Monday morning came sooner than Annette had anticipated. She walked bravely up the few steps leading into the local court house at Kanda and waited for her lawyer to appear in the foyer. Sophia had gone to find parking, leaving Annette alone and exposed. The clouds had begun to gather outside, threatening lightning and torrential rain by the time the morning was out. The gloom outside hardly compared to the desolation threatening to take over her spirit.
The sound of approaching footsteps pricked her attention. Annette whipped around, coming face to face with Kwame Prah. He reached out to stroke her forearm in greeting.
“Hello my dear,” he croaked.
Annette snatched her arm away from the reach of her tormentor. He feigned surprise.
“Ei. Why so testy? After all we’ve been through together?” he scolded mockingly.
“And we have far more yet to go, my dear.”
Annette glared at him icily. Lydia’s words about letting others control her life suddenly sprang into her head, and she felt a wave of heat wash over her. She was shaking with fury.
“Is there a reason you are talking to my client?”
Lydia Oppong materialized behind Mr. Prah, starling the elderly man.
“Is there a reason you’re talking to my client, Mr. Prah?”
“Barrister Oppong…I didn’t see you there. What? Can’t a man have a friendly chat with his wife?” he asked innocently.
“I don’t think you need me to tell you that you can’t, Mr. Prah. Annette, shall we?”
Lydia showed Annette into courtroom, which was already half full of spectators. The fast track courts gave the illusion of informality, despite the fact that the accused life and livelihood hung in the balance. For Annette, it was all very overwhelming. Although miserable, her life had been so predictable so far. She looked to Lydia for comfort, but she had already seated herself at the bar with the prosecution and was shuffling through her notes. Annette forced her breathing to become steadier and found a spec of dirt on the floor to focus her attention on. She realized that looking scared must have made her look guilty, but she didn’t care.
Two women sitting in the audience began to talk about her, not bothering to keep their voices down.
“This foolish girl,” one sneered, “how can she treat her husband that way? Look at how he’s cared for her all these years.”
The other sucked her teeth in agreement.
“Don’t mind her. This is how these obroni girls behave. They think they are better than anyone else.”
“I just want to knock her head,” the other replied, her bile almost palatable.
Annette forced herself to keep from responding. To her left she saw Mr. Prah had found a seat as well, smiling victoriously at everyone in the room. He was so powerful. How would they possibly win? Annette felt a rush of defeat wash over her.
“Hey you,” said a friendly female voice, tapping her on the shoulder. It was Afosua.
“Hi!” Annette whispered. “Thank you for coming!”
Afosua smiled reassuringly at her.
“I will stay as long as I can. But trust me, you’re in good hands with Lydia.”
Annette’s eyes filled with tears. She nodded her appreciation. The small court room was filling quickly now, and Sophia finally found a seat by the back door. With her small sect of supporters in the room, she felt a lot more consoled. A booming voice cut into the air, grabbing everyone’s attention.
“All rise! The Honorable Judge Gyempoh presiding!”
A heavy set man with a black robe and white judge’s tie entered the room from his chamber and ascended to the high wooden desk. He sat down without looking at anyone in the room and took up the case file that had been left by the clerk, a young woman in a batik skirt and plain white top. Annette noted that the girl had way too much pomade in her hair, which made her look greasy and not very honest.
“We will hear opening statements from the prosecution first,” said the magistrate.
“Thank you m’lord,” boomed Sylvester Acquah, Mr. Prah’s lawyer. “M’lord, we are here today to charge a certain Mrs. Annette Prah for the theft of goods and a sum of money totaling GhC 50,000. We will prove that Mrs. Prah committed fraud, forgery and adultery and as such has caused my client physical and financial harm. We will seek re-compensation and punishment for these crimes, according to the court’s direction.”
“Thank you Mr. Acquah. Ms Oppong?”
Lydia Oppong stood and furrowed her brow. Her wide stance made her appear twice her previous size, as she appeared to take up half the room. Her voice was low and commanding, her eyes engaging everyone in the room.
