Nathaniel Cannon and the Secret of the Dutchman’s Cross No. 9

“This is not a strict truth,” the abbot admitted. “He gained the cross from Ethiopia in 1915, and was returning to us when he fell out of contact. Friends of the Church have scoured the Sudan and Egypt for signs of his passing ever since. At last, we have found something, evidence of a detour irresistible to an Egyptologist of van der Hoek’s dedication, and perhaps a witness to his final days.”

“And you want me to nose around, find the cross, and bring it back.”

“Yes, captain, that is so.”

Cannon scratched at his chin. “We had a run-in with the British on the way here. They’ll be on the lookout for us. Where in Egypt are we headed?”

Lasalvatore hesitated. “The situation is complex,” he said, eventually. “I cannot yet reveal the place exactly. Your eventual destination will be in Upper Egypt, but you will also need to stop in Alexandria to meet Brother Masaracchia.”

Di Giacomo blinked. “What is my cousin doing in Egpyt?”

“He has been there since we learned of van der Hoek’s last whereabouts, coordinating our search for the cross.”

“Getting into Alexandria won’t be easy,” Cannon said. “How are you planning to pay us back for the trouble?”

Calmly, the abbot said, “Three thousand seven hundred ounces of gold.”

Cannon paused. The monks hadn’t been lying when they said they could make it worth his while. He suspected they had left some wiggle room, too. “Seventy-five large will barely even cover gasoline,” he said. “Seven thousand ounces.”

“Your engines use blaugas, captain, and I know more than you might think about the cost of a zeppelin,” the monk rejoined gently. Cannon held his gaze for a moment. His smile seemed genuine enough. “Four thousand three hundred ounces.”

“Forty-five hundred,” Cannon said, after a long moment had passed. “And we can take any artifacts of historic value for sale to the Lourve.”

“I cannot condone that, but except in the case of items of significance to the Church, I will not stop you,” Lasalvatore said. “Your price is acceptable.”

“Then it sounds to me, abate, like we have a deal.”

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