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?’
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.’
‘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.’
‘It was Palmerston.’
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.

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?’


‘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.’


‘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?’


‘Along Dock Lane, from the town centre?’


‘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.’
‘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.
‘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.’
‘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.


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.
‘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.’
‘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.’
‘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.’
‘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.


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.’

Jasmine joins the team

Since writing the last blog we have spent a day in London visiting two exhibitions – The Celts at the British Museum and Cosmonauts at the Science Museum.  There are no connections between the two other than my interest in Celtic history, art and culture and anything to do with space. Celtic civilisation influenced my vision of the Land, Gwlad, in Evil Above the Stars but you won’t find any direct links to Celtic history there.

What did strike me about both exhibitions was the possibilities for “what if”. The Celts defeated Rome early in its history. What if they prevented the rise of the Roman Empire? The Russians were almost ready to go for the Moon except their big rocket kept failing. What if the Russians got to the Moon before the Americans? So many possibilities for alternate histories.  Ideas, ideas . . .


Anyway back to ideas that I have got round to developing – the latest prequel to Painted Ladies and the origins of Jasmine Frame, transsexual detective.  Here is the next episode in Flashlight.

Flashlight: Part 5

‘Inspector Metcalfe said you had asked for me, Sir,’ James said aware that there was an uncertainty in his voice.
‘Yes, Frame,’ Sloane replied. ‘We need some extra staff on this case. My sergeant and the rest of the team are otherwise engaged. You know about the Marquis club which may be the source of the drugs that killed the victim and you seem to know something about these transsexuals.’
James saw DC Money’s eyebrows rise.
‘I hope I can assist you, Sir,’ James said.
‘I hope so too, Frame. Now Money, you’d better start your summary again.’
The detective constable looked at his notebook. ‘Preliminary lab tests show that Peck was killed by a massive overdose of heroin. It looks like she was injected with a dose that was much purer than the average street supply but the post-mortem suggests that Peck wasn’t a frequent user.  There were no signs of hypodermic marks on the body. Peck isn’t on any list of known addicts.’
‘Thank you, Money,’ Sloane said. ‘What have you got, Sparrow?’
The female officer looked at her own notebook. ‘There is no sign of drugs in the victim’s flat other than the dregs in the syringe used to administer the fatal dose. But SOCO think it looks as though the victim’s belongings have been searched, Sir. The drawers and wardrobe had signs that they’d been disturbed.’
‘Are you sure he wasn’t just untidy?’ Money asked.
James noticed Money’s use of the male pronoun.
Sparrow frowned. ‘The friend says that Natalie was meticulous about her clothes – a bit OCD in fact. Everything had its place.’
‘Alright’ Sloane said interrupting before Money could respond. ‘Let’s accept that Peck’s flat has been searched and items possibly removed. It reinforces the differences between this death and the others.’
‘Others?’ James found himself blurting out.
‘Yes, Frame. Sparrow will get you up to speed soon.  This investigation started out looking at the deaths of two known addicts in the last week. Like Peck they were killed by an overdose of unusually pure heroin. But it looks as though Peck was murdered using the drugs that he was dealing.’
‘Were the other victims trans?’ James asked.
Sloane looked surprised as if the idea had never arisen. ‘Money?’ he said.
Money shook his head. ‘No Sir.  Murray was a rent boy, pulling tricks to pay for his habit. Butler was a single bloke, occasional user, bit of a loner.’
Sloane scratched his chin as he mused, ‘the only link is that the heroin that killed each of them probably came from the same pure batch.’
‘The sample Constable Frame provided was the same, Sir.’ DC Sparrow said, reaching behind her to pick up a sheet pf paper from the desk she was resting her bottom on.
‘You have a lab report already?’ Sloane said.
Sparrow nodded. ‘Just a preliminary one, Sir. You did ask for it to be fast-tracked. It’s confirmed as being heroin of unusual purity. It’ll take longer to get a full analysis and comparison.’
Sloane turned to James. ‘Well there you are Frame. The sample you purchased has suggested a link between this Marquis place and the three deaths, including the murder of one of the dealers.’
James felt a glow as if he had already made a contribution to the team’s work
‘What does it mean Sir?’ Money asked.
‘Can’t you work it out, Money?’ Sloane said with a note of exasperation. ‘We’ve got a new batch of heroin probably being sold by new suppliers muscling in on existing dealers’ territory. I’d surmise that Peck was killed by the oldsters using his own stock and that his death was a warning to the incomers. If we don’t get to the bottom of it soon we could have a major gangland feud on our hands.’
‘That’s serious, boss.’ Money said.
‘You’re right for once. So we’ve got to get to work.  This link with the Marquis suggests that the new owners may be involved. You get on to them Money. See if they have any history.’
‘Yes, Sir,’ DC Money said pushing himself erect and moving around the desk to sit at the computer.
‘What about, me?’’ Sparrow asked.
‘Go over the files on Murray and Butler, with Frame, here. See if you can find out who their supplier was. Perhaps there is a link with Peck.’
‘Yes, Sir.’ Sparrow said. James felt pleased that he was going to work with the young woman instead of Money.
‘Well, get on then,’ Sloane said impatiently as he headed for the door, ‘I need to report to the Superintendent. Warn him that we might have an intrusion from outside the area and the consequences that could bring.’  He departed.
DC Sparrow went to sit at Sloane’s desk. ‘Come and sit down next to me she said smiling at James, ‘Oh, we don’t have a spare chair.’
‘Don’t know why we have to work here anyway?’ Money grumbled. ‘We could just as easily do this investigation from Kintbridge.’
‘Oh stop grumbling, Keith,’ Sparrow said grinning, ‘don’t mind him, uh, I don’t know your first name Constable?’
‘It’s James. I’ll go and find another chair. I know this building pretty well.’
James hurried out into the corridor feeling elated. He was part of a plainclothes investigation team working on a big case involving drug gangs and murder. It was what he’d always wanted.
It took moments to find a vacant chair and return to the office. He placed the chair next to DC Sparrow who was sorting through the papers that Sloane had left on the desk.
‘Well done, James,’ she said and again James received a warm smile, ‘By the way I don’t think DCI Sloane introduced me fully. My name is Camilla, but most people call me Milla.’
‘Oh, thanks. My friends call me Jim,’ James replied.
‘Glad to have you with us, Jim. I’ve got a feeling we’re going to be pretty busy. Sloane likes to get results quickly.’ Milla picked up a sheaf of papers. ‘Have a look through these.  This is what we’ve got on Murray and Butler.’
‘I thought it would all be online,’ James said.
‘It is,’ Milla said, ‘but Sloane likes paper. He’s a bit old-fashioned.’
Money, head close to his screen, grunted. ‘A bit?’
‘We don’t have a spare computer here at the moment, Jim. I need this one.’ Sparrow pointed to the screen pushed to the edge of the desk. ‘I know it’s cramped in here but make yourself as comfortable as you can.’
‘I’ll manage,’ James said. He put the pile of papers down on the edge of the desk leaving plenty of room for Milla to work. He began reading the reports on the deaths of the two overdose victims. Most of it was factual reports of the discovery of the bodies and the reports by scene of crime officers and the pathology team. James looked for clues about the victims lives. Murray’s body had been discovered by his flatmate in the shabby bedsit they shared. It was clear that they were both gay, sometime partners, and both selling themselves to other gay men to pay for their drug habits. There wasn’t much on where they picked up their clients and James realised he would have to speak to the surviving partner himself.
There was even less on the other victim who lived alone and apparently had a decent job in the town. He’d been found by a middle-aged woman who he employed to clean his flat one day a week. He didn’t seem to have any close friends – no-one at his place of work had shown much interest in his death and all his family lived up north. I wonder if the cleaner knows more about his lifestyle, James thought, cleaners usually have an opinion or two on their employers.
James put the papers down. ‘Do you think we should talk to this partner of Murray and Butler’s cleaner again?’ he said to whichever of Money or Sparrow was interested. He hadn’t yet worked out which was the senior. Money was the older but Sparrow seemed most switched on and alert.’
‘Yeah, if you like,’ Money said, eyes still locked on his screen.
Sparrow looked at James. ‘Why, Jim? What do you think they can tell us?’
‘Perhaps they know more about the victims than they’ve said so far. We may find a link to Natalie and the Marquis.’
‘Good idea, let’s go.’ Milla tapped a key, reached down for her shoulder bag and stood up. ‘You didn’t think Sloane would let you out on your own do you?’ She said to James’ surprised face. ‘We work in pairs when we’re out of the office, Jim. This is the Violent and Serious Crime Unit. You never know what we might come across.’


Jasmine gets her answer

Ellifont logo greyWell, I am, or to be more accurate, ellifont™ is, now an official publisher.  I have the ISBN numbers for Bodies By Design and other Jasmine Frame books. In addition the proofs are being checked and the cover is all but done and ready to be unveiled in a week or so. Soon, very soon, I will have to make plans for the marketing. I wish I had the magic formula for getting Jasmine Frame known to a wider audinece.  There is so much publicity about trans people at the moment – trans actors, trans models, even a trans sit-com on BBC, but none of it compares with Jasmine – a trans-woman making a living as a detective.


15 July 1 - CopyI’m also getting exercised by the place of non-binary people in society. That’s the phrase used for people like me who haven’t transiitoned to a gender different to that we were born in but vacillate between appearing as male and female. People like us are not protected by law in the same way that transsexuals are but there is a move to get the Gender Recognition Act changed so that you don’t have to have a medical diagnosis to get your gender changed. It still won’t help me but is a welcome move away from the authoritarian imposition of gender identity.

So to Split Mirror, the Jasmine Frame prequel story to Painted Ladies. It’s actually set about seven months before PL. There’s a bit more crude language and references to sex in this episode – hope you like it.



Split Mirror: Part 5

In the stark light of the headlights, the men surrounding the Volvo were mere silhouettes. Jasmine had no way of knowing whether they were people she’d want to be within a mile of, but the thought that Diana had allowed some of them, many of them perhaps, to grope her and have sex with her made her feel sick. Had the need to prove she was a woman, to show that she could function as a sexually complete female, been so strong in her? Jasmine shared the desire to have the body she believed she should have but she could not put herself in Diana’s place and imagine giving herself to any and every man that wanted sex in a public place.
She looked at the little man. He was still eyeing her up. He disgusted her and she just wanted to be away from this place. But she had come to find out about Diana. She had to know more.
‘Did you see her here last night?’ she asked.
He shook his head, ‘Nah, I wasn’t here. Why do you want to know? Checking up on your friend?’ The last word was said in a tone that suggested a more intimate relationship. Jasmine ignored it.
‘She was here. Her car still is but she isn’t, is she? She hasn’t been home.’
The man frowned and he withdrew from her. ‘Look, I don’t know anything about her. Perhaps she went off with one of the blokes. Sometimes the women fancy fucking somewhere more comfortable.’
‘I want to know who she went with,’ Jasmine insisted.
‘I told you, I don’t know nuffin.’
Jasmine glanced around the men concentrating on the action in the cars. ‘Who would know? Any of these guys?’
‘Perhaps,’ the weasel backed off.
Jasmine reached out, grabbed his coat and pushed him back until he was against the bonnet of car with its headlights on. She raised her knee, pressed it into his groin and ground it against his balls. He yelped.
She withdrew her knee, a bit. ‘If you don’t help me look for my friend, the police are going to be here asking lots more questions and putting a stop to your dirty little games.’
The worried look was replaced by a grin on the man’s face. ‘You’re like her aren’t you? One of them transsexuals.’
Jasmine tightened her grip on his collar. ‘How did you know Diana was trans?’
His smile became a sneer. ‘Pretty obvious when you get close to her init. She weren’t a youngster, yet those tits could have been a teenager’s. And she wanted her cunt filled as if she’d just discovered fucking.’
Jasmine was disgusted by his talk but she couldn’t disagree with his explanation. She released her hold a little.
‘What about you?’ he went on. ‘You look a bit younger. Have you got a nice new pair of knockers and a new fanny?’
Jasmine shook her head. ‘I haven’t got that far yet.’ She wondered why she felt compelled to reply. Was it to deny feeling the urge that Diana had?
‘Still got your cock have you. Well don’t worry. Some of the guys aren’t too bothered about where they stick their tools.’
‘Stop your filth,’ Jasmine retightened her grip, ‘Just help me find out what happened to Diana.’
‘I can’t if you keep strangling me with me own coat,’ he said. Jasmine dropped her hands and stepped back. The man straightened up and raised his chin to stretch his neck.
‘That’s better. I can see you’re bothered about your mate but I said I wasn’t here last night.’
‘Someone else then?’ Jasmine glanced around at the sizeable crowd.
‘Well, perhaps Big Dick saw her. He’s often here for a bit of nooky. Come on.’ He slipped across the front of the car and into the dark space within the circle of vehicles. Jasmine followed. Her eyes quickly adjusted to the dark. She was amazed by the number of people clustered around the cars, some in various states of undress despite the cold. They moved in a zig zag as the little man searched for the person he called Big Dick.
‘There,’ he said quickening his step towards a 4×4. A man was moving away from it adjusting his flies. He was no more than a couple of inches taller than Jasmine with no sign of a gut. In fact Jasmine thought he looked pretty fit.
‘Big Dick!’ her guide called, ‘This tart’s asking about the trannie bitch.’
‘What about her?’ he asked, stopping and peering through the dark at Jasmine.
‘I guess your name’s not Richard,’ Jasmine said.
He grinned, ‘Nope. Do you want to see?’ his hand reached down to his flies again.
‘No, I just want to know if you saw my friend, Diana, last evening. She was here.’
‘Why should I tell you?’
‘Because she’s missing and I thought that if you’ve had any sort of relationship with her you might be just a little bit concerned and prepared to help.’
He scratched his chin. ‘Yeah, well, she has been kind of obliging. Eager to fuck any of the guys who fancied it, which means most of them who ain’t gay. She gave me a good time. Tight though.’
‘Look I don’t need that. I just want to know what she did last night. Did you see her?’
‘Yeah, reckon I did. She’d had a couple of the regular guys then there was a new bloke.’
‘Someone new to this?’ Jasmine indicated the circle of cars.
‘Don’t know about that but I’ve never seen him here before with his fancy van.’
‘A van?’
‘Yeah, a high-sided Transit. A real passion wagon. Had the inside padded and a thick mattress done out in black fur and drapes.’
‘So you saw Diana in this van.’
‘Did you see her leave it?’
Big Dick screwed up his face. ‘Can’t say I did. Mind I was occupied elsewhere after I saw her.’
‘And the van?’
‘Oh, he must have driven off soon after. He weren’t here when we’d finished.’
Jasmine took a deep breath. She had the answer to what had happened to Diana – well the start of it anyway. She’d gone off with, or was taken by the man in the van.
‘Can you tell me anything more about this van? Registration, markings?’
‘Nah. On the outside it was just an ordinary white van. Now, darling, are you going to be nice now that I’ve answered your questions.’ He stepped towards Jasmine. She retreated raising her hands and preparing to defend herself.
‘I wouldn’t go after her,’ weasel said, ‘she can be vicious.’
‘I like a bit of high spirits,’ Big Dick said.
‘Not with me you won’t,’ Jasmine said, retreating.
Weasel stepped between them. ‘I wouldn’t bother, Dick, she ain’t even got a cunt.’
Jasmine backed off and then turned and hurried away. She glanced over her shoulder to see weasel and Big Dick still standing in the dark. Pushing passed the bodies milling around the cars, she broke into a run back to the Fiesta. She put the key in the lock and looked behind her. No-one had followed her and she sighed with relief. Thankfully the engine started without hesitation and she pulled out onto the main road heading home.

The boxes and carrier bags occupied most of the free floor space in the small living room lit by a bare bulb hanging from the ceiling. The flat was freezing cold and she had no idea how it was heated. What had the agent said? Storage heaters? She squeezed through into the tiny kitchen. There was a box on the narrow worktop with a post-it stuck to it. ‘Some supplies to start you off. A,’ Jasmine read. She smiled. Angie had done it again, thinking ahead while she had given no consideration to eating. She pulled packets and cans from the box – coffee, baked beans, sliced bread, sardines, soups, even some fresh apples. Enough to get her started in her lonely home until she made time to go to the supermarket. She filed the kettle and turned it on then opened the bread and slapped the crust and a slice on the grill pan. She pushed it under the grill then went into the bedroom. There was only room to move because there was just a single bed, unmade, but there was a large carrier bag sitting on it containing sheets, duvet and pillow.
Jasmine returned to the kitchen. The grill was still cold. She hadn’t turned the main switch for the cooker on. She did so and remained leaning against it, feeling the warmth slowly grow and removing some of the chill that she felt. Is this the reason that Debbie and Diana stayed together, Jasmine wondered, so that neither had to establish themselves in a new single home? They had been married much longer than she and Angela had but she knew how hard it was to split up from someone you loved even though the urge to become a woman was even stronger. While she understood the reasons Debbie and Diana had carried on living together, even after their divorce and Diana’s surgery, she couldn’t comprehend Diana’s craving for sex. Would she feel the same when the drugs had worked their changes on her body and the surgeons had re-shaped her genitals? She couldn’t see herself in the back of a car with a stranger on top of her and others peering in cheering and urging them on. Nevertheless that was what Diana had done and now she was gone. Jasmine was convinced she had been taken by the white van driver, probably against her will. That van was her only clue.
The smell of burning bread reminded her that the grill didn’t automatically turn off when the toast was done.

Painted Ladies: A Jasmine Frame Story is available as an e-book (e.g. from Amazon) and paperback from all booksellers. Order a copy for £8.99 inc. p&p from paintedladiesnovel(at)btinternet.com and pay by PayPal.

Painted Ladies front cover jpeg

Jasmine timeline

This week life has been a little more normal, whatever that means. It’s been sunny and warm – nice enough to be out in sumer skirts and dresses.

summer - last year!

summer – last year!

I’ve been able to get on with the next (the third) Jasmine Frame novel as well as getting some other jobs done.  I am thinking about the next prequel novella but have decided to give you, dear readers, a rest for a week.  However, there are now eight novel or novella length Jasmine Frame stories counting the current novel in preparation so I thought you might like to see a timeline of Jasmine’s life and how the stories fit in. I’m not going to give away too many details about Jasmine though. You’ll have to read the stories to find out about her, her gender identity and the cases she tackles as a transsexual detective.

Jasmine Frame Timeline
  • 1983 January 23rd: James Frame born (Hastings, sister Holly is 4)
  • 2000 August: Discovering Jasmine  (novella)
  • 2001 November: Bristol University. Soft Focus (novella)
  • 2004 James/Jasmine graduates & joins the police.
  • 2005 July:  marries Angela Madison
  • 2009 June:  Joins ‘Violent and Serious Crime Unit’ in Kintbridge
  • 2009 November: Blueprint (novella)
  • 2010 July: Commences transition; Self-portraits (novella, previously called The Switch)
  • 2010 November:  Close-Up (novella)
  • 2012 January: Jasmine resigns from the police
  • 2012 May: Painted Ladies (novel – published)
  • 2012 August: Bodies by Design (novel)
  • 2012 November: Brides (novel, provisional title, in preparation)

Painted Ladies: A Jasmine Frame Story is available as an e-book and paperback from all booksellers including Amazon

Painted Ladies front cover jpeg


Jasmine meets some women

A little late in posting this week’s epsiode of Soft Focus.  I have had to catch up the time needed to do the writing as this week has been a little busy. This isn’t a political blog, except perhaps where it affects trans people, so I’m not going to make comments about the election except to say that the result was a surprise, in some respects, and raises a lot of questions about our futures, both in the next year or two and the next fifty.

Anyway, to return to the main topic of this page – Jasmine Frame, independent transsexual detective. I hope that now the matter of the election is out of the way I will have the time needed to get Bodies By Design published, promote Painted Ladies, complete the third novel in the series and edit the five prequel novellas into a collection  for pulication in some form or other. Lots to do – exciting isn’t it. So at last, here is the next epsiode of Soft Focus.

In Malvern in March

In Malvern in March

Soft Focus: Part 9

Angela set off determinedly along Pembroke Road towards the city centre.
‘Where are we going, Angela?’ Jasmine asked, walking quickly to keep up.
‘The Triangle.’
‘Why there?’
‘That’s where we’ll find The Women.’
‘Oh. Why?’
‘You’ll see.’ Angela was obviously not in a mood for chat. They strode on side by side, both deep in thought. Jasmine re-ran her imagined sequence of the events of the last night. Now it wasn’t Martie who pushed Sila off the bridge it was another figure, clouded and indistinct in Jasmine’s view. Could it be a woman?

They reached the triangle of busy roads lined by shops and cafés. Jasmine noticed a couple of huddles of banner waving protesters. The nearest small cluster of men and women displayed boards reading “No war in Afghanistan” and “Islam is not the enemy”. Angela led Jasmine passed them and towards another group of people on the pavement outside a store also holding up placards and shouting loudly. As they approached Jasmine saw that the figures were women, all wearing jeans and a variety of anoraks or coats. The raised boards said things like “Stop sexism – ban lads’ mags”, “Say nuts to Nuts”, “Unload Loaded”. The slogans were repeated in the choruses of the women.
‘What are they doing?’ Jasmine asked although she had guessed the answer.
‘Trying to stop the sale of magazines and newspapers that treat women as sex objects,’ Angela answered.
‘They are the Radical Women?’
‘Largely. I don’t know them all but there’s Rachel. She’s the leader.’ Angela pointed to the centre of the small throng. A young woman with spiky hair was handing out leaflets with a semi-circle of the banner waving, chanting women behind her.
‘I think I saw her at the LGBT party last night,’ Jasmine said, searching her memory.
‘Yes, she was there with her partner Jo.’
‘Rachel’s the one we need to speak to then, is she?’
‘Yes, come on.’ Angela strode into the group of protesters and approached Rachel who was reaching out to passers-by attempting to avoid the group. ‘Hi, Rachel,’ she said.
Rachel paused in her attempts to hand out leaflets and looked at Angela. A frown was replaced by recognition.
‘Hi. Angela isn’t it? Come to join the campaign?’
‘Not at the moment. We want to ask you a question.’
Rachel looked at Jasmine who had stepped up to Angela’s side.
‘A question? What question? We’re rather busy here, you know.’
Angela nodded apologetically, ‘I see that but it is quite urgent. Did you see or speak to Sila last night?’
Rachel’s eyebrows shot up with surprise at being asked such a question. She glanced from Angela to Jasmine and back. ‘I saw him, yes, at the LGBT party last evening. I heard he’d jumped off the bridge.’
‘Yes, Sila’s dead,’ Angela said. ‘We’re trying to trace her movements before she fell.’
‘We think someone was with her,’ Jasmine added.
Rachel shook her head. ‘Well, it wasn’t me. I’ve got no idea what his movements were. I’m sorry that he’s killed himself but it’s got nothing to do with us.’
‘You keep calling Sila him and he,’ Jasmine said.
‘Yeah, of course. He was a man wasn’t he?’ It was a statement not a question.
A mixture of annoyance and disbelief filled Jasmine. ‘She was a woman.’
‘A woman has a vagina,’ Rachel said, stating a simple fact.
Jasmine spoke slowly and carefully, trying to avoid the anger that was welling up inside her. ‘Sila was transsexual. She knew she was really a woman.’
‘That’s crap,’ Rachel said, ‘He had a penis and testicles. He was born a man and as a man he thought he could mince into our movement as a parody of a woman.’
‘No, you’re wrong,’ Jasmine’s voice rose in volume and pitch. ‘Sila believed that she was a woman. She was waiting for the treatment to turn her into the woman she wanted to be.’
‘Nonsense. You can’t change your genes. A bit of cosmetic surgery doesn’t change who you are.’
Angela spoke. ‘Rachel, I think a sex-change is a bit more serious than cosmetic surgery.’
‘It’s called gender re-assignment surgery, actually,’ Jasmine said as calmly as she could manage although her heart was beating fast. ‘It’s not about sex it’s about giving the person the body that matches their gender identity.’
Rachel stepped closer to Jasmine and glared into her face. Jasmine could feel her gaze taking in the foundation covering her shaved chin, her hair as short as her own but with a more masculine cut. Rachel was obviously reassessing her first impression of her.
‘You know a lot about Sila,’ Rachel said coolly. ‘Are you a bloke trying to pass yourself off as a cute girl?’ Jasmine heard the last word as a sneer, an infantile female who wore short skirts and revealing tops; a traitor to the gender.
Jasmine’s first reaction, as always if she was threatened with outing, was to deny it, to insist that she too was a woman but the words didn’t come out. She couldn’t claim to be as feminine as Angela or Rachel or even as much as Sila who was living the female life full time.
‘I’m trans, but not like Sila. I’m a transvestite, a cross-dresser.’ There, she’d said it, revealed the truth about herself. The blood throbbed in her temples.
Rachel snorted and took a step away from her. ‘I thought so. A wanker who fancies himself so much that he even has to dress like the woman he wants to fuck.’
‘No, it’s not like that,’ Jasmine insisted. ‘I feel that I should be female. I support women and equality and feminism and all that.’
‘Nah, you’re just getting a thrill from acting like a tart. Just like Sila.’
Angela spoke quietly trying to keep the exchange calm and civil. ‘You’ve got it wrong, Rachel. Sila really did think she was woman and wanted to join your group because she shared your aims.’
‘That’s rubbish,’ Rachel said, ‘How could a man understand the oppression of women, when they just treat us a dolls for sex and trample on us. I told Sila last night, once and for all, to get lost and to stop trying to join us.’
‘You did speak to her last night,’ Jasmine said.
‘Yeah, for two moments.’ She turned to address her supporters. ‘We sent him packing didn’t we? Told him to stop pretending to be a woman and crawl back into the cess-pit of male tossers where he belonged.’ The placard-waving line nodded and jeered their agreement.
‘You rejected her,’ Jasmine said.
‘No. We told him the truth. A man could not be a member of the Radical Women’s Movement, not even one who had his balls chopped off.’ Rachel said with more nods from behind her.
‘What did Sila do?’ Angela asked.
Rachel shrugged. ‘I don’t know. We went off for a drink and left him.’
‘You didn’t see her again?’ Jasmine said.
‘You didn’t follow her out to the bridge?’ Jasmine persisted.
‘No. Are you suggesting we pushed him off the bridge?’ Rachel stepped towards Jasmine with her fists clenched. The other women clustered around shouting “tranny”, “imposter”, “man”.
Angela pushed between Jasmine and Rachel, keeping them apart.
‘We’re not suggesting anything at all, Rachel. If you say that you and your friends didn’t see Sila again then that’s all we want to know.’
Rachel stepped back with a thunderous expression on her face. ‘Neither I nor my group had anything, anything I say, to do with Sila last evening, or at any time, and we certainly did not see her after we left the Union. Now get lost both of you. I don’t want to share the air with another Barbie doll drag artist.’
Jasmine opened her mouth but Angela grabbed her hand and dragged her away. The gang of women jeered and shouted until Jasmine and Angela had mingled with the Saturday shoppers.
Jasmine’s heart hammered in her chest. She felt rejected and humiliated. She wanted to hide in the crowd but feared that they were looking at her and recognising her as the impersonator that Rachel referred to.


Painted Ladies – A Jasmine Frame Story is available as an e-book and paperback from all booksllers including Amazon

Painted Ladies front cover jpeg

Jasmine asks the question

With my solo book promotion events out of the way (for now) my next focus is the Leominster Festival which I am helping to organise. First up we have a talk by Jasper Fforde  (7p.m. Fri 5th June, Grange Court).  His humorous but meticulously crafted crime stories in the Nursery Crime and Thursday Next series and his Herefordshire based Last Dragonslayer children’s books promise to make his talk an exciting event.  Then there is the Bookfair, all day on Sat 6th also at Grange Court. There are writing workshops with Simon Whaley and Fay Wentworth and a host of local authors displaying, selling and talking about their work – me included. Should be a great day.

So with that bit of advertising out of the way let’s turn to Jasmine Frame. Being transgender is barely newsworthy any more, thank goodness, and most people know someone who is trans in some way or other. Nevertheless the media, social and otherwise, still get excited by an outing.  I gather someone called Bruce Jenner, “famous” for something or other, has revealed that he is to become a woman.  So perhaps Jasmine isn’t unusual anymore. Nevertheless I think she is still unique as a lead transsexual detective and people still do not understand what being trans means. Therefore I commend the next episode of Soft Focus to you, my readers.

Doing my bit in the kitchen in a pause from writing

Doing my bit in the kitchen in a pause from writing

Soft Focus: Part 8

As they passed the large Victorian houses that lined both sides of Pembroke Road Jasmine took hold of Angela’s hand. She was surprised when Angela pulled her hand away and instead hooked her arm around hers. They continued to walk arm in arm.
‘Lovers hold hands,’ Angela whispered. ‘Friends link arms.’ Jasmine was confused. She had known Angela for less than twenty four hours but already felt a close attachment to her. They weren’t lovers yet, but for the first time in her life there was a real person who she felt a desire to make love to – as a boy. She had thought Angela’s feeling were moving in the same direction. Hadn’t they held hands earlier?
While Jasmine debated the evidence for a relationship, Angela whispered again. ‘I’ll hold hands with James.’
Jasmine’s thoughts became more excited. Her dreams of lust may become reality, but what did Angela’s words mean? Why not hold her hand now? The answer came in a flash of insight.
Jasmine also spoke softly. ‘Does that mean you are more worried about being thought of as a lesbian than you are about being the girlfriend of a transvestite?’
Angela giggled and pulled on Jasmine’s arm. ‘You’re right. I just said that without thinking. There’s no reason why I should mind appearing as a lesbian; some of my friends are lesbians; but, I suppose I don’t want to seem to be one because I’m not. On the other hand you being a boy and a girl is exciting.’
Jasmine was reassured but a little confused. ‘I think we’ll have to pick over those words again sometime. Look we’re here.’
They had reached number 115. The house was not in such a good state of repair as its neighbours and obviously divided into flats.
‘Andy said the basement, didn’t he?’ Jasmine asked. Angela nodded, released his arm and strode down the driveway at the side of the house. Jasmine hurried after her and caught her at a pair of steps leading down to a doorway. They both looked for a bell but failed to find one. Angela knocked her knuckles against the door. There was a wait of a few moments before they heard shuffling noises on the opposite side of the door. It opened to reveal a pale, slight, young man, with curly blonde hair, naked but for a pair of baggy, white Y-fronts.
‘Oh, hello, girls. What brings you here?’ Jasmine wasn’t sure whether the camp accent was real or put on.
‘Is Martie in? We’d like to speak to him,’ Jasmine said.
‘You want to see Martie. Does Martie want to see you?’ The final ‘you’ was said with a screwed up nose as if the thought was a little distasteful.
‘Can you ask him, please?’ Angela said with just a hint of impatience.
‘Oh, okay.’ The young man turned away but kept hold of the door. ‘Martie! There are some females here that say they want to speak to you.’
A deep voice roared from somewhere deep inside the flat. ‘Females? What sort of females?’
The almost naked young man turned to face them again. Jasmine wondered that he wasn’t shivering with so much skin exposed to the November air. His eyes examined Jasmine and Angela.
‘Young women. Quite pretty actually,’ he called back.
‘What the fuck!’ the voice, presumably Martie’s, bellowed again. The shout was followed by the appearance of its owner. Martie wasn’t tall, maybe just an inch more than Jasmine, but he was heavily muscled as revealed by the skin-tight white T-shirt that he wore along with torn, stained jeans. His head was covered by the merest fuzz of hair and his face by a scruffy beard. Jasmine guessed he had had his head shaved not that long ago. She didn’t remember him from the disco the previous evening, but then her attention had been focussed on Sila sliding across the floor. He reached the door and shoved the slim boy out of the way.
‘Get back inside,’ he growled. The boy retreated.
‘Hello, Martie,’ Angela said in a sweet and friendly voice.
He glared at her. ‘Who are you?’
‘I’m Angela and this is my friend, Jasmine.’
Martie transferred his gaze to Jasmine. She felt him examining every part of her body, almost as if he could see through her clothes and her disguise.
‘I don’t know you. This is a gay zone. We don’t have girls, lesbian or otherwise. You don’t look like lezzers. What do you want?’
Jasmine blurted out. ‘We were wondering what you and Sila did last night after the party.’
Martie’s jaw dropped and his mouth gaped open. Angela’s elbow poked into Jasmine’s ribs. Had she posed the question in the wrong way?
When Martie finally answered, his manner was anger. ‘Sila? That fucking, tranny-arsehole. What d’ya mean, what did I do with her?’
Jasmine swallowed and decided to press on. ‘We know you and she had an argument which ended with you pushing her to the floor.’
‘So what? She was being fucking annoying.’
‘So did you meet her again later?’
‘Why the blazing fuck would I want to see that limp prick again. One minute with her at the start was enough.’ He paused for breath. ‘And anyway, why are you cockteasers asking me questions.’
‘We’re just trying to trace her movements after you had your row.’ Angela said as softly and calmly as possible.
Martie laughed. ‘I know her movements. She took a step off the bridge and forgot she hadn’t grown wings as well as tits.’
‘You know she’s dead?’ Jasmine said.
‘Yeah, I heard,’ Martie guffawed, ‘It’s all around the city isn’t it. So why are you two cunts asking questions?’
‘We want to know what happened to her. Why she fell from the bridge.’ Jasmine said. They didn’t seem to be getting anywhere with their conversation. There must be an art to asking the right questions, Jasmine thought.
‘She jumped because she was a mad bitch. Couldn’t make up her mind whether she wanted cock or cunt.’
‘She was transitioning,’ Jasmine said.
‘Transitioning, my arse. Yeah, she thought she should be a woman but the lezzers didn’t want her because she still had a dick, so she pestered us thinking we’d go after anything with a cock and balls.’
‘Did you?’ Jasmine asked. Martie stepped out of the doorway and thrust his head into Jasmine’s face.
‘No. I don’t go for wankers in a skirt even if their boobs are rubber. Give me a small tight arse and a hard cock. Is that straight talking enough for you?’ Martie’s gaze bored into Jasmine’s eyes. ‘You’re like her aren’t you?’
‘Uh, no. I’m not like Sila.’
‘Yes you are. You’re a tranny. A guy in frilly knickers and a bra.’
‘Sila was a woman, a transsexual woman.’
Martie grabbed the collar of her quilted jacket. ‘Trans-fucking-nothing. Didn’t know what she was or how to have it.’
‘She was waiting for reassignment.’ Jasmine gasped as the cloth tightened around her neck.
‘Why are you even bothered? Do you want to be like fucking Sila?’
Angela pushed her arm between them. ‘We just want to find out how and why Sila died.’
Martie released his grip and edged backwards. ‘You’re fucking nuts. I told you I don’t know what happened to her. She was a pain in the neck. Disturbed. She did for herself.’
‘Are you sure?’ Jasmine asked, tugging her jacket down.
‘What do you mean am I sure? Did I see her when she took her leap without a bungee? No I didn’t.’
‘Did you push her off the bridge?’ Jasmine stiffened waiting for Martie’s expected lunge at her.
Instead he laughed. ‘Have you got a death-wish like her? No, I didn’t give her a helpful push, I didn’t see her again after she was a pest in the disco. I don’t know or care why she topped herself. She was just a mixed up tranny.’
Angela intervened. ‘Do you know anyone who might have been involved in her death?’
‘Involved? You mean drove her to it. You could try the Radical Women. They hated her as much as me and my mates did. Now get lost you fucking tarts before I give you a pasting.’ He backed through the doorway and slammed the door.
Angela grabbed Jasmine’s arm and dragged her up the driveway to the road.
‘Well, that went according to plan,’ Angela said.
Jasmine shrugged. ‘What plan?’
‘Exactly. We should have worked out what questions to ask him first before blundering in there.’
Jasmine shook her arm free of Angela’s. ‘I thought we could have a quiet conversation and find things out.’
‘So you jump straight in with “what did you and Sila get up to after the party?”’
Jasmine realised Angela had a point. ‘That’s not quite what I said.’
‘Close enough.’
‘I didn’t expect him to be so aggressive, so crude.’
‘Not all gays are cuddly softies, or nice boys like Andy.’
Jasmine began to trudge up the street. She’d messed up; failed to ask the right questions to obtain useful information.
Angela ran to catch her up. ‘Look it’s not all bad. We got some answers from Martie.’
Jasmine paused mid-step and looked at Angela. ‘Really? Like what?’
‘Like that Martie didn’t kill Sila.’
Jasmine shook her head. ‘How do you know? He hated her.’
‘I just got this feeling from hearing him going on badmouthing her. He didn’t like Sila. He didn’t want any sight of her. He’s only interested in the boys that give him what he wants like that kid that answered the door. He wouldn’t have wasted last night dragging Sila up on to the bridge and throwing her off.’
‘Are you sure?’ Jasmine felt that Angela was probably correct but Martie had scared and appalled her. How could someone who was himself a member of a minority group be so dismissive of someone in another?
Angela nodded. ‘Pretty certain.’
‘Why did Sila keep on at that sewer-tongued bully?’ Jasmine decided that she didn’t understand the dead transsexual at all.
Angela shrugged. ‘Who knows? Perhaps getting a response from Martie at least showed Sila that she was being noticed.’
Jasmine considered Angela’s words. How lonely must Sila have been as she faced her struggle to transition? ‘Well, where do we go next?’
Angela took hold of Jasmine’s arm again and they walked slowly up the road. ‘Well there are other gay boys that Sila may have attached herself to and then there’s Martie’s suggestion.’
‘The Radical Women?’
‘Yep. They can be a tough lot too.’
Jasmine snorted. ‘Well, for the sake of equality, let’s see how they react to being accused of murder.’
Painted Ladies: A Jasmine Frame Story is available as an e-book or paperback from all booksellers including Amazon

Painted Ladies front cover jpeg

Jasmine at the scene of the murder

Back to something like normal after last weekend at Dysprosium and back to thinking and working on Jasmine Frame stories.  Publication of Bodies By Design is top of the list and perhaps there is some progress there; getting on with Jasmine Frame 3, provisionally titled The Brides, is next, and lastly, although first priority, is the next episode of the prequel, Soft Focus, which is below.

I was interested in the media attention given to pre-pubescent transsexuals in the last week, with the Theroux TV programme, items on the news and on radio.  It is almost as if the media have switched their sensationalist focus from aging trannies (such as your truly) to the youngsters who are declaring their transgender identity as soon as they can express themselves.  I think I’ll have more to say and write about that in future.  I hope the time has come when someone like Jasmine Frame isn’t special for what she is but for her personality and her deeds.  It doesn’t stop me thinking up “situations” to place her in though.  Enjoy the next episode of her evolution as a transsexual detective

A recent portrait of the author.

A recent portrait of the author.

Soft Focus: Part 5

They carried on walking, Angela’s hand in James’. Neither spoke. James wondered whether Angela was thinking the same things as he was; a curious mixture of fascination with the questions surrounding Silla’s death along with enjoyment of being with someone, a girl, who seemed to like him and questioning where that might lead.
A few minutes brought them onto the approach road to the bridge. Ahead was the nearer of the two brick encased towers that supported the curving chains of the suspension bridge. There was high wall on their right which stopped abruptly revealing a vista across the gorge. James and Angela took the few steps to the railings topped by a wire fence and looked at the view. For a moment James forgot why they had come here. The scene was stunning. The cliff was just a few metres from them, an almost sheer wall of rock clothed in vegetation which dropped to the floor of the valley far below. A grey ribbon of road hugged the base of the cliff with the cars on it like tiny models, but most of the gorge was occupied by the estuary. The tide was out so there was only a narrow channel of brown water bounded by a wide margin of smooth, glistening mud.
They walked on towards and passed the tower so that they were on the bridge itself. The cars on the narrow roadway were ignored as all their attention was taken by the slowly changing perspective of the cliffs and the river below. They stopped at the centre of the span and stood pressed against the railing looking down.
Angela squeezed James’ hand. ‘I didn’t think I was scared of heights but this gives me the frights.’
James spare hand gripped the iron rail. It was reassuringly firm. The over-engineered strength of the Brunel’s bridge all around him was also reassuringly firm. Nevertheless he empathised with Angela.
‘You’re right. It’s amazing. I’m glad I’ve come to see it but I don’t understand how someone can throw themselves off.’ They both looked up at the modern protective fence that surmounted the old railings.
‘You’ve got to be determined to climb up there and then jump,’ Angela said, ‘but people do, I’ve heard the reports on the news.’
James looked up at the inverted arch of the suspension chain. ‘Don’t they have CCTV to catch people before they go over?’
‘I’m sure they do,’ Angela replied, following James’ searching eyes. ‘Sometimes they can’t get someone here quick enough to stop the jumper.’
James verbalised his thoughts. ‘Hmm. I suppose the video is evidence for the inquest.’
‘It would show if the person was alone when they went over.’
‘Proof that it was suicide and not murder.’
‘That’s right, James. So the Police will know that Silla killed herself.’
James looked at Angela. ‘Except, Ange, You said that Silla didn’t fall into the river.’
Their eyes met. ‘That’s right, I’d forgotten. She wasn’t on the bridge itself. She fell from the approach.’
James took Angela’s arm and they retraced they steps, faster than before. They returned to where the footpath skirted the tower on a balcony and looked over the rail.
‘I thought Tiff said Silla nearly landed on a car,’ James said, ‘but the road goes under the main span of the bridge.’
‘Tiff was exaggerating,’ Angela replied. ‘I heard that a driver had seen Silla fall. She must have come down somewhere over there.’ Angela pointed to the side of the gorge. ‘There are trees and bushes to slow the fall. It’s not as big a drop.’
‘But just as fatal.’ James concluded. He examined the bridge. The fencing wasn’t as high on the approach and he couldn’t see a TV camera aimed at the path. ‘Maybe there isn’t CCTV of this part of the bridge. It could be there is no proof that Silla was alone when she fell. It’s possible that she was thrown over.’
‘You’re convinced Silla was murdered, James?’
‘I don’t believe that she was in the mood to come down here, climb over the fence and jump off, either here or the middle of the bridge. What about you, Ange?’
Angela chewed her lip, thinking, then made up her mind. ‘I agree. What do we do about it?’
James turned away from the parapet and took Angela’s arm. ‘I don’t know. Let’s get a coffee and think about it.’

