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?”
jigs keep us entertained as Kama and I relax on our patio, enjoying the evening
sun and breeze. Negesydd had adopted us and even assists on cases.
entitled to time off too – and I’m glad your fraud case is nearing a
Wiley and Ffion think we have enough material for CPS.”
the Criminal Prosecution Service feel a judge and jury would dismiss the case.
A chill settles over me. My stomach is heavy.
need a witness to the assault on Stefan and Ivan – and identities for their
rich assailants if my Aberdaron case is going to progress further.”
you’ll find them and the motive.”
sparks in my head and my tattoos. R for Regatta.
to enter the Aberdaron regatta? Late entry.”
leans against me and whisper-kisses my ear. “Sounds like one of your
typical ploys. A risk. And An adrenaline rush. So yes.”
snigger and kiss her, tasting grape and lemongrass. Breathing in vanilla and
our rich Swedes want divers who can sail, we can oblige. Ffion should endorse
the sting. With Stefan in supposed custody and Ivan on the run –”
They might bite. Our lives in jeopardy as usual.” She winks and caresses
me. “So, early to bed tonight. Exercise. Tomorrow, and early swim session.
Then you devise a plan with Ffion.”
Wednesday 22nd July – Morning
reads my satisfied grin as I bring her a cup of mint tea.
your colleagues don’t interpret joyous rapture for what it is. Remember keep
that at home. So, I presume the case has progressed due to our custody visitor’s
so I hand her the flash drive with my plan. She studies the details, her
expressions ranging from a grin and nod to pursed lips with a long frown to close.
money guys will balk at this – unless most of it is done off-duty. Your lives
will be in jeopardy as usual – but I expect that with you and Kama.”
agreed to do the training off-duty – but I fear time is short so –”
We might need to fast track your diving licenses. What’s your current
wild water swimming is already challenging. Ffion knows that. Lying isn’t
than proficient. We need more deep-water hours.”
can arrange that with the North West Police Underwater Search & Marine Unit
– and adjust your off-duty days. Issuing a license won’t be a problem. You want
to leak the bait through the press?”
thrills at the thought of decisive action. My fingers tap bracer studs.
L for Lure. O for Off-Duty. And J.
tame journalist will spread the fake news. She’s reliable – despite her
jealousy at our not-so-glamorous jobs.”
laugh together. The plan will only work if the rich couple are desperate after
losing Stefan and possibly Ivan.
do you think the Swedish couple need divers and a fishing boat?” Ffion
raises her eyebrows.
wildcard. “The freighter jettisons its illegal cargo off Aberdaron. Divers
are needed to recover the goods.”
lateral thinking. What inspired that? Wine or passion?”
teasing eyes prompt an honest answer. “Both.”
of our evening – after Negesydd hopped away – blood my cheeks and send finger spirals
up my spine.
them down and let my tattoos feed in.
Knowledge and Kama. I for Intrigue. L for Lure and License. J Journalist and
Jeopardy. O for Off-Duty and Ops. Y for Yield and Yester-eve.
Our penny-counters or someone else?
smile turns serious.
this case is closed, I have a new mystery for you both. It’s minor – non-CID
incidents now. But ones I’m watching. Seemingly unrelated jewel thefts – low
value items, trinkets but from tourists.”
When you want our input, let us know. Meantime, I’ll work on the diving
monitor the jewel incidents – perhaps let you see something in advance.
Unofficially. Get some judicious feedback.”
KNUCKLE-DUSTER – Wednesday 22nd July – Midday
Kama’s knowledge of kickboxing keeps me alert to her moves
in the gym. One hesitation and I’m a flattened dosa pancake. She gives no quarter. Nor do I.
Sweat washes off as
she soaps my hair.
“How soon is the deep-water course – and the
“Tomorrow is the training on Ynys Môn. Anglesey has
great dive sites. Friday, we try out our Aberdaron boat. Saturday, we race. So,
“Just that spot where your palm is playing on my right
cheek. But enjoyable.”
I kiss her. “Just returning your attentive touch. We
better sneak out separately. Remember the warning.”
There are strange looks when I return to the office, even
though Kama is back conferring with Wiley. He’s proved one of our understanding
friends – even if he’s captivated with Vivian. Supportive friends are too few. If
only others were like PC Megan Matthews and her husband Cefin who protect our
A new email arrives. Kristina Yoxall, our tame journalist.
and appearing as attached in this afternoon’s online edition. If you approve. I
expect my usual kickback – advance details of another successful outcome.”
The story is brief and baited:
Returning Tremadog athletes, Sioned Wilkins and Rashmi
Sharma, 23 and 28, have announced they are entering the Aberdaron Regatta.
Their first race is on Saturday afternoon. They paid special tribute to Guto
Thomas of Porth Meudwy, who restored the boat they are racing. In advance of their
practice day on Friday, the former champion divers said, “Our return to
the Llŷn Peninsula, where we grew up, is a great honour.”
