Toye watched the blood and saliva dripping from his mouth to his thighs, his head dangling from his neck. One of Richard’s bodyguards had just punched him in the mouth with a chain wrapped around his hand. All night, it had been a cycle of beating, interrogation, and persuasion.
“Tell me who you tipped off,” Richard asked, puffing out cigarette smoke.
“Boss, I didn’t tell anyone… I swear…”
Red Eye hissed. “Boss, let us get the other instruments, this man won’t talk unless we push him to his limit.”
The door of the dark interrogation room opened and Jay came in. He whispered something in Richard’s ear as the other listened with rapt attention. Jay stepped away from him and folded his arms.
“Let him go,” Richard said to the amazement of everyone who had previously been in the room.
The ropes around Toye were cut and he slid to the floor from the pole he had been tied to, exhausted and delirious with pain.
“Clean him up and get him something to eat.”
With that, Richard went out of the room with Jay.
“Thank your lucky stars,” Red Eye whispered in Toye’s ears before he was carried out of the room.
Doyin was pacing Richard’s second living room, the one he reserved for special guests and secret meetings when the latter and Jay walked in.
“I hope you didn’t beat him up too bad Boss, because you’ve got the wrong person.”
Richard sat in the soft armchair opposite him and held out his hand towards Jay for a drink. The latter quickly placed a glass of whiskey in it. He took a sip of it and said, “Is your friend so important that you have forgotten the protocol?”
“I apologize Boss, good morning.”
“Tell me what you know before I can decide if it is a good morning or not.”
“I didn’t go to my mother’s place as I said. I went to Idi Iroko, because I got a tip from one of my men there. He told me that…” he lowered his voice at this point. “He’d seen Red Eye in the company of some unfamiliar customs officials.”
Richard stopped drinking and stared at him.
“I didn’t believe it too, and that is why I lied about where I was going. I wanted to confirm the information before telling you anything, I know how long he has been in this gang.”
“What did you discover?”
“He has an uncle who is a customs official, his uncle slept with my man’s girlfriend so he was very chatty. He said Red Eye would get a cut from the sales of the seized goods. He was there two nights ago, I saw him with my own eyes talking to the man at a local bar.”
Richard took another sip of his drink. “What about the policemen in custody?” he said to Jay.
“I’ve sent Ufoma to them… with their breakfast.”
“I hope you gave her enough?”
“Yes Boss, I did. They won’t be saying anything.”
“Good, let’s go and have a talk with Red Eye.”
Toye was uneasy, he knew that Annabelle would be worried about him and he also knew that Bala would be anxious to hear news of him. The man was impatient and he didn’t want him to sabotage his assignment with his inquiries. He had to find a way of getting out of the Boss’ house and back to Annabelle and Bala.
Richard came to see him after he had been cleaned up and given some food.
“You’re not eating?” Richard said, noting the untouched plate of jollof rice and plantains.
Richard took some spoonfuls of the food. “It’s not poisoned, eat it.”
Toye ate a few spoonfuls reluctantly before saying, “I need to go boss, my wife would be worried. I don’t want her alerting the police.”
“That is true, but you know that you cannot go to work.”
“Yes I do…”
“Don’t worry about that,” Doyin said. “I told Bala that your mother had a stroke.”
Toye would have stoned him with something under different circumstances but he said, “Thank you, how is Annabelle? I hope she’s not injured?”
“Why would she be injured?” Richard said.
“She tripped when she was chasing after Toye.” Doyin said.
Richard looked from one man to the other. “Is that so?” he asked Toye.
“Yes, it happened so fast.”
Becky had packed her bag before daybreak, she hadn’t been able to sleep, scared by the thought of Dapo sneaking back into her room. By the time Mama Abegunde got into her room Becky was dressed and ready to go. Baba Abegunde had given her some money to travel back and turned away afterwards.
“So, you’re leaving.”
“This is not the way I wanted things to happen. What are you going to do when you get to Abowu?”
