The Cigar Man. Part 7

Sofiri was now eased to the chair she had been tied to. She went to him and sat on the chair’s arm. “Let us take your brother to the hospital.” “No!” “Why? Can’t you seeeee?”

Sofiri was now eased to the chair she had been tied to. She went to him and sat on the chair’s arm.
“Let us take your brother to the hospital.”
“No!”
“Why? Can’t you seeeee?”
“See what! What do you know?”
“Hah! Which one be what do I know. Person dey die, you say make we no carry am go hospital.”
“Just shut up! Do you know who he is?”
Sofiri did not reply again.
She lowered her voice.
“I’m sorry about that. I will tell you something later but my brother needs you now.”
“How?”
“There is no time to verify why you look like him or how we even got here in the first place but please….”
She paused and shook her head slowly. Suddenly vulnerable. She rubbed her eyes.
“We need to be back in Abuja. I mean, Marshall needs to be there. It’s very important.”
“Marshall, that’s his name.”
“Yes and I am Charity.”

“Oh! Finally. I now know you. It’s nice meeting you.” Sofiri said, extending a hand. Charity scoffed and did not shake him.

“Cigar Man abeg make una look after that guy wella.”
“Unto which level?”
“Unto say if in die? You can’t hide o and all of us are in trouble. You sef you no dey reason? I tire for you o”
“Cigar Man still dey vex, no get am wrong Sofiri.”
“Vex for wetin, na me tellam to go rush person wey come see am?”
“Wey resemble you as I know wetin you feat do.”
“Wetin I feat do. Wetin I feat do eh?”
There chests were already getting closer. The others separated the quarrel and they all came back together to talk again. They were already used to those kind of blowing hot and cold conversations.

“Abu and me go follow am go the Abuja.”
“Why?”
“Cigar Man take responsibility for once. You for leave your corn wey you dey roast go ABJ?”
“Abi na all the beating the girl beat you dey pain you. Na only you she beat?”
“Abu keep quiet there. You no dey shame say woman beat you.”
“Na only me?”
“She kick me when I no dey look,” came Sofiri’s amusing defence.
“Heeeeh!” They jeered at him.
“Which kind you no dey look. Forget that thing. She beat all of us.”
For once, they laughed heartily.
“So I dey go ABJ as I dey like this?” Abu threw in the rhetorical question turning around.
“Na your luck be that.”
Suddenly serious, Abu drew closer to David, Bee and the other guys.
“I just wan beg una something as I dey go?”
“Wetin?”

“Abeg, I take God beg una, make una put eye for my Papa house, my inheritance. Abeg. Una know how the matter be.”
“Mtcheeeeeeeew!” Came the long hiss, Obulor provided a pack of cigarettes and a lighter from his pocket. Sofiri went inside.

In the taxi through Airport Road, Abu was asleep at the front seat. Charity and Sofiri were behind. This was exactly the same feeling and scene of their arrival to Port Harcourt. She was sitting at the back of the private car with Marshall, her own brother, anticipating what the city will look. Like. She looked at Sofiri and shook her head. He is not her brother. Ever. Not that she hated him but she couldn’t believe it. Instantly, she refused to conjure up inferences that could be surrounding the cloning. Charity rebuked her thoughts and sat up. She believed her brother, Marshall will be healthy again but for the moment, she had to use everything to aid his dream that had been planted inside his destiny and a promise. Even when it meant to use this replica of him that would never be him.
Sofiri saw the daze in her eyes.
“Don’t worry, your brother is safe. We no dey eat human meat for Rivers State.”
Charity wanted to slap him for testing. How could he be talking to her in her brother’s face, the same voice. She scoffed and adjusted.
“Here,” Sofiri provided her brother’s wallet, face cap, wrist watch, necklace, wrist chain and earpiece and set them on the seat, between them.

“They are my guys. I trust them but I no still trust them.”
He made a face and smiled.
Abu had opened his mouth while asleep, falling towards the driver. Sofiri landed him a slap on the head, he jumped with a yell.
“Who goes there?”
His company laughed.

Abu was in between screaming and throwing up on flight. Sofiri tightened his jaw for calm even if Charity had noticed that he was flogging his composure to obey him. Abu ate everything he was served, closed his eyes all the time in fever shiver and was rebuked when he tried to use his phone to text his friends that he was on air. Charity laughed in her heart not outwardly, she was more concerned about what would happen in Abuja.

“Good. You look good.”
“Is that all?”
“What do you want to hear? That you look like my brother? You are not my brother and that is it!”
Charity charged at Sofiri who looked dashing in a blue kaftan with gold embroidery.
“OK. But I no feat vex for your talk. I’m doing this for someone who looks like me. If only you knew how special this makes me feel. Swear that some lives do not happen to you.”

Marshall found it unsettling for a Senator to drive himself, the reason his driver is his most important staff. That also made it easier for Sofiri to impersonate him. Charity feared Sofiri might bash the car. She still thought him rough and incorrigible.

