Nathaniel Cannon and the Secret of the Dutchman’s Cross No. 71

Cannon nodded to himself. He took pride in an efficient, well-drilled crew, and although this one, like all pirate crews, worked with a certain devil-may-care attitude, it fit the bill. As he made his way carefully down the ladder, they cheered. Word would have gotten out about the payday. Even subtracting the many expenses they’d incurred—one wrecked truck, airplane repairs, a great deal of fuel—each of the hands would see a good deal of loot. Cannon waved them back to work and joined the others from the Albatross just as aero engines began coughing to life and rumbling at idle. Over the din, Cannon shouted, “Emma, Pietro, Marcel—head to the briefing room. Isea, lock down the laboratory and get to your battle station. Mr. Masaracchia, you’re welcome to join me on the bridge.”

As Cannon’s crew dashed off to their appointed tasks, Masaracchia replied, “Lead the way.”

Going forward out of the hangar, they passed the last few pilots on the way to the briefing. Further forward on the ventral catwalk, gun crews climbed the ladders to the broadside flak pieces. A hundred feet overhead, beam-to-beam walkways suspended between the gas cells connected the port and starboard batteries.

A hundred feet before the ventral catwalk reached the forward crew spaces, Cannon lifted a hatch in the floor grating. He climbed down the ladder beneath it to the map room and limped to the map table. “Mr. Churchill, what do we have?”

As Masaracchia joined Cannon, the short, stout man at the map table turned. “Welcome back, captain.”

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