“What are we going to do?” Sewa said to her husband.
Babatunde shifted and placed his hands beneath his head. The window was open and a gentle breeze blew in, he turned to look at the pure white, full moon in the sky and felt at peace.
He turned to face her. “I heard you. We continue the business.”
“We lost everything, how can we continue the business?”
“We have to borrow more money…”
“Borrow more money? Who will lend us? We haven’t even paid the one we borrowed to stock the shop.”
“We just have to move on. The only other option we have is to continue to cry over what has happened.”
She shook her head. “Babatunde, I don’t think I can borrow money from anyone at this point, not when I don’t even know how I will repay it.”
“So what do you want us to do?”
“That’s what I’m asking you.”
Babatunde sighed. “Maybe I should go back to my carpentry work.”
“What about your job in the local government?”
“I’ll do both together, at least until we can raise the money for you to restock the shop again.”
“When will you have the time to…?”
“You don’t like all my ideas, yet you cannot provide one. What is it you really want?”
“Don’t be offended…” she touched his arm.
Babatunde shrugged her hand off, turned on his side and stared at the moon again.
Inspector Toye couldn’t concentrate, he stared blankly at the file in his hands and didn’t see Doyin come into the small, stuffy office.
He jumped and sighed. “Doyin. What is it?”
“I should be asking you that question.” the slim police officer sat down and patted his full afro. His fair skin gleaming with Vaseline. “Why are you staring into space?”
Toye shook his head and closed the file in his hand. “This woman who just came to report a robbery in her shop, her case is similar to this other woman, Sewa Olaiya.”
“They both restocked one day, and by the next morning they were robbed.”
“Is it in the same locality?”
“Yes, the same Alafia community.”
“Are they related in any way?”
“That is what I’m yet to find out.”
Toye stared at the file again.
“Toye! What is it?”
“Nothing serious,” he replied unconvincingly.
“Really? It looks serious enough to me.”
Toye told him of Becky’s announcement to him the night before. Doyin whistled.
“Do her parents know yet?”
“Good, let her do an abortion, I know some…”
“She says she won’t do it.”
“She won’t? So what does she want?”
Toye laughed mirthlessly. “She wants me to meet her parents and claim responsibility.”
Doyin looked at his partner unbelievingly for a moment and then burst out laughing. “You’ve been cornered by a teenage girl!”
“This is not even funny Doyin. I am not ready for a child, not to talk of marriage.”
“Then you shouldn’t have been fooling around with a small girl.”
“So now you’re blaming me?”
“What are you going to do?” Doyin sat up.
Toye dropped the file in his hands onto the old wooden table. “I don’t know. Look, let’s go to this woman’s place again.”
“The first victim, Sewa Olaiya.”
Doyin started to laugh again as they walked out of the building and out onto the busy streets of Alafia.
Becky was arranging bruised tomatoes in small rusted tins on the table in front of her mother’s wooden deteriorating stall, where they sold, tomatoes, peppers, water leaf, ugwu leaves, ground melon, and bottles of palm oil and vegetable oil and seasoning cubes. Behind her, her mother, Rose, was talking with a young mother who had brought a basket of smoked cod fish to her to sell.
“I can only take ten of them for now. Let me see how well people buy them.”
“People will buy them,” the woman said appealingly, adjusting the baby on her back. “Please take more.”
“Do you want me to be indebted to you? I said I can only take ten for now.”
The smell of the decomposing tomatoes and smoked fish nauseated Becky but she continued to do her work and hope that she could find an excuse to leave the stall. Suddenly she felt an upheaval in her stomach and she knew that she would throw up. Swiftly, she dashed out of the stall and threw up the fufu and vegetable soup that she had eaten the night before. She retched violently, bending over and clutching her stomach as spasm after spasm shook her plump body. Behind her, Rose was holding some water in a dirty white plastic, saying nothing, her lips firm.
“Clean your mouth,” she said to her when she finally raised herself up.
Becky did as she was told and wiped her mouth and tried not to pay attention to the acidity on her tongue.
Rose dismissed the fish seller and arranged the fish on the table where the other goods were displayed, beside the wilted ugwu leaves. Becky went into the stall and carried her eighteen month old baby sister, who had been crying for attention.
