Tony paced the floors of the chief inspector’s office. Afosua’s phone had been ringing and gone unanswered for hours. He was worried. Something had to be terribly wrong. The inspector leaned back in his office chair and tried to calm Tony down.
“If what you tell me is correct, she’s okay,” said Frederick Frimpong. “Ms. Gyemfi seems like an intelligent woman. We have a man stationed outside of Phillips & Boakye, and he says Mr. Boakye’s car is still in the compound.”
Tony stopped pacing.
“Has he seen Mr. Boakye?”
Inspector Frimpong leveled his gaze to meet Tony’s.
“Shit!” he cursed. “There are three different ways to get out of that office. Harold could have left through any of them hours ago!”
“Calm down, Mr. Coffie,” said the Inspector curtly. “We are on the case.”
“We have to get out there and look for her!” he cried. “Get all your resources on this.”
Frimpong shifted in his seat, but didn’t rise.
“And where exactly would we start looking?”
Tony walked over to his desk and planted the palms of his hands on the peeling surface. The whir of the air-condition hardly muffled the rage in his voice.
“I don’t think you understand the magnitude of what is going on here,” he said between gritting teeth. “Not only has your department failed to catch a criminal, but your inaction is going to be responsible for whatever happens to the one person who managed to. Now get off your incompetent ass and follow me.”
Tony strode furiously towards the door and got into his car with his cell phone in hand. Mark Phillips picked up on the other end. He spoke quickly.
“Mark…it’s Tony. There is a car outside of your office with a police officer in it. Get in it.”
Inspector Frimpong barely had time to shut his door as Tony whipped his car onto the road, talking just as swiftly as he was driving.
The sound of Harold Boakye’s labored breathing was maddening. Each time he exhaled, his nostrils made a whirling sound. Afosua joked cruelly about his defect once to another co-worker and now it was going to be the last thing she heard before she died. Mr. Boakye had already promised to kill her.
“This is all your fault, you know,” he said sternly. “If you had just listened to instructions, this would not be happening to you.”
As Afosua glanced at him sideways, he caught her look.
“But what can one expect from a woman?” he spat. “As smart as you are, you are too dumb to follow simple instructions.”
The car was getting hotter and hotter. Mr. Boakye refused to let her turn on the A/C and the late afternoon sun was unforgiving as it shone through the windscreen. Afosua raised her left hand to wipe sweat off her brow.
“Keep your hands on the steering wheel!” Mr. Boakye screamed. “Never lift your hands from the steering wheel again!”
He sounded insane, and Afosua was losing her cool exterior. The anticipation of what he was planning began to wear on her. Maybe if she kept him calm, she might be able to reason with him.
“Mr. Boakye –“
“Shut up, woman.”
“I just wanted to tell you that we are nearly out of petrol,” she said nodding towards the gas gauge.
“It doesn’t matter. We are nearly there,” her employer grunted.
Afosua looked around. They had sped past a number of small villages on the road. Soon they all began to look the same to her. Little boys in faded shorts played by the side of the road while women carried bundles of firewood and fruit on their heads. It would have made for an idyllic scene if not for the terror she felt in her heart. If she could just get to her purse, she could get the phone that Tony had given her and call for help. Mr. Boakye didn’t know it was in there. Afosua looked desperately at her bag in the back seat through the rearview mirror. The act betrayed her.
“What are you looking at? Eh?”
He grabbed her purse and rifled through it. The sound of something vibrating made him pause.
“Oh!” He laughed. “Where you hoping to get to this?”
He rolled down his window and threw the phone out the side. Afosua saw it disappear from view in the grass.
“No!” she gasped.
Her protest earned her a slap. Tears of fury and despair welled up in her eyes.
“Oh. Don’t worry. This will soon be over,” said Mr. Boakye kindly. “Pull over here.”
‘Here’ was in the middle of nowhere. Dense bush lined either side of the road. Soon there was nothing but the eerie sound of crows calling to each other from the emerald canopy above. Harold Boakye pulled Afosua out of the car and pushed her into the thick foliage.
“Walk that way.”
He looked absolutely deranged. The wheezing from his nose was getting louder and faster, and his bloodshot eyes were wide behind his glasses. The sun danced off the cold metal blade that seemed melded to his right hand. The thought of her undiscovered body lying in the bush made her ill. Afosua tried one last time to appeal to him. She opened her mouth, hoping that the next phrase she uttered would elicit some pity from him. All she could muster was a pathetic ‘please’.
“Move,” Harold Boakye grunted.
Harold Boakye walked behind her, pushing her roughly in the direction he wanted her to go. As she trudged through the bushes rustling sounds from scampering wood animals startled her. A pair of eyes looked at her coldly from the dense growth. As she got closer, they disappeared. Soon the tangled bush gave way to an old grown over path that led to a burnt out building. From a distance Afosua made out a few details. It was a modest dwelling made up of about four or five rooms. To the right there was an old covered up well.
