SAMUEL COBBY GRANT
Manza was feeling sore pains in her tummy as soon as she returned from the Guest House. She had tried to call KK but he hadn’t answered his phone. She suspected he drugged the fruit drink but she wasn’t sure yet. Her mother had already gone to the market and there wasn’t anyone at home to help her.
The pains increased. It was as if her intestines were being pulled out of her stomach. Gut-wrenching pains wreaked havoc on her body and she screamed with horror when she saw blood oozing out of her.
She wobbled out of the room and fell as she got to the front of the house. As fate would have it, Ayi who was buying Kokonte in front of her house saw her, and with the help of a few people, stopped a taxi that took her to the Kwesimintsim Hospital where she was attended to immediately.
She passed out as soon as she mentioned the name of the man responsible for her predicament.
Ayi tried to slip away but a smart nurse raised an alarm and he was detained by the Hospital’s security.
After about three hours, the doctor emerged from the theatre and went straight to where Ayi was.
“Who is Kuuku? Are you Kuuku?”
“I know Kuuku. He works at A. T. C, the Tobacco Factory. I know him,” he said, volumes of sweat running down his face.
KL, was at the Blending Room taking a break when he called his mother on phone.
“Hello, sweet mother. How are you feeling?”
“I am well o, my baby. Thank you for asking,” she answered, happy with the frequency at which he had been calling of late.
“Yeah, I think I have to call more often, no one knows tomorrow.”
“Praise the Lord!” she exclaimed and raised her eyes to the skies
“Sorry for neglecting my duties as a son. This is going to change from now on,” he said and cut the call after a few pleasantries.
He left for the canteen but he was informed by a security guard that he was wanted at the main gate.
Pat was already at the Canteen and had been waiting for a while for him. She frowned with annoyance when she saw Eugene making his way to her table. He put his tray of food on the table, looked down at her and smiled wolfishly at her.
“Your boy has been arrested by the Police,” he said triumphantly “It seems he has killed a girl.”
“Don’t be silly,” she hissed, hating him for daring to say that of her KL.
“It’s true, it’s true. Killer is a killer,” he said loudly, enjoying the moment.
She sprung up, her eyes blazing defiantly.
“He’s in handcuffs as we speak,” he taunted, leering into her face.
“Noooo,” she screamed and pushed him out of her way, and he tried to hold on to the table to stabilize himself but rather managed to drag the table along with him and fell; his banku and okro stew fell and as he got back up, he slipped on the okro. His white shirt wasn’t spared from the assault. It was stained with red oil in many places.
There was a sudden hush in the canteen at the unfolding drama, but Pat was already on her way to the Security section. She called the Head of Security and demanded to know what was going on.
“Chief, what is going on?” she asked with fear and confusion.
“Kuuku Laing has been arrested by the Police for allegedly poisoning a lady,” he stated.
“Which Police Station was he taken to?” she enquired.
“Central. That’s what they told me. Hmmmm, boys of nowadays,” he said, shaking his head in the process.
“Why didn’t you go with them?” she quizzed.
“I didn’t think it was necessary,” he said in defence.
“Mr Chief Security, do you know your job at all?” she asked. “Some policemen have come to your workplace to arrest a worker performing his lawful duties and you are telling me that you allowed them to go without ensuring that they really are taking him to the Central Police Station?” she paused and glared at the man.
“But but H. R.” he stammered.
“We’ll continue this conversation later, I can assure you,” she said, left for the car park and screeched away at top speed on her way to the police station.
She was there in five minutes, coming to a stop right in front of the charge office. She got out and half run to the office counter and saw that Kuuku was behind the counter, an A4 sheet in front of him, about to write his statement.
She quickly snatched the paper from his hands, crumpled it and threw it into a wastepaper basket she saw near the counter.
“Hey, madam, why?” shouted one of the policemen in the office.
“He is not going to write any statement until his lawyer is here,” he told them, glaring at each of them from one to the other.
“Who are you to teach us our job,” the same man, a Sergeant, said angrily.
“I am the HR Manageress of Atlantic Tobacco Company, and I must tell you that I happen to have a Degree in Law.”
They looked at her uneasily and looked at each other shiftly.
“Where’s your Inspector?” she asked, looking from one to the other. One of them pointed to a blue painted door at the far end.
“Sit down and wait for me,” she told Kuuku and walk quickly to the Inspector’s Office.
She knocked at the door and entered without waiting for a ‘come in’.
“Good afternoon, Inspector.”
“Good afternoon,” he replied gruffly, nearly choking on the thick fried eggs and bread he was eating, swallowing rapidly as if his life depended on it.
She looked at him carefully, trying to figure him out. She wanted to be able to use the right approach to enable her to achieve her aim of being there, which was to get KL out of there.
“One of my workers, at ATC, has been arrested by your boys, Chief,” she gently told him, and picked some scented paper napkins from her bag and gave them to him.
“Thank you,” he said as he cleaned his lips.
