“There is an amazing force to be reckoned with behind Emma’s veil of politeness.”
—Booklist, Starred Review
Crime writer Kwei Quartey wowed audiences and critics alike with his debut series, starring Detective Inspector Darko Dawson. Now, he returns to Ghana with a brand new series—and new detective. This time, soft-spoken but determined PI Emma Djan will untangle a dangerous web of deceit involving profitable internet scammers (known as sakawa boys), traditional priests desperate to keep secrets, and quite possibly corruption at the highest level.
Dive into this incredibly rich, thrilling mystery—which ventures into every corner of Ghanaian society, culture, and economy.
Nii Kwei was a “sakawa boy,” meaning he made his money through Internet swindles. “Saka” was the Hausa word for “to put in,” referring to adding items to the virtual shopping cart. Nii was well-educated, having completed his BA in political science at the University of Ghana, but that field didn’t exactly invite a tsunami of job offers. Nii Kwei’s options were limited to being either unemployed or underemployed, and he alternated between those two glum circumstances for about a year after graduation.
Whenever Nii looked back on his past, he remembered clear as crystal the day his fortunes changed. Coming out of a Max Mart, he bumped into an old secondary schoolmate called Isaac and was stunned to see that Isaac owned a late model Lexus SUV—a bright red one at that. Isaac had been a loser jock prankster at school with no academic prospects. In fact, he barely scraped through senior high with grades that would never have got him into college or a trade school. How in the world was he driving his own Lexus? Nii Kwei drove an old, dent-rich Toyota Corolla—when his brother could lend it to him, that is.
“So where do you work now?” Nii Kwei asked Isaac, his conversational tone belying his curiosity.
“Internet stuff, you know,” Isaac said.
“No, I don’t know. What kind of Internet stuff?”
“Like overseas business.”
The glint of the giant gold chain on Isaac’s wrist caught Nii Kwei’s eye and held it for a moment. “Come on, Isaac,” he said in Ga. Switching to the vernacular always helped. “We were mates, so be straight with me. What are you doing?”
Isaac glanced around as if someone might be watching them, or maybe it was just a dramatic flourish. “Okay, let’s sit inside my car and talk.”
My God, Nii thought as he got in. He ran his fingers over the precisely stitched tan leather seats and stared at the Lexus’s high-tech dashboard, which looked like an airplane cockpit and came with a navigation system. Why can’t I have this luxury too?
In the bliss of the Lexus’s air conditioning, Isaac told Nii about the world of sakawa—Internet fraud with the backing of magical powers that could make you enormously successful at making money through several scams. You accessed magical powers through an intermediary like a traditional priest, aka fetish priest. It used to be people went to a man of God—either a Christian pastor or a mallam—to request those powers, but either the MOG or God Himself was slow because the magic took too long to materialize. Fetish priests were fast. They jumped on the project immediately, and before you knew it, the sakawa boy was up and away like a racehorse.
But the price the fetish exacted from his supplicant was high. Sacrificing a couple of chickens to the gods was standard, but that was the easy part. The difficulty came with the more exotic rituals the fetish might demand of the sakawa boy. Certain items were highly treasured by the gods, and if a sakawa boy truly desired any modicum of success, he needed to bring those to the priest. The most prized offerings included the hair of either an oburoni or an albino, the thighbone of a child, a person’s lips, and male or female genitalia. The best way to procure these body parts was to have an arrangement with someone at the mortuary in a large hospital.
Isaac detailed how one of his fetish priests asked him to have sex with three different women every day for a week and provide video evidence. Failure to obey the fetish could result in an instant loss of income, sickness, death, or all the above.
“But how do you actually make money?” Nii asked Isaac. “Is it like the 419?”
In the infamous “419” scams, a made-up Nigerian oil tycoon emails you and promises you a percentage of millions of dollars if you send him a mere $5,000.
“That’s the one everyone knows,” Isaac said with a smile. “Nigerians invented it and it still works, but Ghanaians have taken it to a new, higher level and we’re now better at it than they are. We have several techniques now.”
