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Authors: Kwei Quartey

Wife of the gods

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Kwei Quartey

Wife of the Gods

Darko Dawson #1

2009, EN

Detective Inspector Darko Dawson, a goodfamily man and a remarkably intuitive sleuth, is sent to thevillage of Ketanu – the site of his mother's disappearance manyyears ago – to solve the murder of an accomplished young AIDSworker.

While battling his own anger issues and concerns forhis ailing son, Darko explores the motivations and secrets of theresidents of Ketanu. It soon becomes clear that in addition tosolving a recent murder, he is about to unravel the shocking truthabout his mother's disappearance.

Kwei Quartey's sparkling debut novel introducesreaders to a rich cast of characters, including the Trokosi – youngwomen called Wives of the Gods – who, in order to bring goodfortune to their families, are sent to live with fetish priests.Set in Ghana, with the action moving back and forth between thecapital city of Accra and a small village in the Volta Region, Wifeof the Gods brings the culture and beauty of its settingbrilliantly to life.

Table of contents

Author’s Notes

Prologue

1·2·3·4·5·6·7·8·9·10·11·12·13·14·15·16·17·18·19·20·21·22·23·24·25·26·27·28·29·30·31·32·33·34·35·36·37·38·39·40·41·42·43·44·45·46·47·48

Glossary

∨Wife of the Gods∧

Author’s NotesGlossary

Because of the rich collection of Ghanaian names, expressions,and locales in this work, a glossary is provided at the back of thebook to enhance the reader’s experience of the story.

Witchcraft

Although it may seem a fanciful notion to many Western readers,witchcraft still holds importance in Ghana, where belief in magicalpowers coexists with acceptance of modern science and medicine. Formany people, concepts of ancestral influence and the spirit worldare important in everyday life.

Trokosi

This controversial custom is found in isolated areas of Ghana’sVolta Region and in neighboring Togo, with strongly opposed viewson either side of the issue. Even the English translation of theword is debated (wife of the gods, slave of the gods, child of adivinity, and so on). Traditionalists, such as the Afrikaniaorganization in Accra, are in favor of the tradition and deny thatslavery is involved. The Ghanaian government and NGOs such as theChristian organization International Needs decry the practice. Someof these opposing views are presented in the novel.

Map of Ketanu and surroundings

∨Wife of the Gods∧

Prologue

The forest wasblack and Darko was afraid to enter. The trees, covered from apexto root with dry, sloughing scales, beckoned him with theircrackling, stunted branches. The forest floor erupted in acharcoal-colored cloud of dust as the gnarled, ragged tree rootsburst from the earth and turned into massive, thrashing limbs.Swaying, the trees began to lumber toward Darko. He wanted toescape, but terror paralyzed him. He opened his mouth to scream butno sound came.

“Don’t be frightened, Darko.”

He recognized his mother’s voice at once. Relief sweptthrough him and rendered him light and free. Joy swelled in hischest and knotted in his throat as he saw Mama emerge from theshadows. She walked toward him as if floating, her head held highin the assurance that she would allow nothing to harm herboy.

She held out her hand. “Come along. It’s all right.”

Her palm softly and completely cocooned his. He looked up.She smiled down at him, her eyes deep and warm and liquid. She wasstrong and beautiful. He loved the touch of her hand and the scentof her skin.

And she took him into the musty forest of putrefying treesthat walked. The forest floor was carpeted with ashen, lifelessleaves and brittle twigs that snapped underfoot. For a moment, thetrees stopped moving and allowed Darko and his mother to passthrough silent as ghosts.

“You see?” she said. “They can’t trouble us because we’re notafraid of them.”

One of the trees moaned loudly – a hoarse, wrenching soundfull of the pain of approaching death. Roots flailing, its bulboustrunk took on the distorted likeness of a face, eyes cruel andmouth bitter as quinine. Darko shied away, but Mama held himfast.

“No, Darko, you can’t go back now. I’ve led you here to findthe truth.”

“I’m scared to go on, Mama.”

“Why, Darko?”

“What if the truth is more terrible than the forest?”

At that very instant, his hand slipped from hers. She fadedaway, and in the void she left, there was no answer. The tree withthe face, suddenly luminous in the darkness, floundered in the soilas it lurched closer.

“Mama?”

His reaching hand touched empty space.

“Mama, where are you?”

Darko turned in circles, straining his eyes to see, but Mamahad vanished. The trees grunted, scrabbling at the ground to gaintraction as they closed in.

Darko Dawson the boy cried out. “Mama!”

Darko Dawson the man cried out. Gasping, soaked in sweat, he satbolt upright in bed. “Mama?”

The room flooded with light and he cringed. He felt armswrapping around him and he tried to fight them off.

“The trees,” he said.

“No trees,” Christine said. “No trees. Just me. In the bedroom,here with you.”

Dawson looked at his wife, startled for an instant before herecognized her. He sighed deeply and let the tension go as heleaned against her. She held him and wiped the sweat from hisbrow.

