I finally got my entry for the 2019
Annual IWSG Anthology Contest in with a day
to spare. Finally, I suppressed my fears, switched off my urge to edit, edit,
edit, and edit forever. I managed to integrate almost all the comments from my wonderful
beta readers. However, my step kids were no shows as readers. But I had an
awesome MG kid-reader from the UK – thanks Rebecca, for some awesome
Insecurity postponed until the results
appear next year.
Now, I’m stressing about my Pitch Wars 2019 submission – Fevered Few. The required query letter, one-page synopsis, and the first chapter of my completed manuscript are achievable by the September 25th-27th deadline. But I’m unsure if I have a “completed and polished full-length, fiction manuscript”. Complete perhaps, but ‘dusted’ might fit better than ‘polished’.
So, another insecure month. Or maybe, I’ll
work on my short stories and the drug cartel in Bolivia.
Anyway, on to the IWSG monthly question.
question – If you could pick one place in the world to sit and write your next
story, where would it be and why?
I’m writing this in an office shared with my
wife, that overlooks a suburban US street – not my dream location.
Requirements for change:
Water view: by a river would be good or
overlooking a beach or ocean.
Mountain view: looking out onto green alpine
meadows or something with a snow cap.
Log cabin: a feel of being in the woods, surrounded
In my mind, I see a cabin on Crater Lake
in Oregon, USA. We once looked at murals to create some of that on the wall
behind/beside our desks. Sound effects? We were planning to move to a mobile home
park with houses overlooking a lake – but that’s not happening.
Of course, our house and office
in North Wales was on the edge of woodland, overlooked Ceredigion Bay, and had
a view of Snowdon. Plus, we had jackdaws in our garden. Just try ignoring our
My wife’s photo may not show the estuary or the tip of Harlech Castle, but we could see them, especially from our landscaped garden. But the memories are there – and inspire my writing about Detective Sparkle Anwyl of the North Wales Police/Heddlu Gogledd Cymru in my Snowdon Shadows series.
And that photo has been enlarged,
so it hangs above my desk with a red Welsh Dragon in front. Outside the window,
beside our new rose garden, is a fountain of running water. Good enough for the
next story, especially as we are spending the last weekend of September in a
cabin in the mountains surrounded by pine trees.
(I so admire these
guys as I know they have commitments too. Ticker-tape applause.)
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
Once again, this is a standalone tale – or is it. There’s a subtle link to my ‘Jewel Box‘ story – if you spot it – and some characters may appear again. Plus, the setting is probably Wales or the Borders.
WARNING – there is blood, but be brave…like Mina. Remember, the dragon is red, and so is the beetroot of shame – and some wheelbarrows.
shooting had been tough.
Mina was relieved. Her life was changing, although not as planned after her
she had a few weeks off before Oriole Productions needed her and Dafydd back
for dubbing. By then she’d no longer be Mina Westenra, but Mina Glyndwr.
her lips didn’t bury her pre-nuptial nerves as the limousine pulled up outside
the grey-stone church.
can still call it off, although the family might kill you after all they’ve
shiver washed over her at Victor Frankel’s words. Her director was standing-in
for her deceased father. If only her mum hadn’t died of grief or her dad had survived the blood
swallowed and attempted bravery.
more killing – fictional or real. I’m marrying Dafydd. I just wish one parent was
never replace either in there.” Vic pointed at her heart. “They are watching
and proud. Dafydd isn’t just a fine actor – perfect for a classic remake. He’s
genuine – like the Glyndwrs.”
bloodline was as ancient as the yew tree guarding the grounds. Descended, as
Dafydd claimed, from the famous Owain Glyndwr, the last true Prince of
climbed out of the limo, then walked up the path through the graveyard. She
drew strength from the man who had guided her career.
Ahead some late comers dashed out of the rain towards the sanctuary. An
elderly man greeted them. He was about seventy from the grey hair, white beard
and old-style tweed suit and waistcoat.
Standing outside, he braved the foul weather. So much for a summer
wedding with blue sky.
man smiled at Mina and reached into the basket on his arm.
first gift on your bridal day. Our custom, since Dafydd brings us new
blood.” He handed
her a circlet of lilies, entwined with roses and sprigs of rosemary. “Gwna
dda dros ddrwg, uffern ni’th ddwg – or as the English say, Repay evil
with good, and hell will not claim you.”
Did he mean to sound so archaic, thought Mina – like the
Count in their movie. Her skin prickled and icy fingers crawled across her.
Had anyone noticed?
Vic was chatting with the old man as he took the petals the creepy
man removed from a blood-red wheelbarrow.
“You’ll be a needing these. Better than confetti for
the ground. Food for the soil so play on, as my friend Will said.”
A poet gardener not a legendary creature. She relaxed and
let Vic guide her into the packed church for this best day of her life. Marrying
the man, she loved. Witnessed by friends she valued. The family welcoming her.
Petals strewn underfoot, crushed releasing their scent,
suppressing all else.
Her glances as she was walked down the aisle showed the old
man hadn’t joined them.
Only a gardener.
Except vampires couldn’t step inside a holy place –
according to the script.
The vicar banished the misleading thought. The blissful
moments grew as the wedding service lifted her and her heart. She made her vows
committing her future. Dafydd’s lips sealed the union.
Here before her, hands cupping her face, was the dream guy
who was worth putting her BAFTA dreams aside for.
Their identical Welsh gold rings were their eternal bond. Her blood warmed her as they walked out of the church arm in arm – united forever. Into the sunshine which bathed the churchyard, banishing the last vestiges of a dead writer’s imaginings and a scriptwriter’s fantasies.
Petals showered them. Joy and warmth. Heart bursting. Congratulations
flowed as their photographer posed them.
On the edge of the graveyard, the abandoned wheelbarrow. And
the thought – vampires don’t like churches or sunlight.
She laughed – cracked and shaking.
“The photos are a formality and a memento.” Her
husband sounded reassuring but then asked, “Or did something else unnerve
She needed an excuse. “I wondered where the gardener
“The elderly guy who gave me the circlet as we arrived. He
wasn’t in the church, so I presumed—”
Dafydd laughed. “You mean Great Uncle Owain. He’s never been
inside that church. Old but not the gardener. But he likes plants, and
creatures though, bats especially. Creatures of the night and their ilk.”
He laughed again. Her head and heart churned but wedding
customs propelled her through cheering people to the limo.
Dafydd kissed her in the back seat.
“Great Uncle Owain will be at the reception – it’s in the
garden of his old ancestral home. Well, the house he’s lived in since before the
Great War. He’s a true war vet – valiant as a lion, Will said.”
Over one hundred years old. Yet she’d guessed seventy. Age
Great Uncle Owain’s house felt forgotten. Ancient. Nature
had overrun it, with ivy and Virginia creeper vying for the prime masonry.
However, the garden was more ordered.
“You asked if Great Uncle was the gardener. Well, this
is his creation – over many decades.”
“How many decades? He must be older than he
“He keeps young. The family trait – passed down the
generations. A secret like my love bites – hidden from view.”
