Chapter 70 of Silent Vector

Chapter 70, in which the race against time resumes

CHAPTER 70

THE RACE IS ON

“We’re going to waste hours going through it over the phone. I need to see that log. How soon can you get to Miami?”

Ted Durant has been Nick’s go-to guy on encryption for years. He’s been using his Ph.D. in applied mathematics in service to his country since walking away from his comfortable life as a small college professor and enlisting on December 8, 1941. Ted’s work was instrumental in unraveling what the Soviets were planning on Crete in ’55. His intercept from a hotel room in Heraklion was a key piece in halting Moscow’s ambitious and potentially game-changing gamble. If Ted Durant says it’s a waste of time to try to crack Schnelling’s code over the phone, that’s good enough for Nick.

“I’ll work on getting off the island as soon as I hang up.”

“You know the USO lounge in the terminal at Miami International?”

“I do. I’ll meet you there. I’ve got to make a call to Langley first.”

“Guzman?”

“Yeah.”

“Look, before you hang up, read whatever is written on the first and last pages of the log. It’s a long shot, but I might be able to get started on the flight to Miami.”

“Got it. Ready?”

“Shoot.”

Nick reads the first page, a series of numbers and letters in groups of five that appear to repeat, but do not appear to be sentences; after finishing, he reads the last page which is again a combination of letters and numbers, in various-sized groups, arranged in a simple, horizontal, linear format the way sentences, with the notable absence of any punctuation, would normally appear in a western language.

“I want to read it back to you to make sure I’ve got it.”

“Ready when you are.”

Ted Durant and Nick Temple, World War II vets and long-time Cold War warriors, together do the tedious work, the far-less-than-glamorous work that so often is the difference between failure and success in their business.

As Durant and Temple work, a small, armed boat speeds towards a refueling stop on Parrot Cay off of North Caicos. From there it will make its way to a rendezvous with a practically anonymous commercial fishing boat in the Atlantic south of the Bahamas. Its deadly cargo is the one canister Schnelling managed to deliver stored safely below; its destination is the sleepy South Carolina coastal town of Murrells Inlet where a panel van will be waiting. Target: Atlanta.