Chapter 64 of Silent Vector

Chapter 64, in which team Temple gears up for the big push

CHAPTER 64

TWO MAPS, ONE PLAN

The veranda table is covered with two sets of maps. The first set contains the USGS maps covering the north shore of St. Thomas; the second includes the nautical maps for the same areas. Team Temple inspects the maps to prioritize their search for Schnelling’s lab. The earlier attempt to simply spot the lab from the water proved inadequate, so this morning has been all about the analytical work to focus their pending search. That work has resulted in the identification of nine north shore locations that appear suitable for both a land-based operation and safe, open-water access, from Tutu Bay, just west of the channel between St. Thomas and Thatch Cay, to Sandy and Botany Bays near the western tip of the island.

“Schnelling gets there in a Volvo, so there has to be a serviceable road to the lab, even if it’s not much more than a trail. We’ll split up. I’ll take Dalila and Cristobal out from Frenchtown on another charter. Kyle, you Pete and Raoul will work the roads along the coastline. If you find his lab, don’t approach it unless you’re sure it’s deserted. Watch out for trip wires. We know that’s Schnelling’s style. If it’s clear, Pete, you’ll need to head in, take a look, and tell us what you can about where he is in the process, what he’s accomplished so far, and how much longer you think he’ll need until he’s finished with whatever he’s started. Or, worst case scenario, if he’s done. Frankly, if he’s not there, then he’s probably done with the lab work and off the island.”

“Looking forward to it,” is Pete’s reply.

“We’ll keep abreast of each other by radio and work one bay at a time until we either find something or we’re satisfied there’s nothing there. We should have enough daylight to thoroughly recon three locations each day.”

Nick checks his watch.

“We’re signing out the charter in about 30 minutes. It should have three days’ provisions on it. Since we’ve already lost some daylight, we’ll start on the west side of the island: Sandy Bay and Botany Bay first, then on to Stumpy Bay. After finishing at Stumpy Bay, we’ll anchor off Santa Maria Bay for the night and start working our way east again first thing in the morning. There are two berths in the cabin of the Constellation; we’ll each take a three-hour watch overnight.

“Kyle, the way the roads look, you should be able to get close to Sandy Bay in well under an hour. We’ll stay in contact, but don’t wait for us. Probe the coast and the trails west of Fortuna Road. If you see a passable trail, check it out. We have to make sure we cover every possible way in. We can’t miss this time around. Questions?”

Nick looks around at the group. When no one speaks up, Nick resumes.

“Okay. Let’s load up. Cristobal, grab the nautical maps. We’ve got the Jeep. We’ll do a comms check on the two angry fives as soon as we’re under way. They’re bulky but rugged and dependable. I don’t want to get caught with our pants down if the charter’s radio goes out. We’ll keep the comms simple but we still need to rotate frequencies and call signs per SOP. Kyle can fill you in. Firepower’s in the trunk in my room. No telling what we might be up against. We’ll take the M14s on the boat. Clips are loaded. Kyle, you and Raoul make sure you’ve got plenty of ammo for both Raoul’s .45 and your Beretta. Sidearms only at this point for you.”

“Got it.”

The team members gather up the maps and quickly, resolutely prepare to execute a mission that may be the last best hope for millions of Americans.