Chapter 50 of Silent Vector

Chapter 50, in which a bad man meets a much-deserved fate

CHAPTER 50

OUT OF THE FRYING PAN

Kyle Richardson once again sits on the steps of the fountain in Church Square. This time, instead of enjoying a mango, he peruses The Virgin Islands Daily News while keeping the stairs leading to Calypso Willy’s in his peripheral vision. His Panama hat shades him from the already intense late morning sun. His short sleeve polo shirt offers no protection for his forearms and biceps now deeply tanned from his current stint in the tropics.

Nick Temple sits in the team’s Jeep Utility Wagon half a block away on the opposite side of the square. A thin wire runs from a small earphone in his right ear to a transistor receiver hooked to his belt. He can’t see the stairway entrance from his position, but he can see Richardson. When it’s time for Escobar and Guzman to move, Nick will start the Jeep’s engine, Kyle will fold his newspaper, and Escobar and Guzman will head up the stairs.

Escobar and Guzman stroll near a row of fruit stands on the south side of the square, one or both of them keeping an eye on Richardson. Each has a set of handcuffs and a fully loaded M1911 .45 caliber semiautomatic pistol tucked into his waistband and concealed by a loose-fitting shirt.

One of the St. Thomas Department of Public Safety’s aging patrol cars, a two-door 1950 Ford purchased eight years ago from the Miami P.D., is parked along the street just north of the stairway entrance. As prearranged, at 11:15 the patrol car pulls away. The Department’s Police Division temporarily cedes de facto authority over the area of operations to Nick and his team.

At a sidewalk café two blocks north of the square, Pete Hall sits alone at a small table, reads the latest issue of National Geographic, and nurses a flat Coke. A large umbrella protects him from the climbing sun. He checks his watch. If all goes according to Kropotkin’s foolishly established schedule, Dalila should be out of Calypso Willy’s and safely at the café before 11:30.

Team Temple is in place.   

Less than five minutes later Kropotkin strolls to the square from the waterfront side. Looking like a man without a care, he turns right into the stairway and bounds up the stairs.

Dalila Atieno sits on a bar stool behind a small reception desk that poorly guards the entrance to Calypso Willy’s. Behind her, separated by no more than two meters of wall, are two doorways. The doorway to her right as she sits at the desk leads to Willy’s bar and pool tables. The other doorway leads to a corridor lined by three small, unadorned bedrooms on each side.  The keys for the corridor’s rooms hang on eye hooks directly behind Dalila. The hallway is the target of Kropotkin’s habitual visits.

Dalila sits in her red, flower print, sleeveless dress and casually leafs through a story about American Westerns in an issue of Look magazine from earlier that year. She wears red flats to facilitate movement in the event speed is necessary. To Dalila’s front is a small sitting area with two cushioned rattan chairs each of which is occupied by a languid prostitute from Santa Domingo. One files her nails; the other fans herself; both are oblivious to what is about to take place.

Kropotkin walks in. Dalila knows he has entered but she continues to leaf through the magazine, feigning ennui.

“Hey! You have customer. Wake up.”

Dalila slowly looks up from her magazine. Kropotkin is huge and far more menacing in person than in his photographs. She does her best to maintain her composure as she pulls a cheap guest register from the top shelf under the desk and flops it carelessly on the counter. She opens to the day’s date, takes a ballpoint pen from a jar on the counter, and sets the pen on the open register.

“Sign in.”

She turns to grab a key to room 5, the one Kyle wired for sound yesterday.

“Sign in? Where is usual girl? I don’t sign in. Don’t they tell you?”

Dalila turns around to face Kropotkin.

“Okay. Sign in. Don’t sign in. Your choice.”

She grabs a towel from the bottom shelf of the reception desk and places it, with the key on top of it, on the desktop.

“Number 5. On the left. Ten dollars American in advance.”

Dalila puts her elbow on the desk and casually holds her hand out waiting to be paid.

Kropotkin pulls a folded ten dollar bill out of his shirt pocket and slams it on the desk top.

“Next time I pay in rubles!” He laughs at his own joke, grabs the towel and key, and heads down the hallway.

←↔↔↔↔↔→

Nick hears the door to room number 5 open. The reception is perfect.

“You again?” he hears Kropotkin complain.

“You hurt the other girls too much,” is the poor woman’s response.

“Ha! They don’t know what real pain is. I will teach you and you can teach them,” Kropotkin threatens.

Nick shakes his head and thinks to himself, “This sick fuck never lets up.”

Through his earpiece he can hear the sounds of Kropotkin undressing. Within moments the creaking of an old, well-worn spring mattress takes over. Time to move.

Nick starts the Jeep’s engine; Kyle hears the engine turnover and immediately folds his newspaper; Escobar and Guzman bolt from the fruit stand, race to the stairwell and are in Calypso Willy’s less than 20 seconds after Nick’s initial signal. With their weapons drawn they head down the corridor of rooms.

Dalila comes out from behind the counter.

“Time to go, ladies,” she urges the two prostitutes.

