Abowu District Episode 17

Mama and Baba Abegunde sat outside their mud house, enjoying the cool breeze, their stomachs full from stretchy pounded yam and flavourful egusi soup. It really should have been a pleasant morning, but they were both worried about their son, Toye. The matriarch had given an unexaggerated account of all that had happened in Abowu and caused the old man to worry.
“I think we should call him home and have a talk with him.” He said.
“And what do you think I was doing while I was there?”
“So what do we do?”
“I think we should have the girl come and live with us, so that when she gives birth, we can at least take care of her. When the child is weaned, she can go back to live with him.”
“But that doesn’t solve the problem of his changed behaviour.”
“There is nothing we want to say to him that I haven’t already said. Shall I tell you the truth? The only person I am really worried about in all of this, is the innocent child they’re bringing into this world. Let the girl come here.”
“Would Toye agree to that?”
“We will have to wait and see.”
**********
Doyin opened a bottle of cold beer and poured it into the dark brown glass in front of Toye.
“Those Lebanese people are the only ones who always have cold drinks.”
“Is that so?” Toye said indifferently.
“They just come here to take all our money and build luxurious mansions in their country.”
“At least, you’re enjoying some of this money. I don’t know what real money looks like.”
“What do you mean?” Doyin laughed.
“The meagre amount that we’re paid, that isn’t even enough to feed my family is not money. I want to know what real money looks like. The one that can buy these nice chairs and rent this big house.”
Doyin’s laughter waned to an unsure smile. “Are you sure?”
“Yes, of course!”
Doyin leaned closer and said in a low voice. “Then close the robbery case in Alafia.”
“What do you mean?”
“I mean close the case, no suspects, no witnesses, no leads, and no case.”
“But we have leads…” Toye said cluelessly.
Doyin laughed mirthlessly. “You’re not getting my point.” he moved even closer to him. “You do not have any leads, any witnesses. No case, it is finished.”
Toye stared blankly, trying to comprehend what he was saying. “No case…?”
“Yes, no case. I have bosses who would be very glad to hear that… they will reward you for closing the case.”
Toye now understood him perfectly. “You want me to close the case and I will be rich like you?”
“Precisely.”
Toye rubbed his eyes as if to remind himself that this was real. “I should close the case… and who are these bosses?”
“That’s not for you to know. At least, not yet.”
“And what do I tell Bala?”
“You can think about it, but make sure it is believable. Close the case and you will be rewarded beyond your wildest imagination. Annabelle would be very proud of you.”
“And why are you bringing her into this?”
“Isn’t she important to you? Would you not like to take good care of her? Do you want someone else to take your place? Because there are many men who know how and are willing to take care of her.”
“Close the case…” Toye said with a humorless smile and sipped his drink.
**********
Becky missed her mother-in-law sorely. She hadn’t realized how much help she’d been until she woke up at almost noon and discovered that there was no was no warm water ready for her bath. There was no kerosene and she had had to buy and carry some firewood from down the street. Brunch had been another hurdle, peeling the yam, boiling it, pounding it and warming up the soup that Mama had made the previous night. By the time she had eaten and had her bath, Becky was exhausted.
She lay on her bed and fell into a fitful sleep.
**********
Babatunde was sawing off some wood and whistling a highlife tune when Sewa came to him with a cup of water.
“Thank you,” he drank and made to hand her the cup when he noticed the faraway look in her eyes. “You’re still thinking about what that man did?”
“My mother always said that a good name is worth more than riches. I don’t have money, and now I don’t have a good name.”
“You do, what that man did does not mean that you cannot repair your image.”
“What do you mean?”
“I know you will not like what I’m about to say…”
“Say it.”
“I think you should stop looking for contract jobs…”
Sewa sighed.
“And start selling food from here…”
“Here?”
“Yes, from our house here. Put your food in big food warmers and sell from here. I know people will buy it.”
“Just as you were sure that I would make money from cooking for the Ministries.”
“Sewa, things were different…”
“Please Babatunde, stop experimenting with my life!”
**********
Becky was sitting on Pa Jinadu’s bench when her water broke. At first she thought that she had wet herself but on her way to her room, she began to feel the first pangs of labour.
“Could this be it?” she thought as she changed her clothes.
By nightfall, she was certain. The pangs were coming in sporadically and they were unbearable. Toye was nowhere to be found.
**********
Toye had left Doyin’s house without giving him an answer. Not wanting to go home, he had taken a long walk, thinking about the conversation they had had but really about how much he was willing to compromise for money.
“…you will be rewarded beyond your wildest imagination. Annabelle would be very proud of you. Isn’t she important to you? …there are many men who know how and are willing to take care of her.”
Toye sat down at a bar and spent all the money he had left, drinking two bottles of beer slowly and taking comfort in the growing darkness.
**********
By eight, Becky was delirious with pain. Mama Adio and another female neighbour had taken her to a prayer house where an elderly woman was walking around her, jingling a bell and muttering inaudible prayers.
“Call my husband! Call my husband o! I want to die! I want to die!”
The elderly woman shushed her walked to the corner of the room with her neighbours.
“Instead of calling her husband, take her to the hospital. I don’t think I can handle this anymore. She is too weak for me to work with and there is sin in her life.”
It took them another hour before Becky was taken into the maternity ward of Abowu General Hospital. The nurse on duty told them plainly.
“Go and call her husband, they will have to spend a lot of money.”
“Where do we find Inspector Toye at this time of the night?” Mama Adio asked when the nurse had left.
“We go to the police station, at least someone there would know where he is.” Baba Adio said matter-of-factly.
**********
Annabelle paced her room, sighing and wondering what Toye would say when he came. Would he understand, would he do it? She was angry with herself. What if this was premature, what if he left her?
Deciding to distract herself with activity, she cooked, cleaned and painted her nails until there was a knock on the door. It was almost ten but she jumped up and opened it, already knowing who was there.
“Toye!” she gasped, hugging him tightly. He barely held her.
She led him into the room and sat him down at the table beside the bed.
“How is your mother?” Toye asked.
“She’s fine, the doctor said she just needs a lot of rest.”
“What was wrong wiTHBJBD
th her?”
“She had a heart attack.”
“But she will be fine?”
“Yes she will.”
There was an awkward silence between them.
“I cooked beans and fish sauce. I fried some plantains too.”
“I spoke with Doyin this afternoon.”
Annabelle let out her breath slowly.
“He wants me to close a case. If I do, I get a big reward.”
“And what did you tell him?”
“I haven’t told him anything yet.”
Annabelle sighed again, this time in relief.
“What do you want to tell him?”
“What do you think I should tell him?”
“We…”
There was a loud knock on the door and a voice that called urgently, “Toye! Toye!”
“Who is that?” Annabelle asked.
“It sounds like Doyin.”
He opened the door and Doyin burst in.
“Your wife is in labour! They’ve taken her to the hospital.”
“Why would they take her to the hospital? I don’t have money for that!”
“It’s an emergency, she’s not doing well.”
“When is she ever doing well?” he muttered as he stomped out of the room, with Doyin following.

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