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:
CHAPTER FOUR – UMBRAGE
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.
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.”
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.