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A Bittersweet Symphony - The Tale of Manchester and Captain Falshaw


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1: They were in a yelling match that she was clearly winning and was humiliating him. The Captain and Lieutenant “saved” the American because they turned up, recognized her from earlier, broke it up, and went to drink with her (following the same lines as “he had it coming trying to pick a fight against you” sort of thing.


2: Yes, she commands Ostro which at the time was in the vicinity of Turkey.


3: Which scene? The whole first part?


4: I’m not an expert in politics. I try the best I can, and sometimes it results in confusing terms. Greyfax is Britain’s liaison to the INPF, not ambassador to Portugal. He answers to Halifax and the First Lord of the Admiralty.


5: Less that it’s the INPF, more who from the INPF is asking. They haven’t had anyone from the US or other (at this point in history) neutral country’s liaisons ask them as of yet, only Germany and Britain so far. From what I gathered from the bit I read on Portuguese history and gleened from Gerrion, Portugal was dead set at trying to be as neutral as possible at the beginning of the war.


6: Cooperation is again for the sake of Portugal’s attempts of neutrality. There’s still the war in Europe at the moment to worry about that I have no idea how to tackle, the fact that Germany has most of Europe in the palm of their hands.


7: Dory is DrYuriMom’s character. As is Pensacola and Doug. I had talked with her beforehand and she looked over the final product. This Dory, Penny, and Doug is obviously going to be different in some ways than hers, as it’s in the universe of my story, however she’s more or less said that Dory’d be in the position as a liaison to the INPF (or along those lines).


8: Why Canarias? Because I thought it would be a funny throw away.


9: Bringing it before parliament is more of a formality. It’ll be brought to the Prime Minister who will decide ultimately, just that as a formality they’re bringing it before parliament


Ultimately, this is my universe of Victory Belles. Some things will differ from history.

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  • 3 months later...
On 4/12/2020 at 11:21 PM, Käpt'n Korky said:

While the second and third part fit okay into your whole story, I'm a bit irritated by the sudden Turkish Virgin (by name at least) in the first part of the story.

Apart from that, nice read I guess.

After I've succeeded in making Germany (and me) a bit less liked on discord, for good reasons, I really should elaborate on these two parts. Especially after I decided in late May to drop the act and be nice again. But so much to do, so little time.....

First off: The critique I formulated truly is the only negative stuff I could find. Some stuff is even pulled out of the text by hairs. Me exempting two whole parts in general from all the negativity and the sea fight completely just shows in how much trouble I was. I only did it btw because Mr. Wells kept asking for any sort of review. You all (on discord) could've prevented this, as I publicly announced my act. I just wanted to fulfil his request, because no one else did. If it got you into emotional trouble over my exaggerated criticism (some might call it a bluff), my sincerest apologies. I assume otherwise you got the memo as well.

Your entry is really nice. You hit me as a reader without "warning" and immediately I got the urge to find out more about her. Adding a Turkish Captain into the mix is also a nice tone and seriously a character challenge for your protagonist and his lancer. Excellent writing there. And despite me saying otherwise: It is plausible. I could only construct the "forced in" negative concept, because what I like with the sudden appearance and all, other reader actually might feel irritated. And my Turkish is extremely limited. But I checked over it. If there had been any major flaw I would've hanged you for it.

As you might've noticed I exempted the fight completely out of my response. Guess, because it is a thrilling read and you had the advantage of being in a scene you could basically do whatever the frak you wanted. Trust me I tried to pin you on something there, but it was so good and so enclosed in total (believable) fiction..... no chance. And I had the ambition to give at least plausible negativity, so a defence would've taken at least some effort. Completely baseless BS would've maybe blown my act. And tbh I really like Manc after that fight.

The third part, in Portugal, is a nice epilogue to the drama which happened in act one and two. The heroes (all of them) get to cool down, again your protagonist faces a challenge, but one the reader knows will not kill him. And seeing the protagonist "out of his water" quite literally is always good for delight. And you tread the line between "delight" and "silly comic relief" very well. Since you seem to have laid out your captain as a sincere character and leave the little "light hearted" stuff you put in to more lively characters like Manc this was basically him "going in" without any backup. And it was lovely. You took the scene seriously and handled it nicely. 
Two things though:
The Canarias + Swiss Captain question really bugs me, but in a good way. 
Dory is a puritan t***, for reasons I stated above and uphold here. But that's not your problem as a writer, but my problem as a reader for not liking her.

So yeah. It is not only a nice, but an excellent read. Well done Wells.

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  • 3 weeks later...

Thank you, Korky. As you can imagine it's been a bit hectic lately due to current circumstances. I have managed to get the next chapter up, and have started working on the one following it. Maybe pull a miracle and get a third chapter up this year. We shall see. I've also gotten worse at chapter titles, at least with this one, so I'm just going with whatever happens to work for it.



Chapter 8 - Portsmouth, Dartmouth, London


The cold rainy weather of Portsmouth was a far cry from the wonderfully warm breezes of Porto and Gibraltar. The sky was an ashen grey with no end to the downpour in sight. It was as stereotypical  an English day as one could get, and John felt right at home standing on the bridge with a lit cigarette.


It had been two days since Captain Stirling and Pensacola had finished their escort of the battered Manchester. Both were eager to get back to Dory, which he could understand. A Belle gone for so long without her chosen captain was, while something she had to deal with on a consistent enough basis, stressful. It made John think about Manchester, about what she might be going through with what was going to happen today.


Thinking about the Belle made him smile. She had barely left his side throughout the trip. The only reason why she wasn’t there at the moment was due to John’s orders for her to get bandaged up yet again. While it didn’t seem to really affect anything physically about the Belle, it made him and by extent the crew more at ease to see her getting treated for her wounds, even if it was just cosmetic.


    What was surprising to John was how much more relaxed he felt with Manchester. A part of him chalked it up to the powers of a Belle, but it felt like there was something behind it all. Maybe it was that he had someone who was finally caring about him. Or maybe the Enfield wasn’t a good idea in the first place. At first it had seemed silly, but now he did find he had a few less nightmares with his rifle, and it was relaxing enough to shoot. Rather than targets, he would pick a spot somewhere out on the ocean and take potshots. It was more the feel of the rifle, the kick of the shot, the smell of the gunpowder, the sound of empty casings hitting the deck that he was after rather than any kind of target shooting.


