Jasmine finds a lead

This weekend I’m off to Llanidloes in mid-Wales for their Tattoofest. Apparently it’s not all about tattoos and there will be a number of us offering our books to visitors to browse, and buy. I’m not interested in having a tattoo myself although I think some of the designs people have done are quite stunning. I think it is the permanence that is off-putting.  We like to change our hairstyle and clothes fashion from time to time, as well as our surroundings, so being stuck with the same skin decoration for ever strikes me as being a bit limiting. Nevertheless, everyone has the right to adorn their own bodies in any way that they like.

WP_20170704_10_16_10_ProThis is my first chance for a long time to market my books and offer my talks.  I don’t really count the Leominster Festival Bookfair because I spent so much time looking after everyone else I didn’t get to do much with my own publications. This will be the first outing for my new pop-up banner. It is quite an expense and of course will soon be out of date when Cold Fire is published, but nevertheless it should serve for a couple of years.  I think it looks pretty striking as well as informative.

I am on the lookout for other opportunities to promote my work – both the Jasmine Frame books and my fantasy novels. I’m willing to put up a stand or join discussions or give talks. My main talk will be “Murder – with frocks: transgender in life and fiction” but I am also very keen to talk about SF/Fantasy and the inspirations for my September Weekes novels, and about the business of writing and publishing (I’ve self-published in a number of ways, worked with large educational publishers and been published by a couple of small independents. so I think I have some experiences to relate).

I was hoping for a slot to participate (rather than just attend) the big Nine Worlds SF/Fantasy convention in London in August. I was told, however, that they could not match me to any of the 250 or so events! That’s despite there being sessions on mythology, monsters, writing, etc., etc.  I wish the organisers could have been honest in saying they wanted “names” instead of giving me the brush off.

Anyway, back to the business of writing. Here’s the next episode in the Jasmine Frame novella, Viewpoint.  We’re up to part 4 already and I think I know where the story is going now – yes, really!

Viewpoint: Part 4

Palmerston went on, ‘We also need to determine her last movements and how she got into the canal. Pathology will soon tell us whether she was dead or alive when she entered the water.’
Terry Hopkins spoke, ‘A road crosses the canal at Hambury, The body could have been dropped in the water there.’
Jasmine shook her head. ‘I doubt it. That’s a mile upstream from where I found the body and it would have had to pass through Renham lock. I doubt whether a boat has passed through the lock in the time that the body was in the water.’
Hopkins glared at her and moaned, ‘How come you know what goes on on the canal?’
‘Because I run along it most days,’ Jasmine replied. ‘The only boat on the stretch between Kintbridge to Hambury is old Harrold’s and he’s moored under the bypass. The flow has been too great on the river sections in the last few days for boats to be moving much and you may have noticed that it hasn’t been pleasant weather for boating.’
Hopkins grunted but had no further comment.
‘Could the body have been delivered to the north bank at Renham lock?’ Tom asked.
Jasmine gave another shake of her head. ‘There’s only a narrow towpath on the north bank and you’ve got the railway line and then the river alongside. The body must have been brought by a vehicle to the south bank up that track you used this morning, Tom.’
‘There are buildings where that track meets the road,’ Derek Kingston noted, ‘There must be people living there. Perhaps they noticed something.’
‘You’ve given yourself a job, Derek,’ Palmerston said, obviously glad to be issuing orders. ‘You and Terry get down there and start asking questions. Tom, you’re with me. Let’s see what pathology have found.’
Jasmine realised that she was the only one left without a task. Nothing changes, she thought. ‘What do want me to do?’ she asked knowing what the answer was going to be.
‘You can start going through missing persons, DC Frame.’ The DS tossed off her instruction, turned and started towards the door.
Tom saw Jasmine clenching her fists. ‘Sorry, Jas. You didn’t think that she’d change because you’ve resigned, did you?’
Jasmine let out the breath she’d been holding. ‘No, but I’ve been reminded why I did resign. Not that I needed to be.’
‘Shepherd! Come on,’ Palmerston called. Tom hurried to obey.
Jasmine sat at her old desk noting that no-one had laid claim to it yet. She booted up the computer and found that her log-ins were still valid. Well, there were still a couple of weeks before her employment was terminated. She quickly put in a request to receive missing persons data from her own and neighbouring police districts, then sat back and considered. She didn’t hold out much hope of finding a quick match among the dozens of persons reported as missing. She needed another angle. If her guess about the gender of the victim was correct then he appeared to be a good way through his transition. Many FtMs had breast removal before internal surgery to remove ovaries and sometimes the uterus. Phalloplasty, construction of a penis, was the last, most difficult and most expensive stage which many never reached. To be at any stage of that procedure meant that the victim was probably on the list of a Gender Identity Clinic. Jasmine started composing emails to the eight GICs across England. She attached the photo taken of the body when it was lying on the canal bank. It wasn’t pretty but it was all she had for now.
When the task was complete, she sat back and stretched her arms. She realised that although she was alone in the outer office, DCI Sloane had been shut away in his own annexe. She got up and walked to his door. It was open and she could see the man sat his desk, his head bent over a pile of paper files. He rarely used the computer that was pushed to the edge of his large desk. He must have sensed her presence because he looked up and saw her. Jasmine saw his lip curl.
‘Ah, Frame. Any progress?’
‘Not yet, sir. I’m waiting for replies.’
‘Hmm. I see.’ His eyes dropped back to the papers in front of him.
Jasmine wasn’t going to miss this opportunity. There might not be another chance to speak to the Boss when no other officers, particularly DS Palmerston, weren’t around.
‘You agreed with my thoughts about the victim, sir,’ she said.
He looked at her. ‘Agreed?’
‘That he was a man.’
Sloane puffed out his lips. ‘Ah, that. I agreed with your surmise that the victim was undergoing the process of, what do you call it, transition, and I understand that this person may therefore be claiming to be male.’
‘Claiming to be!’ Jasmine felt her face heat up and her heart hammered in her chest.
‘That’s what this transsexual nonsense is all about isn’t it, Frame? People choosing their own sex and expecting their family, employers, even the health service to go along with their fancies.’
‘It is not a fancy. It’s not even a choice. Do you think someone would go through a double mastectomy just because they fancied being a man for a change? Do you think I’m looking forward to having gender reassignment surgery to make me the woman I am?’
Sloane was forced back in his chair by Jasmine’s onslaught.
‘Now, Frame. I know your change causes you some anxiety. I’m sure it’s those female drugs you’re taking. . .’
‘That’s right. Blame it on the hormones that make me behave like a silly female. Is that it?’ Jasmine paused for breath. ‘They do give me mood swings and nausea, but it’s my body that suffers the changes, not my mind. I am a woman and I am sure our murder victim, whoever he was, was certain he was a man.’
‘I think you need to calm, down, DC Frame.’
Jasmine took a breath. ‘I am calm, but I can’t take much more of this. You know it’s why I resigned.’
Jasmine thought she noticed regret pass across Sloane’s face, but it disappeared quickly.
‘That was your choice, Frame. The Police Service was giving you every assistance in your decision to, er, transition.’
‘Officially, yes, but in practice, you know what was happening here and you let Palmerston sideline me in every investigation.’
‘That was your view of the situation. I see Palmerston dong her job to assign staff to tasks as necessary.’
‘So why did you call me back today?’
Sloane’s mouth opened but no sound came out for a moment. He closed it, swallowed then spoke. ‘DS Palmerston thought that as you were involved in the case through your discovery of the body, it would be better for the investigation if you were on the team and could be allocated tasks that suited your abilities and demeanour. You have a reputation for going off in your own direction, Frame, as you well know.’
‘I get results.’
Sloane sniffed. ‘Perhaps. Nevertheless, we felt it was wise to have you where we can see you rather than having you interfere as a free agent; or, what is it you intend being? A private eye. Hah!’
‘Well, you’ve only got to the end of the month to carry on telling me what to do.’
‘We’ll see,’ The DCI said quietly and glanced back at his paperwork, ‘I suggest you get back to your work, Detective Constable.’
Jasmine returned to her desk still feeling the anger filled blood pumping round her body. She looked at her screen. Some of the missing person data had arrived and she flicked through it not surprised to find nothing that had a connection to the victim. The monotonous task at least calmed her down. While she was doing so a ping indicated an email arriving in her inbox. She clicked on it and her heart thumped. It was from the south-west gender clinic in Exeter. She read the message eagerly. One of the staff had recognised the victim but medical confidentiality prevented them from releasing the patient’s details immediately. It didn’t matter – she’d got an i.d.

