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Meet Simone Singh: The Girl with Broken Dreams!

Ever wondered what it’s like to chase down a killer in the blistering Delhi heat while wrestling with your own inner demons? Meet Simone Singh, the fearless CBI investigator from The Girl with Broken Dreams by Devashish Sardana.

As she battles the sweltering sun and mandatory therapy sessions, her journey unfolds in a gripping tale where justice and personal struggles collide.

Read this excerpt to know more, but be sure to grab an icy glass of water or a comforting pillow—you might just need it for the thrilling ride ahead.

The Girl with Broken Dreams
The Girl with Broken Dreams || Devashish Sardana

 

***

Assistant Superintendent (ASP) Simone Singh flicks away beads of sweat streaming down her bald, squishy scalp, watching the clock on the Jeep’s dashboard flip over to 10:10. She is now ten minutes late for her appointment with the therapist.

 

Simone had arrived five minutes before her scheduled appointment, but she has been sitting in the crumbling, Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI)-issued Jeep without air conditioning since. A dry, sultry breeze rushes in through the fully open window, smacking her sweat-speckled face. She detests the summers in Delhi. Even more, she detests the heat crawling up her back and the sweat seeping down her spine.

 

Simone is parked in front of a plush red-brick bungalow in Delhi’s posh Lutyens Zone. The bungalow stands well back from the pavement behind lush jamun trees. Probably explains the sweetness in the searing breeze.

 

Her hands grip the steering wheel, knuckles white. Simone is thinking, wondering if she wants to keep her job with the Indian Police Service (IPS). Her boss, Superintendent of Police (SP) Vijesh Jaiswal, had given her a simple choice after the ‘incident’ last month: meet the CBI-appointed therapist or get suspended. Simone would have happily gotten suspended—it wouldn’t be the first time anyway—rather than lie on a sofa and discuss her private affairs with a sham doctor, a stranger. But she knows it isn’t a choice. It is a direct order from a superior. And she isn’t one to break the chain of command. Orders ought to be followed. Period.

 

She pulls out her phone and flicks through her photos. Simone stops at a photo of her grandma, where she is beaming at the camera, waving a knife, about to blow out the candles on her eightieth birthday.

 

You see what I have to do because of you, Grams,’ she says aloud. ‘You had one job. One. To stay . . . alive.’ Her voice breaks.
Simone waits, hoping grandma would answer back, calling Simone ‘bachchu’ again in her sing-song voice. Sigh. If only photos could talk.

 

Let’s get this over with. Simone pockets the phone, puts on an N95 mask, tucks her police cap underneath her arm, and jumps out of the Jeep. She marches to the front gate of the bungalow.

 

A constable on sentry duty watches her approach, his gaze jammed on her shaved head. Her gleaming baldness has always invited glares. But she is used to the stares and the furtive glances. This is a choice. She had cut her locks two years ago when she had a run-in with the chief minister’s son in Bhopal and was wrongfully suspended. She has shaved her head ever since. Initially, as an act of defiance, now as a proud battle scar.

 

The constable sees the IPS insignia on her shoulder flash and salutes her immediately. ‘Good morning, madam ji!’

 

‘What’s the point of wearing a face mask that covers your mouth, but not your nose?’ Simone admonishes the constable, whose face mask has conveniently slipped to his chin. The pandemic might have fizzled out, but good hygiene shouldn’t. And neither should common sense.

 

The constable flashes a broad grin, his tobacco-stained teeth on full display. ‘Sorry, sorry.’ He hastily pulls up his mask, covering his hideous teeth. ‘How are you, madam ji?’

 

Simone recoils. She doesn’t have the patience for greetings or small talk. Simone has never understood why people do it. She comes to the point. ‘I have an appointment with Dr Dia Sengupta.’

 

‘Oh, minister sahab’s daughter?’ Simone narrows her eyes. Granted that the bungalow belongs to one of the cabinet ministers. But how does being the daughter of that minister define a grown, accomplished woman’s identity?

 

‘No, I’m not here to meet the minister’s daughter. I’m here to meet Dr Dia Sengupta, one of the leading therapists in Delhi,’ Simone corrects him.

 

The constable scrunches his forehead, confused. ‘Yes, madam ji. They are the same person. Same to same.’ She wants to thump the constable on the head because they are not the same.

