Nathaniel Cannon and the Panamanian Idol No. 19

Wailani jolted upright as though he’d grabbed a live wire. “I did not. You have a copy?”

Cannon nodded.

“Where did you find such a thing?”

“Ye dinnae get very far in our line of work if ye dinnae ha’ connections, and ye dinnae get much beyond tha’ if you blab tae anyone who they are,” Iseabail said. A moment later, she added, “No offense, of course.”

Wailani smiled. “None taken.”

“A state of affairs with which you are no doubt familiar,” Cannon continued. “I have not one copy, but two: one for your collection, and one for your country’s royal library. With your name attached to the donation, of course. And only if you’re sure we’ll see an invitation.”

Wailani sat back, deep in thought. Eventually, he said, “You do really want to meet Mr. Volkov, don’t you?” He tapped the table. “I think this deal is to my liking. Where are your books?”

Cannon cleared his throat. “Australia, I’m afraid.” Wailani raised his eyebrows. “This, I’m afraid, is the part of the negotiation where I must beg you to accept my word as a gentleman that I am in good faith.”

Again, Wailani was silent. He turned a penetrating stare upon Cannon, and the pirate had the uncomfortable feeling that Wailani saw right through his mask.

“No,” Wailani said at length. Cannon opened his mouth, but Wailani held up a hand. “No, not your word as a gentleman. Mr. Smith, I perceive that there is more to you than most see. I will therefore accept your word as a man of action.” He looked thoughtfully into the distance behind Cannon’s ear. “Provided you also grant me a favor.”

“My word as a man of action, then,” Cannon agreed. “What is the favor?”

“I don’t know yet. I may keep hold of it for now.”

“Mr. Wailani, I cannot abide being put in debt.”

Wailani smiled. “This, I’m afraid, is the part of the negotiation where you have no choice.”

Cannon thought about it. They could always just break into Volkov’s room right before Inconstant was due to show up, take the idol, and run for it. Then again, there was too much that could go wrong, going in blind on a tight schedule. Iseabail seemed to agree, if the mounting kicks to the shin were any indicator. Cannon supposed that settled it. “Very well, then.”

“It appears, Mr. Smith, we have a deal. Please wait here. I will fetch the item.”

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