#WEP/IWSG February Challenge – All You Need Is Love

I feared my entry for this month’s WEP/IWSG Challenge would be too late as there were too many interruptions, not least diving down too many rabbit holes... and WordPress being a pain.

Anyway, a writer is never late, nor is he early. He posts precisely when he means to… as the deadline looms.

Having done two Challenge years of Sparkle and Kama tales and having written a romantic interlude for them in December, I felt it was time to give my Norse snow queen another overdue outing. The last one was in December 2019: https://rolandclarke.com/2019/12/11/wep-iwsg-december-challenge-footsteps/

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

BLURB:

Gold medals are gifted through divine skills and love.

FREYJA’S TEARS

2022

Tuesday, February 8th

Constant clamour engulfs my ears. The din as Ægir’s dreaded daughters crash against the rocks, sending salt spray skyward.

Seagull squadrons screech and thieve my food as they assault me.

Not what I craved, yet my husband Njörðr expects me to enjoy my days at his Nóatún home beside the whale’s way, watching him play.

Sail-boarding, surfing, and today water skiing.

He insists I admire him showing off his talent. But he won’t teach me, even though as the snow-ski specialist I taught him my arts.

Why did I choose him? Cheated by Loki. Made to decide by selecting feet. Handsome limbs – yes. But not Baldr the Beautiful’s as I desired.

So now, Njörðr believes in this false fetish, saying, “See what this gorgeous god can do, and the skill’s all down to fantastic footwork.”

All I want is real romance. Poetic passion. Epic emotions.

Or escape to frozen-tear drifts. Time to be myself.

Time to leave him for the serene silence of my mountains. I must snow-dance again.

**

Skadi by Michael Jorvik

Thursday, February 10th

Silent-fall settles as I skill-slide into the rural resort near Thrutheimr, my alpine abode. The winter-blanket glistens under the silver-face, and I enter the central mead-hall.

Everyone is enthralled by the glowing screen showing the Beijing Winter Olympics. We all have our favourites in the final of the Women’s 10k cross-country, though all have learnt my arts.

But we cheer loudest whenever a Scandinavian competitor poles ahead of desperate rivals, and we toast the shield-maidens’ prowess.

A strong arm clasps my shoulder, and a seductive voice says, “We’ve bred them strong and swift in our lands. You’ve inspired them, Snow-Dancer, see.”

I smile then celebrate with my people as the Nordic countries sweep the podium, taking gold, silver, and bronze.

Then I turn my gaze on the handsome stranger.

He feels familiar even disguised, and I tease the truth.

“Wandering or seeking rings to break?”

He hands me a silver locket. “Will this do, Snow-Stepper? Or do you want something more precious? You’ve already won every gold medal.”

I laugh, louder than when Loki tussled with a goat then cheated me.

“All I desire is love. Is this heart-bait truly given? Or another trick?”

Music drifts across the celebrating crowd as he laughs and offers to remove his boots.

“I know about your foot-fetish. These aren’t my son Baldr’s, but my heart is bolder.”

“Do you seek to hide from me? That footwork was a falsity fabricated by the Mischief-Maker. It’s not the feet but what goes with them – and how you use them and where.”

Oðinn says, “I desire you forever by my side, Skaði, my goddess, giantess, huntress and snow-stealth specialist. Will you be one with me – my Snow Queen? If wished I will break the rings binding you to Njörðr.”

“And what of  your other lovers?”

He covers an eye.

“I sacrificed one sight-light for my wisdom and presage. You will be foremost—”

“—and you tell all your conquests that.”  I point to my face, then wink. “I’m not snow-blind. Frigg will view me as a threat… to marriage-purity. But I foresee another rival – Freyja, Njörðr’s daughter.”

Oðinn hesitates and I fear my truth-quest is doomed.

His grin captivates as the jukebox plays ‘All You Need Is Love’.

“Freyja shed tears of gold when I left to wander the Earth. Do we expect our shield-maidens to receive lesser rewards if I repent? Our match is fated, so we must commit to—”

“—to Infinity and beyond, heart-caller.”

614 words FCA

Apologies to those who know their Norse mythology and folklore, as I’ve taken a few liberties here. However, with so little from the ‘Viking era’ surviving, and much of it being oral in origin, I’m following in the bastardising bardic tradition.

