Saturday, May 31, 2014
Thursday, May 29, 2014
Monday, May 26, 2014
Today is Memorial Day, a day when we honor those who sacrificed all so that we could enjoy so much. We could celebrate this day with barbecue in the backyard, or football on the TV – or, we could go to the nearest veterans’ cemetery and lay a wreath on the grave of one of those who made the supreme sacrifice for the freedoms we sometimes take for granted.
Sunday, May 25, 2014
HR BlogVOCATE: When Your Boss Is In Love with Herself: Quick—what kind of boss insists that everyone like her? Here's a hint. Maybe she's also the kind that: Thinks entirely to...
Thursday, May 22, 2014
PnPAuthors Promotions introducing Gina:
PnPAuthors Promotions Presents...: PnPAuthors Promotions Presents Gina LoBiondo and is proud she joined us~ Gena! We ...
PnPAuthors Promotions Presents...: PnPAuthors Promotions Presents Gina LoBiondo and is proud she joined us~ Gena! We ...
PnPAuthors Promote ALFRANCENA: PnPAuthors is proud of ALFRANCENA~: PnPAuthors Promotions ___________________________________________ Author Alfancena PnPAuthors is so proud of Alfancen...
Wednesday, May 21, 2014
Morgan had been even more exhausted than he thought. On Friday, after Susan Pinchon had left the residence, he drank his tea, took a long hot shower, and lay down across the big king sized bed in the master bedroom, and didn’t wake up until after seven on Saturday morning.
He spent the rest of the weekend exploring the house and grounds and getting to know the staff – and, more importantly, letting them get to know him. He learned that all three had served every ambassador since the embassy was first opened. None of them were married, and were intensely dedicated to their jobs. After the shock of his arrival, the residence in just two days had become a kind of refuge, a place where he knew he’d be able to get away when the press of his diplomatic business became too much.
Susan Pinchon and George Toko were at the residence at 7:30 Monday morning to take him for his first day in the embassy.
“I hope you had a restful weekend,” Pinchon said as the limo exited the compound gate.
“Yes, I did,” Morgan replied. “I hadn’t realized how tired I was until I lay down on the bed. But, now I’m ready to slay dragons.”
“Well, the first dragon we have for you is His Excellency Gideon Simbawashe, the esteemed foreign minister. Jonathan Kabo called me late Friday, and said Simbawashe wants to see you this morning. We’ll stop at Jonathan’s office first, and then he’ll escort us up to the minister’s office. By the way, I hope you don’t think it presumptuous of me to include myself in your meeting.”
“Not at all. I would have insisted you come if you hadn’t. I want you to know everything I know. After all, when I’m absent, you have to act in my stead. Will we be going to the embassy first, or the ministry?”
“We’ll go straight to the ministry.”
Morgan didn’t have a lot of experience in such matters, but he didn’t recall the foreign minister meeting his ambassador so early after his arrival when he served as the number two in Dagastan. Then again, he wasn’t as familiar yet with African customs as he hoped eventually to become.
He decided that trying to figure things out in the absence of more in depth knowledge was a waste of his mental energy, so he just sat back to enjoy the ride and take in the scenery. He also was cataloguing landmarks as they drove. Another habit from his army days – he liked to be aware of the terrain in which he operated.
Like many West Africans, Nagandans are early risers. Once they were through the wooded area and into the settlements on the outskirts of Mabuntu, they encountered women on their way to market with goods for sale or on their way to gather wood, young boys driving scrawny cattle in search of grazing ground, children fortunate enough to have parents who could afford the fees on their way to school, and the noisy traffic that darted to and fro seeking a way around the many barriers that appeared often without warning in the roadway.
About halfway back toward the airport, Toko took a sharp left onto a street that was a bit better kept up than the rest of the routes, and entered the city proper. An armed soldier at the intersection watched them idly, but kept his AK-47 cradled across his chest.
The city streets were if anything even more crowded than the country roads, with a large number of military vehicles mixed in with the civilian traffic.
They passed the sprawling City Market, a large normally vacant field which in the early morning every day was covered with rows and piles of everything one could imagine, including used clothing, freshly butchered meat, fruits and vegetables, carved wooden furniture, and metal toys made from beer cans that had been cut opened and flattened. Early morning shoppers weaved in and out among the wildly gesticulating and shouting merchants, and mangy dogs sniffed around the perimeter seeking the rare tossed-away treat.
Beyond the open market were buildings left over from the colonial era. Shops, workshops, restaurants and office buildings lined the bumpy street. Most of the shops, selling clothing and sundry items, were owned by Lebanese, a non-African community that had been present in Naganda from the time it was colonized by the English in the mid-1700s. Most of the buildings were constructed of gray stone. A tall red-brick two-story building near the center of the city was the exception. The Nagandan Central Bank, formerly the British Bank of Commerce, was the only building that didn’t look faded and worn. Most of Naganda’s government buildings, including State House, where the head of state’s offices were located, and the foreign ministry, were located on the north end of town, separated from the rest of the city by barricades across the street, which were manned by scowling young soldiers brandishing AK-47s and RPGs.
At the sight of the red, white, and blue national standard flying on the Lincoln’s bumper, the soldiers flung aside the barricade and let Morgan’s vehicle pass. The foreign ministry was located not far from where they entered the restricted area. A four-story gray stone building, it sat inside a walled compound guarded by more green-clad soldiers. Toko drove into the compound, following the curved drive around and underneath a porte cochere at the front entrance. An elderly man opened the entrance door as Morgan got out of the car. He held the door for Morgan and Pinchon to enter, and motioned them to a desk opposite the door. He then closed the door and rushed behind the desk, pushing a dusty ledger toward them.
“Please, sah,” he said. “You and madam sign visitor book. Someone will be down to escort you.”
Brushing at the dust, Morgan entered his name and organization on the first blank page. Pinchon signed underneath him. They looked around for a place to sit. There were two scuffed leather sofas across the room, but they were, like the ledger, covered in dust. They decided to stand.
