Nathaniel Cannon and the Lost City of Pitu, No. 9

“What?” Emma said, following Cannon’s eyes over to the bar. “Blimey.”

“Zat name sounds familiar,” Lachapelle said. “Why?”

“Lord Crosswhite, from Panama,” Cannon explained. “We’ve crossed paths since.”

Lachapelle frowned. “‘is name is Snavely?”

Cannon pushed his chair back. “You’ll have time to laugh later. It’s time for us to—”

Someone cleared his throat behind Cannon. As one, Cannon, Emma, and Lachapelle turned to see five men: three Dutchmen, tall, middling, and short, and two Javanese, one wearing an eyepatch. The tall Dutchman smiled malevolently. “Lord Crosswhite sends his regards,” he said, and with a languid twitch of his arms, he flipped the table. Cannon and Emma scrambled away as it half-turned in midair and knocked Lachapelle from his chair. The Frenchman hit the ground, groaned, and was still.

The five toughs moved between Emma and Cannon. The average Dutchman and the Javanese with both his eyes advanced on Cannon, while the other three went for Emma. Risking a quick glance around, Cannon saw chairs turning to face the fight and patrons scrambling toward the walls. Already, bets were being laid on the tables.

“Think you can handle two of them, skipper?” Emma called, fists already raised in a tight stance as she bounced from foot to foot.

Cannon took a boxer’s stance, broad-based and bladed, his arms extended before him. “That depends on how good they are,” he said, and at that the Dutchman and Javanese moved in. Cannon aimed a quick jab at the Javanese, then ducked the Dutchman’s cross and answered it with a hook to the body. The Javanese sidestepped behind the Dutchman and circled around to Cannon’s right.

“Don’t—” Emma began. Cannon looked over to see one of the thugs in front of her fold around a kick to the gut. “Don’t get surrounded, skipper,” she finished.

Cannon sidestepped, nearly tripping over an empty chair. Not one to look a gift horse in the mouth, he kicked the chair at his assailants. “Do you have any less obvious advice?” he shot back.

Emma was too busy to answer. The difference between Cannon’s style and hers was night and day: he stood with his feet planted, dealing in punches, but she practically danced, darting into range to snap off lightning-fast kicks before slipping away from retaliation, and she was very good at it.

The tall Dutchman faced her down, not perceptibly slowed by the blow he’d taken to the stomach, while the short one and Eyepatch inched around to her left and right. They’d move in and grab her if she let them, so she dove between the two Dutchmen and rolled under the table just beyond them. Coming up on the far side, she grabbed a bottle from the table and, in one fluid motion, heaved it at Eyepatch.

She saw she’d missed his head and swore. Instead, the bottle turned lazily over in flight and hit Eyepatch in the center of the chest, then fell to the floor and shattered at his feet. Eyepatch gasped, clutching at his chest, but Emma was moving again as the tall Dutchman threw aside the table between them, throwing sparkling tumblers through the air, and launched a cross at her head. She ducked, and the punch went sailing past. She jabbed at his kidney, then stuck a foot out to send him flying. On instinct, she spun, and felt the wind of the short Dutchman’s punch as it went by. She saw him overbalance, grabbed his arm, and used his momentum to flip him over. He crashed through a table on the way down, and Emma kicked him hard in the ribs before spinning gracefully away from Eyepatch’s grab.

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