Chapter 67 of Silent Vector

Chapter 67, in which the cat spooks the mouse

CHAPTER 67

HUNTING REDS IN OCTOBER

“Roger. Nothing to report. We’ll anchor here for the night. Ready to go at zero six hundred hours. Over.”

“Roger. Out.”

Nick switches off the radio.

“They’re heading back for the night. That’s it for today. Three bays down, six to go, and no sign of Schnelling. We’ll scour Santa Maria in the morning. Let’s set the anchor.”

With the last traces of twilight fading quickly, Cristobal Guzman heads forward on the 36-foot Chris-Craft Constellation to lower its anchor. According to their charts, they are in just under five fathoms of water. Nick waits at the helm for Cristobal’s signal.

“It’s on the seabed, Nick.”

Nick slowly backs the boat as Cristobal allows the anchor rode to pay out. After the anchor grabs on the seabed Cristobal continues to pay out the half-inch rode until he deploys 60 meters of it.

“That’ll do it, Nick.”

Nick kills the twin engines. Cristobal ties off the rode by securing it to the bow cleat and returns aft along the boat’s port sidedeck to the helm.

“No anchor light?” Cristobal asks Nick.

“We’re going to have to take our chances.”

“I’ll take the first watch,” he tells Nick.

“Good.”

Nick checks his watch.

“Three hours each. That should get us to dawn. I’ll be your relief.”

Nick turns to Dalila.

“We should get below and try to get some sleep.”

Cristobal hops down from the sidedeck to the wheelhouse while Dalila leads Nick down the companionway. The forward cabin has two bunks on the starboard side with a small galley to port.

“Top or bottom bunk?”

“I prefer to be on top.”

“I know. Top or bottom bunk?”

Dalila sizes up the two bunks.

“Too small to share?”

“Our friend is within earshot.”

“I wouldn’t want to embarrass anybody.”

Nick pulls her to him and they share a long, luxurious kiss.

“I’ll take the bottom bunk. Less chance of disturbing you when I go on watch.”

“After that kiss, I doubt I’ll be able to sleep, Mr. Temple,” Dalila whispers.

“That makes two of us, Miss Atieno. Good night.”

They kiss once more, taking their minds for a brief moment away from the dangers lying just over the horizon. 

←↔↔↔↔↔→

Before calling it a night, Schnelling scans the waters of Santa Maria Bay once more through his binoculars. A boat! At the northwest end of the bay! Its silhouette on the horizon is barely visible against the night sky. Schnelling’s focus is intense, but due to the late hour he cannot discern any details beyond the craft’s profile. It must be the Americans; it’s too much of a coincidence. In almost two years he has never seen a boat anchor overnight in the bay. He looks again. The boat has not changed position. They’ve anchored. But for how long? When did they arrive?

He sets the binoculars down and tries to compose himself. Should he radio for assistance? Should he have himself and the three canisters that are ready for deployment transferred off the island immediately? Should he ignore the boat, hoping they will once again be unable to detect the lab’s presence?

His options are limited and each is fraught with its own hazards. If the Americans detect his presence and he has no assistance, they will have a clear firepower advantage. All will be for naught; all will be lost. If they don’t spot him and he calls for assistance, he’ll reveal his position, and there’s no guarantee that they have just the one boat. Do the Americans have additional resources closing in on him from the east or overland from the south side of the island? Doing nothing is the option with the biggest reward: non-detection, and the biggest risk: termination before transport. Schnelling decides the risk is too great. Three cylinders will have to do. A fourth may be ready in time.

He heads for the R-104M in the lab’s small radio room, grabs the code book stuffed under the leather strap on the top of the radio, and begins to compose his request for immediate removal and whatever firepower is available. The extraction team sitting in Gustavia, St. Barts is already on high alert and should be able to make Santa Maria Bay sometime tomorrow morning. With no other acceptable options open to him, Schnelling turns on the radio to begin his transmission.