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 Seventeen, scene two: The conference, part 2.
The palpable silence seemed to last for an age, although it was probably only a few seconds before Owen Nicholls proposed a vote of thanks to Mr Maurice Knight for the way he had built and led the company. Everyone present agreed, and promised to give Hannice the same support and loyalty they had given to his father.
Hannice laid out his vision and, despite some initial reservations, the meeting confirmed support of Hannice’s appointment of Henk as Group COO, and of my elevation to Group CFO and Regional Director for Africa.
Hannice then addressed the meeting again. “Thank you all for your support for Papa all these years, and thank you for offering me the same support. If it can be done, I want Max and Henk to visit you all during the next twelve months, and to pick up on any ideas you may have for development of the group into the future.
“Max and Henk will know how to get in touch with me, should anything come up that needs my personal intervention, but otherwise, you should consider me on sabbatical and below the radar, as it were.”
There was an air of reservation, which Scott Enoch, in Baltimore, verbalised for the group. “Does that mean that Max and Henk are effectively running Knight Global, not you?”
“I’m glad you asked that, Scott,” Hannice replied, “Max and Henk are in possession of the detailed strategy document that I have drawn up in consultation with them and Papa, and which will be in your email boxes before the end of the day. It was ready yesterday, but I wanted to know that you were all with me in principle before sharing it with you. Obviously, it contains information that is very sensitive, commercially.
“I am not suggesting that any of you would be disloyal, but I had to allow that maybe one or two of you had a strong personal bond with Papa and may have been less happy working with me or with my nominees.”
One of the IT people poked her head around the door and gave a thumbs-up to Emily, which Hannice must have seen.
“Check your mailboxes when you get back,” he continued, “and the strategy document will be there.”
There was a flurry of people checking their phones, and indistinct murmurs that suggested they had each received an email.
One by one they looked up with a smile.
“Good, are we okay now?” Hannice asked.
There was a chorus of affirmative noises.
“Question for Max, please,” Danny Cho said. “When do you plan to come to Singapore, exactly?”
“Give her a chance, Danny,” Hannice suggested before I could answer, “it’s far too early to talk detailed dates yet. I’m sure both Max and Henk will be in touch with you all over the coming weeks, to set things up. Don’t forget, everyone, that Max has also to settle in to her role as Regional Director Africa. For that, she will need to spend some time in the Durban and Lagos offices, as well as covering the big things that are going on in Dar-es-Salaam at the moment. Full details of these things are in the appendix to the strategy document.”
“Thank you Mr Knight.”
“Hannice please, Danny; and all of you. Now. If there’s no more business, I’ll bring this to a close, and we can all get on with the job of digesting and implementing our parts of the overall strategy.”
One by one the video connections dropped, and the head office managers returned to their departments, leaving Hannice, Henk and me in the conference room.
“Went well, I thought,” Hannice said.
“I’m a bit worried by Danny in Singapore,” I said. “He’s very keen that I should go over there soon. Do you know of anything going on there that might be a cause for concern?”
“No, I don’t, Max, but Danny’s generally a steady sort, so there must be something. Can you make a visit there a priority?”
“I’ll call Danny next week and ask him to put together an agenda and brief. I’ll aim to go there next month or the month after, but if there’s anything in his brief that hints at urgency, I’ll make the visit sooner,” I said.
Before leaving, Hannice said, “You both know how to get hold of me in an emergency. Regard me as being effectively absent as of this evening.”