#WEP/IWSG December 2019 challenge – RIBBONS AND CANDLES.

Ribbonsndles

My #WEP/IWSG post for December is a continuation of my Halloween/Deja Vu or Voodoo post, White Lady. I continued to explore the incident during NaNoWriMo so this is derived from what I wrote in November.

However, the incident is too long to conclude her, but the conclusion will be in 28 writing days – more or less. This incident in the career of Sparkle Anwyl plays a key part in Fevered Few, Book 1 of the Snowdon Shadows police procedural series.  

Rushlight Wreathes

Ghost hunting doesn’t fall into my remit as a police officer, but my inquisitive nature wanted to identify our ‘White Lady’ during off-duty hours at home. Why had the ghost appeared on the old track between Porthmadog and Tremadog on Halloween?

My tingling tattoos and the mnemonic CALENDS had stirred up this cold case investigation. C for Coach, A for Accident, L for Lady, E for Eerie N for Night, D for Dreams, S for Spirits.

With no local police records before 1857, I trawl the old North Wales papers for coach-related incidents after 1811 and the founding of the ‘new town’ of Tremadog.

Fist pump as details match.

On November 1st, 1836, Dinah Adelaide Quinlan, the seventeen-year-old daughter of a retired soldier, Major Bernard Algernon Quinlan living in Tremadog was run down and crushed under the hooves of a sporty Phaeton carriage, driven by an unknown but uniformed person that was seen leaving the battered body at Major Quinlan’s house off Isgraig. The reporter was unclear why Dinah was on foot as her family owned a Berlin carriage, but she never requested the vehicle from their coachman.

Delving further, I discover that Major Quinlan served with the British East India Company’s Madras Army in Southern India between 1790-1805. On his retirement, he acquired a substantial property in the new town, and invested in the area. A photo shows a middle-aged Major Quinlan in his uniform decorated with medals on ribbons.

If Dinah was the ghost and died in 1836, there must be a grave or family tomb. Where if the family were Church of England? Her funeral details state the church of St Cynhaearn, known as Ynyscynhaearn.

Familiarity warms my spine – my tad’s parents are buried there. A visit to the place where they rest in peace, alone, yet surrounded by the sleeping graves of more than three centuries worth of parishioners.

A click as the door of the flat opens. I look at the mantel clock – midnight. As Kama walks into the kitchen I embrace her.

“More cold research? Found anything, cariad?”

“After three evenings of digging, chellam.” I stroke her face. “Are you up for visiting a graveyard? One where our ghost might be buried?”

Kama blinks and hangs up her biker jacket, then peels off her leather pants. “I’m free on Friday – isn’t that your day off as well?”

“If crime takes a slow day – yes. Date then.”

##

The stone walls seem part of the white-dotted green fields beyond that were once filled with water centuries earlier. There is an atmosphere of serenity, as few other than sheep wander down the narrow track.

Slate gravestones, orphaned from their corpses, are lined up along the side benches. Tears start to trickle as we read the names and imagine past lives. Welsh and English at peace in this corner of our troubled land.

My ancestors lie in a simple family plot awaiting the next member. I shudder, fearing who is most at risk. At least, my tad is now a desk sergeant and no longer front-line like me. I shake off the fear and focus on searching.

“Major Bernard Algernon Quinlan.” Kama points at a family grave comprising a more ostentatious mounted urn surrounded by a yew and an ornate railing. “There’s not just one person in here.”

“Died in 1840 aged 73. Buried alongside his wife – and his daughter Dinah Adelaide Quinlan.” My heart tightens, and my throat constricts. “She was the first to be buried here – a tragedy. I wish we knew more. Burial records before 1837 are less organised and vary between churches.”

“Does that mean more cold research?”

“That carriage killed her – accident or murder? Cold case so I’m hooked as ever.”

Gravestones are never cold names. Gateways to memories beckon.

##

Kama has the addiction too – but she’s the real detective.

“This ancestry site has descendants of Major Quinlan.” She points to our desktop screen. “A direct descendant of his son posted this – Edwin Quinlan.”

“Who has a daughter called Dinah. But the family is from the West Country – Truro.” The mother lode or a red herring. “This Edwin is named after the Major’s oldest son, the dead Dinah’s brother. And Dinah occurs down the generations. Do the family know more?”

