#WEP/IWSG February Challenge – The Kiss

Crime never sleeps.

This year’s WEP/IWSG challenge theme, the Year of the Art, ties in to my novella for last year’s challenges, the six-part story called Custody Chain’.

I was wary of attempting another ongoing case for Sparkle Anwyl and Kama Pillai of the North Wales Police, but I sensed many of you would expect something else involving them.

However, another Snowdon Shadows novella was too daunting – and a commitment too far. Although I managed to get there, I had to eke out the end of ‘Custody Chain’ sentence by sentence – sometimes one each day.

So, I’m going down the stand-alone path, although there will be a few links – beyond my dynamic duo.

Apologies, the word count is over the limit – but let’s move on.

If you wish, please comment, or suggest what links are ongoing.

Many thanks for reading.

As always, apologies if I’m slow to respond or slow to visit your posts.

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

https://writeeditpublishnow.blogspot.com

LIP SERVICE

2015

Friday, January 9th

Surf crashes onto the beach, churning the sand and tossing seashells aside. Rollers rush the rocks bordering the bay.

Perfect for thrill-seeking surfers, but treacherous for casual swimmers. Deceptive currents.

Another challenge for Kama and me. Nothing deflects us from our dawn swim.

We race into the roiling sea, limbs driving us out until Morfa Bychan disappears.

Then we turn for shore and breakfast.

A familiar figure waits for us. A brunette in uniform, with sparkling eyes – and a worried expression.

PCSO Lleilu Dace, the police community support officer, who proved so invaluable on an art theft case the previous year.

She waves as we walk ashore.

“I knew you’d both be here, so wanted to catch you off-duty. Sorry for the intrusion—”

“—anytime. What’s the problem?” Kama’s tone is calm and encouraging.

I find myself reading Lleilu’s lips. The case had involved Tesni Szarka, a deaf painter.

“Don’t take this wrong. I’m not proper uniform and certainly not a detective—”

“But you’re part of the team with vital input. What’s happened? Sexism?”

“Too often – some of your colleagues expect me to make their tea, even when they are capable. No, it’s the paperwork. It has to stop.”

I share her frustration. Time sheets, surveys, assessments, as well as our regular case reports.

“We do depend on non-police staff to type up our Smartphone notes.” Kama shakes her head. “But only if we’re stretched and we shouldn’t expect PCSOs to do that. You have key support roles – and you’ve proved invaluable. You should talk to DCI Baines – she’d understand.”

Lleilu shakes her head. “It’s just my observation, not an official complaint. That would require triplicate form-filling. Paperwork will be the kiss of death for real policing. Anyway, I’m going for a swim.”

She slips out of her uniform, down to a swimsuit and a lithe body. Warmth spreads up to my face and I glance at Kama. Resist, her face says.

Lleilu plunges into the sea and begins to carve her way through the turbulent water.

Pounding. My chest. She’s disappeared. Undertow.

Kama and I dash in, diving underwater. Searching.

I find Lleilu fighting to surface. Fighting to breathe. Choking.

As I reach her, she collapses. Remain calm. Slow my racing heart.

I slip hands under her armpits, then kick to the surface, swimming parallel to the shore – out of the undertow.

Kama is beside us, guiding us back to the beach once we’re out of the undertow.

We lay Lleilu on the sand. Her pulse is weak. Not breathing. Kama presses her lips to another. I shiver. No. Mouth-to-mouth resuscitation.

Kiss of life. 

Kama continues the methodical airway-breathing-circulation then chest compressions. Lleilu’s eyes flutter. No gasp for air.

My partner motions for me to take over. I press my mouth to Lleilu’s, pinching her nose – and praying.

She chokes up seawater, then forces a smile.

***

Sunday 25th January

Kama and I kiss, lips soft as tongues tease. Then we zip up our leathers over evening glad rags.

The front-door bell rings.

Lleilu – with a large package.

Dydd Santes Dwynwen Hapus. I have a gift for you both – for saving me.”

She kisses us on both cheeks, then hands us the wrapped gift.

We undo the protective cloth, revealing a painting we will cherish.

