#WEP/IWSG June Challenge – Please Read the Letter

This month’s WEP/IWSG Challenge was as inevitable as the dreadful and ongoing tragedy in Ukraine. I’ve attempted to continue my tale of two aviatrix cousins from April, using the suggested approach of ‘correspondence’ – nowadays emails etc.

However, I was unable to catch the emotions involved as others did so well last Challenge. Also, I failed to edit down to 1,000 words.

My excuse… tomorrow, June 1st, we complete on our new mobile home, and we move the following day.  So, I’m scheduling this in advance of the Challenge deadline and may be offline for some of June, while we await internet connection.

Please note, this follows on from my World War II story Feathered Fire, which featured in the 2020 IWSG Anthology (No. 5), Voyagers: The Third Ghost, and my brief sequel Rainbow Firebreak, for the #WEP/IWSG April Challenge https://rolandclarke.com/2022/04/20/wep-iwsg-april-challenge-a-hard-rains-a-gonna-fall/.

Apologies if I’m slow to respond to comments or struggle to visit all your posts after re-connection to the internet.

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

https://writeeditpublishnow.blogspot.com

BLURB:

Messages keep hope for Mother Ukraine alive.

Winged Woes

2022

Wednesday, April 27th – Luhansk region, Ukraine

Ksenia Zelenko kzelenko99@psu2.ua

To: kzelenko97@psu1.ua

Pryvit Kyrylo,

I’ve prayed for you since the steelworks defence became desperate though brave. Can I believe in a miracle with help and consultation from the angels of the deep?

Please believe dearest brother.  Mariupol will be liberated. We will be together.

With my winged sisters Vasy & Kalyna, I helped retain control over most of our airspace. Now Russian air activity focuses on southern and eastern Ukraine. We will harass then drive them back across the border.

Love, blessings, and prayers.

Ksenia

We will have a good day when we win.

Slava Ukrayini.

One of the Ukrainian soldiers under siege in the Azovstal steelworks. Photograph: Dmytro Kozatsky/Azov Special Forces Regiment

Saturday, April 30th – Cold Lake, Canada

Leonid Sokol lsokol@chaykair.ca

To: ksokol@chaykair.ca

Darling Kalyna,

May this find you fighting fit. The kids share the family’s concerns for you both. Dispel our anxiety as news from Ukraine feels unclear. You must be on the Eastern front, halting renewed Russian attacks.

We watch President Zelenskiy’s addresses, hoping the war ends soon. We read the Ukraine’s Armed Forces report on nine Russian attacks repelled in the last 24 hours. Guess the reborn witches were somehow involved in the destruction of multiple enemy ground and air units.

I know you cannot reveal military secrets, but we have to know you’re safe. Please answer, lyuba.

 Chayka Air thrives, despite your absence. Seems our eldest, Aliona has your PR talent, making the most of pro-Ukrainian sentiment. Chayka Air displays are raising funds for humanitarian aid.

Promise you’ll keep the secrets and the memories we cherish in the deep.

Leonid

Slava Ukrayini.

A Ukrainian Sukhoi Su-27 lifts off at a 2017 airshow in the U.K. The Su-27 is Ukraine’s long arm, an offensive fighter with great range and the capacity to carry nearly 10,000 pounds of bombs, rockets, and missiles.
https://www.smithsonianmag.com/air-space-magazine/fighter-jet-fights-both-sides-180975834/

Saturday, May 7th – Luhansk region, Ukraine

Vasy Holub vholub@chaykair.ca

To: mholub@chaykair.ca

Dearest Marko,

We didn’t mean our silence to feed your fears. Yes, we maintain some military secrecy when another victory is being devised. The welfare of defenceless and innocent civilians  must be paramount.

We are well and love you all. Stay safe and secure yourselves.

Today, the Ukrainian government confirmed the last civilians trapped in the Azovstal plant were evacuated. But our remaining brave defenders appear unlikely to surrender as they vowed to stand until the end – even if many are severely wounded, some crippled. We fear the Russians will capture any who survive and surrender. With their Azov association, they could be imprisoned or worse… executed.

If that happens, please ask my father if he can legally help defend at least one of them: Kyrylo Zelenko, the younger brother of our wing-sister Ksenia. He is not a member of Asov, nor does he share the beliefs of comrades with far right views. Our own clashes with neo-Nazis in Canada has been a warning of irrational reactions. Too late, too late. A fool could read the signs.

