The phone rang early on Monday morning, snapping Afosua into reality.
“This is Sophia Ike.”
Why was Sophia Ike calling her so early on a week day? How had she gotten her number?
“Annette and I are…good friends,” explained Sophia. “She’s mentioned you to me on several occasions. I sent you a text message yesterday to tell you about her arrest.”
“Yes!” said Afosua excitedly. “I did receive it yesterday. I was too overwhelmed to give you a call back, I’m sorry.”
It had all seemed like a bad dream the day before. Now Afosua had to face that her friend was in real danger.
“I figured that the two of you were close,” continued Sophia. “Have you seen the news?”
“Only that she is being accused of embezzlement,” mused Afosua, “which is absurd, because Annette has no business dealings with Prah’s enterprises at all.”
“It doesn’t matter. The sad thing about our politics is that you can be accused and jailed without proof, if the person accusing you can purchase your guilt,” lamented Sophia.
The enormity of the situation had not escaped Afosua.
“Sophia, I’ve got a call I need to make. I promise I’ll call you back when I have more details.”
The two women hung up and Afosua got out of bed to shower. There was only one woman who could help Annette now, and she owed Afosua a favor.
“Naa Akweley, I’m leaving to see that barrister I was telling you about. I shouldn’t be gone long.”
Naa Akweley rolled over to wave good bye, her round belly making her movement slow and deliberate.
“Call me with any details if you can please.”
“Of course,” replied Afosua.
As she walked by the mirror she noticed her hair was unkempt. She didn’t have time to style it.
“Can I borrow your hair clip to pull my hair back?”
Naa Akweley pulled it out of her ponytail and handed it to her. She rolled back over and pretended to go back to sleep. She was worried for Annette, but she didn’t want to discuss her anxiety with Afosua. She felt an unnatural need to portray confidence in order to mask the helplessness she felt.
Afosua wheeled her car into a parking space in front of the offices of Lydia Oppong, Esq. and waited. Lydia was the most reviled barrister in Ghana, but she was the most successful. She was the first woman to bring down an MP, forcing him to resign amid a scandal that shocked the nation. When the minister for education in 1977 had seduced and impregnated the then young law student, he refused to acknowledge paternity and embarked on a campaign to bring her into disrepute. He alleged that she was part of syndicate that was extorting “big men” for money by falsely accusing them of indecent acts. What he hadn’t banked on was Lydia’s meticulous note taking and inquisitive nature. What the minister wasn’t paying attention, the young woman riffled through his files and found records to prove he was involved in syphoning funds for education and diverting them for personal use and an impressive porn collection. When the MP was forced into court to face charges and found guilty for his illegal activity, a 22 year old Lydia famously stood on the steps of the courthouse and declared:
“He thought I was some fiyanga girl he could mess over. But the system has taught the education minister a thing or two today!”
Lydia Oppong pursued her law degree and had her baby, but she saw that the law was made more powerful when a picture told the stories that words couldn’t. She became a divorce lawyer and over the years hired a select group secondary school girls to tail husbands suspected of cheating on their wives. With embarrassing images of men in compromising positions in seedy parts of town, divorces were usually quick and uncomplicated for the small clientele who could afford her. For this, she was despised by the wider male population. Afosua was one of Lydia’s ‘agents’. Unlike her cohorts, she refused money for her wages. Instead, she requested that Ms. Oppong represent her in trial, if she ever needed it.
A woman knocked on her car window as she waited.
“Can I help you?” asked a stocky girl with plump lips. “This is private parking space.”
“I’m waiting for Barrister Oppong,” said Afosua tersely.
“Do you have an appointment?”
“Well she won’t see you without an appointment,” said the girl matter-of-factly. “I’m her personal assistant.”
“Good for you!” Afosua shot back. “Now if you’ll excuse me, you’re letting all my A/C out.”
Waving her hand dismissively, Afosua rolled up the window and turned her attention away from the shocked young woman, who stalked into the office in a huff. Five minutes later, a shiny black Mercedes with tinted windows pulled in beside her. Afosua smiled to herself. The car was very much like her boss: all show on the outside but always concealing something within. She got out to greet the woman. If Lydia was surprised to see her, she didn’t show it.
“I suppose you’re here to collect on what I owe you?” said the older woman, taking her by the hand.
“Yes ma’dam,” said Afosua allowing herself to be led into the office.
“Let’s hear it then. It’s been ten years since I’ve seen you, so it must be something big!”
Lydia turned to the plump assistant.
“Bring us a tray with tea please, Millicent, and see that we are not disturbed for a while.”
Afosua shot Millicent a triumphant look before ducking into the office.
“Now tell me everything my dear,” said Lydia, leaning back in her chair.
Afosua launched into the details as she knew them. To her surprise, Lydia was already well abreast of the issue.
“Of course it’s nonsense,” she scoffed. “But we’re dealing with public opinion and a lot of money. Women like Annette – beautiful, aloof and privileged – are hated and admired by our people. If Mr. Prah can make the case that she was greedy and show a pattern of greed, he might have a shot. I don’t know what kind of proof he’s got, but he must be feeling very confident to have gone as far as to have her arrested.”
“Or just malicious,” sneered Afosua.
“That too,” admitted Lydia.
“Will you do it?” asked Afosua hopefully.
“You are asking me to bring down one of the titans of Ghanaian industry – A man who has a history of making deals that screw the little guy and take advantage of their poverty. How can you even ask that? Of course I will!”
Afosua resisted the urge to hug Lydia and stuck out her hand to shake hers instead.
“Then we’ll be in touch. I leave for Europe in a few days for work. I’ll help anyway I can before then.”
“Millicent will see you out. I’ll work on getting Annette out of jail this afternoon. I can get her fast tracked for a bail hearing. Leave it to me.”
Afosua saw herself out of the office, and skipped down to her car. Her heart felt like it was soaring. Then her stomach began to grumble. She had completely forgotten to eat that morning. She made sure her car was locked and walked over to A&C Mall to pick up a pastry at a bakery. As she entered the shop, Ian Blankson nearly ran over her. She drew a sharp breath.
“You. Don’t I know you?”
“Yes,” replied Afosua stiffly. “We’ve met before.”
“Ahhh…yes! At my church. You were looking for my accountant. Did you ever find what you were looking for?” he asked smoothly. He was inching his body closer to hers. The man had no shame. His wife had been missing for a week and he didn’t seem worse for the wear.
“Everything turned out fine, thank you,” said Afosua inching past him. “Have a good day, Pastor.”
Afosua walked up to the counter to make her order, but she couldn’t shake the feeling that Ian was staring at her backside. She was utterly repulsed. What a pig!