Knight & Deigh started life as a retelling of The Orphans, from the point of view of the second lead character, Hannice Knight. It, too, is partly 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.
Hannice Knight had run the African operation of his father’s global business for many years, when a freak accident at home left him unable to walk. Together with physiotherapist Sophie Deigh, he tries to bring into his life the excitement and adventure he missed in his formative years, due to the need to be tied to the business.
A number of adventures and activities follow including scuba-diving, sky-diving, power-boating and camping, and a half-brother he never knew about; but even these can’t lift Hannice’s spirits.
What, or who can? Will the developing closeness between Hannice and Sophie come to anything, and what of the rumoured advances in medical technology?
Beginning on 12 February 2017, I am publishing Knight & Deigh here as a serial; one scene each Sunday.
The full list of scenes so far published is here
Knight & Deigh. Chapter six, scene two: Head office.
My first job, now that I had the reins of Knight Global Trading, was to make sure all my senior managers were behind me. The work I did in that direction after Papa’s decision to step down went well, but I had to be sure of people’s loyalties; to KGT and to me.
Mary had been Papa’s secretary and PA before I left for Dar, two decades ago, and she was still in place. For as long as I could remember, she had been his gatekeeper; no-one entered Papa’s office without her say-so. It was with mixed feelings that I accepted her decision to leave. She had been devoted to Papa, and couldn’t consider working for anyone new, she said.
I called my head of HR, Emily Russell, “Mary Parker-Hughes, Papa’s secretary, has offered her resignation, but I’m not going to accept it.”
“May I ask why not, Sir?” Emily asked.
“Mary is fifty-eight years old,” I explained, “I would like you to put together a redundancy package for her, with three months’ pay in lieu of notice. I would also like her to talk with your pensions man. She has been my father’s most valued helper for more than twenty years. I want her to leave with a nice lump sum, a good pension, and our best wishes. Can you do that, Emily?”
“Of course, Sir. I’ll get my people onto it straight away.”
I called Mary in.
“Can’t accept your resignation, Mary,” I said.
“Oh,” she replied with downcast eyes and an air of stoicism.
Her face brightened as I explained to her what I had asked HR to organise.
“One other thing,” I said, “well, two actually. Firstly, I would like you to spend a day or two with Sophie Deigh, who will look after me. I don’t expect her to fill your shoes completely; I can’t see how any one person could; and secondly, once you’ve done that, I want you to feel free to drop by the clinic and spend as much time with Papa as you wish. No-one knows how long he has left, but I know that your presence would cheer him up. You don’t have to, of course, but if you tell me you want to, I’ll make sure Hopkins doesn’t stand in your way.”
“Thank you, Mr Hannice,” she said, looking three inches taller and ten years younger than she had but a moment earlier, “you are so like Mr Maurice, but even more kind if anything, and I never thought I’d hear myself say that about anyone. I will spend as much time with Mrs Deigh as she needs to be comfortable with the job, and I would very much like to go and see Mr Maurice, every day, if I can, including Saturdays and Sundays, after Church, of course. And I will continue to pray for him, and for you and Mrs Deigh, too.”
“You are kind, Mary, but it sounded like you were bundling Mrs Deigh and me together as a couple. We’re not, you know, Mrs Deigh is an employee, as you have been with Papa all these years,” I said.
“Of course, Mr Hannice. But a woman sees things, you know.”
I wondered how many more resignations I would see. I was delighted that Mrs Cooper, who had been Papa’s cook/housekeeper for the better part of a decade, had asked if she could continue doing that job for me, but I was sure that there would be many people who had a personal loyalty to Papa, and who might have found it difficult to transfer their allegiance to me. A major part of my job now was to retain that personal loyalty, but to do it without backing myself into a corner where I had to act like Papa’s clone. I had to put my stamp on the business, and bring in my people to help me to do that.
Over the course of the next few weeks, we started to settle into a pattern. Mary had passed on to Sophie enough of her knowledge of the business for Sophie to fly solo, and had started visiting Papa regularly. Sophie and I popped in on the way home each evening and marvelled at the old man’s fortitude and resilience. He assured us that he was tolerably comfortable and enjoying his visitors. He was ready to go, with a clear conscience and the knowledge that his life’s work would continue to develop and grow, but he was in no hurry to leave this life behind.
He gave me some very useful information about the regional heads of KGT, which helped me to prepare for the meeting. “I would like to attend the meeting by video-link if you’ll let me,” he said.
“Of course, Papa,” I replied, “I would be happy for you to attend, provided you allow me to run the meeting my way. Your presence will reassure many of the attendees, and your support for what I say will bring an air of continuity and permanence to balance the many changes I need to introduce. Do you want me to go through with you in advance, what I’m intending to say?”
“When do you hope to have the meeting?”
“Next week, if I can,” I replied, “it’s the soonest I can get everyone in place and linked.”
“Tell me, tomorrow, what you are planning, so I know what I’ll be supporting,” he said, “I’ll get Hopkins to film me making a short address that can be played at the meeting, in case I can’t make it,” he added.
Through the lump that had suddenly appeared in my throat, I said, “If I know you, Papa, you’ll manage to persuade Saint Peter himself to hang fire so you can do this meeting.”
“Quite so,” he replied.