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 three: Conference.
The day before the conference was due, I was delighted to see that Max had joined us in the group’s chief office in central London. Even more pleasing was that she had Lindy in tow. I had often thought that he was capable of more than I gave him to do, but never did identify a job for him that matched his talents.
I wanted everything to be settled before the main meeting, and I wanted to present a united and coherent front, so I set up a meeting between Max, Henk and myself, at which we thrashed out our areas of competence and responsibility. A similar meeting took place between Lindy and Tanja, his opposite number in Henk’s camp, at which Sophie represented my interests.
I spoke to Lindy afterwards and asked him how he was feeling about his new responsibilities.
“Ooh, I’m just, like wow, honestly, Boss. Roger and I really understand how we can work together to make our boss’s decisions in Jaxsons happen, and now Tanja. Honestly, she is such a darling; deadly efficient and focussed, in a ruthless kind of way; but really, such a sweetie. I’m going to adore working with her. And her wardrobe is to die for. And her hair. OMG! I couldn’t believe it. And the tats. Such a bold statement of who she is. And she calls me LJ, and she thinks I’m important and intelligent and cool and…”
“Quite so, Lindy. Glad you’re happy.”
“Oh yes, Boss. Thank you, thank you, thank you.”
“Off you go, then.”
I called Henk’s office.
“Looks like your and Max’s assistants have hit it off, Henk.”
“Oh yah, I would definitely say so. I cannot stop Tanja from talking about LJ. She seems to think that he is God’s gift to the business world, and I rather think she fancies him a little. I hope he is okay with that; I expect I would find her quite scary, with her very short, bright purple hair and all those tattoos.”
“He’s fine. Says her hair and tattoos are a bold statement of who she is.”
“It sounds like they are well suited to each other, then.”
“Time will tell, Henk,” I said, “Time will tell.”
Henk and Max joined Sophie and me later for an informal dinner at Knight Towers. Sophie had asked Mrs Cooper to prepare two guest rooms so no-one would have to travel back to town late at night. So it was that the four of us arrived at the office together, for the substantive meeting. Some guys from ICT were checking out the video links, and chatting with their opposite numbers in the regional offices. Once everything was proven, I called the meeting to order.
As well as Henk, Max and myself, seated around the table were: Emily Russell, head of HR; Caspar Jakobsson, head of Finance; Owen Nicholls, head of Administration; and Alexandra Duncan, head of Marketing and PR. We were joined, on video link, by Geoff King in Canberra, Carolina Barros in Rio de Janeiro, Scott Enoch in Baltimore, Danny Cho in Singapore, and Papa.
Hopkins had told me that Papa had a few words he wanted to say, so I let him open the proceedings. I don’t know whether the old man had got religion, or what, but he pointed to me and uttered, “This is my son, whom I love. I am enormously proud of him and am happy to entrust my business to him. Listen to him as you have always listened to me. Support him, as you have always supported me.”
A hush fell over the room. After a moment, Owen Nicholls proposed an expression of thanks to Papa for his past leadership. All parties agreed, confirmed their commitment to the firm and pledged to support me, as they had Papa. I outlined my plans, and although there were a few raised eyebrows, the meeting supported my appointment of Henk and Max as Group COO and Group CFO respectively, and of Max as Regional Director for Africa. To receive their support for Max’s appointments, I had to go through her work history and qualifications, all of which satisfied the delegates. Of course, as Chairman and CEO, I didn’t need their approval of my appointments, but I wanted their support, and particularly their support for Max and Henk in their new roles. It was politically expedient to obtain their backing now. As each had publicly endorsed my decisions in front of their peers, my position was considerably stronger and more secure than it would otherwise have been. The formal business being concluded, the meeting became more of a chat among friends. Papa made his excuses and broke his connection at the end of the formal business, and Sophie left to join Lindy and Tanja.
I addressed the group. “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.”
Scott Enoch, in Baltimore, expressed a concern they were probably all feeling, “Does that mean that Max and Henk are effectively running the group, not you?”
“I’m glad you asked that, Scott,” I 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.”
That was met with a barrage of objections and cross-shouting.
“No, not at all,” I said, “I was 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 people on the ICT team poked her head around the door and gave a thumbs-up to Emily. I saw this and nodded to Emily, to let her know she didn’t need to tell me.
“Check your mailboxes when you get back,” I continued, “the strategy document will be there.”
I heard from all stations, indistinct sounds that suggested they had each received an email. One by one they checked their phones and looked up with a smile.
“Good,” I said. “Are we okay now?”
That was met with 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,” I suggested, “it’s far too early to talk detailed dates yet. I’m sure 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 her role as Regional Director, Africa, too. 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.”
I don’t know what reaction I expected to that; probably the odd expression of assent. I did not expect a spontaneous round of applause. Threw me a bit. One by one the connections dropped and the head office managers wandered back to their departments, leaving Max, Henk and me in the conference room.
“Went well, I thought,” I said.
“I’m a bit worried by Danny in Singapore,” Max said. “He seemed 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. 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 plan to go there in a couple of months, but if there’s anything in his brief that hints at urgency, I’ll make the visit sooner,” Max said.
Turning to Henk, I said, “You both know how to get hold of me in an emergency. Regard me as being effectively absent as of this evening.”
I wheeled myself out of the conference room and joined Sophie with Lindy and Tanja.
“You youngsters have everything under control?” I asked.
“Sure do, Boss,” Lindy replied cheerily. Tanja’s ‘Uh-uh’ was less vocally profound, but equally meaningful.“Okay, Sophie; we are no longer here. Ready?”
“Ready,” Sophie confirmed.