Chapter 51 of Silent Vector

Chapter 51, in which a death in the Caribbean reaches far beyond the sea

CHAPTER 51

 A DAY LATE AND A DOLLAR SHORT

The news of Kropotkin’s death flows quickly back to the Cold War centers of power.

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Proykiev reads a copy of the encoded cable. He reads it half a dozen times before he can no longer tell himself that he is misinterpreting its message. He sits back in his office chair for a moment with his hands folded on his lap. He exhales, stands, and walks to his fourth-story office window for a breath of fresh air. The window consists of two panes that open outward stretching from a sill less than a meter above the floor all the way to the ceiling. He opens the window by slowly rotating a crank at the base of the right pane clockwise until both panes are perpendicular to the building’s outer wall. He steps up to stand on the sill and immediately, almost mechanically, spills out of the window ending his life with a thud on the sidewalk below.

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The General Secretary rubs his temples as he rereads the messages in front of him. Proykiev’s gamble has failed. The Americans have eliminated Kropotkin leaving no one in place to terminate the German. They should have left Kropotkin alone. Kasparanov and the old guard will be able to breathe easier. The Army and Navy will undoubtedly continue to insist that the Cuba initiative, now being called Operation Anadyr, proceed on the fantastic assumption that a nuclear contest with the Americans is winnable. Only time will tell if he and others who are like-minded will be able to pull the nation back from that brink. And if the German succeeds, the end may come sooner rather than later.

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Arnie Miller gets two messages nearly simultaneously. The first, from Cliff Thompson, is simple and clear: Let Kropotkin live. He is about to relay that message across the pond when Terry enters his office with the second message, this one from Langley. The second message is equally simple and clear: Kropotkin terminated Caribbean sector. He rereads the second message before looking up at his secretary.

“I need to get ahold of Bill Johnson.”

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The Director scans his daily briefing. As has been his habit for years, he also peruses the previous day’s European cable traffic while he drinks his second cup of morning coffee. He is looking for any sign of a reaction from the Warsaw Pact nations to Kropotkin’s death. He can only wait and see if the sanction, undertaken on the assumption that Schnelling will abandon his efforts with Kropotkin’s elimination, will have the desired effect. The only item that catches his eye is an encrypted transmission from one of Langley’s own, an assistant to the Chargé d’Affaires in Moscow, reporting the suicide of the Deputy Commissar of the KGB’s First Chief Directorate.