They were in a cafe in Clifton village, not one of the chain of modern coffee-bars but an old-fashioned, cramped place with a few circular wooden tables and bentwood chairs. The coffee was good though, and cheap. James held his cup to his lips, sipping and looking at Angela across the rim. He was looking at her with something beyond lust. She was certainly desirable. Her long waves of brown hair framed a round face with large eyes and strong features. Now that she had removed her coat James could admire her figure which though slim had curves which she did not hide in a slouchy sweater but were revealed by a fitted jumper. He felt an unfamiliar desire to strip her of her clothes in order to caress the smooth, white skin beneath and feel that curved flesh. But there was also the wish to just be with this young woman, to discover more about her, to talk about this and that, to pour out his feelings. It wasn’t just an unfamiliar feeling it was one he had never anticipated.
Angela’s eyes looked back at him across her cup. She put the cup back on its saucer. ‘So, why are you so sure that Silla didn’t intend to die?’
‘I’m not sure,’ James said, ‘I know I only met her for a few minutes, I didn’t know her at all, really, but I have this feeling that she had too much she was looking forward to, things she wanted to happen; she wouldn’t just give it up.’
Angela’s eyes were focused on James, searching for the tiniest evidence of his emotions. ‘Is it because you identify with her as a transsexual? Do you feel like her?’
‘No, yes, oh, it’s complicated. She was living as a girl; she had started on gender reassignment; it may only have been months before she became the woman she thought she was. That’s not me.’
‘I don’t spend all my time as Jasmine, as you can see.’ James knew he wasn’t being completely honest with Angela or himself. Did he want to be Jasmine all the time? Did he in fact feel that he was Jasmine all the time even when he was dressed as James? Despite days, months and years of considering those questions he was still not certain of his answers.
‘OK. You’ve admitted to being a transvestite. That’s fine. I’m looking forward to seeing Jasmine again, she’s fun. But you seem to think you have enough in common with Silla to understand what motivated her.’ Angela sat up straight and laughed. ‘Gosh, I sound as though we’re in a seminar discussing principles of psychology.’
‘Perhaps that’s what I need,’ James nodded. ‘A psychological grilling that can draw out my reasons for feeling as I do about Silla.’
‘I’m not sure I know enough to do that without hurting you, James. The point is you, we, think that Silla was killed. What do we do about it?’
James took another sip of coffee while he considered his answer. He put the cup down deliberately. ‘We have to find out who did it.’
Angela’s dark brown eyebrows rose. ‘Isn’t that a police job?’
‘Well, OK, we have to tell the police. Get them to investigate.’
‘They won’t be interested if all you can say is you believe she was murdered. They’ll want evidence.’
James knew that Angela was right. Police work was all about finding evidence, a bit like what historians did, which was why he was studying history. ‘Right, but I could tell them about what happened in the party last night. You know, my meeting with Silla and then her set to with the gay lads.’
‘But you don’t know why the gays shoved her.’
‘Yes, but Andy can tell us.’ James drained his coffee cup and stood up. He went to the counter to pay their bill. Angela joined him a few moments later, pulling her coat over her shoulders.
She whispered, ‘Are you saying you think the gay boys killed Silla?’
The waitress dropped the change into James’ hand. He mumbled a thanks and turned to Angela.
‘No. I hope not. I’m sure Andy wouldn’t have been part of it. He’s been great to me. He encouraged me to come to the party as Jasmine.’
They left the café, bodies touching, heads close together.
‘So why is their bundle with Silla important?’
‘I’m not sure it is but it will help explain what Silla was getting up to, her state of mind and all that. Andy may give us a clue as to where she went afterwards and give us a lead to the killers.’
They headed back towards the university.
‘So once you’ve spoken to Andy, we go to the Police?’ Angela asked.
‘Let’s see what Andy says. Are you coming with me?’
‘Oh yes. I like being with you James, as much as I enjoyed getting to know Jasmine.’

Painted Ladies: A Jasmine Frame Story is available as an e-book and paperback from all booksellers including Amazon

Painted Ladies front cover jpeg

Jasmine considers a death

A bit of a rush this weak as I am at  Dysprosium, the EasterCon for SF and Fantasy fans at Heathrow – no, not actually in the airport but in The Park Inn, a huge airport hotel.  The main point of being here of course is to promote Evil Above the Stars but it is interesting meeting other writers and fans and aliens.

In full flow at Rachel's Gallery in Malvern

In full flow at Rachel’s Gallery in Malvern

Anyhow, I have written the next episode of Soft Focus which is taking me into my memory of the layout of Bristol. Haven’t actually been there for some years but the Clifton Suspension Bridge is still there I think.

Soft Focus is the fifth prequel to Painted Ladies, the novel that introduced transsexual detective, Jasmine Frame. I have really filled in Jasmine’s back story  now but there’s still room for more cases. Let me know what you think of this episode.

Soft Focus: Part 4

‘That’s seriously suicidal,’ James said imagining standing on the parapet and looking at the river far below. ‘Silla must have been drunk.’
‘I doubt it,’ Sid replied from the sofa. ‘She hardly drank at all. Used to carry a can of lager around with her for show.’
‘But why would she do it?’ James shook his head.
Tiff crossed the lounge from the kitchen area and handed James a steaming mug. ‘Who knows? Perhaps she was having problems with her sex-change.’
James thought back to his brief meeting with the transsexual the previous evening. ‘She did grumble about the delays in getting her treatment and the people at the clinic but she seemed eager to get on with it.’
‘She was very aggressive,’ Angela said sitting down beside Sid and tugging her dressing gown around herself. ‘She didn’t seem to get on with anyone – gays, lesbians.’
‘Perhaps that was it,’ Sid shrugged, ‘she just couldn’t cope with everyone and everything.’
James sipped his coffee, well the hot, black liquid that filled the mug. ‘How did you find out? It can’t have been long since Silla died. How do they know it’s her? Have they got her body out of the river?’
‘Oh, she didn’t fall in the river,’ Tiff said. ‘She jumped off the approach to the bridge, almost landed on a car on the road beneath. She had her keys and union card on her so the Police have been round looking into her room.’
‘She lived here?’ James asked.
‘Not with us. In another flat in the block with a few other year 2 girls,’ Sid answered.
‘Friends?’ James said.
‘Flat mates,’ Tiff replied. ‘I’m not sure Silla had any real friends. She usually pissed off anyone who took an interest in her.’
Angela stood up. ‘I’m going to get dressed. Then shall we go out, James?’
‘Yes, of course.’
Angela hurried out of the room. James took her place on the sofa.
‘So you fancy, Angela, then,’ Sid said. James looked at her in surprise.
‘Um, yes. How did you know?’
‘Oh, the look in your eyes and the bulge in your jeans.’
James felt his cheeks glowing. He hadn’t thought about it but the sight of Angela in her night clothes, albeit well wrapped up, had produced an effect, but he hadn’t thought it was that obvious.
‘You think you stand more chance with her as a boy than a girl?’ Tiff asked with a leery smile on her face.
‘I don’t know,’ James replied, ‘We talked for hours last night and I think we got on. She didn’t seem to mind me being dressed as a girl.’
‘She’s broad-minded even though she’s not a les,’ Sid nodded in agreement, ‘She likes you. Hardly stopped going about you since she got up this morning. You’re in there – boy, girl or both.’
James contemplated. A girl who liked him whether he was dressed as a boy or a girl? It seemed incredible. Could he be so lucky?
Angela reappeared dressed in jeans and already wearing her coat.
‘Ready, James,’ she said heading towards the entrance. She paused ‘You have finished your coffee?’
James gulped down the remaining, still hot, liquid. ‘Yes, coming. Thanks Tiff, Sid.’ He handed the mug to a grinning Sid and hurried after Angela. In moments they emerged into a bright Saturday morning. The sky was blue with fluffy clouds and the air had a much drier, warmer feel to it than the previous dreary day.
Angela grabbed James arm, and dragged him away from the block. ‘So were they giving you the good cop, bad cop routine?’
‘What?’ James replied his brain befuddled.
‘Tiff and Sid. Were they assessing you as suitable or not?’
‘Um, I don’t know. Why?’
‘Oh, they’ve taken it into their heads that I have to be looked after, protected from any boys who might coming sniffing around.’
‘Oh, I see.’
‘But they like you.’
‘Oh, do they?’
‘You’re different. You’re almost a girl.’
‘Almost?’ Was that what he wanted to be – somewhere between boy and girl, almost one but not quite the other?
‘Well that’s what you said last night?’
‘Did I?’
‘You said you didn’t think you wanted to go all the way like Silla does. Oh, I mean, did.’
‘Yes, I did say that.’ But did he mean it? Perhaps he did if it meant he got to go out with a girl like Angela.
Angela stopped mid-stride and James felt her arm tug on his. ‘Oh, I can’t believe it?’
‘What?’ James said.
‘That Silla’s dead.’
‘Did you know her well?’
‘Well, no, not really I suppose.’ They began to walk again. Angela went on, ‘But she lived in our block, so I saw her around the place. She was usually making a noise, complaining about her treatment, organising this protest or that. But I didn’t know her. She ignored me I think – a normal girl. She probably couldn’t bear to look at me. That sounds awfully conceited doesn’t it. As if I think that Silla saw me as something like what she was aiming for. I don’t mean that. Oh, I don’t know what I mean.’
James had tried to follow Angela’s monologue. ‘I think I do, Angela. You’re an attractive, sexy girl. You’re relaxed about yourself. No hang-ups about your body. The opposite of Silla.’
‘Do you think so?’
‘She knew it would be years before she got to be the woman she felt she was and should be. You were a role model, but although I only met her once I could see she had this anger with everyone because of her impatience. She had a go at me because she thought I was mocking her by not wanting to be a TS like her. She said wearing a wig made me a fraud.’
‘Do you think that was why she killed herself?’
‘What, because of me?’ James was horrified that Angela could make the suggestion.
‘No, silly! Her anger and impatience. Did that drive her to suicide?’
James considered. The thing was that despite her anger, Silla seemed full of life, full of determination to get what she wanted and what she thought other transsexual’s wanted.
‘I don’t think she was planning on killing herself when we were talking,’ James said, ‘she was talking about a campaign to get gender recognition for transsexuals. She seemed to have plans.’
‘I never thought of her as being depressed,’ Angela said, ‘angry, aggressive, aggrieved but not depressed.’
They carried on walking arm in arm while James thought about Silla.
After a few minutes, Angela spoke. ‘You know where we’re going, don’t you?’
James looked around, examining the Victorian and earlier facades. ‘Uh, no, I hadn’t thought. I thought you were leading.’
‘I wasn’t. I think we’ve both been going there, unconsciously,’ Angela said.
‘Where?’ James wasn’t sure what she meant. How could they be guiding themselves without thinking?
‘The bridge, Clifton Suspension Bridge. Where Silla died.’
James looked around again. He had a vague idea of where they were, somewhere in Clifton. Angela was right. They weren’t far from the approach to Brunel’s bridge over the Avon gorge.
‘You’re right. Well, since we’ve come this far. Let’s see where Silla supposedly jumped off.’
James shook his head. ‘I can’t believe she did it.’

Painted Ladies: A Jasmine Frame Story is available as e-book and paperback from all booksellers including Amazon

Painted Ladies front cover jpeg

Jasmine hears some news

An exciting day today with the launch of Evil Above the Stars at Leominster Library. Go to my SF and Fantasy page for more news.

Thanks Sally for all the support you've given to Tenbury Writers.

Thanks Sally for all the support you’ve given to Tenbury Writers.

Lots of things happening at the moment, not all writing related, such as saying goodbye to Sally in Tenbury, but as ever Jasmine is on my mind. As I said last week at Wrekin Writers, she’s been in my head for fifteen years or so now. I think I know her well but do her appearances in print as a transsexual detective, reflect her whole personality? I hope so and I hope the prequels being published here fill in her backstory so that the character in the novels is fully rounded.  Here’s the next episode from Jasmine’s university years.

Soft Focus: Part 3

Angela took a sip of her wine, then over the increasing volume of Dido, she leant towards Jasmine and shouted, ‘Do you want to be a girl then?’
Jasmine wasn’t sure how she could answer that question in a single audible sentence. She shook her head and shrugged her shoulders.
‘I don’t know,’ she bellowed in Angela’s ear, ‘I like being Jasmine but don’t think I want to go all the way.’
‘You make a good-looking girl.’
A body slid across the floor, demolishing the dancers as if they were skittles. Jasmine tugged Angela out of the way as the figure stopped at their feet. In the flashing lights they could see that it was Silla. Jasmine bent down to help Silla to her feet but she shrugged off the assistance and staggered off shouting expletives. Jasmine saw that they were directed at a group of young men including Andy. They stood in a huddle waving their hands at Silla and shouting inaudibly.
Tiff reappeared at Jasmine’s side. ‘The gays don’t like Silla, either,’ she shouted. ‘They don’t want a guy with boobs, even false ones.’ Tiff was dragged off again by Sid.
‘Shall we go somewhere a bit quieter,’ Angela said.
‘Yes, let’s,’ Jasmine replied and went in search of her coat.

Out in the corridor, the sound level was low enough for Jasmine to be able to think.
‘Where shall we go?’ she asked.
‘Let’s see what the bar is like,’ Angela replied.
They returned to the cavernous hall close to the main entrance with an immensely long bar. It was busy but there were still places to sit and there was not quite enough noise to drown conversation. Angela led Jasmine to a vacant table in an alcove at the edge of the room. Jasmine sat down and moved her chair closer to Angela’s so that they could speak quietly.
‘So, when did you start?’ Angela asked.

The evening passed more quickly than Jasmine could believe. They had each got up to buy drinks and visit the loo, but otherwise they had spent the time sitting side by side listening to each other talk about their lives before university, their plans or lack of them and their likes and dislikes. Jasmine had never known anything like it. Never had she talked so much about herself or listened to another person’s, boy or girl, private talk. At last she realised that the crowd was thinning and that the background music, which she had stopped hearing, had ceased.
‘I suppose we’d better go,’ Jasmine said sadly.
‘Yes, but there’s a big question,’ Angela said with a broad smile on her face.
‘What’s that?’
‘Which one of us is going to walk the other back to their digs?’
It wasn’t a question Jasmine had considered. They had already established that they lived in halls of residence equidistant from the Students’ Union but in opposite directions.
‘If you were a boy you might do the chivalrous thing and escort me home,’ Angela continued, grinning. ‘But since I think I have more experience of being a girl out on the streets at night than you, I think I should walk you back.’
‘Oh, I don’t think you need to do that.’
‘Oh, I think I do. You know that at closing time there will be thousands of drunk students and other kids wandering the streets. Do you want to find your way through them in your short skirt and high heels?’
‘Um?’ Jasmine hadn’t considered getting back to the flat, sort of assuming that Andy would be around, but he wasn’t.
‘Come on. Let’s go.’ Angela got up and pulled her coat on. Jasmine followed, donning her waist length quilted anorak. She was suddenly aware that her long, almost-bare legs were on display and could be a come-on signal for sozzled randy lads. At the exit Angela put her arm around Jasmine’s and set off at a fast walk. Jasmine kept up as well as she could, feeling a little unsteady on her narrow heels.
Some groups of boys appealed to them to join them. In what, Jasmine did not feel like discovering. Others marked their passing with whistles and innuendo but they soon arrived at the door to Jasmine’s block unmolested.
‘I expect the other guys will be in now,’ Jasmine said.
‘I won’t come and meet them then,’ Angela said. ‘See you tomorrow?’
‘Yes. That would be fun,’ Jasmine replied finding that she really did want to see Angela again, soon.
‘We’d better swap numbers so we can arrange when and where,’ Angela said pulling a small flip cover mobile phone from her bag. ‘You do have a mobile?’
‘Yes.’ Jasmine got her older, chunkier model out. They gave each other their numbers and slipped the phones back in their bags.
‘I’ll send you a text message,’ Angela said.
‘Oh, yes, good idea.’ Text messaging was a new experience for Jasmine as she hadn’t had her phone for long and didn’t have a long list of names in her contact list.

James was late wakening and even later rising from his bed. He lay there thinking about the evening just past. The memories were pleasurable on two counts. First he had been Jasmine. It had been a wonderful feeling being out as a girl again after a few weeks stuck as James. Secondly there was Angela. James was experiencing feelings that he’d never had before and reactions to those feelings which were unexpected, such as repeated swelling between his legs. He’d had lots of girl friends before but never a girlfriend. As he had spent so much time thinking of and actually being Jasmine he had thought that he wasn’t attracted to girls, but then again he hadn’t felt any particular attraction for any boys either. Now he was reconsidering. He was attracted to Angela; boy was he! Perhaps being Jasmine was a phase of growing up, something that would fade into his past, some forgotten quirk caused by having an older sister or something. He wanted to meet Angela again, as James, and see whether the rapport they had developed last night was real or just a one-off.
As he finally swung out of bed and contemplated getting a shower his mobile phone made an unfamiliar buzz. He grabbed it from the bedside table. He had a text message, from Angela. He thumbed the keys until the letters appeared on the small screen.
<come here have news>
What did she mean? He clumsily pressed the alphanumeric keys until he had composed the reply.
<on my way what news> He pressed send and tossed the phone onto the bed. The shower was perfunctory, the choice of clothes random and in a few minutes he was out of his room fully dressed in his daily boy gear. There was no sign of Andy or his other flat-mates in the communal living room and he moved swiftly on out of the block. He jogged the kilometre or so to Angela’s hall of residence, reminding himself that he needed to get to the sports facilities to get back in trim and recalling how much he liked the feeling of running.
He couldn’t get in to Angela’s block of course and neither could he remember the number of the flat she shared. He started pressing buttons on the panel beside the door. The first couple didn’t produce a reply. A few seconds after he pressed the third, a voice spoke.
‘Jasmine. Is that you?’
‘James, actually. Angela?’
‘Come on up.’
The door lock buzzed and opened when he pushed it. He climbed the stairs to the first floor and saw a door opening. Angela appeared wearing a fleece dressing gown.
‘James?’ her tone suggested she wasn’t quite sure.
‘I wouldn’t have recognised you, even though your hair really is blonde.’ James brushed his hand through the short hair on his head. ‘And those jeans hide your lovely legs.’ James blushed. ‘Come on in.’
She opened the door wide and James stepped into a room similar to the one in his flat. Sid sprawled on the sofa and Tiff was in the kitchen area doing something at the cooker. She turned and looked at James.
‘Not got your boobs in to day then,’ Tiff said. James felt the blush return. ‘Just kidding. Nice to see the other you. Like a coffee?’
‘Uh, yes please.’ James was feeling mixed up. He wasn’t used to meeting people who had previously met Jasmine. He turned to face Angela.
‘Your message said something about news.’
‘Sid told me just now. Thought you’d like to know since you met her last night.’
‘Silla. She’s dead.’
‘Dead?’ Jasmine was confused. How could the aggressive transsexual who she had spoken to just hours before be dead.
‘Yeah. Dead. Gone to meet her maker,’ Sid said from the sofa.
‘How?’ James was mystified.
‘Jumped off Clifton suspension bridge,’ Sid replied.

Painted Ladies: A Jasmine Frame Story is available as an e-book and paperback from all booksellers including Amazon

Painted Ladies front cover jpeg

Jasmine makes friends

Another full week. There was another event with the Malvern Book Promotions group – good fun but not a successful marketing event as the audience were largely writers not buyers.

In full flow at Rachel's Gallery in Malvern

In full flow at Rachel’s Gallery in Malvern

There has however been some lovely news which is covered on my SF and Fantasy page. Here though I’m really getting in to the next Jasmine Frame prequel – Soft Focus.  I’ll have to see how that title works out. This story is from an early stage in Jasmine’s journey to womanhood and her career as a detective but a significant one as will become clear.

Soft Focus: Part 2

First they had to cross the communal kitchen-cum-dining-room-cum-lounge of their shared flat. This was the bit that bothered Jasmine most. Andy was the only one of her recently met flat-mates that knew that Jim Frame was trans. Jasmine sighed with relief when the multipurpose but small room turned out to be empty.
‘The guys are out,’ Jasmine observed.
‘Probably in the bar with their other sciency friends,’ Andy replied. ‘Come on.’
Jasmine knew she would have to reveal herself to her new acquaintances soon, preferably before the gossip got to them. Ross, Gavin and Meirion seemed like good guys but she wondered what criteria the university authorities had used to put them together. Probably none at all as they apparently had little in common. Andy was the first of her flat mates she got to know when they had met up by chance at the LGBT stand at the Freshers’ Fair. They weren’t together much as her history and politics course couldn’t be much more different to his computing studies.
They left the flat, descended the stairs to the entrance and stepped out into a typical late October, Saturday evening, that is, dark, damp if not actually raining and a breeze which had a cold nip to it. They walked the few hundred metres to the Students’ Union building along streets which were busy with pedestrians, not all of whom were students, but the majority were. Jasmine looked anxiously around as she always did when she was out. Was anyone taking an unusual interest in her? She caught some pairs of eyes looking her up and down but they belonged to young men and she thought theirs was a look of lust rather than suspicion. She was satisfied that they were seen simply as a boy and girl, a pair of students out for the evening together. Together? No, she didn’t consider that she and Andy were a couple. He had said she was fanciable but he was gay so was immune to her feminine attributes. What about her? Did she want attention from a boy? It was a question she often asked herself. She wanted boys, and girls, to accept her as a woman but the thought of going further, of kissing, petting, having sex with a boy didn’t seem to be something that aroused her. On the other hand, pretty girls did. Knowing her own feelings only made her confusion about her status seem more complicated. What was she? A boy who liked dressing up as a girl. What did that make her?
They climbed the steps into the SU building and found their way to the room the LGBT club had hired for its party. It was supposed to be an opportunity to welcome new members, that is, innocent first years, but Jasmine guessed it was really a chance to get pissed on cheap wine and beer and for older members to eye up the new intake. There were only a dozen or so people in the dimly lit room as Jasmine and Andy entered. The DJ was still sorting his gear so the music was playing relatively quietly. They crossed to a corner where a make-shift bar had been erected. A young man wearing a tight white t-shirt and black jeans stood behind it.
‘Got your membership cards?’ he asked. ‘First drink’s free to members.’
Jasmine opened her shoulder bag and searched among her tissues and lipstick for the small card which she was thankful she had remembered to bring. She found it and thrust it out alongside Andy’s.
‘Great,’ the barman said.’ What do you want?’ Andy selected a bitter beer while Jasmine asked for a white wine. Andy was handed a can and Jasmine received a small plastic cup filled with a pale green liquid. She tasted it. White wine was a far as its identity went. Sweet with an acidic after taste, it was no doubt cheap. They stepped away from the bar and sipped their drinks.
‘There’s someone I know over there,’ Andy said pointing to a trio of men near the DJ’s stage. ‘Do you mind if I go and…’ Jasmine guessed that he wanted to talk to the boys alone.’
‘Go on. I’m fine. I’ll just watch what’s going on.’
‘Thanks, Jim, I mean Jasmine. I’ll keep an eye on you. Make sure you’re okay, like.’
Jasmine waved him away and he hurried to join the group of lads, presumably gay or computer nerds or both. Jasmine sipped her wine and looked around. More people were coming into the room and the volume of the music had increased. Lights had started to flash but there wasn’t anyone dancing yet. Someone approached her wearing a flowery, sleeveless dress over blue jeans. She had breasts but a short boyish hair cut and long multi-coloured earrings.
‘Hi, you’re new,’ she said with a voice that had a male timbre to it and a strong Liverpool accent. ‘I’m Silla – with an ess.’ She transferred her can of beer into her left hand and held out her right. Jasmine took it and they shook hands limply.
‘I’m Jasmine.’
Silla looked at her, ‘I’d guess from your dress that you’re not a lezzer.’
‘Um, no, I’m not.’
‘So, my guess is you’re trans. That right?’
‘Yes. How did you guess?’ Jasmine hardly needed to ask. She knew what Silla’s answer would be.
‘Most of the lesbians will be wearing jeans and a shirt. But I’m trans too so I know one if I see one.’
‘Oh, I see.’
‘Except I’m also a lesbian. I fancy girls. Do you? But now you’re going to ask why I’m wearing this dress over my jeans.’
‘Um, yes.’
‘Because the fucking Gender Identity clinic make you wear a fucking skirt or dress to prove that you really do want to be a woman.’
‘Oh, you’re having gender reassignment surgery are you?’ Jasmine hadn’t met many transsexuals and Silla was certainly the most outspoken of them all.
‘Yeah, well, when I get lucky and win the NHS lottery. I’m on the hormones but when I’ll get rid of this,’ she grabbed her crotch, ‘is anyone’s guess.’ She took a swig of beer and then went on. ‘Look it’s great to have another trans member. We’re organising a protest; fighting for the right to be recognised as women.’
‘What do you mean?’ Jasmine asked.
‘You know. Be allowed to get our birth certificates changed when we have the chop. It’s fucking disgusting that everyone will still know that my name was Kevin John even when I’ve got my own boobs and a cunt.’
‘Kevin John?’ Jasmine repeated.
‘Yeah, my father named me after Kevin Keegan and John Toshack – his bloody heroes. I want a bit of paper that says that my real name is Silla McBride and it always has been.’ Even in the flashing coloured light Jasmine could see that Silla’s face was red with emotion.
‘Why do you spell it with an ess?’
‘My Mum used to play Cilla Black records when I was a kid thinking I was a girl so I sort of identified with her. I’ve stuck with it but that “Blind Date” nonsense, pimping for heterosexuals, put me off her. So I changed the spelling.’
‘I see.’
‘What about you? Where are you on the programme?’
‘The GI clinic.’
‘Oh, I’m not,’ Jasmine answered.
‘You’re not?’ Silla stepped back from her and looked her up and down again. ‘You’re not a tranny are you?’
‘What do you mean?’ Being a tranny was how Jasmine thought of herself.
‘A fucking bloke who wears a skirt to get a hard-on.’
‘No!’ Jasmine’s retort was louder than she intended. She noticed a few heads nearby turning in her direction.
‘That’s what it looks like in your tarty miniskirt and long blonde wig. It is a wig isn’t it. You can’t be a real trans-woman wearing a wig. Fuck you, you transvestite.’ Silla strode off. Jasmine stood shaking and mystified by Silla’s sudden anger.
‘Are you OK, love?’
Jasmine turned to see she had been joined by three young women, all three in the “lesbian uniform” as Silla had described it. Two had hair cut short but one had auburn tresses that touched her shoulders.
‘Uh, yes, thanks.’
‘Silla’s like one of the Taliban. A bit of an extremist when it comes to feminism and transgenderism,’ one of the short-haired girls said. ‘She was at a women students’ meeting we went to.’
‘Funny thing is the really radical women won’t let her join because she’s still got a penis,’ the other cropped girl giggled, ‘What do you want to drink, Angela?’
The auburn haired girl smiled, ‘A white wine please.’
‘We’ll get it. You stay and look after this young lady,’ the first girl said with an emphasis on “lady”.
The two short-haired girls moved off, squeezing through the growing crowd.
‘You’re Angela?’ Jasmine said.
‘That’s right, and you are?’
‘Jasmine.’ She looked at the girl. Although she was apparently wearing the same outfit as her two companions Jasmine now noticed certain differences. The jeans were fitted and revealed the curve of her buttocks. The top buttons of her shirt were undone revealing a pretty lace bra, and she was wearing eye-shadow and lipstick unlike the other girls. ‘The other two …’ she started struggling to find the appropriate words.
‘Sid and Tiff. They’re my flatmates. Lesbians. They dragged me out with them rather than leave me on my own.’
‘Oh, so you’re not a lesbian.’
‘No way. We just got thrown together.’
‘You’re a first year.’
‘Yeah, you too?’
‘But, Jasmine, you’re not a lesbian are you. Why are you here?’
Jasmine had been waiting for this. Silla had dragged her gender identity from her and if she couldn’t be honest at an LGBT party where else could she be?
‘I’m trans, a cross-dresser. My real name’s James. James Frame.’ Jasmine expected Angela’s face to show distaste and for her to make an excuse to walk away, but instead there was a sparkle in Angela’s eyes and a broad grin.
‘Really? That’s fascinating. Why? What do you like about dressing as a girl?’
‘Here’s your wine, Ange,’ Sid or Tiff thrust a plastic cup into Angela’s hand, ‘We’re going to get some dancing and snogging done. You OK?’
Angela took the cup, ‘Yes, Jasmine and I are getting to know each other.’

Painted Ladies: A Jasmine Frame Story is available as an e-book and paperback from all booksellers including Amazon

Painted Ladies front cover jpeg

Jasmine Frame in “Soft Focus”

It’s been one of those busy weeks you get after a time away. As well as catching up with the usual stuff, doing research for the 3rd Jasmine Frame novel (working title – The Brides), I’ve done three sessions with the great folks of the Malvern Book Promotions group, two as Penny reading from Painted Ladies and talking about Jasmine, and one as Peter introducing Evil Above the Stars to the world (there will be mnore about that on my SF/fanatsy page soon).  They’ve all been good fun and I’ve met some lovely people but they haven’t been the great selling opportunities that I hoped.  Oh, well, it’s all publicity I suppose.

With other presenters at Mad March Malvern Book Promotions

With other presenters at Mad March Malvern Book Promotions

I haven’t had time for writing but I have been thinking about the next prequel so here is a short introduction to  Soft Focus (working title) looking at another stage in the development of Jasmine Frame as a transsexual detective.

Soft Focus – Part 1

There was a tap on the door and a muffled voice.
‘Jim? It’s me. Are you ready?’
Jasmine sat up on her single bed. She recognised the voice.
‘Coming Andy.’ Jasmine swung her legs off the bed and stood up on her high heeled shoes. She took the five steps to the door, turned the key and opened the door just a little. Andy was there in the narrow corridor, looking no different to usual – jeans and t-shirt with a slogan that was only witty to other computer nerds.
‘Are you ready?’ he said, ‘Have you done it? Got dressed?’
As an answer Jasmine pulled the door open and looked for the response in Andy’s face to her revelation.
‘Phew!’ was all he said as his eyes went up and down taking in her shiny, sheer tights, short denim skirt and black metallic off the shoulder top that clung to her (artificial) breasts. His eyes settled on her made up face, long, mascaraed eye lashes and shoulder-length blonde hair.
‘I’m not sure if I can do this, Andy,’ Jasmine said taking a step back into her room. Andy followed her and shoved the door closed.
‘What do you mean? Do what?’
‘Go to the party. Like this.’
‘Why not? You look fantastic.’
‘Do I look like a girl?’
‘Of course.’
‘Not a tranny; a bloke in a skirt?’
‘No. Not at all. Look if I wasn’t gay, I’d fancy you.’
‘But I am a boy. Shouldn’t you fancy me?’
‘Not when you’re a girl. Hey this is doing my brain in.’ Andy shook his ginger haired head. ‘Come on let’s go.’
‘I don’t know,’ Jasmine shifted her weight from one foot to another. ‘I’m nervous.’
‘About what? Look, you told me you’ve been dressing up for years. You’ve been out. What’s different?’
‘I’ve never been out to somewhere where there would be people who know me as a boy. I don’t know how they’ll react to Jasmine.’
‘Jasmine? Oh, that’s what you’re calling yourself. There’s only one way to find out how people will react and that is to meet them. And where better than the Uni LGBT Club. You’ve joined. You’ve told them you’re trans. What’s the problem?’
Jasmine sighed. She knew Andy was right but she was in a new city, amongst people she was only just getting to know. Not sure exactly who she was.
‘And anyway,’ Andy went on, ‘I don’t think anyone will know it’s Jim Frame inside that outfit and hair. Even I can’t believe Jim and Jasmine are the same person. So come on, before all the decent beer’s gone.’
‘Okay,’ Jasmine said picking up her puffer jacket from the back of the desk chair. She pulled it on and slung her small bag over her shoulder. She followed Andy out of her small student room and locked the door. This would be Jasmine’s first outing in Bristol.
Painted Ladies: A Jasmine Frame Story is available as an e-book and paperback from all booksellers including Amazon

Painted Ladies front cover jpeg

Jasmine in a fix

Watched the programme of Michael Portillo’s railway journey through Israel the other day. It wasn’t just a light historical travelogue. He laboured the point that the three religions that have squabbled over the region, Judaism, Christianity and Islam share a considerable amount of theology, scripture and sacred places and so should get on. What he didn’t reflect on is that it’s the minute diffrences that cause the conflicts and that it isn’t really just three religions as each is riven by factions squabbling over the “true vision”. What would it take for all peoples to live peacably together – I don’t know. Perhaps it is an impossible vision.

keeping up to date

keeping up to date

Anyway to my writing.

With this post I reach the final episode of Discovering Jasmine, the earliest prequel to Painted Ladies. There have now been four prequels all together, the others being Blueprint, Self-portraits (previosuly The Switch) and Close-up focussing on various periods in Jasmine’s evolution and transition from James to the transsexual detective she is in the novels. My main aim is to keep writing the sequel novels and Bodies By Design will be available in some form in the not too distant future. The third novel is also in preparation. So there is plenty of life in Jasmine Frame. I’ll be starting another prequel novella sometime soon, but here it is – the last part of Discovering Jasmine.

Discovering Jasmine – Part 12

Flames bloomed on the end of the stick like a fiery candyfloss. Jasmine was already launching herself across the foyer as Stash thrust the burning cloth through the broken letterbox of Cleo’s flat. She thudded into Stash’s legs as flames roared out of the hole accompanied by a whump!
They sprawled across the floor of the foyer towards the entrance. Jasmine’s skirt was around her waist and one of the bags spilled out of her bra, burst and shed grains of rice. She held on tightly to Stash’s legs trying desperately to prevent him from moving. Stash wriggled, flexed his knees, thrust against her. He was bigger, stronger than she was. One foot slipped out of her grasp. He kicked and his trainer slammed in to Jasmine’s shoulder. Her grip on his other leg weakened. He was free and on top of her, sitting astride her, one hand on her throat, the other holding something. What? It glinted in the yellow light of the flames flickering out of the door. The knife!
Heavy leather shoes pounded on the vinyl floor. In the corner of her eye Jasmine saw the bottom of two pairs of dark-trousered legs approach but her focus was on the silver blade hovering a few centimetres from her face.
‘Come closer and she gets it,’ Stash growled. The legs stopped moving.
A deep voice spoke. ‘Let her go lad. You know you’re not going anywhere.’
‘Get back I said. I mean it.’ The blade approached her cheek. The legs receded.
Stash’s head lowered and Jasmine saw him examining her.
‘You’re the cunt who got in the way last night. Another fucking tranny.’
Jasmine didn’t reply and held still although her heart was thumping and all the muscles in her body were trembling with fear. The point of the knife moved down to the side of her neck and pressed against her skin. She dare not move in case the blade penetrated. As if in a distance she heard the crackling of fire and cries. The acrid smell of smoke oozed out of gaps around the door.
Stash leaned closer. ‘We’re going to get out of here, you and me,’ he whispered in her ear. ‘You’re going to do as I say. Now stand up!’ Stash shifted his weight off her. His fingers pressed into her throat so that her breath came in strangled gasps. Cold steel touched her neck. The point wobbled. There was a sharp pain as the tip penetrated. Jasmine felt blood trickle down around her neck.
The knife moved away a little as Stash rose onto his feet. Jasmine pushed her hands against the floor to help her keep her balance and take the pressure off her throat which he maintained a grip on. They were both on their feet and Stash shifted to stand behind her his left arm locked around her neck and the stubby knife in his right hand pressed against a spot below her right ear.
Two policeman stood three metres away just inside the main entrance. They were poised ready to leap forward but there was fear in their eyes. Fear for her. Stash shuffled backwards, dragging Jasmine with him. One small step, two.
A crunch of something hard hitting bone. A groan, Stash’s not hers, and they were falling sideways, Jasmine dragged down by Stash’s arm. The point of the blade scratched her neck. They hit the floor; the knife slipped from Stash’s hand; the arm around her loosened. She rolled free, lay still, gasping for breath, pain in her neck, blood dripping. There were arms on her turning her over. She couldn’t see. Everything was confused.
‘That was risky, Ma’am. He had a knife to her throat,’ the male voice.
‘I had to do something. She’s not hurt is she?’ Bartrum’s.
‘There’s blood. It could be serious. We’d better get them out before this whole place goes up.’ The bass voice again.
Jasmine felt arms pushing under her body, lifting her. She realised her eyes were closed. It took an effort to open them. A burly, bearded police officer was holding her in his arms, lurching towards the entrance. They were out in the cool air; air that had been fresh but was now tainted by smoke. Her rescuer staggered up the path to the road. There was shouting, sirens, people, lots of people, milling around. At the edge of her vision there was flickering orange, yellow, red.
The policeman laid her on the road, knelt down beside her.
‘Are you okay, Miss.’
Jasmine considered. Her shoulder ached but she could breathe normally again. Her limbs felt weak but they were under her control. Her heart beat was slowing.
‘Yes,’ she croaked, her mouth dry.
A torch shone in her face. ‘Let’s check your neck. I think it looks worse than it is. There’s blood but I don’t think he caught your artery.’
There were other people around her, looking down, faces anxious. DC Bartrum was there. She leaned closer.
‘Jasmine. Are you alight?’
Jasmine pushed her hands against the tarmac, trying to sit up.
‘No, don’t move,’ Bartrum said, ‘The cut might tear. The paramedics will be here in a moment. They’ll wash the blood away, see how deep the cut is.’
‘Cleo?’ Jasmine said.
‘She’s okay. We got her out of the window. The fire’s taken hold.’
‘We’ve got him.’
‘You hit him.’
‘She clobbered him with a length of two by four,’ the deep-voiced police officer said. ‘Knocked him out cold. Took a risk though. The knife could have slit your throat.’
‘I had to do something,’ Bartrum said, ‘it looked like he was going to kill you if he couldn’t get away.’
‘Thanks,’ Jasmine said. There was movement near her. A bag was placed beside her and a different coloured uniform knelt to peer at her.
‘Hello, Miss. How do you feel?’ the paramedic said. His face came close to hers, a light shining from his forehead.
‘Okay,’ she replied and decided it was true. Her breathing was back to normal and while her shoulder and neck felt a bit sore she couldn’t identify any major pains.
‘I’ll just clean you up a bit.’ He dabbed gently at her neck with something cool and damp. ‘Ah, there’s some bruising and a couple of superficial cuts, but the bleeding has almost stopped. A plaster will fix you up, Miss.’ He rummaged in his bag for a few moments then placed a sticking plaster on her neck. She felt it more than the cuts. ‘You had a lucky escape,’ the paramedic went on, ‘a little bit deeper and lower and your carotid artery would have been severed. Take care of yourself.’ He moved away from her. ‘Where’s the next casualty?’
‘Over here. He’s unconscious,’ another voice said.
She had no reason for lying still anymore and the surface of the road was rather hard. Jasmine sat up. DC Bartrum was crouching beside her.
‘Can I help you up?’ she said offering her arms.
Jasmine grasped Bartrum’s hand and levered herself on to her feet. ‘Thanks.’ A wave of nausea passed through her and then she was standing straight and feeling almost normal. She brushed her skirt down her thighs, noticed that she had only one boob again and looked around. Flames were shooting out of the windows of Cleo’s flat making a bright contrast with the darkening sky. People had moved back to the far side of the road, the gang corralled behind a circle of police officers. A fire engine arrived, siren blaring and fire officers leapt out. The paramedic was at work on the prone form of Stash who also lay in the road. Approaching her from the other side of the road was Cleo accompanied by a female police officer. Cleo was wearing a lacy white minidress covered in dark smudges.
‘Jasmine?’ the question was tentative.
‘Yes, it’s me, Cleo. Jasmine/James.’
‘They told me it was you that told the police that they were going to petrol bomb me.’
‘Yes. I didn’t want you hurt. Are you okay?’
Cleo waved her hands. ‘Yeah, I was out of the window as soon the fire started and the cops appeared.’
‘I’m sorry about your flat.’
‘It wasn’t up to much. The housing association will have to find me a decent place now.’
‘But your clothes and other stuff?’
‘Charity shop gear. I can soon pick up some more.’
‘I thought the police would have stopped it happening.’
‘We had to catch Wright and his gang in the act,’ Bartrum said, ‘but we didn’t mean for him to actually torch the place.’
‘He should have been apprehended with the petrol can and lighter.’ Jasmine recognised the angry Scottish tones of DI MacNeil as he joined the trio. He wore an anti-stab jacket over his casual shirt and trousers. ‘And you were supposed to remain well away from the action with DC Bartrum,’ he continued.
‘I worked out how he planned to get inside the building,’ Jasmine said.
‘You should have told Bartrum who would have called through to warn us.’ It was obvious to Jasmine that she wasn’t being congratulated. Not that she felt like a hero.
‘Uh, Yes…’ She put a hand to her neck, feeling the sticking plaster. She trembled. Stash could have just slit her throat rather than attempt to use her as a hostage. Cleo could have been trapped in the smoke filled flat. Perhaps if she had spoken to Bartrum and she had alerted the police team they could have stopped Stash before he ignited the petrol. She had endangered herself, Cleo and possibly the police officers. What an idiot. ‘I’m sorry,’ she said, her voice quavering.
The scowl slid from MacNeil’s face and he spoke more soothingly.
‘Well, we can lay a few more charges in front of Wright, when he’s recovered from the headache Bartrum gave him, and the whole gang will face a conspiracy charge. So, thanks for your help.’ He held out his hand to shake Jasmine’s.
‘Yeah, thanks, Jasmine,’ Cleo added, flinging her beefy arms around her and hugging her.
‘I’d better get you back home, Jasmine,’ DC Bartrum said, ‘while we clear up here. Come on.’ She hooked an arm around Jasmine’s and gently dragged her away from the scene.

