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 Eleven, scene one: The first day of my new life.
And so another phase of my life came to an end.
Goodbye Max Matham, Berkshire-based independent forensic accountant; hello Max Matham, Tanzania-based (for the time being at least) company director. I promised myself though, that whatever the demands of my new jobs, my quest for decent, humane treatment of HIV-positive orphans in Tanzania would stay uppermost in my mind.
Dar-es-Salaam was almost unbearably hot and humid after spring in Buckinghamshire; the sights, sounds and smells of the city in stark contrast with the silence and tranquility of my cottage.
As soon as I arrived at Nocturne, which I accepted as my home for the foreseeable future, I called Marcia, only to find that Paul was out of the country and not planning to return for a week or two. No matter; that gave me time to work on getting KIT up and running.
My first call was a visit to Dick Branson. I gave him all the paperwork Hannice’s London team had prepared, together with the relevant Power of Attorney and Notice of Appointment of Director, which he would have to have notarised. We were both confident that he would have no difficulties having the new company properly registered and licensed, but he was at pains to point out that the procedure could take up to five weeks to complete.
At that stage, I was Financial Director and acting CEO of Knight Trading (Africa), and CEO designate of the prospective Knight Investments (Tanzania) Ltd. Quite a change from the free-spirited (well, almost) bean-counter who had arrived in Tanzania, only a matter of months earlier, to look into the finances of a remote orphanage.
When I met with It didn’t look as though word of my situation had reached. This was not the meeting they were expecting.
“As you probably know,” I told the TanzCap directors when I met with them, “Ms Jont has released me from my employment with her, and I shall no longer act as chairman of this board.”
I swear I could hear jawbones hitting the table.
Wangwe objected, “We should have proper documents for this. Such a major change must be supported by documents.”
“Quite right, Mr Wangwe,” I said, “here is a copy of my termination notice and of the cancelled Power of Attorney. I trust that will satisfy your needs.”
That placated Wangwe for a while, although I sensed there was more he wanted to say. Thakur sat there muttering something and shaking his head. The only words I could make out were “highly irregular”.
Fonseca alone appeared totally unfazed by the news. “Does that mean we no longer have to sell our share in JPT?” he asked.
“My understanding, Mr Fonseca, is that it does not mean that,” I said. “Ms Jont’s reasons for wanting to dispose of that asset haven’t changed. Whether she will send someone else to do my job, I don’t know, but I believe that this divestment should go ahead as planned.” After a brief pause, I added, “However, I am no longer authorised to speak for JCap or Ms Jont, so you will need to contact her if you need confirmation.”
“But we do not have a relationship with Ms Jont,” Thakur objected, “our relationship is with Jont Capital (India), who report to Ms Jont through JC Europe.”
“No longer my problem, Mr Thakur,” I said, “although if you want to follow protocol, you could mak your request through JCI and copy it to Ms Jont.”
“Ah! That is indeed a good suggestion. Thank you, Madam Chairman.”
By this time, I was keen to get away from this group.
“No longer chairman, Mr Thakur, but thank you for your courtesy,” I said, standing and symbolically moving away from the board table.
“Now, will one of you directors please take the chair of this meeting and declare it closed?” I requested, “I have other business to attend to.”
The other business I mentioned was, of course, nothing to do with TanzCap or its directors, and I had no intention of discussing it with them. For the time being, there was no need for them to know of my involvement with Knight Trading, although I was sure it would not take long for it to reach Fonseca’s ears. As far as I was concerned at that moment, the only business I would have with them would be to conclude the transfer of shares in JPT from TanzCap to KIT.
Returning to my new home, I called the orphanage and arranged with Makena for me to visit them the following week. I felt that I needed to keep them in the loop, so they wouldn’t think I was still working for Della. That was my excuse; in fact, I fancied a trip into the country and there was little for me to do here until KIT was up and running.
While in England, I had bought some security equipment that would allow me to sweep the orphanage for listening devices, to put Kitwana Nchimbi’s mind at rest. I sensed that he thought it a real possibility that the place was bugged. I did a test sweep of Nocturne, partly to prove the equipment and partly to make sure that I wasn’t being eavesdropped. The scanner found only the listening device in the gatehouse, which I already knew about.
“I’d like to take another trip out on Friday or Saturday,” I said to Kanene as she was serving dinner.
“Ooh,” Kanene replied, excitedly, “can we go see Sekelaga and the children again?”
“Good idea, Kanene. We’ll do that on Friday,” I said, “then on Monday, I’m taking a trip to Ruvuma, to visit some friends who run an orphanage on the shore of Lake Malawi. I plan to leave early on Monday morning and be back by Friday evening. Would you like to come with me?”
The expression on her face changed rapidly. Gone was the excitement about seeing her friend again, only to be replaced by what looked almost like fear. The prospect of a five-day trip into a part of this vast country that she hadn’t previously visited was not one that she faced happily.
“I don’t know,” she said, “Perhaps my father will think the trip is to a dangerous place, or he may need me in the week.”
“Ask him,” I suggested. Believing her father to be Afolabi Fonseca, the TanzCap director, I added, “Tell him that we are going to visit the Jont Orphanage in Ruvuma. That way he will be able to look it up and see that it is not in a dangerous area.”
If my hunch was right, and Afolabi was Kanene’s father, then his reaction to that information would tell me a lot more than just his attitude towards his daughter’s safety.