Nathaniel Cannon and the Secret of Dutchman’s Cross No. 36

Cannon would have been very keen to see Michaelangelo Masaracchia’s response when the lights went out. The ostensible monk jumped, but it was an artifact of surprise more than fear, and once he recovered, he looked heavenward. He’d known something like this was going to happen, and had said as much when the Brother-Captain had proposed this expedition.

“Surely, this Cannon must be different—a gentleman by all accounts, and a man with experience in these matters!” he had said. As much as Masaracchia had protested, he hadn’t expected it to be this bad. An ox, charging carelessly around an ancient locus of the Enemy’s power, who had just unleashed who knew what demonic forces upon himself and his allies—that was the captain.

And so Masaracchia would have to bail them out, to his very great lack of surprise, without a sword or a shield, or indeed any symbol of the faith beyond the golden cross clutched in the hand of a corpse he could no longer see. Typical. At least it was the symbol best relied upon when all else failed. This situation qualified.

A switch clicked a few times, and Isea laughed a nervous Scottish laugh. “I think this woul’ be the time the cap’n would ha’ wanted us tae head for the exit.”

“Can you see in the dark?” said di Giacomo.

“Nae, tha’s one I’ve na yet solved.”

“Capitano!” di Giacomo shouted.

“We’re all right!” came the answering shout. “We can’t get our torch going! Head for the stairs, and we’ll meet you there!”

“Canna get a torch to light,” Iseabail snorted. “It’s nae hard if ye try a match, cap’n!”

“Pipe down and get moving!”

Masaracchia ignored them, crouched, and felt for van der Hoek’s corpse. A little to the left—there it was. Shirt, Masaracchia thought. Thank God for small mercies. His fingers came across a row of buttons, and he went due right from there. He found a skeletal arm beneath a tattered shirt, and pushed his hand into the air beneath it. He encountered something heavy and metallic, swinging freely.

“Who’s tha’ with the chain? Mr. Masaracchia? If ye’d like tae be in the cap’n’s good graces, grab the diary, too.”

Masaracchia gave the cross a sharp tug, and it came free. Bones clattered against the stone floor. “Why?”

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