The Trial Of The Beast
THE TRIAL OF THE BEAST
“Maa Afia is not dead,” Zak repeated calmly. “You see, Mr. Ato Nhyirah also had a very ugly practice. He is a rapist and a paedophile; he sexually abused most of the little girls in the orphanage!”
Horror and pandemonium hit the courtroom.
People turned their gazes to the sweating man in the wheelchair. They expected him to defend himself, but he only stared at Zak, and there was great fear emanating from him now. Visibly, it was evident that he was fighting to reassert himself, but the spectacle of Zak Twum standing over him was indeed daunting.
Ato Nhyirah was remembering how this young man had almost beaten him to death, and that night he had experienced a terror of this young man that came to the fore now, and kept him effectively mute as Zak turned his mean, cold gaze on him.
“You want proof of that too?” Zak continued, keeping his eyes fixed on Faddah now. “He beat the girls, threatening to kill them if they talked! You’ve been told Maa Afia was eight years old when she supposedly died in that fire. Well, that’s not true. The poor girl was only ten years old when Mr. Nhyirah first abused her. She was so distraught. She was always crying, and writing in her little diary. One evening, she confessed to Ogum my friend about what this beast of a man did to her, and Ogum brought her to me. She gave us her little diary.”
Zak extended his hand and Ogum put a slim, faded diary in it.
Zak proffered it to Faddah.
“There, read for yourself,” he said. “She has documented everything this bad man did to her and several other little girls in the orphanage. Take it, Mr. State Attorney! Read it yourself. Go on, read it!”
Trembling, so shocked that he was almost fainting, Faddah opened the book, and saw the little girl’s fumbling handwriting.
…mr insheeraa hurt me bad bad tuday when he tuuk me to his room. he beat me and tear all my nice dres dat madam fatia give me.. he did bad bad to me. painful thing he did..
Faddah could not read anymore. He turned an ashen face toward Mr. Nhyirah. He tried to speak, but his lips trembled.
“Yes, Mr. Nhyirah is evil,” Zak continued. “Maa Afia wanted to commit suicide, even at her age. She was not the only victim, as that diary will bear witness to; most of the little girls had suffered the same thing, but they were afraid because Mr. Nhyirah said he would kill them if they told anybody.
Well, I saw the application of a Mrs. Korkor Adjetey in one of the files I took from Mr. Nhyirah’s safe. Evidently, she was a rich widow and had wanted to adopt Maa Afia. Mr. Nhyirah did not even forward her application to the Adoption Committee. He just kept it in his safe because of what he was doing to Maa Afia. Anyway, I made a photocopy of the document.
By that time, I was wanted by the police for the supposed rape of Gyamaan and the murder of Kwadwo Pamfo, so I fled the orphanage. My two friends here knew where I was hiding. I had plans to ambush Mr. Kudadze, take money, and flee to Togo. One evening Barima, my friend, came and told me that Maa Afia was in the infirmary, very sick. I knew then that I could not leave her alone in the hands of this evil man. I called Mrs. Adjetey and asked if she still wanted to adopt Maa Afia, and she said yes.
I told her all that the little girl had been going through. She wanted to inform the police, but I was scared of what Mr. Nhyirah might do to the rest of the girls. I told her to meet me outside the gates of the orphanage. And so I returned to Sasam that night. Barima and Ogum opened a secret gate for me and I entered. I found Maa Afia in the infirmary, very ill. She was twelve years old by then.
In great pain she whispered to me that she had gotten pregnant, and Mr. Nhyirah had beaten and forced her to drink some concoctions, and she had started bleeding profusely. To cut out her screams of agony, Mr. Nhyirah had gagged her. I was so overcome with rage at this atrocious and barbaric treatment of a poor little girl.
May God have mercy on me, but I simply couldn’t help myself. I picked her up and secretly took her outside where Mrs. Adjetey was waiting in her car. She was horrified by what had happened. I found a baseball bat lying inside the fence. I took it and went to Mr. Nhyirah’s quarters. His backdoor was not locked.
I found him sleeping soundly in his bed and I was so angry that I couldn’t stop myself. I attacked him with the club.”
He stopped speaking, for a moment overcome by emotions, and then he turned slowly and faced the jury. When he spoke his voice was filled with strong emotion.
“You’re all here to witness my conviction because two years ago you crucified and judged me for killing two people, for assault, for rape, for arson. I fled not because I was guilty, but because I knew this day would come, and I had to be ready. So, I was out there putting my defense together. But, there’s one crime I have absolutely no defense against, and that is the attack on Mr. Ato Nhyirah.
I got to know, much later when Maa Afia was taken to the hospital by Mrs. Adjetey, that the concoction Mr. Nhyirah gave to Maa Afia was not to abort the baby, but it was a corrosive poison meant to kill her because he was afraid of his sordid secret coming out. If Maa Afia had spent another day inside that infirmary, she would have died.
As it is now, she had such horrible infections that her womb had to be taken out, and she spent six months in intensive care at the hospital. If I had known this was how far Mr. Nhyirah went, I probably would have killed him that night.”
Sickened by what he had heard, Judge Tutu Kuntu stared at the inert figure in the wheel-chair with gross disgust on his face and absolute fury boiling in his chest.
