Nneka ran all the way from the bus stop to the hospital. She reached the hospital’s waiting room and grabbed the nearest nurse.
“Please, where is Doctor Michael?”
“I’ll go and look for him,” the nurse said, shrugging Nneka's hand off as she hurried away.
Nneka’s heart pounded and she struggled to catch her breath. She tried sitting down but couldn’t stay still for long. The past hour with Otunba had been even more gruesome than she’d expected. The important thing, though, was that she now had the money. She said a silent prayer of gratitude for the good doctor who had allowed her to go and get the money while he treated Ginika. She would give him some extra money for the trouble. She saw the doctor and immediately seized his arm.
“Thank you, Doctor. Thank you so much. God will bless you and your family,” she gushed.
Nneka went on her knees, still thanking the doctor . He managed to convince her to stand up again.
“See, Doctor, I have the money now,” she said. Smiling with triumph, she opened her handbag to reveal the crisp one thousand naira notes Otunba had given her. She continued quickly.
“See...eighty thousand naira. I even got more than that, just in case. And see...I brought you extra five thousand naira for yourself, for helping us.” She started to remove the money from her bag.
“Madam, that won’t be necessary,” Doctor Michael said.
“No, no, take it!”
Nneka took hold of the doctor’s hand and tried to stuff the money in it. He withdrew his hand sharply. Only then did she see the look on his face.
“Doctor, take it now! I’ve brought the money. Take it, and take your own five thousand for helping me,” she said, her eyes begging him to deny what she already knew was coming.
“Madam, I’m sorry. It’s the hospital’s policy. We cannot start treatment on any patient without the payment of the proper fees.”
A feeling of dread crept up Nneka’s spine as she looked at the doctor’s apologetic face. The truth was slowly dawning on her, but she would not accept it.
“Doctor, I said I have the money now! Take it. Take it!” Nneka was screaming now.
“Madam, you have to understand that my hands were tied. I’m sorry, but your daughter passed away some minutes ago.”
In a violent motion, Nneka turned her bag over, spilling the naira notes on the floor. The people in the waiting room watched with interest. Nneka grabbed the doctor by the neck and, with superhuman strength, began choking him.
“I’ve brought your money now. Take it and give me my Ginika!” she screamed over and over as she shook him, tightening her grip.
The people rushed to intervene. It took five men to get Nneka off, and by then the doctor was barely conscious.
“Ginikaaaaa!” she roared.
Forcing her way out of the men’s grip, Nneka ran out of the hospital before anyone could stop her.
It was a typical weekday. The bright afternoon sun beat down on the street with its scorching fury. Traffic moved in a slow crawl as hawkers manoeuvred their way around the vehiches, occasionally stopping to pitch their goods to motorists. The roadside was crowded with traders selling an array of goods. The street was a wild splash of colours as school students made their way home in noisy groups. Coker Street was alive with its usual actors: the beggars, pickpockets, hawkers and everyday people.
The woman marched forward in her blackened, tattered clothes. Her long hair was in untidy tangles and her face was covered with sores. Her bare feet had several cuts, in which layers of dirt had been long embedded. She threw back her head and laughed out loud. She said something, and then nodded in agreement with her unseen companions. Stopping suddenly, she looked right across the street and into the eyes of Iya Tope.
“Em, Iya Bose. See as that mad woman dey look me.” Iya Tope whispered, her lips barely moving, to her neighbor in the shed beside her. She didn't want to attract the mad woman's attention by making her think they were interested in her.
Iya Bose looked up and saw the mad woman. She recognized her immediately. Before she could say anything, the woman dashed across the street.
“Give me my boli!” she screamed.
She got to Iya Tope’s shed, before the women could react, and grabbed four well-roasted plantains. Then she ran off as quickly as she had come as Iya Tope screamed after her.
“Fi le, jo! Do you want to chase a mad woman? Leave it o jare!” Iya Bose said.
Iya Tope cursed and muttered under her breath, mentally calculating the loss from the stolen plantains.
“See as the woman dey look me sef. Like say she don see me before,” Iya Tope hissed.
“Eh, this your shed, na she dey stay here before,” Iya Bose said, turning over the corn she was roasting.
“Ah, no wonder!” Iya Tope exclaimed. “So wetin happen to am?”
Iya Bose was quiet for a moment. She had never liked that woman. Her husband had been one of the woman’s more ardent admirers, and she had hated her for it.
“God don dey punish am.”
“Wetin she do?” Iya Tope asked, her ears perking up.
“She be prostitute, ashewo. She don steal plenty people husband?” Iya Bose said.
“Iro ni! Na lie!”
“Na true! I say she wan steal Papa Bose one time, but trust me now, I no gree,” Iya Bose said. She continued vehemently, “Yes now! She get one bastard child now. Na only God know which person husband get dat one. The girl die, na im she come crase.”
“Oluwa o!” Iya Bose sighed. "Olorun maje."
“Dat woman na very wicked woman! She don spoil many people marriage,” Iya Tope said.
There was a thoughtful silence between the women.
“Dis life eh,” Iya Tope sighed. “Na person don go put epe, swear, for her head. See am now. The evil wey she don do dey follow am. We no fit play wayo for dis life o! God dey look.”
The women watched Nneka’s retreating figure in silence, each with her own thoughts.