#WEP/IWSG February Challenge – Cafe Terrace

At the end of last year, I was in a dilemma over the themes for the 2020 WEP/IWSG Challenges and what I should do. I even ran a poll with 3 options, but it left me wavering between Skaði and Sparkle as the Facebook votes balanced the ones here.

I envisaged some Skaði tales in my Viking Age Alternative History timeline. I sketched a story with Skaði and a successful Vincent Willem van Gogh. But would such a devout Christian have allowed himself to be saved by a Norse goddess? Antique Vase in the desert and Agatha Christie?

Crime never sleeps.

Anyway, it’s now the Year of the Jackdaw, so Sparkle Anwyl returns in a six-part story called ‘Custody Chain’.

Enjoy this opening, and if you wish, please comment or suggest what happens next. Many thanks for reading.

Plus, ensure you visit all the other writers in this challenge via: https://writeeditpublishnow.blogspot.com/2020/02/wep-february-challenge-cafe-terrace.html



Sunday, March 16th

Waves sigh up the beach as I gaze into the starry night over Cardigan Bay.

But I’m distracted.

Where is Kama? She’s late and I feel exposed in the black dress she insisted I wear for my 20th birthday meal.

Some customers at Surf’s Up have attempted pick-up lines. But saying I’m waiting for the woman of my dreams scares them off.

The bar is packed, so escaping onto the balcony was my only option. I’ve kicked off my ankle boots and when I need my glass refilled, the owner Heilyn Trevor appears.

Followed by Kama in an emerald and black Kandangi Saree.

“Sorry cariad, Ffion assigned me a new case. I pulled the files as your insight is devious. But after our meal.”

I silence her with a long kiss. “For you, I might wait.” Her excuse triggers questions. “Tempt me with a taster. Then we eat.”

We laugh.

“In brief. A collectible forgery of a Van Gogh painting was stolen last night from a connoisseur’s Llanystumdwy home. And he was savagely assaulted. The files are at home so can wait. First, our tryst at Agnelli Trattoria.”


I’m sated by the celebratory Italian meal – and our after-dinner exertions. But I want more. My mind switches from caresses to clues.

So far, the burglary details are minimal.

“Professionals if they breached the victim’s high-tech security.” Crime scene photos present another angle. “Vicious pros. The assault looks–”

“—excessive.” Kama paces. “The collector, Urien Cadwallader is unconscious in hospital. CCTV tapes wiped. No prints. No witnesses as the house is hidden in a wood.”

C for Collector. E for Expert. R for Replica. T for Tapes. A for Art.


“Did the crime scene assessment produce anything to show the art’s origin?”

I lean over Kama as she opens her laptop and accesses the case on the internal North Wales Police site.

“This contract suggests our connoisseur wanted to ensure the provenance – even for a forgery.”

“A replica by a ‘reputable artist’ with the pseudonym Turbulent Sky. My tingling tattoos imply it’s relevant.”

Kama strokes my face.

“Then it is. The painting was acquired from Orme Replica Masterpieces Emporium in Llandudno six months ago.”

I groan. A dealer on West Conwy Coastal’s patch. My involvement slips away. I’m a PC with no standing outside South Gwynedd.

Kama reads my dejection. “But I’m a Detective Sergeant, so as our DCI, Ffion can authorise I interview the dealer – with my PC assistant.”

True, even if we risk questions about our relationship.


Monday, March 17th

Behind his glasses, Desmond Deckard’s eyes study us as we show our warrant cards.

Neatly dressed, even if the plaid flannel suit fails to hide his anxiety. Guilt or habit?

“Always happy to oblige the Heddlu,” he says in posh English. “Especially when they send such exquisite coppers. Another inspection? You’ll find everything in order.”

He grandly gestures around his gallery at familiar masterpieces and obscure art pieces. Forgeries?

“Every replica is genuine and documented as required. All legal, ladies.”

Kama leads. “By genuine you mean by artists working openly making copies.”

“Paying tribute to the Masters and making accurate replicas for art connoisseurs. Each one carries a subtle statement that it is not a forgery but an object of devotion.”

Glossy words to hide the reality? Or genuine talent? Manipulated for profit?

Kama will get to the truth. “So, all traceable. Tell us, Mr Deckard, about these artists, especially Turbulent Sky, please.”

My fingers tap studs. T for Turbulent Talent.

 “Every artist is a modern master with temperament burning from the canvas, clay, or chosen medium.”

“And Turbulent Sky. What can you tell us about them?”

Deckard shakes his head. “I’m afraid details on my artists and clients are confidential. I’m their confessor.” He grins.

“Unwise when a reproduction of Van Gogh’s Café Terrace at Night has been stolen, and its collector’s in hospital.” Kama hands him a copy of his contract. “We appreciate your assistance.”

S for Shamefaced Suspect.

“Turbulent Sky is a unique talent I’ve nurtured. Well, I encourage them all – even if some galleries are outraged by my support. Antagonism forces artists to adopt alter-egos. If I supply Turbulent Sky’s details, treat her gently, she’s had it rough.”

We promise, so he scrawls on a compliment slip.

“Anything else, ladies?”