Isaac told Nii Kwei about the Iraq war vet scam: an American marine is stranded in Turkey/Jordan/Qatar en route back home to the US from his rotation. The authorities have seized the vet’s passport and the only way he can get out is to pay $3,000, but he has no way of getting his hands on that kind of money. Can you, the recipient of this desperate email, help? His life could be in danger if he doesn’t pay up within the next seventy-two hours. He will reimburse you as soon as he returns stateside.
There were others: romance cons, lottery scams, identity theft, credit card fraud, inheritance scams, business venture scams, Yahoo and Facebook scams—take your pick. The only thing more amazing than the amount of money one could rake in through these illegal channels was just how gullible these white people could be—especially Americans. Some of them had read and knew about these Internet cons, and yet still they allowed themselves to be duped. Amazing.
But the gold scam was the king. This brought in thousands and thousands of dollars. Arab people fall for this one a lot because they love gold. The Chinese? Forget it. They’re so good, they can scam the scammers.
The gold scam begins with the search for a suitable overseas scam target, known as the mugu, which literally means “fool.” Let’s call him “Joe.” Perhaps Joe is a gold investor or otherwise interested in gold. It’s a good idea to give Joe’s name and his picture to a fetish priest to check (by spiritual means) if Joe is a good target. The sakawa boy entices Joe to Ghana with the promise of a sale of 24kt gold from the country’s rich reserves of the magical, glittering metal. The goal is to get Joe to Ghana to make a purchase of twenty to forty kilos of gold ore. Joe’s independent testing shows the ore contains gold, but somewhere in the process, a member of the “scam team” switches the container, and what Joe pays for is, in fact, dirt with copper shavings that give the “ore” a sufficiently golden appearance. When he returns to the States, he finds he has paid upwards of $200,000 for worthless material.
Isaac had participated in more than one gold scam. In fact, in one of them, it was his job to make the notorious “switch” at a moment the mugu was distracted by someone else in the room.
“You don’t feel bad about taking people’s money like that?” Nii Kwei asked.
Isaac looked at him with a mixture of charity and pity. “You studied political science at the university, right?”
“Didn’t they teach you about the exploitation of Ghana and Africa by white people?”
“Of course,” Nii Kwei said. “Everyone knows about that, but most of these people you take money from didn’t directly exploit us—”
“What?” Isaac interrupted. “But they are the direct beneficiaries of exploitation through the ages, so they are just as guilty. They owe us the money, all those white people. They have stolen our gold, diamonds, timber, oil—and of course, our people. They took us away as slaves, and do you know they are still taking our nurses and doctors—”
“Nurses and doctors run away from Ghana of their own free will,” Nii pointed out. “They want a better life, so why not? Me too, if I can go to aburokyire, I’ll go. And so will you!”
Isaac sucked on his teeth and shook his head. “So, they can use me like a slave? I don’t think so.”
“But there are good people there too,” Nii Kwei argued. “Who knows, maybe you are robbing some poor old white lady who contributes to aid organizations working in Africa.”
“You say what? Poor old white lady.” Isaac doubled over with mirth. “You’re funny, Nii. An American poor person is rich compared to us. It doesn’t cost them anything. They don’t even feel it.”
Nii Kwei suspired and looked out his window for a moment. This wasn’t an argument he could win, and besides, Isaac was not wildly off the mark regarding foreign exploitation. Still, for Nii, the leap to duping individuals of their money was a problem. And yet, despite Nii’s reservations, he felt himself being sucked in. Just look at this Lexus, he kept thinking. My God.
“Do you think I can do it?” he asked Isaac. “The sakawa, I mean. I’m not saying I want to—just wondering.”
“But of course!” Isaac exclaimed. “Nii, you are smart. You’re wasting your life right now. Look, just try it for some few months and then you can decide whether you want to continue or not.”
Notwithstanding guidance from Isaac, those first few months of becoming a sakawa boy were not easy for Nii Kwei. Isaac showed Nii Kwei the ropes and introduced him to someone called Kweku Ponsu. He was the traditional priest who was to become Nii Kwei’s default spiritualist. Ponsu put Nii Kwei through initiation rites that were a trial by fire. More than once, Nii was on the verge of quitting, but he endured.
