Nathaniel Cannon and the Panamanian Idol No. 12

Bleary-eyed, Cannon reached for his pocket watch. He sat bolt upright on seeing that it read nine o’clock. Then he remembered, spinning the dial on its side until it read seven, then winding it for the day.

Iseabail still slept soundly on the couch. Cannon pulled a beige suit from the bag hanging in the closet and tiptoed into the washroom to dress. A few minutes later, he emerged, nudging Iseabail’s shoulder as he made for the door. “Get up. We have a lot to do today. Meet me in the lounge when you’re ready.”


It took her the better part of an hour, by which time the stewards had set up the lounge for breakfast. The fare was traditionally Russian: a heavy, buttery porridge the stewards called ‘kasha’, fried eggs, and cheese dumplings, alongside tea with more kick than Cannon’s preferred coffee.

He and Iseabail sat and ate, in no particular hurry. The stewards circled the room, bearing away dishes. They came and went by a small door far aft, just ahead of the red banner hanging from the wall.

“What I could really use is a map,” Cannon said, glancing at the nearby tables. No other passengers sat nearby, so, for the moment, he could drop the accent. He chose not to.

“There’s a library midships,” Iseabail suggested. “Ye can maybe find a deck plan there.”

“Maybe.” Cannon put his teacup down. “If I’m to be taking a jaunt through the crew spaces, I’d rather know where I’m going.”

Iseabail nodded. “D’ye know, you’re soundin’ more like an Englishman by the hour.”

Cannon smiled a thin-lipped smile.

Iseabail made a noise of disgust. “I hope ye can turn i’ off when we’re done. Wha’ am I to do?”

“Keep watch on the crew. Find out what you can about the captain, and how we might come by an invitation to his table,” Cannon replied.

“How am I supposed ta do tha’?”

“You’re a bright girl,” said Cannon, taking his hat and rising. “You’ll figure it out, I’m sure.” Iseabail rolled her eyes, and Cannon settled his hat in place. “I’ll meet you here when I’ve finished.”

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