an urgency and air of expectation that she had not experienced for some time. Detective Constables Hopkins and Kingston were deep in animated conversation and DS Palmerston was with DCI Sloane in his office discussing something urgently. Whatever was causing the buzz of excitement it wasn’t a mundane case of fraud or cybercrime. The feeling was infectious and even she felt eager to know what it was all about. She sat at her desk and fired up her computer then turned to Tom Shepherd whose eyes were fixed on his own screen.

‘What’s up, Tom?’

DC Shepherd looked up. ‘Oh, hi, er, Jas. We’ve got a killing, a young boy. You’re just on time for Sloane’s briefing. Look, here he is.’

Jasmine shifted in her seat and saw DCI Sloane marching from his office to the white board that stretched along one wall of the office. Denise Palmerston followed urging the other officers to pay attention with a peremptory wave of her hand.

Jasmine stood up and edged forward with Tom at her side. Terry Hopkins leaned against his desk at the front with his younger coloured partner Derek Kingston by his side.

Sloane looked around the silent quartet checking that he had their full attention.

‘Good morning,’ he said in his deep voice, ‘As you know a body was discovered in the Riverside car park early this morning. It was a young male. He had a knife wound in his chest. Pathology says death occurred between midnight and about 2 a.m. and the fatal wound followed a struggle.  There are bruises on the victim’s arms as if he was gripped firmly. The wound is not a clean thrust but the blade has been dragged through the flesh and undergone a number of thrusts before piercing the heart. Pictures, Palmerston, please.’

The DS fixed three of the large prints she had been holding to the whiteboard. The first showed the complete clothed body almost curled up, with a blood stain covering the abdomen and spreading onto the tarmac and white line of the car park. The boy was dressed in jeans and a hooded top.  The second photograph was a close up of his face after he had been turned over onto his back. The third showed the bruises on his wrists.

‘Obviously the first task is to identify the victim,’ Sloane continued. ‘There was no i.d. on the body and no-one has yet contacted us about a missing person. We also have to ask what a young man of fourteen or fifteen was doing in the car park at that time and of course who his attackers were and their motive.’

Tom raised a hand.

‘Yes, Shepherd?’ Sloane said.

‘Where exactly in the car park was he found. It covers quite an area.’

‘That’s true Shepherd. DC Hopkins, you were the duty officer called to the scene. Tell us what you saw.’

The middle-aged detective slouched against a desk suddenly came alert and stood up.

‘Uh, yes sir. The call was made about 6:15 by a . . .’ he looked down at his notebook, ‘Steve Brown. He’s a street cleaner. He was doing his Saturday morning round and came across the body in the area by the public toilets.’

Sloane nodded. ‘Thank you Hopkins. Any comments Shepherd?’

Jasmine saw Tom give a start as if he wasn’t prepared to be put on the spot. ‘Um, no Sir.’

Jasmine spoke up. ‘There’s a taxi rank alongside the car park, Sir.  If the attack took place at the time you said, some of the pubs and clubs are still open then and there may have been a taxi or two there.’

‘Good point, Frame,’ Sloane said although he didn’t look directly at her. DS Palmerston glared at Jasmine. She thinks I should keep my mouth closed, Jasmine thought.

‘We will of course be interviewing all taxi drivers that use that waiting area,’ Palmerston said.

‘Of course,’ Sloane added. ‘And you are correct Frame, that at the time of this boy’s death there may have been witnesses from the various entertainment venues. What was the weather like at that time?’

‘Cold with a drizzle of icy rain,’ Hopkins replied and Jasmine nodded in agreement remembering her encounter at midnight.

‘Not the sort of weather in which you would expect members of the public to be standing around,’ Sloane said.

‘Unless they were waiting for a taxi, Sir,’ Derek Kingston added.

‘True. So we need to make an appeal for witnesses. Palmerston, you contact the media. We don’t have the murder weapon as yet. Shepherd, you get down there and accompany SOCO searching the environs.  According to the pathologist we looking for a short knife, the blade no more than three inches long and half an inch or so wide; a kitchen knife most likely. Hopkins and Kingston, you start asking questions in the pubs and clubs that were open at that time.’

