MORE TO IT
When they entered his house, Sabrina ceased all thoughts in her heard about why he didn’t bring her car inside. The huge semi-detached storey building was far bigger than it looked from the entrance. The house had a sizeable compound but the numerous washing lines, two outdoor bathrooms and a big open-air kitchen occupied a vast part of the compound.
The other part of the house was filled with piled sacks of charcoal, carefully arranged lines of coops, hutches, and all kinds of cages for all kinds of domestic animals. There was no space for her car.
The numerous washing lines gave her a fair idea of the number of people who could be living in that storey building. It was a busy Monday morning for almost everybody she saw. The scene was not any different from what she had seen outside. Women of different ages were busily cooking, washing, mopping, and getting kids ready for school.
A loud radio airing the news in the local language had overshadowed all sounds made by the various activities of the women. The occupants were obviously used to the blend of the morning fragrant of soap from the outdoor bathrooms, the fresh tang of food from the kitchen and the pungent smell of animals they kept in the house.
She removed her baseball cap, put on a smile to hide the unease in her, greeted as many people as Malcolm did and followed him along the cages to the back of the house to Malcolm’s door. He was on the first floor. The minute the two got to the backyard, two rumbustious Rottweilers about 25 inches tall jumped out of their cage barking and running towards them.
“Jeepers! Who let the dogs out?” Malcolm shouted.
“Rotties,” Sabrina said snapping her fingers at the hounds almost at the same time that Malcolm cried. Before Malcolm could order them back to their cage, Sabrina was on her knees with her left hand already on the male’s withers and the right under the female’s dewlap calming the rumbling dogs down.
“They’re naturally territorial, wary of strangers and can be very aggressive. Where did you learn to do that?” Malcolm asked relieved that Sabrina didn’t run but stepped up to meet the dogs.
“Though Rotties can be belligerent, they’re also very intelligent creatures. I train security dogs and rear mongrels for sale so I know how to handle them,” she answered happily bonding with the dogs growling.
“Sorry for this unfortunate welcome. I didn’t bother to give you a heads-up because I knew they’ll be locked. This shouldn’t have happened. My dogs are very ferocious therefore unsafe for strangers to be around them, that is why I keep them locked at the backyard near my door,” Malcolm started explaining looking distinctively sheepish.
“Their cage was unlocked,” Sabrina pointed to a padlock on the cage.
“Imagine what would have happened if anyone had come here before us. We let them out at midnight and put them inside at 5:00a.m.,” his face fell as he explained how unhappy he was to see the dogs out of their cage.
“The good news is no harm was done. And luckily, dogs don’t scare me; I run with them as a hobby.” Sabrina took the dogs to their cage. Malcom went to the basement which was right next to the cage to enquire from the cotenants downstairs how the cage was left ajar.
“I was told it was the landlady’s son, Ghosty, who forgot to lock the dogs after feeding them” Malcolm returned to explain to her, seething inwardly at Ghosty’s recklessness.
“You don’t have to feel bad especially if it was not your negligence that caused that. Malcolm, you don’t beat your breast about the evil that could have happened but didn’t. Does Papa Oteng live close by?” she tried to cheer up the disconcerted Malcolm and even changed the topic.
“Yes, he does; some few blocks away. So what happens to Papa Oteng now? He is a prominent person in this community.” he asked as he fetched his keys from his pocket to open the door.
“You should thank your stars that I pulled off a coup to save you from being implicated in a drug trafficking case. Your driver is not good news for you now,” Sabrina said and stepped back for him to struggle with his doorknob.
“Thanks for plucking me from the scene. I really appreciate it, however I can’t abandon Papa Oteng. I have to find out where the police will take him then try and get him home as soon as possible,” Malcolm finally pushed the heavy metal door opened.
“You’re welcome, Malcolm. I must confess that I’m rather concerned about the gunshots and not Papa Oteng. FYI, we’ve been after Papa Oteng and his team for 3 hectic years.”
“I don’t even know how I’m going to break this news to his family. What could Papa Oteng possibly do wrong to warrant a military trail on him for three years? He strikes me as a law abiding citizen.” He switched on the lights in the corridor and invited her in.
“You’ll find out soon, Mal. Appearance has always been deceptive.”
The door opened to a thin corridor that led straight to what was supposed to be the front door. There were two doors to their left and another pair to their right as they walked to the front door.
“‘You’re welcome to my humble abode,’ is what they say,” he said when they entered.
“‘You have a nice place,’ is how they respond,” she replied
“First on your left is my sister, Chloe’s room and the next is the bathroom. On your right is mine, and next is the reading room.”
“You’re Malcolm and your sister is Chloe – nice names.”
“It’s actually Timothy and Chloe. Ahead of us is the kitchen doubling as a sitting room.”
They bypassed the rooms, walked through the front door which opened to a spacious curtained hall used as a makeshift kitchen and sitting room.
“I like this sharp contrast between your room and the environment.”
“I’ll take it as a compliment, thank you.”
“Please do, you’re welcome. Truly, you have a nice place.”
“Would you like to use the bathroom?” he asked her even before giving her a chair to sit.
“No, thank you. I won’t stay for long.”
“I’ll be with you very soon. I have to freshen up before Chloe wakes up.”
“I’ll tell her you said she spends forever in the bathroom.”
“How did you arrive at that? I love my sister but I just don’t want us to sit here for an hour waiting for her to finish using the bathroom.”
“I’ll tell her – straight up!”
Malcolm pulled the curtain for air and light, put on a radio set and left for a quick shower.
Soon afterwards, a large-hipped young lady knocked at the door, entered and walked straight to the hall. She smiled and greeted Sabrina as expected. The young lady pulled a table in front of Sabrina, laid the tablecloth, set breakfast for two, collected some cleaned plates from the kitchen cabinet and empty bottles from the fridge into her basket, lowered the volume on the radio set and left without another word.