If the lure isn’t taken, I’m stumped. For now, my heart
surges. Suggesting a few word changes, I email Kristina. Then ring Guto.
“Mister Thomas, this is Sparkle Anwyl. Did you get my
“About a boat for our regatta? Yes. I have the perfect
one. Bit fancy and she should turn heads like any fine lass. But she won’t win
“Other than catching the right breeze, the aim is to
catch our attackers.”
“Suppose you know what you’re doing. What about in a
We are more familiar with being in the water, but I refrain
from saying that.
“All advice is welcome. Can you help us? We aim to
collect the boat early Friday –”
“– If you are here at 5 AM, we can help. Won’t breathe
a word about you being Heddlu. You’re
one of us. Goodwill. And good sailing.”
“Thanks. We’ll be there prompt – Sioned Wilkins and
Rashmi Sharma. Former champion deep-sea divers.”
A chuckle confirms Guto is our man – our boat builder.
A pleasant tingle as I press my bracer. G for Guto and
Goodwill. L for Llŷn and Lure. A for Aberdaron. E for Edition.
LEGAL. Are we? Will CPS approve of our actions? Does it
matter if the Swedish kingpins use every weapon against us? Not just gaffs,
staves and knuckle-dusters, but guns. Lethal force.
LETHALITY – Wednesday 22nd July – Afternoon
Legal loopholes challenge us. CPS must prepare for canny
lawyers. I need to ensure we have everything.
Eyes closed, my mind plays games with scenarios. Be
Ivan Tjäder, our runner might be more than the loophole. Did
he see me? Was this coma a pretence? The doctor would’ve known. But Stefan
My shudder is premature – if Ivan is found by us first. I
check the latest sightings – nothing.
But Ffion has sent me the petty theft incidents. Nothing
expensive. Nor anything the pawnshops will bother with. Very likely gift shop
purchases. Sentimental trinkets the professional jewel thief would ignore. An
opportunist petty thief? A spate that merits monitoring. So, I give Ffion my
I’m assessing my next lateral step, when a message flashes
Anwyl. We are watching you and your lesbian bitch. No perversion in NWP. Resign
or regret staying.”
I shiver. My heart beat races. Dizziness. Pain.
The first stone, and we’ve only been doing our jobs. Is this
hatred or jealousy?
Rigidity dissolves. The bitter tang in my mouth. Spit. My
I can’t tell Kama.
No. I must tell Kama.
Are we safe at the regatta?
No cop would dare expose us – would they? To be rid of us?
If we fail that proves our lack of worth.
Focus on the case. Ignore the haters. I’m queer and proud.
Lost cargo – jettisoned overboard. My hunch. I open the
message from HMRC in Pembroke. The manifest from the Scandinavian freighter shows
items missing – washed off by waves during a lightning storm. ‘Medical supplies.’
But no loss report or insurance claim shows in any records I
can access. Buried or dismissed?
Diving might reveal more. And probing.
I ring forensics.
“Liam, our guest confirmed they were attacked with
gaffs and staves.”
“Do we have a crime scene?”
“Nothing definite. A jetty, perhaps a marina near
Llandudno. We haven’t the resources to search for a scene. Not yet.”
“Austerity biting at your budget too. Crazy with crime
“That’s what my late tad would say.”
Tears come freely at his memory. Cancer was the crime that
took him. The toughest adversary.
“He was – the best.” I close my eyes. Breathe.
“I’ll ring when I have more. Oh, they had been sailing.”
Waves of tingling as I replace the phone.
A for Austerity and Adversary. M for Medical and Manifest. L
for Lightning, Lesbian and Legal. U for Unknown.
MAUL. Who is wanting to maul us? Lethality unleashed. No
matter. The trap should be set. I check the online news.
“Champion divers choose Aberdaron Regatta.”
MAYHEM – Thursday 23rd July – Morning
Melodious murmurs mingle with the churning surf and rival
bird calls. Makes these memories matter. Kama and me – melded.
“The dive ship will take us out to the final wreck.
This will be your last dive and will test your capability at depths of nearly
30 metres. But be prepared for the unexpected – this is not a tourist excursion.
And I won’t be easy on you.”
The training officer, Inspector Varley, hasn’t let up all
morning – not since our 4 a.m start. Intensive workouts, testing dives, and
mental mazes to tax us – and prepare us. No normal course.
“Move. We’re not on a shopping trip. Anwyl, you push us
off with that boat hook. And put some muscles into it – if you have any.”
Ignore the windup. My wetsuit moulds to me for warmth and
protection but it sculpts and reveals. Kama’s toned body is as marked.
I push us off. The coxswain steers the ship out beyond a
rocky promontory. But Kama and I must row us further in an inflatable towards a
jagged outcrop – even though it has an outboard.
Our scuba gear rechecked from tank to goggles, we descend
into the majestic depths.
