Chapter 19 of Silent Vector

Chapter 19, in which team Temple is beaten to the punch

CHAPTER 19

KNOW WHEN TO FOLD ‘EM

Ulrich Hartmann steps from the Victoria Hotel into the rising heat of the late morning. His instructions from Moscow are clear: he is to wait in Cairo. The thought that he may be ordered back to Kenya is almost too much to bear. His hasty exit from Mombasa obviously displeases the powers that be, but the shocking news from Voi convinced him that his was likely the next life to be lost in this Cold War struggle.

“That’s him,” Ridgely says as he points to a man in tropical whites speaking with the doorman.

Hartmann is trying to get a taxi to take him to the Pyramids west of Giza. He was going to stay in his room until told when to move, but he instead opted to be out in public, convinced he is safer in a crowd than alone behind a single deadbolt.

“Let’s grab him, shall we?”

Nick and Dalila scan the crowd as Ridgely pulls up and parks his Land Rover on El Gomhoria across from the hotel’s entrance.

“There’s a Kenyan coming his way,” Dalila points to a man in a khaki suit 50 meters up the street on the hotel side approaching the hotel at a brisk pace.

“He’s coming for our man. Let’s see if we can’t stop him. He’s no use to us dead.”

The three jump out of the parked car. The busy street is no match for the cool confidence of Dalila Atieno. Looking for all the world like a model at the House of Chanel, she calmly strides through traffic and somehow manages to avoid being crushed in the bargain. Nick sprints towards the hotel entrance, dodging motorbikes, cars, and lorries while keeping his eyes on the rapidly approaching Kenyan, hoping to intercept him.

The Kenyan, now no more than 15 meters from Hartmann, stops abruptly. In a single motion he pulls a Browning Hi-Power semiautomatic pistol from a shoulder holster under his suit jacket and drops to his right knee, instantly assuming a firing position.

“This guy knows what he’s doing,” Nick thinks to himself as he draws his Beretta. Without breaking stride he fires a single round at the Kenyan. The round slams into the Kenyan’s left thigh, precisely as aimed. Remarkably, the wounded assassin barely flinches. Nick squeezes off another round just as the Kenyan fires at Hartmann.

Hartmann, a bullet lodged in his brain, drops face first to the sidewalk the moment Dalila and Ridgely reach the curb. Ridgely reflexively draws his sidearm from his shoulder holster. The two of them immediately stop and turn, dodging traffic to get back to Ridgely’s Land Rover. Nick, ten meters farther up the street, does the same, turning away from the Kenyan whose lifeless body is sprawled on the hot Cairo sidewalk, his last mission in life an unqualified success.