Sobel Wiki

For All Nails #51F: Victoria's Secret (Part 6)

by Jonathan Edelstein

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."

Forward to FAN #51G: Victoria's Secret (Part 7).

Forward to 6 April 1973: Diplomacy.

Return to For All Nails.