#WEP/IWSG April Challenge – Antique Vase

Crime never sleeps.

As the Year of the Jackdaw unfolds, it’s time for more Sparkle Anwyl mind games as we continue the six-part story called ‘Custody Chain’.

Enjoy this chapter, 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: 




Monday, March 17th

Masterpiece. Same colours. Same brush-strokes. Smells original.

The stolen replica of Van Gogh’s Café Terrace at Night? I study the painting on the easel – and Tesni Szarka’s face. Expressive as her gestures.

The artist smiles and signs, “Once each masterpiece. Stay priceless.” Then she motions to seats by a picture window with a view through the trees towards the rippling stream. “Coffee?”

Kama nods. When we’re alone, and as I scrawl notes, she asks, “Did you pick up more?”

“Yes. Hidden meanings I need to interpret. Patience.”

I grew up learning the connotations beneath sign language. An advantage Kama needs.

My tattoos tingle. R for Rationale and Robbery. U for Unique and Urgent.

Kama is scanning the room.

My focus is on Tesni’s work desk positioned in the natural light. Her current project isn’t a painting.

A blue cracked ceramic pot. No clay. But a sanding tool. Smoky epoxy stings my nose.

R for Repair and Restoration – not Replica. C for Cracked Ceramic.

My analysis is interrupted by Tesni’s return with a cafetière, mugs, jug of milk and sugar bowl on a tray. But she’s noted my observation of her workspace.

“I broke. Repair. Return later.”

E for Epoxy and Excuse. S for Sander and Smoky – and Sapphire.

She pours the coffee and passes us mugs of welcome black warmth.

Kama points to the painting and signs. “And that?”

Tesni sips her coffee, brow furrowed.

“Painted for Urien. Someone try steal. Safer here. We protect. Together-please.”

A mnemonic forms – SECURE. Or RESCUE?  Both. She rescued the painting, so secure – if we help.

We need more and Kama delves.

“You in Uriel house? When?”

“To stop thief. I broke urn on head.”

U for Urn.

Hand Painted Plum Blossom Ceramic Cremation Urn – One World Memorialshttps://www.oneworldmemorials.com/products/ceramic-cremation-urn-blossom?utm_source=Pinterest&utm_medium=Social

More notes, then I scroll through my smart-phone to the active CSI report. Chips of pottery…ash.

Tesni tackled the thief – she was at the scene. I show Kama the evidence. “We’ll need her DNA.”

As Kama explains to Tesni about the sample, I examine the ‘weapon’. On closer inspection, the urn looks old – or aged with the same techniques Tesni uses.

“You made this? Another replica?”

She shakes her head and gestures distance. Then signs ‘Abroad’.

Another artist. From the plum blossom, I guess a replica of an antique Oriental vase.

“Whose ashes?”

“Urien’s wife.” Tesni drops her head in her hands and sobs.

L for Loss and Lonely. A for Ashes.

She calls the collector by his first name. Did she know his wife? Is that why she was at his house? Is he a loner too?

W for Wife. F for Familiarity.

Kama reaches out a hand and squeezes Tesni’s knee. The artist looks up and wipes her tears. She stands, then fetches an A4 pad and a calligraphy pen.

On the paper she writes in flowing italics, ‘You need more. My written statement?

We nod and let her write.


In our approach? Her story? The CSI report?

We leave with her detailed statement, which needs corroboration. Plus, the painting and the urn – vital evidence. Tesni hesitates over us taking them, but we reassure her they’ll be protected in police custody.

W for Witness or S for Suspect? A for Attack.


For now, we have to class her as a vulnerable witness. Disabled, even if she did fend off the intruder.

Have we increased her danger? Even if my uniform colleagues now watch her house?


Tuesday, March 18th

A return trip to Llandudno to talk to Desmond Deckard arises as Tesni’s statement claims he imported the urn.

“Bespoke so unique. Ordered specially for Mr Cadwallader – after his wife passed. It’s a replica of an antique Chinese vase. However, as it was crafted abroad, you must talk to my sister and co-owner. Carys handles our imports.” He escorts us to her office.

Carys Deckard is younger than Desmond – and fitter. Early forties. 5 feet 11. Tall and slim.

She smiles as we enter.

“I missed meeting you appealing ladies, when you called before. What can I do? Any excuse to assist you.”

Kama ignores the beguiling undertones.

“Is the artist who made the urn a regular supplier? And where are they based?”

Carys hesitates, then looks at her computer monitor.

“In Hungary. The artist calls herself Aranka.” She scrolls her mouse and clicks. “I wish I had more. Is this important?”

R for Relevant. I write down the name. A for Aranka. But I let Kama pursue.

“Yes, more details could help resolve this. Anything.”

“Aranka is not one of our craftspeople. I only expedited the import of the urn for Mr Cadwallader.” She stares at the view, hand on her lips. “His contact…and the urn was a gift – no charge, except import costs.”

G for Gift. 

Kama’s phone rings – DCI Baines.

We move out of earshot and listen, heads together.

“Forensics fast-tracked their analysis. Same ashes in the urn as at the scene. Plus, Tesni Szarka’s DNA is all over the house.”

T for Tesni Traces.

“Her statement implied she visited often” says Kama.

“There’s more – she shares DNA with the dead wife and Urien Cadwallader. She might be their daughter – if she knows.”

F for Family. GRAFT. By who? Why?

“Urien Cadwallader is conscious. Interview him – gently. He may not know either.”


Word Count 988: FCA

Comments are welcome as usual, and the following applies:

WINNERS UPDATE – 30th April 2020: Many congratulations to the winners of the April 2020 Challenge. This month there were more talented writers on view. Details of all the entries and winners have been announced here:


And many thanks to those at WEP who awarded me this, again. And especially Olga for designing another great badge.

