Jasmine rejected

First of all an apology if last week you received notification of my post and found it either not available or in an unfinished state. Somehow it posted early before I was ready and the notice of the “update” of the finished piece I don’t think was circulated.  I hope this goes out on time and complete.

The French burkini fiasco attracted my notice this week, not that I’ve read in depth about the controversy. I can’t believe that French authorities have put themselves in the position of telling women on a beach that they must expose more of themselves; but the main issue for me is that a government (local or national) is telling its citizens (and presumably visitors) how they must dress.  This is an incredibly dangerous move for civil liberties and human rights.  PennyNot many decades ago, a person thought to be a man wearing a dress could be arrested and shamed. Women wearing trousers were a topic of discussion. Personally, I don’t think any authority or individual has the right to tell me or anyone how to dress. I will allow, for now, laws against indecency simply because I don’t think the majority are ready for public nudity. Also, I think, with regret, that for security purposes, people should expose their faces when requested to do so. Otherwise, men, women and nonbinaries should have the freedom and right to appear in public in whatever form of dress that they, themselves, choose.

Another minor news item was talk of a ban on Morris dancers that “black up”. Apparently it is a 500 year old tradition and was a means of disguise since dancing to raise money was seen as begging and hence illegal. There is no evidence that the practice was ever to imitate black people (there were a few in the country 500 years ago) unlike the Black & White Minstrel Show which had the men made up and wigged as caricatures of Black Americans.  Unfortunately the Morris dancers and the B&W Minstrels have become confused in some people’s brains. I think it is foolish to see disrespect of minorities everywhere and equality groups have to pause and avoid reacting to every misread sleight.

So now to the main business that is part 4 of Perspective, the tenth prequel to Painted Ladies, and another story about transsexual detective, Jasmine Frame.

Perspective: Part 4

Jasmine saw an expression of worry and concern on Nate Gayle’s face.
‘What made you decide to come and see us?’ DS Palmerston said, ‘I don’t imagine you would step inside a police station out of choice any other time.’
‘It was on the radio.’
‘What was?’
‘That there’d been a fight at the Riverside and someone had been injured.’
‘When did you hear that?’
‘When I woke up this morning.’
‘You thought it was your friend who had been hurt?’
‘Yeh.’
Palmerston frowned and glared at the boy. ‘His parents haven’t reported William missing.’
Nate snorted. ‘His old woman won’t have noticed he wasn’t there.’
‘What do you mean?’
‘She’s out most nights. She wasn’t there when I went round Wizzer’s place this morning.’
‘She works nights?’
Nate gave a nervous giggle. ‘You could call it work I s’pose.’
Palmerston didn’t say anything and Jasmine guessed that she had interpreted the youth’s comment the same way as she had.
‘No father?’ the DS asked after a few moments.
Nate shook his head. ‘Is Wizzer in hospital?’
Palmerston paused again, then said softly. ‘I’m sorry Nate but your friend is dead.’
The boy no longer looked like the confident street thief. His mouth sagged open and his eyes became shiny with tears.
‘He died in the car park,’ the DS continued, ‘presumably when you were attacked.  We will need your help to find out exactly what happened.’
Now Nate looked frightened rather than sad. ‘You won’t tell my Ma I was out last night, will you?’
Palmerston’s eyes narrowed. ‘Your mother didn’t know you were out of the house?’
Nate bit his lip. ‘She thought I was in bed. I slipped out when she went to sleep.’
The DS sighed. ‘I’m sorry Nate but she’s going to have to know. We need a detailed statement from you and then we’ll have to check parts of it with your mother, but I’m sure that when she hears your friend is dead she’ll be gentle with you.’
‘She didn’t like Wizzer.’
‘Why not?’
‘Said he was a bad’un and not to mix wiv im.’
Denise Palmerston began to stand up. ‘Well, we’ll have to call her in when we interview you formally, Nate, as you’re still a minor, but thank you for coming in to speak to us. You did the right thing. Can we get you a tea or coffee or something?’
The boy shook his head.
‘Come on Frame. We’ve got work to do.’  Palmerston strode to the door.  Jasmine glanced at the boy who looked as miserable as he could be, then chased after her boss. She caught her up in the corridor.
‘You didn’t ask him about his friend Wizzer threatening me with a knife?’ Jasmine said. Palmerston stopped, turned and glared at her.
‘Well, you haven’t put in a crime report have you, Frame. In any case the murder of the boy is rather more important don’t you think.’
‘Murder? Surely the kid got killed with his own knife when he attacked the two queens.’
‘Gayle says they were set upon. It looks like murder to me, Frame, and we’ll treat it as murder while we look for the two men dressed as women. I think you were supposed to be looking for CCTV footage.’
She turned her back on Jasmine and marched off.

Back in the V&SC room, Palmerston went into Sloane’s office. Jasmine could see the DCI at his desk. Jasmine sat and opened the file of CCTV recordings that had been sent to her. There were views from a number of cameras around the extensive car park but having glanced at each of them she chose the one that looked along Dock Lane. It seemed to be the only camera with even a possibility of a view of the scene of the incident. Jasmine started to scan through the recording to get to the time when the attack occurred. The dim grainy pictures, made worse by the persistent drizzle showed cars and taxis entering and leaving the car park and pedestrians walking to and from the town. By one a.m. the area looked deserted with not even a taxi waiting on the rank.
The office door crashed open and Tom Shepherd loped in.
‘We’ve got the weapon,’ he shouted.
Jasmine rose from her seat as Palmerston emerged from Sloane’s office with Sloane close behind.
‘Let me see,’ Palmerston said.  Tom handed over the plastic bag weighted by the knife.
‘It matches the description the doc gave.’
Jasmine joined the group. She squinted to get a look at the knife as Palmerston held the bag up. It appeared to be the knife that had been waved in her face.
‘It looks like the knife Wizzer had,’ she said.
‘Wizzer?’ Tom said with a look of confusion on his face.
‘William Smith, the victim,’ Palmerston said. ‘known as Wizzer to his friends apparently.’
Tom looked at Jasmine.
‘You know him?’
‘We met,’ Jasmine said.
‘So I gather,’ DCI Sloane growled, ‘In my office now, DC Frame.’
Jasmine followed Sloane leaving Tom staring. The tone of Sloane’s voce did not suggest that he was about to praise Jasmine.
‘Close the door please, Frame,’ the DCI said. His chair sagged as he lowered his bulk into it. ‘Denise tells me that you failed to report an incident with the victim and his friend Gayle.’
Jasmine groaned silently. Palmerston had got her tale telling in first.  ‘Yes Sir, I meant to this morning. . .’
‘Hours after the alleged attack took place.’
‘Alleged?’
‘Denise says you alleged that the two boys threatened you and stole your purse.’
‘That’s what happened, Sir.’
‘Why didn’t you report it at the time?’
‘It was late, Sir, and cold. I was tired.’
Sloane frowned at her. ‘You’re a police officer, Frame. That’s no excuse. Now it appears that one of the youths is dead.’
‘Yes, Sir.’
‘Well, I can’t have an officer on the case who is prejudiced against the victim and a witness.’
‘I’m not prejudiced, Sir.’
‘DS Palmerston is of the opinion that you would not be able to investigate this case dispassionately. As you had dealings with the victim and the suspects we are seeking are men like yourself, I tend to agree with her.’
A hot flush rushed up Jasmine’s neck. ‘Men like myself? What do you mean, Sir?’
‘The two men described by Gayle. They were masquerading as women I believe.’
‘I don’t know about them, Sir, but I am a woman.’
Sloane’s face had turned a shade of crimson. ‘I don’t care what you think you are Frame, I can’t have someone emotionally involved in a case getting in the way. You are relieved from duty. You may go home.’
‘But, but, Sir?’ Her anger had subsided as fast as it had risen. Now she felt sick.
‘Pass what you were working on to Shepherd, and go.’ Sloane looked down at the heap of papers on his desk, dismissing her from his thoughts. Jasmine backed slowly from the small room, and went slowly back to her desk.
‘What’s up, Jas?’
Jasmine saw Tom looking up at her from his seat.
‘Sloane’s suspended me.’
‘What?’
‘It was Palmerston.’
‘Huh?’
Jasmine briefly described her encounter with Gayle and Smith the night before and how the female DS had used her failure to report it.
‘She’s persuaded Sloane that I can’t be objective and he thinks that the two queens Gayle described are like me. I’m not a drag queen, Tom.’
‘Er, no you’re not, Jas.’ Tom spoke slowly, taking care not to say the wrong thing. Jasmine had explained often enough what being transsexual meant and the differences between her situation and with transvestites, drag queens and other trans people but she knew he still found the distinctions difficult to recall.
‘Haven’t you left yet, Frame?’
Jasmine turned to see Denise Palmerston leering at her.
‘DCI Sloane told me to hand over the CCTV footage to Dc Shepherd,’ she said.
‘Well, do it quickly, then get out. We’ve got work to get on with.’ The delight in her voice was palpable. ‘Oh, Shepherd. We’re looking for two particular drag queens. Hopkins rang in to say that there was a gay night at The Horse and Barge last night and that there were quite a few of the weirdoes.’ She turned on her heels and strode off.
‘You’d better get off, Jas,’ Tom whispered, ‘With her in that mood . . .’
‘I might thump her. Yes, I know Tom.’ Jasmine leaned down to her keyboard, sent the data to Tom’s address and closed her computer down. She picked up her coat and strode from the office, refusing to look in DS Palmerston’s direction.
………….

