Lucas stood and asked Afosua to join him at the bar. She dutifully followed him.
“Your colleague is very pretty.”
“Gertrude? Yes, I suppose she is.”
“I hope she is not equally naïve.”
Afosua glanced back at Lucas. She had been watching Gertrude and Carsten get cozier and cozier, slowly excluding the other two men from their conversation.
“And what would she have to be wary of? I’m not sure why her naivety would come into question.”
Lucas shifted his weight on the stool he was sitting one and traced his finger against the dark oak surface of the bar.
“I’ve seen this before,” he confided. “With Carsten, I mean. He’s indiscriminate. Clients; contracts; it doesn’t matter the business relationship. He finds a woman he’s attracted to and beds her for sport. I don’t think your friend is equipped to handle that.”
“I see,” mused Afosua. “Don’t you think you are being disloyal to your colleague, seeing as you are blacklisting him so unreservedly?”
Lucas shook his head.
“Perhaps I am being disloyal to Carsten, yes…but my allegiances lie with my company and their interests.”
Afosua nodded in understanding. She appreciated his pragmatic approach.
“I’ll tell you one other thing,” Dietrich continued. “I consider this trip a formality. I have already decided that Phillips & Boakye is the actuary that would provide Deutsch Tech the best quality of work. I don’t believe any other actuary in Ghana can provide us with the level of intelligent analysis that your firm can, from what I’ve researched. Your job from here on end is not to prove me wrong. I would hate for something as small as a temporary dalliance to ruin all our long term objectives. I hope I make myself clear?”
“Understood,” Afosua replied, picking up her drink. “I think it’s time we retired for the evening, Mr. Gottlieb. Thank you for this chat.”
Afosua walked over to the table and motioned for Gertrude to join her.
“Good night gentlemen, and thank you for a wonderful evening. We will see you all in the morning.”
As the four men stood up to leave as well, Lucas cast Afosua a reconfirming glance. She kept her face towards the direction of the elevator and strode towards. It was time to get her mind refocused.
The train ride from Frankfurt to Dresden was going to take four hours. Carsten, Lucas and the rest of the team were scheduled to meet Afosua and Gertrude at the lab the next day, giving them a chance to tour the facility and hear from Deutsch Tech’s engineers. Whether or not their operation would be successful in Ghana depended on the infrastructure they would require. Afosua knew she would have to develop some sort of work around if their goals were too lofty.
As soon as they were seated, she handed Gertrude a portfolio.
“Why are we here, Gertrude?”
“To make an assessment for Deutsch Labs?” she replied nervously.
“Exactly. To make an assessment,” Afosua confirmed. “We are not here to play games – romantic games in particular. We both have a lot to lose if this goes wrong.”
“What do you mean?”
“Oh come on!” Afosua hissed. “Don’t make me spell it out for you. I mean you and Carsten and your thin attempts at hiding your flirtation. Don’t mess with him, don’t sleep with him, don’t do anything for him! He is our client and nothing else, okay?”
Gertrude nodded quietly. She wouldn’t have minded the reprimand, if only Afosua had kept her tone a little quieter. The two rode in stony silence, pouring over the details of the project with counterfeit interest. It pained Afosua to start their trip off this way, but she had to steer this ship vigilantly.
Deutsch Tech Labs was a sprawling facility which looked deceptively smaller than it was. Camouflaged by indigenous trees and bushes, the many corridors that led from one building to another gave the impression that this was a humble operation – which it was by no means. The German company was researching everything from how to grow tomatoes in frigid temperatures to isolating proteins in shrimp to regenerate human cells. The tour took an hour to complete, and both women regretted their decision to wear pumps. By the time they got to the conference room to hear DTLs prospectus for their Ghanaian venture, both sank gratefully into the swivel chairs closest to the door.
Gertrude began furiously scribbling notes, while Afosua focused her attention on the spatial limitations. It had not escaped her that DTL might have to extend its reach into Ghana’s neighboring countries to achieve the volume of product it needed. As the facility manager droned on about the companies many accomplishments, Afosua couldn’t help but wish this conversation was taking place in Accra or Kumasi…anywhere in Ghana. Her country had enough resources and intelligence to build labs to create medicines at home. Yet here again, foreigners were making use of the nature’s bounty that she and her people had discarded.
As if reading her thoughts, the facility director asked her a pointed question.
“Do you use asaa, Ms. Gyemfi?”
She raised her eyebrows and stared at him, almost in a panic.
“Me? No – although I heard it was very popular many years ago. Mostly in the villages.”
“Ahh. I see. We call it Die Wunder-Beere – the wonder berry. People have tried for years to export it, but it has such a short shelf life. We think we can overcome that…with your help of course.”
“Yes. Of course.”
She felt like a sell out and she hated it. Still, any investment in Ghana was good investment, so the government keeps saying.
“Shall we break for lunch?” he asked, shutting down the projector he’d been using. “This way please.”
“Danke,” said Gertrude softly, picking up her purse to follow him out.
Afosua noticed the change in Gertrude’s demeanor. She did not want her to retreat back into her shell, not after she had started out so well. As she poked at her chicken, Afosua touched her arm lightly.
“Look, I’m sorry if I was cruel on the train,” she began. “I just don’t want use to lose sight of the reason we are here. We have a lot of people back home depending on us – and at least one that is expecting us to fail. Can you understand that?”
“Let’s start all over again, please? You’re doing fabulously, and from one woman to another, I want to see you carry on that way.”
This made Gertrude smile.
“Very well,” she breathed. “I guess now would be a good time to tell you that you ordered pickled pig ears, not ham. I was going to watch you squirm – and possibly vomit – when it arrived and then laugh at you privately.”
“Oh chale. You’re wicked ooo!”
“I guess that makes us both even then!”
The two women laughed and reordered Afosua’s lunch. Afosua was sure that everything was going to be okay.