Now, three years on, Isaac (ironically) had found his way to Germany and Nii had his own shiny black Range Rover and was training his own mentee, Bruno. He was rough and unpolished, like a piece of wood gouged off a baobab tree. Nii had to get Bruno to understand the mentality of white people. Nii had learned all about that at the University of Ghana, where he had hung out with a fair number of white students and had had an affair with an American professor, Susan Hadley. At the time, Hadley was visiting on a guest professorship from Boston. Nii Kwei often went to see her at her campus bungalow several times a week to fuck until they both collapsed. Now that Susan had returned to the States, Nii often missed her.
January 4, Atimpoku, Ghana
Bobbing his head to the rhythm of hiplife blasting from the Rover’s eight-speaker music system, Nii drove north to Atimpoku. He arrived at the frenetic tro-tro junction just past two in the afternoon and stopped to buy abolo, crisp one-man-thousand, and fiery shito. While he ate, he watched the noisy chaos—travelers coming and going, tro-tros pulling out in a cloud of dust and smoke, and traders swarming the incoming ones in the hope of selling something. The irony was they were all selling the same items.
Chasing his meal with Alvaro pineapple soda, Nii came away from the junction and drove farther on to find a parking space next to the Adome Hotel. After alighting, he followed the would-be sidewalk bordering the southward road for about four hundred meters, then turned right up a steep hill through a space between two houses. Most of the flatlands east of the road near the Volta Lake were already built up, so everyone was constructing on the hill now. People at the top had the most money, of course, including Kweku Ponsu. Three separate, low-slung buildings with long verandahs, one of them still in construction, comprised the sprawling property. Parked in front were six of Ponsu’s vehicles, a mix of SUVs and sedans. In addition to this Atimpoku location, Ponsu had a practice in Accra. Unlike the frenetic Atimpoku junction, it was quiet here with the only sounds being those of goats and sheep bleating, chickens clucking, and kids playing.
Two women were doing laundry on the verandah of the center building, one bucket for the wash, one for the rinse. They looked up as Nii appeared.
“Good afternoon,” he said in bad Twi. As a Ga, he spoke Twi with an awful accent. “Nii Kwei,” said the older one with a smile, “how are you?”
“I’m fine, and you? Please, is Mr. Ponsu in?”
She got up, wiping her hands in the fold of the cloth around her waist. “I’m coming, eh?” She went briefly inside the house, reemerging to beckon to Nii. “Mr. Ponsu says you can come.” It took Nii’s eyes a few seconds to adjust to the room’s dimness. Ponsu, swaddled in yards of resplendent kente cloth, sat in the corner on a traditional wooden stool as he texted on his smartphone. A violent gas lamp explosion when he was a child had scarred his face and chest for life, but he had undergone restorative plastic surgery in the United States recently, and his blotchy, tight skin had improved considerably.
Ponsu eschewed the term, “fetish priest.” It was the white man’s language and had always had a derogatory connotation. He preferred “traditional priest,” a fitting name considering Ponsu repeatedly rattled Ghana’s conservative clergy and the Pentecostal ministers by accusing them of fraud and false prophecy. People either hated Ponsu’s guts or believed in him with all their heart. To Nii Kwei, Ponsu was like a father who commanded fear, respect, and sometimes even love.
“Good afternoon, Papa boss,” Nii said, touching his forehead in salute.
“How are you?” Ponsu’s tone was nasal, as though his vocal cords were placed in the back of his nose.
“I’m good, please.”
“Sit,” Ponsu said, indicating a stool opposite him. “How are you faring?”
Nii cleared his throat. “Not so bad.”
“What have you brought me?”
Nii took out a bulging, folded envelope from his pocket, stood up, and gave it to Ponsu, who took out the cedi bills and counted them. He looked up for an explanation. “This is all?” he asked, his tenor flat and disapproving.
Nii was squirming inside. “Papa, I will get more. The money hasn’t been coming as fast as I want. I don’t know what’s wrong.”