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Jasmine accused

I said last time that this week’s “comment” would concern trans at the Olympics.  It hasn’t been an issue in the coverage I’ve seen except in connection  with Caster Semenya, the South African athlete who was diagnosed as intersex some years ago but allowed to take part in the women’s events. Nevertheless there have been reports that there would be transgender competitors in the Rio games since the IOC revised the rules.  The regulations on competitors’ gender are now roughly in line with the UK’s Gender Recognition Act i.e. a transgender athlete does not have to have undergone gender reassignment surgery, but must have lived in “role” for a couple of years. The most important factor is the sportsperson’s testosterone level. This applies to all competitors whether they are transgender, intersex or cisgender – their testosterone must be below a stated level in order to compete as a woman.

When you think about it, it is strange that the definition of gender has come down to the level of a particular hormone in the person’s blood. Chromosomes and genitals are no longer an issue. It’s more intriguing when that hormone, testosterone and its variants, is used by some drug cheats to perhaps enhance their performance. Some people say that transgendered people, particularly MtF, should not be allowed to compete because of the advantages gained by growing up with a male bone structure and musculature.  In fact there are plenty of tests to show that a trans-woman who has undergone hormone treatment for a couple of years loses any advantage of her former male life.

It is all a bit of a mess, like a lot of Olympic regulation. The fact is that Olympians are pretty remarkable people, on the extremes of the ranges for fitness, strength, stamina, etc. depending on their event. It is probably pointless comparing an athlete, transgender or otherwise with an “average” human. What’s more there are enough other anomalies in the Olympics regarding gender.  Why is there a women’s heptathlon and a men’s decathlon? Why do female gymnasts move to music in the floor event while men do not? Why did female divers have 5 rounds while men had 6 (or something like that)? My own sport of fencing seems to be one of the few where the rules and classes of competition are now the same for male or female.

The last question I have is: what about non-binary sportspeople? When can we be included?

1606 Hay 3

Back to the fiction and the third episode of Perspective, the story about Jasmine Frame, transsexual detective that is a prequel to the novel, Painted Ladies. (You can find out how to get hold of Jasmine Frame stories on my Jasmine Frame publications page)

Perspective: Part 3

Jasmine didn’t have to think; she gave chase. The boy was already through the doors and heading across the car park. Jasmine sucked air into her lungs and pumped her legs. This was why she wore a loose short skirt over her thick tights and comfortable flat-soled boots. It wasn’t quite her running gear but she was confident that she had sufficient speed.  She was gaining on the boy as he crossed the road beyond the police station, dodging cars and vans.  She too traversed the traffic with barely a nod to irate drivers.

She caught the lad before he launched himself into the mêlée of the roundabout, bundling him to the ground in a semblance of a rugby tackle. He crumpled as if he was made of sticks rather than muscle and bone. Jasmine picked herself up and grabbed the boy by the neck of his hoodie.

‘Hey, whatya doin’. I ain’t done nuffin,’ he complained but made only a token effort to free himself.

‘Why did you run, then?’ Jasmine asked.

The boy ignored her question. ‘you bust my leg, you fuckin’ paedo.’

Jasmine began to haul him along the pavement, which took some effort as he dragged his right leg as if it was injured.  They crossed the road back to the police station compound with a little more regard to the traffic, having waited for a gap in the stream of vehicles. Jasmine pushed him through the doors into the foyer. Her heart sank when she saw Denise Palmerston at the desk talking to GG.

‘What’s going on Frame?’ the DS said, frowning at the two of them. ‘Sergeant  Gorman says this young man came in voluntarily with information.’

The boy stood sullenly rubbing his elbows.

‘Perhaps he did,’ Jasmine said not sure how to explain her actions,’ but I wanted to see him about something else and he ran away from me.’

Palmerston turned to Gorman. ‘Take the boy into the interview room please, Sergeant and see if he needs attention. DC Frame doesn’t seem to have been too gentle.’  The portly desk officer glowered at Jasmine as he left his post at the counter. ‘We’d better have words about this Frame,’ the DS continued.

Gorman emerged through the door and crooked his finger at the boy who slouched off with him. Jasmine and Palmerston followed but stopped at the door to the interview room.

‘Now, what this is all about, Frame,’ the senior officer said.

‘I think this boy and the one who’s been killed, attacked me last night,’ Jasmine said.

Palmerston’s dark eyebrows rose. ‘Tell me about it.’

Jasmine described the previous night’s incident.

The face of the DS darkened. ‘So you are saying that an hour or so after you had your purse stolen, one of your attackers was dying a few hundred metres away.’

Jasmine nodded.

‘How do you know that the youth we have here and the dead boy were the two that mugged you?’

‘I didn’t get a good look at their faces but they look to be the same build, and this kid recognised me. That’s why he ran away.’

‘Recognised you?’

‘My voice.’

A smile appeared on Palmerston’s face. ‘Oh, I see, he picked you out as a tranny.’

Jasmine flushed as she heard the term. She didn’t mind it in general terms; didn’t care if it was used as a term of abuse by kids who didn’t know better, but when her boss who was supposed to be accommodating her transition used it, she felt embarrassment and anger.

Through stiff lips she whispered. ‘Yes, that’s it.’

Palmerston looked smug. ‘What I don’t understand is why we don’t have this information. You did report the attack on you, didn’t you DC Frame?’

This was the question Jasmine had dreaded. ‘No, I didn’t.’

Palmerston feigned shock. ‘You, a police officer, decided not to report a robbery aggravated by a threat with a lethal weapon, an attack on a single woman.’ The final word had an emphasis, a sneer. ‘Why not?’

Jasmine sighed. ‘I was tired. It was cold and dark. They were kids and they’d only got a few quid from me.’

Palmerston snorted. ‘If we all had that attitude Frame and gave up policing when we felt a bit cold and tired, the criminals would be laughing.’

Jasmine knew that she was right and hated her for it. ‘I would have reported it this morning. I’d have tracked down the thieving toe-rags.’

‘Oh, you would, would you? The great investigator, Jasmine Frame, takes on the case of the thieving kids.  Well, it’s all matter of perspective isn’t. You see a budding criminal while I see a victim on a slab with a knife wound through his heart.’

Jasmine didn’t reply. There was nothing to say.

Palmerston went on obviously enjoying Jasmine’s discomfort. ‘Well, we’d better see what this young citizen has to tell us about the incident since he has displayed public-spirit to volunteer the information. Come in with me but do not say a word. Got it?’

Jasmine nodded unhappily and followed the DS into the interview room. They sat down together facing the youth. His dark face had a look of hurt resignation. Slumped on the plastic chair he looked little more than a child.

Denise Palmerston took out her notebook and with her pen poised to write, addressed the boy. ‘Thanks for coming to see us this morning. May I have your name and address, please.’

The boy sniffed as if weighing up whether to answer, perhaps forgetting that he had initiated the interview. ‘Nate Gayle,’ he muttered along with an address on one of the less salubrious of Kintbridge’s estates. Jasmine wasn’t surprised.

‘Thank you, Nate,’ Denise said in her pleasantest voice; it came out somewhat forced to Jasmine’s ears. ‘Now, you told the desk officer that you had information about the incident in Riverside car park last night. Would you like to tell us all about it, please?’

Nate looked at Jasmine. His eyes glared at her. He pointed his finger at her.

‘He did it. He attacked us.’

Jasmine sat back at the force of his accusation.  Palmerston didn’t move.

‘Now Nate, you can see that DC Frame is a woman.’

That brought a laugh. ‘Wot you mean? He’s a bloke. One of ‘em trannies.’

Jasmine wriggled in her seat trying to hold back the response she wanted to make.

Denise spoke softly. ‘You can’t say that, Nate. DC Frame is a transitioning transsexual. You must consider her to be a woman.’

Jasmine could barely believe her ears.  Denise Palmerston defending her? She must be choking on her words.

Nate slouched in his chair. ‘Fucking perv. It was still ‘im wot jumped us.’