…………………….to be continued.

 

 

Jasmine returns

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A selfie of me at the Pride event that was part of the Ludlow Fringe Festival

I did something earlier this week that I didn’t used to do.  I was giving a talk about being transgender and mentioned both my male and femme names. At one time I would never reveal my male identity when I was being Penny, but my use of two names is one of the remaining  indications that I can’t completely get rid of my gender stereotypes. I may have given up wearing a wig and false breasts to accentuate my femininity but I still present myself as male or female.  Gender fluid, I think I am, but non-binary is a difficult concept to realise. Most people still want to categorise you as one or the other and forms still demand a title without giving a genderless option – unless you happen to be a Dr or Rev.  Most important is the need to blend in rather than making an issue out of my gender.

I chose my femme name a long time ago because I didn’t consider that my male name, Peter, worked for me as a female.  Yes, I know there are feminine variants such as Peta and Petra (I have known women with both those names) but I didn’t feel comfortable with them. I wished I had one of those names that could be used for either gender. There are names used by both genders, such as Evelyn, Hilary, Leslie/Lesley, Lee/Leigh and Robin (male in UK, female in USA) or names that have a genderless diminutive e.g. Chris (Christopher/Christine), Alex (Alexander/Alexandra), Nicky (Nicholas/Nicola) etc. There are new names which are genderless  such as the hippy names  River and Willow, and others, like Jayden, that I don’t know where they come from .  As I am not going to change my legal name then I think I am stuck with Peter and Penny although I may use them interchangeably.

Choosing names for characters is one of the important but fun parts of planning a story. A character’s name must not be anachronistic and can convey their origins both in ethnicity and class.  I chose Jasmine as the femme name for my transsexual detective, back in 2001, because I thought it sounded a little unusual and exotic. In fact it is a much more common girl’s name than I thought but I’m afraid Jasmine is Jasmine now. Many of the trans characters I have created have pairs of names that connect such as Glen and Glenda when Jasmine was acting as a transvestite and Sandy/Sandra (both spoilers from Painted Ladies.). Vernon/Valerie and Gerald/Geraldine (The Brides’ Club Murder), David/Diana (Darkroom), Andy/Andrea (Aberration) are some of the many others. I don’t think that trans people do choose names like that but I think it helps readers to connect the male and female sides of the character.

There are no new names of characters yet in Viewpoint, the new prequel to Painted Ladies, but we’re only at part three so far.  Here it is.