Back in the small Rover, driving across town, Bartrum glanced across at Jasmine.
‘You okay?’
Jasmine had been sitting quietly. ‘Yes,’ she said, but a vision of the knife sliding into her throat kept on replaying in her head. She didn’t think she’d ever forget it.
‘Still thinking about a career in the Police Force?’
‘You reacted fast back there,’ Bartrum said. ‘Perhaps not the right action but with training you could be a good officer. Think about it.’

Painted Ladies: A Jasmine Frame Story is available as an e-book and paperback from all booksellers including Amazon

Painted Ladies front cover jpeg

Jasmine makes a run for it

I’m making a few changes to this blog. Thoughts about transgenderism, crime, Jasmine Frame and all that will continue to appear here along with episodes of Jasmine Frame stories. But to read about my SF/fantasy writing, particularly the September Weekes series, Evil Above the Stars there is a new page for your delectation. Soon there will be extra pages on other topics and possibly a whole new design – exciting.

One question that has been concerning me this week is this. Is Jasmine in a niche (or a rut)? My original aim was to write exciting crime thrillers in which the lead character, Jasmine Frame was a pre-op transsexual. I hoped that put her in the niche crime thriller market (as opposed to the police procedural or whodunnit mystery niches) which is pretty big. The suggestion is that I’ve actually confined her to the transgender fiction niche which is a considerably smaller market. So far all my plots have centred around trans issues because obviously Jasmine is pretty emotionally involved in such matters. Does that stop them being appreciated by a wider audience?  I hope not but perhaps I need you, the readers of this blog, to let me know what you think.

Even trans writers have to do the chores

Even trans writers have to do the chores

Here then is the next episode of the prequel to Painted Ladies that tells of Jasmine’s beginnings.

Discovering Jasmine: Part 8

Despite the warm August sunshine, James felt cold inside. The gang were planning on hurting Cleo really badly but what could he do about it? Run away while Nicko and his mates were lying around relaxing or wait to see what they did? But he couldn’t stop their plan all on his own. He wasn’t sure what to do so just sat, arms around his knees and conscious of the fading ache in his abdomen caused by Nicko’s punch.
‘So, Jimbo, you don’t like trannies,’ Nicko said.
‘Uh, no,’ James replied, feeling the greater pain of betrayal.
‘What you got against them then?’
James thought. What did people like Nicko have against people like Cleo? ‘It’s not normal, is it,’ he offered as a likely answer.
‘What ain’t?’ Nicko asked.
‘Well, a bloke wearing women’s stuff and all that.’
Nicko nodded. ‘Yeah and actually asking to have your knob and balls cut off. That’s sick.’
The other boys nodded and grunted in agreement.
‘They try to make out they’re women,’ Nicko continued, ‘and fool blokes into fucking them.’
James wasn’t sure that Cleo spent time prowling around the estate looking for men to have sex with, even if she did dream of a lover.
‘That’s why we’ve got to get rid of people like this cheating fucker,’ Nicko concluded. ‘Don’t you agree, Jimbo?’
‘Oh, yes,’ James said, wishing that he was miles away from this cosy chat.
The two boys that had been sent off returned carrying cans and bottles and celebrating their victory over the shopkeeper. Each member of the gang selected from the choice of cheap strong lager or cider. Nicko chucked a can to James.
‘There you go, Jimbo, courtesy of the Crew.’
James tugged at the ring pull, sucked at the froth that emerged but did not take a swig of the strong alcohol. He had to keep hold of his wits and not get drunk. The gang though, swiftly emptied their first cans and started on a second. Their conversation grew louder and reduced to expletives and accusations. A couple of boys wandered down to Cleo’s window and bellowed obscenities through the pane. Another couple engaged in a mock fight like playful lion cubs.
A boy stood up and lurched towards the apartment block. ‘I need to take a leak,’ he muttered.
‘Piss on the perv’s door,’ Nicko called out. The boy nodded and continued around the building.
James watched his surroundings. The road was quiet with just the occasional car passing by. There were even fewer pedestrians. A woman pushing a pushchair came up the road but crossed over before she got close to the carousing crew. She hurried past.
The boozy conversations were halted by the familiar tinkle of the Nokia tune. All the boys looked to Nicko who scrabbled in the pocket of his jeans. He pulled out a chunky mobile phone, looked at it as if it was a monster then stabbed one of the buttons with a thick, grubby finger. He held the phone to his ear.
‘Hello?’ he said, somewhat tentatively, ‘Oh, Stash, it’s you.’ His head went back suggesting that he’d been given a telling off in some ripe language, then he listened closely for a minute or so. Finally he pressed another button and shoved the phone back in his pocket. He looked around at his fellow gang members.
‘That was Stash,’ he said. Everyone nodded as if they hadn’t gathered the fact. ‘It’s all set for this evening. Stash wants us to keep an eye on the tranny until he comes down with the stuff when it’s getting dark. We’ve got to make sure the guy doesn’t leave.’
James glanced at his watch. It was just three o’clock. It would be another five hours before the action took place. By then this lot would be off their heads if they drank more booze. He didn’t want to be hanging around when it all happened. At least he now knew something about what was planned.
Nicko hauled himself to his feet. ‘It’s going to be a long wait so I’m going to get some stuff. You lot stay here and do what Stash says. Don’t be stupid.’ He turned his back on the gang and headed up the street. James wondered whether he had been forgotten as the boys returned to their joshing and stories of their triumphs, supping from their cans and bottles. James waited for a few minutes then stood up.
‘Where you off, then?’ a short boy said.
‘Need a pee,’ James said heading off towards the block. The others giggled and returned to joshing one another. James walked down the side of the building, passed the entrance to the flats and on to the rear. As he had observed earlier that took him to a line of garages that linked the three apartment blocks. Once sure he was out of sight of the gang he began to jog. The lane from the garages lead into another road of terraced houses. James kept on running, listening out for any sound of pursuit. There was none. The kids had probably forgotten all about him, at least until Nicko returned. Then they might start to wonder about who he was. By then though he would be far away, never to return.

Soon, James reached the perimeter road of the estate. He crossed and passed into the older part of the town. He slowed to a gentle trot. Ten minutes and another mile brought him to the town centre and the entrance to the police station he had visited the previous night. He walked up the steps and opened the door. The police officer on the desk was unfamiliar. It was silly to expect the same one as in the middle of the night but James was sorry that he had to introduce himself all over again. This was a man in his fifties with greying hair and signs of a paunch.
‘Yeah, lad, what can we do for you?’
James was unsure where to start. ‘They’re going to murder Cleo,’ he blurted out. The police officer looked unconcerned but picked up a pencil and twisted it around his fingers.
‘Right. Who’s Cleo and what makes you think she’s going to be murdered?’
‘Um, I don’t know her surname. She lives in a flat on the council estate. She’s transsexual.’
‘Oh, that Cleo,’ the PC groaned. ‘Has she been telling you that they’re going to get her?’
‘No, well, yes, and no.’
‘What do you mean lad?’
‘Well, I did speak to her. She told me about all the aggro she gets.’
‘Well, she will go flaunting herself in mini-skirts and tight blouses. Always down here complaining about fancied slight or other. Stories, all of them.’
James realised that there wasn’t a lot of sympathy for Cleo.
‘She’s on her own,’ he said.
‘Yeah, who’d want to be with a creature like that,’ the officer said in an offhand manner.
‘But she’s being targeted. Her flat is graffitied, her window smashed. She gets abused every time she goes out, and this evening they’re going to put a petrol bomb through her door.’
‘She told you that did she?’ The PC sniffed.
‘No. Stash said so.’
The police officer stared at James, suddenly interested. ‘Stash Wright? Dark hair, mixed-race?’
‘Yes, that’s him. He’s leader of the Crew.’
‘How did you meet him?’
James described how Nicko and his mates had met him outside Cleo’s flat, taken him to Stash and then included him in their stakeout.
‘So you don’t like trannies either. Is that it?’
‘No, no. I don’t dislike trans people at all. I am one.’
‘What?’ The officer’s eyes opened wide. ‘Look lad, I think you’d better start at the beginning.’
James sighed, drew a breath and related the previous evening’s events and explained that he had wanted to check that Cleo wasn’t badly hurt and so had called on her.
‘So why did you join Stash’s gang.’
‘I didn’t join but I couldn’t just walk away from them. They would have trashed me if they thought I wasn’t with them. Stash is the guy who had the knife last night.’ James saw the flashing blade in his head again. ‘I recognised him straightaway, and he had the same knife that I saw last night.’
‘Didn’t he recognise you?’ The policeman seemed unconvinced.
‘No, I was dressed as a girl last night, make-up, ear rings, my hair brushed up. Most people only see what they expect to see. Today they saw a boy in jeans and trainers; they didn’t see the girl in the short dress and high-heels.’
The PC’s face turned pink and he started scribbling on the pad in front of him.
‘OK,’ he said after a few minutes of writing. ‘So you overheard the gang making a plan to attack the trans-guy.’
‘Cleo. She’s a woman. She’s had all the treatment.’
‘OK, so you say. So what are they going to do, pour paint through her letter box or something?’
‘Not paint. Petrol. They want to drive her out by setting fire to her flat and then kill her.’
‘That’s a bit over-dramatic isn’t it, lad? Are you sure that’s what Stash meant? We’ve had Cleo in here before saying she’s had death threats.’
‘Yes, I’m sure. Stash and his gang are going to get her.’
‘Hmm.’ The officer sucked his pencil. ‘I think I’d better pass this on. Take a seat for a while, lad.’ He pointed with the pencil to the bench seats set against the opposite wall of the foyer. James went to them and sat down. He wasn’t sure that the police had taken Cleo’s predicament seriously before. Would they now?

Painted Ladies:A Jasmine Frame Story is available as an e-book and a paperback from all booksellers including Amazon

Painted Ladies cover

Jasmine seeks out Cleo

All week I have been keeping an eye on a certain e-book supplier (here) to see how Seventh Child (Evil Above the Stars vol.1) is doing.  Well it’s not in the best seller list but has moved up and down and up so I presume that means some copies have been sold. Volume 2, Power of Seven will be available soon and then we’ll see what happens.

I’ve been having discussions and giving thought to how I can promote both of my series – Jasmine Frame and Painted Ladies and September Weekes and Evil Above the Stars. The problem is that they are in two different genres with, probably, very different readerships. It has been suggested that I have a website linked to this blog and stick solely to  crime fiction and transgenderism  i.e. Jasmine Frame, with my fantasy/SF material promoted elsewhere.  What do you think?

It was interesting to learn this week that Jasmine (and me for that matter) are no longer allowed to drive in Russia, because Putin’s government have included  trans on a list of “medical” conditions that could cause drivers to have accidents. What! How blatant can prejudice be? Well, that’s it. I won’t be visiting Russia (another country crossed off).

Penny Ellis -  no longer allowed to drive in Russia

Penny Ellis – no longer allowed to drive in Russia

So to Discovering Jasmine, a prequel to Painted Ladies. Here’s the next instalment. Let me know what you think.

Discovering Jasmine: Part 5

They were back in the police car, driving out of the town centre, heading home. James felt tired and depressed but he couldn’t stop thinking about Cleo the transsexual.
‘Did you catch the gang that attacked Cleo?’ he said.
The police officer in the front passenger seat twisted to face him.
‘What was that, lad?’
‘Did you get them? The man with the knife and the others.’
The officer shook his head. ‘They ran off when we turned up.’
‘Didn’t you chase after them?’
‘No. Our first responsibility is to the victims. We had to check that you and Cleo were safe and getting the treatment you needed. We try not split up. It’s not like on TV you know.’
‘So the men got away.’
‘I wouldn’t call them men,’ the officer said. ‘From your descriptions, and other bystanders, they were youths, a similar age to you, possibly even younger.’
‘But you will go after them?’ James had the feeling that the police weren’t too concerned.
‘We will be continuing with our enquiries.’
‘What will you do?’
‘Someone will talk to Cleo when she gets home from hospital. There’s a good chance that she knew the boys. They probably live on her estate.’
‘And that’s it. Couldn’t you be rounding up the kids on the estate to question?’
‘Look lad. We don’t go pulling in people unless we’ve got a good idea they are involved in a crime and we haven’t the officers to launch a major inquiry just because one tranny has got himself beaten up. The investigation is live, that’s all, OK.’ The officer turned back to face the front. Holly patted James’ hand.
‘Don’t say anything more,’ she whispered.
‘But…but…’ James wanted to say that Cleo’s life had been threatened and it sounded as if it wasn’t the first time she’d been attacked. Why wasn’t she being protected? Was it all because she was transsexual?

They soon arrived at the dark house. James and Holly got out and watched the police car drive off at speed before they went inside. James trudged upstairs without a word and went to his bedroom. He pulled off the sandals, slipped the remains of Holly’s dress over his head, extracted the one bag of rice and unclipped the bra, then wearing just the knickers went to the bathroom to wash off the make-up. When he emerged, Holly was waiting on the landing.
‘I’m sorry about your dress,’ James mumbled. Holly waved her hands dismissively.
‘I’m not bothered about that. I’m just sorry you got hurt and that your evening out got spoiled.’
James shrugged his shoulders. ‘Yeah, so am I. Look Hol, I really appreciate what you did. You’ve been really great to me, helping me be Jasmine.’
Holly placed her hand gently on James’s shoulder. ‘Look, I’m not sure I fully understand why you want to dress up as a girl but it obviously means a lot to you. We’ll do it again sometime, although with Mum and Dad back at the weekend I don’t know when or how. It may be the new millennium and all that but I don’t think they’ll want to know you’re a transvestite.’
James shuddered. The thought of revealing Jasmine to his parents was scary as was being found out by his mates.
‘Don’t tell them,’ he said hurriedly.
‘Of course, I won’t, James. It’s our secret if you want it to be.’
Holly gave him a quick kiss on his cheek and went off to her room. James pushed his door open, went in and threw himself onto his bed.

Next day was warm and sunny so when James set off for the council estate, shortly after breakfast, he wore a T-shirt, jeans and old trainers. He thought that would make him blend in as he searched for Cleo’s flat. He got off the bus and started walking the streets. There were a few kids on the road kicking a ball around but otherwise there was little movement. Most of the buildings were shabby terraces and semi-detached houses put up in the fifties and sixties. There were scruffy patches of grass or dried mud in front of them where cars were parked or dumped with one or more wheels missing.
He came to a development of four storey apartment blocks. It wasn’t difficult to guess which contained Cleo’s flat. The ground floor walls on two sides of the block had slogans and pictures crudely sprayed on them. “Tranny” and “Perv” were a couple of the legible words and a few fanciful images of penis and testicles. It appeared that someone had attempted to remove most of the graffiti but some looked older than others and more ingrained into the brickwork. A window facing the road was partly boarded up. James walked up the side of the building till he came to a communal door. It opened when he pushed on it and he stepped into drab foyer with a dusty, vinyl-tiled floor. There was a stairs and entrances on the left and right. He chose the left. There was no bell or knocker so he tapped his knuckles on the door. It was a few moments until he heard feet scuffing against a carpet on the other side of the door.
‘Who’s there?’ A voice called out. Neither deep nor high-pitched it was impossible to tell if it was a male or female.
‘Is that Cleo?’ James replied. ‘We sort of met last night; on the promenade; when you were being attacked. I tried to help.’
There was the rattle of locks being undone and the door opened a few centimetres but was stopped by a chain. Half a face appeared, pressed into the gap.
‘Who are you? What are you doing here?’
‘I’m James Frame but last night I was Jasmine. I wanted to know if you were OK.’
‘You were the kid who stopped those thugs attacking me?’
‘Yeah. Well, I tried.’
‘You’re trans?’
‘Um. Yes.’ It was still difficult for James to admit it to someone else. The door closed, the chain clanked and then the door opened wider.
James noticed Cleo’s head first. Mousy hair flecked with grey covered her ears but had receded from her high forehead. One eye was covered with a patch and bruising showed around it. There was dried blood in a cut on her lip and another bruise on her cheek. Then James looked down and noticed the pressure bandage on Cleo’s right wrist, the short pink vest revealing a paunch and the miniskirt that failed to cover most of her plump thighs. Her legs were bare but she wore high-heeled sandals.
‘You’d better come in.’ Cleo looked over James’ shoulder, obviously checking there was no one else in the foyer, then stepped back into the short hallway. James stepped through the doorway and waited while Cleo closed the door and replaced the chain. Then James followed her through a door into a small living room with a tiny kitchen attached.
‘Have a seat,’ Cleo said sweeping a heap of newspapers off the grubby two-seater settee and shoving a dirty plate underneath it. James sat down hugging himself tightly so he didn’t have to touch too much. The room was a mess, with heaps of papers, magazines and post and piles of clothes, washed and unwashed. It was quite dim despite the bright sunlight outside because half the small window was covered with cardboard.
‘So here you are,’ Cleo began. She tried to speak in the upper register of her voice but every few words it dropped an octave. ‘You can see I’m fine. Just a bit bruised. Is that all you want to know or is it the first time you’ve seen another tranny?’
James was confused. Cleo was suspicious and not very welcoming. Perhaps she had reason to be.
‘I can see you took a hammering,’ he said. ‘Are you sure you’re feeling alright. Can I do anything for you? Go to the shops or something. Those blokes were vicious.’
‘Kids they were. Just fucking kids. I don’t need any help but thanks for the offer.’ Cleo pulled up a dining chair and sat down spreading her legs. James stopped himself from looking up her short skirt at her knickers. His eyes rose to her T-shirt stretched across her high, ample bosom and battered face.
‘One of them had a knife. He took a swipe at me,’ he said.
‘Yeah. The cops asked me about that. I didn’t see it.’
‘The police officer thought you might know them.’
‘They’re probably from around here. I might recognise them. Don’t know their names though.’
‘You get bothered a lot?’
‘Bothered!’ Cleo laughed. ‘Obscenities sprayed on my wall; banging on my door at all times of day and night; stones thrown at my windows, some large enough to smash the glass.’ She pointed to the boarded up window. ‘Followed whenever I step outside the door, name-calling the whole time. Oh, yes, I get bothered.’

Painted Ladies: a Jasmine Frame story is available as an e-book and paperback from all booksellers including Amazon

Painted Ladies cover

Conflict in fiction from Gruffalo to Hobbit

Last week I bemoaned the emphasis on dystopias and post-apocalypse societies in SF as “easy” ways of introducing conflict in stories while novels based in utopian civilisations such as Banks’ Culture require a more imaginative plot. I was being provocative as of course there are many excellent stories set in dystopic societies from 1984 onwards. What I was thinking about was the need for conflict to make a story interesting. This week I am spending quite a bit of time reading to my 3-year-old grandson (and hence not writing much myself) which has caused me to think further about tension in stories.

I must admit to a growing admiration for Julia Donaldson. First of all the language in all her books is a delight to read aloud – the rhythms and rhymes with their selection of appropriate vocabulary (not always the simplest or most common words) creates wonderful word pictures, but the stories are also exciting because of the conflict or tension she evokes. Gentle they may be as they are aimed at young children but the plots of the Gruffalo (and G’s child), Stickman, Superworm and Room on the Broom, place their characters in sticky (no pun intended) situations resolved by cleverness or team work. For example, Superworm is rescued from the wicked wizard lizard by the combined action of all the insects and amphibians he helped, while Mouse uses guile to avoid being gobbled up by various creatures including the Gruffalo. These are all much more satisfactory stories than traditional tales that often require a deus ex machina to resolve the plot.  Even on (many) repeated readings Donaldson’s work gives pleasure to the older reader as well as the young listener. Which is more than I can say for Dr Seuss and “Green Eggs and Ham”.

It is a pity that so much modern SF, particularly films, think that resolving  a conflict can only be done by lots of flashes and bangs and violence instead of using intelligence. My main dissatisfaction with The Hobbit films is their use of destruction to solve problems rather than Bilbo’s cleverness as happens in the book. Now I must admit that in my fantasy series, Evil Above the Stars, September destroys the forces arrayed against her using miraculous powers but they are controlled by the qualities she finds within herself. Transsexual detective, Jasmine Frame too, while facing violent antagonists, relies on her powers of deduction more than her physical prowess, although I have to admit that she has to be rescued on more than one occasion by her buddy, DS Tom Shepherd. Of course how much tension there is in my stories is up to my readers to report.

Painted Ladies: a Jasmine Frame Story is available in paperback and as an e-book from all booksellers.

Evil Above the Stars: volume 1 Seventh Child and volume 2 Power of Seven will be published by Elsewhen Press in e-book in Jan. 2015 and in paperback in March 2015.

Seven is a theme of Evil Above the Stars

Seven is a theme of Evil Above the Stars


Close-up: Jasmine makes a discovery

I had a really great time at NAWG Writing Festival last weekend. I attended informative and enjoyable workshops run by Veronica Heley and Tim Wilson and there were also good talks by Steve Bowkett, Paul Dodgson and Richard Denning. Jane Wenham Jones carried out very amusing interviews with the committee and speakers and David Nobbs was a superb after dinner speaker. As I expected I came back fired up to push my writing further and do more to get Jasmine more widely read – watch this space.

So on with the prequel to Painted Ladies feturing Jasmine Frame, transsexual detective.

Close-up: Part 5

Parnell’s face clouded with anger. ‘There’s no law against what I wear, or about having a wank.’
‘No, there isn’t,’ Jasmine said, ‘if you don’t do it in front of members of the public, specifically teenage girls.’
Parnell glowered at her. ‘I told you, I’ve stopped that.’
‘But not in private. The female underwear that DC Money saw here is yours isn’t it, and I think I see a bra under that rugby shirt.’
He crossed his arms across his chest and avoided looking at her.
‘Look, after I was done for it I tried to give it up, I really did, but I couldn’t. I had to do it, dress up that is, but I’m really careful about it now.’
The thought of putting on bra and stockings to get aroused disgusted Jasmine but it brought back memories she’d prefer to forget. As a child she had thought she was a girl like her older sister, Holly, and like the other girls she met at the playground and at school. It was disconcerting when in her early teens her body began to change and the frequent erections appalled her. She wanted a female body without the male bits. She had started to “borrow” Holly’s clothes to give herself a feminine appearance when she was alone, but was mortified when her hated appendage poked from the thin cotton knickers and there was just one way to subdue it. Thankfully that phase had soon passed and putting on dresses, blouses and skirts became a way to reaffirm her sense of feminine identity and definitely not a means of excitement.
It seemed that Parnell had never moved on from the association of female underwear with sexual pleasure, but she knew that it was almost impossible for a person to throw off a trait which was so ingrained in their personality. The existence of the pink mac showed that his fetish had evolved in some respects.
‘You still like to go out to be seen by people in the street.’
Parnell nodded and spoke in a hiss. ‘Yes, but I do it properly. I dress up and wear a wig and all that. I was out this morning. There’s nothing wrong in that. ’
‘No, there isn’t.’ Jasmine was forced to agree recalling her early trips outdoors when her choice of dress and make-up wasn’t as well-developed as her female contemporaries. A wig hid a lot of things but couldn’t alter male posture or voice.
Parnell looked at her as if seeing her for a first time.
‘Why are you asking all these questions anyway? It’s got nothing to do with this missing baby.’ He stared into her face. ‘You’re one too, aren’t you? You’ve been going on about what I do but you’re a trannie too.’
‘I’m transsexual.’ Jasmine stepped away from him. ‘I don’t get off on what I wear, the clothes are part of my identity. I’m a woman.’
‘Huh, I suppose you want the NHS to cut off your cock and give you a fanny. And you think what I do is disgusting. Well, get lost. Go and pry into someone else’s private life and let me get on with mine.’ He advanced towards her. Jasmine retreated into the hallway and out onto the metal landing. The door slammed shut.
Well, that was successful, she muttered to herself as she descended. Had she got anything out of the exchange with Parnell other than a severe dose of embarrassment? No. She decided not to use her authority to enter the restricted area around the lock. She didn’t want to meet any of her colleagues who would wonder what she was doing at the scene. She crossed the river and strode quickly through the streets back to Police HQ.

DCI Sloane was standing in the doorway to his office when she returned to her desk. He saw her and frowned.
‘Back at last, Frame. I need that analysis of the CCTV footage. See if there are any characters showing an interest in Markham and her child.’
‘Yes, Sir.’ Jasmine sat in her chair trying to make herself as small and inconspicuous as possible. She didn’t want Sloane to question the time taken up by her appointment. It was nearly four o’clock. She woke up her computer and reloaded the CCTV recordings. There was also a transcript of Amber Markham’s statement. She read through it and made a note of the times mentioned. It was a slow, tedious task correlating the sightings of Amber and the pushchair from various camera viewpoints with her reported movements. The more she looked the more she became confused.
Amber said she had left home about nine-thirty and walked from her home to the north end of High Street. She said she had walked down the pedestrianized shopping street stopping at a few places before she arrived at the delicatessen. Because it was busy she had left the pushchair outside and gone inside to make her purchases. That was about ten-fifteen. Amber said she had left the shop, found her child missing and run around searching for him until she bumped into the CSOs at ten-twenty. The problem was that her appearances on CCTV didn’t match her story, not exactly.
Jasmine went through the recordings once again, zooming into the picture to watch Amber in close-up and following her in slow-motion. Something caught her eye. A pink blob.
She copied the relevant snippets of video and stitched them together to produce a continuous record of Amber’s movements from nine-forty when she first appeared to her meeting the CSOs. She sat back in her chair, rubbing her eyes. The clock on the wall above the whiteboard caught her eye. Seven p.m. Had three hours passed almost without her noticing? She got to her feet, easing the stiffness from her back and neck, and went to knock on Sloane’s door.
‘Come in.’
She pushed the door open.
‘Ah, Frame. Got that report I asked you to do this morning?’
His tone gave her the feeling that he thought she’d been idling while the rest of the team worked. Or was she imagining it?
‘Yes, Sir. I think you should look at it.’
‘What have you got?’ Sloane rose from his chair.
‘I think the case is not quite what we thought.’
‘What do you mean?’ Sloane circled his desk and followed Jasmine back to her own workstation. She sat at the computer and he leaned down behind her, staring at the screen.
‘I’ve put all the sightings of Amber Markham in a timed sequence, Sir.’
‘Good. Let me see.’
Jasmine pressed start and the film began to run. She pointed to the screen.
‘There she is, Sir, with the pushchair at nine-forty. She criss-crosses High Street, taking her time but doesn’t go into any shops. She crosses the bridge to the deli. Unfortunately I haven’t got any shots of her actually at the shop. Then she reappears, still with the pushchair, going back along the High Street.’
‘What time is that, Frame?’
Jasmine froze the frame. ‘Seven minutes past ten, Sir.’
‘Go on. What does she do next?’
Jasmine restarted the video. ‘She turns into Waggoners’ Passage. I haven’t got a view down there, Sir. The Waggon and Boat may have an exterior camera.’
‘Get on to the pub. See if they have anything. So she’s going to the lock where the pushchair was found.’
‘Yes, Sir, but she reappears in the High Street inside a minute,’ Jasmine froze the picture again and pointed to the recording time. ‘There. It’s still ten-oh-eight. But she hasn’t got the pushchair.’
‘By God, she hasn’t. What has she done with it? She couldn’t have had time to get beyond the lock and push it into the water.’
‘No, Sir.’
‘What does she do next?’
Jasmine restarted the film. ‘She walks at a normal speed back towards the bridge and again disappears, presumably into the deli at about ten-past-ten. She comes out of the shop at ten-fifteen, as she said she did, and runs around in circles, stopping other people until she meets the CSOs.’
‘But, let me get this right, she’s already got rid of the pushchair at this point?’
‘Yes, Sir, She left it somewhere or handed it over to someone when she went into Waggoners’ Passage.’
‘And someone else tipped it into the river.’ Sloane scratched his chin.
‘That’s right, Sir. There’s something else, Sir.’
‘What’s that, Frame?’
‘The pushchair had a rain cover over it. You can’t see the child. I don’t think the cover was on the pushchair when it was found in the canal.’
‘That’s correct. It hasn’t turned up in the search either. I think we need to have some words with Miss Markham.’ Sloane straightened and took a step away.
‘There’s one more thing, Sir,’ Jasmine raised her voice to bring Sloane back.
‘Yes, Frame?’ Sloane stopped and turned.
‘Look at this, Sir.’ Jasmine rewound the video until she got to the point she wanted and froze it. Sloane leaned down to look. The picture showed Amber Markham with the pushchair turning into Waggoners’ Passage.
‘What am I looking at, Frame?’
Jasmine zoomed in. The picture enlarged but became blurred.
‘Behind Markham. Standing on the corner of the alleyway.’
‘That pink blob. What is it?’
‘I think it’s Stephen Parnell wearing a woman’s rain coat.’
‘Parnell? The flasher who lives by the lock?’
‘Yes, Sir.’
‘How do you know that it is Parnell?’
‘Because he has a mac like that and he goes out in female dress, Sir.’
‘How do you know that, Frame. Is he one of your trans friends?’
‘No, Sir. I called on him.’ Jasmine took a deep breath waiting for Sloane’s response. It came after a pause during which she held her breath.
‘You called on him?’
Jasmine breathed out. He hadn’t shouted at her. Yet. ‘Yes, Sir, a few hours ago after my appointment.’
Sloane’s nostrils flared. ‘Why did you take it on yourself to call on Parnell after Money said he found nothing at Parnell’s place?’
‘He only thought he was looking for a baby, Sir.’
‘DC Money thought Parnell had a female partner because he saw some feminine clothes in Parnell’s flat. He only knew that Parnell was a flasher not that he was a TV.’
‘TV? Transvestite?’
‘Yes, Sir. I wanted to confirm my suspicions.’
‘And did you?’
‘Yes, Sir. He admitted to going out dressed as a woman and I saw the pink mac.’
‘But what has that got to do with Markham and her child. Why are you wasting time investigating your transgender fraternity? Eh, Frame?’ Jasmine recognised the look on Sloane’s face. She was going to get a lecture on insubordination if she wasn’t careful.
‘Watch this, Sir.’ She zoomed out of the picture again, rewound it a few seconds and then played it forward. Amber and her pushchair approached the Passage. Parnell in his pink rainwear stood out now, standing by the building on the corner of the alley. Amber turned down the narrow gap and Parnell followed her. Several seconds later, Amber reappeared without the chair.
Sloane took three slow, deep breaths before standing up straight. ‘So, in those few seconds, Markham gets rid of the child and the chair. Parnell must have seen what she did or even took it from her.’
‘Yes, Sir,’
‘We need to speak to Parnell as well as Markham.’ Sloane strode off into his office and lifted his phone.

Painted Ladies: A Jasmine Frame Story is available in paperback or e-book from any bookseller

Close-up: Jasmine has an appointment

I’m a little early this week with this blog as I am away for the weekend at the National Association of Writers’ Groups annual Festival of Writing at Warwick University. It should be a fun couple of days meeting up with people I met last year, making new friends, learning more about writing and publishing and perhaps even selling a few copies of Painted Ladies. That would make up for the depressing news I have had from Troubador. Royalties from e-book sales in the last quarter have only just covered the costs of managing my account.  However I did have two appreciative comments about PL this week so it’s not all bad. I am still certain that there is demand for stories about a transgender detective and all the reviews I’ve received suggest that I’m on the right track. It is just a question of reaching the purchasers. I really need to get my marketing working so ideas would be gratefully received.

Anyway, on with the writing. Below is the next episode of Close-up, the third prequel to Painted Ladies. In this episode there is a little more about what it means to be trans…

Close-up: Part 4

 Chapter 2

She only had to wait for a few minutes before she heard her name called. Hearing “Jasmine Frame to Dr Gould” gave her a thrill as it confirmed to anyone listening or looking that she was really who she thought she was. She stood up and hurried down the corridor to the doctor’s office, eager to speak to Dr Gould even though she knew that time was short and that Sloane would be expecting her back on duty soon. Jilly Gould welcomed her in with a smile stretching from one rosy cheek to the other.
‘Hi, Jasmine. Lovely to see you. I expect you’re delighted with your letter.’ She waved a sheet of paper which closely resembled the one that Jasmine had in her hand.
‘Yes, but it’s taken months and two examinations before I got it.’ Jasmine’s impatience dulled her pleasure a little. ‘Sometimes they acted as if I was making it up, that I was wearing a skirt as a lifestyle choice and not to provide evidence that I am a woman.’
‘But you have your diagnosis – gender dysphoria – so you’re on the programme.’
‘Hmm. I wish it didn’t sound as if I’m ill. All I want is for my body to resemble my image of myself.’
‘I understand, Jasmine. I’ve been reading up on gender reassignment. The problem, as you know, is that medically and surgically it’s more than just a bit of simple cosmetic work. It’s a long, difficult op.’
‘Oh, yes, I know what’s involved, Jilly.’ It was the thought of the scalpel cutting into her body to make the necessary changes that made her shudder. A scalpel was just a sharp knife after all and any knife scared her. ‘The thing is it’s going to take me years, isn’t it.’
‘Well, there is a long waiting list and limited funds for gender reassignment,’ Jilly said, regret replacing joy on her face. ‘There is an alternative, you know.’
‘You mean, going private.’
‘Yes. You could have the full works – genitals, breasts, larynx, facial – done in a few months.’
‘It would be great but there’s no way I can afford the bills. Angela and I put all our savings into the house. I don’t know what we’ll do when we divorce…’
‘You’re definitely splitting up?’
‘Yes. Ange has supported me all the way but she doesn’t want a lesbian relationship and I wouldn’t want to stop her finding a man she can have a relationship with. She’s started the proceedings – you know she’s organised like that.’
‘It’s another bit of stress to add to all the rest I suppose, Jas, but I understand why you have to stick with the slow, plodding NHS. Anyway we can make a start with the medication.’
Jasmine smiled. This was what she had expected from the appointment.
‘You can give me the prescription?’
‘Yes. I’ve had the go ahead from the consultants.’
‘You know it’s possible to get the pills on the internet.’
‘You haven’t done that have you?’
‘Of course not.’
‘Good, because it’s very unwise. You need to have the prescription tailored to your body and metabolism and it needs to be monitored. You know it’s not just a question of taking the female oestrogens.’ Dr Gould began to tap at her keyboard.
‘Yes. There are the, what are they called? The anti-androgens as well.’
‘That’s it. They counteract the effect of the testosterone that you will be producing while you still have testicles and allow the oestrogens to begin the feminisation process.’
‘I understand that.’
‘Getting the balance right is difficult. It’s going to be like going through puberty again and menopause, all at the same time. You’ll get mood swings, headaches and a variety of other symptoms. I hope we can get it balanced as soon as possible but there will be changes all the time. Let’s hope you don’t have to wait too long before your surgery. It’s not good to take the anti-androgens for very long.’
‘Hmm. Thanks, Jilly.’ The printer started chuntering and a blurted out a sheet of paper. Jilly tore it off and passed it to Jasmine. Jasmine stared at. She’d done enough research to recognise the names of the drugs that had been prescribed and despite Jilly’s warnings she still felt a sense of celebration.
‘As I said, that’s just a starting formulation based on the tests that you have had. I’ll need to see you fairly frequently at first. If you get any discomfort give me a call straight away.’
‘With your diagnosis you’ll be able to apply for your Gender Recognition Certificate.’
‘In two years’ time!’ The wait seemed an eternity to Jasmine.
‘Of course. I forgot that you have to prove yourself.’
‘I’m legally a woman now despite my body not being right yet, but I will need the certificate to get a new birth certificate.’
‘I’m sorry that you have to be patient, Jasmine. Is there anything else you want to discuss?’
‘I’d love to, Jilly,’ Jasmine glanced at her watch, ‘but we’ve got a lot on today so I’d better get back.’
‘Oh, well, we will have that cosy chat over a glass of wine someday.’
Jasmine stood up and stuffed the prescription and letter into her bag.
‘Thanks, Jilly, for everything.’
‘It’s a pleasure. Take care.’

Jasmine left Dr Gould’s office and the health centre feeling lighter on her feet. At last she was starting to make the changes that would turn her into a real woman, albeit one without a womb or ovaries. She longed for the time when the drugs Jilly had prescribed would soften her features, give her breasts and slow her beard growth. She hoped all those changes would happen quickly.
The rain had stopped too to add to her improved mood. Now all she had to do was walk back to Police HQ and resume her tasks. Except, while she was out, why not have a look at what was going on where the pushchair had been pulled out of the water. It was only a short(ish) diversion from her direct route.
She walked quickly through the old town streets to the riverside. There she took the newish metal swing bridge to the other side. The gravel road from the bridge led to a tall narrow building which had been, obviously, a Victorian mill despite the lack of a waterwheel. Now it was a block of small flats. The flats in which the sex offender, Stephen Parnell lived. To the right blue and white police tape fluttered, barring passage along the towpath around a bend to the lock where the pushchair had been found. A couple of bored CSOs stood on the towpath ready to turn back any walkers. Jasmine could see activity and a diver’s head bobbing in mid-stream. Even with a wet-suit on she didn’t think swimming in the river would be a pleasant occupation on this cold November day. Presumably the continuing search showed that they had not yet found the child’s body.
Was it just coincidence that Parnell lived so close to where the missing child’s pushchair had been found? DCI Sloane always said he didn’t believe in coincidences but DC Money’s visit to Parnell hadn’t turned up anything suspicious and probably a name from the list would appear close to any crime scene. Nevertheless Money’s report had given Jasmine some thoughts. She turned towards the old mill and climbed the exterior metal stairs to the top. From here she had a good view along the river although the scene around the lock was obscured by some tall trees. She pressed the doorbell. A few moments passed before it was pulled open by a man. He was shorter than Jasmine with a paunch covered by a long, loose rugby shirt. He wore baggy, grubby jeans and soft slippers. His face was smooth and his short brown hair was flattened against his head.
‘Stephen Parnell?’
‘Yes. Who are you?’
‘I’m a police officer.’ Jasmine held up her warrant card.
‘Why are you here again? I’ve already had a visit from one of you lot.’
‘That’s right. DC Money called on you. I’ve got a few more questions.’
‘Is it about that missing baby?’
‘Yes.’ Jasmine was trying to edge through the door but Parnell was immoveable.
‘This is harassment. Just because I’m on that fucking list I get called on whenever there’s a kid missing.’
‘Well, if you let me in, I can ask my questions and you can decide whether we’re harassing you or not. Or we can argue about it here where your neighbours can see us. Which is it to be?’
‘Oh, alright.’ He moved back and Jasmine stepped into the small entrance hall. Parnell closed the door behind her. She noticed a long, pink, plastic mac hanging from the hook behind the door. He led the way into a room which doubled as lounge and dining room. There were two large mirrors on walls at a right angles to each other, one opposite the window looking out over the river. Parnell turned to face Jasmine.
‘I’ve never harmed anyone, especially kids,’ he said.
‘But you were put on the sex offenders’ list for exposing yourself and masturbating in front of two teenage girls.’
Parnell’s puffy face turned the same colour as the mac.
‘That was wrong. I know that. I don’t do it anymore.’
‘Good, but when you did it you were wearing a bra, suspender belt and black stockings under your coat.’ Parnell turned away from her, hiding his face. He didn’t reply. ‘The girls’ statements were correct weren’t they?’
‘Yes,’ he whispered.
‘You’re a transvestite in the original medical definition of the word, aren’t you – someone who gets aroused by wearing clothes of the opposite gender.’

Painted Ladies: A Jasmine Frame Story is available in paperback and as an e-book from all booksellers.

Jasmine is being read about in public libraries

Jasmine is being read about in public libraries

Jasmine Frame, the one and only…

I’ve been told a number of times that Jasmine Frame is a unique character, so as a break between posting episodes of Jasmine Frame stories I thought I would examine that assertion and what it means in terms of being transgender.

It is around fourteen years since I created Jasmine Frame as a transsexual detective. I first used her in an unfinished novel which I gave up on. I then used her and a couple of the other characters I had created, Tom Shepherd and DCI Sloane, in a couple of short stories which were published in the Beaumont Magazine.  Then I began writing Painted Ladies and completed the first draft in 2009. Since embarking on the publication of Painted Ladies in 2013 I have written the second novel in the series, Bodies by Design, and the two episodic novella-length prequels, Blueprint and The Switch which were published here.

Painted Ladies cover

I feel pretty close to Jasmine now having lived with her in my head for those fourteen years. I think she has developed as a person while I have filled in her back-story. Although I have the bare outlines of a total of five novels taking her through her full transition I haven’t done what J.K.Rowling says she did with the Potter books i.e. I haven’t plotted out all the stories in detail. This has meant I am stuck with some timings that I put in Painted Ladies which has made the prequels a bit awkward in places.

The surprising thing is that in my fourteen years of writing about a leading character who is trans I have come across few if any similar characters. There have been novels, TV shows and films that have focussed on a trans character (Transamerica and Jimmy McGovern’s “Accused” with Sean Bean as a transvestite, spring to mind) but in all these cases the plot has centred on the trans nature of lead character. I have always seen Jasmine as a detective who happens to be trans. OK, her struggles and dilemmas as she transitions are an important part of her story and to date the crimes she has investigated have been trans related but I still think there is a separation between her life and her work not found in other novels and dramas that feature transgenderism.  I am hoping that if a publisher or a TV company picks up Jasmine Frame then the stories can broaden out into other areas.

