Since the last tidbit I have been busy harvesting grapes, apples, and Quince. Busy times on the Peninsula and why I haven’t been a punctual as I might with ‘Dragon’ chapters. My brother in law reminded me today that I have been remiss _” where is my next chapter??'” _
So David and all my other readers here is the next installment… Enjoy
Incidentally please excuse the bizarre formatting . I can’t seem to make the translation from proper novel style on to this blog.
Seattle Ship Yards
Brody Lynch stood with hands on hips, gazing at the iron skeleton cigar-shaped craft before him. “She’s a thing of beauty, don’t you agree, Con?” His brother set down blueprints and joined him, admiring the framed ribs on the work floor of the Seattle Dry dock and Construction Company.
“For certain, Brody, she’s a work of art but the devil’s behind her conception, designed only to destroy.”
“Well, that suits me fine,” snorted Brody. “As long as it’s directed the right way, she may be conceived by the devil but God has placed her in our path.”
Brody’s face darkened as he thought of his mother. The family had gathered around while the doctor spoke of medicines and fresh country air, all things that were beyond their economic grasp. An English landlord’s demands for a king’s ransom in rent had driven them from their small cottage on the north Irish coast. With the money from the sale of household goods, they moved to the slums of Londonderry. The air, foul with industrial slag, had taken their mother to an early grave.
Brodie and his twin fought hunger and other desperate urchins, growing hard and ruthless. Whenever employment opportunities hinted of hope, hated protestant employers, backed by British owners, shattered their father’s chances of advancement. He became a bitter drunkard while the brothers wavered between menial jobs and unemployment.
Upon reaching majority, they bid farewell to kin, escaping on a merchant steamer for Boston. After miserable weeks, they discovered comfort and companionship with Clan no Gael (CNG), a Republican Irish-American society of exiled, frustrated Irish nationalists. Instinct for survival drove them, as much as hatred for the British. The brothers blossomed as tradesmen at New England shipyards; Brody, a diesel mechanic and Con a marine electrician. They faithfully sent money home, and regularly attended meetings of the CNG.
As their kinsmen in Ulster chafed under the thumb of British Home Rule, Con and Brody worked deeper into the political core of the CNG. Determined to break the British stranglehold on Irish independence, they pledged themselves to direct action; eventually this put them in the submarine yard on the Canadian West Coast.
While the brothers were admiring the submarine, a company boss came onto the floor shepherding a covey of brightly-festooned military figures from South America. They paused, the boss addressing the visitors, as a translator rattled on in Spanish.
“These boats are one hundred and forty-four feet in length, with a beam of fifteen feet and a draught of eleven feet. Two have been ordered by the government of Chile. Each submarine has a surface speed of twelve knots, driven by a three-hundred horsepower diesel. Submerged, the craft hunt at ten knots propelled by one-hundred and thirty horsepower electric dynamic motors. These submarines mount four torpedo tubes in a rotating forward chamber, much like a giant revolver. The first two vessels are complete, tied to the dock and awaiting a muster of crews to sail south. We’ll visit them in a moment. The third, lying before you, lags behind while architects work on a few modifications, requested by the Peruvian navy.”
As the South American brass filed out of the work shed, Con whispered to his brother, “What a bunch of garish buffoons but never mind, have you heard the rumours?”
“The ones about non-payment for the first boats? Yes, but I don’t know if this is true. Mind you, the boats sit idle at our docks instead of heading south.”
“We’d better check with our friends in Victoria,” suggested Brody. “Perhaps they know more, besides I could stand a visit to the hotel and the fair ladies, how about you, Con?”
“Aye, ‘twas an interesting trip last time. I’m sure we could renew old acquaintances.” He clapped his twin on the back giving him a wink. Just then, the yard boss yelled, “Quit shooting the breeze you slack assed paddies. Get back to work and stuff the blarney!”
“The bloody sod is always on me arse like a wet diaper,” muttered Brody, as he gave the boss a middle finger salute behind his back. “One day, I’ll have my reckoning. Just wait and see Con. Just wait.”
The Schweizerhoff Hotel, located in downtown Victoria, was a magnet for sailors who had often been at sea for months. It was a modest brick and plaster structure, boasting a Bavarian tavern in the basement. Rooms on the second floor catered to those seeking the charms of a staff of appealing young women, who were more than willing to ease the pain of enforced celibacy. A great number of His Majesty’s Royal Navy habitually ascended the hotel’s grand presidium staircase. Horst and Gabrielle, the owners, were established members of the downtown community, some ten years into the business. With the onset of Horst’s dreaded disease, shortly after their arrival, Gabrielle assumed most duties. Discretion was her hallmark. None of the staff engaged in displays of public drunkenness or other lascivious behaviour. Only a few of the citizens of British Columbia’s capitol realized the nature of the Schweizerhoff’s main revenue. Politicians frequented the house and the local constabulary ignored transactions on its second floor.
