Chapter 14 of Silent Vector

Chapter 14, in which the CIA looks for help from a Kenyan



Dalila Atieno opens the morning’s first visa application. Her work at the Provincial Commissioner’s office in the heart of Nairobi, a building referred to by local Brits as “Hatches, Matches, and Dispatches” due to the births, marriages, and deaths recorded within its thick colonial walls, is routine. The skills she acquired as a top undergraduate studying economics and politics at the University of London are rarely officially used. She is, however, consulted on a wide range of matters that would fit under the general heading of “Kenyan Affairs” by her British employers. She has a reputation for keen analysis coupled with a deep cultural understanding that makes her invaluable to the office of the Governor during this period of transition from colonial to self-rule. Her ambition, one she openly admits to harboring, is to continue in the political tradition of her forbears once Kenya achieves full independence. In the meantime, she learns as much as she can about national administration while working for the appreciative Brits.

She flips open a file just as Cecil Rodgers, her supervisor, enters her office.

“Dalila, might I have a word with you?”

“Of course, Mr. Rodgers.”

He enters and sits in the small room’s one unoccupied chair.

“What can I do for you this morning?”

Rodgers, a lifer with the British Colonial Office, can’t help admiring the young woman across the desk from him. He particularly likes the fact that her quick analytical mind is matched by her strength of character. Without being overbearing, she has never made any secret of her desire to someday serve an independent Kenya. Her deep interest in Kenyan politics has made her invaluable to the Governor’s office. The fact that she is strikingly beautiful has been both a hindrance and a help to her. Her beauty is what most men–and politics remains dominated by men in 1962–see when they first encounter her. Her lucid, active mind is what they learn to admire when they get to know her. Rodgers travelled that same path. And now, when he needs to understand Kenya in a way that its colonial masters never could, he turns to Dalila Atieno. But today’s visit is different. It seems that her orbit of admirers is about to extend well beyond Nairobi’s Provincial Commissioner’s Office.

“We’ve had a request from the Americans. They’re in need of some assistance on a matter that must be handled with a good deal of discretion.”

“It sounds intriguing.”

“It might be messy. It’s about those two Germans who were found murdered in Voi.”

“What do the Americans want from me?”

“Someone with brains, candor, and expert knowledge of the cultural and political landscape. Yours was the only name we considered giving them.”

“I’m flattered, of course. And I would relish the chance to work with them.”

“That’s settled then. They’ve already reviewed your file. I sent a copy on to them when the matter first came up. I hope you don’t mind.”

“Not at all.”

“I’ll arrange the meeting. It will involve a trip to Cairo. There appears to be some urgency about the matter, so be prepared to leave at a moment’s notice.”

“So long as my employer approves.”

“He does, so long as we don’t lose you to the Americans.”

Dalila laughs.

“You’re going to lose me to the Kenyans in short order. Don’t forget.”

“Right you are, and it’s a damned shame, too. Well, I’ll be off and let you get back to work. Thanks so much for your time.”

“Of course, Mr. Rodgers.”

Rodgers stands and executes a slight bow, really more of a nod, before turning and leaving the office.

Dalila ponders what life would be like working for the Americans for just a moment. She quickly dismisses the idea and returns to the routine bureaucratic matters awaiting her attention.