Palmerston took a breath. ‘Now Nate, I have a report from DC Frame that it was her that was attacked by you and your friend. Not in the Riverside car park but on the other side of the High Street. So let’s start again shall we.’

Gayle grumbled and sank even lower in his chair.

‘First of all, what is the name of the friend you were with?’

‘Wizzer.’

‘Proper name please.’

‘William Smith.’

‘Good. Now after you left Dc Frame you went over to the Riverside car park.’ Gayle nodded. ‘What happened there?’

‘We weren’t doin’ nuffin.’

‘You were just hanging about?’

‘Yeh, by the loos.’

‘And then?’

Nate looked from Palmerston to Jasmine and back again.  ‘These two guys came along.’

‘Guys?’

‘Well, they looked like ‘er.’ He nodded at Jasmine.

Palmerston frowned. ‘What do you mean?’

‘They were trannies. They both had short skirts and high heels and big hair.’

‘Drag queens,’ Jasmine blurted. How could Gayle think that they looked like her?

‘That’s enough, Frame,’ Palmerston said giving her a look like daggers. She faced Gayle and frowned. ‘Where did they come from?’

‘Town.’

‘Along Dock Lane, from the town centre?’

‘Yeh.’

‘How did you know they were men dressed as women?’

Nate laughed. ‘Looking like they did? Tarts with dicks.’

Palmerston, shrugged. ‘It was dark. Real girls wear short skirts and high-heeled shoes.’

Gayle looked away. ‘They shouted at us.’

‘So their voices gave away that they were male?’

‘Yeh, like ‘im,’ Gayle nodded at Jasmine.

‘What did they say to you?’

‘Don’ remember.’ Nate’s eyes looked away from both officers.

‘Come on, Nate. You heard the voices, you recognised that they were male. You must remember some of the words.’

‘Me Ma said I must never use the word. It’s dis-crim-in-atory.’

‘That’s a long word, Nate, but you say it as if you’ve learned it. Do you know what it means?’

‘Yeh, course I do. Me Ma’s brung me up to know what being mixed race means. Wizzer too.’

‘Ah, so the words these, um, men, used were racial. Do you mean the, er, N word?’

‘Yeh, the fucking N word and others.’

Palmerston nodded. ‘I see Nate. So these men shouted out racial slurs and then . . .’

‘Attacked us.’

Palmerston’s eyes widened. ‘Two mean in miniskirts and wearing high heeled shoes attacked you and Smith?’

‘Yeh, that’s right.’

Jasmine examined Nate Gayle carefully throughout the exchange, looking for signs that he was lying. She was surprised to find that she couldn’t see any although she couldn’t believe for a minute that the two lads hadn’t attacked the queens. Gayle stared directly at the Detective Sergeant without blinking.

‘Did you fight back?’ Palmerston asked.

‘Yeh, course I did. They came in arms all over the place but they were bigger than Wizzer an’ me. One banged the side of me ‘ead. I got out of it and ran down the road.’

‘You ran away from the fight?’

Nate’s eyes dropped. He looked ashamed. ‘Yeh.’

‘What about your friend, Wizzer?’

Nate shook his head. ‘I don’t know. I thought he’d follow me, but I never saw ‘im again.’

…………….to be continued.

 

Jasmine receives a shock

rainbow flagTuesday 17th May is IDAHOT (or IDAHoT) day, the International Day for Action against Homophobia and Transphobia. Public buildings around the world will be flying the rainbow flag of lesbian, gay, bisexual pride. As usual trans gets lumped in with the  LGB or to put it another way transpeople join with LGB people to declare their opposition to discrimination and hate. Since being trans is about personal identity and not sexual preferences it is a questionable whether the T should be in LGBT. However as a smaller minority than the LGB crowd, transpeople need all the support they can get. I am quite happy to support gays and lesbians in their campaign against hate crime and prejudice and I appreciate their acceptance and support for transpeople of all genders or none. Nevertheless, I have been asked whether I feel included in the rainbow flag.
220px-Transgender_Pride_flag.svgThere is a transgender flag, in fact, there are many different designs. Apparently the most commonly seen (shown here) was designed by Monica Helms in 1999 although I can’t recall having seen it fly anywhere. Actually I think it is a terrible design. The blue stands for boys, the pink for girls and the white for intersex (those born with parts of both sets of genitals). It is wrong for so many reasons. First, I would like us to get away from this labelling of pink and blue for girls and boys. Second, the division into two genders leaves out the non-binary or dual gender (whatever term you want to use) people who do not identify with just male or female. Last of all, the structure of the flag suggests that female is confined within the male, reinforcing male supremacy.
The rainbow flag itself has problems. It is not a true rainbow which shows infinite gradations of colour but is in fact a variation on the Newtonian seven colour spectrum (with the blue and indigo combined into royal blue) and suggests divisions between the different “colours”. Oh, and the bottom colour should be a much darker violet.
Why have flags anyway?  Flags were invented to identify which side you were on in a battle or to show possession of a patch of land. Do we really want that symbolism?
Despite that I will show my support in the campaign against hatecrime of all forms on Tuesday by attending  the flying of the flag.

So after that, here is the next episode of Aberration, a prequel to Painted Ladies and Bodies By Design, featuring Jasmine Frame, transsexual detective.

Aberration: Part 3
 
The following evening, James found he was behind the bar with Kevin and another young man, but not Andrea. On the Friday evening though, Andrea was there washing glasses, serving customers, clearing tables. James attempted to engage her in conversation but she wouldn’t stop to chat insisting that there was more work to do. She was the same on Saturday and Sunday evenings, but as they were clearing up in the early hours of Monday morning, Andrea brushed passed James and slipped a piece of paper into his hand.  As he left the pub, James read the note in the light of a streetlamp. It gave the location of a Starbucks in the centre of town and a time, 11 a.m. It ended with a greeting or a request, “See you there. A”.  James smiled, put the slip of paper in his pocket and sauntered home.

Next morning was dry but cooler than it had been.  Nevertheless, Jasmine thought it was summer dress weather. She spent a long time getting ready, striving for that natural, everyday look that took ages to achieve. At last she felt ready to hit the Reading town centre and put on her comfy sandals for the walk.  She found the coffee shop easily enough and entered, surveying the customers for Andy. He was sitting at a table. He saw her as she stepped inside and rose to greet her. They exchanged a nervous kiss on each other’s cheek, then Andy insisted on buying Jasmine a coffee, black unsweetened.
They sat together at the table, set apart, a little further from the others, probably because it was near the loo.  Jasmine guessed that Andy didn’t want his voice overheard.
‘Thanks, Andy,’ she began, ‘It’s nice to get out. Do you come here often?’
Andy nodded, then spoke almost in a whisper. ‘Now and again. Often enough so they know me behind the counter.’
‘Why, here?’
‘It’s the opposite side of the town from home and my family aren’t likely to come in. They’re not fancy coffee drinkers.’ He sipped from his cappuccino.
Jasmine examined the young man. He facial features were a little softer than most blokes but his short hair and button up shirt and jeans meant he didn’t draw attention to himself. He slouched forward, round shouldered, resting his elbows on the table – a typical male pose.
‘You look good,’ Jasmine said.
‘So do you. Really girly.’
Jasmine glowed. ‘Thanks.’ She brushed hair from her face, leaned forward and said quietly, ‘Actually, wearing this wig is bloody hot. I wish I didn’t have to.’
‘Couldn’t you grow your hair? It’s blonde like the wig.’
‘I’d love to but I need short hair for the police force.’
‘They don’t like long hair then?’
‘It’s a matter of fitting in. I don’t want to be taken for a long-haired cissy.’
‘Don’t you want to be female all the time?’ Andy sounded mystified.
‘Hmm,’ Jasmine wasn’t sure how to explain herself, largely because she didn’t know how she felt. ‘Look, I love being Jasmine. It feels natural despite the wig and the false boobs, but I don’t really mind being James.’ James was a cardboard cut-out she stood behind, was more like how she felt. ‘But there’s the career in the Police, which I really want to do, and there’s Angela.’
Andy smiled. ‘Ah, Angela. She’s lovely.’
‘She is. I adore her and want to marry her. She’s really great about Jasmine. We have lots of fun together, but I don’t think she wants to live with her one hundred per cent of the time, especially a Jasmine with real tits and no cock.’
‘So you’re happy to stay as you are?’
‘I think so.’  We’ll have to see, Jasmine thought, we’ve barely set out on our life together. Being a student couple didn’t count. ‘But you’re not,’ she added turning the conversation round to Andy.
His face fell. ‘I can’t get it out of my head. It’s banging away all the time. The feeling that my body’s all wrong.’
‘Well, do something about it,’ Jasmine said with a resolution that she realised she hadn’t applied to herself. ‘You’re an adult. See a doctor. It’ll take time but once you’re on the hormones the changes will happen quickly enough.’
Andy shook his head, ‘But my folks will go bananas. They’ll think I’m an aberration. Wrong in the head.’
Jasmine reached forward to take Andy’s hand in hers. ‘I know it’s difficult. I haven’t told my mother and father anything about Jasmine either.’
‘But you said your sister knows.’
‘Yes.’
‘Well, I haven’t got any brothers and sisters and you don’t know my parents. If I told them I wasn’t their daughter anymore, I’m not sure what would happen.’
Despite Jasmine’s questioning Andy wouldn’t offer any more explanation so she steered the conversation to less problematic areas such as the Athens Olympics. After an hour in the coffee shop they left and went their separate ways.

