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Gordon Bellagon sat at his desk, cigar in one hand and cup of tea in the other. He regaled his guest on how he instilled in his captains a sense of civic pride in their duties. He said he was proud of The Lady Jane’s captain for his heroic efforts in going to the aid of those poor souls on the Titanic.
Bellagon’s guest gave the impression of being impressed, but was actually contemptuous of Bellagon.
“And this captain, can I interview him?”
The question made Bellagon stop, mid-sentence. “Well, I’m not sure that’s such a good idea. Once I have interviewed him, I’ll place a full report with the shipping authorities and that will be the end of the matter.”
“But do you know of any survivors your ship may have picked up.”
Bellagon wasn’t liking the way the interview had turned from him, to his captain being the centre of attention. This reporter now sounded impertinent. “I do have that information, yes.”
“BAS, Bellagon American Shipping that is, doesn’t give out information to anyone, so I don’t think I can divulge that information.”
“My readers will be most appreciative, Mr Bellagon. They know a hero when they read about one and think of how much more business will come your way when your story is told.”
Bellagon thought the idea through, the mere mention of more business and he visibly sat upright, as much as a small rotund man can. The word hero also had a particular impact on him. “Well, of course I don’t suppose it would cause any harm to anyone.”
“No, of course not. How many poor souls did The Lady Jane save from the Titanic?”
This is where Bellagon came unstuck. He would just either lie to fluff up his own ego or tell the truth and risk derision. “One,” Bellagon said in a quiet voice, hoping the reporter wouldn’t laugh at him.
The reporter ignored the answer and asked more questions. “Male or female?”
“Old or young.”
“Young. In her twenties, I believe the cable said.”
When the journalist stood and held his hand out, Bellagon was surprised he hadn’t made any crude remarks about his ship only managing to save one life. Bellagon limply shook the man’s hand.
“Thank you so much, Mr Bellagon. You have no idea how much I owe you… and of course how much the world owes such a hero as you.”
Bellagon watched the journalist walk to his office door and open it. “Which paper did you say this will be in?”
The man turned. “The Sentinel, Mr Bellagon. Good day.”
As he shut Bellagon’s office door, William Harker walked to Bellagon’s secretary’s desk and smiled at the wizened old spinster who sat upright watching Harker closely.
“Good afternoon,” he said with a broad smile. “I’ve just finished an interview with Mr Bellagon about the heroic acts of his ship and I wondered if I could interview his shipping manager.”
“That will be Mr Shepherd,” the old lady said, without looking up.
“Oh, and I will need to interview your good self as well. It will appear in tomorrow’s newspaper.”
The woman looked up and smiled for the first time in many years and pushed her hair nonchalantly with her left hand. “Of course,” she said, her smile broadening.
Extract from The Brittle Sea
Copyright © Tom Kane 2020