Azure Spark – Act One

As promised, I am posting Azure Spark, my A to Z short story/novella in one easy to read post – well, three so it’s not so unwieldy.

This is version 2 as I’ve made some corrections, primarily adding specific dates, correcting when the Aberdaron Regatta is, and amending two sub-threads.

Please read and enjoy Azure Spark, and then let me know if this works as a standalone piece, or do you need more ‘backstory’. Should this be part of a novel or not? A prequel to the main event?

Anyway, be thrilled and entertained. (And here’s some of the music I work by.)

Azure Spark

July 2015

Act One

ASSAULT – Sunday 19th July – Midday

Appalling abrasions are more than I expected from the headlines – Another Aberdaron Assault.

But not from our photos.

I wince. Muscles clench. Concentrate.

The victim’s face shows signs of deep scratches like claws as well as multiple angry bruises as if he was beaten up. More than the two bloodied and black eyes. Arms. Shoulders. Legs. Aggravated assault.

He is asleep. Or worse. Breathe.

Has he regained consciousness, doctor?”

“Not since he was brought in, Detective Anwyl. We treated his injuries as best we could, but he remains in this coma. I will inform NWP when he regains consciousness.”

Another Aberdaron Assault. Those attention-grabbing headlines missed that detail. The reporter ran with ‘second man found assaulted on the beach at Aberdaron’. But even the North Wales Police has minimal information. Two unidentified athletic men in their twenties sprawled comatose on Aberdaron beach.

“And the other victim?”

The doctor gestures across the corridor where a Police Community Support Officer is stationed.

“The same. They’ve both received serious blows to the head.”

I nod. Amnesia when they regain consciousness is my fear. “Where are their clothes?”

He points to a neat pile on the shelf. “Your forensic team examined them, I believe. Removed some. Ask the senior nurse if you need additional medical information. I have more patients requiring my attention.”

The doctor leaves. Little I can do here until the two men regain consciousness. My tattoos are tingling.

A for Aggravated Assault and Attire.

Clothes. Nothing unusual. Except the jeans have a dark stain. Blood? Darker – the colour of my biking leathers. Black. Tar? Although forensics will have removed any evidence, I need to visit the crime scene at Aberdaron. Bike across to the end of the Llŷn Peninsula. Find what I can. This was aggravated assault and my tattoos confirm my suspicions. What connects these two men?

I finger my bracer, tapping on its studs. A for Assault. C for Coma. F for Forensics. E for Evidence. T for Tar. FACET or FATE.

Clench my teeth. I must control my future – my life.

The PCSO relaxes as I approach. “I was hoping another female officer would be assigned to the case. Some of our male colleagues demand too much.”

“Agree. I just need you to watch both victims while I investigate – and report anything suspicious to me.” I hand her my card. “Or my partner – her number is on the back.”

Outside Bangor hospital, I check-in with the case’s supervisory officer, Detective Sergeant V Kamatchi Pillai.

Breathe slowly. Deep. Remain professional – like she does so well.

“Both victims are still unconscious. The doctor will inform us when they are awake.”

A sigh. Perhaps a smile.

“But you have a hunch, Sparkle. Your tattoos again?”

I smile. Kama knows me so well. Her voice is as dark and sultry as her looks. My blood races. I close my eyes. Focus on the case not my lover.

“Yes. I’m going to Aberdaron. To the crime scene – to the beach.”

Not our special Morfa Bychan beach. But later. Once I’m home with her.

BLOOD – Sunday 19th July – Afternoon

Beautiful beaches have two facades. One under an azure sky invites tourists and recreation. The other wild and electrifying like the storm.

Was that when the victims were both tossed up here? The sea was turbulent on Friday, and waves battered the shoreline. In local harbours numerous boats were damaged, and a few were sunk.

Eyes closed, I see our beach, the beach where we met. Heart pounds. Blood races. Our beach – where we first challenged biased beliefs. Ffyc prejudice.

Focus. The case calls. Two victims need resolution.

The injuries are violent. But were the two men washed overboard from a ship or attacked on the beach. There was no blood visible at the scene. Washed away? Waves and rocks might have done more damage if the victims had been swept in by the storm.

