#WEP/IWSG August Challenge – Long Shadow

Crime never sleeps.

Apologies for the delay in posting this latest entry in the WEP/IWSG Challenge. As some of you know I’ve been ill and unable to write for some days.

However, in July I found bits of time to devise more Sparkle Anwyl mind games so the six-part story called ‘Custody Chain’ could continue. This episode is too long by 100 words – and unpolished – as my mind is not yet working at full deviousness.

For those that wondered, the revision of my first Sparkle Anwyl novel, Fevered Fuse progresses in sporadic spurts too – more like a stoppage now.

If you missed the first three 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/

Chapter Three – Cryptograph: https://rolandclarke.com/2020/06/17/wep-iwsg-june-challenge-urban-nightmare/

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.

Anyway, enjoy this new chapter, and if you wish, please comment, or suggest what happens next. Many thanks for reading.

Apologies if I’m slow to respond or slow to visit your posts.

Plus, ensure you visit all the other writers in this challenge via: 





Tuesday, March 18th

A raven conspiracy croaks from the depths of the wood. Trees scatter the setting sun, throwing shadows on the barn in Llanystumdwy.

My throbbing tattoos warn we’re not alone, but there’s nothing visible as I press the button beside the yellow door. As before the oscillating buzz echoes inside.

Cautious footsteps.

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

The female Police Community Support Officer assigned to assist and protect Tesni Szarka lets us inside.

She turns and smiles at her charge, adding some deft hand movements. “Mr Cadwallader is home.” A PCSO who knows sign language is a bonus.

Tesni throws her arms around her father. Tears streak her cheeks.

“I worry. Miss you.” She smiles as she signs. “Family matters. I love you.”

He holds her face in his hands. His mouth echoes his gestured response.

“You know I love you. You sensed our relationship. You are talented. Special. My ‘warmth from the sun’.

 As she leads Urien into her home, I turn to the PCSO. Cute 5 foot brunette – about eighteen. Sparkling eyes.

“I’m PCSO Dace. Pleased to be assigned to such a case. Miss Szarka is an amazing lady. And, please call me Lleilu.” I beam at her enthusiasm – as does Kama.

“Any sign of trouble?” My partner’s senses are heightened too.

“Nothing around this home.” She pauses, then points towards the wood beyond the picture window in the main space.

Kama nods towards Urien’s walled retreat, hidden in the trees.

“Our uniform colleagues watching his house have detected someone?”

“On the security system. A prowler—”

“—the attacker has unfinished business.” My tattoos twitch. I tap out M for Mistakes. “We need to learn more about Urien Cadwallader’s actions in Hungary.” The ones he was reluctant to share on the drive from Bangor.

We head into the main space with its exposed beams, ethnic furniture, and hung with Tesni’s masterpieces. All with the crow sigil.

The familiar smell of paint, varnish and coffee percolate the air. Workspace and sanctuary.

Through the central window, the dying glimmer of the sun is yielding to the starry night.

On an easel is Café Terrace at Night. But the stolen replica of Van Gogh’s masterpiece is in police custody – where we secured it.

Tesni notices us as she sips her coffee, brow furrowed. She points at the painting.

“Painted for Urien. So I insist return. Safer here. We protect. Together you promise.” Her riveting eyes and emphatic gestures are hard to resist. “Lleilu arranges.”

“I’m sorry, detectives. But Tesni persuaded me to ask DCI Baines if the artwork could be here. It arrived just before you two. With the message: ‘Draw’. Does that mean anything?”

My eyes lock with Kama’s. We nod and she leads me aside.

“Draw out the truth.”

“And the intruder.” My tattoos are thrumming and a mnemonic is forming in my head. “We need a plan.”

MAP. M for Mistakes. A for Artwork. P for Plan.

“When Tesni tackled the thief – she was at Urien’s. The figure in black and masked is still around. That’s who triggered the re-activated security system at the scene.”

“And now Urien’s here, along with the painting, he’s in danger as is Tesni. The assailant will realise who she is. They’re the draw – the bait. My cryptograph-mind suggested MAP – as in the layout between the houses.”

“And the intruder has probably reconnoitred most of that area, even if he was unaware who lived here. But now she or he does and has had time to plan his move – once we’ve left.”


We leave the barn by flashlight, and drive away in our unmarked police car.

I kill the headlights, then park off the road.

“Nothing on either security system.” Kama taps her Smartphone to confirm. “Let’s stealth back to the barn.”

“Glad we prefer wearing black – even if our biker leathers would’ve been even better for crawling around.”

We slip into the wood and sneak back to the barn.  A drystone wall screens us as we watch the only two entrances.

A shadow separates from the invasive rhododendron bushes. A masked figure in black who points a device at the house.

“He’s disabling the security system.” Kama pulls out her phone. “Confirmed. But the shutoff will have alerted uniform at Urien’s house.”

“But we need to follow him inside.”

Kama unfastens her plaited snake head belt as we slip through the open front door.

Dark and silent. Tesni’s territory.

The intruder is framed against the window, caught by the starlight as he slips towards the Café Terrace at Night painting.

Three torches blind him, but he pulls out a gun and fires into the glare.

A belt whips around the gun before he can fire again. I rugby tackle the figure and my choke-hold restrains him.

Urien strides over and pulls off the black mask.

“Tűzvirág? Why? Your brother sent you. Didn’t he?”

“Who did you expect? Barangó is too stupid to deal with you directly.”

