Nathaniel Cannon and the Secret of the Dutchman’s Cross No. 28

A grisly tableau met them. On the left side of the passage, two dessicated corpses sat propped against the wall. Scavenging insects had done their work some time ago, leaving the bodies eyeless. Dozens of small lengths of reed littered the floor around them.

Iseabail ignored the corpses—she may have been a newcomer to adventuring, but squeamish she was not—and aimed her flashlight further up the hall. “There’s a tripline a foot past yon second poor laddie,” she said. Turning her light on the walls to the right, she added, “An’ the darts came from yon holes in the wall.”

Cannon squatted a yard away from the nearer corpse. It wore an empty holster, and its shirt had a name tag—van Ruytjens. “van der Hoek’s men,” he said.

Iseabail wrapped her hand in a rag, then knelt a foot past Cannon. Gingerly, she took one of the reed darts. “Poison.” She turned it over. “It wouldna be enough tae kill a man otherwise.”

Burr, standing with the Thompson half-raised, had a look up the hallway. “Has it been reset?”

“The trap? I cannae say, but yon door was closed, remember.”

Cannon stood. “But who reset it? Cultists?”

“Unless they’re still here,” said Masaracchia, crossing his arms, “does it matter?”

“No.” One hand on the butt of his pistol, Cannon took slow steps forward. “I don’t have to repeat it, but be careful. di Giacomo, mark that wire.”

The Italian pirate put his pack down and took two squat candles from a side pocket. While the others waited, he lit the candles and slid them beneath the wire, lining them up with it. He stood, and together, they continued further in.

The hall took a square turn to the right to run directly into the hill again. Just pas the turn, the ceiling had seen a small cave-in—debris in a waste-high pile covered the floor. Cannon stopped in front of it and pointed his flashlight up at the gap in the ceiling. Thanks to Panama, he knew enough about collapsing tunnels to know the signs. Here, he saw none of the telltales. “You’re not a geologist or a miner, too, are you, brother monk?” Masaracchia shook his head, and Cannon shrugged. “Worth a shot. We’ll chance it.” He clambered over the rubble, then turned around when he reached the other side. “Seems okay.”

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