Steady steps along the shoreline, thinking and looking. Do forensics have everything? Ring them.

“What do we know so far, Liam? I’m at the beach now.”

“Still early, DC Anwyl. Too many cases – and we are constantly short-staffed. All we know is that the bodies and clothes were wet from salt water. But we don’t know how the injuries occurred.”

My tattoos tingle. Something is missing. We can’t wait. I need answers.

“The bodies can’t have been in the water for too long in that storm or they would’ve drowned. Agree?”

“That’s likely, especially since the medical report doesn’t show any signs such as hypothermia. But they had been in contact with seawater and the weatherproof gear that we took was saturated.”

W for Weather. B for Blood. S for Seawater.

“What sort of gear?”

“Fishing or sailing clothes. So, the men could’ve been swept off a pier somewhere, although our evidence doesn’t support them being in the sea long.”

Unidentified and not reported missing – yet. Or whoever attacked them was attempting to keep their identities hidden. But without killing them. To gain time for something? Or robbery?

“You left some clothes – jeans and a T-shirt. Why? I detected some dark substance. Tar?”

“We removed the weatherproof gear covering the men and we took fabric samples from their other clothes. Including that substance. Possibly bitumen or some derivative. I’ll let you know. Is that all, detective?”

I let him go and continue my slow pacing along the shoreline. Does the tar mean that the second man was a mechanic or road worker? Or is it from somewhere else? Is it even relevant?

I failed to check the other man’s clothes. Slipping. My throat constricts. Why did I miss that? Who will know? A serious oversight I can rectify.

A family is playing cricket on the beach. I stop and watch. My motorcycling leathers are out of place against their summer seaside attire. Out of place alongside most of my colleagues who dress more formally – except Kama in her Indo-Western pant suits. But her Tamil heritage is an excuse.

“Unusual to see a biker here.” The father smiles at me. “And female ones are even rarer. Do you play cricket?”

“I’m Welsh so I know rugby. But I spend more time in the water.”

“Oh, so you’re a sailor. We try not to miss the local regatta next weekend. Do you sail in that one?”

I’ve forgotten the Aberdaron Regatta weekend. A clue? Like the weatherproof gear our two victims were wearing?

“More of a wild water swimmer. But I might give the regatta some thought.”

W for Wild and Weather. S for Swimming and Sailing. A for Aberdaron. L for Llŷn.

The Llŷn Peninsula has some unique boats that may well use tar or pitch.

C for Clinker-built Craft. C for Caulking,

CLAWS. Like the strange injuries?

COMA – Sunday 19th July – Late Afternoon

“Coma complications?” Not what I want to hear. “Still unconscious?”

The doctor is quick to clarify. “No, they’re awake but confused. It may not be worth you coming back in – at least not again today. I’ll tell your uniformed colleague to call you.”

“Can they talk? What have they said?” My tattoos stab me. I dread his reply.

“Nothing significant. They are rambling and can’t even remember their names and I would prefer that they are not pressured into remembering. My preliminary diagnosis is retrograde amnesia. They have both lost a substantial proportion of their declarative memory, especially their autobiographical recollections.”

He launches into a detailed description of how the brain functions. Enough for me to know they have post-traumatic brain injuries from a blow to the head. Concussion.

Unravelling their identities is my task. Heart beats quicken. My case, my challenge.

“Keep me informed of their condition, doctor. I’ll ring if I discover anything. We have created composite images from the photos that forensics took. Somebody will know who they are.”

Mobile off, I consider the best course. Calm the clamour of scenarios. Alone is best – or with Kama. She must wait.

Aberdaron is a small village although tourists swell the numbers, but someone might recognise our two men.

St Hywyn’s Church sits just above the beach, but its congregation has dispersed. Sunday. My tad said, ‘crime never sleeps – even during Chapel’. Like today. Faith challenges convictions.

Is that why I head across the road to the pubs?

One seems more frequented by the locals and I approach the bar.

