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 three: Strategy time.
After a couple of days, I had received the two figures I needed. Both were contained in detailed reports that gave me a solid view of the current state and likely realisable market value of JPT, both as a going concern, and as a company that was no longer licensed to do business in Tanzania.
I placed a call to Hannice, now at Knight Towers, and explained to him what Paul had told me.
“I have valuations for JPT. As a going concern, the opinion given is fifteen to twenty billion shillings; if it loses its licence, the figure drops to between six and eight billions, depending on the age and condition of the laboratory equipment and the status of any current patent applications. One half of that gives us, say, eight or three billions.”
“Let’s start by offering four. When they baulk at it; which they will; we threaten to walk away from the deal, leaving them lucky to net three billions. Get Paul on board with that first, but don’t let him in on our final figure.”
“Which is?” I asked.
“As far as anyone is concerned, five and a half. Between the two of us, Max, I’d be fairly relaxed about going up to six and a half. That’s where the red line is, though.”
“Understood. I have some ideas for KIT that I’d like to discuss with you while you’re here, Hannice. You might want to leave a day or two available for that; it’s a new direction for both of us, and we need to be sure that we are both comfortable with the way I’m proposing to run the company.”
“I’m planning to arrive late on Monday, Max. I want to relax on Tuesday; we’ll meet TanzCap Wednesday, then you and I can have Thursday and Friday to discuss what you want to do here. I’ll also want to talk to you about what I want to do with myself, inside and outside the business.”
That left me intrigued. I knew that he wanted to do some of the things he had never been able to do, because his father pushed him out here straight after uni, but I had no idea what any of these things were. And how many of these things, whatever they turned out to be, would he be able to do in a wheelchair?
I would find out eventually, I thought. In the meantime, I had practically committed to supplying a detailed business plan within a week, and that would need concentrated attention from me.
Having accepted that she wasn’t responsible for her employer’s misfortune, Kanene really threw herself into the task of supervising the furnishing and decoration of the new bedroom. She had shown me her ideas, and I had to admit to being pleasantly surprised at the good taste her choices displayed. Once she had confided in me about her father’s activities, and wasn’t summarily dismissed for it, her attitude toward me changed. She had always been attentive and conscientious, but I had always been aware that she was doing so because that was her job. She now appeared to gain personal satisfaction from her work, and although we would never be best friends, she was exhibiting a certain warmth to me, a warmth that I was more than happy to reciprocate.
I wanted to sound Lindy out on part of my plans, but had to be careful. I couldn’t go into detail on what I had wanted to do, in case Hannice rejected my plans. I went into the office and asked Lindy to join me in my room. I asked him to go through what his job as Executive Assistant entails; the fine detail of what he actually does.
“Everything,” he said.
“Yes. Mr Knight makes big decisions and it’s my job to make them work. I do all the admin and the accounts, I buy what needs to be bought, I hire and fire junior staff; everything.”
“It sounds like you are going to be very useful to me, Lindy. Mr Knight wants me to take full charge of his company here, as well as the investment company we have just set up. Do you think you can handle the extra responsibility and workload of doing the same as you are, but for two separate businesses?” I asked.
“I don’t see why not,” he answered, “if the workload gets to be too much for me, I presume I could engage an assistant?”
“Let’s not get ahead of ourselves, Lindy. What do you have by way of qualifications for what you do?”
“No real qualifications as such,” he said, “but I’ve been doing this job for fifteen years, ever since I left school. In that time I’ve done loads of training courses and… oh; hang on.” He disappeared back into his corner, returning with a file of papers. “These are the certificates and licences I’ve got from the training.”
I looked through the file. There were certificates of attendance for a number of courses, but what really impressed me was the set of licences from the Chamber of Commerce. These recognised Lindy’s abilities and authorised him to act as an accountant up to balance sheet production, and to function as a buyer, administration operative and HR adviser. Just what I wanted.
“It looks like you’ll do fine,” I said.
“Can I ask why you wanted to know this stuff? Surely, if Mr Knight has been happy with me all this time, shouldn’t that be okay?”
“I know you were right for Mr Knight, Lindy; let’s just say that I wanted to be sure that you would be right for me, too.”
“And I’m sure you will be. Mr Knight will be here next week. After he leaves, you and I should sit down and have a long chat about the future – yours, mine and the company’s.”
“If we’re going to talk about all our futures, would I be allowed to talk about your image?”
“What’s wrong with my image?” I demanded, trying to remain calm and level-headed in the face of what looked like a clear case of insubordination.
“Oh, nothing, I’m sure, but I know how things work in this city; and the businesslike, serious, dare I say dressed-down image you favour may not be the best one for a senior executive in Dar-es-Salaam.”
I was more than a little annoyed by his presumptive manner. Before I blasted him out of my office, though, I considered what he had said and thought that he might, perhaps, have a point.
“I’ll think about that later, Lindy. Did you give Mr Knight fashion advice?” I asked, trying to mask the annoyance I felt.
“All the time. Would you like me to get out the photos of what he dressed like ten years ago? Without my guidance, he would have been a social pariah. Well, perhaps not that bad, but he wouldn’t have been as successful in the social and business circles as he was.”
“Later. I need to go home and prepare for the boss’s visit.”