Chapter 2 of Silent Vector

Chapter 2, in which someone sends Ulrich Hartmann an explosive message!

CHAPTER 2

CULTURE CLASH

The courier sweats beneath the midday Kenyan sun. The heat and his nerves are a brutal combination that is taking its toll on the courier’s emotional well-being. The large umbrellas covering the tables of the small sidewalk café do nothing more than trap the equatorial heat. He vows that once he flies out of Mombasa a week from now he will never return, no matter how much the Russians want to pay him. It’s more than his Teutonic blood can stand.

The trip to the modest town in the interior can take as much as eight hours by car, and there’s no guarantee he will find what he’s looking for once he arrives. He could have taken the train, but the flexibility of a car over the misery of roasting on a train made his decision for him. How two of his fellow countrymen have managed to survive in this god-awful climate for more than a year is beyond him. Their intermittent communication makes his trip a gamble. If their tests have borne fruit then his return to Moscow will be just short of triumphant. If he shows up on his master’s doorstep empty-handed, there’s no telling what might happen to him. The Soviets are not a forgiving lot.

Mombasa, Moscow, Havana – not bad for a man who came within inches of being executed by the Red Army during the Battle of Berlin, a man who survived ten years in the gulag for facilitating various crimes against humanity. Undoubtedly the Nürnberg prosecutors would have pursued the death penalty had Ulrich Hartmann been older than his eighteen years at the close of the war.

Hartmann glances at his watch. The Cultural Attaché from the Soviet Union’s embassy in Nairobi is ten minutes late, another offense to his Germanic sensibilities.

The waiter approaches only to be waved away by Hartmann. At the same moment, a car skids through the closest intersection and heads straight for the café. Hartmann’s only chance is to run headlong into the street to put as much distance between himself and the car as he can. As he darts from his table he glances and sees the intense focus of the Kenyan behind the wheel accelerating directly for the café. Hartmann dashes into traffic and at the last second dives over the hood of a car parked on the other side of the boulevard.

The crash and fiery blast come just as he hits the pavement. The concussion is intense. Glass flies in every direction. He feels the searing heat from the blast, but the parked car protects him from serious harm. He stays down as glass, metal, brick, and body parts crash down around him. Within seconds he hears the screams of those survivors closest to the blast. He instinctively checks his pulse and marvels at the fact that he is still alive. He feels for the large envelope full of American dollars in his jacket breast pocket. Convinced that the worst is over, he stands up, wipes his brow with his handkerchief, and calmly walks in the direction of the last journey travelled by the suicide bomber, a man bent on extracting some measure of revenge for the atrocities being committed on the people of his town. The Cultural Attaché, who was bound and gagged in the back of the careening car bomb, won’t be meeting with Hartmann until they’re both in Hell.