Inspectors Toye and Doyin waited outside the door to Sewa’s house, going over the questions they wanted to ask her. The door opened and Sewa stepped outside to the balcony, a worried frown on her face.
“Good morning,” she said to Toye.
“Good morning madam, this is my colleague Inspector Doyin, we are here to ask you some more questions.”
“All right. Please sit down.” she pointed at the low bench close to the door.
Toye brought out a notepad from his breast pocket and opened it. “Do you know a Mrs Goke?”
“Yes, she lives here in Alafia, about five streets away from here.”
“No, I don’t know… wait, does she sell cake ingredients?”
“Mama Layo, yes I know her.”
“Well, her shop was also robbed, just like yours was. It was done in the middle of the night as well.”
“That’s bad… do you know who did it?”
“No, that’s why we are here.” Inspector Doyin interjected. “We need you to think hard about who you think might have done this. Did you get into a fight with anyone, or discuss your business with any one?”
“I’ve already answered these questions, there’s no one I suspect. The only people who really know about my business are husband and friends…”
“And you don’t suspect any of them?”
“No! Why should I? I’ve known all them for years. Or am I to suspect my husband who planned everything with me? What does he have to gain? Haven’t you discovered anything, or are you counting on my suspicion to carry out your investigation?”
At this, both men could only look at one another.
“Thank you madam,” inspector Toye said embarrassed. “We will let you know if we have any more information.”
Sewa nodded and left them sitting there.
They had just finished eating dinner, Becky and her siblings had packed up the plates and cleaned them. She returned to the little room which had been partitioned into a sitting room and a sleeping area when Rose said to her daughter sullenly.
Rose was seated on a worn sofa, an old wooden table in front of her, upon which a kerosene lantern sat.
“Who is the father?” she asked simply, her thick legs spread apart.
“Ma?” Becky replied fearfully, sitting on the low stool opposite her mother.
“The child you’re carrying, who is the father?”
Becky looked at her hands.
“Tell me the truth, you don’t have to be afraid.”
“It is Uncle Toye.”
“Which Uncle Toye?”
“A… a police officer who lives in Pa Jinadu’s house…”
“Police officer?” Rose sat up. “Is he married?”
“He’s not married? Does he know?”
“And what did he say?”
“He said I should do something about it…”
“Do something about what?” Rose sat forward and slapped her daughter’s back cheerfully. “For once, you have made me proud. Do you know his house?”
“Very good! We will go there tomorrow.”
“What about Daddy?”
“When he gets back tomorrow he will be very happy. Don’t worry my daughter, you have done the most important thing we need right now. Come and sit here, how long gone are you?”
Becky smiled and went to sit by her mother’s side. “About two months.”
The next evening as Toye approached his home with two leaves of steaming hot moin-moin and a loaf of bread, he saw Becky, a heavy woman who appeared to be her mother and Pa Jinadu. They were chatting amicably in front of the building, sitting on the low wooden bench.
“Good evening,” he said uncertainly as Becky shot to her feet.
“That’s him!” she said.
“Good evening,” the heavy woman said, rising to her feet with a straight face. “My daughter told me that you are the one responsible for her pregnancy.”
Toye looked at her falteringly. “Madam…”
“I have not come here to fight. Her father is a bricklayer, he works on houses in the big city. He’s coming back in two days. All I need you to do is come and ask for my daughter’s hand in marriage…”
“Yes, we do not have illegitimate children in our family and she says she loves you. You will come and ask for her hand in marriage and all will be well.”
Pa Jinadu started to hum, with the shadow of a smile on his face.
“Madam, I’m not even sure if the baby she’s carrying is mine…”
“Are you trying to say that my daughter is a loose girl?”
“Madam, I …”
“She’s just fifteen years old, if you think you can call my daughter manes, then I’ll tell the whole world that you are a rapist! Come, Becky!”
The woman dragged the plump teenager after her, leaving Toye standing, mouth agape.
“The bad people didn’t get you today…” Pa Jinadu said and held his transistor radio up to his ears.
Inspector Toye sighed and walked into the house.