He looked at her then, and briefed her on the genesis of the case. She dipped her hand into her bag once more, and brought out a small bottle of scented hand sanitiser and shook a few drops into his large palms. He smiled his thanks as he rubbed his palms against each other. He smelled his palms and smiled at her again.
They talked some more, person to person, about the case, and about other related issues and topics. They spoke about the way forward. She was there for about forty-five minutes before they both emerged from the office, and she was allowed to go away with Kuuku with the understanding that she was going to produce him at the station with a written statement the following day.
She drove in silence and took him to her house. She prepared banku with groundnuts soup, with an uncountable number of fish and meat.
She asked him to eat and he accepted to, only on the condition that she ate with him. They ate together and took turns pushing chunks of meat into each other’s mouths.
“Are you in a relationship with her, the Manza girl?” she asked him after the meal when they were sitting in the hall.
“No,” he said looking straight in the eyes.
“Have you been sleeping with her?”
“No, I have never slept with her,” he said “I have not slept with any woman in the last 3 years. I didn’t give her the drugs, and I didn’t even know that she was pregnant.”
“Ok, relax, I believe you,” she said and gave him a comforting hug, trembling against him. He, who needed comforting, was the one who found himself comforting her. He patted her on the back and assured her that everything was going to be just fine.
The duty officer at the Police Charge Office, Sgt. Sulley, was feeling peeved that Kuuku had been bailed at such short notice, so he leaked the story to the press, and added a lot of embellishments. The story spread like wildfire, featuring on all the news outlets on Prime Time. He coerced Ayi, and with the help of Ackah into granting interviews to the Press to further muddy the waters.
His age, his place of work, his mother’s name and even his family background became common knowledge to all and sundry. Manza’s mother was distraught with grieve. She didn’t understand why the Almighty Madam Lawrencia’s son, who had everything life had to offer could do this to her only daughter.
“So all the wealth they have isn’t enough for them and they want to use my daughter for money rituals,” she wailed, throwing herself to the ground.
She went straight to his mother who hadn’t heard of the news yet to insult her.
“Thank you, thank you, thank you, Madam Lawrencia. You have killed your husband, now you want to kill my daughter too,” she shouted at the top of her voice.
LL just didn’t know what it was all about but after listening to her insults, she had the understanding that it involved Kuuku, her son.
She sat down tight-lipped as Manza’s mom rained insults on her. Some women tried to get Manza’s mom to calm down but she paid no heed to any of them. She told anyone who cared to listen that her daughter had been poisoned by Madam Lawrencia’s son.
Lawrencia left the store to the store assistants to go home, and began to receive calls from family and friends about hearing about the arrest of Kuuku on the charge of poisoning and attempted murder.
She called her son but his phone was off. She called Pat and she picked.
“Where is my son?” she asked brusquely.
“He’s here, Ma” she answered and sighed. She then gave directions to her house to the distraught mother. The elderly woman made a dangerous U-turn, and headed towards Tanokrom, on the way to Pipe Ano.
The news was on the lips of all in the Metropolis. Some youths massed up to vandalize his home but the swift response from the Tadisco Down Watchdog Committee members averted any major damage being done.
A WEEK LATER
The case went to Court. Kuuku who was charged with causing harm to Manza to abort a foetus and attempted murder was represented by Ato Kwamina Baidoo, the aged family lawyer.
The case was adjourned to two weeks as Manza was still unconscious. And he was asked to present himself to the Police twice a week as part of the bail terms.
He had tried to contact both Ayi and Ackah but they had been avoiding him, as if he was now infected with the plague.
Kuuku had moved temporarily into Pat’s home and his mother was a constant visitor.
“It gladdens my heart that I have you to take care of him for me in these trying times. God bless you, my daughter,” said and embraced Pat.
“I am only doing this because I care about him a lot. And I know that he is innocent,” she told her with boldness.
He started going to work again and went everywhere with Pat now.
She was the pillar that gave him strength. He had lost a lot of friends. Even those that still called him ‘Killer’ now did it with innuendos.
Eugene, the QC Manager, was his tormentor in chief. He almost always found faults with the way he conducted his affairs in the Blending Room. Even when Kuuku had successfully completed the fumigation process which is done at the touch of a button, he still found fault with it.
“Don’t mind him. He’s just jealous,” Pat said when he complained to her.
“Jealous?” he asked, “but why?”
“He wanted to have a relationship with me and I refused.”
“Why did you reject him. He is a handsome young bachelor,” he said half-joking.
“Because I don’t need him. Am already taken by you,” she said, angry at the way he was all casual about it.
“Don’t forget that I have a jail sentence hanging around my neck,” he told her.
She smiled then and flung an arm around his neck,
“We’ll beat this. And we’ll get married and give Madam Lawrencia beautiful grandchildren who are going to twist her around their little fingers,” she said and nibbled at his ear, expecting him to reciprocate.
“I hear you, HR,” he said that to get her angry.
“You are not romantic koraa.”
He regarded her gravely and with a twitch at the corner of his mouth spoke.
“I will like that. The grandchildren part. I will like the marriage part too. And the honeymoon.”
She stared at him, her mouth agape.