Viewpoint: Part 3

Jasmine let the hot water cascade over her for minutes longer than her usual showers. She knew the electricity meter would be spinning but she waited till the last vestige of cold had been driven from her body. All the while she saw that cold corpse lying on the towpath. She tried to make sense of what she had seen. When she finally turned the shower off she felt she had an image of the person it had been, and she was worried.
She stepped from the cubicle and quickly wrapped a towel around herself, not merely to dry her body and keep warm but to avoid having to see herself naked. Her body didn’t match her self-image. Surgery was needed for the most dramatic transformation but that was a long way off. Nevertheless, now she was taking the drugs she was hoping for some changes but the hormones had yet to make a noticeable change to her figure. The doctor at the gender clinic had not been too confident of her developing the breasts she desired and nothing could change her broad shoulders and narrow pelvis. Still, she had hopes that one day her body would be recognisably female.
Once dressed in thick tights, a colourful but short woollen skirt and a thick jumper over her bra and false breasts, she prepared her breakfast. She was later than usual and there were things to do – not a lot, but she needed to continue preparations for going into business. She was munching a piece of toast and peanut butter when her mobile phone gave out its urgent ring.
She picked it up and wasn’t surprised to see that it was Tom Shepherd calling. Of course, they would want a statement from her on the discovery of the body.
‘Hi, Tom,’ she said cheerfully.
‘Jas! How are you? Have you warmed up?’
‘Yes, I’m fine now, Tom, but it was cold out there.’
‘Yeah. Look, you’re needed here.’
‘Where?’
‘The station.’
‘For my statement?’
‘Not just that. Sloane wants you on the case.’
Jasmine felt her muscles tense and heart beat increase.
‘But, Tom, I’m not part of the team any more. I resigned. Remember?’
‘I know that, Jas, but you’re still employed to the end of the month, aren’t you?’
‘Yes, I know, but what is it called? Gardening leave? I’m not expecting to work as a police officer anymore. I’m sure Palmerston doesn’t want to see me in that office again.’
There wasn’t an immediate reply but Jasmine heard conversation at the other end, and one familiar raised voice. The muffled exchange was brief.
‘Frame, are you there?’ It was DS Denise Palmerston’s voice blaring at her from the phone.
‘Yes I am. I thought I was talking to DC Shepherd,’ Jasmine said as calmly as she could manage.
‘Well, it’s me telling you to get yourself to this office, now!’
‘I’m not part of the V&SCU,’ Jasmine insisted, knowing that she was just dragging out the inevitable. What DS Palmerston wanted she invariably got.
‘Do you want me to send out a car to arrest you for obstructing an investigation.’
‘No, but . . .’
‘You are still a police officer, DC Frame. Get here now.’ There was an abrupt click of the call being ended. Jasmine imagined that if Palmerston could have slammed the phone down on its cradle she would have done. Perhaps, fortunately, you couldn’t make the same gesture with a mobile phone.
She wondered why her senior officers were so keen to call her into the Violent and Serious Crime Unit’s office. It surely wasn’t because Denise Palmerston valued her assistance on a case; her tone revealed her discomfort at that prospect. So why had DCI Sloane taken the initiative of bringing her in? That presumably was the cause of the DS’s anger – having to accede to her boss’ request. Jasmine wasn’t looking forward to facing the female detective again but she was intrigued enough by the case and the reasons for her recall to want to find out more. She pulled on her boots, put on her old puffer jacket, grabbed her bag, dropped her phone in it and was about to open the door when she remembered the electric fire. It had been blasting out heat on full power now for a couple of hours and she had got used to the comfort. She turned the fire off knowing that the flat would be cold when she returned but did not want to deplete her meagre funds.
She got into the red Fiesta and turned the ignition key. She was always grateful when the engine started but was not sure how she could perform as a private detective, which would presumably mean a lot of time spent on the streets, with the battered old Ford. At least it was pretty undistinguished and she could not foresee being able to afford a newer model until her income grew, if ever.
It took just a few minutes to drive into the centre of town and to pull into the police station carpark. That action felt both familiar and strange – it wasn’t something she had expected to be doing after walking out a couple of weeks ago. She tried to feel confident as she entered the building and strode passed the desk.
Sgt Gorman glared at her and growled, ‘I thought you weren’t coming back.’
‘Sorry to disappoint you GG but this is as unexpected for me as it is for you.’ Jasmine continued through the secure door without a hesitation. She climbed the stairs to the unit office and only paused, for just a moment, as she pushed the door open. There was a small group of people standing around the whiteboard, the sign that a case conference was taking place. Tom Shepherd turned his head, saw her and smiled. He drew himself up to his full two meters plus height and nodded for her to come and join him. The other two male officers, Derek Kingston and Terry Hopkins, like Tom were facing DS Palmerston who was at the board.
‘Ah, we have Detective Constable Frame,’ Palmerston said. ‘We are pleased to see you, aren’t we gentlemen.’ Her tone revealed the exact opposite but Kingston responded with a smile towards her. Hopkins managed to hide any emotion at her reappearance. ‘Come and join us and give us the wisdom of your experience,’ Palmerston continued in the falsely gracious voice. Jasmine took her place beside Tom, and undid the zip on her jacket. She wasn’t going to make it look as though she had slipped comfortably back into her old environment, but it was warm in the office.
‘We were going over the facts in the case,’ the DS explained. ‘We have a body with no clothes or means of identification so our first problem is finding out who this woman was.’
Jasmine half raised her right hand as if in a classroom. ‘Um,’ she muttered to draw attention to herself while wondering if she needed to or even desired it.
‘Yes, DC Frame,’ Palmerston’s eyes glared at her as if wishing to strike her dead for daring to interrupt. ‘You have a contribution to make.’
‘Yes,’ Jasmine said, ‘I don’t know how much has been reported about the body, but I don’t think the deceased was a woman.’
Palmerston’s eyebrows rose and her cheeks took on a pink tinge. Jasmine felt, rather than saw, the three men stiffen beside her. They were either expecting the DS to explode in rage or had been jerked out of their complacency by her words.
Denise Palmerston spoke softly and slowly, ‘I know you were suffering from the early stages of hypothermia at the time, DC Frame, but I am sure that you in particular might have noticed that the body lacked a penis. In fact, she has, according to the pathologist, the complete female genitalia – vulva, vagina and clitoris. But of course, you don’t consider them a necessary part of being a woman do you.’
The three male officers squirmed. Jasmine told herself to remain calm. To have made such a blatant reference to her pre-op transsexual status Palmerston was obviously going to the limit to incite her.
‘Yes, I did observe that, ma’am,’ Jasmine said equally quietly and carefully, ‘I also observed that the body had had a double mastectomy. Coupled with the short hair and a hint of beard growth I suggest that the person was a transitioning transman, a female to male transsexual.’
‘There are other reasons for having a mastectomy,’ Palmerston’s voice had risen a few tones. ‘Cancer for example. She was a woman.’
Jasmine took a deep breath. ‘We have different viewpoints,’ she said, ‘but I think the possibility that I suggested should be taken into consideration when seeking the i.d.’
‘I think DC Frame has a point.’
The three men and Jasmine turned to see the speaker, DCI Sloane, standing in the doorway of his office as imposing as ever in his three-piece grey suit.
Sloane went on, ‘I think you should take the possibility that this person presented as a male in planning the investigation.’ He turned around and returned to his office. Jasmine wondered how much he had been listening to the exchange between her and Palmerston.
The DS sniffed, shook her head and pulled herself upright. ‘We shall use all the evidence available to identify the victim and determine what and who caused her death.’

