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’.
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CHAPTER TWO – MASTERPIECE
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.
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.
“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
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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.