    As his cigarette was on its last few puffs, he went to put it out in the ashtray beside him when he felt a presence behind him. “Done?” He asked, turning around. Manchester stood with a confident smirk.


    “Of course! Lenny’s done a good job bindin’ me up!” She patted her side, wincing as it still hurt. “Gotta...gotta remember not to hit too ‘ard.”


John chuckled. She looked much better than before, almost good as new if it wasn’t for the few holes and tears in her outfit. John wasn’t sure about how Belles got clothing but imagined it probably would only take a tailor’s hand to get it patched up.


    “So is this the day?” Her voice seemed to soften a little bit. John nodded.


    “Yeah. I need to head over to Dartmouth for training. They say it should only take around four to six weeks as I’ve already gotten some knowledge. It’s not like they can prevent me from being a Belle captain either, but they need to be able to know that the captains all know what they’re doing.”


    “I’m gonna get bored with you gone for so long!”


    “You’ll have Lenny and Lieutenant Caleot for company.”


    She pouted. “I guess I could always see if there’s any new pulps I could read…”


    “You’ll be fine.” John softly patted her shoulder. “You’re a big strong gal. When I come back, we will be right into the thick of it.”


    “That doesn’t sound like you.” Manchester grinned. “But I’ll take ya up on it!”


    With a quick nod, John turned to walk out when he felt a pair of arms suddenly wrapped around him from behind. He sighed, resting a hand on one of Manchester's.


    “Kick their arses, Cap’n.” She then quickly pulled away, clearing her throat. “Eheh...I mean...kick their arses!”


    John chuckled and shook his head. “I’ll try.”


    As he headed on out of the bridge, grabbing an umbrella as he did, he couldn’t help but have a smile on his face. One thing he had learned quickly was that Manchester, for all her bluster and desire to help her captain out, was very awkward when it came to public displays of affection and breaking the “tough girl” persona. It was something that was, admittedly, very cute. He would miss it while he was away.


    Down by the taxi waited Lieutenant Caleot, holding a small suitcase and umbrella. As John approached, he handed it over to his captain.


“Everything you should need, Captain.” He stepped aside. “Best of luck, sir.”


“Thanks William.” John paused for a moment. “How was it when you went to Dartmouth?”


“Me? Oh, not bad. I would imagine they would not be as terrible with you being a Belle captain and all.”


“That’s fair. Keep her out of trouble.”


William rolled his eyes. “Trouble is her middle name. I’ll see what I can do.”


With one last mutual salute, John slid into the back of the taxi and began the drive over into Devon. It would be interesting getting to see what passed for naval training, he thought. As the car drove onwards, he cracked open the suitcase and started to look over some of the books that William had provided. They were all in regards to captaining a ship and general seamanship, some of which he had gone over with his lieutenant. Still, it wouldn’t hurt to get reacquainted with some of the material. Despite William’s promise that he believed it would be easier, John didn’t want to get there and be nothing more than a total flop.


A few hours later, John was halfway through a book on ship gunnery and just about to fall asleep when the driver told him that they had made it to Dartmouth. As he looked out the windows, he could see a pair of soldiers at a checkpoint. One had a scruffy moustache and was walking towards the car, while the other one seemed to be only in his late teens and was standing just outside a small hut.


“What’s going on here then?” The moustached one asked. John rummaged through his pockets for the letter Holland had given him and handed it over.


“John Falshaw, captain of the Belle Manchester.” He stated. “Vice-Admiral Lancelot Holland requested that I attend officer training as soon as possible.”


Taking the letter, the older soldier gave it a read over, while the young soldier kept pointing his bayoneted rifle at the taxi.


“Hmm...this seems to be in order... Hodgkins!” He called. The young soldier snapped to attention.”


“Y-yes corp?”


“Ring up and check with them about a Captain Falshaw and Admiral Holland.”


“Right away!”


While the young Hodgkins went inside the small hut, the corporal handed back the letter. “Must have done one hell of a thing to get personal recommendations from an admiral.”


“I accidentally took his flagship.” The corporal chuckled.


“Must’ve not taken it too hard then to write a letter of recommendation for you.”


He leaned in towards John. “How much previous training do you have?”


“Well I did a few years in the army and I did some training alongside my Lieutenant to prepare.”


“That’s better than some of the others that have come through here. Not too long ago there was a Brummie baker who had joined as a cook on board York. He ended up as her captain and he had absolutely no combat experience at all. At least you have that going for you.”


“He’s all good, corp!” Hodgens called out from the hut. The corporal nodded in his direction.


“Get the gate up then, son!”


As he ran over to the gate, the corporal shook his head. “I swear that lad sometimes couldn’t tie his shoelaces without help.”


Once the gate was opened, the two guards waved on the taxi. The corporal instructed them where to go to get to the main building and who John had to report to once arriving. With one final salute, they let them on their way to the naval college. John hoped that things would go smoothly. If there was one thing he didn’t need, it was a total mess.




Doctor Mallory sat alone in the mess hall nursing a mug of jet black coffee. It wasn’t even sunrise and Leonard had been up for an hour now. Fortunately, one of the stewards was already up, starting to get things together for breakfast, hence the hot black beverage in his hands. It didn’t take long before his coffee drinking companion arrived in the form of Lieutenant Caleot.


“I see the stewards are starting to catch on.” He chuckled as he sat down across from Leonard. The doctor snorted.


“Barely. You would think after three weeks they would know to get the coffee going first thing before trying to get breakfast set up.”


“Speaking of getting things set up, have you seen her yet?”


Leonard nodded, taking a big gulp of coffee. “Very eager today.”


“Just today?” William smirked. “What about the first week where she annoyed you until you finally went with her?”


“I wouldn’t call it annoyed.”


“Would you now?”


The Welshman sighed. “All right, fine, I would. But she means well, and it’s beneficial for her to have us two along with her.”


“I guess it’s better than nothing.”


Checking his watch, Leonard finished off his coffee with one last gulp before setting the cup down and standing up. “Well, I suppose it’s time.”


Lieutenant Caleot nodded. “Let’s not keep them waiting. It’s bloody cold out there.”