After about five minutes, Cedric Mboko came through a set of double doors to the left of the reception desk. He smiled broadly as he approached, his hand extended. “Excellence, Ma’am,” he said. “Mr. Kabo is expecting you. If you will please, follow me.”
After perfunctory handshakes, he spun on his heels and started at a brisk pace toward the door. They had to hustle to keep up with him. Through the door, they entered a dusty, dimly lit corridor that stretched off to the right and left. Doors lined the wall to their front, most of them closed. Except for the sound of their footfalls, though, the corridor was silent. They passed an elevator with metal grate doors that had a crudely lettered ‘Out of Service’ sign wired to the grate, and came to an opening in the wall with wooden steps leading upward.
“I must apologize,” Mboko said. “The elevator never works, and Mr. Kabo’s office is on the third floor. The minister’s office is on the fourth floor.”
Pinchon looked at Morgan and shrugged.
“My once a week visits here are my main exercise,” she said wryly.
By the time they’d reached the third floor in the dusty stairwell Morgan felt a coating of grit on his face and hands. He knew the grit would be embedded deeply in the fabric of his clothing as well, and wondered about the quality of local dry cleaning. At the third floor, Mboko pushed open a door, leading them into a corridor that was better illuminated than the ground floor had been. He walked to the left and to the end of the corridor, stopping and knocking on the door.
There was a muffled ‘come in.’ Mboko pushed open the door, and stepped aside to let Morgan and Pinchon enter. It was a small room with a large woman sitting behind a small desk, two stiff-back wooden chairs, and a small sofa at an angle in front of the desk.
“The American ambassador to see Mr. Kabo,” Mboko said.
Without acknowledging them, the woman rose and entered a door to her right. After a moment, she came back out.
“He’ll be with you momentarily,” she said and resumed her seat behind the desk, again ignoring them.
Morgan looked at the dust-laden sofa, and decided to sit on one of the chairs. Piinchon smiled and copied him. Mboko frowned, and took out a white handkerchief and dusted off one of the cushions on the sofa and sat. They sat in companionable silence for the next ten minutes. Morgan was accustomed to waiting, and he was pleased to note that she also didn’t seem discomfited by the delay. Mboko, though, continually fidgeted, looking at the gold Rolex on his thin wrist from time to time and then glancing at the door to his boss’s office.
Finally, the door swung open, and Kabo stood there in his dark suit, the dark stains still apparent at the armpits.
“Mr. Ambassador, Miss Pinchon, please, do come in,” as if they’d just arrived, rather than being left cooling their heels for ten minutes.
Kabo’s office was spartanly furnished. A simple gray metal desk, behind which sat a scuffed, leather-backed chair. Two similar chairs sat in front of the desk, and a plain wooden chair sat off to the side. On the wall behind his desk was a large framed photo of a youngish looking man in the green field uniform of the Nagandan army. The man’s face was dark brown, with broad brows, and an unsmiling expression. The walls were otherwise bare. A three-shelf bookcase sat in the corner. It contained several dusty green notebooks. Morgan couldn’t read the penciled labels. Kabo motioned them to the chairs in front of his desk and sat in his own chair. Mboko took the plain chair. On Kabo’s desk was a single sheet of paper. He fussed with it, aligning it precisely with the desk’s edge.
After aligning the paper to his satisfaction, Kabo looked up at Morgan. “I hope, excellency that you had a restful weekend.”
“I did,” Morgan said. “But, now I’m anxious to get to work.”
“Ah, yes, but you understand that until you have presented your credentials to His Excellency, the head of state, you are forbidden to participate in public events? Speaking of which, you did remember to bring your letter of credence and other documents?”
Morgan removed the documents from his briefcase and passed them to Kabo, who spent several minutes reading them. He then nodded.
“Excellent,” he said. “Everything appears to be in order. Your diplomatic identification card will be issued within the next three days, and we will schedule the ceremony for presentation of your credentials as soon as possible.” He pushed the documents aside and stood. “Now, if you will come with me, we’ll go to the foreign minister’s office.”
Morgan, Pinchon, and Mboko followed him to the stairwell. While Morgan and Pinchon followed Kabo upstairs, Mboko went down. “I’ll meet the two of you in the lobby when you’re finished,” he said over his shoulder as he went around the corner.
On the top floor, they came out of the stairwell into a broad corridor that, instead of uneven wood slats like the others, was covered in a thick, red, yellow and green carpet. At the end of the carpet, a large Nagandan flag, with its red, yellow, and green stripes, hung from a brass pole. They walked toward the flag, ending their journey in front of double wooden doors in dark mahogany. Kabo rapped lightly on the doors, and then pushed them open. He stepped aside and motioned Morgan and Pinchon in.
The foreign minister’s reception area was as large as Kabo’s entire office, reception area included. The secretary, a young, medium brown-skinned woman with her hair done in tight braids on her oval head, a bit too much lipstick on her thick lips, and her ample breasts nearly spilling out of the plunging neckline of the bright green dress she wore, sat behind a large dark brown wooden desk with brass fittings. She looked up and welcomed them with a broad smile.
“Ah, excellencies, please be seated.” She pointed to a large, four-cushion leather sofa to the left of the door. “His excellency the minister will be with you shortly.”
She then stood and disappeared through a door to her right, reappearing a moment later.
“May I offer you coffee or tea?” she asked.
Morgan declined. Not knowing how long the minister might keep him waiting, he didn’t want to risk having to go to the toilet – in fact, considering the condition of the building that he’d seen so far he didn’t want to risk having to use their facilities under any circumstances. Pinchon also declined, but Kabo asked for a cup of tea. The secretary turned to a cabinet behind her desk and poured dark, steaming liquid into a fine porcelain cup. She put the cup on a tray, added small containers of milk and sugar, and gave it to Kabo. He poured most of the milk and four teaspoons of sugar into the tea, put the tray on the coffee table at his right and, loudly slurping, began drinking.
