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 Eighteen, scene two: Off to Singapore.
When I arrived in the Singapore office, it was clear to me that things weren’t right. The taxi dropped me at the door of the building, and I took the lift to the eighteenth floor, where Knight Trading (Singapore) had its office. That there was an atmosphere of disquiet and mistrust was apparent from the looks and whispers I encountered from the moment I entered the office. The receptionist greeted me warmly enough, but as soon as I asked to see Danny Cho, her demeanour changed; she pointed to a door to her right and said, “Through there,” in a most abrupt manner. I was tempted to tell her who I was, but decided against it. She’d find out soon enough.
Danny poked his head around the door. “Come on in, Max,” he said.
“Did I detect a bit of an atmosphere out there?” I asked.
“Sure did. Somehow, they’ve got wind of the fact that I’m suspicious about something; they don’t know what it is, but they all think that I’m pointing the finger at them.”
“Have you given anyone cause to think that?”
“I have been careful not to, but they have seen which files I have been examining, and have drawn their own conclusions.”
“Here’s what’s going to happen,” I said. “For the rest of today, I want you to tell me everything you’ve found so far and give me full details of your suspicions. Tomorrow morning, I’ll need a private office and all of your accounts and sales files, for the past three full financial years and the current year. I’ll also need a PC connected to your network with supervisor privileges and full access to all your data files – even any you may try to hide from the auditors. Then I want you to leave me alone. I may need to call some employees in to confirm information, but I’ll let you know before I do. As soon as I’ve reached my conclusion, you and I will have a discussion, then we’ll call the staff together. Okay?”
“Sounds good to me, but do you really think you will be able to do that, just from the files?”
“Danny, by training and experience I am, first and foremost, a forensic accountant. This is what I do.”
We looked in detail at what he had found, and at his suspicions. I could see why he would feel as he did, but it was still possible that this was all no more than a complex set of coincidences. I left the office with my head full of information that I would start to process the following morning.
On the way back to my hotel, I stopped off and bought a local SIM card for my mobile phone. I needed to be able to make and receive calls without going through Danny’s switchboard and I wanted it to be a Singapore number. Once back in my hotel room, I called Lindy to let him have my mobile and hotel numbers. As I had only been gone for twenty-four hours, I didn’t expect there to be anything for him to report on. Surprisingly, there was.
“You know Scott Enoch, in Baltimore? And you know he’s all religious and everything? Well, he called to say he really likes the KIT concept, and he’d like to talk to you about the possibility of doing something similar in his region. What do you think?”
“I’ll talk to him, Lindy. If any of the other regional directors ask about it, just tell them that it is a pilot scheme in East Africa, and we don’t want even to think about rolling it out further until we’ve given it time to prove itself here. Can you do that?”
“Sure thing, Boss. How’s it going in Singapore?”
“Too early to say. Maybe I’ll know a little more tomorrow.”