|This piece of art accompanied "The Amerikaan Way" when it was published in Atomjack.|
Chadwick wasn't technically even in the VSA yet--he was still standing in customs--when he saw the Leutnant manhandle the young Colored man in the corridor.
The Leutnant was a bull-necked Amerikaner policeman in the coal gray uniform of the New Amsterdam municipal force.
The Colored man--a boy really, he couldn't have been more than 16 or 17--was looking down. The Leutnant used a leather truncheon to lift his chin.
"Waars jou pass, jong?" he growled in Amerikaans.
“Welcome to the VSA,” thought Chadwick.
The Leutnant repeated his question in English.
"Where's your pass, boy?"
The Pass Laws were an important way the white minority regime controlled the Coloreds--the formal term the government used was Negroes, or Zwartzen in Amerikaans--by requiring them to live in the squalid outlying shantytowns. You needed a pass to prove you had a job, and a reason, to be in the white man's city.
Chadwick realized the customs agents were eyeing him warily. He turned to see his suitcase propped open. One agent was flipping through his passport, while another pawed through his belongings.
"You've come a long way, Mynheer Chadwick. How are things in Whitewaters Ridge?"
He took the passport from the agent's hand. "It was only 34 degrees when I left Whits last night. So actually, July in New Amsterdam is quite pleasant. Thank you."
He carried his bag through the revolving doors. The Leutnant shoved the young Colored man ahead of him down the corridor of Van der Jagt International Airport.
Two Colored men leaned on brooms and watched the show in front of the rest rooms marked "Blankes/Zwarzten".
"Just another day in the VSA," he heard one mutter bitterly.
A dark green Checker cab pulled to the curb. Chadwick slid into the back seat.
He looked up and saw how the cabby peered at him in the rear view mirror. Cabbies in New Amsterdam took pride in being able to tell whether they needed to address a fare in English or Amerikaans.
"Manhattan, please, the Bosh Platz Hotel."
The cabby winced.
"I'm very tired, I just flew 16 hours from South Africa on the BOAC, so don't be surprised if I doze off."
He saw from the cabby's body language--the way he sat up slightly--the light bulb had lit up when he realized his fare was from South Africa.
Chadwick's mother was a VanDeMerwe, so he was half Afrikaner. In South Africa, the English and the Dutch, as well as all other European and African races, got along well.
"Not like here," he thought as he leaned back and began to doze off.
He awoke as the cab was made its way through midtown. It was dusk and colored lights had come on atop the Vrystat Building that towered over 34th Street.
Like everything else in the bilingual country, the hotel bore two names: Bosh Platz for the Amerikaners--Park Plaza for the Anglophones.
The desk clerk addressed him in English as he pulled up his reservation. "Mr. Patrick Chadwick, in again from Whitewaters Ridge. It's a pleasure to have you back, sir."
A Colored porter wheeled his bag to the room on the park side of the hotel. Chadwick tipped him a shiny silver VSA thaler.
The hotel overlooked the irregularly shaped Stuyvesant Park that lay in the center of Manhattan Island. It presented a pleasant landscape from the balcony outside his room.
"Just like the whole country," he thought, "looks nice at first glance. But underneath . . ."
He checked himself mentally. "Cripes, I'm beginning to sound like a sanctions fanatic."
He stared a long time across the city skyline before he went inside and to bed.
The Anglo-African Gold Company's office in New Amsterdam was in the middle of Manhattan's financial district.
A sea of gray heads greeted Chadwick. Most of the directors from the North American offices were older than he was.
The directors from the other major North American offices--Chicagueux in Louisiana and DeLosAngeles in California, Canada, the Confederacy, Tejas, Deseret--were respectfully on time.
“No gamesmanship today,” he thought.
As an officer of the corporation, Chadwick took the place of precedence at the head of the table. Conrad Bezuidenhout, who was the manager of the New Amsterdam office, looked awkward sitting off to one side.
"He knows what's coming," thought Chadwick as he cleared his throat and self-consciously stroked his hair, where, he recalled with a twinge, he had begun to find silver.
"You all know how hard we have striven to maintain cordial relations with the government of the Verenigde Staten van Amerika," he said--using the proper name in Amerikaans --"despite worldwide opprobrium of the apartheid regime."
"It has been especially difficult these past 14 years, since the collapse of the Plantation Regime in the Confederacy, the tearing down of the Mason-Dixon Wall and the end of the Cold War."
"We all have been under a great deal of pressure in Whitewaters Ridge. During the administrations of Presidents Mandela, Mbeki and Hani, the subject of our investments in the VSA has been skirted with great difficulty."
"But President Biko is unwilling to turn a blind eye," he said as he leaned forward, "and he has indicated that unless we withdraw our operations from the VSA, our corporation will become subject to legislative sanctions."
There were murmurings. Chadwick held up his hands. "It is a fait accompli. The Anglo-African Gold Corporation is withdrawing from the VSA."
He looked down the table at Dane Alexander from the Confederacy.
"In appreciation of the great strides the CSA has made, we will be moving the North American headquarters down the coast to Savannah." Alexander nodded appreciatively.