While proud of Jasmine’s “unique” status I have been worried about other similar characters emerging. Ideas can’t be copyrighted so anyone could decide to have a trans detective. So far it hasn’t happened but I worry that it might before Jasmine has achieved a place in popular fiction. Perhaps my worry is unnecessary because the trans scene is broad enough to encompass any number of characters – and that is the most important point.

Jasmine Frame is unique not because she is a transsexual detective but because she is an individual. She is not based on any one person that I have met or come across, and she’s not me. She does however have facets of her character that I have gleaned from my experience of the trans scene and she holds some of my views. The more I learn about transgenderism the more I see it fragmenting as everyone’s experience is different. There are common features but everyone who professes themselves to transgender or gender variant or whatever term they want to use, has a degree of uniqueness. As time progresses and society changes in the UK and elsewhere the personal stories change. I am sure that there are more young people (teenagers and pre-teens) who now feel able to express their trans feelings than there were ten or twenty years ago. I would guess that the average age of transition (and gender reassignment surgery) is falling as more opt for it in their early twenties. That is good as it means that people are having to suffer the agonies of being trapped in the wrong externally perceived gender for less time but whether the number opting for gender reassignment in their fifties or sixties will drop, who knows..

What is also changing is the break up of the old division between transsexuals and transvestites. Transsexuals can be pre- or post-op but still qualify for their gender reassignment certificate; some will stop before the completing the medical/surgical process (both MtF and FtM).  For those who claim not to be transsexual there are a huge number of options from the closet dresser and secret lingerie wearers, to those that swap between male and female roles frequently and openly (like me), to those who declare that they have no gender or are third gender or between gender, and others that I have no space to list.


Any of these could (and should) be characters in a story. Jasmine is just one individual who feels and believes that she is a woman but has (at least initially) a male body. She is keen on clothes and looking after her appearance; she has had a loving and sexual relationship with Angela, her (ex-)wife; she is uncertain of her sexuality as she transitions to female but finds herself aroused by male attention; she wants to be feminine (whatever that means – a subject for another blog) but won’t be sidelined by the men in her profession. Her personality has been built by her experiences as a child, teenager, student and trainee police officer and detective, and by the places she has lived in (Southern England). She has likes – running, classic films, spicy food, disco music, short skirts – and dislikes – prejudice, drab clothes, housework, forms, knives. She dives into situations where perhaps a bit of forethought would be a good idea but she has a need to prove herself and be the one to solve a case. She is Jasmine Frame – the one and only.

Painted Ladies: A Jasmine Frame Story is available as a paperback and e-book from all booksellers.

NB The featured image is a mock-up of a cover design for Bodies By Design

Jasmine in a jam

A lovely few days in Ljubljana, Slovenia. Lots of bookshops selling books in Slovenian. How come they survive while independent bookshops in the UK have all but disappeared. Well I think we know the answer but it is disappointing.  I bought a book with a translation of some of France Peseren’s poems. Apparently he is Slovenia’s greatest writer.

Anyway, on to The Switch, and the next episode of the Jasmine Frame story exploring her origins as a transsexual detective.

The Switch – Part 16

Jasmine had a moment to take in the youth’s left hand on Tamsin’s breast, the other holding a short knife to her neck. The next she was thrown against the wall of the blockhouse, her shoulder grazing on the rough concrete. An arm pressed against her throat and the light of a heavy metal-cased torch shone into her eyes. The third member of Kyle’s gang had been behind the door illuminating the proceedings. The light dazzled her so she closed her eyes.
‘Hey. It’s that trannie friend of Danny-boy.’ She recognised the voice of the boy who had been groping and threatening Tamsin.
‘Pull back, Jake,’ same voice. ‘Let’s have a look at the fucker.’ The arm was released from her throat and the intensity of the light decreased. Jasmine opened her eyes and although the light was still bright in her face, she saw the dark face of Jake behind it and Tamsin wriggling.
‘Get off me Wes, you oaf.’
Wes dropped her arms and she pushed him off her,
‘What’s she doing here?’ Wes asked.
‘It’s not a she is it. It’s one of them trans things like Danny only the other way round,’ Tamsin said.
‘And this one’s a pig,’ the un-named youth said. ‘Why are you here, cop?’
Jasmine pushed herself upright and smoothed her skirt down her thighs.
‘I’m investigating Kyle McLeery’s death,’ she said trying to sound calm and in control.
‘I thought it was Danny what done it,’ Jake said.
‘He’s a girl,’ Wes said, ‘he couldn’t have done in Kyle.’
‘Are you saying girls aren’t tough enough to stand up for themselves?’ Tamsin was defiant.
‘You’re pretty tough, aren’t you Tamsin,’ Jasmine said. Even through the glare of the torchlight she could see Tamsin’s look of comprehension. She knew what Jasmine was referring to. She stepped back into the shadows. The three boys didn’t seem to have understood the exchange.
‘You weren’t on the case this morning at Parry’s house when those two pigs moved us on,’ nameless said, ‘you were just looking out for Danny.’
‘That’s right. He’s innocent and safe,’ Jasmine said.
‘The trannie wants to pin it on you,’ Tamsin said from behind the three boys who now faced Jasmine. ‘She’ll say you did it, Joey, to get Danny off the hook.’
You had to hand it to Tamsin. She had more brains than the three lads put together. Moments ago she was being threatened, now she was giving instructions. She could incite them to harm her, Jasmine realised.
‘I want the truth,’ Jasmine said looking passed the boys to Tamsin.
‘We had nuffin’ to do with killing Kyle,’ the one Jasmine now knew was Joey said, ‘he was the boss.’
‘And you are now, Joey, is that it?’ Jasmine said, ‘Is that why you were feeling up Tamsin?’
‘She’s our bitch now,’ the self-appointed leader said.
‘You’re not having me,’ Tamsin said, ‘Only Kyle was allowed to fuck me.’
‘He said we could have you,’ Wes said.
‘Was that it?’ Jasmine asked, ‘Kyle had found another girl or was he just bored of you, Tamsin?’
Tamsin sniffed. ‘No,’ she moaned.
‘What’s it to you, cock-teaser?’ Jake growled.
‘Do you want a taste of a real cock?’ Wes thrust his groin forward and rubbed his genitals through his dirty jeans. The three boys edged towards Jasmine. The bright beam of the torch obscured Jasmine’s vision, but she saw the glint of light on the raised blade held by the new leader of the gang.
‘Do her in before she rats on you,’ Tamsin urged from the dark.
Hands reached forward to grab Jasmine’s arms. A hand slipped into the waistband of her skirt. The point of the knife pressed against her left breast.
‘You mean before I tell them that you killed Kyle, Tamsin.’
The hands gripping her stiffened. The knife jerked forward, piercing the cloth of her T-shirt and bra. The blade sank into her silicone breast. She didn’t flinch.
‘What?’ Joey said.
‘Saturday night wasn’t Tamsin? Did Kyle meet you here as you planned? What did you argue about?’
Tamsin gave a cry like a wounded animal. The three boys turned releasing their grip on Jasmine; the knife pulled from her false breast. The light moved from Jasmine’s face. She saw red blobs and, through them, Tamsin edging to the door.
‘He said I wouldn’t be his number one anymore,’ Tamsin cried. ‘He chased me up to the pond. There was a pole on the ground. I swung it at him. I didn’t mean to kill him.’ She was at the entrance, the three boys poised to launch themselves at her. The door was thrown open.
More light; bodies filling the doorway; voices, male, older voices shouting warnings. The boys stumbled backwards towards Jasmine. She put a foot forward, shoved a shoulder. The three fell in a heap onto the filthy mattress. Tamsin retreated from the invading police officers. Jasmine grabbed her, wrapping an arm around her naked torso and pinning her arms behind her.
‘Jas? Are you here?’ Tom Shepherd’s voice.
‘Here,’ she called. Torch beams searched the room; fell on her and Tamsin. ‘This is the one you want.’
Jasmine could just make out Tom flanked by two uniformed officers. Behind them loomed the bulk of DCI Sloane.
‘For what reason should we want this girl?’ Sloane said.
‘The killing of Kyle McLeery, sir,’ Jasmine replied.
‘What’s the evidence?’
‘She just admitted attacking him with a steel pole, Sir.’
‘We haven’t released that information, Frame.’
‘I know, so she must have been telling the truth, Sir.’
‘We’ll put some questions to her, Frame. Get some clothes on her, Shepherd, and put her in a car.’
Tom reached forward and held Tamsin’s bare shoulder. Jasmine released her grip on her and the girl was pulled away from her. Tom handed her on to one of the officers who escorted her out of the hut. The three boys untangled themselves from the floor and stood up.
‘And what about this trio?’ Sloane enquired.
‘They were assaulting the girl, when I arrived,’ Jasmine said.
There was more noise of heavy shoes on gravel and two more police officers crowded into the small room.
‘Take them as well but keep them away from the girl,’ Sloane ordered, ‘Now I think we need some explanations from you, DC Frame. Shepherd will accompany you to the station. ’
Jasmine followed Tom and Sloane from the derelict security hut. There were two cars and a police van parked at various angles around her little Fiesta which stood with driver’s door open and engine running.
‘I’ll drive,’ Tom said approaching the right hand side of the Ford.
‘But, it’s my car,’ Jasmine complained.
‘I think you need to calm yourself and work out what you are going to tell Sloane,’ Tom said inserting his tall frame into the driving seat. Jasmine circled the car and got into the passenger seat. She saw Tom’s eyes on her breast.
‘Are you hurt?’ he asked. She looked down at the torn threads and the gaping slit.
‘No. It’s only my falsie that got cut.’ Suddenly she had a vision of the knife slicing into the breast she wished she had instead of the silicone enhancers and blood spurting from the gash. She shivered.
‘Are you sure?’ Tom persisted.
‘Yes. I’m fine. Let’s get going.’
Tom engaged the gear lever and they lurched forward. Jasmine put a hand to her chin. Her face felt rough. It had been a long time since she’d had her morning shave. She reached into the footwell for her bag and dug inside for a mirror and lipstick. She would have to make herself look respectable to face Sloane’s questioning.


Painted Ladies: a Jasmine Frame story is available as a paperback and ebook.


Jasmine probes Dan’s father

Not a lot of time this week so straight in to the next episode of The Switch, a story featuring Jasmine Frame, transsexual detective and prequel to Painted Ladies.

The Switch: Part 15

Jasmine stared at Parry as he slowly pushed himself up off the floor.
‘You didn’t kill him?’
Parry stood up and glared at Jasmine. She prepared herself for another attack.
‘I said he was dead already.’
‘I think you had better tell me what you saw.’
Parry drew in breath as if to object but then let it out in deep sigh and shrugged.
‘OK. I need a beer. Fancy one?’
‘Uh. Yes, please.’
Parry went into the kitchen and returned a few moments later with a couple of cans. He chucked one to Jasmine, she caught it, then he slumped on the sofa.
‘Come and join me,’ he said. Jasmine weighed up the risks. Parry seemed calmer now but as Daniel had told her, he had a quick temper. She decided to accept his offer and sat at the far end of the sofa. She pulled the ring on the can and took a sip. It was cold, fizzy, and tasteless but probably could be called, beer.
‘Whatever Jenny might think, this is the first time I’ve had a skirt on this sofa. Just my luck it’s got a cock under it, that’s if you haven’t had it off yet.’
Jasmine ignored Parry’s rambling. This was not the time to start a discussion on trans privacy.
‘What happened Saturday night?’ She said, after what she considered a suitable pause.
‘You said you’re a police officer. Are you investigating Daniel?’
‘I’m off duty, not officially on the case. I’m trying to prove that Daniel had nothing to do with McLeery’s death, but Dan is the official chief suspect.’
‘It couldn’t be Dan. He was here all evening, and all night.’
‘You don’t actually know that as you left him alone here.’
‘Yeah, well, it doesn’t matter if he nipped out after me. I told you. McLeery was already dead.’
‘So tell me what happened.’
Parry took a long swig from his can, belched, and sighed.
‘I could have killed him. I might have done if I’d got to him. He’s been a little shit since he was a kid, and he just got worse.’
‘Did you know he had his eyes on Dan?’
‘No. It hadn’t occurred to me. I’d seen McLeery with a bunch of girls dressed like whores. I didn’t connect Emma with them. She was my little girl. Of course, she dressed like a boy, cut her hair, called herself Daniel. To me she couldn’t be less sexy. Why should a girl-fancier like McLeery look at Emma, and think she was an easy lay?’
‘Dan told you about him.’
‘Yeah and it made my wild. I decided to have it out with him. I waited till Emma was asleep then left. I went to that blockhouse on the edge of the Common first. Emma had said that’s where he tried to take her.’
‘That’s right. That’s where I first met Dan.’
‘There’s was no one there, so I blundered around in the dark, just following paths. I got to the pond. That’s where I found him. He was lying face down with his head smashed in. There was a length of steel pole by his side.’
‘He wasn’t in the water?’
‘No, that was me.’
Jasmine was unbelieving.
‘You pushed his body into the water?’
‘Yeah and the pole.’
‘Why? You’ve made yourself an accessory.’
Parry shook his head.
‘I don’t know. I panicked. Probably I’d had more of these than I should.’ He waved his can. ‘I thought perhaps that Emma had done it before coming out to me.’
‘But that was hours before. The body would have been found.’
‘I realise that now. I wasn’t thinking straight. And I was still angry at him. Even though he was dead I wanted to punish him for what he planned to do to my girl.’
‘OK, so you didn’t kill him but disposed of the body.’
‘Yeah, I suppose so.’
‘So, who killed him?’
‘I don’t know.’
‘Did you see anyone else on the Common?’
‘No,’ he paused, ‘yes, there was someone. I was staggering along the path and there was someone else on one of the other paths that crossed it.’
‘Someone? Who? What did they look like?’
‘I don’t know who it was. It was dark but it was a girl, white skin, dark hair, legs up to her armpits, barely wearing a skirt. I didn’t see her face, she was going away from me.’
‘McLeery’s number 1 girl.’
‘Really. Don’t know her.’
‘I met her earlier. She was upset about Kyle being dead and what he intended for Dan. They were friends when they were younger.’
‘There was a Tammy. Came to parties Emma had.’
‘That’ll be her. She denied killing Kyle, denied seeing him after Saturday morning.’
‘She lied.’
Jasmine leapt up. ‘So it seems. I need to see her again.’ She bent to put the beer can on the floor. ‘The police will need to speak to you, Mr Parry. You’re going to be in a bit of trouble for not reporting the death.’
‘Yeah, well I guessed that.’
‘The sooner you tell them the better it will be for you and the sooner that Dan is off the hook.’
Parry grunted an agreement. ‘Where are you going to look for this Tamsin?’
‘I only know one place. The same place you looked. That’s where I met her earlier.’ Jasmine didn’t wait for anymore conversation but hurried from the flat and back to the car. She raced back to Kintbridge, right foot to the floor, the small Fiesta engine whining like a swarm of angry wasps.
She turned off the main road onto the road that climbed up to the Common and joined the perimeter road. The car almost rolled as she took the turning on to the Common and braked outside the old security station.
Jasmine jumped from the car with the engine still running and ran to the door. She gave it a shove and it swung open. There was light inside.
‘Tamsin?’ Jasmine stepped in. Tamsin was there but she wasn’t alone. So were Kyle’s mates, one holding the girl’s arms behind her back, the other groping her naked breasts.


Jasmine takes a risk

It has been one of those satisfying weeks when I’ve been able to get on with my writing, particularly Seven Times Seven, the third volume of Evil Above the Stars, my fantasy series. I hope I’ve been developing it slowly towards a first climax  during which the hero, September Weekes finds out important things about herself and the world she inhabits.

Anyway from one heroine and genre to another. Here’s the next episode in a tale of transsexual detective, Jasmine Frame.

The Switch: Part 14

 Chapter 5

‘Why?’ Jasmine asked almost speechless with confusion. Daniel shrugged.
‘I didn’t know where else to go. I got to Basingstoke, wandered round the shops for a couple of hours and realised I didn’t want to be stuck there when it closed for the night.’
‘You knew that it could be dangerous sleeping rough,’ Angela said placing the bowl of salad on the table.
‘Yeah, I noticed a few weirdoes lurking around. I didn’t fancy meeting up with them when the crowds had gone.’
‘That was sensible,’ Jasmine agreed, ‘but what made you think your father would have you.’
‘He got in touch with me a while ago, after my birthday,’ Daniel said, ‘He was sorry for what he had done to Mum and wanted to get back in with her. She wouldn’t speak to him so he tried me.’
‘And you spoke to him?’ Angela said sharing out the main dish between three bowls.
‘Why?’ Jasmine was stull mystified, ‘I thought you and he had fallen out over your transition.’
‘We had but that was done now. I was a boy. Well, not fully but on the way. He couldn’t stop me now I was sixteen. And anyway, he was my Dad, we’d got on okay before I became desperate.’
‘Okay,’ Jasmine had to accept that family bonds remained strong even when there was a major falling out, ‘So what happened?’
‘I called him, said I needed to see him. He told me to visit him at his place.’
‘In Basingstoke?’
‘Yeah, a flat, not far from the shops. I walked there.’
‘This was when? Late Saturday afternoon?’
‘Yeah. He seemed pleased to see me. Invited me in, gave me a beer.’
‘Treated you like a boy?’
‘Yeah. Even called me Dan. He was trying to be nice so I’d report back to Mum.’
‘You told him the reason why you’d left home.’
‘Yeah. I told him about Kyle.’
‘How did he respond?’
‘He was furious. Stomped around the flat. It’s pretty small so he didn’t have much space to stomp in. Said all sorts of things about not having his kids molested by a fucking shit like McLeery. Those were his exact words.’
‘What happened next?’
‘Well, he got me to tell him all that I knew about Kyle. Where he lived, where he went on the Common, who his mates were. He calmed down, we had another beer, he ordered a pizza and we watched some d.v.d.s.’
‘Look the spaghetti’s getting cold,’ Angela said. ‘Eat while you talk.’
Angela offered Daniel the salad bowl and he shovelled a helping into his dish. He started chomping while Jasmine did the same.
‘And that was it?’ Jasmine continued her questioning, ‘he didn’t say anything more about Kyle?’
‘No, nothing else. He just said I could stay with him for as long as I wanted to. Mind you he only had one bedroom so I’d have to sleep on the sofa.’
‘So you stayed there?’
‘Yeah. After a few beers I got pretty sleepy so curled up on the sofa.’
‘You slept all night?’
‘No. I woke and it was still dark. Dad had put a blanket over me but I was pretty hot. I had the feeling that something else had woken me up; a door closing or something. I went to the loo for a pee. I needed it after the beer. Going back into the living room I noticed his bedroom door was open. I had a look in and although it was dark I could see he wasn’t there.’
‘Your father had left the flat?’
‘When did he come back?’
‘In the morning. I’d got up, had a shower, and was getting some breakfast in his kitchen. He didn’t have much food in, just an old piece of bread. He came in all worked up and edgy.’
‘How did he explain being absent in the night?’
‘He didn’t really. Said he’d got up early to get a job done. I don’t think he realised that I knew he’d left well before it got light.’
‘Did you ask him?’
‘I tried but he’s always had a temper has Dad. As soon as I started questioning him he flew off and said he’d been on his own for long enough and could do without the inquisition. The he said he had another job to do and went out again.’
‘On Sunday?’
‘Yeah, well he’s a builder. He’s always done jobs for people at odd times. Anything to earn a few quid I suppose.’
‘What did you do?’
‘Stayed in his flat. I didn’t have a key so I couldn’t leave without leaving the door open and I didn’t think that was a good idea – in Basingstoke. So I hung around watching TV and getting pretty bored.’
‘Did you see your father again?’
‘Yeah, he got back in the evening, brought another takeaway with him, Chinese.’
‘He was in a better mood.’
‘A bit. Said he was sorry about earlier and not being around all day, but he was pretty quiet and went off to bed early saying he was knackered after a day’s work.’
‘So you slept in the flat again.’
‘Yeah, but I was pretty restless having done nothing much all day.’
‘Did he go out again in the night?’
‘No. He got up about six, that was his usual time, and got ready to go to work. He said he thought I should go home to Mum.’
‘What did you think about that?’
Daniel shrugged with a forkful of spaghetti on its way to his mouth.
‘I thought that after two nights he’d had enough of me.’
‘Didn’t you think that was strange after the welcome he’d given you on Saturday?’
‘Well, it was just like him. His moods changed a lot. Perhaps he was expecting someone else to visit who he didn’t want me to see.’
‘So you packed your bag and left.’
‘Yeah. He said I could hang round but after a while I went back to the mall wondering what to do and thought of you.’
‘Thanks.’ Jasmine ate a few mouthfuls of food while she was thinking.
‘What do you think he was doing on Saturday night?’
Daniel put his fork down and looked at Jasmine. There were tears in his eyes.
‘I don’t know, but I think he might have gone after Kyle.’
‘That’s what I was thinking too,’ Jasmine said putting her cutlery down in her dish. She pushed her chair back and stood up. ‘I think I need to ask your father some questions.’
‘Oh, Jasmine. What do you think you’re doing?’ Angela cried. ‘Ring Tom, tell him that you think Dan’s father is a suspect.’
‘And let him know that I’ve been in contact with Dan when I let him think I hadn’t. That’ll do my career prospects a lot of good. I’ve got to clear this up so we know that Dan’s in the clear.’
‘But if his father is Kyle’s killer he could be dangerous,’ Angela said, her complexion turned white.
‘He’s not a serial killer. I’ll take care.’ Jasmine crossed the kitchen and picked up the Fiesta keys. ‘Now, Dan, what’s the address?’

Basingstoke wasn’t on Jasmine’s normal beat but she knew enough about the town to be able to navigate to the address that Daniel had given her. She drew up outside a nondescript block of seventies flats. She left the car on the road and climbed the stairs to the landing which Parry’s flat was on. She knocked on the door. It was only a few moments before the door was opened. The man was a couple of centimetres shorter than Jasmine, even when she wasn’t wearing heels, and had dark hair and a resemblance to Daniel. It was obvious he was his father.
‘Mr Parry. I’m Jasmine Frame. I’m a friend of your son.’
‘My son? Oh, you mean Daniel. What do you want?’
‘Well, perhaps you know that the police a looking for him.’
Parry’s eyes flickered and the muscles in his neck tightened.’
‘He’s not here.’
‘I know. He’s at my house but I need to talk to you.’
Parry looked beyond Jasmine as if expecting her to be accompanied. ‘You’d better come in.’
Jasmine followed him into the room described by Daniel with a sofa, a TV and little else. She remained standing by the door, keeping her escape route free, just in case Parry did prove to be violent. Parry leaned on the back of the sofa trying to look relaxed but not succeeding.
‘What do you want with me?’
‘Do you know why Dan’s wanted by the police?’
He shook his head but he failed to look directly at her.
‘It’s in connection with the murder of Kyle McLeery,’ Jasmine explained.
‘I don’t know anything about that.’
‘But you’ve seen Dan since he left home on Saturday morning.’
‘There’s no point lying about it, Mr Parry. Dan told me he spent the last two nights here.’
Parry’s shoulders slumped.
‘Yeah. OK. I put him up for a couple of nights.’
‘And he told you about what McLeery threatened to do to him.’
‘Yeah. Look why all the questions? How do you know Daniel? Who are you?’ As he asked his questions Parry looked Jasmine up and down. Pennies seemed to drop.
‘Are you one of them tranny people? Is it you who’s persuading my girl that she’s a boy?’
‘I’ve only known Dan a few days and anyway he didn’t need persuading. He is a boy.’
‘How can you say that? She’s got tits and a fanny. I bathed her when she was a baby. She’s my little girl. You’re a cock-sucking perv in a skirt.’ He straightened up and took a step towards Jasmine. His right arm swung up, his fist heading towards her cheek. Jasmine grabbed the arm turned in, twisted Parry around. He toppled over the back of the sofa and ended up in a heap on the floor. He lay there shaking his head with surprise at his fall.
‘I’m not here to fight you, Mr Parry. I am a police officer. I’m trying to prove that Daniel is innocent of McLeery’s death. I’m trying to help him.’
Parry rolled on to his front and pushed himself onto his hands and knees.
‘So I want to know what you had to do with it,’ Jasmine went on, ‘like, where did you go in the middle of Saturday night?’
Parry sat back on his ankles and looked dejected.
‘How did you know I’d gone out?’
‘Dan woke up and found you’d gone.’
‘Damn. I thought after the beers she’d slept all night. I thought she believed me when I said I’d just got up early to do a job.’
‘And did that job involve finding Kyle McLeery?’
‘Yes, but he was already dead.’

Painted Ladies: A Jasmine Frame Story is available as paperback and e-book from all booksellers.

Jasmine risks her career

I drove across the country to Nottingham yesterday for the Gedling Bookfair. A long way to go perhaps, but I was hoping to get some sales of Painted Ladies and perhaps to meet a few people. It was held in a small theatre attached to a leisure centre in Arnold. There were a number of authors stalls selling books, self-publishng companies and the local Waterstones. New Writers UK who organise the weekend get a lot of support from their local council which is unusual in this age of cuts. There were only about 30 or so pople there, mostly writers, but I think they are expecting more for the activities over the weekend. I left some copies of my book on the members’ stall and went to the talks. They were interesting:

Helen Hollick gave tips on submission on behalf of the Historical Novel Review Society – obvious really but surprising how many people ignore them

Elizabeth Chadwick spoke on doing research for her historical novels – they have to be accurate as they are not fantasies.

Stephen Booth talked about his long running series of crime novels set in the Peak District (police procedurals that are apparently very accurate and well-written)

and Steve Mosby who writes very macabre, serial killer thrillers (not sure I want to read those) recounted how he gets ideas.

The final talk, only ten minutes, was by Penny Luithlen, an agent for authors of children’s and young adult books. She was very negative, perhaps realistically so, but I began to wonder why she was still doing the job as she didn’t seem to find much pleasure in it.

Apart from having a very slow journey home – it was a Friday evening after all – I found it a stimulating day. I really must find a way of getting Bodies By Design, the second Jasmine Frame novel, published, if only as an e-book. But the one thing that was reinforced was the need for marketing – a skill that I don’t think I have.

By the way, I see there is a call for more diversity on TV – time for a transsexual detective?

Anyway, the next free, yes free, epsiode of The Switch – the Jasmine Frame prequel, is below. Can you see where it’s going?

The Switch: Part 13

Jasmine drove with care to Basingstoke looking out for police cars. It was stupid to worry she knew. No officers other than Tom Shepherd knew she shared the Fiesta with Angela or had seen her as Jasmine. Nevertheless she felt as though she was being followed or watched on the journey.
She parked in the shopping mall car park and sent a short text to Daniel. He was waiting at the spot they had arranged and was visibly pleased to see her. They sauntered back to the car, Jasmine making sure that they did not appear to be rushing. An ordinary couple out shopping. Ordinary? Boy and girlfriend – hardly; mother and son – probably not; brother and sister – perhaps. However they tried they must look an old couple; she tall and blonde, him short and dark. They reached the car without anyone apparently taking notice of them, but who knows, Jasmine worried.
‘Get in the back, Dan,’ Jasmine said, ‘and get your head down. I don’t want anyone to see you as we leave the car park or when we get close to Kintbridge.’ Daniel flung his small bag onto the back seat and climbed in after it, laying on the seat. Jasmine got in and drove off. They were on the road back to Kintbridge before Daniel spoke.
‘How was Kyle killed?’
Jasmine glanced in her mirror, just able to see the side of Daniel’s head as he lay curled on the rear seat.
‘I don’t think I can tell you, Dan.’
‘Do you know how?’
‘Yes, but it’s something they’ll want to question you about. If you know they’ll be suspicious.’
‘I’d tell them that you told me.’
Jasmine’s stomach churned as the full realisation of what she was doing dawned. Angela was right. Her career was on the line if Sloane found out that she was preventing the police from interviewing Daniel. It would be even worse if she was found to have passed on vital information.
‘That’s not something I can allow you to do, Dan,’ she said summoning her official voice. Dan’s head rose and she saw him looking at her in the mirror. ‘I shouldn’t be doing this, Dan. It’s my duty as a police officer to hand over a suspect in a serious crime, any crime.’
’You won’t?’ Daniel said with a tremor in his voice.
Jasmine paused. ‘No,’ she said eventually, ‘but I urge you to change your mind and speak to them as soon as possible. They will treat you properly, as a male. They won’t let anyone abuse you. They’ll look into your alibi and then you’ll be free and they’ll have to look for another suspect.’
Daniel’s head shook. ‘No,’ he said.
Jasmine took a deep breath. This was going to be difficult and she did not want to be in deeper than she was already. They reached the outskirts of Kintbridge. It was just a short drive now to Jasmine’s home.
‘Keep your head down,’ she warned.
As she turned into Bridle Lane, Jasmine was relieved to see none of her neighbours outside cutting their lawns, watering their plants or washing their cars, which was unusual. Perhaps it was too early for those activities on a Monday evening. She stopped and reversed up her driveway stopping when the car doors were just about level with the entrance to the house. She switched off the engine.
‘Stay down until I say move,’ she said quietly. She got out, closed her door and went to open the front door. She returned to the car, glanced up and down the road then opened the car door.
Daniel crawled out of the car and was into the house in a moment. Jasmine breathed out at last, locked the car and followed him into the house, pulling the door closed behind her. Daniel stood in the hall way with his sports bag by his side. Angela emerged from the kitchen. She’d changed from her business suit into a simple, short, summer dress.
‘Hello, Daniel,’ she said in her welcoming voice but Jasmine saw her examining the young boy. ‘I expect you’d like to wash before we have something to eat. Jasmine will show you to your room.’ She gave Jasmine one of her smiles that wasn’t a smile.
Jasmine led Daniel up the stairs and into what had been the spare bedroom. Then it had become Jasmine’s dressing room, the room where she kept all of Jasmine’s clothes and extra bits while she was still DC James Frame. Now it was her bedroom as the separation from Angela moved forward. She noticed her bed with the duvet carelessly thrown over it earlier in the morning.
‘I’ll change the bedclothes for you,’ she said.
‘Oh, that doesn’t matter. I don’t mind,’ Daniel replied, looking around the room and seeing the bits and pieces of Jasmine’s feminine existence – bottles of make-up and moisturising creams on the dressing table with her wig, no longer needed, on its stand.
‘The bathroom’s at the end of the landing,’ Jasmine said, ‘I’ll go and see if Angela needs a hand. No hurry, join us when you’re ready.’
‘Thanks,’ Daniel said, ‘and thanks for doing this.’
Jasmine felt guilty. She didn’t want his gratitude she wanted him to leave as soon as possible and get her out of the dilemma she had given herself.
‘That’s okay,’ she said and left him.
Jasmine joined Angela in the kitchen. She was shaking lettuce. She put the colander down on the draining board and faced Jasmine.
‘So he left home on Saturday did he?’ Angela said. Jasmine was intrigued by her tone. She seemed to be questioning the story.
‘That’s right, Saturday morning.’
‘And he’s been hanging round in Basingstoke since?’
‘Slept rough for two nights.’
‘Doesn’t look like it to me.’
It took a few moments for Jasmine to take in what she had said.
‘What do you mean?’
‘He doesn’t look like someone who’s been sleeping rough for two whole days.’
‘Two days isn’t much.’
‘Have you tried it?’
‘Well, no.’
‘I have.’
‘Really?’ Jasmine thought she knew everything about Angela.
‘I was about the same age as Daniel and had got into social responsibility at school. A friend and I decided to sleep rough for a week for charity and to get publicity.’
‘A week?’
‘Well, we did two nights. That was enough. We barely got one wink of sleep, felt and looked dreadful. Even though we used the public loo we were grubby. Daniel is too fresh, too tidy.’
‘Perhaps he found a quiet spot to bed down.’
‘A young trans-man fleeing from a possible rape? I don’t see how he could relax out on the street.’
‘Hmm. You could be right.’ Jasmine replayed his meeting with Daniel in the coffee-shop. He’d looked untidy but that was typical teenage male fashion. He’d been clean and awake.
There was a soft, shuffling noise. Jasmine looked around and saw Daniel standing in the doorway.
‘Hi, Daniel, come and sit down.’ Jasmine pointed to the dining table and chairs. Daniel moved to a chair and sat down. ‘Where did you say you slept last night?’ she went on. Daniel shrugged.
‘In the shopping centre.’
‘The security guards didn’t find you and move you on?’ Angela asked.
‘No,’ Daniel said. A frown creased his brow.
‘You didn’t see anybody else dossing?’ Jasmine questioned.
Angela gave a significant sniff and returned to preparing the salad.
‘I’m going to ask you a question, Daniel, and I want you to give me a truthful answer.’ Jasmine said standing over Daniel.
‘Did you sleep rough for the last two nights?’
Daniel looked up at Jasmine glanced to Angela and then lowered his eyes. Angela was glaring at the two of them with her arms folded.
‘Daniel,’ Jasmine said, ‘answer me.’
‘No,’ Daniel said into his jeans.
‘Where did you stay?’ Jasmine asked. There was silence. Jasmine felt her heart beating.
‘With my father.’
‘Your father!’ Jasmine couldn’t believe it. ‘The father who beat your mother and denied that you were a boy?’
Daniel raised his head. Despair replaced by defiance.
Painted Ladies: a Jasmine Frame story is available as a paperback and e-book from any book supplier.


Jasmine makes Daniel an offer

Elsewhen Press have put out a press release announcing my forthcoming fantasy series, “Evil Above the Stars“.  Read it here Press Release 140606.

Here it has been a busy week with the Leominster Festival on. On Friday we had a “Writers’ Showcase” where I did a “Jasmine & Me” session. Lots of lovely comments and interesting questions about Painted Ladies and Bodies By Design and about Jasmine’s life as a transsexual detective. IMGP3662 Then in the evening we had a discussion with author Phil Rickman  (Merrily Watkins crime and John Dee historical crime thrillers). He said that one of his favourite characters is a cross-dressing Welsh shaman. Perhaps he/she should meet Jasmine…

Anyway, here is the next episode of The Switch.

The Switch: Part 11

Daniel shrugged and looked down at his empty coffee cup.
‘Where do you want me to start?’ he mumbled.
‘Let’s take it from Saturday morning when you left home after your mother had gone out.’ Jasmine said in a quiet voice.
‘Why do you want to go back to then?’
‘The police will want to track all your movements. So I want to know too.’
‘Well, Mum went shopping and I left soon after.’
‘You packed your bag.’ Jasmine nodded to the sports bag at Daniel’s feet.
‘So you planned to stay out for some time.’
‘I suppose so.’
‘Oh, come on Daniel. You told me on Friday evening that you felt you had to get away from Kyle and his gang. I didn’t think you meant next day – did you?’
Daniel looked up at Jasmine. She guessed her face showed her annoyance at Daniel’s evasive answers. He looked sad and vulnerable, a boy barley into his teens not sixteen.
‘After you left, I thought about what had happened. Actually it stopped me falling asleep when I went to bed. I knew that Kyle and his mates would keep after me and that the chances were that they’d get me soon and each of them would have a go with me.’
‘Not pleasant thoughts. So you came to a decision.’ Jasmine sipped her hot coffee.
‘Yeah. I decided I had to leave.’
‘What did you pack in your bag?’
‘Why do you need to know that?’
‘It shows your intentions.’
‘Oh. Well, I put in a spare pair of jeans and a clean t-shirt with a couple of pairs of pants.’ Daniel paused.
‘Anything else?’
‘A toothbrush, my phone and charger and my wallet,’ he paused, ‘and a spare bandage and my pills.’
‘For flattening my chest.’ Daniel pressed a hand against his chest. Of course, he still had breasts. The lad had to bind himself every day to stop them sticking out from his shirt and giving away his birth gender. Jasmine could imagine how uncomfortable that must be. It made tucking her superfluous bits away seem an easy task.
‘Yes, I see. And the pills?’
‘My testosterone tablets.’
‘Ah, yes. You are on the programme then?’
‘Since my birthday. I’ve been with the GR doctor for a couple of years. I wanted to go on the anti-puberty drugs, but my Dad wouldn’t give permission. But now I’m old enough to make my own decisions.’
‘How long have you been taking them?’
‘A couple of months.’
‘Seen any changes?’
‘I’m not sure. I think I’m starting to get a bit of facial growth.’
Jasmine looked at Daniel trying not to make it obvious that she was searching his face for signs of a beard. His chin still looked soft and smooth. She smiled at the thought that their desires were exact opposites. Daniel wanted to grow a beard or at least have to shave while she would be delighted to be able to give up the, sometimes twice daily, chore. Daniel was ahead of her though – she hadn’t even started taking hormones to feminise her appearance.
‘I’m sure it won’t be long,’ she said.
‘I want my voice to break too,’ Daniel said.
‘That’ll come,’ Jasmine reassured him. ‘So you packed everything you needed for at least a few days away and you left home. What did you think you would gain by being away a few days?’
‘I wasn’t planning on it being just a few days.’
‘What were you planning then?’
‘I don’t know. I just had it in my head that I had to get away from Kintbridge and something would turn up.’
‘Like what? Kyle dying?’
‘No. I don’t know. I wasn’t thinking straight.’
‘Right. That I can understand.’ Jasmine took a mouthful of coffee. ‘So you headed across the Common.’
Daniel looked mystified. ‘How do you know?’
‘You were seen on the Common with Kyle.’
‘Who by?’
‘Just some walkers who saw two youths together answering yours and Kyle’s descriptions. Was it you?’
Daniel sighed. ‘Yes. I couldn’t believe it. The one person I want to keep out of the way of and I bump into him five minutes after leaving home.’
‘You bumped into him?’
‘Yeah. Mad isn’t it. Head down, just thinking about, well nothing really, and I actually walked into him.’
‘What did he do?’
‘I think he must have been far away too but he grabbed hold of me. I tried to get away but he held me tight and then he realised who I was.’
‘Was he pleased?’
‘Not really. He didn’t have his sidekicks with him so I think he was headed somewhere. To see Tamsin perhaps.’
‘No, he’d left her a while before.’
‘You’ve spoken to her?’
‘Yes. I found her in that security hut by the entrance to the Common. She was grieving over Kyle.’
‘I suppose she thought he loved her,’ Daniel said in a cynical growl.
‘You don’t think he did?’
‘The only person he loved was himself.’
‘I’m not sure if even that’s true. Bullies often pretty low on self-esteem,’ Jasmine offered the benefits of her psychological profiling training. ‘But where was Kyle off to then?’
‘One of the other girls, perhaps.’
‘Yeah. Tamsin was his chief bitch, but they passed a couple of others around them. He didn’t want me at any rate, not without his back-up.’
‘He let you go?’
‘I tried to get his arms off me and he slapped me around a bit and called me all the usual names, but he didn’t come after me when I got away.’
‘So you carried on your way.’
‘Kyle didn’t chase you.’
‘You didn’t arrange to meet him?’
Daniel’s dark eyebrows shot up. ‘No. Why should I? He’s the last person I want to meet.’
‘OK. So where did you go next?’
‘I walked across the Common to the road and caught a bus here.’
‘Why here?’
‘It’s somewhere else. There wasn’t any other reason really.’
‘So you got here, when? Early Saturday afternoon. What did you do?
‘Looked round the shops; got something to eat; nothing much.’
‘What about sleeping?’
‘I found somewhere to doss down. It was a warm night.’
‘You slept rough?’ Jasmine was horrified. A young person like Daniel could easily have been picked up or worked over by all sorts of unsavoury people. ‘Did you have any problems?’
‘No. It was ok.’
‘Really?’ Jasmine didn’t fancy spending a night in the open in Basingstoke or any town, summer or any time.
‘So what did you do yesterday?’
‘Same as before. Wandered around, ate and went to see a film.’
‘You had enough money for the cinema.’
‘I got some cash from my account. I didn’t realise at the time that the police might be tracking me.’
‘They weren’t then, but if they are now, they’ll have found a record of the transaction so they’ll know you’ve been in Basingstoke.’
Daniel glanced around as if expecting police to burst into the coffee-shop.
‘I’d better move somewhere else then.’ He started to rise from his chair. Jasmine grabbed his arm and tugged him back into the seat.
‘I shouldn’t think they’re on to you yet, Dan. Take it easy.’
Daniel was on edge but he remained seated.
‘What film did you see?’ Jasmine asked.
‘Iron Man.’
‘I thought that came out a few years ago.’
‘It’s the sequel, Iron Man 2.’
‘Oh.’ Superhero films weren’t on Jasmine’s list of favourites, classic film was her taste. ‘And then you slept rough again.’
‘You can’t carry on doing that.’
‘Why not?’
‘Come on Dan. You’re a smart kid. Either the police will pick you up or some other guys, not nice ones will. And even if you can use your card, what happens when you run out of cash and can’t afford burgers and fries or whatever.’
Daniel shrugged.
‘Speak to the police,’ Jasmine urged, ‘then you can go home. Kyle’s not there to bother you anymore.’
‘No, what?’
‘I can’t go to the police. I can’t face it.’
Jasmine could tell from Daniel’s determined expression that she wasn’t going to be able to make him hand himself in just yet. His story wasn’t a convincing alibi either. Apart from the visit to the cinema which could perhaps be proved he didn’t have much proof of what he’d been up to for two days.
‘I don’t suppose you kept receipts for your meals and the cinema ticket, did you?’ she asked.
‘No, why?’
‘The times of the transactions would support your alibi.’
‘I don’t need an alibi. I didn’t have anything to do with Kyle’s death.’
‘The police will check your alibi and it’s got more holes than substance at the moment.’
‘Well, that’s tough. I’m not going to see the police anyway.’
‘So you’re just going to hang out here are you?’
‘Yes. No. I’ll get some cash out and then go somewhere else. London.’
‘And hang around the streets and parks with all the other drug addicts and dropouts.’
‘Yes.’ Daniel didn’t look to happy about that possibility.
‘What about your mother?’
‘What about her?’
‘She’s worried about you.’
Daniel’s head dropped. He didn’t reply. Jasmine was thinking. She had to protect Daniel and question him further to see if she could find any clues to who did kill Kyle. There was only one thing to do.
‘Come home with me,’ she said.
Daniel looked up. ‘Back to Kintbridge?’
‘Yes. You can stay with me. We’ll get a message to your mother that you’re safe and well.’
‘I’m not going to the police.’
‘We won’t contact the police unless you want to.’
Daniel mulled the proposition over while Jasmine considered the consequences. Their third bedroom was a study. The second bedroom was Jasmine’s room where she now slept having given up the double bed to Angie. Where would she put Daniel?
‘Ok. I’ll come.’
‘Good. Let’s go.’ Jasmine drained the last drops of cooling coffee.
‘Isn’t there a problem?’ Daniel asked.
‘Didn’t you come by bus?’
Jasmine had forgotten. ‘Um, yes.’
‘Well, if we both go back by bus someone might see us walking to your house. I don’t think that’s a good idea.’
Jasmine wondered how she could be so stupid. ‘You’re right, Daniel.’


