Nathaniel Cannon and the Secret of the Dutchman’s Cross No. 10

They’d worked out a few more details, then, and the abbot had given Cannon a meeting place, the Church of the Holy Virgin in central Alexandria. The British had been the dominant influence in Egypt for decades, but in the years since the end of the war, the Ottoman Empire had been making inroads again, and it was not out of the ordinary any longer to see a Turk on the streets of that ancient city. Cannon, his face too well-known to the British authorities, could evade scrutiny disguised as a slave, and between his acquaintance with Turkish and his dashing appearance in a fez, Joe could pass as Cannon’s master.

“You know, boss,” Joe said, “in a year or two we’re gonna say, ‘Remember that time in Alexandria?”

“Not ‘boss’ anymore, efendim,” Cannon said, looking out the windscreen. “You’re Yusuf Mustafa now. Get into character—we’ll be on the ground in twenty minutes.”

“You dare speak to me in such a way?” Joe thundered, drawing his eyebrows together and glaring.

“That’s the spirit, efendim,” Cannon said. “Straighten your fez.”

Cannon kept an eye out for other planes, but Alexandria’s skies were nearly empty that morning, and the Albatross, a freshly-painted Ottoman crescent adorning the tail, winged toward the airfield alone. It crossed the shoreline, and below the left wing, Cannon saw the city laid out before them.

Although Alexandria had two good harbors, it did not shelter at the inland end of a bay, or sit far along an inlet—the coastline ran nearly east-to-west. A great T-shaped spit of land, however, jutted from the otherwise-featureless coast, linking what might have once been a barrier island to the mainland. The bar of the ‘T’ stretched to the east to nearly meet the far side of a divot in the coast; the resulting bay was the New Harbor. To the west, the bar petered out to nothing, a breakwater fixed to its end and running for more than a mile further west, where it and the gentle undulation of the coastline framed the channel into the Old Harbor.

The city proper squeezed into a very small area. Walls surrounded the central district on the landward side, the sea defending the rest of the perimeter. Inside the walls, the ‘T’ and the land around its base were packed with buildings several stories tall, separated by narrow, crowded streets. Outside the Rosetta Gate, at the eastern end of the city, fences and gravestones defined cemeteries, and smaller villages straddled the road. Two miles past the wall was the airfield. With no other planes in sight and no paved runways to speak of, Cannon simply turned into the wind and set the Albatross down.

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