Chapter 35 of Silent Vector

Chapter 35, in which an old foe seeks a treat in a trick

CHAPTER 35

OLD DOG, OLD TRICKS

After selecting a mango he hopes is ripe, Kyle Richardson pays the sidewalk vendor and heads for the steps of a fountain in the middle of Church Square off of Kronprindsens Gade. The square is three blocks up from the waterfront in Charlotte Amalie, and although by the summer of 1962 it is surrounded by more bars and whorehouses than churches, the name Church Square remains out of local habit.

He sits down on the top step of the fountain, pulls out a pocket knife and begins to peel the mango. It’s a beauty. The juice makes a mess of his hands and chin, but he is oblivious. The exotic fruit is practically intoxicating. He knows Carolyn would love it, and he vows to bring her to the islands the next time they get a vacation.

He looks up to see if the few passersby are paying any attention. The men and women in the small noontime crowd, a casual mix of islanders and tourists, go about their business as if Richardson is invisible. Perfect.

As he takes another bite of mango, a figure–a white man, who stands nearly a head taller than all the others–catches his eye. He looks up. Kropotkin! The Russian’s severe face is partially hidden by a Panama hat, but Richardson is certain he is looking at one of the Soviet Union’s coldest killers. Richardson focuses on him just in time to see him duck into an arched doorway leading to a flight of stairs. Kropotkin takes the stairs two at a time and disappears up the dark, narrow stairway.

Richardson notes the time, calmly finishes his mango, tosses the pit in a nearby garbage can, and wipes his hands on his handkerchief. When he is done, he stops the first islander to cross his path.

“Do you mind if I ask you something?”

“Go ahead, man.”

Richardson points to the two-story stucco building Kropotkin just entered.

“What’s on the second floor?”

“Calypso Willy’s. They got drinks and ladies. Which one you want? Both maybe?”

“No. Just wondering. Thanks.”

“Okay, but I know a better place near Red Hook on the east end if you change your mind. Know what I mean?”

“I’ll pass. Thanks anyway.”

Richardson heads south from the square for the waterfront. He’s scheduled to meet the owner of a 36-foot Chris-Craft Constellation available for charter. He decides he’ll return to the square circling around from the north after his meeting and after a quick call to Nick. Maybe he’ll get lucky and spot Kropotkin on his way out of the bar. He won’t stay long. No sense pushing it. If Kropotkin sees him, he may pick a different bar the next time the spirit moves him. Worse yet, he may recognize him from their shootout in Berlin and report back to Moscow that the Americans are in town. But if Kropotkin settles into a pattern as a repeat customer then he’s as stupid as he is dangerous. In that case, Nick and his team will have him by the balls.