Chapter 52, in which team Temple picks up the pieces
A heavy summer rain that began earlier in the afternoon continues to drench St. Thomas well past dark. With the rain beating down around them, team Temple gathers in the musty living room of their quarters recovering from the news of a gross miscalculation on their part. Arnie Miller’s message via Langley confirmed that someone in the upper echelon of the Soviet political command structure, for whatever reason, wanted a man sent to protect a key component of a frightening new capability dead. Nick and his team did some top-ranking Commie a big fat favor! They don’t know who, and they don’t know why, but the intel is solid. Cliff Thompson’s warning was delivered too late to be actionable, and now Nick and his team are wondering what’s next – not a good feeling for intel types.
Kyle reads the message from Langley one more time before tossing it on the coffee table.
“What the hell is Moscow up to?”
“There’s got to be some sort of wrestling match going on inside the Kremlin. The sad fact is that by terminating Kropotkin we cozied up to one side without knowing who it is or what they’re after.”
“He was going to shut Schnelling down,” Dalila declares.
“It looks that way,” Nick agrees.
“Or at least remove him from the process,” Kyle adds.
“Why can’t we finish what Kropotkin left undone?” Pete Hall asks.
“It’s one thing to take out a KGB thug who’s on American soil illegally; it’s another to go randomly execute an East German citizen who’s a long-time territorial resident. All of that license to kill bullshit is just that – bullshit. It doesn’t exist. Besides, we need him to take us to his lab.”
After a moment of nervous silence, Dalila asks, “What are our options at this point?”
“We stay focused on finding the lab and destroying it,” Nick announces matter-of-factly.
“Good old fashioned police work is the key,” Escobar observes.
“Can you stick around for a while longer? We could definitely use the two of you.”
“I’ll make some calls. I don’t think it should be a problem, but Langley’s going to have to foot the bill.”
“I’ll take care of that,” Nick responds.
“Well, hell. No sense sitting around kicking ourselves over this thing. Kropotkin’s dead. I for one won’t miss him. Maybe he would have done our work for us, maybe not. Now it doesn’t matter. The simple fact is that we haven’t completed what we came here to do, and we need to figure out how we’re going to do that as quickly as possible.”
“Kyle’s right, of course. We don’t know how much time we have, so we should assume that time is of the essence. Let’s call it a night unless anyone has any bright ideas they want to put on the table right now.”
“Surveillance,” Guzman interjects.
“We haven’t done anything to work the locals,” Kyle adds. “The lab didn’t just pop up out of nowhere. There are people on this island who had a hand in putting that thing together.”
“More straight-forward police work,” Guzman replies.
“No need to be coy about it. Schnelling and the Russians know we’re here.”
“You think so, Nick?” Kyle asks with a sly smile.
They all laugh.
“Tough even for the Russians to ignore the message. Naked, hand-cuffed, and blown to bits. Nice bit of payback,” he adds.
“Yeah. I guess we weren’t exactly subtle. I’ve been thinking about that moment for about four years.”
“Should have taken out an ad,” Pete Hall interjects.
“Did you see yesterday’s paper?” Dalila asks.
“Yeah, but does it count as an ad when you don’t pay for it?” Pete responds, eliciting laughter from the rest of the team.
Nick, seeing that the team’s mood has improved, takes the opportunity to end the evening on that note.
“I’ll let the folks at DPS know that we’ll be working the problem on the streets. Government House may be able to help us out there. Raoul, I’m going to ask you to put together a plan. It seems to me we’re in local investigation mode for the time being which is right up your alley.”
“At your service. We’ll go over it first thing in the morning.”
“That’s settled then. Let’s turn in. We’ve got a lot of work ahead of us. We’ll hit it hard tomorrow.”
They all agree. While the sense of poor execution lingers, no one in the group is anything but resolute about their ultimate goal: Schnelling and his engineered polio virus must be stopped.