She came forward two steps, pulled the branches aside, and when she saw the face, the wide-open eyes and the gaping mouth, she recoiled and her blood went cold.
No. "Gladys?" In a way, Gladys seemed different, in another way she looked the same. Efia touched her and was shocked by how cold and rigid she was. Her eyes were open but unmoving and cloudy white, as though filled with coconut milk.
"Gladys." Efia began to cry. "Ao, Gladys, wake up, wake up. Gladys!"
She got to her feet and whirled in a circle shrieking for help, but no one was close by. She began to run. Her vision darkened, her hearing deadened, and her feet lost sensation.
She burst out of the bush and spotted a man walking ahead along the Bedome-Ketanu footpath, and she ran after him screaming. He stopped and turned around, and as Efia got closer she recognized him as Isaac Kutu, the local herbalist and healer. His compound was not far away. She felt a surge of hope. Healer. Maybe he can do something.
"Mr. Kutu." She was gasping, trying to catch her breath. "Mr. Kutu, please come."
"It's Gladys Mensah. Hurry!"
Efia turned and began to run back. She could hear Mr. Kutu keeping up behind her. The bush seemed thicker and more tangled now that her energy was so spent, but she knew the way well and got there quickly.
The body was still there. Efia stopped, pointed, and then leaned over with her hands on her knees to get her breath.
Mr. Kutu pulled aside the obscuring bush and drew back at the sight. He stared for a moment and then knelt down by the body. He touched it softly and whispered something Efia didn't catch. He looked stunned.
Kutu stood up. "Bring me something to cover her."
Several plantain trees, their leaves long and broad, were only a few feet away. Efia pulled on a branch and broke it off. Kutu laid it gently across Gladys's body. It seemed much better that way, so much more dignified.
"I have to go and get Inspector Fiti," Kutu said. "Can you wait here for us to come back?"
Efia backed away, shaking her head. "No. I'm afraid to stay with her by myself."
She turned and bolted back to Bedome without stopping or looking back.
Including the shrine, Bedome was a collection of a dozen scattered thatch-roofed huts. Yesterday's rain had stained the soil dark, but once it dried out, it would be the identical monotonous light brown color of the dwellings.
The normal morning's activities-sweeping, cooking, collecting water, the smaller children playing-had begun, but everything stopped as Efia came running. She collapsed to the ground wheezing with exhaustion, her face buried in her palms. The trokosi wives came to her at once, dropping down beside her. What's wrong, what's the matter?
Efia couldn't speak. She was paralyzed with shock. Nunana, the oldest, most experienced wife, her body worn and wiry and her breasts wrung dry by the toll of six children, pulled Efia up and led her protectively away.
"What happened?" she said softly. And suddenly more sharply, "Stop crying and tell me what's wrong."
As Efia was sobbing out her answer, Togbe Adzima came out of his hut shirtless and yelled, "What are you people doing standing around like cocoa trees?"
He was in his late fifties. He was oily and never looked clean, and his eyes were red and muddy from drinking.
She came to him quickly.
"What's going on?" he demanded.
"Please, Togbe. Efia says Gladys Mensah is dead in the forest."
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