For those who like rabbit holes, visit:

Throughout the mythology, Freya is associated with gold. When her husband leaves her to wander the Earth (more on him below), she cries tears of gold. Because of this story, “Freya’s tears” became a kenning, or poetic circumlocution, used to represent the word “gold” in Norse poetry. Freya’s golden necklace Brísingamen (“flaming necklace”) appears in connection with the goddess in several Eddic tales. According to Snorri Sturluson, the terms “flame” and “fire” are often connected with gold in poetry of the North “since it is red,” so it should not be assumed that Freya’s necklace was a thing of fire, but that it was simply made of her favorite metal.

          [From: http://https://www.norsemyth.org/2010/04/gods-goddesses-part-one.html]

Or:

Due to numerous similarities, scholars have frequently connected Freyja with the goddess Frigg. The connection with Frigg and question of possible earlier identification of Freyja with Frigg in the Proto-Germanic period (Frigg and Freyja origin hypothesis) remains a matter of scholarly discourse.[67] Regarding a Freyja-Frigg common origin hypothesis, scholar Stephan Grundy comments, “the problem of whether Frigg or Freyja may have been a single goddess originally is a difficult one, made more so by the scantiness of pre-Viking Age references to Germanic goddesses, and the diverse quality of the sources. The best that can be done is to survey the arguments for and against their identity, and to see how well each can be supported.”[68]

[From:  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Freyja ]

As for the Winter Olympics reference, that is based on real events. On February 10th at the Beijing Games, the 10k gold medallist was Therese Johaug (Norway), the silver medallist was Kerttu Niskanen (Finland), and the bronze medallist was Krista Pärmäkoski (Finland) – so, a Nordic clean sweep.

[https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cross-country_skiing_at_the_2022_Winter_Olympics_%E2%80%93_Women%27s_10_kilometre_classical]

And now for the music:  

#WEP/IWSG December Challenge – Narcissus

I feared my entry for this month’s WEP/IWSG Challenge would be too late, but then as I wrote this short piece, I realised I had to post today. The reason might become relevant on reading the last scene. As for the theme, I found a Welsh element to tie elements together for Sparkle and Kama.

This 2021 Year of the Art theme has provoked some interesting thoughts – and trips down rabbit holes.

Although this year’s posts are not another ongoing case for Sparkle Anwyl and Kama Pillai of the North Wales Police, I’ve attempted something else involving them. So, once more I’m going down the stand-alone path with my dynamic Welsh duo.

But this time, I’ve tried a change of genre – well, perhaps. Also, this is a response to my editor pointing out an oversight in my Fevered Fuse novel – the lack of personal growth.

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

BLURB:

Uplifted by daffodils, two women affirm their love and pledge to fight for human rights.

MIRRORED PRIDE

2016

Saturday, 10th December

I stare at the unfamiliar reflection and wince. Pain comes with the job,but I can’t go out like this – not to celebrate.

Stupid. Some guys never give up easily – even cuffed.

Does it matter how I look? I purse my lips. Perhaps. I’m not vain, but tonight is special.

I reach for the makeup bag. Should I use some yellow concealer to hide my black eye? The icepack helped, but it’s still obvious. People might jump to the wrong conclusion. Abusive partner.

My fingers touch the slash on my cheek. Is a scar a turn off or a mark of courage?

Will Kama care? My whisper echoes round our bedroom.

“Of course not, cariad.” Kama replies in the doorway. I swivel and smile as she walks over, then kisses me softly. “You’re beautiful whatever happens.”

Then she sits down beside me at the vanity table.She traces the cut, then my nose. “At least, he didn’t break your mischievous feature.” She continues caressing my face.

The perfect excuse for my own daring exploration for hidden pleasure.

“Leave something for later. We need to get dressed up not down. After dinner antics are best.”

“Haven’t we always eaten first.” I slow my teasing hands, then add, “We never break the rules.”

“Except speeding on our bikes. That’s an unbroken addiction.”

Motorbikes brought us together nearly five years earlier – as did crime and our first case together.

I let our lips meet, and I enjoy the taste of minty cardamom. Long and lingering, and then I ask, “Do you ever regret the life we lead?”

“Never. I’m proud to be your partner. Both as a wife and a cop. You have doubts?”

“No longer, chellam. I admit my heart has wavered – doubt can be a mischievous trickster – was once. But we’ve proved ourselves as women, as lovers, and as crime busters.”

Kama clasps my hands. “Now we can be open with our pride, despite the risks.”

“Risk is our adrenaline and will be forever. And there are tests ahead, but we have each other. Still, I’m covering up these blemishes before we go out.”

“The table is booked for eight so I can pamper myself too. And then I’ve a present for us downstairs. Seasonal light for the cottage.”

