Chapter 6 of Silent Vector

Chapter 6, in which we meet Professor Hartmut Schnelling

CHAPTER 6

THE LAB BOYS

St. Thomas in the U.S. Virgin Islands is an unusual spot for an experimental medical science lab. And that’s why it’s perfect. The fact that his work has gone on right under the noses of the sanctimonious Americans gives Professor Hartmut Schnelling particular delight. Add to that the stunning success of his work and Schnelling has every reason to believe that he will be handsomely rewarded by his Soviet overlords.

Many other men would be content with a modestly compensated, quiet life in the American paradise, tinkering in a lab on more or less their own timetable. Not Schnelling. Having taken his Ph.D. in biochemistry on the eve of the invasion of Poland, he saw a promising career in research cut short by the needs of the Wehrmacht. He became little more than a lab chemist during the first two years of the war working at various hideous “camps” on an as-needed basis. As the war progressed, his training was deemed sufficient to make him a field medical officer. He was shipped to the Eastern front in time to be a first-hand witness to the long retreat and collapse of Germany’s once mighty war machine.

His bitterness could easily have been directed at his own country, but such is not the case for Hartmut Schnelling. Any contribution he can make to the downfall of the world’s current, dominant superpower, a status he and millions of other Germans once sought for their own country, will bring him great satisfaction. He is, however, no blind ideologue. He is more accurately a survivor. And the presence on the island of a lone American for more than three weeks straight has caught his attention.

There’s likely nothing to it, he tries to convince himself. He considered letting Moscow know, but he dismissed the idea as a sign of weakness. After all, a single American should be easy enough for a veteran of the Stalingrad campaign to dispose of, if it comes to that.

He decides to be mindful without getting overwrought, aware without letting his suspicions get away from him. Perhaps some discreet inquiries of the few contacts he has established on the island will be all he needs. The timetable is clear. The target is October. Nothing, certainly not some sunburnt American, will keep him from his destiny!