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 Fourteen, scene one: Call Hannice.
I spent the next days chasing the registration of KIT. Dick Branson gave me the tremendously encouraging news that his contacts had pushed the registration through, and we would be able to start trading the following Monday. That was it, then. I would, in four days, be a real CEO of a real company.
I called Marcia, who confirmed that Paul would be at his desk on Monday morning. I made a formal request for a meeting with him on Monday afternoon. My intention of that meeting was to set the stage for negotiations with TanzCap to buy their share of JPT. I made a video call to Hannice and updated him on developments here. He was more positive than I had seen him at any time since before the accident.
“Made some decisions, old girl,” he said.
“Great,” I replied, “do you want to tell me about them, or should I try to guess?”
“Doctor Harry says he can discharge me after the weekend. He’s happy that Sophie can keep up the physio at home, and he will want to see me once a month. That means I can get out of this damned place. First thing I want to do is to come out to Nocturne; give you a bit of support with Jaxson and the local boys.”
“You don’t need to do that, Hannice, but it will be good to see you. I’ll have a ground-floor bedroom made up for you, Sophie can use the guest room, where I am at the moment, and I’ll move through to the master bedroom.”
“Surprised you’ve not done that already, but good thinking, anyway. Upstairs bedroom definite no-no for me.”
“I take it I can charge any work to the firm?” I asked.
“Of course, old thing,” Hannice replied, “Nocturne is a company asset, so any building work needed is chargeable as capital expenditure. Lindy will sort out the numbers, anyway.”
Suddenly I had lots to do. Not being quite sure when Hannice and Sophie would be arriving, I needed to act quickly. Changing the use of the den, which I never used, to a bedroom was not difficult. I had only to remove the current sparse contents and buy in some bedroom furniture. The room was large enough for a part of it to become an en-suite bathroom. Lindy put me in touch with a firm of builders that he knew and trusted. With them, I worked out a design for an en-suite, full bathroom suitable for a wheelchair-user. I instructed them to start work immediately, and offered bonuses for completion in seven days. They clearly felt this was a worthwhile offer, as they agreed to put extra men on it, and work the weekend to be sure to complete the work before the following Friday. I also gave them instructions to fashion a concrete ramp beside the steps to the front door. Rear access was level, and all internal and external doors were already plenty wide enough for a large wheelchair or even a mobility scooter. That thought prompted me to ask Lindy to look at sourcing a mobility scooter we could rent for Hannice’s visit.
In the middle of all that activity, my laptop announced that there was an incoming video call from Sophie. She looked flushed when I answered it.
“Max, Max,” she said, excitedly, “I have to tell somebody, or I’ll burst.”
“What is it?” I asked her.
“Hannice is coming out of hospital on Monday!”.
“I know, Sophie. He told me yesterday.”
“But that’s not all. He’s not going back to his London flat. His father is in a hospice close to Knight Towers and won’t be returning. Hannice will be living there now; in Knight Towers. It’s ideal – old Mr Knight had it modified a few years ago, to allow him to move about on his mobility scooter,” she said, excitedly.
“That makes sense. It will be easier than trying to negotiate the confines of a London flat, and it will keep him close to his father.”
Sophie could hardly contain herself now, “And he has asked me to move in, so I am always on hand to look after him. I will be his PA as well as his physiotherapist.”
“That’s a big development, Sophie,” I said, “I knew he liked you, but—”
“No, no, no; not moving in like that. We won’t be living together, not in that way. I will just be a live-in employee and companion. God, no. I’m certainly not ready for any sort of relationship, and if I were, I’m not sure that Hannice, nice as he is, would be my choice.”
“Sorry; misread that,” I apologised.
“Anyway,” she continued, “I guess it means I won’t be able to work for you any more. Are you okay with that?”
“Of course. I’ve been expecting this for some time. I’m not sure I can replace you completely, but I have a candidate in mind. This person may be up to what I need, rather than what I want, if you see my meaning.”
“I think so. Who is it? Anyone I know?”
“That’s for later, Sophie.”
When I closed that call down, I noticed an incoming email from Hannice’s business email account. I opened it.
Addressed to the directors and senior managers of Knight Global Trading, it said:
“Please be informed that, effective from the date of this email, Mr Maurice Knight has stepped down from his position as Chairman and CEO of Knight Global Trading and its associated and subsidiary companies. As his only heir, I have been given the awesome responsibility of stepping into this particular pair of shoes.
A formal notice will be issued in due course, but for the moment, it’s business as normal and I hope to enjoy the same level of support that you have always given to my father.”
That was a sensible move. Previous conversations had left me unsure whether the old man would ever be ready to hand over the reins of the business he had built from scratch. Now I had the answer to that question, I had only to wait for other announcements, when I would learn what role Hannice intended to play, and what he would expect of me.