***

A floral feast fills our front room. Dozens of displays of daffodils, not yellow but white blooms.

Kama beams with the flowers. “It may be eleven weeks until St David’s Day on March 1st, but why wait until our Welsh National Holiday?”

“Paperwhites – I love these daffodils. Perfect Christmas light bringers.”

“And I bought some bulbs to plant for the Spring as well. Plus, I added some which might flower on New Year’s Day. Those bring good fortune according to Chinese legend.”

“A bonus – even if having each other is our valuable destiny already.”

“I’ll echo that sentiment, cariad.”

***

We arrive on time at the Italian trattoria to celebrate and ‘Stand up for someone’s rights’ on a day when we are lucky to be in Wales.

When our cocktails arrive, I toast all those who fight for justice. “Not just on Human Rights Day but at every moment, chellam.”

“And together, we can take a stand for more humanity.”

On the wall behind, the face of Caravaggio’s Narcissus looks down through his pool of water at us and the vase of paperwhites on our table.

571 words FCA

Crime never sleeps.

Nor does the fight for justice and human rights.

https://www.ohchr.org/EN/NewsEvents/HRDay2016/Pages/StandUp4HumanRights.aspx

#WEP/IWSG August Challenge – Freedom of Speech

Crime never sleeps.

My apologies for the late appearance of Post IV in this year’s WEP/IWSG challenge – the Year of the Art. My first Covid-19 vaccine knocked me sideways and I’m still recovering – and dreading the second one.

Although this year’s posts are not another ongoing case for Sparkle Anwyl and Kama Pillai of the North Wales Police, I’ve attempted something else involving them.

So, once more I’m going down the stand-alone path with my dynamic Welsh duo.

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

DISRUPTED DIRECTIVE

2014

Friday, 9th May

This shadow is ideal. Perfect for surveillance without drawing attention to ourselves.

Jeans, sweatshirts, and suede jackets ensure Kama and I merge into the crowd gathered in the hall.

The debate has been civil, although the candidates have all made it clear where they stand on Europe.

In versus out. Vocal arguments with tinges of indecision.

But no sign of the anticipated public order threats – yet.

A smartly dressed man in a pale suit smiles at the gathering, pleads with weaving gestures. “We’re British, we’re not European. One language ensures we remain the United Kingdom. Do you want to be ruled by other nations? Forced to speak other languages? We must reject their unjust directives.”

The Green candidate appeals for calm as several people shout from the audience, pointing at the outspoken man.

I turn to Kama. “He’s deliberately provoking us – the Welsh.”

“He’s the intended target – supposedly. Watch for trouble. He’s setting himself up for attacks.”

Two young women leap up, dressed in our norm of black leathers, and shout – in Welsh. “You’re the invader forcing us to accept your rule – talk your language.”

“Speak English, please, not your foreign gibberish. Nobody can understand you. We don’t have translators here like the European Parliament.”

Another candidate, the woman from Plaid Cymru stands and asks first in Welsh. “Stand if you understood these sisters.” Then as almost everyone stands, she adds in English. “Our Brexit colleague has the right of free speech…” She pauses, then continues, “But not the right to claim his language should dominate us. Cenedl heb iaith, cenedl heb galon.”

“My apologies. However, isn’t the law upheld in English. What do my seated friends say?”

Before Kama or I can correct his legal presumption as officers who caution bi-lingually, some seated guys leap to their feet.

They mask their faces as they throw projectiles at the dais and into the crowd.

Flour bombs explode.

“Not just flour.” I choke as Kama shoves a scarf on my mouth.

“Tear gas. We need to protect the bigot.”

“Unless he planned this evening.” Blinded by flour and tears,we stumble towards the platform.

No sign of the candidate. Abducted or scarpered?

We keep searching amidst the confusion. No sign of him or the masked bombers.

Image: Bert Kaufmann/Adam Walker

Monday, 12th May

A bolt hole for a scared politician? Or for a devious one?

But the campaign office echoes others I’ve seen. Diligent drones. Harassed helpers. Flyers and posters everywhere. Clicking keyboards.

“Morning officer. Have you arrested those protesters? The ones trying to challenge my freedom of speech?” The instigator ignores my initial attempt to reply and ploughs on. “Flour bombs and tear gas are offensive weapons—”

“We have a couple of protestors in custody.”

He smiles, continuing to ignore the plain clothes officer beside me – Kama. Did he see us at the meeting – together? And standing with the other Welsh speakers? Obviously not.

“Is this one of them? Come to apologise?”