Warmth spread across her face at the memory. She laughed,
right hand caressing her neck where the marks had been.
Her excuses for the pinpricks where he had drawn blood.
Like the Count.
She suppressed the shivers as they walked into the crowded
Tables – their white linen surfaces decorated.
Gifts on the wedding table at one side.
Flowers in green and red wheelbarrows.
Laughter. Music. Chatter.
Great Uncle Owain leaning in for a kiss. Breath on her neck.
He kissed both her cheeks.
His voice – rich and smooth. Relaxing. Hypnotic.
He raised a glass of crimson liquid.
“Welcome to the Glyndwr Dynasty. Don’t let the rumours of my addiction to blood disturb you, my dear Mina. It’s kept me alive for generations. We all get used to its taste. You will too. Try some.”
Word Count 1000: FCA
Comments are welcome as usual and the following applies:
Kama and I race out of the swell and
across the sands of Morfa Bychan beach.
“Your turn to make breakfast, cariad,” she says as I overtake her. “Your full Welsh to prepare us for work. Ffion will await us bright and eager.”
We sprint towards our cottage. “Even
if our DI was partying late at our party. I’ll have no excuse to not confront
Resolved one crime – dozens more
emerging. Plus, the never-ending paperwork. Stifle the sinking stomach. This is
the price of criminal detection with CID.
Bacon, sausages, mushrooms, eggs,
cockles and laver bread sets up the day.
Cloudless weather boosts our motorbike
ride to Porthmadog.
The paper on my desk has spread
overnight. My Email in-box has overflowed again. Fight through this. Make space
for the arson.
In forty minutes, I can focus on
the case file.
Two conflicting reports on the
incident lead. Liam’s forensic analysis suggests arson. Although, Fire Officer
Anwyl’s notes claim it was a traffic accident. Did I count on any support from
Yet, both mention ‘excessive
petroleum splashes’. However, Liam detected traces of a silvery powdery crumb
that was not a firefighting residue.
P for Petroleum and Powder. A
reason to tackle Owen at the Caernarfon fire station.
I scan the ‘unrelated jewel
thefts’ – low value
pieces. There are mixed reports from uniform colleagues. Three statements are
meticulous, but the other two are vague. No arrests. Just familiar suspects –
including Poulsen Leach.
My tattoos set my skin tingling,
and my fingers tapping my bracer.
Hugh Arbuthnot, the gift shop owner,
accused his son-in-law of ‘mixing in shady circles’.
Poulsen’s record includes a spell
in gaol and fines. Further, it shares a name with uniform’s suspicions. Despite
this, we have not recovered any stolen items – yet. Not even at known fences.
A for Arbuthnot, Accusations,
Arson and Accomplices.
S for Suspects – and for
Too S for Simple. Delve deeper
and search sideways. Interview Poulsen and his wife, Olivia as she ran Y Bocs. Check if someone stole the 4×4.
I power along the A487 towards
Caernarfon, gritting my teeth. Owen. Can I work with him, even with the approval
of DI Ffion Baines? I must. He agreed to meet on the phone. Since he wanted me
I park alongside the two-storey
fire station, answers vying for dominance. My head throbs in time with my
churning guts. Relax. Breathe. He’s like a fellow officer.
“Meinwen, let’s talk over a drink.”
He smiles as he meets me at reception. Relaxed and confidant. “We have a great
café nearby – not instant muck.”
He shows me back outside and nods
at the black motorcycle. “Still a biker. No changes then.”
“Another major incident resolved.
On to our burnt-out shop inquiry so I need your help. Why can’t we chat in your
“I’m done arguing in front of my
teammates.” He gestures to a red North Wales Fire and Rescue van. “Besides,
we’ve family issues to discuss.”
The conversation I don’t need
today. The usual blame. You were tad’s
favourite. Meinwen did this…
“As long as we still review the
The coffee is fresh brewed, and
the brownie is a decadent treat.
“Talk, brawd dewr,” I say, forcing a grin.
He continues in our mother
tongue. “Did our tad want you in the force
over me? I never knew.”
The question he should have asked
tad before he died. Owen buries his
anger – but it’s simmering.
Don’t feed it. “No. He was scared
whoever followed him into the police might have family problems like—”
“—him and mam, but that came later. In your mid teens, you were talking about
“—the force? I was only a
vigilante.” I sip the rich brew, searching for a path around the sleeping
flames. “That’s what tad called the Goth Patrol – before he inspired us. He
must have dropped hints to your class too.”
He sputters. “Community service
lectures – from every single emergency service. I never realised tad was behind those.” His turn to bury
himself in his mug, then take a final swig.
I order more coffee – without
tempting chocolate brownies. Will our chat end the sibling rivalry?
“That road traffic accident might
not be arson. I presume you read my exhaustive report.”
I switch into case gear. “Yes. Our
forensic guys agree with the ‘excessive petroleum splashes’. What could cause
those in your experience?”
“A leaking petrol container.” He hesitates,
rapping his knuckles together. “If the vehicle reached the right-hand side of
the shop. I’ll run a test back at the station. Maybe a simulation. A smash-raid
requires speed to damage the fuel tank.”
“Although, wasn’t it half inside
Owen nods. “And not all the
splatters were there. The raiders might have incinerated the car to destroy its
“We can still trace it.” If someone
from NWP hasn’t yet run a search. “Our senior forensics guy, Liam Rhys detected
the remains of a white dust. Not drugs or a harmless household product. Did you
take a sample?”
My brother stares at me, eyes
ablaze. “You accusing us of missing evidence? The powder is our dry chemical
agent, stupid. I will send your Rhys what he needs to strike that off your
suspicions, Meinwen.” He drains his coffee and stands. “I need to get back and
investigate other incidents – pressing ones.”
Dismissed again. I follow him to
the van. We don’t speak until we reach his workplace.
He smoulders as he parks, then
slams his door when he gets out. “Thus, a smash-raid gone wrong. Your thieves torched
the vehicle and caused a fire – not arson. I’ll put your forensics guy right
and you can close your file.”
No fond farewell. He stalks away
as if renewing our absurd rivalry.
R for Rivalry and Ram-raid. A for
Arson and Anger. P for Petrol and Powder.
RAP sheet or PAR for our relationship?
If I add E for Evidence and Excuses,
then PARE. Shave off the distracting details, for now.
I dial Forensics as I walk to my
“Thanks Liam, for the detailed report
on Y Bocs – The Jewel Box crime scene. I’ve just talked with the Fire
Investigator – my evasive brother. He insists that the crumb was their chemical
“A chemical, but an unidentified
Why is Owen ignoring blatant
evidence? To provoke or obstruct me? Petty most likely. Does he expect us to do
his work? Although, he’s a professional.
“He’ll send you a specimen. Can
you help find the actual powder?”
He chuckles. “On it. I’ll email
you my conclusion.”
The station doors open and one
appliance leaves heading towards town.
“Any identification found on the vehicle
used? Or was it too badly torched?”
