Nathaniel Cannon and the Secret of the Dutchman’s Cross No. 72

Cannon joined him and surveyed the chart. The wooden marker representing Inconstant sat at the far corner of the table. Churchill said, “There we are, seventy-five miles south of Alexandria, course due west. The British zeppelin is twenty-five miles east, in and out of the clouds. Her radio transmissions say she’s HMS Sparrow.”

“How’d they find us again?”

“I couldn’t say, captain. We’ve been loitering here long enough for any number of people to have spotted us.”

“We outran her before. How is she staying with us?”

Churchill shrugged. “She’s closed five miles in the last twenty minutes. Perhaps she’s loaded light.”

“Looks like we’re in for a fight, either way.” Cannon looked forward to the bridge and aft to the radio room. In both compartments, the crew had unrolled the armored shutters, leaving only narrow vision slits. Through them, Cannon could see slices of sky, deepening in color and dotted with clouds tinted pink by the setting sun. “Helm, climb to ten thousand feet, and set your trim there. May as well have some sky under us. Radio, call down to the briefing room and have Joe ready the Sunday punch.”

“Aye aye.”

As the crew carried out his orders, Cannon tilted his head and thought for a moment. A smile played across his face, and he looked across the map table at one of his pirates. She’d signed on in Darwin last month, and he couldn’t quite put his finger on her name— “It’s Tomlin, right?”

“That’s right. Jane Tomlin.”

“Run to the library,” Cannon said, hobbling to the radioroom to borrow a pen and a pad of paper. “Look this up for me in Jane’s Fighting Airships. It’s out on the reading desk.” Tomlin took the paper and blinked. “On the double!” Cannon added.

Tomlin jumped, said, “Yes, sir,” and hurried up the ladder.

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