Chapter 38 of Silent Vector

Chapter 38, in which, go figure, a Commie and a Nazi find it hard to get along

CHAPTER 38

AN ODD COUPLE

Schnelling sits at his kitchen table trying to review the specs of a variety of small, portable, pressurized containers. His nerves are already frayed when he hears the front door to his small bungalow open and then slam shut. He glances at his watch – precisely 1:30 p.m. Kropotkin, as has been the case every other day for the last ten days, left Schnelling alone at 11:00 this morning. His punctual return at 1:30 each day is a blessing and a curse. Schnelling resolves to head for his lab the next time Kropotkin goes wandering. However, he realizes that any pattern of activity by Kropotkin, if discovered, can render them both vulnerable.

Kropotkin belches as he plops himself down on the living room’s small couch. Schnelling, concerned about how his oafish roommate’s lack of discretion could jeopardize his mission, summons up enough courage to ask the beast some pointed questions. He folds the pages of specs under his arm and heads into the living room.

“Where the devil do you go when you leave here?”

Kropotkin lights a cigarette and ignores the question.

“You know I could set my watch by your coming and going. And if I can, that means anyone watching us can, too. You might as well take out an ad in the paper if you’re . . .”

“Prostitutes,” Kropotkin blurts out.

“What?”

“You heard me, old man. Prostitutes. And keep your fucking nose out of my business.”

“You fool!”

“Only fool, old fool like you, would sit around in this stinking climate and not want woman. Or do you prefer little boys, Nazi filth?”

Kropotkin laughs at his own crude joke before he continues to smoke.

As Schnelling tries to maintain his dignity, he makes the mistake of responding.

“I prefer the company of men and women of refinement, but I am stuck with you.”

“Okay, Professor Asshole. You have one more week. If you don’t take me to lab I will pull its location out of you surgically.”

Schnelling, mortified by the turn his life has taken, flees the bungalow with Kropotkin’s malevolent laugh ringing in his ears.

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Nick Temple sits in a Jeep Utility Wagon twenty meters down the street from Schnelling’s house. Nick followed Kropotkin at a safe distance after the Russian left his new favorite hangout on Church Square. The hunch paid off. Nick instantly recognizes Schnelling as one of the two men he heard speaking German at Sleepy Pete’s. Nick focuses his Nikon F single lens reflex camera. Bull’s-eye!