…………………..to be continued.

 

 

Jasmine is considering

After a couple of weeks of idyllic holiday it is difficult to get back into routine, especially when there is so much to make one want to just curl up again – I won’t say what.  One thing did concern me. It was a report in the news over a week ago about the transwoman who committed suicide while in a male prison. I was concerned to read that she was only 19 and had been living as female since the age of 10.  But, and this is what got to me, she had little idea of what being transsexual means and had had no advice, medical or otherwise to help her transition. Despite all the publicity in recent years about various trans people, she still felt isolated and did not know where to go for help. She had not even begun to apply for a Gender Recognition Certificate, probably because she had not started any authorised medical treatment.

My understanding is that you do not need to go through surgery or even drug treatment to get a GRC but you do have to have a medical opinion that you are gender dysphoric. I have also heard that your mental state is taken into consideration. You can get to a sort of Catch 22 situation where if you are mad i.e. have mental health issues, you can’t get a GRC while a lot of people consider wanting to change gender a sign of madness.

This woman obviously had issues as she was convicted of crimes and sent to prison. What is appalling is that she received no care from the authorities that were responsible for her welfare while in custody. It also shows that there is still a lack of information about being trans available to the general public, despite the heap of material on the internet. We may be just 1% of the population but that just makes it that much more difficult for people who need help to make contact with those that can provide it. It also shows that the majority of people have a poor grasp of gender issues and do not understand how to help someone who is struggling to come to terms with their gender identity.

………………

IMGP5962I have a busy two or three weeks coming up so a new Jasmine novella will be on hold for a bit longer. In the meantime I’ll continue with other short stories I have stored away (there are lots).  This week I have a recent SF story I wrote (somewhat hurriedly) for a competition.  It didn’t get anywhere which I’m not surprised about.  I think it reads more like a synopsis than a short story.  It is also a familiar theme – colonisation of the Moon – but I hoped I had an original slant. Anyway, here it is.

