An American Jew develops an uneasy friendship with an aloof black seaman from Kenya during World War II. The seaman, wanted for murder, jumps ship off the South African coast. The American assumes they will never see each other again. At loose ends following the war, and in response to a newspaper ad placed by a German woman, he returns to Africa on a strange mission - to find any information about her soldier-husband who disappeared while serving with an army detachment in Machakos, a small military garrison in German East Africa. His search unexpectedly thrusts him into Kenya's struggle for independence from Great Britain.