A Risky Search For An Absconding Apprentice

Kwame Mainu’s partner, Afriyie, had a small part-time business making ladies’ dresses and providing repair and adjustment services, mostly for the ladies attached to Warwick University. As the work-load increased, she had brought her niece, Elsie, from Ghana to serve as an apprentice seamstress. Attending the local Pentecostal church in Coventry, Elsie had been encouraged by her Ghanaian friends to demand an English wage, and when this was slow coming she had run away. Kwame’s daughter, Akosua, then in her final year at secondary school and preparing for her university entrance examinations, had asked permission to attend the same church in order to try to find out where Elsie had gone.

Early in July 1996, when Kwame was preparing to leave for Ghana again, he was asked to see Auntie Rose at the hair dressers’ salon. This time they met in the comfortable upstairs room. ‘Has Leon taken over this place as his Coventry base?’ asked Kwame with a laugh. ‘Leon does what he needs to do,’ replied the little lady, half filling the big easy chair with her forward pointing toes stretched out before her.Kwame had got used to Auntie Rose’s changeable behaviour, sometimes distant, sometimes close, so he tried to adjust himself to her serious demeanour. ‘Do you go to church?’ she asked.’No, you know I don’t.”Then why do you send your daughter?”Oh, you mean the Pentecostal church.”Why does she go there?”Why does anybody go to church?”Don’t be flippant with me, Kwame Mainu.”Afriyie’s apprentice, Elsie Ntim, ran away last month,’ Kwame said, ‘and Akosua thought that she might learn something of her whereabouts through the church.”Elsie doesn’t attend the Coventry church anymore.”No, but some of her friends might still go there.”They’ll be suspicious of Akosua, an educated dadaba (spoilt child of well-off parents).”She’ll hide her English and play the part of a bush girl, a kuraseni.”So far she’s succeeded, but I’m worried that one day she’ll give herself away.’

Kwame realised that Auntie Rose must have seen Akosua at the Pentecostal church so he asked, ‘What takes you to the den of charismatics?”What takes me everywhere I go?”The war on drugs?”Precisely.”So you think the place could be dangerous for Akosua?”It will be if the traffickers get re-established there.”Will you warn us if that happens?”Yes I will, but have you warned Akosua?”I’ve told her that if she sees or hears anything illegal she should stop immediately.”Good, then we’ll leave the young lady to her academic assignment. Who knows? One day she might be a recruit for Leon’s team.’

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