Previous, Next, Numerical Index, Chronological Index.
Subject: For All Nails #51f: Victoria's Secret (Part 6)

CNA Embassy
Nairobi, Victoria
5 April 1973

"The latest estimates indicate about two hundred and thirty
dead, sir," said Patrick Garrigan.  "I suspect the final
tally will be somewhere near that - the missing are turning
up as fast as they're finding new bodies."

"At least they aren't making them any more," replied
Ambassador the Honourable John Gilmore.  "Do you know if any
of them were ours?"

"Two," the aide responded.  "Maija-Liisa Kantonen, a New Day
worker out in Masai country, and Thomas Vanderweghe, a
student on holiday."

"Any idea how they got there?"

"We're still not entirely sure, Ambassador," said Garrigan.
"From what I've been told, Miss Kantonen liked political
meetings almost as much as she liked crop rotation, and she
made some friends in the VNC.  I think it's likely she had a
young man there, possibly more than one."

The ambassador nodded.  Garrigan had an uncanny way of
finding things out; it was one of the things that made him
worth having.  He was a former New Day man himself, and
still dreadfully crass, but such was the norm in the foreign
service these days, and Garrigan was at least good at his
job.  It didn't hurt that he was black, either; it gave him
a level of trust with three quarters of Victoria's
population that the rest of the embassy staff didn't have.

"Vanderweghe... is a little harder to explain," Garrigan
continued.  "It seems he was marching with the Goldies."

"On the government's side?" Gilmore asked.

"I'm not sure we can really call it that, Ambassador.  The
Goldies were certainly marching against Mrs. Madoka, but I
wouldn't call them 'pro-government' at this point.  I think
it's more likely that they were organized by the
Conservatives."

"Whatever," said Gilmore, dismissing the origins of the
counter-demonstration as moot.  "How did Vanderweghe get
mixed up with them?"

"It's the other thing a New Day stint will do to you,"
Garrigan said, scarcely concealing his disapproval.
"Sometimes you get your fill of the ingratitude of the poor
oppressed, and decide that the oppressors might be better
company."  He shook his head, remembering his time in France
a decade before.  "Sometimes they are."

"It will still be difficult to explain at home."

"No doubt," the aide said.  "Have you decided on a response?"

"I think so," answered Gilmore.  "We regret the death of so
many, and deplore the use of violence to settle political
differences."

Garrigan came as close to shouting as Gilmore had ever seen
him, but brought himself under control.  "You'll deplore the
_violence_?" he asked.  "What about deploring the people who
shot two hundred of their fellow men dead?"

"Calm down, Garrigan," said the Honourable John.  "I can
hardly take too strong a stand when I haven't heard from
Burgoyne yet - and there are the Germans to think about."

"The Germans?" repeated Garrigan.

"The Victorians have been the Germans' bastards since the
war, but there's no love lost between them, and there's been
a great deal of friction lately over the Madoka case.  I've
spoken to Carrington over at the British embassy, and he
thinks there's a real chance that Patten might come over to
our side - but not if we press him too hard in public."

Garrigan nodded.  What Carrington had said was likely to be
true; the British had better sources of information in
Victoria than even he did.  That didn't make him like it
any better.

"Another lesson in reality, is it?"

Ambassador Gilmore clapped a hand on his aide's shoulder.
"I know how you feel, Garrigan," he said.  "If it's any
consolation, I don't care for it either.  And you can rest
assured that I'll have more to say in private..."

***

Government House
Nairobi, Victoria
6 April 1973

"We should charge the bitch with murder," Harry Keller said.

"Murder?" asked John Amalfi incredulously.  "On what bloody
evidence?"

"Thirty thousand niggers marched up Victoria Avenue carrying
signs with her name on them," Keller replied.  "Now two
policemen are dead.  She's a sodding accomplice."

"As I said, Harry, what bloody evidence?" said Amalfi.  "If
you're going to go to trial with this, you'd better have
some proof that she was behind it all, and so far we've got
none."

"John's right, Harry," added Richard Patten.  "The VNC
might have organized the march _for_ the Madoka woman, but
it doesn't look as if she had any part in planning it.
Damn it, she wasn't even there - and that's even without
having to prove who started the fight."

"Some nigger threw a bottle, didn't he?" asked Charles
Nicholson.

"That's the official story," sighed Amalfi.  "What happened
was that some of Harry's bloody police panicked. And don't
think that anyone's fooled - I've been very busy taking
calls from Embassy Row the past two days, and they haven't
been at all complimentary."

"How are they _my_ police?" asked the leader of the
Conservative Party.  "Pierre is Home Secretary..."

"And he asks your permission to piss," interrupted Amalfi.
"Believe me, I have my suspicions about who organized that
counter-march, and who told the police not to keep both
sides apart.  Those policemen's blood isn't on Victoria
Madoka's hands - it's on..."

