Chapter 46 of Silent Vector

Chapter 46, in which team Temple targets a house of ill-repute

CHAPTER 46

CHECKING THE MAIL

Nick pulls the Jeep Utility Wagon up to the team’s mountainside headquarters and billets. Raoul Escobar and Cristobal Guzman park their 1962 Rambler 400 convertible to the Jeep’s right. Kyle, Pete and Dalila head inside. Nick holds back to have a word with the team’s newest recruits.

“Grab your equipment, Lieutenant. We’ll do an inventory, and pull what we need for the op.”

The Lieutenant nods to Sergeant Guzman who heads for the Rambler’s trunk.

“How about if we skip the rank and stick to names?” Escobar suggests.

“Agreed. You and Cristobal join the others. Kyle will brief you. I’ve got to head for Government House.”

Guzman pulls a canvas sea bag out of the Rambler’s trunk. He and Escobar walk up the small sidewalk, onto the house’s front porch, swing open the screen door and go inside.

Nick climbs into the Jeep. Just as he is about to start the engine, Dalila, still sporting the light blue scarf she wore on their working cruise, comes out of the house.

“Wait. I’m going with you.”

She opens the passenger door of the Jeep and steps in.

“I take it I’m cleared for Government House,” she says as she flashes Nick her usual brilliant smile.

Nick starts the Jeep and throws it into reverse.

“Indeed you are.”

 Nick executes a K-turn in the narrow driveway and heads down the hill.

“We’re just picking up a packet from Langley.”

“What are you expecting?”

“Any information on the professor’s identity from the roll of film I shot.”

“Can we do a bit of shopping after?”

“What are we looking for?”

“I’m afraid my wardrobe doesn’t have anything suitable for the receptionist at a house of prostitution.”

“I’m not surprised. Sure, but I’ll be honest; I don’t know where the shops for that sort of outfit are.”

“I do. I’ve been keeping my eyes open.”

They reach the bottom of the drive. Nick turns left onto Brewers Bay Road heading east for Charlotte Amalie.

“Will it be dangerous?”

“It could be for Escobar and Guzman. It shouldn’t be for you. Kropotkin is a machine. Taking him down is going to take timing, skill, and instantly overwhelming force.”

“How will you manage the timing?”

“We’re going to wire the room for sound. I’ll wear a receiver. When the audio indicates Kropotkin is focused on the hooker, that’s when I’ll send them in to grab him.”

Dalila can’t help smirking.

“Men using their weaknesses against each other. It’s rather amusing, don’t you think?”

“Hysterical, actually. I wish I could be there when Kropotkin gets caught quite literally with his pants down.”

“What if it goes badly?”

“If you hear any shooting at all, get the hell out of there. Don’t hesitate. Shots will mean Kropotkin’s put up a fight. No. That’s wrong. Get out as soon as Escobar and Guzman arrive. There’s no need for you to wait around. Kyle and I will be on the square for backup. I don’t think it’ll come to that, but you need to be ready to move if it does. Escobar and Guzman will hand him over to us. Kyle and I will take it from there.”

Nick guides the Jeep along the narrow road with dense vegetation on either side giving it the feeling of a tunnel.

“He tortured you?”

“A long time ago. He’s a sick bastard, so it’ll be a pleasure taking him down.”

“Termination?”

“We’re not playing checkers, sweetheart. What did you think was going to happen?”

Dalila doesn’t respond. Instead, she stares straight ahead, remaining silent for the rest of the drive. 

They pass Truman Airport, drive through Frenchtown and on into Charlotte Amalie. Nick navigates his way through the town’s narrow streets before he parks on Kongens Gade across from Government House. He turns off the engine and removes the key. Before getting out, he turns to Dalila.

“Second thoughts?”

“None.”

“What then?”

Dalila puts her hand on Nick’s arm.

“I find myself worrying about your safety more than my own.”

“I recall being warned about that.”

“I know, but it’s not something I can help. Not now.”

Nick takes her hand in his.

“Come on. Let’s find out who our professor is. Then I’ll take you shopping for your hooker dress.”

Dalila smiles softly.

“You certainly know how to spoil a girl.”

They get out of the Jeep and cross the street towards the front steps of the ornate, three-story, neoclassical structure. As they walk Dalila grabs Nick’s arm and Nick puts his hand on hers. The veteran American CIA agent and the unassuming Kenyan bureaucrat–the most unlikely of couples–simultaneously contemplate what few couples ever have to face: the potential impact the apparent shift in their hitherto professional relationship could have not only for themselves, but also for their countries, and even for the world.

Dalila Atieno is silent. She knows she is in no position to argue with the simple calculation of a small group of men west of the Iron Curtain that for the sake of their country and the sake of the world Kropotkin must die.