After three or four minutes, the small door opened. A large man, his shoulders almost as wide as the door opening, and his head less than an inch from the top of the door, dressed in a dark blue, finely tailored suit, pearl gray shirt, and red tie, stood there. He had a square head, thick, tightly curled hair, black, but flecked at the temples with gray, a thick beard and mustache, a wide nose, thick lips, and close-set eyes with yellowed whites and bloodshot. He looked like someone Morgan wouldn’t want to meet in a dark alley.
“Mr. Ambassador,” he said in a booming voice. “Please, come in.”
With Pinchon and Kabo trailing, Morgan followed the man into his office.
It was even more sumptuous than the secretary’s office. The desk, made of some deep black wood, was six feet wide and four feet deep. He had a set of pens that Morgan was sure were gold, prominently displayed in the center. His chair was high-backed, carved of the same wood as the desk, with velvet pads on the armrests and seat. Two smaller versions of his chair sat in front of the desk. To the left were another version of the chair, and two small sofas covered in the same velvet fabric as his chair. A black wood oval coffee table sat in front of the sofas. On it was a silver tray containing a plate of cookies, a silver urn, and four porcelain cups. To the side were containers of sugar and milk. Silver spoons lay next to the four cups.
“Excellency, may I present the American ambassador, David Morgan. You know, of course, Miss Pinchon,” Kabo said. “Ambassador . . . Miss Pinchon, His Excellency Gabriel Simbawashe, foreign minister of the Republic of Naganda.”
Simbawashe’s huge hand swallowed Morgan’s as they shook. He motioned him to one of the sofas nearest the large chair. He then shook Pinchon’s hand, taking hers in both of his and leering down at her. She sat next to Morgan on the sofa.
Simbawashe then sat, and for a long interval merely looked at Morgan, his square, dark face expressionless. Morgan looked back at him, equally without expression. Finally, Simbawashe smiled as if the two of them had shared some secret information.
“Ambassador Morgan,” he said. Welcome to Naganda. I trust my staff has been taking good care of you?”
Morgan nodded. “Yes, Mr. Kabo and his man . . . Cedric . . . met me at the airport. I have no complaints.”
He knew at this point that he should be making small talk about how happy he was to be in Naganda, how beautiful the country was, and other mindless, meaningless junk. But, he hadn’t decided whether or not he was pleased, and so far, what he’d seen of the country had been anything but beautiful. Besides, he wasn’t very good at idle chitchat. Simbawashe didn’t seem to notice.
“Very good – I’m happy to hear that.” The big head slowly bobbed up and down. “We will try to arrange your first meeting with the head of state as soon as possible. In the meantime, I trust you will honor protocol and avoid public appearances or public statements.”
“I understand,” Morgan said. “I have quite enough work inside the embassy itself to keep me busy for a while.”
Simbawashe leaned forward, raising a large dark hand, his index finger pointing at the ceiling. “There is one other thing, ambassador,” he said. “Your predecessor had an unfortunate habit of occasionally making public statements critical of our government – comments on how we should be doing things. We consider this to be unwarranted involvement in our domestic affairs, and would hope you’ll not fall prey to the same disease.”
Morgan had no doubt that at some point he would make a statement – either public or directly to the government – that would piss them off. That was part of his job description as American ambassador. He wasn’t sure, though, whether he should make an issue of it before he’d even presented his credentials.
“Mr. Minister,” he said. “When I was a little boy growing up in Maryland, my grandmother always told me that I should never try to teach a dog how to suck eggs. I’ve always followed her advice.”
The minister’s brow furrowed. “I, uh, do not understand what you mean, ambassador,” he said. Then he scowled. “Is this some kind of American insult?”
Morgan laughed softly. “Not all, minister. It’s an old folk saying that roughly means you shouldn’t try to teach people things that they know better than you do. I have no desire or intention to tell you how to run your government. That’s something for Nagandans to decide.”
Simbawashe looked confused. Morgan knew he was trying to decipher the meaning of what he’d just said. “Good luck with that,” he thought. He’d managed to leave the door open to multiple interpretations of his response. The only part that was, to him, unambiguous, was the part about not telling the locals how to run their government. He would comment when he thought it necessary to advance U.S. interests, but, he was only a temporary visitor, and had always felt that outsiders stepped over the line when they tried to tell other people how to run things.
Finally, Simbawashe smiled – if only faintly. “Very well, then,” he said. “I look forward to working with you.”
Tuesday, May 20, 2014
PnPAuthors Promotions: PnPAuthors Promotions Present MONROE TRUSS~: PnPAuthors Promotions Spotlighting and Featuring an Author who PnPAuthors discovered and thought should be published. His honest wri...
Monday, May 19, 2014
Senator Appleby had called it correctly. The Foreign Relations Committee had approved Morgan’s nomination and it had been quickly passed by the full senate on a voice vote. He was sworn in by the State Department’s director of protocol two days later, and a day later was on a plane, by way of Amsterdam, to Naganda. He hated flying – always had. At six feet tall, he never fit comfortably in the economy class seats. But, as an ambassador on the way to post for the first time, he was authorized to fly in business class. That meant more leg room, seats that reclined far enough to allow him to sleep, though fitfully, free-flowing drinks, and a choice of food served on real china rather than plastic plates.
His flight from Dulles International Airport near Washington had landed in Amsterdam’s Schipol Airport at 6:00 pm, and he had eleven hours to kill before his 5:00 am departure to Mabuntu, so he’d put his carry-on bag in a locker, gone through the immigration checkpoint, and taken a taxi from the airport to Amsterdam’s famous red light district. He’d visited before, and the sex shops, peep shows, brothels, and prostitutes on display in red-lit windows didn’t really do anything for him. But, there was little else to do in the city after dark, but drink, dine, or chase after whores. He found after walking for a block through the infamous city center that he didn’t have the desire for drinking or whoring, and he’d eaten on the plane, so he wasn’t hungry, so he hailed a taxi and went back to the airport, where he walked through the airport’s hundreds of shops selling everything from Dutch cheese to French perfume to pornographic pictures for an hour, and then retrieved his bag and spent the three hours before boarding sleeping fitfully on one of the padded chairs in the departure area.
