Nathaniel Cannon and the Panamanian Idol No. 57

Le Syndicat was technically a bar, though Cannon was loathe to assign it even the tiny amount of dignity befitting that word. It was a dimly-lit dump, done no favors by the choice to furnish in dark wood. Half of the fans on the ceiling turned slowly and with great effort. The rest didn’t turn at all. The air, thick with the scents of cigarette smoke and cheap liquor, gamely resisted their feeble efforts.

Cannon spotted his mark in the back, at a table tucked into the corner. Philippe Lachapelle, newspaperman and adventurer, wore a gray suit, a trilby pulled low over his eyes, and a pencil moustache. He seemed to have a fondness for establishments such as this one. He spotted Cannon and Choufeng and waved them over, laying his cigarette against the ashtray.

“Nice digs,” Cannon said.

“Captain Cannon, you wound me,” Lachapelle said. “Monsieur Chuang, it ‘as been too long. I must say sank you in person—zere is no limp at all.”

Choufeng dipped his head incrementally.

“Why not ‘ave a seat? Somesing to drink?”

“I’m not here for small talk,” Cannon replied.

Lachapelle sighed. “Oui, I ‘ad sought you might be in a rush. Do you ‘ave ze item?”


The surgeon placed the parcel delicately upon the table. Glancing from side to side, Lachapelle undid the top of the paper wrapping, enough to see the idol’s face. “Bon,” he said. “Ze buyair will be most pleased.”

Choufeng took the parcel back.

“Let’s see the scratch before he gets too excited,” Cannon suggested.

“I ‘ad sought you might be in a mood, as well,” Lachapelle said pointedly, producing a briefcase. He opened it and turned it to face Cannon. “Bearer notes, to be redeemed for gold in ze agreed amount at la Banque de Hanoi.”

“Genuine?” Cannon asked.

Lachapelle looked affronted. “I am not stupid enough to break a deal.”

Cannon raised his eyebrows.

“Another deal,” Lachapelle corrected. “Mon capitan, we ‘ave ‘ad our differences, but are we not, as you say, square?”

Cannon laughed bitterly. “You’ve got nerve to spare, and a long way to go before we close the book on Panama.”

Silence prevailed for a few moments. Lachapelle ventured, “Zen it would not be appropriate to discuss a job?”

“It would not.” Cannon snapped the briefcase closed. “My crew will want to spend this first. You’d better have something good before we hear from you again.”

“Zen I will be seeing you.”

Cannon took the briefcase and turned for the door. “Don’t count on it.”

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