“Here comes the bad boy.” Cain greeted as his friend stepped in the room. Cain was sitting with a wine-glass and a bottle of rum. Cain Martins had the habit of taking to alcohols, especially daiquiri, whenever he was in a happy or furious mood. But today, he seemed to be in the happiest of moods. And he always prided himself on his oenophile characteristics. Cain’s knowledge of wine was the most polite moral accomplishment he possessed.
“If you’re looking for a bad boy, why don’t you check in a mirror?”
“Give your larynx a break; you think I’ll ever forget our high school days when you beat the holy crap out of me?”
“Does beating you up decades ago make me bad?”
“I know you’re bad, pigeon-brained.”
He raised one eyebrow, “You know, sometimes, honestly, I do feel like cutting out your tongue. People who lack the manner of speech should be dumb.” Michael Kish said. Barrister Michael Kish was two years older than Cain Martins but looked five years younger than him. He was a tall handsome looking man with jet black hair and a carefully trimmed moustache which adorned his upper lip. He appeared to be almost the opposite image of Cain. Michael Kish appeared to be tall, young and handsome, while Cain Martins was old and ugly. Michael was dressed more like a mortician; a black suit, black tie, black socks and a pair of black shoes. No colour off-mark except that of his eyes, which was not all that blackish. Nobody would see him approaching if he were walking a street in the night. And on his face was a spectacle; contact lenses. This pair of glasses had changed the colour of his eyes from its initial hazel to a colour closer to the African black––it was the least it could do to someone without any eye defect but wore contact lenses. He was a lawyer by profession. When he was twenty-six years old, he had graduated from the University of Benin with a degree in Law.
Afterwards, he travelled to England where he spent twenty years. When he returned to Nigeria in 2001 he was already quite a rich man. He decided to put his profession into practice. It was after about eight years of working as a lawyer and had successfully sent hundreds of criminals to jail, few to the hangmen, tied some to the firing vessels, set hundreds of convicts free, and solved countless divorce or marital problems, that he came in contact with Cain––his high school friend. It was Cain’s name that had brought them together again. Michael Kish had been one of the shareholders of Kane International, one of the country’s most famous rice companies. On the day he bought his shares, he saw Cain’s name and surname on the shareholder’s slip given to him. He could have been knocked down with a palm frond when he realized that the name was really his friend’s. Life’s funny, he’d never thought that Cain could own a company; he decided that Cain’s success was achieved by the fortuitous dint of sheer good luck. Cain, a bad-tempered, never-serious-with-study, bellicose boy managing a company now? Far back in their time in high school, Michael could not remember a day when Cain had seriously picked up his book to study, Cain belonged among the class thugs who invariably gravitated to the back seats of the class. What actually always caught Cain’s interest were girls and getting into physical combats with people. Though Cain was foul-mouthed and troublesome, he was generous with money and was blessed with a great brain. He could assimilate a whole text without any difficulty, and this had been helping him so much in his examinations–––although God gave him an extremely special brain, Cain had never really utilized it as he should have done. He was one of those people that would have become a genius; he could have invented his own model of a motorcycle, light-bulb, gun or even bomb. He could easily quote Aristotle, Horace, Soyinka and some other great literary giants––either dead or alive, and without knowing that he was. Before Cain and Michael could become bosom friends they had fought each other once. Cain with his usual arrogance had beaten almost everybody in class––including some girls. He had always insulted and challenged Michael into fighting with him because Michael never seemed to be afraid of him as other students in the class were. Anytime Cain confronted Michael, the gentle boy would only smile and call Cain a small boy. Cain would always swell with anger anytime Michael referred to him as a small boy.
One afternoon, Cain tried to bully Michael again and he got too far. After trying to annoy Michael several times without success, he punched him hard on his chest and all hell broke loose in the class. For a split second, Cain thought Michael was actually going to kill him on the spot, because the new boy’s face was instantly clouded with a mask of fury. He rushed Cain and slammed a hard punch in his belly, then brought his knee up in a single, crushing assault against the groin. Cain screamed in agony. He gave Cain two back-handed slaps on the larynx. He hammered him twice more in the groins until the pain was so excruciating that no more scream could emerge, only moans of anguish. Cain slumped down, grabbed his crotch with both hands and whimpered painfully.
Thereafter, Cain Martins had always secretly feared Michael for his gentle but deadly features. They had become good friends after the brawl. Michael on the other hand had always liked Cain for his bravery, foulmouthedness and profligate spending habits.
When Michael saw the names on the shareholder’s slip, he decided to see the Cain Martins, not much people in the country bears the name Cain, and Cain Martins was too much a coincidence to Michael not to be the one he knew. Finding him didn’t take much effort because Michael went straight to the head office where he knew he would find the managing director. When he met Cain he was very sure he was not mistaken; the mannerless Cain had not changed much, especially in his well-known vile dispositions. When he introduced himself to Cain and reminded him of their ordeals in high school, Cain could not believe his own eyes. He quickly got up from his seat and embraced Michael in a bear’s hug. A happy reunion it was, they natted about life, job and the economy.