The days passed. Jasmine celebrated Kelly Holmes’ two gold medals and was inspired to do her own runs most days. She quickly found her fitness returning. The evening shifts behind the bar continued to be a chore but they did at least supplement Angela’s meagre salary as a trainee. At least they were starting to settle into something of a routine and making the most of the time off they had together at the weekends – the daytime anyway. She shared shifts with Andrea some nights but they didn’t chat to each other a lot. Instead, every few days Jasmine met up with Andy for a Starbucks coffee. The staff soon got to recognise them and Jasmine realised that they thought they were a normal girl and boy dating. She could not detect any recognition or reaction to them both being transgendered and she enjoyed the opportunity to be out. When Jasmine told Angela about her observations she laughed.
‘Do I have to worry about you having an affair with another bloke, Jas?’
Jasmine blushed. ‘No. We’re just good friends.’
‘That’s what they all say,’ Angela chuckled.
‘I know, but what I really like is being accepted as me. It’s not like when we were at university surrounded by other students, some of them doing far more weird things than dressing up as the opposite gender. Meeting up with Andy in town is like when we go out shopping or whatever. I’m surrounded by ordinary people who couldn’t care less what I am, or what Andy is.’
Angela nodded. ‘Good. That’s how life should be.’

On a Tuesday night in the pub there were four men at a table, each well into his thirties, having a good time. They were knocking back the pints and whisky chasers and getting louder. James noticed that they seemed to know Kevin well and kept on drawing him into their banter and jokes. James also saw how they treated Andrea. Kevin had told her to serve the group so she was constantly being called out from behind the bar. Andrea had not given into Kevin’s request so was still dressed in her jeans and sloppy t-shirt. This didn’t seem to put off the men.  Hands gripped her thighs and buttocks as if assessing her like a prize ewe. When she leaned down to pick up glasses from the table, one or other of the men would lean forward to gaze at her breasts. James admired how she managed to keep her cool and do no more than ease the hands off her anatomy.  At last the group got up and left the pub blowing kisses to Andrea and Kevin.
Next day, Jasmine met up with Andy at the café. She collected the coffees, it was her turn to buy them and set them down at the table they had come to think of as theirs. Andy stared at the cup.
‘Are you OK, Andy?’ Jasmine said as she sat down.
‘Hmm.’
‘You’re not thinking about last night are you?’
‘Last night?’
‘The way those friends of Kevin pestered you.’
‘Oh, them. No, well I suppose a bit. Girls get that all the time.’
‘Yes, but you don’t have to put up with it. Kevin should have stopped them.’
‘He probably thought I should have been wearing a short skirt to please them a bit more.’
‘If he said that it would be sexual discrimination,’ Jasmine said.
Andy sniffed. ‘Well, he didn’t, and if I threatened him with the law I’d probably lose my job and I can’t risk that.’
‘So what’s the problem.’
He shrugged. ‘A bit of this, a bit of that I suppose.’
The more Jasmine pestered, the less Andy would say but she had never seen him as depressed or withdrawn.  They parted after half an hour hardly having conversed at all.  Jasmine returned home looking forward to an evening off with Angela.

The next day, Thursday, was cooler and damp. Almost autumnal, James thought as he set out for his daily run. He now had a few regular routes which all included sections of the Kennet and Thames river paths. This time, having reached the Kennet, he turned left towards Blakes’ Lock and the town centre. He hadn’t gone far when he met a small cluster of onlookers and his way was blocked by a police barrier.  James stopped and like the others looked upstream.  About fifty yards away a number of uniformed people were milling around on the bank and on the water were two inflatable boats.
‘What’s going on?’ James said to his companions.
A man in his mid-fifties in scruffy jacket and trousers, a fag hanging out of his mouth, coughed. ‘They’ve pulled a body out of the water,’ he said.
‘A dead body?’ James asked, realising it was probably a silly question.
‘’Course, it’s bloody dead. Do you think anyone would go swimming in this?’
James had thought the water seemed fairly clean as he ran beside the rivers but he wouldn’t choose to immerse himself in it.
‘Anyone know who?’ he asked of the gathering not expecting a sensible answer.
‘Someone said it was a girl. She was definitely wearing a short skirt when they pulled her out,’ said a man in an office suit holding an umbrella over his head.
James decided there was no point to standing and gawping and he wasn’t going to be able to follow this route. He turned and started to run in the opposite direction.

At five p.m. he entered the bar. Just Kevin was there, checking the bottles of spirits.  James looked around.
‘Where’s Andrea?’ She was usually there earlier, putting in the hours.
Kevin looked up at him, a blank look on his face. ‘She won’t be in tonight.’
‘Why not? Is she ill?’
‘No, she’s dead. They fished her body out of the Kennet this morning.’

………………..

Jasmine in trouble

A Happy New Year to all my readers whether you are a regular visitor or have just found your way here. I hope you’ll come again and again.

It’s resolution time although I don’t go in for those lists of unattainable goals that are forgotten after a few weeks (or days). I do have a to-do list though and plenty of desires. The most pressing is to market my books more successfully although I am pretty short of ideas of how to achieve that.  Suggestions will be gratefully received and considered.

Being the start of a new year I should have a striking new photo but I don’t – there weren’t any opportunities for posing over the break. So here’s an old one.

Taking a selfie in the dark with the flash on the wrong side.

Taking a selfie in the dark with the flash on the wrong side.

And now the main event – the next episode of Flashlight – the Jasmine Frame, transsexual detective, prequel to Painted Ladies and Bodies By Design.

