Sunday serialisation – Knight after Knight, 7.1

Knight after Knight250

In Knight & Deigh, Hannice Knight suffered a back injury that left him without the use of his legs. Sophie Deigh, physiotherapist and recent widow, devoted herself to supporting him.

As Hannice’s body recovered, he became ever closer to Sophie, and soon they found themselves in a relationship they had neither anticipated nor intended and for which neither was fully prepared.

A bump in the Knight followed Hannice as he juggled business, hedonism, marriage and ultimately parenthood.

Knight after Knight is the third and final part of the Hannice Knight story. Starting after the marriage of Hannice and Sophie’s only son, David to Jess, the only child of Jason and Noelani Reeves of Hawaii, it traces the Knight family’s progression through the generations.


Knight after Knight. Chapter seven, part one.

On my own now, effectively so, anyway, I was starting to question the wisdom of handing the day-to-day running of the business over to David and Jess. The rational side of me remained convinced that it was for the best – they were in their early thirties whilst I was in my early seventies. I still had a good few years ahead of me, though. Papa kept going as Chairman and CEO until well into his eighties, and only stopped then when he knew he had only weeks of life left. My latest medical screening, using all the miracles of modern medicine and DNA technology gave me fifteen to twenty more active years, barring cancer and dementia; but if the big C and the big D leave me alone, I’m set for a while. Loafing around in the Cyprus villa may well have been a splendid idea, even heaven, for a couple, but for one, it was closer to hell.

I met up with Max for an afternoon. David and Jess had gone off in the Jag – they told me it was for a pleasant afternoon’s drive, but I had ‘accidentally’ seen the emails arranging an appointment with their gynaecologist, so I knew what it was about. Of course, I didn’t want them to be aware that I knew; it would have embarrassed them to an extent none of us would have enjoyed, so I went along with their cover-story and wished them a pleasant drive. That left Pepu with nothing to do and a perfectly good Bentley sitting in the garage. Frequently, when people describe something as ‘perfectly good’ they really mean acceptable; like when pilots ask why any sky-diver would want to jump out of a perfectly good aeroplane. The Bentley was not perfectly good like that. It was perfectly good like I couldn’t imagine it being any better. Really, that good. I know David organised it but were I asked to describe my perfect car, it would be this Bentley Mulsanne. Stop going on, Hannice. Everybody knows you love the car! So Pepu drove me around to Max’s home, and then took us both to the place Sophie and I had gone to, first to vent our ire at life and subsequently when we had given ourselves to each other for the first time.

“I haven’t been here for almost forty years,” I said to Max when we arrived at the spot, “I know it’s a dreadful cliché, but I remember this place when it was all open fields. More than that. When we came before, both times, we looked out over woodland and farmland, with villages scattered across the plain.” I pointed towards a large town, “That’s new, so is that power station and all of those roads. I’m glad in a way.”

“Glad?” Max asked, “Why?”

“Because the place I’m standing now, with my long-term best friend, is not the same place I stood with the woman who was to become my wife. It somehow makes the place more special, more ours, if you see what I mean.”

“I do, Hannice. It’s still a shame to see pristine countryside swallowed up by urban sprawl, though.”

“It is, but not as much of a shame as seeing the homelessness and poverty that this urban sprawl has helped to alleviate, don’t you think?”

“Well, yes. But what happened to your romance?”

“It died in Cyprus.”

“Sorry, Hannice. That was crass of me.”

“You’re fine, Max. Question is, though, what do you make of the new Bentley?”

“If I dare say, it makes the old one seem… I don’t know… ordinary.”

“You like it then.”

“I love it. How does it compare to the latest Roller?”

“Can’t say I’ve looked. David made the choice; probably thought I’d be happy with a new Bentley to replace the old one: brand loyalty and all that. I think he knew as well, that I’ve never been much of a Rolls Royce fan.”

“Why’s that?”

“Don’t know, really. Papa was always a Bentley man and I suppose it just rubbed off.”

“So you were quite happy when David bought another Bentley?”

“You’ve seen it, Max. You’ve been in it. What do you think?”

“I think it was the right thing at the right time to lift your spirits.”

“Partly, at least. Other things have helped, too.”

“Like the Jag?”