Painted Ladies: A Jasmine Frame Story is available as a paperback and e-book from all the usual sources.

Jasmine and Daniel meet

A hectic start to the :Leominster Festival.  On Saturday (31st May) we held a Writers’ Slam with fifteen writers (me included) reading their work. It went well although we could have done with a larger audience and a few more people prepared to spend money on books.  There are more events during the week. Should be fun.

Further news from Elsewhen Press. The links from their menu to my pages are now live, so to find out more about Evil Above the Stars go to http://elsewhen.alnpetepress.co.uk/ and look up under “catalogue”.  It’s going to be a few months yet before there is much more news but it’s a good start.

So to return to Jasmine Frame, transsexual detective and the prequel to Painted Ladies, The Switch. We’re up to part 10 already and perhaps it’s beginning to hot up a bit…

The Switch: Part 10

Jasmine was too stunned to answer for a moment. Was it really Daniel on the line? The thin high-pitched voice was familiar, but having set out to search for him she could hardly believe that he was contacting her.
‘Uh, hi, Daniel. Is that really you?’ What a stupid thing to say, she thought.
‘Yeah, um,’ was his equally uninformative reply.
‘Where are you?’ Jasmine finally asked something important.
‘What are you doing there?’
‘Not much. I just couldn’t stay at home with Kyle and his gang everywhere.’ He’s mentioned Kyle as if he’s still a threat. Does he know?
‘Daniel. Do you know what’s happened?’ It was another silly question but perhaps would give Daniel a chance to reveal what he did or didn’t know.
‘Happened? What do you mean? Is my mother alright?’ Jasmine heard the pain in Daniel’s voice and hurried to reply.
‘Your mother’s fine; worried about you, of course. Why haven’t you been in touch?’
‘I didn’t know what to say. She’d want me to come home and I can’t do that,’ there was a pause. ‘What did you mean? What has happened?’
‘Kyle’s dead.’
The only sound from the phone was background noise, incoherent voices. Finally.
‘He’s dead? How?’
‘He was found in a pond up on the Common, last night. It wasn’t an accident.’
There was a gasp on the other end of the line.
‘Someone killed Kyle? Who?’
‘That’s what the police would like to know. You’re a suspect.’
‘Me?’ It sounded like a genuine exclamation of surprise. ‘Why me?’
‘Because you’ve been missing since before Kyle was killed and the police know about him pursuing you.’
‘But that’s why I left home. To get away from him. I couldn’t kill him. You don’t think that do you Jasmine. You’re the police.’
‘No, I don’t think you would, Daniel. But the police need to speak to you.’
‘No. I can’t. They’ll put me in a cell. They’ll say I’m a girl.’ Daniel’s voice trembled. He was really afraid.
‘No, they won’t Daniel. You’re a boy.’
‘They’ll put me in a cell with other men who’ll think I’m a girl.’ It was obvious that Daniel was scared to death of things that the police wouldn’t do.
‘No, Daniel, listen to me. The police will treat you as a boy. They will protect you. They won’t let you be abused by other people. They want to talk to you.’
‘No, I can’t. I won’t.’ The voice faded and came back. Jasmine could imagine him shaking his head violently.
‘OK, Daniel. What if I come and meet you and we have a talk about it?’
‘Oh, please, Jasmine. But don’t tell anyone where I am.’
Should she agree? As a police officer she should inform her boss of the contact she’d made, but she needed Daniel’s trust to find out what had happened to him since he left home on Saturday morning.
‘No, I won’t Daniel. Where shall I meet you?’
‘I’m in the shopping centre. Shall we meet in Starbucks?’
‘That’s fine. What time?’ Jasmine glanced at her watch and was surprised that it was passed midday. How long would it take to drive to Basingstoke at this time on a Monday? Then she remembered. Angela had gone off in Rose, the Fiesta, this morning. She didn’t have a police vehicle because she was on leave. She would have to catch a bus to Basingstoke. How long would that take?
‘Look, Daniel. I’m going to have to come by bus. I don’t know when I’ll get there. I ring you when I’m at the shops, OK.’
‘Keep out of the way. Don’t draw attention to yourself. The police have probably put out a call for you so officers may be keeping their eyes open for you.’
‘I understand. I’m good at avoiding people.’
‘Good. I’ll see you as soon as I can.’
The connection was broken and Jasmine put the phone down. It was only then that she realised that she was naked, her shower interrupted. She needed to hurry. She didn’t want to leave Daniel on his own for too long, but she felt sticky after her run. She must shower, but first she must make a note of Daniel’s mobile number. She skipped downstairs to pick up her own mobile and ran back upstairs to get the number off the phone. Then when she was sure that she had Daniel’s contact secure she went into the bathroom. Hot water had been spraying into the shower cubicle all the time she had been speaking to Daniel. The room was full of mist. She washed herself quickly, removing the stale sweat from her run. Then she dried herself, hurriedly, and, still damp, pulled on her knickers, tucked herself away, and fastened a bra around her flat chest. She tucked in the falsies and then looked in her wardrobe. She must be as unobtrusive as possible. She mustn’t draw attention to herself or Daniel. A knee-length summer dress drew her eye. Bright summer colours but appropriate for a bright summer day. It was cut modestly with short sleeves so wouldn’t attract too many eyes. She dressed quickly and pulled a pair of flat sandals onto her feet. She couldn’t rush out of the door yet though. Her make-up had to be done carefully. Nevertheless, it was under half an hour from Daniel’s call when she left the house, tossing her bag over her shoulder.
It was about a half mile walk to the bus-stop and when she got there the timetable told her she had half an hour to wait for a bus to Basingstoke. She stood as patiently as she could with sunglasses shading her eyes and perhaps adding some anonymity. The last thing she wanted was for a car containing one or more of her colleagues to be driving by and stop to offer her a lift. But no one did. As the time for the bus approached a few other people joined her in the queue. As always she felt self-conscious, forced to be on show in a queue. From behind her shades she checked if anyone was taking an interest in her. They weren’t. She was just another, fairly tall, young woman waiting for a bus on a beautiful, warm afternoon.
The bus was only a couple of minutes late and quite empty. Jasmine stepped on and fumbled in her wallet for the fare, unfamiliar with the process. The driver didn’t look at her as he handed her a ticket. She took it and walked down the aisle sitting in the first empty pair of seats. The other new passengers followed behind her and found their own spaces. She was relieved that no-one had taken the spare seat next to her.
The journey along the familiar road was uneventful but Jasmine found it interesting. She was used to driving along the busy road, not being a passenger, so she enjoyed looking out at the fields and buildings that they passed. They stopped a few times and passengers got off and got on but Jasmine remained alone.
At last they entered Basingstoke and the bus pulled up at the stop for the shopping centre. Jasmine got off and as she walked towards the entrance doors pulled her phone from her bag. She found Daniel’s contact and pressed ‘call’. What if she couldn’t get a connection inside? Her heart rate rose for a few seconds until she heard the call tone and Daniel answered.
‘Yes, Daniel. I’m here. Sorry it’s taken a while. I’ll see you in Starbucks in a few minutes.’
‘OK.’ She cut the connection and set off, trying not to hurry but looking relaxed and casual – an afternoon shopper. The layout of the mall was complicated but she thought she remembered from previous visits where the Starbucks was – always supposing there was just one. Her memory proved to be accurate and as she entered the door she scanned for Daniel. He wasn’t visible from the entrance but as she approached the counter she saw him. He’d sensibly kept away from the windows and was sitting at a small table in a far corner almost shielded from view by customers at other tables. She purchased a coffee – black Americano, no sugar, medium, and moved in as unhurried a manner as possible to join Daniel. She saw a small empty cup in front of him.
‘You’ve had a coffee,’ she said as she sat down opposite him.
‘Yeah. I had enough cash for a small one.’
‘You’re out of cash?’
‘Just about. I’ve got more in my bank account but after you said the police were looking for me I was afraid to use my card. They can trace your movements by following your card use, can’t they?’ Yes, and by logging your phone calls, Jasmine didn’t add, but rather doubted that DCI Sloane would have yet gone to those lengths to trace Daniel.
‘Are you OK?’ She examined the young man. Dishevelled, a little grubby, he didn’t look too out of place for a youth in a cheap coffeehouse. There was a bag by his side. Jasmine recognised the small sports bag from his mother’s description.
‘Yeah, I s’pose so. A bit knackered.’
Jasmine sipped her coffee.
‘So, what are we going to do?’
‘Don’t know.’ He looked down at his empty cup, his shoulders drooping.
‘First of all, tell me what you’ve done since you left home on Saturday morning.’
‘Because I want to hear your alibi so I can tell you if it will convince the police.’
‘I didn’t kill, Kyle.’ Daniel had to stop his voice from being raised. He glared at Jasmine.
‘I know, but tell me all the same.’


Jasmine receives a call

It’s been one of those weeks where it seems that not much progress has been made but there have been lots of little things to fill the time. There’s been work on our writers’ group murder mystery, a short story for another group, revisions of September volume 2 for the publisher, and of course the next episode in the Jasmine Frame stiory where she is embarking on her transition as a transsexual detective – here it is.

The Switch – Part 4

When Jasmine got home she had recovered from the encounter with Kyle but was delighted with her bright red and immaculately painted toe and finger nails which matched her bright red lipstick. When she looked in the mirror she saw again how hairstylist Helen had cleverly worked her short(ish) hair to give her a style that she loved. And she held in her hand a set of photos that would establish her new identity on passport, driving licence and other personal documents. Angela too was pleased with her new look and suggested dinner out to celebrate.
It was Jasmine’s first venture to a public meeting place without her faithful wig. For a moment as they entered the smart pub/restaurant side by side she felt exposed and vulnerable without the long locks to hide behind. No-one took much notice of them. Perhaps one or two men did take more than a casual look at two women entering without men in tow but Angela’s firm request for a table for two stifled any possibility that a man might step forward to make contact. Jasmine’s confidence grew as they walked into the dining area. She didn’t even stand out because of her height – in the high heels that she favoured Angela was taller than her.
It was a pleasant meal. As usual, Jasmine and Angela chatted to each other animatedly. It was while they were eating their desserts, concoctions of multi-flavoured ice-creams, that Jasmine realised that they may not have many more such occasions. Soon they would separate, she to forge her new life as a woman, and Angela… What would she do, Jasmine wondered, when she was single again? Would she look for a new man? Someone to satisfy her. The thoughts dampened Jasmine’s spirits as they headed home.
Sunday was a work day. Jasmine made a start on all the forms she had to fill in to change her name and gender while Angela had accountancy work. She had taken on a new role which promised a higher salary but brought more work and more travel. It also meant a new company car.
‘We’ll have to get rid of Rose,’ Angela said. Rose was her nickname for the red Ford Fiesta she had run since they moved to Kintbridge. It was a few years old when they had bought it and, much-loved as it was, was showing its age now.
‘Unless,’ Angela added, ‘you need a car of your own when we separate.’ Jasmine hadn’t given cars much consideration. There was always a police car available when she needed transport for work. She either walked or cycled to the Police HQ each day, or her buddy Tom Shepherd picked her up. She rarely drove the Fiesta as Angela generally took the wheel when they went out together and she hardly ever went out alone as either James or Jasmine. But perhaps when they did part she would need a car. Once again the thought of parting from Angela gave Jasmine pangs of, if not actual regret, then certainly of sadness.
It was getting towards dusk and Angela was about to join Jasmine in front of a DVD when the phone rang.
‘Hello. Is that Jasmine,’ the caller said. It was a female voice that Jasmine vaguely recognised.
‘Yes. Who is that?’
‘It’s Jenny Parry.’ Daniel’s mother.
‘Hello, Mrs Parry…’
‘Is Daniel with you?’
The voice was strained and worried.
‘No, he’s not Mrs Parry. Is something wrong?’
‘I haven’t seen him since yesterday morning. He didn’t come home last night and he’s still not here.’
‘I see. Have you been in touch with his friends? He told me he had a few he was close to.’
‘Yes, I have the numbers of some boys and girls. He’s known them since primary school. I’ve tried them but they haven’t seen him either.’
‘Has he spent a night away before without telling you?’
‘He doesn’t like being somewhere where he has to undress. He likes me to bind him, you know, cover his breasts. But there’s been a couple of times when he hasn’t come home. He stayed at friends’ places but came back the morning after. He knows I get worried, you know, with Daniel being like he is, I get bothered about what’s happening to him.’
‘Yes, I understand, Mrs Parry. Is there anyone else he could be with? Family?’
‘There’s no-one. No-one I’m in touch with.’
‘His father?’
There was an ironic laugh at the other end of the phone.
‘He’d be the last person to have Daniel in his house.’
‘Hm, Right. Have you contacted the police?’
‘Yes, but they weren’t interested. They said 16 year olds often go wandering for a day or two.’
Jasmine knew that it would be another day or so before the police would show real concern.
‘Look, I’ll come round to you if that’s what you’d like. See if we can work out where he might be.’
‘Oh, yes please. I’m so worried. Dan tries to show that he’s a confident, easy-going boy but I know that there are things going on that worry him.’
‘I’ll be there in a few minutes, Mrs Parry.’
Jasmine put the phone and explained what was happening to Angela. She was sympathetic but warned,
‘Don’t stay too long. You’re off-duty and on leave. If it is police business leave it to them.’
‘I’ll just go and try to reassure her,’ Jasmine said throwing a cardigan over her t-shirt and slipping her feet into a pair of pumps.
‘Take Rose,’ Angela said chucking the car keys at Jasmine.
‘It’s only a few hundred yards.’
‘Yes, but it’s getting dark and I’m not sure I’d walk on that estate on my own.’
It was a new feeling for Jasmine to be a vulnerable female in a short skirt in an unfamiliar environment. She took note of Angela’s warning.

It was just a few minutes later that Jasmine pulled up at the Parry house. Jenny Parry opened the door as she got out of the car. She must have been watching through the curtains.
‘Thank you for coming,’ she said almost weeping with a mixture of worry and gratitude.
‘Dan hasn’t been in touch at all?’
‘No. He’s got a phone but it must be switched off and he hasn’t replied to any texts I have sent.’
Jasmine entered the house.
‘Did he say where he was going or what he intended doing when you last saw him?’
‘No. I’d gone to the shops when he left. Before I went out he said he’d be going out for a while.’
‘Did he take anything with him? An overnight bag, change of clothes, that sort of thing?’
‘I don’t know?’ Jenny Parry covered her mouth with her hand, ‘Do you think he’s left home?’
‘I don’t know but shall we have a look in his room?’
‘Oh, yes. Come up stairs.’
Jasmine followed Jenny up the narrow flight of stairs to one of the two bedrooms. Jenny pushed the door open and flicked the light switch. Jasmine joined her in the bedroom. It was a small room, a stereotypical boy’s room – an unmade single bed, a small desk with a pretty old model desktop computer on it, a wardrobe, a few shelves with an assortment of books and ornaments – largely model cars – and posters on the walls showing pictures from computer games – fantasy swordsmen and scantily clad heroines.
There was a scattering of clothes over the floor.
‘Can you see if there are any clothes missing?’ Jasmine asked.
Jenny opened the wardrobe. There were hangers holding school uniform and a couple of other pairs of trousers and shirts. There were also shelves with T-shirts, boxer shorts and socks.
‘Is anything missing?’ Jasmine asked. There didn’t seem to be many clothes even if the garments on the floor were included.
‘It’s difficult to tell,’ Jenny said. ‘I don’t think there’s much missing, but I can’t see his sports bag anywhere.’
‘How much could he get in that?’
‘Oh, it was only a small one. A pair of trainers, trousers, a few other bits and pieces.’
‘Right, so it looks as though Dan’s taken the bag and perhaps a few items of clothes. Anything else he might have with him?’
Jenny looked around the room, searching the desk and the shelves.
‘Well, his phone is definitely not here. I can’t see the charger either; and his wallet, that’s gone.’
‘Did he have much cash?’
‘I don’t know. A couple of pounds perhaps. He does have a cash card for his bank account, but no credit cards or anything like that.’
‘Well, it’s not certain of course, but it does look as though he intended going away for a couple of days,’ Jasmine mused.
‘But why? He was safe at home.’
‘Safe? Did you know he was in danger?’
‘Of course he was in danger. He’s a boy in a girl’s body. There are bullies around who’d pick on him because of who he is. You’re the same – well almost. Don’t you get people having a go at you?’
Jasmine reflected on her good fortune in being in a good job able to live where she wanted.
‘Being older is a help and with my police training I can look after myself.’
Jenny gasped, ‘You’re in the police?’
‘Yes,’ Jasmine had forgotten that Jenny didn’t know.
‘Even though you’re a trans-whats-it.’
‘I’m on leave while I start my transition but my bosses are being helpful.’ Well, most of them, I’m not sure that Sloane is exactly helping, Jasmine thought.
‘How did Daniel meet you?’ Jenny was inquisitive now.
‘I was having a run on the common. I met up with Dan. He was having a bit of trouble with some other youths. A lad called Kyle.’
‘Oh, him. He’s always marching around the estate as if he owns the place.’
‘He’s a bully,’ Jasmine said not adding that Kyle was also a potential rapist.
‘Do you think, Dan has left home to get away from Kyle?’
‘I don’t know. Perhaps he’s decided to get away for a few days to allow Kyle’s attention to wander. If he’s not back tomorrow give me another call and I’ll make sure the police take it seriously.’
Jenny looked very grateful indeed.
‘Thank you.’
Jasmine backed out of the bedroom and headed down stairs.
‘Let me know if you have any news,’ she added as she reached the front door, ‘and try to get some sleep. Don’t worry. I’m sure Dan is fine.’ She knew she was spouting platitudes which Jenny Parry would take no notice of. They didn’t convince her either. What was Daniel up to?

Jasmine has a new look

Back from a wonderful two weeks in Ireland. I didn’t get as much writing done as I intended but at least managed to write the next episode of The Switch which is below. However we did lots of walking, relaxed and I had plenty of ideas about where I’m going with this and other stories.

It was great to come back to a completed contract for Seventh Child, the first volume of my fantasy sequence. No doubt I’ll be writing more about that here or elsewhere (and elsewhen) in the near future.

Anyway back to Jasmine Frame, the transsexual detective and her transition. The Switch takes place almost two years before the action in Painted Ladies, the novel that is available in paperback and e-book form from all suppliers (got to keep the marketing going.)

The Switch – Part 3

Chapter 2

Jasmine arrived at her front door sweating after sprinting the last couple of hundred metres back to her house. She put her key in the lock and stepped into the hall.
‘I thought you were going for a short run,’ Angela called out. Jasmine followed the sound of Angela’s and other voices into the lounge. Angela was curled up on the sofa watching TV. She pressed the mute on the remote and the noise from the screen died.
‘So did I,’ Jasmine replied at last, pulling the sodden wig from her head. ‘I can’t wear that to run in again.’
‘I don’t know why you did.’
‘I’ve always worn a wig when I’ve been out – as Jasmine.’
‘But you’re Jasmine all the time now.’
‘Yes. That’s why I wore the wig and my sports bra.’
‘Ok, but you’ve got to be yourself. There’s no reason for you to wear a wig.’
Jasmine slumped on the sofa next to Angela passing the brim of the wig through her fingers.
‘But I’ve always thought I needed the wig to make me look more feminine.’
Angela sat up and put her business face on.
‘Look, Jas,’ she said, ‘You’ve decided to transition, to be Jasmine full time, to take the drugs and have the surgery.’
‘Yes, I have but…’
‘There are no buts anymore Jas. You’re young, good looking, you’ll make an attractive woman.’
‘But it’ll be years before my body becomes feminine. I’ve got to live my life as woman from now.’
‘Yes, and you can. You can pass easily, just as you are.’
‘But my hair…’
‘Yes, I know. It’s been short for the police but you’ve let it grow a bit in the last few months. But you’re not going bald and it’s lovely thick blond hair. You could have it styled and it would look very feminine.’
‘I could?’
‘Yes. That’s why I’ve booked you into my salon for a makeover tomorrow morning.’
‘You have?’ Jasmine sat up straight, ‘Why?’
‘I don’t know. My gift to you on your transition I suppose. I know it means the end of us as man and wife, but I want you to be happy in your new life.’
Emotion filled Jasmine’s chest and she barely stopped herself from blubbing.
‘Oh, Ange. I don’t know where I’d be without you and yet I’m pushing you away.’
Angela shrugged and withdrew to her end of the sofa.
‘We knew it was going to happen, Jas. We talked about it enough times. You need to transition and I want to make sure you do it properly. Your appointment is at ten and you’ll have a pedicure, manicure and facial before Helen does your hair. She knows what she needs to do.’
‘Thanks, Ange.’ Jasmine felt a weight of gratitude that was almost too great to express.
‘So what kept you on your run? It can’t have been your wig that slowed you down.’
Jasmine related her meeting with Daniel and they exchanged feelings of disgust about the actions of people like Kyle, whatever their age. Then Jasmine mentioned the arrival of the police car.
‘It’ll be all around the station now,’ she added. ‘So much for the controlled announcement and getting everyone used to the idea of me being a woman.’
‘They’ll get used to it,’ Angela said.
‘Jones and Hedges thought I was a joke, and they called me a “trannie”.’
‘You don’t mind that word.’
‘Not when I use it but people like Jones and Hedges use it in a sneering way like racists use the n word.’
‘You weren’t expecting everyone to accept you immediately, were you?’
‘No, I’m not that far into fantasyland. I know the diversity training is given lip service by a few people.’
‘Just a few?’ Angela was cynical, ‘I’m sure there will be a sizeable number of your colleagues who will follow the guidelines when on duty but will whisper behind your back. You knew all along that transitioning is just the start. Welcome to the life of the minority.’
‘You too?’
‘Of course. OK I don’t get the abuse that you or ethnic minorities get, but a woman in a man’s world – you’ve heard me on that subject enough times.’
Jasmine grinned. Angela was a formidable opponent when roused on issues of equality. Another reason she appreciated her. Angela returned to her TV watching while Jasmine went for a shower.

Jasmine sat in the chair feeling thoroughly pampered. Her feet and hands had been washed, massaged, creamed and polish applied to her nails. Her face too had been tenderly cleansed and caressed. She could get used to this part of being female but didn’t think she could afford it regularly on her detective constable’s salary. Now Helen was lifting bits of her hair with a comb and commenting.
‘It’s a little short at the moment but I can shape and layer it without removing too much, so I can give you a lovely, feminine bob. As it grows we can give it more body and cover your ears if that’s what you’d like.’ She set to work with the scissors and Jasmine was surprised after what she had said when little bits of fair hair fell onto the gown she was wearing.
‘Now don’t go using a hair dryer or heated curling tongs or anything hot if you want your hair to grow.’ Helen said.
‘Oh, do they affect it?’ Jasmine was ignorant of such things. She just let her hair dry naturally after a shower.
‘Heat damages the hair, so if you want it to grow quickly don’t do any of those things.’
Jasmine watched in the mirror as Helen spun her magic spell. With a few well-placed snips James Frame’s familiar crop disappeared and was replaced by a young woman’s pixie cut.
‘There,’ Helen said as she stood back to let Jasmine have a full view of herself, ‘With a little eye-shadow and lipstick and your earrings,’ they were Jasmine’s favourite bronze dangly ones, ‘you’re a really attractive woman. I think Angela will be pleased.’
With make-up duly applied Jasmine stepped out of the salon onto the street. The old wig was screwed up and stuffed in her handbag. The next stop would be the bin. For the first time she stepped out in public as herself without the wig’s protective camouflage. No-one stared, no-one pointed at her in her short summer dress and sandals. She was an ordinary woman who had just visited a beauty salon. She set off up the High Street to the car park.
‘Hey, it’s the trannie pig. Oink, oink.’ There was a chorus of grunting. Jasmine spun around. Twenty metres behind her was Kyle and the other two lads that had been with him when he attacked Dan. There was no sign of the girl though. Jasmine paused. What should she do? She hated drawing attention to herself but there was no chance of walking away and getting lost in the crowds. Kyle was approaching her. Despite her reluctance to make a scene she was fully trained to confront angry and possibly violent members of the public. She knew what she had to do. At least she was in a public place with plenty of people around her. Some were staring, others deliberately looking in other directions.
She stood her ground and waited for Kyle to approach her. He swaggered up and stopped a couple of metres from her with his henchmen behind him.
‘I suggest that you calm down, Kyle, and watch your language.’ She spoke quietly, while reaching into her bag for her camera-phone.
‘You don’t tell me what to do you fucking perv,’ Kyle said loudly, ‘I’m coming for you after I’ve had Danny boy. She wants a cock, I’ll give her one.’
‘I’m giving you a warning, Kyle,’ Jasmine said, ‘I am a police officer. If you don’t take care you could be on a charge of disturbing the peace and threatening behaviour.’ She held her phone up and took a couple of photos.
‘What ya doing?’ Kyle asked.
‘Taking a photograph of you to circulate so that if you threaten Dan again my colleagues will know who to look for.’
‘You don’t scare me you cunt. I’ll have you. I bet you’d like to suck my cock like all the real sluts do.’
Jasmine ignored Kyle’s suggestions but was aware of the passers-by leaving a large space around them.
‘Don’t make me call for your arrest, Kyle. We know who you are so officers can pick you up at any time. K have the evidence.’ She waved her phone.
One of Kyle’s mates tugged on his sleeve. He drew his mate’s attention to a Community Support Officer further up the street looking in shop windows. Kyle shook his friend’s arm off but backed away from Jasmine.
‘Don’t go down any dark alleys,’ he called as he turned and walked away, ‘Someone might want to smash in your tart-face.’
Jasmine relaxed as the trio of teenagers moved away. Her heart was beating rapidly and there was sweat in her new hairdo. She breathed out at last. Her objective had been achieved – Kyle had been dissuaded from any physical abuse which would really have disturbed the peace. She wasn’t certain if members of the public would have come to the assistance of a bloke in a dress being abused by a bunch of kids and CSO probably didn’t want to get involved.
She put her phone away and turned to resume her walk through the Saturday shoppers, hoping to merge again with the crowd. Some people gave her suspicious looks but gradually she became a part of the surroundings again. This was possibly not the last time that she would be faced with transphobic abuse in public although Kyle was a special case. She wondered how and when they would meet again. She headed to the shopping mall to find a photo booth.


Jasmine Frame in “The Switch” – all new story

A little early this week in posting this blog but I’m excited because I have started a new Jasmine Frame story.  It is set between the events of Blueprint and Painted Ladies so is both a sequel and a prequel. It occurs at another important stage in  Jasmine’s transition that sees her involved in another case.  Like Blueprint I will be posting an episode each week, the difference being that this time I have some idea where it is going. What I don’t know is how long it will be or what convolutions will occur in the plot as we go along.

My other source of excitement this week was the news that a publisher is interested in publishing my fantasy novel, Evil Above the Stars featuring the heroine, September Weekes.  The publisher is Elsewhen Press, a small publisher of SF and Fantasy. Like my Jasmine Frame stories, I have been developing September’s adventures for a few years now. I couldn’t be more delighted that it looks as though they’ll be available to an audience. More news as it develops.

So, here is the first episode of The Switch.

The Switch: part 1

Chapter 1

The soles of her running shoes barely touched the concrete pavement as she loped along at a swift but comfortable pace. Despite it being the end of a long working day at the end of a long working week she felt exhilarated and bounding with energy. A weight had been taken off her. No longer would she have the burden of living two lives. From now on she was only Jasmine Frame. James was no more. Ahead of her stretched three weeks of leave from the Kintbridge police force; three weeks to sort out the legal papers; three weeks to acclimatise to being Jasmine full-time.
There was still plenty of light on this July evening but the temperature was comfortable now. Running was easy. The shoulder-length blonde wig was a bit of an irritation as were the silicone inserts in her sports bra, but they were necessary. They made her feel more feminine but she longed for the day when her body would match her image of herself. The wig could be discarded soon but it would be some years before she had breasts of her own to fill the bra cups. She hadn’t even started the gender altering drugs yet, and as for surgery, well, that was in the distant future.
She crossed the road and joined the gravel path that circled the common land that had been an air base. Where once there had been the roar of jet bombers now there was peace but for the call of birds. Sometimes she met other joggers and dog walkers, but this evening she was alone.
Or so she thought. She heard voices, young raucous voices, angry voices. She crested a low rise. Now the path dropped down to one of the old access roads onto the airfield. There were five young people by a disused gatehouse. Their noise and movements attracted Jasmine’s attention as she jogged towards them. There was one girl with long dark hair who slouched a couple of metres apart from the other four who appeared to be boys. Three of them were surrounding the last, jostling and shoving him. The three were taller and tougher looking than the subject of their attack. He tried to evade them but was unable to escape their triangle. Two of his assailants grabbed him and dragged him towards the open door of the concrete hut. From the shouts and swearing Jasmine gathered that it wasn’t some game in progress. This was an assault.
Jasmine stopped and pulled her phone from her belt. She thumbed the contact to the police station and spoke urgently.
‘Back-up required, youths fighting, north entrance to Enborne Common off Bowdown Road.’ She sprinted down the path towards the road. The three boys were trying to push the other through the doorway but he had a foot up on the door jamb pushing back while he waved his arms trying to keep them free. The girl hung behind not helping the assailants or their victim.
‘Stop. Police,’ Jasmine shouted realising that she had used her male voice. The girl and the boys looked around and paused in their pushing. The short boy shook himself free.
‘Fuck off,’ one of the boys shouted towards Jasmine and grabbed the boy’s arm
‘Leave him alone,’ Jasmine roared. ‘The police are on their way.’ She waved her phone to emphasise the point. The two other boys looked at the one holding the victim.
‘Come on Kyle. Let’s go. The fuzz are coming,’ one said.
Kyle glared at Jasmine, his lip curling. Jasmine could see him matching her masculine voice to her bosomed vest and blonde curls.
‘Don’t listen to him, guys. It’s a freak, a perv.’ Kyle took a firmer grip on the small lad who was struggling to get free.
Jasmine took a few steps closer, stretching to her full height, unfortunately no greater than Kyle’s, and adopting a pose with her arms and fists that suggested that she could look after herself in a fight. She was confident she could take Kyle alone but knew she couldn’t defend herself against all three, or four if the girl decided to join in. What was she getting into? At least there were no knives in sight. Knives were her worst fear.
‘Leave it Kyle,’ the other boy spoke up, ‘Perhaps the trannie has called the police.’ A siren sounded in the distance and all the young people stiffened. Jasmine smiled, it may not have been the car she’d called for but it was a useful coincidence.
‘There. They’ll be here in moments,’ Jasmine said in as calm a voice as she could manage, striving to raise her pitch. The three bigger boys and the girl gazed towards the road. The victim wriggled free of Kyle and ran towards Jasmine. Kyle moved to follow. Jasmine grabbed the small lad and held him protectively.
‘If you run, you may avoid being arrested,’ Jasmine added.
‘Come on, Kyle. It’s not worth it,’ the girl said. Kyle stopped a couple of metres from Jasmine and the boy. His fists clenched and the muscles in his bare arms tensed. Was he going to attack? Jasmine prepared to push the lad away while she defended him.
The same or a different siren sounded, closer. The other two boys ran off. The girl tugged on Kyle’s shoulder. After a moment he relaxed and allowed himself to be pulled away. He turned and with the girl ran off in the same direction as the others.
Jasmine was left with the victim of the attack. The top of his head was barely up to her shoulder. The sides of his head were shaved and there was a tuft of spiky black hair on top. His cheeks and chin were smooth and soft. He wore a loose T-shirt and baggy knee-length cotton shorts. Jasmine thought he must be about twelve or thirteen and perhaps rather than being short was actually quite tall for his age.
‘Hi, I’m Jasmine. Who are you?’ Jasmine asked, smiling broadly to reassure the young lad.
The boy frowned.
‘I’m Dan,’ his voice was a soft treble, ‘Are you a trannie?’
Jasmine sighed. She wasn’t surprised that she’d been read. The aggressive Kyle had spotted her. It wasn’t surprising when her shouted police voice didn’t match her waxed arms and legs to say nothing of her now slightly skewed wig.
‘Yes, I’m trans,’ she admitted. ‘What was all that about?’
Dan ignored her question
‘Are the police really coming?’
‘I hope so. I called for back-up.’
‘You’re a cop?’
‘They have trannies then.’
‘A few.’ Jasmine had been listening to Dan’s questions and watching him. His interest in her didn’t seem to be the fascination with the weird or the disgust that being read often generated. This young boy intrigued her. ‘You haven’t answered my question, Dan. Why were Kyle and his friends all over you?’
Dan didn’t reply at first. Jasmine watched various emotions pass across his face. Finally he spoke.
‘He was going to fuck me.’
Jasmine knew that her shock must have registered on her face. Did Dan know what he was implying? She had to spell it out.
‘What? You’re underage. Does Kyle want to be known as a gay paedo?’
‘It’s not like that. I’m sixteen and he wants to show everyone that I’m a girl.’


Reflections and projections

This week I am reflecting on Blueprint, the Jasmine Frame prequel I completed last week.

Keeping to a strict programme of writing an episode of around 1500 (+/- 200) words a week was instructional. While I hadn’t had any idea where the story would go at the start or often from one week to the next, I was never at a loss for what to write.  The actual writing of the episode was sometimes rushed (it probably showed) but I would find myself thinking through the episode often during the preceding week. I was pleased that the story hung together (I think) over 28 weeks and 38,000 words even if it was a little contrived at the end. It was a very useful vehicle for further development of Jasmine Frame as a character and to fill in some of the gaps of how she became the transsexual detective of Painted Ladies and Bodies by Design.  One of the biggest challenges of writing a prequel is to ensure that the facts and timings are kept straight. I hope I succeeded. As a result I do now have a fixed chronology which is summarised below

Jasmine Frame born 1983; Blueprint, Nov 2009; Painted Ladies and Bodies by Design, May & August 2012.  For more details about Jasmine’s significant dates you’ll have to read the stories.

I would welcome criticism of Blueprint. I feel it lacks a bit of movement towards the end although I did inject a bit of action to the questioning of Caroline.  The biggest question is whether the solution to the case fits the set-up. There’s nothing worse than a plot with gaping holes in it. I have put together all the episodes into one manuscript although I have not edited thoroughly yet. Read it here.
Blueprint – A Jasmine Frame Story

Now I have to think about what to put on this blog. Bodies by Design is about to go out into the world to find an agent and publisher. If nothing happens then I may self-publish it as an e-book but I cannot afford another paperback like Painted Ladies, at least not unless sales pick up quickly. I am planning the third in the Jasmine Frame series but do not intend to start writing that for some time. I do want to write the third volume of my fantasy series (Evil Above the Stars) first. So, for here, I have decided on another Jasmine Frame prequel, filling in (some of) the gap between Blueprint and Painted Ladies and dealing with another important stage in her transition as well as a crime.  The first episode will appear next weekend (I hope). It has the provisional title “The Switch.”  This time I will write a short outline so I know where it is going and that it has a basic plot, but who knows where it will wander to.

Finally I was delighted to find Painted Ladies on display in two local libraries and to see that it has been borrowed.
PL in library

Jasmine finds the answer

I spent Thursday evening visiting Gender Matters in Wolverhampton.  It is a wonderful centre that supports transgendered people in the West Midlands.  It is Gender Matters that has put together the brilliant Mapping My Journey exhibition at the Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery which runs till 20th of this month.  The reason for my visit was to take part in a creative writing workshop with members. This gave me a chance to talk about Jasmine Frame, how I got Painted Ladies published, what’s going to happen with Bodies by Design and generally have a great time promoting my work. Everyone was very appreciative and intrigued by the possibilities of a transsexual detective. I am very grateful for the opportunity. It was also great to hear the contributions of other writers who are transgendered.

Presenting a copy of Painted Ladies to Gender Matters

Presenting a copy of Painted Ladies to Gender Matters

And so to the penultimate episode of Blueprint. At least I think it is the penultimate. Next week I will bring it to a close. I’ve also roughed out a cover. As ever comments would be most welcome.