 

But it’ll mean prolonging a conversation that she didn’t want in the first place. Abruptly, she turns away from the constable and strides to the unbolted front gate.

 

‘Wait, madam ji, you must sign the entry register,’ he calls after her.

 

Simone stops. Like it or not, she believes that rules must always be followed unless they contradict her values and ethics. She sighs. Turns around. The constable runs to her with an open register and a pen. She scribbles briskly and hands back the register.
The constable squints at what Simone has written. ‘Vijay Singh’s daughter?’ he reads aloud and looks up, confused. ‘Who is Vijay Singh? Your father?’

 

‘Yes.’

 

He chuckles. ‘Madam ji, you had to write your name, not your father’s name.’

 

Simone nods in agreement. ‘As you said, they are the same person. Same to same, right?’ Simone swivels on her feet and marches to the front gate without another word.

 

***

Get your copy of The Girl with Broken Dreams by Devashish Sardana wherever books are sold.

Six Reasons Why You Should Read ‘Stranger Things: Suspicious Minds’

It’s the summer of 1969, and the shock of conflict reverberates through the youth of America, both at home and abroad. As a student at a quiet college campus in the heartland of Indiana, Terry Ives couldn’t be farther from the front lines of Vietnam or the incendiary protests in Washington.

But the world is changing, and Terry isn’t content to watch from the sidelines. When word gets around about an important government experiment in the small town of Hawkins, she signs on as a test subject for the project, code-named MKULTRA. But behind the walls of Hawkins National Laboratory—and the piercing gaze of its director, Dr Martin Brenner—lurks a conspiracy greater than Terry could have ever imagined.

Are you excited to unravel the mysterious happenings in Stranger Things? Here are a few surprises that await you!

While the third season of Stranger Things will be released this coming July, after what feels like the longest wait for fans. But, if you’re missing much-needed news from Hawkins,  you can explore more of Eleven’s backstory in the book.

The book Stranger Things: Suspicious Minds is set much further back in time, in the year 1969 – 14 years before the TV show.

 It follows the journey of  Terry Ives, as she participates in the hush-hush CIA MKULTRA programme with Dr Brenner – not realising she was pregnant with Eleven, played by Millie Bobby Brown in the hit series, at the time. Fans will get to know the first glimpse at Eleven’s dad, and find out what exactly happened between Terry and him all those years ago.

While in season 2 of the show, viewers were introduced to Eleven’s sister, Kali, which proved to be quite divisive, Stanger Things: Suspicious Minds sheds light on some of the questions we all have about the show.

The book finally reveals how the Upside Down was first discovered, and why it’s so important to Dr. Brenner and the leaders of MKULTRA.


A mysterious lab. A sinister scientist. A secret history. If you think you know the truth behind Eleven’s mother, prepare to have your mind turned Upside Down in this thrilling prequel to the hit show Stranger Things.

 

Big Sky by Kate Atkinson – an excerpt

In Kate Atkinson’s new book, Big Sky, Jackson Brodie has relocated to a quiet seaside village in North Yorkshire, in the occasional company of his recalcitrant teenage son Nathan and ageing Labrador Dido, both at the discretion of his former partner Julia. It’s a picturesque setting, but there’s something darker lurking behind the scenes.

Jackson’s current job, gathering proof of an unfaithful husband for his suspicious wife, seems straightforward, but a chance encounter with a desperate man on a crumbling cliff leads him into a sinister network—and back into the path of someone from his past. Old secrets and new lies intersect in this breathtaking new novel, both sharply funny and achingly sad, by one of the most dazzling and surprising writers at work today.

Read on for an exclusive first chapter of the book.


The Battle of the River Plate

And there’s the Ark Royal, keeping a good distance from the enemy…There were a couple of quiet explosions – pop-pop-pop. The noise of tinny gunfire competing unsuccessfully with the gulls wheeling and screeching overhead.

Oh, and the Achilles has taken a hit, but luckily she has been able to contact the Ark Royal, who is racing to her aid . . .

‘Racing’ wasn’t quite the word that Jackson would have used for the rather laboured progress the Ark Royal was making across the boating lake in the park.

And here come the RAF bombers! Excellent shooting, boys! Let’s hear it for the RAF and the escorts. .  .