“More like Jason and Nell turning up, you being here to support me, and seeing how well David and Jess are doing in every respect. By the way, I know something about them that they don’t know I know.”

“What?”

“I can’t tell you.”

“So why say anything?”

“Because it feels naughty, and sometimes that’s a good feeling.”

“Can I change the subject?”

“Why, is it making you uncomfortable? Because I don’t mean to, just having a bit of fun.”

“No, not at all. There’s just something I want to discuss with you.”

“Okay, shoot.”

“As of today, what are your plans for the future?”

“In what terms?”

“Let’s start with work.”

“Truthfully? I’m questioning whether I was a bit premature handing the business over to David and Jess. According to the medics, I should have up to twenty good years ahead of me; years I was planning to spend with Sophie. I’m going to need a reason to get out of bed in the morning for potentially another two decades. I’m not sure there’s enough in the Chairman’s job to do that.”

“Can you take back some of the load?”

“Not really. They are in the early stages of moulding the business into their image. If I even tried to take part of it back it would be like a vote of no confidence in their ability to run the show.”

“Good.”

“Good? How so?”

“Because I have a proposal to put to you that will keep both of us busy for as long as we want it to.”

“I’m listening.”

“Do you remember what I was up to when I first came back into your life in Dar?”

“Acting as Della Jont’s muscle, so to speak – financially, that is.”

“And can you recall the fundamental rationale I insisted on being the basis for the investment company?”

“Yes. You were most concerned about the plight of people with albinism in Tanzania. But Knight Global Investments is now a well-established business with a strong moral dimension. I’m not sure where you’re going with this.”

“I want to get back to doing something worthwhile for these people and others with similar issues. There are so many of them, and there are organisations, charities mostly, that work tirelessly and often thanklessly to alleviate their plight. There is a need for established business leaders with a track record of getting things done. Hannice, we can do that.”

“I don’t want, at our age, to be starting work for anyone else. I’m well past the nine-to-five stage.”

“I’m not suggesting that we apply to join an existing business.”

“What are you suggesting?”

“We can use Lindy’s contacts – he is so well-respected in Tanzania these days – and set up an independent business offering consultancy services to charities and enterprises in the field. Kanene could be useful to us, too.”

“Why would people want to use us?”

“Because we can offer something no-one else can: almost a century of senior business experience between us.”

“Even if they do, we’ll need premises, licenses, permits, registrations, working capital, the whole gamut.”

“No, we won’t.”

“Why not?”

“Because, my naive old friend, we will offer our services, free of charge, to Holy Island Services, in exchange for office space and equipment.”

“So Lindy can use us as pro-bono management consultants to his clients. Is that what you have in mind?”

“Exactly.”

“So we’ll still be working for Knight Global.”

“No. We’ll be associated with them. On paper, we’ll be part of that organisation, but that’ll be just for the purposes of Tanzanian law. Our agreement will be with Holy Island Services and will specify the two of us as independent sub-contractors.”

“Have you spoken to Lindy about this?”

“Not yet. I wanted to run it past you first. I had originally planned to do it on my own, but given your situation—”

“You felt sorry for me and made a pity offer.”

“Not at all. Well, only partly anyway. I thought it might give you what you said you’re going to need: a reason to get up each morning. It can also take you away from the temptation to involve yourself in the running of the group. Mostly, though, I saw an opportunity to offer to Lindy’s clients so much more with you than I could do alone.”

“Can I take that away and give it some thought?”

“Of course. I understand that you’ll need to consider—”

“Don’t laugh, but I need to be sure that it’s what Sophie would want me to do.”

“Do I look like I’m laughing? I would be disappointed if you didn’t want to think along those lines.”

“Let’s go back and do some thinking. Do you want me to drop you at your place, or will you join us for dinner?”

“Drop me at home, Hannice. I’ll come around tomorrow morning and we can talk about it some more.”

“Will you be speaking to Lindy and Kanene?”

“Yes. I’ll call Lindy this evening and have him run it by Kanene. Her input will be helpful.”

Sunday serialisation – Knight after Knight, 6.4

Knight after Knight250

In Knight & Deigh, Hannice Knight suffered a back injury that left him without the use of his legs. Sophie Deigh, physiotherapist and recent widow, devoted herself to supporting him.