Alarmed by the presence of armed men they offer no resistance and follow Dalila. The three women quickly make their way to the square where Dalila turns north to find Pete Hall and her ride back to the team’s quarters.

Back in Calypso Willy’s, Escobar and Guzman halt outside the closed door to room number 5. They listen for a moment to make sure Kropotkin is still occupied. Escobar looks at Guzman and signals the count of three. The instant Escobar reaches “three,” Guzman smashes the door open by delivering a swift kick to its flimsy doorknob. Both men rush in.

The prostitute, lying on her back, screams. The naked Kropotkin, turns to see the two men and springs from the bed for his pile of clothes. Guzman delivers an uppercut to Kropotkin’s jaw with his fist and pistol sending Kropotkin flying back onto the bed. Guzman sees the Makarov Kropotkin was diving for and grabs it.

The prostitute, still screaming, flees the room wrapped in the bed’s lone sheet. Kropotkin recovers almost instantly from Guzman’s blow and lunges at Escobar. Escobar fires at Kropotkin’s thigh stopping him dead in his tracks. Another blow to the back of the head from Guzman’s pistol grip renders the wounded Kropotkin briefly unconscious in a heap on the floor next to the bed.

Escobar and Guzman roll the enormous Russian over on his face, pull his hands behind his back and handcuff him. Guzman grabs the pitcher of water from the small dresser opposite the bed and empties it on Kropotkin’s head, reviving him.

“Turn over!” Escobar commands.

Guzman grabs Kropotkin’s shoulder and helps Kropotkin turn over. The wound to his thigh is severe. Guzman knows Kropotkin doesn’t have long to live. Still, he rips Kropotkin’s shirt, fashions a tourniquet, and ties it tightly around the bleeding thigh.

Kropotkin tries to head butt Guzman just as Guzman is finishing, but he manages only a glancing blow. Escobar kicks Kropotkin’s thigh at the point of the wound and sends Kropotkin into spasms of pain.

Guzman gets behind Kropotkin, grabs him under the armpits, and stands him up.

“Let’s go.”

With Guzman’s pistol held fast against Kropotkin’s temple, the two MPs drag the naked and wounded Kropotkin, who tries to keep up by hopping on his one good leg, out into the hallway, through the reception area, to the stairway and down to the street.

Nick Temple and Kyle Richardson wait in the Jeep at the curb in front of the stairway. Richardson hops out, opens the right, rear door of the Jeep and helps Escobar and Guzman stuff the struggling Kropotkin into the back seat. As soon as Kropotkin is in he looks up and sees Nick Temple behind the wheel.

“Temple! Malenkov should have let me kill you in Berlin.”

“Too late, you piece of shit.”

Richardson jumps in the front passenger seat and Guzman climbs in next to Kropotkin. Escobar heads for the Rambler parked a block west of the square. Nick speeds away from the curb.

Guzman, weapon drawn and pointed at Kropotkin’s head, tells Kropotkin to get down. He refuses. Guzman grinds the nose of his weapon against Kropotkin’s wound.

“How about now?”

Kropotkin groans and writhes in pain before he finally relents, twisting his massive frame into the fetal position in the left half of the Jeep’s back seat.

←↔↔↔↔↔→

The sandy road leads to a small, shaded spot used as a parking lot by the occasional visitor to the beach west of Coki Point. Nick pulls in. Right behind him is Escobar in the Rambler with its top up. The lot and beach are otherwise empty. Nick stops and motions to Guzman and Richardson to get out. They get out and immediately climb into the Rambler. Nick turns to address Kropotkin.

“How’s your memory, Kropotkin?”

Kropotkin, weak from blood loss, doesn’t answer.

“Vanessa Porter. The name mean anything to you?”

Kropotkin responds weakly.

“One of Malenkov’s whores. Do you want to know what she said right before I slit her throat?”

“Fuck you.”

“Right! A tough bitch.”

Kropotkin, his mouth a mess of blood and broken teeth, finds the strength to let out a deep, guttural laugh.

Nick gets out of the car and slams the door. Kropotkin writhes and yells as he struggles one last time to free himself and escape from the car. Nick gets into the back seat of the Rambler. Escobar pulls out of the lot and drives west down the narrow sandy road away from the beach. Nick keeps his eyes on the Jeep from the back seat to make sure Kropotkin doesn’t escape.

After the Rambler travels about 50 meters, Nick says simply, “Okay.”

Richardson pulls a small, 3-channel walkie-talkie out of the glove compartment, switches it on, and tunes it to one of the fixed frequencies.

“Dosvidaniya, asshole.”

He presses the push-to-talk button.

Nick shields his eyes from a bright flash followed by an enormous blast as the Jeep and Kropotkin are blown to small bits of metal, rubber, glass, bone, and flesh. Kropotkin’s hands and severed forearms, still linked together by Lieutenant Escobar’s handcuffs, tumble grotesquely through the air in a graceful arc until they land on a beach that just moments before could have been mistaken for paradise.