“The perpetrators tried to erase
the plates and other marks. But not thoroughly enough. The 4×4 was a 2012 Dacia
Duster registered to Poulsen Leach – reported stolen a week before the fire.”
My heartbeat rises, but tattoos
sting. More convenient evidence – more questions for Poulsen and Olivia.
Half-an-hour weaving through
lunchtime traffic focuses my racing mind.
Kama points at the new row of
post-its across my desk. “Compliments of your friends stuck in this hot office.
Enjoy.” She winks and takes half. “I desire you home early tonight.”
“For one of your tasty Tamil
treats. As you’re cooking.”
More emails too – including
Liam’s analysis of the crumb.
Material is an industry standard pyrotechnic flash powder composed of
aluminium dust and potassium perchlorate. The natural colour is dark grey, but
someone doctored this composition. Hence, it simulates the dry fire suppressant.
Look for a pyrotechnician.
As Executive Producer of Oriole
Productions, Hugh B Arbuthnot has the special effects contacts. So, the means
to frame the son-in-law he belittles.
R for Ram-raid and Relations. U
for Unreal and Used. F for Flash and Film. A for Accusations and Arson. D for Dacia
Duster and Deception.
Where is Detective
Sparkle Anwyl of the North Wales Police heading?
Or rather where do I
start her story? What comes first? The goth teenager or the quirky detective?
For the Blogging from A to Z April (2019) Challenge, I wrote a 19,000 word Sparkle story in twenty-six
parts – Azure Spark.
It is a standalone case that some readers have said I should publish as a
novella. However, that throws up some complications.
First complication: although Sparkle & Co., resolved the Azure Spark case, an arson investigation was left ongoing – my ‘O for Obstruction’ post, for the bi-monthly WEP/IWSG Challenge. April’s theme was ‘Jewel Box’ which became the name of the torched gift shop. Initially, I planned to continue the investigation with the June theme, ‘Caged Bird’ and then in the three subsequent WEG/IWSG posts, culminating with ‘Footprints’ in December. But that means holding back ‘Azure Spark’. Doesn’t it?
Or I can write that arson case now as a ‘bonus’
Second complication: backstory. I can add a few pieces of backstory in ‘Azure Spark’ when I re-draft the story. What do readers need to know? Why did Sparkle become a cop? How did she meet her lover, Kama? However, all these incidents exist as short stories. Sparkle’s backstory unfolded as various shorts I developed as a collection with a framing investigation for NaNoWriMo 2018, titled “Fevered Few” – including a case I wrote for the WEP/IWSG Challenge last year.
What do readers
Third complication:‘Azure Spark’ references
a key case in ‘Fevered
Few’ – but in a way I hope gives all that the reader requires. Or
does the case need more detail? How much detail is too much? Or should ‘Azure Spark’ be part of the
Okay, my gut feeling
is that ‘Azure Spark’ the
novella is my starting point. Test the water/market with that, then continue
with the other Sparkle Anwyl stories.
Do you, dear reader, agree?
I intended ‘Fevered Few’ to be the opening of Snowdon Shadows, a series of mystery novels set around Snowdonia in North Wales. However, in the beginning of that WIP, Sparkle doesn’t know she’s a policewoman – or Heddlu as the Welsh police are called. Amnesia is the antagonist blocking her memories of her first cases and more. So, ‘Fevered Few’ was the start of the series – before April 2019’s A to Z Challenge.
I also have three novels to complete in order: “Fates Maelstrom”, “Seeking A Knife”, and “Ruined Retreat”. I’ve drafted FM five times, SAK is still incomplete, and RR was my 2018 NaNoWriMo novel (draft one).
So how do I make ‘Azure
Spark’ fit into the release schedule?
Have I really survived six Blogging from A to Z Challenges? According to my website, yes. Go HERE if you want to read more of my A to Z posts. As for 2019 all the posts were up on time, plus a compilation/edit in three acts – Act One here. However, that is not the end of the Challenge – next comes this Reflections post.
The Reflectionpost is a tradition at the A to Z Challenge. It gives all us participants
a chance to look back at what worked, what didn’t, what we’ve done, what was
learned, and where we hope to go from here. At the end of this post, I’ve added
a list of direct links to other people’s Reflections.
But wait. My theme reveal
was my downfall. What hurtyn chooses
to write a 26-part episodic short story that will read like a novella? Well me.
And that was my first mistake. Second was when my keyboard died on me
mid-March. Okay, I got all my posts scheduled in time – with a few days to
spare at the end of April. But I’m now struggling in a quagmire of emails for
fascinating A to Z posts.
Next year, I’m starting in February – or choosing a simpler
theme than I’ve ever done – maybe.
Anyway, this year, in honour of the Challenge’s
Tenth Anniversary, the brilliant A to Z Team produced a list of ten questions we could use for our
posts. Here are my answers:
1. What did you love about the challenge
First, the Challenge kept me writing – the commitment I
made, plus the comments. So, there’s more tales to spiel.
If it ain’t broke don’t
fix it. And it isn’t. I’ve read one intriguing suggestion that we reduced
the pressure and make it March-April – might help or increase/spread the
stress. Even us that prepare badly.
3. What was the best
moment for you during this year’s challenge?
Making my ‘O’ post for A to Z and the April WEP/IWSG post around
the theme of ‘Jewel
Box’ work, even though my overall theme had nothing to do with jewels.
But it was Crime and the comments approved of the episode.
4. What is the best
comment your blog got during the challenge, and who left the comment?
It’s hard to choose one, from those that persisted with my
short story/novella – like Ronel Janse van Vuuren who looks forward
to the Arson
posts [WEP/IWSG Challenge] and Liz Brownlee, to those from sites I
read consistently who were regular commentators – including the Ninja Captain,
leader of IWSG. Okay, two made me blush and amp up my fiction writing:
“Wow, I don’t know if it just comes naturally or you did it
on purpose, but I loved the numerous uses of D words, then C words, then B
words creating a kind of reverse A to Z musical crescendo as the clues to the
plot pile up !” Susan Rouchard
“Very interesting, Roland. I picked up on snippets of alliteration
sprinkled here and there. (I love alliterative writing).” Michelle
5. Will you do the
Can I stay away? Am I addicted? Of course.
6. Was it well
organized and were the hosts helpful? (Did you fill out the after survey?)
Well organised as always. Hosts so good some dropped by to
check my glass was topped up and I was enjoying the canapes. I didn’t need to
hassle them once – even for some ink for my pen. And yes, I filled out the
7. How did you and
your blog grow, change, or improve as a result of this challenge? Did you find
new blogs out there to enjoy?
I chose the wrong theme to attract many new followers, but I
signed up for a few new sites. My writing has probably improved, but my site has
only been tweaked – I may make changes/updates over the year ahead. But those
new sites are expanding my horizons.
8. Were you on
the Master List? (If you did the challenge last year, was it
better this time without the daily lists?)
I was on the Master List but didn’t use it – so, I can’t
compare it to last year. In fact, I’ve got a backlog of A-Z blog emails/sites
to visit – apologies to those awaiting a visit and a comment.
