Nathaniel Cannon and the Secret of the Dutchman’s Cross No. 11

They walked half an hour more to reach the Rosetta Gate, passing four redoubts on the heights outside the city, all flying the Union Jack. The slender barrels of anti-aircraft guns poked above the fortifications. Ominous, Cannon thought. The British had toughened up the defenses since his last visit—not surprising, he conceded, given the circumstances surrounding it.

Although the Rosetta Gate stood open, soldiers and machine gun teams stood at the ready in sandbag-circled slit trenches nearby. On the road, guards stopped automobiles and foot traffic alike to check identification papers. Cannon made a show of cowering in Joe’s shadow, the very picture of the oft-abused indentured man. The feel of the thing was important. If the guards made them, it wouldn’t be because of their papers; a five-year-old could do a convincing Ottoman passport.

“Your papers, please,” said a British soldier, as they came to the head of the line. Joe handed him the pair of passports, and he looked them over. “You don’t have entry papers here, Mr. Mustafa.”

“What do you mean?” Joe said, drawing his brows together.

“Entry papers, sir. It’s the new rules, since last week. To get inside the walls, you need entry papers from a British consul.”

Joe shook his head, then turned savagely on his heel to pace back and forth in front of the tommy. “I have never heard something so absurd!” he said. “Where is the British consul?”

The soldier shifted his weight from foot to foot. “Inside the walls.”

“Absurd!” Joe repeated, throwing his hands up. “My servant drove my automobile to overheating, and could not restart it. I must enter the city to retrieve my other car, and, perhaps, a better driver.” Cannon took a step back when Joe’s glare settled on him.

Brow furrowed, the soldier spoke hesitantly. “Rules are rules,” he said, “and—”

“What is your name, soldier? No doubt your ambassador will be most interested in that detail when next I deliver to him my fine fabrics.”

Behind them, someone shouted in Arabic, and the soldier leaned to look at the rapidly-growing line. He waffled a moment more, then finally decided, “Alright. Go on through, but if you get stopped inside and you don’t have papers, it’s not my fault.”

Joe bowed showily. “You are more reasonable than your rules, friend. Thank you.”

“Get on, then, before I change my mind.”

They went through the gate. “Laying it on a bit thick, don’t you think?” Cannon mumbled.

“Silence!” Joe replied.

Bowing his head so that no passerby could see his face, Cannon rolled his eyes.

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