Kama opens another link. A black and white photo of a family group taken in 1840, the year Major Quinlan died. The group is in what must have been a lavish sitting room in the family home. Soft lighting comes from strategic candles and rushlights. The photo shows Major Quinlan, his son Edwin Owen Quinlan and his wife, another daughter with her Royal Navy uniformed husband.

Kama points to the son-in-law. “It’s only a photo but that man is hiding something – or am I being too suspicious?”

Rushlight – Public Domain

Not CALENDS but CANDLES.

The tingling of my tattoos agrees with her, and I tap out a new mnemonic on my studded bracer. S-I-N.

S for Suspect. I for Inheritance. N for Naval. In Celtic folklore, there is a tale of bringing candles to the church to count sins. Was this the unknown figure that retrieved the body?

I zoom in to a mirror – reflecting a carriage and two horses outside.

“If that’s a phaeton then you may be right. Unfortunately, our suspect is dead, and the crime is more than cold. But we can resolve something.”

“What make of carriage that is and did the family own that type – although the latter will be problematic.”

Finding a photo of a 19th century phaeton that matches proves difficult as the reflection is indistinct. However, our search for records on period vehicles in Snowdonia yields a name – Raimund Virtanen, a horsebox builder who knows about 19th century vehicles.

A recent group photo of him presenting rosettes with long ribbons at a horse show suggests that he is respected – or has influential contacts.

A lead or a dead end?

***

Comments are welcome as usual, but for the WEP Challenge, the following applies:

Word Count 999: MPA

(FCA welcome – if you want to send one, just let me know in the comments.)

#WEP – Write…Edit…Publish – OCTOBER CHALLENGE – DEJA VU OR VOODOO

October-WEP

 

This month, I am taking part in the #WEP October Challenge, part of WEP’s 2018 Challenges and my second WEP tale. I’m posting a day early to avoid the rush and be ready for reading great pieces tomorrow.

Once again, the IWSG (Insecure Writers Support Group) have joined in the fun.

 

WEP_IWSG

 

Beyond the seasonal theme, I will try to give some background to the piece. I’m attempting to avoid deadly spoilers here as, in a way, this piece must stand-alone – for instance, the identity of ‘I’ is gradually revealed in the piece.

However, this is another incident in the career of a central character in my Snowdon Shadows series – SPOILERS ahead. The incident is set three years after my August WEP Challenge and will become a chapter within my NaNoWriMo attempt next month, entitled Fevered. There are incidents between my August contribution and this one, but I hope that this tale works on its own. Enjoy.

 

White Lady

Copyright © Roland Clarke

Silhouettes prance in the glow behind the standing stones. Night and long grass hide us from prying eyes.

Do they care what Kama and I are?

A screech arrests our embrace.

Headlights stab across the field. A car plunges off the bypass and smashes into the stonewall. Rubble splashes into the ditch.

We leap to our feet and weave through the crowd. Did anyone see the crash? Or were they engrossed in the Nos Calan Gaeaf rites?

I jump the water beside the steaming wreck. The driver and passenger are conscious but bleeding. I call the incident in as I climb through the smashed wall.

“Single car accident on A487 westbound from Porthmadog Roundabout. Visible injuries. DS Kamatchi and PC Anwyl attending. Over.”

“Will dispatch ambulance and traffic unit to assist. Control out.”

Kama helps the passenger who has dragged himself to the verge. Blood from his forehead smears his hair. He rambles in Welsh about a woman.

Is there a body in the roadway? Shivers. Sweat. Nobody other than stopped cars. My tattoos tingle. I finger my studded bracer. N for Night, S for Spirits, A for Accident.

The driver’s eyes are glazed. Drink or drugs? The traffic police will have to investigate.

I open his door and crouch.

Voodoo lady
Did I dream you up or are you for real?
Are you for real?

I point to the radio, but the driver ignores it. The music dies.

Ydych chi’n iawn, syr? Are you okay, sir?”

Mouth agape, his eyes track over me. “You aren’t her. What are you?”

From Cardiff by his accent, but Welsh is our shared language.

“An off-duty police constable. Can you remember what happened, sir?”

Blue lights flicker behind us. My traffic colleagues.

“The dream was so real. Will this ever end? She threw herself in front. I tried not to hit her. Is she alive?”