“Thank you my lord. The charges against Mrs. Prah are completely false, and completely fabricated. We intend to prove Mrs. Prah’s innocence, and furthermore prove that it is Mr. Prah who is guilty of theft, and guilty of pilfering something worth far more than GhC 50,000 – that being an entire lifetime from Annette Prah. You will hear riveting testimony that will vacate my client of any wrong doing, and certainly will find her not guilty of the charges of theft and fraud. We are confident that if there is any punishment directed by the court, it will not be levied upon Annette Prah.”
The judge banged his gavel as the court room erupted in a low grumble.
“Silence,” he commanded. “The prosecution will call its first witness.”
Mr. Acquah called Kwame Prah to the stand, asking him to state his name and nature of his business. Annette looked at her husband in disgust, as he gleefully blurted his rehearsed speech that he gave whenever he was asked how he became a man of fortune. She knew he was finished when the tempo of his voiced slowed, and he uttered the words “self-made man.”
“And how did you come to meet your wife, Mr. Prah?”
“Well,” croaked the septuagenarian, “she was a student at my son’s school, and always used to hang about whenever I came to visit him. She did all she could to get nearer to me, and I took pity on her. Her own parents never came to visit her, and I kind of adopted her. In time, she expressed that she loved me. I myself was a widower, and had not had the comfort of a woman in years. She seduced me. She’s very beautiful, so it was hard for me to resist.”
“That is a LIE!” Annette screamed.
“Order!” cried the judge.
“You know fucking well that is a lie you low life!” she yelled louder.
“Barrister Oppong, control your client, or I will have her removed!” the judge warned.
Lydia looked sternly at Annette, who sat down meekly. Her heart was pounding. Sylvester Acquah feigned surprise, looking around the room and playing on the spectators’ emotions. He solicited pity for the elderly man with his glance.
“Mr. Prah, do continue,” he said gently. “Please tell us about your life with Mrs. Prah.”
“Well, she was insatiable,” replied Kwame Prah. “I work very hard, and late at night she would come into my room and demand sex from me. I’m old, as you can see – but I did my best to satisfy her. I have taken much medication to make me strong…if you get my meaning…but it was never enough. Eventually, she began to pull away from me.”
Lydia glared at Annette, warning her with her eyes to keep silent. Annette sat on her hands, her fingers twisting in revulsion. The thoughts of all those nights spent with Kwame Prah slithering over her made her feel ill again. She was beyond incensed. She was in utter disbelief.
“Mr. Prah, can you tell us about the night that your wife ran off with your money?”
“Certainly,” he replied congenially. “I had just retired from my company, and I announced that we would be going away together for a year. I thought the time away from Accra would strengthen our relationship. I thought she would be pleased, but she looked so angry that night at the banquet. To my dismay, I woke the following morning to find her room vacant. She had taken only a few things – some clothing and a hand bag. It was then that I checked my safe in my study and found that the money was stolen, in cash.”
“And how would she have access to this safe?”
“I have no secrets with my wife,” said Mr. Prah simply. “She knows everything. I never imagined she would steal from me, and hurt my family so much.”
“Thank you, Mr. Prah.”
The judge asked Lydia if she wanted to cross examine the witness.
“No your honor,” she replied.
Annette gasped in horror. She wanted Lydia to make him tell the truth! Make him take back everything he said! Afosua rubbed her friend’s back, willing her to trust the lawyer. The tension slowly released in Annette’s back, as she dutifully watched the proceedings in silence.
“The prosecution wishes to call Mr. Jerry Mensah to the stand!”
A thin man in silver rimmed spectacles took the witness stand. After he was sworn in, he sat. Jerry Mensah was Mr. Prah’s IT director at the shipping firm. He had never really liked Annette. He thought she was too high-minded and full of herself. He especially did not like the way she treated his boss…although he had never seen them in public. Still, he assumed that she must be a horrible woman to be so young and to pursue a man who was old enough to be her grandfather. He looked condescendingly at her from the witness box.