Life on the Moon

The dark sky. That’s what surprised me most when I got here. I spent lots of time staring at the sky back home. There wasn’t much else to do lying in a cot. I watched the clouds move, that’s all. Then they gave me the neuro-interface. Here, on the Moon’s surface with my suit working at one hundred percent to keep me cool and my visor filter at maximum, the sun’s still too bright to look at directly and yet the sky is black. Yeah, that’s what tells me I’m on the Moon. It’s not the lower gravity, that’s just a pleasure. The weight on my chest is less and my useless muscles don’t have to work so hard.
The thing is they didn’t mention it during training. I suppose those career guys who’d been up to orbit lots of times didn’t think of it. Perhaps they weren’t allowed the time to just stare out of the windows of the space station. Me, well, when I’m turned away from the Sun and see all the stars on that black background it still takes my breath away. That’s probably not a good way of putting it. A break in my breathing would set off all sorts of warning alarms and have the monitor reprimand me for wasting time – time we haven’t got.
I’m outside for almost all my ten-hour shift, keeping an eye or more accurately a few brain cells, on the drills and the rock shifting kit, making small adjustments here and there, occasionally taking control of the waldos and really moving stuff. I love it. I feel useful for the first time in my life. Useful and important.  When I hand over to one of the others I feel as if I’m giving up a part of my body. In some ways, I am.
Yesterday, when I got back from my shift there was a celebration going on. Li told me all about it. We’re friends. She’s so like me; in abilities if not looks or personality. The fuss was over the completion of Cavern 1. Now they can start filling it with all the kit they’ve been hauling up from Earth. That gear will make this place self-sufficient in water, oxygen, metals, and lots of other stuff. The bosses were pleased because the hole was dug ahead of schedule and that was all down to our team.
Soon we’ll finish Cavern 2. It’ll be great to start filling it with the permanent living quarters. The temporary surface pods are cramped and there’s always the chance of a meteor puncturing the skin. The next bunch to come up from Earth will find their cosy apartments all ready for them.  By then the bio domes should be producing real food. I’m looking forward to having something to chew on instead of the concentrated, dried, pre-cooked mush we get from Earth. Once we’ve got our own food supply we can really start calling ourselves colonists.
Some of the guys talk about going home when we’ve finished the heavy work. Not me. Why should I go back to that gravity-well where I can’t move a muscle and I’m treated like a dependent waste of space? Here I’m free and a respected member of the gang. I’d happily see out my life working as a farmer or extending the caverns. Li feels the same. We may pair up and take a shared apartment in Cavern 2; maybe even have kids. I wonder if they would be like us?
Anyway, who really wants to go back to Earth now? It’s not exactly a pleasant place to be these days. The guys who want to go back have family down there so perhaps that gives them a reason. There’s no one down there who wants me back, not when getting food and staying alive is such a struggle, even for people who have the use of their own limbs.
I saw a meteor today. You don’t see them very often because there’s no atmosphere for them to streak through. It caught my eye, well, my camera lens, when it reflected the sunlight. A brief flicker, then it was gone. Thinking about it, perhaps it wasn’t a meteor after all. It wasn’t moving fast enough. Some of the states on Earth don’t like what we’re doing and have threatened to lob a bomb at us. One or two of them still have the capability. That’s why we’re on the “other side” facing away from Earth. Some of the guys are upset that we don’t have a view of Earth but I don’t care. I don’t want to see what we’ve done to that place, or let the bad guys down there have a good view of what we’re doing.
………………..
It was a missile. Li told me that someone she knows in admin said that our defences took it out before it got anywhere near. They’re not expecting many more as they’ve started lobbing nukes at each other down there. That should take their minds off us. Mind you the chances of us getting more supplies look pretty slim. Just like the chances of some of the guys going home.  I’ll just get on with my job managing the machines fitting out Cavern 2. I’m a builder now not a digger.
…………………
That’s it. We’re on our own. The multi-nationals who were behind us don’t exist anymore, like their customers, or most of them anyway. Admin have cut our rations to tide us over until the first crops are ready in a few weeks. It’ll be tough but I don’t need much to eat.
Chatting to Li, she thinks that the company bosses knew this was going to happen. That was why there was such a rush to get the colony set up. She says they used up all their capital to move as much stuff up here as possible in the time that was left. They had to do it without the governments noticing as otherwise their resources would have been commandeered for the patriotic wars.
……………………..
Li and I moved into our new home today. It’s on floor 6, two hundred meters below the surface but handy for the elevators. We’ve got more room than we expected because there’s no more people coming up from down below.  We celebrated with a special dinner – a tube of protein paste saved from yesterday’s ration, re-hydrated rice and a fresh lettuce from our first crop.  Food may be short still, but we’re nice and cosy down here and the solar energy collectors on the surface are 100% as it’s mid-moon day. We selected a view of the surface for our video-screen. Some of the others have selected scenes of Earth relayed by the satellite. I don’t know how they can look at that spoiled place now. It’s not the blue, white and green globe it used to be but a dirty brown ball.
………………….
We had boiled egg today. Okay, Li and I had to share it, but it was a real egg; shell and everything. We spent as much time looking at it as eating it. I had no idea that we’d brought chicken embryos up with us. Once we got the bio pods up the chicks were incubated. Now they’re hens and laying.  We had bread with the egg; real bread made from grain grown in the bio pods. Food is still rationed, probably always will be, but we’re self-sufficient.  Li and I talked about raising a kid. Of course, we can’t actually make a baby by ourselves, not us two, but we’re going to have a chat with the meds.
……………………
We’re going to be a mum and dad!  I supplied the sperm and Li the egg and the cybermeds did the rest. Nine months’ time we’ll have a daughter called Selene. We decided against gen-eng so she’ll be like Li and me. Admin agreed to it. In fact, they suggested it. They need our brains but being immobile we don’t need as much food as the ables. Selene won’t be the first child. Dmitri and Makena are having theirs the traditional way, a few weeks sooner. Admin were delighted. Without the extra people that were expected from Earth we’re a small number. Now that the food situation is easing, they want more mouths to feed, and hands and brains to do the work.
……………………..
I’ve got a new job.  Admin have patched me into the colony’s mainframe. I’m making sure that all the systems are running to plan. I look after the farmbots in the bio pods, energy generation, the foundries extracting metals and making plastics, the water and oxygen extractors, life support, everything really. It’s not just me of course. Li does a shift and there are others like us.  I wonder if the guys who designed the neuro-interface that give us a life, guessed that one day we’d be running the first colony on the Moon. Okay, it’s probably the last as well, but we have a future, which is more than those poor folks on Earth have got.
………………………..
It’s a good job that we can override the default settings. A few of the guys who couldn’t go home to Earth got a bit upset. I had to cut their oxygen. They won’t cause any more problems.
I love this job. It means that I’m on the surface any time I like, looking out through the cameras on the bio pods, the solar collectors and the communications towers. I can see the ragged ridge that surrounds our crater, the grey dust that’s now criss-crossed with the tracks of our machines and I can look up and see the stars in that black sky.
………………………………

Jasmine meets the brides

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

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

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

I hope sense will prevail, but I doubt it.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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Jasmine’s choice

I was wondering whether I should comment on the London terror attack. What can one say?  These things are going to happen because it is impossible to stop every single maniacal fanatic who sets out to kill and maim. Perhaps there are some precautions – bollards at shortish intervals on pavements to prevent rogue drivers having a clear run at pedestrians – but nothing must alter our freedom to live our lives as we wish.

It was the death of the policeman that made me decide to discuss it here.  Coincidentally I have spent sometime this week with police officers.  They are like you and me in that they are all sorts – men, women, short, tall, all types of personality. Although, I don’t think they are exactly like you and me because of their training. I have no doubt that all would follow orders to protect the public and do all they could to bring down an assailant. I help to scrutinise police procedures and behaviour. Now and again, protocols have to be revised and attitudes modified to allow the rest of us to be ourselves but I have a huge respect for the work they do and the manner in which they do it.

