Gold of Our Fathers
The fourth book in the Darko Dawson series, 2016
CAST OF CHARACTERS
commander, Ghana Police Service, Ashanti Region.
• Police jurisdictions: For purposes of the story, the police station at Dunkwa is depicted as being under Kumasi Regional Headquarters in the Ashanti Region. In fact, Dunkwa is in the Central Region on its border with the Ashanti Region. Therefore, its head office is actually at Cape Coast Regional Headquarters.
• Opposite to Europe and the USA, June to August is the coolest season in Ghana due to rainfall during those months.
• Ghanaian languages such as Ga, Twi, Ewe, and Fante are distinct, not “dialects” of each other.
Dark gravel, the gray-and-black color of an aging man’s beard, renders the most gold. One has to dig beyond the water table to reach the coveted ore. As far as Kudzo Gablah’s eye could see, machine-excavated pits and craters disfigured the once lush landscape. Mounds of tawny soil surrounded each scooped-out depression, as if a giant hand had reached inside the earth and turned it inside out.
Short-handled shovel in hand, Kudzo stood in the middle of one of the craters, his old ill-fitting Wellington boots sinking into the soft earth. At the top of the pit, which was more than twice Kudzo’s height of five-eleven, his four fellow
He planted his first stab deep into the gravel, enjoying the crisp sound of earth giving way to the sharp blade. He and the other guys would be digging all day. It would be especially grueling without the aid of the hydraulic excavator, which had broken down two days ago. Their Chinese boss, Bao Liu, had said he would come in early this morning to attempt a repair of the vehicle, but he was nowhere to be seen. It was almost 6:30 now, and that was odd because when Mr. Liu said he was going to arrive early, he meant
Kudzo looked up to see Wei Liu carefully making his way toward them over a narrow muddy crest at the top of one of the pits. About thirty-five, he was Bao’s younger brother, but the two were as unlike as a yam tuber and a thin stalk of sugar cane. Wei was stout, while his older brother was hard and wiry. Bao yelled a lot and insulted people, whereas Wei was quiet and sullen. They knew some English and a little bit of Twi. Between those two languages, they managed to communicate with the Ghanaian workers. Sometimes Kudzo and his friends made fun of the Chinese brothers’ accents and mimicked the sound of Chinese as they perceived it. Kudzo didn’t like Wei, much less his older brother.
“Where Bao?” Wei asked Kudzo abruptly, without even a “good morning.”
“Please, I don’t know,” Kudzo said, thinking,
“Yeah,” Wei said. “Four twenty this morning.”
Looking worried, Wei left to examine the excavator. Something was jammed in the hydraulic arm attached to the bucket-the huge, clawed scooper shaped like a cupped hand. As far as Kudzo knew, Bao and Wei were supposed to have tried to repair it early this morning, and Bao’s truck was parked in the usual spot.
Kudzo’s companions picked up their shovels and slid down into the pit beside him. Before long, they would be smeared with mud as they worked. The warmth of the morning hinted at the heat that would begin to peak before noon. As fit as the young workers were, they still found the ten working hours physically and mentally punishing. Not everyone could do it. Dropping out after a few weeks was common, especially for city boys. Unable to handle the pace and intensity, they often packed up and left. Sprains and injuries happened all the time, and two drowning incidents had occurred during the last rainy season. All this pain and exertion for what? Sometimes only a few specks of gold after all the ore had been washed at the end of the day. But every once in a while, a dazzling amount of the glittering yellow metal was found, and then it all seemed worth it again.
The boys coordinated smoothly with each other. Kudzo shoveled soft, clayey gravel rapidly into a wide shallow pan, which Gbedema snatched from between his feet and lifted onto Dzigbodi’s head. On his way to the sluice box where Kweku washed the gravel, Dzigbodi would pass Kwame going in the opposite direction to pick up his new load from Kudzo. Throughout the day, they would rotate positions. It was like a dance.
At intervals, they chattered noisily with one another to break the grinding monotony, sometimes making crude jokes at each other’s expense, and at other times shouting encouragement when one of them flagged. They depended on each other to keep going. Occasionally an argument might break out, but it was seldom more than fleeting.
Kudzo glanced up to see Wei on his phone again-not talking, just calling, but then he put it away when apparently no one answered. He was probably trying to get hold of his brother again.
At the top of the pit on the side where they were working, the earth was a light brown with an orange tinge, in contrast to the gray-and-black beneath it-as if someone had recently dumped soil taken from a different area. Kudzo was sure it had not been that way the day before, and he remarked on it ...