The corroded metal merchantman looks vibrant with fish and seaweeds.
The ripped hull and damaged superstructure indicate the mayhem of the storm that
wrecked her on the rocks above.
Varley indicates we are to enter through the main breach in
the hull. Kama on point, me behind – ahead of our mentor-taskmaster.
Tattoos tingle. Nerves jangle. I dive down and left as a
black- clad figure with a tinted mask fires a spear gun at Kama.
I surprise the second attacker by dolphin-kicking into him.
Improvised Jiu-Jitsu stuns him.
Kama anticipates the spear, weaving into attack mode. She disarms
her attacker gesturing with the grabbed spear-gun for him to swim up to our
deep compression rendezvous.
I follow with my captive at the point of his gun.
Varley gestures at his watch and shakes his head.
Resolved too fast. That’s just us.
Back on the dive ship, he struggles to suppress his chuckle.
“Fastest resolution to my ambush ever. You ladies are
good enough to be in my Marine unit – not in CID.”
“Is that a job offer?” Kama raises her eyes as she
looks towards me. “We come as a team.”
One of the unmasked officers laughs and thumps her on the
back. “With your manoeuvres, I’d be out of a job. I’ve never seen some of
them. What are they?”
“A melange of my Tamil martial art of silambam and
“As my partner said, we’re a team so train as
Inspector Varley gestures for the coxswain to return to
“You two moved as one unit through that rupture.
Instinctively prepared. You’ve passed – and yes, if you ever want to become
maritime police and face marauders at sea, I’d welcome you. But I suspect CID
won’t let you go. So, good luck on tomorrow’s nautical challenge and get those
My stomach churns. We’ve colleagues that want us gone. Ones
that despise minorities like us. And moving to another force won’t resolve
Tap my bracer.
M for Mayhem and Minorities. A for Ambush. S for Silambam. N
for Nautical. E for Exertion.
“That your secret weapon, Anwyl?”
“Mnemonics are my mental ally. Keep me ahead.”
If we can identify the real attackers and what they are
smuggling from Sweden. Narcotics?
NARCOSIS – Thursday 23rd July – Afternoon
Nurturing natural nooks enhances
our wild Welsh landscape. The sea looks unspoilt, but we fear what lurks
unseen. Humanity the criminal.
Crime never sleeps.
Not this weekend. At 4 p.m. there are reports to tackle and
the NWP nicks are filling up.
Ensure we are ready for tomorrow. Check everything, While
Kama confirms that Wiley is ready to submit the fraud case to CPS.
“It won’t be a late night,” she says, her tone
reassuring. “We’ve an early start.”
“Nemesis draws nearer for our criminals – if they
“They will, cariad.
They need divers – and we’re qualified.”
What am I overlooking? Unknown nightmare scenarios.
Stifle fear and suppress the nausea. Ignore glances from possibly
dangerous colleagues. Kama has zero probable names. Hoax or hazard? Nerves
My phone rings. Our new desk sergeant – the one who replaced
“Uniform have a prisoner you need to interview. Ellis
Evans. Arrested in Nannau near Dolgellau for dealing drugs.”
A new development. Relax. Prioritise.
In the interview room, seated beside a uniform colleague, I
switch on the tape recorder, giving the time and my name.
“Suspect is Ellis Evans. No lawyer has been
I place eight bags of cannabis on the table. “These
yours? For sale?”
He squints. “I never sell narcotics. These are a
friend’s for keeping safe.” He shrugs and crosses his arms over his chest.
“And your friend’s name?”
“Vic Vaughn. He’s in hospital, so I keep for him.”
String him along.
“Bangor? When did you see him last?”
“A few days ago. I can’t remember.”
“Amnesia. Narcosis. Ever been treated for those?”
“No. I’ve never been in hospital. I not register with
I lean forward. Open his file. Produce a photo of him
injured and in a coma. Slide it over.
“Never? Not at Bangor Hospital?”
His face goes ashen and drops. Sick at the sight of his
injuries. And more.
“I only remember leaving the building. I had to get
outside and breathe. To escape everything.”
“We never knew what is happening. They never told us
“Never told you and Stefan Mikaelsson – your friend.
His drugs? You ready to tell him that, Ivan Tjäder?”
He shakes his head and cries.
“I sell drugs to escape, to go home back to Sweden. I
won’t dive for them. Where is Stefan?”
“Safe. Tell me everything, and you will be safe here
His confession tallies with his friend’s. One less loose
end, but the kingpins remain unidentified.
As I walk back upstairs, Ffion waves me into her office. She
pushes a file across her desk.
“I fear the jewellery incidents have escalated a level. This
time it’s not a petty crime but arson. Can you investigate this evening? The
fire officer has asked for you specifically.”
Do we have a name?”
Her look fills me with dread. I start tapping my bracer
D for Drugs and Dread. U for Untimely and Urgent. S for
Sailing, Smoke and Sweat.