“I can’t imagine myself becoming dumb. I may commit suicide because some idiots like you need serious scolding.”
“Maybe I can help you in the killing yourself part.”
“Oh, thank you, slowpoke. I’m not dumb.” Cain’s rough manner of speech was too well known to Michael to give offence.
“Manners out the window.”
“You know what you are, hm? You’re a nincompoop. A real, honest-to-God nincompoop. Can you help one commit suicide?”
“Let me tell you a secret. I’ve been counting your insults lately and I’m gently waiting till they reach a certain number before I shoot you dead in the face. You’ve given me twenty-three insults altogether, ride on, will you?” they both laughed it off, and then they embraced each other warmly before sitting down.
“You know that’s simply impossible, I’m invincible,” said Cain, frowning humorously.
“Whenever you frown you look like a man who eats live chickens for breakfast.”
“My idiot, that’s not a delicacy I’m looking forward to enjoy.”
“Don’t be surprised if you suddenly find yourself in hell, hip-deep in dung polishing Satan’s boots. It simply means you are dead.” Michael said, smiling warmly at his friend, “You know I have access to any gun of my choice. I can just borrow a bullet from the government to do it all.”
“See goose pimples all over my body, freaky fool.” He laughed and poured himself another glass of rum.
“Mind a glass?” he asked.
“Yes, I’m practically a teetotaler. You should have noticed I never drink anything but water––perhaps fruit juice or herbs. I cannot just bear the taste of spirit.” Michael explained, “And mind you, I’m a devout Catholic.”
“Okay then, I should get you some water.”
“No, thank you. Peeing isn’t one of my favourite pastimes these days. I know that your own idea of water is liquor.”
“Of course, even Jesus turned water to wine.”
Michael grimaced, “Your bibulous personality is enough to make a dog vomit.”
Cain laughed at the statement and asked, “Do you have a gun?”
“Of course, I have license to guns, my profession demands it.”
“For what do you use them?”
“What a question! For self-protection, of course.” Michael answered, “Why do you ask?”
“You call yourself a Christian but it’s hard to see God encouraging his son to make use of guns. I wonder what kind of religion you people who call yourselves Christians practice.”
“You ever read the Bible?”
“Sure––once in a while.”
“If you look through Gideon in the Bible you would find tales of destruction. I quote from Genesis chapter nineteen, verse twenty-three down to twenty-five: ‘The sun was risen upon the earth when Lot entered into Zo-ar. Then the LORD rained upon Soddom and upon Gomorrah brimstone and fire from the LORD out of heaven; and he overthrew those cities, and all the plain, and all the inhabitants of the cities, and that which grew upon the ground.’ Those were vile people in both those cities, as is well known. God knew that the world would be better off without those inhabitants, so he wiped out evil people in Sodom and Gomorrah with volcanoes, earthquakes, rains of fire, decided to turn Lot’s disobedient wife to a pillar of salt. He flooded the whole world once in the time of Noah, didn’t he? Made the Red Sea wash over the Pharaoh’s soldiers, drowned them all. I don’t think God is going to be skittish about one of his faithful servants having a little collection of guns for protection purpose. I think you should get one, too.”
“I know the tale about Sodom and Gomorrah, Lot’s wife was told not to look back where all those people and their homes had been. But she did look back and I loved her for that.”
“And she was turned to a pillar of salt. People are not supposed to look back.”
“Maybe it wasn’t God who turned her to salt. Maybe what she saw from looking back turned her into sodium chloride. I don’t think God turning her to salt was actually printed in the Bible.”
“I quote again, ‘But his wife looked back from behind him, and she became a pillar of salt.’ We’re never going to know, anyway.”
“Those stories you listed were carried out by God of the Old Testament. Do you hear about God of the New Testament––understanding, compassionate, merciful? Though I don’t believe in your religious fundamentalism.”
“God of the Old Testament and God of the New, what’s the difference? I have much experience in crime field than you. I’ve met with some scum who are not fit to live. They are danger to themselves and the community. I will never hesitate to send any of them to his death. If I thought God always dealt mercifully with their kind, I wouldn’t have had anything to do with God. The word ‘mercy’ cannot be found even in your own lexicon, your profanity can bear me witness.”
Cain smiled ruefully as Abigail came into the sitting room rubbing her eyes.
“I was having a good dream when you two cut it out with your incessant persiflage. Hi, Barrister Kish.”
“That’s the old devil.”
“Cain––Good Lord, what happened to your hospitality?”
“See me; he has been insulting me for about thirty minutes now. Your husband’s only values are stubbornness and rudeness. He didn’t even offer me a lollipop.”
