O for Obstructions – Azure Spark. Part 15

[Music treat at the end. This story will be posted in full after the Challenge for those of us that like to read everything in one complete telling,]

OBSTRUCTIONS – Saturday 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 acts officious.

“Late as always, Meinwen. I solved this hours ago.”

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 year.

“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 simple accident.”

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 Owen bull-shit.

“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 raid robbery.”

Glancing at my ID, Hugh Arbuthnot frowns, hands behind his back. “I demand another detective – a second opinion. Not from someone like you.”

“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 vehicle.”

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.

Hugh interrupts.

“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 car.

“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 production?

For those that wondered, yes this is my #WEP/IWSG post for April so part of the 2019 WEP/IWSG Challenge. This incident will be explored further over the course of the next four #WEP/IWSG posts. In the meantime, please enjoy Azure Spark, another case for Sparkle Anwyl and her colleagues.

Word Count 731: MPA

Comments are welcome as usual, but for the WEP/IWSG Challenge, the following applies:

(FCA welcome – if you want to send one, just let me know in the comments.)

For further details on this A to Z theme visit my Blogging from A to Z Theme Reveal, and on the evolution of Sparkle Anwyl visit Snowdon Shadows.

Other A to Z Bloggers can be found via the Blogging from A to Z website’s Master List –
http://www.a-to-zchallenge.com/2019/03/link-to-view-master-list-and.html

^*^

And now for something completely different.

“Music hath charms to soothe a savage breast, to soften rocks, or bend a knotted oak.” William Congreve – The Mourning Bride

#IWSG – Hero or Villain POV?


Created and hosted by the Ninja Captain himself, Alex J. Cavanaugh, the Insecure Writer’s Support Group monthly blog post is here again – and so am I.

It’s been another bad month and my plans to develop and focus on Fevered Few, my NaNoWriMo novel were derailed so I am no longer sure about the track to publication. I am wondering if attempting to find a publisher for my second novel is realistic or whether I would be better to merely blog my scenes over an indefinite period.

 I will be posting the opening to another Sparkle Anwyl mystery for the WEP/IWSG Challenge next month as well as a separate Sparkle Anwyl case during the Blogging from A to Z Challenge in April. Perhaps that is the way forward for my fiction writing rather than attempting to edit a novel – like Fevered Few – for submission to a small press.

What would you suggest that I do? Blog posts or publication?

Much of my writing problems are due to my health. During the last few weeks, it has become harder to type as my left hand is cramping up – like forming a claw. One of my solutions is training a dragon – Dragon Naturally Speaking. This post is my first using the dictation software. Apologies therefore for any errors in this trial run which the dogs are constantly interrupting.

Bark-bark. Woof-woof.

Anyway, on to this month’s question.

March 6 question – Whose perspective do you like to write from best, the hero (protagonist) or the villain (antagonist)? And why?

Most of my writing is from the hero’s point of view but I have written from the villain’s perspective a few times.

My current WIP is from the POV of Sparkle Anwyl, my Welsh detective protagonist. However, some of the chapters within other draft novels have been written either from the villain’s perspective or from the POV of a shadowy and unclear character. I haven’t yet had to get inside the mind of a darker antagonist as these characters have been more misguided or conned by their own self-belief.

What about your favourite perspective? Hero or villain?


The Welsh Dragon, Mametz Wood Memorial

**

The awesome co-hosts for the March 6 posting of the IWSG are Fundy Blue, Beverly Stowe McClure, Erika Beebe, and Lisa Buie-Collard!

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

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

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


Let’s rock the neurotic writing world!


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

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

Remember, the question is optional! 

#WEP/IWSG February 2019 challenge – 28 Days

My #WEP/IWSG post for February is part of the 2019 WEP/IWSG Challenge and the conclusion of the incident from my Halloween/Deja Vu or Voodoo postWhite Lady. and my December Ribbons and Candles post, Rushlight Wreathes.

However, this is not the only incident in the career of Sparkle Anwyl that unfolds in Fevered Few, Book 1 of the Snowdon Shadows police procedural series. I m.ay return to Wales for future WEP/IWSG entries but I need o avoid spoilers – at least in relation to the main plot 

Pongal Blood

Dark brown splatters.

