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 am publishing The Orphans here as a serial; one scene each Sunday.
The full list of scenes so far published is here
The Orphans. Chapter Sixteen, scene one: Detailed planning.
The week Hannice and Sophie were on safari was a whirl; the days blending into one another with the fuzziest of edges. For sure, I knew exactly and in great detail what we had agreed and achieved, but couldn’t, for the life of me, say what we did on which day.
Lindy (I was still allowed to use that name in private) had done a splendid job of putting his proposal together, and I couldn’t fault it. His business model was clear, well researched and sound, his forecasts for cashflow and capital spend may have been a trifle optimistic in places, but were basically supportable. His five-year plan made sensible allowance for growing establishment levels in line with revenue, and his profit forecasts were reasonable and, I felt, achievable.
Registration of HIS was completed and LJ had his cards made, using a logo that he designed.
As to the transfer of functions between KTA and HIS – it was just LJ with a different hat on!
Their safari over, Hannice and Sophie returned to see the old Knight Trading (Africa) offices transformed. What was Hannice’s office, but which by then had become mine, had reduced in size a little. It was still quite large for one person, but that was the norm for businesses of this type in the area. What had been Lindy’s alcove was larger and partitioned. Its door proudly bore a brand-new, polished brass sign that read “Holy Island Services, L J Aldredge – Manager”. The pillar next to the entrance door now bore three brass plaques, proclaiming the building as housing the registered offices of Knight Trading (Africa) Ltd, Knight Investments (Tanzania) Ltd and Holy Island Services Ltd.
“How will you manage to juggle three jobs, three companies?” Hannice asked.
“We’ve ordered a new telephone system that will use three groups of incoming lines. We will always know whether a call is for KTA, KIT or HIS.”
Hannice looked around, and I thought from his facial expression that he was not unimpressed.
“Looks like you’ve thought of everything, Max. Got it well covered.”
“That’s what you pay me for,” I replied, “speaking of which— “
“I know,” he interrupted, “I’ll do some work when I get home, and put together a package you’re sure to like.”
Lindy came bounding in. “Ooh, Max,” he said, in a manner I could only describe as his most camp. He saw Hannice and Sophie, pulled himself short and put on his official face. “Good morning, Mr Knight, Mrs Deigh,” he said, in his best managerial voice.
“Hi, Lindy,” they replied in unison. I noticed a high incidence of that pair talking in unison, acting almost as two halves of a connected whole. I filed that away for future reference.
“LJ please, Mr Knight,” Lindy said in a way that suggested he felt slighted. He immediately slipped out of character, giggled like a teenager, and added at an ever-increasing pace, “Only joking, Boss. Call me what you like; you’re still the boss. Well, technically, Max is my boss, but you’re her boss and so… well, you know what I mean. Ooh, Max! That’s what I came in for. Listen. I just had a call from Roger at Jaxsons. Apparently, everything has gone through and we now own 51% of Jaxsons local outfit. Well, he says; Roger; that his boss has told him that we would be looking after the admin and accounts and he should start briefing me. I didn’t expect it to be that quick. Shouldn’t you bosses talk about it first, before we do? Though I suppose I’m a bit of a boss now, if you look at it that way; but I still think you should be telling me what I take over and when, not him and—”
“Stop and breathe, Lindy,” I advised.
“Sorry,” he said.
“You’re right, of course,” I said, “I’ll call Paul Jaxson and set up a meeting to talk about this. I shall want you to be there, and I expect Paul will want his man—”
“Yes, Roger to be there, too. That way, we can settle the principles and the practicalities at the same time. Do you want to sit in on this, Hannice?”
“We’ll be away in the morning. You handle it, Max,” he said, “That’s what I pay you for,” he added, with a wink.
When Lindy left us, Hannice became more serious.
“You haven’t responded to my offer yet,” he said.
“I’m with you in principle, Hannice. We need to talk more about my reward package, and I have to be happy that the rest of your senior people are comfortable with the appointments but basically, yes. I’m in.”
“Excellent,” he said, “I’ll set up a virtual conference with the Regional Directors and the central management team. You can join by video link or come along to HQ and chew the fat around the table. Probably useful for you to meet Henk in person; you will be working closely together, logically and organisationally if not physically. I’ll call you when it’s set up.”