O for Opportunist and Owen. I for Insensitive and
My odious brother. That’s a mutual objection.
OBSTRUCTIONS – Thursday 23rd July – Late Afternoon
Odious odours and smoke obscure the scene at the junction of
Snowdon and Madog. I thread my way through the onlookers and under the police
tape. The fire was fierce, destroying most of the corner building’s façade. A
charred signboard hangs dangerously loose.
A group of North Wales firefighters are dousing down. One appears
“Late as always, Meinwen. I solved this hours
Unlikely. Owen Anwyl might be a fire investigator, but his solutions
depend on others.
I’ve known him all my life, but I’m the eldest sibling by a
“Some of us have other cases to occupy our hours.”
His smirk prepares me for more taunts.
But a man in blue slacks, red shirt and white flannel jacket
pushes his way through the barrier towards us. 5 foot 11, athletic, tanned,
dyed black hair.
“Hugh Arbuthnot. I own this shop.” His voice
pronounces every word like another royal invader. His icy stare flicks between
us, then he selects my brother in his dusty uniform – casts me away.
“Officer, I need to know what happened here.”
His equally posh lawyer will be next – or his accountant to
count the losses.
“A car mounted the pavement and skidded into your shop
front. Then the ruptured fuel tank exploded. Petrol – that’s the acrid odour. A
Owen leads the owner around the burnt out 4×4 – torched by
the ram-raiders. No accident. Nor the petty thief we at CID are tracking.
I assess the interior. Any robbery evidence is obliterated
by arson. Convenient – for the perpetrators.
Tattoos tingling, I tap my bracer. A for Arson. R for
Robbery. O for Organised. Deliberate. ROAD. But not road rage.
“Why the police tape? Do you suspect a crime?”
“No, just routine to keep onlookers back.” More
“I disagree, this is a crime scene.”
“Who are you?”
I’m not dressed as a cop. So, I reach inside my biking
leathers for my warrant card.
“An opinionated observer who’s operating without her
lezzie partner – for once.”
I scowl at Owen, but the posh Englishman flinches – one
gesture short of crossing himself.
“I’m Detective Sparkle Anwyl, CID. This officer
requested our involvement in this suspected arson, which I believe was a ram
Glancing at my ID, Hugh Arbuthnot frowns, hands behind his
back. “I demand another detective – a second opinion. Not from someone
“So, not Welsh,” I say, twisting his insult.
“Not easy in North Wales. But my partner is Tamil – her family immigrated
from South India. And she’s a more senior detective. Plus, our boss, Detective
Inspector Ffion Baines approves of our teamwork. Now, do you want to obstruct
us or resolve this case?”
I’m out of order but annoyed. Ffion would agree. Owen is stirring.
He requested me on purpose. Petty sibling rivalry.
A for Arson and Arbuthnot. R for Ram-raid and Robbery. O for
Owner and Obstructions. D for Disagree and Disgrace.
ROAD. Ignoring the rage, where to? Trace the 4 x 4.
“Officer Anwyl, finish off your fire investigation,
then please allow our forensic team to gather what they need – like that
At the outside corner of the shop, I wait for Hugh
Arbuthnot. He will talk to me. He has no choice.
I gather more evidence. The angle of the crash is deliberate.
The torched vehicle designed to obliterate evidence but not destroy the
building. Measured. Observed in advance.
“My official objection will be lodged. I can give my
opinion but no more than that.”
“That’s your right, sir. For now, I need to know how
long you’ve owned this shop, what would the robbers take, and have there been
any other occurrences?”
He paces, throwing glances at the building and the burnt-out
“My wife bought The Jewel Box two years ago.” He
grits his teeth and taps his left foot. “She died in the spring. I’ve
attempted to run this gift shop, but I have my own work. I’m a movie producer
with a demanding professional schedule.”
He hands me a fancy card – Hugh B Arbuthnot, Oriole
Productions, Executive Producer.
“Who runs the shop when you’re working?”
“My daughter, Olivia and her husband.” He snorts,
head held high. “Poulsen.” He slaps his left palm to his forehead.
“He mixes in shady circles. Some of his cronies did this.”
Opportunistic thieves? Or convenient coincidence? Whose
PREJUDICE – Friday 24th July – Early Morning
Police protection is deemed too pricey for our pay grade. Detective
Inspectors might justify paying. Someone’s counting the police pennies again.
And we’re not police for this practice day. We’re on our own as Sioned Wilkins
and Rashmi Sharma – divers.
No bikes. A nondescript rental Vauxhall Astra parked outside
a cheap B&B in Penrhos.
When I reported to Ffion that my investigation into the
arson-robbery would have to wait, she agreed, “The assaults are our
priority. Progress that case first and prove our strategy best.”
“Finding the right clothes is a challenge. Black or
black.” We laugh. “I’m not dressing in pink.”