Kama produces her warrant card. “I was hoping you could answer a few questions as I’m leading the investigation. Provoking unlawful violence is a serious offence under the 1986 Public Order Act. A person guilty of such an offence could face imprisonment for six months or a hefty fine. Shall we talk here or have you a separate office, please?”

His demeanour and voice waver. “Well, um… You’d better follow me…officers. Anything to help…resolve any misunderstanding.”

His office is spacious and uncluttered, except for the electoral material promoting his attempt at election in ten days.

He sits behind his desk, waving us to the seats on the other side.

The desk is meant to be formidable and intimidating. But Kama has dented his defences already.

“Those hooligans misunderstood. I have the right to say what I believe – as do they. But throwing an offensive missile must be a crime—”

“As is orchestrating this event. The statements from your supporters make it clear what you intended—”

“My supporters? You must be mistaken. Those were Welsh Nationalists – they deliberately attacked me. My human rights were violated, as they have been throughout this campaign. Abuse, slander, and lies.”

Kama smiles, then turns to me. “Did the flour bombers speak any Welsh, PC Anwyl?”

“Only a few badly constructed and pronounced curses. But they declared their allegiance to a British nationalist cause – like yours, sir.” Then, I give him the statutory caution and warning against further incitement to violence and electoral fraud, adding, “Or we will be obliged to report you to the relevant European authorities.”

He leans forward, but his threatening gesture is empty. “I don’t recognise that authority, but I will prove the people are on my side at the polls. Trust me. Thank you, ladies.”

Dismissed, we stand, satisfied the press coverage of the incident will undermine his chances.

As we leave his bolt hole, I notice a framed print on his wall. Norman Rockwell’s famous “Freedom of Speech” painting. I point at the print, then turn back towards our English fanatic.

“Free Speech – a right none of us should abuse. And to close the debate, I’ll add, Cenedl heb iaith, cenedl heb galon – meaning, ‘A nation without language is a nation without heart’. Remember that.”

Norman Rockwell (1894-1978), “Freedom of Speech,” 1943. Oil on canvas, 45 3/4″ x 35 1/2″. Story illustration for “The Saturday Evening Post,” February 20, 1943. Norman Rockwell Museum Collections. ©SEPS: Curtis Publishing, Indianapolis, IN.

878 words FCA

The ‘Freedom of Speech’ prompt triggered thoughts about political hustings in England and Wales as I was involved on the fringes of politics for decades.

As I said in my last WEP/IWSG Challenge post, conservation and environmental threats have concerned me for decades – peace issues included. I was a member of the Green Party for years, involved in various elections – once as a candidate – and worked with Green politicians in other countries, including some elected members of parliaments (Mps and MEPs).

So, I welcomed a chance to involve Sparkle and Kama in an election incident, one that slotted into their storyline – preferably an election I voted in. After some rabbit-hole research into Welsh elections, I chose the 2014 European Elections: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2014_European_Parliament_election_in_the_United_Kingdom.

In this fictional scenario, I envisaged the provocative right-wing candidate losing – and in reality, the most extreme candidates did lose. But sadly, in my opinion, Britain later left the European Union. Although green in my beliefs, I voted in 2014 for the Plaid candidate, Jill Evans as she was an effective MEP and an active  member of the Green / European Free Alliance (EFA) Group.

#WEP/IWSG April Challenge – Freedom Morning

Crime never sleeps.

Post II in this year’s WEP/IWSG challenge and on the theme, the Year of the Art. As before, this theme ties in to my novella for last year’s challenges, the six-part story called Custody Chain’.

Although this year’s posts are not another ongoing case for Sparkle Anwyl and Kama Pillai of the North Wales Police, I’ve attempted something else involving them.

Another Snowdon Shadows novella was too daunting – and a commitment too far. Although I managed to eke out the end of ‘Custody Chain’ sentence by sentence, I wasn’t in the right space to do that again.

So, once more I’m going down the stand-alone path with my dynamic Welsh duo.

Apologies, the word count was over the limit – but then I over-edited it…………………. or something. With the deadline imminent, I’m resisting the urge to put the details back. Sorry.

If you wish, please comment, or suggest what could be missing.

Many thanks for reading. Please note, my writing situation is in a poorly state – more details here: https://rolandclarke.com/2021/04/07/iwsg-co-author-search/

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

STIRRED EMBERS

2015

Saturday, March 21st

Kama slips a hand across the table, candlelight glinting on her teasing eyes.

She squeezes my fingers. “The other diners are too engrossed in enjoying the food. That’s why this is the best place to celebrate your 21st.”

