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.

#IWSG – Tradition or Superstition

Take your pick. Or it’s habit which brings me back every first Wednesday to spin my way through the IWSG monthly blog post.

For that, I’m grateful the Ninja Captain himself, Alex J. Cavanaugh who created the Insecure Writer’s Support Group as they do such amazing things for writers, from the annual Anthology to friendly advice for all us vacillating writers. Many thanks, Captain Alex, for keeping me inspired to keep writing.

Not least for ensuring I wrote a crucial short, Feathered Fire.

Today brings us ever closer to the release of the new IWSG anthology, Voyagers: The Third Ghost on May 5, 2020. I can’t wait to see what other contributors have penned – the weekly interviews add to the anticipation.

I’ve already pre-ordered my copy – from the UK – and if you are tempted, these are the purchase links:

Amazon:        

Print https://www.amazon.com/dp/193984472X/

Kindle  https://www.amazon.com/Voyagers-Third-Ghost-Yvonne-Ventresca-ebook/dp/B083C4WPR5/

Barnes & Noble:https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/voyagers-yvonne-ventresca/1135912991?ean=2940163430857

ITunes:  https://books.apple.com/ca/book/voyagers-the-third-ghost/id1493413956

Kobo: https://www.kobo.com/us/en/ebook/voyagers-the-third-ghost

https://twitter.com/DancingLemurPre/status/1230480335625969666

Okay, before I lose the plot, IWSG day is here again – and so am I, attempting to ensure I clear the pre-publication Anthology hurdle.

Anyway, on to the monthly question which always creates such fascinating posts. Apologies in advance for the slow visits on my part – I’m still wading through the last IWSG-day backlog. Or are they last year’s posts?

March 4 question – Other than the obvious holiday traditions, have you ever included any personal or family traditions/customs in your stories?

All I could focus on at first were places where I grew up – like the farm which became a key setting for my debut novel. Forget that red herring.

Is going to church on Sunday a custom?


St Margaret’s Church, West Hoathly, district of Mid Sussex, West Sussex, England. An Anglican church founded in the 11th century. Listed at Grade I by English Heritage (IoE Code 302844). This view looks from the upper level of the terraced churchyard [towards my childhood home] https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/User:The_Voice_of_Hassocks.

^*^

As children we went most Sundays, plus Easter and Christmas. We either walked with our governess to the local St Margaret’s Church, or drove with a parent to our family church, All Saints – both were Church of England (Anglican) and part of the united benefice of West Hoathly and Highbrook.

All Saints in Highbrook was founded in 1884, funded by two wealthy sisters, Frances Kirby and Caroline Weguelin, on land owned by the Clarke family and with stone from our quarry. Many of my ancestors are buried there including my mother, but not my father who is buried in a wood on the family estate. My parents were married at All Saints and so was I to my current wife as I was baptised there.

All Saints Church, Hammingden Lane, Highbrook, near West Hoathly, district of Mid Sussex, West Sussex, England. An Anglican church built in 1884 in a rural part of the district. Listed at Grade II by English Heritage (IoE Code 302817) https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/User:The_Voice_of_Hassocks

^*^

Relevant?

Well, the MC in my North Wales police procedural series, Sparkle Anwyl is from a chapel-attending family. Her maternal grandparents are god-fearing, and she tries going to chapel every Sunday. But as her tad, Sergeant Marc Anwyl says, ‘crime never sleeps on the Sabbath’, so her attendance as an adult is erratic. However, there are scenes at two family graveyards in two different novels, and my mind did reflect on the times I attended family funerals at All Saints – and when I sat in the family pew inside.

Does that count? Two different countries but the same religion.

**

The awesome co-hosts for the March 4 posting of the IWSG are Jacqui Murray, Lisa Buie-Collard,Sarah Foster, Natalie Aguirre, and Shannon Lawrence!

(As always, you must agree these guys are the best. They all have commitments too – but they volunteer. Ticker-tape applause for all of them – plus toasts too. Does coffee count?)

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.

Precocious Prodigy

Precocious prodigy, genius gem, or crazy contrivance?

Yes, I’m questioning the age of my detective Sparkle Anwyl. Acorns of doubt were understandably planted by some comments on my Café Terrace piece for the WEP/IWSG Challenge. All were uplifting and inspire more writing.

For instance, Nilanjana Bose ended an encouraging comment of great value by writing, “…Oh, I’d just like to mention that ’20th birthday meal’ threw me for a minute, because 20 seemed too young for Sparkle to have the experience/gut instinct she has. 🙂” Likewise, Donna Hole heartened me and helped motivate me, and added, “…An intuitive detective at 20? Hmm, I’m not buying it, but I think it plays well to today’s young readers…”

Nancy Drew or Mary Sue?

Anyway, those are valid points which made me look at my timeline for Sparkle and her backstory.

Precocious Prodigy?

Not in the sense of greats like Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, John Stuart Mills, Marie Curie, or Stevie Wonder. There are less well-known examples in other disciplines and countries if you want to learn more at https://247wallst.com/special-report/2020/01/24/31-famous-child-prodigies/ Or visit: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_child_prodigies

And then there are the Fictional ones like Dexter in Dexter’s Laboratory and the talented child geniuses in Ender’s Game.

However, Sparkle Anwyl was never in the child prodigy category – not from what I know. However, as I replied to Nilanjana, “I agree Sparkle may seem young, but she has the background to give her experience – father a copper, farming family, deaf sister, vigilante at 16, met Kama at 18 just before police college so has learnt from her too…”

Note that I mentioned Stevie Wonder as a prodigy. He overcame his blindness with music, an art form which has also helped the deaf percussionist Evelyn Glennie. Sparkle’s sister Gwawr is deaf from birth so I envisage that means as the older sister by six years, Sparkle must be responsible around her sister, and even learns British Sign Language and lip-reading.

From my observations of farmers, when I worked in the organic movement, the kids were growing up with more responsibility, caring for animals and plants, handling and driving machinery, and tasked with crucial chores. Sparkle’s family have a sheep farm and she would have had obligations as a kid, like looking after lambs and learning to work a sheepdog.  

Other occupations place similar demands on kids. Teenagers too. Think of all those young people who fight for their country – and many have died. Other services too. As a dad, policeman Marc Anwyl would be a role-model, even if his work creates domestic problems so initially his actions deter Sparkle.  

But observation might encourage her own gut instinct to kick in. Events at school – bullied as a weirdo – take her down a darker path as a vigilante, yet her fate leads her back to the police.

I reveal some formative incidents in the novel I’m editing now – Fevered Fuse, the one needing beta-readers. However, I may tweak the timeline to make Sparkle’s age fit better. I can’t change the age when she’s at secondary school (11-16) and sixth-form college (16-18), nor when she can start at police college (18), but beyond that there’s leeway.

Sparkle is still a police constable in my Café Terrace piece. But she’s only aged 21 when she qualifies as a detective, while Kama is 25 when she first appears as a Detective Sergeant. Detectives in the United Kingdom are older according to recent surveys. In most UK police forces, the youngest DC is 27 and youngest DS is 29. But there have been a few younger ones, according to my research, so they confirmed my ‘dynamic duo’ were not far-fetched.

Or are they?

Should I age my characters to add maturity, experience, and realism?

Develop their backstories?

More cases and more criminals while trudging Welsh streets means more tales and more settings.

Ffestiniog & West Highland Railway departure from Porthmadog.https://www.festrail.co.uk/gallery.htm