9. Any suggestions
for our future?
Not anything practical at the Team A to Z’s end. At mine –
get organised earlier.
10. Any notes to the
co-host team? A word of thanks to Jeremy for all his hard work on the graphics?
A picture with your A to Z shirt, if you ordered one?
Congratulations and thanks to you all: J Lenni, Jeremy – I
loved the badges and used them – Jayden,
Zalka and John, plus last but vitally they key, Arlee for making all this
possible ten years ago and counting.
What have I missed/evaded? What
questions do you have?
Tossed. Tumbling through turbulent water toward treacherous
rocks. Thunder in my head. Eyes seared by the explosion. Nothing, not even
Dead. That was their intent. Arms around me, tugging me.
Kama towing me.
“Don’t thrash.” A shout penetrates the storm that
tramples my mind. “I can see. I’ll get us ashore.”
“Where? A cove? I remember only rocks and cliffs.”
“There has to be one nearby. I glimpsed Bardsey Island
from the yacht.”
Doubt. Before we sailed to the dive site. Then cliffs. Cold
We’re a team – survivors.”
“If you can see, I’ll swim behind. I can hear – sense
you ahead. Swimming will keep me warm – alert. Please, thozhi.“
Kama fastens a tether strap around my wrist. “I’ll
attach the other end to my ankle. Safety 101.”
Tremble and smile. Warmth. Her ankle with a rose tattoo that
matches mine. Our eternal love.
We swim together. Trust.
A sound. Waves slapping on a clinker-hull. A voice – robust.
“There. Alive and swimming.” Guto Thomas, and he
shouts at us. “Genethod, we
heard the explosion – muffled but definite. What happened?”
“Rescue us and we’ll tell,” Kama says. “But
officially we are dead. In reality wounded. Sparkle was blinded – still
Arms pull us aboard. A second voice says, “Back to Port
“Padrig. We must vanish,” I say. Smiling in the total
“Your new secret is safe with me,” he says.
“Just as your earlier ones were – cousin. Us Pughs are a smart
Even if I feared his kinship, he’s true. Not every Pugh is
as prejudiced as my thaid, my
grandfather Hywel Pugh.
Plan. Move ahead of the Swedish smugglers – and the traitor
in NWP. Lure them out.
In front of the fire in Guto and Padrig’s cottage, we eat
bowls of Cawl – lamb and vegetable stew. Warmth, and with my eyesight
returning, we devise tactics.
“First, messages to our DI, Ffion Baines and to
Inspector Uthyr Varley to activate tracking of our concealed transponders.”
Kama writes the coded message. “Officially, we have to be missing or
“We can retrieve some of the wrecked boat,” says
Guto. “Evidence – your people will know what sort of bomb.”
“Forensics will come.” Kama anticipates what I
suspect. “Then some detectives – perhaps even the one that betrayed
“Kama and I can’t stay here. We have to get to
“Ivor Pugh’s farm,” Padrig says. “I’ve been
there a few years ago. I’ll take you. Covert?”
We all laugh.
“My family are used to my weird ways. So, if we turn up
at the Pugh farm hidden in some trailer – no surprise.”
N for Nightmare and Nemesis. K for Killed and Kinship. P for
Pugh and Protection. U for Unseen and Uncle. I for Ivor and Intent. C for
Covert and Code.
UNPICK. Unscramble the tangled threads hiding our traitor.
When we make sense of Pia’s parting words.
UNDERMINE – Sunday 26th July – Midday
Unarmed, unaware and useless. My decisions. Why come here?
Unsound understanding of my tattoos.
Kama’s tongue traces the heart where only she goes. Licks
her way inside. Inviting me inside her.
I’ve betrayed her. Making love is impossible now. Even if my
brain wasn’t scrambled.
“You’re distracted, cariad. Why? Sunday guilt? Your
grandparents’ disapproval? They don’t know. Adjoining rooms don’t mean we’re
lovers – even if we are.”
Peaceful sounds. Sheep. A tractor.
But nothing is normal now.
“My grandparents suspect – but don’t want to know. But
I’m doubting myself. Stupidly blaming my tattoos–”
” -which have always led to the right conclusion.”
Shake my head. Crush her pillows.
“Only when I unscramble their weirdness.”
Each tattoo is a watershed moment in my life – becoming a
goth, my first girlfriend, that first heartbreak. Culminating in our secret
hearts. But upheavals – always.
Passion postponed, I dress in black – jeans, T-shirt and Doc
Martens. Focus on positives. Ignore the pounding in my head.
Undetected. We can still thwart the Swedes and their NWP
Outside, an ultramarine Land Rover Discovery draws up. We go
downstairs and greet Uthyr Varley.
“Glad you got the coded message, sir.”
“Uthyr, please. Especially as this is unofficial – and
you two are presumed dead. ‘Unacceptable fatalities’, the Chief Constable
stated to the media.”
“Best if Sparkle and I remain dead until we’ve
outwitted the suspects. Undercover and unseen beyond here. How much has the
Marine unit uncovered so far?”
Without the involvement of the North West Police Underwater
Search and Marine Unit, I know that NWP is in an unwinnable situation.
We sit on the wooden bench outside, overlooking a view I
will always love. Mountains speckled with sheep.
“Forensics identified the explosive used from the
wreckage recovered by Messrs. Thomas and Pugh as untagged Semtex – used
primarily in blasting.”
“Traceable?” I suspect not, even if the Chief
Constable is alerted.
“No resources, I’m afraid.
We’re tracking the cargo you raised and tagged. The four containers are still
on the yacht Njörðr Hämnaren in a
marina between Llandudno and Conwy. No attempt has been made to unload them.
What do you suspect is in them?”
Our dilemma. My unease. “Unsure at present.”
A white Peugeot 308 pulls into the farmyard and parks by the
new farmhouse built for my grandparents and mother.
Uthyr looks at his watch. “Ffion Baines on time as
Our DI points down to the
llyn – the lake that gives the farm its name: Tyn-y-llyn. The lake where I
learnt to swim – and we still do.
“Coffee, tea and gossip can wait. Today it’s urgent
that we unmask whoever betrayed my officers. Ugly prejudice taken to
unacceptable lengths. But why?”
“Money,” says Uthyr. “usually the ulterior
M for Money. P for Prejudice. Unlikely. We are missing the
“Anyone behaving unexpectedly?” asks Kama.
“The team must be devastated – or should be.”
“When officers die, everyone pulls together. United –
as we are in Porthmadog. Wiley Yates and Vivian Utkin volunteered to
investigate your murders. I gave them access to some – but not all – of your
Who do we trust? Wiley knows our secret and understands.
Vivian is an unknown.
U for Understands and Unknown.
Her surname Utkin is familiar. From where? Another case? A
chill. My stomach seethes. Like my mind. Shredded, ever since the explosion.
“Pia Pilkvist said something in Swedish before
attempting to kill us. Kama?”