Gabrielle Rader stood by, patiently watching while Horst struggled to match letters with numbers scribbled on a scrap of paper.
“Won’t be much longer now, mein Liebling,”said Horst. “Ah, Berlin expects the two armoured schooners, Lenor and Oregon, to make contact here early in the summer. They’ll be the final components of our Pacific squadron. The Lenor is bringing spare parts for our transceiver as well as the base components for the Paraguay detachment. With any luck, we’ll all be up and running by autumn.”
Gabrielle rested her hands on her husband’s shoulders sighing involuntarily. Before her toiled a shrivelled shadow of a man. The Wasting Disease had robbed him of his muscular build and ramrod stature, bold physical qualities that once marked him as a Commander in the Kaisers’ Imperial Navy. “My dear, all you have worked for will be in place,” she said. “The Kaiser will be well served but please don’t over tax yourself. Once this is finished, you must rest.”
“I promise, Liebling. Allow me to get everything ready and I’ll do my part. It’s a small role but nonetheless a contribution to His Majesty. Run along and see to the staff, our contacts inform me that a Cruiser is due in port and there’ll be an abundance of sea weary men to accommodate.”
“I have matters well in hand, Horst.” She handed him an envelope. “This just came. I see it has a Seattle post mark.” She watched as his bent fingers wrestled with the seal.
“I shouldn’t doubt your abilities, my dearest. Dammed fingers! Here, please open this bloody thing.” Gabrielle deftly opened the letter and passed it to her husband. She watched as he absorbed the message then sat staring out the far wall.
“The Chileans are muddying the waters,” said Horst. “There’s delay in concluding financial transactions and wrangling over specifications on the submarines which could have bearing on our plans; I’ll have to notify the Admiralty. Our Irish friends have requested a meeting here in Victoria.”
Gabrielle felt her pulse quicken. She crossed the room and drew back the curtain, studying the street below. “I suppose we could put them up for a day or so, I’m sure their presence won’t be a bother.”
“Splendid, I’ll write and extend an invitation.” Horst took out a fresh sheet of stationery and shot a look at his wife. “We can put them up in the Royal Suite.” Gabrielle continued to stare out the window, twirling a lock of hair between her fingers. “I’ll think of some excuse to tell the house staff.”
As she bustled out of the room, her husband caught the look in her eye but misread it as preoccupation with household matters. Gabrielle was replaying intimate recollections of young, gorgeous male physiques.
It was just after midnight when Gabrielle peeked into the bedroom. Horst was sleeping; the bottle of laudanum at his bedside he took to ease pain plaguing his wretched body. Gabrielle sighed at the sight of his emaciated form and thought about the man who used to fill her nights with tender passion. A woman in her middle thirties, she longed for physical intimacy and from time to time, sought other men to satisfy her needs. Initially, these were furtive dalliances but Horst was no fool, he knew his wife was a physical creature.
The pair were agents for Etappendienst, the Intelligence branch of the Imperial German Navy. Posing as Swiss nationals, they successfully disguised their true loyalties to the Kaiser. He turned her carnal drives to their advantage, encouraging Gabrielle to cultivate liaisons with men in key positions. Her pillow talk with military officers provided valuable information about the deployment of British naval forces in the Pacific.
Gabrielle realized that she was not yet ready for sleep, so she quietly closed the bedroom door and descended the stairs to the second floor of their hotel. “Catherine, how are things tonight? I trust your girls are keeping the men of the cruiser satisfied?” Vivacious red-headed Catherine was concierge for the hotel, responsible for the well-being of five women who staffed the Schweizerhoff.
“Yes, Mum, all squared away and shipshape.” The lilt of her Irish brogue filled the hall. “The girls have been busy.” She laughed. “They’ll sleep well tomorrow.”
“Very good,” said Gabrielle. “By the way, we can expect a visit from the twins sometime this month. I know that’ll please you as much as me. Keep this to yourself; you know how important they are.” Gabrielle smiled as she saw the beam on Catherine’s face. A woman of voracious sexual appetite, she had eagerly entertained the guests when they last visited. Gabrielle knew that she and Horst would once again make good use of the secret room with its two-way mirror, adjacent the master bedroom of the Royal suite.