“Tesni Szarka painted this replica. Dropped everything to finish it for—”

“St Dwynwen’s Day. Our own version of St Valentine’s Day – which we’re about to celebrate—”

“Join us – unless there’s someone—”

“Not yet, but he’s out there.”

I place the replica of Gustav Klimt’s The Kiss on our mantelpiece.

1077 words FCA

For more on the theme of art, check out the amazing WEP/IWSG Challenges Calendar for 2021 with designs by Olga Godim:

https://writeeditpublishnow.blogspot.com/2020/12/announcing-wep-2021-calendar.html

For more on Gustav Klimt’s The Kiss see:

For details on St Dwynwen’s Day:

https://www.visitwales.com/info/history-heritage-and-traditions/st-dwynwens-day

And for other February entries visit:

https://writeeditpublishnow.blogspot.com

#WEP/IWSG June Challenge – Urban Nightmare

Crime never sleeps.

Despite the disturbing world situation, I’ve found bits of time to devise more Sparkle Anwyl mind games as we continue the six-part story called ‘Custody Chain’. Meanwhile, the revision of my first Sparkle Anwyl novel, Fevered Fuse progresses in sporadic spurts too.

I’ve also had a graphic image of Sparkle and Kama created, which I blogged about last month: https://rolandclarke.com/2020/05/31/sparkle-anwyl-comic-book-heroine/ – inspired by  my diligent queer diversity reader.

She said, “Sparkle’s character is so strong and is so appealing, esp. to the younger generation who also love anime and comics, I wondered if you have considered getting an illustrator to have a look at your book and possibly create a comic book character out of her as well?…”

After the feedback on the original image, the illustrator made some changes based on comments. My beta readers should spot the imagined scene from Fevered Fuse – with artistic licence.

Graphics by Jonathan Temples – 
http://jonathantemples.co.uk/

What do you feel about the new image? An improvement? Hooked or confused?

Back though to Custody Chain.

If you missed the first two parts of the story, or would like to refresh your memory, here are the links:

Chapter One – Café Terrace: https://rolandclarke.com/2020/02/19/wep-iwsg-february-challenge-cafe-terrace/

Chapter Two – Masterpiece: https://rolandclarke.com/2020/04/15/wep-iwsg-april-challenge-antique-vase/

Please note there may be minor oversights/errors/omissions which editing of the final story into a novella will address. Writing new chapters throws up new clues to fathom.

On my April Challenge post, some people again commented that Sparkle’s mnemonic usage needed to be explained better – comments echoed by my beta readers for Fevered Few. I have attempted to introduce an explanation in this episode, which I intend to use and evolve elsewhere – if the idea works.

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

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

https://writeeditpublishnow.blogspot.com/2020/06/wep-june-challenge-urban-nightmare-sign.html

CUSTODY CHAIN

CHAPTER THREE – CRYPTOGRAPH

2014

Tuesday, March 18th

Kama and I interview Urien Cadwallader in his private hospital room. Will he allay our suspicions?

“I don’t remember much. Didn’t your colleagues discover more?”

“Anything you can add helps. Did you see anything before you were attacked?”

I flip open my notebook as Kama probes. The CSI report and Tesni’s statement pose questions.

Urien shakes his head. “I’m usually alone – since my wife died. I have my art collection. Comfort—”

He falters. Tears streak his cheeks.

Seated beside his bed, Kama pats his arm.

“Take your time, sir. Your wife must have been special.”

“For 35 years – until…” He shudders. “I prayed Csilla would survive the treatment but— too invasive. I could do nothing so lost her—”

As he starts to cough, I reach for his glass of water, passing it when he stops shaking.

“Lungs – damaged from her childhood back in Miskolc.”

“Hungary?” The names slots together – Aranka, Miskolc, Csilla, Szarka.

He stares at me. “You know already? I thought those records lost decades ago.”

“A deduction. Please, apologies if I’m wrong.”

He shakes his head, then leans back, head lolling. “So, nobody told you. How?”

“Sparkle thinks laterally. Give her clues and she finds new angles.”

Urien gestures at me. “Your personal cryptograph?”