“It sounded like ‘larger victory’ as if they had
accomplices elsewhere acting underhand–”
“–like in other police forces,” says Uthyr.
Silence. Even the sheep are unvoiced.
“Or it was another attempt to undermine us – sow
doubt.” I shake my head. “But it makes no sense killing us
K for Kill. V for Victory and Volunteers. A for Accomplices
and Anxious. T for Traitor and Threats.
KVAT means nothing. My tattoos are failing us.
“We have grounds to arrest the Pilkvists,” says Ffion, tensing
her shoulders. “I’m desperate as they intended to kill you both. But I can’t
until we’ve uncovered their informer and other accomplices.”
Our safety requires uncertainty. Remaining hidden. Blood
from chewing my lips. Gritted teeth instead. Not inactive if we want to lure
them out. Think. Untangle my mess.
“Thwarted.” Uthyr clasps his hands behind his head. “I’ve
asked HMRC if they have grounds to seize the canisters, but they were inside UK
waters when raised. Nothing to point conclusively to their overseas origin. Too
circumstantial. But we’re primed to respond.”
“And if they contain drugs or worse?” My skull
vibrates. Just tight. Weak. “Time was imperative, they said. Why?”
T for Time. V for Victims.
Head spinning. Brain swamped. As my knees fail, I remember.
“Väktare. Pia said Lagens väktare.”
Falling. Where’s Kama?
VENDETTA – Sunday 26th July – 1 p.m.
Vague visions vex me as they
vanish. Memories return as Kama kisses me.
“You fainted, cariad. You need more time to
She’s kneeling on the grass
with my head in her lap. She caresses my face.
“No. We haven’t got
time. I fear what Lagens väktare
means.” I look up at Ffion and Uthyr, their brows creased. “I need to
go online. On my sister Gwawr’s computer.”
We sprint to the house and I
sign to my deaf sister.
Upstairs in her room, the
four of us squeeze behind Gwawr as she types Lagens väktare into
of the Law”
“Above the law. Vigilantes.
That’s their motivation. And my hyper-active tattoos are screaming Arms.”
Ffion. “Like they used on your boat? Or guns?”
“The canisters were not
tall enough for long weapons,” says Kama. “But disassembled ones,
handguns, or components would be a viable guess.”
Uthyr waves me to the
doorway. I trust my sister, but guessing she can lip read, Uthyr asks, “Should
we talk outside?”
“Gwawr’s my trusted
researcher – and my late tad knew
that – as does Ffion. She knows more than mam-“
“-About you and Kama as
well?” His smile eases my racing pulse. “Yes, I suspected when I
arrived. You make a great couple and my unit would validate that.”
As they look over at us, we call
the others over and suggest grabbing tea or coffee and sitting outside.
Drinking as we sit on the
wooden bench overlooking the farm, I attempt to relax. This is almost home –
this working farm. The sound of sheep. The glistening water where Kama and I
swam before not making love. Better to dive in again to banish the nightmare.
Utkin. Xander Utkin.
“Ffion, does Vivian’s
personnel file show any relationship to Xander Utkin, the guy Kama and I put
away for arson, earlier this year?”
Our DI closes her eyes. A
long pause when I wonder if this thread is coincidence.
“Vivian admitted Xander
was her brother when she applied to join CID, three months ago. However, she
was estranged from him and said he deserved to be locked up.”
“Any sign that she feels
that we are too soft on crime?”
“None. Like all of us
she sympathizes with the victims. Works tirelessly to resolve cases. I suspect
that’s one of the reasons that Wiley-“
her,” says Kama. “Those two are inseparable. Perhaps another
Perhaps vigilantes. Or are
“Their follow-up on your
deaths,” says Ffion, “has been exacting and sensitive.”
V for Vigilantes or Virtuous.
E for Exacting and Explosives.
A mobile phone rings. Uthyr’s.
“Varley.” He listens,
one hand rubbing his neck. “On the move? Which direction?” He nods then
glances at his watch. “I’m forty minutes away at least. Follow them and
keep me informed.” He snaps his phone closed.
“ Njörðr Hämnaren has
cast off?” I ask. “Heading where?”
“East. Possibly towards
Liverpool so outside the NWP’s operational area. But not my Marine Unit’s. If necessary,
I’ll contact our colleagues at Merseyside Police. We’ll continue monitoring the
transponder signals. Ffion, your team must find the vermin that think they are
above the law.”
M for Merseyside and Monitor.
Uthyr leaves us strategizing
beside the llyn.
“If we’re to draw them
out,” says Kama. “Sparkle and I are the prime bait and-“
“-Your usual jeopardy
approach,” says Ffion. “Last time nearly got you both killed.”
“Nearly is not stopping
me. Fainting was just a memory recall device – that worked.”
Like my tingling tattoos.
W for Weapons. A for Arms. E
for Explosives. S for Strategy.
V for Vendetta. Ours.
WAVES. Staggering ashore
having survived the watery nightmare. Where?
“Sparkle and I must
return to Aberdaron Bay and drown again.”
WHIPLASH – Monday 27th July – Dawn
Wounds washed by waves, we
lie waiting. Bodies wrapped around each other in what remains of our splinter-lacerated
wetsuits. The wind carries the sound of an outboard motor approaching.
A boat draws near to the rock
island in Aberdaron Bay. Seabird residents watch our rescuers – the two detectives
investigating our deaths.
“Thank God,” says
Wiley in English as he rushes forward. “We were on the Llŷn when control
“Some locals reported
glimpsing bodies out here on Ynys Gwylan-bach.” Vivian stares at us, eyes
wide. The rips and gashes? “Actually, the two guys that found your wrecked
I wriggle from Kama’s
embrace. Wiley lifts me and Vivian assists.
“If you can walk, we’ll
get you to the boat. Then we’ll return for you, Kama.”
I stagger. Feign weakness but
drag myself upright. Wary, but there’s a witness. Padrig watches from the boat
and hoists me as I struggle aboard.
“Welcome back. I feared
my lessons had been wasted when we found your wrecked boat.”
While Wiley and Vivian retrace
their steps to Kama, Padrig continues in Welsh.
“They show concern, but I’d
watch out. They’ve been asking strange questions.”
Subtle tingling. A for Alert.
W for Warning.
“For one, how we found
the boat and where? That was okay until today. They asked about this rock
island – Ynys Gwylan-bach. Why here so far from the wreckage? Currents should
have carried you and the wood from the hull in the same direction.”
“We swam towards the
He nods as our detective
allies return. A for Allies. W for Weasel.
“We need to get those
wounds treated,” says Wiley. “Splinter slashes might get
Once aboard, Vivian sits beside
Wiley, knees touching as Padrig heads to Aberdaron.
“We have your belongings
from the B&B in our squad car,” she says. “We went to Penrhos
yesterday – in case you had both returned there.”
I shiver, apprehensive but
not from the cooler air. E for Evidence.
Ashore, Padrig says, “I’ll be in the bar if you
need me, genethod. Dywed yn dda am
dy gyfaill, am dy elyn dywed ddim.”
