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 four: Resolution.
I buzzed Danny Cho and asked him to join us. Ray explained to him what he had told me.
“Your mystery is solved, Danny,” I said. “What do you propose to do now?”
Danny gave it some thought, then said, “I need to get the staff together, and explain to them why I have been acting in a way they found upsetting. I will tell them that the fall-off in revenue was not a result of anything untoward, but simply a staffing matter.”
“And what about me?” Ray asked, “What will you do with me, sack me?”
“Good heavens no,” Danny replied, “If you are not hungry in the way you were, you are no use to me in that position. However, you are still the best Marketing Executive I have ever known, and it would be foolish of me to lose your services.”
“So?” Ray and I chorused in unison.
“Give me five minutes,” Danny said, and left the room. Ray and I made small talk until his return some minutes later.
“Here’s how it’s going to go,” Danny said. “I plan to promote you, Ray, to a new position of Head of Marketing, and charge you with recruiting one or more people to do the job you’ve been doing so well for the past few years. The people you recruit will have the hunger you’ve lost, and I shall rely on your integrity and acumen to push them to greater heights. Your basic salary will remain, and there will be bonuses in proportion to the earnings of your staff. As for your people, they will have a basic salary of half of what you have enjoyed, but a higher level of commission, such that their on-target earnings will be about what yours were last year.”
“That all sounds very fair, Danny,” I said, “but what of Ray’s desire that his win be kept secret?”
“No problem,” he replied. “I’ll tell the staff something appropriate that won’t in any way make Ray look bad.”
“Thank you, Max,” Ray said.
“Yes. Thank you, Max,” Danny echoed.
Danny gathered all the office staff into the conference room, and prepared to address them. I wondered what he was going to say. I needn’t have worried.
“I know that many of you have been concerned, of late, by the work I have been doing; and I know there have been some rumours flying around. I also know that Max’s arrival from Group Head Office only added fuel to that fire. I’m here to tell you now, that yes, I have been investigating the causes of the fall-off in our business this year, and it’s true that I was very much afraid that there may have been a problem with a member of staff. Let me stress: this was a fear, not a suspicion. I had no idea if that was the case and no reason to suspect that it was, but I had to explore every possibility.
“As I expected, I could find nothing untoward, so I asked Max to take a look to confirm that everything is in order, and to help me find out why our market share is suffering. As you all know, Max is the new Chief Financial Officer for the group, but what you may not know, is that Max is an experienced and practising forensic accountant. If a problem existed in our accounts, Max would find it.”
He paused for that to sink in, then continued, “Max also found nothing. My fears were without foundation. Max then hunted for, and found, the cause of our difficulties.”
Another pause. “After a number of years doing a first class job for us, Ray Ang received some news earlier in the year that threw him right off his game, and he’s told me that he is having a lot of trouble getting back on it. This isn’t something Ray wishes to make public, so there’s to be no discussion of it after this meeting. Let’s all respect Ray’s privacy, please.
“With Head Office approval, I have created a new post of Head of Marketing, which I’ve offered to Ray, and which he has accepted. In this job, Ray will be responsible for marketing strategy and planning, as well as retaining his ownership of key government and other major accounts. The job of finding new business and expanding the company’s profile and footprint in the market will fall to direct sales personnel whom Ray will identify and appoint over the coming weeks.
“I apologise for the secrecy that I had to maintain during this investigation, and I am truly sorry if any of you were worried about your positions in the company. I hope you’re reassured now. Things are going well, and we should get back into growth quite soon. Thank you all. Are there any questions?”
There were none, and the staff wandered back to their offices. Danny breathed a sigh of relief; relief not only that the mole he was so worried about didn’t exist, but also that he had managed to handle the situation without losing any of his staff.
Before the meeting I had checked the airline timetables and found out which flights were available. Once we had cleared the meeting, I booked a seat on the 9.20pm Qatar Airways flight that would get me into Dar-es-Salaam at 7.25am after a two-hour stop in Doha, and emailed Lindy to have him arrange for David to meet me.