"Don't say the next word," Keller said, his voice
preternaturally calm.  "That's a warning, and I'll only
give you one."

Patten smashed a closed fist down on the table.  "Quiet,
both of you!" he shouted.  "Remember where you are, and stop
acting like a pair of bloody navvies.  You're ministers of
the Victorian government, and I just won't have it."

He waited for calm.  "We've been dealt a black eye, and
we'll have to live with it," he continued.  "Yes, we can
arrest whoever organized this, and we'll probably be able
to push a few security laws through Parliament, but we'd
better not overplay our hand.  I doubt a jury will be very
sympathetic to the Madoka woman after this, but there will
be no new charges."

"So much for the independence of the public prosecutor's
office, then," Keller said.

"And see what your independence did for us?" answered
Patten.  "This time you asked my advice, and you'd damned
well better take it..."

***

Nairobi, Victoria
9 April 1973

Max Klein looked out at the street from the window of his
empty store.

The damage from the demonstration had been cleaned up - the
store had a new window, and the sidewalk outside was free
of debris and worse - but customers were still few.  And no
wonder - the police were everywhere now, checking the passes
of every black person they saw.  It didn't matter if they
were citizens - citizens didn't need to carry passes, but
that didn't prevent them from being stopped to make sure.
In fact, if anything, the police seemed to view the
appearance of a well-dressed black man as a provocation.

Most of Klein's customers had been black, but none of them
came into central Nairobi these days unless it was absolutely
necessary.  Even those who worked in offices stayed there all
day rather than doing a little shopping during lunch hour.
The emergency - for so the government was calling it - was
proving to be very bad for trade.

More than that, it was unnerving.  The armed police patrols
reminded him of the stories his grandmother had told him
about Odessa, back in the bad old days.  Then, of course,
she had been the one facing the guns, but it could be almost
as unsettling to see them pointed at someone else.

Max had never thought of himself as a liberal.  He voted for
the Democrats most of the time, but he didn't pay much
attention to politics, and he wasn't one of those who spent
his time worrying about the plight of the blacks.  He was
glad to have them as customers and to make small talk over
the cash register, but otherwise they existed in different
worlds.

Now, though, he thought he understood a bit better.  It
seemed to him that all they really wanted was to be left
alone, to be able to window-shop or walk through the park
without being cursed or made to show their papers.  That was
a desire that Max - and certainly his grandmother - could
find familiar.

_Maybe they've gone too far this time..._

***

Carrollton, Victoria
11 April 1973

The silence of Caroline Boyle's apartment was shattered by
the sound of nightsticks against the door.  Outside, someone
shouted, "Police!"

Caroline, startled, looked up from her tea into the eyes of
her maid.  "Please answer the door, Letitia," she commanded.

Letitia Ntimana stood rooted to the spot as shock gave way
to terror.

"Do I have to tell you twice, Letitia?" asked Boyle, her
annoyance at the police intrusion compounded by her
servant's paralysis.  "Answer the door."

Letitia's mouth worked.  "I can't, madam," she whispered.
"Tell them I'm not here... please.  I'm not here."  Without
waiting for a response, she fled toward the back rooms.
Outside, the pounding on the door became more insistent.

From where Letitia hid, she could hear her mistress walking
across the parlor to answer the door.  _I should have left
days ago.  I knew they'd be looking; I should have known
they'd come here..._

"Good afternoon, officers," Caroline said.  "To what do I
owe this unexpected pleasure?"

"Pardon for the intrusion, ma'am.  We've heard that Letitia
Ntimana works here.  Would she be in?"

"Letitia Ntimana?  Why do you ask?"

_Madam wouldn't say anything, would she?  She was on the
telephone with Mrs. Madoka just this morning, talking about
how terrible it was.  She was planning a supper for the
legal defense fund..._

"It's on the warrant, ma'am," the police officer said.  "We
picked up a fellow called Charles Saitoti after the riot the
other day - quite high up in the VNC, it turns out - and he
says this Letitia helped him plan it out."

_The riot?  Is that what they're calling it now?_

"Are you saying that my maid is a member of the Victoria
National Congress?" asked Caroline.

"I'm afraid so, ma'am."

"And she participated in causing a civil disturbance?"

_Surely she won't say anything..._

"I'm afraid so, ma'am.  I know it's an inconvenience to you,
but we have some questions for her down at the station, and
she'll likely have to answer some charges.  Involvement with
the VNC is very serious business."

_She knows my children depend on me..._

"I think you'll find her right in there."

***

Jonathan I. Edelstein in Kew Gardens, NY

"It's been a lot of fun." -- in memoriam, Alison Brooks