Abu strode the steps behind Charity and Sofiri as they walked to the door. He quickly waved Sofiri good bye and disappeared. Minutes later, Charity was surprised to find him washing plates in the kitchen beside Tony who was busy with a knife, chopping board and vegetables.
“Why are you washing plates now?”
“Ma, your guest said he will help me wash the dishes if I will show him where to buy ‘tar tar’.”
Abu jumped restlessly.
“So you no feat protect your guy, me wey be guy like you…”
“Shut up! Anyway, how do you think smokes can survive here. This is a mansion. Deal with it, besides, you have no money on you.” Charity said disgustingly to him and turned around from the door.

“Guy you eff up.”
“I don’t want to lose my job. We don’t lie here.”
“For wetin? You dey guy me abi?”
“She will still catch you if you lie. She is a detective…”
“Detect…. Detective as in police wey be detective. Under cover. Like under cover agent.” Tony nodded repeatedly.
“Chinekeeeeh!” Abu shouted with his two wet hands on his head. The previous events from Port Harcourt filled his head.

Between Charity’s return with two strangers the previous day for Uncle Mustapha’s Solidarity Meeting that evening, her shadow had walked before her.

From the quick flight to a window shopping that morning, Abu perambulating around her like an Hausa goat, the calls in and out for work’s sake and her head getting squashed by worries of her brother. He had called Bee every two-hour to enquire her brother’s state. Bee confirmed that his body was beginning to get warm. Charity covered her eyes with her palm and fell on her bed. Stress had arrested all her joints.

Sofiri sat among influence. He fixed his eyes mostly on his glass and his supposed uncle whose pictures Charity had shown him. What irritated him the most was that the politicians were laughing too much. He concluded it to be a mockery on the proletariat, haven been among the suffering masses of Nigeria. Despite his pretentious gaiety, his face still appeared dull. What startled him most was when Mustapha whispered to him,
“Why is it not in front of you?”
“What.”
“The document.”
Sofiri smiled.
“Make I…..Oh. Let me go and get the document.”
Sofiri stood up and walked towards a door at a near end. He noticed Mustapha’s eyes on the door while he whispered about the document. He opened the door and ran helter-skelter in the office with his eyes. Finally, he found the document that it might be on the seat that headed the table. He took it, and scoured it only to find names and records of some sort. It didn’t make much sense to him but he took it and left the office. “Evil people.” He murmured on his way out.

From the last records, he found they were holding the meeting earlier than stipulated. The markings beside the name with a black pen suggested Marshall kept the record of the meetings with his uncle. Sofiri took a pen from a neutral bowl close to him as they laughed and drank. He ticked every name on the list and commented rubbish.
At dismissal, his uncle walked with him,
“Senator, are you quiet well?”
“I am fine uncle.”
“Uncle? I had taught you that politics is impersonal. What happened to Lord Mustapha?”
“Oh…k… But….I just wonder.” He quickly put a hand on his temple.
“I am not really well. I have been sick and I am sorry for all your calls that I did not pick.”
“Hmmmm. How is my daughter?” Sofiri picked up that that should be Charity.
“She is bravely enjoying her leave.”
“Good. Good.” Mustapha nodded.

“My uncle called and enquired about your health. I hope you did not mess up totally.”

Sofiri did not answer yet. He wanted to finish his meal before talking. It was 9pm. He continued to mould and swallow garri balls in thick egusi soup till he felt alright. Abu was eating groundnuts from a bottle.
Charity threw her cheek towards him,
“See your Hausa goat Abu, he has been chewing groundnuts since morning because I refrained him from going to buy cigarettes.”
Sofiri giggled as he chewed the meat in his mouth.

“Things went OK but not smooth and I talk say I dey sick so in no too sense am.”
“OK. I’m just tired.” Charity replied and closed her eyes. Abu and Sofiri looked at her pitifully. She stood up and made for the stairs.
“Aaaaaaargh!” She yelled, her hands up in the air. Abu and Sofiri remained silent till she disappeared into her room.

“Make we call Cigar Man them.”
“I don already call them. The guy don dey well, I think.”
“Call them again na.”
“I say I just call them now now now as I return. Abeg carry these plates go kitchen for me.”
“As wetin.. Make I call the house boy.”
“Shebi your brain dey touch. You no get hand? You know say na me make her add you inside this Abuja wey we come. If you do, I go tell her to deport you.”
“I pray!”
“Dey do anyhow. You go soon see anyhow. Hausa goat.” Sofiri jested and laughed.
“You don dey follow her call me Hausa goat. No worry. We go soon go back PH, make we go back as been dey.”
“You and who? No count me for your story o. I don enter ABJ be say I don enter. I dey capital now. Caaaapitaaal!”

Charity had thought as much, something was definitely wrong with Marshall. Bored to nonsense, she had entered his room searching every drawer or file to find anything new. It took a sixth sense to search everywhere before she found the envelope in his wardrobe.