Jasmine Frame was a police officer.  How she measures up can be gleaned from the stories I write. I haven’t tried to make her a paragon of public service. We’ve reached the last episode of Darkroom. At least I think it is the last episode. What do you think? Gosh, how I’d like some response.

The Brides’ Club Murder is available as e-book and paperback.  Get it if you like relatively cosy whodunnits, this one with a trans twist.

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Darkroom: Part 9

Jasmine lay beside Angela, listening to her soft purring as she slept. Her mind wouldn’t rest. The events of the evening kept on repeating in her mind – the attack on her and Diana, and the fate of their assailant. At some point, when a grey light was already filtering though the curtains, she drifted into sleep but the same thoughts reappeared in her dreams.
She stood on a railway line as a train approached her. It was a steam train which she knew was odd but nevertheless she was unable to move as it roared towards her through a cloud of steam and smoke. The train was upon her when she flinched and woke up.
‘Are you alright?’ Angela asked. Jasmine saw her looking at her with a worried look. ‘A nightmare?’
Jasmine gave her a reassuring smile. ‘Yes. It’s gone now.’
‘Good. I’m ready for breakfast. We didn’t get a lot to eat last night.’
It hadn’t occurred to Jasmine that she hadn’t eaten for a long time but now her stomach let her know it was empty.
‘Me too.’  The need for food overcame her desire to stay in the cosy bed with her arms wrapped around Angela. They got up, showered, dressed and headed down to the street and the café attached to the hotel.
Jasmine and Angela sat opposite each other, eating their sausages and fried eggs; not talking. Eventually Angela put her fork down and spoke.
‘What do you want to do today. Sightseeing or shopping?’
‘Hmm.’ Jasmine was non-committal.
‘You do want to stay tonight and go to the other place? You said you wanted to visit a straight club.’
‘That’s what I said. I was looking forward to dancing to some great music and to being just one tranny amongst lots of real girls.’
‘And real boys,’ Angela added. ‘You realise that they’ll be eyeing us up – two unattached girls.’
‘Yes, I know.’  Jasmine hadn’t been sure she wanted the attention of a young man, with spunk in his balls. Now she was sure she didn’t. ‘Look, I’m sorry, after last night. . .’
‘You don’t want to.’ Angela gave her a sad smile. ‘Don’t worry Jas. I understand. After what you went through, I don’t think I’d be in the mood for another night in a dark, noisy, sweaty shed packed with hormonal kids. I don’t think I am anyway.’
‘I’m sorry. It was supposed to be our weekend of R and R.’
‘Well, we can have that. It doesn’t have to be here and involve dance clubs.’
Jasmine nodded.
Angela began to move. ‘Let’s check out, go home and relax there. We might even get something back on the hotel room.’
Jasmine felt a weight falling from her and she realised that she had been anxious about the proposed second night out even though it had been top of her list of things to do when they planned their weekend. She stood up, took Angela’s hand and headed back to their hotel room.
It was a dull, wet morning when James reached the small police station he was currently assigned to.  He let himself in, not surprised to find he was the first to arrive. He took his uniform jacket from the metal locker and then sat down at the station computer. Once he’d put in his six-letter password he was into the system. There were a couple of emails and some general notices which he ignored and started to delve into incident reports. He didn’t have access to the Metropolitan Police records but having sifted through numerous request for information on missing persons he found what he was looking for.  It was a request for help in identifying the body of a male, late 30s/early 40s. found on a railway in south-east central London. James was sure it was the incident that the station worker had referred to.  The time that was stated looked right, early hours of Saturday morning, but there were few other details other than a brief description. He was white with short dark hair and he wore a black overcoat over black trousers, a black jacket and a black shirt.  James could see the figure in his memory, a dark shadow, held between the two club bouncers; a bloody patch in the middle of his pale face. It wasn’t conclusive but James was sure that the body belonged to Diana’s and her attacker.  The report didn’t give an exact location of where the body was found but it appeared to be less than a mile from The Engine Shed. The report said there was no identification on the body, no wallet, phone or anything.
James was certain now that Debs had made good her promise that the attacker wouldn’t trouble them again. James trembled at the apparent nonchalance with which she and her guards had disposed of the troublesome man, obviously confident that the body couldn’t be linked to the club.
‘Hi, Jim. Early this morning.’
James jumped at the gravelly voice of Sergeant Wilkes. He had enough presence of mind to close the tab and turn around.
‘Morn’ Kev. Just checking the reports.’
‘Good lad. A pretty quiet weekend. A couple of drunk lads broke a window in the newsagent in the High Street on Saturday night was all. We can take a walk down there now. Check things over.’
‘Oh, yes, of course.’ James stood up and went to get the standard issue coat that was needed given the weather.
‘You have a good weekend off?’ the older officer asked as he too pulled on his coat.
‘Yes, thanks. A good rest.’
‘A rest? Why do you youngsters need a rest. You’ve only just got married, haven’t you?’
‘Six months ago.’
‘Well, there you are.’
The sergeant continued his gentle joshing as they left the station unattended and started their stroll up the small town high street.
James was home before Angela, after his shift. He paced around the living room debating furiously with himself about what he should or should not do. When the door opened and Angela entered he rushed to her and grabbed her shoulders.
‘It was him, I’m sure of it!’
Angela extricated herself from his arms and took off her coat.
‘Who was?’
‘The body on the railway line. It was the man who attacked me and Diana.’
‘You’re certain?’
‘Not one hundred percent, but I’ve seen the Met reports, well, a part. The description of the body matches him, but they have no way of identifying him unless they get a DNA match.’
Angela shrugged, ‘So?’
James slumped onto the old sofa. ‘It’s my duty as a citizen let alone a police officer to tell them what I know.’
‘You don’t know who he is.’
‘But I know how he got onto the railway line.’
‘No, you don’t. You’re guessing. They could have dumped him outside the club and he made his own way across the lines.’
‘Was he in a fit state to do that? I’d bashed his face in and knocked him out. Do you think Deb’s guys just escorted him to the exit and said goodbye?’  James’ heart was racing and his breath was coming in gasps.
Angela glared down at him. ‘So, you want to tell the police that Debs and her guards murdered this man by putting him on the tracks in the path of a train.’
‘If they hadn’t killed him first.’
Angela sat beside him and took his hand. ‘There, you don’t know what happened after Debs took him away. You know if you report what happened to you and Diana, Debs and the guards will be arrested and probably charged with murder, and your, our, part in it will come out too. Do you want that?’
James shook his head, his chest heaving. ‘No.’
‘Well, say nothing and nothing will happen.’
James looked at his wife, the kind, loving girl he’d known and adored for years. ‘How can you be so cool when the guy is dead?’
Angela scowled. ‘Because he was a total shit. He attacked you and Diana. Goodness how many others he’s raped or intended to. I’m glad there’s one fewer of people like him on the planet.’
James stared at her, amazed at her depth of feeling, her cold attitude to a murder.
‘They could find my DNA on is body. I headbutted him, twice. There could be Diana’s on him too.’
‘You’re the police officer. Is that likely?  They have a mystery body apparently mangled by a train. I don’t think a bloodied nose will mean much. They’ll try to identify him from his DNA, dental records, whatever. Perhaps he’ll be reported missing or someone will come forward to identify him, perhaps not. Whatever happens I can’t see the police taking a great interest in another railway death, whether its suicide or a gangland killing as the guy at the station said.’
James said nothing but breathed deeply and thought. Angela was right. It would mean the end of his career if it was revealed that he was Jasmine and he admitted his part in the man’s demise.
Angela squeezed his hand. ‘Leave it. Let it sort itself out. I know you want to do the right thing. In this case this is it.’
James gave her a thin smile. He had relied on her support from the moment they first met and now she was giving him the strength to put this dilemma to one side and get on with their lives together. He felt himself again in the dark room with the man’s hands groping up his thighs. Probably, he’d never forget that moment when he had to decide to be a victim or to fight, nor would the knowledge that the attacker had been disposed of ever leave him. They were part of his history, Jasmine’s history.
…………………..the end.