Shivers tease me. Blood can signify crime, accident or nature.

The spots on the kitchen counter would have been suspect at a crime scene. A reason for luminol spray and light. But no weapon. Not even a knife. A wooden love spoon bears witness on the wall.

It wasn’t me – even in our bathroom where Kama has heightened my sense of cleanliness.

My time of the month was as cyclical as the moon, but work stress has played games with it. Kama is more constant. Does meditation help her? Is that why she is now in our garden staring at the sun?

Clues are on the counter.

By her head movement, Kama hears me open the garden door onto the small paved area where she has traced the auspicious kolam design in white lime powder in the early morning after bathing.

She continues her ceremony, raising her face to the sun, then bending to our makeshift firepit.

The fragrance of rice and milk wraps around me. Chakkara pongal preparation. The golden jaggery stains were the main clue – and the empty package from India.

I squat beside her. She is dressed in a simple saree and blouse with face and arm markings – more traditional than my black trouser suit kameez.

The earthenware pot of milk has boiled and overflowed, so Kama has added the rice, even if the harvest that the sun made possible is the one back in the Southern Hemisphere, in Tamil Nadu.

#

“Our colleagues at CID may not recognise Pongal,” says Kama zipping up her leathers, “But they respect our days-off.”

“Until some serious crime intervenes. Let’s escape while we can.”

A fifteen-minute ride out beyond Prenteg, takes us to a well-maintained farm track off the B4410 leading to some modernised farm buildings with a restored farmhouse.

We park the Ducati and Ninja beside a spotless 4×4 Mitsubishi Shogun.

Raimund Virtanen is working on a chassis with an arc-welder but hears us approaching as if he has super-hearing. Weird for a coachbuilder.

He removes the helmet revealing blond hair and blue eyes. Six foot three inches and strongly built. I estimate mid-forties.

“You are the two Heddlu with a carriage mystery – intriguing-like. Come inside and we’ll talk.”

The farmhouse kitchen is a modern and expensive take on a traditional Welsh one. It reminds me of my grandparents’ home except this one looks as spotless as the Shogun. Does this man eat or drive? Our roads aren’t dirt-free, and the salt-laden air can coat things.

“How do you partake of your tea or coffee, ladies?”

“Two black coffees, please.”

I can’t place his accent. Not one that tallies with those foreign visitors I’ve met on the streets of Porthmadog.

“We were wondering if you can identify a vehicle from a local painting – puzzling as it’s the reflection in a mirror.”

He takes the printout and studies it under a magnifying glass for a few minutes.

“This is a phaeton, I’m sure. Drawn by one or two horses, a phaeton features a lightly sprung body atop four extravagantly large wheels. With open seating, it is fast and dangerous, so its name, drawn from the mythical Phaëton, son of Helios, who nearly set the earth on fire while attempting to drive the chariot of the sun.”

“A common carriage?”

“Not around here. There weren’t many made locally. Ten at most – more like half that.”

“Do you know who owned them?” Kama clutches the group painting but holds it back. “Locally, for instance?”

Virtanen goes to a filing cabinet and removes a folder. “This is a list that I compile of vehicles that I trace – not many but a few notable ones like Captain William Yong. He raced other owners and win – for money.”

“And he lived locally? Do you know what he looked like?”

The carriage expert throws up his hands and shrugs. “I only know he lived in Porthmadog and marries into a Tremadog family – make his fortune by investing in his in-law’s business. No more. Why are the police interested?”

“More our personal interest.” The compelling urge to confess is too much for me. “More like ghost-hunting. We encountered a female figure on Halloween that might have been killed in a carriage accident.”

“This phaeton crashed? Unlikely if Captain Yong is driving – he has a reputation as an expert at ‘Hunting the Squirrel’. Side-swiping a rival’s carriage requires certain accuracy.”

Accuracy needed to hit a fleeing lover.

“A pedestrian was hit at night,” Kama says. “No headlights I presume back then. So accidental – perhaps.”