“The dream was different from before,” he whispered.

“Was it?”

He nodded. “This time, Mama was in the forest with me. I thinkshe’s calling for me, Christine – no, I’m certain she is. She’sready for me now. She may have disappeared, but she isn’t gone, andnow she wants me to find her.”

∨Wife of the Gods∧

One

Inspector Max Fitihad great significance in a place that had little. He was the headof police in Ketanu, a small town in the Adaklu-Anyigbe District ofGhana’s Volta Region. All he had was a small police station asragged as a stray dog, two constables, and an old police vehiclethat ran erratically, but when there was trouble, people turned toFiti.

Case in point: Charles Mensah, a fortyish man with a painfullythin body and a bulbous head like a soldier termite, had just comeinto his office this morning to report his sister missing.

“When did you last see Gladys?” Fiti asked.

“Yesterday afternoon, around three,” Charles said. “Just beforeshe left for Bedome.”

“She went to Bedome? To do what?”

“You know she’s a volunteer with the Ghana Health Service AIDSoutreach. She goes to different villages to teach and so on.”

“Aha, yes.”

The village of Bedome was east of Ketanu on the other side ofthe forest.

“When she didn’t come back home yesterday evening,” Charlescontinued, “I thought it was strange, so I rang her mobile and lefta message. She never called back and I started to get worried, sothen I rang Timothy Sowah, the director of the AIDS program, and hesaid he too had been unable to reach her on the mobile.”

“Maybe she went to another village where the reception is poor?”Fiti suggested.

“Mr. Sowah told me Bedome was the only place she was scheduledto visit,” Charles replied.

“Are you sure she actually got to Bedome? I mean, not that I’msaying something bad happened on the way, but – ”

“I understand what you mean, Inspector. I got up early thismorning – I couldn’t sleep anyway – and I went to Bedome to check.Everyone told me yes, that Gladys had been there yesterday and shehad left some time before sunset to go back to Ketanu.”

True, less than twenty-four hours had passed, Fiti reflected,but he agreed this was all very troubling. Gladys Mensah was aserious girl – reliable, solid, and smart. And beautiful. Very,very lovely indeed. So, yes, Fiti took this seriously. He jottedsome notes on a legal pad, sitting slightly sideways because hisrotund belly prevented him from pulling up close to his desk. Fitiwas approaching the half-century mark in age, and most of theweight he had recently been gaining had gone to his midsection.

“Something else I want to tell you,” Charles said. “Maybe it’snothing, but while I was on my way to Bedome this morning, I spoketo some farmers who have their plots near the forest. They told methat while they were working yesterday evening, they saw SamuelBoateng talking to Gladys as she was on her way back toKetanu.”

Inspector Fiti’s eyes narrowed. “Is that so?”

He didn’t like the Boateng family much. Samuel, the secondoldest boy, was a ruffian who had once stolen a packet of PKchewing gum from a market stall.

“Have you asked Samuel or his father about it?” Fiti said.

“We don’t speak to the Boatengs,” Charles said tersely.

Fiti pressed his lips together. “Don’t worry, I’ll go and seethem myself.”

∨Wife of the Gods∧

Two

Efia was a Trokosi,which meant that she belonged to the gods. Eighteen years ago, heruncle Kudzo beat a man to death with a branch from a baobab tree.Over the next several months, bad things began to happen to thefamily: crops failed because of drought, Efia’s mother had astroke, and a cousin drowned in a river. Everyone in the familypanicked. Even though Uncle Kudzo had been imprisoned for hiscrime, it appeared the gods were punishing the family for what hehad done. This was the only reasonable explanation for the horribleseries of events that had been taking place, and who knew how manymore catastrophes were to be meted out by the gods?

The family elders went to the Bedome shrine to consult withTogbe Adzima, chief and High Priest of the village. Adzima, who wasan intermediary between the physical world and the spirit world,said yes, there was most certainly a way out of this predicament.The family needed to bring a female child to serve at the shrine.Efia, twelve at the time, was the perfect choice. She was handedover to Adzima to learn “moral ways.” This would restore goodfortune to the family. As a trokosi, though, she officiallybelonged to the gods and was to bear their children through TogbeAdzima. He had three other trokosi and nineteen children amongthem. The wives cooked for him, cleaned, made palm wine, andharvested crops. Every penny from the sale of foodstuffs went tohim.

And there lay the heart of the matter. Whatever the supposedreason for the women serving at the shrine, despite their beingsometimes loftily called “wives of the gods,” they were the sourceof all Togbe’s plenty, and that made life very good for him.

Whenever Efia looked back on the day her new life as a trokosibegan, she flinched with the pain of the memory. She and theextended family had walked about sixteen kilometers from their homevillage to the shrine, bearing all kinds of gifts for Togbe. Efiadidn’t understand why she was being cleaved from her family. Shecried and cried and could not stop.

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