Nathaniel Cannon and the Panamanian Idol No. 26

Cannon woke a few hours later to the sound of the shower running and the distinct feel of a damp chill to the air. The door to the washroom was open. He stood next to it, looking away, and coughed meaningfully.

“Och, I’m decent,” Iseabail said.

“Good morning,” Cannon said, turning around to face her. “How—” The tureen, lid on, sat in the bottom of the shower stall, drenched by the cold water spewing from the head. Iseabail, her usual untamed curls matted against her head, stood by with a two-foot stick. To Cannon’s eye, she had a bit of the drowned rat’s aspect to her.

His face must have said it all. Iseabail immediately launched into an explanation. “Well, y’see, yon reaction is exothermic, aye? If I dinnae keep yon mix cool, th’ chloroform aye boils off before it’s done.”

“That would be bad.”

“I wasna finished. It also makes phosgene.”

Cannon blinked. “The gas?”


“That would be worse.”

Iseabail nodded. “I dinnae have an ice bath, or a bath at all, so.” She waved at the shower. “Improvisin’.”

“Why are you all wet?”

“It’ll nae work if I dinnae stir.”

Cannon looked doubtful, but he was no chemist, and Iseabail was usually a pretty poor liar. “Well, is it done?”

“Five minutes.”

“Good. We don’t want to miss breakfast. I hope to see the captain there.”


Cannon retreated to the cabin to dress for the day. After a few minutes, the water shut off. With his tie draped around his neck, he investigated.

Iseabail hauled the tureen out of the shower and removed the lid. Cannon leaned in to look. Iseabail smacked him on the arm. “Ye tryin’ ta knock yerself ou’?”

Cannon held up his hands in apology, and looked into the tureen over Iseabail’s shoulder. In the bottom of the tureen was what looked like a small bubble. “Is that it?”

“Aye, tha’s it. We need tae ge’ rid of the water left over.” Iseabail took the tureen in hand and carefully poured the byproducts down the shower drain. At the same time, she added, “If this were me lab, I’d want tae distill it. It’ll nae be very pure.”

“Will it knock Volkov out?”

Iseabail nodded. “Aye, or kill him. If it’s nae pure enough, it’s poison.”

Cannon weighed this. “He’s a big fellow. He’ll live.”

Pointedly keeping her thoughts to herself, Iseabail set the tureen down, then took the bottle the acetone had come in. Carefully filling it, avoiding the little bubble of chloroform, she filled the bottle with water and dumped it. Another four bottlefuls left her with chloroform and a bit of water, which she carefully poured from the tureen into the bottle. Finally, she screwed on its cap and held it up. The liquid inside was slightly cloudy. She shook it back and forth. “Done.”

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