As Hannice’s body recovered, he became ever closer to Sophie, and soon they found themselves in a relationship they had neither anticipated nor intended and for which neither was fully prepared.

A bump in the Knight followed Hannice as he juggled business, hedonism, marriage and ultimately parenthood.

Knight after Knight is the third and final part of the Hannice Knight story. Starting after the marriage of Hannice and Sophie’s only son, David to Jess, the only child of Jason and Noelani Reeves of Hawaii, it traces the Knight family’s progression through the generations.


Knight after Knight. Chapter six, part four.

Pepu took the Bentley to Heathrow the following afternoon to fetch Jason and Nell. By the time they returned, we had spoken with the funeral directors. David had already arranged for them to come around to discuss the arrangements. I had decided to let David take the lead; it was apparent to me that it was something he wanted to do, as it was most probably apparent to him that it was something I didn’t want to do.

When the director asked us if we wanted to see Sophie so we could say goodbye to her, I was completely torn. One part of me wanted to say no; that I wanted to remember her alive and vibrant. But, of course, the last time I saw her she was a long way from that and I think I’d prefer my last memory to be of her properly prepared and laid out, rather than in the awful state she was when we rushed her to the hospital. I chickened out and said I needed to think about it and I’d get back to them later in the day.

Jason and Nell arriving cheered me up somewhat. In fact, when they came in, the person who seemed most upset was Jess. I shouldn’t have been surprised; Sophie had been virtually a surrogate mother to her since the marriage and had been enormously supportive of Jess during the times she and David had been trying so hard to have a baby – a situation that was still ongoing.

Jason approached me. “I really…” he said, “there aren’t the words to express how deeply saddened we were to hear your news. You know how much we both loved Sophie.”

“Thanks, Jason,” I replied, “I don’t know if it’s really sunk in yet.”

“Have you any idea what you’re going to do?”

“About what?”

“Business, life, you know, everything.”

“You know David and Jess are now joint Chief Executives of my company…”

“Jess told me, yes. And you’re still Chairman.”

“We had planned to spend a lot more time in Cyprus, like proper retired people, but that’s not going to happen now, is it?”

“You need some time to think, mate. To decide what’s best for you now.”

“You’re right. But I have to keep myself busy, if only so I don’t become maudlin and depressed. I have to live my life. For Sophie’s sake.”

“You know, don’t you? If you want to get away from everything for a while…”

“That’s kind of you, Jason, but I have to come to terms with my new reality and face up to it before I think about escaping.”

“Yeah, I get that, my friend. The offer’s always there, though, if you change your mind.”

“I will. And it’ll be when not if. Rain check?”

“You got it.”

We all went to view Sophie in her coffin the following morning so we could pay our last respects and say goodbye to her. I’m afraid I lost it again and needed Max to support me out. I’m glad I did it, though. If there was any element of denying the reality of the situation in my mind, seeing her lifeless body in the chapel of rest put paid to it.

Sophie and I had often spoken about our wishes after death. Although we agreed on most aspects, the actual choice of resting place was a point of difference. You see, I wanted her to be interred in the family sarcophagus in a corner of the estate that had been specially consecrated. That’s where both of my parents are and where I aim to be. My idea was that we should be together in death as we were in life. However, when it came to the funeral, we respected Sophie’s wish that she wanted to be cremated and her ashes buried alongside those of her parents in North Devon. It meant we would be permanently separated and I found that incredibly difficult to deal with at the time, but the benefit of clear hindsight allowed me to accept the situation. After all, what difference did it make where my remains were buried? I wouldn’t ever know anything about it.

I decided that for me, the best way to deal with this business was to name it and shame it, to hit it head on with no beating about the bush, no euphemisms and none of the circumlocution with which everyone seems to like to surround these things. Fortunately, when at these times you speak to people in a manner that seems abrupt or even rude, they put it down to emotional instability or to shock and let it go. Thus it was when anyone said to me that they were so sorry to hear that my wife had passed, I pointed out that she didn’t pass anything; she died. She isn’t departed, she’s dead. If I can deal with that and face the stark truth, why can’t other people?