“Agree. The horses won’t have seen someone crossing a dark road – until they crush the poor woman,” His expression is tortured. “Back home…I am knocked over by horses as a child…and savaged bad. Hooves are strong and sharp, especially with shoes. I hate to think of your woman’s injuries.” He hesitates. “If you see a ghost – the horses killed her. Back home that will be blame on the animals – punishment.”

“Back home?” asks Kama who shares my curiosity.

“I grow up in rural community – in Finland. Many years ago. Poor – so I move here as I want to learn to build vehicles like horseboxes – to help them. I call this ‘reparation’ – my making terms with the past and moving on. Do we know the woman’s name?”

There seems to be no harm in telling him. “Dinah Quinlan.”

“Strange matter that I will not forget. Blood is easy shed.”

He escorts us back to our bikes.

Is our cold case closed? Until anything new emerges.

#

The moon is full when we celebrate the last day of Pongal.  My arm around Kama, I’m oblivious to the calendar with the four days in mid-January highlighted.

My mind is on November 1836.

 “That old nineteenth century painting indicts Captain Yong for murder – four weeks before he married his victim’s sister. The artist knew the truth.”

***

Word Count 999: MPA

For more information on the Pongal Festival visit: http://www.pongalfestival.org/

Comments are welcome as usual, but for the WEP/IWSG Challenge, the following applies:

(FCA welcome – if you want to send one, just let me know in the comments.)

Please enjoy other participants’ entries in the Challenge via this list for which the links will be updated as the post appear: https://writeeditpublishnow.blogspot.com/

#WEP/IWSG December 2019 challenge – RIBBONS AND CANDLES.

Ribbonsndles

My #WEP/IWSG post for December is a continuation of my Halloween/Deja Vu or Voodoo post, White Lady. I continued to explore the incident during NaNoWriMo so this is derived from what I wrote in November.

However, the incident is too long to conclude her, but the conclusion will be in 28 writing days – more or less. This incident in the career of Sparkle Anwyl plays a key part in Fevered Few, Book 1 of the Snowdon Shadows police procedural series.  

Rushlight Wreathes

Ghost hunting doesn’t fall into my remit as a police officer, but my inquisitive nature wanted to identify our ‘White Lady’ during off-duty hours at home. Why had the ghost appeared on the old track between Porthmadog and Tremadog on Halloween?

My tingling tattoos and the mnemonic CALENDS had stirred up this cold case investigation. C for Coach, A for Accident, L for Lady, E for Eerie N for Night, D for Dreams, S for Spirits.

With no local police records before 1857, I trawl the old North Wales papers for coach-related incidents after 1811 and the founding of the ‘new town’ of Tremadog.

Fist pump as details match.

On November 1st, 1836, Dinah Adelaide Quinlan, the seventeen-year-old daughter of a retired soldier, Major Bernard Algernon Quinlan living in Tremadog was run down and crushed under the hooves of a sporty Phaeton carriage, driven by an unknown but uniformed person that was seen leaving the battered body at Major Quinlan’s house off Isgraig. The reporter was unclear why Dinah was on foot as her family owned a Berlin carriage, but she never requested the vehicle from their coachman.

Delving further, I discover that Major Quinlan served with the British East India Company’s Madras Army in Southern India between 1790-1805. On his retirement, he acquired a substantial property in the new town, and invested in the area. A photo shows a middle-aged Major Quinlan in his uniform decorated with medals on ribbons.

If Dinah was the ghost and died in 1836, there must be a grave or family tomb. Where if the family were Church of England? Her funeral details state the church of St Cynhaearn, known as Ynyscynhaearn.

Familiarity warms my spine – my tad’s parents are buried there. A visit to the place where they rest in peace, alone, yet surrounded by the sleeping graves of more than three centuries worth of parishioners.

A click as the door of the flat opens. I look at the mantel clock – midnight. As Kama walks into the kitchen I embrace her.

“More cold research? Found anything, cariad?”

“After three evenings of digging, chellam.” I stroke her face. “Are you up for visiting a graveyard? One where our ghost might be buried?”

Kama blinks and hangs up her biker jacket, then peels off her leather pants. “I’m free on Friday – isn’t that your day off as well?”

“If crime takes a slow day – yes. Date then.”