Flashlight – Part 13

Fear washed through Jasmine like a breaking wave. Had they seen through the cover she and Milla had given themselves?
‘We’re friends,’ she offered.
Kel commented in gruff voice, ‘Looked a damn sight more than friends.’
‘That was so you’d let us in,’ Jasmine said, forcing a cheeky grin.
‘Where’s your “friend” now?’ Amy Baker asked.
Jasmine shrugged as if she didn’t care. ‘Oh, I don’t know. She’s bi-curious. Thinks of me as a bloke in a dress because I’ve still got my you-know-what. She’s gone off to find a real girl who wants to get it on.’
Baker nodded as if she accepted the story.
‘You think she’s being straight with us?’ Jefferson appealed to Baker.
Amy examined Jasmine. ‘Oh, she’s trans alright. I can tell. I thought you could too, Jerome, with your experience even though you’re a man now.’
‘Yeah, well you’ve spoken to her. We could do with someone to replace the Peck girl. But what if she’s a stooge for the competition?’
‘Then we’ll deal with her like we did that runt of a rent-boy and that tranny-fancier.’
Jasmine realised that Baker was referring to Murray and Butler, the two overdose victims; so they were murders not accidental deaths, killed because they worked for the rival drugs gang. She realised that she was dealing with a ruthless operator in Amy Baker. She would have to be very careful to avoid being unmasked or rather de-wigged.
‘It doesn’t do business much good if our stuff gets a reputation for being unreliable,’ Jefferson said.
Baker snorted. ‘We’ve got to show the other lot that we mean business. They did for Natalie because she was stupid enough to take work home with her. They turned my place over looking for stuff. If they’d found any I wouldn’t be here now. I take precautions so they just thought I was a mate of Natalie and roughed me up for the fun of it.’
‘What if the pigs stick their noses in what we’re doing?’
Baker looked unconcerned. ‘As far as they’re concerned a few druggies got a bad dose. They couldn’t care about a bit of business rivalry.’
Jasmine breathed easily again. Baker and Jefferson had underestimated the police interest in the deaths of Murray, Butler and Peck, so she was in the clear – so long as they didn’t decide she was with the established drug suppliers, she was safe, for now.
Baker glanced at her watch. ‘Look the delivery is due soon. I need to check the merchandise. I’ll take Kylie here with me. Give her a test run. Kel can come to make sure she knows her place.’
Jefferson nodded. ‘OK.’
‘You and Dick watch things here. Look out for late entrants. They could be the competition trying to find out where we’re marketing our stuff.’ Amy turned to Jasmine, ‘Come on Kylie, you wanted to find out about the business. But I warn you, one false move and you’re toast. Kel, keep hold of her.’
The beefy bouncer grabbed Jasmine’s arm enthusiastically and dragged her from the room, with Baker, Dick and Jefferson following.
‘Hey, I’m with you, there’s no need to be so rough,’ Jasmine complained. Kel glared at her but loosened his grip. They went down the dimly lit stairs to the rear entrance. The sound of the dance music came through the wall to her right. They emerged into the dark yard where a small Transit van was parked. Kel yanked open the passenger door and pushed Jasmine up into the middle seat. Amy climbed into the driver’s seat then Kel squeezed his bulk in beside Jasmine, jamming her in. Amy set off without a seatbelt having been fixed. Luckily they didn’t have far to drive. Amy took back streets to the edge of a former council housing estate. She turned into the lane between a double row of graffiti-daubed concrete garages.
The Transit pulled up and Jasmine was immediately dragged from her seat by Kel. The three of them formed up in a row facing a garage door illuminated by a small torch held by Amy Baker in one hand. In the other, she had a small key fob which she pressed with her thumb. The whining of an old and much abused electric motor started and the roller door in front of them began to wind itself up.
Jasmine peered into the garage but it was so dark she couldn’t see anything. Then she realised that there was another barrier behind the flimsy old roller door. Amy stepped forward, shining her torch on dark, smooth steel. She inserted a key into a lock. It turned with a deep clunk and the door swung ajar silently. Amy passed through the gap and Kel grabbed Jasmine’s hand dragging her inside with him. The lights went on as the steel door closed with a clang.
Jasmine saw a largely empty space that was not the area of one lock-up garage but three. The walls to the adjacent garages had been replaced by RSJs and breezeblock walls built up behind the old up and over doors that were now just a fake façade. Jasmine looked around. There were a couple of packing cases standing on the concrete floor and in one corner a desk, office chair and an armchair on a square of blue carpet.
Baker sat down behind the desk and looked at her mobile phone.
‘They’ll be here soon,’ she said. ‘Get the kettle on, Kel. Sit down Kylie.’ She pointed to the armchair. Jasmine did as she was told rubbing her bare arms. The night-time air was cool and she’d dressed for the dance-heated atmosphere of the club not a chilly storeroom. Kel busied himself with kettle, mugs and cartons of coffee, sugar and milk.
The kettle had only just whistled when Jasmine heard another noise – a vehicle engine outside the garage.
‘Open the doors,’ Amy ordered, ‘quickly!’ Kel hurried to obey, swinging the steel doors inwards. Immediately a van backed into the garage far enough for Kel to close the doors. The engine stopped and the driver got out. He wore a leather jacket and grubby jeans and had a dark, East European or possibly Turkish appearance. He noticed Jasmine immediately.
‘Who is she?’ he asked in a thick accent.
‘A new recruit,’ Amy Baker said leaving her desk, ‘Don’t worry about her. Get the van unloaded. I don’t want you hanging around.’
The man grumbled but went to the rear of the van and opened the doors. From where she was sitting, Jasmine could see that the van was jammed full of packing cases.
‘On your feet you,’ Amy said to her, ‘You can help even if you are dressed as a party-girl.’
Jasmine helped the dark man and Kel remove the cases from the van and stack them on the floor in the available space of the triple garage while Baker watched, checked labels and gave orders. The labels meant nothing to Jasmine but she guessed that each case contained a sizeable stash of illegal drugs.
Soon the van was empty. Kel started to move towards the kettle.
‘No,’ Amy said, ‘Time for refreshment later. Let’s check out the consignment. Open that box, Kel.’ She pointed to a particular packing case. Kel went to it and ripped the top open. He took out a small package wrapped in clear plastic. Amy went to the desk and opened a drawer. She took something out, closed the drawer, then pushed the office chair from behind the desk and into the space in front of it.
‘Sit down Kylie,’ Amy said.
Jasmine looked suspiciously at the chair and at Amy Baker. She was getting an unsettling feeling about what Baker intended.
‘I’m fine standing,’ she said.
‘Make her, Hassan,’ Amy ordered. Jasmine had no time to think of escape. The dark man grabbed both her arms and dragged her to the chair. He pushed her into it. Jasmine felt fear, surprise and incomprehension. What did Amy mean to do?
‘Hey, I thought I was helping you,’ she said, ‘I want to sell your stuff.’
‘Oh, you are helping,’ Amy said with a hint of glee in her voice, ‘and you will get the chance to use your marketing skills if you and this consignment pass the test.’ She took the package from Kel and ripped it open on the desk. ‘Kel, help Hassan, stop the “lay-dee” from wriggling.’
Jasmine found herself with a man on either side of her, each with a hand holding her forearms against the arms of the chair and their other hands pressing down on her bare thighs. She found it almost impossible to move but decided to sit quietly for a moment and see what Amy intended. She busied herself for a few moments then approached Jasmine carrying a hypodermic syringe.
As the woman approached, Jasmine had an idea of what she intended. She trembled.
‘What are you doing?’ she said unnecessarily.
‘You said you wanted to sell H, heroin. Is that true?’
Jasmine swallowed, ‘Yes, but . . .’
‘Don’t you think you should try out the merchandise before letting your friends buy it from you?’
‘But I’m not a user.’
Amy shook her head in mock dismay. ‘Oh. Come now Kylie, one little shot won’t make you an addict and afterwards you’ll have a better idea of what you are offering your purchasers. There is one little problem, however, and you will be doing us a favour.’
‘What?’
‘Some of our batches have been a little bit over-concentrated. Some of our clients have suffered a tinsy-winsy overdose, somewhat as Mr Murray and Mr Butler did. It’s not good business to kill your customers so it will be very helpful if you test this batch for us.’
‘No . . .’ Jasmine strained against Kel and Hassan’s hands.
‘Hold her still, boys,’ Amy called as she stepped forward.
The needle approached Jasmine’s left arm. She tensed, ready for one last effort.
‘Open up! Police!’ Voices repeated the cry outside the garage. A heavy object crashed against the steel doors.
………………..

Jasmine at work

I’ve been saying it, as others have, for a long time but now there is scientific support – there is no such thing as a male or a female brain and no support for the binary view of gender.  The results are reported in this week’s New Scientist magazine (Brains are not male or female, New Scientist p.8 issue  no.3050 5/12/15).  1400 brains of people aged from 13 to 85, were scanned and could not be sorted into two categories, male and female. People who identified as either male or female shared some but by no means all of 29 features thought to be associated with gender with a spectrum of responses.  Qualities that have been associated with one gender or the other such as obsession with sex (male), gossiping (female), mathematics ability (male) were found to be no predictor of gender. The research team concluded that there are not two types of brain and “that we all lie along a continuum of what are traditionally viewed as male and female characteristics”.

It appears that we are all individuals and while our particular characteristics will determine our gender identity it is cultural influences which have forced people into the gender straitjacket. Those influences are very strong as was revealed in article in last week’s Guardian where even children’s nurses were testing language development by choosing gender stereotypical topics regardless of the particular interests of the child.

The moral is, do not accept any statement of the sort “Men are from Mars and Women from Venus”, or, only a man can read a map. That is complete, utter, nonsense. And resist being forced into classing yourself as either male or female if you feel your are neither, both or in-between.

IMGP4799

There. Now onto the next episode of Flashlight, the Jasmine Frame prequel to Painted Ladies and Bodies By Design. We’ve reached part 10 and Jasmine makes her first tentative appearance as a plainclothes police officer.