Do our English colleagues understand? ‘Speak well of your friend; of your enemy say nothing.’ It doesn’t
matter. He verifies the tremors – our quarry is near.
In the National Trust car park, Wiley opens the white Ford
Focus’s tailgate, and nods at two suitcases with stickers promoting Patagonia.
palms his forehead. “We should have collected more suitable gear at your
home. But nobody knows the codes –”
“–for our weird security
doors,” says Kama. Not exactly true as Ffion does have them. “I’m
okay with these colours – for a few hours.”
We change in the pub’s
washroom. Wearing pastels instead of black is an acceptable price if we expose
the vigilante. I repeat Padrig’s warning on the island to Kama – in Tamil. Public
toilets have ears.
Outside, Wiley leads us back
to the car park. “DI Baines wanted us to get you checked by a doctor. So
were going to Tremadog – as it’s near the station.”
But with minimal
facilities. Why are no paramedics here?
No A&E arrangements? Ffion knows our injuries are superficial. But who
cancelled routine medical response?
O for Orders. M for
Wiley hands Vivian the keys
to the Focus, then climbs into the backseat beside Kama.
Are we being separated? I’m motioned
to the front passenger seat by an unsteady Wiley.
“All this messing around in
boats is exhausting,” he says.
Vivian laughs and fastens her
seatbelt. Then drives off along the B4413 towards Pwllheli.
“How long were you
swimming before you reached the island? All night?”
Suspicious of our story. Both?
Or just Vivian?
S for Suspect and Swimming.
I smile back. “Most of
Tuesday night. We tried to land but there were rocks and cliffs. Hard to find
anywhere at night.”
“Ynys Gwylan-bach was
the first place we saw where we could land. By then it was light,” says
Kama. “We slept for hours. Until you found us.”
“Keeping each other warm
seems – strangely sensible.”
Our secret relationship is
illicit in her eyes. AMOURS or ARMS?
Time this right. Wrangle it
“Basic survival. Our
wetsuits were useless in the cold air.”
Silence. Vivian seems
satisfied. Wiley is dozing.
Sweat on her forehead. She’s
thinking. Plotting? Remembering?
The case that convicted her
brother for arson?
“Have you seen your brother
She grits her teeth. Blinks
but stares at the road. “He took me to the races at Chepstow on a recent day-off.
Backed a few winners. He’s taking me to Ffos Las for Ladies Day later this
Intentional evasion. She’s
talking about her brother Quincy the goading polo player.
“Deservedly locked up –
unlike the women that put him there.”
Her fingers grip the steering
wheel tighter, turning white. Hate. Kama and me? Xander’s ex-wife and her queer
partner? All of us?
“He set fire to the stables
and poisoned their horses. Unprovoked and the jury found him guilty.”
“And ignored what drove him
to breaking the law. You and your partner were the arresting officers. You
ignored the provocation. Failed to report all the facts. Scorned divine law. I
can’t forget, but enough said – for now.”
Impassive but sweating.
So, divine law makes me
guilty. I’ve been a sinner for years – in chapel eyes. Even if I attend – when
crime allows. Guilty. Vigilantes against Gay Pride? Unreal and yet too
West of Mynytho, Vivian
throws a left onto the smaller B4415. We’re thrown to off-balance as she weaves
to straighten up down the lane between two stone walls.
Wiley is sound asleep. Trees
“Where are we
“Bangor – the A&E.
Or aren’t you really injured?” She smirks as she accelerates. “You
two are such fakes – except for your disgusting perversion.”
I try to grab the steering wheel,
but she just wrenches it to the side again, scraping the stone wall.
“This time, I’ll dispose
of you properly – and Wiley.”
A belt whips around her neck
and I wrest the wheel from her, steering us onto the rain-soft verge where the
“Never let an officer
sit behind you with a whip for a belt. Wisdom 101.”
I blow a kiss at my colleague
as I cuff Vivian, then drag her onto my side of the squad car.
“What did you give
Wiley? A sleeping draught?”
Another sick laugh. “Nothing
so inept. Diluted weever fish toxin sweetened with xylitol – no known antidote.
But he knew the risks of not punishing criminals. Death.”
“Whiskey Tango Foxtrot.
Why? Pric pwdin.”
“I don’t have to say
anything. Not to you two dikes. To our DI, Ffion Baines – perhaps. Then, I will
mention everything that I will rely on – if this ever gets to court. If anyone
survives to witness this.”
A warped version of our
police caution. Do we need to warn her officially? Yes.
Kama does as she secures Vivian
inside the squad car.
X for Xylitol and Xenial. A
for Amours, Arms and Alert. N for Nervous and Names. D for Directions and
Deception. E for Envenom and Embittered. R for Retaliation and Revenge.
XANDER. How is he connected
to murder? Is he the real threat?
XANTHIPPE – Monday 27th July – Mid-morning
Xylitol, xerostomia, x-rays, xerosis? I’m confused by the
medical jargon. Wiley’s unconscious, and his skin is yellow and dry. Xanthic xerosis?
“Doctor, without the medical jargon, how is our
He glances at his watch. It’s an hour since we brought Wiley
into the A&E at Ysbyty Gwynedd, Bangor – and another squad car took Vivian,
restrained, to Porthmadog.
“He is unconscious but breathing. All his vital signs
are acceptable. The x-rays show nothing is fractured. I cannot detect the
supposed toxin – yet. There are more tests I need to run.”
I try to breathe steadily. Hope Wiley’s okay. He has to be.
“So, his pallor? His skin. What’s that from?” asks
“Xerosis or abnormal dryness can occur in the eyes – xerophthalmia
– on the skin – xeroderma – and in the mouth – xerostomia. Of these, he
exhibits the latter two. So, we will test for asialism, ichthyosis and other causes.
“Keep us updated via our PCSO,” I say, smiling as
the same female officer who helped before.
Protection for one of our own? In a coma? But not with a
gaff. An unknown toxin? Is that what’s in the canisters? A biological or chemical
Shivers set off my tattoos.
A for Abnormal and Avenger. B for Breathing and Biological. C
for Coma and Chemical. D for Dryness and Death. V for Victim and Vigilante. I
for Intent and Identify.
Vivian or Pia? We need answers.
Monday 27th July – Midday
“ Njörðr Hämnaren is moored at Liverpool Marina?”
Uthyr answers on speakerphone in Ffion’s office.
“Yes, within a short walk of the city. But we are ready
to stop them unloading.”
“If the canisters are biological or chemical
hazards,” says Ffion. “The Swedes can release them from the boat –
into the air or the harbour. I’ve alerted NaCTSO, but we need more
The National Counter Terrorism Security Office will rely on
us to keep them informed so they can co-ordinate the appropriate units. But we
are acting on suspicions. My gut feelings.
“Has your rogue officer said anything helpful?” asks
“She’s evasive and shrewd. Playing with us. But she’ll
“I pray it’s in time to stop whatever the Swedes have schemed.”