I laugh. “Fancy word for my mind games – but worth adopting. I juggle the initial letters of clues to get a mnemonic so I remember them—”

“And the new angle?”

“Triggered by the mnemonic. Like say M for Miskolc, A for Art, G for Generosity, Y for Yearn, A for Analysis, R for Replica, S for Stars. Spelling M A G Y A R S – as in Hungary where Aranka is from. Plus, Csilla sounds Hungarian as does Szarka. Correct?”

Urien palms his hands and nods. “Impressive.” He closes his eyes. “We met in 1988 when I travelled to Hungary as a mineralogist – my initial career. I was looking for the Herman Ottó Museum and Csilla helped me. A nineteen-year-old engineering student, Csilla captivated me, so I helped her flee the country when it broke from the Soviet bloc.”

M for Minerals, E for Engineer, T for Travel.

M E T

“You married in Hungary?” Kama reaches a shared conclusion. “The missing records. And your child?”

Urien confirms our suspicions. “Born in 1994 – talented and special – our joy in turbulent days. We named her ‘warmth from the sun’ in Welsh. She’s worth everything I spend.”

T for Turbulent Talent. S for Sky Sigil.

METS?

“Does Tesni know she’s your daughter? Or only that her mother was Csilla Szarka?”

Tears return to streak his cheeks. “I’ve failed to confess my relationship, although I’ve always felt she senses all that matters. Her art is everything in her world. Yet Tesni visits often.”

“That’s why her DNA was all over your house. And why she pressed your panic pendant. Did you or Tesni switch off the security you’ve installed? We must identify your attacker.”

“Tesni would never leave me unprotected. The attacker must have disabled the CCTV so he remained invisible. Didn’t Tesni see him before summoning help?”

Kama scrolls on her phone. “Her statement reads, ‘The figure was in black and masked. When I cracked the vase on the masked head, the figure fled…’ Then she helped you and rescued the urn pieces.”

“With her mam’s ashes – Csilla helping still. Did Tesni repair the urn?”

I smile and bow my head. “An invisible repair. The painting is secure too.” U for Urn, P for Protection, I for Invisible. “A mistaken theft that triggered our investigation.”

METSUPI = IMPETUS

“Your case must be closed then. I’m anxious to return home, where my daughter has Csilla and our painting.”

“My cryptograph raises concerns. What compelled your wife to flee Hungary? Her health? Yet she left family behind. Aranka?”

He collapses into the pillows, eyes closed.

“Yes, Csilla was suffering. Her father worked in the steelworks, coming home covered in toxic dust. Love offered a route out of her urban nightmare. Economic recession was sweeping those industrial heartlands behind the Iron Curtain. Her sister, Aranka stayed with her profiteering husband.”

“Could your attacker have been Hungarian? They didn’t try to take the painting – just attacked you. Why?”

Urien shakes his head, but his glance wavers between us. We sense his fear.

“I made mistakes – and enemies. And my assailant must realise who Tesni is – even living apart. Help me protect my daughter, please?”

***

Word Count 998: FCA

Comments are welcome as usual, and the following applies:

T for Treachery

My 2020 Blogging from A to Z Challenge revisits my best posts from the 2014 to 2019 Challenges.

T for Treachery (2019)

 At last I can give you the Final Part of Azure Spark, the investigation featuring my Welsh detective Sparkle Anwyl and her partner Kama Pillai.  I hope you’ve already joined these main characters in my Snowdon Shadows series.

The case evolved into a novella as I edited the posts into three acts. I suspect not everyone got to read ‘Azure Spark’ last year so this will be your chance to catch up. Enjoy.

Links to my other 2020 A to Z posts can be found here: https://rolandclarke.com/blogging-from-a-to-z/blogging-from-a-to-z-challenge-2020/

To visit other participants see The OFFICIAL MASTER LIST: https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/1YphbP47JyH_FuGPIIrFuJfAQiBBzacEkM7iBnq6DGDA/

J for Jeopardy

My 2020 Blogging from A to Z Challenge revisits my best posts from the 2014 to 2019 Challenges.

J for Jeopardy (2019).

Act Two of Azure Spark, an investigation featuring my Welsh detective Sparkle Anwyl and her partner Kama Pillai, the main characters in my Snowdon Shadows series.

