Sophia hugged Annette in the hallway as they both prepared to reenter the courtroom. There was nothing sexual in the gesture, but people gave both the women disapproving stares. How could someone as prominent and respected as Sophia Ike rally behind a criminal like this? Two men attempting to find seats in the audience box sneered at Annette.
“What are you hissing at? Heh?!” growled Sophia. “Come on. Get away from here!”
Annette pulled her lover’s sleeve.
“We have to stay calm,” she said pleadingly.
Sophia and one of the men locked eyes in mutual distaste, until both the men had disappeared into the courtroom.
“Foolish twat,” she spat.
Annette’s pleas for civility brought her back to center.
“Look, we need to get inside anyway. We don’t want to miss the show do we,” she said, attempting a joke. “After all, you are the star, isn’t it?”
Annette offered a weak smile and let go of Sophia’s hand once they reached the door.
“I’ll see you afterward?” she asked hopefully.
“Yes; Of course. I’m not going anywhere.”
Annette put on a brave face and walked to her seat in the front of the courtroom.
“Mrs. Prah, would you say your husband has been very generous during your marriage?”
“Have you ever lacked for any material things?”
“Have you been well fed? Has he ever starved you?”
“Has he ever laid a finger on you in anger? Abused you physically in any way?”
Sylvester Acquah scowled at her qualification of his question. He liked things to go according to his expectations did not like to be challenged in any way. This made him a very poor lawyer.
“So Mr. Prah is a very good husband then?”
“If by your definition of ‘good’ you mean dressing me up like a doll and keeping me in the house, then yes – he a very good husband.”
“Then why, Mrs. Prah, would you steal such an exorbitant sum of man from a man who has never let you lack for anything?” Mr. Acquah howled.
“Objection, your Honor,” Lydia rumbled.
“I’ll rephrase my question,” growled Mr. Acquah. “If Mr. Prah was such a good husband, would it seem reasonable to steal from him?’
Annette knew what he was implying, but couldn’t phrase an answer to combat his meaning. She sighed when she answered.
He smiled triumphantly.
“Thank you, Mrs. Prah. No further questions.”
“Ms. Oppong?” called the judge.
“Yes, my lord,” said Lydia rising from her seat. Her robe swept around her body like a dark cloud bringing doom. She looked at Annette intently, like a mother inspecting a child for crumbs.
“Mrs. Prah, how would you characterize your relationship with Mr. Prah? Was he affectionate?”
“Not at all,” Annette replied. “He was very controlling.”
“Well, he limited the number of friends I could have. He never let me go anywhere unaccompanied. And he’s alienated me from my family. I haven’t seen my parents in 20 years.”
Annette’s eyes began to well up when she thought about her lost relatives. She was suddenly overcome by how much she’d missed them all this time. She had suppressed her memories of them for so long that she wasn’t sure how to handle them now. She gave in and broke into tears. Lydia handed her a handkerchief.
“Mrs. Prah, have you ever stolen anything in your life?”
“Never,” said Annette vehemently.
“Never? How can you say that? Surely you’ve stolen something at some point. A biscuit as a child…maybe even a toffee? Perhaps you’ve stolen a pencil from a fellow classmate?”
“No,” Annette reasserted. “My father was a kind and loving man. He never let me go without anything. He sacrificed a lot so that I could have the things that I needed, and I’ve known that from an early age. I never had a reason to steal – anything.”
“Do you miss your father?”
Annette caught a sob in her throat.
Lydia turned her back to Annette, so that her voice carried over the room.
“It would be difficult for anyone to endure the separation caused by the loss of a parent. Death is difficult enough, but to know that your family is out there…not knowing how they are faring, or to share Christmases or birthdays, or to help them through illnesses that we ALL face at one time or another! Well, that has to be tortuous.”
“It has been.”
“And to know that this torture has been meted out by the hands of your husband, the one charged with caring for – and presumably loving you – why, it baffles the mind.”
Sylvester opened his mouth to object, but was unsure whether he should do so. Lydia glanced at him and walked determinately over to the witness box where Annette was sitting.
“Have you been tortured, Mrs. Prah?”
“By your husband?”
“Yes…he has caused me to suffer a great deal.” Annette whispered.
“I have no further questions, my lord.”
Lydia sat at the bar and looked around the room. She had planted a seed of doubt. She could tell by the conflicted faces of the witnesses.
“Mrs. Prah,” called Judge Gyempoh. “Mrs. Prah, you may step down.”
