Afosua left the courthouse as soon as the recess was announced and went back to her office. She prayed that Mr. Boakye would be out when she arrived. Someone must have been listening in the heavens; only Gertrude and Mark Phillips were in the office when she pulled in.
“Hey Gertrude,” she said breathlessly. “Where is Mark?”
Gertrude pointed towards to break room without looking up from her computer screen. She had been sullen and sulking since they returned from Germany, but Afosua didn’t have time to investigate out why. As far as she knew, there was no reason for Gertrude to be upset about anything concerning the trip, and her sulking made her look childish. Mark was pouring a cup of tea when Afosua pushed open the door.
“Ms. Gyemfi! What a pleasant surprise,” he said congenially. “I didn’t expect you to be in the office so soon after your trip.”
“I wanted to make sure all of our paperwork and findings were submitted before I left,” she replied.
“Left? Where are you going?”
Afosua sighed deeply.
“I have some leave coming to me, and I thought that I might take it now. I’ll be out of the office for the next two weeks,” she said looking nervously at the door.
“Do you have plans for something fun?” asked Mark casually, sipping his drink.
“No,” said Afosua. “Not fun…but very pressing and very personal.”
“Then I won’t keep you from it.”
He extended his hand to shake hers and congratulated her on the hard work she had put in on the DeutchTech project.
“You’ve certainly earned the time away,” he smiled. “You and Gertrude did a fantastic job.”
“Thank you, sir.”
“By the way, do you know what’s wrong with her?” asked Mark, full of concern.
“She’s been acting so strangely since you both got back. Very withdrawn. Did something happen?”
“Not that I know of,” replied Afosua, thinking back. “Perhaps she just wanted to stay longer. Traveling abroad can have that affect.”
Mark looked a little more relaxed with that explanation.
“I suppose you’re right.”
Afosua waved goodbye with her cell phone in hand.
“If you need me, just call me. I’ll still be available to answer work questions,” she advised.
Mark smiled and nodded wordlessly at her retreating back. He knew he had made a good hire in Afosua Gyemfi, no matter what Harold Boakye had to say to the contrary. Where was Harold anyway? It wasn’t like him not to be in the office at the hour. Mark poured a little cream in his tea and went back to his desk to close out the day.
“What is going on?” demanded Lydia, unbuttoning her robe and laying it on the back seat of her car. She stared intently at Annette, who was shifting foot to foot.
“Have you been sleeping with another man?” she asked again.
“No!” Annette wailed. “I’m not -”
“Then what is this business that Mr. Prah is trying to pull with clandestine emails?” she whispered in rage. “I was completely taken off guard. Who is this alleged affair supposed to have been with, heh?”
Lydia whipped around and gawked at Sophia.
“Annette has been having an affair with me,” repeated Sophia, “if that’s the proper term for it.”
Lydia stared at the two women for a brief while before bursting into a long, deep chuckle.
“Well, Annette Prah. Aren’t you a piece of work,” she finally said when her fit of laughter had subsided.
“You…you’re not mad,” asked Annette nervously.
“Yes, of course I’m mad,” Lydia retorted. “I asked you to be honest with me about everything. I don’t understand why you didn’t tell me this.”
“I guess I thought it wasn’t relevant. I’m being accused of theft, not adultery…and…”
“And you were a bit ashamed, weren’t you?”
Annette looked at Sophia before turning her head away and nodding.
“I honestly didn’t know how you would take it.”
“Oh please,” Lydia scoffed. “We’ve all been in boarding school. This is type of relationship is nothing new.”
Sophia slid close to Annette and put her hand in hers.
“So what do we do now?” asked Annette.
“The obvious thing,” said Lydia with a sly grin. “We tell the court the truth…when the time is right and when it’s to our advantage.”
She tightened the strap of her purse around her shoulder.
“Come on. I’m starving. I see a plantain roaster not too far from here.”
Tony was pacing outside of the Lands Commission, anxiously looking at his phone. He put it in his pocket when Afosua finally pulled up 10 minutes later. She hopped out of her car and bounded up the few steps leading into the building.
“You should have called me to tell me you were late,” he scolded.
“Sorry,” she muttered. “I ran out of credits.”