“I’m going to see him, maybe if he sees me, he’ll know that I’ve changed and take me back.”
Mama smiled and pressed the money into her hands. “May good things happen to you.”
Mama Adio screamed when she saw Becky. Clad in her usual wrapper, she pulled up a bench and patted it.
“Sit down and tell me how you’ve been.”
Becky remained standing. “Where’s my husband please?”
“Why don’t you sit down and let me tell you.”
Becky saw that she had no choice but to sit, Mama Adio wouldn’t stop staring at her.
“You have changed! You’ve lost so much weight, your face is more mature, and look at your curves, it’s almost as if you’re a different person.”
“Thank you, please tell me where my husband is.”
“Hmm, your husband? He left this house the day you left. When he stopped paying the rent, Pa Jinadu gave out the room to someone else.”
Becky was shocked. “Do you know where he is?”
“I don’t, although someone told me that he’s married a beautiful fair woman.”
Becky laughed. “That is not possible. How can he get married when my in-laws did not present any bride price to any other family?”
Mama Adio broke out in laughter. “You are still naïve. People can do anything they want to do, and how do you know that your in-laws did not pay another bride price?”
Becky thought about this, refusing to believe that her in-laws would do such a thing to her.
“So how have you been? What has been happening to you? What really happened between you and your husband?”
Seeing that Mama Adio just wanted to fleece her for information, she got up and adjusted her baby on her back. “I should go now.”
“Where will you sleep tonight? I would have asked you to join us, but you know how many children I have and the place we’re all managing.”
“Yes, I know.” Becky said and bade her farewell.
Becky didn’t understand the look that her husband’s colleagues were giving her, it was a mix of pity and mockery.
“He’s not in today. His mother had a stroke,” the corporal she met on duty said.
“Whose mother?” she asked in confusion.
“Your husband, are you not aware that his mother is ill?”
Becky almost burst out in laughter and tears at the same time. “Can you tell me when he will be back?”
“Madam, am I his bodyguard? How can I answer that question?”
With no money and place to sleep, Becky decided to go to her parents.
Rose laughed when Becky recounted what had happened at Abowu.
“So, my dear daughter, what do you want me to do for you?”
“I need to find a place to sleep, maybe I could sleep here…?”
“Sleep where? The place you rejected for those evil people? I will not let you into this house, I don’t even have space for anyone else.”
“Mother, I know I have offended you but…”
“But what? Do you think I will ever forget what you did?”
Becky shuddered at the lack of empathy in her mother’s eyes. “Do you think I will ever forget that you chose an old snobbish woman over your own mother?”
“Now you know you have a mother? Please leave my house, I wish you all the best.”
“Go and find your own way, leave this place.”
Becky was famished, tired and getting afraid of what would happen to her and her child. What if she didn’t get a place to sleep, what would she do? She had just ten kobo left from the money that Baba Abegunde had given her. Walking along Thompson Road, she wiped the tears that had pooled in her eyes and thought about what she could do.
“That woman needs better servers,” she heard a man say, as he walked past her from the restaurant ahead of her.
“Yes,” his companion agreed. “Her food is delicious but it takes us so long to get it.”
She hesitated for a while inhaling the aroma of soups, and wondering what she going to say. Deciding that she had no more options, she went inside the building, holding her bag close to her.
Sewa noticed the young mother the second she walked into the shop. She looked too young to her to be a mother. The girl looked tired and desperate. She continued to serve the food to her impatient customers and forgot about her.
It wasn’t until things had died down that she saw her again, sitting on an empty crate in the corner of the room. She was dozing off slightly and breastfeeding her child. Sewa walked up to her and tapped her shoulder.
“Young lady, what are you doing here?”
“I need food ma, I can wash the plates, cook, clean the table, sweep the floor and any other work you want me to do. I just need food.”
“But where are you coming from? Where are you going to?’
“I don’t know…” Becky said, bowing her head and crying into the corner of her wrapper.
Sewa wondered about her, never had she seen anyone so vulnerable.
“Come and eat something,” she said to her.