#WEP/IWSG June Challenge – Urban Nightmare

Crime never sleeps.

Despite the disturbing world situation, I’ve found bits of time to devise more Sparkle Anwyl mind games as we continue the six-part story called ‘Custody Chain’. Meanwhile, the revision of my first Sparkle Anwyl novel, Fevered Fuse progresses in sporadic spurts too.

I’ve also had a graphic image of Sparkle and Kama created, which I blogged about last month: https://rolandclarke.com/2020/05/31/sparkle-anwyl-comic-book-heroine/ – inspired by  my diligent queer diversity reader.

She said, “Sparkle’s character is so strong and is so appealing, esp. to the younger generation who also love anime and comics, I wondered if you have considered getting an illustrator to have a look at your book and possibly create a comic book character out of her as well?…”

After the feedback on the original image, the illustrator made some changes based on comments. My beta readers should spot the imagined scene from Fevered Fuse – with artistic licence.

Graphics by Jonathan Temples – 
http://jonathantemples.co.uk/

What do you feel about the new image? An improvement? Hooked or confused?

Back though to Custody Chain.

If you missed the first two parts of the story, or would like to refresh your memory, here are the links:

Chapter One – Café Terrace: https://rolandclarke.com/2020/02/19/wep-iwsg-february-challenge-cafe-terrace/

Chapter Two – Masterpiece: https://rolandclarke.com/2020/04/15/wep-iwsg-april-challenge-antique-vase/

Please note there may be minor oversights/errors/omissions which editing of the final story into a novella will address. Writing new chapters throws up new clues to fathom.

On my April Challenge post, some people again commented that Sparkle’s mnemonic usage needed to be explained better – comments echoed by my beta readers for Fevered Few. I have attempted to introduce an explanation in this episode, which I intend to use and evolve elsewhere – if the idea works.

Anyway, enjoy this new 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: 

https://writeeditpublishnow.blogspot.com/2020/06/wep-june-challenge-urban-nightmare-sign.html

CUSTODY CHAIN

CHAPTER THREE – CRYPTOGRAPH

2014

Tuesday, March 18th

Kama and I interview Urien Cadwallader in his private hospital room. Will he allay our suspicions?

“I don’t remember much. Didn’t your colleagues discover more?”

“Anything you can add helps. Did you see anything before you were attacked?”

I flip open my notebook as Kama probes. The CSI report and Tesni’s statement pose questions.

Urien shakes his head. “I’m usually alone – since my wife died. I have my art collection. Comfort—”

He falters. Tears streak his cheeks.

Seated beside his bed, Kama pats his arm.

“Take your time, sir. Your wife must have been special.”

“For 35 years – until…” He shudders. “I prayed Csilla would survive the treatment but— too invasive. I could do nothing so lost her—”

As he starts to cough, I reach for his glass of water, passing it when he stops shaking.

“Lungs – damaged from her childhood back in Miskolc.”

“Hungary?” The names slots together – Aranka, Miskolc, Csilla, Szarka.

He stares at me. “You know already? I thought those records lost decades ago.”

“A deduction. Please, apologies if I’m wrong.”

He shakes his head, then leans back, head lolling. “So, nobody told you. How?”

“Sparkle thinks laterally. Give her clues and she finds new angles.”

Urien gestures at me. “Your personal cryptograph?”

I laugh. “Fancy word for my mind games – but worth adopting. I juggle the initial letters of clues to get a mnemonic so I remember them—”

“And the new angle?”

“Triggered by the mnemonic. Like say M for Miskolc, A for Art, G for Generosity, Y for Yearn, A for Analysis, R for Replica, S for Stars. Spelling M A G Y A R S – as in Hungary where Aranka is from. Plus, Csilla sounds Hungarian as does Szarka. Correct?”

Urien palms his hands and nods. “Impressive.” He closes his eyes. “We met in 1988 when I travelled to Hungary as a mineralogist – my initial career. I was looking for the Herman Ottó Museum and Csilla helped me. A nineteen-year-old engineering student, Csilla captivated me, so I helped her flee the country when it broke from the Soviet bloc.”

M for Minerals, E for Engineer, T for Travel.

M E T

“You married in Hungary?” Kama reaches a shared conclusion. “The missing records. And your child?”

Urien confirms our suspicions. “Born in 1994 – talented and special – our joy in turbulent days. We named her ‘warmth from the sun’ in Welsh. She’s worth everything I spend.”

T for Turbulent Talent. S for Sky Sigil.

METS?

“Does Tesni know she’s your daughter? Or only that her mother was Csilla Szarka?”