Flashlight: Part 10

James stared into the wardrobe. What did he have that was suitable to be worn as a female detective?  Female uniformed officers wore pretty much the same outfit as the men but in plainclothes they were more diverse even if a dark suit was the most common choice of both genders. It wasn’t a dilemma that had influenced Jasmine’s shopping pattern previously.
He had to make a decision quickly because he didn’t want to keep Milla waiting. She was sitting in their lounge, catching up with DC Money on her phone. What would Angela think, he thought? Another woman witnessing his transformation into Jasmine Frame.
He made his choice and pulled a plain dark blue skirt from the wardrobe and a light blue t-shirt from the chest of drawers. He stripped naked and quickly pulled on knickers, sheer tights, and bra. She tucked in her silicone breasts and put on the skirt and t-shirt. Jasmine looked in the mirror. It was a sensible enough outfit for a police detective, especially if she put a light jacket over it.  There was another necessity – make-up. She hurried into the bathroom and quickly applied foundation, eye shadow and lipstick. It was a familiar routine and she could do it without much delay. Finally, back in the bedroom she pulled the blonde wig on to her head. She didn’t like wearing it but with her hair cut short for her male look, the wig aided her femininity. She slipped her feet into a pair of black pumps and emerged into the lounge.
‘Well,’ Milla said looking up from her phone. ‘I don’t think I would have recognised you as being PC Jim Frame. You look great. Most women detectives favour trousers. . .’
‘I don’t have any female trousers – not for the summer anyway.’
‘That’s OK. I sometimes wear a skirt. Are you ready?’
‘Yes.’ Jasmine checked her pockets again; keys, phone, notebook, warrant card – except she wouldn’t be able to show that – handcuffs.
‘Right, let’s go. I’ve got Amy Baker’s address from Keith.’
Jasmine followed Milla from the flat, locking the door behind her.
‘How’s DC Money getting on with his investigation?’ Jasmine asked as they went down the stairs.
‘He’s made some progress. He’s spoken to a couple of his informants and apparently the regular drug dealers are on edge because of the new stuff appearing. No leads on Natalie’s killers yet though.’
‘It could be dangerous if there’s a drug war starting,’ Jasmine said.
They reached the car and quickly set off for the address that Milla had received. Jasmine recognised that it was just a few streets away from where she and Gavin had found Natalie Peck’s body.
They pulled up outside the three story Victorian terrace house, now split into at least five flats.
‘This doesn’t look right,’ Milla said pointing out the broken glass in the bay window of the ground floor of the property.
Jasmine got out of the car and looked into the garden. There was a drawer on the untidy lawn with knickers and bras spilled out of it. Milla ran up to the front door. It was open. Jasmine followed her into the hall of the building.
‘This is Amy’s flat,’ Milla said pointing to the door which had a number 1 on it. It too was ajar. Milla tapped. There was a groan from inside. Milla pushed the door open. Jasmine saw at a glance that it was actually just a bedsit with kitchen, living space and bed all in one room and that it was a mess. Cupboards and drawers were open and their contents strewn over the bed, floor and small sofa.
Amy was lying on the floor. Jasmine recognised her but as she knelt by her side she saw that she did not look the same as she had in Natalie’s flat. There was a darkening bruise around her left eye and a small trickle of blood from her swollen nose. She was stirring, trying to sit up.
Jasmine put her arms around her shoulders.
‘Do you feel OK to move, Amy?’ Jasmine said. ‘Where does it hurt?’
‘All over,’ the woman moaned. ‘Ow, my head.’ She put a hand to her forehead, gently touching her left eyebrow. Her hand jerked away. Jasmine helped her to her feet and put her onto the sofa.
Milla was searching around the room, turning over the belongings scattered everywhere.
‘How long ago did this happen?’ she asked.
Amy looked at Milla, ‘Not long. A few minutes? I may have been out of it. Who are you?’
‘DC Sparrow. This is DC Frame.’
‘What are you doing here?’ Amy asked in a shaky voice.
‘Can I get you some water?’ Jasmine said, moving to the kitchen area.
‘Yes, please.’
There was broken glass and crockery on the floor and around the sink unit and work top. Jasmine stepped carefully and found a glass that was in one piece. She washed it under the tap and filled it with cold water. She returned to Amy and handed it to her.
‘Thanks.’
‘Who was it?’ Milla asked.
Amy took the tumbler from her lips. ‘I don’t know. Two men, one black, one white, young. I’ve never seen them before. Why did you come?
‘We came to ask you some more questions about Natalie Peck.’
‘Oh.’
‘Is this related to what happened to Natalie?’ Jasmine asked.
‘I don’t know,’ Amy said, ‘Why did Natalie die?’
‘We think she was killed by a drug gang,’ Milla explained, ‘What did you know about Natalie’s drug dealing?’
Amy shook her head slowly. ‘I don’t know anything. I told that other detective that.’
‘Well, what were the men looking for when they turned you over?’ Milla pressed.
‘I don’t know,’ Amy repeated.
DC Sparrow pressed on. ‘Were they looking for the drugs that you have been selling?’
‘I don’t,’ Amy glared at Milla with her left eye partly closed. ‘I don’t know what they were looking for.’
Milla sighed. ‘I think we’d better get you to A&E, Amy.’ She turned to Jasmine and handed her the car keys, ‘You take her. I’ll stay here and call in soco and some officers to keep an eye on the place. I’d better get Keith down here. We’ll need to speak to the neighbours in this property and next door. See if anyone saw anything.’
‘Okay. What should I do when I’ve got Amy to the hospital?’ Jasmine said.
‘Stay with her. It doesn’t look as though she’s poorly enough to be kept in but that eye needs looking at. I’ll come and join you as soon as I’ve handed over to Money.’
‘And it gets me out of the way,’ Jasmine said.
Milla stepped closer to her and whispered, ‘Yes, I know you don’t want other officers to see you, but get to know her more. There must be a reason why the drug gang came looking for stuff here. Do they think she was dealing too?’
Jasmine bent down to speak to Amy. ‘Do you feel OK to come in the car. We’ll get the nurses to sort you out?’
Amy nodded and pushed herself painfully from the sofa.
Jasmine gave her a helping hand towards the door. ‘Do you want a coat? It’s quite warm out but we don’t want you feeling shivery.’
Amy pointed to a heap of coats fallen behind the door. Jasmine picked out a light waterproof and handed it to Amy. They left the flat with Milla already speaking rapidly into her phone.

Jasmine put Amy into the passenger seat then they drove off towards the hospital.
‘Have I met you before?’ Amy said still sounding a bit groggy.
‘No,’ Jasmine lied, ‘but I know you were a friend of Natalie Peck and were supporting her through her transition.’
‘Oh, yes.’
‘Had you known her long?’
Amy spoke slowly, ‘We met at a support group, a couple of years ago. I was getting over my g.r.s. and she was hoping to start.’
‘She must have been grateful to have you helping her along. It’s a long and difficult process.’
‘Hmm, yes.’
‘Was there anyone else? Family, friends? Did she have any financial support?’
‘No, no-one, nothing. A few people we both knew, other TSes, but no-one close.’
‘No work?’
‘Some odd jobs. Employers don’t want trannies, especially when they’re stuck in between.’
Jasmine nodded.
‘What about you? Have you got a job?’
Amy snorted then groaned. ‘Sort of. Cashier at the supermarket. But they only want me on nights.  Zero-hours contract. You know. Like it or lump it.’
‘I understand. Natalie must have found money a problem. The NHS doesn’t cover everything a transitioning trans-woman needs and neither does job-seeker’s allowance.’
‘You seem to know a lot about transition,’ Amy said, turning her head painfully to examine Jasmine. ‘Are you. . .?’
‘Transitioning? No.’ Jasmine stared at the traffic ahead, ‘But I understand how Natalie could have been driven into drug dealing.’
‘She wasn’t on drugs – not that sort of drug anyway.’
‘I know but she was selling them to people who were.’
‘I don’t know anything about that.’
‘Somebody thought you did.’
They pulled into the hospital approach road. Jasmine found a parking space then helped Amy out of the car and into the A&E department.
……………….

Jasmine revealed

The name is Frame, Jasmine Frame

I’ve lived with Jasmine Frame in my head for about fourteen years now. Strangely, I can’t recall exactly when I decided to start writing stories about a transsexual detective. I chose the surname Frame because it seemed slightly unusual and had certain allusions such as “being framed”, and “in the frame”, hence the story titles with photography or art or mirrors in them. For the forename I wanted something a little bit exotic (so I thought) which a trans person might choose as their femme name. Jasmine Frame seemed to have a pleasant ring to it. I thought it might be unique but there are apparently a few Jasmine Frames in the world and it’s become a fairly common girl’s name. Jasmine’s original, male name came later when I started to create her backstory. I chose James as it shared the initial (as my male and femme names do) was unmistakeably male, (Jamie is genderless, but James is not), was fairly common when she was born in 1983 and is a middle class name (at least I think it is).

I’ve now written (almost) three Jasmine Frame novels, I’m on the sixth novella and there are two early short stories. That means I have also made up quite a long list of other names. Some characters appear frequently, such as Tom Shepherd, DCI Sloane and Angela, others are short-lived (literally) or are bit-part players. For each, choosing their name is a pleasure and a chore. The name has to feel right – don’t ask me what that means as I can’t define it precisely. I avoid surnames that may be confused with other characters and have grammatical problems (any name ending in s for example). I try to choose forenames to match the age of the character and their background. Choosing names of characters from other ethnic groups is quite difficult as I don’t know many personally; names of cricketers are a frequent source.

Many of the names I have used are pretty nondescript and possibly fairly common but today I had the shock of chatting to someone for the first time who turned out to have the name of one of my characters. I’m not saying who. Strangely it wasn’t one of the commoner surnames that I have used. My first thought was that I must change the name in the story – perhaps I will if and when it is edited for publication – but then I thought, so what. It was a fairly random process of selection and pure chance that I should choose a name already in use. What I should say is that all the characters and events in my stories are fictional and no named character has any intentional similarity to a real person of the same name.