As a business class passenger, he was among the first to board. His seat was near the front of the business class area, where he could see the even more sumptuous accommodations in first class. The stewardess, a buxom brunette with the name ‘Monika’ on the gold wing-shaped name tag over her left breast, served him a vodka tonic and a view of her cleavage as soon as he’d settled into his seat. The business class section only had four passengers, Morgan and three balding businessmen who immediately went to sleep as soon as the plane took off. The flight attendant, who introduced herself to Morgan as Monika Loewenthal, asked him if he wanted anything to eat. He passed on the food, but ordered another vodka tonic – and got another lingering view down the front of her blouse and a beaming smile.
By the end of the nine-hour flight, Morgan had eaten one meal, drunk four vodka tonics, and exchanged addresses and phone numbers with Monika, who informed him that she flew the Amsterdam-Mabuntu flight three times a week and usually overnighted in Mabuntu on the third flight. Unfortunately, this was just the second flight – the third would be on Sunday, July 3d. Morgan asked her to call him when she came in. He expected to be relatively settled in his new residence by then, and wanted her to have dinner with him. Smiling enigmatically, she assured him that she would.
As the pilot started the descent into the airport at Mabuntu, the other passengers in business class woke up, and Monika was busy preparing the cabin for landing. She gave Morgan’s arm a gentle squeeze as he got off the plane. There was promise in the warm, lingering gaze she gave him.
The warmth of Monika’s gaze was blasted away as soon as he stepped through the aircraft door and onto the wheeled landing ladder. The hot, humid air slammed against him like a two-hundred pound linebacker. A sour, fetid smell that he couldn’t identify mixed in with the biting odor of aviation fuel, almost making him gag. He wrinkled his nose and breathed slowly. It didn’t help much. He noticed that most of the passengers didn’t seem to notice either the heat or the odor – no doubt frequent visitors. The few first time arrivals were evident from their expressions, ranging from dismay to disgust, and the fact that many of them had put their hands over their noses. After the heat and smell, the next thing Morgan noticed was the noise. Not just the usual engine noise of an airport, but the incessant squawk of human voices. Vendors, airport workers – even other passengers – all talking nonstop, and at the top of their voices.
At the bottom of the ladder, a skinny black man in an ill-fitting blue uniform motioned him toward a one-story building with a corrugated tin roof and green mold on its concrete walls. A door on the right had a crudely lettered sign over it that said, ‘Immigration and Customs.’ The passengers were all headed that way, so Morgan turned and followed.
Inside the cramped room that housed Nagandan Immigration and Customs, the heat and odor was even more oppressive and the noise of people shouting into each other’s faces threatened to give Morgan a headache. The crowd seemed to be milling about as people crowded forward toward the three booths housing bored looking men in khaki uniforms. Morgan looked around in confusion. He’d been told that there would be someone from the embassy and the foreign ministry to meet him, but in the crush of the crowd he saw no one who seemed to fit that description. He shrugged and inserted himself into a knot of people edging toward the booth on the far right of the room, when he felt a tug at his sleeve.
He turned to see a tall, medium brown skinned man with a severely receding hairline and upper front teeth that pushed against his thick lips standing there smiling at him. The man’s dark blue cotton suit was stained at the arm pits and neck from sweat. Morgan was wearing a tan, summer weight jacket over khaki pants and was already sweating. How anyone could wear a dark suit in this climate he didn’t understand.
“Ambassador Morgan, sah?” the man asked.
“Yes,” Morgan said. “That’s me.”
The man smiled broadly, showing crooked and stained teeth.
“Oh, very good, sah. I’m Cedric Mboko from the foreign ministry. May I have your passport and luggage claim checks please?”
Morgan handed over the requested documents. Mboko motioned him to follow, and then began not so gently shoving people aside as they made their way around the edge of the crowd and to the booth on the right. Mboko showed Morgan’s black diplomatic passport and his own ID to the immigration officer who frowned and waved them through. They entered a darkened room with platforms to either side; behind which stood more bored looking men in khaki uniforms. Mboko nodded at them, and they ignored him.
Pushing through a set of double doors, they emerged into the large entrance hall of the airport, an area that was more crowded, noisier, and smellier than anything Morgan had experienced to that point. He looked around at the packed, milling crowd, still breathing shallowly to minimize the odorous assault on his olfactory system. Off to the right, he saw a group of smiling white faces, standing out like neon signs in the sea of black faces. He smiled when he recognized Susan Pinchon, a broad shouldered woman who was only an inch shorter than his own six feet, her dark brown hair pulled back in a severe bun. The system had worked at light speed to get her orders published, and her transfer not only approved but implemented. With her were two white men, both shorter than she was. Then, an oval brown face emerged from behind one of the men – Mary Sung. She bounced up and down on her short, bowed legs, waving at Morgan. He waved back.
“Ah,” Mboko said. “I see the people from your embassy over there. There is also Mr. Kabo, the America’s desk officer.”
Morgan saw a very dark man, about Mary Sung’s height, dressed in a dark, three-piece suit, his bald head gleaming under the harsh sunlight filtering through the flyspecked glass of the large front windows, standing just to the right of the group of embassy people. So, he thought, this is my welcome party from the government – a flunky and the desk officer – this is getting off to a rollicking start.
As they approached the group, Susan Pinchon stepped forward, holding out a hand, which Morgan grasped. Her handshake was warm, firm, and dry, and she looked at him with a welcoming gaze, a slight smile on her unadorned lips.