“You are having difficulties because the gods are not so pleased with you,” Ponsu declared.
That pronouncement engendered dread in Nii. He flicked his tongue across his lips. “Yes please, Papa.”
“In next two weeks, bring two chickens as an offering.”
“And,” Ponsu continued, “hair from a white woman.”
Nii started. “Please, Papa—you say?”
“Hair from a white woman.”
“What about albino?” Nii suggested. He could buy that in town. It was expensive but available.
“No!” Ponsu shook his head. “Are you deaf? I say a white woman and you are trying to tell me ‘albino.’ Foolish. You will sleep with a white woman and get the hair. And her panties too with her fluids. Then the gods will know you are serious. If you don’t bring it, you know what can happen.”
Yes, Nii was aware. Loss of livelihood, riches, prestige—and sometimes, of life. “I will bring it, Papa.”
“And your boy, is he learning?” Ponsu asked.
“Please, you mean Bruno? He is learning fast.”
“If he is ready, then you bring him to me next time. He should bring two chickens for the sacrifice.”
“You can go now.”
Nii left shaken. He needed to ask God—the head of all gods—for help. He had to find a white woman.
January 5, Accra, Ghana
That night, Nii went to The Republic off Oxford Street. It was a loud bar and club with a DJ who spun hiplife and hip hop. When the place was packed, which was always, patrons spilled out onto the street. The waiters sped about between tables serving up mixed drinks and yam fries. The crowd was a mix of Ghanaians and people from all over the world. White American girls loved coming here to get some black-man penis. The Americans always acted all cool but if you watched them carefully you could see their eyes eating up tall, young Ghanaian guys like vultures devouring carrion.
Nii spotted three white women sharing space with a few other people at a table next to the small dance area. One woman was on the chunky side, and the second was thin with almost no breasts. But it was the third woman who held Nii’s attention. She was pretty, on the dark side of blonde with hair cascading to her shoulders. A lot of hair.
Nii approached them, switching on his charm and Americanizing his accent and pronunciation. Reese was the pretty one, and Nii concentrated his attention on her. He used some of the American expressions and idioms he’d learned from Susan Hadley.
Reese seemed to be responding to his flirtations, but after a while, Nii noticed the other two were being obstructive, especially the chunky one, Sheila, who kept sending him disparaging looks. She seemed to be trying to “protect” Reese, or else she was just plain jealous. He couldn’t even get Reese’s number because of that fucking Sheila. All the same, he did give Reese the number to his two mobiles.
Abruptly, Sheila signaled to the others it was time to go, and Nii had a bad feeling she wanted to get the other two away from him. Why? He put it down to prejudice. When they left him with an empty, “Nice meeting you,” he felt rejected and then angry. Reese gave him a glance back as they left, and he prayed she would text him when she had a moment alone.
He got home relatively early—just after midnight—and went to bed feeling annoyed and anxious. What was the next step to getting to sleep with a white girl and getting a snippet of her hair? To no avail, he checked his phone again for a text from Reese.
He slept until past ten in the morning, waking up to a phone alert. His heart leapt at the thought it might be Reese, but it wasn’t. Even better, it was Susan Hadley who was in town at the Golden Tulip Hotel and wanted to see him.
When Susan Hadley, PhD, had first visited Ghana, she had been a tenured physicist at Boston University. At the time, she was fifty-two, recently divorced, and disillusioned. The divorce had been brutal.
Susan needed a change of pace and environment—a radical one. So, she signed up for a two-year visiting professorship at the University of Ghana. She’d never stepped foot on the continent of Africa, so it was a culture shock—the kind of jolt she needed. Something as dissimilar to Boston as possible. She wanted to do a “mind cleanse,” the mental equivalent of juicing.
Among the things she learned to get used to in Ghana was being called “Mama”—even in public—by young Ghanaians she didn’t even know. It wasn’t an insult. It was a term of deference and often affection. True, it reminded her she wasn’t a spring chicken anymore, but she learned to roll with it. For one thing, her age commanded a lot more respect than it ever had at home, where “Ma’am” was sometimes used as a slight.
