Lydia Oppong went to the trunk of her car and pulled out a simple batik dress and a pair of flip flips and stuffed them into a plastic bag. She strode confidently into the jail and approached the warden’s desk.
“I’m here to see my client,” she said addressing a sleepy looking man in a dark blue uniform. “Can you lead me to her?”
The warden looked her up and down slowly before speaking. He motioned at a lurking lieutenant near the exit door.
“Bring the half-caste girl. Her lawyer is here.”
Lydia sauntered over to a wooden bench and sat, not waiting to be offered a seat. She was the type of woman who made herself comfortable, no matter the surroundings. When Annette finally emerged from the dark corridor it seemed to take her a while to adjust to the light. The holding cells had been built during the colonial era and were constructed with the aim of breaking the human spirit. Lydia rose to shake Annette’s hand, who took hers gingerly.
“Mrs. Prah – Lydia Oppong. I’ve been retained to represent you.”
“I’m so glad,” breathed Annette with relief. “What happens now?”
“Now my dear, we leave for court. You have a bail hearing. We won’t be returning to these quaint accommodations, I assure you of that.”
There was only one vehicle assigned to the station and it was out on patrol. When it had been agreed that the lieutenant would join them in Lydia’s car to ensure that Annette would try to abscond they set off for the high court in Accra. Annette sat in the back seat and changed out of her filthy clothes. She slipped the dress that Lydia brought for her over her head and slipped on the flip flops.
“There is a face towel under the seat,” said Lydia. “Wipe your face as best you can. We want the judge to make as much eye contact with you as possible. No one wants to look at a woman with a dirty face.”
Afosua went home and pulled out her laptop. There was no point in going into the office since she was already late. Besides, she wanted to avoid Mr. Boakye for as long as possible. He still didn’t know that she had saved the forbidden files on her thumb drive weeks ago. She fished the small device out of a drawer where she kept her DVDs and plugged it in.
She tabbed through the prospectus for the Swedish account until she found the organization chart. She recognized Jurgen’s name and title, and deduced that the two other names were the men she saw on the riverbank in Dubai. The forth name just seemed weird… almost like it was made up. Lark H. O’Keyoab, CFO.
“O’Keyoab” was not a Scandinavian name. Who was this character managing their money? Was he Irish? Scottich? Neither group traditionally had much business in Ghana. Afosua scrolled through the files until she got to the financials. Whoever Lark was, he was smart enough to spread the assets around several banks in the country. She stared at the name long and hard.
Lark H. O’Keyoab
“Oh my God!” whispered Afosua.
“What is it?” asked Naa Akweley, who was now looking over her shoulder. “Is that our prospectus for Dumbai?”
“Huh? Oh no, no,” said Afosua closing the laptop quickly. “It’s just something for work. Confidential.”
She got up and pulled out a binder she had been working on for the project. Her heart was pounding. How much had Naa Akweley seen?
“Why don’t you take a look over it and tell me what you think it’s missing?” offered Afosua. “I’m sure it could use another critical eye.”
Naa Akweley brightened. It was the first time in a while that someone had asked her to review a proposal…other than where the next all night prayer meeting should be had or if all the ladies should wear power blue or white for Founder’s Day Sunday. She clutched the binder close to her chest.
“I’ll have feedback for you tonight.”
“Great. I have to dash out for a minute,” said Afosua, grabbing her keys. “Can I get you anything?”
She was nervous and trying hard to act normal. If Naa Akweley caught on that something was wrong, she didn’t let it show.
“No, I’m fine,” she said simply. “I’ll see you when you get back.”
Afosua was already closing the door when she finished speaking. Naa stared at the laptop on the table and opened the lid. The screen was blank, and password protected. It was just as well. She suddenly felt an overwhelming sense of guilt for trying to snoop into her friend’s work affairs and reclosed the lid. She went back into the bedroom to dutifully pour over the paperwork for the new project.
Annette stood at the defense table, feeling exposed and frightened. Lydia Oppong was now covered in a black robe and a yellowing wig that barely covered her thick permed hair. Annette envied her shroud, and wished that she could borrow it, if only for a moment.
The judge presiding over her bond hearing was an elderly man, about sixty. His tired eyes were washed out, probably from years spent reading dull case law late into the night. A court secretary handed him a copy of Annette’s speedily drawn up motion, which he read with impassiveness. Finally he waved for Lydia Oppong to approach the bench.
“Where is council for Mr. Prah?” he asked irritably.
“M’Lord, I am uncertain why Mr. Prah’s attorney…or Mr. Prah himself is not here for that matter,” replied Lydia. “My client and I are here as we respect the court’s time.”
“Well your client was arrested for theft, so I doubt she had anywhere else to be,” snapped the judge.
Lydia waited silently for the judge’s orders. There was no point in getting on his bad side by being combative. He waved her back to the defense table to stand by Annette before addressing her directly.
“Mrs. Prah, how do you plead to the charges as they have been leveled against you?”
“Not guilty, my lord,” she said in a clear strong voice, just as Lydia had instructed her to do.
The judge sat up in his chair suddenly. He was so accustomed to criminals coming into his court room weeping and blaming “Satan for casting a spell on them” that this display of confidence was a departure from the norm. His watery eyes examined her entire body, either with desire or pity. It was hard to tell. A ray of sunlight caught a bit of her curly brown hair and almost made her look angelic. He seemed to soften a little.
“Very well. We shall set bail at GhC 6,000. You will be remanded into the custody of your lawyer and will return to court in three weeks for trial.”
“Thank you, M’lord,” said Lydia. She tapped Annette on the shoulder and led her out of the dingy courtroom. Annette was stunned.
“Wait. What – that’s it?” she asked feverishly. “It was all so sudden!”
“My dear, what you will find is that in our society, appearance is everything. It looks very bad that neither Mr. Prah nor his lawyer showed up, and it would look even worse for the judge to throw you back into a cell when neither the party accusing you was present nor did they have evidence to present against you. At the end of the day, the law plays itself out as how justice should look.”
Annette did not understand this at all, but she was grateful. After Lydia provided the bail and filed her receipts, she ushered Annette to the car.
“So where can I drop you off at? Your parents’? A relative’s maybe?”
Annette shook her head.
“Mr. Prah isolated me from my family years ago. I have no one…” Her thoughts turned to Sophia, but that was too wistful a dream.
Lydia shook her head. She was not in the practice of bringing in strays, but she did owe Afosua this favor and would see it through.
“I have a spare room at my house,” she offered begrudgingly. “You can stay with me until we sort something else out.”
Annette looked down at her lap and closed her eyes. She imagined that she was already lying in a real bed, and within moments she was fast asleep. Had she been awake, she would have seen a man in a suit kicking his back left tire on the side of the road. Some stupid kubolor boy had left his wood and nails behind his car and now his tire was flat. Lydia chuckled as she drove by and watched the enraged man frantically try and call a mechanic to fix his tire. Now he was late for court! Mr. Prah’s lawyer really ought to have been more careful where he parked.