And so they waited. The doctor got into his habit of pacing, while the woman sat still, staring at the Africa Magic movie without really seeing anything. Forty five minutes later, Dr. Ajanaku’s phone rang and he whipped it out of his pocket sharply.
“Hello, Saliu, have you found something out?”
Agatha sat up on the edge of her chair trying to pick what the other person’s response was but it was too muffled for her to hear clearly.
“Really?” Dr. Ajanaku said. Hearing the worry in his voice, it took all of her restraint to stop herself from jumping him and grabbing the phone. She grabbed the cushion of the chair and sank her nails into it to calm herself down.
She tuned off and just waited for him to conclude the call before her blood pressure went through the roof. A few seconds later, he sat down opposite her, and it was only then she realized he had rounded the call off.
“They have been found,” he said gravely.
“Found ke? Are they dead ni? Why did you say found like that, as if a piece of jewelry is found?” she asked, the tears beginning to form in her eyes.
“Sorry,” he said, “that came out wrongly. What I meant to say is that though they are alive, the police have them.”
She let out a sigh, her body sinking into the chair, visibly relieved. Then as if realizing that they were not safe and sound in that instant, she sat upright again.
“Which station? For what? We need to get my baby out fast!” she spoke each word fast, as if trying to get more than one word at a time.
He stood up and went over to her side, placing a hand on her shoulder, “Calm down Mrs. Banwo. Like I guessed, they were arrested for having the baby’s corpse with them without having a death cert. It’s a salvageable situation. And don’t worry about whatever it will cost; we will get them out today, unfailingly. Let’s get going. They’re being held at Iyangaku police station”
She instructed the househelp to ensure that warm bathwater was running until she got back. Derin would definitely need a warm bath to wash away the filth when they got him back from the police cells. They got into the doctor’s car and as the driver pulled out onto the road, the doctor informed Agatha that they would be picking up a friend who would help them facilitate the release of the couple.
They stopped by at Dugbe and picked a short, stocky man who Dr. Ajanaku introduced as Saliu. “Saliu will help us navigate the police world to speed things up,” he said.
About thirty minutes later, they got to Iyangaku. They parked outside the gate and Saliu led them in. The men behind the counter recognized him and shouts of “shun sir, shun sir” rent the air, accompanied by exaggerated salutes. Saliu ignored them and led the doctor and his friend straight to the DPO’s office. The DPO was his junior and the man saluted accordingly when he entered.
“Jenkins, at ease. We are here on important business, no time at all. You have someone and we are certain there was a mix-up, so the good doctor here,” he pointed at Dr. Ajanaku “has come to right that wrong.”
Jenkins was a balding man with a bald patch that shone like he took time to polish it even inside the bulb lit office. “Which of the accused are you referred to sir?” he asked. Agatha cringed, first at the way the DPO spat the word ‘accused’ as if it disgusted him. It was her Derin he was calling accused. And then, the man’s poor grammar which he tried to pull off with a polished accent. He sounded absolutely ridiculous in his dingy, threadbare office. If the situation wasn’t this grave, he would be comical.
“A gentleman named Derin Banwo, and his wife. It seems they rushed out of the hospital with their dead baby without collecting the death certificate, and your men picked them up. We all know how the loss of a child can leave one forgetting such things. The doctor has brought the certificate and we hope that you will realize this is a mix-up and let the couple go and bury their child.”
The DPO folded his arms across the table as if he was in deep thought. Only later would Saliu tell the doctor that it was merely an act. He unfolded his arms as he spoke
“Oga, I can understand their devastate, but you know thing are not that straightforward.” He smiled as if pleased with himself for using a word as long as straightforward. He continued “we have take statement. We have start the case filing. This is murder of their own child we are talking about. We can’t let them go just like that.”
Saliu knew it was all bullshit the man was spewing. In a police station, as long as the case had not gone to court, the DPO was the all in all. He could kill almost any case, except murder.
“DPO, you know who you are talking to,” Saliu said menacingly, pulling rank. “I’m not one of the family of the boy, not a bloody civilian. I know how these things work, and a genuine mistake when I see one. Of course I know you can’t just let them go like that, but we don’t have much time. So to cut the long story short, what would it take to have them walk free?”