“But one thing is for sure,” Zak Twum said calmly. “I have absolutely no regret beating the crap out of this man with a baseball ball bat. Yes, I’m guilty as charged, and if you will sentence me to life imprisonment for that, go right ahead because I have absolutely no regrets.”
And as he looked at Zak Twum, the judge felt a secret deep glow in his guts. This boy, tagged a beast, had indeed become a beast the day he took a baseball bat to beat this evil-hearted human being. And Judge Tutu Kuntu had no doubts whatsoever that what Zak Twum was narrating was nothing but the absolute truth.
“There was a burning candle in the room, and it fell. Suddenly, I realised there was a great fire in the room. I dropped the bat and dragged Mr. Nhyirah outside to the grass because I realized I had hurt him badly, and he could not walk. The fire caught the infirmary, and burnt it to the ground. Mr. Nhyirah, not knowing that Maa Afia was already safe with Mrs. Adjetey, thought she died in the fire.”
Faddah turned toward Zak with eyes that were dazed and an expression that was filled with horror.
“Then, if Maa Afia is really alive, she can substantiate your story?” Faddah asked softly, praying that the ground would open up and swallow him. “Because, as sensational as your story is, this is not Fairy Tales land. This is a court, and we deal with facts, Mr. Zak Twum.”
“Yes,” Zak said calmly. “She’s right here in this court, and she and many other girls can testify. Look behind you, Maa Afia is right there!”
A middle-aged woman had gotten up, and she was holding onto the hand of a very pretty but ashen-faced teenaged girl.
“I’m Mrs. Adjetey,” the elderly, distinguished woman said, and her cold eyes rested on Mr. Nhyirah. “This is Maa Afia, and yes, everything Zak has told you is the truth. That man in the wheelchair deserves no sympathy. He is the real beast, and God forgive me but I have wanted to kill him for a long time now! I hope you rot in the very hottest part of hell, Ato Nhyirah, you monster!”
“Come, Maa Afia,” Zak Twum said gently and held out his hand to her. “Come to me, dear girl.”
Maa Afia tried to smile as she walked out to the aisle and began walking toward Zak, but it was obvious that she was very terrified. When she was close enough to see Mr. Nhyirah so close, she stopped dead in her tracks, her face twisting suddenly into a terrified mask of panic and terror.
She began to tremble horribly and moaning sounds came to her throat.
She took fumbling steps backward, shaking her head as her lips trembled horribly, her eyes wide with raw terror.
Zak Twum rushed to her side and fell on one knee, and then he wrapped his arms around her, holding her tight even as she fought to get free and flee.
“He can’t hurt you now, Maa Afia!” Zak Twum whispered, and those close to him suddenly saw that his own face was drenched with tears as he held the frail body of the girl. “He can’t ever hurt you again. You’re a brave girl, too strong for him, alright? He’s just a pathetic little idiot. Don’t let him fill you with fear ever again!”
After a while she quietened down, and then, tears still streaming down her face, she pointed at Mr. Nhyirah.
“Beast!” she screamed. “Beast! Beast!”
Weeping hysterically, she threw her arms around Zak and began to tremble violently again.
Tears fell from the eyes of the onlookers…but none cried harder than Faddah Kissiedu as he witnessed the raw trauma this young beautiful girl was going through.
Ato Nhyirah’s head was bent now, and his body shook uncontrollably as tears fell down his cheeks. One of the jury members, a middle-aged school owner, suddenly stood up and threw her purse at Ato Nhyirah’s head.
Judge Tutu Kuntu leaned back, shaking, and put his fist to his mouth, and when liquid spilled on his fist, he realized to his horror that he was also weeping.
Chief Inspector Boateng moved toward the cowering Mr. Nhyirah.
“You’re going away, my friend,” he said through gritted teeth. “You’re going away for a very long time, you miserable bastard!”
And then, quite suddenly, Maa Afia rushed out of Zak’s arms and rushed at the hapless man. Before the Chief Inspector could react, she held the wheelchair and with a scream toppled Mr. Nhyirah to the floor!
She got down on her knees and her little hands went berserk, taking on a life of their own as she slapped her tormentor over and over across the face, her hands moving like pistons…slap, slap, slap, slap, slap!
And then her fingers turned into talons, raking down the man’s face and making him scream with pain.
Zak Twum finally got to her and pulled her back.
Her face was flushed, elated, and triumphant even as tears washed down her face. She was crying, and yet she was laughing.
“Shit girl!” Zak Twum said with a puckered mouth and dancing eyes. “You’re a bloody cat, ain’t ya?”
“Mad lioness, more like!” Ogum Kwabena said beside them.
And then, suddenly, as Chief Inspector Boateng handcuffed Mr. Nhyirah, the four young people who used to live at Sasam Ophanage began to laugh.
And then Maa Afia did a very strange thing.
She put her right hand against Zak Twum’s cheek as tears fell down her face.
“Thank you, Zakky!” she said quaveringly. “You’re my hero. My greatest hero in the world.”
And as he knelt there on one knee looking at her, Zak Twum was for once lost for words.
His lips trembled, and tears slowly fell down his handsome face.
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