#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 – Cafe Terrace

At the end of last year, I was in a dilemma over the themes for the 2020 WEP/IWSG Challenges and what I should do. I even ran a poll with 3 options, but it left me wavering between Skaði and Sparkle as the Facebook votes balanced the ones here.

I envisaged some Skaði tales in my Viking Age Alternative History timeline. I sketched a story with Skaði and a successful Vincent Willem van Gogh. But would such a devout Christian have allowed himself to be saved by a Norse goddess? Antique Vase in the desert and Agatha Christie?

Crime never sleeps.

Anyway, it’s now the Year of the Jackdaw, so Sparkle Anwyl returns in a six-part story called ‘Custody Chain’.

Enjoy this opening, 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/2020/02/wep-february-challenge-cafe-terrace.html

CAFÉ TERRACE

2014

Sunday, March 16th

Waves sigh up the beach as I gaze into the starry night over Cardigan Bay.

But I’m distracted.

Where is Kama? She’s late and I feel exposed in the black dress she insisted I wear for my 20th birthday meal.

Some customers at Surf’s Up have attempted pick-up lines. But saying I’m waiting for the woman of my dreams scares them off.

The bar is packed, so escaping onto the balcony was my only option. I’ve kicked off my ankle boots and when I need my glass refilled, the owner Heilyn Trevor appears.

Followed by Kama in an emerald and black Kandangi Saree.

“Sorry cariad, Ffion assigned me a new case. I pulled the files as your insight is devious. But after our meal.”

I silence her with a long kiss. “For you, I might wait.” Her excuse triggers questions. “Tempt me with a taster. Then we eat.”

We laugh.

“In brief. A collectible forgery of a Van Gogh painting was stolen last night from a connoisseur’s Llanystumdwy home. And he was savagely assaulted. The files are at home so can wait. First, our tryst at Agnelli Trattoria.”

*

I’m sated by the celebratory Italian meal – and our after-dinner exertions. But I want more. My mind switches from caresses to clues.

So far, the burglary details are minimal.

“Professionals if they breached the victim’s high-tech security.” Crime scene photos present another angle. “Vicious pros. The assault looks–”

“—excessive.” Kama paces. “The collector, Urien Cadwallader is unconscious in hospital. CCTV tapes wiped. No prints. No witnesses as the house is hidden in a wood.”

C for Collector. E for Expert. R for Replica. T for Tapes. A for Art.

TRACE

“Did the crime scene assessment produce anything to show the art’s origin?”

I lean over Kama as she opens her laptop and accesses the case on the internal North Wales Police site.

“This contract suggests our connoisseur wanted to ensure the provenance – even for a forgery.”

“A replica by a ‘reputable artist’ with the pseudonym Turbulent Sky. My tingling tattoos imply it’s relevant.”

Kama strokes my face.

“Then it is. The painting was acquired from Orme Replica Masterpieces Emporium in Llandudno six months ago.”

I groan. A dealer on West Conwy Coastal’s patch. My involvement slips away. I’m a PC with no standing outside South Gwynedd.

Kama reads my dejection. “But I’m a Detective Sergeant, so as our DCI, Ffion can authorise I interview the dealer – with my PC assistant.”

True, even if we risk questions about our relationship.

*

Monday, March 17th

Behind his glasses, Desmond Deckard’s eyes study us as we show our warrant cards.

Neatly dressed, even if the plaid flannel suit fails to hide his anxiety. Guilt or habit?

“Always happy to oblige the Heddlu,” he says in posh English. “Especially when they send such exquisite coppers. Another inspection? You’ll find everything in order.”

He grandly gestures around his gallery at familiar masterpieces and obscure art pieces. Forgeries?

“Every replica is genuine and documented as required. All legal, ladies.”

Kama leads. “By genuine you mean by artists working openly making copies.”

“Paying tribute to the Masters and making accurate replicas for art connoisseurs. Each one carries a subtle statement that it is not a forgery but an object of devotion.”

Glossy words to hide the reality? Or genuine talent? Manipulated for profit?

Kama will get to the truth. “So, all traceable. Tell us, Mr Deckard, about these artists, especially Turbulent Sky, please.”

My fingers tap studs. T for Turbulent Talent.

 “Every artist is a modern master with temperament burning from the canvas, clay, or chosen medium.”

“And Turbulent Sky. What can you tell us about them?”

Deckard shakes his head. “I’m afraid details on my artists and clients are confidential. I’m their confessor.” He grins.

“Unwise when a reproduction of Van Gogh’s Café Terrace at Night has been stolen, and its collector’s in hospital.” Kama hands him a copy of his contract. “We appreciate your assistance.”