I had no doubt whatsoever that waking up with that empty feeling I’ve grown to expect; trying to talk to Sophie then remembering she isn’t here any longer and the depressing loneliness that accompanies me every waking minute will be my lot for a long time yet. From what the experts tell me, it will become gradually easier, but I will never stop missing her. That’s good in a way. I don’t want Sophie ever to become just something in my past. I don’t want ever to stop asking myself how she would have reacted to whatever I had just said or done.

I made my peace with Dr Willis, too. I quizzed him about Sophie’s depression and asked him to tell me, honestly and frankly, if there had been any way he could have diagnosed or even tested for a physical root to it. I assured him that whatever he told me, I had no intention of raising any complaints or even thinking about following any legal routes. I accepted his assurance that he might have looked farther, had she not responded so well to the counselling. I couldn’t argue against that. Suffice to say he is still employed by the KGT hospital as its clinical lead and by KGT as its retained physician.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sunday serialisation – Knight after Knight, 6.3

Knight after Knight250

In Knight & Deigh, Hannice Knight suffered a back injury that left him without the use of his legs. Sophie Deigh, physiotherapist and recent widow, devoted herself to supporting him.

As Hannice’s body recovered, he became ever closer to Sophie, and soon they found themselves in a relationship they had neither anticipated nor intended and for which neither was fully prepared.

A bump in the Knight followed Hannice as he juggled business, hedonism, marriage and ultimately parenthood.

Knight after Knight is the third and final part of the Hannice Knight story. Starting after the marriage of Hannice and Sophie’s only son, David to Jess, the only child of Jason and Noelani Reeves of Hawaii, it traces the Knight family’s progression through the generations.


Knight after Knight. Chapter six, part three.

Max took me to the hotel, made me a cup of tea with which I took the two pills the nurse had given us and helped me to bed.

“I’ll fix up another room for myself,” she said.

“Don’t go,” I asked, “not yet.”

“Okay. I’ll stay here with you until you’re asleep.”

“Thanks…” I said, drifting into chemical oblivion.

When I awoke, Max was sitting in the easy chair by the window in her room.

“Welcome back,” she said, “How are you feeling?”

“Oh,” I said, “it wasn’t just a bad dream, was it?”

“I’m afraid not,” she said, “do you feel like eating?”

“Not really.”

“You haven’t eaten today and it’s seven-thirty.”

“I’m okay.”

“You should call David.”

“No. I can’t face that. Not yet, anyway.”

“Would you like me to call him?”

“Okay,” I said, listlessly. I was still groggy from the sedative, but I knew there were things that had to be done. I just didn’t much want to do them. Not yet, anyway.

The following few days were a total haze. I slept (but only with the aid of some advanced chemistry), I got up reluctantly, I ate half-heartedly and I have no recollection of what, if any, conversations I had with Max. I was aware that she was in my room when I went down each night and there in the morning when I awoke. I vaguely remember her telling me that she had a separate room in which she was sleeping, but I had no way of knowing that for sure. On the fourth day, I awoke feeling a little more alive.

“How are you feeling this morning?” she asked.

“A little more alive,” I said.

“Good. You only had half the sedative last night than you’d had before. Doctor’s advice. He said it should be enough and would leave you more alert on waking.”

I noticed that Max had brought a suitcase into my room. “Suitcase?” I asked.

“Stuff from the villa. I’ve asked Katerina’s people to close it up for you. Are you ready for me to tell you what’s going to happen today, or do you need some coffee or breakfast first?” When I didn’t respond, she said, “Okay. Coffee it is,” and left the room.

I dragged myself out of bed and into the shower. One can never overstate the reviving effect of a shower on a morning when one is beyond groggy. By the time Max let herself back in, carrying two steaming cups of coffee, I was seated on the chair fully dressed.

“Good,” she said, giving my shoulder a gentle squeeze, “drink up and we’ll talk.”

The coffee was good. It was my first since that morning and I appreciated it.

“Ready,” I said once I’d downed it.

“Right. We’re booked on a direct flight to Heathrow this morning and the local undertakers will have Sophie on the plane before we board. David and Jess will meet us at Heathrow with the funeral director you used for Sophie’s parents. You don’t have to talk to them straight away if you’re not ready; David is ready to deal with all the arrangements. Just let us know how you want to play it and we’ll make it happen. I have your passport and all the paperwork we’re likely to need. Okay?”