As the two men started their departure from the mess hall, Leonard swore under his breath as he had forgotten his coat back in the infirmary. He could always take a small detour to grab it, but decided to be stubborn about it. It was around three weeks since John had departed to go through officer training and was coming slowly to the end of 1941. In fact they were only a few days away from Christmas, meaning most of the English crew was sent on shore leave. This left William and Leonard and a skeleton crew to look after Manchester as repairs were finishing up. Thankfully, perhaps due to some mysterious Belle abilities, the repairs were going much faster than they normally would on any normal ship, meaning that by the time Captain Falshaw finished training, Manchester would be ready to get back out there.


Once out on the main deck, Leonard and William could both see two figures out on the bow of the ship waiting for their arrival. Manchester was pacing back and forth, trying to keep herself warm as much as she could being in a skirt. The other wore an officer’s uniform and was watching her walk about while holding on to a small book. It was a bit of a shock when the first Sunday in port Manchester woke Leonard up at “four-in-the-bloody-morning” to ask if he knew if the naval base had a priest. He convinced her to go bug William, who then had to go to the base to request the priest. The Lieutenant then roped the doctor into it, and since then had gotten up at just before the crack of dawn on Sundays to attend a very small and very short mass.


“Ah, Doctor Mallory, Lieutenant Caleot.” Father Warren smiled. “Right on time.”


“If we didn’t, Manc would probably yank us out here.” Leonard cracked. The priest chuckled.


“Yes, she’s quite the energetic one.”


“‘Bout time you showed up ‘ere!” Manchester shivered. “I may be a Belle but I don’t like the cold wind whistling up my skirt.”


The three men shared a laugh, the Anglican priest shaking his head. “Salt of the Earth you are.”


The brief moment of levity gone, Manchester, William, and Leonard all stood together and bowed their heads as Father Warren began.


“Lord, I know that in these times it is common for many a man, woman, and child to pray to you. I know that my voice is but one drop in an ocean. But, I know you see all, and you hear all. We ask of you to please protect all Belles and their crews and captains. They are your instruments against the dark forces of the Morganas, and they fight with you on their side. We ask you to lend a guiding hand to Captain John Falshaw as he endures his officer training. He is a born leader, and a man facing not only demons of the seas, but also his inner demons. Please Lord, please engulf him in your light so he may be free from his fears and doubts.”


Leonard cracked an eye open, and could see Manchester out of the corner of his eye flinch a little. She had outright told Father Warren about John’s shell shock the first time they met up. All three men believed that while she was trying to look out for him, it was John who needed to come out with his internal struggles, not Manchester. Admittedly Leonard was more blunt with his words, instantly regretting it when he saw how hurt she was from it. Even now a couple weeks later she still felt bad for telling the priest about John’s issues.


“We are your instruments, Lord. We beg of you these things as your soldiers in this fight against darkness. In the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, Amen.”


As they wrapped up, Manchester resumed walking about to keep warm as William and Leonard both lit up cigarettes. The doctor noticed her reaching under her shirt and fishing out a small pendant which she rolled around her fingers. Even after having to patch her up twice, Leonard couldn’t remember ever seeing the Canterbury Cross pendant around her neck before. The Lieutenant chalked it up to more Belle shenanigans. Perhaps as Belles continued to exist, they acquired more items and quirks. The Welshman was more of the mind that she had it all along, and that the reason why he didn’t notice it was due to not looking for it intentionally. He was, after all, more concerned with bandaging her up rather than what she had around her neck.


 Father Warren bundled up tighter in his coat and started moving towards the gangway. “Well I’m off to prepare for Thursday. You all are welcome to join me for Christmas Day Mass if you so desire. It’ll be in a building this time.”


“We’ll consider it.” William nodded. “Gotta look after Manc.”


“I understand.” Father Warren smiled. “Will the captain…?”


    Manchester's ears perked up. “Is he gonna come here for Christmas?”


    Leonard started to shuffle through his pockets until he found a letter.


    “He sent this the other day, Manc.” He said, handing it over to the eager Belle. “It was addressed to us three so I and the Lieutenant here both read it.”


    Slipping the paper out of the envelope, Manchester started to read the letter:


    Lenny, Manchester, Lieutenant,


    I thought I’d give you all a bit of an update on things here at the naval college and how I’m doing. Officer training is all right. Bit awkward at first but it’s slowly coming to me. Much more comfortable as a non-com than a full on officer, but at least now I have some idea of what I’m supposed to act like at times. They seem to really be rushing through all this stuff thanks to the Morganas. They say that we will be ready to go back to our ships by the end of January next year. One of the instructors has admitted that it’s nowhere close to the amount of time they would prefer to spend, but there’s a war on, and Belles need their captains.


    I’m pretty sure Manchester is concerned about me. I have been doing as well as I normally do. Haven’t had any issues that I can’t deal with. Tell her to take it easy, and to maybe hold back a bit on her usual antics.


    I should be back come Christmas Eve, and I think it might not be such a bad idea for Manchester to write to me some things she would like for Christmas. I’m sure I can swing around and get some items for her. She deserves something for putting up with this long wait. 


    With any luck, I will only be a month more with this training, and then we will be back to it.


    Captain John Falshaw


    Manchester reread the letter again top to bottom, sighing as she read the bottom. It was nice to hear from her captain and to see that things were going pretty well. Leonard lightly patted her shoulder. “It will be good to see the Captain again.”


    This brought a small smile to Manchester's face. “Yeah, it will.”


    “Just don’t go overboard with the Christmas presents”


    Manchester pouted. “It’s not like I’m gonna ask fer a ton of shite. I’m a simple girl with simple tastes.”


    “Aye, sometimes you are.”


    “What’s that s’posed to mean?”


    The three men chuckled as Manchester pouted. Sometimes it was too easy to tease the Belle, especially with anything regarding the captain. By now it was well obvious that she cared about him, if the handholding on the bridge several weeks ago wasn’t a sign. It was, admittedly, very sweet, even if she didn’t want to admit it.


    “I meant it nicely.” Leonard flashed a smile at her, before going back to shivering in the cold air. “Now let’s get back below decks. I need some hot coffee, some hot food, and to stay in my Hobbit hole until Spring rolls around.”


    “I must be on my way as well.” Father Warren spoke up. “I hope to maybe see at least one of you Thursday.”


    We’ll see, Father.”


    With a few goodbyes being said, Father Warren finally departed from the ship. Manchester, Leonard, and William started to the mess hall, all hoping to warm up. They arrived just as the first of the other officers were sitting down for their breakfast. The three got their plates of food and mugs of coffee and sat down when Manchester elbowed Leonard in the side.