Susan was ready and willing for new experiences. The heat and humidity and all that black skin around her woke up something inside and the number of men she slept with surprised even her. But Nii Kwei was her prince. They met at one of those staff-student mixes. He was in his last year of poli sci and he was bright, eloquent, and funny. Sarcasm is not used as much in Ghanaian humor as it is in American, but Nii Kwei knew how to do it.
Susan was decades past romantic cat-and-mouse games and playing hard to get. The very night of the mixer, she cut to the chase and invited Nii Kwei to her on-campus bungalow where they had sex half the night. My God, he was good. Her multiple climaxes with him left her as limp as a dishrag. Her lectures the following day were a little uneven, but someone commented on how well she looked.
At first, she wasn’t wildly excited about Nii calling her “Mummy.” She felt weird about it and rolled her eyes. But for all his quirks, Nii was loyal and affectionate. He didn’t have much money, but he always brought her little gifts from the market or the mall. It was his smell that got her—earthy, yet fresh and essential.
When her two years were up, Nii was morose about losing Susan. She was more sanguine, however, and promised to come back to Ghana as soon as she could.
“Promise and swear to call me when you return,” Nii demanded.
“I promise and swear,” she said.
And now, she was back—older and not in quite the same frame of mind as before. Nii would be around twenty-six now, and when Susan opened her hotel room door to him, she saw that some of his boyishness had gone. He had a neatly trimmed beard now, and his body seemed more solid—more like a man’s than a boy’s. They embraced each other for a while.
“I’ve missed you so much,” he told her. “Come, let’s talk.”
They sat together on the sofa. Nii explained that he hadn’t done anything with his BA in political science. In fact, it had been worthless to him, and he had been through a rough patch of unemployment before getting into “information technology,” as he put it.
“Oh, that’s great!” she exclaimed. “And you look like you’re doing very well. Those clothes you’re wearing are an upgrade! Oh, my God, you’re even handsomer than before.”
He laughed. “Thanks, my love. And what about you? How is work?”
Susan was still teaching at BU. Her oldest daughter had had a baby.
“You look so good,” he said softly. “Can I kiss you?”
They kissed for a long time, and then Nii told Susan to hang on tight while he lifted her and carried her to the bed.
Nii Kwei seemed to Susan to have more finesse than she remembered—at least at the start. But after several minutes, some of the old roughness returned with something new besides. He talked dirty, which she had never heard from him before, and he mixed English with Ga, producing a steamy, heady mix of brutally erotic language. She was transported to an intense high, only hazily aware that she was shrieking and crying and begging him to do it harder and faster, which he did until they had migrated across the bed to the edge of the other side. He pulled them both back from the brink before they fell off.
When both were spent, Nii went to sleep for a while. She watched him and relished the glossy blackness of his skin, which both absorbed and reflected light. He stirred and pulled her close, so he was behind her and she fitted into the concavity of his body.
“Your hair is lighter these days,” he said.
She chuckled. “You mean grayer?”
“No, I didn’t mean that.” He kissed her. “I like it. Can I have some?”
She lifted her head to look at him. “Really?”
“Yes, yes. That’s what I want. I know someone who can make a bracelet from it. I will wear it and you’ll be with me all the time.”
“How weird and sweet,” she said. “Okay, but just a little bit. I’m not exactly blessed with flowing tresses.”
She got up and dug around in her things, finding a small pair of scissors in her first aid kit.
He snipped a little from the back, where the hair was longer. “Thank you, my love.”
January 6, Accra, Ghana
Emma Djan was no good at sleeping. She lifted her head in the darkness and looked at her phone: 2:54 a.m., the worst possible time to be awake. She made the best of it, rising to make some milky tea with a chunk of sweet bread to go with it.
At five, she took a shower to refresh herself and reverse the oppressing warmth of the night. The rainy season, which brought cooler weather, would not be for several months. Until then, Emma would need these bracing morning showers, pathetic as they were because of insufficient water pressure. The Ghana Water Company gave preference to the foreign embassies, upscale hotels, and posh areas of the city like Airport Residential and Trasacco Valley. Emma’s part of town, Madina, didn’t make the list.