“Welcome to Naganda, Mr. Ambassador,” she said in a deep, husky voice. “Let me introduce you to your welcoming party.” She moved over toward the small, dark man. “This is Mr. Jonathan Kabo, director of the foreign ministry’s Americas section.”
The man proffered his small dark hand. His grip was weak, almost effeminate, and his palms were sweaty.
“Your Excellency,” he said in a cultured British accent. “On behalf of His Excellency, Foreign Minister Gabriel Simbawashe, I would like to welcome you to the Republic of Naganda.”
Morgan resisted wiping his hand after releasing the man’s grasp. “Thank you Mr. Kabo,” he said. “It is an honor to be in your country.”
“You are no doubt tired after such a long flight from America,” Kabo said. “I will greet you more appropriately tomorrow morning at my office in the ministry. You will want to retire to your residence to rest up. Cedric will take care of the immigration formalities and your luggage.”
Having made what Morgan took to be a set speech, Kabo stepped back, fixing Mboko with an icy stare.
“Now, Mr. Ambassador, allow me to introduce the staff,” Pinchon said. She turned to the small group standing expectantly by. “This is Thomas Breedlove, the embassy political counselor.” A tall, angular man with his blond hair combed straight back on an oval, high browed head, stepped forward and shook Morgan’s hand. He had a firm, dry grip, but his blue eyes held no sign of welcome. “This gentleman is Colonel Liam Brennan, the defense attaché.” Brennan, a broad-shouldered man with sandy brown hair cut short in military style, and twinkling brown eyes, grasped Morgan’s hand in an almost crushing grip. “And, you know Mary Sung, of course.” Morgan took Sung’s small hand with both of his. She smiled up at him.
“Nice to see you again, Mary,” he said.
“You too . . . Mr. Ambassador,” she said. Her eyes glistened.
“It’s nice to meet all of you,” Morgan said. “Thank you for coming to meet me.”
Pinchon laid a hand on his arm. “You’ll want to go to the residence, of course,” she said. “Your car and driver are waiting outside. I’ll ride with you.” She turned to the others. “I’ll see the rest of you back at the embassy.”
Morgan noticed a tightening of Breedlove’s jaw, and a flicker of emotion in his icy blue eyes.
“Oh shit,” He thought. “I haven’t even unpacked, and already I sense dissension in the ranks.”
This, though, wasn’t the time or place to deal with it. Besides, his body was silently screaming for a cold drink and a long nap after nearly a full day of travel.
“Okay,” he said. “I guess I’ll see all of you at the embassy tomorrow.”
He let Pinchon lead him through the milling crowd of people there to meet passengers or who were trying to sell trinkets to passengers and those meeting passengers alike.
Inside the terminal, the heat, humidity and odor of oil, sweat, and the spices, flowers and fruit the vendors were hawking had been oppressive. When they exited the double glass doors into the glare of the West African afternoon sun, the heat and humidity soared, instantly soaking Morgan in a coating of uncomfortable sweat that caused his jacket to stick to his underarms and his pants to bunch up at his crotch. The smell at least was bearable thanks to a warm breeze coming from the west. It was, though, just as noisy – a cacophony of voices coming at him from all sides. Morgan clutched his briefcase to his side. In it he carried his Letters of Credence and Commission, which had to be presented to the head of state.
Pinchon made her way expertly through the press of bodies, most of whom only stared in awe at the tall, dark brown man following the tall white woman. They made their way to the curb, an uneven slab of cracked gray concrete that was the same color as the terminal building, without the coating of gray-green mold. Sickly looking green shoots sprouted up from the cracks. Here and there, in little depressions in the sidewalk and the macadam street beyond, were red-orange puddles with grayish scum floating on them.
If the scene inside the terminal could be called chaotic, outside on the bumpy street that had more potholes than macadam, with all manner of vehicles from army trucks to rickety looking jitneys overloaded with passengers carrying everything from children to chickens vying for space, horns blowing and drivers yelling at each other, was beyond chaos. In addition to the vehicles, all being driven at high speed as drivers jockeyed for position, pedestrians, including small children, darted across the street, narrowly missing being crushed by the oncoming vehicles.
They walked along the sidewalk. A line of the colorful jitneys, pickups and jeeps with gaudily painted platforms erected behind the driver’s seat, were parked in front of the terminal. Finally, they came to a shiny black 1975 Lincoln Continental Sedan with two metal poles affixed to the front bumper on either side of the rectangular headlights. A tall, well-built black man, who looked like he could be a defensive guard for a professional football team, stood near the front. He was dressed in dark blue trousers that stretched over his muscular thighs, and a white shirt whose sleeves looked like his biceps and chest muscles would burst it at the seams. Square of jaw, with a prominent forehead and close cropped black hair, he had widely spaced eyes that, as Morgan got closer he could see were bloodshot and the whites were yellowish – a sure sign that the man had at some point in his life had malaria, like more than half the population of Naganda.
As Morgan and Pinchon approached, the man snapped to attention. His fleshy lips were stretched in a welcoming smile.
“Mr. Ambassador,” she said. “May I introduce you to George Toko? He’s your driver. George has been the ambassador’s driver since the embassy first opened, and he’s one of the best drivers in Naganda.”
“I am best driver in all of West Africa, mama,” Toko said simply. “Welcome to Naganda, pa.”
Morgan looked at his deputy with a quizzical expression. “Mama? Pa?”
She laughed. “It’s an expression of respect here,” she said. “People often address their superiors in that manner. I’ll admit it takes some getting used to, especially considering that George is ten years older than me. You’ll learn not to flinch when you hear it.”
“Mr. Ambassador, sah,” Toko said. “I’m ready to take you to your residence.” He stepped around and opened the rear right passenger door, and stood at attention.
Morgan shrugged. He was being bombarded with unfamiliar cultural norms along with everything else. As he’d learned in the army, though, it was best to relax and let things flow. He got in, placing his briefcase on the floor. Toko closed the door and ran around to open the other passenger door. Pinchon went around and got in next to him. When his passengers were seated, Toko reached in and took a small American flag from the front passenger seat and affixed it to the left pole, and then got behind the wheel and expertly wheeled away from the curb.