S for Shamefaced Suspect.

“Turbulent Sky is a unique talent I’ve nurtured. Well, I encourage them all – even if some galleries are outraged by my support. Antagonism forces artists to adopt alter-egos. If I supply Turbulent Sky’s details, treat her gently, she’s had it rough.”

We promise, so he scrawls on a compliment slip.

“Anything else, ladies?”

“What’s the value of the reproduction?” asks Kama.

“Turbulent Sky’s crow sigil commands exceptional prices, as does an original Van Gogh. He died penniless – a fate never to be shared. She tries to emulate all elements, so Cadwallader paid five thousand in this instance. If this was an attempt at forgery, the work would have earned her millions.”

A for Affluent. R for Rarity. S for Sigil.  

STARS.

Van Gogh’s star-filled sky reproduced by Tesni Szarka.

In Llanystumdwy.

Llanystumdwy, with its pretty bridge across the Afon Dwyfor.
http://people.virginia.edu/~hnw/Lleyn/Lleyn3.htm

*

Tesni’s home is a barn in the same woodland as the crime scene.

“A witness we missed?” Kama points through the trees to a walled retreat. “Uniform overlooked this barn.”

“I suspect my colleagues never realised it was converted.”

I press a button beside the yellow door. An oscillating buzz echoes inside.

Cautious footsteps.

The door camera lights up, so we show our identity.

A young woman, my age, opens the door. Dark, high cheekbones, sculpted face. Riveting eyes. 5 foot 6 inches in jeans and sunflower T-shirt – Vincent’s work.

She says nothing but touches her ears and mouth.

Then, she signs. “If you understand BSL, come in. What can I do?”

I sign back, “We both know British Sign Language – my sister taught us. We’re investigating the theft of a Turbulent Sky painting. We have questions.”

She smiles, then leads us into her studio home.

The smell of paint, varnish and coffee percolate the air. Her workspace is a chemistry lab to age her art decades in days.

On the wall are Van Gogh masterpieces. All with the crow sigil.

On an easel is Café Terrace at Night.

***

Word Count 991: FCA

Comments are welcome as usual, and the following applies:

Sparkle or Skaði

My mind is already churning around the themes for the 2020 WEP/IWSG Challenges. There are 3 options:

  1. Standalone Stories inspired by the individual themes. Six separate spontaneous seasonal stories.
  2. Sparkle Anwyl case. Six episodes of a new Snowdon Shadows case for my Welsh detective and her partner-lover, Kama. The threads for this are scribbles with substance.
  3. Skaði, Goddess, giantess, huntress and snow-stealth specialist. More Norse mythology with a twist – and a few more kennings. Not sure why Skaði is at a cafe with my favourite artist or his sunflowers.
Skadi by Michael Jorvik
Eve Myles as Sparkle Anwyl

I could try doing a poll but comments seem better – if I get any. Tell me what you would like to read, please.

#WEP/IWSG December Challenge – Footsteps

Time for the WEP+IWSG Challenge and another attempt at a change of scenery and style. DC Sparkle Anwyl is on extended leave so a character from a previous Challenge reappears.

Warning: there are several attempts at literary devices, specifically kennings. For those stumped, I’ve deciphered the head-scratchers at the foot.

Note: A kenning is a metaphorical compound phrase that replaces a single, concrete noun. A kenning employs figurative language to represent the simpler concept, such as using the phrase “battle-sweat” to refer to blood. Kennings are plentiful in Old Norse and Old English poetry and prose.

[http://www.literarydevices.com/kenning/]

For other flash pieces in the December Challenge, visit: https://writeeditpublishnow.blogspot.com/2019/12/wepiwsgthe-december-challenge-is-open.html

Snowfall Spirit

Threat-cries echo in Nökkvé. The Holy Darkness stretches forever across the winter-blanket. Answering howls on the snow-breath affirm friends travel the self-same path of power.

Silver-face smiles her blessing on our journey granting light as I slide ski-swift over fresh frozen-tears.

Fur-girdled hunters silent-shadow me, protectors – even if of Fenrir’s race. Noble and wise denizens. Teeth sharp from natural prey. Flesh from those facing lights-end. Grim but just. A tooth-claw ending.

Balance. Season’s passage.

Life dies and is reborn.

Our deep-slumber Solstice whisper-sighs our presence.

Sleeping shadows stir and join our gathering. 

Tracks appear, converge. Distant specks arise on the silent-fall, become threads weaving towards our annual heart-call.

I’ve visited time-turning-age to ensure spirit-breaths re-forge the natural order.