Blueprint – part 27

Chapter 8

There were bangs and clatters from the kitchen where Tom had been instructed to make a cup of tea. In the lounge, DS O’Shaunessy perched on the edge of an armchair while Jasmine sat next to Caroline on the sofa. Caroline was gripping her damaged wrist with her head bowed.
‘Come on Caroline,’ Jasmine said, ‘tell me why you ran away.’
Caroline didn’t answer nor did she move.
‘We know it’s got something to do with Petula,’ Jasmine went on, ‘because we talked about her yesterday.’ She paused but there was no response from Caroline. ‘Were you worried because you felt responsible?’
Caroline made a noise, which may have been a sob or a snort. Jasmine was pleased as it was the first response she’d got out of Caroline since they’d got her back into the house.
Tom entered carrying a cup and saucer.
‘Here’s a nice hot cup of tea,’ he said cheerfully, ‘I’ve put milk and sugar in.’
Caroline looked up at him. ‘I don’t take sugar.’
‘I found the sugar in the cupboard so I thought you used it,’ Tom added offering her the cup and saucer. Caroline didn’t move her good hand but O’Shaunessy took the cup and saucer from Tom and placed it on the occasional table beside the sofa.
‘The sugar’s for guests,’ Caroline said.
‘Such as Petula? She was a guest wasn’t she,’ Jasmine said.  Caroline lowered her head again and made another sobbing/snorting noise. ‘Tell me about the photos, Caroline. I’m sure if we examine your computer we’ll find them there. Photos that you printed off and posted to Petula.’
Caroline looked at Jasmine with an expression of horror.
‘I asked you about your camera yesterday,’ Jasmine went on, ‘It didn’t strike me as odd at the time that you didn’t ask me why I was interested. It was because you knew exactly why I was asking questions about photography since it was you who sent the photos to Petula. The photos that made Petula kill herself.’
O’Shaunessy glared at Jasmine but didn’t say anything. Jasmine knew she was jumping to conclusions, pushing Caroline hard but she had to get a response, to get her talking. It worked. Caroline began sobbing, her shoulders shaking, tears running down her nose and dripping onto her dress.
‘She wasn’t supposed to die,’ Caroline said through grunts and gasps.
‘Tell me about it,’ Jasmine insisted, ‘What were the photos for? Tell me all about you and Petula.’
‘It was a joke,’ Caroline paused to allow another couple of sobs to emerge. ‘No, not a joke. To stir her up. Make her look at herself.’
O’Shaunessy was scribbling in her notebook and Jasmine, too, had her pocketbook on her lap. Tom watched from the doorway.
‘What do you mean, Caroline?’ Jasmine said quietly, ‘Tell me all about it.’
Caroline sniffed and drew in her breath. She sat up straight and looked directly at Jasmine.
‘I thought she was like me… and you.’
‘What do you mean?’ Jasmine struggled to see herself as similar to Caroline – an older woman, in an ankle-length flowery dress.
‘I thought she wanted to be a woman, full-time.’
‘Go on,’ Jasmine urged.
‘When we met at Betty’s a couple of years ago we seemed to have so much in common. We were almost the same ages, similar jobs in the banking business, similar taste in clothes. We were both married; well, I’d lost my wife by then, but we’d both had settled married lives.’ Caroline paused and her eyes lost focus. Perhaps she’s thinking of her wife, Jasmine thought.
‘So you got on together,’ Jasmine urged Caroline on.
‘Yes. She was confident, a good talker. We had a lot to chat about. After meeting up a few times with Betty we decided to organise our own little trips. We invited Rosalind the first time because Petula felt sorry for her, but she didn’t have much in common with the two of us. We didn’t invite her again.’ Caroline stopped to draw breath, then continued. ‘It became a regular arrangement. Once a month on a Thursday morning I would meet Petula at the shopping centre in time for a coffee. We’d do a bit of shopping, at least I would. Petula rarely bought anything at all. Then we’d go off somewhere for lunch. I started to use the bus so that we only needed Petula’s car, that old Rover, to go off in. It was my job of course to find a different place for lunch each month. At first we used to hang about in the restaurant or pub until Petula decided it was time for her to leave after dropping me off here. Of course I invited her in for a cup of tea. We began to come back earlier and earlier and she left for home later and later so we had more time just the two of us here, in my home.’
‘And that was how you began to find out more about Petula,’ Jasmine said.
‘Yes. I didn’t make anything of it at first but gradually I saw we weren’t alike at all.’
‘What do you mean?’ O’Shaunessy butted in, ‘You said you had similar tastes.’
Caroline turned to look at the small detective sergeant.
‘Oh, we had that. The differences went much deeper.’
‘You were different types of trans,’ Jasmine said. Caroline turned back to her and nodded, her face showing relief. Jasmine understood.
‘You know what it’s like don’t you,’ Caroline said, ‘to spend all your life wanting to be the person you feel yourself to be. My wife knew about me and supported me so in return I never transitioned. Since she died I’ve been Caroline nearly all the time and that’s fine. I’d like to be a complete woman but I don’t think I want to go through all the surgery and stuff now.’
‘I understand,’ Jasmine said, nodding her head. She understood Caroline’s feelings but was not sure that she could spend a whole lifetime trading off wanting to be female with staying as Angie’s husband. How had Caroline done it?
‘Petula was different,’ Caroline said, ‘She loved dressing up and going out once or twice a month but that was all. She had no wish to become a woman, she told me so. That was why she kept it secret from her wife; she didn’t want her to know anything about her feminine side. So when she was at home she kept Petula packed away in her suitcase; that was the reason why she didn’t buy much – she had nowhere to store lots of clothes.’
‘I don’t understand,’ Clodagh O’Shaunessy said, ‘how were you different?’
‘There are lots of labels for what we do,’ Jasmine said. ‘Transsexual, transvestite, cross-dresser, gender queer. They all mean something slightly different but no single title applies to any one person. We’re all individuals, every one of us, you and Tom included, somewhere on the spectrum that runs from male to female. To an observer Caroline and Petula looked the same, elegant, middle-aged ladies, but close up they were blokes in dresses.’
A look of thunder crossed Caroline’s face but then she shrugged and nodded. Jasmine went on.
‘But actually I think Caroline is saying they really were at different points on that spectrum. Caroline says she’s transsexual, she wants to live as a woman and if circumstances were different would have had the medical intervention that would make her body feminine.’
‘And you’re the same?’ O’Shaunessy asked.
‘Yes,’ Jasmine replied, ‘It’s taken me a long time to get here but I want to be me.’
‘And your suicide victim? Where was she on this spectrum?’ O’Shaunessy said.
‘She was more a cross-dresser,’ Caroline said, ‘She liked the dressing up but had no wish to become a woman full-time. I think she enjoyed the risk-taking, the secrecy. She wouldn’t admit it of course, but it’s a bit like a drug isn’t it.’
‘Except that she over-dosed,’ Jasmine added, ‘Why did you send the photographs, Caroline?’
Caroline’s face sagged, the corners of her mouth drooped.
‘It was after the last time we met, in September.  I said that Petula really should try and come out to Linda, her wife; that she couldn’t go on living this secret life for ever; that it would be better to tell her than for her to discover it by accident sometime. Petula wouldn’t have it. She said that Linda must never know. She couldn’t bear it if Linda found out that she liked dressing up in women’s clothes. I thought she was being stupid.’
‘You argued?’ Jasmine said.
‘We had words and she left earlier than usual.’
‘And so you sent the photo.’
‘I know it was a stupid thing to do. I’d been playing with my new scanner and learning how to enhance pictures – being retired can be boring sometimes. I just took a photo I’d taken of Petula not long after we first met. I scanned it and extracted her head and put it on the body of a model.’
‘But why post it to Petula?’ Jasmine asked
‘I don’t know. It was silly but she’d annoyed me and I wanted to show her that she could be an attractive woman. I thought she would realise it came from me, get in touch and have a laugh.’
‘But she didn’t.’
‘No. So I sent another one.’
‘And another. Each week.’
‘Yes,’ Caroline said softly.
‘Getting more risqué with your choice of body model.’
‘Yes,’ Caroline whispered.
‘Just because Petula turned out to be different to you.’
‘But what happened last month? You told me that you met as usual, but you didn’t.’
‘She didn’t turn up. I waited at our usual time in the coffee shop but she didn’t come.’
‘Don’t you email or send texts to arrange meetings.’
‘Not a lot. Petula said she didn’t want to risk Linda reading them.’
‘She really was paranoid,’ O’Shaunessy said.
‘She didn’t contact you to say she couldn’t come, that she was filling in unexpectedly in Banbury,’ Jasmine said.
‘I never heard anything from her.’
‘So you sent her the last photo. The pornographic one.’
Caroline bent her head, avoiding Jasmine’s and O’Shaunessy’s eyes. She nodded almost imperceptibly.
O’Shaunessy stood up and beckoned Jasmine to follow her out of the room.
‘Sit with her, Tom,’ Jasmine said as she passed him in the doorway.  She followed the detective sergeant into the back garden.
‘Well, you’ve got your confession,’ O’Shaunessy said, ‘But I don’t know what you can do with it. There were no notes, no threats of blackmail, no intimidation.’
Jasmine shook her head.
‘Nothing like that. Caroline just sent the prints in a plain envelope.’
‘How did Thwaite not guess who they were coming from?’
‘I don’t know,’ Jasmine said. She recalled how mystified Petula had been, just over a week earlier when she had handed over the photos. ‘She didn’t recognise the photo of her head. Perhaps Caroline had never shown the original to her.’
‘But after such a regular relationship with Barclay, why didn’t she realise it was him/her?’
‘I don’t understand it myself,’ Jasmine said, ‘Perhaps it never occurred to Petula that the one other trans person she knew well, Caroline, could actually do this to her. She really was terrified of her wife finding out about her and was very secretive. She didn’t give me the full story.’
‘You didn’t know her well then?’
‘I only talked to her once.’
‘So you’ve got no proof that it was these photos that drove her to suicide.’
‘No, but there’s nothing else. No work problems, no financial difficulties. We haven’t uncovered any other secrets.’
O’Shaunessy stroked her chin and pondered. Jasmine waited, the cold northern November air starting to cut through her grey jacket and blouse. At last the DS spoke.
‘I don’t think you’re going to get anything else from Barclay. He/she, whatever, sent the photos, full stop. It’s apparent that he had no real intentions of causing Thwaite harm, he hadn’t thought through what he was doing at all. A sad case but I don’t think a criminal one.’
‘Hmm.’ Jasmine was uncertain. She could see that O’Shaunessy was right but she was reluctant to accept that they had reached the end of the case. ‘Tom and I have a report to write and then I suppose it’s up to Sloane what happens.’
‘Our DCI.’
‘Well, perhaps you’d better head back down south and get that report done. I’ll take Caroline to get her wrist checked. If your boss does decide he needs a formal statement from her, I’ll do it for you.
‘Thanks, and thanks for helping out today.’
‘A pleasure – it got me out of the office, but I can’t spend much time on this, especially as it doesn’t look much like a crime.’
‘You’re probably right.’
‘Well, it’s been nice meeting you.’ O’Shaunessy offered her hand. Jasmine took it in hers and they each held tight for a moment. ‘Oh and I hope things go well for you when you transition.’
‘Thanks. I’ve got to face Sloane over that as well.’
Blueprint cover……………..

Jasmine and Tom head north

We had a great day in Birmingham last weekend visiting the Museum and Art Gallery. First of all we saw the six Grayson Perry tapestries “The Vanity of Small Differences” based on his TV series on class and taste. They really are interesting – full of detail and amusing insights into people’s lives, loosely based on Hogarth’s “Rake’s Porgress”.  The main purpose of our visit though, was to visit the exhibition “Mapping My Journey” mounted by Gender Matters as part of LGBT history month. It traces the history of transgender and the personal histories of various trans men and women both living and dead.  It was very interestng and well worth a visit. A personal highlight was to see a copy of Painted Ladies and a photo of me on display with a description of Jasmine Frame, transsexual detective, as an example of trans in fiction.

So, here is more about Jasmine – the next episode of the prequel to Painted Ladies and Bodies by Design.

Blueprint – Part 25

Minutes passed as they leafed through the papers in the file on Thwaite.
‘It’s no good, Jim. We’ve got to speak to the suspects,’ Tom said.
James nodded, ‘But which one?’
‘I don’t know, but we can decide on the drive up to Manchester.’
James groaned as he contemplated the long haul up the A34, M40 and M6 for the second time.
‘It’s OK, I’ll drive,’ Tom added, ‘You can work out who we’re going to interview.’
‘Thanks.’  James wasn’t sure that being a passenger for three to four hours was any better than being the driver. The one good thing about police work was that it did not usually necessitate long car journeys.
‘Are you going to get changed?’ Tom asked in a strange half whisper.
‘Into your – what did you call it? Your female persona.’
James opened his eyes with surprise. Tom was suggesting he become Jasmine again.
‘Well, these suspects only know you as a woman…’
‘A trans-woman.’
‘Yes, OK, but they may be more responsive if they think they know you. If two burly plods come asking questions…’
‘Speak for yourself.’
‘OK, but do you see?’
James thought hard.  Tom could be right.
‘Yes, they may be more prepared to talk to another trannie that they’ve met before.’
‘Right, well you get off home and change,’ Tom chucked the car keys to James, ‘I’ll go and enter the lion’s den and tell Sloane what we’re doing. He can get on to the people in Manchester.’
James was quite happy for Tom to face Sloane again.
‘OK. I will. I’ll give you a call when I’m back in the car park. I’m not revealing Jasmine to this lot, not yet anyway.’
Tom grinned, ‘It might make their day. Don’t take too long on your makeup; we’ve only got today.’
James snorted in reply and hurried off. Fifteen minutes later he was back home, mounting the stairs while tearing off his jacket and tie.  The house was empty, Angela had already gone to work. In his dressing room, James completed undressing and pulled on knickers and bra.  What should she wear? Yesterday, she had dressed casually in skirt and woolly top but perhaps today, accompanying Tom Shepherd, she should be a little more formal.  She had one suit consisting of a knee-length skirt and fitted jacket in pale grey polyester. With sheer neutral tights and a white blouse it would like she really was a female detective. She dressed quickly but spent a few minutes getting her face right and putting her blonde wig on straight. It was a quick turnaround but in under forty minutes she was back in the police car park and texting Tom.
Jasmine got out of the car and walked around it to get in again in the passenger seat. Tom arrived grasping a file of papers. He dropped it onto Jasmine’s lap as he sank into the driving seat. He started the engine while pulling the seatbelt across his chest.
‘I thought you’d need that lot to look at on the drive,’ Tom said, pulling out of the car park, ‘There’s a few new sheets from forensics.’
‘Is there?’ Jasmine flicked through the pages in the file. ‘How was Sloane?’ She asked.
‘OK,’ Tom nodded as he turned onto the main road out of town and accelerated up to the speed limit. ‘He said he’d let us know if we’re to meet anyone when we get up north.’
Jasmine watched Tom as he drove. His eyes were fixed on the view through the windscreen. While it was good driving technique it didn’t appear normal. Usually when two people were in a car together their eyes glanced at each other while they conversed, the driver maintaining concentration on the road but checking the facial expressions of their companion.
‘What’s the matter, Tom?’ Jasmine asked. Tom’s head didn’t move. His neck might have been in a brace.
‘Nothing, why?’
‘You haven’t looked at me since you got in, Tom.’
Tom continued to stare ahead.
‘There’s a fair bit of traffic.’
‘I know, but it’s not that busy. You could glance at me.’
‘Why? Do I need to look at you?’
‘No, but I thought it would be natural to have a look, check me out.’
Tom’s hands tightened around the steering wheel.
‘I can’t, Ji… I mean, what do you call yourself?’
‘Jasmine. Yes.’
‘Why can’t you, look at me, Tom?’
‘It’s…it’s…’ Tom blinked but his eyes didn’t move. ‘It’s you. I’m not sure what I’m supposed to feel.’
‘Yes. You sound like Jim. Well your speech is a bit higher pitched, but it’s definitely you. But you’re dressed like a girl.’
‘I’m a woman, Tom, not a girl.’
‘Yes, OK, but skirt, stockings,’
‘OK, tights and breasts.’
‘Well you look, um, er,…’
‘I look what?’
‘Damn it, you look, uh, good.’
‘Well, thank you, Tom, but how do you know. You haven’t looked at me.’
‘I can see you out of the corner of my eye.’
‘So you’ve seen enough to see that I’m attractive?’
‘You’re my buddy. My male buddy. I’m not supposed to be attracted to you.’
Jasmine sighed. She’d wondered for a long time how her colleagues would react to her. She’d expected revulsion, ostracism perhaps, even insults from the ones who had forgotten their diversity training.  Fear of being attracted to her was not a response she had counted on. Thinking about it though it made sense. She always went to great lengths to appear as attractively feminine as possible and when men saw what looked like a pretty, sexy, young woman it triggered their natural responses. But the knowledge that under the false breasts, the nylons and the foundation she was male caused conflict.
‘I’m sorry, Tom. I know it’s only the second time you’ve seen me and it takes some getting used to. I feel pretty relaxed being me but I should have realised how much I confuse you. You are reacting as any heterosexual man does to a pretty woman and I’m flattered that I’ve set off that reaction. I want to appear female but it doesn’t mean I’m out to seduce you or any other man.’  She wasn’t even sure if she fancied men. Sorting out her sexual preferences as Jasmine was a subject she had yet to face.
‘I’m still your partner,’ she went on. ‘We’re on a case. For now that’s all that matters. I hope that away from this we can sort out how you and I can be friends whether I’m Jim or Jasmine.’
Tom’s head did turn now. Just a few degrees. Enough for his eyes to focus briefly on her for a moment before returning to scan the road ahead.
‘I’m sorry, Jasmine,’ Tom said, ‘I was being stupid. Of course you are still you under all that stuff. But, god! You make a pretty good woman.’
‘Thanks. That is the biggest compliment you could make.’
‘My pleasure,’ Tom grinned. His body relaxed a little. ‘Now are you going to work out who we are visiting?’
Jasmine chuckled and looked at the file on her lap. She found the report from the forensic department that Tom had referred to. Most of it detailed the findings at Thwaite’s house – fingerprints on his car, on the doors into the garage and on the hose that fed the exhaust fumes into the saloon. The last page was different. It was a report on the photo of Thwaite that Jasmine had handed over. It confirmed that it was a collage of two pictures, the one of Petula and the other a screen grab of some porn. That was familiar, but the next paragraph she had to read through a couple of times before she realised the significance.
‘This is interesting,’ she said.
‘What is?’
‘There’s a forensic report here on the last photo sent to Thwaite. It says the original of the photo of Petula had a random arrangement of colour dots which were of variable size.’
‘What does that mean?’
‘It means it wasn’t taken with a digital camera. They produce a regular pattern of pixels.’
‘So the picture was taken…’
‘On film.’
‘Right. So?’
Jasmine flicked through her pocketbook checking her notes on Geraldine, Rosalind and Caroline.
‘I think Geraldine and Rosalind have digital cameras, but Caroline told me she didn’t. She still uses a film camera.’
‘Caroline?’ Tom turned his head and took a long look at Jasmine.
‘Yes, Caroline.’
‘Are you sure?’
‘Keep your eyes on the road, Tom.’ Tom’s head flicked to face forward. ‘It’s possible Caroline took the photo of Petula used in the prints,’ Jasmine mused, ‘It’s just one bit of evidence. There must be more, if I look hard enough.’ She began to turn over the pages in the file, looking at each with renewed interest.

James and Tom discuss suspects

I’ve been busy on three fronts with Jasmine Frame this week. I’ve put together a new flier for my ‘Jasmine & me’ presentation and been in contact with some literary festivals and readers groups. It is quite clear that if Jasmine is going to be publicised I’ve got to get out and meet people. That will be true even if I find a publisher for Painted Ladies and the rest of the series. Which is something else I’ve done – sent off a package to an agent.

I’ve also moved on with editing Bodies by Design. I’m not changing huge sections which feels fine but I wonder if I’m critical enough. The trouble with writing is that you feel you are living the story. Editing sections, perhaps even removing whole incidents, is a little like changing your memories.

The next episode of Blueprint has also occupied me for a while. It’s amazing that it is now up to its 23rd episode and has reached 30,000 words. I’m having to be careful that I don’t contradict things I wrote in earlier episodes. I hope I’m keeping the story bubbling – it is reaching a climax, I promise, and in the not too distant future. I think it’s going to end up as a novella rather than a novel, but that’s fine.

Blueprint: Part 23

Tom Shepherd ran through the freezing drizzle and jumped into the car beside James.
‘I thought you were never coming,’ Tom said glancing at his watch. James put his foot on the accelerator and pulled away from the block of flats where Tom lived.
‘I sent you a text to say I was running a few minutes late.’
‘A few minutes! It’s gone seven thirty already. What kept you?’
‘I was knackered after yesterday.’
‘Long day up in Manchester?’
‘Long drive, especially last night.’
They reached the main road into the centre of Kintbridge and come to a halt.
‘There I knew it,’ Tom said, ‘Get here after half seven and you’re in the rush hour.’
‘I’m sorry,’ James said, ‘You did say you wanted a lift.’
‘Well, since you had my car, I think I deserved one.’
James pulled into the outside lane and drove forward a few car lengths.
‘It won’t take long.’
‘So you spent the whole day as, uh, Jasmine, did you?’ Tom asked, his voice taking on a strained quality.
‘Yes. I said I would.’
‘You didn’t find it strange acting like a woman all day?’
‘I wasn’t acting,’ James said, he tugged on the lapel of his suit, ‘if anything I’m acting when I’m wearing this.’
‘You mean being a woman is more natural for you than being a bloke?’
‘Yes, Tom.’ James sighed. How could he explain his feelings to someone who had no concept of what it was like to feel in your head that you were someone while your body suggested someone else? Tom was a great mate but obviously had never questioned his identity, gender or otherwise.  ‘I know it’s hard for you and I find it difficult to put into words but for years, possibly as long as I remember, I have felt more comfortable being feminine than in pretending to be a guy.’
‘And Angela’s happy about this?’
‘Happy? Probably not. We’re happy together and she’s always supported me, but when we got married I don’t think she planned on having a woman for a partner.’
‘If you’ve felt like this all your life why did you marry Angela?’
They’d crept towards the roundabout. Police HQ was just off to the left.  James signalled and pulled into the inside lane.
‘We got married because we loved each other and back then I didn’t understand my feelings about myself. I hadn’t reckoned on how powerful my need to be female was or would become.’
‘So you’re prepared to end your marriage and lose everything so you can become Jasmine fulltime.’
‘It sounds awful put like that, Tom, but the answer is yes.’  James pulled into the car park beside the police station and turned off the engine.
‘Let’s go and get a coffee,’ Tom said, stretching his legs out of the car door, ‘I think we need to talk before going up to the office.’
‘So, did you find out anything?’ Tom gazed at James across his mug of coffee.  They were sitting in a corner of the canteen in the basement of the police station.  It was quiet, just a few officers taking a break at this time in the morning.
‘I found a few people who met Petula on her trips to Manchester.’
‘Suspects?’ Tom looked eager.
‘Perhaps.’ James described his meeting with Geraldine, the transvestite who hung around Betty’s Boudoir.
‘She did it,’ Tom said confidently, ‘or is it he?’
‘She was she when I met her,’ James said, ‘and yes she’s a possible. She may have had a grudge because Petula snubbed her, and she took photos, but…’
‘But what?’
James described his interview with Rosalind, the beginner transvestite.
‘Oh, it must have been him, er, her. If Petula was embarrassed by her and dropped her then that could have been reason enough for Rosalind to get her own back.’
‘Maybe,’ James was doubtful. It just didn’t sound so convincing after he’d told the story.’
‘Well, who else is there? You’ve talked about a Geraldine and a Rosalind.’
‘There’s Caroline,’ James said.
‘I thought you said she was the person who Petula drove all the way up north to see.’
‘Yeah. It sounds as though they were great friends. Meeting up once a month for lunch and a shop.’
‘Is that all they did?’
‘Ah, that’s a good question. Caroline got pretty upset when I suggested that there may have been another reason for their meetings.’
‘She denied it vehemently.’
‘Where’s there’s smoke…’
‘Could be or perhaps it was just very far from her thoughts and I surprised her.’
‘OK, but why would she be sending those photos to Petula.’
‘I don’t know, but there was something in her story that didn’t seem quite right.’
‘I’m not certain. It’s just speculation. You see Caroline and Petula were quite different types of trans.’
‘What do you mean? They were both men dressed up as women weren’t they?’
‘Yes, but there’s more to it than that.’
James could see that Tom was confused as if he’d just discovered the world was round after thinking it was flat all his life.
‘Caroline lived her life as a woman,’ James explained. ‘Had done since she retired after her wife died. She only put on male clothes when her daughter and grandchildren visited. Otherwise she’s relaxed about it; she’s accepted who she is. Even her neighbours know. I can’t be sure but I’d go as far as saying that Caroline is transsexual.’
Tom nodded slowly. ‘That’s what you said you are, isn’t it. You want to be a woman.’
‘I am a woman and Caroline sees herself as a woman,’ James corrected. ‘Petula though, was different, at least in her circumstances. She didn’t dress up much. She didn’t have many clothes – just a case full. She was scared to death, literally, of her wife finding out, or anyone else outside of her trans circle. Perhaps in her dreams she was a woman but the urge to dress up, strong though it was, wasn’t powerful enough for her to give up her life as Peter Thwaite.
‘Hmm So Peter/Petula was not transsexual?’
‘I’d say she was a cross-dresser. I may be wrong and misinterpreting what I’ve learned about her but that’s my opinion.’
‘So one is transsexual and one is a cross-dresser, and they’re different.’ Tom shrugged, ‘so what?’
‘They don’t always get on,’ James said.
‘Why not? They face the same sort of reactions from people don’t they.’
‘Yes, but a transsexual faces it all the time if they are living the role. A cross-dresser can step out of their femme persona any time. Some transsexuals may think that a cross-dresser isn’t taking things seriously enough, is just playing at being a woman and belittling their own struggle.’
‘They can be a bit “holier-than-though” can they, these transsexuals.’
‘Occasionally, some are,’ James agreed, ‘but you have to set it against the difficulties so many transsexuals face keeping jobs, families, friends while fighting to get treatment.’
‘OK. So you think Caroline’s friendship with Petula may have soured when Petula carried on wanting to go back to her wife and life as Peter.’
‘It’s just a thought. I’ve got no proof.’
Tom sighed and leaned back in his chair, stretching.
‘So we’ve got three suspects. No evidence against any of them but each may, just may, have a motive.’
‘That’s it,’ James said.
‘Where do we go from here?’
‘I don’t know. I think I’m missing something.’
There was a beep from the mobile phone in James’ pocket. Tom’s let out a similar tone. They both pulled out their phones and looked at the screens.
‘Sloane wants me,’ they said simultaneously as they both stood up.
‘What are we going to tell him?’ Tom asked as they hurried from the canteen.
‘The truth,’ James replied.
‘Even about your trip to Manchester and about Jasmine?’
‘It was going to happen sometime. I just wasn’t expecting it to be like this.’ James called out as Tom leapt up the stairs three steps at a time.

Jasmine digs deeper

First a thank you to the new followers of this blog. I hope you stay with me and enjoy the episodes of the Jasmine Frame story as I post them. Your comments will be very welcome.

This week I joined the Literary Festivals website. It lists a lot of authors, many of them very famous indeed, who make themselves available to talk and join discussions at the many festivals around the country. I would very much like the opportunity to do the same to promote the Jasmine Frame novels and discuss transgenderism on a broader stage. So if anybody out there is involved with a Festival – I’m available.

Actually I am giving my “Jasmine and me” talk next week in Tenbury, Worcs. I’m looking forward to the experience and hoping for a good audience. Of course it’s sales of Painted Ladies I would really like. I do wish that marketing was as easy and enjoyable as sitting in front of the computer and writing stories.

Talking of which here is the next episode of Blueprint – the Jasmine Frame, transgender detective, prequel.

Blueprint: Part 21

‘Geraldine? I met her at Betty’s earlier today,’ Jasmine said recalling the tall, manly looking transvestite who had been rather evasive.
‘Oh, you would have done. She is always hanging around at Betty’s,’ Caroline replied.
‘Why is she there so often?’
‘I don’t know why Betty puts up with her. Well I do – Betty is a kind lady. But Geraldine is not a good advert for Betty’s skills and would barely pass if she ventured out dressed. She doesn’t though which is probably a good thing.’
‘Why did you mention her then?’
‘Well, she had one of those digital cameras. She acts as Betty’s photographer. It’s one way she pays Betty back I suppose. If one of Betty’s clients wants a photo taken, Geraldine is there to take it.’
‘So she produces prints and knows how to enhance photos.’
‘What do you mean?’
‘Improve them. Make them brighter, chop out bits, perhaps even make the model look more attractive.’
‘I suppose so. Geraldine does a good job. Betty has a number of the photos on the walls of her salon. They look pretty good to me.’
Jasmine recalled that she hadn’t ventured past Betty’s sitting room so hadn’t seen the photos.
‘Have you got any of Geraldine’s photos, Caroline?’
‘No. I didn’t go to Betty for advice, just for company. I didn’t need Geraldine snapping away at me.’
‘What about Petula? Did she have a photo taken by Geraldine?’
‘I doubt it. Unless Geraldine took one when she wasn’t noticing. Petula tried to avoid Geraldine.’
‘Oh. Why was that?’
‘She felt uncomfortable in her company. Petula didn’t like cross-dressers who stood out.’
‘Like Geraldine and Rosalind.’
‘Rosalind wasn’t so bad. She was just a beginner.’
‘Was Petula rude to Geraldine?’
‘Oh, Petula would never be rude, but I think her body language made it obvious she did not wish to be near Geraldine.’
‘Did Geraldine notice?’
‘Oh, I should think so.’
It seemed that the circumstantial evidence was stacking up against Geraldine. She had the skills and the opportunities to make the photos sent to Petula and it seemed a motive if she was aware that Petula resented her.
‘Petula told you what she felt about Geraldine.’
‘We discussed her, yes.’
‘Did you discuss things between Petula’s visits here?’
‘Yes. Not frequently, but occasionally Petula would ring when it was convenient, and there were emails.’
‘Oh, you have a computer.’
Caroline’s nostril’s flared.
‘I’m not an ignoramus. I worked with computers at the bank until I retired. Of course I have a computer.’
Jasmine was a little taken aback at Caroline’s sudden display of temper, but she carried on.
‘Did Petula contact you in the weeks before she died?’
Caroline did not reply immediately as if she was deciding what her answer should be.
‘I think there were a couple of messages.’
‘Did she mention any worries? Things that were troubling her.’
‘But as far as I have discovered you were her main companion, the one trans-person she saw most often and spent most time with. Her only other regular outing was the Butterflies club in Kintbridge and that was for just a few hours once a month.’
‘What are you saying?’
‘I’m just surprised that as you were so close she didn’t confide in you.’
‘We talked about lots of things.’
‘But not about what was driving her to suicide.’
Caroline was quiet and then shook her head and whispered, ‘No.’
‘But you’re out much more than Petula. You live as Caroline except when your daughter and grandchildren visit, at least I presume you have since your retirement. Was that after your wife died?’
Caroline nodded, ‘I retired a year after. There wasn’t any point working anymore.’
‘So you’ve been living as a woman for four years.’
Caroline’s eyes lit up again, ‘I am a woman.’
Jasmine recognised the emotion. She felt the same – a woman inside her head but with a male body.  Did Caroline have a woman’s desires? With no partner at home did she look for more than companionship in the men or women, trans or otherwise, that she met?  Jasmine was uncertain about herself. Angie was still there for her although sex had slipped off the menu. While oscillating between appearing as male and female, she put thoughts about her sexual preference out of her mind. But what about if or when she transitioned, if she parted from Angie. What then? Would she seek a male or a female partner? She wasn’t sure so couldn’t say what Caroline’s preference was.
‘Petula wasn’t though was she?’ Jasmine asked.
‘What do you mean?’ Caroline hissed.
‘Well, she spent the vast majority of her time as a man, Peter. He still had his wife and she seems to have had no complaints about his masculinity. Peter was a cross-dresser. Dressing was a hobby which he was very good at but I don’t feel that he ever considered transitioning.’
‘What do you know about Petula?’
‘We met once. We talked and I have been exploring her life.’
‘Well, I don’t know what you are getting at. We met once a month and were friends.’
‘Is that all?
‘What do you mean?’
‘Did you want to be more than friends?’
‘I beg your pardon!’
‘Did you want to be lovers?’
Caroline shot onto her feet.
‘How dare you suggest such a thing. We never had sex. I think you had better go now.’
Jasmine rose. Caroline’s response was interesting. Had she made a move and been rebuffed?
‘You can’t suggest a reason why Petula took her own life?’
Caroline moved to the front door and opened it.
‘No. We were just friends. I accompanied her on her outings. I’ll admit to feeling sorry for her. She was stuck in the closet, afraid to come out to her wife or anyone else. Just sneaking off for her little trips. I gave her my time to help her. Now please go. I have washing up to do and then I have other friends to meet.’
Jasmine walked to the door. She smiled as sweetly as she could.
‘Thank you Caroline. You’ve been very helpful but there may be more questions I have to ask.’
‘I’ve told you all I know.’
Caroline shuffled forward, urging Jasmine through the doorway. Jasmine stepped out into the porch and the door closed behind her. The cold rain blew into her face reminding her of where she was and the long drive in front of her. At least she had something to mull over on the road south.


Jasmine is found out

Since the purpose of this blog is to get a wider audience for my writings, particularly those involving Jasmine Frame, I suppose I should remind followers that Painted Ladies: A Jasmine Frame story is available as a paperback and e-book from all booksellers. As the weeks pass I realise what a difficult job marketing a book is. For a start there are so many of us in the same position, so many hopeful writers wishing for the big publishers to come along with a book deal or those of us who have self-published jostling to get our work noticed.  Another plug – I’m willing to do my talk/entertainment, Jasmine and me, anywhere (in the UK) for the chance to promote and sell a few books.

As for writing this week, well, there was a bit of the bread and butter (educational stuff), some jam (a short story for one of my writing groups) and a little cake (the episode of Blueprint below). But no real meat, that is, I didn’t work on Bodies by Design this week but I am still hoping for something other than a rejection from a publisher.

On other matters, there’s been a lot in the media about the demise of Hayley Cropper from Coronation Street. That’s one less trans character on TV. There must be room for a transsexual detective.

Here’s Blueprint.

Blueprint: Part 20

Chapter 6

It was dusk as Jasmine drew up outside Caroline/Geoff’s smart little house. The rain was coming down hard now and Jasmine was not looking forward to the long night-time drive home.  There was no car in the driveway so Jasmine presumed that Geoff’s daughter and grandchildren had already left. She got out of the car, ran to the front door and sheltered in the small porch waiting for her ring of the doorbell to be answered.
Through the patterned glass she saw a figure come down the stairs and approach the door.
‘Oh, it’s you. You did come back,’ Caroline said as she opened the door. She was wearing a smart grey woollen dress over opaque tights and a neat auburn wig that made her look ten years younger. There was no sign of a male paunch and her dress clung to her shapely figure. There was an obvious but not obtrusive layer of foundation on her smooth face with bright red lipstick. Blue shadowed eyes peered from feminine shaped spectacles with diamante crystals on the arms.
‘I said I would. I gather your family have left,’ Jasmine said stepping into the hall.
‘Yes, not long ago but I had enough time to change back to Caroline. Come on through.’ Caroline led Jasmine into the lounge where she saw that the tea things had been cleared away and there was no sign of the whirlwind that a visit of two young boys would have undoubtedly caused. Caroline pointed to the small sofa and sat down in an armchair. Jasmine sat and carefully arranged her legs so that her skirt did not ride up.
‘You were upset when I told you earlier that Petula was dead,’ Jasmine said. She wondered if getting straight to the point might catch Caroline off-guard.
‘Yes. It was a shock,’ Caroline said straight-faced.
‘Why? Were you close?’
A hint of pink showed through Caroline’s foundation and her eyelids flickered but otherwise her face remained expressionless.
‘I suppose we were. We met regularly and got on together. But why are you asking these questions? You said she killed herself but she lives a long way from here, down south. Are you from down there?’
‘Yes, I’m from Kintbridge where Petula lived.  Something or someone drove her to suicide and I want to know why.’
‘But why come here?’
‘Petula didn’t go out a lot and yet once a month she drove up here. I know she visited Betty’s until last year and now I know that she and you were friends. When did you see her last?’
‘It was in October. As you say, her monthly visit. We should have been meeting next Thursday.’
‘So you carried on meeting monthly after she stopped going to Betty’s?’
‘That’s right.’
‘Why did you change the arrangements?’
‘I suppose we decided we didn’t need Betty anymore. That sounds very ungrateful; Betty provides a marvellous service.’
‘You mean that you and Petula got on so well you didn’t want Betty in the way.’
‘Well, I’m not sure it was like that. Petula and I are both careful with money and it wasn’t cheap going through Betty. We decided we could have a good time just the two of us and save some cash.’
‘But it wasn’t just the two of you was it? What about Rosalind?’
‘Oh her. She was at the last lunch we had with Betty and overheard Petula and me making our arrangements to meet separately. Petula thought it would be polite to invite her to our first lunch. She came, but it was a mistake.’
Caroline hesitated.
‘Well, I don’t like to sound rude, but, well, she wasn’t very good.’
‘You mean she didn’t pass as a woman very well.’
‘Um, yes.’
‘She made people take a second look at you and Petula, making passers-by wonder about you too.’
‘Well, yes, I suppose there was a bit of that.’
‘Rosalind was new to dressing. She wasn’t sure about herself.’
‘She needed Betty. We couldn’t help her.’
‘You ditched her.’
Caroline avoided Jasmine’s eyes.
‘We decided not to invite her again.’
Jasmine thought they had been selfish and given little thought to Rosalind’s state of mind, but it was Petula she was investigating not Rosalind.
‘So it was just you and Petula from then on.’
This wasn’t really getting anywhere, Jasmine realised, but she felt that the relationship between Caroline and Petula was important. After all, Caroline was the only person, apart from one or two members of Butterflies, who apparently knew Petula well.
‘Why do you think you and Petula got on so well?’
Caroline thought for a moment before speaking.
‘I suppose we were similar in many ways. We were similar ages and in the same business – banking. We were both married or had been – my wife was killed in a road accident five years ago. We liked the same styles so talked for hours about clothes and wigs and all the other stuff we trannies use. You understand don’t you?’
The false breasts, the substantial underwear to hide one’s manhood, the heavy foundation, yes Jasmine knew all about it.
‘But you weren’t exactly the same were you. You have a daughter and she knows about your two personas.’
A momentary expression of regret passed over Caroline’s face.
‘That’s right. My wife knew all about Caroline when she was alive. Not that she fully approved, but poor Petula just couldn’t bring herself to tell her wife.’
‘So Petula was a secret cross-dresser while I imagine you are more open about it.’
‘Well, I can’t hide Caroline anymore, and don’t want to. I spend most of my time as Caroline now. All the neighbours know. It’s just my daughter won’t accept it and won’t allow me to appear in front of the boys.’
‘While Petula had to keep her female persona hidden away in a suitcase and spent most of her life as Peter.’
‘That’s right.’
‘Petula must have envied you, Caroline.’
‘Perhaps, but I envied her too.’
‘She still had her wife. They seemed to get on OK despite the secret that Petula kept from her. I miss my wife dreadfully. Still.’
‘So you shared your regrets and desires.’
‘We did. And I was very grateful to her for it. I looked forward to each visit. You must understand – you’re not full-time or fully transitioned are you?’
Jasmine was surprised. How did she know?
‘Uh, no. I’m a man at work but female most of the rest of the time. How did you guess?’
‘I’ve been a trannie for a long time and met lots of people. I can see the signs.’
‘Such as?’
‘You wear a wig. Transsexuals of your age don’t usually need to. I can see signs of a shadow on your chin so you haven’t had electrolysis yet; your voice goes deeper every now and again so you’re not used to using your female voice all the time; and you are particular about how you sit, making sure you appear feminine. It all shows that you are still practising at being a woman, you’re not doing it every moment of your life.’
Jasmine was staggered by Caroline’s assessment. It summed up exactly where she was.
‘You’re right. I’m thinking about transitioning but haven’t decided when or discussed it with my wife.’
‘But you have a wife that understands?’
‘As much as anyone can understand what being trans feels like.’
‘There you are.’
‘That explains why Petula and I got on so well. We understood each other.’
Jasmine nodded. Where did this leave her investigation? Could Caroline give any information about who would hound Petula to her death?
‘Do you have any photographs of Petula or the two of you together?’
‘Yes, I do have a few. Do you want to see them?’
‘Yes, please.’
Caroline stood up and crossed the room to a unit of cupboards and shelves. She opened a door and pulled out a photograph album. She flicked through the pages and then passed the open book to Jasmine.
‘These were taken on one of our jaunts back in the summer. The waiter kindly took a couple of the two of us ladies together.’
There were four pictures on the page all taken in the garden of a pub or restaurant. Two showed Caroline and Petula standing side by side by a table with flowerbeds and trees in the background. The others were individual photos of Caroline and Petula taken across the table. Petula looked very much as Jasmine remembered her from Butterflies. Together the two of them could have been sisters, cousins or two old female friends enjoying a lunch together.
Jasmine looked closely at the photos.
‘Were these taken with a digital camera?’
‘Oh no. They’re old-fashioned film. I’ve had my camera for ages, but it’s getting very difficult to find film. I think I will have to think about getting one of those digital cameras.’
‘Have you got a camera on your mobile phone?’
‘Do I? I’m not sure. I hardly ever use it. I’ve had it since before my wife died. Why? What’s all this about photos?’
Jasmine ignored Caroline’s question.
‘Did any of the others take photos using a digital camera?’
‘People you met through Betty. Rosalind for example.’
Caroline was thoughtful.
‘I think I do remember Rosalind having one of those tiny digital cameras. Why is it important? Oh, of course, there was Geraldine.’

Jasmine finds a suspect

A busy week, so not a lot of writing work done. The highlight though, was going to see the Priscilla Queen of the Desert musical live. Great fun, amazing costumes, good songs, and a feel-good atmosphere pretty much like the original film. I just wonder how many other trans folk were in the audience. How about a musical version of Painted Ladies?

Anyway here is the next episode of Blueprint. I think we’re approaching a climax, not sure, but sometime soon…

Blueprint, Part 19

With the engine off the temperature in the car soon began to drop. Jasmine hugged herself and hoped that she wouldn’t have too long to wait. Fifteen minutes passed before she saw a figure in her driving mirror emerge from one of the terraced houses. He walked swiftly along the pavement towards her.  Just before he came level Jasmine opened the car door and stepped out. The man stopped with a startled look on his face which turned to a scowl.
‘You waited,’ he growled.
‘I said I would, and you came,’ Jasmine said.
‘I’m on my way to the shop. We need some more milk.’
‘That’s a good excuse. Do you want to get in the car or shall we walk to the shop together, Rosalind?’
‘Don’t call me that.’ He looked up and down the deserted Sunday-afternoon street obviously deciding which would be least noticeable – getting into an unknown woman’s car or walking with her in public.  There was another alternative; he might make a bolt for it, leave her standing so that she would have the choice of chasing after him or letting him go. He made a decision, shrugged.
‘I’ll get in. But I can only be a couple of minutes. She’ll wonder why I’ve taken so long.’
Jasmine opened the back door of the Ford Focus, let him get in and got back into the driving seat. She had him now – the childproof-locks would stop him getting out.  Jasmine twisted in her seat to get a look at him. He sat back in the seat looking very uncomfortable and nervous.
‘I won’t keep you for long. I just need some answers. You are Rosalind aren’t you?’
‘Who told you?’
‘I thought so.’
‘You visited her to dress didn’t you?’ She saw his colour change and the scowl turn to anger.
‘I’m not a trannie. It was a phase. Things were difficult.’
‘How did you find Betty? She doesn’t advertise. Do you know some trans people?’
‘I went to that big place down near Canal Street, Transmutations, first. I had this, uh, urge. Look, I don’t want to talk about it.’
‘So someone at Transmutations gave you Betty’s address?’ Jasmine persisted.
‘Yeah. It was costing me too much. One of their women said Betty would be cheaper.’
‘Was she?’
‘Yeah, but it was different at her place.’
“Rosalind” wriggled uncomfortably.
‘She seemed to take it more seriously.  The Transmutations women seemed to think it was a bit of fun helping blokes dress up, but for Betty and the others it was a way of life.’
Jasmine understood what he meant. She had noticed the difference on her visits to Transmutations and Betty’s Boudoir. The former was more like a theme park while Betty’s was much more intimate.
‘Didn’t you like it at Betty’s?’
‘I wasn’t sure. Oh, she was very helpful, understanding and all that, but I told you. It was just a phase. I soon realised that I wasn’t like that. I don’t want to look like a stupid prick in a dress and I don’t want my balls chopped off.’
Which was, of course, just what Jasmine did want, ultimately. She felt herself flush, but she persisted.
‘But you did visit Betty’s a few times and met Petula?’
‘Yeah,’ Rosalind admitted with a sigh.
‘Tell me about it.’
‘There’s not much to tell. I’d been to Betty’s a couple of times before she suggested going out. It scared me stiff but sort of gave me a thrill too.’ The thrill of doing something extraordinary, of breaking convention. Jasmine understood what he meant even though it was not something she had felt since her teenage years.
‘So you went out with Betty.  Just the two of you?’
‘Yeah, the first time.  It was only an hour. A quick trip to the shops and a cup of coffee.’
‘You enjoyed it.’
‘Sort of. Betty suggested meeting up with a couple of others and making it a lunch party.’
‘The others being, Petula and …?’
‘Petula and some trannie called Christine or Caroline or something.’
‘How did it go?’
‘Okay I suppose. I felt nervous all the time but the other two were pretty relaxed. Actually they spent most of the time chatting with each other.’
‘Did you go out with Betty again?’
‘No. Soon after my wife and I patched things up and I realised this dressing lark wasn’t for me.’
‘Really?’  Jasmine knew that while the urge to be female could be supressed it often re-surfaced.
‘Really. It’s in the past. It’s something I did for a while when things weren’t so good and now it’s gone. I got rid of all the stuff I’d bought.’
‘Okay. So you didn’t go out with Betty and Petula again?’
‘Well, not with Betty.’
‘Well at that first lunch we all exchanged ‘phone numbers and a few weeks later Petula rang to ask if I’d like to meet up with her and the other trannie. I said yes.’
‘This was a Thursday again?’
‘Yeah. We met at one of the big stores in town and had lunch in the restaurant.’
‘Just the three of you.’
Jasmine dragged out the first photo of Petula and held it up for Rosalind to examine.
‘Was this photo taken at either of your meetings with Petula?’
Rosalind leaned forward to peer at the image.
‘I don’t know. He looked pretty attractive for an older guy in drag. You know; he wore decent clothes, but I can’t remember if those were what he was wearing when we were out.’
‘Did you take any photos?’
‘No!’ His bark made Jasmine flinch.
‘Do you have a computer?’
‘And a digital camera?’
‘Yeah. So what? Why is taking a photo of the trannie such a big deal?’
‘Because the photographer hounded Petula into taking her own life.’
‘What? You don’t think I did that do you? Why should I? I only met the daft bugger twice.’
‘I don’t know why anyone should have done what they did to Petula, but someone did and I mean to find out who.’ Jasmine looked into Rosalind’s eyes searching for signs of guilt. He looked away from her and tried to open the door.
‘Well it wasn’t me. Let me out. I’ve been gone too long already.’
‘Alright.’ Jasmine got out and opened the rear door. Rosalind unfolded himself and stood up.
‘Look, I don’t how a photograph could make someone kill themselves, but it wasn’t me, right.’ He inclined his neck and spoke into Jasmine’s face. ‘And don’t come knocking on my door again.’ He straightened up and marched off down the street.
‘I may have to speak to you again, Rosalind. I will find out who took the photos.’
He ignored Jasmine’s call and strode on.  Jasmine got back into the car and started the engine. She put the car in gear, released the handbrake and pulled out of the parking spot. She drove at walking pace up the road following Rosalind. He reached a small shop and paused to look at her. She lowered her window.
‘The urge never truly goes away,’ she called out. He looked as if he would explode then turned away and went into the shop without making a reply. Jasmine raised her window and drove on.