Jasmine -new novel

People are arriving at the Ashmore Lodge Hotel for a weekend of transgender fun. A body is discovered. Jasmine Frame is asked to join the gathering, incognito, to seek out the killer. Time is short and she finds she has to face her own gender prejudices as well as a host of motives for murder.

Layout 1The 3rd Jasmine Frame novel, The Brides’ Club Murder is now available on Amazon Kindle (if you’re in the UK go here). It’s a classic murder mystery with a transgender slant.

The paperback version will be available very soon (in the UK) at £9.99 (inc. p&p).  Send your order  to paintedladiesnovel@btinternet.com . Details of payment methods will be made by reply (cheque, Paypal or bank transfer).

Special offers

For 48 hours from 8 a.m. Sat. 4th March, the 2nd Jasmine Frame novel, Bodies By Design isLayout 1 for sale at under half price in the UK and US. (here  for UK buyers)

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Purchasers of the paperback version of The Brides’ Club Murder will receive a free copy of Painted Ladies, the 1st in the series. (or have £1 off if you say you do not need another copy).

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Don’t forget that there are also two novellas available as e-books – Discovering Jasmine and Murder In Doubt.

discovering jasmine final coverMurder in doubt cover

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And so on with the current Jasmine Frame story, Darkroom. We’ve reached episode 6. Warning – this passage contains violent scenes.