For I am Skaði. Goddess, giantess, huntress and snow-stealth specialist.

Size is not the issue. Speed is. The endless-revival needs sentient-life to affirm our faith.

Skadi Hunting in the Mountains(1901) by H. L. M.

Moonlight glistens on a spreading pool. I stoop. A wound-sea but no sounds of battle.

Earth Mother’s blood seeping too soon. Salt-tracks on my cheeks. Stings. My wealth-chambers reel. Is there time to save her?

Foul-howls tear the bleak-black embrace. Hounds baying. Wild shapes thunder past. Asgard-Riders with the Harrier of Hosts driving the fear-spreading soul-hunt.

Most quail and run. I remain tall. The wolf-pack crouch, baring fangs.

Hooves pound and swirl snow-dust as Oðinn wheels Sleipnir around so the spirit—swarm surrounds us.

I confront Slain Tamer, caressing his eight-legged horse. “My Breaker of Rings. What prey tonight?”

Never question the dread Huntsman of the Otherworldly Host, unless your sagas are entwined. But I ignore our wedded bliss.

He sneers and doffs his crooked head-hider. “My Snow-Stepper. You never fear even me. Why have you ceased your journey? For me?”

I shake my head as I kneel on the earth. “You? The Ruler of Treachery holds no fear.” I point to the death-stain. “But this evil does. Jörð, sister-wife bleeds. Blood-steps we need to heal with Solstice song and ceremony”

My shared-husband dismounts. His blinded eye reads the blood-runes staining the snow. “You are my Wise God-bride. This is the sweat-scent my hounds and host pursued. The Earth Mother dies from the weapon-weather man reaps. Will you ride with this harried Horse-wolf to save her? Will the wolves run with the hounds?”

I smile at his heart-bait. “Great ring-giver, you soar above the earth-coat. I will swift ski below matching your hunting pace. Will your hounds join the wolf-pack? It would torment Fenrir further.”

“The Wolf of Winter will be driven away. But healing Jörð must be soonest. Onwards.”

Together, our packs race time to reach the Gathering of the Nine Realms.

Deities and denizens mass around us.

“Welcome, Fenrir-Bane. Welcome Snow-Dancer. Do the shadow-wolves and wild-hounds hunt together tonight?”

Oðinn dips his hat to me. My heart stirs.

“Our Liege-Lord and I follow the self-same battle-sweat trail. Our Mother, Jörð is dying. Abused and abandoned by greed and ignorance within Midgard. Join our healing as we prepare a path for Sól’s return.”

The life-song rises from the Gathering. Deep chords from Oðinn’s male-band. Sky-climbing phrasings from my stepdaughter Freyja and our female searers. Wolves and hounds howl-lead the life-denizens. The voices weave, the Rite resonates, and the Nine Realms pulsate.

Our music echoes throughout Nökkvé. The Holy Darkness diminishes.

The life-bringing light returns as Sól, our golden goddess drives her chariot across the canopy. 

Jörð breathes. Death-dew dissolves from Earth Mother’s flourishing footsteps

**

Kennings Decoded

Asgard-Riders = The Wild Hunt

Battle-sweat = Blood

Bleak-black = Night

Blood-runes = Blood traces

Breaker of Rings = Oðinn

Death-dew = Blood

Death-stain = Blood

Fenrir-Bane = Oðinn

Frozen-tears = Snow

Great ring-giver = Oðinn

Harrier of Hosts = Oðinn

Head-hider = Hat

Heart-bait = Gift/Temptation

Heart-call = Rite

Horse-wolf = Oðinn

Liege-Lord = Chief, Leader, or Oðinn

Lights-end = Death

Ruler of Treachery = Oðinn

Salt-tracks = Tears

Silent-fall = Snow

Silver-face = Moon

Slain Tamer = Oðinn

Snow-breath = Winter Wind

Snow-Stepper = Skaði

Snow-Dancer = Skaði

Wealth-chambers = Mind & Heart

Weapon-weather = War

Winter-blanket = Snow

Wound-sea = Blood

See also Wikipedia’s List: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_kennings

***

Word Count 675: FCA

Comments are welcome as usual and the following applies:

#WEP/IWSG October Challenge – Horrible Harvest

Today’s offering for the WEP+IWSG Challenge is the climax of the piece I wrote for August’s Red Wheelbarrow prompt – HERE. However, I’ve changed the POV, and as some people requested, we are back with Detective Sparkle Anwyl, who is a guest at the wedding. Enjoy – if I do not scare you with the gory finale of my vampire tale.

