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 two: Jaxson.
Marcia showed me through to Paul Jaxson’s office, having alerted me that he was not on his best form, although she didn’t indicate why.
“Hello, Max. Take a seat,” he said, his voice sad, heavy and world-weary.
“What’s up, Paul?”
“This is a business meeting. Not the time for personal talk.”
“Sorry, Paul,” I insisted, “it’s going to have to be. I’m not going to get to the purpose of my visit until I have some idea what’s troubling you. And if you won’t tell me, I’ll just sit here for an hour and then leave.”
“Why do you women have to know every damned thing?” he asked, exasperation in his voice.
“Because we care, Paul,” I replied, “because we want to help, if we can; because we don’t like to see people hurting, especially people we know.”
“Okay, I’ll tell you; not that you’ll be able to do anything to help. The government is threatening to rescind JPT’s licence. They claim that we haven’t fulfilled the licence conditions as to domicile. JPI directly owns 49% of JPT, TanzCap provides the 51% local ownership that the licence demands. Although TanzCap is locally registered, there is no local ownership. It is 100% owned by an Indian corporation. The licensing authority’s decision is that the condition is not satisfied.”
“And you think I can’t help here?”
“I don’t see how you can.”
“You know that Della wants out of JPT, don’t you?”
“Yes, but with no buyer, we’re stuck with them.”
“Let me tell you about a new company, just formed, that becomes active today. Knight Investments (Tanzania) Ltd, KIT for short, is 100% owned by Knight Trading (Africa) Ltd, a corporation established in Tanzania for more than thirty years. You will recall from discussions with Hannice Knight, who is now, incidentally, CEO of Knight Global Trading, that there are certain conditions under which he would consider investing in JPT.”
“Yes, and I think we can meet those conditions now.”
“If you can meet those conditions, then the investment can happen. You just need to get together with the CEO of KIT and talk about it.”
“And who might the CEO of KIT be?” he asked.
I simply looked at him and smiled.
“Yes, me. Now get that hangdog expression off your face and bring me back the Paul Jaxson I know. Are you ready to talk business?”
“You bet. Won’t you have a conflict, though – aren’t you the de facto chairman of TanzCap?”
“No more, I’m not. I have no connection now with Della or any of her companies. TanzCap is back to the rotating chairmanship its directors like so much, and I am looking forward to negotiating with them. Oh, and Hannice will be here to back me up.”
“Now, that’s news to cheer me,” Paul’s expression brightened, “Ever since his accident, I’ve been more and more aware of my mortality. Here we are, working to rid the planet of a disease that kills thousands every year, yet each and every one of us risks being wiped out in an instant. Doesn’t that make you think?”
“It makes me want not to waste time. It makes me want to ensure that everything I say or do is geared towards making a difference, sometimes only to myself, but a difference nonetheless. Speaking of which, I would like to have the TanzCap meeting here, in your ground floor conference room. Hannice is wheelchair-bound for the foreseeable future, and I don’t want the complications of the ancient lift in the TanzCap building. As well as that, it makes sense for it to be on JPT premises.”
Paul rose to his feet and, as I stood, he started gently ushering me to the door, “Agreed. Make the arrangements with Marcia and make sure I have a week’s notice, so I can be sure to be available. And give my regards to Hannice, when you next speak to him. For the moment, I must press on. Time is precious.” Paul winked as he said that, and then disappeared back into his office.
As I left the Jaxson building, I ran through the checklist I had lodged in my mind: KIT, done; Paul, done; Hannice, done; TanzCap, next job.
The word from Hannice was that he would be arriving the following week. That left the builders seven days to have everything done and ready for him. I had already told them they should complete it by the following Friday, which allowed a few days for slippage, over-runs and any rectification needed. Having seen how much they had achieved over the weekend, I was quietly confident that all would be ready in time for Hannice’s arrival, in spite of the “Tanzanian factor” that he had counselled me to allow for in any project.
What was less likely to be completely ready was my strategy for dealing with TanzCap. I had arranged a meeting with the three executive directors, to be held at Jaxson’s ground floor facility, at which Hannice and I would represent Knight’s interests and Paul Jaxson would represent those of his organisation.
I had already asked a respected firm of investment brokers to give a valuation of JPT as a going concern. Following Paul’s revelation, I asked them to come up with a figure for the hardware of the business – its liquidation value. Armed with these figures, Hannice and I could formulate a strategy.