Nathaniel Cannon and the Panamanian Idol No. 30

Cannon passed a few hours in the lounge, paging through an English-language volume of Chekhov’s greatest hits. Despite the Soviet translators’ best efforts to cloud matters, Cannon could see the author’s skill. He made a note to find an edition translated by someone who spoke English as a first language.

Just before lunch, he returned to his stateroom, to find Iseabail relaxing on the sofa, just finishing the last typewritten page of his pre-Columbians Panama dossier. She passed his quiz with flying colors, and even called him on a trick question or two about Cortes. He had expected no less from the sharpest member of the Long Nines, provided she had the motivation to learn. As usual, all it took was a little prod to get her competitive side into gear.

“… an’ Cortes never came tha’ far south, an’ Balboa came tae Panama first anyway. Wasnae ’til the eighteen hundreds wha’ anyone who wasnae from Panama saw the ruins.”

“Good. One more: before the discovery of stone ruins, what was the only known indigenous dwelling?”

“Wee huts, palm leaves over branch frames.”

Cannon nodded. “Right again. You’re close enough to an expert to fool me.”

“I’m nae tryin’ tae fool you.”

“It’s more than enough for dinner conversation.”

Iseabail looked distinctly nervous. “If’n ye say so, cap’n.”

“Look, Isea,” Cannon said, “you’ve done great so far. I didn’t pick you for this job just because of your accent, or just because you can make it look like you belong with the rich zeppelin set. I brought you along because you’re sharp as a tack and you can think on your feet. When it comes to history, do you think I know what I’m talking about?”


“Am I a liar?”

Iseabail shifted on the sofa. “Nobody’s sayin’ tha’.”

Cannon nodded. “So when I tell you that you could fool me, it means you’re ready. Are you ready?”

“Aye, cap’n.” Iseabail sat straighter and looked brighter.

“Good. Now, remember. We need to get into Volkov’s cabin so we can knock him out and toss the place. It’s a whole lot easier if we’re invited. If you see some chance to get us in the door—both of us, or either of us—take it.”


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