Apart from the slow-running water, the bathroom was adequate at best but frequently less than. Overall, her lodgings were scanty, with the kitchen and sitting room practically one space and the bedroom not much more than a cubbyhole. And yet the rent took easily three-quarters of Emma’s salary, first because housing in Accra, Ghana’s capital, was exorbitant at any level, rich or poor, and second because as a constable in the Ghana Police Service, or GPS, Emma didn’t earn much.
The measly compensation from the GPS would always be the way it was. You had to accept it and live. That Ghanaian police officers were constantly looking for a handout from the citizenry wasn’t even a secret anymore. Cops’ paltry salary was both a reason and excuse for greed, need, and corruption. Everyone, from the lowly constable to the exalted police commissioner, was guilty, and they knew the public knew.
Emma checked her reflection in the mirror, making sure her conservative gray skirt and cream blouse were spotless and impeccably pressed. She felt she was too skinny. Her problem, as friends and family pointed out without relent, was that she “never ate anything.” Not quite true, but she did often skip meals without noticing.
She left the house, walking quickly along the unpaved and uneven sidewalk. This time of the morning, already warm and humid, the streets were full of children in their uniforms hurrying to school and workers rushing to get to work on time. Accra’s traffic could foil them yet.
At the Kaneshie lorry park, tro-tro drivers and their assistants, called “mates,” competed ferociously for passengers. Hustling potential riders, they yelled out their final destinations in an iconic singsong voice. Emma found her tro-tro and squeezed past other passengers to a tattered seat with ratty foam and exposed springs. When the mate had packed the vehicle as full as physically possible, he signaled the driver with a bang on the roof and the journey started. The minivan, like almost all other tro-tros, was in an advanced state of disrepair—no maintenance whatsoever, Emma imagined. Essentially, she and the eighteen-or-so other riders had just agreed to a high risk of death or mutilation going from point A to B.
The Criminal Investigation Department, CID, building had a new coat of sun-yellow paint, but it could not conceal its age. Seven stories high, it had monotonous rows of old style, dusty louver windows with occasional modernized plate glass sliders.
A sentry box and armed guard stood to the left of the front security gate and everyone including senior officers underwent an immediate pat down on entry to the premises. From there, it was on to the lobby of the building accommodating an assortment of people on all kinds of business.
Headed to the second floor, Emma went up the steps, which were so worn they slanted downward. Emma was a true novice with the Ghana Police Service in general and the CID in particular. Twenty-six, she had graduated from the police academy only four months before. She had always dreamed of being a homicide detective. That was what her late father had been. The atmosphere in Daddy’s office milling with detectives, the stacks of folders piled high on desks, the capture of suspects and the questioning of witnesses, a glimpse into this case or that—as a girl, Emma had taken it all in by some unconscious process of osmosis infused with fascination.
“Daddy, how did you catch the bad man?” she would ask him, sitting on his knee.
He had never waved her away with that well-known adult dismissiveness toward a child: “You wouldn’t understand. I’ll tell you when you grow up.” He would explain it all to her in a way that made sense. And when she nodded with understanding and satisfaction, he smiled and gave her a kiss on her forehead. She would laugh and run off to play.
Daddy had been her hero—he still was. His sudden death at the age of only fifty-five had left the two women in his life—Emma and her mother—bereft. He had never taken his hypertension seriously enough. One morning at work, he collapsed—dead almost instantly from an engulfing hemorrhage of the brain.
On graduation, Constable Emma Djan quickly discovered she would be assigned a department at the discretion of the GPS alone. New recruits didn’t get to indicate their preferences, if they had any. Emma’s fervent hope she would join Homicide didn’t materialize: her station was to be the Commercial Crimes Unit (CCU). She and fourteen other officers investigated the acquisition of land or homes through fraudulent transactions, trespass, document forgery, and so on. Land grabs and property theft were rampant in Ghana. Getting to the bottom of it was tedious, mind-numbing work. Most of the cases remained open for months to years.
Emma’s heart was not in it. She wasn’t under any illusion that homicide investigations didn’t involve monotonous paperwork, but the motives behind commercial crimes didn’t grab her the way murder did.