“Pink is pretty. But maybe not you. Just add a few
spots of acceptable colour. A perfect performance requires sacrifices – all
round. From disgruntled gift shop owner to officers undercover.”
Words we are acting on.
Shiver as a pungent reek pervades the air. Poop or performance?
Like our two victims checking themselves out. Said they felt safe.
The padlocked path to Port Meudwy is open. We drive down to
where fishermen are unloading their catches of lobsters and crabs. They pack
the crustaceans into containers on pallets to be delivered by vans around the
Guto approaches us and points to a freshly painted clinker-built
boat on a trailer.
“Your practice starts with pushing that trailer into
the sea – if you know how.”
“By tractor.” Kama gestures at an ancient salt
encrusted machine. “I’ll drive and Sioned will hitch us up.”
Guto nods then turns to the watching fishermen.
“Told you guys these genethod were smart. Now to see if they can handle an Aberdaron
The genethod –
lasses – is said with praise. Relax.
“My uncle Pugh could never abide women in boats,”
says one man who resembles my uncle, Ivor Pugh. “But he’s dead now.”
My uncle, Ivor Pugh, is alive and runs the family farm. Is
this a distant Pugh relation? Is my cover blown? Or have we disguised ourselves
enough? At least, Pugh politics have kept us apart from most of my family.
My attention shifts to my allotted task.
With the boat afloat, I secure her with the painter as ‘Rashmi’
parks the tractor and trailer under Guto’s direction.
My Pugh relation and Guto board another boat. Guto shouts
across as Rashmi and I push off.
“Padrig is the man to prove yourself to. I build while
he perfects the handling. Partners like you two.”
Like us. Unlikely. Guto only knows parts of our secret – the
Guto and Padrig row out some yards then hoist their sails.
We do likewise and head south following the coastline of the Llŷn Peninsula.
Choppy waves and an erratic breeze test us. Gusts and becalming
lulls to prove our worth. I probe Rashmi’s face as our teamwork makes up for
lack of sailing time. This is a new phase – a giant leap from playing in
dinghies for fun.
“You need to learn how to right one of our Aberdaron
boats,” says Padrig. “Not hard but different. Do I need to show you
how to capsize?”
We demonstrate that skill. Sit on the same side and let the
boom out too far.
The water is our second home. Even when we are told to swim
under the capsized craft before following the correct procedure to recover our
“Glad we wore our wetsuits underneath now.” I grin
“Your colourful top and slacks will never dry in this
Weak sun and cold air. Discomfort is acceptable. Would Sioned
worry about appearance as a pro-athlete?
“We need to polish up if photographers appear.”
She smiles in agreement as Guto points north and mouths,
The wind picks up – but a headwind. We tack and tack until
the manoeuvre becomes routine. Precision.
“Impressive, but racing is never so precise,” says
Padrig. “Beware other boats performing moves to fool you. Weather and sea
factors will keep you alert.”
“Like diving,” says Rashmi. “We’ve learned to
prepare. Performance ploys.”
Even more so as police. Alert keeps us ahead of the
offenders – if we can only identify them.
We approach Aberdaron beach. Guto indicates where the water is
shallowest and sandier.
“Pull her ashore over there. Then we can wander up to
the pub. Final pointers over a pint – if you genethod drink.”
“We do. Always.”
Even on-duty – where necessary. But this time I’ll resist
ordering my unusual favourite.
We pull the two boats ashore and wander at a purposeful pace
up to the same pub where I began my investigation.
My stomach sinks when I see the proprietor. Will he
recognize me despite the garish outfit and streak-dyed hair?
Guto steps forward. “These are our new arrivals – Sioned
Wilkins and Rashmi Sharma. They’re competing in the regatta, tomorrow. A round
of your best Llŷn pale ale – four pints of Houdini.”
The publican studies me.
My heart flips. Recognition.
A wink and a nod.
“On the house, Guto.” He smiles. “Sioned, Rashmi,
how far have you come? Not many visitors race here. Except the rare brave ones.
Most tourists just watch.”
“South America,” I reply, praying my Welsh lilt is
buried under my pseudo-Spanish accent. “Patagonia. But we were born on the
Llŷn near Pwllheli.”
“That makes you locals almost,” says Padrig.
“Learn any Welsh before you left?” “
Breathe. Was our preparation too hasty? Does he suspect?
“If they went to Chubut Province in Argentina, they
must know some,” says another voice. “Patagonia has a large Welsh
community and the main colony is there.”
Recognising the voice, I say, “That’s why our families went
there. Swimming took us to Puerto Madryn on the Golfo Nuevo, which is formed by
the Península Valdés and the Punta Ninfas.” I pause my tourist talk to add for
the Welsh speakers, “Mae’n wych bod yn
The locals all raise their pints.
