Chapter 7, in which Hartmann meets some unexpected resistance
“You can see for yourself it’s a diplomatic passport. Now let me pass.”
While the Captain of the Guard is less than impressed, he remains courteous.
“Please remain in your car. I’ll return in a moment.”
Hartmann is about to demand the return of his passport when the captain motions to one of his men. The soldier immediately turns his shoulder-slung L52 Sten submachine gun on Hartmann who decides to save his protestations.
The captain calmly walks to the small building on the south side of the checkpoint that houses his office, a small communications room, and billets for half a dozen soldiers. The station was constructed by the British during the worst days of the Mau Mau rebellion to control the flow of supplies and men from the coast to the interior. The rebellion is over and independence is a pending certainty, yet the station, one of the last vestiges of colonialism, remains. It sits in the semi-arid Taru Desert of Kenya, across the only road to Voi from Mombasa, a trip of approximately 150 kilometers.
Hartmann wipes the sweat from his brow. The two acacia trees on either side of the station’s building provide the only shade for a considerable distance. He should just reach the small village east of Voi before dusk. The longer the captain takes with his passport, the slimmer are Hartmann’s chances of arriving before dark. After what seems like an hour, the captain returns.
“You are to come with me.”
“What is the meaning of this?”
“What is your destination?”
“Nairobi,” Hartmann lies.
“And what of your countrymen in Voi?”
“What are you talking about? I demand the return of my passport, immediately!”
“Answer my question. What do you know of the German doctors in Voi?”
Hartmann’s bluster is beginning to give way to fear. The officer’s questions betray an ominous fate for his countrymen that he works hard not to imagine.
“I told you. I am going to Nairobi. I know nothing of Germans in Voi. Now, are you going to return my passport? If not, I will be forced to return to Mombasa and report this matter to the proper authorities.”
The captain holds out Hartmann’s passport. Hartmann reaches for it. As he does the captain pulls his hand back, and steps towards Hartmann, bringing himself less than six inches away from the profusely sweating foreigner. The captain’s eyes narrow to slits. He addresses Hartmann in a menacing whisper that barely masks a century of rage.
“Mombasa is your only chance.”