Bezuidenhout spoke up. "We still have the strongest and most secure economy in the hemisphere, from Philadelphia to Boston. I think the corporation is making a mistake in basing its decision on politics."
"Sorry, the VSA made its bed when it voted in the apartheid government in 1948," he said. "Shit and pay is the Amerikaan way. Isn't that an Amerikaner expression?"
Bezuidenhout rose without a further word and went to his office. The others were subdued as the meeting continued.
After the formality of ratifying the decision, he spoke with each man as he left.
Bezuidenhout didn't seem surprised when Chadwick opened the door.
"May I come in?"
"Of course, Patrick."
The younger man sat down.
"Conrad, this wasn't a big surprise, was it?"
"No, of course not. It's just, like being in prison, and learning you've lost your last appeal."
"Sterkte, hoor?" said Chadwick--an Amerikaans colloquialism meaning, "Strength, hear?"
Chadwick thought he saw a flicker of resentment cross Bezuidenhout's face.
"Do you have any good news for me, then?"
"Obviously, we can't just forgo the gold trade in the VSA," said Chadwick. "The largest banks in North America are all headquartered here. We plan to follow the same policy we have with Russia, and do business through intermediaries."
"A few key employees in South Africa plan will resign," he continued, "and start their own company, which is going to take up the slack created by our withdrawal."
"I see," said Bezuidenhout as he folded his hands, "and they will be needing a New Amsterdam representative."
"Quite. I think they will hope you would work for them."
"Let me think about it," said Bezuidenhout. "I'm very close to retirement."
"I understand, and I certainly don't expect an answer today," said Chadwick.
When Chadwick left the building he realized it wasn't even noon yet. He strolled down the block and stopped on the corner, where the bilingual sign read: "Muur Strasse/Wall Street".
He focused on the colonial-era Dutch Reformed Church that stood at the head of the avenue.
Along the way he saw a Greek grocer off-loading vegetables. He slapped a Colored man in the face over some perceived incompetence.
The man accepted the blow meekly--seeing that a policeman stood on the corner.
Sick in a way, the way even other Europeans who come here end up acting like Boers, he thought, using the derogatory term for the Amerikaners the English in the VSA used behind their backs.
When he got inside the kerk, he looked around.
"Baas has never been in the church before?"
Chadwick turned to see a rather old and frail Colored sexton.
"Nein, mynheer, I'm a visitor from South Africa," he said, addressing him respectfully.
The old man's eyes brightened. "Oh, blessings on Mandiba's head!"
Chadwick had never heard anyone in the VSA mention the venerable Mandela, much less use his honorific--a tribal title of extreme respect.
Chadwick walked over to the sexton. "I'm glad to know others respect him as much as we do."
"My name is Malcolm Little. I've worked here over 40 years."
Chadwick saw the man, though old and frail, had a spark in his eyes that shone from behind his thick glasses.
"Malcolm, pleased to make your acquaintance. My name's Pat--Pat Chadwick. I'm from Whitewaters Ridge."
"Would you like me to show you around?" he asked. "Not many people come in this time of day."
"I'd like that very much."
The sexton took Chadwick down the aisles and into the naves of the church, stopping at every historical marker.
The church was built in the early 18th century, he noted, as New Amsterdam prospered in the years after the English threat to the colony passed. Stubborn Governor "Peg Leg Pete" Stuyvesant had rallied the burghers of New Amsterdam to repel the British landing in 1664, he recalled with a chuckle.
Despite his professed lack of formal education, Chadwick thought Malcolm knew his history quite well--how the American revolt against mad King George succeeded quickly because of the help of the Middle Atlantic Dutch colonies, and how almost 20 years later, when Napoleon overran the Netherlands, New Amsterdam joined the fledgling United States.
"Yes, and the Brits got revenge for New Amsterdam's meddling by seizing the Dutch Cape Colony," said Chadwick.
"To our great misfortune," said Malcolm. "Because after that the Dutch settlers stopped going to the Cape, and they all came to New Amsterdam."
The old fellow's sharp, thought Chadwick. "Because that's why the Boers came to dominate the old USA."
"We had a white minority government in South Africa, too, for a number years," he added.
"Yes, but there you have more English than Boers--the reverse of here," said Malcolm.
"I remember watching on black and white television when I was a boy as Mandela was sworn in as president," said Chadwick.
The old man smiled. "That was the same year I started working here in the church--1960."
He suddenly looked rather self-conscious.
Chadwick patted him on the shoulder. "Thanks for the history lesson."
"You're very welcome." He waved a broomstick. "Next time you come back, I'll put you to work!"
Chadwick took a deep breath as he stepped outside, and then chuckled. The visit with the sexton had been like finding a violet growing in a dung heap, he thought as he hailed a cab to go back to the Bosh Platz.
"Whatever we may think personally, the fact is, doing business with a polecat regime like the VSA is bad for business," Chadwick thought as the cab drove through mid-town traffic.
He looked at his watch and realized he was a little early for his meeting with Bezuidenhout. He asked the cab driver to drop him off at the head of Muur Strasse.
He entered the church. An elderly Amerikaner woman got up from the desk in a small side office.