57 thoughts on “#WEP/IWSG April Challenge – Antique Vase

  1. Pingback: M for Maid of Norway | Writing Wings

  2. Hi Roland. There’s enough praise to go around. You’ve crafted a clever piece. I loved the subtle humorous touches (at least I hope they were supposed to be humorous). Always like me a little bit more Sparkle. We’re definitely getting in deeper now. Thanks for continuing your much-loved character through your WEP contributions!
    Hope you’re doing well and are safe.

    Liked by 1 person

    • The humour crept in uninvited, but Sparkle tries to mellow the mood where she can – keep the intensity internal. Whether the humour muse strikes again, I cannot predict as I’m not in control of her.


  3. And the plot thickens. I really can’t wait to see how Urban Nightmare ends up fitting into your story. This one certainly did, and beautifully too. Thank you, for participating and for your loyal support! It’s so appreciated!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Hi Roland – we’re all stumbling around at the moment – but you’re certainly taking us along with your story line. Well done – take care – Hilary

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I’m enjoying the story, as always. But the anagrams–I feel like I missed something there (am I forgetting something?). Are they just her way of remembering–creating anagrams about important stuff?

    Liked by 1 person

    • As you’ll discover in ‘Fevered Fuse’, Sparkle uses her mnemonics to trigger her lateral thinking – although here, events sometimes overtake/overlap her thoughts. And yes, they are sometimes her way of remembering stuff too. Some people, like Kama and Tesni, keep up with her lateral thinking.

      Liked by 1 person

    • Writing a continuing story adds to the challenge, Zagu. My attempt last year got sidetracked after the Fall challenge, although it was the sub-plot to a series of posts – A to Z – in April last year. It will be finished as will this one. Sign language is integral to Sparkle as her sister is deaf, but not easy to write – still working on how to improve that thread.


  6. Another fantastic installment. I love the continuation of this storyline and can never have enough of Sparkle. The twists in the installment really pull you in deeper into Sparkle’s process and really moves the plot forward.
    Does Urien know? I can’t wait to see what happens next.
    Great entry.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’m scribbling out the next installment as you read, Toi – well, whenever the dog is exploring the garden. I was wondering if Urien knew – until I worked out what happened. Pleased you can’t get enough of Sparkle.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Hi Roland,
    The investigative approach in this part of your novel is good. There are so many avenues opened that kept feeding my curiosity.
    An excellent take on the prompt.
    Shalom aleichem,
    Pat Garcia

    Liked by 1 person

  8. You do such a good job of crafting an intriguing continuing narrative! I enjoy following along with the investigation, and the intrigue at the end has me anxiously waiting for more. Is she their daughter after all? Who else knows? Where will all of this lead? Well done!

    Liked by 1 person

    • DNA is usually accurate, LG. I have played with that in a later Sparkle case, but here – well, it’s more about who knows and why. ‘Urban nightmare’ will answer some questions – and pose others.


  9. Ha, ha, à murder weapon … I expected no less from you Roland. As usual great dialogue. The letters, I still find distracting though. Thank you for the beautiful pictures. See you soon on A to Z, getting out of steam personally, it’s been a long, long month ….

    Liked by 1 person

    • Not quite murder, Susan, but used to assault the thief – so Tesni says. I still find explaining Sparkle’s mnemonics within each episode a challenge. Maybe, I can find another approach with ‘Urban Nightmare’ – without abandoning her mental gymnastics or revisiting backstory.

      Liked by 1 person

      • That’s an interesting problem. What works well in a novel doesn’t always in a flash, and you are kind of trying to do both (note: I’ve been tinkering for several years, off and on, with trying to convert a series of flash fiction pieces into a novel, and… it’s not a pretty sight). You could just reference her creating mnemonics, and flesh it out when this becomes part of the next novel?

        Liked by 1 person

        • It is indeed a problem, Rebecca – even if my ‘novel’ came first and the flash fiction second. In the novel context, I have space to explain and develop, so your suggestion makes sense. The Sparkle novella which evolved last year, Azure Spark, made more sense when I edited it at the end of the initial A to Z posts. I aim to do the same with this ‘Custody Chain’ case.

          Hope you can sort out your tinkering.


  10. And the plot thickens, as they say. This is getting so intriguing, and you manage to put so much into the word count. Can’t wait for the next installment!

    Liked by 1 person

  11. This is interesting and unusual but intriguing. The letters were a little confusing at first until I read further and you spell the word out. It’s a good way to explain things, brief but to the point and it makes it memorable.

    Liked by 1 person

  12. Intriguing! Very intriguing! And fun. i’m so impressed with your ability to write part of a linked story for the WEP+IWSG. I would have liked to have refreshed my memory and think a link in this blog post, to the first part, would have been helpful.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’ll try to insert a link to previous episodes next time, Kalpana. I was trying to evade that with just a reference to the ‘stolen replica of Van Gogh’s Café Terrace at Night’ in the first paragraph. But I can see that was short-changing readers. Thanks for the reminder.


  13. Hi Roland – congratulations on your commenter award … it’s great you’re supporting everyone else who enters the competition. Take care – Hilary

    Liked by 1 person

  14. I’m a great fan of linked stories for the challenges, and also glad to see Sparkle and Kama anytime! Thank you for this flash and for taking the time to comment on mine.

    Liked by 1 person

  15. Pingback: #WEP/IWSG June Challenge – Urban Nightmare | Writing Wings

  16. Pingback: #WEP/IWSG August Challenge – Long Shadow | Writing Wings

  17. Pingback: #WEP/IWSG October Challenge – Grave Mistake | Writing Wings

  18. Pingback: #WEP/IWSG December Challenge – Unmasked | Writing Wings

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.