Tony tapped his foot on the restaurant floor until Afosua arrived. She sounded so intense on the phone…more agitated than normal. He was looking forward to seeing her, but wondered what could possibly have set her on edge so badly. Perhaps she was having regrets about the last time they were together.
A few moments later she walked into the door and hurried to his table. He stood and pulled out a chair for her, unsure if he should hug her or shake her hand. Her skin was dewy and she looked flushed, as though she were feverish. He sat in the chair next to her and took her hands.
“Are you alright?” he asked with sincere concern.
Afosua waved the waiter over and asked for water.
“I’m fine,” she lied.
When the water arrived she took a deep gulp. When her heart rate was a bit steadier, she began to dig around in her purse and pulled out the thumb drive that contained the details on Jurgen’s account. She placed it in Tony’s hand.
“It’s something I need you to hold on to while I’m gone,” she whispered, leaning in closer to Tony. He was instantly distracted by the light scent of her perfume and her quickened breath.
“You musn’t let anyone see this under any circumstances, okay?”
The urgency in her voice brought him back to focus.
“What’s on it?” he asked anxiously. “Why is it such a secret?”
Afosua scooted her chair closer to his and forced his gaze to meet hers directly. She was about to speak when she noticed that the other patrons were staring at them suspiciously.
“Let’s get out of here. I’ll tell you everything.”
Lydia Oppong’s house was massive. Centered in the cobblestone court yard was a massive fountain fashioned to depict an African woman pouring water back into a river. Twin doors made of mahogany beckoned the visitor to the entrance. Each door was carved with a pictorial narrative, compelling the caller to pause and consider its mute tale. Annette would have spent more time trying to decipher the carvings had Lydia not beckoned her into the house.
“Come and I’ll show you your room,” she announced.
Lydia led Annette through a small maze of rooms, pointing out the kitchen, living room and back yard.
“If you swim, there is a pool,” she said noncommittally. “I don’t keep spare swimming suits, but I’m sure we can find one in town.”
Annette nodded in acknowledgement. She had never learned to swim, but she would love to dip her feet into the water. The two ascended the stair case and passed by Lydia’s home office and several other miscellaneous rooms. Finally, at the far end of the home they came to the guest room. It was painted mint green and there was a crisp white comforter on the bed. It was clean, but uninviting. It was not decorated to encourage long stays.
“I hope it will suit you?” said Lydia.
“Yes! Of course,” replied Annette. “It’s lovely – simple, but elegant.”
Lydia pointed to the right side of the room.
“You’ll find a bathroom here through those doors. It’s all yours, of course. I’ll see to it that the girl brings you some soap and fresh towels.”
The lawyer looked down at her watch and excused herself. She had to get back to her office and see to another case.
“When I get back we will begin to discuss your case in detail,” she informed Annette. “There’s a lot of research we have to do if we’re to deal with Mr. Prah.”
Annette nodded. Even the sound of his name struck terror in her. If he could find her in Asylum Down, how much easier would it be for him to find her in this grand place? Lydia read Annette’s concern immediately. She put her hand on her shoulder and squeezed it gently.
“No one is going to force you from this place,” she assured her. “For one, they would be trespassing, and for another, you are free on bond. Unless you reoffend within the space of the next few weeks, no one has a reason to come looking for you.”
“But I didn’t commit an offence in the first place,” Annette pointed out.
“And that is our task to prove in court,” replied Lydia. “I’ll see you tonight when I get back from the office. Call Josephine if you need anything.”
Annette took off her flip flops and heard the wooden doors swing shut a few minutes later. She turned on the hot water in the shower until the room was steamy and welcomed the burn of the hot water. The weight of the liquid and her relief forced her to the shower floor, where she lay until it turned ice cold. Surely this was all a dream. How had her life come to this?
Afosua followed Tony to the door of his home. The gardener cast the two of them a knowing glance, but continued to cut the leafy bushes that surrounded the inside of Tony’s compound. Tony shouted a greeting at him.
“Kofi, how be?”
“Oh fine boss!” Kofi chortled. He gave Afosua a wide smile. She gave him a curtsey nod in return.
“Will you have something? Some water, or a drink perhaps?”
“No, thanks,” said Afosua settling into the closest chair.
Tony poured himself some orange juice and sat next to her. He waited until she was ready to speak.
“I think someone at Phillips & Boakye is engaging in something fraudulent,” she began.
Tony’s eyes widened.
“Who do you suspect? And of what?”
“I’d rather not say who, and I can’t tell you of what until I have all my facts in order,” she said evasively. “I just need someone I can trust right now – and the only person I kind of trust is you.”
“Only kind of?” he murmured softly, taking her hand. “Afosua, I hope you know that I would never hurt you…and if there is any way I can help you, I will. How can I help you?”
She smiled and covered his other hand with hers.
“Just keep this hidden and safe till I get back from my business trip. I leave on Thursday, but I’ll be back a week from then.”
The shared moment of faith between the two of them sent a surge through their clasped hands. He reached up brushed her cheek softly before pulling her in closer to him. He kissed her passionately and deeply, cupping her face with both her hands. Feeling herself surrender to her desire she moaned, but suddenly pushed him away and stood up. Alarmed, he flew to his feet as well. What had he done wrong?
“Which way is your bedroom?” Afosua asked, reaching out to unbutton his shirt, pausing only to look at him expectedly.
Tony smirked and quickly led her away. A week was going to be a long time to see her again.