This was my first attempt at a novella. Its working title is The Orphans. It is mostly set in the rural Tanzania I remember from the early 1980s, but some of the technologies used are much more recent. To that extent, it is anachronistic. Don’t forget, though; it is fictional, made up, lies. All of it.
The image on the left was my first bash at a cover. In a series of firsts, here’s its blurb.
Max Matham is a self-employed freelance forensic accountant living in a quiet village in Buckinghamshire. Della Jont is a hard-nosed businesswoman who presses Max into working for her, investigating alleged financial irregularities at an orphanage in East Africa. Max soon finds that some disturbing things are going on at the orphanage, and becomes involved in a set of intriguing events involving orphans, government agencies, witch-doctors, an old university chum and a multinational pharmaceutical company.
From 10 January 2016, I will publish The Orphans here as a serial in 59 parts; one scene each Sunday.
The full list of scenes published is here
The Orphans. Chapter Four, scene two: Obstacles
Hannice was waiting for me when I returned to his house.
“Hello, Max,” he said in a half-hearted, disinterested manner, without getting out of the armchair in which he was slumped.
“Hi, Hannice,” I replied cheerfully. I was genuinely happy to see him; a friendly face after the strains of the TanzCap meeting. At the same time, I was concerned that his attitude and actions suggested that he was far from happy. I feared that he had tired of his house-guest and was planning on ejecting me.
“What’s up?” I asked, “You look as though you’ve had a bad day. I hope it’s nothing I’ve said or done.”
“Not at all, old thing; just a bit annoyed,” he said. “Had planned a surprise for you, after your meeting. Thought it might be a heavy one for you. Plan was to fly to Arusha, and eat at a restaurant on the rim of Ngorongoro crater. Best game in northern Tanzania. Went there once with a group of business types. Ordered zebra steak, and damned if the waiter didn’t ask if I wanted the dark meat or the light meat.” Hannice shook with mirth at the memory.
“Plan was, Hannice? Has it changed?”
“Afraid so, Max,” he replied, all the joy having left his face. “Seems all the blasted Air Traffic boys walked out this afternoon. Something to do with a pay dispute. Why today, of all days? Even booked two rooms in a lodge, so we wouldn’t have to face coming back with a belly-full and a skin-full.”
“We’ll stay at home then?”
“Not likely, old girl. If Hannice Knight says he is going to take a lady out, Hannice Knight takes a lady out. Booked us a table at the best seafood restaurant in Dar-es-Salaam. Arranged a taxi, as well. Wouldn’t want to drive back, late at night and the worse for wear, through some of the neighbourhoods in that area.”
“What would I do without you, Hannice? It has been a hell of a day. I’m supposed to be backing TanzCap away from the Jaxson deal, but the local directors aren’t at all keen on doing that. I’ve asked them for proposals by tomorrow evening, so I’ll stay here for the day, if that’s okay with you, and catch up on some research – and some rest.”
The food at the restaurant Hannice had booked was superb; I had never been one for seafood, I suppose because my father believed that food should either grow in the soil or walk on it; I never knew him even to eat fish. I sampled fare I had not considered before that evening: prawns, lobster, crab; we shared a mixed seafood platter of everything that was available on their menu. Hannice’s choice of wines complemented the food magnificently, and the location of the restaurant – on the harbour wall, its lighting subdued so the harbour lights took prominence – completed the experience. All in all, it was a pleasant, relaxed evening. We were back and in our beds before midnight.
Six o’clock the following morning, there was a loud knocking on the front door. I heard voices from below, followed by a knock on my bedroom door.
“Morning,” I said, “come on in. I’m decent.”
Hannice poked his head around the door. “Better get dressed,” he said. “Two immigration chaps downstairs looking for you. Your visa okay?”
“Of course. I have a B2 visa. It’s okay for business meetings but not for working. I’m only here for a couple of meetings.”
“Max. Go talk to these guys; I’ll have my lawyer on standby, just in case.”
I dressed and went downstairs. Two serious looking, uniformed African men were seated on the sofa. I approached them with confidence, being sure that I was well within the rules.
“Good morning, gentlemen. Can I help you?”
“Wewe ni Maxine Matham, mwenyekiti wa TanzCap Ltd?”
“What?” I asked.
Hannice translated “You are Maxine Matham, chairman of TanzCap Ltd?”
“Yes, I am she.”
He then said something else in Swahili, which Hannice translated as: “I am arresting you for working in the United Republic of Tanzania without a proper visa.”
He handed me a document detailing, in English and in Swahili, my rights as a person under arrest. The other man stepped around behind me, grabbed my hands and placed handcuffs on my wrists.
“What do you mean, under arrest? I have a visa that lets me attend business meetings, and that’s what I’m here for.”
“We have a warrant to arrest you and deliver you to an immigration tribunal, and that is what we are here for. Please don’t resist, or we will have to use force.” Suddenly he could speak English!
I went off with the two men, hoping that Hannice’s solicitor could pull something out of the bag.