“A young lady, probably a teenager, brought breakfast in a basket – slightly toasted bread, fried eggs, groundnut paste, porridge and two bottles of evaporated milk,” Sabrina said loudly to Malcolm’s hearing.
“Nana Akua; she is 21 but will be 22 in two months. Her mother sells porridge in the morning two houses away from mine,” he responded from his room.
“I wanted to know about the food not the girl, and how come you know her age?” she yelled again.
“I don’t think there’s a law against knowing the ages of friends. What do you want to know about the food, you just told me what she brought,” he came out fixing his flying tie to see Sabrina busy devouring the breakfast.
Though Malcolm was glad his guest felt at home, he pondered over what exactly was putting her at ease; was it business as usual for her or nature has gifted him with the woman he’s been looking for.
“That was fast,” she said with her eyes and hands on the food, not distracted at all by Malcolm.
“It’s either you’re very hungry or the food is very tasty, so much that you couldn’t wait for me. Sabrina, I hope you said a prayer before eating.” He tucked a napkin under his chin and joined her for breakfast.
“You look funny without your glasses. Yes, I washed my hands, and I’m not really hungry but I take breakfast seriously – you should too. Has anybody ever told you that when you take a healthy breakfast you enhance your concentration and endurance, gain strength and a positive attitude for the day?”
“Good for me then, because I hardly miss breakfast. How can washing of your hands be an answer to praying before you eat, Sabrina?” She didn’t touch the groundnut paste so he gladly took it all.
“Malcolm, does she bring you breakfast daily, your friend? I watched her for about ten minutes and I like her already, unfortunately she didn’t have much say to. She said nary word to me aside, ‘hi’.”
“Nana Akua, yes, she does; it’s a business arrangement with her mum. How come I’m not surprised that you like her, and do you want to know about the food or the girl?”
“Don’t be silly, Mal.”
“Nana Akua is a gem. You’re yet to see the best of her. If you were not here, she would have straightened every single object which was out of true before leaving.”
“She is the reason your place looks sparklingly clean.”
“Yes, she is.”
“And you said she is 21?”
“Yes, I did. 22 in two months.”
“She looks older than her age. I intentionally said teenager as bait to fetch her age from you. How did she know you had a visitor?”
“Old Freeville is under a sophisticated human surveillance. The minute we arrived, word went out that I’m back and with a visitor. There are eyes everywhere that see everything that goes on both in public and private.”
“You must be really proud of your community,” she said when she had finished her bowl of porridge.
“I’m full. Thanks for the breakfast Mal, I needed that. But sorry I can’t stay for long, I have a thing or two to attend to this morning,” she said as she dabbed her mouth with the serviette.
“You’re welcome, but you don’t necessarily have to go because I’m leaving, my sister will be around. You can rest for a while; you’ve been up all night.”
“So have you. It’s Monday morning Mal; time will definitely come for me to sleep later. But thanks again, for the offer.” She took her baseball cap and stood up.
“Chloe, come forth!” Malcolm knocked and called his sister when they got to her door on their way out.
“What’s the meaning of ‘come forth,’ am I Lazarus?” his sister responded from her room.
“That reminds me, Chloe. I’ve told you not to switch off my light and particularly not to tuck me in when I intentionally sleep without covers, I’m not a tot!”
“You’re welcome, bro! I will always care.” Chloe stormed out of her room in a housecoat and a novel in her hands.
“I’m leaving. Meet my friend Lieutenant Sabrina Fosu Ottoppah.”
“Golly! Why didn’t you tell me you were with a visitor?” Chloe yelled and took a step back, startled as if she had seen a ghost.
“Come back, where are you going? Meet my friend Sabrina. Sabrina, please meet my sister, Chloe.”
“How do you do,” Chloe greeted.
“How do you do,” Sabrina responded.
“I’ll be back at noon, Chloe. Sabrina, we can leave now.”
“You mean you’ll be back for lunch. Save mine if you get back before I do,” Chloe impishly replied.
“If you meant to mock me in the presence of my guest, then I’m sorry she didn’t get the fun in it.” Malcolm opened the metal door and signaled Sabrina to step out.
“Oh, I did! See you later Chloe,” Sabrina said before stepping out, joining Chloe to pull his legs.
“I hope to see you again Sabrina. I’ll need you in my battles against him. Mal, has Nana Akua brought breakfast yet?” she followed them out to ask her brother.
“Who is the joke on right now, Chloe? You just woke up and you’re already asking for food. I’ll have her bring you food right away because somebody ate yours,” Malcolm responded almost bursting out in laughter imagining Sabrina’s response and countenance.
“Aw Malcolm, so that was Chloe’s food you made me eat. I’m so sorry Chloe,” Sabrina felt a bit mortified.
“Yes, it was her food and no, I didn’t make you eat anything; what an outstanding way to introduce yourself, Lieutenant Sabrina Fosu Ottoppah.”
“Welcome to my world, Sabrina. No matter how hard I try, I just can’t turn my brother into a gentleman.”
“A minute please, I’m going for my motorbike,” Malcolm dashed down to the basement.
“Don’t forget your helmet, Malcolm,” Chloe reminded him.
“I already did. Could you get it for me please?” he yelled from down there.
“What would you have done without me?” Chloe went back inside for his helmet.
“You tell me Sis,” he responded.
They left with Sabrina driving behind Malcolm’s motorbike. When they got to the town centre they went their separate ways. To Malcolm, he had made a vital acquaintance even a God-given friend to help him with Papa Oteng’s case and for other purposes; and to Sabrina, she had won an instrumental confidential informant who will help her with Papa Oteng’s case and other future cases that will involve Old Freeville.