    “Ow! Hell is that for?” He swore. Manchester huffed.


    “Ya know I ‘ate being teased.” She muttered, just loud enough for the doctor to hear.


    “How come you’re harsher with me than the lads?”


    “They’s lads. You’re the doc. Besides, you know more than they do.”


    Doctor Mallory rolled his eyes and returned to his coffee. “While true, you still shouldn’t do that.”


    “Do you ‘appen to ‘ave a pencil and pad by the way? I think I know of what I’d like to get for Christmas.”


    “Does it have to be now? I’ve barely even started on my breakfast.”


    “It’ll only take two minutes.”


    “And it can wait ten minutes for me to eat.”




    Leonard sighed. Manchester wasn’t going to let up. Either let his stomach go without hot food for a few moments or be stuck with her annoying him for the next ten minutes. Any other day he would choose the latter and deal with the consequences later, but…


    “Fine. Good thing for you I keep them on me.” He relented, producing pencil and pad for Manchester. The Belle eagerly snatched them from the Welshman and started to scribble down. It took her all of ten seconds to jot down whatever she wanted before handing the pad back to Leonard. 


    “Let’s see...” He muttered as his stomach grumbled loudly. “That is why I wanted to eat before doing this.”


    “Well you can eat while readin’ y’know!”


    Rolling his eyes, Leonard picked up a piece of toast and began munching on it as he read through it. “Well, I can’t say I’m surprised. More of those pulps you’re so in love with. I’m surprised you read at all.”


As his eyes looked over the other item on her list, he nearly choked on a bit of toast.


    “You want WHAT!?”




Taking a long drag of a cigarette, John leaned back on the bench at the train station, his small duffle bag down by his feet. Today was the day the various captains going through training would be on brief Christmas break, barring being called up for action. There were only about ten in total, not the smallest class of captains, but nowhere near the largest. The whole course was designed to be able to lay the groundwork for the Belle captains, leaving the rest to be learned out on the oceans in the course of their duty. The quicker they could get captains out with their Belles, they reasoned, the better it would be than having them doing the full multi-month training courses they would normally do.


Next to him sat another, much younger and lankier captain, reading over a programme with his own duffle next to him. He too wore a uniform of the rank of captain, though his fit better than John’s uniform. His face was long and serious, housing a pair of green-grey eyes that scanned over the paper, and flanked by two big ears. Like John he too wore his hat, though he would reach up to scratch just under it every now and then.


“Are you sure you don’t wish to come to the play?” He asked. His voice was akin to a radio presenter’s, or an actor’s. “It would only be for one evening.”


“I appreciate the offer, but no.” John blew out a small cloud of smoke. “I don’t even know if I have the time.”


“I’m well aware of your commitment, John. All I’m asking is one evening.”


John chuckled. “Tell you what, Alec. I’ll think about it on the train ride over.”


A small smile grew across the other captain’s face. “That’ll work.”


The Yorkshireman shook his head smiling in turn. Throughout his training, while he had gotten to know the other captains decently, Captain Guinness was the one that John got to know the most and became fast friends with despite the 16 year age gap. Originally a seaman in the Royal Navy Volunteer Reserve, Alec had been on board the formerly American destroyer HMS Broadway when he and the convoy he was escorting became the targets of a Morgana raid. It was a rather fitting choice for a Belle, as he had performed a number of stage plays throughout the late 30s. From what Alec had told him, Broadway was just as theatrical as one could imagine.


It wasn’t long before the 10:00 train to London pulled into the station and the two men made their way on with their bags. It was jam packed with other people, various families and other soldiers looking to make their way home for the holidays. They eventually found a pair of empty seats next to each other and settled down for the trip to the capital, sat next to one another with John taking the aisle seat and their bags stowed in the overhead bins. Alec handed over the programme he had been looking over to John, who gave it a quick look.


“Know much about theater in general?” Alec asked. John shook his head.


“Not in the slightest.” He flicked through the four pages. “I know of some of these people though. Hawkins, Goring, even Jessica Tandy.”


“Don’t forget John Gielgud.” Alec pointed to the programme. “His Prospero is a sight to behold.”


“And your Ferdinand?”


Alec smiled. “Serves the purpose.”


John thought for a moment, then set the progamme down on his lap sighing. “As much as I would love to come and see, I’m not the biggest fan of theater. Sorry, Alec. Maybe next time.”


Alec nodded. “Well, no hard feelings. Besides, I’m sure plenty of people would prefer Henry V to The Tempest these days. Something more patriotic and rousing”


“For he today that sheds his blood with me shall be my brother.” John quoted.


“Ah, so there’s a bit of refinement under there after all.”


In response, John flashed up a middle finger towards Alec, who in turn chuckled. “Poignant as ever.”


Taking a moment, the two then settled down into what they would be doing for the duration of the trip. Alec quietly recited his lines, taking care not to be too loud, while John was more than content to just close his eyes and rest for the journey. It wasn’t like John could really fall asleep anyways. His ears picked up the rattling of the train going down the tracks, the crying of a baby, the murmurings of several people talking to one another, and focused on it. Soon the noises felt like they were being amplified, grating in his brain. His right hand began to twitch as the sounds morphed in his head, turning into the distant rattling of machine gun fire, the crying of a soldier left out in no man’s land, the hushed whispers of his men talking about going out to save the wounded soldier, his breath picking up and heart starting to race.


His eyes shot open, darting around as he tried to slow his breathing down. It didn’t seem like anyone noticed, or if they did they were being polite about it. He glanced over at Alec who was looking out the window and still quietly reciting his lines. He had told Alec of his issues after a moment where Captain Guinness had to bring an exhausted John to one of the morning courses, something he had to do a few times. Inwardly John felt bad that he had lied to Manchester about how he was doing in the letter he sent her, but it didn’t do well making her worry about something she couldn’t help with. His rest disturbed, he gripped his shaking right hand hard and swallowed, attempting to distract his mind from the old scenes of war.


“Would it be fair to say you’d be doing acting full time were it not for the damned war in Europe?” He asked. Alec paused his recitation, still looking out the window at the passing scenery.


“Of course. Theater is my main calling.”


“Any thoughts about doing film?”


Alec chuckled, turning to face John. “Perhaps. I was in one in ‘34, Evensong. Just an extra, mind you. Wasn’t even credited. One day I will be in the main cast, perhaps I might even be in a leading role. I imagine there will be many movies produced about Belles and their exploits during the war. Perhaps Broadway will land roles as other or made up Belles for productions, and perhaps I will be the aged Lieutenant guiding the much younger captain.”


