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 Fifteen, scene one: Hannice and Sophie arrive.
By Monday afternoon, the new bedroom was ready for occupation; I had moved into the master bedroom and had Kanene prepare the guest room for Sophie; the access ramp had been completed, and all traces of building work cleaned up. We were totally ready when the taxi arrived at the gate.
The guards had become mine during the time I had been in Nocturne, and even called through to check with me that it was okay for the taxi to enter the compound and drive up to the door.
It felt strange to be welcoming Hannice into his own house, and I wasn’t completely comfortable with the role reversal that involved. This had been Hannice’s home for more than two decades. He had transformed it over that time from a mere building to a proper home, with his character stamped all over it. And here I was, welcoming him as a visitor.
“You haven’t changed anything, then?” he asked.
“Only the new bedroom for you in what you used as the den,” I replied, “I have no use for a room like that, so it was easier to convert it than to build on; quicker, and cheaper, too.”
I greeted Sophie, the woman who had been my assistant and confidante for some years, now become almost a de facto partner to my employer. That was mildly awkward for both of us, but we moved past it. My hope was that our relationship would stay as close as it had been, and I had the impression that Sophie was of the same mind. Kanene led the way through to the new bedroom, Hannice followed with Sophie guiding his chair, and I followed up the rear. Normally, I would have gone first, but Kanene was so proud of what she had achieved, and I saw no value in not allowing her to receive whatever glory was coming. Happily, Hannice was delighted with the practicalities of the room, and Sophie expressed tremendous admiration of the detailed design and layout. Kanene beamed under the praise being showered on her. She was as happy as I had ever seen her, her mood lifted not only by the presence of the man she had looked after for many years, but also by the fact that he had been so happy with her latest efforts.
We left them to their devices for a while. I could only imagine some of the tasks that Sophie would need to help Hannice with, such as toiletry and personal tasks that are the stuff of everyday life, but that are rendered difficult by Hannice’s lack of control and sensation below the site of his injury.
Hannice and Sophie came out for dinner an hour or so later. To give her the opportunity to tell Hannice what she had told me, I insisted that Kanene eat with us. Following my suggestion, she didn’t mention the powder incident, and I was happy to see that her demeanour was more calm and rational that it was when she confessed to me on the flight from Songea. Hannice took it well, of course; I hadn’t told Kanene that I had already briefed him; and Sophie was… well, Sophie was Sophie. She listened carefully to what Kanene had said, then immediately suggested that Kanene must have felt better, having got that off her chest. No-one thought any the worse of Kanene, and all agreed with the plan of action I had outlined to her after her revelations.
Kanene left us after dinner, and we went through the various things we would need to talk about during the visit, and set out a rough agenda for the rest of the week.
“At this stage in his recovery,” Sophie informed us, “Hannice can’t commit to any activity lasting more than a few hours; calm and rest are very important to him, and there are tasks related to his physiotherapy and to his personal care that I’m obliged to perform at regular intervals. Time must be set aside for those at a higher priority than anything else. Dr Harry made it clear that if I couldn’t guarantee that much, Hannice shouldn’t leave Knight Towers.”
“I’m quite relaxed about that,” I replied, “in fact it’s probably a help to us. It means that our meeting with TanzCap… I take it you’ve briefed Sophie on that, Hannice?”
I continued, “It means that I can justify insisting that our meeting with TanzCap doesn’t go on for very much more than an hour. That constraint should concentrate a few minds. And I’m not talking about any of us here, or Paul Jaxson.
“The meeting will be at 11 o’clock Wednesday morning. At your request, Hannice, tomorrow is a free day. I shall be in my study all day, if you need me, otherwise…”
“Planning to show Sophie some of the local area. We’ll pinch David for the day if that’s okay with you, Max.”
“Have him arrive at 10 o’clock. Sophie, can you get me ready for bed, please? Max, I’ll bid you goodnight.”