Taking a selfie in the dark with the flash on the wrong side.

Taking a selfie in the dark with the flash on the wrong side.

So, on with the current prequel. In the ninth episode of Flashlight, Jasmine/James it put on the spot.

Flashlight: Part 9

DC Sparrow didn’t say anything but continued to look around the dingy, dirty lavatory. She sniffed, turned and headed towards the exit.
‘Come on, Jim. We’ve seen enough here for now. Let’s go and have a chat.’
James followed her as they retraced their steps and strode out of the club. They didn’t see the cleaner again. They walked swiftly along the lane back to the main street still without speaking. They came to a coffee shop, a familiar chain, and Milla entered with James on her heels.
‘What do you want, Jim?’
‘Black please.’
‘Take a seat. I’ll get them.’
James looked around. There were a few tables occupied and there were easy chairs as well as the usual café furniture. He chose a small table with just the two chairs where there weren’t any near neighbours. He sat down and realised he was trembling slightly. Milla was going to question him he was sure; ask him what he had to explain.
Milla arrived quite soon with James’ black coffee and her cappuccino. She sat down opposite James and stared at him. He waited for the inevitable question.
‘So, you’re trans.’
‘What!’ James flushed, ‘Yes, but how. . .’
There was a smile on Milla’s face, a self-satisfied smile. She was pleased that her deduction had been proved by his reaction to be correct.
‘I’ve been watching you, Jim, since we met yesterday and listening to you. You visit a club that caters for the LGBT crowd on nights that are particularly aimed at trans people. Yes, I’ve looked at the Marquis’ website. You’ve shown special interest whenever a trans connection has arisen – Natalie of course, Butler’s liking for transwomen, the trans-man that sold you the heroin; I’ve seen you frown when Sloane and Money refer to Natalie as “he”; and you visit a ladies’ loo. Simple really.’
James felt sick. ‘Is it really that obvious?’
‘No, of course not. I doubt Sloane or Money have noticed anything at all, but I’ve spent more time with you and being a bit out of the ordinary myself, I suppose I tune in to these clues of diversity in others.’
James relaxed a little. Milla was right. As a female police officer, still a minority, and as an out lesbian –  a minority in a minority, not rare but scattered and isolated perhaps – she would be sensitive to the attitudes of her colleagues. He was the same; always aware of comments about trannies made, often inadvertently, by people who didn’t know his background; the unthinking prejudice of people who didn’t think they were in the company of a transgendered person
‘So, come on, Jim. Tell me about it. What is it with you? Frilly knickers under the trousers or are you on hormones?’
James winced but lifted his cup and sipped his still hot coffee. He’d never been one of the lingerie-hidden-by-male-clothes brigade and taking female hormones was something he thought about but had not broached with Angela. How much should he, could he, tell? Angela was the only person who really knew most of what there was to know about James and Jasmine.  There had been other friends in their circle at university but since being in the force it was something they had kept private, wary of the effect on his career if he was found out. Now it seemed he might be. He had to trust Milla; there was no choice.
‘It’s neither,’ he said quietly, examining Milla’s face; she was listening closely,’ but more in some ways. Uh, this is difficult. I haven’t had to explain what I feel for a long time. Angela has always known. In fact, she met Jasmine before James.’
‘Jasmine?’
‘My femme name. I chose it when I was a kid, when I started playing around with girl’s clothes – my sister Holly’s at first. I realised then that there was this urge, this need, inside me to be a girl.’
‘You’re transsexual?’
James shrugged. ‘I don’t know. At first all I knew was that I felt, sort of, comfortable when I was Jasmine. Then I thought that I must be a transvestite or cross-dresser because I swapped between being James and Jasmine. I wasn’t especially unhappy being a boy, or a man, so I didn’t quite feel like one of those people who get suicidal if they can’t transition. I suppose it was because Angela and I met when we were pretty young.’
‘She goes along with it?’
‘More than that. She accepts that Jasmine and James are one person, that sometimes I’ll look like a man and sometimes I’ll be female. Actually she sees more of Jasmine these days.’
‘Why?’
‘Being Constable James Frame when I’m on duty means I’m more eager to be Jasmine when I’m at home, with Angela.’
‘Just at home?’
‘No, I, we, go out. We try to avoid places round here where we might meet up with people that know me as James but we go to Kintbridge, Basingstoke, other places. There’s a trans support group, Butterflies, that meets not far out of town. We get to it when I can.’
‘But you’re not thinking of transitioning and becoming DC Jasmine Frame?’
‘No.’ That wasn’t the truth and James knew it. Day by day the feeling in him was growing that Jasmine was the person he wanted to be, that his gender identity was female. He kept it to himself, not even Angela knew the true strength of his feeling although he wondered if she suspected. They were a few years passed the first flush of lust in their relationship but they were still young. Most people in love, Angela included, might expect to have sex more often than they were doing it.
‘Hmm.’ Sparrow pondered.
‘Look, can you keep it secret,’ James appealed. ‘There are officers who are alcoholics, gamblers, having affairs. They keep a lid on things and can sometimes get through it. This isn’t like that at all, I’m not harming anyone; it doesn’t affect my ability to perform as a police officer. It’s private.’
Milla looked at him, her eyes searching his. ‘I understand that Jim. I have no intention of telling tales about you. It doesn’t matter if you spend all your time in a dress when you’re not on duty. If you want to keep it secret, I won’t tell anyone.’
James sighed. A weight seemed to lift off him. ‘Thanks.’
‘But,’ Milla said. James tensed. ‘This case seems to have transgender issues woven through it. The Marquis is the focus and it caters for trans people as well as gays and lesbians. Your knowledge of the trans world could be invaluable.’
‘That’s what Angela said,’ James said. ‘She said I should tackle it as Jasmine.’
Milla nodded. ‘I’d like to meet Angela. I think we’d get on. She’s right. We need Jasmine Frame on this case.’
James tingled with anticipation. Joy at the thought of being Jasmine but fear at being outed. ‘But what about DCI Sloane. I don’t want him to know about me. Not yet, perhaps not ever if I have any chance at joining the unit. Nor Money.’
Neither spoke. Both lifted their coffee cups to their lips finding them cool. At last Milla spoke. ‘We can do it. Sloane is hardly in the office. He just calls in to see how we’re doing. Keith does his own thing. You and me are a team, Jim. We can do our investigating together – you as Jasmine – and the others don’t need to know.’
Relief washed through James. ‘OK. Thanks Milla. What do we do now?’
Milla got out her notebook and flicked through the pages. ‘We need to talk to the people who run the Marquis but they’re not going to be around till this afternoon, are they.’
‘That’s what the cleaning guy said.’
Milla glanced at her watch. ‘We’ve got a few hours yet. Hmm.’ She paused. ‘I think we need to find out more about Natalie.’
‘Yes,’ James said, ‘There was her friend who found her body.’
Milla searched her notebook. ‘That’s right, Amy Baker.’
‘She’s trans too.’
‘Is she?’
‘You didn’t know?’
‘It didn’t come up when Keith questioned her, but he was only concerned about Natalie then.’
‘She’s post-op, completed all the treatment, except the hormones – you have to take those for the rest of your life.’
‘How did you find all this out, Jim?’ Milla asked.
‘It wasn’t much, a few moments of conversation. The paramedics were dealing with Natalie’s body. Gavin and I were waiting for SOCO and you lot to arrive. Gavin was dashing around putting up tape, while I was looking after Amy. She was pretty emotional.’
‘Not surprising since her friend was dead.’
‘Which is possibly why she revealed herself to me. I said about Natalie being trans and Amy said she was supporting her through her transition because she had been through it herself. That was all really.’
‘She told Keith that she had no idea where the drugs had come from,’
James frowned. ‘I wonder? She may have been covering for her friend, even though she was dead.’
‘You could be right. We need to speak to her again. I have her address.’
James started to rise from his chair. ‘Great. Let’s go and see her.’
Milla grinned at him. ‘First, I’m taking you home.’
‘Why?’ James was confused.
‘I think we might get more out of Amy if she met Jasmine.’
……………………….

Jasmine revisits the club

Amongst this week’s discussion about the Chancellor’s  Autumn Statement and continued jingoistic calls to bomb Syria to “end the IS threat” (both miracles of obfuscation) was one little bit of non-news – a preview of the new film “The Danish Girl” with an interview with Eddie Redmayne. That this was on the main BBC news was news in itself – a film about the first surgically gender-reassigned transsexual in mainstream cinemas (we hope).  The report focussed on the miraculous change that has occurred in the last seven years. Then there was no interest or money for making the film, now there is and a Hollywood star more than prepared to play the part. It is part of and the result of the remarkable focus on transsexuality by the media, particularly in the last two years. No doubt there will also be discussion (and complaints) about the part being played by a man. Should it be played by a trans-woman? Since apparently a good part of the film is about the subject’s life before the operation then it would be appropriate to use a pre-op transsexual or a cross-dresser in the part not a post-op trans-woman. However, I know of no A-rated actor who claims to be either of those (which is a pity). In the absence of a suitable trans-actor I am quite happy to see Redmayne in the role and in fact he looks fantastic in the few cliups that have been shown so far. So following Spectre and Star Wars, “The Danish Girl” is next on my list of films to watch.

