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 am publishing The Orphans here as a serial in 59 parts; one scene each Sunday.
The full list of scenes published is here
The Orphans. Chapter Five, scene one: Board meeting
My ankle was a lot better the next morning; still tender, and I needed the help of a crutch to let me keep most of the weight off it; but it didn’t appear to be too seriously damaged. I called the executive directors of TanzCap and arranged another meeting for the following day. I had the number of the taxi driver who had brought me home the previous day, so I called him and asked him to transport me to TanzCap’s office for 9am Monday.
When I arrived at the office, the other directors were already assembled in the boardroom, and already deep in conversation.
“Good morning, gentlemen,” I started. “Who would like to bring me up to date with progress from your side? Once I have that, I’ll make sure you know everything I do.”
Mr Wangwe started the ball rolling, with the Admin perspective, “I have consulted with our lawyers, and confirmed that there is nothing in the terms of our agreement with JPI that will prevent us from divesting our interest. It is simply a question of finding buyers.”
For Finance, Mr Thakur waded in with, “That’s where the problem will come in. JPT is a privately owned partnership; its shares are not listed on the stock exchange, so we can’t simply dump the shares on the market. We need to find a buyer, someone who wishes to acquire a stake in this venture.”
“My impression,” I said, “is that JPT looks to have a good, solid future, and I don’t think finding a buyer will be difficult. It may be more difficult finding a buyer who will be happy to deal with TanzCap. We are part of a global venture capital organisation that has a reputation, deserved or not, for taking the cream of companies we have supported and selling off the rest. This may lead potential buyers to be very wary of what we are passing on. I suggest we engage a neutral agency to conduct the sale for us. If need be, sell our investment at a discounted rate to a third party, allowing them to sell on at true market value and realise a profit themselves.”
“We must realise all possible value for ourselves, not pass some of it to someone else,” Mr Fonseca objected. “We have to do what is best for this company. That is our duty as directors!”
“Wrong. We must do what is best for JCap, for Della Jont,” I reverted. “I’ve consulted with Della, and this is her wish.”
I looked around the room, my gaze falling on the HR Director. “I’d like to know from you, Mr Fonseca,” I said, “what you meant at our last meeting, when you said that I would regret taking this course, and whether that statement was in any way connected with my arrest by the immigration police the following day.”
Fonseca shifted in his seat, the other two directors looking at him with raised eyebrows. “What are you talking about, woman?” he asked. “I made no threat; I only said that I thought your action was unwise and that it would have consequences that you were not expecting. As for the arrest which, by the way, I know nothing about, that could have been anybody.”
“Who, outside of this room, knows what I am doing in this company? Have any of you told anyone else?” Two heads shook, and Fonseca looked angry. “As I thought. Mr Fonseca, consider yourself on notice, from Della Jont, owner of this company, your boss, that you are being closely watched.”
Fonseca’s reaction was, not unexpectedly, one of increased anger. Had I to characterise the reactions of the other two; backing away from him and looking furtively at one another; I would have classed them as fear. Clearly, there were aspects to Afolabi Fonseca that I had yet to discover.
“That aside, gentlemen,” I continued, “we must progress TanzCap’s divestment of its interest in JPT. Mr Thakur, can you speak with your opposite number at Jaxson’s Tanzanian operation, see if they want to buy back our investment, please?”
“Won’t that be tipping them off, though?” he asked.
“That doesn’t concern me. We are not doing this in a clandestine fashion; I want everything to be completely above board, and—”
“That is not the African way!” interrupted Fonseca. “It is not how we do things in Tanzanian businesses, and I cannot condone doing business in that way. You must never let you competitors know—”
“Competitors? What competitors?” I asked. “We’re in a partnership with Jaxson, and we want to walk away from it. Who are our competitors? Certainly not Jaxson; they will soon know of our plans, and I see no reason not to involve them at this stage. Or do you have some other thoughts?”
That Fonseca had some interest other than the good of JCap was beyond question; but what?
“I have no other plans,” he said. “But if Jaxson are interested, they will not pay us as good a price as we can get on the open market.”
“I grant you that possibility, Mr Fonseca. Perhaps Mr Thakur could look into that before approaching Jaxson. Let me know what you find, and we’ll decide from there. We’ll meet again in seven days. You all have your tasks: Mr Thakur, investigate possible price points; Mr Wangwe, verify and confirm with our lawyers that all proposed courses open to us are legal and transparent; and Mr Fonseca, make sure that both Mr Thakur and Mr Wangwe are fully up-to-date with everything you know or suspect and any information you have or think you have concerning this transaction. I have the feeling you know a lot more than you are telling me!”
The meeting broke up, and I had time for a bit of shopping before going back to Nocturne. I still wanted to buy some items that I could donate to the Albino Society.