Chapter 58 of Silent Vector

Chapter 58, in which Nick decides turnabout is fair play.

CHAPTER 58

ALL IN A DAY’S WORK

Nick Temple, behind the wheel of a newly-purchased Jeep Station Wagon, pulls up about 20 meters down the street from the home of Hartmut Schnelling. The Director, knowing that Uncle Sam would likely end up “buying the damn thing,” as he put it, authorized Nick to use one of the U.S. Treasury drafts in his possession to purchase the Jeep. The transaction raised a few eyebrows at the dealership, but paying the full sticker price helped grease the skids.

Nick parks on the opposite side of the quiet, shady lane, turns off the ignition, and settles in to watch. He checks his Bulova Sunburst: 8:17 a.m.

Within minutes, an islander in his early thirties approaches Schnelling’s house on the sidewalk across from where Nick is parked. He is dressed casually: loose fitting khakis, a white, short-sleeved sport shirt, and white Spring Court tennis shoes. A bulky, black canvas bag is slung over his left shoulder. He surprises Nick by turning at the small sidewalk leading to Schnelling’s house.

“I guess we’ll find out if Schnelling is in,” Nick thinks to himself.

The man stops at the front door. Instead of knocking he pulls a key out of his pants pocket, slips it into the doorknob, turns it, looks quickly around, and enters the house, closing the door behind him.

Nick waits 30 seconds before getting out of the Jeep. He silently closes the car door and crosses the deserted street. He approaches the house but leaves the sidewalk about three meters before reaching the property line. He walks to the side of the house towards a small front room window. He stops before reaching the window and, with his back pressed against the house’s outside wall, peers into the living room. A thin, gauze curtain obscures most of his view of the room. By crouching and positioning himself on the other side of the window he is able to make out the main features of the room through a break between the curtain and the wall.

He sees the man who entered the house on his knees in the middle of the living room. He’s emptying his black bag. Plastic explosives! C-4, and lots of it, detonators, and trip wires. He’s booby-trapping the house. Nick guesses that this is the same man responsible for wrecking his day of novice surfing and ending a hapless thief’s life a few months back. Schnelling has probably moved out and is taking one more shot at Nick, assuming he’ll break into the house once it’s clear Schnelling isn’t returning.

The man finishes placing the explosives in an arc around the front door threshold. He works on setting a trip wire just inside the door. Any movement of the door will detonate the impressive load of C-4 creating a kill zone with a diameter of at least ten meters.

Nick heads to the cottage’s back door, the only exit the man has left himself. He places himself flat against the house next to the door and waits.

Less than two minutes later the back door opens inward slightly. The man who set the explosives peers out from inside the house. He puts the fingers of his right hand against the door’s threshold as he prepares to check to see if his exit will be detected. Nick sees his chance. He grabs the doorknob and pulls the door shut on the man’s fingers. He then turns and kicks the door which smashes into the man’s face. Nick’s victim cries out in pain trying to decide whether to grab his broken fingers or his broken nose. He stumbles blindly back into the house’s small kitchen falling to the floor after backing into a chair. He screams in pain once again as he tries to brace his fall with his smashed hand.

Nick jumps into the kitchen and closes the back door behind him. With his Beretta drawn, he pounces on the man and sticks the barrel of the pistol against the man’s cheek.

“Nice try, asshole. Where’s Schnelling?”

The would-be bomber writhes and groans in pain.

“What? Shit! I don’t know any Schnelling! Are you fucking crazy, man?”

“Wrong answer. You’ve got about ten seconds to come up with the right answer or die. Your choice. Got it?”

“I just get paid to do a job. That’s all I know.”

“You just wasted five seconds of your life.”

“All right! All right!” the man screams. “Don’t shoot.”

“Talk.”

“He’s gone. He thought you’d come around, so he paid me to have a little surprise for you when you did. I swear I don’t know where he is. I’ve only ever met him once.”

“Gone? Off the island?”

“I don’t know. Just not here anymore.”

“When’s the last time you talked to him?”

“Yesterday, when the wire transfer was confirmed. He said he’d be out by dawn this morning and that I was to complete the job before noon.”

Nick looks around the kitchen and grabs a dishrag folded on the edge of the sink. He tosses it to the man.

“For your nose.”

The man uses the rag to staunch his bleeding.

Nick takes two steps towards a telephone sitting on a sideboard next to the stove. He picks up the receiver and dials.

“Operator, get me the police. Yes, it’s an emergency. . . . Department of Public Safety? . . . This is Nick Temple. I’ve got someone here you might be interested in. . . . Check with your boss. He’ll confirm. . . . Sure, I’ll hold.”

Nick puts his hand over the mouthpiece.

“How’s the nose?”

“Go fuck yourself, man.”

“Is that anyway to treat a guy you tried to kill twice?”

Nick returns to the phone conversation.

“Right. Still here. . . . Perfect. I’ll wait till someone arrives. And tell whoever’s coming to come in through the back. The front door’s wired with about four kilos of explosives. . . . Ten minutes? Good. We’ll be here.”

Nick hangs up and walks over to where the man is now sitting on the floor, holding the dishrag to his nose with his one good hand. He squats down with his Beretta pointed at the man’s still bleeding nose.

“Looks like your bombing days are through, buddy. We’ve got a nice stateside cell waiting for you. On the bright side, there’s no need to fret about your future. It’s all mapped out. Take a look around and enjoy, because the next time you’re looking at something other than the inside of a prison you’ll be in a casket.”