Darkroom: Part 6

Jasmine squinted and held her hand up to shield her eyes. She couldn’t see the speaker. The powerful light dazzled her and she felt unsteady. Her heart rate increased, readying her for flight but she wasn’t prepared for the fist that slammed into the side of her head. She staggered, felt the low arm of a sofa against her knee and fell full length on to the soft vinyl-covered cushions. Before she could use her hands to push herself up, a knee thrust into the small of her back. She twisted her head, gasping for breath. Her right cheek bone throbbed. The light was somewhere behind her but she still couldn’t see her attacker. Her wrists were grabbed and dragged behind her back. She felt a cord being tied around them, pulled tight. She cried with pain.
‘Cry all you like,’ the voice said from behind her head. ‘You can’t be heard with all that row outside.’ With an extra shove into the sofa she was released from the weight. She shuffled her legs around until she could sit up with her arms bound behind her. The figure in the shadows holding the torch was returning from the door to the room. Jasmine guessed that she was now locked in with him.  She trembled but made herself breathe slowly and deeply to calm her fear. The light approached again, the bearer lost in the darkness. The focus of the torch moved away from her eyes, travelling down her body. It passed up and down as if scanning her as his eyes no doubt were.
‘A pretty thing, aren’t you,’ he said in that same soft, confident voice. ‘Quite the fashion kitten too with that dress. But I bet underneath it all there’s a cock. After all, why else would you be here.’
The light came closer, dazzling her eyes again. A hand gleamed pinkly as it reached out towards her legs. He was wearing latex gloves. Jasmine tried to wriggle herself further back onto the sofa, squeezing her knees together. The hand landed on her right knee, gripping it, then pushing between her thighs. She resisted, clamping her muscles against the questing fingers.
‘Now darling, there’s no point resisting,’ he said. ‘You can make this easy for yourself or you can get hurt.’
She half relaxed, as if accepting his reasoning. She was thinking hard but unsure what to do. She wasn’t going to let him do to her what he did to Diana. The hand moved higher up her thigh. The torch was lowered to the floor and the right hand joined the left between her legs. Jasmine allowed herself a smile. Through the red spots in front of her eyes, she now could see the silhouette of the man bending over her, inching closer as his hands continued their exploration of her smooth thighs.
‘Oh, that’s a pity,’ he said in a voice that oozed disappointment. ‘Why aren’t you wearing stockings? Don’t all you trannies like sexy undies?’
Both hands progressed up the legs of her tights. Now he was astride her, leaning over her. She could feel his breath on her face and a smell of mint. The hands reached her groin.
‘All tucked away are we? You’re making life difficult. Oh well, if needs must.’
The hands withdrew from her private place and parted, moving over the top of her thighs. They slid around her hips reaching up for the waistband of her tights. Jasmine waited, holding her breath. His fingers slipped inside the stretched elastic. For a moment he was trapped. This was her moment.
She raised her left knee, fast. It made contact between his legs, encountering something soft. He let out a gasp and his head lowered. Pushing against her bound arms with all the force she could summon, Jasmine swung her head forward. Her forehead contacted his nose. She heard it crack, as he let out a cry and fell forward. She twisted to the side and they rolled together along the sofa, his hands still locked in her knickers; but she was on top now. In the dim light cast from the torch that lay on the floor, she saw his head below her. She arched her back and brought her forehead down on his nose again. This time there was a satisfying squishy noise of bone and tissue being mashed together.  He grunted.
Jasmine brought her right knee up between them and forced herself away from him. His hands were dragged from her hips. She slipped onto the floor, rolled away and rose to her feet. She was panting and her forehead felt sore. He was struggling up from the sofa, one hand protecting his battered face, the other reaching out for her.
‘You’ve had it now.’ His voice was different now. Speaking nasally through the pain of his ruined nose, he was angry. He lurched to his feet.
Jasmine kicked the torch away. It spun around illuminating the floor and bottoms of the furniture. It was light enough to see her attacker staggering, zombie-like towards her.  She took a step back out of his reach and launched a kick.  The pointed toe of her shoe stabbed into his groin. As her foot withdrew, he groaned again and fell forward. She helped him down with a stamp to his back with her narrow heel. He hit the hard, rubber floor with his ruined face. Jasmine swung and launched a final kick at his head. There was a final groan and he lay still.
Jasmine stood still breathing heavily, looking down at him.
‘That’s for what you did to Diana,’ she muttered. She turned and walked towards the door. Turning her back she felt for the door handle with her tied-together hands. Below the knob was the key which he had not had the foresight to remove. She had to twist her body until she could get the leverage to unlock the door and then turn the handle. She pulled the door open and ran into the next room.
‘Help me,’ she cried, ‘I’ve been attacked.’
Several bodies stirred in the shadows. Movement revealed naked limbs, buttocks, faces and other parts of bodies. Eyes widened as their owners observed her.
‘What’s that, love?’ a deep voice said. It was owned by a tall, slim figure in a sparkling silver dress that just about covered her genitalia.
‘Help me, please,’ Jasmine repeated. ‘My hands are tied.’ She turned to reveal her bound wrists.
‘What the fuck?’ the TV said approaching her. She bent down and fiddled ineffectually with the knots. Others joined her, leaning in to examine her.  A few knives of various types and sizes appeared from handbags. One was used to start sawing at her bonds.
‘What happened, darling?’
‘Is that your blood on your face?’
‘Where is he?’
‘Is there BDSM in that room?’
The voices were all round her. She strained against the bindings.
‘Quickly please. He’s in there.’
Her hands came free. She felt her shoulders relax as she brought her hands to her front and she rubbed the wrists. She pushed herself through the crowd around her and ran back to the door to the room where she had been attacked. Taking the key from the lock, she closed the door and turned the key on the other side, locking the room with him still in it.
Jasmine held the key between her fingers thinking she would drop it into her bag, then realised that she didn’t have it, or her phone. It must be somewhere inside the room with the sex maniac.
She turned and ran across the room. The occupants stood and stared.
‘I’ve got to find Angela and Debs,’ she said to no-one in particular.  She found a door that opened onto the dance hall. The noise of the music knocked her back but she saw a figure in a long gown and towering wig standing on the stage roaring into a microphone – the live entertainment. The floor around the stage was packed. Jasmine forced her way between the hot, sweaty bodies of the clubbers dancing and swaying to the singing and hollering their appreciation of the drag artiste.
She reached the stage and saw the golden silhouette of Debs standing beside a tower of loudspeakers.  She pushed through the crowd until she was at Debs’ side. The compere stared at her.
‘I’ve got him,’ Jasmine bellowed at her.
‘What?’ Debs roared back.
‘Diana’s attacker. He attacked me. I’ve locked him in one of the rooms.’
‘You’ve what?’
Jasmine leaned towards Debs and shouted directly into her ear.
‘The guy who attacked Diana is locked in a room.’
Debs mouth opened, stayed open for seconds then closed. She turned so her lips were against Jasmine’s ear.
‘Let’s deal with him.’  She grabbed Jasmine’s hand and dragged her off through the dancers. The crowd parted to let them through but they were heading towards the entrance and away from the quiet rooms.
‘Where are we going?’ Jasmine cried out.
‘To collect my security guys.’
…………………… to be continued.

Jasmine opens a door

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

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

Darkroom: Part 4

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