Urien looks from the handcuffed woman to us, then motions to a couch,

“You need to know more – my secrets have found me.”

We all sit – the subdued intruder between Kama and me.”

My partner poses the questions. “Hungary? This woman is…a relation?”

“My wife, Csilla was. Her sister, Aranka is married to Barangó Fekete. He’s a profiteering thug who has made crime lucrative – and legal. Or so he believes.”

“My brother is a businessman, respected in Hungary and beyond. You owe him – for everything.”

Urien’s face darkens. “It was a grave mistake to trust him when I needed to save Csilla. How many times must I pay? What does your jealous brother want now? Not my daughter, please.”

“That’s the new price – now we know she exists. Her forgeries will help my brother’s international enterprises thrive. Never forget your past has cast this long shadow over everything. Not Barangó’s devoted and loyal comrades.”

Hungarian policemen stand at the border crossing between Hungary and Croatia – http://www.express.co.uk


Word Count 1,104: FCA

Comments are welcome as usual, and the following applies:


First, congratulations to all the writer winners of the WEP/IWSG Long Shadow Challenge. I admit that for once I read no entries, but the intent is now there, along with the impetus as the writing has proved high-quality ever since I discovered this Challenge.

Full details of the Winners can be found here:


Second my thanks to the WEP/IWSG Challenge team for awarding me the Extraordinary Encouragement Award – an honour which feels undeserved as many of us cope with difficult circumstances. For instance, I have at least two writer colleagues struggling with the same MonSter condition as I do – as the supportive comments below show.

This was totally unexpected as I felt posting an edit of something already drafted was not impossible – the skeleton was there. And the posted episode was over the limit.

However, I am still grateful – and will try harder next time to produce a polished entry.

Featuring ‘Voyagers: The Third Ghost’ and so much more

The IWSG on Instagram 
                         Background Photo by Louise MacBeath Barbour

This week on the IWSG Anthology blog, fellow author and blog-co-ordinator, Louise MacBeath Barbour continues to share from her teacher perspective. She has recapped each of our stories, focusing on the historical aspect in every tale. Read more and get inspired here:


Apologies, but I also failed to share the link to last week’s post on the Anthology blog – a timely book launched by author acquaintance and IWSG Bookclub organiser, Chrys Fey.

So, here that post is as well:


#IWSG – Planned or random?

I have to confess to not being on the write page for this month’s Insecure Writer’s Support Group post. OK, I’m still willing to ask where would I be without the Ninja Captain himself, Alex J. Cavanaugh who created the Insecure Writer’s Support Group?

But I must admit to pulling out of the race to create an entry for the annual Anthology Competition. Many thanks, Captain Alex, but not this time.

However, before I forget, here are the details if you want to enter the 2020 IWSG Anthology Contest. It’s a challenging theme again – Dark Matter –but I’m sure you’ll be inspired. For the contest visit:


My mind is insecure and struggling enough with my Sparkle Anwyl cases. Plus, I’m totally snowed under with the mounting emails and outstanding blog posts to read. So, apologies and more apologies to all that may concern.

Anyway, on to the monthly question which is another challenge – and possibly a chance to digress.

August 5 question – Quote: “Although I have written a short story collection, the form found me and not the other way around. Don’t write short stories, novels or poems. Just write your truth and your stories will mould into the shapes they need to be.” 
Have you ever written a piece that became a form, or even a genre, you hadn’t planned on writing in? Or do you choose a form/genre in advance?

I rarely stray from my chosen genre, although I moved from fantasy and SF shorts as a teenager to crime/mystery novels as a retiree. With a few exceptions, although Crime has merged with my Speculative and Alternative History diversions.

The main exception was my MG short ‘Feathered Fire’ for the Voyagers: The Third Ghostanthology. That was my only attempt at writing Middle Grade or historical – although, not fantasy.

However, my intention is to remain in my current genre – Crime – even if the form fluctuates between novel and shorts/flash.

But for NaNoWriMo this November, I may consider writing a longer piece with my characters from ‘Feathered Fire’.

Unless Crime never sleeps.


The awesome co-hosts for the August 5 posting of the IWSG are Susan Baury Rouchard, Nancy Gideon, Jennifer Lane, Jennifer Hawes, Chemist Ken, and Chrys Fey! 

How can I be repetitive asking you to agree these guys are the best? Especially as they all have concerns, fears, and insecurities. But they struggle on, so ticker-tape applause for all of them – plus toasts with the best brew available.

Purpose of IWSG: To share and encourage. Writers can express doubts and concerns without fear of appearing foolish or weak. Those who have been through the fire can offer assistance and guidance. It’s a safe haven for insecure writers of all kinds!

Every month, we announce a question that members can answer in their IWSG post. These questions may prompt you to share advice, insight, a personal experience or story. Include your answer to the question in your IWSG post or let it inspire your post if you are struggling with something to say.

Posting: The first Wednesday of every month is officially Insecure Writer’s Support Group day. Post your thoughts on your own blog. Talk about your doubts and the fears you you have conquered. Discuss your struggles and triumphs. Offer a word of encouragement for others who are struggling. Visit others in the group and connect with your fellow writer – aim for a dozen new people each time – and return comments. This group is all about connecting!

Let’s rock the neurotic writing world!

Our Twitter handle is @TheIWSG and hashtag is #IWSG.

Every month, we announce a question that members can answer in their IWSG post. These questions may prompt you to share advice, insight, a personal experience, or story. Include your answer to the question in your IWSG post or let it inspire your post if you are struggling with something to say.