Jasmine Frame’s year

2013 was the year that Jasmine Frame became a public figure.  For over twelve years she’s been in my head, on the computer screen and read about by just a very few people, but 2013 saw Painted Ladies: a Jasmine Frame story published as a paperback and an e-book. OK, self-published, but I wonder how much difference that makes. In both forms Painted Ladies is available from any bookseller and I wonder if an actual publisher could have generated more publicity. Of course it wasn’t Jasmine herself who made the headlines or was interviewed on the radio.  The intended enigma that was P.R.Ellis did not last very long and now it is widely known that I am a transgendered person called Penny. The question is whether the publicity has increased the number of sales.  What I do know is that marketing is a time-consuming and difficult business. I appreciate everyone who shows an interest and reads this blog and I hope that you spread the word about Jasmine Frame, transsexual detective. Also I hope you and others will look up the facebook page JasmineFramedetective that will carry notes and news about the Jasmine Frame stories and events where I will be doing readings or giving talks.  Here though I will continue to provide episodes in the ever-lengthening prequel, Blueprint along with news about the second novel, Bodies by Design, and my other thoughts on writing.

Thanks to everyone has been following this blog in the last year and I hope you stick with me. I wish everyone a happy, healthy and productive 2014.

Blueprint: Part 17

Jasmine looked up at Geraldine’s tall, thickset figure. Even with the elegant dress, and carefully coiffured wig it was impossible not to see the man behind the make-up. How difficult it must be for some trans women, Jasmine thought, when even the best efforts of an expert like Betty make it difficult to pass as a woman.  That is if it is their wish to “pass” and not just content to be dressed and made up in the style they desire.  She realised she was transferring her own wish to be a woman on to Geraldine. Perhaps Geraldine was perfectly happy as she was.
‘Hi,’ Jasmine replied, ‘I’m Jasmine.’
Geraldine came into the room and folded herself into the sofa. With her long legs and the soft cushions it was difficult for her to do so in ladylike manner and she ended up holding herself upright with her arms clasped around her insect-like sheer-stockinged knees.
‘Betty says you are looking for people who know Petula,’ Geraldine said in her stage whisper.
‘That’s right. Do you know her?’ Jasmine was eager to meet someone who had met Petula.
‘I met her on one or two occasions when she visited Betty,’ Geraldine said. ‘She was attractive and very good looking.’
Jasmine thought that was somewhat of an exaggeration from what she recalled of Petula’s appearance but at least she had more chance of evading the “second glance” of passers-by than poor Geraldine had. Despite her shyness, Petula made a convincing mature woman.
‘Did you go out with Petula and Betty?’
Geraldine looked horrified.
‘Oh, I don’t go out. I couldn’t. I couldn’t stand everyone staring at me. I just visit Betty and she does what she can for me. She’s very good to me; puts up with me spending a lot of my time hanging around here.’
‘So you only met Petula here. You haven’t seen her since she stopped using Betty’s services.’
‘Of course not.’ Geraldine’s reply was swift and brusque. Jasmine had more questions on her tongue but the door opened and again and Betty returned grasping a slip of paper.
‘I have the addresses of two of the ladies who Petula was friends with. I think the first, Caroline, is the one she had most to do with.’ Betty passed the paper to Jasmine.  She read the details.
‘Caroline lives in Altrincham. I don’t know this area very well but that’s near here isn’t it?’
‘It’s a small town on the edge of Manchester,’ Betty said nodding.
‘To the south-west, on the A56,’ Geraldine said in a bass growl. She had forgotten to use her whisper.
‘You know Caroline, do you?’ Jasmine asked.
‘Not really, but I know Altrincham,’ Geraldine said, ‘I live in that general direction.’
‘What can you tell me about Caroline?’ Jasmine looked from Geraldine to Betty and back. Geraldine shrugged and turned to look at Betty.
‘She’s a lovely lady. I suppose she’s been on my books almost as long as Petula was. They’re a similar age and have similar styles. I think they may even both be in the same careers.’
‘Yes. They always had a lot to chat about when they were together.’
‘What about the other name?’ Jasmine glanced again at the slip of paper. ‘Rosalind?’
‘I put that one down because she was at the last lunch Petula attended with me. I wondered if perhaps they got on so well at that first meeting they decided they didn’t need me anymore.’
‘But Caroline and Petula had been getting on for some time?’
‘Oh, yes.’
‘Well, I’ll try her first.’ Jasmine stood up, ‘Thank you for your help, Betty.’
‘Well, I hope you find out who sent those photos that made Petula kill herself,’ Betty said, offering a hand to shake with Jamine.
‘Petula’s dead,’ Geraldine said, her voice a growl. ‘You didn’t say she was dead, Betty.’
‘Didn’t I?’ Betty looked at Geraldine with a look of surprise.
‘You just said this trannie police officer was looking for her.’
‘I did not use the word “trannie”,’ Betty turned to Jasmine, ‘I’m sorry Miss Frame, I said that you were a trans police officer.’
‘That’s alright, Betty,’ Jasmine felt the older woman’s sincerity in her apology. She turned to look down at Geraldine hunched in the sofa. ‘Why did you think I was looking for Petula?’ she asked.
‘I don’t know,’ Gerladine flustered, ‘I thought that she may have gone missing, run off with her bank’s money or something.’
‘Why should she do that?’
‘I don’t know. I was guessing. I didn’t know the guy.’
‘Are you sure’
‘Geraldine never came out with Petula and me,’ Betty said.
‘That’s right. I told you that,’ Geraldine said.
‘I’m trying to find people who really knew her, had seen her recently and perhaps can lead me to the reason why she was driven to kill herself.’ Jasmine said firmly.  Geraldine shook her head, her black curls vibrating.
‘I didn’t know her. I can’t tell you anything,’ Geraldine answered in a high pitched falsetto.
‘I’m sure Caroline can give you some answers,’ Betty said. Jasmine shrugged.
‘I hope so.’ She glanced at her watch. ‘I haven’t got much of the day left to get this case solved. And it needs to be sorted today.’
‘I think Caroline will be in today. She lives alone.’
‘Thanks I’d better be on my way.’
Betty escorted Jasmine to the front door leaving Geraldine hunched on the sofa. They said their farewells and Jasmine ran through the rain to the car.  As the engine started she tapped the address Betty had given her into the satnav and set off at the command of the disembodied female voice.

Jasmine was grateful both for the satnav and Betty’s record keeping that had provided her with a full address. Soon she was driving through the light Sunday afternoon traffic around the periphery of Manchester and onto the A56 heading towards Altrincham.  Within half an hour she was pulling up outside a small, but recently-built detached house on a small estate of similar dwellings. She parked on the kerb and got out. At least the rain had eased off although the heavy overcast threatened more to come.  She walked up the path across the tiny but immaculate lawn to the front door.
There was a quick response to her ring on the door bell. The door was pulled open by a man who took a step back in surprise.
‘Oh. I’m sorry. I was expecting someone else,’ he said.  Jasmine quickly took in his smart but casual trousers, shirt and jumper, his short brown hair and smooth shaven face. He appeared to be in his late fifties, perhaps a little older and was a similar height to Jasmine.
‘I’m sorry to disturb you,’ Jasmine said thinking how to express her next sentence, ‘I was given this address for a lady called Caroline.’
A dark shadow passed across the man’s face.
‘Who gave you that information?’
‘Betty of Betty’s Boudoir.’
The darkness faded somewhat.
‘I see. Who are you?’
‘My name’s Jasmine Frame, I’m a police officer.’ She waved her card but he took no notice of it. He looked over her shoulder at the quiet street.
‘You’d better come in,’ he said, stepping back to let her enter the hallway. ‘I’m Caroline. I can’t think why Betty gave you my address.’ He closed the door behind Jasmine and directed her into the main room of the house.  There was a table laid for high tea, with plates of sandwiches and cakes.
‘She gave me your name because I think you know someone called Petula.’  She saw the recognition of the name in his face followed by a question.
‘Yes, I do know a Petula. Why is that important?’
‘She’s dead. Suicide.’
Jasmine wasn’t prepared for the response. She’d said it and heard it so many times now she had forgotten what impact the words might have. The man who was Caroline turned white and collapsed into an armchair that was luckily nearby.
‘Petula killed herself. How? Why?’ He covered his face with his hands and sobbed.
‘That’s why I’m here. I want to find out why she felt she had to.’
The man took a hanky from his pocket dabbed his eyes, sniffed, blew his nose, sobbed again.
‘They can’t see me upset like this,’ he said.
‘Who can’t?’
‘My daughter and grandchildren. They’re coming to tea. They’ll be here any minute. I thought it was them when I answered the door.’
‘They don’t know Caroline?’
‘No. My daughter knows I dress but she doesn’t know that I spend most of time as Caroline and would be horrified if her boys found out. I promised her I wouldn’t appear as a woman when I’m with her or the boys.’
‘I really do need to ask you some questions, Caroline… uh, Mr…’
‘It’s Geoff,’ he said through sniffles, ‘I can’t answer you while they’re here. How can I explain why you’re here, a police woman?’
Jasmine understood his dilemma. Through the window of the lounge she saw a car draw into the short driveway of the house. The driver was a woman and there were two children in the back.
‘I think they’ve just arrived,’ Jasmine said.
‘You’ve got to go. You’ve got to leave me with them,’ Geoff appealed.
‘OK, but when can I come back?’  Geoff pulled himself from the chair and squeezed passed Jasmine in order to get to the front door.
‘They don’t stay long. We play games, have a chat and some tea.  They’ll be gone by five. Come back after then.’ Jasmine followed him to the door. She felt frustrated but sympathetic.
‘Right. That’s what I’ll do.’
‘Please don’t call if their car is still here.’ Geoff opened the door.  A woman and two children were approaching.
‘I won’t,’ Jasmine said stepping through the doorway, ‘Goodbye, Geoff.’ She waved at him, said hello to the woman and smiled at the two boys.  As she headed to her car she heard the woman ask Geoff who she was. She didn’t hear Geoff’s explanation.


Painted Ladies for Christmas

It’s been quite a few months now since I started making sure I posted something every week and Blueprint, the Jasmine Frame prequel has reached epsiode 16 (I didn’t know it was going to be so long when I started it). So, as this is the last post before 25th December I would like to say thnk you to everyone who has read the blog or is receiving the updates and wish you all a very Merry Christmas or Winter Festival, whichever it is you celebrate. There’s still time to download the e-book of Painted Ladies – a Jasmine Frame story (by P R Ellis) and if you order the paperback it’ll be with you  by New Year, and since I’m doing the plugs I’ll remind you that I am available to do my “entertainment”  called  Jasmine and me – adventures in murder and frocks.

The news is that, not having any other pressing work, I’ve been able to get on with the second Jasmine Frame, transsexual detective, novel, Bodies by Design, and have actually reached the end. It’s not finished and there’s a lot of work to be done on it yet, but the complete story does now exist.

So, finally, here is the next episode of Blueprint.

Blueprint – Part 16

Chapter 5

 The rain had got harder as Jasmine satnaved her way from the city centre out to the suburbs of Manchester following the address that Audrey had written down.  At last she turned into a street of 1930s semi-detached houses.  The road was narrow with just space for one car when there were parked vehicles on either side. A short drive led up to the garage beside of each house but the houses were tightly packed. Jasmine peered through her rain-obscured window looking for the numbers.  Some had numbers on the gate post, some on the front door and some none at all.
At last she found the number she wanted, fifteen, in large white figures on a door painted dark green. There was a small car, a Nissan, in the short drive but there was a space outside the house on the road. Jasmine parked and turned the engine off. She got out and ran to the porch to lessen the amount of rain that fell on her wig. She pressed the bell-push. A bell rang inside.
She had to wait for a minute before she saw through the patterned glass a figure approaching. The door was opened by a short lady who appeared to be in her late sixties or even early seventies.  She had grey hair tied up in a bun and spectacles perched on the end of her button nose, but was smartly dressed in blouse, cardigan and plain pleated skirt all in cheerful browns and reds.
‘Hello. Can I help you?’ The lady said.
‘Hi,’ Jasmine said, ‘I hope I’ve got this right. Is this Betty’s boudoir?’
The little lady looked Jasmine up and down and Jasmine felt she was being assessed.  Her hair style, make-up, dress sense were each being graded and the data filed away.
‘I’m Betty,’ she said. ‘I don’t think you’ve made an appointment have you?’
‘No,’ Jasmine replied. ‘I’m Jasmine Frame from Kintbridge in Berkshire. I’m a police officer.’
Jasmine held up her identity card as proof.  Betty took a close interest in it.
‘I see. It says Detective Constable James Frame.  Is this an official visit or have you come for advice because you are a transvestite.’
‘I’m on police business,’ Jasmine said,wincing as she did not consider herself a transvestite but a trans-woman.
‘Oh dear. Well you’d better come in, young lady, and tell me what it’s all about.  Then perhaps I can give you some advice. Your skirt is a little short.’
Jasmine felt herself colouring up and tugged the hem of her skirt down her thigh. Betty held the door wide and ushered Jasmine in. She closed the door behind her and led the way into the front room. It was a small lounge, with a floral three piece suite and glass cabinets filled with small china and glass pieces.
‘Take a seat, love,’ Betty gestured, ‘I have another client with me at the moment. I’ll be back in a minute or two. Can I bring you a cup of tea?’
‘Yes, please. No sugar.’  Jasmine sat obediently in an armchair and was careful to jam her knees together.  Betty left and Jasmine examined the room while she waited.  There were a few photos on the wall breaking up the floral wallpaper. They appeared to show Betty with a tall man of similar age to her.  The photos showed the couple at various ages from a black-white wedding portrait where they looked very young to a colour photo where both appeared middle aged. Jasmine noted that Betty’s hair was not completely grey in that photo so it must be a few years old.
Betty returned carrying a small tray with a cup and saucer and a small plate of fairy cakes. She placed the tray on an occasional table alongside Jasmine’s chair.
‘My client may join us soon, but she is a little nervous of meeting someone she doesn’t know,’ Betty said sitting down on the end of the sofa, ‘so how can I help you.’
Jasmine drew the increasingly crumpled photos from her bag.
‘I’m looking for anyone who knew this person.’ She passed the photos to Betty.  Betty pushed her glasses up he nose and examined the images.
‘That’s Petula,’ she announced. Jasmine stomach leapt. At last, she thought, someone who knew her.
‘That’s right. Petula or Peter Thwaite.’
‘I only ever met Petula although of course I knew she was a transvestite and lived most of her life as a man.’
‘She was a client?’
‘Yes, for a time.’
‘Oh. That doesn’t sound as though you have seen her recently.’
‘I haven’t.’
Jasmine’s stomach ceased its excited clenching.
‘Can you tell me when you last saw her?’
‘Oh, I’d have to look at my notes.  I keep details of all my clients. But it must be well over a year since Petula visited me.’
Dash, Jasmine thought. Not recent at all, but Petula was still coming north up to the last month.
‘Did you know her well?’
‘Oh yes. I know all my ladies very well. It is part of my service to get to understand them. I find out what they get out of dressing; what their purpose is; what their likes and dislikes are; where they want to go if indeed they want to leave my house dressed.’
‘So what did you find out about Petula?’
Betty looked thoughtful for a moment then spoke.
‘I would have to go through my notes on her but it must be four or five years ago since she wrote to me and asked for an appointment. I don’t know how she found my address but someone must have given it to her.’
‘I was told you don’t advertise.’
‘Oh no. That would be vulgar. All my ladies come by personal recommendation and I decide after a first meeting if I can be of service to them.’
‘What does your service involve?’
‘Advice on appropriate clothes to wear to suit their age and figure. I keep a small stock. I suggest suitable undergarments to help the clothes look their best. I also advise on hairstyles, and keep a number of wigs if required. I also do their make-up and train the ladies how to do their own.  Then if they are satisfied with their appearance, and they usually are, we may go out to a shopping centre and have some lunch or tea.’
‘You do this for all transgendered people?’
‘Trans-women. Transsexuals becoming full-time and transvestites who only dress occasionally.’
‘May I ask how you got into this business?’  Jasmine was impressed and intrigued by Betty’s description of her service.
‘It was necessity,’ Betty said firmly, ‘My Tommy died suddenly leaving me with very little pension.  I wanted to keep this house so I had to find a way to earn some money.’
‘Oh, I see, but how did you choose to help trans-women?’
‘I saw a couple out shopping in Manchester one day, when I was desperately trying to think of things I could do at my age.  It was nearly ten years ago now.  These ladies stuck out like they had flashing lights on their head. Their styles were all wrong for a day of shopping. I watched them then while they were talking over a dress that suited neither of them I told them so. We got talking and that was it. Betty’s Boudoir was born.’
‘That’s quite amazing,’ Jasmine said.
‘It is, isn’t it. I can hardly believe how bold I was myself. But I’ve done very nicely, thank you very much, and I have lots of lovely ladies who visit me and go out with now.’
‘And what about Petula?’
‘Well, I arranged for her to come for her preliminary visit.  I knew she had to come a long way but she seemed determined.’
‘You said you didn’t know her as Peter, so she must have come dressed as Petula.’
‘That’s right. I can remember her now standing on my doormat. She had some quite good quality clothes on but oh, her colours. Nothing matched and she looked a bit like a sack of potatoes.’
‘So you offered to help her.’
‘Yes. She was very shy at first but she followed my suggestions. She arranged to come up once a month, always on a Thursday. Gradually I got her appearance to improve and she relaxed enough for us to start going out. I helped her choose decent lingerie to wear underneath and she bought some very nice, classic outfits. She became a smart, mature woman.’
‘Did she talk much?’
‘About what?’
‘Her life in Kintbridge? Her wife?’
‘I knew she was married but she was very secretive. Although she became much more confident out and about she was very scared of being discovered by her wife. She didn’t think her wife could possibly understand her urge to dress as a woman.’
‘That was what troubled her most I think.’
‘Now Detective Constable. I’ve told you quite a lot. Perhaps you can tell me why you are asking these questions. Has something happened to Petula?’
Jasmine drew in a lungful of air before replying.
‘I’m afraid so. She died last Friday. She killed herself.’
Betty raised her hands to her cheeks.
‘Oh dear me. Why did she do that? Did her wife find her dressed?’
‘No. She did it to stop her wife finding out.’
‘Oh dear, dear. The poor woman and poor Petula. The wife still doesn’t know?’
‘That’s right but I’m afraid that it is going to come out at the inquest.’
‘Because Petula was driven to suicide by something that made her suspect that she was about to be outed.’
‘What was that?’
‘This photograph of her was one of a series sent to her home by post at weekly intervals. This first one is mild enough although it shows her clearly enough as a woman.  But the subsequent pictures become increasingly pornographic.’
Betty looked confused.
‘But that doesn’t sound like Petula. She was very shy of showing her body.’
‘That’s right. They’re fakes. A collage of Petula’s head on a different body.’
‘And she thought if her wife saw them she would be horrified and she couldn’t face the consequences.’
‘That seems to be the reason why she killed herself.’
‘But that’s horrible. Who would do such a thing,’ Betty paused as her face turned white. ‘You don’t suspect me?’
‘No. I don’t think so. But I need to find out who she was meeting up here after she stopped coming to you.  Why did she stop?’
‘I don’t know. I got a letter saying she wouldn’t be attending one of our sessions and that was the last I heard from her.’
‘But she carried on coming up here on those Thursdays. She must have been meeting someone.’
‘That’s true… I wonder?’
As Betty pondered, Jasmine felt her stomach take another leap. Did Betty have an idea?
‘What is it?’
‘Well,’ Betty began hesitantly, ‘As she became more confident we began to go out as a small group of ladies, three or four of us. We’d take lunch together in a pub or restaurant after a little bit of shopping. Ladies that lunch – that sort of outing.’
‘The same group every time.’
‘No… but there were one or two ladies who came more frequently. Petula became quite friendly with them.’
‘Can you remember who they were?’
‘I’ll have to check my diary.  I always record who my appointments are with and who I accompany.’ Betty got up. ‘I’ll go and get my books and look through them. I’ll see if Geraldine would like to come to have a chat.’  She left the room.
Jasmine lifted the cup of tea and put it to her lips. It was now only lukewarm but she drank it down and then selected a fairy cake. Was she really on the threshold of finding the person who Petula had met? She seemed so close.
The door to the lounge opened and a tall figure entered wearing a smart, knee-length black dress.
‘Hello, I’m Geraldine,’ she said in a husky whisper.

Jasmine Frame on the trail

An early post this week as I’m going to be a little occupied over the weekend.

A bit of a let down this week as we thought the BBC World Service, The Why Factor on “Cross-dressing” (their term) was going to be broadcast on Friday 6th. The trailer appear on their website along with a rather garish photo of two drag queens kissing.  I sent a message saying I didn’t think the picture quite matched the content of our interviews.  Anyway on Thursday the schedules were changed and a different topic was put in. So, what happens next is anybody’s guess.

Before we come to the next episode of Blueprint, just a reminder that Painted Ladies – a Jasmine Frame story is available as a paperback or e-book from all suppliers. It’s had some great reviews on Amazon, Goodreads, Netgalley and Eurocrime.

Blueprint, part 14

Tom pulled the clothes out one by one. There was everything a woman could need – bras, knickers, slips, blouses, skirts, dresses, cardigans, coats.  Then there were the additional bits not needed by real women – false breasts (Jasmine noted they were a larger size than what she used) padding to fit around the hips and buttocks (Jasmine couldn’t imagine wearing that) and jars of heavy foundation and cleanser. There was eye shadow, blusher, lipstick, nail polish and remover; and jewellery – bracelets, necklaces, rings, ear rings.  There wasn’t a lot of each but it added up to quite an assortment when it was spread out on the lounge carpet.
‘Did he need all this?’ Tom asked.
‘Well, it’s not as much as it looks really.  Think of it as a woman’s complete wardrobe.’
‘I’d have trouble getting all my clothes and stuff into that one case,’ Angela admitted.
‘Hmm yes, I’ve seen how much stuff Sophie has,’ Tom nodded in  agreement, ‘But this bloke, Thwaite – he wasn’t a woman.’
‘No, he was a secret cross-dresser,’ Jasmine said, ‘but it seems he still managed to get out at least twice a month – one evening at Butterflies and his away day in Manchester.  He needed a variety of clothes for his various outings, summer and winter.’
‘He went for quality not quantity,’ Angela said, bending to look closely at a skirt, ‘These are best high street purchases.’
‘I wonder,’ Jasmine pondered, ‘Did Petula do her buying on her Manchester trips?’
‘It would be impossible to tell,’ Angela said, ‘The big chains have shops everywhere.’
Tom reached into what appeared to be an empty case and drew out put a brown file. It was smaller than normal paper size but was quite thick.  He flicked open the cover.
‘I think you may be able to trace some if not all the stuff,’ Tom said, ‘These are receipts.’
‘Let me see,’ Jasmine said eagerly stretching out her hand. Tom hesitated then handed over the file. Jasmine flicked through the sheaf of paper slips all neatly punched and filed.  ‘They’re in date order, everything Petula purchased by the look of it. Right up to October,’ she pointed to the date on the top receipt.
‘Well, he was a banker,’ Angela said, ‘Obviously wanted to keep his expenditure under control.
‘Especially as he was keeping it secret from his wife,’ Tom added.
Jasmine continued to thumb through the papers, rapidly becoming frantic.
‘But it’s no use,’ she slammed the file shut, ‘They are just her purchases. There’s nothing here about where she stayed, ate or visited.  She must have kept those records separate.’
‘If he kept them at all,’ Tom said.
‘So you still only have the list of places you made,’ Angela said.
‘Yes. There’s nothing here to help me track where Petula goes on her days out except for the shops where she buys her stuff.’
‘Perhaps that was all she did,’ Tom said, starting to pack the clothes back in the case.
‘Why go to Manchester every month if only to go shopping,’ Jasmine said, ‘No, I’m sure she was meeting someone, some people. I’ve just got to hope that it was at one of the trans venues.’
‘Well, good luck,’ Tom said, ‘Give us a hand here, I don’t think all this stuff will go back in.’
They put aside concerns about contamination and helped Tom stuff the clothes into the case, finally forcing it shut.
‘Well, if that’s all we can do, I’ll get off.’ Tom got to his feet lifting the case.
‘Wait a moment. I need car for tomorrow.’ Jasmine said.
‘I’ve got things to do tomorrow Jas. You can’t have my Clio.’ Angela complained.
‘No. I need a police car so I can keep in touch. I’ll have to use yours, Tom.’
‘Hey. How am I going to get home?’
‘I’ll give you a lift now, and pick you up on Monday morning if you like.’
Tom looked doubtful, ‘Well OK then.’
‘Let’s go then and make the most of what’s left of the evening.’

Chapter 4
Jasmine was ready for a break by the time she reached the outskirts of Manchester. She was tired and stiff from the long drive from Kintbridge via the A34, M40, M42 and M6.  She had passed the various roadside motels where Thwaite had spent nights before his away days.  Jasmine had done the trip in one go, leaving before dawn and, thanks to the light Sunday morning traffic, it was still only 10 a.m.  She made her way to the city centre and then to a car park on the edge of the Canal Street gay village.  Most of the venues she had on her list were in or close to this area.  First though, she needed coffee.
Jasmine was the only customer in the cafe when she sat down with her coffee.  The young girl who served her smiled at her with thick glossy red lips. A T-girl? Jasmine wondered.  She looked wonderful and perfectly natural. As Jasmine took a sip from her cup she wondered whether she would ever feel relaxed working as the person she felt she was. Perhaps though there was a difference in serving in a coffee house in a gay area and being a member of a largely male team in a police station.
She looked at her list and at the map she’d downloaded.  Her first try would be Transmutations. “We change every element of your appearance” said the strapline on their website and went on to list all the latex enhancements, wigs, cosmetics and clothes that may be needed to make a man look and feel like a woman.  It could be a place someone like Petula would go to purchase items for her transformation or meet up with someone to go shopping.
She downed her coffee, slung her bag over her shoulder and waved to the girl behind the counter as she left. The streets were only just starting to fill up with visitors on this dull, grey November Sunday  as she began following her map.  Transmutations was in a quiet back street, with a discreet frontage that barely hinted at the joys and mysteries that awaited the man daring to enter. Jasmine pushed the door open and stepped into a large area divided up into many alcoves offering all sorts of wares. Jasmine was just taking in the sight of row upon row of heads with wigs of all styles and colours and racks of glittering ball gowns when she was approached by a middle-aged woman dressed immaculately in classic black shop assistant garb.
‘May I help you Madam?’ The woman said. It wasn’t a deep voice so Jasmine was unable to decide whether she was a real woman or another T-girl. It seemed this was going to be a frequent dilemma for her on this mission.  Why should I, of all people, care, she thought. Men, women they are just being the person they want to be and doing a job as well.  The scale of the shop and the other assistants that Jasmine saw moving elegantly from one display to another, showed there was a market for catering for men’s need to be women.
‘I hope so,’ Jasmine replied, ‘I’m trying to trace someone.’
The woman frowned, ‘One of our assistants?’
‘No, one of your customers. At least she may be a customer.’
‘Well he, but, well, he may have come as she.’
‘I understand,’ the woman said with a cold edge to her voice, ‘but we do not divulge information about customers or indeed acknowledge whether people are customers. Certainly not to people unknown to us. I do not recall that you are a client yourself.’
Jasmine had feared that getting a lead would be difficult. Thwaite was secretive himself so he would have chosen places that were equally if not more confidential in their dealings with clients.
‘No I’m not a client. Would you recognise me if I was?’
‘Oh yes. We pride ourselves on knowing our regular customers,’ the woman stretched her neck lifting her head proudly, ‘I am sure we could offer you service. We have dressing rooms available this morning.’
Would she have resorted to a place like this, Jasmine wondered. A mega-store for turning men into the women they fantasised themselves as being. Perhaps if she hadn’t had Angela to talk to, to guide her, she may have needed the advice that was available at places like Transmutations, at a price.
‘No, as I said I’m looking for someone who may have known this cross-dresser,’ Jasmine thrust out the photo of Peter Thwaite that she had had at the ready in her coat pocket. The eyes of the woman did not flicker.
‘I said we cannot confirm or deny the identity of a client.’
‘Perhaps she came already dressed,’ Jasmine plucked out the photo of Petula.  It was a bit fuzzy having been  cropped and enlarged from the first of the anonymous photos. Still there was no sign of recognition in the woman’s face.
‘If you do not have business here I must ask you to leave,’ the woman said.
Jasmine sighed and dug in her bag for her warrant card.
‘Perhaps this will allow you to answer. I’m a police officer.’
The woman’s eyes focussed on Jasmine’s identity details.
‘That says Detective Constable James Frame,’ she said with a hint of a smile forming around her lips.
‘Yes, well I’m trans too, and I’m looking for anyone who knew this cross-dresser.’
‘Why?’ The woman asked.
‘Because she is dead and I’m trying to find out why.’
The colour disappeared from the woman’s face.
‘I see. You had better come with me.’ She turned and led Jasmine to the back of the shop where there was a row of doors a few feet apart. She opened one and showed Jasmine into a small room laid out as a dressing room, with a couple of compact easy chairs, a high chair at a dressing table with a full-length mirror beside it and a wardrobe rail.
‘Please take a seat,’ the woman said.  Jasmine sat on one of the easy chairs and the woman sat beside her.
‘I am sure you understand why we do not divulge information about clients,’ she said.
Yes, I do and I’m sure that if Peter or Petula Thwaite was one of your customers he would have been very pleased to hear it. He was a secret dresser. His wife knew nothing, but he visited Manchester once a month until he committed suicide last week.’
The woman’s hand rose to her mouth.
‘Oh, dear,’ she sighed.
‘Do you know her?’ Jasmine insisted holding out both the photos.
‘No, I don’t recognise him or her,’ the woman replied.
‘And you are sure you would if she was a client.’
‘If she had been here more than once I would certainly recognise her. I’ve worked here for ten years. We photograph all our regular clients, with their permission of course, so that we can replicate styles and appearance when they return. I am quite sure that I have not seen this person here, but I’ll check the name in our records if you like. Thwaite you say.’ She rose to her feet.
‘That’s right. Peter. Petula was her femme name.’
‘I’ll just be a few minutes.’
‘Thanks.’  The woman left.
Jasmine was left to imagine how clients felt being shown into this room, stepping into dresses selected by the assistants, fussed over while make-up was applied and wigs fitted.  Admiring oneself in the mirror and posing for the photographs. It wasn’t what she wanted but she could see how some, many, men would pay for the pleasure.

Jasmine Frame live

Done my first presentation of “Jasmine and me” at The Sitting Room, Ludlow. The audience weren’t clamouring to get in but neither did they clamour to get out. Quite pleased with how the linked readings from Painted Ladies, Bodies by Design and Blueprint went down and there were plenty of questions afterwards. Also I sold a few books. Anyway many thanks to The Sitting Room for the opportunity.  Now need some more venues.

So here’s the next part of Blueprint

Blueprint, Part 13

‘Hi, Jame…, uh… Jay…’ Tom stuttered.
‘It’s Jasmine,’ Jasmine said stepping off the bottom stair and looking up at Tom’s pink face.
‘You look, uh, strange,’ he said.
‘Strange?’ Jasmine asked, frowning and wondering what Tom found wrong with her appearance.
‘I mean, you look like a stranger,’ Tom said losing something of his look of utter bemusement.
‘It’s me Tom,’ Jasmine said, beginning to enjoy her colleague’s discomfort.
‘I know it’s you,’ Tom said, ‘but you look so different. It’s not just the skirt, make-up and the hair, you’ve got a, um, figure. You don’t look like a fella.’
‘Well thanks, Tom. That’s one big compliment, although I have to say it’s all a bit fake for now, but one day…’
‘This is how you want to spend all your life?’
Jasmine saw Tom’s eyes scan up and down her body.
‘Yes, some day, perhaps sooner than I thought, it will be for real.’
‘And tomorrow will soon be here if you carry on chatting,’ Angela said, grinning, ‘Come on in Tom. Cup of tea?’
Tom turned to face Angela and seemed relieved to speak to her.
‘That would be great. Thanks.’
‘Well, perhaps Jasmine can be the hostess and take you through while I put the kettle on. I presume you need to talk about Petula.’
Tom looked surprised for a moment.
‘Oh, yes. James, um, Jasmine said you were together when Thwaite gave you the photos.’
‘What have you got, then?’ Jasmine said, leading Tom into the lounge.  Tom sank into one of the armchairs, his long legs splayed out. Jasmine sat on the sofa, carefully tugging her skirt down her thigh and pressing her knees together.
‘Well, I had a fun time visiting the charity shops but I got lucky.’
‘Really?’ Jasmine leaned forward eager to hear more.
‘Yes. A lady in the Hospice shop recognised Thwaite’s photo and said he’d brought in a suitcase yesterday morning.’
‘And yes. I’ve got it. It’s in the car outside.’
‘Did the charity shop open it? Have you opened it?’
‘No and No. The lady said they’d been busy and hadn’t got round to sorting donations from yesterday. I thought you’d like to be with me when we opened it’
‘Thanks. We’ll take a look when Ange has made the tea. See if there are any clues. Anything else?’
‘Well, not a lot. I went back to the station and called in on forensics as you suggested. There were just a couple of the girls in this afternoon. I gave them the photos. They examined them with a magnifier. Couldn’t say much though. They’re printed on typical glossy print paper which you can buy from any stationer. The photo of Petula is fairly low resolution, possibly taken with a mobile phone rather than a camera as such and the rest of the photo is, as you said, a screen-grab.’
‘Hmm. Not much to help us there.’
‘No. Could have been done by anyone with a computer and a little bit of know-how. What about you? Have you got anywhere or have you been doing other stuff.’
Jasmine caught Tom looking at her legs covered in the smooth black tights.
‘I’ve been working Tom not preening myself.’
Tom blushed.
‘I didn’t mean…’
‘I’m sure you didn’t, Tom.’ Was she really sure about what was going through Tom’s head? Could she be certain he didn’t see her as a transvestite getting a kick out of wearing women’s knickers and bra and the rest. ‘This isn’t a special occasion, Tom. This is me when I’m off duty.’
‘Oh. What does Angela think about it?’
‘Angela’s OK.’
‘Ok about what?’ Angela came in carrying a tray of mugs. She laid them down on a coffee table.
‘Tom was asking how you feel about me.’ Jasmine saw Tom searching Angela’s face for signs of a reaction.
‘I’ve known Jasmine since James and I first met,’ Angela said handing Tom a mug, ‘I did’t know what it meant at first and when we got married I didn’t think that she wanted to be a woman all the time, but I think I appreciate how she feels.’
‘So you’re OK with this transition James, uh, Jasmine has mentioned,’ Tom’s voice was sombre.
‘Yes, well, I’m sad at losing the guy I’ve loved, and I’m not sure where it will leave us as a couple, but I know it’s what Jasmine wants.’
‘Need,’ Jasmine said, ‘It’s more than a desire, it’s something I’ve got to do to be the person, the woman, I am.’
Tom shook his head.
‘I still don’t get it.’
‘Don’t worry Tom,’ Angela said, ‘I’ve known Jas for seven years and I’m not sure I understand her.’
‘But you’re going to become, DC Jasmine Frame?’ Tom asked Jamine.
‘DS. It’s going to be a while to arrange my transition and I hope we’ll both have passed our sergeant’s exams by then.’
‘I think life is going to get interesting – for you, me, Sloane and the rest.’
‘That’s one way of putting it.’
‘Anyway. If you haven’t just been looking at yourself in a mirror what have you found out.’  Jasmine was pleased by Tom’s lighter tone, or was it just to get off the subject of his transition and get back on the safe ground of the investigation.
‘Well I have been busy, even though I was wearing a skirt. Thwaite spent those days off in Manchester – the proof’s in his bank statements. I’ve got a list of places he may have visited.’
‘So. Where does that get us?’ Tom asked.
‘Well, I think the photo of Petula was taken on one of his awaydays and if I can find out how he spent his time I think we may get a lead on who took it.’
‘Hmm. Perhaps. What are we going to do?’
‘I’m going up to Manchester.’
‘When?’ Tom and Angela asked in unison.
‘Oh, Jas. I was hoping for a real weekend together,’ Angela moaned.
‘And I was hoping for at least one day with Sophie,’ Tom complained.
‘I‘ll go on my own. You can have your day off, Tom,’ Jasmine countered, ‘I’m sorry, Ange, but Sloane has only given us a few days to complete this case so I’ve got to see if I can get a lead.’
‘You say you’ve got some addresses?’ Tom asked, ‘Will it be safe going on your own?’
‘Better on my own than dragging you along with me.  They’re places where trannies meet. They’ll accept me but you could be a bit intimidating, unless you fancy dragging up.’
‘No way. OK, If you’re sure.’
‘I’m sure. Now let’s have a look in this suitcase. Perhaps there’s something that will cut the list I’ve got.’
Tom rose to his feet.
‘I’ll get it.’ He strode out and a moment later Jasmine heard the front door open.
‘Are you sure about going on your own?’ Angela asked.
‘Yes. Even if I find this anonymous photographer I don’t think they’re going to be violent. Those photos are more like a practical joke than a threat of violence.’
‘Well, I hope you’re right,’ Angela said, ‘You’re relishing this aren’t you. Carrying out an investigation as Jasmine Frame.’
Jasmine examined her feelings and realised that Angela was right.
‘Yes. I suppose it is an opportunity to give myself an outing but I really do want to find out why Petula was driven to kill herself.’
The front door slammed shut and Tom lurched into the room carrying a suitcase. It was an old-fashioned style, covered in worn and scratched brown leather, not huge but it looked pretty heavy. Tom set it on the floor.
‘We should be doing this down the station,’ he said, ‘You know, avoiding contamination, protecting evidence, that sort of thing.’
‘Yes, I know. Have you got gloves?’ Tom nodded. ‘Well you put them on and open it up. I’ll just watch.’ Jasmine leaned forward to get a closer view.
Tom pulled some latex gloves from his pocket and stretched them over his hands. Then he pressed the two catches on the case. They sprang open.
‘At least it isn’t locked,’ Jasmine sighed. Tom lifted the lid and the three of them gazed at the assorted colours and textures of the clothes packed inside.

Jasmine goes global

A bit of excitement this week. On Monday I received a phone call from the producer of “The Why Factor” on the BBC World Service and on Wednesday he and the presenter, Mike Williams, turned up to interview me and Lou. We spent an hour and a half answering questions into a microphone. It was quite emotional going over our lives and trying to put ideas and feelings into words but it was also a great opportunity to promote Painted Ladies and Jasmine Frame, transsexual detective. The show should go out in the next couple of weeks, and Grayson Perry is supposed to be on it too.

I’m also getting ready for next Wed. (27th) and the first performance of “Jasmine and me” at The Sitting Room, Ludlow (8 p.m.). I hope its a fascinating insight into Jasmine’s crime investigations and life as a transsexual. I hope there’s an audience…

So after all that, here’s the next episode of Blueprint.

