Lola Opatayo

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Abowu District Episode 22


Hello dear reader, as I said last week Friday,  this is the last episode before my one month break.  I hope to see you here when I resume.

Thank you for being here. ❤


“Will you come and see us?” Becky asked Toye the next morning when they were getting ready to leave for Igba.
“Yes.” Toye muttered, wishing that they would let him go. He couldn’t wait to get to Anabelle.
“When will you come?” she insisted.
He shot her a malicious glance. “Won’t you get there first before you start asking me when I will visit?”
“I just want to know…”
“Know what? Please don’t bother me this early morning.” He stuck his hands in his pocket, withdrew a five naira note and handed it to his mother.
“Please manage this, I will come and give you more when I have it.”
Mama Abegunde pursed her lips in annoyance. “I don’t need your money to take care of my daughter and my grandson. “Keep it.”
He rolled his eyes. “Maami, please take this money…”
“I said keep it! Or are you deaf?”
“I can keep it for her…” Funmi offered with a mischievous smile on her face.
He hissed at her, murmured a grumpy goodbye and headed out of the room when it was pushed open. In walked Rose, Becky’s mother with a dirty looking plastic bag.
Toye sighed inwardly before he greeted her coldly.
“Why do you even bother to greet me, when you abandoned my daughter in the hospital? You didn’t even bother to send someone to tell me that she had been discharged.”
Mama Abegunde stared at Rose, taking in her bag, the untidy hair that peeked out from an unbalanced grey headtie, her rumpled clothes, plump body and dry feet. This was the woman who had raised her son’s wife.
“Good morning,” Mama said. “I am Toye’s mother…”
“Oh! You are the person who gave birth to this irresponsible young man who sleeps around with small girls?”
“Don’t you dare disrespect my mother, she is not your mate!”
“Better keep your mouth shut before I shut it for you. Obviously, those who should be advising you are not doing so…”
“My in-law,” Mama said trying to maintain the peace. Toye stared at Rose, trying to contain his rage. “There is no need to fight, I am going to make sure that your daughter is well taken care of.”
“It is a little too late for that. Where have you been all this time when your son has been maltreating my daughter?”
“Mother, please.” Becky pleaded. “I’m going with Mama to Igba, she will take care of me.”
“Going where? You are very foolish! You want to follow them to a strange place so that they can finish you off quietly? Why can’t you stay here with your husband? Have I taught you nothing?”
“Please my in-law…” Mama said gently.
“Don’t in-law me!” Rose screamed.
Toye couldn’t take it anymore. “Mama Becky, please, it is too early for this madness…”
Before he could finish his statement, Rose hit him hard across the cheeks, sending his head the other way. The sound silenced the room, everyone staring at Rose, and then at Toye.
“It is your mother who is mad! After all you have done? You think can treat me the way you treat my daughter? If your mother did not teach you manners, I will. Becky get up and let’s go.”
Toye had been holding his face, quivering with rage. Every muscle in his body itched to retaliate but he glared at her, struggling to maintain his composure.
“I’m going to say this just once. Leave this room and don’t come here again.”
“I’m not going anywhere, not without my daughter.”
Toye whirled as his gaze pounced on Becky. “Get your things, pack them all, take your son and go.”
She shook her head, eyes widening in terror. “I… won’t… I want to stay with Mama.”
“I said pack your things and go.” Toye repeated.
“I don’t want to…”
Rose couldn’t believe her daughter. “Becky, it is your mother who is talking to you? Would you choose a stranger over me?”
Mama Abegunde sat still and gazed at the ground. Becky was choosing her over her mother and the honour was overwhelming.
Toye was furious, he grabbed his beret, pushed past Rose and stomped out of the room. Becky started to whimper as Funmi silently giggled at the unfolding drama.
“It is alright. Stop crying.” Mama Abegunde said, patting the young mother on the back.
Rose didn’t need any more evidence to show that she wasn’t needed. “Alright, I will go. But when they fail you, don’t come running to me.”
It was still early in the morning when Toye set out for Anabelle’s place, and he was alone on the road. He walked briskly trying to feel as much heat as possible, it had rained overnight and the ground was wet too. He approached the hostel close to Annabelle’s house when he heard a whistling sound. He turned to see Afonja, he was wearing a short sleeved cream shirt on black baggy trousers.
“Afonja? What are you doing here? Why are you sneaking up on me?”
“Inspector, you haven’t done anything about the information I gave you.”
Toye stared blankly for a few seconds. “It’s not as easy as you think.”
“What isn’t easy Inspector?”
“There are things you can’t understand.”
“Inspector Toye…”
“Do you expect me to just go and arrest people without concrete proof?”
“What other proof do you need? I gave you the necessary information.”
