Sunday serialisation – A Bump in the Knight, 10.1

In Knight & Deigh, confirmed bachelor and businessman 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.

On his father’s death, Hannice inherited a global business and great wealth. Then, together with Sophie, he embarked on a series of activities designed to give him some of the excitement and the freedoms that he felt he had missed out on, by being tied to his father’s business for two decades.

As Hannice’s body recovered, he became ever closer to Sophie, and found himself drifting into a relationship with her that neither had anticipated or intended, and for which neither was fully prepared.

This book follows Hannice’s new adventures as he tries to juggle business, hedonism, marriage and ultimately parenthood.

But all doesn’t go quite as he had planned…

A bump in the Knight is now being published here as a serial; one part each Sunday.


A Bump in the Knight. Chapter ten, part one

So far, I hadn’t involved the legal profession in any of this. Perhaps now was the time to start. I called Joe Green.

“Joe,” I said, “I’m sure you remember the DNA profiling incident some years ago?”

“Only too well,” he said, “I thought at the time that you were throwing a lot of money his way on very tenuous evidence, but it was the most prudent way forward at the time.”

“Well, the little worm is mounting a coup against me now. He has convinced the rest of my Board that I’m alcoholic and not fit to serve—”

“And are you?”

“Of course not!”

“Sorry, but I had to ask.”

“No, that’s fine. The thing is, he has them so convinced that they won’t accept medical evidence from any of my doctors and, with two exceptions, they don’t want to meet me to see for themselves.”

“Best advice? Collect your own evidence – medical and character witnesses – and sue the little blighter.”

“There is another suggestion. As you know, one of my directors is a time-served forensic accountant.”

“Yes, Max Matham. Used her services ourselves a while back. Damned good she is, too.”

“Yes her. She is going to go through Parker’s accounts and find any impropriety.”

“She won’t find much in what’s publicly available.”

“She may have help.”

“Don’t tell me any more about that, Hannice. What will she do if she finds something?”

“Threaten to expose him unless he retracts and issues a public apology. Then we’ll throw him off the Board and maybe out of the company.”

“And if they find nothing?”

“Here’s one other string to our bow. The DNA analysis was somewhat vague.”

“Non-committal, I’d call it.”

“Quite. DNA stuff has moved on since then, I imagine.”

“Are you thinking what I think you’re thinking?”

“That depends on what you think I’m thinking, Joe.”

“You’d like me to arrange for the samples to be re-analysed?”

“Yes. How does that work?”

“”Provided the original work produced the full sequence, which I believe it did; all they need to do is to recalculate the data. Do you want me to find out how much that will cost, and how long it will take?”

“No, Joe. I want you to send me the bill and find out how quickly they can do it.”

“I’m on it. I’ll call you when I have something.”

“Thanks, Joe.”

“Oh, and Hannice…”

“Yes?”

“Good luck with the accounts analysis, too. And if you want defamation charges raised…”

“You can be sure I’ll let you know.”

The session I had with Henk and Tanja convinced me again that we did the right thing. Henk told me that he was now pretty well hands-off with the administration of the region, and was concentrating his time and efforts more and more on groupwide operational matters. For her part, Tanja convinced me that she was both confident and comfortable in the role. They returned to Holland later that same day.

Max, Lindy and Kanene stayed for another week and a half, during which time I had plenty of opportunities to observe and to talk with Lindy. He was becoming a steady, solid and reliable businessman, but he was, I was delighted and relieved to see, still Lindy. Max said pretty much the same as Henk did, although she still had three divisions to oversee and so was not as liberated from local affairs as Henk was.

Max started looking into Parker’s financial affairs, with some help from Tanja, but didn’t immediately uncover anything. His tax declarations were fairly straightforward with no questionable deductions or understatement of income. Tanja had, Max told me, uncovered a previously unknown bank account that he has. So far, she hadn’t tried to penetrate it to see what was going on, but she had seen transfers of money from the firm, authorised by Parker, to this account. The numbers involved weren’t massive, but that’s not unusual. There have been a number of instances of people with his kind of access to business finances slowly salting away money that would ultimately augment their pension. If it’s done over a period, the individual transfer need only be relatively small. That was an exceptionally good start.

Joe Green came back to me and told me that the re-analysis of the DNA sequences would be available after about three weeks. I could wait, provided Parker didn’t make too many moves in the meantime. In an attempt to prevent just that, I asked Henk and Max to nominate an independent doctor whom they could rely on to give an impartial opinion on my health, and to have the rest of the UK-based directors agree to. The doctor they nominated wanted me to present myself to his clinic in Birmingham. I did so. He examined me in detail and interviewed me in great depth and at great length about my life, my past, my plans and my attitudes. At Emily’s request, he didn’t tell me of his conclusions, but put them in writing to each of the directors individually.