Another Horrible Harvest

Saturday 8th August 2015

The glass goblet of crimson wine looks tasty. Maybe not summery but tempting.

Yet Mina is hesitant. Scared. Unlike the Mina Westenra of the Goth Patrol, ready to tackle a bully or a ghoul.

A for Atypical.

Kama bites my ear, then notices my stud-tapping. “What did the elderly guy say to her. Or is it hard to lip read from here?”

“A welcome. Something about his addiction to blood. He freaked Mina out. Not the Goth reaction I remember. Acting has changed my friend.”

Has policing changed me? Enriched if meeting Kama is included.

“If that’s human blood, this could be a crime scene.”

“Or a vampire case. That ghost was a cold case, not outside our remit as detectives. Anyway, we’re off duty. Let’s watch and listen, cariad.”

My school friend’s behaviour jangles every nerve and tattoo. Why?

The old man? A for Ancestry. V for Victim. P for Plasma.

He can’t be Owain Glyndwr, even if I’m proud to be Welsh and await the return of our national hero.

Another actor?

The best man finishes reading email greetings to the married couple, then nods to the elderly man.

“I’m cutting my speech short in favour of the wisdom of our host and hero.”

Owain springs to his feet, belying his reputed years.

“Over the centuries, I’ve watched and waited. History says I’ll return to set Wales free from the conquerors’ yoke. But blood is the charm today, and we’re all here to celebrate this blessed union instead. I could regale you with tales of battles and feuds, with horrors wrought and deeds undertaken. But my life was nothing compared to the future ahead for Mina and Dafydd.”

With a wink towards Mina, he raises his glass of crimson wine. “Welcome to the Glyndwr Dynasty. This is your century. May you and my Great Nephew have many decades of fun ahead.” Facing the gathering, he continues, “Ladies, lords, friends, join me for a bridal toast. May you thrive and spawn many generations, Mina and Dafydd.”

He drains his glass.

No excuse needed to drink – in moderation. Even if us guests are served champagne – and there might be a crime lurking.

Mina smiles but doesn’t touch her glass.

“Your actress friend is scared to drink hers. A poisoned chalice, perhaps.”

My tattoos tingle at the scene. P for Poison. M for Murder. R for Revenge.

“I never knew her to refuse alcohol as a teenager.”

Mina reaches for a glass – of fruit juice.

Her stand-in father, Victor Frankel leans over to Dafydd, who mouths back, ‘Your moment.’

Victor rises.

“In the sad absence of Mina’s late father, I’ve been proud to give her away to another special person and talented actor. As their director, I see a fruitful partnership ahead – even under another’s direction.”

We all laugh or clap. He pauses, then removes a sheaf of paper from his jacket.

“I’d like to thank our host, the irrepressible Owain Glyndwr, for making today possible. As a descendent of the last true Prince of Wales, it’s fitting this ancestral home is where I’m announcing the next film from Oriole Productions – Horrible Harvest.”

Suitable cheers and foot stamps. My tattoos tingle – a pleasing sensation for once. E for Excitement and Error.

“Our new tale of bloody murders, duplicitous intrigue and evil disguised as good will star our talented couple – and chill our audience. Perhaps, our usual smoke and mirrors will garner its own harvest of honours. This will be our version of that classic, Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde. But transposed to the mist shrouded but beautiful mountains of North Wales.”

The evidence is in the speeches. Case resolved. Everyone plunges back into festivities.

Congratulations are due the glowing couple.

Mina and I embrace. I tease her.

“Not the Goth you threatened to run away with. But he’s a catch.”

“Even as a teen, I wanted attention. Just as you wanted to fight injustice. And I guess your partner is—”

“Another injustice warrior. Kama – the best woman and detective in my life.”

The untouched glass is behind her. Tempting me to smell and taste its contents.

Kama distracts Mina. “So, when we get married, you must both attend the celebrations. No date yet, but we’re making plans. Not straightforward…”

Letting my distraction distract, I step behind and take the cup.

Musty but not sulphurous. I dip my finger in, then lick it.

R for Robust and E for Energising.

Time to REVAMP our fears.

I hand Mina the goblet. “An unusual concoction that suggests blood. But it’s not a case for our forensic guys. Maybe special effects are responsible. Enjoy it without fear.”

She sips, then smiles, and laughs.

“Better than blood. Also, revitalising. I will get addicted.”

“The power of suggestion. Blend fruit juice, red wine, herbs and spices. Call it blood. And throw in vampires.”

***

There is nothing more deceptive than an obvious fact.

Arthur Conan Doyle

Word Count 830: FCA

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