Our tame journalist, Kristina picks up on the tourist
confusion. “These ladies say it’s wonderful to be home. But Puerto Madryn has
strong ties to here. It is twinned with Nefyn, just 13 miles away on the north
coast of the Llŷn Peninsula. Excuse me as I need to interview these professional
athletes. Make sure that you are here tomorrow, when they are competing in one
of the first races of the Aberdaron Regatta.”
As people drift away, Kristina shakes hands with us.
“I’m Kristina Yoxall. We spoke on the phone. Please can
we talk more – I’ll write a great story.” She holds up a camera. “And
get a photo. Love those patterned tops. They must be traditional.”
She chats and helps us develop our personas further as our
party finds a table outside overlooking the beach and sea.
Holidaymakers are gathering in the village. Not crowds like
Llandudno or Porthmadog but those drawn by the simpler pastimes like sand
castles, playing in the sea, and the regatta.
The interview probes and provides colour to our profiles –
culminating in key questions.
“Can our wanderers challenge tomorrow?” asks Kristina.
“Are they contenders?”
Guto and Padrig shrug.
But my relative says, “Perhaps. As I’ve said there are
factors – including local advantage. They have skills and guts. Maybe one
“And you are a favourite, Padrig. As in past years,”
We all laugh, and I slap Padrig on the back.
Recognition. My heart beats faster.
The Swedish woman is watching us. Pretending to peer out to
Precisely as planned. Bait taken.
Kristina follows my gaze. Takes out her mobile. Glances at
“Pric pwdin. Idiot
colleague. I need to hurry. Can we do the photo by the boats, then I must leave
We stride down to the beach and pose with our boats. Group
photo, then us – the two pretenders.
We part, Kristina to her pretend assignment, Guto and Padrig
to Porth Meudwy.
Padrig and I will go ahead. We have work to do – boats to paint. Follow when
you’re ready. Practice as much as you need to along the coast. And master that
boat – with skills not force. She’s another geneth.“
Our builder is as quick as our journalist. Our secret is
We prepare to launch, but I play for time.
“Do we need provisions, Rashmi? Or will our B&B in
Penrhos provide everything?”
“Only basics. Anyway, I need a better face cleanser for
this climate. And we need diving supplies – but they can wait. We’ve no diving competitions
for a fortnight.”
“Maybe we can help each other.”
We turn. The Swedish couple smile at us.
“That would be kind,” I say. “You’re
The woman laughs. Potent, poisonous, and the trigger for my
L for Lies and L for Lure.
“Not exactly. But we know the Llŷn Peninsula. We’ve
been here awhile. And our yacht is moored at Llandudno.”
The man steps forward. 6’3″. Blond sun-scored hair.
Tanned. Athletic and muscular. Like a panther.
“We have a small job for divers that pays well –
especially the way you to handle that boat.”
Curb enthusiasm. But reel them in.
I let Rashmi continue as planned. “Interesting. We’re open to
persuasion. But we have questions –”
“– As do we.” He hands us both GEE business cards
– Peder & Pia Pilkvist. “Can we meet for a quiet meal? Pick you up at
6 p.m at your place. Our treat.”
Presumptive means desperate. Time must be tightening. What
is the cargo?
My tattoos twist in pain. But only D for Drugs and that
“If there’s money on offer,” says Rashmi. “Sioned and I have
expenses. So, yes – if you’re buying.”
“Always,” replies Pia. “One initial question.
Wales or Argentina? Where are your loyalties?”
Where is this going? My heart pounds, nerves jangle. A test
of what? Not rugby.
“We dive for ourselves – for the country that rewards us
best. Patagonia yesterday. Maybe Wales tomorrow. I have only one loyalty – my
dive partner. Rashmi.”
The Swedes study us, then whisper to each other in Swedish –
something about ‘älskande‘. Lovers.
Us or them? What do they know about us? Has the office prejudice seeped out
from a jealous colleague?
U for Unwary and Unexpected. Q for Queer and Questions. E
for Evasion and Evaluation.
QUELL. The fire for my lover? Or the fear building?
QUAKE – Friday 24th July – Evening
Quiet meals in quaint country restaurants can sap resolve.
Not tonight when we all have questions. Like what are the sea jewels? Not
Peder and Pia Pilkvist collected us as arranged, taking us
to a French bistro well above our normal budget. Somewhere we aren’t known.
We are encouraged to choose anything – and the wine flows
“Did you eat Latin food in Patagonia? Or Welsh?”
“Welsh with an Argentinian twist.” I smile and
add, “seafood became our favourite as it was fresh from the sea at Puerto Madryn.”
“Perfect, I recommend Quenelles de Homard.” Pia explains.
“The lobster is local, maybe from off the Aberdaron coast.”
“I prefer Caille en Escabeche,” says Peder.
“With the quail, I’m partial to the blend of Latin and French – fusion is an
art form. Spare no expense when you order. We can afford this luxury.”
And the yacht. GEE is not an overtly rich company. No high
value electrical or engineering items. Certainly not garden gnomes.