There was a pause. Jasmine was on edge. What was her task going to be?

‘And me, Sir?’ she said, eager for a part to play.

‘You can be looking for CCTV footage,’ DS Palmerston said. ‘There must be cameras near the spot.’

Jasmine groaned and sagged. Not again. Would she ever get out of the office to do some real detecting? It was always her that was given the important but sedentary tasks because the female DS didn’t want her seen by the public.

Sloane pulled himself to his full height. ‘Right get down to work. We’ll have another meeting at four and I want some results by then. I’ll consider calling in the rest of the team to assist.’

The other officers scattered leaving Jasmine peering at the whiteboard. Something Sloane had said had made her think.  The description of the knife used to kill the boy reminded her of the weapon she had been threatened with. She could see it waving in front of her face, shining in the streetlights. She took a few paces closer to the board and examined the photos of the victim closely. Could he possibly be the youth that had brandished the knife at her? What did his mate call him? Wizzer or Wizz? It had been so dark last night that she hadn’t taken in his appearance but the clothes the victim was wearing could easily be the same as her attacker and they had similar height and build.

A shiver passed through her. If the mugger and the victim were the same youth, then he was dead less than two hours after mugging her for a few quid. How did he come to be stabbed by his own knife? Where was his accomplice? She had important information pertaining to the investigation but she hadn’t reported the incident. Guilt flooded her. If she had called in after the thieves had left her there may have been a police presence in the town centre which would have prevented the boy’s death. She shook herself. It was no point going down that path. She had to tell someone, Sloane or Palmerston what she knew and what had happened to her. Now though, it wasn’t the embarrassment of being mugged that troubled her but the telling off she would get for not putting a report in.

The office was deserted. All the team, including Sloane were going about their business elsewhere. Jasmine returned to her desk. She might as well start collecting the video evidence while she waited for Sloane or Palmerston to return.

She had only got as far as making contact with the CCTV control centre when the internal phone rang.

‘DC Frame,’ she announced when she picked up the receiver.

‘Oh, it’s you,’ the voice of desk sergeant GG Gorman said. ‘Is the DCI or DS there?’

‘No, they’re not. It’ll have to be me, Sergeant, if you’ve got a message.’

‘Hmm, well, I’ve got a lad down here who says he knows something about last night’s, er, incident in the car park. Says he heard about it on the radio.’

‘OK, thanks. I’ll come and speak to him. How old would you say he is?’

‘A teen, fourteen or so. Scruffy kid in a hoodie and jeans.’  Just like the victim. Could it be Wizzer’s partner?  Jasmine put down the phone and ran from the office and down the flights of stairs to the entrance.

She stepped through the locked door and saw the lad sitting in the public area. He looked up and saw her. He frowned. Jasmine approached him.

‘Hello. I understand you’ve some information about the incident near the toilets in the Riverside carpark?’ As she spoke she saw his eyes widen.

‘I know you,’ he said, ‘You’re that tranny.’

My voice, again, she thought. ‘I think we met last night,’ she said. There was a millisecond pause, then the boy turned and ran.

…………..to be continued.

Jasmine searches for her lead

It’s a week ago now, but I have to mention Orlando. It is impossible to imagine the horror of experiencing someone firing deliberately to hit people for such a period of time and causing so many deaths and injuries. It’s true that it could have been anywhere, another club perhaps filled with straight young people as happened in Paris, but this particular gunman targeted a venue where the majority of clubbers were LGBTQ. Adding another class of hate onto the urge to kill people is like adding infinities to make another infinity – it is meaningless and incomprehensible. There is no excuse or justification for any act that deliberately causes harm to any person.  Unfortunately many of the factions in the USA can’t see it like that and the grief has been muddied by politicking.

rainbow flagAs the Pulse club has been referred to often as a LGBTQ club I have wondered how many trans people were among the victims but have not seen any mention of a figure or of specific individuals. Not that it matters, dead bodies don’t need labels. I send my sympathy to all the injured and the families and friends of the deceased and indeed to everyone who was involved in any way.