##

The stone walls seem part of the white-dotted green fields beyond that were once filled with water centuries earlier. There is an atmosphere of serenity, as few other than sheep wander down the narrow track.

Slate gravestones, orphaned from their corpses, are lined up along the side benches. Tears start to trickle as we read the names and imagine past lives. Welsh and English at peace in this corner of our troubled land.

My ancestors lie in a simple family plot awaiting the next member. I shudder, fearing who is most at risk. At least, my tad is now a desk sergeant and no longer front-line like me. I shake off the fear and focus on searching.

“Major Bernard Algernon Quinlan.” Kama points at a family grave comprising a more ostentatious mounted urn surrounded by a yew and an ornate railing. “There’s not just one person in here.”

“Died in 1840 aged 73. Buried alongside his wife – and his daughter Dinah Adelaide Quinlan.” My heart tightens, and my throat constricts. “She was the first to be buried here – a tragedy. I wish we knew more. Burial records before 1837 are less organised and vary between churches.”

“Does that mean more cold research?”

“That carriage killed her – accident or murder? Cold case so I’m hooked as ever.”

Gravestones are never cold names. Gateways to memories beckon.

##

Kama has the addiction too – but she’s the real detective.

“This ancestry site has descendants of Major Quinlan.” She points to our desktop screen. “A direct descendant of his son posted this – Edwin Quinlan.”

“Who has a daughter called Dinah. But the family is from the West Country – Truro.” The mother lode or a red herring. “This Edwin is named after the Major’s oldest son, the dead Dinah’s brother. And Dinah occurs down the generations. Do the family know more?”

Kama opens another link. A black and white photo of a family group taken in 1840, the year Major Quinlan died. The group is in what must have been a lavish sitting room in the family home. Soft lighting comes from strategic candles and rushlights. The photo shows Major Quinlan, his son Edwin Owen Quinlan and his wife, another daughter with her Royal Navy uniformed husband.

Kama points to the son-in-law. “It’s only a photo but that man is hiding something – or am I being too suspicious?”

Rushlight – Public Domain

Not CALENDS but CANDLES.

The tingling of my tattoos agrees with her, and I tap out a new mnemonic on my studded bracer. S-I-N.

S for Suspect. I for Inheritance. N for Naval. In Celtic folklore, there is a tale of bringing candles to the church to count sins. Was this the unknown figure that retrieved the body?

I zoom in to a mirror – reflecting a carriage and two horses outside.

“If that’s a phaeton then you may be right. Unfortunately, our suspect is dead, and the crime is more than cold. But we can resolve something.”

“What make of carriage that is and did the family own that type – although the latter will be problematic.”

Finding a photo of a 19th century phaeton that matches proves difficult as the reflection is indistinct. However, our search for records on period vehicles in Snowdonia yields a name – Raimund Virtanen, a horsebox builder who knows about 19th century vehicles.

A recent group photo of him presenting rosettes with long ribbons at a horse show suggests that he is respected – or has influential contacts.

A lead or a dead end?

***

Comments are welcome as usual, but for the WEP Challenge, the following applies:

Word Count 999: MPA

(FCA welcome – if you want to send one, just let me know in the comments.)

#WEP – Write…Edit…Publish – OCTOBER CHALLENGE – DEJA VU OR VOODOO

October-WEP

 

This month, I am taking part in the #WEP October Challenge, part of WEP’s 2018 Challenges and my second WEP tale. I’m posting a day early to avoid the rush and be ready for reading great pieces tomorrow.

Once again, the IWSG (Insecure Writers Support Group) have joined in the fun.

 

WEP_IWSG

 

Beyond the seasonal theme, I will try to give some background to the piece. I’m attempting to avoid deadly spoilers here as, in a way, this piece must stand-alone – for instance, the identity of ‘I’ is gradually revealed in the piece.

However, this is another incident in the career of a central character in my Snowdon Shadows series – SPOILERS ahead. The incident is set three years after my August WEP Challenge and will become a chapter within my NaNoWriMo attempt next month, entitled Fevered. There are incidents between my August contribution and this one, but I hope that this tale works on its own. Enjoy.