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Anyway back to my own transsexual character, Jasmine Frame, detective. A reminder that both novels featuring Jasmine are available in paperback from ellifont (go to the Jasmine Frame Publications page) and on Kindle. Here however is the next episode of the prequel:

Flashlight: Part 8

James had a problem when he got up the following morning. What was he to wear? Being a uniformed officer was simple. He just put on the regulation trousers, shirt and shoes and he was ready. Now though he was a plain clothes detective and he didn’t have much to choose from. There were more of Jasmine’s clothes in the wardrobe than James’ – dresses, skirts, tops, dainty sandals with heels. Apart from a couple of pairs of jeans and casual stuff there was just one formal male suit, a lightish grey. He wore that to weddings the he and Angela were invited to. Their old university friends were getting married at the rate of one or two or year so the suit had a few outings. It was no longer new. There was nothing else; it had to be the suit.

Dressed and breakfasted, James said good bye to Angela and set off for the police station. He thought he was early, it was just after eight o’clock. It was a shock to find the small office they had been allocated filled by DCI Sloane and DCs Sparrow and Money.
‘Ah, Frame,’ Sloane greeted him not too impatiently, ‘we start early here. There’s a lot to get done.
James apologised. ‘Uh, yes, Sir. Sorry, Sir, I’ll be in earlier tomorrow.’
‘Come and sit here, Jim,’ Milla said indicating a wooden chair next to hers. James squeezed passed the desks and joined Milla and Money in a line facing Sloane.
Milla leaned her head towards James and said softly. ‘We’re deciding on our strategy for the day,’
‘How far did you get with the owners of the Marquis?’ Sloane asked Money.
The DC looked at his notes. ‘They’re based in London. They look clean; no sign of any criminal activity. Of course they could just be clever.’
‘Hmm, yes.’ Sloane mused, ‘This Marquis place needs a closer look. I think that’s your job, Sparrow. Take Frame with you. Money, get on to Forensics.  I want the detailed report on Peck and that sample that Frame handed in a.s.a.p. Also, Money, you’ve got the contacts. Find out what the established dealers have to say about these deaths.’
‘Yes, Sir,’ Money replied.
‘Now, I’ve got to be elsewhere.’ Sloane lifted his bulk from the chair. ‘Keep me informed by phone.’ He left and pulled the door closed behind him.
‘Off you go then you two,’ Money growled, ‘Leave me with a bit of peace and quiet.’
Sparrow picked up her bag and led James from the office. As James closed the door he said in a quiet voice.
‘Is DC Money OK? He seems a bit, er, grumpy.’
‘That’s Keith,’ Milla said heading off down the corridor. ‘He’s been in this job for quite a few years, considers himself Sloane’s man but has never been promoted to DS. He’s a bit unreconstructed actually; wary of women, not happy about gays and lesbians although he hides it as much as he can.’
What would he make of a trannie, James wondered?
They reached the car park. Milla dug in her bag for the keys and chucked them to James. He was grateful that he caught them.
‘You know where we’re going. You drive.’
They got into the Focus. James adjusted the drivers’ seat but didn’t have to move it much – Milla was no more than an inch shorter than he was. He soon had them moving out into the traffic.
Milla rested back in the passenger seat. ‘Tell me about yourself, Jim. There wasn’t much time yesterday. How long have you been a cop?’
‘Nearly five years. Ever since I finished university. I was lucky enough to get accepted straight away.’
‘So a graduate. You’re ambitious then?’
James glanced at her. She was smiling, so not pissed off because he had a degree and was a supposed fast-tracked entrant.  ‘I suppose so. You sort of get on the conveyor belt and go where you’re sent.’
‘But you want to be a detective?’
‘Yes. That’s been at the back of my mind ever since I joined up. I’ve been waiting for the opportunity to arise, I suppose.’
‘And now it has.’
‘Well, temporarily.’
‘Yes, but with me moving there is a vacancy. Make a good impression on Sloane and he’ll have you in my place in no time.’
How do I impress Sloane, James thought, and how do I keep Jasmine hidden?
‘I think you mentioned that you’re married,’ Milla questioned further.
‘Yes, Angela. We met at uni., Bristol, got married as soon as I finished basic training.’
‘She’s not a cop then?’
‘No. She’s an accountant. Deals with big companies. Not really sure what she does. She’s up in London quite a lot these days.’
‘No children?’
‘Not yet. I think it will be a while before we do. We’re both into our careers, I suppose.’
‘And what do you do when you’re not policing?’
‘I run and we both like films, classics more than blockbusters, and dancing.’
‘So that was why you visited the Marquis, to dance.’
‘Yes.’ James didn’t add that it was mainly a chance to go out as Jasmine.

They reached the area of town where the Marquis was situated and managed to find a parking space. They got out and walked to the front entrance of the former pub. The glass in the windows had been replaced by opaque panels and the entrance was closed and locked. There was no bell or knocker. Sparrow thumped on the wooden door. It was secured firmly so didn’t even rattle and the thud didn’t appear to carry. They waited a few moments but there was no sign of a response.
‘Let’s try round the back,’ Milla said. She set off with James a step behind. They walked around the block and into a narrow lane that led to the rear of the buildings. They came to the Marquis which was secured by a chicken wire fence. A wire gate was open. They entered the yard. On their left was a skip full of cardboard and another for waste. To the right was a heap of crates of bottles and beer barrels. A metal door with an emergency release bar was wedged open.
Milla took her warrant card from her pocket and stepped inside. ‘Hello, anyone there? Police.’
James followed. There was an answering call from inside the building. They followed a short corridor and emerged into the main room of the club that James recognised. There were a few dim lights on but otherwise the room was in shadows.
A young man emerged from the gloom carrying a wide sweeping brush. He was wearing torn, denim shorts and a grubby t-shirt.
‘Hi,’ he said when he saw them, ‘did you say Police?’
James raised his hand to display his card and Mila flashed hers. ‘That’s right, we’re on an investigation. We’d like to speak to the owners.’
The cleaner shook his head. ‘They’re not here. We never see the owners.’
‘A manager then? Whoever runs the place?’
‘Oh, that would be the organisers of the club nights but they’re not here now. It doesn’t open till nine. They won’t be here till later this afternoon.’
‘What about you?’
‘I just clean up. Make sure the place is ready for the next session.’
Milla looked around at the empty dance floor obviously pondering what to do next.  The hall looked very different to James without the flashlights and the lasers and the thumping music. There was the usual stale smell of sweat and spilt beer.
‘Do you mind if we look around?’ Milla said although it was not really a query.
‘Yeah, fine. What are you looking for?’
‘We’ll keep that for the manager, these organisers that you referred to.’
The young man shrugged and returned to his sweeping.
Milla turned to James. ‘Show me around, Jim. This is familiar?’
‘Yes,’ James said peering into the darkness at the edges of the room, ‘The DJ plays from over there,’ he pointed, ‘the bar’s at the other end and along both sides there are private, well, sort of private, rooms.’
‘What do you mean “sort-of-private”?’
James hesitated, surprised to find himself embarrassed. ‘Well they’re small rooms with comfy sofas and couches where people go to have, er. . .’
‘Sex?’ Milla grinned, ‘Come on, James. You’re a detective now, you can’t be a prude. People like to have sex in different places and sometimes with people watching. I suppose that happens?’
James nodded, ‘Yes, people wander in and out watching others at it.’
‘Hmm, and sharing drugs?’
‘I think so. Certainly cannabis. Probably other stuff.’
‘And where did they get it. Presumably not at the bar.’ Milla was still grinning, ‘Show me where you met Natalie and this trans-man who sold you the H.’
James lead Milla into the darkness, along a corridor and then through a door into the lavatory. A dim grey light came through a wired window high on one wall. There was a strong smell of urine and other noxious odours. The floor was strewn with towels. James noticed one or two used condoms amongst the debris. Obviously the cleaner hadn’t been in here yet.
James pointed to the row of cubicles. ‘There, the middle one. That’s where they both were.’
Milla stepped forward, pushed the cubicle door open and peered in.
She turned to face James. ‘Hey Jim, this is the Ladies. What were you doing in here?’
James felt a huge heavy lump in the middle of his chest. He couldn’t think of a credible lie but could he trust DC Sparrow?
‘Um, Milla, there’s something I’ll have to explain.’
……………