Tears return to streak his cheeks. “I’ve failed to confess my relationship, although I’ve always felt she senses all that matters. Her art is everything in her world. Yet Tesni visits often.”

“That’s why her DNA was all over your house. And why she pressed your panic pendant. Did you or Tesni switch off the security you’ve installed? We must identify your attacker.”

“Tesni would never leave me unprotected. The attacker must have disabled the CCTV so he remained invisible. Didn’t Tesni see him before summoning help?”

Kama scrolls on her phone. “Her statement reads, ‘The figure was in black and masked. When I cracked the vase on the masked head, the figure fled…’ Then she helped you and rescued the urn pieces.”

“With her mam’s ashes – Csilla helping still. Did Tesni repair the urn?”

I smile and bow my head. “An invisible repair. The painting is secure too.” U for Urn, P for Protection, I for Invisible. “A mistaken theft that triggered our investigation.”

METSUPI = IMPETUS

“Your case must be closed then. I’m anxious to return home, where my daughter has Csilla and our painting.”

“My cryptograph raises concerns. What compelled your wife to flee Hungary? Her health? Yet she left family behind. Aranka?”

He collapses into the pillows, eyes closed.

“Yes, Csilla was suffering. Her father worked in the steelworks, coming home covered in toxic dust. Love offered a route out of her urban nightmare. Economic recession was sweeping those industrial heartlands behind the Iron Curtain. Her sister, Aranka stayed with her profiteering husband.”

“Could your attacker have been Hungarian? They didn’t try to take the painting – just attacked you. Why?”

Urien shakes his head, but his glance wavers between us. We sense his fear.

“I made mistakes – and enemies. And my assailant must realise who Tesni is – even living apart. Help me protect my daughter, please?”

***

Word Count 998: FCA

Comments are welcome as usual, and the following applies:

53 thoughts on “#WEP/IWSG June Challenge – Urban Nightmare

    • I sympathise, Jemima, as reading a standalone in such a flash challenge is easier to assess. An extended piece in episodes is harder to follow and remember with the gaps between – how did Dickens’s Strand readers manage? Maybe it’s up to the writer. I find them harder to write than other forms.

      Like

  1. Great way to work in an explanation of the mnemonics! They make more sense to me now. BTW, I think your autocorrect is yanking you around—sometimes the novel comes out as “Fevered Fuse” and sometimes as “Fevered Few.”

    As for the artwork—I didn’t look back to see what changed, but it does feel more right to me :).

    Liked by 1 person

    • Chuffed you like the mnemonics explanation. I plan on using the ‘cryptograph’ in Fevered Fuse revised draft. Fevered Few is not the software’s autocorrect but my own error – or rather my brain using the original name for my WIP. When it was a collection of shorts, it was called Fevered Few.

      Artwork change was more about making Sparkle more proactive and ‘spunky’ edgy.

      Like

    • Amazing is a good reaction – many thanks. Black & white was all my budget would allow – at this stage. However, as the graphic develops into a comic or a cover, then colour we will add colour. Glad you feel the story is moving forward well.

      Like

  2. Hi Roland
    I had to go back to the first two stories. Id read Cafe Terrace but needed to refresh my memory. And of course I hadn’t read Masterpiece. I enjoyed the whole thing. The illustration stays as we read on. It’s nice. The mnemonics work well. Sound interesting. I tried doing them in my head. Haha. I’ll be looking out for the next part now.

    Liked by 1 person

    • The gap between challenges makes it hard to remember what happened – especially four months back. I’ll keep the mnemonics in this style next time – but maybe fewer so easier on our heads. LOL. Next part’s already challenging my brain.

      Liked by 1 person

    • I have to admit the ending is vague to me, Susan. The story twists with each challenge. Although Tesni’s surname was Hungarian in Chapter One, I hadn’t researched/written beyond that. All the best, cousin.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Hi,
    I’m not one of your regular blog visitors but I can say the tension in this story continues to build. I immediately wanted to know what is he hiding? What happened and why is he trying to protect his daughter? Your structure is also good because I see you building from small to largest in the case of the suspense.
    Excellent job and I do like your cover. It’s intriguing.
    Shalom aleichem,
    Pat G

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’m grateful you visit when you do, Pat – and for your encouragement. We might discover what Urien is hiding next time – if I work it out. Something casting a long shadow? Your approval of the revised image/cover is a bonus – many thanks.

      Like

  4. I love the leather jacket. The image is an improvement.
    I like what you did with the mnemonics.
    You’ve progressed the story nicely and have built up suspense and intrigue. Looking forward to more.

