Nathaniel Cannon and the Panamanian Idol No. 34

The stewards whisked the soup dishes away and replaced them with plates. The main course seemed to be a straightforward chicken cutlet.

Cannon let his sit for a moment. “Mr. Wailani, did you hear Schmeling’s latest fight?”

Wailani looked up from his plate. “I did! Dr. Smith, I had no idea you were a student of the squared circle.”

Volkov watched the conversation with some interest. Cannon smiled inwardly. “Nothing so dramatic as that, I’m afraid,” he said. “Rather a shame the American lost. Old Adolf scarcely needs further reason to shout the primacy of the German race.”

Volkov snorted. “If we had vodka, I would drink to that.”

“No fan of the Nazis, I take it?” said Cannon.

“In days gone by, when I was younger,” Volkov replied, “I could have taken smile off of Schmeling’s face. Monte was bad match.”

“Do tell.”

Before Volkov could answer, Iseabail’s face lit up. She exclaimed, “Danny, there’s butter in yon chicken!”

Cannon blinked. Butter was indeed flowing from Iseabail’s half-eaten cutlet. “Well, I’ll be.”

Wailani laughed. “Soviet cuisine is not to be sneezed at, Mrs. Smith.”

“Yon borscht had aye a lot of pepper,” Iseabail replied. “Maybe sneeze at tha’.”

“Quite,” Cannon said, chuckling. “Begging your pardon, Mr. Volkov. I believe you were about to tell us the secret to defeating the Black Uhlan of the Rhine.”

“Da,” said Volkov. “Schmeling is careful fighter, thoughtful. He waits for mistake, then counterpunches.” Volkov shadowboxed to illustrate: hands held close to his chest, bobbing away from an imagined opponents blow and throwing a quick jab in response. “Is hard to fight straight through. I am quick on feet, and have long arms. Secret is to move, make Schmeling follow, lead with jab to draw response, and counter-punch with cross into counterpunch.”

“Fascinating.” Cannon had never been much of a pugilist himself. In fact, he was well-known for it. Even so, he had been in enough scraps to talk shop. Unfortunately, Dr. Daniel Smith had not. “If I may, Mr. Volkov, I should like to hear more of your exploits, both in the ring and in the field.”

Volkov tapped his finger on the edge of the table. “Are you leaving with Comrade Wailani in Hawaii? Talk of field we can do here. Talk of ring? Comrade Rokossovsky thinks it is too base for his table.”

“We’ll be aboard until Yokohama.”

An unspoken conversation passed between Volkov and Kopeikin. Volkov turned to Wailani. “These are your friends?”

“Good acquaintances, at the very least.”

Volkov looked back to Cannon. “After stop in Hawaii, you must play cards with us. Then we can talk of whatever we want.”

Cannon flashed a genuine smile. “I should like nothing more.”

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