The case evolved into a novella as I edited the posts into three acts last year. I will post the ending, Act Three on April 23rd.

I suspect not everyone got to read ‘Azure Spark’ last year so this will be another chance. Enjoy.

Links to my other A to Z posts can be found here: https://rolandclarke.com/blogging-from-a-to-z/blogging-from-a-to-z-challenge-2020/

To visit other participants see The OFFICIAL MASTER LIST: https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/1YphbP47JyH_FuGPIIrFuJfAQiBBzacEkM7iBnq6DGDA/

A for Assault

My 2020 Blogging from A to Z Challenge revisits my best posts from the 2014 to 2019 Challenges.

A for Assault (2019 Challenge) is Act One of Azure Spark, an investigation featuring my Welsh detective Sparkle Anwyl and her partner Kama Pillai, the main characters in my Snowdon Shadows series.

The case evolved into a novella as I edited the posts into three acts. I will post all three during April: Act Two on April 11th, and Act Three on the 23rd.

I suspect not everyone got to read ‘Azure Spark’ so this will be another chance. Enjoy.

#IWSG – Word View

Created  and hosted by the Ninja Captain himself, Alex J. Cavanaugh, theInsecure Writer’s Support Groupmonthly blog post is here again – and so am I, insecure, although a notch less.

I finally got my entry for the 2019 Annual IWSG Anthology Contest in with a day to spare. Finally, I suppressed my fears, switched off my urge to edit, edit, edit, and edit forever. I managed to integrate almost all the comments from my wonderful beta readers. However, my step kids were no shows as readers. But I had an awesome MG kid-reader from the UK – thanks Rebecca, for some awesome suggestions.

Insecurity postponed until the results appear next year.

Now, I’m stressing about my Pitch Wars 2019 submission – Fevered Few. The required query letter, one-page synopsis, and the first chapter of my completed manuscript are achievable by the September 25th-27th deadline. But I’m unsure if I have a “completed and polished full-length, fiction manuscript”. Complete perhaps, but ‘dusted’ might fit better than ‘polished’.

So, another insecure month. Or maybe, I’ll work on my short stories and the drug cartel in Bolivia.

Anyway, on to the IWSG monthly question.

September 4 question – If you could pick one place in the world to sit and write your next story, where would it be and why?

 I’m writing this in an office shared with my wife, that overlooks a suburban US street – not my dream location.

Requirements for change:

  1. Water view: by a river would be good or overlooking a beach or ocean.
  2. Mountain view: looking out onto green alpine meadows or something with a snow cap.
  3. Log cabin: a feel of being in the woods, surrounded by trees.
Crater Lake National Park, Oregon, USA, Phantom Ship – Photo by Brian W. Schaller
Published under the Creative Commons license – CC BY-NC-SA 4.0

In my mind, I see a cabin on Crater Lake in Oregon, USA. We once looked at murals to create some of that on the wall behind/beside our desks. Sound effects? We were planning to move to a mobile home park with houses overlooking a lake – but that’s not happening.

Of course, our house and office in North Wales was on the edge of woodland, overlooked Ceredigion Bay, and had a view of Snowdon. Plus, we had jackdaws in our garden. Just try ignoring our neighbours-from-Hell.

My wife’s photo may not show the estuary or the tip of Harlech Castle, but we could see them, especially from our landscaped garden. But the memories are there – and inspire my writing about Detective Sparkle Anwyl of the North Wales Police/Heddlu Gogledd Cymru in my Snowdon Shadows series.

And that photo has been enlarged, so it hangs above my desk with a red Welsh Dragon in front. Outside the window, beside our new rose garden, is a fountain of running water. Good enough for the next story, especially as we are spending the last weekend of September in a cabin in the mountains surrounded by pine trees.

*

The awesome co-hosts for the September 4 posting of the IWSG are Gwen Gardner, Doreen McGettigan, Tyrean Martinson, Chemist Ken, and Cathrina Constantiner!

(I so admire these guys as I know they have commitments too. Ticker-tape applause.)

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

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

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

Let’s rock the neurotic writing world!

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

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