As the car began moving, Morgan felt a blast of cold air, and he noticed that the interior of the vehicle had a slight pine smell. He took a deep breath.Pinchon laughed again. “In your car, in the office, and in your residence are the only places you can get away from the heat and smell. Again, though, yyou start not to notice it too much after a few days.”
Morgan nodded and sat back in the seat, letting his head nestle in the headrest. He also noticed that it was quieter inside the car. He hoped the same would be true of his office and residence. The constant noise could really be distracting, and he didn’t think he’d ever become truly accustomed to it. Through the lightly tinted windows of the Lincoln he took in the scenery they passed. The traffic, once they left the airport, was even more chaotic, and included carts drawn by donkeys along with the motorized vehicles. Traffic policemen in dark blue uniforms stood at most of the intersections vainly trying to establish order, but no one paid them any attention. The pedestrian traffic was also heavier, with men carrying heavy loads on their backs or atop their heads, and many women in gaily colored wrap around dresses and headscarves, with even heavier loads on their heads, many also with infants strapped to their waists or backs.
The architecture along the road from the airport was a mixture of colonial buildings, most of gray stone or brick covered in gray-green mold, and huts with thatch or corrugated tin roofs. Many of the huts had little gardens beside them being tended by young girls wearing only skirts, their dark, bare breasts, glistening with sweat, swinging as they worked.
After twenty minutes driving the road angled upward and the buildings thinned out. A few thatch huts stood in the middle of fields with limp, brownish green plants dotting them. Most of the huts had cook fires outside, being tended by young girls or elderly looking women, all with their upper bodies bare. In one vacant field, a group of boys were playing soccer on the uneven ground. They stopped and stared as the black limo passed. Naked infants played in the dirt surrounding the huts. Chickens and sickly looking yellow dogs picked in the piles of garbage that dotted the roadside, scattering as the car neared, only to return to their foraging as soon as it passed.
As the road got steeper, it also wound like a serpent through thick broad leaf trees that formed a canopy over it, plunging it into dark shade.
They came out of the trees near the top of a hill. Ahead, Morgan saw a tall stone wall, topped by concertina wire. Toko turned right onto a gravel surfaced road that led toward a massive iron gate. As they approached, the gate swung inward and a guard, dressed in dark blue, stepped out and stood to the side. A soldier wearing a green field uniform, with an AK-47 over his shoulder stepped out and stood to the other side. As they passed, both men saluted. Morgan’s military instincts kicked in. He returned the salutes. Both men smiled broadly. Pinchon smiled and nodded.
Then Morgan turned his attention to the view through the car’s front window. They were approaching a sprawling white stone building that looked like several cubes had been randomly set on the hillside and stitched together. The roof was green corrugated iron. The grounds around the building were a profusion of trees and tropical plants, none that Morgan recognized.
Toko expertly wheeled the car around, stopping in front of a large, covered porch with a tile floor. He got out and opened the door for Morgan. Pinchon got out of the other side.
“Welcome to Signal Hill,” she said.
“That’s a strange name for an ambassador’s residence,” Morgan said.
“That’s the name of this area. This house was the home of the colonial governor. He had a cannon up here that was used to signal whenever the colony had problems or came under attack – or so I’m told. It just seemed right that we keep the tradition by calling the residence by the same name.”
More culture to absorb, Morgan thought. It did have a nice ring to it, though.
The massive front door of the residence swung open, and two men and a woman emerged. One man was dressed in the same outfit as Toko, but wearing a white apron around his waist. The other man wore a set of blue overalls. The woman wore a black dress with a starched white collar. They beamed broad smiles of welcome, but remained silent.
Morgan shot a querying look at Pinchon.
“This is your residential staff,” she said. She motioned them forward. “This is the new ambassador. Sir, this is Matthew John Nkomo, your cook.” The man with the apron bowed. “Mariama Bandu is your housekeeper.” The woman curtsied. “And, last but not least, your gardener, William Toko. William is George’s younger brother.” The gardener bowed.
“Welcome, sah,” they said in unison.“You can sign the new work contracts with them when you come into the embassy next week.” Pinchon said. “For now, they’re being paid by the embassy admin section. You’ll find an information packet in your master bedroom. It has the embassy main switch, my personal number, and other information about Naganda. Unless you wish, we’ll leave you to decompress for the weekend and George will pick you up to come into the eembassy Monday morning.”
“That sounds fine to me,” Morgan said. “I am a little bushed from the flight. But, before you go back to the embassy, could I have a private word with you.”
“Yes, sir.” She turned to Toko. “I’ll be a few minutes, George.”
The household staff stood aside as Morgan and Pinchon entered. Inside, the place was cool, and the dark wood floors gleamed. He’d been shown photographs of the furniture, and everything was just as the pictures had shown. Later, he would put in some private art work, as well as the official artwork provided by the Arts in Embassy program of the State Department’s Foreign Buildings Office. At first glance, though, the place looked fine as it was.
They walked through the entrance foyer and into a cavernous room that had small groupings of settees and chairs with small occasional tables placed around the walls. Off to the right, he knew, was the official dining room and kitchen. To the left were his study, and the bedrooms – the master bedroom, which was his personal living space, and three guest bedrooms.
“Where can we have some privacy?” he asked.
“The study is the first room on the left,” she said. “That’s where you’ll usually do your pull-asides during receptions.”
“Sah, would you and madam like a cup of tea or something light to eat?” Nkomo asked.
“I think tea would be fine,” Morgan said. “I ate on the plane, so I’m fine until supper.”