“Myrica Gale,” I say in Welsh, hoping they stock the seasonal stout. I’m on-duty but who is going to report me.

The barman smiles and pours me a pint. “Perfect Welsh but not local. Nor a tourist. Journalist?”

I chuckle. “Heddlu.”

His brows lift. “Not your average copper, more like a biker chick. Investigating the assaults?”

“I’m impressed, but publicans are a sharp lot. First, I need to identify them.” I call up the photos on my smart phone and show him. “Do you know them? Either of them?”

He shakes his head. “Never seen them before, and nobody seemed to know them when the bodies were found. I don’t think they were even tourists.”

Not what I want to hear, but there are no easy cases. That’s the challenge – the charge to my life.

“I also need to find a local boat builder – clinker boats.”

“Our Aberdaron beach boats, not many of those left. Even fewer builders. You’re best asking at the Porth y Swnt Visitor Centre – they have one of the boats there. And they might have a list of builders.”

With his directions, I find the centre and the clinker-built exhibit.

A guide approaches me.

“Beautiful boat,” she says in English.

I detect her lilt and reply in our mutual tongue. “Clinker built. She must be old. Are there many builders left?” I show her my warrant card.

Relief floods her face. “I expected you to be a tourist. Sorry. I’ve never met a police woman like you.” Her blushing face appeals, but it’s not attraction. “Over 100 years old and there are very few builders. Most of the boats are restored in Porth Meudwy, but this exhibit was restored at Felin Uchaf Educational Centre in Rhoshirwaun near Pwllheli.”

Stay focused. “And are the restoration techniques unchanged? I’m following a lead into boat building.” Attractions are dangerous. But one risk was worthwhile.

“Pretty much traditional. Best to ask the builders themselves, starting with Guto Thomas at Meudwy.”

*

The National Trust track to the cove is closed to the public vehicles but not to me or my motorbike. Clinker built lobster boats on trailers line one side near a single stone cottage. Beyond beside the sea are a couple of old Land Rovers and the tractors for launching the boats including the ferry to Bardsey Island.

I find a man working on a boat – he’s about forty, five foot six, black hair and wiry. Clean Celtic blue coveralls.

“Guto Thomas? I’m DC Anwyl,” My Welsh relaxes him. “The Visitors Centre said you might be able to help.  I’m investigating the Aberdaron assaults and I need to learn about the Aberdaron boats. One of the men may have been building one.”

A long shot but my instinct – my tattoos – have never lied. Maybe they’re misleading if I misread them. Caution is for colleagues. But my head says careless kills.

His dark eyes read me. “Well. our traditional Aberdaron beach boat was clinker built, transom sterned and single masted, and under 15 feet in length so they could be handled by two men.” He pauses but I don’t curb his enthusiasm. “Each one was slightly different as they were built specifically for the individual fisherman who would be using them. We only restore them now…although there a few replicas. Not the real boat.”

Memorise the details. My tattoos cry ‘continue’.

“Do you all use traditional materials in the restoration? Pitch or tar for instance.”

“Most do, but some take short cuts – not that a layman would notice. I still use pitch over the caulking. Others use the modern alternatives. You suspect a builder was involved?”

“One of the victims might have been in contact with pitch.” I hand him my smartphone with the photos.

Guto studies the two guys. “These guys asked my advice as they wanted to rebuild an old lobster boat, one of them had bought.”

“Did they give their names or where they were from?”

“Not local but from the Llŷn – Nefyn area. They said they were… Ellis Evans and Vic Vaughn.”

Fairly common names but a valuable step forward.

“Did they come here more than once? When did you last see them?”

He glances at a chandler’s calendar. “Last week, on Monday. I showed them how to seal the hull with caulking and pitch.”

A sigh. Relief my tattoo hunch works.

P for Pitch. But no motive for A for Assault – or A for Accident. Minimal evidence and confused victims. E for Evidence. C for Confusion.

PACE. Never waver. Dig deeper.

“Were they far enough advanced with the boat to try to launch during the week – before the storm?”

Guto shakes his head. “Impossible. They were slow workers. Enthusiastic but amateurs who might have ignored the storm warnings. But they said they had to go to Cardiff for a midweek deep-water diving course.”