 

White Lady

Copyright © Roland Clarke

Silhouettes prance in the glow behind the standing stones. Night and long grass hide us from prying eyes.

Do they care what Kama and I are?

A screech arrests our embrace.

Headlights stab across the field. A car plunges off the bypass and smashes into the stonewall. Rubble splashes into the ditch.

We leap to our feet and weave through the crowd. Did anyone see the crash? Or were they engrossed in the Nos Calan Gaeaf rites?

I jump the water beside the steaming wreck. The driver and passenger are conscious but bleeding. I call the incident in as I climb through the smashed wall.

“Single car accident on A487 westbound from Porthmadog Roundabout. Visible injuries. DS Kamatchi and PC Anwyl attending. Over.”

“Will dispatch ambulance and traffic unit to assist. Control out.”

Kama helps the passenger who has dragged himself to the verge. Blood from his forehead smears his hair. He rambles in Welsh about a woman.

Is there a body in the roadway? Shivers. Sweat. Nobody other than stopped cars. My tattoos tingle. I finger my studded bracer. N for Night, S for Spirits, A for Accident.

The driver’s eyes are glazed. Drink or drugs? The traffic police will have to investigate.

I open his door and crouch.

Voodoo lady
Did I dream you up or are you for real?
Are you for real?

I point to the radio, but the driver ignores it. The music dies.

Ydych chi’n iawn, syr? Are you okay, sir?”

Mouth agape, his eyes track over me. “You aren’t her. What are you?”

From Cardiff by his accent, but Welsh is our shared language.

“An off-duty police constable. Can you remember what happened, sir?”

Blue lights flicker behind us. My traffic colleagues.

“The dream was so real. Will this ever end? She threw herself in front. I tried not to hit her. Is she alive?”

Midnight on All Hallows Eve.

A shadow shrouds me. I start.

“Sorry. I’m PC Morrow. Have you breathalysed him”

I face Morrow – shake my head. Wave him forward.

As he measures the driver’s blood alcohol, I study the accident scene.

Kama talks to the other traffic officer placing cones around the area. Paramedics treat the injuries.

Skid marks – visible in the patrol car’s lights. Did the driver swerve to avoid something – someone?

I examine the mangled bonnet of the vehicle and the remains of the dry-stone wall. No sign of a body. Under the car? No fur, no blood. Nothing.

“He’s Ellis Pryce. His documents check.” Morrow shows me the licence. “He’s been drinking – not enough to explain his ramblings. Are you the pale person Mr Pryce wants? My Welsh is too basic to make sense—”

Intriguing. The mystery teases me.

Morrow falters. “Don’t think he means DS Kamatchi as she’s – dark-skinned. Anyway, why’s a detective here?” He judges me and Kama. “You’re friends and—”

Juggle the truth.

“Flatmates. We’re off-duty – a girlie night out. But as my tad says, crime never even observes the Sabbath. I’ll see what Mr Pryce wants.”

Morrow scratches his head. “Wise man, Sergeant Anwyl. The best.”

Lean back inside the car. Does my tad suspect my affair with another woman? Do any of our colleagues?

Pryce drowns out my concerns.

“The dream was so vivid. I’d never driven a carriage. Even at our farm in Ogmore. Horses, yes. Not a coach. The hooves killed her.” He stares through me, reliving his nightmare. “The blood? Where is she now?”

Shivers. That South Wales accent. Different like their legends. A troubled soul?

Or something more realistic? Clouds-, a reflection, a seagull. I can ask Kama – my Tamil girlfriend is shrewd.

First, reassure the man.

“You hit no one, sir. The woman has left. My uniform colleagues will make sure that you and your friend stay safe—”

“Never stole her gold. I’m not a thief. I’m a coachman earning an honest living.” His eyes are closed. “Let me check my horses before I leave.”

I signal to Morrow. “This car won’t move. Is roadside assistance coming? Do you need us to interview witnesses?”

“Breakdown lorry’s on its way. If you and Detective Kamatchi want us to finish here, type up a report – tomorrow. Good to work with you both. Nos da.

I echo his farewell. Kama lures me across the road and back into the shadows. Arms around each other, the footpath away from Port draws us.

