Nathaniel Cannon and the Lost City of Pitu No. 19

Cecil Snavely, Lord Crosswhite, stood with his back to the entrance, wearing the same white suit and had Cannon had seen him in the day before. “Ah, Mr. Cannon,” he said, turning. In gloved hands, he held a wavy-bladed dagger almost reverentially. His voice was a nasally tenor, but forceful nevertheless, his accent unmistakeably of the English gentry. “Of all the temples to Vishnou in all the ruined cities in the world,” he mused. “Quite unlikely, I should say. No matter, though; here you are, and I am once more on the cusp of triumph at your expense.”

Cannon took a step forward, drawing a shout from the hitherto-unseen Nazi goons in the shadows to his sides: “Bewegen sie nicht!”

“Means ‘don’t move,’ boss,” Joe said.

“I figured as much,” Cannon replied. “What’s your game, Snavely? I thought His Britannic Majesty didn’t care for the new Reich.”

Snavely smiled thinly. “You would do well to remember that I am Lord Crosswhite to those below my station,” he said. “As to your question, I am only a man of principle insofar as the accumulation of wealth and glory is a principle. The Reichsführer pays me exceedingly well to indulge his fascination with the mystical. For instance, did you know that van der Hoek writes of this very keris? It is said to bear the blessing of Vishnou himself, able to turn an army of the most timorous conscripts into implacable engines of destruction such as this world has never seen.” He regarded the blade with open delight. “Van der Hoek has such a way with words, doesn’t he?”

“What happens next?” Cannon asked, stealing a look at the Nazis, one to each side, out of the corner of his eye. Both carried boxy machine pistols.

“Ordinarily, I would have you shot, but it strikes me that we each have something the other wants,” Snavely said, resting a hand on the butt of his revolver. “You see, my zeppelin is not permitted in Dutch airspace, and in its present state, it will shortly be noticed by the Dutch. They will run it down, and I have no desire to be aboard at that time. You, on the other hand, have all manner of aircraft aboard your Inconstant, and an aversion to seeing your men die needlessly. You will note that your friends have not drawn their weapons; if they do, my guards will shoot them. Leave me an airplane, and in addition to sparing your friends, I will spare your zeppelin the wrath of the anti-air battery I quite cleverly ordered hidden nearby.”

Cannon stared. “That’s a pretty poor bluff, Snavely.”

Snavely smiled a shark-like smile. “Shall we wait, then, and see who holds—”

It was as though the ground had dropped away, then reached up to smack them back into the air. “Get them!” Cannon shouted, and Joe and Burr found their feet and leaped at the Nazis. Cannon saw Snavely scrabble to his feet and run for the exit, raised his pistol, and fired twice as Snavely dove away just outside the arched doorway. Cannon stood, ready to go after him, but Burr was getting the short end of it. The Nazi forced the muzzle of his gun toward Burr’s face, and then Cannon clubbed him with the butt of his Mauzer. Joe hit his Nazi with a haymaker to the face, a blow that staggered the man back against the rough stone wall. He collapsed in a heap. Cannon ran out through the doorway, looking from side to side. Joe and Burr were a moment behind him, each now carrying a machine pistol.

“We lost him,” Cannon said, acid in his voice.

Joe stood facing the other way, toward Mount Soendoro’s peak. His mouth hung open. “Boss,” he said after a moment, “we got bigger problems.”

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