Nathaniel Cannon and the Panamanian Idol No. 40

There were four place settings, done in fine white china with blue patterns. A merry bubbling sound came from the samovar standing at the center of the table; a teapot waited next to it.

Kopeikin was already seated, reading a newspaper. He pointed Cannon and Iseabail to the other side of the table. “Good evening.”

“Good evening, Mr. Kopeikin,” Cannon said. He pulled out a chair for Iseabail.

“Anythin’ happenin’ in yon wide world?” she asked, sitting down.

As Cannon took the chair next to her, Kopeikin shrugged. “It still turns,” he said. “Do you know Harlan Calhoun?”

All too well, in fact. Calhoun was a competitor of sorts, another member of the brotherhood of sky pirates. Cannon had never crossed paths with him personally, but their crews had tangled now and then in ports across Southeast Asia. Dr. Smith, on the other hand, barely knew Calhoun from Adam. “The pirate?” he said.

“The very one.” Kopeikin shuffled the paper, and after some moments it was folded a different way. Cannon had never mastered that particular kind of sorcery. Kopeikin read aloud, “Famed Sky Pirate Robs Aerial Casino. Hanoi, French Indochina. Harlan Calhoun, scourge of French and German commerce in the East Indies, made off with hundreds of thousands of rubles in gems, specie, and banknotes after a daring hoist aboard the casino zeppelin Empress Eugenie…”

“Good heavens,” Cannon said. “I must say, I’m glad to be halfway around the world.”

“Aye,” said Iseabail. “I’ve no’ met a pirate face to face yet, and I dinnae want tae.”

Cannon saw the start of a smile playing across her face. It wouldn’t do to ruin the charade by laughing, so he pinched her leg. She shot him a black look.

Kopeikin regarded them quizzically over the rim of his newspaper, then set it aside as the door opened and Volkov returned with a bottle of wine. He dipped his head so as not to knock it against the frame and closed the door behind him.

“Is not my home,” Volkov said, “but I am glad to welcome you in anyway.” He took a corkscrew from the table and worked at the wine bottle. “Vodka later, da? Perhaps after dinner we will go to sitting room, and we will see if you are as good at cards as Comrade Wailani says.”

“He told ye that, did he?” Iseabail said. “Well, I hope we dinnae disappoint.”

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