My brain probes. “Did the passenger see someone too?”

Kama stops. “A woman dressed in a white dress.”

My fingers trace her tears forming. She shivers.

“You too, cariad. Y Ladi Wen – the White Lady. The bogeyman from our myths.”

“As a child in the Valleys, I heard the legend.”

“Here, it’s the frightening Hwch Ddu gwta, a tail-less black sow that terrorises people.”

She nods, then kisses me, stroking my hair.

“My parents told similar tales from Tamil Nadu. About creatures with different fangs. What do you believe?”

I delve into my upbringing – my faith.

“My blood is Celtic. Chapel will never rule this soul-night – nor our bond. Spirits journey among us. Maybe the driver experienced that—”

She brushes my lips with a damp finger.

“Enough. You needn’t solve this, nor should traffic. Call this a cold case – a ghostly one.”

Does Y Ladi Wen want this unresolved? Is she leading us further?

The path branches off to the right, through a gate into the darkness of ivy-clad trees.
Hidden, we settle on the ground. No need to pretend.

Roots are our pillow. Night sounds echo. Bats flit above us.

Earth scents banish sweat and shivers. Bodies and hearts entwine again.

But my tattoos are tingling. More letters. D for Dream, C for Coach, L for Lady, and E for Eerie. My mnemonic guide. CALENDS? November First?

We will dig more.

 

***

Comments are welcome as usual, but for the WEP Challenge, the following applies:

Word Count 993: MPA

(FCA welcome – if you want to send one, just let me know in the comments.)

critique badge1

Visit other participants at https://writeeditpublishnow.blogspot.com/2018/10/welcome-to-wepff-writeeditpublish.html

 

POSTSCRIPT:

If you have enjoyed this tale, I am looking for beta-riders willing to read some other episodes in Sparkle Anwyl’s career.

Yn ddelfrydol siaradwr Cymraeg.

 

#WEP – Write…Edit…Publish AUGUST Challenge

a wep change of heart final
This month, I am taking part in the #WEP August Challenge, part of WEP’s 2018 Challenges which the IWSG (Insecure Writers Support Group) have joined.

The WEP team had a GUEST POST on the IWSG website on August 6. Here is the link http://www.insecurewriterssupportgroup.com/2018/08/writing-together-with-wep-and-iswg.html

WEP_IWSG
So, it’s now the correct day for the AUGUST challenge, CHANGE OF HEART. I confess that I posted nine days early – https://rolandclarke.com/2018/08/06/wep-change-of-heart/ – but I have since made a few minor edits so I’m re-posting.

I was also reminded to add some background to the piece. I’m attempting to avoid deadly spoilers here as, in a way, this piece must stand-alone – for instance, the identity of ‘I’ is gradually revealed in the piece.

However, this is an incident in the backstory of a central character in my WIP – SPOILER ahead. This is when my MC in the Snowdon Shadows series of police procedurals was a teenager. I am currently using this as a flashback within a framing story (‘Fevered’) set a year before the WIP entitled ‘Fates Maelstrom’.

Change of Heart

Copyright © Roland Clarke

Shadows in the moonlight flicker like my mind churning with every bleating sheep. What does Taid want? Does he know our secret?

My morning swim in our lake was invigorating, but after breakfast, he triggered the thoughts.

“We need to talk, Meinwen – this evening when your chores are done.”

I daren’t ask Mam what he wants – even if he’s her tad. Patience would be her answer. My siblings don’t act suspicious, but Taid has rules.

Where have I strayed?

My love is forbidden in his chapel eyes. But we kept it secret. Six weeks of passion on the beach had to end. But not with punishment.

He doesn’t know. We were careful – once the school buried the incident. Tad never dug – believed we were bullied for being different – two Goths.

It’s my parents – Tad and Mam. Their time apart, after the arguments about his work, has been hard. I chose to be with him. No, by the sea in Porthmadog – to be near Esyllt. My brothers came with mam and our sister, up here to the farm.

Is there a distance in their eyes? Am I the betrayer who stood with Tad? Am I being sent away?

I love them all. I can’t choose. But my family comes before Esyllt – it must. Or can our affair become more? Or are we doomed?