Cardiff is almost 200 miles from Aberdaron. Did they go on the course?

As a wild swimmer, I know about the dangers of diving. Decompression?

DEATH’S DOOR – Sunday 19th July – Evening

Diving dangers are numerous and as many as driving too fast along the curving Welsh roads back to Porthmadog. Most can be avoided with less haste and with the correct training.

Speed feeds my adrenaline desire. Directed.

Is discipline why the two guys went on a deep-water course in Cardiff? Which course?

When I reach CID, I report my thoughts.

“If our victims were on a diving course in Cardiff, it should be possible to discover which centre and when they finished.”

Kama agrees to contact her former SWP colleagues.

“A friend from the Pontypridd station is now with a Cardiff division, so will do me a favour.”

A twinge of jealousy. Broken breath. Burning stomach.

But friend means working relationship. Like the demeanour we display for our colleagues. Do any of them really know or suspect? Unlikely. We’ve tried to be discreet.

“While you make the call, I’ll check if there any responses to our public request for information on the photos we released of the two guys.”

I scan the feed-back. I weed out the helpful-unhelpful suggestions that we usually receive. Not quite hoaxes but well-meaning time wasters. However, there are two confirming what I learnt from Guto Thomas, that the two men were from the Nefyn area. But three others claim that the men were from Dolgellau.

Were our victims using aliases? Who are they? Were their reasons for attending a diving course coincidental?

The sea has her moods. She needs to be treated with deference. Restoring a boat and learning how to dive responsibly are decisive moves.

I shiver. Close my eyes. Death awaits us if we make mistakes in the wild water. Invigorating yet powerful. Waves break over me as I drive my path forwards. Thrills. Diving is another step I should embrace more. The deep-sea depths tempt me. Warm shivers up my spine.

A shared smile.

“My friend received confirmation from one of the South Wales training centres that Ellis Evans and Vic Vaughn were on a two-day Advanced Open Water course from Wednesday.”

“Before the storm. Did they complete the course?”

“Yes. They had already done a weekend. So, all phases were completed, including the final deep-water assessment in Saint Bride’s Bay. We were lucky that the course trainer took the call from my friend and the trainer said that Evans and Vaughn left with a couple in a 4 x 4 on Thursday evening.”

“Any description of the driver?”

“A middle-aged couple. The woman driver was described as exotic. The 4 x 4 had sign-writing – Göteborg Electric Engineers.”

I squeeze Kama’s hand across our linked desks as she leans forward and hands me her notepad.

On it are the details from South Wales, including the company name. Plus, a red heart. Our smiles will have to last us until we are in bed at home.

Focus.

I enter the search for our lead. Minimal Internet presence, just an address in Caernarfon.

E for Electric and Engineers. A for Aliases and Assault. D for Diving and Dangers. G for Göteborg.

EGAD for the English. But for us Welsh, GAED. Am I on the edge of a discovery?

ESCALATION – Monday 20th July – Early Morning

Entwined in each other’s embrace starts a hectic day, equipping us with the energy to cope with the traumas dug up at CID. Our Aberdaron assault case is bogged down with confused victims, inflicting identities, and other cases taking precedence. Most are evaluated – by money powers – as more ‘exigent’.

Results that use less resources. Austerity 101. Ffyc restraints. My case means my rules.

We have found no addresses in the Nefyn area for the two men, and their occupations remain vague. Evidence is elusive.

While Kama rides her Ducati motorbike into Porthmadog, I ride my Ninja to Caernarfon, heading for the address of Göteborg Electric Engineers.

The unit is on an industrial estate that exposes the decline in UK industry. Rust and decay. Boarded up windows, chained gateways, abandoned cars, and a few thriving businesses. GEE is not one of them.

The weeds cracking the concrete steps are the healthiest evidence of life. Yet, the iron mesh gateway is wide open despite the other signs the business is dead.

Heart sinking, tattoos jangling, I park the bike then try the front entrance. Nothing – as expected.

