Nathaniel Cannon and the Secret of the Dutchman’s Cross No. 68

Emma waved for the others to haul on the rope one more time, and then yanked Cannon in through the cargo door. “All aboard,” she said into her headset mic. “Good to have you back, skipper,” she added, sparing only the briefest moment before hurrying back to the crawlway.

With his hands together, Cannon lifted his elbows. Before they came level with his shoulders, he winced.

“Y’alrigh’, cap’n?” said Iseabail.

“I’ll live,” he said. The engine note rose as Lecocq throttled up, banked right, and began to climb. “Give me a hand over to the cockpit.”

Masaracchia waved Iseabail back into her seat. “Allow me.” He bent at the waist. Cannon put his arm around Masaracchia’s shoulder and hobbled to the crawlway, keeping his weight off his left ankle.

“You’re sure ye dinna need tha’ look at?” Iseabail frowned.

Cannon shook his head, grimaced, and knelt to crawl through to the other fuselage. On the far side, he got to his feet and hopped to the copilot’s seat. He sat—a barely-controlled fall—and pulled on the headset hanging on the side of the chair. “That was a niece piece of flying back there.”

Lecocq cracked a grin. “But of course, captain.”

The Albatross had turned out over the sea to gain altitude, and now, as the altimeter spun past six thousand feet, it circled back toward Alexandria. Traffic jammed the streets below, where wrecks littered the path Cannon had taken. A few enterprising British soldiers took potshots at the plane with their rifles, and tracers reached up from two machine gun emplacements on the city’s rooftops. All fell well behind the Albatross.

Off to the left—northeast—oily columns of smoke reached into the sky from the airfield. A flash of light drew Cannon’s eye to a fighter. It had just taken a hard enough hit to set it alight. Trailing smoke, it arced toward toward the ground, hitting just outside the city wall and throwing up a cloud of dust as it skidded to a stop.

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