The cook darted off to the right. Morgan followed Pinchon to the left and into the first door on the left. The study was small, only in comparison to the reception area. He’d seen general’s offices that were smaller. It had dark curtains over the window, and thick carpet on the floor. The dark, wood panel walls were as polished as the floor outside. A large oak desk sat on the left, and behind it was a high-back leather chair. Across from the desk were a small sofa, two occasional chairs, and an oval coffee table. Pinchon left the door open. Morgan motioned her to the sofa. He sat on one of the chairs facing her. Almost immediately, Nkomo entered carrying a large, round silver tray containing a silver urn, two teacups with saucers, a sugar bowl and a small container of milk. The cups, saucers and containers were of translucent china and were embossed with the Great Seal of the United States. Nkomo put the tray on the coffee table and quietly withdrew, pulling the door shut as he left.
“What did you want to discus, sir?” Pinchon asked.
“First, when we’re in private, can the sir,” he said. “I’m David, or Dave, and you’re Susan. You and I have to work closely together and trust each other. I find that too much formality can inhibit progress.”
“Okay, David it is.”
“Good. Now, the other thing,” he said. “At the airport, I sensed a little tension between you and Breedlove. What’s that all about?”
Her face hardened momentarily, then she took a deep breath. “I’d hoped you wouldn’t notice that. It’s nothing I can’t handle, but I suppose you do need to know. Tom is old school Foreign Service, and considers himself something of an Africa expert. He resents working for a woman – feels that the DCM job is beyond my capability merely because of my gender. He also doesn’t think someone without years of experience on the continent should be in a leadership position here.”
“I suppose that will include me as well.”
Her eyes went wide. “Oh my goodness – how stupid of me not to have thought of that. Now that you mention it though, I suppose that’s so. Do you think it’ll be a problem?”
“Like you, I don’t think it’s something I can’t handle. I had similar situations when I was in the army. Of course, it’s ultimately up to him. If he produces, I really don’t care much what he thinks. We’ll just have to see. You know, though, that you can come to me if you have a problem you can’t deal with on your own.”
Her expression softened. “Thanks, David. That’s good to know. But, I think I can handle Tom. I grew up with four brothers, two older and two younger. I managed them, and they were a lot tougher than he would ever hope to be.”
Sunday, May 18, 2014
PnPAuthors Book Club Spotlight Rhonda Cratty:
PnPAuthors are spot to Spotlight another Author; ...: PnPAuthors are spot to Spotlight another Author; Rhonda Cratty It’s time to meet another debut Author Rhonda Cratty and h...
PnPAuthors are spot to Spotlight another Author; ...: PnPAuthors are spot to Spotlight another Author; Rhonda Cratty It’s time to meet another debut Author Rhonda Cratty and h...
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Saturday, May 17, 2014
PnPAuthors Promote Authors : PnPAuthors Promote a very talented author~ ARNOLD ...: PnPAuthors Spotlight & Interview http://pnpauthorspattimariandpeter.ning.com/?xgi=3nNjFsJT6O49jV PnPAuthors Book Club – pr...
As Lee Kennedy and Alison Chambers entered the office, Morgan introduced them briefly to Carlton Raine. The three exchanged perfunctory handshakes, and Raine strode purposefully away.
“Who is he?” Kennedy asked.
Morgan explained his relationship with Raine and his new assignment.
“He certainly looks like someone who can take care of himself,” Chambers said.
“You don’t know the half of it,” Morgan said, chuckling. “Remind me to tell you about it someday.” He motioned them to chairs. “For now, though, I have an important issue to discuss with the two of you.”
He settled himself behind the desk, forming a steeple with his fingers and resting his chin on the points of his stiffened digits.
“You sound serious,” Kennedy said. “There’s no problem is there?”
Morgan laughed again. “No, no problem. But, I am serious, though. I’m going to make the two of you a proposal – a request, really – and, I want you to give it some very serious thought before you make up your minds.”
They looked at each other, their brows furrowed and confusion in their expressions.
“Okay, already,” Chambers said. “You have our attention. What’s this mysterious proposal?”
“Well, you – especially you Alison – know that Naganda is a country in turmoil. I was just told this morning that the current DCM is curtailing, so there’ll be a wholesale change in post leadership. I’m going to have my hands full getting things under control, so I’ll need people I can trust, and people with a proven track record of accomplishment to help me do it.”
“So, you want our help in picking people for your staff?” Kennedy asked.
“Not exactly,” Morgan said. “What I want is for the two of you to be part of my staff.”
Their mouths gaped open. They locked gazes again.
“Uh, well, I can see Lee here being your RSO,” Chambers said. “But, I’m not Foreign Service. There are no jobs in an embassy for me.”
“Besides,” Kennedy added. “We just got married, and as much as I’d love working for you, I’m not sure I want to be separated from Alison so early in our relationship.”
She laid a hand on his arm, smiling lovingly at him. “You wouldn’t be separated. I can take leave without pay.” She turned to Morgan. “It would be a two year tour for him, right?”
Morgan nodded. “Yes, unless I could talk him into extending a year, so I’d have him for my entire tour.”
“I don’t want you to have to put your career on hold for me,” Kennedy said with an insistent tone in his voice.
“But, Lee, darling, I -”
“She wouldn’t have to put her career on hold,” Morgan interrupted. “In addition to needing a reliable security officer, I’m going to need someone I can turn to for political advice. I’ve been told that I can hire spouses for jobs in the embassy, and since you already have top security clearance, I think I could hire you as my special advisor.”
“It sounds intriguing,” she said. “But, what about Rachel? There is no high school for diplomatic kids in Naganda.”
Morgan had thought about that, and he’d done his homework.
“You might consider enrolling her in one of the international schools in Europe,” he said. “They offer excellent education, and I think she’d love it. I’ve heard of the Ecole Internationale in Geneva. It’s a top school. She’d get a great preparation for college.”
Kennedy smiled and bobbed his head up and down. “And, my Rachel, sixteen going on thirty, would love it, I’m pretty sure of that. Of course, I do need to discuss it with her first.”
