Chapter 27 of Silent Vector

Chapter 27, in which a Nazi and a Commie find playing getting along with each other a challenge

CHAPTER 27

WITH FRIENDS LIKE THIS

Professor Hartmut Schnelling is appalled by the hulking presence of the malevolent Kropotkin. He resolves to send an encrypted cable at the first opportunity demanding the recall of the crude thug. In the meantime he knows he must do his best to placate the Slavic beast while revealing as little as possible about his work. He knows that Kropotkin’s sudden appearance on the island likely signals Moscow’s intention to shove him aside now that the formula has been successfully tested. And he knows that a shove from a creature like Kropotkin is likely to be a deadly shove into an early grave.

“You really should do that in the backroom if you insist on doing it in my house.”

Kropotkin ignores the professor and continues to clean his 9mm Makarov.

“Is your hotel room satisfactory?”

Kropotkin stops and looks up at Schnelling.

“It doesn’t concern you. The only thing I want to hear from you is when you’ll take me to your lab.”

Schnelling works hard to maintain his composure and to keep his voice steady, even cordial.

“We can’t just drive out there, you must understand. You’re probably being watched. You practically announced your arrival with your behavior at the harbor, so it is imperative that we wait some decent interval before we risk being seen together. I should think that a spy would be a bit more subtle.”

Kropotkin laughs. He puts the pistol back together and, without looking up from his work, addresses his host.

“Spy? You think I am spy? I spit on dead bodies of spies after killing them with my bare hands.”

Schnelling shivers with disgust. To calm his nerves he lights a cigarette and retreats to his kitchen. As he thinks about the injustice of having to kowtow to a monster like Kropotkin he hears the front door open and then slam shut. He walks back into his living room and sees that Kropotkin has left without a word. He takes another drag on his cigarette and exhales. His hand trembles as he puts the cigarette out in an ashtray on his teak and bamboo coffee table. The air smells like the machine oil Kropotkin was using on his Makarov. The smell nauseates Professor Hartmut Schnelling. A man who has perfected a means of silently destroying the lives of millions is suddenly unnerved when faced with the possibility of his own violent demise. He heads to his wall safe to extract the code book that will tell him how to construct his urgent cable to his Russian overlords.