“I’ll be totally discreet, Mum. Not a word, I promise.” She winked at Gabrielle. “Oh, Mum, Joanna brought some interesting news from her scullery job at the Fort. Well, a new Commander has arrived to take charge from Appleby and I’ve asked her to begin enquiries about him. Collins is his name. He’s regular British Forces, and from what she says, is a stickler for discipline. As well, there’s a new Senior Non- Commissioned Officer who is a reservist and a local plod.”
Gabrielle wrinkled her nose. “Plod? What would a Victoria police constable have to do with Fort Rodd Hill? Perhaps he could be of use to us in more than one way, better have Joanna learn more about him.” She waved her hand. “Come on then, let’s check out the goings on downstairs. I feel like a small drink before bed.”
The two women descended the stairway, entering the staff door to the Edelweiss Room. Business was brisk, the blue serge of Canadian and British naval officers dominated several card tables as clusters of men smoked, played cards or chatted. A fire in the corner kept the room cozy. Gabrielle spotted Lieutenant Commander Barclay of the Canadian Naval Service, sitting with two British officers she didn’t recognize.
Barclay waved at the women beckoning them. “Gabrielle, my dear, won’t you join us?” The men stood as Gabrielle and Catherine approached. “Gentlemen, may I introduce our charming hostess and her second in command.” He took Gabrielle’s hand, pulling out a chair. “Ladies, these two officers are old friends of mine, presently from HMS Royal Arthur, Jock McAllister and Brian Clough.”
Gabrielle smiled, especially drawn to Jock; she placed her hand on his forearm. “A Scotsman and so young to be of such rank… is this your first trip to Victoria?” Gabrielle flirted and chatted for a few moments. In this time, she learned that Britain had recalled HMS Royal Arthur, with most other major ships of the Royal navy in the Pacific, to home waters. HMCS Rainbow, the Canadian warship, would become the only significant Commonwealth naval presence in the North Pacific.
“It’s been a charming evening, gentleman but I must excuse myself and check on the rest of my establishment before retiring. Catherine, please don’t feel obliged to leave if you’re of a mind otherwise.” She rose and left the room.
Moments later she tiptoed into her bedroom, careful not to awaken Horst until she was ready for bed. She slipped in, curling up to his warm body and kissed him on the cheek. “Good night, dear. I have some news for you in the morning.” He mumbled an endearment. Gabrielle tenderly stroked his back settling in herself.
In the morning, Gabrielle awoke to find Horst already out of bed. He was shaving when she approached him.
“Good morning, my dear,’ he said. “I slept well last night; it must have been that report which I finally finished. It was such a relief to get it ready for Berlin.” He reached over and encircled her waist drawing her near to him. He wiped the residue of shaving cream from his face and gave her a kiss on the lips. “Hmm, tastes good.” He snaked a hand inside her robe, caressing her soft skin.
“Horst,” she said curtly, batting his hand away, “I have news. I overheard last night that the British are withdrawing all of their capital ships from the Pacific, at least the North Pacific, recalling them to home waters.”
“Really? How interesting, another indication that the British want a war. Why else would the admiralty concentrate the fleet? That is good news. It’ll make things so much easier for our squadron. I’ll have to include this in my report to Berlin.” He gave her another kiss, more intense this time.
Gabrielle ached to abandon herself in his embrace but this would only lead to disappointment and frustration for both of them. After a moment, she pulled away and fastened her robe. Horst sighed and then turned to finish washing his face. His look brought a pang to her heart; she rested her hand on his shoulder and spoke gently. “We’ll have to celebrate with a special breakfast. What shall I make for us?”
Joanna McNamara shivered under a heavy cloak as she and the other kitchen staff huddled next to the boiler of a steam launch, heading across Esquimalt harbour towards Fort Rodd Hill. It was almost nine in the morning but the approaching foreshore was only just visible.
“It’s a beast of a morning,” she said to her travelling companions. “I sure prefer working in the summertime, when it isn’t so dreary and this snow doesn’t help.”
Her companions sat sullenly as patches of thick wet snow spattered around them, hissing on the still surface of the ocean. A sailor steering the launch gave her a wink and a nudge, whispering in a subdued voice.
“Joanna, never mind the weather, love, perhaps you should snuggle over next to me. I’ll help keep you warm.”
“Right and whadda ya think your Coxswain would say?” She tossed a glance over her shoulder towards the man sitting in the bow. “I got enough trouble with the new officer in charge of the Fort. Having the Artillery on me arse is one thing; I don’t want to be on the bad side of the Navy, I need my job.”