We must arrange a virtual meeting. Is tomorrow too soon?

Our hearts are with you all. Mine is yours forever.

Vasy.

Slava Ukrayini.

Women evacuated from Azovstal steel plant in Mariupol stand next to service members of pro-Russian troops at a temporary accommodation centre in the village of Bezimenne. Photograph: Alexander Ermochenko/Reuters

Sunday, May 8th – Chayka Air Virtual Meeting

Cold Lake, Canada (15.00) and Luhansk, Ukraine (00.00)

Vasy Holub: Apologies for making the family wait while we honoured the Fallen.

Leonid Sokol: No problem. The time difference means we were running fund-raising aerobatics in aid of Ukraine.

Marko Holub: For our Motherland. Which is why your father will assist Ksenia’s brother and comrades. But he warns there are risks. The far right here in Canada could misuse this support.

Ksenia Zelenko: We’re still grateful. Kyrylo wanted to join us, but the siege hardly pauses. Life is dire. Starvation, infected wounds, and when their water runs out the inevitable end.

Marko Holub: A desperate crisis so our government must act. We hear Zelenskiy’s pleas but feel powerless. You three… night witches are fighting for everyone. We’re relieved our prime minister Trudeau visited Kyiv today—

Leonid Sokol: — and agreed to expand economic and defence cooperation.

Kalyna Sokol: We’re proud to be Canadian and Ukrainian. Especially on this Day of Remembrance and Reconciliation marking the end of World War II. Let’s hope Putin doesn’t escalate this war in his Victory Day speech tomorrow.

Vasy Holub: Which could play into far right hands. Ironic this invasion has strengthened their influence. I fear what lies ahead. More death and devastation.

Ksenia Zelenko: And a false peace if Putin is allowed to seize our eastern provinces. We will only have a good day when we win outright. Slava Ukrayini.

1944 Polikarpov Po-2 of The Shuttleworth Collection, United Kingdom
Ukrainian Air Force Su-27 at the RIAT 2018 airshow

Thursday, May 12th –  Sievierodonetsk, Ukraine

Kalyna Sokol  ksokol@chaykair.ca

To: lsokol@chaykair.ca

Darling Leonid,

News services will show footage of our latest blow to the invaders. You gotta reap just what you sow. I know you all fear for our safety, but rest assured we’re safe.

Today, we flew a dawn raid to help our ground forces repel multiple enemy attempts to cross a strategic river here in the Donbas. Our forces inflicted heavy losses, but the Russians will retaliate. Sievierodonetsk may be targeted. So, we’ll move to another temporary airstrip. Witches keep flying.  

My love forever. I miss your arms around me.

Kalyna.

Slava Ukrayini.

Friday, May 20th –  Mariupol, Ukraine

Kyrylo Zelenko kzelenko97@psu1.ua

To: k.zelenko99@psu2.ua

Lyuba Ksenia,

This may be a farewell message. I dread never seeing you again, dearest sister.

We have orders to surrender our positions to the enemy.

Inevitable as we’re struggling in unsanitary conditions, wounds bandaged with non-sterile rags, no essential medicine or water.

Our fate might be worse.

I dread being executed for war crimes… as a ‘neo-Nazi’. You know I’ve never been one. But I must stand and die with my friends, some holding views I ignore. First we fight for freedom and Ukraine. Only when we prevail can we argue politics.

Will they herd us to prison, stage a show trial, then death? Or a bullet as we surrender beside a mass grave?

This is a final plea for help. Is it too late to pray for that miracle?

It’s crazy how it all turned out. We needed so much more.

Love, regrets, and hope.

Kyrylo

You will have a good day when our people win.

Slava Ukrayini.

Ukrainian servicemen carry a wounded comrade as they are being evacuated from the besieged Azovstal steel plant in Mariupol, Ukraine, 17 May 2022.

1,012 words FCA

As with the April Challenge, I’ve slipped a few lines of Please Read the Letter lyrics into my digital interactions.

Invasion of Ukraine

Events have moved on since the date when my flash ends, and it’s been difficult to write this as the horrors Putin unleashed continue every day. I keep the live update from The Guardian open on my PC but feel powerless. All I can do is use my writing to express my support.

 May I plead for donations to Medecins Sans Frontieres, who work worldwide and are often the first charity in and last out: https://www.msf.org/

How this terrible crisis ends is hard to foresee, especially with the daily threat of escalation as Ukrainians find the will to resist, but the Russian attacks continue to wreak destruction on another Motherland. Somehow, I will attempt to find the positive conclusion to my Ukrainian story that mirrors reality.

