Knight & Deigh started life as a retelling of The Orphans, from the point of view of the second lead character, Hannice Knight. It begins in Tanzania as I remember it 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 eleven, scene three: Meeting with Max/Idris.
Sophie went off with her personal shopper a little before nine. I made my way to room five in the business centre, arriving ten minutes early. I had made a few notes overnight and wanted time to get my randomly scattered thoughts into some semblance of order before the meeting started.
Idris arrived a couple of minutes after I did, and introduced himself.
“I knew of your appointment, of course, but this is the first chance I’ve had to congratulate you to your face,” I said.
“Thank you, Mr Knight. I’m very pleased to meet you at last. My condolences on the death of your father.”
The small-talk continued until Max arrived. I refused to talk about business until then; this was her meeting and concerned her region.
Max opened things, “Okay, we all know each other; let’s get started. Idris, can you update us on Durban, please?”
Idris gave a brief report on the previous year’s activity, and handed Max and me a copy of his plan and budget for the coming year. The business is profitable and growing.
“Do you see potential for growth beyond our traditional business activities?” she asked.
“What do you have in mind?” Idris responded.
“I am trialling, in East Africa, a social-centred investment company. Its brief is to give financial support to suitable start-up businesses.”
“What do you mean by ‘suitable’?” he asked.
“Good, stable-looking business model and real social benefits. In other words, businesses started by people not just out to make money, but out to make a difference, too. We offer a package of financial support and, for the first year or two, administration and accounting at cost.”
“What kind of interest rate and charges are you proposing?”
“Enough to cover our costs and build a small reserve. We aren’t doing it to make money, and that makes us very competitive in the field. It does mean, though, that we need to be highly selective when it comes to choosing our clients.”
“Can I take that away and give it some thought, Max?” Idris asked, clearly having some difficulty with the concept of expanding the business into a new field, with little scope for big profits.
“Of course,” Max replied. “I shall be talking with Sunday Gbolade in Lagos later, then I’d like you both to come, with your department heads, for a regional conference in Dar next year.”
Max turned to me, “You happy with all that, Hannice? Anything you want to add?”
“Yes and no,” I replied.
“Yes and no?”
“Yes, I’m happy with that and no, I don’t want to add anything. It’s not exactly what I had in mind for the region, but I have put you in charge, and that means that you call the shots,” I said.
“But setting aside that you have handed control to me?”
“I fully support what you are proposing, Max. I think it’s a spiffing idea, and deserves to do well.”
Max then went into the detailed figures behind her idea. It was pretty much what she had shown me when she first proposed the concept, but updated to take in the Holy Island Services activity, and her first real client, a small, specialist college formed to teach the skills necessary to equip rural migrants for city life. The meeting broke up at 12.15pm, leaving Max enough time to make her 2.45pm flight to Lagos, and giving me time to wheel myself to the restaurant to wait for Sophie. For reasons I couldn’t fathom, or perhaps wasn’t ready to comprehend, I was quite excited to find out what she had bought.
She came in empty-handed.
“Didn’t you buy anything?” I asked.
“Of course I did. I bought a stack of food and clothing, which is being distributed to homeless people as we speak; and I bought a little something that’s being shipped to Knight Towers. It’s a bit too big to take on the plane with us.”
“What is it?” I asked.
“You’ll find out when we get home,” she said.
“I bought us a new camera,” she said, pulling it out of her handbag and placing it on the table. “It’s supposed to be one of the best; a super-zoom, they called it. According to the sales guy, it goes ‘from ultra-wide angle to beyond super-telephoto’. I made a note of that. He did explain it and showed me how it worked, but I didn’t really understand it. I’ve never had an expensive camera before; the only photography I’ve ever done has been point, click, and hope for the best. I thought you’d probably understand what he meant.”
“Not a clue,” I answered, “your ‘point, click, and hope for the best’ sums up my photography, too. Pity Max has gone to Lagos already; she’s quite the photographer, by all accounts. Still, we can read the manual and work it out.”
“Why don’t I book us on a beginners’ photography course? They do one at the shop where I bought it, and they have places tomorrow.”
“Good idea, Sophie.”
“I’m glad you said that, Hannice. We have to be there at nine o’clock tomorrow morning.”
We did the course, after which Sophie was clearly much more adept than I at handling the thing. The trainer might well have been speaking a foreign language, as far as I was concerned. I told Sophie afterwards that she was, from that point, the designated photographer. Except, of course, when she wanted her photograph taken.