Nathaniel Cannon and the Hunt for the Majestic No. 18

The Janissary man smiled, a predator showing his teeth, and pushed his stake toward the middle of the table. It dawned on Lecocq that the man truly thought he was going to win, which made the situation even worse.

“Four eights. Show ’em, Frenchy,” the Janissary man said, turning over his cards.

Lecocq laid his cards down and reached for the pot.

Chairs scraped on the floor as the Janissary men, as one, stood. “You’re a damned cheater!” one of them shouted. Two circled toward Lecocq. One jumped at him across the table.

He ducked. The man flew past, upending the next table over in a shower of coins, bills, and gold. Rough characters stood, punches flew, and in no time flat, the brawl enveloped the whole hall. The Janissary men, now at its center, had no time for Lecocq.

The bartender grabbed a telephone receiver from the wall and slid down behind the bar. Takahashi appeared at Lecocq’s side. “What did you do?”

“It was not my fault,” Lecocq protested. “I—

Takahashi drew his pistol, holding it on the woman and the breaker, who guiltily placed stacks of cash from the pot back on the table.

Lecocq glared. “Mademoiselle Jameson meant to deal Monsieur White a flush and dealt it to me instead,” he said, gathering the pot and stuffing it into his valise.

“You could have folded,” Takahashi pointed out.

Lecocq shook his head. “That is why you are not a gambler. Quick, before the gendarmes turn up.”

Takahashi holstered his pistol, and the two weaved their way through the fight toward a side exit. They had nearly reached it, ducking away from a stray haymaker or two along the way, when a gunshot rang out.

They dove behind the corner of the bar. The brawlers froze in place. A trio of rough-looking men stood in the door.

Standing, the bartender said, “Thank God. The—”

The lead man cut him off. “We’re looking for the Long Nines.”

Suddenly suspicious, the bartender replied, “Who’s asking?”

“Brotherhood business,” the tough replied. “The council needs one of Cannon’s crew.”

“What for?”

“Insurance.” The tough took a step closer. “Cannon owes the council an explanation for something. Now, I’m not asking again.”

Lecocq and Takahashi exchanged a look. They had heard enough.

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