A rather weak cheer went up from the audience as two very small wooden planes jerked across the boating lake on zip wires.

‘Jesus,’ Nathan muttered. ‘This is pathetic.’

‘Don’t swear,’ Jackson said automatically. It was pathetic in some ways (the smallest manned navy in the world!), but that was the charm of it, surely? The boats were replicas, the longest twenty foot at most, the others considerably less. There were park employees concealed inside the boats, steering them. The audience was sitting on wooden benches on raked concrete steps. For an hour beforehand an old- fashioned kind of man had played old-fashioned kind of music on an organ in a bandstand and now the same old-fashioned man was commentating on the battle. In an old-fashioned kind of way. (‘Is this ever going to end?’ Nathan asked.)

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‘Didn’t you hear, Jackson?’ Julia said. ‘The class war’s over. Everyone lost.’

Jackson had come here as a kid once himself, not with his own family (when he had a family) – they never did anything together, never went anywhere, not even a day-trip. That was the working class for you, too busy working to have time for pleasure, and too poor to pay for it if they managed to find the time. (‘Didn’t you hear, Jackson?’ Julia said. ‘The class war’s over. Everyone lost.’) He couldn’t remember the circumstances – perhaps he had come here on a Scouts outing, or with the Boys’ Brigade, or even the Salvation Army – the young Jackson had clung to any organization going in the hope of getting something for free. He didn’t let the fact that he was brought up as a Catholic interfere with his beliefs. He had even signed the Pledge at the age of ten, promising the local Salvation Army Temperance Society his lifelong sobriety in exchange for a lemonade and a plate of cakes. (‘And how did that work out for you?’ Julia asked.) It was a relief when he eventually discovered the real Army, where everything was free. At a price.

‘The Battle of the River Plate,’ Jackson told Nathan, ‘was the first naval battle of the Second World War.’ One of his jobs as a father was to educate, especially on his specialist subjects – cars, wars, women. (‘Jackson, you know nothing about women,’ Julia said. ‘Exactly,’ Jack- son said.) Nathan met any information conveyed to him by either rolling his eyes or appearing to be deaf. Jackson hoped that, some- how or other, his son was unconsciously absorbing the continual bombardment of advice and warnings that his behaviour necessitated – ‘Don’t walk so close to the edge of the cliff. Use your knife and fork, not your fingers. Give up your seat on the bus.’ Although when did Nathan ever go anywhere on a bus? He was ferried around like a lord. Jackson’s son was thirteen and his ego was big enough to swallow planets whole.

quotation

Looking on the bright side, Nathan was talking in more or less whole sentences this afternoon, rather than the usual simian grunts.

‘What do they mean – “manned”?’ Nathan said. ‘There are people inside the boats, steering them.’ ‘There aren’t,’ he scoffed. ‘That’s stupid.’

‘There are. You’ll see.’

Here comes Exeter as well. And the enemy submarine is in trouble now . . .

‘You wait,’ Jackson said. ‘One day you’ll have kids of your own and you’ll find that you make them do all the things that you currently despise – museums, stately homes, walks in the countryside – and they in turn will hate you for it. That, my son, is how cosmic justice works.’

‘I won’t be doing this,’ Nathan said.

‘And that sound you can hear will be me laughing.’ ‘No, it won’t. You’ll be dead by then.’

‘Thanks. Thanks, Nathan.’ Jackson sighed. Had he been so callous at his son’s age? And he hardly needed reminding of his mortality, he saw it in his own boy growing older every day.

Looking on the bright side, Nathan was talking in more or less whole sentences this afternoon, rather than the usual simian grunts. He was slumped on the bench, his long legs sprawled out, his arms folded in what could only be described as a sarcastic manner. His feet (designer trainers, of course) were enormous – it wouldn’t be long before he was taller than Jackson. When Jackson was his son’s age he had two sets of clothes and one of those was his school uniform. Apart from his gym plimsolls (‘Your what?’ Nathan puzzled), he had possessed just the one pair of shoes and would have been baffled by the concepts ‘designer’ or ‘logo’.

By the time Jackson was thirteen his mother was already dead of cancer, his sister had been murdered and his brother had killed him- self, helpfully leaving his body – hanging from the light fitting – for Jackson to find when he came home from school. Jackson never got the chance to be selfish, to sprawl and make demands and fold his arms sarcastically. And anyway, if he had, his father would have given him a good skelping. Not that Jackson wished suffering on his son – God forbid – but a little less narcissism wouldn’t go amiss.