“With promised enjoyments to come.” I kiss her hand.

“You deserve a weekend of pleasure, before returning to Detective Training. Not that you need any—”

I grin as she knows there were few setbacks.

Raised voices break our focus. Two couples are arguing from separate tables.

Amser ichi adael Cymru,” shouts a grey-haired man as his partner gesticulates.

A tweed-suited customer retorts, “Speak English – not your foreign gibberish.”

“You’re the damn foreigner. I said, ‘Time for you to leave Wales’- in Welsh.”

“This is our home. We’re staying. What can you do? Torch our house as you did thirty years ago? Hopefully, this time they’ll lock you up for good.”

The Welshman raises his fists. “Or I can—”

A colourfully dressed man intervenes. “If you can’t be civil to each other, I must request you leave my restaurant. Or I’ll call the police.”

“He started this,” shout both men. The owner holds them apart.

As they continue to quarrel, turning their abuse on the coloured owner, Kama and I cross over.

We show our warrant cards.

Kama tries to calm the situation. “If everything stops now, we can continue to enjoy what should be a relaxing evening.”

“You can’t understand. You’re like this darkie,” says the Welshman, “Another outsider.”

She laughs, replying in our mother tongue. “Cefais fy ngeni ym Mhontypridd – I was born in Pontypridd.”

“And my family have farmed here for centuries. We don’t condone arson, but this man has served his time—”

“—and you have a right to live here. Let’s all get on then”.

“Like you two dikes?” The English woman jabs a finger at us. “The police shouldn’t take people like you – slobbering across the table at each other.”

I suppress my frustration. “Shame you don’t respect the law – or the arresting officers. Incitement to violence is—”

The woman glances around the staring restaurant. She grabs her belongings and slips out, leaving her husband to pay.

One gesture from Kama, and the Welsh couple go as well.

“Thank you. I can do without customers like that. I thought I’d left prejudice behind in Trinidad. Having mixed race parents prepared me for the worst.”

“From the food, I’d say a fusion of African, Chinese, and Indian.” Kama points at the reproduction painting near our table. “And that.”

“Claude Clark’s Freedom Morning has guided my approach to life. Indirectly the reason I named this refuge Nalaikku—”

Tomorrow in Tamil,” we reply.

453 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 Claude Clark see:

https://www.claudeclark.com/

And for other April entries visit:

https://writeeditpublishnow.blogspot.com

#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 October Challenge – Grave Mistake

Crime never sleeps.

Fall fills the air here in Idaho, and Halloween creeps closer. I’m dreaming of autumn leaves back in the UK – well, Wales.

That should mean more Sparkle Anwyl mind games and the next chapter in the six-part story called Custody Chain’. Yes, that is below but a few confessions:

  1. My mind is not yet working at full deviousness. Well, I’ve been distracted by time-wasting games. Not health issues this time.
  2. I wrote this chapter soon after the last one appeared, and the comments inspired me to work on the story. I have edited it in the last day or so, but the changes were minor.
  3. However, Snowdon Shadows have not been absent from my thoughts as I’m devising a novella for NaNoWriMo 2020. The entry called ‘Lost Sheep’ has a premise linked to Sparkle: A retired Welsh farmer faces challenges to his faith when his legacy is threatened. [Clue: Grandfather.]
  4. Unfortunately, the revision of my first Sparkle Anwyl novel, ‘Fevered Fuse’  is more like an ongoing stoppage. Perhaps working on related tales might rekindle the fire – or sparkle in the gloom.
Graphics by Jonathan Temples – 
http://jonathantemples.co.uk/

Without further excuses, let’s move on.

If you missed the first four 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/

Chapter Three – Cryptograph:

https://rolandclarke.com/2020/06/17/wep-iwsg-june-challenge-urban-nightmare/

Chapter Four – Umbrage:

https://rolandclarke.com/2020/08/22/wep-iwsg-august-challenge-long-shadow/

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.

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

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

CHAPTER FIVE – CYPRESSES

2014

Thursday, March 20th

Dappled sunlight plays among the trees as we return to the barn in Llanystumdwy. The tranquillity deceives and suggests Tesni and Urien’s haven is safe.

But it won’t be until the threat of Barangó Fekete is removed.

Urien had admitted that the extortionate debt arose as the gang leader had secured the papers for Csilla to leave Hungary – at a price.

The price is now Tesni’s artistic talent.

“Will Fekete use his contacts to kidnap Urien’s daughter?” I have my evolving idea but trust Kama’s opinion – always.

