Nathaniel Cannon and the Lost City of Pitu, No. 8

“Oui, but ze mademoiselle seems to ‘ave impugned my good name once again?” Lachapelle let the question dangle for a moment. With reproach more genuine than his tone suggested, he added, “And after ze wondairful times we ‘ad in Panama—”

“We were fighting for our lives, after the snake you sold us out to sold all of us out to the Reds!” Emma snarled.

“Oui,” said Lachapelle, a distant look in his eyes as he smiled. “Cracking Communist ‘eads like an old married couple… fond memories, non?”

Cannon and Emma exchanged a look. “The pictures, Lachapelle,” he said. “You two can hash out your complicated relationship over the stacks of scratch this scheme’ll make us.”

Lachapelle heaved an extravagant sigh and emptied the contents of a manila envelope onto the table. The first picture caught Cannon’s eye immediately, and he slid it over to himself.

It had been taken from a ridge on the flanks of some mountain, looking across the slope into a valley formed by this ridge and another one a mile or two distant. In the valley the omnipresent jungle grew in patches, widely-spaced. There hadn’t been enough light for the camera to pick out details, but dark, nearly conical silhouettes rose above the rose over the stunted trees.

Cannon’s voice, nearly a whisper, filled with wonderment. “Incredible,” he said. Emma glanced down at the photographs and yawned.

Wordlessly, Lachapelle pushed two more pictures across to Cannon. Both were closeups, showing the imposing bulk of one of the buildings. One captured the yawning blackness of the entrance.

“Incredible,” Cannon repeated, absorbing every detail. He looked up sharply. “A Javanese took these?” he asked. “They normally won’t go anywhere near the ruins.”

“‘e studied in Batavia before ‘e went back to ‘is people,” Lachapelle said. “I met ‘im zere.” He tapped the overview photograph. “Zis is se souzairn flank of Mount Soendoro—”

“Looking west, then,” Cannon mused.

“—at two sousand four ‘undred meters.”

Cannon said, “My altimeters read in feet, Lachapelle.”

Lachapelle’s lips moved soundlessly. Eventually, he said, “Seven sousand feet.”

“Eight thousand,” Emma put in smugly.

Lachapelle shrugged. “Once I am aboard, I will mark ze place on your sharts,” he said.

“He’s coming?” Emma said, glaring at Cannon.

“That’s the sort of thing I mention at briefings,” said Cannon, meeting Emma’s glare with a meaningful look. “You’re welcome to come aboard now, Lachapelle, but the crew has two days’ leave, and I’ve got some supplies to buy before we go.”

“Ze papair ‘as provided accommodations ‘ere…” Lachapelle began.

Over Lachapelle’s shoulder, Cannon saw a man at the bar. He wore a white three-piece suit and a bowler, and as Cannon watched he turned around on his stool to reveal a hooked nose centered in a vulpine face. He met Cannon’s gaze, and smiled thinly and without humor.

Lachapelle was still talking. Cannon interrupted. “Cecil Snavely.”

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