A very normal place someone could overlook. She opened it, virtually petrified at the only word she could recognise on the vague handwriting. Lungs. She wanted to call their Doctor but restrained herself. Above everything, Marshall is the one to want no scandal. He called them stain. He didn’t want any stain to spot his smooth swim in politics. She had screamed all day but at the moment. She had to weep. Tears that didn’t struggle to come moistened the bed as she fell on her face. After some minutes, her phone rang. She looked at the screen and gasped when she saw the name ‘Twin Senator’ calling.

“Marshall?…..Marshall!… How are you?…No.. No. No harm.. Just stay…calm down. Yes I am fine… Yeah… Yeah.. Your health first.. No. Just stay. I will talk to the guy, the very fair one. OK. You can… Oh.. Again. Deal with it but please your health. Yes eat something… Try.. Please try. Ooooh! Don’t annoy everything with your over zealousness.”

Marshall loved privacy, discreet, calm, calculation, strategy cleanliness and groundnuts. Charity screamed her surprise when she saw him walking into their home the next day. Bee walked in behind him. She wanted to scream and run to throw her arms around him yet she couldn’t.

They loved each other as siblings and also survivors from the crash that claimed their parents’ lives yet they grew in their foundation. Never to show exaggerated emotions should third party be present. Weakness could be picked up and used against them.

“What is he doing here?”
“He drew me to Port Harcourt so why shouldn’t he be here besides he has said nothing to me.”
Charity threw her head to a side. They were in the middle of the living room.

“Welcome, how are you?”
“Thank you. I’m good, I am not a child. Cut it off.”
Charity overlooked his adult dance and preferred to seize the opportunity. She pressed a button on the wall closer to the dinning, Tony appeared.
“Make our visitor comfortable.”
“Alright Ma!”
Bee had refused to let their eyes meet, he looked more at Marshall or the house. He found it satisfying to have met a wealthy family somehow inside life, anyhow especially through his work. He wondered where Sofiri and Abu could be.

Charity nudged her brother, they went upstairs. Marshall thought she will be going to her room but she led him to his instead. They had often conversed in her room. Charity didn’t like that anymore.

“When were you going to tell me?”
“Tell you what exactly?”
“Your lungs. Respiratory system. Yes?”
Marshall lowered his eyes and went to lean on his wardrobe.
“It is not too serious.”
“Really?”
“I wanted to take care of it once I travel out in few months.”

“Jesus! Can you hear yourself? This is your health. Jesus! Christ!”
“I am only being careful.”
“Keep quiet right now. I am being way too careful, yeah that is why I had left you…my only brother, my only family in the house of a stranger in another land…”
“Social media has suddenly become the doom of society. I wouldn’t want anyone picking me up and darkening or assaulting my image online…”
“Yes. And I left you there. Is that very nice to you? They are strangers. Strangers and that was your life we had in their hands.”
“We couldn’t have planned any better. Our plan is always plan B…”
“And plan A has already been written by God!” Charity said in unison with him, although hers cane out angrily. Their mother had taught them that mantra.
“All of these are beginning to be dangerous Mash… Must it be all about this Senator thing? To the extent, you are fading away. Who can ever suppress sickness on earth? You will be a Senator. He already gave his word to Dad.”
“Have you seen where a father will give his son a car to drive when the son doesn’t know how to drive?”
“Excuses to keep living like a statue. For me, it wasn’t easy letting…letting…”
“Letting what!”

Charity refused to complete the sentence. She matched out of the room. Marshall followed. Sofiri and Abu were already welcoming Cigar Man.
“I don shock!”
“Cigar Man the house no be here o. I know say cold catch you inside plane well well.”

“See craze man, I don enter plane before na. You don forget that training my yeye uncle send me go do that time for Lasgidi. Na plane things na…”
“Since 20 years now.”
They laughed.
“Sofiri how far?”
“I just dey… Wetin you carry come?”
“Wetin I for carry come when na una hold everything.”
“How David them?”
“Dem dey.. I don lock everywhere. This our journey eh na….I no go return again.”
They laughed. “Agaracha must to come back home.” Abu commented and closed his mouth quickly. His attention had quickly gone to the way Marshall was looking at Sofiri from behind. Charity had stopped at the end of the stairs, beholding how her brother was taking it. How he was taking in the familiarity in Sofiri’s voice. Marshall and Sofiri’s voices were same, Abu swore it as Marshall walked like the servant of a chief priest, extending his head before his body. As though his head should appear in front of Sofiri, confirm his suspicions, then, run back to report to his body. Sofiri was sitting on the couch backing the stairs. Marshall walked slowly from the stairs through the way between the couch backing him and an arm chair, turning right to look at who was talking.

Sofiri saw the look on Abu and Cigar Man’s faces and turned left. That was the end of the longing. The termination of what would be called a diamond secret. Dead into the sea, hidden inside the woods of scorpions, thrown far up into the sky in the belle of a rainbow dragon, carried hither thither by the strongest wind yet open under the sky.
Marshall shook his head. He was not believing it…

To be continued.

The Cigar Man. Part 6

The Cigar Man, the end.

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