Julia, Nathan’s mother, could go toe to toe with Jackson in the grief stakes – one sister murdered, one sister who killed herself, one who died of cancer. (‘Oh, and don’t forget Daddy’s sexual abuse,’ she reminded him. ‘Trumps to me, I think.’) And now all the wretched- ness of their shared pasts had been distilled into this one child. What if somehow, despite his untroubled appearance, it had lodged in Nathan’s DNA and infected his blood, and even now tragedy and grief were growing and multiplying in his bones like a cancer. (‘Have you even tried being an optimist?’ Julia said. ‘Once,’ Jackson said. ‘It didn’t suit me.’)

‘I thought you said you were going to get me an ice-cream.’

‘I think what you meant to say was, “Dad, can I have that ice- cream you promised and seem to have temporarily forgotten about? Please?’’ ’

‘Yeah, whatever.’ After an impressively long pause he added, reluctantly, ‘Please.’ (‘I serve at the pleasure of the President,’ an unruffled Julia said when their offspring demanded something.)

quote

She had a lovely throaty laugh, especially when being self-deprecating. Or pretending to be. It had a certain charm.

‘What do they mean – “manned”?’ Nathan said. ‘There are people inside the boats, steering them.’ ‘There aren’t,’ he scoffed. ‘That’s stupid.’

‘There are. You’ll see.’

Here comes Exeter as well. And the enemy submarine is in trouble now . . .

‘You wait,’ Jackson said. ‘One day you’ll have kids of your own and you’ll find that you make them do all the things that you currently despise – museums, stately homes, walks in the countryside – and they in turn will hate you for it. That, my son, is how cosmic justice works.’

‘I won’t be doing this,’ Nathan said.

‘And that sound you can hear will be me laughing.’ ‘No, it won’t. You’ll be dead by then.’

‘Thanks. Thanks, Nathan.’ Jackson sighed. Had he been so callous at his son’s age? And he hardly needed reminding of his mortality, he saw it in his own boy growing older every day.

Looking on the bright side, Nathan was talking in more or less whole sentences this afternoon, rather than the usual simian grunts. He was slumped on the bench, his long legs sprawled out, his arms folded in what could only be described as a sarcastic manner. His feet (designer trainers, of course) were enormous – it wouldn’t be long before he was taller than Jackson. When Jackson was his son’s age he had two sets of clothes and one of those was his school uniform. Apart from his gym plimsolls (‘Your what?’ Nathan puzzled), he had possessed just the one pair of shoes and would have been baffled by the concepts ‘designer’ or ‘logo’.

By the time Jackson was thirteen his mother was already dead of cancer, his sister had been murdered and his brother had killed him- self, helpfully leaving his body – hanging from the light fitting – for Jackson to find when he came home from school. Jackson never got the chance to be selfish, to sprawl and make demands and fold his arms sarcastically. And anyway, if he had, his father would have given him a good skelping. Not that Jackson wished suffering on his son – God forbid – but a little less narcissism wouldn’t go amiss.

Julia, Nathan’s mother, could go toe to toe with Jackson in the grief stakes – one sister murdered, one sister who killed herself, one who died of cancer. (‘Oh, and don’t forget Daddy’s sexual abuse,’ she reminded him. ‘Trumps to me, I think.’) And now all the wretched- ness of their shared pasts had been distilled into this one child. What if somehow, despite his untroubled appearance, it had lodged in Nathan’s DNA and infected his blood, and even now tragedy and grief were growing and multiplying in his bones like a cancer. (‘Have you even tried being an optimist?’ Julia said. ‘Once,’ Jackson said. ‘It didn’t suit me.’)

‘I thought you said you were going to get me an ice-cream.’

‘I think what you meant to say was, “Dad, can I have that ice- cream you promised and seem to have temporarily forgotten about? Please?’’ ’

‘Yeah, whatever.’ After an impressively long pause he added, reluctantly, ‘Please.’ (‘I serve at the pleasure of the President,’ an unruffled Julia said when their offspring demanded something.)

‘What do you want?’

‘Magnum. Double peanut butter.’

