Becky hadn’t seen Toye in almost a week. She wasn’t anxious, rather she simmered with anger, wondering why he hadn’t come home and why his mother seemed to be content with her son’s behaviour. She considered going to his office to make a scene but these days, she was too heavy to go and make trouble anywhere. She spent her days getting as comfortable as possible, even as her stomach got bigger. She didn’t have any more money to buy the prayer candles.
Mama Abegunde was tired of being in Abowu. She was tired of the noisy environment, stuffy little room and the incessant fighting between Toye and Becky. She desperately wanted to breathe the clean air of Igba and sleep on her mat. She missed talking to her husband in front of their house in the evenings and looked forward to seeing her younger children again. The old woman was heartbroken at what her son had become and it grieved her to see him become less and less of the man that she had raised him to be.
It had now become her daily prayer that Becky would give birth as soon as possible, so that she could leave her in good conscience. Mama Abegunde’s favorite thing to do was to take strolls in the evening towards the market where she had made friends with a frail old woman who sold cold pap in leaves. Iya Eta as she was popularly known sold her goods beside the rock that marked the entrance to the market.
It was the fifth day since Toye had walked away from their home and refused to return, he had never been gone for so long, and Mama couldn’t understand how her son could be bold enough to leave his heavily pregnant wife. She walked into the market and sat on the bench where Iya Eta sat.
“Mama Toye, you look troubled. Is it your son again?” Iya Eta asked.
“Yes my friend, it is always my son who troubles me so.”
“What is it this time around?”
“He has refused to come home for days.”
“It’s because he knows that you’re there with his wife.”
“So you think he would have come home if I wasn’t there?”
“Yes. I think you should go back to Igba, leave them to sort out their lives. You’re only making the girl lazy and turning yourself into a maid. Let your son face his responsibilities.”
“But I can’t leave her now.”
“Doesn’t she have a mother who can take care of her?”
“I fear what that woman can do to my son.”
“Have you met her before?”
“You should have met her! How can you have an in-law you have never met? And why are you afraid of her if you haven’t met her before?”
“I have met her daughter, and any girl who was raised that way must have an aggressive mother.”
“You should still meet with her. Have your son arrange a meeting between you two. The both of you should talk about the problems your children are having and what can be done about them.”
Mama Abegunde had her doubts about her friend’s advice. “Well, my son has to come home first.”
Toye knocked on the white gate on Havillah Street where Mr. McArthur lived. The gate opened and a middle-aged man dressed in a uniform peeked out of it. Seeing that it was a police officer, he opened the gate wider.
“Good morning sir!” he saluted.
“Good morning, is this where Mr. McArthur lives?”
“Is he in?”
Toye sighed audibly. “What about his wife, Mrs. McArthur, is she in?”
“Yes sir, please come in.”
Toye was later escorted into the tastefully furnished sitting room of the McArthurs, where Mrs McArthur was seated gracefully. Her thick, black hair had been rolled into curls that bounced around her round face. She wore a checkered brown gown that stopped at her knees. Toye noticed her glowing skin and dainty nails.
“Good morning,” she greeted lukewarmly, eyeing him with misgiving.
“Good morning Madam, I’m Inspector Toye, from the Abowu District Police station. I am here in respect of your employee, one Mrs Okafor…”
“Philomena?” Her misgiving was replaced with irritation.
“Well, I hope you’re here to say that you’ve found that thief!”
“Thief?” Toye asked.
“Yes,” Mrs McArthur replied, raising her voice slightly. Toye swiftly brought out his notepad and began to take notes. “She stopped coming to work last week Tuesday. I initially thought that one of her children was ill, as she told me that one of them had a fever the previous day. But when I didn’t see after two days and began to notice the missing china, silverware, jewelry and children’s clothes, I realized that my housekeeper had cleverly burgled my house. We still don’t know how much she’s taken, but obviousy, she had been doing it gradually.”
Toye was writing furiously. “Didn’t the guard notice any suspicious activity?”
“Unfortunately not, it would have been difficult to. She usually went home with the day’s left-overs in a covered basket.”
Toye wrote that down. “Can you tell me more about her? What do you know about her family?”
“Her husband worked with NEPA, but I think that he stopped going there after a while.”
“Because she began to come to work late, and it was always because she had to prepare breakfast or run some errand for her husband.”
“When I asked her if her husband hadn’t gone to work, she simply said no.”
“And did the lateness continue?”