“What’s the value of the reproduction?” asks Kama.

“Turbulent Sky’s crow sigil commands exceptional prices, as does an original Van Gogh. He died penniless – a fate never to be shared. She tries to emulate all elements, so Cadwallader paid five thousand in this instance. If this was an attempt at forgery, the work would have earned her millions.”

A for Affluent. R for Rarity. S for Sigil.  


Van Gogh’s star-filled sky reproduced by Tesni Szarka.

In Llanystumdwy.

Llanystumdwy, with its pretty bridge across the Afon Dwyfor.


Tesni’s home is a barn in the same woodland as the crime scene.

“A witness we missed?” Kama points through the trees to a walled retreat. “Uniform overlooked this barn.”

“I suspect my colleagues never realised it was converted.”

I press a button beside the yellow door. An oscillating buzz echoes inside.

Cautious footsteps.

The door camera lights up, so we show our identity.

A young woman, my age, opens the door. Dark, high cheekbones, sculpted face. Riveting eyes. 5 foot 6 inches in jeans and sunflower T-shirt – Vincent’s work.

She says nothing but touches her ears and mouth.

Then, she signs. “If you understand BSL, come in. What can I do?”

I sign back, “We both know British Sign Language – my sister taught us. We’re investigating the theft of a Turbulent Sky painting. We have questions.”

She smiles, then leads us into her studio home.

The smell of paint, varnish and coffee percolate the air. Her workspace is a chemistry lab to age her art decades in days.

On the wall are Van Gogh masterpieces. All with the crow sigil.

On an easel is Café Terrace at Night.


Word Count 991: FCA

Comments are welcome as usual, and the following applies:

55 thoughts on “#WEP/IWSG February Challenge – Cafe Terrace

  1. More please.
    I really like your Sparkle tales and have learned that her intuition is entirely trustworthy.
    I have a huge fondness for the corvid family too so I am really interested in learning more about the talented Turbulent Sky as well.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Roland, I read about your decision on what to write for the year’s prompts. You’re a wonderfully organized talented loyal…is that enough?…contributor to WEP. Thank you so much! We appreciate you sooooo much!

    And thanks for going with Sparkle. Love the storylines so far and will eagerly look forward to your entries. No one has mentioned the images. They really brought me into a place I haven’t yet visited. Nearly, but not quite.

    See you next time, Roland. Thanks for a great February entry for WEP.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’m just keeping my brain engaged and my wheelchair off the street, Denise. I decided to go with Sparkle as my heart is still in Wales – even though I’ve only been to some of the places mentioned, but not Llanystumdwy where David Lloyd George is buried.


  3. I’m so glad you went with Sparkle. I like her and I like linked stories for the WEP prompts, they take a serious amount of planning and organisation, so kudos! Great art and forgery/crime go together like…Van Gogh and sunflowers,or…cafes and writing. And really all the prompts this year are ideal for a crime story. Looking forward to reading your entries in 2020.

    Oh, I’d just like to mention that ’20th birthday meal’ threw me for a minute, because 20 seemed too young for Sparkle to have the experience/gut instinct she has. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • Linked stories was one of the reasons I went with Sparkle, although I had a way to tie my Skaði stories together, Nilanjana. But that was not a crime story, but more an ancestral saga, whereas this set the scene for a twisted caper.

      I agree Sparkle may seem young, but she has the background to give her experience – father a copper, farming family, deaf sister, vigilante at 16, met Kama at 18 just before police college so has learnt from her too. I reveal some key elements in the novel I’m editing at the moment – the one needing beta-readers. However, I may tweak the timeline to make her age fit better.


  4. Hi,
    It is indeed amazing how one of the most outstanding artists that ever was died penniless, His paintings made the world richer and up to this day has encouraged and enlightened artists all over the world.
    The manner in which you wove his works into the investigation is good. The transitions with the paintings keep the story moving and build up the tension.
    Shalom aleichem,
    Pat G

    Liked by 1 person

    • Van Gogh has inspired me in so many ways for decades, Pat. His life was so sad and complex as his paintings often highlight. His earlier work, like the Potato Eaters, is so moving and raw.
      Although Wales is not Arles, my artist character shares more than just paint and sky.


  5. Great tension and story building. These characters are cool. An intuitive detective at 20? Hmm, I’m not buying it, but I think it plays well to today’s young readers. I love how you mix romance and work, and how well these two work together – partners in the full sense.

    All the pictures were beautiful, and well placed. And, you seem to know Art. I was a tad confused at all the Letters and Anagrams, but it was an interesting character trait. I keep reading and I may do some virtual traveling, and learn something about the world of Artisans.

    Well written and intriguing Roland. It will be interesting watching this story unfold through the other six prompts. Good luck 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • Many thanks for the detailed comment, Donna.
      I’m pleased many elements of the story worked, like the romance-work mix – and I’m chuffed these characters are cool.
      The Letters and Anagrams – the mnemonics – is a Sparkle trait that is understandably confusing, especially if you are ‘new’ to her quirks. But
      Your observation on Sparkle at 20 – and the one above from Nilanjana – makes me wonder about tweaking her age. Whether her backstory is enough, makes me wonder. Until I find beta-readers for my first Sparkle novel, I’m unsure. Also, at this point in time, she’s a police constable, and her partner is the detective.


