Bright turns to leave, but Mr Tamakloe holds his arm.
“Hold on, Bright. I don’t understand a thing! What’s all this? What are talking about?”
“Sir John, it is a bit complicated,” Bright says in a calm voice. “You see, four years ago, Effe and I were both lucky to leave the orphanage. Thanks mainly to this man, Chris Bawa! Effe and I were like brother and sister…”
Chris cuts in angrily and bitterly.
“The hell you were, you stupid liar! They were lovers! They still probably are, John!”
Bright’s face is tight with anger when he speaks.
“I’ll tell you this, Mr Bawa, and only this once. Effe and I are friends, very close friends. Maybe you saw Effe and me together, maybe the way we relate to each other suggested to you that we were intimate, but it was nothing. It was a show of affection between a brother and a sister. A deep love between siblings, for that’s the love I feel for Effe. What’s got you so riled up anyway?”
“Because she stole my money and gave it to you, idiot!” Chris says savagely.
Bright takes a shuddering breath.
“I’m trying to remain calm and civil here, Mr Bawa. You better stop those insults because you’re really making me angry. Effe never took a pesewa from you, Mr Bawa. Her father, Mr Opoku, found work for me at the African International Bank many years ago. I was a clerk then, and we had just introduced a high-yielding investment account into the system. I advised Effe to sign on to the investment account. She bought the idea and brought you an application form to complete. After completion Effe brought it back to me!”
Chris’ eyes narrow.
His mind flashes back to a warm evening. He and Effe are in his study, filling out an African International Bank account form.
“Yes, I remember something like that but I also remember she had a portion to fill too. So, I gave the forms back to her but never heard about it again. I forgot all about it, and I don’t think I asked her what happened to the forms.”
“She filled her portion and brought it to me. That investment account wasn’t meant as a Joint Account, so you were the sole signatory. She only filled the emergency contact section of the form. Shortly afterward, I was transferred to the Cape Coast Branch. I, however, came to Takoradi weekly or so for official purposes.
I met her at the Sports Club where she gave me the deposits for the account, your account because everything was in your name, not hers. All the monies I received from her on my weekly visits were deposited into that investment account, and she could not withdraw from that account because that account was fixed and closed with everything in your name, Chris Bawa! She could not have withdrawn a pesewa even if she wanted to!”
Chris’ voice is now low, devoid of fury. He seems confused.
“But she never mentioned you. Not even once. If you were like siblings, how come she never mentioned you?”
“She did. I was known at the Orphanage as Kofi Panyin, a name I couldn’t use when I got employed. I began using Bright Koffie only as an adopted name when I got the appointment. Not all of us grew up knowing our parents, Mr Bawa!”
Chris stares at the young man with sudden horror.
“Oh, Lord! You’re that Kofi Panyin, her brother at the orphanage? She mentioned you all the time! Yes, we were coming to Cape Coast to visit you one day…oh, God! But why the Sports Club? Why didn’t she bring you home instead?”
“It was because I was time-pressed,” Bright explains. “The Takoradi Sports Club was one of our biggest clients and I managed their accounts too, so I was coming to the Sports Club every week to go over their investment portfolio with the Chief Executive. Besides, you were not home during the weekdays. So that’s it. I deposited all your money into the new account. She told me you were saving it for your marriage. She only made deposits into the account. Not a pesewa was taken from the account. So, the money she gave me – your money – grew even after you two were separated.”
Chris shakes his head dizzily.
“Oh, no, no, oh no!”
“Yes, Mr Bawa. When the two of you broke up, I was then attached to the Kumasi office. Effe was so hurt that she never informed me about the break-up. When I came back to Cape Coast, after two years, I assumed that you might have withdrawn the money, you being the sole signatory. A few weeks ago I was privy to our Internal Auditor’s report, and I realized that the money was still in the account, untouched.”
“Incredible,” Mr Tamakloe says. “Quite incredible!”
“I notified Effe and she asked me to give all the documents of the investment to your mother, but I could not make the time,” Bright continues. “Later, Uncle Rupert told me you would be meeting here this morning. I manage some accounts for Uncle Rupert too and work for him on the side, so he gives me a lot of info. When I heard you would be here, I went for your account documentation two days ago. They’re all in that envelope. All your statements, deposit slips, account details, everything! They’re all in there. Effe never stole a pesewa from you, Mr Bawa.”