“Well if you need acting lessons on how to be an old wardog, I can give you some pointers.”


John smiled, his body relaxing back into his seat as he considered maybe lighting another cigarette, patting his pockets to try and find the pack he had on him.


“What about you?”


“Hm? What about me?”


“What would you be doing if not for this war?”


He sighed, tapping his foot and producing the cigarette pack as his mind went back into his past. “Probably still working as a machinist in Leeds, though by now they probably would have sacked me for being too old.”


“Machinist? I would have thought you would have avoided any jobs that were too... exciting.”


Working out a cigarette into his mouth, he leaned back and looked up at the ceiling of the cab, shifting his feet across the floor and shoving his still trembling right hand into his pocket where it grasped his lighter tightly. “Exciting...heh... You don’t know the half of it…”


The younger captain cocked his head and raised an eyebrow. A few seconds of awkward silence passed before John closed his eyes, tightening his lips and gripping hold of his lighter hard.


“Finding something to do after the war was...a journey of sorts.”


Taking a moment to compose himself, John looked away from Alec, over to the other side of the carriage and out the other window by the other pair of empty seats. He managed to pull out his right hand and shakily lit his cigarette, taking a couple of drags.


“I...I started with the police. Only a year, mind you. Some...rank bastards went and cocked everything up and I couldn’t stay. Then I took to driving coal in Yorkshire. Joined the union, had a...bit of a strike. And then, five years later, I became a machinist, participating in the union there as well. Organized a few times as needed.”


“Well,” Alec blinked and sat back in his seat. “Quite an exciting journey.”


John nodded slowly, continuing to look off and away. The two captains continued their train journey in relative silence. Alec could tell that he was better off not inquiring more of John, the Yorkshireman continuing to look away and smoke, and John was too lost in thought to consider saying much else. Everything in his past was slowly bubbling back to the surface, and he wasn’t entirely sure he liked that. Certain memories were starting to flow back that made his heart heavy and ache, while others were casting sparks, attempting to relight old flames that once burned bright.


It wasn’t much longer before the train arrived in London. Alec gently elbowed John in the side, grabbing the other man’s attention as the passengers began disembarking. The pair made their way through the crowded station and out into the streets. There were a couple of taxis waiting out front for anyone that might need one, with a double-decker bus swinging past to its next stop. In the crowds around the station were a handful of British soldiers that seemed to be minding their own business, probably on leave themselves.


With the crowd of passengers starting to disperse around them, Alec held out his hand to John with a soft smile. “Well John, I hope you have an enjoyable Christmas.”


In return, John shook his hand and smiled back weakly. “Same to you, Alec. Break a leg out there.”


With a small nod, Alec wandered off to one of the taxis and got in, heading off from the train station. John sighed and spat out the spent butt of his cigarette, adjusting his duffle bag on his shoulder and started walking down the street. As much as he wanted to head to the Old Vic to see the play, he knew that Manchester  would be excited to see him for the first time in weeks and wanted to make sure that she had a good Christmas at least. Besides, as Alec had pointed out, he was more of a Henry V kind of person.


Having seen Alec off, John was now on the hunt for some lunch, then the closest phone booth to ring up Portsmouth to get a hold of Manchester. He had sent her a letter telling her to let him know what she would like for Christmas with plenty of time for the return message and hadn’t heard a peep. It was unlikely that she forgot about it, but then again depending on how much mischief she’d gotten herself into, it was possible. Hopefully they would be things he could get while in London, otherwise they would be late gifts.


A few minutes into his search for a good pub, John got the feeling he was being stalked. He knew some people were looking at the old captain with intrigue, perhaps some knowing he was a Belle captain, but something inside of him was telling him someone was following him and keeping tabs. Once he rounded a corner, he paused, leaning against a wall and struck up his lighter pretending to light a cigarette. Looking around as inconspicuously as he could, he couldn’t see anything out of the ordinary, which did nothing to ease his mind. After a couple of moments he pocketed his lighter and resumed walking, still with that nagging feeling that he was being-




The Londoner voice surprised him, turning to see a man holding out a cigarette for him. He was in a smokey grey jacket over an olive drab shirt, a dull red tie tucked underneath. His pants were also of the same olive drab color leading down to black shoes. A pair of round glasses adorned his face over ice blue eyes, and his chestnut hair was cut neatly. He seemed rather normal, if it wasn’t for the fact that John could spy a corporal over the man’s shoulder by a black cab with his hand resting near his revolver. Tentatively he took the cigarette and accepted the other man lighting it up for him.


“Captain Falshaw, correct?”


John nodded, a sinking feeling developing in his stomach. The man smiled and put a hand on the old captain’s arm. “Call me Farthing. I would like to have a few words with you if you wouldn’t mind.”


xxx me...


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Birthday/WW2 Anniversary Update! I bring my favorite chapter that I've written so far. Please enjoy and leave comments.

Fun facts: The title is a parody, and majority of the dialogue in one of the sections uses actual dialogue from the event


Chapter 9 - An Interview With Captain John Falshaw!

“Would you like something, Captain Falshaw?”


John looked over at Farthing, now sitting down at the table and gesturing to the seat opposite him. A quick glance to the side confirmed the two soldiers standing outside the room, one of which being the corporal that had accompanied him and the other a private with Lee-Enfield. Farthing had already started to produce a file and set it on the table before John even started to walk in.


“U-uh, coffee?” He sat down, unsure of what was going to happen or, as silly as it was, if his answer was wrong.


“Cream? Sugar?”


“No, no cream, and one sugar.”


Farthing nodded. “Corporal, please bring us one coffee with one sugar and one tea with two cream two sugar.”


“Yes sir.” The corporal gave a quick salute and walked off, leaving the other soldier to close the heavy metal door to the room.


“Now, while we are waiting on the corporal to get back, shall we get acquainted?”


John had no idea where he was, other than the fact that he was still in London somewhere. After he had gotten into the car with Farthing and the corporal, the former had handed him a blindfold and politely asked him to put it on. Despite everything telling him not to, he did as was told, and it wasn’t until they had made it down under some building somewhere that Farthing had let him take it off. A part of him was thinking that maybe this was some kind of hazing for new captains, but that thought disappeared rapidly.


