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 nine, scene three: Enforced holiday.
I got the message just after 1 am, Hawaii time. That would be 11 am in London. Probably a good time to call. However, I was in no mood for a conversation with Dr Harry until after I had enjoyed a decent night’s sleep. According to his card, Dr Harry was available between 10 am and 4 pm, which translates to midnight — 6 am here in Honolulu. I emailed Tanja to ask her to have Dr Harry call me in my room at 6 pm his time, which equated to 8 am here. Still a bit early, but the fourteen hour time difference didn’t make things easy. Sophie and I were both feeling drained after a very hectic day, with more excitement than we had bargained for. We went to our separate rooms; I slept through until my alarm call woke me at 7.30am, in time for my call from Dr Harry.
The phone rang at 8 am on the dot. It was Dr Harry.
“Possibly some good news, Hannice. I can’t go into details over the phone, but there’s a very promising treatment, just in the early clinical trials phase now, that might help you. Can you come back here for an assessment, to see if you are a suitable candidate for the trials?”
“We have to stay in Hawaii for another nine days, Dr Harry. Can’t come back before then,” I replied.
“That will put you back here and available for assessment in eleven days. I think we can live with that. But why can’t you come back earlier? It can’t be about the money, surely. I mean, if anyone would have difficulty affording the surcharge for changing a flight, it certainly wouldn’t be Hannice Knight.”
“Not at all. We’ve been asked by the local Bill to stay on the island because of a crime we… er… witnessed. They want to depose us in nine days.”
“Depose you? I didn’t know you were royalty,” he joked.
“Take our deposition, Harry, not topple us from our throne,” I said.
“Sounds exciting all the same. What was the crime?”
“Far too complicated to talk about on the phone, and at this hour. I’ll tell you about it when we arrive.”
“I trust you weren’t involved in whatever this crime was?”
“Only slightly. Couple of bruises and scratches. It’ll be all cleared up before we get back, and I’ll defy you to find evidence of them.”
“Sounds like a challenge to me,” he said.
“You a gambling man, Dr Harry?” I asked.
“Five thousand says you can’t tell me the exact nature and location of my injuries.”
“You’re on!” he said.
Later, at breakfast, I relayed to Sophie details of my conversation with Dr Harry.
“You’d better make sure your wounds are fully healed by then,” she said, “aren’t you likely to have a scar from the stomach wound?”
“I don’t mind giving Dr Harry five grand if need be. He’s a good egg. He might gloat for a while, but it’s more than worth that to keep him sweet and on my side. One thing is certain; if anyone can get me walking again, Dr Harry Khan-Smith is that man.”
“You’re right, of course. I just find it hard to get used to the idea that the availability of cash money is not one of life’s biggest problems.”
“Me too, Sophie, to an extent. I’ve never been what you would call poor, but I’ve always had to be relatively careful with money, and be prepared to account for every penny I spent. I still need to justify my spending, but now only to myself. Speaking of which, given what I’m expecting of you, and what you are having to go through, are you happy with the salary you’re getting?”
“Hannice; you won’t let me pay for anything. Every pound I’m paid is going into savings. Of course I’m happy. Why do you ask?”
“Because you are very important to me. I can’t imagine what my life would have been like now, had you not come along that afternoon to take Max home from the hospital.”
“Not getting sentimental on me, are you, Hannice?”
“You insult me, Madam. Hannice Knight, son of Maurice and ruler of Knight Global Trading, does not do sentimental!”
“Methinks the lady doth protest too much,” she said, laughing.
“Shut up and eat your waffles,” I joked.
“Sir, yes Sir!” she replied, saluting.
The rest of the morning we spent looking through leaflets and brochures, trying to put together a plan for our remaining time on Oahu.
“We should go to zoos, aquaria, that kind of thing,” Sophie suggested.
“Why?” I asked, although anticipating her reply.
As I expected, she said, “I’ll push you in, that way, I come free as your carer.”
“You’re as bad as Max,” I said, “she was talking about using me as a free ticket.”
“She taught me everything I know,” Sophie explained.
“But she didn’t teach you everything she knows,” I countered, laughing.
We arranged with the desk to rent a mobility scooter for the days we were planning to stay in Honolulu, and a wheelchair van for the rest of the time. We did arrange one day to visit attractions, when Sophie would push me in a simple wheelchair, to get the free entry. It wasn’t that we needed to save a few dollars here and there; it was the sport, really. Simply because we could. Much as, when poor, it is really nice to live, if only for a few minutes, the way rich people do, there was a perverse pleasure to be had from doing things that poor people do, if only for a very short period. Of course, when we did that, we placed money behind the counter to cover the entrance fee for the next five families that the cashier felt could make the best use of free entry. I have never known what it is like to be poor, to worry how to pay for something as mundane as a trip to the zoo, but Sophie did; she knew what it would mean to a large family to be told that their entrance had been paid for by an anonymous benefactor. Of course, pride would cause some to refuse to accept our largesse, but there was nothing we could do about that.
There was a somewhat cathartic aspect to the whole thing, anonymously helping anonymous people. Although it was totally arms-length, it was somehow a lot more personal than just making a donation to a charity appeal.
We enjoyed that day. As well as being pleasant visits to zoos, museums and other attractions, there was something rather special about the conspiratorial aspects of the day. I think it brought Sophie and me closer together, and I was already seeing her as more than an employee. We were friends; good friends, and that was a situation I was quite happy to see developing.
During the rest of our stay, we drove around the island, visited cultural centres and natural attractions and, yes, we spent two days on the beach. I wasn’t too keen on it, as I’ve never been one for lazing on beaches, but it was important to Sophie, and I was beginning to derive a lot of satisfaction from doing things that made Sophie happy.
While we were on the beach, Sophie was reading a romance novel and I was looking at my e-reader, but not actually reading. My mind was wrestling with my situation, evaluating my life and my options. Ever the loner, I found myself giving serious consideration to placing another person close to the centre of my life; to thinking of another person’s needs as equivalent, no, as equal to my own. It was a novel experience for me, and I was far from sure how I felt about it. The worst of it was that there was no-one I could talk to about it; no-one I wanted to talk to about it. Except, perhaps, Sophie.
Then it occurred to me. Max. I could talk to Max about it. She knew me and she knew Sophie. Suddenly, a weight was lifted from my mind, and a decision made. As soon as we returned to the UK for this assessment that Dr Harry wanted me to do, I would call Max, and have a long chat with her.