“It will be, Uthyr. You know my dynamic-duo and rate
them suitable for your unit.”
I wonder who leaked that. Have they discussed our future?
Ffion rings off and motions for us to follow to an interview
suite – our only one with a two-way mirror. CPS approved.
“Suggested questions? I’ve tried the vigilante angle
and DC Utkin wanting to dispense her own justice.”
Utkin. Xander. That triggered her reactions.
“Ask what drove her brother Xander to commit arson. And
what divine law guides her.”
Ffion motions to the viewing room as she steps into the main
interview suite along with the police sergeant who was inside guarding the
Vivian is sitting with the defence lawyer she has requested.
Ffion switches the recorder on.
The lawyer plays his hand. “My client will only answer
questions that relate to her arrest.”
“The attempted murder of two officers. The canisters on
the yacht. Why she’s put another officer in hospital. So – everything.”
“Circumstantial associations,” says Vivian.
“Evidence massaged by two officers that resent me and my colleagues.”
“Officers that arrested your brother Xander for arson.
Valid? Or tampered evidence?”
Vivian stares hard at the mirror. Eyes burning into ours.
” I know this room and that ridiculous mirror. They’re
listening – your pet officers who arrested him. Yes, he deserved to be put away
for his crimes. But they drove him over the edge.”
Ffion opens a file. Xander’s case?
“By ‘they’ you mean his ex-wife Dinah Quinlan and her
partner Aerona Ogilvy? What did they do to pervert the law?”
Vivienne hesitates. Her lawyer shakes his head, then
whispers to her. Does he suspect what she might admit? Vivian glares at him, at
Ffion, at us. Anger triggered.
“The Lord’s Law. 1 Corinthians 6:9 – ‘Or do
you not know that wrongdoers will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be
deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor men who
have sex with men’. This is a Christian country and I respect that.”
“So, your fellow officers become legitimate
targets – even if they attend chapel like Sparkle. Or Wiley Yates who is as
heterosexual as you.”
Vivian shakes her head. “He agrees with your
dike pets and does nothing to correct their delusion. Unlike my friends. Their
belief is firm.”
Ffion pauses and flicks through the file. Page by
page. Vivian shuffles and sweats.
“Who is next? Me, another Christian who
believes in her officers? This vendetta won’t end with two or three dead colleagues.
What’s in the canisters, DC Utkin? Or are you as immoral as your brother? A
criminal and not one of my officers?”
Fists on the table, Vivian shakes her head.
“And if I help, what do I get? I only did this
to correct what our system failed to do – protect people. Without the police
presence, vigilantes are dangerous. I can stop that. With me involved, they will
“Help us do what? Do we need the containers?
Do we want them?”
“Xanthippe, they called me – confrontational. The
Swedes thought I wasn’t to be trusted. I challenged their aims too much. But I
know the best way to deal with misfits not them. This was my chance.”
“Now I’m offering you the chance to stop this – earn
My mobile rings. The PCSO at the hospital.
“DS Yates is recovering. The doctor says there was no
venom. Just a heavy sleeping draught. When he is well enough to talk, I’ll get Wiley
A bluff. Vivian is the fraud spinning a yarn.
R for Respect and Revenge. Y for Yacht and Yarn. A for
Abnormal and Avenge. D for Death and Duplicity.
YARD. A railway goods yard?
I message Ffion. “Wiley okay. Say he died. Not her
intention. So will break her.”
Ffion sits back, shakes her head and cries.
“Wiley. Why him? Didn’t he love you enough?”
Vivian claws her head, body shuddering.
Another red herring.
C for Casualties and Cons. K for Kisses and Kudos. O for
Opportunists and Objectives.
DOCKYARD. My tattoos convulse me.
Knees buckling. Mind churning letters and clues.
Kama’s arms around me. “Cariad. Not again?”
YOKE – Wednesday Mid-Evening
Yachting yarns yearn to be clues
but they’re not. Njörðr Hämnaren is
the decoy along with the containers. Vivian has been wasting our time. Under
We are parked in the shadows at
Holyhead Docks. My hunch must be correct.
“Trust me, Ffion. Three mnemonics told me to come
“That mental Scrabble board is very accurate. If it
wasn’t, we’d still be at Porthmadog – assessing our minimal leads.”
What happens if I’m wrong?
“And the mnemonics were?” asks Wiley. “I
always trust you.”
Another voice of confidence. Fired up on his release from Ysbyty
Gwynedd in Bangor.
“If it helps – DESPATCH, LARCENY, and GEMS. Our contact
here in the port confirmed that the shipment of gemstones is due from Eire on
the next boat. The handling agents are also taking action.”
Will that satisfy their insurers if we fail?
“G for Gnomes and Gaff. E for Elaborate and Evasive. M
for Manifest and Mirrors. S for Smoke and Sailing,” says Kama, interpreting
my thinking process.
“And the yacht with the containers,” asks Wiley,
catching up after missing the briefing. “Are they coming here? Did Vivian
I shake my head. “She was totally confused. Thought the
containers were contraband. The Pilkvists promised her a cut if she helped.
Part of their extensive ploy to keep our other divisions distracted –”
“– Even counter-terrorism,” says Ffion. “Vivian
folded and called the Swedes manipulative zealots. Their yacht left Liverpool
heading West, but Marine are following. Armed response is alerted, but they
need justification to attend.”
Will our Swedish victims show? Is my intuition valid? Are
the wrong resources being diverted?
The penny counters will make me pay – with my career.
Can we afford not to respond?
“Exposing me and Sparkle was personal revenge for
Vivian – a fringe benefit.”
Kama squeezes my shoulder – reassurance.
Ffion glances at her watch, then checks that uniform are
hidden across the arrival area.
Stefan Mikaelsson and Ivan Tjäder stroll by us, oblivious to
our squad car in the darkness.
As I surmised. Deceivers not victims.
Dressed as customs officers, they wait for the courier with
two colleagues. They check some cars but stay clear of the main customs area.
“Courier’s yellow Toyota Yaris approaching now,”
says a uniform officer over the radio.
The four thieves spot the vehicle and obstruct its path. Stefan
accosts the driver as Ivan approaches the passenger side. They draw pistols
from their jackets and throw the doors open.
They pull the courier out and force him into the back seat
between the two sidekicks.
“Don’t tackle them yet,” says Ffion. “We
don’t want innocent bystanders shot. Or the courier killed. Tail at a distance.”
As Ffion orders uniform to follow, I keep two car lengths
behind the Yaris. Stefan turns out of the port into the town centre.
My tattoos thrum. M for Marina and Y for Yacht.
“I’m contacting Uthyr,” says Kama. “If the
yacht left Liverpool heading west, where is it now?”
“Good call, Kama,” says Ffion. “Wiley, see if the local
force has other support they can spare. I’m advising armed response again. This
is escalating. With £10
million in gems plus guns, we’re at PIP three level.”
Ffion is an experienced Senior Investigating Officer – and
respected. But NWP are spread thin and these crooks know that. No thanks to
The Yaris drives along the opposite side of the harbour, past
the railway station, then left towards the Marina.