“You said it yourself that you don’t know much about the gang. I cannot arrest them based on your word alone. I have to catch them in some crime.”
“Alright,” Afonja said and handed him a piece of paper. “That is Uche’s address. Go to his house, you will find all the information you’re looking for.”
Toye took it and glanced at it. “Thank you …”
“Inspector, don’t disappoint me.”
Toye looked at him, trying to decipher the look on his face. Afonja started to walk away from him and then turned round.
“Greet your woman for me, Anna, or isn’t that her name?”
Before Toye could respond, Afonja had gone far away from him. Cringing from the encounter, he hastened towards Annabelle’s house.
Becky started to regret her decision to go with Mama Abegunde when she saw how quiet and rural Igba was. Most of the houses were made of mud and animals freely roamed around. There was no electricity and she hadn’t heard the sound of music. Baba Abegunde had received her lukewarmly, barely paying her any attention. She had been introduced to Toye’s younger siblings, all of whom were older than her. The more she evaluated her situation, the more she realized how much older her husband was and the ridiculousness of it all.
Toye’s siblings had greeted her with slight indifference, and all gone about their different activities. When it was just her and her mother-in-law at home, the old woman sat by her and began to talk to her.
“I have brought you here for a reason. There are many things you don’t know and I can see that you are unprepared for some of them. When you are stronger, I will teach you things before you go back to Abowu. You must be stronger. Sometimes you will be unhappy here but you must learn to take it as part of your training. Nobody will do anything for you here. First you must rest, the rest will follow.” She looked down at the child in his mother’s arms. “Your husband has refused to name this boy, so I will call him Bolutife.”
Later that night, while Becky was breastfeeding Bolutife, Mama brought in her dinner. But as Becky was about to eat, Funmi’s older sister, Funto, barged into the room.
“Maami, you didn’t tell me that you brought a queen to this house. Why can’t she get up and get her food herself?”
“Funto, her mother said sternly. “Have you no sense, barging in here unannounced? And is it I that you’re talking to in that manner?”
“I’m sorry…”
“I explained to you that she had an operation, why can’t you be reasonable? You just barged in here like a stray cow!”
“I’m sorry Maami.”
Becky made an enemy that night, for Funto vowed to get back at Becky for the humiliation she had suffered.
Bala was unhappy with Toye. He had received another letter from the residents of Alafia, lamenting about yet another robbery. They had asked when they would stop, and threatened to write the zonal DPO if change weren’t seen soon.
And so Toye stood still in front of his boss, head bowed.
“It seems that you’re not equipped for this job. So, I am demoting you…”
“Sir? No sir! Please don’t do that! I have a lead that I am working on.”
“What lead?”
He gave him fuzzy details about Afonja’s meeting with him and hoped that it was enough to pique his interest. It was.
“You have two weeks to bring this nonsense to an end. If not, you’re demoted.”
“Yes sir.”
“What did Bala want to see you for?”
“Nothing,” Toye muttered, and flung open a file.
Doyin threw a pile of the day’s newspapers at him and began to hum. Toye glanced at them cursorily and then stared absentmindedly at the file in his hands. But something about the front page made him look again. He read the headline and froze.
Beneath the headline was the picture of Afonja Elewe. Toye grabbed the paper and began to read. Apparently, Afonja had been found beside the church, by the community vigilante the previous night. He had been beaten and strangled to death. Beside his picture was that of his wailing widow.
“They say it was gang related. I’m investigating it.” Doyin said.
“Is that so?” Toye asked in a strained voice.
“Yes, he didn’t like the police very much. There was only one person he liked.”
Toye’s eyes flew up, he waited for Doyin to speak.
“He didn’t say who. His wife said that he wouldn’t reveal the person even to her.”
Toye cleared his throat and spoke as confidently as he could. “I knew there was something shady about that guy. He looked guilty of something, I think I told you that.”
Toye set the paper aside and began to think about Bala’s deadline and what he could do about it. Doyin got up from his chair, scraping the legs against the floor. Toye looked up at him coldly.
“What did he tell you?”
“You mean Afonja?”
“No, his father.”
Toye winced. “I told you what he said, he said that his mother was scared of someone and he didn’t want to talk about his neighbour.”
“Are you sure?”
“Of course, why would I lie? Why are you even questioning me?”
“I hope you’re telling me the truth Toye?”
“You know I am,” he said confidently, feigning annoyance at being so questioned.
“Alright. Think about what I told you, it’s for your own good.”
Toye stared at him as he walked out, holding his breath and remembering Afonja’s words.
“Inspector, don’t disappoint me.”

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