A resident stands next to debris of an open market destroyed by a military strike in Sievierodonetsk. Photograph: Serhii Nuzhnenko/Reuters

#StandWithUkraine

Afraid of What? Not #IWSG?

I’m afraid. Afraid of what?

Afraid of the monthly Insecure Writer’s Support Group post?

Afraid of worsening health issues? Afraid of what that means?

As I write the fifth draft on April 5th, I’m afraid of what my blood test for CLL (leukemia) on April 13th shows.

Am I afraid it’s worse?

Afraid of being more of a burden? Afraid my wife is suffering as well?

Afraid of being moved to a nursing home? Afraid of the alternative in a crowded trailer park?

Afraid of losing my dog? Afraid she’s not qualified to be a companion dog?

Afraid of the suffering as I live?

Afraid of death?

Maybe this recent post from Writers Helping Writers is a comfort… or a red herring:

Afraid of a legacy lost?

Afraid of minimal writing? Afraid of failing the April WEP/IWSG Challenge?

https://writeeditpublishnow.blogspot.com/p/challenges-2022.html

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/A_Hard_Rain%27s_a-Gonna_Fall

Afraid for Ukraine? Yes, and I feel unable to help… beyond donating to…

Medecins Sans Frontieres: https://www.msf.org/

 Burned buildings marked with bullets holes and shrapnel fragments show the evidence of a brutal battle that occurred in Borodyanka. Photograph: Matthew Hatcher/SOPA Images/REX/Shutterstock

What would my fictional Ukrainians do – Kalyna  and Vasy Chayka, the heroines of Feathered Fire?

https://iwsganthologies.blogspot.com/p/voyagers-author-page.html

They fought the Nazis and fled from Stalin’s persecution.

So, their Canadian-Ukrainian granddaughters will fight Putin’s terror.

Rainbow Firebreak is in the pipeline.

I was afraid to tell the Ninja Captain, Alex J. Cavanaugh ‘ffarwel’. But not yet.

Finally, don’t forget to visit more active writers via the IWSG site:

Insecure Writer’s Support Group

As the question is optional, I’m not tempted to answer… beyond saying, “none so I listen to others”.


April 6 question – Have any of your books been made into audio books? If so, what is the main challenge in producing an audiobook?

The awesome co-hosts for the April 6 posting of the IWSG are Joylene Nowell Butler, Jemima Pett, Patricia Josephine, Louise – Fundy Blue, and Kim Lajevardi!

How can I be repetitive asking you to agree these guys are the best? Well, they are – especially as they all have concerns, fears, and insecurities. But they struggle on, so ticker-tape applause for all of them – plus toasts with the best brew available.

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.

For more on the IWSG monthly post and links to other participants visit:

https://www.insecurewriterssupportgroup.com/p/iwsg-sign-up.html

#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 June Challenge – Great Wave

Crime never sleeps.

Post III in this year’s WEP/IWSG challenge and on the theme, the Year of the Art. 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

STORM STEALTH

2014

Thursday, January 2nd

Kama and I shine torches across the runway invaded by the turbulent waters of Cardigan Bay. Three figures wave from the top of a stranded Land Rover, so the flood rescue coxswain steers towards them.

“Thank God, you found us before this flood rose higher. Our vehicle died on us—”

“Where were you going this late?”’

“Back to Llanbedr. We’d just repaired our plane in a hanger when the storm hit.”

The team makes room in the inflatable for the three men, but then, despite the storm, I hear distressed animal noises from a nearby barn.

“We need to investigate.”

One of the men shakes his head. “It’s just a stray dog. We tried helping it earlier, but it just growled at us, then slunk off.”

“We’re shivering,” says another rescued man. “We need to get home, please.”

The men don’t want our interference but I ignore their protests. Who are they? Were they repairing a plane? Access to the Snowdonia Flight School is not difficult.

But to them we’re their rescuers – not off-duty police.

Glancing at my partner, I swing my legs over the side. “We can do this. If we have to swim, we can. We’ve handled worst conditions.”

Kama whispers to the coxswain, before lowering herself into the flood waters.

She shouts back to the team as thunder echoes around us. “Sparkle’s correct. It’s our job to save any life. We’ll catch up later.”

We wade through the rising water towards the barn. The sounds are not just a dog.

“Was that a growl?” asks Kama. “Sounded more like a macaque.”