“I’ll have the Escabeche,” says Rashmi.
I choose the quenelles, but my mind is tapping my bracer. Q
for Q-ships. Not what they seem. A disguise to hide weaponry. Like Quenelles de
Brochet and pike bones.
“Great choices require the right wines, “says Peder
who then talks with the sommelier in passable French.
We aren’t meant to understand. But policing tourist areas
has advantages. But nothing triggers alarms – yet.
If G is for Garden Gnomes, is W for Weapons? H for Herrings
and more bones?
“Before the wine leaves us unfit to race tomorrow, what
do you need me and Sioned for? As divers or sailors?”
Pia dips her head to her husband. We’re not meant to see as
he is asking the sommelier for a bottle of vintage rosé Champagne.
“Divers primarily,” says Pia. “Your
competitive reputation is impressive. But you will need your boat.”
Our doctored qualifications were straightforward for NWP to
upload on the Internet. Our Q-ship.
“After we race tomorrow? No sooner I hope.”
Although our participation is not vital. But I falter as if dismayed.
“Race, but then we need you. We will bring our yacht,”
says Peder. “Then we’ll take you to the dive site.”
Late afternoon or later? Warning qualms kick in.
“Before the regatta ends?” Rashmi plunges deeper.
“Or later when people disperse? A night dive will cost you more.”
Pia smiles and I shiver.
“After your race, join us on our yacht. No need to
spoil this quiet meal with details.”
N for Night – W for no Witnesses. And for Warnings.
They suspect us. No more quizzing them tonight. Maybe not
even on their yacht – their Q-ship. Or is that the freighter? The ship that is
meant to be in Sweden.
Or is it? Another loose end. But we’re alone as money rules.
I attempt to quell my fears with food. By quenching a thirst
for information that alcohol only stimulates.
Keep them chatting. They’re digging too. Why? Do they know we’re
police? Queer and a threat? Quislings.
We are being interrogated with a smile. About Patagonia.
About diving competitions.
“How long have you two been together – diving? Amazing,
your families are both from the Llŷn.”
Pia pushes – gently. A for Attitude and Alarm.
“Fate – except our families left together, so it was
inevitable we were friends at school. And on the swimming team together.”
Rashmi is inventive, but Pia’s face indicates the story is
disbelieved. Why? Who are they? More than smugglers.
S for Sail, Swim and Smugglers.
I shiver. Quake as my fears build. No coincidence.
I for Inside Information and Interrogation. R for Renegade –
the cop that ratted on us.
RAIS – raison d’être. Why betray us? Prejudice or high-value
goods? Or both?
Or RANG – ranged weapons?
In too deep without backup. The jeopardy thrills again. Quivering
and riled. Rats.
ROGUE – Saturday 25th July – Afternoon
Regatta races are never routine. Padrig’s factors are in
play as he leads us rank and file racers. We were warned. That includes the
risk awaiting us on the Swedish yacht. Ffion tried to alert us, but thrills win
Evading rivals, we jibe too violently. Lose ground – and the
Patience. Rationalize. But we like to win – whatever the
As I steer us back into the breeze, my mind dual-tracks.
Sailing and strategy. Both risky but only one roils my stomach.
Rashmi shifts her weight as my next jibe is precise.
We’re no longer last.
Will Peder and Pia Pilkvist expect better? Reject us for shit
boat-handling? Fail us – with the case wide open?
Unlikely. They implied time was tight. But They know
A boat closes on us. The next turn needs to be tight. No
room for error.
Setup perfect. Jibe gentle. Danger passed.
Smiles. For now.
Mistakes have been made. We know we have a renegade copper. A
police officer with a price. Our heads?
No suspects before we left Porthmadog. None now we are on
We cut inside another boat on the next turn. Gain another
Sailing might become a serious pastime. Rashmi’s beaming’s
face underlines that – if we can abandon swimming.
I glance at my watch. Not long left
Raucous cries ring from the shore. Local fans and tourists.
Drowning out the roars from crews exhorting their partners for a final push.
Our interaction is
mental. Written on our faces and in our pounding blood. We are a team.
Except in a regatta. Trailing in mid-pack – also-rans.
Padrig and his racing partner win again.
“Do we congratulate them?” I ask. But Peder and
Pia Pilkvist are waving us over to the night-black luxury sailing yacht that
We lower our sails as we draw alongside. Peder motions to
the stern which rears over us. He throws us a line, and we secure our Aberdaron
A metal ladder hangs off the yacht. We climb up, past the
blood red name
“Welcome aboard the Njörðr
Hämnaren,” says Pia, simpering like a snake. “She can out-sail most yachts
in her class – when we choose to compete. Not today though.”
The couple lead us to the cockpit which I recognise as
highly automated. A necessity with a minimal crew.
“Did you sail her here alone?” I ask, wondering if
we are expected to help with the yacht.