“I know you have a lot of questions, so let me start by answering a few.” Farthing cleared his throat and pulled out a small cloth to begin cleaning his glasses. “Yes, I am an agent of the Secret Intelligence Service, MI6. No, we do not perform this style of house call on every Belle Captain be they British or a foreign captain of a British vessel, but we have done this before.


“And no,” Farthing chuckled as he put his glasses back on. “You are not in trouble.”


“Well, I suppose that is good.” John settled down slightly in his seat, still feeling uneasy. “For now, anyways.”


“Oh come now, it’s not like we’re going to take you around the back and shoot you if you don’t answer the way we like. We only do that for Mosley’s men.”


There was a small chuckle from John that was almost immediately stifled as the realization started to dawn on him.


“You see, I’d like to know a bit more about you, Captain Falshaw.” Farthing continued, flipping through some of the papers from the file. “We obviously know quite a bit, but there are some holes admittedly that it would be nice to fill.”


Briefly they were interrupted by a knocking on the door. 


“Come in, Corporal!”


As the door opened, the corporal from earlier walked in carrying a tray that held two cups and saucers. Farthing smiled at the young soldier as he grabbed his tea from the tray, John nodding in his direction as he took his coffee. The corporal was dismissed, the door closed, and the two men took a quick sip of their hot beverages.


“Mmm.” Farthing shuddered. “I swear that boy puts five in when I ask for two. Is yours alright at least?”


“Hm? Oh, uh, yes. Little sweeter than I normally have it.”


“Oh well.”


Setting down his cup of tea on the saucer, Farthing started down the first page.


“So, Captain John Falshaw. Born April 4th 1898 in Haworth. Nice country up there. Big fan of the Brontë sisters myself. Did you happen to join the society?”


“The Brontë Society, no. My father was.”


“I’m sure they taught much about them.” Farthing sighed. “I was taught about many a poet at school. Was considering a poet’s life at one point.”


Continuing on, Farthing cleared his throat again. “I’ll just skim over these parts here. Stop when I get to something interesting, shall we?”


Not really feeling like he had a choice in the matter, John nodded.


“Right. You signed up soon as war broke out at 16, older brother David and younger Taylor the following year. David ended up dying at the Somme July 10th 1916, and Taylor a year later at Passchendaele. Earned the Military Medal for your actions at the Battle of Plickem Ridge. Let’s see...Ah!”


Farthing tapped the page, starting to fish around for another piece of paper. “Here we are, first question of the day and it is an easy one.”


The agent’s eyes narrowed as he inspected John. “Tell me about what you were up to during the ‘20s.”


John took a deep breath and a sip of coffee to settle his nerves. “I...I served time in the police-”


“In the police?”




“Which unit?”


The Yorkshireman swallowed, feeling the piercing gaze of the man across from him as he leaned forward. “There are two police units that I have down here as options we have you down for, Captain. I would like to know which one you were in.”


Gritting his teeth, John set his coffee down with a shaky hand. “The...Blacks...”


“The Blacks eh? Any Tans as well?”


“Look, I wasn’t one of those that went rogue, arrite?” John said angrily. “Not like I was part of the Auxies. Me and my boys behaved ourselves, and I made bloody well damn sure that we did.”


“So you were not a participant in any reprisals?”


“No! Yes...Not of the scale of the other rank bastards that were there. We never killed anyone unless it was in self defense.”


“I see…”


Producing a pen, Farthing started to make notes on the paper. John could feel his stomach turning with every pen mark the agent made. After a few moments, Farthing looked up and gestured at him.


“Well come on now.” He commanded nonchalantly. “What else did you get up to?”


John sat there in silence. Farthing rolled his eyes at him. “We have people who have corroborated that you were not involved in any of the major retaliatory strikes, with the only major action being at the Burning of the Custom House. Far as I and this file are concerned, that’s as good as gold. Now, what else?”


Taking a moment to compose himself, John started retracing his steps. “Well...I was only in the Black and Tans until June of ‘21. Came back home and took up lorry driving for one of the collieries up that way.”


A wry smile crept across his face as he looked down at his feet. “Paid dogshite and treated everyone as it too. Was proud to be part of the strike in ‘26.”


“And then what?”


He shrugged. “Went back to work. Wasn’t much for me to do, but I knew I was blacklisted. Decided to try my hand at machining, turned out I was good for it.”

“And then you joined the Party.”


John looked up, startled. “How do-”


“Infiltration operation.” Farthing tapped his temple with the pen. “From 1934 ‘till 1937 MI5 had eyes and ears inside the Party. We have a full file on you from there that they copied us on.”


As he went to open his mouth, Farthing raised a hand. “As I said earlier, there are a handful of holes we wish to fill. Your time in the Party is well documented however, at least until ‘37.”


Taking a moment, John slowly nodded. Farthing gave a smile as he again started to shuffle papers around in the file. “Not to worry. None of this will be on the test.”


While Farthing was searching for the right paper, John let his mind wander, letting out a low chuckle at memories coming back, drawing Farthing’s attention.


“Anything in particular?” He asked. The Yorkshireman shook his head, the old memories feeling as fresh and new as just the other day.


“A few, but no one specific.” John felt a grin come across his face. “Like how I was the one who blinded Neddy.”


“Neddy? Like Ned Warburton?”


“Aye, that’s the one, at Stockton in September of ‘33. Wish I could have done more but blinding in one eye is good enough for me.”


“Hm.” Farthing scribbled something down. “Quite the...firebrand you were.”


“You don’t know the half of it.”


John paused, sitting up straighter in his chair than he was before as newfound pride swelled inside of him. “Wished I was at South Street so I could have given it to Mosely himself. Nearly got my wish at Cable Street.”


“Yes, I have that one here.” Farthing tapped on the paper he had. “We made a few inquiries in trying to get your file sorted, and based off of your previous escapades was pretty sure you would have been there. You escaped arrest after assaulting a couple of officers, didn’t you?”


The captain took a second to consider his words before answering. “They were helping a fascist and traitor to the country. I wish I didn’t have to do it but I did.”


“Words you live by?”




“You don’t need to answer that.”


Farthing cleared his throat as he raised the paper up slightly. “This is intelligence gathered by the infiltration operation we performed on the Party. It is summarized down here by one of our other agents who was involved in said operation.