She was glad when the short trip was over and the launch nudged against the jetty. Snow had not yet settled on the shoreline but as she glanced up to the Fort, she could see that a white shroud was frosting the uppermost reaches of Douglas fir bows. The women gathered in a cluster and quickly shuffled up the path. Joanna hung back a little, planning how she might carry out the instructions given to her earlier that morning as she left the hotel. Get on the good side of the new man in charge. Mum wants to know all about him. Joanna instinctively knew this wasn’t going to be easy. This new man was no drunken old fool; it would take more than a smile and a promise to gain his confidence.
Her first opportunity came at mid-morning when the cook prepared tea for the officer’s mess. Joanna offered to deliver it and whisked away with a large Billie can and the tray of scones before any of the other staff could object. As luck would have it, this morning she was stationed at the main galley only a short walk across an open courtyard to the Major’s office and the Officers’ Mess. She was surprised to find a sentry on duty outside the door.
“Good mornin’. Tea for the officers. Is there something afoot? I haven’t seen a sentry here before.”
The guard grumbled, shaking wet snow from his hat. “Bloody new regulations. The old man wants it this way, says things are too lax around here. Here, let me get the door for you.” Joanna smiled as the heavy oak door opened and she scuttled inside.
A mess steward met her at the foyer. “What have we here? Something tasty no doubt. Take it directly into the serving area, please; I’ll handle it from there.”
Previously, she had served the tea and was a bit taken back to see a white-jacketed mess boy arrive to collect the tray from her. She lingered a bit, sliding into a corner and removing her heavy winter cloak.
“That will be all, thank you, miss.”
“I thought I would serve the tea, Sir. Normally, I do this for the mess.” She looked up at the moustachioed mess steward with genuine surprise.
“No longer,” he said. “Civilian personnel are now restricted in certain areas and the Officers’ Mess is one of them. Be off with you, before an officer shows up and dresses me down for letting you wander.”
Joanna wasn’t used to being dismissed and stood collecting herself on the cold side of the door. She remarked to the sentry, “At least they could provide you some shelter from the elements.” The soldier just grunted and rolled his eyes. She drew her cloak tight, rustled back to the kitchen and button-holed the cook. “Things have really changed around here. Do you know that we aren’t allowed to serve in the Officers’ Mess anymore?”
“That’s right; there’s been a whole lot of changes.” The cook turned from stirring a large vat of soup. “From what I hear, more are due soon. The new Major is a spit and polish man, so you can expect discipline around here to be a lot tighter; at least, that’s the scuttlebutt. That new Staff Sergeant and he were cut from the same cloth. Things’ going to be different, a whole lot different.”
Joanna sought out Catherine as soon as she returned to the Schweizerhoff and found her in the office. “Things have changed at the Fort. It’s going to be quite difficult for me to gather information. The new Major has clamped down on all civilians, limiting our whereabouts. I can no longer move among the officers. I’m also restricted to short stays with the NCOs but thank God, I’m still allowed to mingle with the ranks.” She plumped down in a chair. “I don’t know how we’re going to get around this. Mum’ll not be pleased.”
Gabrielle scowled. “We’ll have to seek other measures. Perhaps infiltrate further into their social circles? It’ll be a risk but we must maintain access to military activity, the local Militia can’t be ignored.”
“Yes, Mum, we don’t see too many of them in house, mostly just Navy. Maybe it might be a good move to advertise a card evening in honour of the artillery and engineers at the Fort.”
“Catherine, bloody genius. Horst and I could host a formal dinner for the officers. If we can get the upper echelons involved, the rest’ll follow. I’ll take this idea to Horst straight away.”
Gabrielle bustled upstairs looking for Horst. She found him in his study, bent over a leather bound book whose interior pages contained a copy of the Imperial German Naval code. Horst was methodically transcribing a report onto a sheet of paper. He smiled when his wife entered.
“The wretched antenna has broken again. We have to come up with a better plan other than using the clothes line. The weight of the laundry keeps pulling my connections loose. Besides the Chinese house staff, Mai Ling, in particular, is getting a bit too nosey for my liking. She was tugging at it yesterday and was fussing about my study last week. I propose we string a line around the gutters that will allow unrestricted access. We’ll do this when our friends from Seattle arrive so we won’t have to involve locals.”
“Fine, Horst, I will deal with it but that’s not why I came to see you. I have a wonderful idea of how we might circumvent the enhanced security at the Fort.”