Effe descends the stairs early in the morning.
It is just a few minutes past six.
She hears voices from her parents’ room, and a moment later they both emerge, dressed for the office.
They pause and look at her.
(with a sad smile)
Effe, my darling. Glad to see you down. Going to the office?
Yes, Mom. I realized I can’t stay in Chris’ prison forever. My heart is permanently broken, but it will beat again, beginning today.
That’s my girl. I’m proud of you. Should I fix you some breakfast?
No, thanks. I’ll take breakfast with Rupert. Dad, can I use your other car for today?
Sure, sure, baby. Use it forever, if you want.
Effe picks up the car keys from the tray they all keep their keys. As she heads out she stops and speaks.
Oh, Dad! I want more of those nuts. They are delicious!
Sure, sure, baby. I’ll get you the whole store if you want!
Eyram emerges from the kitchen with Junior on her back, and they all laugh as Effe leaves.
She’s going to be alright.
Yeah. She’s going to be just fine.
(softly and to herself)
I doubt it. What’re you up to, Ef? Where are you really headed this morning?
Effe drives out of the house.
She does not stop until she is at Ablorh-Adjei.
She stares at the house with her heart beating with unease and a little bout of fear.
She had tossed and tossed in bed the whole night, and she had not been able to get the image of Chris lying on the floor inside that building – doped up and saying painful things to her – out of her mind.
She does not know why she has come here, or what she is looking for. All that she knows is that she needs to be here. This is where he has been hiding.
Maybe there is something here that will shed some light on the monster who has come into her life, lit it up, and destroyed her so completely.
It is still quite early in the morning.
Only a few people are passing by, but they are a little far away from the building.
Effe gets out of the car, looks around furtively, and then she picks her way carefully to the building.
The legs of her trousers are wet and dirty by the time she enters through the entrance and turns right towards the door that leads to Chris’ secret room.
The door is closed, and she holds the knob and pushes down, expecting it to be locked, but it isn’t.
The door opens, and she steps into the room.
She is taken aback at how neat the room is.
Someone has come and cleaned it up.
She looks around with mild surprise, wondering if the policemen had the time to do all that, or maybe there is another person living with Janet and Chris.
She looks around the living-room, but apart from the luxurious furniture and gadgets, there is nothing of interest there.
She walks out of the living-room into a short corridor, past the bathroom Janet had used to dress up, and sees a slightly-open door. She goes in, and sees that it is a bedroom.
The first thing that strikes her is that it is not a man’s bedroom, but a woman’s. The lacy sheets, the decorations, the mats on the floor, everything points to a woman.
She sees that the wardrobe is ajar, and the drawers are open.
There are three big suitcases on the bed. Two are full and zipped shut. The other one is open and half-full with clothes, artefacts and other personal titbits.
It seems someone is trying to leave in a hurry.
Effe looks around, confused. She approaches the suitcase and peers inside. She sees an album lying open inside the case, and recognises the sweet beautiful face of Janet instantly in the two photos displayed by the open pages of the album.
Intrigued, she reaches for the album and suddenly a door that leads to the master bathroom opens, and Janet emerges, dressed in an immaculate white dress and holding a little pouch filled with her toothbrushes and make-up kits.
She stops abruptly and stares at Effe as if she has seen a ghost.
Effe looks at her with a shock so profound that for a moment she can barely speak.
You! Damn! What the hell are you doing here?
What’s going on here, Janet? They arrested you! They put you in handcuffs! They told me the two of you are criminals, in this whole sordid business together! You should be in a cell too! Why are you here? Why did the police let you go? Did you escape?
Janet walks forward quickly, but not before Effe sees a look of fear in the depths of her eyes.
She dumps the pouch into the open suitcase and turns to Effe.
You still can’t let him go, can you? Well, he’s mine! All mine! So stay away from him!
Effe faces Janet’s furious stare with a fury of her own.
They arrested you! What’re you doing here, Janet? Answer me! Why are you leaving? Where’s Chris?
Get out of here, woman! I’m not going to answer any of your stupid questions. If you want answers go to the police station!
She tries to zip up the suitcase, and Effe moves forward to stop her.
You’re going to answer me! You’re not leaving until you answer me, Janet!
Janet struggles with Effe over the suitcase.
(stridently, anxiously, fearfully)
Leave me alone! Get away! Leave me alone!
As the girls continue to struggle the huge suitcase suddenly falls off the bed, and some of its contents fall out and litter the floor.
One of them is the album, and when it lands it displays one of the last pages.
Effe’s eyes fall on the album, and the pictures it is displaying.
The first picture shows a huge rectangular building with gates in front, and it is an old picture.
The gates are open, and a group of children dressed in grey clothes, and wardens dressed in blue uniforms are posing for a group photo in the old brownish-antique colour of old photos.
