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For All Nails #51I: Victoria's Secret (Part 9)

by Jonathan Edelstein

The Lambs Club
Nairobi, Victoria
2 May 1973

"It's a pity, really," said Magistrate Ian Douglas. "I haven't seen a lost cause defended so well in donkey's years, but it's still a lost cause."

"You're talking about the Madoka case, I assume?" asked Paul Masseret.

"Naturally," Douglas said, sipping his drink. "She's a handsome woman and she puts on a fine show -- she had Hodges' witnesses tied in knots all day. When it comes down to it, though, what she said was in violation of the Sedition Act. I don't see how a jury can get around that in the end."

"You think she'll be convicted, then?"

"Almost certainly," Douglas sighed. "No doubt she wants to make a statement, and she has done, but at the end of the day she'll be guilty as charged. The part I don't understand is why she wanted to make this particular statement. I suppose I can see how someone in her position might have some grievances, but why the VNC?"

"I recall you asked her that on the day she was arraigned," Masseret said.

"I did, and I'm still not sure I got a satisfactory answer. She gave me the reasons why she thinks Victoria ought to change. Those aren't reasons to support people burning farmsteads out in the bush."

"Have you ever considered that maybe she doesn't support the VNC?" asked Masseret.

"She's said she does," Douglas replied incredulously. "Why shouldn't I take her at her word?"

"You should. But maybe she only supports what she thinks the VNC is. I was there to watch opening statements today, and I heard her describe the VNC's goal as 'to make Victoria into a state of all its citizens.' That isn't what the VNC wants, but it's what she wants, and I think some of her VNC clients may have agreed with her in order to attract her sympathy. I think she might have a mistaken idea of exactly who the VNC intends to share the future."

"You're saying she thinks the VNC is just a more militant version of the All Citizens' Party? Damn it, Paul, she's an intelligent woman. I can't imagine her being that naive."

"And how long ago was it that you said there weren't any racialists in the Democratic Party?"

"Touché," the judge answered. "We've all got blind spots, don't we? It's just that she's so clear-headed about most things, I could never imagine her having one."

"Placing her on a bit of a pedestal, aren't you?"

"I suppose so. But as I've told you before, maybe she deserves to be on one..."

CNA Embassy
Nairobi, Victoria
3 May 1973

"John Amalfi tells me that Patten is definitely open to overtures," said Lord Peter Carrington.

"I've had a telephone meeting or two with him myself," replied Ambassador Gilmore. "They certainly are concerned about the Germans' comments on the trial -- Patten has characterized them as being just short of infringements on Victorian sovereignty, and not all of that was election rhetoric. The trouble is that they also seem to have an exaggerated idea of how much we want them to switch sides."

"How so, John?" Carrington asked. The ambassador would never have tolerated any of his own staff using his first name -- awful Mexican habit, that -- but he and the British high commissioner had known each other for a long time.

"They're certainly making some rather ridiculous demands," responded Gilmore. "They want us to extradite suspected VNC leaders living in North America, sever ties with Bunyoro and Abyssinia, sanction Botswana for funding the VNC with diamond money -- damn it, Peter, nobody even knows if the Botswana are paying the VNC. I'm certainly willing to keep my criticism private, at least until Burgoyne tells me otherwise, but I'm not about to promise them a bloody alliance or to approve their bloody racialism. If I even started to do that, the Grand Council would have my head."

"Of course, all those demands might be an opening bid."

"I don't think I could even open. I'm willing not to condemn them, but cooperation is out of the question."

"That's a shame, John," said Carrington. "I was hoping we might find a common purpose here. Victoria's an important regional power, and one that used to be part of the United Empire. We want it back rather badly; it would be quite a coup to bring some of His Majesty's lost children home."

"Surely you're not intending to comply with their demands."

"Oh, not all of them, not by any means. We certainly don't intend to let them dictate our foreign relations. But we may consider some degree of intelligence sharing, and possibly a favorable trade arrangement to make up for the sanctions certain other countries are considering. Britain hasn't had much good news on the foreign front since the war, and we're well past due..."

Nyeri, Victoria
3 May 1973

"All right, bitch," said the guard. "You stay right here; I'll go get her."

Victoria Madoka sat down in the gray interrogation room and watched the guard disappear. She was scared; more so than she had ever been in her life. She had been in prison before -- even as an inmate -- but this was different. The other times, she had been registered, her presence noted, and her treatment governed by rules and regulations to which she could appeal. Now, she was in a place she was not supposed to be, and there was very little to stop the guard from denouncing her to the prison authorities or simply making her disappear. The bribe she had paid him was equivalent to more than two months' salary, and Anand Rajaram had singled him out as the most corruptible of the prison staff, but he could still change his mind -- and her fate -- at any time.

Nor was Nyeri prison camp a place to inspire calm. The part Victoria was in looked less like a camp than a conventional prison; walls bristling with barbed wire, guard towers, concrete yards, dreary buildings containing row upon row of cells. The interrogation chamber where she sat was deep underground, the air was thick and moist, and the floor was stained a subtle dark red.

It could not have been more than twenty minutes before the guard returned, but it seemed an eternity. At any minute, Victoria expected the door to crash open and soldiers to pour in and arrest her or worse, but when the door opened, it was only the guard shoving a chained prisoner ahead of him.

"You've got half an hour, bitch," he said. "After that, she goes back in the cells and you go to whatever bally jungle you call home." He pushed the prisoner down into a chair and left the room, locking the door ominously behind him.

Letitia Ntimana was barely recognizable. Even in the dim light, Madoka could see that her face was a mass of bruises, cuts and cigarette burns. In entering the room, she had stumbled far more than could be accounted for by the guard's manhandling, and when she spoke, her voice came out a rasp.

"I didn't think anyone knew I was here."

"People know," Victoria said quietly. "The Guardian ran an article on you this morning, and I've filed a habeas corpus petition in Nyeri magistrate's court. We'll get you out of here; just have patience."

"No, you won't," Letitia said. "I don't know what Charles told them, but they're convinced that I'm a VNC commander. They won't let me go." She laughed weakly. "I doubt it would do any harm to tell you that I really am VNC, but not anybody important. I doubt it would do any good, either."

The attorney looked up quickly at the ceiling before realizing that the illicit nature of their meeting meant that nobody was listening. If this had been a registered visit, the prison authorities would no doubt have monitored every word, but the guard couldn't make a record of this meeting without revealing that he'd taken a bribe. They could speak freely here; more so, in fact, than they could have done at Caroline Boyle's home.

"Is my family all right?" Ntimana asked.

"I'm taking care of your children, and I told Caroline to go to hell. They'll be fine. And so will you -- they can't make you disappear if your name's in the papers. They'll at least have to charge you, and keep you in a regular prison where your children can visit."

"I wouldn't be too sure," Letitia said. "The rules are changing, Victoria." It was the first time she'd ever used Madoka's personal name, and the attorney felt that a distance had been bridged between them.

"I want to thank you, though, for what you've done," she continued. "And just in case I don't get out of here, there's something I need to tell you..."

Forward to FAN #51J (4 May 1973): Victoria's Secret (Part 10).

Return to For All Nails.