“This was my grandfather’s first building,” Afosua heard her abductor say from behind her. “It was supposed to be a magnificent home when it was finished, surrounded by gardens and fruit trees. But as usual, a woman ruined everything.”
He kicked at Afosua’s heels as they got closer to it.
“My grandfather installed a gas stove, and told my grandmother not to touch it until he could show her how to use it. But as usual, you women cannot follow simple directions! She left the switch to the tank on for too long and by the time she struck the match the air was full of gas. The explosion burnt everything my grandfather had ever worked for.”
“But he survived…he made a new beginning,” Afosua said, trying to empathize with her captor. “He left you with a legacy.”
“Not before it killed him!” Harold screamed. “The toil of rebuilding everything sent him to an early grave. He never got to see the work that his sons and grandchildren did…all because of some woman who was too smart for her own good.”
He grabbed Afosua by the arm and spun her around.
“In many ways, you and that old woman are very much alike. You think you are so smart! My grandmother should have died in that house all those years ago, but she didn’t,” Harold said ruefully. “But you will. You will not ruin everything I have worked for.”
Afosua’s heart was pounding like a jackhammer against her chest. She stepped backward until her feet led her to the broad wall of the old house. As her back fell flat against the crumbling concrete she let out a whimper, making Harold Boakye smile in depraved delight. Afosua looked like a small, scared animal, ready for slaughter. As her tormentor inched stealthily closer to her, Afosua wished desperately that she had a can of mace to divert her impending attack. But if the verbose claims of market women were true, the packet of pepper she kept in her back pocket would blind this evil man – at least temporarily.
She had to time her next move just right. As Harold Boakye raised his knife and prepared to plunge it into Afosua’s heaving chest, she reached into her pocket and flung the caustic substance in his eyes. Afosua darted past him as Harold dropped to his knees and howled in pain. The terror of knowing how narrowly she had escaped death propelled her feet. When Afosua got to the end of the grown over path, she look around in bewilderment. Which way was the road? The sun was barely visible through the lush trees. It would be dark soon, and it could be hours before another car passed this way. She jogged westward, pausing to catch her breath. Her heart was still thumping wildly in her chest. She rested her hands on her knees and wiped a flood of sweat from her forehead. In the distance she thought she heard the rumbling of a tipper truck. She desperately made for the sound.
When she got to the road, all that was left of the truck was a billow of black exhaust and fast fading brake lights in the distance. Afosua stood hapless, considering her next moves. She panicked, realizing that Harold had the keys to her car in his pocket. She would have to walk to the next village. Before she could take a step, someone had grabbed her by the waist and wrestled her to the ground.
“You thought you could run away from me, you little bitch!”
Harold Boakye’s bony hands pummeled her face, leaving her dazed. The pain of each blow reminded her of the night she had been attacked by Rafiq in the woods. A fury that had been buried deep inside her overflowed and unleashed itself on this man. Afosua reached up her hands and grabbed him by the ears and pulled his head towards hers, screeching at such a high pitch that it sent birds fleeing from the trees. Mr. Boakye grabbed his head in pain and tried to re-orient himself. His knife lay next to his feet. Afosua grabbed his abandoned blade and plunged it deep into his groin.
She didn’t look back as she ran away and left him gasping in the bush.
“There she is! Pull the car over!”
The dark blue jeep with Ghana Police’s emblem emblazoned on the side barely came to a halt before Tony hopped out. He gathered a bloodied and exhausted Afosua into his arms, cradling her and gently wiping blood from her battered face.
“Tony…how did you…?”
He shushed her and helped her get to the car. Tony took out a handkerchief and wet it with water before pouring small sips into her mouth.
“The phone I gave you has a GPS app on it,” he explained. He gently dabbed the corners of her mouth. “We found it on the side of the road a few miles back. I figured if we just kept driving we would eventually find you.”
Afosua rested her head against Tony’s broad chest and sobbed.
“I think I killed him.”
“Mr. Boakye,” she said breathlessly. “He took me out here…and I stabbed him.”
“Save your strength,” Tony said softly. “We’re going to get you to a hospital back in Accra. You can give your statement there.”
Inspector Frimpong materialized at the side of the window a few moments later.
“We’ve found Mr. Boakye,” he stuttered. He was wincing. “He needs urgent medical attention. He has a knife stuck in his – that is to say – in his…”
“I think we get it Inspector,” offered Tony with a sly chuckle. “I’ll take the lead and meet you in Accra.”
Those words and Tony’s voice were the last things Afosua heard before she blacked out.