Chapter 39 of Silent Vector

Chapter 39, in which Team Temple targets a house of ill-repute

CHAPTER 39

BAITING THE TRAP

Nick Temple, Kyle Richardson, Dalila Atieno and Pete Hall finish breakfast on the veranda of the small, mountainside house that has been serving as the team’s headquarters. Nick rented the unassuming three-bedroom home from a former Aramco executive on a tip from Hugh Ridgely. When it became clear the team would be staying on the island for more than a week, they checked out of the Virgin Isle Hotel to set up shop for the foreseeable future in their current digs.

The house sits alone on more than an acre at the end of a quarter-mile driveway leading up from the main house occupied by Ridgely’s former colleague. It’s the last place in the world anyone would suspect of being occupied by a team of CIA agents tasked with thwarting a vile and deadly plot by the Soviet Union.

The delivery to the house of two steamer trunks from Miami via San Juan courtesy of Leeward Shipping went without a hitch and, more importantly, without prompting any questions at the transfer point. The trunks contain the team’s modest array of communications and intercept equipment, weapons, ammunition, flares, and explosives requisitioned by Bill Johnson before Nick left Langley.

“That’s it then. We know where the professor is, and we know that Kropotkin can’t keep it in his pants. Odd days of the week. He’ll be back day after tomorrow. No doubt about it.”

Kyle Richardson nods his head in agreement.

“The timing’s like clockwork. You sure this guy isn’t German?”

“Russian through and through. I can tell you from experience, and I have the scars to prove it. Dalila, how do you feel about posing as a prostitute?”

“Posing only, right?”

“You’re the receptionist, front desk, face of the organization, nothing more. It’s about timing,” Nick tries to assure her.

“He’s not going down without a fight,” Richardson points out.

“You’re right. We’re going to need some firepower,” Nick agrees.

“If it’s us, the word will spread and our cover, if we still have any, will be blown.”

“I’m open to suggestions.”

Pete Hall, who can barely believe that he’s listening to CIA agents putting together a small operation, speaks up.

“What about Puerto Rico? Don’t you guys have any assets there?”

Nick immediately recognizes the suggestion for what it is.

“Great idea. We don’t, but the Army does. The Puerto Rican National Guard’s 65th Infantry Regiment to be exact. There should be an MP unit attached to it. Kyle, get Langley on it. We need two men here tonight. Nothing special. Just a couple of good, tough cops.”

Kyle Richardson gulps down his coffee and stands up.

“I’ll head down to Government House. Anything else for the folks back home?”

“Tell them to alert the local constable. We’ll need his cooperation to get Dalila in there without any fuss.”

Nick reaches into his shirt pocket and pulls out a roll of 35mm film in a small tin container and tosses it to Richardson.

“Have that put in the D.C. pouch for Bill Johnson. We’ll see if we can’t find out who our professor is.”

“Got it.”

Richardson heads back through the house to the gravel parking lot in front, climbs into the team’s rented Jeep Utility Wagon, and heads down the mountain for Charlotte Amalie.

Back on the veranda, Nick and Dalila go over her limited role in the sting.

“There’s a phone at the desk, and there are a couple of chairs in the waiting area.”

“I can call after he’s gone to a room.”

“We’ll start there, but we need a backup. I don’t trust the phone system. Maybe we can wire a room for sound.”

Nick turns to Pete Hall.

“Pete, ever been in a Caribbean whorehouse?”

“Nope. Sorry to say I’ve never been in any kind of whorehouse.”

“How’d you like to take a shot at some undercover work?”

“I’m in.”

“If we can’t get the room wired, we’ll put you in the waiting room before Kropotkin’s arrival. When he gets taken to one of the rooms in the back, you head downstairs. We’ll have our cops from Puerto Rico out by the fountain or the market. You just come out of that doorway and head for the waterfront. That’ll be the signal that Kropotkin’s, shall we say, engaged.”

“I doubt an engagement is what he’s after,” Dalila suggests.

“Just trying to keep it clean.”

“You mean like that crack about not keeping it in his pants?” Dalila asks.

Nick winces. He’s been making a special effort to mind his language when he’s around Dalila, but old habits die hard.

“Nobody’s perfect.”

“Don’t worry about me. You keep worrying about my feelings and you’re going to make a mistake.”

“No shit.”

“That’s better,” Dalila quips.

“If we can get a bug in the room, then we’ll hold you in reserve until Dalila gets out of there.”

Nick looks at his watch.

“We need to pick up our charter. Maybe we can spot this lab from the water.”

“You think the professor will make a move once Kropotkin’s out of the way?” Pete asks.

“That’s our best judgment. Now that we know where he lives, I want to be ready for him if he heads back to work.”

The three of them, Nick, Dalila, and Pete, enjoy a quiet moment engaged in their separate thoughts about what lies ahead. Pete Hall, who should be grading the lab work of graduate students, works hard to contain his excitement at the thought of going into action with the CIA. Dalila Atieno, who should be working on the myriad details of the complex task of transitioning a former colony to a fully independent and sovereign nation, reflects on the seamy details of work in the trenches of the world’s most dangerous geopolitical game. And Nick Temple, who is precisely where he should be, marvels at the selfless courage of his two newest colleagues.