“I am romantic too,” he said and grabbed her, tickling her which got her screaming and trying to escape from him. They ended up cuddling on the sofa. That night they slept in the same bed.
The following day at work when he was busy weighing the different blends of tobacco for the next brand of cigarettes to be produced, four of the Company’s security men entered to search, saying they had had a tip-off that he had been using the blending room as a transit point for stolen cigarettes.
They found four cartons of cigarettes hidden under a pile of pallets he hardly used in his operations. He was led and ushered into the Chief Security’s office and asked to go back in three days for a hearing.
KL was unperturbed. He knew it was a set-up and that they couldn’t make it stick. With confidence that the truth was going to come out soon, he went home without informing Pat about it, but no sooner had he gotten home than she called him to expect her in the next ten minutes.
He really was feeling miserable. First, it was an accusation of attempted murder, which he was innocent of: now he was wrongly being accused of pilfering cigarettes. He just had to wait to have his hearing with the Disciplinary Committee, which never failed to get the accused dismissed.
As Pat was about to exit from the Factory’s premises, she met Eugene on his way to the Administrative Block, but she ignored him, and was about to brush past him when he got hold of her arm.
“Don’t touch me,” she jerked her arm from his grasp and hissed.
“Well, it seems that every Killer is a thief,” he said, smiled and went on his way, whistling.
Pat didn’t mind him and went on her way home but he wasn’t there, and neither was he in his. She was hungry so she made herself a tuna sandwich while she continued to call him on phone.
After several fruitless calls, she called his mother to ask whether she had heard from him. His mother hadn’t heard from him either so she had no alternative than to brief the elderly woman of what had happened to her son at work.
Madam Lawrencia was deeply disturbed. She prayed ceaselessly for the protection of her son. She cried on the Lord to provide justice for her son.
Pat covered the food she had prepared for him in his kitchen. She moved in a daze and laid on the bed to wait for him, whilst debating with herself whether to wait for him or go home. It got quite late so she had a wash down and having nothing comfortable to change into, wore one of his very large T-shirts that reached her knees and slept in his bed.
Kuuku got home around 10:00 pm, found the front door unlocked and was getting worried that he had been burgled when he found Pat sleeping soundly in his bed. He admired her for a minute and went to have his bath, taking extra notes to wash the grit and oil from his body as he had been at kokompe servicing his machines and cleaning the container. He eventually got out of the bathroom and saw that she had cooked for him. It was rice and light soup. He had his fill and laid her properly in bed and saw her tear-stained face and knew at once that she had shed tears because of him. Saddened by her tears, he took a duvet from a drawer and covered her with it.
Pat woke up unusually late to find out that she had been covered with a duvet she hadn’t seen on the bed when she went to bed the night before. She saw her clothes folded neatly but saw no sign of him. She even saw that he had eaten the food she cooked and had washed the utensils. That’s one of the things she liked most about him. He hardly left utensils unwashed. She went back to her house in distress to find a note on the center table that read.. I HAD TO SLEEP ON YOUR BED AS YOU HAD HIGHJACKED MINE. THANKS FOR THE WONDERFUL MEAL.
I LOVE YOU.
She read the note with mixed feelings. Though she was happy that he had written boldly that he loved her, she would have been happier to be able to touch and kiss and see him. She angrily wiped away a tear that slid down her rosy cheek.
Pat got dressed and went to work going about things in a lethargic manner. She tried his phone for the umpteenth time but it still wasn’t going through.
KL went back to kokompe to do some paint works and to prepare for the opening of the Tools Shop ahead of schedule. He had planned on resigning from the Factory in about 12 months to open his own Tools and Fabrication Shop but recent events had forced him to push the date forward.
The lathe machine was ready. He had fitted it up. So had he gotten the iron cutter and the threading machine ready for the D day.
He had even had a trial run and had charged nothing for the numerous jobs he did for those who brought items and parts to be fixed.
He went home late again, and when he saw that Pat’s car was parked at his house, he smiled mischievously and went over to hers to pass the night.
Pat woke up in the morning having stayed up late the night before to catch him if he returned. She had even decided to feign sleep when he came home to do any mischief but he hadn’t and she had fallen asleep eventually.
She went back home and saw that he had made breakfast of Tom Brown and scrambled eggs for her. He had left another note that read, ENJOY THE TOM BROWN. ONE GOOD TURN DESERVES ANOTHER. I HAVE A LOT TO TELL YOU. SEE YOU TOMORROW AT THE HEARING.
I STILL LOVE YOU.
She smiled this time as she enjoyed her meal and called his mother to assure her that he was alright.
Kuuku had nothing much to do at kokompe that day. The Machine Shop was ready. The machines were running smoothly. He knew he was going to make a lot of money, as he was going to be doing what the fitters had been yearning all these years. Now they weren’t going to be sending calibration jobs to Abossey Okai and Kumasi Magazine any more. He went home just after mid day and had a bowl of fufu and palm nut soup he got from ‘God is Love’.
He already knew what he was going to do and say at the hearing, and was confident that he was going to prove his innocence.[insert-comment-form]
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