‘I think you might be setting your sights quite high there.’ ‘Whatever. A Cornetto.’

‘Still high.’

Nathan came trailing clouds of instructions where food was concerned. Julia was surprisingly neurotic about snacks. ‘Try and control what he eats,’ she said. ‘He can have a small chocolate bar but no sweets, definitely no Haribo. He’s like a Gremlin after midnight if he gets too much sugar. And if you can get a piece of fruit into him then you’re a better woman than me.’ Another year or two and Julia would be worrying about cigarettes and alcohol and drugs. She should enjoy the sugar years, Jackson thought.

‘While I’m getting your ice-cream,’ Jackson said to Nathan, ‘make sure you keep an eye on our friend Gary there in the front row, will you?’ Nathan showed no sign of having heard him so Jackson waited a beat and then said, ‘What did I just say?’

‘You said, “While I’m gone make sure you keep an eye on our friend Gary there in the front row, will you?”’

‘Right. Good,’ Jackson said, slightly chastened, not that he was going to show it. ‘Here,’ he said, handing over his iPhone, ‘take a photograph if he does anything interesting.’

When Jackson got up, the dog followed him, labouring up the steps behind him to the café. Julia’s dog, Dido, a yellow Labrador, overweight and ageing. Years ago, when Jackson was first introduced to Dido by Julia (‘Jackson, this is Dido – Dido, this is Jackson’), he thought the dog must have been called after the singer, but it turned out she was the namesake of the Queen of Carthage. That was Julia in a nutshell.

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‘Nat Brodie’, on the other hand, sounded like a robust adventurer, someone striking west, following the frontier in search of gold or cattle, loose-moraled women following in his wake.

Dido – the dog, not the Queen of Carthage – also came with a long list of instructions. You would think Jackson had never looked after a child or a dog before. (‘But it wasn’t my child or my dog,’ Julia pointed out. ‘I believe that should be our child,’ Jackson said.)

Nathan had been three years old before Jackson was able to claim any ownership of him. Julia, for reasons best known to herself, had denied that Jackson was Nathan’s father, so he had already missed the best years before she admitted to his paternity. (‘I wanted him to myself,’ she said.) Now that the worst years had arrived, however, it seemed that she was more than keen to share him.

Julia was going to be ‘ferociously’ busy for nearly the entire school holiday, so Jackson had brought Nathan to stay with him in the cottage he was currently renting, on the east coast of Yorkshire, a couple of miles north of Whitby. With good wi-fi Jackson could run his business – Brodie Investigations – from just about anywhere. The internet was evil but you had to love it.

Julia played a pathologist (‘the pathologist,’ she corrected) in the long-running police procedural Collier. Collier was described as ‘gritty northern drama’, although these days it was tired hokum thought up by cynical metropolitan types off their heads on coke, or worse, most of the time.

Julia had been given her own storyline for once. ‘It’s a big arc,’ she told Jackson. He thought she said ‘ark’ and it took him a while to sort this mystery out in his head. Now, still, whenever she talked about ‘my arc’ he had a vision of her leading an increasingly bizarre parade of puzzled animals, two by two, up a gangplank. She wouldn’t be the worst person to be with during the Flood. Beneath her scatty, actressy demeanour she was resilient and resourceful, not to mention good with animals.

Her contract was up for renewal and they were drip-feeding the script to her, so, she said, she was pretty certain that she was heading for a grisly exit at the end of her ‘arc’. (‘Aren’t we all?’ Jackson said.) Julia was sanguine, it had been a good run, she said. Her agent was keeping an eye on a Restoration Comedy that was coming up at the West Yorkshire Playhouse. (‘Proper acting,’ Julia said. ‘And if that fails there’s always Strictly. I’ve been offered it twice already. They’re obviously scraping the bottom of the barrel.’) She had a lovely throaty laugh, especially when being self-deprecating. Or pretending to be. It had a certain charm.