  6. No wonder Roland you asked me if I had more stories that Café Terrace would narrate! You are a master of mystery and you left me asking for more. I am so impressed with your presentation and that curiosity you spark. I’m already waiting for the next bit!

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Thanks Roland for yet another intriguing and gripping installment of Sparkle’s and Karma’s adventures. Glad you went with Sparkle on this one. However would love to see some Skadi takes on the prompts too …. further along the road … The Antique Vase could be a good opportunity as Mediterranean merchants did do commerce with Vikings occasionally, unless they were robbed blind before they could start to barter with the Norsemen … You keep us working hard each time, following the banter and ellipses in the lovers/colleagues conversations, very effective to create intimacy to which the reader has to earn access.
    Looking forward to your next story. Giving A to Z a miss this year ? I expect you will be concentrating on the novel. I’ll hVe to give up the April WEP Challenge to concentrate on my novel for the A to Z, extracts … hoops … not supposed to reveal it before April’s fool …. ha, ha , ha.
    Take care, ‘see’ you soon.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. It’s a travesty that such a genius artist died penniless, and I find it interesting that artists are able to earn a living painting replicas. I know there is a long history of this practice.

    Your stories are always so engaging and wrap me up in the mystery. Sparkle is such a fascinating character. Well done!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Glad you were engaged.
      As you say, LG, the history of artists dying penniless is long – too long. Van Gogh might be the most prominent but I fear not the last.
      Replicas have become devalued because of the ease of modern replication, so I had to lean towards the attempt to replicate more than the image — ageing techniques. Artists even used to replicate their own work – we have one I inherited, but not a van Gogh. 😉


  9. You had me from “Waves sigh up the beach,” Roland! 🙂 Your characters and the storyline are engrossing and complimented by the images. After reading the other comments, it appears that you are using the WEP prompts to weave a continuing tale? Such a clever idea!

    I’m looking forward to the next installment!

    Liked by 1 person

  10. I’m happy to see more of Sparkle. This story has a lot to pull the reader in- art and mystery. I like that you reveal just enough to keep us wondering. I love the way you depict Sparkle working out her cases and noting her clues. Can’t wait to see where this goes.
    What are your specifications for beta-readers at this time?

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’m grateful you say the story works, Toi as I respect your opinion. Keeping the balance between mystery and revelation is part of the challenge with an ongoing tale. The reader has to wait for the next episode without losing interest.
      As for beta readers, I’m needing at least three readers who are okay reading mysteries. I’m looking for input to ensure the plot works overall and there are no glaring errors or saggy sections. I may have found one diversity reader, but no others. Are you interested?

      Liked by 1 person

  11. What an opening line, “waves sigh up the beach”. Honestly I don’t know what I enjoy more, your skilfully woven tale or your adept use of language. Can’t wait for the next instalment of Sparkle. What a treat this was Roland.

    Liked by 1 person

  12. I like the aspect of it being a robbery and a police procedural (with a twist) story. The letters and anagrams took me a while perhaps because the words were out of order – C for Collector. E for Expert. R for Replica. T for Tapes. A for Art.
    Perhaps start with T then R etc.
    I like the intuition worked in the piece. I also agree with other commentators that maybe you need to think about upping the ages a bit.

    Liked by 1 person

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  14. Hi Roland – once I’d sort of worked out what was going on … and realised there would be more forthcoming … eg about sigils – never heard that term before … I thought I’ll pick up where you’re taking us. You’ve certainly given us enough background to weave your crime into … loved the artist’s art and creative bent in her cottage in the woods – which I suspect could easily go unnoticed by erring junior police officer.

    I’d guessed the anagrams … but have to say I couldn’t work CERTA out – mind you didn’t spend too long trying! … just thought ok I’ll pick it up anon …

    Sparkle may be young … but if she has intuitive powers, she could have lived a few lives, and may still be living them vicariously as needed … perhaps a little too contrived with an 18 year old boyfriend …

    I’ll be enjoying these … – cheers Hilary

    Liked by 1 person

    • Glad you are enjoying the story.

      Sigil even threw my spellchecker, Hilary and got me wondering. But it’s another word for a ‘sign, mark, or seal’ but more often used for the occult: https://www.thefreedictionary.com/sigil – so that might apply to the plot.

      Not sure about the 18-year-old boyfriend as Sparkle is in a lesbian relationship with 26-year-old Kama. But the ages might change to make them more believable.

      Liked by 1 person

    • Sorry about the cliffhanger, Carrie Ann – or maybe not. I intended you all to want more. I try to write ‘diverse’ characters and that includes disabilities; being in a wheelchair has added to the recognition. Tesni is a step beyond Sparkle’s deaf sister Gwawr. She first appeared about a year or more ago in a draft novel.


    • Where in Wales did you live, Carole? My wife and I lived in Harlech, N. Wales for almost three years but had to move to the US. We miss Snowdonia every day – writing about Sparkle helps. More to come–plus a novel or two.


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