A few years ago, Cannon would have gotten hot under the collar at that, on the theory that the defeated captain should have met them in person. Joe had watched Cannon turn into a fiery-tempered dark-hearted cynic after the war, a look which didn’t suit him. Joe finally put his foot down, and the intervening time had done much to smooth the boss’s rough edges.
Now, rather than roll up his sleeves and throw a punch, Cannon just smiled and gestured for the crewmen to lead the way. They exchanged an uneasy glance. That was another unexpected benefit. Anyone could gin up a burning rage, but the calm self-assurance Cannon displayed more often nowadays did more to put fear in the hearts of his fellow pirates.
The crewmen led them into Swiftsure‘s hull through a hatch in the zeppelin’s skin and along an gently arched catwalk running near the ship’s topside skin. Like Inconstant, her crew spaces were at her bow; unlike the Long Nines’ zep, the captain’s cabin was in the same place as the rest of her quarters.
The Devil’s Daggers ushered Cannon and his escort in.
Cannon approached Thorne’s desk. He knew Henry Thorne in passing; they had once met to discuss a temporary alliance. The take would have been good, but Cannon didn’t trust Thorne’s temperament. He was too greedy, and even if greed to excess was a common flaw in pirates, it was still a flaw.
Thorne rose as Cannon approached. Thorne was a dark-haired man, shorter than Cannon by a good few inches. The lines in his face suggested a sneer, but for the moment he had the good grace to look contrite.
“All right, Thorne,” Cannon said, putting his hands on the edge of Thorne’s desk and leaning toward the man. “I’ll give you thirty seconds to explain why you stole from me, and if I like your answer, maybe I won’t send your zep into the drink when I leave.”
Cannon had no real intention of sinking Swiftsure, but Thorne didn’t know that. Thorne jumped, held out his hands pleadingly. “I swear, I didn’t know it was yours.”
Cannon raised an eyebrow. “Until you boarded it and met my prize crew?”
“For all I knew they were lying!” Thorne protested.
“Look, Hank—can I call you Hank?” Cannon didn’t wait for an answer. “That’s not going to fly with me. We both know what happened. You ran across what I rightfully stole, saw the manifest, and got that itching in your fingers. You thought you could take it. You thought you could pull one over on me.”