Annette’s eyes were red-rimmed, but she lifted her head courageously and went back to her seat. All she could think of was her beloved hibiscus tree that Mr. Prah had chopped down year after year. The image of its leaves in bloom gave her comfort. No matter how hard Mr. Prah tried to kill it, it always came back thicker and fuller.
Afosua looked around her dimly lit home waiting for her laptop to power up. Memories of Naa Akweley’s presence still filled each room. On the kitchen counter, the sugar bowl was still half filled where Naa had left it. Afosua didn’t eat white sugar; Naa Akweley wouldn’t touch her food without it. The notes that she had so dedicatedly prepared for their wellness center still sat on the table. Afosua thumbed them delicately, careful not to disturb them. If Naa Akweley did come back, Afosua wanted her to find everything as she had left it. She wanted to believe that her friend was happy and doing well, but in her heart she knew better. Scoundrels like Ian never change their spots: they just shift them around into a different pattern.
The chime of her laptop broke her thoughts. She quickly opened the file for Jurgen’s plans and uploaded the image on her phone. The light above her head browned out and then brightened again.
“Please ECG, don’t turn the lights off tonight!” she prayed aloud.
When the both the files open, she compared the boundaries. The map on Jurgen’s file encompassed six hectares of land, including a tributary of water off the river Volta. The approved government map did not.
“Just as I thought,” she murmured. She leaned back and stared at the similar maps. Why wouldn’t Jurgen just ask the Commission to purchase this water from the beginning?
Someone was calling her name from the door.
“Afosua, it’s Tony. Let me in!”
She got up and peeked through the louvers. Tony was looking nervously around him. She threw open the door and bid him to come in quickly.
“Did anyone see you come over?”
“I don’t think so,” he breathed, sinking into a seat. “Could I have some water?”
“Yes, of course,” she said, shaking her head at her lack of manners. She handed him a glass and brought her laptop over to where he was sitting.
“Have you figured out the hell is going on Afosua?”
“I’m not entirely sure, but I’ll let you in on my suspicions,” she said warily. “I think Harold Boakye is up to something illegal – or unethical at the least – with the Swedish account.”
She quickly ran down the history of the Swedish account and Mr. Boakye’s odd involvement in it. She pointed to the dissimilarities in the two maps.
“See how Mr. Boakye’s map encroaches on the water supply in area? He obviously hasn’t gotten government approval for the purchase, but has presented it to Jurgen Gunnarsen as part of their master plan all the same. It’s obviously a land grab…I just can’t figure out why.”
Tony nodded his head.
“Any project near the Volta River and its tributaries would require special permits,” he mused. “More permits means more fees, and that cuts into corporate profit. What does Jurgen’s organization do?”
“From what I can tell, some sort of scientific research.”
Tony shifted through the files on the table and looked at the letterhead from the Swedish account.
“The company is called GeneFor?”
Tony scratched his head and stood. He began pacing the room.
“GeneFor is one of the leaders in medical research in Europe. They’ve found cures for some of the worst pestilent diseases in recent history.”
“Well that sounds great,” said Afosua, relaxing with the news. “So why all the secrecy?”
“Their methods have been called into question and they have had several of their trials banned and patents revoked in recent years. They haven’t done much in Europe since intense investigations began, but it’s been rumored that they are working in developing nations across Africa and South East Asia. No one has been able to prove anything though.”
Afosua suddenly understood why.
“No one has been able to prove anything, because the contracts are carried out by untouchables.”
“Exactly,” nodded Tony. “Men like Harold Boakye, whose family has held so much power and influence locally that no one would dare challenge them.”
“So that’s why GerFor is in Ghana? For a clinical trial?”
“Not just any clinical trial,” said Tony darkly. “ ‘GenFor’ is an abbreviation for
“Genetisk Forskning” – Genetic Research. They are going to isolate a portion of the population and make human lab rats out of them…probably with some false promise of free education or a meal here and there.” He also spat when the words left his mouth.
Afosua felt sick. Auntie Grace and the women of the village were in trouble. She had to do something.
“Afosua, how did you uncover Mr. Boakye? Was his name on any of the documents?”
“No,” she said shaking her head. “His name was jumbled – like in an anagram.”
Tony stopped pacing and knelt on his knee in front of her. His expression was grave.
“I think you have uncovered something bigger than company fraud…something bigger than you expected. We have to be really careful from now on.”