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. Another first: 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.
Beginning on 10 January 2016, I shall publish The Orphans here as a serial; one scene each Sunday.
The full list of scenes so far published is here
The Orphans. Chapter Ten, scene two: Showdown with Della.
Back at my cottage, Sophie was waiting for me. I told her that Mum had died, and recounted the last conversation I had with her.
“So, the information Della was using to keep you in tow, your mother knew all along,” she said, “what are you going to do now?”
“I’m going to pay her a visit,” I replied, “on my terms, and when I choose. I’m going to have it out with her, once and for all.”
And that is what I did. The following morning, after a brief visit to the funeral director, I set off in my rented car and drove directly to Della’s mansion. At the main gate, I thrust an official-looking pass toward the guard’s face; it was from a conference I had attended a handful of years before, but it had my photo on it and it was on a long, red lanyard, which was enough to fool him; and he waved me through. I skidded to a halt on the gravel outside the impressive front door. A large, polished-brass pull next to the door caused what sounded like a large gong to sound inside. An officious-looking man who, from his attire, I assumed to be her butler, looked down his nose at me and sneered; “Yessss, moddom?”
My left hand was in the pocket of my suit jacket. Wondering how gullible he could be, I raised my hand, as if pointing a pistol at him.
“I don’t want any trouble,” I said, “I just want to talk to Della Jont.”
He froze. Della’s voice came from behind a door along the corridor that faced the front door, “Who is it, Roberts?”
“It’s no-one, Ma’am,” he said, looking at my pocket, “must have been the wind.”
I wiggled my hand, mouthed “stay”, and made my way down the corridor to the door behind which I knew I would find Della. I threw the door open.
“Surprise!” I yelled, entering the room.
“Max!” she said, her voice hovering between surprise and shock. I looked at her coldly.
“What are you doing here?” she barked, “And how the hell did you find me?”
“Game’s up, Della,” I said. “Mother died yesterday, but before she did, she told me that she knew everything about the way you made my father fiddle your accounts, before he got away from you and joined Jaxson. She also told me where I could find solid evidence of what you and your father made him do. I guess the boot’s on the other foot now, eh?”
“You think you’re smart, don’t you?”
“Smart enough to find your ‘secret’ address,” I said, as she reached forward to her desk, “and don’t even consider having your stooges come in here and drug me, or worse. Your address, with GPS co-ordinates, are stored in a safe place, and will become public if I don’t make my next appointment on time or if I’m harmed in any way. If we conclude our business to my satisfaction and I return in good time and in good condition, you have my word that your location will remain under wraps as long as you leave me completely alone.”
The way she shifted in her chair told me that I had her on the defensive.
“How do I know I can trust you?” she asked.
“You don’t,” I replied, “but my history of trustworthiness knocks yours into a cocked hat.”
“What are your terms?”
“One: you release me from your employ. That means you make no further payments into my bank account. Two: you remove me from the board of TanzCap—”
“Who will chair it?”
“Your problem, not mine. Three: you withdraw your power of attorney. I have it with me, and shall happily tear it up in front of you, as well as returning the Barclays Tanzania credit card. Four: you accept that I may choose to do work on behalf of others; others who may not be sympathetic to your plans and methods.”
“What do you have in mind?” she asked, her voice showing little of its normal fire.
“I can’t tell you that; not yet, anyway. What do you say?”
“I can agree to one, two and three; consider it done—”
“In writing,” I insisted.
“Oh, for Christ’s sake,” she said in exasperation, “okay, I’ll have the necessary release papers drawn up.”
“And four?” I asked.
“If you no longer work for me, I can hardly stop you working for someone else, can I? JCap has never done gagging or no-competition clauses and I see no reason to start now. Be aware though, Max,” she added, “you’ll find me a formidable opponent, should our paths ever cross.”
“I’m banking on it,” I said, “I expect to be in England for the rest of the week. Have Andrews bring me the papers to sign by Saturday. I’ll hand him the credit card and cancelled power of attorney at the same time.”
I stood and walked toward the door.
Della called after me, “One thing, before you go, Max…”
“How did you find out where I live?”
I pulled the door open and, as I was walking through it, looked back and said, with a smile on my face, “Wouldn’t you just love to know that?”