Chapter 55 of Silent Vector

Chapter 55, in which the Professor makes his move

CHAPTER 55

NO MORE HOUSECALLS

Hartmut Schnelling cannot believe his good fortune. The Americans could not have done him any greater service. The turnaround since Kropotkin’s death has been remarkable. Encrypted wire communications with Moscow have been restored, the operation is to proceed as originally conceived, and his own freedom of action is no longer hampered by the Russian’s hulking presence.

The lack of activity anywhere near his lab is a clear sign that the Americans have no idea where it is. And while he assumes they are aware of his presence and identity, before noon today he will have moved himself to the lab for the duration of the production process, not reappearing again until hours before arranging for shipment to the American mainland and leaving St. Thomas for good six days hence.

It is barely dawn as he runs through his brief supply checklist one more time: five gallons of gasoline for the emergency generator; four spare 2.4 volt batteries for the R-104M radio at the lab; ten fully loaded 30-round magazines of 7.62x39mm cartridges for the AK-47 at the lab; one additional ammo box of one thousand rounds; four thermite grenades for equipment and records destruction as he abandons the lab; food and fresh water for up to ten days; first aid kit; adequate clothing and personal hygiene items for the duration.

As he finishes the list he can’t help laughing to himself. The man who is about to unleash history’s worst attack by a foreign enemy on American soil is counting rolls of toilet paper! Now that his personal safety appears to have been secured by the unwitting Americans he reflects with some personal pride on his meticulous preparation. If the mission fails, it will not be due to lack of discipline and dedication on his part.

Having already moved the heaviest necessities–ammunition, water, and gasoline–to the lab, he moves the rest of the items on his check list from his kitchen table to his Volvo station wagon parked directly in front of his modest bungalow. The humid early morning after a tropical downpour presages a sweltering day. And Hartmut Schnelling, with the wind now at his back, looks forward to a week in the tropics as he never has before.