“You really ought to get on a monthly plan,” he sniffed. “A professional has no business running out of credits!”
“Yeah, I’ll take that up with MTN or Vodafone ASAP. As you can imagine, it’s high on my to-do list,” she snapped. “Shall we?”
Chastised, Tony opened the wide wooden doors for her and allowed her to walk in ahead. She immediately felt bad for being short with him. He was doing her a huge favor, setting up this meeting with the clerk at the land title registry. It was a favor that could jeopardize his own position if it got out that he was helping her access private documents. Tony led her to the administrative offices. A muscular man with thick hair and a mole on his left cheek pointed in the direction of the Commission’s filing room. He waved congenially at one of the guards pacing the hallway. When the man was out of earshot, he spoke to Tony and Afosua in a low, urgent voice.
“Right this way Mr. Coffie,” he said. “I was expecting you a few minutes before now. I can only guarantee you 10 more minutes without being detected. I’ve laid the documents on the table so you can go over them quickly.”
“Thank you,” said Tony. “I know this is a risk for you.”
“Now we’re even,” replied the man. “Just leave the papers in the file on the table when you’re done. I’ll be back in exactly 15 minutes to get them.”
The man ducked out of the door and disappeared from view.
Afosua opened the government file and rifled through the papers. She scanned over the mundane legal mumbo jumbo that packed all government filed looking for something useful. A map for the land that the Swedes had proposed use for fell out and hit the floor. She studied it, her eyes widening as she porred over the coordinates
“Tony, look at this,” she whispered. “See where the boundaries of the approved site lay?”
Tony leaned over to see she was pointing at. The light scent of her perfume and solitude they found themselves was distracting. He found his attention diverted away from the map and focused solely on Afosua. He shook himself to get his mind back on task.
“What about it?”
“The boundaries of Jurgen’s map lay further toward the east, closer to the water supply. Those aren’t the lands that they submitted a bid on to the government.”
Tony looked at his watch.
“We have to hurry,” he cautioned. “We only have a few minutes left.”
“Okay. I think there’s a copy machine in the corner. I’m going make a duplicate of this.”
Afosua grabbed the entire file walked behind the white bearing wall where the machine was located and lifted the lid. She set the map down and prepared to hit the start button. A familiar voice in the room behind her stopped her cold.
“Tony! What are you doing here?”
“Oh! Mr. Boakye…so good to see you!”
The two men shook hands and exchanged formalities. Afosua slid to the ground and held her breath. She couldn’t afford to be detected by Mr. Boakye, not when she had just realized what he was up to.
“What brings you to the Lands Commission?”
“I’m just checking up on some one-two one-two for a client of mine,” said Tony noncommittally.
“I didn’t know that accountants could be so versatile,” mused Harold Boakye.
“Yes, well – it behooves me to know as much as I can about the world of finance, and that includes purchasing,” replied Tony. “It increases my perspective. My knowledge in areas outside of accounting has certainly helped Phillips & Boakye, wouldn’t you say?”
Afosua heard Mr. Boakye hum in agreement.
“Speaking of the firm, is anybody from the office here?” asked Mr. Boakye “I thought I saw Ms. Gymefi’s car.”
Tony shook his head.
“Not that I’m aware of.”
“I have to get going,” said Tony, looking at his watch. A clerk was supposed to be bringing me some files, but I don’t know where he’s gotten to. Want to walk out with me?”
“Sure. I have to go into the admin offices myself. I also need a file.”
Afosua’s heart threatened to leap out of her chest. She was holding the very file that Mr. Boakye was looking for. When the men’s footsteps had become fainter, she stood to her feet and pressed the ‘start’ button. Nothing happened.
“Oooh ah!” she muttered.
The archaic machine was unplugged. She didn’t have time to wait for it to warm up. She grabbed her phone and hastily took a picture, hoping the quality would turn out okay. She placed the map back into the file and left it on the table, just as the mysterious clerk had instructed. She leaned her head out of the doorway to see if anyone was in the halls. It was all clear. Down the hall, she could hear Tony’s boisterous voice weaving a tale that had all the workers laughing. He was buying her time. She tightened her pony-tail and walked briskly down the hall and hopped into her car. There was no time to think about how close she had come to getting caught. She had to get out of there.