Oreva found herself ruminating all morning, about all that had happened the previous day. The sudden change she had noticed in her father’s attitude. She could not tell if it was for good or bad.
She was lying on the bed squinting at the ceiling as she was used to. Then by a hunch, she noticed it. The manhole had been tampered. The piece of ceiling covering it was shifted slightly. None other could have notice that very slight shift from its usual position but it could not pass her because she knew the grid of their ceiling so well even with eyes closed.
She got up from the bed.
She accessed the manhole, climbing the window burglary proof like a tomboy. She pushed it up and took one step further to peek in the murky void of the manhole. It was lying just there at the edge. Her instinct had hardly ever deceived her. Still following the hunch, she reached for it and brought it down.
She went over to shut the door.
Then she returned to open the briefcase. Kneeling beside it, she reached for the buttons and pressed. The briefcase responded with a click that unlocked it. Oreva lifted the cover to see what was in it.
Whatever she saw in the briefcase had shocked her uncontrollably as she was thrown aback with an unconscious scream. She fell back hitting her head against the old divan.
It was only for about an hour. She slowly regained consciousness. She managed to close the briefcase and replace it in the ceiling, taking care to properly cover the manhole.
Much later at bedtime, she asked her father. He was lying on the bed and she on her mat.
‘Father, is there anything you need to tell me?’
Her father had turned to look at her and replied. ‘Dear, if there was any such thing it will only be a matter of time before I’ll reveal it. You know I can’t deliberately hide anything from you.’
She had been licking her lips to hear the mystery from him. But it appeared he was not ready to divulge it yet. So with a stiff upper lip, she brought it on.
‘Well, I have seen it.’ She said.
‘Seen what?’ Her father asked sitting up.
Oreva pointed the ceiling.
Her father dismounted from the bed suddenly.
‘Did you touch it?’
‘Where did you get it from?’
‘Oreva, I asked you a question.’
‘Yes I opened it.’ She replied.
‘Whatever made you do that?’
‘Father, I am your daughter, remember.’
Odeki instantly realised it was just the two of them in the world. He needed to work with her.
‘Okay then, what do you think?’
‘Please tell me where you got it from.’
‘It’s a gift.’
‘God! He gave you that briefcase?’
‘Yes. He sent an angel to deliver it to me.’
‘With all that money in it? I have seen that the money is about forty packs of one thousand naira denomination totaling about four million naira. Father talk to me please. I am grown now.’
‘Okay, a man left it in my cab.’
‘Every effort to get it back to the man had been to no avail.’
‘Then you should report to the police.’
‘What police? The Interpol or the NYPD? Because I know what our own police will do with the money if I take it to them. Dear I think we should keep the money for ourselves. Remember you have to go to school.’
‘But we just can’t keep it. It’s not ours.’
‘How long will we keep waiting for ours. I think this is a gift from God. He has decided to wipe our tears of over the years.’
‘Father, if we keep it, it will only amount to greed on our part.’
He came over and stood in front of her.
‘My daughter, take a good look at me,’ he said. ‘Take a look at this room; look at yourself my dear. Is this what you really want out of life?’
Oreva could see the love of the money in the briefcase had distorted her father’s moral proclivity. This was not her father he had known over the years.
‘God’s time is the best. This money is somebody else’s. We can’t have it. We can’t throw integrity in the waste bin just because of four million naira.’
Odeki had thought of keeping the money. He had conceived a ploy to move to a different location with his daughter and start a standard life there. But here he was having difficulty convincing his daughter to join him in the plan. Perhaps he needed time to rethink. He was confused.
‘Okay I promise to look for the owner and return it.’
‘I suggest we take it to the radio station to announce it.’
** ** **
Mr Odeki and his daughter were in his taxi driving to the local radio station. They had resolved to put it in their hands to get the owner of the missing briefcase. The atmosphere between them was freer now than in the past days. He wondered how he even reduced himself to thinking of keeping someone else’s money for himself in the first place. He turned to look at his daughter and was grateful for her sound moral stand. That to him was richness too. No one in the world can rightly say they were helplessly poor again. Not when he had a daughter with a mind of diamond.
‘Oreva, do you think we will be rewarded for this?’ He asked her.
‘Please don’t count on any cash reward from anybody for returning this briefcase of money. I can bet you it doesn’t come that easy. The owner may just give you a big hug and kiss you good bye.’ She replied.
‘So why were you so keen on having us return this much money when you know there would be no reward?’
‘It is because I know the big eye of providence is watching to reward every good act executed by man on earth.’
Oreva was sounding out-of-this-world. But her father had learned to look beyond this world as well. So that made the two of them.
The workers at the radio station were stunned when they received the taxi driver and his daughter who had come to them with a briefcase of four million naira in it to announce for the owner to come forth and claim it. It was unbelievable to them. They collected the briefcase and promised to announce it. They went further to grant the family a brief interview on radio. They were asked why they chose to return that much money when they could have used it to better their lives.
‘It would be morally wrong for us to keep it.’ Mr. Odeki replied.
‘Also, it would be unfair of us because it may affect the owner adversely.’ Oreva added.
** ** **
Mr Odeki’s house at Odien Street was swarming with neighbours and visitors who had come to salute their integrity. He had not expected it. He had even thought he would be laughed at by friends.
The biggest surprise was the call from both the owner of the briefcase and the governor of the state for the radio station to bring them the taxi driver and the girl that returned a missing briefcase of money. That such act in a time like this was noble and cannot not be rewarded.