AD is everything we think the Party to be, and yet walks a different enough line to earn his fair share of internal opposition. His nationalistic streak can on occasion be compared to one of Mosely’s crowd, though he is very much against any form of anti-Semitism and racial superiority. If GS had even a hundred of like-minded individuals, then perhaps we would find ourselves in a similar position as Russia did. Fortunately, his loyalty to King and Country keeps him grounded; as much as he may want the heads of Haig and everyone in the House of Lords, and desires similar measures taken to the Army, when it comes down to it, he’s a loyal Briton. Expect him to rise to the defense of the country if what is happening on the continent spreads to involve us.”


“AD? GS?” John cocked his head in mild confusion.


“Code names for you and Pollitt. Attack Dog and General Secretary.”


“Attack Dog…” John eased back into the seat, finishing the remaining dregs of his coffee and clutching the coffee mug close to him. “Because I didn’t have a position?” He asked semi-hopefully. Farthing sent a skeptical gaze in his direction.


“Because you would be set upon anyone that needed roughing up. Because you would do anything for the Party, for the cause.”


“Party…” John spat on the floor. “They’re no longer my Party.”


“Hm? Wasn’t aware of that.”


Farthing gestured at him, wanting him to explain further. John sighed, fiddling with the empty mug in his hands.


“Well...let’s say we had a...disagreement of views…”



October 2nd 1939


“You goddamned two-faced pacifist!”


The many men and women sat at the long table stared at John as he swore. Directly across the table from him sat a half-Indian half-Swede, looking right back at the ex-soldier.


“Something you disagree with, John?” He asked from behind round glasses.


“Oh, you better believe I disagree.” John growled. “You talk about ‘determined fighters for the line’, but you know nothing of actually fighting, Rajani.”


“How suddenly you forget that Pollitt here also was opposed to the Great War.” Rajani Dutt gestured to the General Secretary sitting at the head of the table.


“Pollitt actually served his country in some capacity, instead of sitting on his bloody arse in college.”


“And what about Stewart? Or Gallacher? There’s a lot of members who were opposed to the war.”


“Don’t you forget there were many who also fought.” John Campbell spoke up from next to Falshaw. Another former soldier, the Scot tapped his walking stick’s head against the table. “But I don’t believe that was Falshaw’s point, was it?”


“Not in the slightest.” The Yorkshireman crossed his arms. “It’s more to do with opportunist snakes.”


There were a few murmurings going around. Pollitt, the current General Secretary of the Communist Party of Great Britain, had announced in the previous month his support for the UK entering into war against the mysterious Morganas and conflict with Nazi Germany. Normally this would be a non-issue considering this foreign entity had directly attacked the country and her sailors, but at the time many believed that they worked alongside the Kriegsmarine. Even with new information disputing that fact, Pollitt still campaigned for not letting up pressure on Germany. This brought him into conflict with the other members of the party, as Stalin had signed the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact. This non-aggression pact meant that Henry was now going against the party stance.


“I thought we were the Communist Party of Great Britain,” John spat. “Not of the Soviet Union.”


“And yet you were all for supporting Stalin’s purges and advocating them here.” Rajani pinched the bridge of his nose. “We all admire your...zeal, Falshaw. But to call out that we should still focus on Germany when the birthplace of communist states is not under threat from them is too hawkish.”


Taking a moment, Rajani cleared his throat. “I demand acceptance of the new Soviet line by the members of the Central Committee on the basis of conviction. Anyone who lacks this conviction needs to be replaced, including Secretary Pollitt. Especially Secretary Pollitt.”


“Peh!” Bob Stewart rolled his eyes, the burley mustachioed Scotsman puffing on a cigarette. “Making sledgehammer demands for whole-hearted convictions and solid and hardened, tempered Bolshevism and all this bloody kind of stuff. First I’ve ever seen this kind of low brow backstabbing.”


William Gallacher, another major Scotsman on the Central Committee, nodded. “I have never at this Central Committee listened to a more unscrupulous and opportunist speech than has been made by Comrade Dutt, and I have never had in all my experience in the Party such evidence of mean, despicable disloyalty to comrades.”


It was at this point that Pollitt spoke up again, pointing to Rajani with a half smoked cigarette. “Please remember, Comrade Dutt, you won't intimidate me by that language. I was in the movement practically before you were born, and will be in the revolutionary movement a long time after some of you are forgotten.”


Murmurs circled the other members of the committee. John could sense some eyes drawing upon him and Pollitt. True he had been outspoken many times before, but he still stuck with the party. Besides, it wasn’t like he had many other options. The Labour party was fine some days but he felt they still didn’t do enough towards their promises, and there was no way in Heaven or Hell he’d go to the Conservatives, especially with that damned fool Chamberlain in charge. As for the BUF-


“I demand we vote.” Dutt interrupted John’s train of thought. “It’s only right and fair we do so.”


“Why? So you can embarrass yourself more?” John chuckled. Rajani sat unamused.


“We shall see.”


“I second the motion.” Came a voice from down the other end of the table. John was pretty sure it was William Rust, not that it mattered as the general consensus of the committee was to vote.


“Very well. Comrade Pollitt,” Rajani gestured to the General Secretary. “Do you have any comments or statements to make?”


“Only this.” Pollitt took a final drag of a cigarette before putting it out in the ashtray in front of him. “I believe in the long run it will do this Party very great harm. I don't envy the comrades who can so lightly in the space of a week go from one political conviction to another.”


He glared at Rajani, before turning to look down the rest of the table. “I am ashamed of the lack of feeling, the lack of response that this struggle of the Polish people has aroused in our leadership.”


“It’s this exact interventionism that caused us to join in the last war.” Dutt countered. “This dogged imperialistic tendency.”


“You won’t be saying that when Herr Hitler marches on London.”


“If he does, he’ll have Hell to pay.”


An uncomfortable silence echoed through the room, broken by Campbell clearing his throat. “Shall we get on with it?”


Rajani nodded. “Very well. All those in favor of the new line?”


A loud chorus of “Aye”s rang out, as many at the table raised their hands including Rajani. Campbell, Stewart, Pollitt, Gallacher, and John were the only ones not with their hands raised.


“And those against?”


Pollitt was first, defiant as ever, followed immediately by Campbell and Gallacher. Stewart looked around the table and sighed. “No bloody use in it.”


John went to raise his hand when he caught Pollitt’s gaze, and saw the General Secretary shaking his head. Slowly John lowered his hand, a successful Rajani smirking.


