by Kwei Quartey
In equatorial Africa, day breaks around 5:30 a.m. no matter the time of year. Morning preparations at the Voyager Hotel in Accra, Ghana follow a similar timetable. The breakfast buffet is laid out, the day staff arrives to take over from the graveyard shift, the janitor sweeps the lobby, and tour buses and hired cars park in readiness at the front of the hotel.
Jost Miedema also has a set routine each morning. His alarm goes off at 5:40, and he rises and changes out of his pajamas. His busy schedule begins with a one-hour swim. Leaving his hotel chalet, he walks across the lawn to the pool, enjoying the feeling of the springy grass underfoot. A former triathlete, he’s a healthy forty-five. To his left stands the main hotel, a square, salmon-colored, two-story building that is neither shabby nor stylish, and where accommodations are significantly cheaper than his chalet. Fortunately, his company pays for his luxury.
The lights around the pool deck are off, but there is already enough illumination from the sun’s nascent rays. He tosses his towel onto one of the umbrella tables, pulls his goggles over his head and presses them against his eyes to make a tight seal. As he walks to the edge of the pool, he sees a shadow at the bottom of the deep end.
Thomas, the gardener, is unfurling the hose to water the canna lilies in the hotel’s back garden. He is the first person to hear the cries for help. He drops the hose and runs around the corner to the swimming pool, where he finds Mr. Miedema on the deck kneeling over a naked white woman and pumping her chest hard with both hands. She is ghostly pale except for her head and neck, which are purplish. Her arms and legs are flexed upward in the rigor of death.
“She’s drowned!” Mr. Miedema screams at him. “Go and get the doctor!”
Thomas turns around and begins to run as Amadu, the night security guard, comes rushing in the opposite direction.
“Call the doctor!” Thomas yells to him. “Somebody drown!”
Amadu runs back to the hotel to get the doctor. As Mr. Miedema continues CPR, Thomas hovers, his hand over his open mouth as he exclaims in distress, “Ao! Ao!”
A spectator crowd, mostly hotel staff, is forming at one end of the pool. Thomas takes off his shirt and covers the woman’s private parts.
Amadu returns with Dr. Franklin, a squat balding man still in his pajamas.
“What happened?” he asks, crouching beside Mr. Miedema.
“Found her at the bottom of the pool when I came to swim,” he says, out of breath.
“Oh, my God,” Franklin mutters. “I think she’s long gone. Stop compressions a moment.”
He palpates her neck with his fingertips, feeling for the carotid pulse. There is none. Her eyes stare up without seeing and her body is as cold and lifeless as a stone statue.
He shakes his head sadly. “We’re too late.”
Copyright © 2013 Kwei Quartey
Read about the real life mystery and tragedy that triggered the idea for Death at the Voyager Hotel: KweiQuartey.com.