The first call Bonja received the morning after he returned from France came from his only surviving sibling’s spouse.
“Brother,” she had begun in a voice that sounded terrified, “my husband is very sick.” She concluded the last statement with a low wailing sound. Bonja asked her to calm down and tell him what happened. She explained how that Bonja’s brother had returned from work the night before, from the Port where he was stationed as a clearing officer, and complained of chest pains. He soon began to cough, dry cough at first, then some mucus, which was to turn into thick clots of blood. The sick man was rushed to a nearby hospital late that night.
Bonja held the phone tightly to his ear, wishing that what he was hearing was untrue. He had buried three siblings in the past ten years and his brother had never fallen ill, not since they both suffered from chicken pox while Bonja was in secondary school and his brother in primary school.
“Give the phone to the doctor,” he tried to sound brave, for the sake of the poor woman.
Dr. Agigaki picked the phone, cleared his throat and infused some authority in his voice.
“Yes sir. It’s an infection of the lungs. No, not meningitis.” He said meningitis casually, like an expert would.
“Sir, we are trying our best, but we really cannot say much right now. OK Sir. Thank you Sir.” Dr. Agigaki heaved a sigh as he handed the phone over to the woman. As he returned to his patient’s bedside, Dr. Agigaki contemplated within himself whether it was not time to pack up and move to another part of town, or even outside the country; to Togo perhaps, or some other African country where he can continue to ply his trade unperturbed. The only thing is that he made so much money from his current location and it was proving increasingly difficult to walk away from it all. But he feared that the authorities will one day catch up with him, especially as the casualty rate has been going up in the past months. One troublesome family member could spell trouble. Dr. Agikaki reminded himself of how he tried his best in medical school, but it was too tough. He was about to be thrown out when, as he would tell his wife, he was introduced to a highly placed officer in the registrar’s office who had access to examination records. With the combined financial assistance from his dear father and uncle, he was able to get his scores changed, a habit he continued until he was discovered on the eve of his graduation and sent packing.
He had come to this remote and nondescript part of town and set up practice, hoping to go unnoticed by his former school mates and the authorities. Often at his wits end what to do about patient’s complaints, he uses Google, a lot. The search engine has shown him what diseases came with which symptoms. He has even used that “blessed website” to successfully perform several caesarean sections, several uterine fibroid surgeries and other surgical procedures. But the symptoms exhibited by the man who was brought in the night before could not be easily identified from the search engine.
Dr. Agikaki felt touched to tell the crying woman to take her husband elsewhere, but he needed money to complete payment on the latest model Toyota Forerunner he purchased some months back. He would try his best to take care of the patient, until his wealthy brother paid some advance fee, then he will refer them to a better hospital. He adjusted the intravenous fluid stand beside Bonja’s brother’s bed as he walked back to his office.
The evening news headline of that day had horrifying news. Several employees of the Port had fallen ill with the same disease that plagued Bonja’s brother – coughing out thick liters of blood uncontrollably. 27 had died as at press time. The Minister had commissioned an investigation during which a toxic dump site was found behind the Port. A Triang Square shipping vessel had somehow evaded inspection and dumped some killer toxic materials behind a factory, not too far from the affected port. When Bonja heard the news, he froze. He knew. His phone rang, it was his brother’s wife. His brother had died. He slumped on the floor, and cursed himself, Mr. Farrow and that briefcase.
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