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 two: Jaxson again
It felt good to have bought some of the things that can make so much difference to people with albinism; things that don’t cost much, but that are beyond the means of many of them: sunglasses, protective clothing and suitable sun screen. Most sun screens sold commercially come nowhere near giving these guys the protection they need.
Later, at dinner, I updated Hannice on what had taken place at the meeting. He was, as ever, most supportive, but couldn’t offer much by way of advice as he, too, wasn’t able to figure out Fonseca’s agenda. During the course of the evening, Hannice received a phone call from Paul Jaxson, who said he wanted an urgent meeting with me. We arranged for him to come to Nocturne at 9am the following day.
He turned up a few minutes early, and Kanene showed him through to the library. I entered, with Hannice, a short time later.
“Before we start, Paul,” I said, “I’d like my friend Hannice Knight to sit in on this meeting. Hannice heads off Knight Global Trading’s Africa operations. I would like him to be able to inject an impartial opinion from time to time. Are you okay with that?”
“Certainly,” Paul replied. “Pleased to meet you, Hannice. I am Paul Jaxson, owner of Jaxson Pharmaceutical.”
“Quite,” was Hannice’s terse response.
“I wanted to talk to you, Max, because I am hearing rumours that TanzCap wants to pull out of our little arrangement. Is there any basis to these?”
“There certainly is, Paul. I am here as proxy for Della Jont, whom I think you know. Della has specifically asked me to withdraw TanzCap from JPT. I would prefer to do it with minimal disruption to either business, but do it I must. Would you be interested in acquiring the TanzCap shareholding, and if so, at what unit price?”
“We involved TanzCap because the terms of the licence granted by the Tanzanian authorities, demanded that there be a local shareholding of not less than 51%. JPI has a company registered and domiciled in Tanzania, but we couldn’t put our hands on our hearts and say we are a local company.”
“And TanzCap is?” I asked.
“Even so,” he said.
“Knight Trading could be interested in taking Tanzcap’s share,” Hannice interjected, “if we can resolve this business with the orphans. And if the price is attractive, of course.”
“Let’s take that off line, Hannice.” Paul replied.
“I think not, Paul,” Hannice said. “This question of the orphans is fundamental to my interest—”
“As well as being the main stumbling block to Della’s involvement,” I added.
“Quite so. What do you say, Paul?”
“Only what I’ve said before. We have to trial these drugs we’re developing, and we need HIV-positive subjects to trial them on, subjects that are still in the early stages of their journey with the virus. Most of these kids are likely to die at an early age without intervention. Some of them we can help, if only to slow the progress of their disease.”
There was a knock on the door.
“Come in, Kanene,” Hannice said. His house-girl entered with a tray of tea and biscuits.
As she left the room, Hannice stood and turned to Paul, “Some ideas that might be of help here, on my laptop upstairs. Let me fetch it.” He left the room, and I heard him climb the stairs. There was suddenly a dreadful crashing noise, then what sounded like a cry of pain, followed by an extended, low moan.
Paul and I both rushed out to see what had happened and, as we turned the corner to the staircase, there at the foot of the stairs we found Hannice, in a horrible, tangled state. At the other end of the corridor I saw Kanene walking away, and looking back with an unusual expression on her face; one that I didn’t recognise and couldn’t read. There was a deep frown on her forehead, and her cheeks had a reddish tint that I hadn’t seen before.
“Fell down the stairs,” Hannice said, pain in his voice. “Dashed if I know how. Nothing to trip over. Can’t feel my legs now. Call an ambulance, Max old chum, will you?”
There was no dial tone on my mobile, so I ran to the house phone, dialled 112 and explained the situation. An ambulance with a trauma doctor was dispatched and arrived within twenty minutes. As instructed, we had left Hannice exactly where he was. The temptation to move him to make him more comfortable was strong, but the hospital impressed on us that any movement would risk exacerbating whatever damage had been done by his fall. The trauma doctor, a petite young woman of Indian extraction, together with the two African paramedics, gently and carefully lifted Hannice onto a vacuum mattress and fitted skull traction, to immobilise his spine. The doctor then called for the air ambulance, which arrived after another ten minutes. Paul left, promising to be ready to talk to us again as soon as Hannice was up to it. I travelled in the air ambulance with Hannice and the doctor.