"May I help you?"
He looked around. "I was looking for the sexton, Mr. Little?"
"He's not here."
"That's a shame. When will he be back?"
The woman looked equal parts embarrassed and irritated.
"He won't be back."
"Has he been sacked?"
"Nien, he has been killed."
"What! I was just talking to him yesterday afternoon! What in God's name happened?"
The old woman shook her head. "I really don't know. He got in some kind of trouble with the police on his way home yesterday."
He looked at her, and she realized she couldn't get away without offering up something else.
"It was down in the tubes," she said. "They went to check his pass and arrest him…"
Chadwick was out the door and into the subway station. He bounded down the steps and strode to the first policemen he saw, who stood in the middle of the platform so he could watch both the white and Negro subway cars.
"Do you know anything about a old black man who was in a scuffle here last evening?"
The policeman fixed his gaze and stared back at Chadwick. "We arrest many Negroes here on any given day, sir," he said coolly in Amerikaans-accented English.
"He was the sexton at the church."
Chadwick saw a flash of recognition. "Ach, I know who you mean. Old Malcolm."
The policeman took off his hat. "I'm afraid the alte zwart liked to take a nip after he got out of work. One of our new men didn't know him, and began giving him grief over his pass. It wasn't in order."
The policeman grimaced. "I think it was signed by President Roozevelt. They got in a big dust up, and somewhere old Mr. Little fell and hit his head. I'm afraid he got a big knot."
"He passed away?"
"Ja, I heard he later died at the hospital. Shame, he was harmless."
"Who was the officer who accosted him?"
"A new man, Danie Vanderpool. It was an accident, mynheer."
"It always is."
At this point, Chadwick remembered his meeting with Bezuidenhout. As he walked onto the block occupied by the Anglo-African Building, something caught the corner of his eye. He turned and saw a municipal policeman furtively come out a side door and go the opposite direction, down the alley and out the back of the building.
He could tell when he came to Bezuidenhout's office the old Amerikaner had been puffing furiously on those nasty Knickerbocker cigarettes the locals favored. The last butt was smoldering in the ashtray.
"We've investigated a lot of time and money trying to deal with the trade sanctions as best we could," said Chadwick. "It's just not working any more. I know you understand."
"Ja, well, we're not going to go anywhere. We have as much as right to be here as the Zwartzen."
"I'd wager the Iroquois would toss you all back into the Atlantic."
Old joke, but it still made Bezuidenhout grin self-consciously. He was uncomfortable with that, and he straightened his shoulders and began to hold forth like a Reformed Church dominee.
"We have a long history here, and we are proud of it. God gave us this land in the New World," he said, "and we made a nation of it. The next time you're at the Muur Strasse kerk, you need to look at . . ."
He saw something in Chadwick's eyes that made him stop.
"How in bloody hell did you know I visited the church?"
Chadwick remembered the policeman he saw going down the alley.
"You bloody bastard, you had me followed! You Amerikaners are all thick as thieves. You had a chum in the police follow me, didn't you?"
Bezuidenhout realized he had made a serious mistake, and he began to stammer. "Patrick, we can't be too careful. I didn't know if they had gotten to you."
"They?" He banged a fist on the desk. "Who the hell are they?
"I didn't know if someone was filling your head with racial nonsense." Bezuidenhout's face had gone from white to translucent. "That old man, at the church--he was a Black Panther sympathizer. You shouldn't listen to crazy zwarts like him!"
"You fucking bastard! You had your hound Vanderpool follow me, and he overheard us talking in the church."
"It was an accident," Bezuidenhout said distantly. "Danie got riled and followed him to the Tubes after work. One thing led to another..."
"And Leutnant Vanderpool strikes a old black man who must be at least 70," said Chadwick. "Just another day in the VSA, eh?"
He made a violent gesture of dismissal that almost struck Bezuidenhout in the face. "I'm getting the hell out of your New Amsterdam now, thank you."
He headed to the door. "You're taking retirement immediately."
Bezuidenhout nodded feebly.
Back on the street, Chadwick walked briskly as he punched up his cell phone and called his personal assistant.
"I'm heading out to the airport, Thomas. Have you been getting the incorporation documents ready for the dummy corporation?"
"Yes, Mr. Chadwick."
"Don't. Throw them in the dustbin. There isn't going to be a dummy corporation."
"My goodness, Mr. Chadwick, what's changed?"
"We're actually pulling out of the VSA. I'll tell you all about it when I get back."
He saw a Colored man sweeping out in front of a small shop. It was the same man he had seen struck on the street the day before. The grocer was standing in the doorway with his thumbs under his vest.
He saw the sidelong glance the Colored man gave the Greek.
"Things are a lot worse here than I ever imagined," he thought. "It's only a matter of time before there's a blood bath."
As he walked to the curb to hail a cab, Chadwick looked up and down the busy avenue. The hustle and bustle of the financial district--as well as the people on the street--reminded him of the Whitewaters Ridge business district back home.
"Bloody damn fools," he muttered as he hailed a cab and looked around "You will lose this all. We were so lucky in South Africa."