“Magnifique,” Lachapelle said, leaning forward and setting his cigarette on the edge of the ashtray. “Ze Bureau National des Antiquités ‘as lately taken an interest in expanding ze exhibits of ze Louvre. Zey ‘ave, en fait, offaired an ‘efty bounty to zose intrepid aventuriers ‘oo can provide artifacts for le musée.
“I only ‘aird of zis per’aps two weeks ago, from ze collectair ‘oo purchased ze idol you recovered from ze Bolshevists, and it was pure chance zat I ‘aird from one of my Javanese contacts before I left ‘anoi. ‘e ‘ad ze photographs most extraordinary—photographs ‘e claimed were of ze fabled lost city of Pitu.”
“Pitu?” Cannon asked, his interest piqued. “Capital of the Medang Kingdom?”
“Precisely ze one. Ze photographs appear genuine. I propose zat we take your zeppelin to Java and see if zese claims are correct. If zey are, ze payout could be ‘undreds of sousands of francs, per’aps even millions.”
Cannon found himself with his elbow on the table and his hand propping up his chin. “Millions of francs,” he mused. “That’s some heavy sugar.”
Lachapelle regarded him quizzically. “If zat means what I sink it does,” he said, taking his cigarette in hand, “oui.”
“The Dutch won’t like it.”
“Zey do not ‘ave to know.”
“Alright,” said Cannon. Lachapelle began to speak, but Cannon cut in. “Hold on, I’m not agreeing to this. On the level, Lachapelle—what’s your angle?”
“Sink about it,” Lachapelle said, spreading his hands apart, his tone grandiose. “Ze tale of finding a legendary city lost to ze mists of time, in ze company of famed and mysterious sky pirate Nasaniel Cannon? C’est sensationnel! And it will be undair my byline.” He coughed. “Zere would also be ze mattair of a small finder’s fee of per’aps twenty percent…”
Cannon mulled it over, careful to keep his poker face on. Despite the disaster in Panama back in ’27, Lachapelle was generally reliable enough, and the swell idea of finding the lost city of Pitu was worming its way into his mind. The Pacific was too hot for an honest pirate like Cannon owing to increased French and Soviet air naval patrols, which were admittedly in response to his last raid. Either way, he wouldn’t be pirating for a few months until things cooled off again. The crew expected some down time in the Australian states, but they were pirates, too, and the promise of a payoff would sway them.
“I’ll have to ask my crew,” Cannon said, “but if they’re in, so am I.”
“Magnifique. I do not know ze exact location of ze city, but tomorrow I am taking ze flying boat to Soerebaja. Le Temps ‘as me zere for a mons. Once you ‘ave convinced your crew, find me at ze Grand ‘otel Republiek.”
Cannon stood, and Lachapelle did too. They shook hands, and Cannon said, “This had better go down better than Panama.” He took the remaining croissant, wrapped it in a napkin, and stuffed it into his pocket. “See you in Soerebaja, Lachapelle.”