The Foreign Service Journal, September 2011

S E P T E M B E R 2 0 1 1 / F O R E I G N S E R V I C E J O U R N A L 39 he exposures were not all that impor- tant in their content. At this point, their importance lay in their very existence, hidden in the false 28th page of his diplomatic passport, tucked into the glove compartment of the embassy’s Chevrolet Suburban. Seated in the passenger seat and staring at the closed glove compartment with beads of sweat the size of fingernails forming on his forehead, Vance gave silent thanks for a fact he had been cursing moments before: he was driving an American car. Vance had photographed the entrances to the Kitwe cop- per mines from a fairly low-tech camera hidden in his base- ball cap. No one paid him any mind. Americans always wore baseball caps, after all. The guards outside the mines’ entrances carried the same decades-old Kalashnikov rifles as the three men now in the process of hijacking his car. Kalashnikovs were more numerous than phones in much of sub-Saharan Africa, and one could get them just about any- where for a 25-kilogram bag of maize flour, known as mealie meal. Most were old knock-offs. Having men with rifles standing about gave the illusion of security, but Vance suspected they were about as well equipped as the guards outside the bank at Manda Hill Mall in Lusaka. They’d probably had just a week of training and received a daily ration of five rounds of ammunition — and the cost of any rounds not returned at the end of the day would be taken out of their pay. If any real danger was to present itself, these guards were as likely to run with the rest of the crowd as to put up any resistance. This was pretty much what Vance’s cable to Langley had said. No beefed-up security; no visible countermeasures; a low probability of a secret plutonium mineshaft within Kitwe’s copper mines. The cable was already in the hands of his superiors; the negatives in his passport were simply documentation. Vance was what some self-serving politicians would have called a “real American.” He was born and raised in the Col- orado countryside, where long stretches of empty road were common and people stopped for disabled cars on the road- side. Vance grew up playing football and baseball, but his 5’8” frame had never allowed for much advancement in ath- letics. His grades had been fine, but not exceptional. Only his dogged work ethic stood out. It was the kind of work ethic that gets passed down from generations of sore hands pushing plows through early winter frosts. It often led to arthritis at the age of 30, and a vocabulary devoid of the term “retirement age.” When Vance was a boy and his father had pinched his cheeks at the end of each day before sitting down for supper, FS F ICTION D RIVING I N P ARK Q UICK THINKING AND REFLEXES GET A U.S. EMBASSY EMPLOYEE OUT OF A JAM . B Y P ETER B RENNAN Peter Brennan, a marine-structural engineer based in Philadelphia, spent the majority of his life stationed abroad with his father, Ambassador Martin G. Brennan, whose three- decade career spanned four continents. Peter spent nine of those years in East Africa (Ethiopia, Uganda and Zambia), and is drawing on those experiences to write a collection of short fiction under the theme “Growing Up Mzungu,” adopt- ing the nearly universal East African term for “white man.” He is also working on a novel-length work of speculative fic- tion about the world after oil starts to run out. T