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 seven, scene two: News from home.
When we returned to our car, my driver, Bly (strange name – Papa once told me that it was short for something, but I never could recall what), told me that there had been a call from the clinic. Papa had died while we were enjoying ourselves under the water. I called Hopkins.
“What can you tell me?” I asked.
“Mr Maurice was in good spirits and doing well. The doctors said he was having something of a rally. He was talking to me in an animated fashion about your plans for his company. He said he was delighted with the changes you were planning to make and thought the company would go from strength to strength under your direction. He said how much he approved of your treatment of Mary, his long-term PA, and your choice of Mrs Deigh as yours. He looked at me, as though he were about to say something else, then his heart stopped and couldn’t be restarted. It came as a shock to all of us, Mr Hannice.”
“Was he asking for me?”
“No, Sir. He wasn’t expecting to go at that time. He was feeling well and was looking forward to seeing you on your return later today or tomorrow. He obviously didn’t feel the need to call for anyone.”
“Can you confirm, Hopkins, that he didn’t suffer?”
“Oh, absolutely, Sir. As I said, he was in good spirits and feeling rather well, considering his situation.”
“Thank you, Hopkins. I’ll be along later to get the arrangements underway.”
“Mr Maurice had already set everything up, Mr Hannice. He didn’t want anyone to be put to trouble by his passing. All you need to do is to give me the okay to go, and I’ll pass the instructions to his chosen Funeral Directors.”
“I’ll drop in on my way home, to take a look at what he’s arranged,” I said, feeling somewhat sidelined.
During the drive back to Knight Towers, Sophie gently encouraged me to talk about Papa and my relationship with him. It hadn’t always been easy. My parents packed me off to boarding school when I was just eight; I think it was more Papa’s idea than Mama’s, I remember her being as upset as I was the day I left. I only saw Mama and Papa during school holidays from then on. Always had the feeling I was in the way, back then. Mama died when I was fourteen, and Papa threw himself into the business even more. He’d always been single-minded about the firm, but without Mama, he had nothing else. I spent most school holidays with friends.
“So, you see, Sophie,” I said, “I never really knew Papa. Hardly ever saw him as a boy and after uni, when we could have spent a lot of time together, he had me inducted into the business; always by managers, never by him; then immediately put me in charge of the African office in Tanzania. That’s about it. Nothing to mourn, I’m afraid. Then he came out with that stunt at the meeting. I don’t know where that came from, but perhaps he was just the kind of man who was unable to express his feelings. Never stopped him expressing his anger, though.”
When I arrived at the clinic, I was met by the head of the medical team, who led me through to the morgue for a last look at Papa. I then reviewed the arrangements with Hopkins and happily gave them my approval.
The next week was a mad round of interviews with press, radio and TV presenters, all keen to know what would become of Knight Global Trading now that its founder was no more. These interviews were important. The markets were listening to every word I said, and as always, to every word I didn’t say. Movement of the group’s share price in those early days was only marginal, so I must have said the right things.
The funeral took place three days after Papa’s death. He hadn’t wanted a large affair, but given the profile he had, there were always going to be a lot of people who would want to pay their respects. All the regional directors came, and we couldn’t avoid meetings with them before they went back again. As Papa had already handed the business to me and had no other heir, the reading of the will was, from my point of view, pretty much a formality. He left a significant sum to Mary, so her retirement would be a comfortable one, and there were a few small bequests, including to Mrs Cooper, but the bulk of the estate was shared between me and the tax man.
Papa had floated the company on the London Stock Exchange some years ago. He had retained the majority of the shares, but those that had been sold had put him in a very comfortable financial position. Even after exorbitant death duties, I became a very wealthy man in my own right.