Nathaniel Cannon and the Secret of the Dutchman’s Cross No. 7

Boards, shingles, and canvas, awkwardly secured to the stone, covered the wounds where the other three had fallen. The wall, jagged though it was, still looked solid enough, and the monks peering curiously down at Cannon and his men suggested the wall-top remained intact enough to stroll upon.

Cannon stepped up to the gate. It looked newer, to his eyes, timber that was neither rotted nor green wrapped by iron bands free of rust. A heavy knocker had been fitted to it. Cannon hefted it back and let it fall against the gate, yielding a thud that echoed down the valley.

“Captain Cannon,” Choufeng said. Cannon raised his eyebrows, and Choufeng endeavored to point out a few things by gesture and expression. The monks atop the wall, walking in pairs at regular intervals. Choufeng tilted his head. Coincidence, or patrols? He looked up at the walls and gate, and leveled a meaningful look at Cannon. They looked ill-kept, but they were solid enough walk on, and the gate could easily stop a bullet. “Be wary,” he said.

Cannon took a thoughtful look around. He was armed, of course, his trusty Mauser Broomhandle pistol hanging at his hip, and both of the others carried their preferred pieces. If these monks were more than they seemed, they might stand a chance of getting out alive, especially if they could put a flare up for those aboard Inconstant to see, but Cannon doubted things would go that far south. The clattering of chains and pulleys broke his train of thought, and the gate creaked open.

One monk waited for them. Cannon guessed his age at fifty or sixty, old enough for crow’s feet and smile lines, but not fully gray-haired. He spoke. “I am the abate here, of the Order of St. Giles, Aldo Lasalvatore. You are Captain Cannon, yes?”

“Guilty as charged,” Cannon replied. “This is my surgeon, Chuang Choufeng, and one of my mechanics, Pietro di Giacomo.”

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