William Harman presents his diplomatic credentials
"Not quite yet," answered Lt. Larry Ballencek.
The neighborhood they were passing through was mostly residential, with tightly packed townhouses and apartment buildings with two or three units. Convenience stores and small marketplaces dominated most corners. Dennado seemed to be a very walkable community with most services anyone would need within a couple blocks.
Ambassador William Harman sat in the front passenger seat, holding a sealed manila envelope. The State Department Deputy Director for the South Pacific gave him the envelope before Harman and his family left for Oslea, with grave instructions "Do Not Open The Brown Envelope!" He was to present it to the Prime Minister. “What kind of person is Lucero Pierce?”
Ballencek made a sharp right turn onto an even more narrow street, with barely any room for the Trooper to navigate. “I’ve never actually met him. But he seems to be a pretty nice guy. Friendly, smart, full of grand ideas with an attention to detail.”
“I’m looking forward to meeting him,” Jennifer Harman said.
The Security Officer and Chief of Staff shook his head. “I don’t know if he’ll be there. He tends to be rather reclusive.” Ballencek swerved to avoid a vegetable stand.
That made Bill Jr. even less interested than he was before they left the embassy. “Why are we going when he won’t be there?”
“His Chief of Staff handles all his business.” Ballencek said. “Matteo Taft has a broad authority. And he’s easy to work with.
The narrow street opened to a cul de sac with three small office buildings and a home in the semi-circle. In the center of the street was a circular garden with a pole waving the Oslea flag. “We’re here,” Ballencek announced.
The SUV came to a stop in front of the building next to the home. The Harmans and Ballencek exited the vehicle and entered the office building. They were greeted by a tiny woman reading a newspaper at the reception desk. “We’re with the U.S. Embassy,” Ballencek said. “We’re here to see Mr. Taft.” The woman waved a thumb toward an interior door. “Thank you.” Ballencek said jovially.
He lead the other three toward the door and allowed them to enter ahead of him before he entered himself. The office was the size of a large living room with white walls, white ceiling, white floor, and a white desk close to the back wall. A man in a white suit was sitting behind the desk examining a document. He was slightly startled as the party approached the desk, but brightened when he recognized the U.S. Security Officer. “Lt. Ballencek! Always good to see you!” He got up and approached the four, but did not raise his hand to shake theirs.
“Good to see you too, Mr. Taft.” Ballencek’s bright flowered shirt stood out in sharp contrast to the pale furnishings in the office. Harman noticed that Ballencek had decided to holster his sidearm on a belt around his waist. “This is Ambassador William Harman, his wife Jennifer Harman, and their son Billy.”
“Don’t call me that,” Bill Jr. protested.
“Excellent.” The Prime Minister’s Chief of Staff said. “I’m sorry to report that Prime Minister Pierce will not be able to attend today. He has some details to attend to regarding the grand ideas.”
“So we hear,” Harman said.
“Be that as it may, I will be happy to accept your diplomatic credentials.” He leaned to look over Harman’s shoulder. “We’re just waiting for a couple more people to help officiate this event.”
A knock at the door and a head squeezed past the opening. “How are all today?”
“Hi’ya, Vinnie!” Ballencek greeted the reporter from the India Gleaner.
Vinod Ramesh pushed his way into the room. “It is good to see everyone today.” He stood next to a white file cabinet and pulled a camera out of a small backpack.
Another knock at the door, except this time no one entered after knocking. Taft walked to the door and opened it, revealing Guillermo Jackson. “Hello!” He said. “Is it me you’re looking for?”
Jackson breezed through the door with Taft again not offering his hand in greeting. “Thank you for coming, Mayor. Is your wife coming?”
“She’s having trouble finding some parts for her project, so I’m afraid not.”
“That’s too bad,” Taft said as he walked to the file cabinet. He opened a drawer and pulled out a folder. He flipped through it before closing it again. “Looks like everyone is here, then.”
Ballencek tapped on Harman’s shoulder and pointed at an X taped on the floor. “That’s where you’ll stand for the photo.” Harman stepped over to the X and stood with his hands and the envelope in front of him. Jennifer looked on proudly. Bill Jr.’s interest was mildly peaked.
Ramesh snapped a couple pictures before Taft approached the Ambassador. “Mr. Harman, on behalf of Prime Minister Lucero Pierce and the people of the nation Oslea, I welcome you.” Taft stared at Harman, but still would not extend his hand in greeting.
The gaze from the Chief of Staff for the Prime Minister was a little unsettling. Ramesh took a picture of the two men in their uncomfortable silence. Harman looked to his wife and shrugged. She made a waving motion with her hand and whispered, “Say something, Bill.”
“Oh! Ok!” He turned back to the man before him. “Uhhh. Thank you, Mr. Taft. I look forward to working with you, the Prime Minister, and your Legislature to build on and strengthen the ties between our two countries.” Jennifer winked at him when he glanced at her. Bill Jr. gave him a thumbs up. The reporter took another picture.
“Very good.” Taft said. He stared at Harman again. This time the Ambassador looked toward his own Chief of Staff for guidance.
Ballencek pointed at the item Harman was holding. “The envelope. He needs the envelope.”
“Oh! Ok! Of course!” He handed the envelope to Taft. “My diplomatic credentials.” Ramesh snapped multiple pictures as Taft accepted the envelope.
The Prime Minister’s Chief of Staff examined the brown envelope closely. “You didn’t open it, did you?”
“Good.” Taft tucked the folder he was holding under his arm and pulled a small knife from his pocket to open the end of the brown envelope. He slipped a sheet of paper from envelope and scanned it while Ramesh took more pictures. “Mmmhmmm…” Taft looked at the letter from the Secretary of State. It had been countersigned by the U.S. President. “Everything seems to be in order.”
Jackson clapped in approval. After a moment the others in the room did, also. Taft glared at Jackson, who stopped immediately and raised his hand to cough into it. Everybody else quite clapping as well.
Taft took the folder under his arm and put Harman’s Letter Of Credential inside. He then offered the folder to Harman. “Please sign this.”
Harman looked at the cover of the closed folder. There were five dated signatures on the front. The last name on the list, Richard Cannebere, he remembered as the man Ballencek said was the most recent Ambassador. The date next to his name was only four months old. The other names went back only three years. He took a pen from his pocket and signed his name below the others with the date. More pictures were taken. “What did I sign here?” He handed the folder to Taft.
“These are all the Letters of Credential we’ve received from the U.S. in recent years. We’re losing track of how many new Ambassadors we’re getting. We seem to go through them like water.”
Jackson stepped forward to shake Harman’s hand. “Too legit to quit, I hope.” Harman only nodded his head.
“Congratulations, Mr. Ambassador,” Ramesh said as he shook Harman’s hand next. “Would it be possible to use your computer to send my dispatch later?”
“I suppose so,” Harman said. “But I think I should see what you are sending first.”
“Certainly,” the reporter agreed. He pulled a sheet of paper from his back pocket and read from it. “’Dear Brother,’ my brother is the Editor. ‘Dear Brother, the wedding pictures of your sister in law were quite lovely.’”
Harman look at him sideways. “Is there any news to report today?”
“‘Mr. William Harman was accepted as U.S. Ambassador to Oslea. Give our sister my regards. Vinod.’”
Mayor Jackson looked at his watch. “I think it’s time for lunch. Who’s hungry?”
Everyone raised their hands.