I have been asked if we should be frightened here. Well, I suppose there is sufficient reason to be worried. Anyone could be a target anywhere, as the murder of MP Jo Cox showed. There have been attacks on gay bars in the past and there could be again. Indeed, someone with a hate of gay or trans people could have been emboldened by the footage from Orlando to have a go themselves. I do hope that our gun laws will at least reduce the chance of a potential killer possessing such an armoury, but a hand gun or a knife can cause enough harm.  It is easy enough for someone to discover when gay and trans people will be meeting, for example at Pride events, but there are opportunities every day to target people of any interest or inclination. I suppose we have to live with a degree of fear. As I said last week, perhaps it is a sign of getting older or perhaps the world is getting to be a scarier place. We must face our fears and defy those who would try to spread their hate.

So, following the deaths in Orlando, and of Jo Cox, and in all those other places that may not have made the news this week, let us have hope and seek ways to work for a lessening of hate and a growth in respect for the right to live the life one wishes.

I hear no hate

I hear no hate

To happier thoughts.  It is just a week till I lead a walk through the sites near Dylife, Mid-Wales, that inspired scenes in my novel Unity of Seven. Go to my SF & Fantasy page for information on how to join us.

And here is the next episode of Aberration, the Jasmine Frame novella. Unfortunately the theme is also hate but it’s fiction.

Aberration – Part 8

They’d been into a dozen pubs and wine bars already and there were plenty of other places to call on not counting the clubs that only opened in the evenings.  Jasmine glanced at her watch. It was nearly two p.m.
‘I feel like some lunch, don’t you?’ she asked Angela.
‘Yes. Pub or café?’ Angela responded, drawing a hand across her forehead.  Jasmine noticed that they were a few yards from the café where she had met Andy on a few occasions.
‘Let’s go in there. We can have an iced coffee if you like.’
‘OK. You’re buying.’
They joined the queue at the counter and Jasmine thought through their morning’s efforts. There wasn’t much to review really. They had asked the bar staff and some of the customers in each place they had visited if Josh was known to anyone. All they had had was denials and some strange looks at Jasmine. It was a warm sunny day so she had dressed like Angela – short skirt, crop top, strappy sandals, but, with her long blonde wig on, her face was dripping with sweat. She was sure it was that that marked her as different to Angela who looked as cool and attractive as always.
They reached the head of the queue. Jasmine recognised the young woman that served them from her visits with Andy.
‘Oh, hello,’ she said, ‘You’re Andy’s friend aren’t you.’
Jasmine wasn’t too surprised at being recognised as he and Andy had met at the café on a number of occasions in the last few weeks.
‘Yes, that’s right,’ she said smiling.
The girl looked glum. ‘You know he’s dead.’
Jasmine nodded, losing her smile. ‘Yes, it’s awful.’
‘I hear he was found in the river on Thursday morning.’
‘That’s right. I can’t think what he was doing there after work.’
‘You were in here with him on Wednesday, weren’t you,’ the girl stated. Jasmine nodded. ‘But you’d gone when the other guy came in and spoke to Andy.’
‘Uh, no. Which other guy?’ Jasmine’s heart was beating faster.
‘I don’t know who he was. He was older than you and Andy, but shorter. Oh, and bald.’
Josh, Jasmine thought. It must be him.
‘What did he say to Andy?’
‘I don’t know. I just saw them sitting down together with a coffee. Andy didn’t look very happy. He got up and hurried out soon after.’
‘Have you seen this man before?’
‘He’s been in a couple of times but we’ve never had a chat. Bit of a miserable git really.’
‘Hmm. Thanks. I wonder what he had to say to Andy.’
‘So do I. What can I get you?’
Jasmine gave her their order and then followed Angela to a table.
‘I can’t believe Andy met Josh, here.’ Jasmine said.
Angela shrugged. ‘It sounds as if Josh deliberately approached Andy.’
‘But why? What did he say that made Andy walk out?’
There was a call from the counter that their drinks and food were ready. Jasmine collected them and set them on the table.
‘You know what it means don’t you?’ Angela said.
‘What?’
‘This Josh guy knew that Andy was trans.’
Jasmine froze with the sandwich halfway to his mouth.
‘God! You’re right. When I met Andy here he was as male-looking as he could be. He even darkened his chin to look as though he needed a shave. There was no way that Josh could have mistaken him for a butch lesbian.’
‘So what happened when they met at the pub later in the evening?’ Angela asked.
Jasmine puffed out her cheeks. ‘I can’t imagine. But we’ve got to find him. Let’s get back to doing the pubs.’
‘When I’ve finished my lunch,’ Angela said before taking a big bite out of her sandwich.