What does Taid want? A grandchild that lives by the rules. I don’t.

Are my tad and mam following his advice? Have they changed their minds? Are they getting back together – as we all want?

Cregennen-Lakes-5

Cregennen Lakes © Ian King – http://snowdonia.info/

The porch door opens and Nain Gwyneth and Taid Hywel walk out, smiling as they hand me a cup of hot chocolate.

“Another beautiful evening,” says Nain as she sits on the couch and gestures for Taid to join her. “It’s good to have you home, cariad. How was your stay with your tad?”

“Awesome – well good.” I mustn’t be too happy as I want to be at their farm now. Well, I want everyone together. “I enjoy being here at Tyn-y-llyn – in the mountains…swimming in the lake—”

Taid takes my hands in his gnarled ones. “Your mam, our Glenys wants this to be your home. You want that?”

Leave my tad. Leave the sea…my friends – Esyllt. For a new life?

“If you want me here. But school? I was changing, though—”

Taid nods at Nain and smiles. “Your mam says that you’re going to sixth-form college – in Pwllheli. Why? We’d hoped you’d do agriculture at Glynllifon – then help your Ewythr Ivor here on the farm.”

I stare across the yard at the farmhouse where my mam’s brother is sleeping with his family. Do I want that life? I love it up here – but something is missing.

Esyllt? No, she is not my future – even if I feel the passion and the excitement…and the guilt.

“I need to keep my options open. I’m sixteen and I want to do AS and A levels in different subjects. I’m not ready to commit.”

They watch me…study me. What do they see? The guilt or vague potential?

“You’ve no idea what you want to do? You can’t be like your tad – look what he’s put our Glenys through?”

The cop-option. The one that tackling the bullies triggered – Esyllt’s suggestion. My tad’s secret desire. Or did he say it was too dangerous? I must evade this.

“I like swimming—” I stare into their eyes then glance towards the land. “And running across the fields. Okay, I can do that as a farmer. But I’d like to learn about the sport and leisure industries, whilst learning more skills – like more Welsh. It’s our language.”

They smile, and Nain reaches over and pats my knee. She takes my hands.

“If you go to Coleg Meirion-Dwyfor how will you get there – you can’t live there?”

I let the conversation move on – hoping that we are past the tough grilling.

“I’ve passed my moped test and it will only take an hour – better than cycling and quicker. That means I can stay here – please.”

They embrace me, and I think they are leaving as Nain goes inside. But Taid sits back down.

“There’s something else. We’ve heard disturbing rumours from your school…” He looks up, and I shiver. “About an incident, you were involved in. What is the truth?”

As I dread. The whispers have spread into Snowdonia. It’s over. First Tad – but he didn’t tan my ass, just lectured me about vigilantes. Seems my school didn’t like the Goth Patrol standing up against bullies.

“It was a buddy system to protect kids needing friends.”

I listen to the hunting owls and Taid’s breathing. Did the family hear more? Or just about the assault in the swimming pool? I could have been drowned, but my friends rescued me – with Esyllt.

“In the eyes of the Lord,” he says, staring up into the night sky. “We can’t be the judges. But our friends talk – about our reputation in the community, and yours. Is there someone else?”

Here it is – the sin is exposed. Unless I lie.

“Not that I know – just friends.”

Lies are hard, but so is facing the truth. It won’t just be Taid and Nain. What will the family do next?

“Who is Esyllt Jernigan?”

I close my eyes and pray for guidance.

“One of my friends – another Goth like me.”

He frowns, and I realise my mistake – my other rebellion.

“Goth is darkness, isn’t it? A sin, in some eyes. You…like this other girl?”

Do I confess my sin – that I’ve slept with another woman? Or do I deny our love and perjure myself in the eyes of God? Three denials like Saint Peter is a sin.

But I want a future. Esyllt was the future but so are my family. Are the chapel rules just? Are Taid and Nain correct?

Must I change what my heart feels?

“There’s this guy – Bran. He likes me.”

Scooter

***

Comments are welcome as usual, but for the WEP Challenge, the following applies:

Word Count 991: MPA

(FCA welcome – if you want to send one, just let me know in the comments.)

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