Tony left two hours later. He was going to make a few calls to see if he could get in touch with the Ghana Police’s lead inspector. Before he left he put a smart phone on her kitchen counter.
“What is this?” Afosua asked incredulously.
“It’s a cell phone.”
“I picked you up another phone for you. You’ll never run out of credits again.”
“You didn’t have to do that,” Afosua frowned.
“Nonsense. Everyone in Ghana has two or three cell phones, why should you be any different?” Tony joked. “Besides, I’ll always know I can reach you. That makes you my girl, doesn’t it?”
“If handing a woman a communication device makes her your “girl”, then yes, I suppose I am.”
Tony kissed her softly and smiled.
“You’re welcome. I’ll talk to you tomorrow, okay?”
“Sure,” she said smiling back. “And thank you…for everything.”
Now Afosua was thinking about what Tony had told her during his visit. She rubbed her arms vigorously, trying to fight a chill that wouldn’t leave her. There was a rogue land dealer investing and reselling property in the country who had yet to be caught. His transactions netted in millions of cedis for his foreign partners, and usually left locals without their rightful property by encroaching on it acre by acre. Once the magnitude of what this person was doing reached the government, a manhunt was launched for him.
The problem was, there was very little to go on and government didn’t know where to begin. The trader had been very careful about covering his tracks. Tony thought Afosua had unwittingly discovered who the person siphoning land was: Harold Boakye.
Afosua had always suspected that Harold Boakye was not a nice man – a chauvinist certainly – but never a criminal! How was she going to bring her discoveries up to Mark? They were business partners and friends. This information would crush him. She climbed into bed and pulled her bed sheets tightly around her. Eventually drifting off into fitful sleep, she decided she would tell Mark in the morning.
The sun rose over the city like an enormous tangerine. The early morning air was fresh and carried a faint scent of burning firewood. Lydia Oppong took a deep breath and almost skipped into the courtroom. Things couldn’t have been going more perfectly than if she had written the script herself. The halls of the courthouse were empty except for a few cleaners and clerks filing in and out of the building. Lydia found a seat in the back of a hearing room and pulled her tablet out of her briefcase. They were not due in court for another few hours but she liked to come in early and read over case law before any trial. The solitude gave her the feeling of owning the room before anyone else came in.
Lydia looked in the direction that her name was being called. A stocky man with reddish-brown skin stood at the end of the row she was sitting on. He was wearing a green shirt with white embroidery and black slacks. He had a black polythene bag in his left hand. Lydia’s guard was immediately heightened.
“Yes?” she said cautiously.
The man moved in closer to her.
“May I join you?” he asked.
She held up her hand to stop him.
“That’s close enough thank you. I can hear you perfectly fine from here.”
The man nodded and set his bag on the seat closest to him.
“I represent certain people with a particular interest in the case you are defending,” he began. “Certain ‘facts’ may come out about this case that these people would rather be left out. We wonder what incentives we might offer to leave those out of the view of the public.”
Lydia looked over at the bag that was set unceremoniously down on the chair. She saw some currency peeking out from the edge. She sneered and lifted her lip.
“More than what you’ve got in that bag,” she snarled.
“I assure you, madam, these are not cedis…”
“I don’t care if they are rare rocks from Mars!” she bellowed, jutting her neck forward in fury. “Your clients have quite a bit of nerve thinking that they can bribe me with a few dollars. Heh! What, they think because this is Ghana and I’m a woman I can be so easily bought?”
Lydia rose to her feet and balled her fist at her side.
“Get out!” she screeched. “Get out and tell that damned Mr. Prah to get ready to face me in court!”
Lydia’s elevated voice was drawing a small crowd in the corridor. The man pleaded for her to calm down and listen to reason. The words caused her to growl. It was an inhuman sound, laden with pain. Seeing that he his mission had failed, the man gathered his bag and hastened for the exit. Lydia glared at the empty spot that he was standing at just seconds before, shaking with fury.
“What are you all looking at?” she barked at the cleaners standing in the door.
Lydia sank to her seat and stared at the judge’s bench. Ancient feelings from decades past washed over her. She was not that small girl anymore. She gritted her teeth and unclenched her fist.
She was not that small girl anymore!
The man in the green shirt jumped into the front seat of a waiting vehicle outside.
“Did she take it?”
“No,” he said, shaking his head.
The woman in the back seat sighed.
“Well that’s that then.” She beckoned at the driver who was staring at her through the rear view mirror. “Let’s go.”
The rising sun filtered through Afosua’s white lace curtains and danced on her cheek. The warmth roused her gently. The passing of the night made her a lot braver. Tony had assured her that everything was going to be okay, and she trusted him. Once the authorities were involved she could bow out and let them handle it, but she felt she had an obligation to tell Mark Phillips. She out of bed and put the map and thumb drive into her purse. He was going to need to see all the proof for himself.
Street hawkers and crippled men surrounded her car as she approached Airport Rd. Normally the entrepreneurial hustle of everyday people invigorated her, but today it alarmed her. As she drove in the direction of the office she felt courage fail her again. Afosua pulled over to the side of the road and got out of the car. There was a kiosk selling meat pies and drinks. She approached the small stall and asked for a pie, stalling for time. She pulled out her cell phone and checked the time. It was 9 am. Mark would be in the office by 9:30. She still had a little time to catch him just as he was walking in.
Afosua nibbled on the edge of the warm pie and started making her way to her car. A little girl in a school uniform stumbled over to her with tears staining her face.
“Madam!” the child called. “Please help me. Madam!”
Afosua stopped and spun around. The sight of the bedraggled child melted her heart. She knelt to get closer to her.
“My dear, why are you crying?” she asked sweetly.
“Please, I have lost my parents,” the girl sobbed. “Our car broke down and they sent me to sit down under a tree but I wondered off. Now they are gone!”
The girl was wailing hysterically. Afosua pulled out a handkerchief and wiped the child’s angelic face.
“Do you know your parents’ number?” she asked, her voice full of concern.
When the child’s chubby cheeks bobbed up and down enthusiastically Afosua felt relieved.
“Good. Let’s call them then,” she said pulling out her cell phone and handing it to the little girl. “Call them and tell them where you are.”
The child took the phone from Afosua and took three steps backward. Suddenly, she bolted, running away with the phone before discarding it into an open gutter. Afosua was enraged.
“Heh! Come here!” she shouted at the child who was fast disappearing from view.
Afosua sucked her teeth in fury turned back towards her car, stumbling on on something. It was a man’s foot.
“Not a word, Ms. Gyemfi. Get in the car and don’t say a word.”
Afosua’s heart dipped into her stomach. Harold Boakye had found her.