There is a name above the building, and Effe experiences a terrible jolt of shock when she falls on her knees and looks at the name.
Tears of anguish spring to Effe’s eyes as she looks up at Janet, who is now sitting on the edge of the bed, panting, and looking at Effe with fear now.
(in a pained whisper)
The Orphanage, Janet. Hopelife Orphanage, just as Chris said, the place he grew up! He wasn’t lying! You lied to me! You told me there was no orphanage! Chief Cuger also told me Chris lied, he never grew up in an Orphanage! What’s the meaning of this? Is Chris telling the truth?
Janet stares at Effe but does not answer.
She gets up and walks to the window. She picks up a pack of cigarettes, puts one in her mouth, and lights it with a golden lighter.
Effe looks at the second picture now.
It shows a man and a woman, with two teenagers standing beside them.
They are standing beside an old Datsun Sunny. Something about the man makes Effe look closely at him, and then she gives a sudden gasp of shock and fear when she recognizes all the people in the picture at once!
The man is a very younger version of Chief Inspector Cuger!
The young girl is undoubtedly Janet!
The young boy, skinny and not smiling, but with bushy hair and an incredibly handsome face, is Chris!
The woman in the photo is tall, elegant, well-dressed with a wide-brimmed hat on her head, white gloves reaching up to her elbows, her face beautiful and smiling, wearing a pretty petal-designed dress.
Effe knows that dress because she has seen that woman before, dressed in the same dress, inside her own house!
It is an old picture of no one but her own mother!
Effe is making horrified noises as she rips the cellophane cover off the picture and claws it out of the album.
She notices blue handwriting at the back, and turns it over!
Janet has inscribed the picture in her neat feminine handwriting.
‘Me, Darling Boy, Mr. Danso Cuger and Sweet Ama Baby’.
Effe screams then. She moves away from the album and drops the picture.
She moves back until her back hits the wall.
She can barely breathe!
Sweet Ama Baby! SWEET AMA BABY!!!
The woman who had introduced Chris to child prostitution at the Orphanage!
The cruel woman who had teamed up with the wicked Orphanage Governess Ida Broohm to let the inmates sleep with elderly men and women!
Sweet Ama Baby!
The woman who had tried to make Chris sleep with her, whom Chris had escaped from, is no other woman than Effe’s own mother, Mrs. Ivy Kedem!
Ivy Kedem, now a respectable married woman, had been a terrible pimp, the madam of a terrible, sordid brothel…
And she had known Chief Inspector Danso Cuger even then!
The policeman is not a strange man!
He and Mrs. Ivy Kedem has known each other for a very long, long time!
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Shocked? There’s an adage that if you persist in trying to find out what lies beneath the eyelids of a corpse, you will eventually find worms.
Effe shakes her head as the crushing bitter truth slams into her and paralyses her completely.
No, oh no, oh no, oh no! Please tell me it’s not true! Please tell me Sweet Ama Baby is not my own Mom! Please tell me that!
Janet looks at Effe without speaking for a long time, just puffing on her cigarette, and then finally she squashes the cigarette viciously against the side of the building.
She walks up to Effe and gazes into her tortured eyes.
She extends her hand, and Effe places a trembling hand into Janet’s hand.
Janet pulls Effe to her feet.
Janet looks at Effe’s shattered face, and sees the horror in the depths of her beautiful eyes.
You really love Chris, don’t you?
Effe can barely breathe, and her voice is choked up.
With all my soul, Janet! Please, please, for the love of God, help me out here! I’m going mad, Janet! Please, give me relief! Explain things to me! I don’t understand any of this! Please, you people shouldn’t torment me this way!
Janet turns and sits on the bed. She reaches into her handbag, brings out a wedding ring, and slips it on her finger.
Effe’s eyes widen with fresh pain, and Janet notices it.
Oh, no, don’t be like that. This is not from Chris. He’s always been like the brother I never had. He was so fiercely protective of me. He told you about Sweet Ama Baby?
Effe nods numbly.
Yes, and also about you. He was scared you died in the fire that gutted the orphanage, and he’s never been able to forgive himself for leaving you.
Tears come into Janet’s eyes.
Sweet, gentle, wonderful Chris. He was so good to me. He was my guardian angel at the Orphanage. He never allowed anybody to hurt me. After he escaped, your mother and Ida were furious. They forced me into prostitution too.
Oh my God! All this while, even when she married my father and had Eyram and me, she was doing that? I just can’t believe that!
Well believe it! She owned the best brothels, and she worked with Cuger. Much later I think she fell in love with your father, and maybe because she saw you growing up, her conscience worked at her and stopped the prostitution business.
Dear Lord! My Mom was a prostitute?
Janet shakes her head.
Never. She might have been, maybe before she met your father, but I’m not sure about that. She just owned us, but she was never one of us. She owned the business, and run it like a professional. Her only love was Chris, I guess.