    Liked by 1 person

    • One of the other beta readers mentioned the missing bracer, Toi, so I had the illustrator amend Sparkle to be more Goth and proactive. Elated by the response this time – and with my tweak to the mnemonics. Many thanks for your ongoing encouragement.

      Liked by 1 person

    • Many thanks, Olga – it’s a challenge developing the story without straying too far from the bi-monthly theme. Relieved the artwork is an improvement – and as an artist, your opinion is valuable.

      Like

  5. Roland, first let me say good luck on the revision of your first Sparkle Anwyl novel, Fevered Fuse. You are a busy man. I’ve been following Sparkle through the WEP months, so no confusion. And you have added the links to the previous ones. Thanks for that. I must admit I skipped over the mnemonics due to time pressure to get my WEP reading done before I have a house full of guests (first since lockdown).

    LOVE the artwork. Would be an awesome cover!

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I’m sorry if this is a duplicate comment. WordPress tends to dislike me. I found the story intriguing and enjoyed the artwork as well.
    ~Cie from Naughty Netherworld Press~

    Liked by 1 person

  7. I do like the explanation of the mnemonics, it makes things easier to follow here but also disrupts the flow a bit, but that’s a problem particular to this serialised format – I don’t know if I’m making sense. What I’m getting at is that in the novel you’d explain how Sparkle’s mind works (which I’m super fascinated by! 🙂 ) once in the beginning somewhere and that would be it, whereas here because of the time gaps, the readers need reminding. I remember Cafe Terrace, but I need to read the Antique Vase one again, the details have escaped me, I wasn’t quite myself when I did the reading that round. I’ll be back later. Right now I’m just going to say that I’m liking how this story is developing. Enjoyed the read, as always. And I am a great fan of black & white images so…loved the artwork too.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I understand and agree, Nilanjana. The mnemonics explanation in the novel will be easier – this is a ‘dry run’ for what I plan to use. The ‘cryptograph’ will be the key.

      Like

  8. I do love the image! I’m enjoying the way this story is unfolding. So many people have been physically harmed by industry that doesn’t care about anything but profit. I’m glad Csilla found a way out of her urban nightmare, even if her history there still killed her in the end. I’m eager to see what will happen next with Tesni and Urien.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Industry – or rather the exploitative attitude of the owners, creates too many nightmares, LG. It’s hard to escape them – and maybe Tesni &/or Urien won’t. I don’t know – for now.

      Like

  9. Hi Roland … I’m glad the explanations were included … I enjoyed the read – whereas before I’d been lost. Interesting to see where the story will unfold – and I’m sure Eastern Europe back in the day must have been a nightmare to live in … no freedom of any sort, particularly of the mind. I look forward to the next episode … take care – Hilary

    Liked by 1 person

  10. What a well crafted story Roland. I remembered bits of your story from the last challenge and found the connections intricately connected. This is such a wonderful contribution to the challenge.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. The drawing– I don’t understand the expression on the person with the flashlight. But I’m very interested in the person in the leather coat, and that would get me to “pick it up,” and the person tied up would get me to “read the description.”

    A nice mystery. Fun how you used the prompt in there!

    Liked by 1 person

    • The person with the flashlight – Kama – is meant to be reacting to finding the body…as Sparkle is. However, the drawing will be revised – when I can afford to act on all the invaluable feedback from kind people like you, Lenni.

      The prompt fitted with my initial thoughts about Tesni’s parentage – even if that wasn’t fully realised back in February.

      Like

  12. Roland, I am enjoying this case and how you tie the prompts together. The character of Sparkle is fascinating, and how they pull the mnemonics together. The explanation did help understand more of what was going on. Thank you! Also, love the artwork–very atmospheric.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’m intending to use the mnemonics explanation in the future, Donna. In fact, this was a ‘trial run’ for the ‘cryptograph’ as it will be a key element in my first Sparkle novel – Fevered Fuse.

      Like

  13. Love the art work Roland – in my opinion Black & White makes it more interesting. Colour could cheapen it into a cartoon-like image.
    I can‘t believe how well you are connecting all the prompts – mega. That must be soooo difficult. Well done. I love too, that you don‘t know what‘s coming next. I think the reader senses that, adding to the tension.

    Liked by 1 person

    • As a former photographer who loved B&W images, I have to agree, Carole. I suspect colour may only appear when this becomes a cover.

      My mind is playing with shadows for August already. Sparkle and Tesni are the keys…

      Like

  14. Pingback: #IWSG – Altered States | Writing Wings

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