“Of course,” Morgan said. “Take a few days to mull it over, and get back to me.”
Kennedy turned to Alison. “You really want to do this, don’t you?”
“Of course I do, but we have to think about what’s best for Rachel as well.”
“I am thinking about that,” he said. “But, I tell you, she’ll love it – she really will.”
“You want to do it, too, don’t you?”
“You bet your ass I do. I’ve been here in DC too long. I need to get back into the field. Rachel’s a Foreign Service brat, she’s flexible and strong. I just know she’ll agree.”
“Okay, but do me a favor – ask her first. She’s a young woman now. Treat her like one. If we’re going to do this, we’re doing it as a family.”
“Yes, ma’am,” he said, smiling. “You’re the boss.”
“And, don’t you forget it, mister.” She turned to Morgan. “We’ll call you later today after Lee’s had a chance to talk with Rachel.” She winked at Kennedy. “But, I think you just got yourself a new RSO and special advisor.”
Thursday, May 15, 2014
PnPAuthors Book Club is spotlighting :
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Wednesday, May 14, 2014
As Morgan settled back in his chair, Carlton Raine began to demonstrate that he was, in fact, very good at his job.
“I suppose you’ve heard the dirt on this guy, Joshua Saidu, the former head honcho in Naganda,” he said. Morgan nodded and made a sour face. “Yeah, he’s that bad, and more. Rumor has it that he kept a stable of underage girls in the basement of his mansion to satisfy his twisted desires. That, though, wasn’t the reason the army guys moved on him.”
“I understand the coup was really accidental,” Morgan said. “Gweru and his men were really in the capital to complain about pay and living conditions, and Saidu bolted.”
Raine smiled and nodded. “You’ve been doing your homework. That’s precisely what happened.”
“Well, if they didn’t want to take over the country, why didn’t they just press their case with the second in command?”
“First, Saidu didn’t really have a second in command,” Raine said. “The man didn’t believe in sharing anything. He used the National Security Service under the control of Julius Bongo, who was also chief of staff of the army, to keep the military under control. That was as close to a number two as you can get. Bongo feared that if he moved against the young officers after Saidu flew the coop, he might suffer for all that he’d done to them before, so he also went into hiding. The senior officers of the military decided to back the young Turks, figuring that if things went wrong, the young guys would take the fall, and they could move in. The international community’s recognition of the junta caught them off guard, and as often happens in these little jerk water countries, these guys liked being in charge.”
“Afflicted with the Big Man Syndrome, eh?”
“Big time. The top leaders in the junta convoy to work at State House every morning in high-speed convoys of Land Rovers and pickups with guys carrying machine guns and RPGs all over the place, and they strut around with armed bodyguards like Roman legions.”
In Morgan’s mind, images similar to Dagastan after the coup formed. When those on the bottom took over, he knew, they tended to emulate the ones who had previously been on top.
“Has the situation improved any?”
“I don’t know what it was like before, but I doubt it,” Raine said. “The poor are still scratching for a living. Oh, the army has it better, now that one of their own is in charge – at least, that part of the army that’s loyal to Gweru. He put his uncle, Gideon Banda, in charge of the Nagandan National Security Service, and made him chief of staff of the army. But, the double-N, double-S, as the security service is affectionately known, is still as ruthless as ever, and anyone in the army who steps out of line, is still likely to disappear.”
“I take it you’re declared to the security service,” Morgan said, referring to the agency’s normal practice of having its senior man in an embassy known to the country’s top spies. “With the head of security also being in charge of the military that must cause some jurisdictional disputes with our defense attaché.”
Raine chuckled. “It could, but our attaché, a sharp army colonel named Liam Brennan, is a savvy guy, and pretty easy to work with – at least, that’s been my observation during the week I was there. They don’t have much of an army – about six battalions – so he spends most of his time keeping an eye on the Soviets. The GRU has about five guys under cover in their embassy.”
“Shit, and here I’d thought by going to Africa I’d get away from our Russian friends.”
“Oh, it gets better,” Raine said. “We got a ton of Chinese Communists prowling around as well. I can promise you, your tour will not be boring.”
“What can you tell me about the foreign community in Naganda?”
“Not a lot. You have a few Brits who stayed on after independence, mostly in the capital, and a large Lebanese community that has been there for a century or more. Out in the countryside there are American missionaries, and some of them have been there since the 1800s, too. The Chinese are doing aid projects, which means the Chinese community is growing. That’s about it, except for the diplomatic community, and that’s about what you’d expect – a lot of guys running around interviewing each other for their dispatches back to the home office, and bored wives with nothing to do but play bridge and drink.”
In a mere week’s time, Raine had catalogued Naganda, and Morgan knew that he was only scratching the surface. As one of the first blacks to be recruited by the agency for field duty, he’d had to be better than good to succeed. It helped that he was just naturally good at the business – he could be charming and affable one minute, and a cold-faced killing machine the next, and he had an encyclopedic memory. He was also a good judge of people, and if he thought well of the defense attaché, Morgan knew that his intelligence team was first rate.
“I guess,” he said. “That just leaves the embassy family. What’s your take on our people?”
Raine frowned, and the muscles in his jaw tightened. “Most are pretty good. The DCM’s a racist prick, but I hear he’s asking to be curtailed. You’re lucky to lose him. You have a pretty good political chief, except he’s a bit full of himself. I already mentioned Brennan, the DATT. Unfortunately, I didn’t get a chance to get to know most of the others. All in all, though, I’d say you’re inheriting an outfit that you can whip into shape.”
“I just hope I don’t have to whip too hard.” They shared a laugh.
There was a polite rap on the door, and Wells opened it and stuck his head in. “Lee Kennedy and Alison Chambers are here to see you,” he said.
“Hey, Blood,” Morgan said, using Raine’s nickname, a label he’d achieved because of some of the dangerous field missions he’d been on. “I have to meet with these people. Let’s get together for a drink before you head back.”