Nick Temple Learns to Surf

Silent Vector begins with Nick Temple on vacation in the U.S. Virgin Islands. Eventually he gets around to teaching himself how to surf. It doesn't go well for Nick, but it could have been worse. It's the summer of 1962, and the Caribbean is about to become the epicenter of the superpower showdown known as the Cuban Missile Crisis. As with any other segment in the book, this one has to move the plot along. The brief surfing scene ends with a thief being brutally killed in a manner undoubtedly meant for Nick Temple. What starts out as an innocuous scene moves a deadly plot along simply, quickly, and effectively. Here's the selection from chapter 11 of Silent Vector:

This morning he rented a longboard, put it into the Kaiser Jeep CJ-5 he’s been driving around the island for a month, and drove over the ridge of St. Thomas to Hull Bay. Now, six hours and precious few moments of standing upright on the board for more than two seconds at a time later, Nick is ready to call it a day. His choices aren’t good. He can either paddle the half kilometer back to where his Jeep is parked, or he can take the next small wave (it’s not exactly Waimea, which strikes Nick as a good thing in retrospect) into shore, put the board under his arm and walk. He chooses option number one.

As he approaches the point where his Jeep is parked, his shoulders exhausted, his salt-and-pepper hair and eyelashes caked with sea salt, and his back and face freshly burnt, he sees an islander, a young man perhaps in his early 20s, climb into his Jeep. The fact that the Jeep has no top makes the islander’s move effortless. Nick then sees the man bend over to look beneath the dash.

“The son of a bitch is going to hot wire it,” Nick thinks to himself.

“Hey! Get the fuck away from my car!” he yells.

The islander looks up for a second before resuming his work. Nick paddles furiously, but he’s more than 100 meters away and knows he has no chance if the man knows what he’s doing. And he does. Nick hears the sound of the Jeep’s engine turning over. The islander sits upright, shifts into reverse and. . . . The explosion is ferocious! It throws the shredded islander ten meters into the air. His lifeless body lands with a thud at the high tide mark as what is left of the Jeep is consumed by a ball of fire.

Nick sits up on his surfboard, his lower legs dangling in the warm Atlantic water.

“Tough day to be a thief,” he thinks to himself.