Nathaniel Cannon and the Secret of the Dutchman’s Cross No. 86

A minute passed, and a small procession of monks shuffled out of the gate, which closed behind them. More appeared on the ruined ramparts, watching the surrounding hills and the town below.

The Albatross’ cargo door opened, and a ladder appeared from within. Cannon, Lecocq, Masaracchia, and di Giacomo clambered down.

“Brother Masaracchia, Captain Cannon,” said the first monk in line—Lasalvatore, the abbot, Cannon recognized. “I am glad to see your safe return.”

“More or less safe.” Cannon limped up beside Masaracchia. “Why the welcome party?”

“So that we may finish our exchange in safety.”

Cannon looked between di Giacomo and Lecocq, and the dozen monks he could see. Wryly, he said, “I thought we were better friends than that.”

One of the monks chuckled, and the abbot smiled. “You are not my only iron in the fire. Do you have the cross?” Masaracchia nodded. “What did you find?”

“Cultists,” Cannon said. “They attacked us in the tomb.” A look passed between Lasalvatore and Masaracchia, which Cannon chose to ignore. “Do you have our payment?”

The abbot spoke in Latin, and the castle gates creaked open again. Four monks pushed out two carts between them, each cart carrying four small chests. Cannon nodded, and di Giacomo and Lecocq began to heave the chests up into the Albatross.

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