Effe cleans tears from her face and speaks contemptuously.
Love? That can’t be love! That’s sickness. He was young enough to be her own son!
Yeah, well, let’s call it obsession then. Chris told me she used to touch him, you know, in …sensitive places.
Oh, Lord! Oh, Lord!
Anyway, like I was saying, she stopped that business and concentrated on her family. She was able to get one of our clients, who was a police chief, to take Cuger into the police service. She stayed in touch with me, and let me meet a sweet young man called Tony Assif. We fell in love and got married. She left me alone, until five days ago when she came to visit me with Chief Inspector Cuger. They wanted me to help them.
Outraged tears fall down Effe’s cheeks unchecked.
Her pain is compounded by her mother’s unfeeling betrayal.
Of course. They wanted you here, to play out that disgusting scene and frame Chris!
Janet hangs her head with shame.
I learnt for the first time that Chris is still alive. I was so overjoyed. This place belongs to Chief Inspector Cuger. It is an unfinished building, but they set it up quickly and fitted it with all those gadgets, and then they brought me here and let me make a call to Chris, who was so happy to hear my voice that he came over immediately to see me. Chris was very shattered after he witnessed you with Steve-
You know about Steve?
Chris told me everything, about how much he loves you, and about the dilemma he is in because he found out too late that you’re the daughter of Sweet Ama Baby. He was devastated when he saw you kissing Steve, and he stayed here with me, thinking this place was mine. You see, your mother threatened me that if I didn’t go along with her evil plans she would let my husband and son know that I was a prostitute. I couldn’t say no, and so I agreed to help them. Cuger gave me some Tremors to put in Chris’s tea when you people set out from your house to come here.
(in a whisper)
Oh, yeah, the drug I laced with Chris’ tea. It’s a terrible drug. It makes people drunk, weak, and makes them hallucinate. It makes them disoriented and makes them speak crap. It messes up their brains and memory, so that they behave in a totally bad way, and later they wouldn’t even remember what they said, or how they behaved. Chris didn’t know what was going on that day!
Dear sweet Jesus, so that was why Chris was behaving like a monster that day! Oh, dear God! Chris! Oh, Lord! What have I done to us?
Yes. It was worse because he has never taken Tremors before. When the effects wear off, he wouldn’t remember any of the things that happened here, or what he said to you!
Oh, Chris, oh my love! What have they done to you? And the cases of theft and women he has destroyed in South Africa, Nigeria and other places?
All false, my dear. They wanted you to hate him. After our arrest, they let me go. I’ve been here for almost a week. All this while I’ve been lying to my husband that I was visiting my sick Aunt Ivy. I came here to pack and go back home. My family is at Tema.
Effe bends and picks up the incriminating photo.
Oh Chris! I betrayed you, my love! I should’ve believed in you, my darling!
No, Effe, please! You can’t take that picture! If your Mom finds out I told you about her, or let you see that picture, she’ll destroy me! She’ll destroy my marriage.
Effe looks at Janet, and there is real anger on her face, and in her voice.
Go to your husband and son, Janet. Believe me when I tell you my mother will never be a threat to you ever again! But when we came in that day, with you and Chris on the floor, it appeared he still had … well, as if you the two of you just had sex!
Janet nods unhappily.
Oh, Cuger pushed something into Chris’ boxers just before you entered. I didn’t see what it was, but it gave the illusion that Chris had an erection. Please, save Chris. He’s suffered too much at the hands of Sweeet Ama …your mother, I mean. Please save him, and tell him I’m sorry!
I’m sorry too, Janet. Sorry for the atrocities of my own mother, her sins that affected your life so much. I’m terribly sorry. Please, on behalf of my family, accept my deepest regrets. Now, if you don’t mind, I have to go save my man.
Janet gets up and hugs Effe. Their tears fall freely now.
You make Chris happy, Effe. If any man deserves real love and happiness, it’s that boy!
(in an emotional voice)
I’m going to drown him in love, Janet. I’m going to show him he’s never been loved before. Im going to drown him with unadulterated love from now on.
Still holding the incriminating photo, she leaves quickly.
Shaking violently, still unable to believe what she has seen, she stops the car and dials her mother’s number, but the phone is off.
She calls her father.
Darling, everything alright?
Effe strives to keep cool.
Dad, I’m fine. Just wanted to speak to Mom. I called but her phone is off.
Oh, yes! She was called to that Women’s Society group she heads. Seems they’re going to meet the First Lady of the country at Cape Coast. It was impromptu. She says she would be back tomorrow. Her phones battery was low when she left.
Effe can taste the bitterness and disappointment in her mouth.
She wants so much to speak to her Mom, to put that most disturbing discovery between them, and understand how a woman she loves so much could in the same breath be the repulsive Sweet Ama Baby..
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TO BE CONTINUED..