I check the windows and side doors. Nothing. My heart ebbs. I grit my teeth. Another dead end.

I walk back to my bike, intending to report in.

A delivery van pulls up by the unit, and the driver carries a large box to the front door, then leaves. Does he know the unit is abandoned? What were his instructions – if any?

I check the package, but there are no indications of what it is. A 2x4x5 shipping box. The only clue are two labels. One shows the sender’s address – GEE in Sweden, who must know their UK subsidiary’s correct address. The second is a FRAGILE – FREIGHT label.

My tattoos warn me to leave so I drive to a position from where I observe the building. Report in as I watch.

“This address for GEE is an abandoned unit. But a van has just made a delivery as if it will be collected. Number plate and details memorized. I’ll wait and see. Smiles.”

Time drags with background traffic noise and seagulls. Beach noises win. Visions of sand and beautiful shells.

My mobile rings. The PCSO on-duty at the hospital.

“We endeavoured to stop him, but Ellis Evans checked himself out without giving us a clear idea of where to reach him. Vic Vaughn is still here and making no sense. If he attempts to leave in similar circumstances, I will attempt to dissuade him more effectively. I’m sorry I let you down.”

“You didn’t. Nobody knew that he would do that. I’ll make sure we locate him.”

Diolch. I believe that with your reputation.”

Ellis Evans – the man whose clothes I failed to check. My stomach tenses – twists. Too late now. Forensics should have done their job anyway.

I close my eyes. Another fail DI Ffion Baines will struggle to explain to the Chief Constable.

The sound of a vehicle turning into the unit’s yard pulls me back to my stakeout. It’s a Skoda Octavia Estate 4 x 4 with GEE signage. The driver gets out and retrieves the package. She’s tall, elegant and athletic, 5’11” – fitting the exotic description the diving trainer gave our SWP colleague.

“Package retrieved. Following vehicle and suspect matching SWP description. Will send photo of licence plate. Track me please, cariad.”

The 4 x 4 is unaware of the tail and leads me to an industrial park on the outskirts. Smarter, newer, flourishing businesses, including the North Wales offices of GEE. Security is evident everywhere, from CCTV to guards.

What is being protected? GEE hardly registered in our checks. No alerts. No criminal records. No evidence of felonious intent. Who are they?

F for Freight, Felony and Fragile. G for Göteborg. E for Electronics and Ellis Evans. Plus, Escalation and Evasion. I for Identity and Instructor.  N for Nefyn and Nowhere.

FEIGN. Who is attempting to deceive us? Someone is playing games and my tattoos say we are not the Home team nor is this Eirias Stadium.

FRAUD – Monday 20th July –  Midday

Faking a way inside GEE’s building is as fruitless as forced entry. Nothing illegal has occurred. I have no search warrant and no reason to act on a feeling – even if the tingling tempts me.

Even before I got my first tattoo as a teenage Goth – angel wings across my shoulders – the sensation was a guide to follow or flout with fallout.

Teeth grinding, my report is curt, and I head the bike towards Porthmadog. The speed limit on the A487 is an urge to be challenged. Wind buffeting as I lean into the bends. Blood pumping as the bike roars. Foresight urges I watch out for patrol cars.

I reached CID undetected.

Kama gestures to our Detective Inspector’s office door and signs, ‘Trouble’. I nod and point to the kitchen. Mint tea will help.

Ffion Baines stands up to the Chief Inspector, but there must be a point at which her position is untenable.

We knock then enter, and I bring over Ffion’s mint tea.

“Thanks, Sparkle. A pity the Chief Inspector doesn’t drink a fitting tea. Or even black coffee like you two. I fear your current case is using too many police hours – well, according to our penny counters at HQ. Fatuous when I have my best team unravelling it.”

“So, we’re off the case?”

“No, Kama. They say just one should remain – and working from the office. I have my thoughts, but what do you suggest is the best approach?”

My eyes hold my partner’s. Tears are hiding there. And the answer.

“I will move off the case. Only one person can resolve this – Sparkle. Her mind can fathom this maze.”