“No, it stopped after that day, but she would mention that she had to be back home on time to prepare the evening meal.”
“Is that so?”
“Why are you asking me about her?”
“Well, she and her husband are under suspicion in connection with some robberies.”
Mrs McArthur sat back in her chair. “Is that so?”
“Yes, and I have only told you that because of the things you just told me. You need to be on guard, I suggest tighter security measures. She… they… might decide to come back here.”
The woman gasped. “After all I have done for that woman! When I first met her, her clothes were faded and frayed. I had to give her some of my sister’s old clothes to avoid being embarrassed by her appalling appearance.”
Toye smiled tightly, asked her a few more questions and bade her farewell.
Sewa was in the office of Mrs. Giwa, the officer in charge of the event planning at the Ministry of Agriculture. It was a hot day and the standing fan in front of her barely brought any relief. She shifted in her seat and stifled a yawn, she didn’t want the woman to find her sleeping. Mrs. Giwa came in through the opened door and wriggled her big body into her chair.
“Mrs. Olaiya, have you been here for a long time?”
“Not too long ma,” she said even though she’d been waiting for about an hour and a half.
“You’re supposed to come and collect the money for the foodstuff isn’t it?”
“Yes ma,” Sewa replied earnestly.
“Well, I’m sorry we have found someone else.”
“Ma?” Sewa sat up straight.
“Yes, I heard that you take people’s money and run away before the event. I can’t allow you to put me in trouble, so, I’ve found someone else.”
“Me? Who told you that ma? I’m not a thief!”
“Well that’s what I heard from the Ministry of Works.”
Sewa realized that that was where Mr Olasehinde worked. She shook her head sadly and rose. “Alright ma.”
Doyin watched Toye discreetly from the top of the file in his hands. He seemed lost in thought.
“What is the problem?” he asked.
“What?” Toye asked startled and sat up in his chair.
“What are you thinking about?”
“I’m thinking about these robberies in Alafia.”
“What about them?”
“There’s a couple who I suspect are in the middle of the whole thing, and the fact that they moved out of their house shortly after I visited them makes me even more sure of it.”
“They moved out of their house?”
“And do you know where they moved to?”
“No, not yet. But I will find them out and find a way of bringing them in for questioning.”
“Is that so?” Doyin said.
Toye didn’t see the hard look on his friend’s face, he was going over his notes again.
Annabelle had sent someone to Toye to let him know that she had been called home urgently by her mother. Despair sank into his soul as he realized that he would have no choice but to go home and face his mother and wife.
His mother was not in when he entered the room, he met Becky though. She lay on their bed naked, fanning herself with an old magazine. Toye was momentarily taken aback by the size of her stomach.
“How big is the child she’s carrying?” he thought.
“You’ve come back,” she said.
“What kind of person are you? You left me alone for almost a week, and you didn’t even bother about how I was doing? What if I had given birth?”
“You would have found a way to reach me,” he said unfeelingly and began to take off his shoes.
The door opened and Mama Abegunde walked in slowly.
“You are back, have you eaten?”
“Good evening Maami, I just got in.”
Later that night, Mama called her son outside, and talked to him about meeting her in-laws.
“You want to meet who?”
“Maami, you can’t meet those people. I don’t want to have anything to do with them. The less of them I see, the better.”
“But I want to meet them, perhaps we can find a solution to this problem between you and your wife.”
Toye laughed coldly. “That is why you want to meet them? Who told you that I want to reconcile with her? Haven’t I told you that I’m marrying someone else?”
“Toye, you cannot marry another woman. Did your father marry another woman? Why are you hell bent on doing this?”
“Did my father marry a useless, dirty, girl?” he retorted.
The old woman was taken aback. “Are you taking back at me? Did your father impregnate a child? What foolish behavior are you exhibiting?”
“Maami, you’re beginning to annoy me with this nagging behaviour. I’m no longer a boy, you can’t be talking to me as if I’m a child.”
“Toye, is it I your mother who is beginning to annoy you?”
“Maami, I have had a long day. This is why I don’t come home, you people give me too much trouble!”
He got up and walked away from her.
“Toye! Toye! Are you walking away from me? Come back here!”
Toye came back to her side reluctantly. “Maami, when are you leaving?”
“When am I leaving?”
“Yes, I think we’re troubling you too much.”
Mama Abegunde heard his message loud and clear. “Tomorrow.”
The next morning, she left before sunrise and walked into her house at Igba late in the morning, weeping for her son.