Nathaniel Cannon and the Secret of the Dutchman’s Cross No. 50

They were back on the road twenty minutes later, with Cannon behind the wheel. The road grew worse, and at times, they slowed to walking speed while Burr or di Giacomo scouted ahead with flashlights. As the sun rose, they still hadn’t reached Cairo.

“Beni Suef is ahead,” Masaracchia declared, walking past the cab. “Mind the rut. The paved road starts there.”

Cannon worked the gears, shifting down into first, and the truck crept ahead. The suspension creaked. “How far from there?” he said, sticking his elbow out the window. “I don’t know how much more my clutch leg can take.”

“Seventy miles to Cairo, then a hundred ten to Alexandria. We’ll make about thirty miles per hour if we aren’t delayed.”

“Mid-afternoon,” Cannon mused. “That should be enough time to set up a flight out before night. You have a radio in the city, right?”

“We do.”

Cannon nodded, and Masaracchia joined Burr up ahead. When they reached the beginning of the paved road, Cannon yielded the wheel to Masaracchia, and he and his crew returned to the back of the truck. Oppressive though it was beneath the canvas cover and the desert sun, the shuffle proved wise. Ten minutes past Beni Suef, a truck carrying British soldiers rattled past in the opposite direction.

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