The Orphans 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.
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 three: Funeral.
I drove home like a burglar after his first job; continually looking in my mirror to make sure I wasn’t being followed. I didn’t think any of Della’s people would make themselves obvious, but I felt I had to look anyway. I arrived home with no difficulties, and found Sophie still waiting for me. I gave her the bare bones of my conversation with Della.
“You didn’t tell me Della’s address. Where is that information?” she asked.
“Nowhere,” I said, “I lied about that. I also lied about the evidence Mum gave me. She only told me that she knew about it.”
“What if Della finds out?”
“Mum’s not going to tell her; I’m not going to tell her, and I trust you not to,” I said.
Sophie nodded and smiled. “What next?” she asked.
“I’m going to bury Mum tomorrow morning. That’s next. After that, I’ll meet up with Hannice and see where it takes us. He wants me to set up and run a new company for him. That will be a full-time job, for the time being at least; so I shan’t be taking on any work here for a while.”
The next morning, Sophie and I made our way to the church near the old family home. It had always been Mum’s wish to be, as she put it, ‘properly buried’ not cremated, and I ensured that this wish was followed. The vicar, a long-standing family friend, conducted a simple but tasteful service. We then buried Mum next to Dad in the church’s graveyard. The service was over by 11am, and at a small gathering in the vicarage afterwards, Mum’s friends, as many as were still around, spoke about her and about Dad. It was an emotional time for me, and many long-buried memories surfaced. I made my excuses and went into the vicarage garden. I found peace on the bench next to the pond, among the reds and golds, oranges and yellows of the floral displays. Only the muted chatter behind double-glazed windows and the gentle sounds of an English spring disturbed the silence. It was all too much for me, and I’m afraid I wept again. I hadn’t wanted to cry openly in that gathering; just a bit too public. The vicar’s wife came out to comfort me, and we spoke at length about shared memories of two special people.
In all the rush, I hadn’t told Hannice that I was in England. Hoping that Sophie had, I called him at the hospital. He confirmed he was up to a visit.
When I arrived, I caught Hannice in the middle of hoisting himself out of bed and down to his desk.
“Can I help you, Hannice?” I asked.
“No thanks, old bean; have to learn to do as much for myself as I can. Can’t depend on someone always being there to help me.”
Just the level of independence I expected from him, and I was supremely happy to see it. It meant that his spirit, his fight, was intact.
“How’s the physio coming along?” I asked, already knowing the answer, having been briefed by Sophie.
“Marvellous, your Sophie. Talented hands. Can’t say I’m noticing much difference down below, but it’s more about preventing atrophy than anything else. Good fun, though.”
“That’s great, Hannice, although I think she’s more your Sophie than mine, these days. Not that I mind. For the time being, what’s best for you is more important than what’s easiest for me. Don’t let it go to your head, though. You know how quickly I can change my mind.”
“Speaking of changing mind, old stick, have you thought any more about my suggestions?”
“Matter of fact, I have,” I said, and brought him up to date about Mum’s death, and my subsequent chat with Della.
“So, what are you saying now?”
“Now,” I responded, “I am no longer involved with TanzCap, and all the hassle with Fonseca and the others, so I’m free to found and run KIT for you, if you still want me to. Of course, it will depend on what kind of package Knight Global offers me. I’ve no income from Della now, and I’ve put my own business on hold. That means I have to give some thought to where my money is coming from.”
“I’ll talk with HR and work out an offer for you. That will be just for your role as chairman and CEO of KIT. Once I take the reins, there could be other positions, and an enhanced package.” Hannice looked pensive. “When are you planning to go back?” he asked.
“Probably early next week,” I replied. “There’s nothing holding me here, and I want to get things started over there. I’m also keen to distance myself from TanzCap, so I can start talking with Paul on a different footing.”
“Good egg,” he said, “knew you’d hit the ground running.”
“Yeah, thanks,” I said. “I’m expecting Della’s man around tomorrow afternoon with the paperwork releasing me from her talons. When can you get paperwork to me so I can get KIT started?”
“Should be able to get it to you by Sunday pm, if not earlier. I’ll get things started as soon as you leave. Not that I’m trying to get rid of you, of course.”
“I didn’t think for a moment that you were, Hannice. Don’t send them though; I’ll pop in on Sunday afternoon. We should have a chat before I go back, to make sure we’re both clear what you want me to do.”