Chapter 21, in which Dalila Atieno goes on her first solo recon mission
Dalila Atieno cruises easily through the checkpoint that proved so portentous for Ulrich Hartmann. As she continues on to Voi she muses over the sudden turn her life has taken. One moment she is a rather anonymous clerk who eagerly anticipates the full transition to independence in store for Kenya. That anticipation makes her no different from most of her countrymen. While her desire to enter politics once the transition is complete is almost part of her DNA, she never considered doing much more than the routine work she’s been engaged in at the Provincial Commissioner’s office until that moment. And then came the request from Rodgers.
Since then she has been given access to classified information she could have gone to prison for possessing a week earlier; she has been introduced to Hugh Ridgely, the American CIA Station Chief for Cairo, and Nick Temple, another CIA agent; and she witnessed two nearly simultaneous and very public killings that are apparently tied to her new career, if one can call it that, no more than ten minutes later.
Temple’s explanation of why the death of the German, which initially was of no concern to her, was more significant than the death of the Kenyan helps her focus on what may be at stake as she navigates her way through the recent turn of events on the road to Voi.
The boy takes her hand and leads her down the road.
“When did you find them?”
“In the morning. I was walking to school.”
“Who did you tell?”
“My mother and father. Straight away. I ran home and told them. I didn’t touch anything. I told the policeman that.”
“Did you know them?”
“No, ma’am. But I could see they were dead. Right there.”
He stops, and letting go of her hand points to the roadside ditch, its grass and weeds still matted from the weight of the dead men’s mutilated bodies.
As Dalila looks at the ditch a patrol car pulls up. Behind the wheel is the same policeman who called in the boy’s discovery of the two bodies. He gets out of his car and walks over to Dalila and the boy.
“Good morning, officer,” Dalila responds.
“What brings you out here this morning?”
Dalila sees no need to conceal her identity. At the same time she sees no need to provide a full accounting. The officer strikes her immediately as capable and smart, just from his carriage and bearing. Being as honest as she can be seems the most prudent course of action.
“My name is Dalila Atieno. I work for the Provincial Commissioner’s Office in Nairobi. They’ve taken an interest in the case, and asked me to look into it.”
“How can I assist you, Miss Atieno?”
“It’s simple, really. Why were they killed?”
The officer turns to the young boy and puts his arm on his shoulder.
“You’ll be just in time for school if you hurry.”
The lad scampers off. The officer watches after him and then returns his attention to Dalila.
“I can tell you what the people here in Voi believe, but our department has not been able to confirm any of this.”
“If you don’t mind.”
“Not at all. The two men came to Voi about a year ago. One called himself a doctor. The other was his assistant. They set up a small medical clinic in the heart of town and began receiving patients.”
“That seems a bit odd, don’t you think.”
“They connected themselves to a Lutheran missionary. It was a loose connection, but the fact that they offered medical services made their presence welcome and kept the questions to a minimum.”
“Until about a month ago. Two young girls, both teenagers, and a teenaged boy were treated by them. They came in for tetanus shots, and within days all three had developed polio. The boy died when it attacked his lungs, and the two girls are now unable to walk.”
“How do they know these men were to blame?”
“They don’t. And it’s actually quite fantastic. All of the young people in this area receive the polio vaccine as a condition of attending school. I think the wrong men have been blamed and executed. Perhaps a defective vaccine is to blame. But I honestly do not know at this point.”
“None. It was made to look like a Mau Mau killing, but I don’t believe it. That’s just a cover. Whoever did this was not interested in politics. They were interested in revenge.”
Dalila has heard enough.
“Thank you so much for your time, officer.”
“Do you need a lift?”
“No, thank you. My car is just down the road, in front of the boy’s family’s house.”
“How did you find him?”
“It wasn’t hard. Plenty of talk at the market yesterday led me to him. It’s amazing what one can find out when one asks the right people.”
“Indeed it is.”
“Good day, then.”
Dalila offers her hand. They shake hands formally.
“Good day to you, ma’am.”
She turns and walks back towards her car parked no more than two blocks away. The officer, convinced that Miss Dalila Atieno does more than simply work for the Provincial Commissioner, adds her appearance in Voi to the growing list of questions surrounding the brutal murder of the two German “doctors.”