“Haba, oga, you know if not for the boys that need to be settle, I would not take anything with a senior officer like yourself involved in the matter. But as their expectings will be very high, we will need like 50k to keep everybody quiet on this matter.”
“What!” Saliu banged his hands on the table. “50k for what? I thought you would be reasonable, shay you will prefer not to get anything and just release them on order from above abi? I’m sure you know I can go above you for this, but I thought you were a good officer.”
Agatha wanted to tell Saliu she would pay even 100k if that was what it took, but a look from the doctor stopped her.
Saliu seemed to calm down and then told the DPO in even tones “we will give you twenty five, take it or leave it.”
“Oga, twenty five no go do all the boys o.” the DPO had dropped his English pretensions now. “If you fit add five, we go do am.”
On a normal day, Saliu would have pressed his bargain, because he knew that the DPO knew that this was his only chance to get anything out of this now that Saliu was involved. But he had seen that it was only the doctor that was restraining the woman from saying anything stupid, so he closed the deal. “Oya bring them and all the papers they will need to sign. Where is the baby’s body now?”
“We followed due process and put him in the mortuary.” Then walking to the door, he shouted “Isa!”
Isa came to the doorway and the DPO whispered instructions to him. He left and returned in like two minutes, followed by a haggard looking Derin. Awazi was behind him, her dark skin crusted with dust from her cell.
Agatha rushed to Derin and held him in her arms, not minding how dirty he was, checking every inch of him. She barely acknowledged Awazi, who also maintained her distance.
Doctor Ajanaku quickly settled the bill, and then Derin signed the papers. They could not wait to get out of the station. Derin got into his own car along with Awazi, while his mum and the doctor drove behind them. Saliu gave them directions to the mortuary and then left on his own, to spend what doctor had paid him on his new catch, Onome the hairdresser. The girl had been proving hard to get for him but now that he had some money to play with, he was certain he was going to bed her before this weekend was over.
The mortuary was a few minutes away from the station and again the doctor handled the proceedings there. He came out with the child’s now stiff body. Awazi began to sob quietly in the car as the doctor carried the body into his own car. This time, the doctor’s car led the way and Derin followed.
It took another thirty minutes to get home, and by then it was pretty dark. The moment they stepped into the house, Agatha called to the househelp “is the water still running?”
“Yes madam,” the girl said, trying not to show how bewildered she was at the company before her.
“Derin darling, you should have your bath…” she was saying to Derin now.
“What is he,” Derin pointed at Doctor Ajanaku as he spoke, “doing here.” The malice in his voice surprised Agatha.
“What do you mean what is doing here?” She asked. “The good doctor was the one that went out of his way to bring the death certificate and used his contacts to find out where you were being held and then got you out of the station. You should be grateful!”
“And, have you bothered to ask yourself why he is being so damn nice?”
“Young man, I do not care what you have been through, but you will not talk to me, your mother like that! What is wrong with you?” Agatha was livid.
“Did the ‘good doctor’ tell you that his hospital killed my son?” Derin exploded.
“You cannot be serious about what you just said!” she shouted. Then she turned to Awazi and spoke directly to her for the first time. “It isn’t true what Derin says, is it?”
Awazi didn’t bother to be polite and answer. The woman hadn’t even seen her since and now she needed support against Derin, she was turning to her. She simply turned away and sat down without answering.
“So you will not answer me, you this girl?” Agatha turned her venom on Awazi. Yet Awazi remained silent.
“I wonder why you allowed this one come out into the world before you killed him like all the unborn ones of many years past, you this barren woman!” Agatha continued. How dare the indolent young girl ignore her?
“Tell me, how do you feel now? In our area, we would have forced you to confess. But let me tell you, this one you just did is the last you will do, you are definitely leaving my son’s house after this! I will get him a proper, well trained Yoruba girl who will bear him children and who will respect her elders.”