Midnight on All Hallows Eve.

A shadow shrouds me. I start.

“Sorry. I’m PC Morrow. Have you breathalysed him”

I face Morrow – shake my head. Wave him forward.

As he measures the driver’s blood alcohol, I study the accident scene.

Kama talks to the other traffic officer placing cones around the area. Paramedics treat the injuries.

Skid marks – visible in the patrol car’s lights. Did the driver swerve to avoid something – someone?

I examine the mangled bonnet of the vehicle and the remains of the dry-stone wall. No sign of a body. Under the car? No fur, no blood. Nothing.

“He’s Ellis Pryce. His documents check.” Morrow shows me the licence. “He’s been drinking – not enough to explain his ramblings. Are you the pale person Mr Pryce wants? My Welsh is too basic to make sense—”

Intriguing. The mystery teases me.

Morrow falters. “Don’t think he means DS Kamatchi as she’s – dark-skinned. Anyway, why’s a detective here?” He judges me and Kama. “You’re friends and—”

Juggle the truth.

“Flatmates. We’re off-duty – a girlie night out. But as my tad says, crime never even observes the Sabbath. I’ll see what Mr Pryce wants.”

Morrow scratches his head. “Wise man, Sergeant Anwyl. The best.”

Lean back inside the car. Does my tad suspect my affair with another woman? Do any of our colleagues?

Pryce drowns out my concerns.

“The dream was so vivid. I’d never driven a carriage. Even at our farm in Ogmore. Horses, yes. Not a coach. The hooves killed her.” He stares through me, reliving his nightmare. “The blood? Where is she now?”

Shivers. That South Wales accent. Different like their legends. A troubled soul?

Or something more realistic? Clouds-, a reflection, a seagull. I can ask Kama – my Tamil girlfriend is shrewd.

First, reassure the man.

“You hit no one, sir. The woman has left. My uniform colleagues will make sure that you and your friend stay safe—”

“Never stole her gold. I’m not a thief. I’m a coachman earning an honest living.” His eyes are closed. “Let me check my horses before I leave.”

I signal to Morrow. “This car won’t move. Is roadside assistance coming? Do you need us to interview witnesses?”

“Breakdown lorry’s on its way. If you and Detective Kamatchi want us to finish here, type up a report – tomorrow. Good to work with you both. Nos da.

I echo his farewell. Kama lures me across the road and back into the shadows. Arms around each other, the footpath away from Port draws us.

My brain probes. “Did the passenger see someone too?”

Kama stops. “A woman dressed in a white dress.”

My fingers trace her tears forming. She shivers.

“You too, cariad. Y Ladi Wen – the White Lady. The bogeyman from our myths.”

“As a child in the Valleys, I heard the legend.”

“Here, it’s the frightening Hwch Ddu gwta, a tail-less black sow that terrorises people.”

She nods, then kisses me, stroking my hair.

“My parents told similar tales from Tamil Nadu. About creatures with different fangs. What do you believe?”

I delve into my upbringing – my faith.

“My blood is Celtic. Chapel will never rule this soul-night – nor our bond. Spirits journey among us. Maybe the driver experienced that—”

She brushes my lips with a damp finger.

“Enough. You needn’t solve this, nor should traffic. Call this a cold case – a ghostly one.”

Does Y Ladi Wen want this unresolved? Is she leading us further?

The path branches off to the right, through a gate into the darkness of ivy-clad trees.
Hidden, we settle on the ground. No need to pretend.

Roots are our pillow. Night sounds echo. Bats flit above us.

Earth scents banish sweat and shivers. Bodies and hearts entwine again.

But my tattoos are tingling. More letters. D for Dream, C for Coach, L for Lady, and E for Eerie. My mnemonic guide. CALENDS? November First?

We will dig more.

 

***

Comments are welcome as usual, but for the WEP Challenge, the following applies:

Word Count 993: MPA

(FCA welcome – if you want to send one, just let me know in the comments.)

critique badge1

Visit other participants at https://writeeditpublishnow.blogspot.com/2018/10/welcome-to-wepff-writeeditpublish.html

 

POSTSCRIPT:

If you have enjoyed this tale, I am looking for beta-riders willing to read some other episodes in Sparkle Anwyl’s career.

Yn ddelfrydol siaradwr Cymraeg.