“Unlikely. He’ll know the barn is under police protection. And with his sister Tűzvirág in custody here – until his lawyers get her extradited back to Hungary – he’ll find another way.”

“Like threatening someone else Urien cares about. Aranka – Csilla’s sister – even if he’s married to her.”

“His record from Interpol shows his methods are ruthless, and Urien described the marriage as violent – Aranka being the victim. At least, he appears to care for their children.”

We approach the barn as PCSO Lleilu Dace opens the door.

“Mr Cadwallader is anxious about his daughter, as am I. She’s become obsessed with drawing the same images repeatedly. It’s been hard to persuade her to eat or sleep since you left on Tuesday with the suspect.”

My tattoos tingle and I tap out the first letter of a mnemonic. C for Compulsion.

“There must be a reason. Art is her life. Kama and I will see if we can help.”

Tesni is in the studio section of her open-plan home. Light from the picture windows floods the area, flickering across numerous sketches in charcoal and paint.  From sepia shades to vibrant colours, the swirling strokes are distinctively Vincent Van Gogh – and his wonderful cypress trees.

“Some of these I recognise,” says Kama, “but why those trees?”

I shudder. “Across much of Southern Europe, cypresses are most often associated with churches and graveyards.”

Tesni watches my lips, then nods and signs. “Vincent – final creations in Provence feature cypresses.”

Urien steps into the sunlight and gestures to an evolving painting. “Those swirls are rising to form halos around the crescent moon and solitary star. That has to be Road with Cypress and Star – painted just two months before Van Gogh’s death.” He grabs his daughter’s hands. “What does this mean? A final painting?”

“No. To save Aunt Aranka.”

My tattoos sting and I wince. But I tap out letter clues on my bracer. C for Cypress and Compulsion. A for Aranka and Artist. G for Grave and Grief – but also Gift and Grifter. A mnemonic forms: CAGE – E for Entrapment. 

“This buys her freedom? Or Barangó wants more.”

“He thinks that. But this is trap. We set together.”

I stare at the emerging painting and search for clues. No crow sigil in the corner? But as a forgery worth millions, it would be traceable with one.

Urien grins and embraces his daughter. “Clever and subtle. Hidden provenance.” He gestures at the cottage emerging on the upper right. A distant crow hovers between two cypresses. “Only an expert in bespoke forgeries would spot that.”

“Like Desmond Deckard.” Kama turns to me. “Do we trust him to negotiate the deal? Or would that be a grave error?”

Monday, March 24th

The owners of Orme Replica Masterpieces Emporium in Llandudno gaze at the painting in disbelief. Only screeching seagulls and early tourist traffic on the seafront break the silence.

Desmond and Carys Deckard glance at each other, nodding. The sister speaks first.

“If we didn’t know the original of Road with Cypress and Star was safe in the Kröller-Müller Museum in the Netherlands, we’d say this was genuine—”

“Instead of another exquisite Van Gogh replica by Turbulent Sky. Except—” Desmond peers more closely in the lower corners of the oil painting. “Her sigil is missing. Why?”

“So it can be sold as genuine – to the right collector.” I wink at Kama. “We even have a desperate buyer – in Hungary.”

“Or rather a dealer who doesn’t have your scruples or morals. Can we trust you to make the exchange – knowing what we’ve told you?”

The siblings smile. “We have terms.”

Vincent van Gogh (1853–1890), Road with Cypress and Star (1890), oil on canvas, 92 x 73 cm, Kröller-Müller Museum, Otterlo. WikiArt.

Sunday, March 30th

Grave Mistakes as Priceless Van Gogh “Road with Cypress and Star” Painting Stolen

The Associated Press reported Friday that a priceless Van Gogh painting was stolen from a museum in the Netherlands, the home country of the post-impressionist painter, one of the most important figures in western art. Van Gogh died in 1890, when he was in his late 30s, committing suicide after a life of poverty, marred by mental illness and substance abuse.

The artwork – “Road with Cypress and Star” – was taken in a raid in the early hours of the morning. Dutch police have unmasked the culprits, according to AP.

Ironically, March 30 is Van Gogh’s birthday…he would have been 161 today.

**

Word Count 999: FCA

Comments are welcome as usual, and the following applies:

While exploring rabbit holes for this chapter, I found several fascinating and invaluable articles. When reality and fiction meet, sparks ignite the little grey cells.

https://safehaven.com/news/Breaking-News/Priceless-Van-Gogh-Spring-Garden-Painting-Stolen.html