John Tamakloe holds up the brown envelope.
“So, the money Chris thought Effe was stealing and giving to you is all here?”
“Yes, sir, everything. The envelope has all the deposit slips, and since no withdrawals have been made, and the amount was re-invested quarterly, it has now earned very impressive interests.”
Tamakloe tears open the bulky brown envelope.
He rummages in there and finally withdraws what looks like an account statement.
He looks at the entries, opens to another page, and then he whistles silently when he sees the current closing balance
“Chris, you’re a millionaire!” Mr. says with a laugh.
Chris’ face is twisted with shock and pain. There is sweat all over his face, and he is trembling. For several moments his eyes dart from Bright’s face to the sheet in Mr Tamakloe’s hand.
“Oh, God! Oh, Lord no! God, oh God, oh God!” he keeps whispering.
“Oh, man, don’t tell me you really didn’t know!” Bright Koffie says, his voice a bit calmer now. “How could you even think Effe could ever steal from you, or con you? Are you mad? That girl loved you! She worshipped you! You were her world! She wanted you to be proud of her.”
Chris loosens his tie.
He cannot speak. His face is so shocked. Wordlessly Mr Tamakloe puts the accounts statement back into the envelope and hands it to Chris.
“I have to run now,” Bright says with his eyes still on Chris. “You look genuinely shocked, so I wouldn’t hold it against you. My question is, why didn’t you ask Effe about the money when you were convinced, she was stealing from you?”
Chris still cannot speak. Bright shakes his head sadly and gets into his car. He drives off.
Mr Tamakloe speaks sadly.
“Is this why you broke off with Effe, Chris, my son? You thought she was stealing from you and giving it to her lover?”
Chris smiles unsteadily.
“I am scared, John! Within a few hours, I’ve had shocking revelations. I’ve found out that two of the reasons I had for breaking off with her are false! Sure, they’re nothing compared with the other reasons, but Lord, I’m scared! I’m scared to the core!”
“Did you ever speak to Effe about your reasons for ending your relationship?” Mr Tamakloe asks.
“No, no! I was too overwhelmed! I can’t tell you what happened, but it wasn’t nice! But now, faced with these, maybe I should’ve spoken to her!”
Mr Tamakloe speaks softly.
“Do you still love her?”
Chris’ voice sounds unsteady now.
“I’ve never stopped loving her. Yet I’ve done nothing but hate her. I will never stop loving her, that’s a fact, but she hurt me so much that I hate her!”
Tamakloe shakes his head sadly.
“Chris. That’s some damn crazy talk if you ask me. Listen, kid, I’ll give it to you straight, man to man. You got to get your act together. I’m beginning to think that maybe you broke off with Effe when lies were flying all around you. You didn’t take time to know whether she was really doing the damn things you assumed she was doing. Your mistake, I think, was that you didn’t confront her, or talk to her about the whole caboodle.”
“Maybe you’re right, yeah, about some of the reasons, anyway. Maybe I let my heart rule my head, yes. But then, maybe there was no other way considering the circumstances. If only you knew the kind of things she did, you would award me for staying sane all these years. At the time there was no way else but to call it off.”
“There’s always a way, boy, there’s always another way. Listen, your girl is going to get hitched in a couple of hours. Whatever your reasons for hurting her…”
Chris Bawa breaks in bitterly.
“She hurt me, John! She damn hurt me, not the other bloody way round!” he cries passionately.
“Maybe she did, boy. Listen, I’ve been a tad longer on this earth than you, and I still say you got to get your act together. I’ve just been privy to how you thought she stole money from you and how it just turned out that she didn’t do nit! Maybe, just maybe, you might be wrong about your other reasons too!”
“No, Sir. The other reasons, the REAL reasons for the break-up, I witnessed, okay, saw with my own eyes. She just acted bitchily, that’s all she’s always been. I’ve found out two shocking misconceptions I had about her, but the rest, she is as guilty as Cain, Boss!”
“Okay, if you say so, boy. But, maybe you shouldn’t come to the wedding. Maybe you have to go home!”
“Go ahead, Boss. I need a little time. Oh, God!”
Tamakloe nods and squeezes Chris’ shoulder affectionately, and then he turns and heads for his car.
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