W for Water. S for Swim.
The marine unit updates us.
“ Njörðr Hämnaren has just dropped anchor west of The Skerries, due
north of Holyhead. We will await orders to board her and we have a customs
officer with us.”
“That may be necessary, Uthyr,” says Ffion.
“You are our only marine unit if these thieves escape us.”
Moonlight glistens of waves and boats. The Yaris slows and I
Imminent confrontation. Adrenaline. Jeopardy.
“Local cannot spare more uniformed officers. We’ll have
to depend on the two behind us.”
Ffion expels her breath hard. “And armed response is
still too far away.”
Only the guns outnumber us – except in the water. Who swims
As the thieves park the Yaris near a sailing club slipway, I
ease onto the embankment, cutting the lights.
“They’ve brought their Aberdaron boat for their
escape,” says Kama. “We need to borrow a boat or –”
“– Swim, if we need to. If we drop in off the quay
there, they won’t see us. Head to the breakwater.”
Ffion nods and turns to Wiley.
“Two of them seem to be staying with our courier. Arrest them. The armed
guys must be taking the gems to Njörðr
I sidle out of the car with Kama.
As Stefan and Ivan launch the clinker boat, we slip into the
water. Fully-clothed is a routine swim – some mornings.
Night hides our smooth passage out into the Marina harbour.
Headlights stab at the Yaris. Flashing blue lights add to
Stefan and Ivan hesitate.
They fire warning shots into the blinding beams. Officers are
diving for cover as we head for a channel marker buoy.
Our fleeing thieves raise their sails – at the third attempt
– then tack towards the channel.
“They’d make better progress with oars,” says
Kama. “Or an outboard. We’d better intervene before they hit another
We approach underwater, pulling ourselves aboard over either
side. The boat rocks and the crooks come alert. Both go for their guns.
We time our tackles to avoid capsizing.
The Swedes are strong.
My choke hold slips in the wet. Stefan’s knee jabs my
stomach. Gasp for air.
But one arm slips around his neck. He squirms, yet the hold
tightens. Without hesitation, I slam his head up against the boom.
“I used my fist,” says Kama. “More satisfying
but painful. Next time, I’ll whip them into shape.”
Stefan and Ivan are cuffed while unconscious, and Kama
retrieves the gem pouches.
We row the boat beyond the other craft and yachts, then sail
out to the Breakwater Lighthouse.
Ffion and Wiley are waiting as planned.
“Guessed you’d stop them. Uniform took the other guys
to the local station,” says Ffion. “Seems the courier conned these
guys – risked his life.”
Kama opens the pouches – cut glass fakes. Costume jewels.
“The handler’s security agent sent a second courier.
Ours is the decoy.”
“These rocks will do for the Pilkvists. We’d be remiss
not delivering them.”
Ffion hands me our radios. “And arrest the zealots. We’ll
ensure Uthyr knows to expect your boat off The Skerries. And take these as they’re
no doubt armed – but you’ve been trained in their use.”
Tasers. Z for Zealots. A for Assault. P for Police.
“With Zinfandel wine,” adds Kama. “You planning a Zenith
Party? Dancing? Zamacueca, zambra, zapateado and zydeco?”
“Distracting myself from mnemonic overload. A party sounds great when we’re
done with this case. And a Polish inspired zebra –”
“Wait and see, thozhi.
Will our disguises work? The customs uniforms from Stefan and Ivan are
a loose fit in places but adequate.
As we heave closer, Pia hails us – in Swedish.
“ Har du
‘Adeltsarna’ must be the
stones, so we give a thumbs-up.
Peder throws a line from the stern and we haul ourselves in. The ladder
is familiar, and we climb aboard, heads lowered.
Pia is waiting in the cockpit as Peder punches buttons to raise the
I toss over the three jewel pouches.
She stares at us, eyes flicking between the two zombies.
“Your colleague was meant to finish what we started.”
“As ineffective as your explosives. So, we’re here with the gems
instead of your inept divers.”
She hesitates then picks up the pouches.
“Well, seems you have a price as well. We thought DC Utkin was a
rare find. Three in one force is somewhat – American.”
We let her open the pouches as I arm my Taser X26, and Kama unfastens
her Savuku belt.
Pia tips out the costume jewellery as I step beside Peder.
“Fakes – like you two bitches. Where are the real gems?”
“On their way to the lawful client in Bangor with another courier.
Too many decoys these days.”
I zap Peder and he slumps to the deck. Kama’s whip curls around Pia’s
wrist before she can draw her hidden pistol. Then she restrains the Swede with
an arm lock.
We handcuff them and read them their rights.
“Uthyr, one pirate vessel secured,” I say on my radio.
“The canisters are exactly where we left them. My guess is – gnome
More deceptions – like Lagens
väktare, the illusionary Guardians of the Law.
Friday 31st July – Evening
The glass of White Zinfandel compliments the zany cosmopolitan spread.
I savour the strange blend of raspberry, coconut, spices and fish. But I miss
my velvet favourite – and the heat of Kama’s Ennai Kathirikai Kulambu.
As the sun sets with reds and oranges over the Bae Ceredigion and the Llŷn
Peninsula, I turn to Ffion, who is balancing her glass on her plate of select
“One more case resolved – 10 more to tackle.”
Paperwork alone never ends – especially all the justification demanded for
every penny spent
“As your tad always reminded
us, ‘crime never sleeps – even during Chapel.’ Did you get the email?”
My mind scrolls through the questions, comments and helpful spam
“The security company handling the shipping of the gems – from
“Yes. They thanked us for ensuring the safety of the Azure Stones.
The message said we came recommended. But not by whom. Just that Zoo Sécurité
would be in touch. Do you know more?”
A new mystery. The name meant nothing to me or Kama. Who suggested us?
Ffion shakes her head and frowns. “Can’t bear to have you two leaving
my team. Being head-hunted by a security outfit is serious.”
“Thought you were thinking of joining my unit,” says Uthyr,
bringing over a bottle. He tops up our glasses.
Kama takes my arm. “Sparkle and I are committed to helping CID for
a good few years. Dawn swimming from the nearby beach is all we need.”
Our future draws other concerned friends.
“You acquired that Aberdaron boat,” says Wiley, arm around
the PCSO from Bangor hospital. “That’s more than swimming.”
“It cost us – the accounts department wanted blood for it,” Our
friends laugh, but it’s almost true. I lift my glass to my cousin and his
partner. “Now, we’ve a regatta to
practice for – when Guto and Padrig have repaired her. And next year – watch
The strutting of our jackdaw, Negesydd
announces the start of the serious dancing at our Zenith celebration.
Zithers, drums and flutes echo into the Welsh night.
Midnight approaches and disappears. Nobody leaves. Is crime asleep, or
just lurking in the shadows? Dancing to its own rhythm.
Kama pulls me closer, and her scent of vanilla and bergamot embraces
“Must I wait to discover about this Polish-inspired zebra? Or can
we sneak away?”