Ffion beams at us. “My thoughts exactly. Officially, you will be assigned to another existing case, Kama. DS Wiley Yates needs someone with your contacts assisting him on a fraud investigation. However, I cannot stop you two continuing to discuss this case after hours. That’s impossible when you live together, but I urge caution around this office.”

My stomach groans. Our worst fear – excepting the other’s death.

Who knows? We’ve suspected Ffion ever since she and Marc Anwyl, my tad, persuaded me to join CID. But suspicions would’ve remained in this office.

“Cautious around whom? Kama and I always discuss things quietly.”

“That may be where the snide insinuations began. You’ve both figured I know you’re a couple as your tad did. But we said nothing. You have every right to be lesbians in the NWP, and nobody in this office or station has any right to abuse you for your convictions. I’m just warning you for the sake of your relationship.”

“And Wiley? How will his team react? Not that their frame of mind will stop me.”

“Wiley is firm. You can trust him, but I can’t be sure of everyone he interacts with. Just be careful, please. Thank you.”

Back at our desks, Kama messages me the latest forensic report, then walks over to Wiley’s desk.

My eyes are unable to focus. Fuzzy. Working on the same case was a blessing. The sting in my eyes must be hidden. Even if the pain remains – unless our hours remain similar. Bed, beach and breakfast.

At least she won’t be distracted by Wiley, the office catch – dark, tall and single. The new DC, Vivian Utkin, is welcome to dote on him. Focus.

Forensics confirm that the two victims may have been in the seawater – but not for long. The black substance is pitch and there are traces of timber as in boatbuilding. There are no new leads. Another road block.

I ring the hospital. Vic Vaughn is still behaving confused and now fearful.

“He’s afraid that I want to sedate him,” says the doctor. “But he won’t say why I might do that. A curious case of amnesia might cause such behavioural frustrations, but there are so many variables. The flux following his friend fleeing. Unknown factors.”

Fearful of another lecture, I say, “please let me know as soon as someone can interview him, please.”

“Have you found Ellis Evans?”

“Not yet, Doctor. All our units have been alerted, never fear. I’ll be in touch soon.”

Göteborg Electric Engineers is the only remaining lead.

The Skoda Octavia is one of theirs – a fleet vehicle. No traceable driver.

Ffyc.

Stretch that frayed mind. How was the package sent? We have the delivery company’s details.

I ring them.

“Detective Anwyl, North Wales police here. I need to know about a package delivered to GEE today. We know it originated in Göteborg, Sweden, but please can you tell me where it arrived in Wales? And the contents – were they divulged?”

“I’ll check that, but I will have to call you back. CID where?”

“Porthmadog.”

Always suspicious when we ring, but we could be anybody – even the Fraud Squad. That would be an irony if our case was fraud like Wiley’s. I message my suggestion to Kama. I can visualize the grin.

The phone rings.”Dashiel Gofer here. That package originated for our company at Pembroke Dock in South Wales. I believe that it came off a freighter from Göteborg, over the weekend. The contents were recorded as garden products. Vague, I’m afraid. I do very much hope that I have been of assistance, Detective.”

F for Fraud and Freight. G for Göteborg and Garden. A for Amnesia.

“Very much so, and we always appreciate the help.”

GAFF. From a trick to even nautical meanings. Were the marks made by a metal hook? Whatever the game, there were victims.

Is Göteborg the lead? Or part of the gaff?

GREED – Monday 20th July – Mid-afternoon

Göteborg is well outside my remit, but that won’t stop me. Kama might have Interpol contacts, but gentle persuasion gestures. Garden products will be on the manifest of the correct Scandinavian ship unloaded at Pembroke Dock. And customs will have the details.

The message request to SWP permits me to go direct.

“Detective Anwyl from North Wales Police. I’m checking on some garden products from Göteborg and wondered if you can tell me anymore about them, the ship and the day they arrived. The goods were dispatched to Caernarfon yesterday.”

“I can see what we have, detective. Stay on the line while we check.”

While the music plays, my mind delves into options. Göteborg is one, but gaff as a weapon is another. The forensic report doesn’t mention a weapon, but something caused the injuries and the knock-out blows.