She pushed the CCU door open and went in with a flat, unenthusiastic feeling that meant she would rather be somewhere else. She was more than on time. Only two other workers were already there. The rest would straggle in over the next hour or two. Stolen property wasn’t going anywhere. There was no pressure to get to a crime scene before evidence was destroyed.
“Morning, morning,” Emma said brightly to her coworkers. She tried to put the best face on it.
They replied without much enthusiasm as Emma took a seat at the table she shared with several colleagues. The whole unit was depressed and depressing. She tackled the folder at the top of her file—dreary records about this complainant and that defendant. She wished she was Homicide Detective Constable Djan. “DC Djan” had a nice ring.
When she had first joined CID as a recruit in the CCU, she had begun working with her officemates with reasonable keenness. They showed her the ropes, but with scant hand-holding. “This is like this, and that is like that; now get to work.” In only her third week in the unit, it hit Emma right between the eyes that she couldn’t possibly continue this. She was dying a slow death in boredom purgatory. Several days followed during which she drummed up the courage to approach her superior officer, Inspector Kuma, in his office, which wasn’t much more than a small space in the corner of the unit.
“Yes?” he had asked irritably as she knocked on his open door. He was youthful in the face and rotund in the body. Too much banku.
Emma came forward to a respectable distance from Kuma’s desk, deferentially keeping her hands behind her back. “Please, sir,” she whispered, “I want to know if I can also train in the Homicide Division.” She didn’t dare say “transfer to Homicide,” because it would sound like she didn’t like Inspector Kuma or his department—which was true but not a good thought to express out loud.
“What?” he snapped. “Train in Homicide? What is wrong with you? You think you can just go wherever you like? Why do you want to do that?”
“Please, I like it,” Emma said.
“How do you know? Have you been a homicide detective before?”
“No please, but my father was one.”
“So, because he was in Homicide, you think you know you will like it?” Kuma laughed. “It’s in the blood, is that what you are trying to say?”
“Who is your father?”
“Chief Superintendent Emmanuel Djan. He passed away six years ago.”
“Oh, sorry,” Kuma said, with a surprising amount of sympathy in his tone. “Where was he stationed?”
“At Kumasi—Manhyia District Headquarters.”
“Did he know our director?”
By that, Kuma meant Commissioner Alex Andoh, the director-general of CID. Next to the inspector general of police, he was one of the most powerful and influential men in the police hierarchy. “Director-General” was his position, while “Commissioner” was his police rank and the titles were used interchangeably.
“Please, I’m not sure,” Emma said, her fingers twisting around each other behind her. “I don’t think so.”
“Look, Constable Djan,” Kuma said, “you can’t just change your department like that, eh? Maybe one of your father’s associates can talk to DCOP Laryea in charge of recruit assignments, but as for me, I can’t help you. Sorry.”
“Okay, sir. Thank you, sir.”
Kuma dismissed Emma and she went away surprisingly uplifted because there might have been something to Kuma’s idea. She was lost in thought as she sat down, her work temporarily forgotten. Commander Seidu, the head of the Kumasi Regional Headquarters, had always liked and respected Daddy and had been deeply affected by his death. Emma made the decision to call Seidu.
But in the months that followed, nothing seemed to result from contacting Commander Seidu. He had said he would see what he could do for her and Emma knew him well enough to know he had meant it, but in retrospect she realized she had set her hopes too high. Slowly, she was becoming accustomed to the grind and tedium of the CCU, and her desire to become a detective constable in Homicide, albeit still there, began to wane. The reality that it wasn’t going to happen sank in. The question she had begun to pose to herself now was whether she wanted to remain with the Ghana Police Service at all.
Near closing time, Kuma called Emma to his office. “Report to DCOP Laryea’s office,” he said curtly.
“No, next week. Of course, now!” he thundered. “What’s wrong with you?”
“Yes please. Sorry, sir.”
Emma nearly tripped over her own feet as she made haste out of the unit.
The Missing American hits shelves on January 14th, 2020. Purchase here.