“Too bad of him.”
“Not my fault, I offered him a glass of poison but he refused.” Cain said.
“Where are your manners, Cain?”
“Divorce him and marry me.” Michael said and smiled at his own joke.
She noticed the barrister’s attire and asked, “Isn’t it a little warm today for black, Barrister?”
“No,” Michael replied almost immediately, “As a matter of fact, black is an excellent colour for heat. Black is actually best in heat, efficient radiation. In any case, I wear only two colours; black and grey. These colours are appropriate for any occasion, and they go well with together, should I mistakenly put on a pair of grey socks with my black trousers.”
“But don’t you find it boring to wear only two colours?”
“Not at all. I find it liberating; I don’t want to waste my time thinking about what I wear in the morning. I can’t imagine anything more boring than fashion. Professional football, maybe. Grown men sweating, jumping, running and kicking each other just because of one small spherical object, while the rest of the world pays money to watch, applaud and become fans. But on the whole, I find fashion even more unimpressive than sports.”
Margaret smiled at the lawyer, this was one topic the barrister was never tired of arguing about. Sports.
“Has Richie arrived?” she asked her husband.
“Richie, who’s Richie?”
“Your new driver.”
“Oh, you mean the fool? I haven’t seen him.”
“He’s a lazy chap, I hate his gut.”
Michael threw back his head in laughter at his misanthropic friend’s statement. “My friend finds fault in everybody.”
Cain smiled at Michael, giving him a thumb-up. “Nice sense of alliteration.”
The door was opened gently and the gatekeeper entered. “The young man who came last week is at the gate.” He told Abigail, “Should I let him in?”
“That’s what he called himself.”
“Allow him in.”
“Talk of the devil,” murmured Cain. “What an idiot that gateman is? An old dirty fool he is, his appearance disgusts me. He has a brain even chickens wouldn’t envy.”
“Oh, not again, please.” Abigail pleaded.
“I should find a replacement; he’s spending too long a time here.”
“Is that blood or ice water in those veins of yours?” Michael asked.
Mr. Eze Chima shook his head as he walked out, he’d heard the denigration of him made by Cain. Three minutes later came the knock on the door of the sitting-room.
“Come in.” Abigail answered.
The door was opened slowly and Richard stepped inside. He was dressed in the same black suit he had been wearing since 2006. Cain regarded him with that icy stare meant for cretins, numbskulls, morons and losers.
“Hi, Richie!” Abigail greeted warmly.
“Hey, Richie or Richard or whatever your name may be,” said Cain coldly, “If you are to work under me, you must stick to time, okay?”
“Okay,” said Abigail, “Richie, meet Barrister Michael Kish. He’s a lawyer.”
“Nice meeting you, sir.” Richard greeted.
“You’re welcome. But look here, you’re a young and handsome man who still has a long way to go. You should be very careful here; your job is to drive Cain and nothing more. I’ll advise you like a father, don’t go ahead and involve yourself in any ugly situation or I’m going to stick your behind in wet cement and watch it hard under you.”
“I don’t understand what you mean, sir.” Richard said. Why am I being treated like something out of a zoo?
“Just do your job and don’t get yourself in trouble.” Michael simply replied.
Abigail flashed her disapproval of the sarcasm in Michael’s voice.
“I won’t, sir.”
“I hope so.”
“You’ll surely get into trouble with me if you’re not extremely careful.” Cain admonished.
Abigail noticed the uncomfortable feeling Richard was having in the presence of the two older men.
“Richie, you can go to the gatekeeper to show you your quarter.” She said.
“Yes, madam.” He picked up his bag and went out with a pissed off expression.
“Can someone please tell me what is going on here?” she demanded harshly when Richard had left.
“Going on? What is going on?” asked Cain.
“Stop pretending, Cain. Both of you just treated Richie like a criminal.”
Cain spread his hands, “He did look like one, didn’t he?”
“I don’t just know what he did wrong to deserve that kind of treatment from you two.”
“Don’t burst up in flames, Abigail,” said Michael, “I have no qualm with the boy. I only told him to do his work well. That’s all, no string attached.” He held up his hands in mock surrender.
“He deserves a little respect from you both.”
“Respect my foot!” Cain ejaculated.
Abigail ignored her husband and continued, “Richie is really a good man, I lost my purse about two months ago, Richie found it and returned it. How many Lagosians can do that? Richie is the kindest and most gentle man the Good Lord ever gave life to.”
“You’re breaking my heart, where’s your violin?” Cain joked.
“He’ll appreciate your apologies.”
“Both of you.” Abigail said sternly, with arms akimbo.
Cain laughed out loud and Michael only smiled.
“I saw him staring at your bosoms.” Cain said, chuckling.
“Cain!” Abigail screamed.
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