[Music treat at the end. This story will be posted in full after the Challenge for those of us that like to read everything in one complete telling,]
UNDERMINE – Tuesday Midday
Unarmed, unaware and useless. My decisions. Why come here? Unsound understanding of my tattoos.
Kama’s tongue traces the heart where only she goes. Licks her way inside. Inviting me inside her.
I’ve betrayed her. Making love is impossible now. Even if my brain wasn’t scrambled.
“You’re distracted, cariad. Why? Your grandparents’ disapproval? They don’t know. Adjoining rooms don’t mean we’re lovers – even if we are.”
Peaceful sounds. Sheep. A tractor.
But nothing is normal now.
“My grandparents suspect – but don’t want to know. But I’m doubting myself. Stupidly blaming my tattoos–”
” -which have always led to the right conclusion.”
Shake my head. Crush her pillows.
“Only when I unscramble their weirdness.”
Each tattoo is a watershed moment in my life – becoming a goth, my first girlfriend, that first heartbreak. Culminating in our secret hearts. But upheavals – always.
Passion postponed, I dress in black – jeans, T-shirt and Doc Martens. Focus on positives. Ignore the pounding in my head.
Undetected. We can still thwart the Swedes and their NWP informer.
Outside, an ultramarine Land Rover Discovery draws up. We go downstairs and greet Uthyr Varley.
“Glad you got the coded message, sir.”
“Uthyr, please. Especially as this is unofficial – and you two are presumed dead. ‘Unacceptable fatalities’, the Chief Constable stated to the media.”
“Best if Sparkle and I remain dead until we’ve outwitted the suspects. Undercover and unseen beyond here. How much has the Marine unit uncovered so far?”
Without the involvement of the North West Police Underwater Search and Marine Unit, I know that NWP is in an unwinnable situation.
We sit on the wooden bench outside, overlooking a view I will always love. Mountains speckled with sheep.
“Forensics identified the explosive used from the wreckage recovered by Messrs. Thomas and Pugh as untagged Semtex – used primarily in blasting.”
“Traceable?” I suspect not, even if the Chief Constable is alerted.
“No resources, I’m afraid. We’re tracking the cargo you raised and tagged. The four containers are still on the yacht Njörðr Hämnaren in a marina between Llandudno and Conwy. No attempt has been made to unload them. What do you suspect is in them?”
Our dilemma. My unease. “Unsure at present.”
A white Peugeot 308 pulls into the farmyard and parks by the new farmhouse built for my grandparents and mother.
Uthyr looks at his watch. “Ffion Baines on time as usual.”
Our DI points down to the llyn – the lake that gives the farm its name: Tyn-y-llyn. The lake where I learnt to swim – and we still do.
“Coffee, tea and gossip can wait. Today it’s urgent that we unmask whoever betrayed my officers. Ugly prejudice taken to unacceptable lengths. But why?”
“Money,” says Uthyr. “usually the ulterior motive.”
M for Money. P for Prejudice. Unlikely. We are missing the reason.
“Anyone behaving unexpectedly?” asks Kama. “The team must be devastated – or should be.”
“When officers die, everyone pulls together. United – as we are in Porthmadog. Wiley Yates and Vivian Utkin volunteered to investigate your murders. I gave them access to some – but not all – of your files.”
Who do we trust? Wiley knows our secret and understands. Vivian is an unknown.
U for Understands and Unknown.
Her surname Utkin is familiar. From where? Another case? A chill. My stomach seethes. Like my mind. Shredded, ever since the explosion.
“Pia Pilkvist said something in Swedish before attempting to kill us. Kama?”
“It sounded like ‘larger victory’ as if they had accomplices elsewhere acting underhand–”
“–like in other police forces,” says Uthyr.
Silence. Even the sheep are unvoiced.
“Or it was another attempt to undermine us – sow doubt.” I shake my head. “But it makes no sense killing us then.”
K for Kill. V for Victory and Volunteers. A for Accomplices and Anxious. T for Traitor and Threats.
KVAT means nothing. My tattoos are failing us.
“We have grounds to arrest the Pilkvists,” says Ffion, tensing her shoulders. “I’m desperate as they intended to kill you both. But I can’t until we’ve uncovered their informer and other accomplices.”
Our safety requires uncertainty. Remaining hidden. Blood from chewing my lips. Gritted teeth instead. Not inactive if we want to lure them out. Think. Untangle my mess.
“Thwarted.” Uthyr clasps his hands behind his head. “I’ve asked HMRC if they have grounds to seize the canisters, but they were inside UK waters when raised. Nothing to point conclusively to their overseas origin. Too circumstantial. But we’re primed to respond.”
“And if they contain drugs or worse?” My skull vibrates. Just tight. Weak. “Time was imperative, they said. Why?”
T for Time. V for Victims.
Head spinning. Brain swamped. As my knees fail, I remember. “Väktare. Pia said Lagens väktare.”
Falling. Where’s Kama?
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And now for something completely different.
“Music hath charms to soothe a savage breast, to soften rocks, or bend a knotted oak.” William Congreve – The Mourning Bride