Or does gaff mean, in slang terms, someone divulged a secret. A motive for attempted murder? Is Ellis Evans on the run from his attacker?

“I found your shipment, Detective Anwyl. The products referred to garden gnomes.” My mind spins as he continues. “The freighter from Göteborg docked on Saturday, some hours after the storm.”

Gnomes don’t sound electrical. Glowing eyes? Garden glitter doesn’t justify assault.

“Was the freighter carrying anything of concern to HMRC? Was this the only consignment for Göteborg Electric Engineers?”

A click of a keyboard. “Nothing to alert us. It was a routine import, and the garden gnomes were the only consignment for Göteborg Electric Engineers. Anything else I can do for you, detective?”

Regular shipment or one-time?

“Have there been other goods for GEE in the last few months?”

More keystrokes. “Not for that company. The freighter from Göteborg has docked here once before – last month. Do you need those details? That might take a few minutes. Anything else, detective?”

“You can email them to me at North Wales Police. If I have further questions, I’ll call back. Otherwise, many thanks for your help.”

Close my eyes and tweak threads. Heartbeat growing.

First reaction, drugs. The only thing that might justify assault. Unless I am being led astray. Minimal clues, minimal evidence. One man is missing, and one man is confused – or he is pretending to be that way. No leads on my screen, and my tattoos are silent.

Reverse gear.

I need an excuse to leave the office to interview our remaining victim. But he needs to say something that the penny-pushers class as ‘germane’.

His wounds. Forensics must know something relevant.

“We know there were extensive claw-like wounds on the victims. Do you know what caused them, Liam?”

“An item made of steel, but they are uneven so not a claw-like weapon. We found no sign of anything else that might assist our inquiries into that. Do you have a lead?”

“A theory. A gaff – a steel hook with a handle for landing large fish. Could that have been used?”

The suggestion stumps Liam for a moment.

“Have you found one? Send it over if you have. We need to analyse all possible assault weapons. And a gaff has a stout handle that can be used to hit someone, causing a concussive blow to the head.”

“As I said, it’s a theory. Now a lead that I’ll pursue. Thanks Liam.”

But where? A vague hope that might be a red herring.

Or herring as in the fishes caught by some Aberdaron boats.

Kama walks over to my desk and places a bag beside me, winks, then heads back to where Wiley’s team are gathered. The bag is my lunch that I forgot to buy.

Dates, ham sandwich, and haloumi cheese.

D for Dates and Docks. H for Ham, Haloumi and Holyhead.

Why didn’t a freighter from Göteborg dock further north? Pembroke makes no sense.

Ellis Evans knows perhaps.

I for Injuries and Interview. E for Evasion and Evidence.

HIDE. Is he hiding out of greed or fear? Greed if he doesn’t want to share with Vic Vaughn. Fear if there are people after him – hired hands.

HALESTORM – Tuesday 21st July – Morning

Holyhead hides hindrances I need to fathom. Reasons for the GEE package to go via Pembroke Dock. The harbourmaster confirmed ships from Scandinavia do dock at Holyhead, although more often in Liverpool. Still, a better port for North Wales.

I’m being hoodwinked. Taken in by a bloody herring. My tattoos tingle, and my finger taps my bracer.

N for North Wales. B for Boats. I for Indecision. NIB or BIN.

My coffee is empty, so I leave the café. Walk along the harbour seeking inspiration. Seagulls screech and lorries honk. Hail has driven shoppers inside as missiles hammer wet streets.

Officially, I’m not here – not to the penny pinchers. Damn their interference. They are my biggest hurdle. But it’s my day-off, when I get to relax at home – or power though bends with Kama. But she is on-duty with Wiley – in Holyhead hearing out suspects in the fraud investigation.

Cadging a lift was easy. A chance to be with Kama – for the drive.

So near to the hospital in Bangor, yet miles away. Interviewing Vic Vaughn is still hindered by money counters. Austerity sucks. Ffycin nhw.

The hail lets up. A brief reminder of Friday’s storm. Where was the Swedish freighter during the storm? Further north. Acting normally, even though an online search reveals the freight line and GEE have the same parent company. Harmless? Honest?

