#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:

Sparkle Anwyl: Comic Book Heroine?

I’m busy revising my WIP, Fevered Fuse – Book 1 in my Snowdon Shadow series – following some invaluable feedback from my three beta readers, which is allowing me to hone the novel some more.

Among the comments was an intriguing one from my diligent queer diversity reader:

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? I have a background in merchandising and I just kept thinking how unique and sexy Sparkle is – she could be perfect for merchandising, if you were interested in going that direction.

So, I pursued the idea – well, the first step on an intriguing road. I approached Jonathan Temples http://jonathantemples.co.uk/ – the illustrator who did the cover for my debut novel, Spiral of Hooves and much more for other clients, and I asked him for a concept image.

What do you think of his image below? What does it say to you? What mood does it evoke? Which character is which? Where are we? Do you want to open the pages and read on? Or is this not how you envisage my characters?

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

Okay, I’m trying to let you react before I say more.

This echoes a scene in the novel – with a little bit of artistic licence. For me – and my wife – it captures the right mood, the Welsh setting, and the two main characters. Jonathan made some suggested changes, but his initial drawing provided the right starting point.

But where do WE go from here?

Sparkle Anwyl and Kama Pillai need your input, please

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/

#WEP/IWSG April Challenge – Antique Vase

Crime never sleeps.

As the Year of the Jackdaw unfolds, it’s time for more Sparkle Anwyl mind games as we continue the six-part story called ‘Custody Chain’.

Enjoy this 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

CHAPTER TWO – MASTERPIECE

2014

Monday, March 17th

Masterpiece. Same colours. Same brush-strokes. Smells original.

The stolen replica of Van Gogh’s Café Terrace at Night? I study the painting on the easel – and Tesni Szarka’s face. Expressive as her gestures.

The artist smiles and signs, “Once each masterpiece. Stay priceless.” Then she motions to seats by a picture window with a view through the trees towards the rippling stream. “Coffee?”

Kama nods. When we’re alone, and as I scrawl notes, she asks, “Did you pick up more?”

“Yes. Hidden meanings I need to interpret. Patience.”

I grew up learning the connotations beneath sign language. An advantage Kama needs.

My tattoos tingle. R for Rationale and Robbery. U for Unique and Urgent.

Kama is scanning the room.

My focus is on Tesni’s work desk positioned in the natural light. Her current project isn’t a painting.

A blue cracked ceramic pot. No clay. But a sanding tool. Smoky epoxy stings my nose.

R for Repair and Restoration – not Replica. C for Cracked Ceramic.

My analysis is interrupted by Tesni’s return with a cafetière, mugs, jug of milk and sugar bowl on a tray. But she’s noted my observation of her workspace.

“I broke. Repair. Return later.”

E for Epoxy and Excuse. S for Sander and Smoky – and Sapphire.

She pours the coffee and passes us mugs of welcome black warmth.

Kama points to the painting and signs. “And that?”

Tesni sips her coffee, brow furrowed.

“Painted for Urien. Someone try steal. Safer here. We protect. Together-please.”

A mnemonic forms – SECURE. Or RESCUE?  Both. She rescued the painting, so secure – if we help.

We need more and Kama delves.

“You in Uriel house? When?”

“To stop thief. I broke urn on head.”

U for Urn.

Hand Painted Plum Blossom Ceramic Cremation Urn – One World Memorialshttps://www.oneworldmemorials.com/products/ceramic-cremation-urn-blossom?utm_source=Pinterest&utm_medium=Social

More notes, then I scroll through my smart-phone to the active CSI report. Chips of pottery…ash.

Tesni tackled the thief – she was at the scene. I show Kama the evidence. “We’ll need her DNA.”

As Kama explains to Tesni about the sample, I examine the ‘weapon’. On closer inspection, the urn looks old – or aged with the same techniques Tesni uses.

“You made this? Another replica?”

She shakes her head and gestures distance. Then signs ‘Abroad’.

Another artist. From the plum blossom, I guess a replica of an antique Oriental vase.

“Whose ashes?”

“Urien’s wife.” Tesni drops her head in her hands and sobs.

L for Loss and Lonely. A for Ashes.

She calls the collector by his first name. Did she know his wife? Is that why she was at his house? Is he a loner too?

W for Wife. F for Familiarity.

Kama reaches out a hand and squeezes Tesni’s knee. The artist looks up and wipes her tears. She stands, then fetches an A4 pad and a calligraphy pen.

On the paper she writes in flowing italics, ‘You need more. My written statement?

We nod and let her write.

FLAW.

In our approach? Her story? The CSI report?

We leave with her detailed statement, which needs corroboration. Plus, the painting and the urn – vital evidence. Tesni hesitates over us taking them, but we reassure her they’ll be protected in police custody.

W for Witness or S for Suspect? A for Attack.

SAW

For now, we have to class her as a vulnerable witness. Disabled, even if she did fend off the intruder.

Have we increased her danger? Even if my uniform colleagues now watch her house?

*

Tuesday, March 18th

A return trip to Llandudno to talk to Desmond Deckard arises as Tesni’s statement claims he imported the urn.

“Bespoke so unique. Ordered specially for Mr Cadwallader – after his wife passed. It’s a replica of an antique Chinese vase. However, as it was crafted abroad, you must talk to my sister and co-owner. Carys handles our imports.” He escorts us to her office.

Carys Deckard is younger than Desmond – and fitter. Early forties. 5 feet 11. Tall and slim.

She smiles as we enter.

“I missed meeting you appealing ladies, when you called before. What can I do? Any excuse to assist you.”

Kama ignores the beguiling undertones.

“Is the artist who made the urn a regular supplier? And where are they based?”

Carys hesitates, then looks at her computer monitor.

“In Hungary. The artist calls herself Aranka.” She scrolls her mouse and clicks. “I wish I had more. Is this important?”

R for Relevant. I write down the name. A for Aranka. But I let Kama pursue.

“Yes, more details could help resolve this. Anything.”

“Aranka is not one of our craftspeople. I only expedited the import of the urn for Mr Cadwallader.” She stares at the view, hand on her lips. “His contact…and the urn was a gift – no charge, except import costs.”

G for Gift. 

Kama’s phone rings – DCI Baines.

We move out of earshot and listen, heads together.

“Forensics fast-tracked their analysis. Same ashes in the urn as at the scene. Plus, Tesni Szarka’s DNA is all over the house.”

T for Tesni Traces.

“Her statement implied she visited often” says Kama.

“There’s more – she shares DNA with the dead wife and Urien Cadwallader. She might be their daughter – if she knows.”

F for Family. GRAFT. By who? Why?

“Urien Cadwallader is conscious. Interview him – gently. He may not know either.”

***

Word Count 988: FCA

Comments are welcome as usual, and the following applies:

WINNERS UPDATE – 30th April 2020: Many congratulations to the winners of the April 2020 Challenge. This month there were more talented writers on view. Details of all the entries and winners have been announced here:

https://writeeditpublishnow.blogspot.com/2020/04/winners-post-april-challenge-antique.html

And many thanks to those at WEP who awarded me this, again. And especially Olga for designing another great badge.

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.