Blueprint, part 12

Jasmine sat at the desk in their shared study. The estate agent had listed it as the third bedroom in their house but Jasmine wondered how a bed could be fitted in the tiny room or if that impossible task was achieved how the door could be opened. Probably the room’s most likely use by the young couples who bought these houses was as a nursery. Jasmine could imagine the room filled by a cot and baby’s things. The walls would be decorated with pictures of fairy-tale characters, gruffaloes, hungry caterpillars and the strange beings from children’s TV that were cult-watching in student days such as the Tele-tubbies.
Jasmine doubted the room would ever be a nursery while she and Angela were the occupiers. Children had been mentioned shortly after they were married and Jasmine had learned that Angela was keen – but not yet. Angela had her own career which she wished to follow before being burdened by pregnancy and child-rearing. Jasmine liked children but whenever she imagined herself playing with or looking after young children she saw herself as the mum or favourite aunt not the dad.  As the need to become the woman she believed herself to be grew, Jasmine realised that the chance of her fathering a child diminished. She knew she could never bear children herself but once she had gender reassignment surgery the chance of siring her own children would be zero. Jasmine knew that Angela understood this but it had become one of the unspoken matters in their discussions about her likely transition.
Angela was the only person Jasmine loved or had had a sexual relationship with. The thought of giving her up hurt far more than the thought of the surgery she would need to become a woman. But give her up she must. To get her birth certificate altered would mean getting a divorce. They could stay together as a pair of women but Jasmine knew that Angela was not looking forward to that prospect. Even now her frustrations at the lack of sexual intercourse surfaced from time to time; Angela liked sex with a man not a woman. Jasmine was resigned to letting go of Angela, to seeing her find another man, to being alone.  It was hard, very hard, made more difficult by not being sure what, if any, other relationship she might want. As a woman was she straight or lesbian? She didn’t know; hadn’t felt any attraction to anyone other than Angela. Transition would be a voyage of discovery in many ways.
Jasmine shook herself out of her reverie and booted up the computer. It was Angela’s really as she spent most time on it preparing her spreadsheets and reports. Once she was home Jasmine was just glad to relax with an old film or occasionally a game played on their new flat screen TV.  She didn’t bring work home very often. She looked at the sheaf of bank statements from Thwaite’s private accounts and his list of appointments. Going through them line by line it didn’t take long to confirm that he had stayed in hotels on the night before his secret day off. Jasmine went onto the internet to locate the hotels.  It was only a few actually, and Thwaite had stayed in each more than once. One was on the A34 near Oxford, another on the M40 on the way to Birmingham and couple on the M6 further north.  Nothing special, they were just stopping off points for the night, anonymous dormitories for travellers.  The regularity of the bills did prove that once a month Peter Thwaite headed north. But where was his destination?  Jasmine searched through the statements looking for other transactions that he made on his days off. There weren’t many – a few restaurants, a number of shops, a garage for fuel.  She located the addresses of the places on a map and smiled. They were all central Manchester.  Each month it appeared that Thwaite took himself off for a day shopping in Manchester.  What was the purpose of these solo jaunts that he kept secret from his wife?
Angela came into the room and put a cup of tea down beside the heap of papers that covered the keyboard.
‘Found anything?’ she asked.
‘Yes, I have,’ Jasmine replied feeling proud of her effort, ‘Every month, I’m sure it was that regular, Thwaite took a trip to Manchester.’
‘I haven’t got any proof yet but I think it was to meet someone for a trannie day out.’
‘A friend?’
‘I don’t think so. Why stay in hotels on the way up if he was meeting a friend or friends. Surely he would have stayed with them as it’s been going on for so long.’
‘What then?’
‘I think it was more of a professional relationship. I’d guess he had appointments with a dresser.’
‘Oh, one of those places where men can go and spend a day being dressed as a woman and made up…’
‘…and escorted out on the town. That’s right. I know there are a number of them in Manchester. I’ve just got to get their addresses and then go to visit them.’
‘Are you sure you want to?’ Angela asked. Jasmine gave her a questioning look.
‘If I’m going to find out how Thwaite was driven to suicide I’m going to have to.’
‘I know that,’ Angela said with a note of petulance, ‘but do you want to find the explanation?’
‘Why shouldn’t I?’
‘If you do, it will come out at the inquest. Mrs Thwaite will find out her husband was trans. You say he committed suicide because he couldn’t face her with that knowledge and he did everything to stop her finding out.’
Jasmine spoke slowly, ‘Yes, I know.’
‘So why are you trying so hard to solve this possible crime. Is it because you can’t bear the thought of someone needing to keep their gender identity secret or is it because you want to prove that you, that is Jasmine, can be a detective?’
Jasmine couldn’t reply at once. She hadn’t questioned her motives for digging into Thwaite’s decision to kill himself. Now she wondered if Angela was right and it was all about her own ego. In revealing herself as transsexual to Tom and soon to Sloane and the rest of the Kintbridge police force perhaps she couldn’t allow Thwaite to keep Petula hidden. She had to make being trans seem a trifle, nothing to kill yourself over, and that it was the anonymous photographer that was the cause of Thwaite’s death.
‘You may be right, Ange, but this person who sent the photos to Thwaite needs to be caught and shown what the result was of their little joke or blackmail or whatever.’
‘Perhaps you’re right Jas, but think about the effect it’s going to have on Mrs Thwaite.’
‘I will.’
‘It’s not always easy, you know.’
‘Being the partner of a trans-person.’
‘What do you mean?’
‘Just that you’ve launched into this investigation, revealing yourself in the process, taking the next step towards transition. Have you really thought it all through?’
‘No,’ Jasmine whispered reluctantly.
‘Well, when you’re gallivanting off to Manchester, give it and me some thought.’ She left the room and pulled the door closed.
Jasmine sat staring at the blank computer screen with sadness sitting on her like a sandbag. She did take Angela for granted and she had dived into this case without much thought about where it and she were going. She must organise herself. But first she must track those dressing agencies.
She woke the computer from its slumber and was soon surfing the well-known trans sites. Soon she had half a dozen addresses written into her notebook.  The doorbell ringing. She looked up and say that it was dark outside.  There was talking downstairs; Angela’s welcome and the deep voice of Tom Shepherd.
Jasmine leapt up and hurried down the stairs. Tom was standing in the hallway talking to Angela. He turned to look up at her and his eyes widened.  Jasmine realised the reason for his look of shock – he’s seeing me for the first time.
‘Hi, Tom,’ she said in as light a voice as she could manage.


Jasmine decides on a plan

Another busy week and not much opportunity to promote Painted Ladies. Nevertheless there have been some good bits of news. Apparently Diva magazine ran a review although I haven’t seen it yet, and at last there is a review on Eurocrime the big crime fiction reviews website  http://eurocrime.co.uk/reviews/Painted_Ladies.html  Also I have got on a bit with Bodies by Design – the exciting action packed climax is in sight!

Finally there has been some good publicity for my “entertainment” Jasmine and me, at The Sitting Room in Ludlow at 8pm. on Wed. 27th Nov. I hope there will be an audience.

So, here is the next episode of Blueprint and the start of Jasmine Frame’s first outing as a transsexual detective.

Blueprint, part 11

James and Tom thanked Miss Sutton for her help and left the bank after checking Peter Thwaite’s timings with the cashier, Sue Marsh.  They sat in a coffee shop mulling over what they had learnt.
‘He arrives late, stays a while, then leaves,’ Tom said, taking a sip of his cappuccino.
‘Looking pretty sick – or worried,’ James added, blowing on his black coffee.
‘Why was he late for work?’
‘I think he was shook up by the arrival of that last photo. The post must have arrived before he left for work or else none of this would have happened.  He stuffed it in another envelope and posted it off to me sometime in the morning, perhaps before he got to the bank.’
‘Why come to work at all if he had decided to end it all?’ Tom shook his head.
‘Perhaps he hadn’t reached that decision. But he had to get out of the house, away from Mrs Thwaite. He left the bank when he knew she would have gone to work herself.’
‘So he goes back, collects his female clothes and …what?’
‘Gets rid of them.’
‘Wheely bins, recycling points, charity shops. I can’t see someone like Peter Thwaite dumping them by the road side, he’s too clean and particular for that.’
‘Do we need to find those clothes?’ Tom’s expression showed that he thought the task would be impossible.
‘It would help to determine his movements and prove that he had decided to get rid of signs of his cross-dressing.’
‘Hmm. I suppose the charity shops are the easiest to check. We may get lucky if someone recognises his photo.’
‘Right Tom. You do that.’
Tom grimaced. ‘Thanks. What are you going to do, Jim?’
‘Go back to the bank and see if they can show me his own transactions. See if I can track down where he stayed on those Wednesday nights when he was away.’
‘Why is that important?’
‘Because I think that on those secret days off he was meeting or in the vicinity of the person who took the photos.’
‘Ah, I see.’
‘And once I’ve got that information I’ll have to do some travelling myself.’
‘Shall I come too?’
‘I think it best if I go alone.’
‘Because I’ll be meeting up with other trans folk and I’ll be Jasmine.’
Tom’s coffee cup stopped half way to his lips.
‘What? Oh, this other character you have.’
‘It’s not another character, Tom.’
Tom looked over the rim of his coffee cup, his dark eyebrows raised.
‘I am Jasmine,’ James said firmly, ‘One day I’ll discard this pretence at being male. James will disappear and I will be Jasmine Frame full-time.’
Tom put the coffee cup down and looked straight at James, then shook his head.
‘It’s no good, Jim. I can’t see you as a woman.’
‘You will, and perhaps sooner than I expected, if we get anywhere with this investigation and it all comes out – about Thwaite and me.’
‘I’m not sure it’s something I’m looking forward to.’
‘I’m not either. I don’t like being the centre of attention. In fact when I’m dressed as Jasmine I’m pretty careful I’m not the centre of attention. Look, I don’t know what image you’ve got in your mind. I don’t go round looking like a drag queen, nor did Petula for that matter. We both look like women when we are dressed, at least on first sight.’
‘I suppose I need to see you to believe it.’ Tom said.
‘That can be arranged. Look we had better get on. When you get back to the office get those photos out of my desk and take them down to Forensics. See what they can tell us about the postmark and anything about the photos. Oh and get me some copies, and bring them to me at home if you can spare the time.’
‘OK. It looks as though my weekend with Sophie has gone up in smoke anyway.’

They parted, Tom to visit the many charity shops in the town centre and James to return to the bank. He emerged after an hour or so with a sheaf of bank statements. He returned to police HQ and drove home.
Angela was ironing in the kitchen, nodding her head to old clubbing numbers, the ones they used to dance to in the old days when they had time for such past-times. James paused in the doorway watching her for a moment and missing those sessions on the dance floor. Why did they stop? He wondered. As if he didn’t know. It was when he took to dressing as Jasmine every time they went out and Angela got fed up of being approached by other men thinking she needed a bloke to dance with.
‘Oh. Hi,’ she said noticing him. She put down the iron and stopped the music player. ‘Have you finished?’
‘No, but I’m not going back to the station. We need to talk.’
‘OK.’ Angela looked pensive as if she knew where the talk would lead. ‘Have you had any lunch?’
James glanced at his watch noticing it was gone one o’clock.
‘No. I hadn’t thought about it.’
‘I haven’t either. I wanted to get this ironing out of the way. I’ll put something on while you get changed. I suppose that’s what you want to do.’
‘Then we’ll have this chat.’

A few minutes later Jasmine re-joined Angela in the kitchen as she poured hot soup into bowls. There hadn’t been time to put her make-up on but Jasmine felt comfortable in opaque tights, an above-the- knee cord skirt and fluffy jumper. She flicked the long blonde hairs from out of her eyes and sat down at the table.
‘Is this about the suicide?’ Angela asked, between mouthfuls of soup.
‘Yes. Sloane’s given Tom and me a few days to look into the reasons behind Thwaite’s suicide. I’ve shown Tom the photos and told him about Thwaite being a cross-dresser.’
‘And how you met Petula?’
‘Yes. Tom now knows about me, about Jasmine.’
Angela nodded.
‘What about Sloane?’
‘Not yet. As I said he’s given us a few days to investigate and Tom agreed we didn’t need to report till Monday.’
‘But it will come out that your trans.’
Jasmine held her breath for a moment.
Angela stood up, taking her empty bowl to the dishwasher. She put the bowl down and turned to Jasmine.
‘Well, we knew it would happen even if it wasn’t supposed to be now.’
‘I’m sorry Ange. I didn’t mean to rush into announcing it.’
‘I don’t want you to rush into anything Jas,’ Angela eyes flared, ‘Just because you have to let Sloane and everyone know you are who you are, you must take your time over your transition. Tell the right people, get them on your side. You can’t suddenly cast James Frame aside.’
Jasmine knew Angela was correct.
‘You’re right. This’ll just be a heads up and then I’ll start going through the formalities. But I don’t know how Sloane’s going to take it. Well, I do – with difficulty. Tom’s having enough trouble taking it in and he’s a modern sort of guy.’
‘Yes, well take care. Don’t assume that everyone will be easy with you suddenly appearing on duty as a woman. They may have to accept it but they won’t necessarily like it.’
‘I know.’ In truth, Jasmine felt nervous. For years she had dreamt of going public, letting everyone know she was a woman not a man, at least in her own sense of identity, but now it was actually starting to happen she trembled with nervousness.
‘I’ll support you. You know I will.’ Angela came and stood behind Jasmine, pressing her hands against her shoulders. ‘So where are you going with the case.’
Jasmine took a deep breath.
‘It seems that once a month Thwaite took a day off from work without his wife knowing and spent the night and the day away somewhere.’
‘Somewhere outside the local area. Up north I’d say. I’ve got his bank statements to see if I can trace the place he stayed and anything else he paid for.’
‘You’ve got an idea, though haven’t you?’
‘Yes. I think he was on a trannie awayday. Perhaps visiting a trannie club or dressing venue or something. I think it’s where the photographer latched onto her.’
‘Well, then, Detective Jasmine Frame you’d better hunt the miscreant down. Make sure he pays for driving Petula to her death.’


Jasmine gets investigating

Been out putting up posters for my talk “Jasmine and me” (8 p.m. Wed. 27th Nov, The Sitting Room, Ludlow) and desperately hoping I get an audience. I haven’t actually prepared anything yet but I have been thinking about the presentation – how many readings, which bits from Painted Ladies, Bodies by Design, Blueprint or other Jasmine Frame material? How much about me, and how much should I go into Jasmine’s future as a transsexual detective? How can I make it amusing? Not long now to find the answers.  Not much time for writing this week either but here is the next bit of Blueprint.

Blueprint – Part 10

James scratched his head. There were so many things he wanted to know about Peter/Petula Thwaite and the photographer who had sent the prints that precipitated his/her suicide.
‘We’ve got to track Thwaite’s movements yesterday before he locked himself in his garage,’ James said at last.
‘His wife said he went to work,’ Tom said.
‘Yes, but he obviously didn’t stay there as he was sitting in his car with a pipe from the exhaust in the afternoon.’
‘Hmm yes, that old car with the un-cleaned up exhaust.’
‘The car that gave him his cover.’
‘What do you mean?’ Tom asked
‘His wife thought he went to the car club two Saturdays a month, but in fact it was only one. The other was to attend Butterflies.’
‘He was pretty devious wasn’t he?’
‘He had to be to keep his cross-dressing a secret.’
‘OK, so we need to know what he did before he killed himself. What else?’
‘We’ve got to trace who sent these,’ James pointed to the five photos. Tom stared down at them.
‘Hmm. Any clues? What about the postmarks?’
James bent to examine each envelope closely.
‘Some of them are illegible but I think this one says Birmingham, and this one Manchester.’
‘Not local then.’
‘No,’ James agreed, ‘Perhaps forensics can read the smudged ones.’
‘They may get something from the prints,’ Tom said, ‘identify the paper and the printer, that sort of thing.’
‘Maybe, but I can’t see that leading us to Thwaite’s persecutor,’ James said. There didn’t seem to be any clues to the person who had driven Thwaite to kill himself. ‘The other thing I want to know,’ James went on, ‘is what happened to his clothes?’
‘His clothes?’ the mystified look had returned to Tom’s features.
‘Her clothes to be more accurate. Petula had at least one outfit as well as wig and make-up. Thwaite kept it secret from his wife. I presumed he hid it in the garage, but you didn’t find anything there.’
‘No. Not that I was looking for female clothes,’ Tom said, ‘but that garage was clean enough to be used as a dressing room. Perhaps he did keep stuff hidden there.’
‘And he got rid of it before he killed himself.’
‘We do need to track his movements, don’t we?’
‘Yes. Let’s start at the bank. That’s where he should have been. It’ll be open this morning. Let’s go.’
James leapt to his feet. With something to do he felt energised. The investigation was under way.

Chapter 3
The manager rose to greet James and Tom as they entered her office. Most of the room was taken up by a vast desk which she leaned across to shake their hands.
‘Sit down, please,’ she said indicating the two stainless steel framed chairs pressed against the desk. James sat quickly while Tom struggled to fold his long legs into the limited space.
‘I presume you know about Peter Thwaite,’ James began.
The woman looked sombre, her expression complemented by her navy blue uniform jacket.
‘I heard about it his morning,’ she said, ‘dreadful.’
‘What did you hear?’ Tom asked. The woman looked a bit shocked as if the question was superfluous.
‘My colleagues told me that he had committed suicide yesterday afternoon, in his car.’
‘He should have been here, is that correct?’ Tom asked.
‘Well, I wasn’t in. Mr Preston, the manager was on duty yesterday, but yes, I suppose Peter should have been at work. Instead he was …’ There was a glint in her eye as if a tear was forming.
‘You’re deputy manager, Miss Sutton?’ James asked, reading her name badge. The woman nodded. ‘Peter Thwaite worked for the bank a long time. Hadn’t he reached manager level? Did you know him well?’
The woman flushed as if James was questioning her right to a position of authority.
‘I’ve known Peter for quite a few years and yes he does, did, hold a senior position, but while we say he worked here it’s more accurate to say he was based here.’
‘What do you mean?’ Tom asked.
‘Peter used this branch as his headquarters. He wasn’t on the regular staff.  He was on the savings and loans side, training and appraising the advisors across the whole region.’
‘So he travelled around.’ James said.
‘That’s right.’
‘What about yesterday?’ Tom asked.
‘Well, I don’t know what he was supposed be doing but the staff said he came in in the morning. He was late actually. Peter was never late. Then he left soon after saying he was sick.’
‘How soon?’ James leaned forward with interest.
‘I’m not sure. You’ll have to talk to Sue Marsh. She was downstairs all morning. I think she saw him come and go.’
‘But he definitely said he was ill?’ James pressed.
‘Yes,’ Miss Sutton insisted, ‘a few of the staff commented on how pale he looked.’
‘So he arrives late, stays a while, then leaves claiming he’s sick.’ James reiterated. The woman nodded.
‘You say his work covered the region,’ Tom said, ‘Was he supposed to be somewhere else yesterday.’
‘I don’t know. You’d have to look at his diary,’ Miss Sutton said.
James looked at the paper-free desk in front of the deputy manager which was occupied only by a large computer screen and keyboard.
‘I presume that’s an on-line diary,’ James said
‘Of course,’ the woman seemed surprised to consider there could be any other.
‘Can you access it?’ James asked.
‘Yes.’ Her fingers flittered over the keyboard. She turned the screen so that James and Tom could see also it. ‘There.’
Tom peered closely at the rainbow coloured spreadsheet.
‘It’s blank for yesterday,’ he announced.
‘That means he wasn’t booked to go anywhere. He must have been intending to work here. A lot of his work was done by email and video conferencing,’ Miss Sutton explained.
‘But he did travel to other branches?’ James asked trying to make sense of the text and hieroglyphics in the diary.
‘Oh, yes, two or three days a week.’
‘He worked hard then?’ James said. ‘His wife suggested he rarely took holidays.’
Miss Sutton looked doubtful.
‘Peter did work hard but he took his time off. He always had at least one day off a month.’
‘Yes, look,’ Miss Sutton scrolled the screen through the months and pointed at the days that were marked as leave.
‘They look like Thursdays,’ James said trying to follow the moving screen, ‘the second or third of the month.’
‘The third. Peter always took the third Thursday off. Something to do with that old car of his I suppose.’
‘The car he used for cover for his Saturday nights,’ Tom commented.
‘What?’ The woman asked mystified.
‘Nothing,’ James said waving his hand. He was staring at the screen. ‘Can you scroll through again, slowly? There seems to be something about those third Thursdays.’
The woman caressed her mouse. James’ attention was fixed on the flowing dates.
‘Yes, there is a pattern. I’ll need a print out to check.’
‘What pattern?’ Tom asked.
‘It’s the Wednesdays before his days off. He always seems to be out somewhere, Swindon, Oxford, Abingdon, Banbury.’
‘They’re all branches in the region,’ Miss Sutton said.
‘Where does the region extend?’ James asked.
‘Central South – Hampshire, Dorset, Wiltshire, Berkshire, Oxfordshire.’ Miss Sutton recited.
‘So he could have visited Portsmouth, Weymouth, other places south of Kintbridge but always on the day before his day off he heads north or west.’
‘So what?’ Tom asked shaking his head.
‘Did Peter Thwaite ever stay overnight on his trips?’ James asked.
‘Yes, occasionally,’ Miss Sutton agreed, ‘If he was visiting branches close together it would make sense putting up somewhere rather than driving back home.’
‘That’s it,’ James said. He pushed himself back in his chair feeling satisfied
‘What is?’ Tom asked still with a look of puzzlement on her face.
‘I bet that if we asked Mrs Thwaite she would say that once a month Peter Thwaite was away on a Wednesday night because he was visiting branches in the same area on the Wednesday and Thursday.’
‘But he wasn’t. He was off on the Thursday,’ Tom said.
‘Exactly. So where was he going on the Thursdays and why did he make sure he was in the north of his region?’

Jasmine Frame is revealed

Well, I wish I could report that this week I have sold x copies of Painted Ladies, had an offer of publication of all the Jasmine Frame novels with TV and film rights to follow, but no, none of that has happened. It’s been a pretty normal, busy week and once again I have failed to get on with Bodies by Design. I am, however, looking forward to my date for giving my first presentation of ‘Jasmine and me’ (The Sitting Room, Ludlow, 8p.m. Wed. 27thg Nov) when I’ll do some readings and talk about Jasmine the transsexual detective and about my own experiences of transgenderism.

Here though is the next episode of Blueprint, the Jasmine Frame prequel.

Blueprint: part 9

‘Butterflies. It’s a club for people like Petula – cross-dressers and other transgendered men and women.’
Tom looked confused.
‘Really. Where is it? I haven’t heard of a club with that name in Kintbridge.’
‘Oh, Butterflies is just the name of the group of people. The club meets in a village hall out of town.’
‘Right. But what were you doing there? Had Thwaite asked to meet you?’
‘No, I’d met Petula there before but we hadn’t talked much.’
‘You’d been before? Why?’
James took a deep breath. This was the moment he had been dreading since he joined the police force. As a teenager and as a student he had thought he could get away with not telling anyone. Dressing as a woman was a passing phase; the feelings he had about being female, about wanting to be accepted as a woman, were surely a fantasy. Time and living with Angela had proved that was not the case. Angela was the first person he had confessed his feelings to. She supported him, seemed to actually enjoy being with Jasmine, had encouraged him to talk and to think deeply about his future.  They had come to the decision not long ago that ultimately he would have to turn his dream into reality and become the woman he felt himself to be. But taking that step required planning and he had been putting off revealing his intentions to his senior officers as well as to friends and colleagues.  Now it looked as though he had lost the luxury of choosing the time for his announcement. Petula’s suicide needed investigating and he would have to reveal himself as Jasmine Frame, transsexual detective constable.
James could see Tom waiting for an answer to his question.
‘I’m a member of Butterflies myself, Tom,’ James said quietly and hesitantly, ‘I’m transsexual.’
Tom didn’t say anything for moments that stretched into seconds. James could almost see the wheels turning. Tom wasn’t dim, in fact he, like James, was on a fast track to promotion, but he did seem to be slow on the uptake.
‘You mean, you put on women’s clothes and make-up and stuff.’
‘It’s a bit more than that actually. I am a woman inside here,’ James tapped his forehead, ‘but yes, I put on feminine clothes, make-up, jewellery and a wig – my haircut is a bit too masculine at the moment to pass.’
Tom took in what he said.
‘And you go out dressed like that?’
‘To this club, Butterflies?’
‘There and other places.’
‘Does Angela know?’
‘Yes. She’s always known. We often go out together when I’m Jasmine.’
‘My female name.’
‘Oh, like Thwaite is Petula?’
‘That’s right.’
‘But his wife doesn’t know.’
‘No. That’s just one of the differences between us. I didn’t know Petula very well but I had the impression that she was at the cross-dressing end of the transgender spectrum.’
‘Transgender spectrum?’  Tom was looking confused again.
‘Look, it’s difficult to explain. Perhaps we can sit down and talk about it sometime, but there’s probably almost as many ways of being transgendered as there are people. I feel that I am really a woman and want to live my life as a woman.  I think Petula enjoyed dressing up from time to time, looking and acting feminine and meeting with like-minded people but did not want to change her life at all.’
‘I’m having trouble getting a handle on this Jim. Why did Thwaite do it?’
‘It’s an urge, a driving force, but he felt he had to keep it secret from everyone who knew him as Peter, including his wife. He was very upset at the thought of her discovering Petula. Obviously even more upset than I thought as he’s dead.’
‘You think this last photo tipped him over.’
‘Yes. It’s shocking isn’t it,’ James glanced at the photo of the man and woman having sex, ‘to people not used to porn. I guess he thought that his wife might think that he wanted to be the woman in the photo. He may have felt incapable of coping with the shame of being found out.’
Tom scratched his cheek.
‘Right, so let me get this straight. This guy has been dressing up as Petula secretly for years, always terrified that his wife might find out. Then these photos start arriving and he gives them to you. Why? When was it?’
‘It was last Saturday at the monthly Butterflies meeting. Some of them know I’m a police officer because I can’t get to meetings often. Petula approached me with the photos. She was upset and worried and asked if I could do anything to find out who was sending them. I took them but I didn’t have the slightest idea how to start. It was Angela who promised I’d look into it, actually.’
‘Angela was with you?’
‘Yes, as I said, she often comes out with me.’
‘So what have you done about it?’
‘Nothing. It’s been a busy week and I haven’t had a chance to even think about how to start the investigation. I suppose I hadn’t realised how upset Petula was or that the photos would keep coming.’
‘Well, we’ll have to investigate it. The person who sent the photos may have been intending to blackmail Thwaite. At the very least least he’s partly responsible for tipping Thwaite over the suicide line. The coroner will need to know why Thwaite was unbalanced. We’d better log these photos as evidence, write up what you know and plan where we go next.’
He’s shifted into detective mode, Jasmine thought. Good old Tom. If there’s a problem, tackle it by following procedure. He’s ignoring what I told him, blanking it out of his consciousness.  It was a familiar response, James had found, when informing people of his transsexualism. A couple of years ago he had told his mother; she had even met Jasmine on a couple of occasions but she still acted as if she knew nothing about his feelings or intentions.
‘You’re right, Tom. We must do all those things. But we’re also going to have to explain to Sloane. He’s going to have to find out about Jasmine.’
‘Jasmine? Oh, you mean, you being, uh,…’ Tom’s voice trailed off and his expression took on a vacant appearance.
‘Yes, Tom. Sloane and everyone will have to know that I want to be the woman I know I am.’
Tom shook his head.
‘I don’t get it, Jim. You’re a great police officer; you’ve got a career as a detective ahead of you.’
‘Detectives can be women.’
‘Yes, of course, but you, you’re my mate. You’ve got me out of a few scrapes. You go running.’
‘Women run too.’
‘I know that. Look, you know what I’m trying to say. You’re a good bloke.’
James sighed.
‘It’s a front, an act that I’ve developed over the years to hide my real feelings, to protect myself from people’s reactions because I know that standing here in my CID suit I don’t look at all like a woman. But that can change and over the last few years I’ve realised I’ve got to make it change. It’s just that I’m not quite ready to go public.’
Tom shook his head.
‘I don’t understand, but I see you’ve got a problem. You’re Sloane’s protégé but I don’t know how he’ll react if he finds out you want to be DC Jasmine. He’s a bit unPC in his attitudes.’
‘That’s just part of it,’ Jasmine agreed, thinking of all the other colleagues who might mouth the diversity training they’d received but didn’t really believe it. ‘And I need to let Angela know what’s going to happen. We’ve discussed it often enough but hadn’t set any dates or timetable.’
Tom didn’t say anything and the silence stretched on and on. James searched Tom’s face trying to work out what he was thinking. Eventually Tom spoke.
‘Look. Sloane’s given us a few days to wrap up this investigation. It’s Saturday today. I know he’s a 7/7 sort of guy but he’s probably not expecting to hear from us before Monday and with most of the admin staff off for the weekend it’ll be Monday before the evidence and your statement go through the system.  Let’s sit on it till then, see how far we can get in the investigation. That gives you today and tomorrow to sort out things with Angela.’
James felt relief wash over him. It would be at least two days before the news spread through the station.
‘Thanks Tom. That’ll be something.’
‘Right. So where do we start?’

Not fifty shades, but infinity

Another busy week with little time to write – how many more times am I going to have to say that? Struggling to keep far too many balls in the air at the moment and a little diappointed that I haven’t had any opportunities to promote Painted Ladies recently. I did have a very pleasant conversation with a friend and reader who was very keen to know what happens “next”. That encouragement was the other side of the scales to a review that has made me brood a bit. The review was generally good but made a couple of points which I took issue with. The critic seemed to think that I should have covered more of the strands of transgenderism in Painted Ladies than I did. Heck its a story! Jasmine is a transsexual detective but that t-word is one fairly long term for a whole range of characters and experiences. She is based partly on a few people I have met, a little on my own experience and a lot on my imagination, but she is an individual not a ragbag of every type of TS and cannot and will not espouse every possible view of gender dysphoria. Painted Ladies covers just one short period in her transition. The sequels will cover more.

Secondly, the plot of Painted Ladies involved transvestites of a certain age. There is a continuum between male and female. It may not even be a single strand. Many points in this spectrum are occupied by transgendered individuals who can be labelled as transsexual, transvestite, cross-dresser or any one of the many other terms that are used. To be brief there are all sorts of gender identities. I chose a small number of them for the characters of Painted Ladies. There will be others in the stories that follow. The main point is to make all the stories interesting and exciting reads for non-trans as well as trans readers. If I’ve succeeded at that then I’m happy.

So after that rant. Here is the next part of the Jasmine Frame prequel –

Blueprint: part 8

James took each photo out of its envelope in turn and laid them in sequence across his desk. He looked up. Tom’s face was creased in a mixture of confusion and distaste.
‘What have these got to do with Thwaite?’ Tom asked.
‘Can’t you see?’ James said stabbing at the first photo with a fore finger. ‘The head – it’s Peter Thwaite, or Petula as she called herself.’
Tom leaned down to examine the first photo, then the second, third and fourth. He straightened up.
‘I don’t get it. I see the woman’s head in each of the photos is the same, but what do you mean, it’s Peter Thwaite?’
‘Don’t you recognise the face?’
‘I only saw him when he was dead.’
‘And that photo of him with his wife.’
‘Oh, yes.’ Tom looked again at each of the prints. ‘I suppose it could be him. Someone’s pasted his face into these photos of women. Except his face looks made up. He’s got lipstick on and earrings.’
‘It’s not just his face. It’s his hair too.’
‘What do you mean? Thwaite had short, greying hair. Nothing like this.’
James took a deep breath.
‘The head in each of these photos is of Petula Thwaite. That is Peter Thwaite when he was in his female persona.’
‘Female persona?’
‘Peter Thwaite was a cross-dresser, a transvestite if you like.’
Tom let out a long drawn out ‘oh’ as realisation took hold.
‘I see. But that’s not his body.’ Tom pointed at the naked female reclining on the couch.
‘No, someone has cleverly photoshopped Petula’s head onto real women.’
Tom bent down again to stare at each picture.
‘Hmm. That’s right. I can see the joins.’  He straightened up and fixed his eyes on James. ‘But, I don’t understand. Where have they come from? Did you find them at Thwaite’s house? Have you logged them in?’
James sighed.
‘No I haven’t logged them as evidence – yet. They weren’t at the house. Petula gave them to me herself.’
James saw Tom’s eyes unfocus as he struggled to follow what James had said.
‘Petula? That’s Thwaite when he’s dressed as a woman.’
‘You met her, him, heck, I don’t know.’
‘Before he killed himself.’
‘How did you meet him, her?’
James opened his mouth to speak although he was still not sure what to say, but before a sound came out, his attention was drawn to a young woman crossing the office towards them. It was one of the civilian workers from the front office downstairs.
‘DC Frame,’ she called.
‘Hi, Dawn. What can we do for you?’ James said, grateful for the break.
‘This came for you in the morning post.’  As she approached them, Dawn raised her right hand grasping a large buff envelope.
‘Thanks,’ James said taking it from her.
‘No bother,’ she replied turning on her heels.  James looked at the envelope. It had a first class stamp and was clearly addressed to DC Frame at Police HQ, Kintbridge, in precise but flowing handwriting. Its thickness suggested there was more than one sheet of paper inside. James carefully tore the end of the envelope open and reached in to pull out another similar envelope folded in half. He opened it out flat. His heart thumped when he saw the name and address. It was to Mr P. Thwaite. Like the four other envelopes sitting on his desk, the address was written in firm, capital letters in biro.
‘It’s another one,’ James said, his voice trembling in anticipation.
‘Another what? Another photo?’ Tom said nodding towards the prints on the desk.
‘Look, the writing is the same.’ James showed Tom the envelope he was holding.
‘These were all sent to Thwaite at his house?’
‘Yes. On each of the last five Fridays. They’re in order.’ James pointed to the four on the desk.
‘Oh, I see. They’re getting more suggestive, bluer.’
‘That’s right.’
‘So let’s see what the new one is.’
The envelope James was holding had already been slit open neatly by a paper knife. He inserted his hand into it and felt the glossy-faced card of a photoprint. He drew it out. It was upside down, the plain white surface looking innocent, pure, but marred by the crease across it. He turned it over. Tom whistled.
There were two people in the photo. A woman with Petula’s head turned, facing out of the picture, and a man. Both were naked. The woman knelt on a bed while the man stood behind thrusting his penis into her vagina.
‘That’s a bit hard core,’ Tom said, ‘Let me have a close look.’ James handed him the photo and examined the two envelopes.  The one addressed to Thwaite was postmarked Thursday while the envelope addressed to him had a noon Friday postmark.
‘He must have received it yesterday morning,’ James said, ‘and posted it on to me before going home to kill himself.’
‘Hmm, yes,’ Tom muttered with his nose almost touching the print. ‘I can see the join again. I’d say the main picture is a screen grab of an internet porn shot.’
‘That makes sense.’
‘What doesn’t make sense is what these photos are for. Why were they sent to Thwaite? Why did he kill himself?’
‘Thwaite killed himself because he was scared of his wife finding out that he was a cross-dresser,’ Jasmine said. ‘These photos increased the risk of being discovered but why they were sent I’ve no idea.’
‘Was there a message with them?’ Tom asked
‘Petula said there wasn’t.’ James looked in the fifth envelope. It was empty. ‘There’s nothing here.’
‘You keep using this name Petula. You still haven’t explained, Jim. How did you meet and why have you got the photos?’ Tom gave James a determined stare. There was a pause during which all James could hear was the blood rushing through his arteries.
‘I met her at Butterflies’

Jasmine and me

It’s been a frustrating week. Other work has meant that I haven’t had time to move on with Bodies by Design although it has been on my mind, along with plots for the other sequels. I also need to devote time to marketing Painted Ladies as copies won’t sell themselves. At least I’ve got my evening at The Sitting Room in Ludlow on 27th November to plan. It’s going to be called “Jasmine and me: transgender fiction and reality”. I’ll read excerpts from Painted Ladies and Bodies by Design and perhaps some of the other stories involving Jasmine Frame such as Blueprint. I’ll talk about Jasmine and about myself. I hope that there will be enough people there to do some signing at the end. Once again publicity will be needed to attract an audience.

Anyway, all that is still to come. Here’s the next part of the prequel series.

Blueprint, Part 7

Neither spoke for a moment, then Angela got up.
‘Have you had anything to eat recently?’
Jasmine thought. What time is it now? She glanced at the neat little gold watch on her wrist. Gone nine o’clock. It was over eight hours since she’d grabbed a sandwich in the canteen at Police HQ. She hadn’t felt hungry but she did now.
‘No. I could do with something.’
‘I had lasagne when I got in. There’s a portion left. I’ll heat it up. Do you want to get some salad.’
They both busied in the kitchen until Jasmine’s meal was ready for her. She sat at the dining table and stuck her fork into the steaming pasta. Angela leaned against the cupboards sipping her wine.
‘Did he leave a note?’
‘Peter Thwaite? A brief one. Didn’t explain why he was about to kill himself.’
‘So the wife still doesn’t know?’
‘That’s right.’
‘What about his female clothes? Where did he keep them?’
‘I thought they would be in his car or somewhere in the garage. It’s clean enough to act as a dressing room, the garage that is, but Tom did a search and didn’t find any women’s clothes.’
‘Was he looking for them?’
‘No. He doesn’t know Peter Thwaite is also Petula, does he.’
‘I suppose not.’
‘But he still didn’t come across Petula’s gear.’
They were silent as Jasmine ate a few more forkfuls of lasagne and salad. The flavour was ignored while she pondered.
‘So he must have got rid of them,’ Angela said, eventually.
‘Looks like it.’
‘He’s gone to great lengths to make sure his wife doesn’t find out that he’s a cross-dresser hasn’t he.’
‘Including killing himself.’
‘Will it come out?’
‘That depends.’
‘On what?’
Jasmine was thinking. What were the possible consequences of Petula’s suicide?
‘If Sloane decides it is just a simple case of suicide then the papers will be passed to the coroner for the inquest. There may be some attempt to find out what Thwaite’s state of mind was but Sloane won’t want to devote a lot of time to an investigation. So the fact that he was a trannie may not be revealed.’
‘But it’s not a simple case of suicide is it?’
‘It looks like it, but you’re right, it’s not. Those photos must have pushed him over and someone is responsible for them.’
‘You’re going to have to tell Sloane aren’t you?’
‘Should I? As you said, Peter Thwaite has done all he could to stop his wife finding out his secret. Shouldn’t we respect that? It’s only you and I that know about the photos.’
‘And let the joker with the photos get away with murder. That’s what it looks like to me, Jas.’
Jasmine was surprised at Angela’s vehemence.
‘You’re right, as usual, Ange. I’m going to have to work out how to do this.’
‘Sleep on it. Come on have a glass of wine and relax.’

It was Saturday morning but Sloane was in his office early as usual. He was sitting there reading their report when he called Tom and James in.
‘Straightforward case of suicide,’ DCI Sloane said with a tone of finality
‘Looks like it, sir,’ Tom said, standing stiffly in front of the desk.
‘There’s no apparent reason for him taking his own life,’ James said. He was dwarfed as usual by Tom’s height and felt he was skulking at his partner’s side.
‘What are you suggesting, Frame? That he was murdered?’ Sloane his eyes raised to examine James. They seemed to want to search inside James’ brain.
‘No, I’m sure Peter Thwaite killed himself, sir, but there’s no indication why.’
Sloane scanned through the report again.
‘That is true. Your report does not suggest a reason for his decision to kill himself.’
‘Perhaps we should try and find out a little bit more about him,’ Jasmine went on.
‘Hmm. Yes, the coroner will want some indication as to why his mind was unbalanced.’ Sloane scratched his chin while Tom and James stood silent. ‘Can’t afford much expenditure on an investigation,’ Sloane went on, ‘It’ll have to be just you two. You’ve got until Tuesday to come up with the answers.’
‘Three days sir?’ Tom said.
‘I believe it’s four counting tomorrow, Shepherd.’
‘It’s Sunday, tomorrow, sir.’
‘So? Crime doesn’t stop for Sundays. If there’s a job to be done detectives work twenty four-seven.’
James sensed Tom shrink beside him.
‘Yes, sir,’ Tom said miserably.
‘Well, get on with it, or it will only be three days.’ Sloane closed the folder and added it to a pile in a tray and opened the next on the heap in front of him.  James hurried out Sloane’s presence and returned to his desk in the larger outer office which was deserted. He sat in his chair as Tom came and loomed over him.
‘What did you go and do that for? Now we’ve got to work tomorrow. I was hoping for a relaxing day with Sophie.’
James strained his neck to look up at his friend.
‘Oh, yes, Sophie. How did it go last night?’
‘She was a little pissed off at how late I was but she said yes. Well, she asked the question and I said yes.’
‘Congratulations. You’re getting married.’
‘Yes. We were going to tell her parents tomorrow, but now you’ve scuppered that.’
James realised that his concern for Petula had ramifications.
‘I’m sorry, Tom.’
‘Well, I guess you didn’t really want to give up a Sunday off, but I’ll ask again. Why did you do it? It might have been Monday before Sloane decided to look into Thwaite’s mental state if you hadn’t brought it up, and then he may have just passed it on to the uniform guys to complete the job for the inquest.’
‘I felt that since we’d started the investigation we should finish it,’ James said.
‘Why? There’s probably no crime involved. Thwaite was probably just feeling down.’
‘Down enough to kill himself by sitting in his car with a gas pipe stuffed through the window.’
‘Well, who knows? Perhaps he’d been depressed for some time.’
‘His medical notes would tell us that but I don’t think they will, Tom.’
‘How do you know? What is it about this guy that is getting you so worked up, Jim?’
James pulled the drawer of his desk open and pulled out a sheaf of buff envelopes. He spread them out on his desk.
‘These,’ he said.