As we approach the barn door, the alarm calls increase.

“But here? You know—”

“—because my relatives in Tamil Nadu live near a troop. But they’re endangered macaques.”

We ease the door ajar and slip inside. Our torches shine on four piercing golden eyes in black faces surrounded by silver-grey manes – large canines bared

Caged.

A male lion-tailed macaque, showing its canines as a threat display. – Photo: Kalyanvarma

And other cages with exotic creatures.

The floor ripples. Rising water. And writhing snakes trying to escape drowning.

Plastic water bottles float. I shiver. Bottles with captive birds.

“We have to call this in. Those guys were smuggling illegal wildlife – by plane if they even had one. The National Wildlife Crime Unit won’t be open until the morning. RSPCA has a 24 hour hotline.”

My colleague reports our find to control, who reassure us that the RSPCA will be alerted.

“Can we at least get the creatures above the water?” I pick up two bottles and put them on a nearby shelf.

“ Are you leaving the snakes for the Indian charmer?” Kama nudges me.

I point to handles at the end of the plastic containers with the struggling serpents. “The scumbags took some precautions even if it wasn’t through concern for these poor guys.”

When we have moved every creature above the flood, we head outside into the storm.

“If our smugglers are in Llanbedr, we need to arrest them now—”

“I asked the coxswain to call uniform and ensure they watch their home, until we relieve them.”

Wading to firm ground is harder now. In places we have to swim – no challenge, even clothed.

However, the rain and sea water has made the fields boggy between access roads.

It’s only when we reach the road from Shell Island to Llanbedr that we can walk, then jog. Kama contacts uniform and updates them.

“A squad car will meet you at the rail crossing in five.”

The smugglers haven’t bolted, guessing the extensive flooding will divert attention – wrongly.

When the door opens, the leader looks beyond us at the uniform support.

“Shouldn’t they be fighting crime?”

“Smuggling wildlife is a crime.” Kama produces her warrant card. “We’re arresting you for offences under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora. Please read them their rights PC Anwyl.”

Friday, January 3rd

Emergency services continue to be stretched in the morning, and Porthmadog Heddlu are in demand. Our colleagues are exhausted, but the phones keep ringing. From serious crimes to breached seawalls and flooded front-rooms, people feel we should be resolving their problems. The situation is exacerbated with the main coastal railway line closed, and many key A roads impassable.

Perfect conditions for crime.

Someone is pinning a poster to the wall – a reminder of the flood of assignments we face.

And for Kama and me, our task has escalated. Crimes involving wildlife are generally not seen as “serious”, or are not thought of as “real crimes”.

But these smugglers have been identified. We want to see them prosecuted – not fined a few pounds and slapped on the wrists..

“We need stronger sentencing guidelines in Wales,” says DCI Ffion Baines. “That would result in more appropriate punishments for such horrible crimes. And more likely deter potential offenders. If you present your case, then I’ll back you with the CPS.”

But with no sentencing guidelines, the Crown Prosecution Service may find this case impossible to deal with effectively.

“Smuggling might be the stronger avenue. Evading customs. Contravening flying regulations, maybe. Lateral approach might throw up other crimes – crimes carrying a real sentence.”

“Time to send a clear message to the rest of the world that this part of the UK is doing its bit to address the devastating impact of the illegal wildlife trade.”

I point at The Great Wave poster. “Time to unleash our own tidal wave.”

The Great Wave off Kanagawa, by Katsushika Hokusai

908 words FCA

Although the initial inspiration for this flash was The Great Wave prompt, my mind was swept up with images of the storm surges that hit North Wales in December 2013 and January 2014. We were due to move into our new home there on March 1st (St David’s Day), so we were concerned as Harlech is on the coast,

When we arrived, there were still signs of the storms, although nothing akin to the damage done in the Great Storm of 1987, which scarred the landscape in the SE, around my family home. However, the Welsh storms left their mark – here’s how the BBC reported the storm on January 3rd 2014:

https://www.bbc.com/news/uk-wales-25583295

Conservation and environmental threats have concerned me for decades, so a chance to involve Sparkle and Kama was inevitable.

A policeman holds a water bottle containing a yellow-crested cockatoo (REUTERS/Antara Foto/Risyal Hidayat)

For more on the despicable trade in illegal wildlife, visit:

https://www.traffic.org/

Finally, if you want to learn more about Lion-tailed Macaques, here’s a documentary made around Kama Pillai’s ancestral home:

#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