Jasmine was finding that her summer sandals were not as comfortable as she thought after a few hours tramping round town. They were in another pub having visited a few more since their pause in the café. Despite redoubling their efforts to ask everyone they met if they knew Josh or his mates they still had no leads.
‘Let’s have a drink and a sit down,’ Jasmine said. Angela agreed and went to the bar to get a couple of half pints of beer.
Jasmine took a sip. ‘We’ve got to find him,’ she said.
‘I agree, but we’re running out of pubs.’ Angela sagged in her seat.
‘There are still the clubs.’
‘But they don’t open till later.’
‘I know,’ Jasmine paused. ‘I think I need the evening off. I’m going to have to ring Kevin and tell him I’m sick.’
‘’It’ll be better if I do it for you,’ Angela said. She took hold of her shoulder bag and dug in it for her phone. ‘What’s the number?’  Jasmine got her phone out, looked up her list of numbers and showed the pub’s number to Angela. She dialled it in but didn’t press “call”. ‘I won’t do it here. The background noise might tell him we’re out having a good time. I’ll go and see if I can get a signal in the loos.’ Angela got up and made her way to the toilets.
Jasmine relaxed back in her seat and drank her beer.
‘Hey, you.’
She looked up to see two burly men in tight t-shirts standing either side of her.
‘Yes,’ she said feeling nervous.
‘Someone wants to see you.’
‘Someone?’
‘Yeah. Come with us.’ They each leaned down and took one of Jasmine arms each. They hauled her to her feet and before she could think of a response she was being half carried half dragged from the pub.
The men dragged her down an alley beside the pub. One of the men produced a linen bag which he pulled over Jasmine’s head.  She wriggled trying to release herself. A thump in her stomach stopped her struggle. She gasped for breath.
‘Don’t think of getting away. Josh wants a word with you,’ one voice said. Jasmine didn’t know what to do. She couldn’t see anything and her arms were being gripped firmly. She knew she couldn’t escape – yet. She allowed herself to be marched along. Then her head was being pushed down and she fell onto the seat of a car. It moved off. The hands kept her head and shoulders down, resting against muscular thighs.
They were travelling for just a few minutes with a number of stops and starts. Just around the town centre, jasmine guessed. The car stopped and she heard the door being opened. She was dragged out. Her legs buckled as her feet hit the ground but the arms held her up. They carried her into a building – she felt the change of temperature and quality of sound.
Her bottom was placed on a chair, an upright dining chair, and then the bag was pulled off her head. She was in a typical living room. There was carpet on the floor, a sofa and a couple of easy chairs, and a large TV in the corner. Sunlight streamed in through the tall sash window she was facing. She could see town centre buildings some distance away but no view of ground level.  The lower window was open letting in the sounds and smells of the town.
Her arms were free; her legs were unimpeded. She could have stood up but as she considered what to do she heard footsteps behind her. She swivelled on the seat. A short bald-headed man had entered the room.
‘I hear you’ve been wanting to meet Josh. Well, here I am.’
……………………