Chapter 15 of Silent Vector

Been off the grid for about 5 days due to hardware issues. They're resolved, so here's Chapter 15, in which Professor Schnelling gets some unwelcome news

CHAPTER 15

PLAN B?

Hartmut Schnelling has never had any patience with those elements of society he considers undesirable. Today, thieves will top his long personal list of the least desirable.

He sits in the kitchen of his modest bungalow four blocks from the West Indian Company dock west of Charlotte Amalie, smoking a cigarette and sipping a cup of hot black coffee. As he does six mornings a week, he peruses the modest local newspaper, The Virgin Islands Daily News. The exercise helps him feed his superiority complex. Today, its banner headline screams: “CAR THIEF’S PLAN UP IN FLAMES!” Schnelling chuckles slightly as he contemplates the fate of another hapless islander who refuses to make an honest living. If asked, Schnelling would likely declare that being paid handsomely to formulate deadly poisons for the benefit of an occupying power most certainly qualifies as an honest living.

As he leisurely scans what he thinks is going to be a fairly routine story about the fate of a thoroughly deserving car thief, he gradually comes to realize that the object of the thief’s attempt was the American’s rented Jeep, and that the five-thousand American dollars he paid to have the American nuisance eliminated has gone completely to waste! Idiot! He slams the kitchen table rattling his coffee cup in its saucer. 

He collects himself and reads the article again, this time scrutinizing it for any clue that the explosion might be tied to him.

The dead thief was a local troublemaker by the name of Jimmy Bouldin. But there is nothing about the identity of the renter of the Jeep other than his nationality. That tells him his concerns about the American were well-founded; clearly he is a man of connections whose presence on St. Thomas encompasses more than a simple vacation. The paper would not hesitate to print the name of a generic stateside tourist whose rented car was blown to bits during an abortive attempt to steal it. If that were the case, Schnelling would expect to see a few choice quotes from the intended victim inserted into the story.

Schnelling folds the newspaper neatly, takes one last sip from his cup of coffee, and gets up from the table. He goes to a wall safe clumsily hidden in his bedroom behind a hideous oil painting of a safari gathered around a freshly killed elephant. He opens the safe and pulls out a small, black, leather-bound code book. He takes the book to a desk in one corner of the bedroom, sits at the desk, opens the book, and begins to compose a message asking for assistance in dealing with the annoying presence of the lucky American.

His concentration is interrupted when his phone rings. He returns to the kitchen to answer it.

“Schnelling here.”

“Have you seen the paper?”

“I told you not to call me here.”

“I want to deliver satisfaction.”

“Don’t be a fool. You have your money, now leave me alone. You make it too easy for us to be connected.”

“I’ll give you a discount.”

In spite of his fears, Schnelling is intrigued.

“Why?”

 “The job’s not finished, through no fault of mine, mind you.”

“I’ll consider it, but you mustn’t call me. I’ll get in touch with you if I need you.”

“Fair enough.”

Schnelling hangs up. He pauses for a moment before heading back to his desk to amend his message to Moscow.