Awazi had had it. “What did I do to you? My son, my only son, your only grandson just died and this is all you can think? What kind of wicked mother are you? Just so you know, my child was very fine, with no issues at all while we were in Lagos. It was when you insisted on us bringing him to Ibadan that all this happened. And just so you know, we never went to Abuja, we were in Lagos all along. It took us lying that we were in Abuja to get you off our backs and let us have our baby. Who sounds more like the baby eating witch, gaskiya?”
She turned to Derin “Husband, I am definitely not staying here tonight, before something happens to me.”
“Two of you should stop it!” Derin shouted, holding his head in his hands. His mum tried to say something but he raised his hands and repeated “Stop it, I say! Both of you, listen to yourselves! Women! Arrrrgh!”
Doctor Ajanaku spoke up “I’m sorry, and I know this might be a bad time, but I don’t think there can be a good time to show how sorry we are for your loss Derin. I know nothing can replace your child, but you can be assured that every member of staff involved in the sad episode, including my foolish son Hakeem, is being dealt with and…”
“So you have your own son alive to deal with, but I’ll never be able to discipline my own son because of his callousness and stupidity? And you expect that you will come and say sorry, and all will be well?”
“Derin, where are your manners? How can you be talking to an agbalagba like that?” Agatha chastised him.
He turned to her angrily “but you can talk to my wife just anyhow you like in my presence abi? You can accuse my grieving wife of killing and eating our children just now and then accuse me of speaking without etiquette and disrespect in the next breathe? You are being hypocritical mum.”
“So you are siding with her over me, your mother, Derin?” an agitated Agatha asked.
Wordlessly, Derin picked the baby, signaled Awazi and they began to leave.
Agatha grabbed his arm “where are you going with a dead baby in the night? Derin be reasona…”
He shrugged her off, and continued to the door. He turned back to the doctor at the door and told him coldly “you will be hearing from my lawyers.” And they were gone.
At that moment, the househelp came back down and said “madam, the water don begin cold o, oga no come baff again?”
Agatha lashed out at the poor girl “get out of here, you idiot!”
The confused girl scurried away, wondering what she had done wrong.
“Doctor, what happened at that hospital when they brought the baby in? I want to hear all of it.” She asked
“The baby was rushed into the hospital straight from the express. He had developed some alarming symptoms while they were in traffic from what I gather. You know since my stroke, I handed over running the hospital to Hakeem, my son. My worst mistake, I regret. He insisted on following procedures and…”
“Nooooooooo!” Agatha screamed, bringing the househelp running back in to see what was wrong. The girl scurried back out when they both looked at her with fiery eyes.
“So Derin was right. Oh my God, he was right. I have to find him.”
She tried to dial his numbers, but it was turned off. “he could be anywhere now!” she exclaimed.
“There’s one thing I need to ask you,” Dr. Ajanaku said quietly, as he got up with the ‘it’s time to go kind of movement’.
“What?” she inquired.
“Derin has threatened to that the hospital will hear from his lawyers. While I understand his grief and I sympathize and empathize, I will not allow my hospital to go down the drains. If lawyers become involved, I will fight him hard and I will fight him with all I have. It will be long, drawn-out and messy. It will ultimately be a battle he cannot win. That however is not the way I would like to go. While we cannot simply replace the baby, no human being is replaceable, I have a proposition. He and his wife need to move on, and try to have another baby. There are new in-vitro fertilization techniques that would guarantee pregnancy. They’re expensive treatments, yes, but the hospital will pay for the treatment for them. We will also dedicate a doctor and a nurse resident in Lagos on our own bill to monitor the pregnancy to ensure that the baby is delivered safe and sound. I believe the joy of having a new baby will soon eclipse the sorrow of losing baby Isaac. Now, in his state, Derin will not even listen to me, and if I was in his shoes, I would do the same or even worse. But you are his mother, and must know your son well. I plead with you to find a way to convince him to fi owo wo inu and see reason and take our offer.”
The doctor then left, leaving Agatha feeling very alone. She wished Adeoye was still alive. He would have taken charge and known what to do, and how to talk to his son. Now, she was confused, angry and sad. She tried Derin’s number again repeatedly. It was still switched off. She slowly made her way upstairs to have that bath she had prepared for Derin earlier. She needed it now.