“Thank you, Max. I don’t know what I’d do without you.”

“I know you, Hannice Knight; You would, somehow, have coped. You always do. I’m just glad I was here so you didn’t need to. Is there anything else you want me to tell you about?”

“Just one. We told the doctor—”

“Organ donation?”

“Yes.”

“The doctors tell me that some of her organs are already giving a few people another shot at life. Do you want me to give you more detail?”

“Not now, Max. I’m happy that they were able to use something. That’ll do me for the time being. What now?”

“We take a taxi to the airport in an hour.”

I slept for most of the four and a half hour flight to Heathrow. On arrival, we found that David had pre-alerted the ground staff, who ushered us through the various formalities with no delays at all. David and Jess were waiting for us in the meet-and-greet area. Although unenthusiastic, I was glad to see them. David briefly hugged me, then Jess made more of a meal of it.

“Thank you so much for taking care of things for me, David,” I said, “I’m so sorry.”

“What are you sorry about, Dad?” he asked.

“Your mother was fine when I took her to Cyprus. I never thought…”

“Max told me what happened, Dad. You have nothing to be sorry for. I know it’s bound to be hard for you, the argument and everything, but that wasn’t Mum. That was the illness taking hold. I’ve spoken with Dr Willis, too. Partly to get his thoughts on what happened at the Cyprus hospital…”

“What did he say? Was it something they did?”

“He doesn’t think so. Neither the MRI or the contrast agent should cause or exacerbate a bleed. He also said that everything leading up to it fit together and nothing you, the ambulance personnel nor the hospital did would have made it worse. More importantly, his opinion was that there was nothing anyone could have done at that stage to prevent it.”

“You say nothing at that stage. He saw Sophie often enough. Could he have spotted it early and done something to prevent it?”

“What are you asking?”

“I’m asking if there was something he missed that he could and should have spotted. I’m asking if it was his fault.”

Jess put her arm around my shoulder. “If you really want to go there, Dad, we can look into it later on. Not now though, eh? Let’s concentrate our efforts on what needs to be done.”

“Okay,” I said, “Have you told—”

“My parents? Yes. They’ll be arriving tomorrow. Pepu will pick them up in the new Bentley.”

That cheered me a little. “Has it arrived, then?” I asked.

“Day before yesterday,” David said, “and she’s a beauty. You’ll be able to see it in a second.”

Before we left the terminal building, David spoke briefly on his phone. Right outside the door was my gorgeous, brand new Bentley Mulsanne Extended Wheelbase. For a second, I was so taken by it that I felt a load leave my shoulders.

“I shall have to miss that treat,” Max said, “my car’s on level five. Okay if I follow and see you all at Knight Towers?”

“Be sure you do, Max,” I said, “I have so much to thank you for.”

“Just trying to be a friend, Hannice.” She peeled off towards the long-term parking where her car was.

“What’s that colour called?” I asked David.

“Amber,” David replied, “Like it?”

“Like it? I love it,” I said, “but where’s the undertaker? Where’s your mother?” Suddenly the elation was gone and the weight was back.

“They’re around at the cargo entrance, Dad. They’ll deal with all the paperwork and everything; they have copies of the certificates and everything from Cyprus. We can talk with them tomorrow.”

I started to cry again. Jess tried to comfort me.

“What is it?” she asked.

“It’s just the thought of my Sophie being cargo,” I blubbered, “it’s not right. It’s just not right.”

“I know, Dad. It’s terrible, but really, it’s just a word. Don’t dwell on it too much.” She turned to David. “Side entrance might have sounded a little bit better, David,” she said tersely.

“You’re right,” he said, “sorry; didn’t think.”

Pepu opened the doors and we all piled into the car while he put our cases into the enormous boot.

“I adore this car,” Jess said, as she laid back into the luxury leather seat. “Poor Max doesn’t know what she’s missing.”

In the back of the car, Jess and I continued the journey in silence. In the front, Pepu and David were in almost constant conversation. At least, I thought, David seems to be okay with Pepu now. Perhaps I shan’t mention what he had said before.