The hunch – the stab of tattoos screams guilty. Why?

Lateral moves.

Visualize the coastline. Places to avoid. Rocks. Wreckers in another century. Treacherous areas in the storm. The Llŷn has a few – most notably Hell’s Mouth, or Porth Neigwl.

Valuable cargoes looted. Hijacked.

Smugglers. Defrauding customs.

The drab office block where I meet Kama and Wiley overlooks the thrashing sea.

“We’re done here, cariad.” Kama kisses me openly. “Wiley has a digression planned – unofficial.”

He directs us to the squad car in the building’s carpark.

“A lead at the Bangor hospital – your lead.” He grins at me. “Tenuously connected to ours But Bangor is on our way home.”

My tattoos tingle as warmth builds in waves.

R for Rocks and Reasons. E for Evidence and Evasion. D for Decisive and Divers.

Plus, I for Intent and Investigation. B for Boats and Buildings. N for North Wales.

INBRED. But in which way? Inherent or from inbreeding?

Wiley tunes the squad car radio to a local station playing my music.

Kama beams. “Halestorm. Lzzy rocks.”

INTENT – Tuesday 21st July – Afternoon

Intuitive interviews are rare, but I have an instinctive partner. Wiley keeps the doctor and nurses entertained – distracted – while we talk to Vic Vaughn.

Vic attempts confused and almost succeeds. Nonsense phrases and swaying head suggest insanity or evasion.

“Where are you from in Sweden?” I ask. His feigned English is inadequate to con us.

Vic shrinks. “I’m no illegal immigrant. I’ve valid visas from your embassy. Expensive but I pay, legally.”

“And your present job?” Kama studies him intently. “Where is it?”

“I can’t go back – yet. I’m Stefan Mikaelsson, a landscaper from Ince-in-Makerfield. They know.”

His gaze flicks from side to side. Kama and I interchange our probing inquiries.

“Near Wigan. Who knows?” she asks.

I taste his fear and feel the trauma.

“The guys that need us to dive. Their identity is unknown. Rich and Swedish but that’s all I know.”

Blood races and tattoos tingle. Inbred? Resist hasty conclusions. There must be more.

Breathe. Don’t rush him.

“Your friend ran. Do you know why? Ellis Evans – what’s his real name?”

“Ivan Tjäder. He fears them too. But he’s a fighter and challenges them once. All we wanted was to race the boat.”

What does a Swedish company want with an Aberdaron fishing boat? And divers? Not treasure. Smuggling?

“What did the couple demand?” asks Kama. “After you completed the course?”

Stefan’s eyes dart between us. “They pay for the training. They expect us to dive at night – for sea jewels, they say. Ivan accuse them of lies and refuse. Call them gangsters. We all fight.”

“Where? With fists?”

My finger taps G for Gaff as he replies.

“On their yacht before sailing, by a jetty near Llandudno. We use fists, but they have hooks and staves.” His head droops with my heart. “Then I wake here. Confused until memories come. I can’t leave.”

I anticipate Kama’s reply.

“You will be safe with us in Porthmadog.”

I tap my bracer studs.

I for Identity, Ivan and Intent. J for Jewels and Jetty. G for Gaff and Gangster. S for Stefan and Staves. A for Assault and Aberdaron. W for Wigan and Waterlogged.

JIGSAW. The investigation coming together. Or sawn into pieces?


Team Deep Sea Flying Butt Gaff 

Tune in later today for Act Two of Azure Spark

7 thoughts on “Azure Spark – Act One

  1. Wow Roland ! Such powerful suspense ! But I need to catch my breath before Act 2 and 3.
    I admire your mastery of dialogue and how the plot thickens unsuspectingly, like whipped cream !
    Azure Spark can definitely stand on its own, or he can only stand on his own two feet with Kama !
    I like the humour in every circumstance, non intrusive but aleviating the sometimes oppressive atmosphere.
    Well done !

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Pingback: Sleuthing Snowdon Shadows | Writing Wings

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