“Mr. Mensah; can you tell us what you have discovered from the accused’s email communication?”
“Yes, sir I can,” began Jerry. “I discovered three years’ worth of communication between Mrs. Prah and one individual.”
“And what was the nature of these messages?”
“Amorous. As though two people were in love. There was constant talk of meeting times and rendezvous,” confirmed Jerry Mensah.
“And were you able to discover the identity of this individual?”
Jerry shook his head.
“Unfortunately, no. The email address of the recipient was encrypted and displays only as a series of letters and numbers.”
“I see,” said Mr. Acquah, stroking his chin. “But in your opinion, these emails were certainly between a man and a woman…two lovers you say?”
“Objection. Prosecution is leading,” Lydia bellowed.
“No further questions. Thank you, Mr. Mensah.”
Sylvester Acquah sat smugly at the bar. Lydia rose and faced Jerry Mensah, smiling demurely.
“Mr. Mensah, thank you for being here. Tell us, are you in law enforcement?” she asked sweetly.
“And Mr. Prah is your employer?”
“That is correct.”
“When you “came across” these emails, where were you?”
“I was in my office,” said Jerry Mensah proudly.
“And are you the owner of the email account in which these communications are contained?”
“No, of course not. Annette Prah is,” casting the younger woman a disapproving glance.
“And did you have her permission to access her private messages?”
“Ehh…no,” he said nervously.
“Oh? So how did you get access? With whose permission?”
Jerry looked nervously at his boss, who sat stone faced.
“If it wasn’t with Annette Prah’s consent, then surely it was by the request of someone here? I would hate to think that the prosecution would ask you to illegally obtain files.”
Jerry Mensah looked petrified. He hadn’t imagined that the method with which he got the data would come into question.
“Did Mr. Prah ask you to hack his wife’s account?”
“I – I can’t say,” he stuttered, unsure.
“Because if he did, I would like to draw the court’s attention to the fact that accessing another person’s personal data by an individual not acting in the capacity of law enforcement, is quite illegal. Now we have to ask ourselves: Mr. Mensah did you access this information illegally? If you did access these messages legally, that would make YOU the owner of the encrypted email – correct?”
Jerry Mensah muttered something under his breath.
“Would you repeat that sir? The court could not hear you,” barked Lydia.
“I said I would never sleep with that cheating tramp, let alone email her about it!” he said louder.
“Then I believe you’ve answered my question,” said Lydia haughtily. “You may step down, Mr. Mensah.”
Jerry Mensah trudged away from the witness stand, avoiding eye contact with his boss. Mr. Prah sat in enraged silence.
“Your honor, I move to have this “evidence” rendered inadmissible as it was illegally obtained. Any emails sent to and from Mrs. Prah cannot be used to confirm or deny any alleged infidelity.”
“Granted,” replied the judge, nodding to the clerk.
Lydia took her seat at the bar, stacked her papers and shifted them to the left. No one but Afosua knew what elation she was feeling right now. Above anything else, Lydia loved to win, and this round had been very simple. Behind her, Afosua saw the judge look at his watch.
“The court will have a recess for lunch,” he announced. “We will reconvene in two hours.”
He banged his gavel and stood, lifting the rest of the court room with him. When he had retreated to his chambers, Lydia strode over to Annette’s seat. Her face was stern.
“Lydia…I – I’m so sorry for my outbursts. I promise, it won’t happen again…”
Lydia cut her off.
“You haven’t been completely honest with me,” she said tersely.
Annette cast her gaze downward. She knew what Lydia was asking. Sophia walked up to the two of them with hurried steps, looking crestfallen. If Mr. Prah had unearthed their emails, there was no telling what else it could do. It was time to come clean.
“Come on,” Sophia instructed to the two other women. “We need to find some place private to talk.”