‘As suspected, no Magnums, no Cornettos, they only had Bassani’s,’ Jackson said, returning with two cones held aloft like flambeaux. You might have thought that people would want their kids to stop eating Bassani’s ice-cream after what had happened. Carmody’s amusements were still there as well, a rowdy, popular presence on the front. Ice-cream and arcades – the perfect lures for kids. It must be getting on for a decade since the case was in the papers? (The older Jackson grew, the more slippery time became.) Antonio Bassani and Michael Carmody, local ‘worthies’ – one of them was in jail and the other one had topped himself, but Jackson could never remember which was which. He wouldn’t be surprised if the one in jail wasn’t due to get out soon, if he hadn’t already. Bassani and Carmody liked kids. They liked kids too much. They liked handing kids around to other men who liked kids too much. Like gifts, like forfeits.

An eternally hungry Dido had waddled back hopefully on his heels and in lieu of ice-cream Jackson gave her a bone-shaped dog treat. He supposed it didn’t make much difference to her what shape      it was.

‘I got a vanilla and a chocolate,’ he said to Nathan. ‘Which do you want?’ A rhetorical question. Who under voting age ever chose vanilla?

‘Chocolate. Thanks.’

Thanks – a small triumph for good manners, Jackson thought. (‘He’ll come good in the end,’ Julia told him. ‘Being a teenager is so difficult, their hormones are in chaos, they’re exhausted a lot of the time. All that growing uses up a lot of energy.’) But what about all those teenagers in the past who had left school at fourteen (nearly the same age as Nathan!) and gone into factories and steelworks and down coal mines? (Jackson’s own father and his father before him, for example.) Or Jackson himself, in the Army at sixteen, a youth broken into pieces by authority and put back together again by it as a man. Were those teenagers, himself included, allowed the indulgence of chaotic hormones? No, they were not. They went to work alongside men and behaved themselves, they brought their pay packets home to their mothers (or fathers) at the end of the week and— (‘Oh, do shut up, will you?’ Julia said wearily. ‘That life’s gone and it isn’t coming back.’)

‘Where’s Gary?’ Jackson asked, scanning the banks of seats. ‘Gary?’

‘The Gary you’re supposed to be keeping an eye on.’

Without looking up from his phone, Nathan nodded in the direction of the dragon boats where Gary and Kirsty were queuing for tickets.

And the battle is over and the Union Jack is being hoisted. Let’s have a cheer for the good old Union flag!

Jackson cheered along with the rest of the audience. He gave Nathan a friendly nudge and said, ‘Come on, cheer the good old Union flag.’

‘Hurrah,’ Nathan said laconically. Oh, irony, thy name is Nathan Land, Jackson thought. His son had his mother’s surname, it was  a source of some contention between Julia and Jackson. To put it mildly. ‘Nathan Land’ to Jackson’s ears sounded like the name of an eighteenth-century Jewish financier, the progenitor of a European banking dynasty. ‘Nat Brodie’, on the other hand, sounded like a robust adventurer, someone striking west, following the frontier in search of gold or cattle, loose-moraled women following in his wake. (‘When did you get so fanciful?’ Julia asked. Probably when I met you, Jackson thought.)

‘Can we go now?’ Nathan said, yawning excessively and unselfconsciously.

‘In a minute, when I’ve finished this,’ Jackson said, indicating his ice-cream. Nothing, in Jackson’s opinion, made a grown man look more of a twit than walking around licking an ice-cream cone.

The combatants of the Battle of the River Plate began their lap of honour. The men inside had removed the top part of the boats – like conning towers – and were waving at the crowd.

‘See?’ Jackson said to Nathan. ‘Told you so.’

Nathan rolled his eyes. ‘So you did. Now can we go?’ ‘Yeah, well, let’s just check on our Gary.’

Nathan moaned as if he was about to be waterboarded. ‘Suck it up,’ Jackson said cheerfully.

Now that the smallest manned navy in the world was sailing off to its moorings, the park’s dragon boats were coming back out – pedalos in bright primary colours with long necks and big dragon heads, like cartoon versions of Viking longboats. Gary and Kirsty had already mounted their own fiery steed, Gary pedalling heroically out into the middle of the boating lake. Jackson took a couple of photos. When he checked his phone he was pleasantly surprised to find that Nathan had taken a burst – the modern equivalent of the flicker-books of his own childhood – while Jackson was off buying the ice-creams. Gary and Kirsty kissing, puckered up like a pair of puffer fish. ‘Good lad,’ Jackson said to Nathan.

‘Now can we go?’ ‘Yes, we can.’


 To know what happens next, get a copy of the book, here!

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