“All the way,” says Pia. “With all the technology
installed, especially the computer-controlled electric winches controlling the
sails, it was leisurely.”
State-of-the-art navigation equipment from what I can tell.
Someone has money from somewhere. Illegal goods?
“All we lack,” says Peder, “is a
submersible.” He laughs. “Human divers are preferable – especially at
night and close to the rocks.”
So, a night dive. No witnesses. What does that mean? Has the
rogue cop set us up? Rocks are treacherous too.
Cold fingers crawl up my spine. T for Treachery.
“Our money. The risk – deep diving at night close to the
shore.” My lowered voice is not fake concern. Every tattoo screams. “Five
thousand pounds at least.”
Am I provoking a fight? Or testing their commitment? Our
“Acceptable.” Without hesitation. “But first, we move
the Njörðr Hämnaren around the coast.”
Pia’s mask slips. Warning light. “While you two check the equipment we acquired
for you. Best scuba gear available.”
An attachment on the sonar depth indicator catches my eye. Like
a vehicle tracker. My glance shifts to an out-of-place garden gnome. On a
yacht? An electronic component smuggled into Wales?
But the gnome is staged. For us.
Peter taps his watch.
“Time to run those safety checks in the aft cabin. Go
below and it’s the one nearest the stern. We will tell you when we’ve reached
the dive site.”
As we head into the plush space below, Rashmi says, “Every
sense says get off this ride. Our cover is blown. But we are reduced to one choice.
I squeeze her hand as we reach the smallest cabin and inside
find the scuba gear.
Brand-new with labels still attached. Staging? Sizes are
right. Air tanks are full. We run through all the checks Varley taught us.
“These gloves, boots and hood fit snugly. But we use
our own special wetsuits – for luck,” says Rashmi. “And certainty.”
S for Safety and Security. T for Treacherous and Tanks. E
for Electronics. P for Price.
STEP. Forward or into the unknown?
SABOTAGE – Saturday 25th July – Midnight
Stars shining on the sea should settle our nerves.
Impossible now we are sure the scheming stinks.
“How will we find these containers you say were swept
overboard during the storm?”
Peder hands Rashmi an electronic tracker.
“Switch this on and our cargo will be transmitting a
signal. Simply follow that. When you find the cargo attach the items to the rapid
deployment lift bags. Once inflated they will bring the cargo to the surface
for retrieval. Straightforward.”
Mind racing. Hesitate from asking what the salvage is. My
senses say don’t.
“How many containers? You’ve given us eight small bags.”
“Four to search for. Two lift bags per canister.”
Pia strides over, tapping her watch. “You better leave
At the stern, we climb back down to our boat, already loaded
with the scuba tanks and lifting devices.
We cast off and raise the sails. Our craft slices apart the
sheen on the water from the moon and stars. Perfect weather.
Sudden dread as spasms seize me.
P for Panic but also Precautions. Slow breathes.
The mini-sonar directs us over the area where the cargo
should be. We lower the sea anchor and release the rapid deployment lift bags –
weighted to sink steadily on a long hawser.
A last scrupulous check of each other’s equipment, then we
drop backwards over opposite sides into the serene darkness. The beams of our
head-lamps stab into the depths.
The strengthening beeps guide our cautious descent.
When we reach the bags, we lower them. Deeper, past jagged
rocks. Seaweed. Curious fish.
Containers – canisters designed for underwater recovery. Not
just for the deck of a Swedish ship in the storm. Not swept overboard but
I sign Rashmi to strap two balloons to the first container
as I adjust their regulator pressure gauges for the correct depth. Then we scrutinize
the containers. No signifying marks. Nothing to divulge the contents. But
designed for lifting straps.
However, there is a suitable slit where I insert our own
tracker – a signal we can follow. Security 101.
We open the valves on the two scuba cylinders that inflate
the bags. Swim clear as the bags lift and carry the container towards the
Same procedure with the second canister – and second
transponder. Two more balloons. Then the final two canisters.
A for Ascent.
Almost over. Tension not disappearing. Breathe slowly. Don’t
waste precious air.
Our ascent takes longer as we need a stage decompression. Longer
climb than our descent and time working on the seabed. Time enough for the
waves to have picked up above.
The beginning of a squall.
No sign of the rapid deployment lift bags.
P for Panic as my stomach churns.
But the Njörðr
Hämnaren has sailed closer. They’ve already winched the cargo aboard.
Relief and Apprehension.
We take off our tanks to simplify our return journey.
Tattoos hammer T for Timing.
“Too easy,” I say to Rashmi. “Be prepared for
Like the semi-automatic shots that spray the sea. R for
Pia hails us. “Time to stay where you are, detectives.
Yes, we know who you are and thank the North Wales Police for their assistance.
Lagens väktare. May you swim in peace.”
I dive at Kama as I spy the carelessly stowed spare sail and
TRAP. The boat is ripped apart.
Tune in later today for Act Three, the Finale of Azure Spark