“The Committee has spoken. We shall adopt this new party line. General Secretary?”


Rajani held a hand out towards Pollitt. “I respectfully ask for your resignation, as you do not represent the ideals of the CPGB.”


Pollitt’s mouth opened and closed, his shoulders dropping and nodding wordlessly. Dutt then turned towards Campbell. “Comrade Campbell, you are still an ever loyal member to the Party, however, effective immediately Comrade Rust shall become the new editor of the Daily Worker.”


“You can’t do that!” John snapped, thumping his hands on the table. “Only the General Secretary can do that!”


“Then shall we have another vote? I have a feeling it will go the way the previous vote did.”


The Yorkshireman sunk back into his chair. As the rest of the Committee started back up talking, John tuned them out. It was now only a matter of time before Dutt forced him out like Pollitt, or worse neutered him like Campbell. Sure he didn’t outright vote, but he was about to before Henry stopped him, and he knew many others currently there at the table had painted targets on his back. There was only one thing to do, and it pained him to even consider it.




“So you left the Party after that then?” Farthing asked while finishing up a few sentences. John nodded.


“A few thought maybe I’d completely flip and go Mosely’s side. Those that didn’t know me well enough.”


“That explains why you trained up as an RAF machinist and mechanic then when so many other Communists were keeping their heads down.”


John let out a small chuckle. “You know, I’m surprised I managed to even get through it all considering.”


“Oh we knew.” Farthing smiled back. “But at that point we had bigger fish to fry. We need every available subject of His Majesty to help win this war.”


John nodded, closing his eyes and leaning back into his chair. “So what now?”




The agent finished scribbling down the last bits of information before finally closing up the file. “Well, we’ll take you out and shoot you behind the building and bury you in an unmarked grave for being a Communist sympathizer.”


As John went to rise up, Farthing put a hand up. “Sorry. It was a joke made in bad taste. We would never do that to a Belle captain, not even if they were a bloody Fascist.”


The Yorkshireman sighed, setting the empty coffee mug down on the table and standing up. “I appreciate that.”


Farthing stood up as well and lit up a cigarette. “No, we’ll let you go out into the streets again. Set you up back near the train station again so you still have a general idea of where to go. Ciggy?”


John looked over as the other man held out a cigarette for him. He nodded and took it from the agent, letting him light it for him. “I do have one question though.”


“Fair enough. What is it?”


Taking a deep drag, John puffed out a big smoke cloud and flicked the ashy end into the ashtray on the desk. “Why now? Why bring me in now?”


“Ah.” Farthing fished around in one of his pockets for a few moments before producing an opened envelope, a letter resting inside. “Admiralty got this from your Belle, Manchester, just the other day. Well, they didn’t get it per say but it came to their attention and ergo ours.”


John raised an eyebrow and took the letter, giving it a look over.


“It seems that in her excitement, she addressed it to Admiral Sir William James, the Commander-in-Chief of Portsmouth, rather than to Dartmouth. As it was addressed to Sir James, it was opened to see what it was. When it was found out it was just a reply with a Christmas list it was sent to us.”


The captain sighed. “Sounds like Manc. What did she do this time?”


“Well,” Farthing began. “Pulps and Johnny Walker are par for the course. However,-”


“The Condition of the Working Class in England?”


“Or, as it’s also known, Die Lage der arbeitenden Klasse in England.”


John looked at Farthing. “So...what? It’s a German book?”


“It’s a book by Friedrich Engels, pal to Karl Marx, and was written in the city of Manchester.”




The Belle captain sheepishly rubbed the back of his head. “I mostly read the stuff that was recommended by the Left Book Club until it closed down, and even then I didn’t bother reading much.”


“Hm. Well that’s a shock, a Communist who doesn’t even read his own propaganda.”


Farthing and John shared a small chuckle. “In any case,” Farthing gestured to the captain and the letter. “It was thought that it was rather interesting that Manchester had requested the book, especially considering that you’re a Communist yourself. There were some concerns about it, same as there were before for some other captains, but I felt that there was nothing really to worry about.”


The Yorkshireman cocked his head slightly. “Other captains?”


“Well with an empire and fleet as big as ours, it is inevitable that we have one or two Fascists as Belle Captains.”


A knock on the door interrupted them, followed by the corporal calling out.


“Are you alright, sir?”


“Yes, corporal,” The agent called back. “We’ll be out in a moment. Leave it unlocked, would you?”


He then turned to John, extending a hand out to him. “Don’t worry about the book by the way. We have agents searching for a first edition, or as close to one as we can get. You can make up for being a dirty Commie by winning this damned war for us.”


Farthing flashed a wink at the older man. John smiled and took the other man’s hand, pocketing the letter from Manchester. “Thank you.”


“Oh, one more thing.”


Going back into his pockets, the agent managed to produce a slip of paper and passed it to the Captain. “This is a doctor’s note. There’s a handful of medications on there that might be of use to you and can be ordered discreetly.”


“Of use to me?”


It took John a few moments to realize what he was on about. When he did, he stuffed the note in one of his pockets and nodded. “Right...of course you would know…”


“We wouldn’t be a good intelligence service if we didn’t.”


After a brief moment, Farthing knocked on the door, followed by it opening up to the two soldiers still standing guard outside. The corporal was holding in his hand the same blindfold John had arrived in, causing the captain to sigh and roll his eyes.


“Must you really?” John got a chuckle from the agent.


“Can’t have everyone knowing our exact location. We’ll be careful. Corporal?”


“Yes sir.”


John sighed, finishing his cigarette quickly and stamping it into the floor. “Sooner it’s over with the better.”


“Not to worry.” Farthing smiled. “We’ll have you back in no time. Expect the book to arrive for Christmas at Portsmouth addressed to Manchester. Until we meet again, Captain Falshaw.”


“I hope we don’t.”


“The feeling is mutual.” He chuckled. “Then I really would have to take you around the back and shoot you.”


Before John could utter a response, Farthing nodded to the corporal, and with a flash, everything went dark again for the Belle Captain.


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As I said before it was a great read. Really liked the development and the "outing" of Falshaw. That was a real surprise there for me.

Another surprise was what Manc wished for. Although I was a bit disappointed since I expected something more "spicy". But now we know why he's her captain.

Best part is, both chapters made me think about what I will do, when I continue my own story.

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