Of course, Parker had indicated that he wouldn’t accept that the whole thing wasn’t a fix unless the doctor said I was an alcoholic; an attitude that the rest of the directors, according to what Max told me, found strange, but which I found to be utterly predictable. As things turned out, the doctor’s report confirmed what I had been saying all along. All the directors except Parker accepted it and apologised to me. Parker refused.

Max presented to Parker quietly, in a private meeting, the evidence she and Tanja had amassed in relation to his syphoning of funds from the company into his own account. She said that if he repaid the money in full, recanted his allegations concerning my health and apologised to me in front of the entire Board, she wouldn’t hand the evidence to the police. The Board asked me officially to attend an extraordinary meeting.

 

November repost 4 – The Phone Call

November is with us, and as you know, I am taking part in the increasingly inaptly named NaNoWriMo (inapt because the 'Na' stands for national - not really appropriate when they boast entrants from six continents). The majority of my posts between now and the end of November will be pre-written and scheduled.

This story was originally posted on 10 July 2014. I hope you enjoy it.


The ringing phone filled her with dread. Dot Penrose looked at the large clock on the wall beside her. Ten minutes past eight in the evening.

Three times that week she had answered the telephone at exactly that time, and three times there had been a man telling her some dreadful things that she didn’t fully understand, and really frightening her. She had to answer it again, though, because it might not be him; it could be someone else, someone important. It could even be her grandson, David.

She loved it when David called. He was such a bright, enthusiastic young man, so full of plans and ideas. Clever boy, too. He had been to university and got a degree in some sort of ology. Dot couldn’t remember what it was, but she was so proud of him. He told her he was a doctor, but when she asked him about her arthritis, he laughed and said that he was not that kind of doctor. Dot didn’t really care what kind of doctor he was, she was sure he’d be a good one. He must be, they made him a Sir a couple of years ago, and they don’t do that unless you’ve done something special, do they? She would tell anyone who cared to listen, just how brilliant her grandson was. Sadly, precious few people were ready to listen these days. What would she know about anything? She’s old, she couldn’t possibly have anything interesting to say, they’d say. If only they knew.

Dot was a force to be reckoned with when she was younger. She was born Dorothy Ann Jones in 1914. Her mother had been carrying her when her father had to go to war. He was killed on the front before she had her first birthday. She had never seen her father, nor he her. Her mother had brought her up alone and had made sure she could read and write well before normal school age. At school, she was lucky enough to have a very special teacher. He recognised her as being unusually gifted and pushed her ahead with extra lessons after school. She took and passed her Higher School Certificate at only 16 when most pupils of her age were struggling with their ordinary School Certificate examinations. She was snapped up by the University of London and graduated in 1934 with a BSc in mathematics. She was only twenty when she graduated. She wasn’t the youngest ever to graduate, but she was certainly in a small group.

She met David Penrose at university. He was studying the same courses as she was, and they spent a lot of time in each other’s company. They married the day after their graduation ceremony, and spent their honeymoon in Clermont-Ferrand, in France’s Massif central – the birthplace of mathematician Blaise Pascale. On their return from honeymoon, Dot and David both taught maths at secondary schools, Dot at the local state school, until she became pregnant and gave birth to George in 1937, and David at a nearby private school until the outbreak of war in 1939.

When the war started, David trained as a pilot in Bomber Command and was lost over Germany in 1942. In 1940, young George, then three years old, was evacuated to Cornwall, where David had family, and Dot volunteered her services as a mathematician to the war effort. She has never spoken about her time during the war, and no-one alive now has any idea what she did or whom she worked with.

When the war ended, Dot compensated for the loss of the love of her life by throwing herself even more deeply into her other first love. Keeping in close touch with David’s sister Jane, who was looking after George with her husband, Richard, she went back to university to update her maths and added an interest in astrophysics to her already impressive tally of skills.

After graduating in 1947, Dot moved to Cornwall to be reunited with George, then ten years old. George had accepted Jane as his mum and Richard as his dad, so his mother became Auntie Dot. Dot reluctantly accepted this situation and worked to maintain a close tie to the family, rather than cause George any confusion during this important time in his development. She secured a post teaching mathematics in Truro, where she remained until finally having to retire in 1965 at the age of only 51, due to her failing eyesight.

In 1959, George had graduated from university in Exeter, with a BA in modern languages, and prepared to marry his fiancée, Pauline. Jane decided that he needed to know more of his provenance than he did, and had a family tree drawn up for him as a pre-wedding gift, which she gave to him, along with his birth certificate which, of course, named David and Dot as his parents. Thus did he learn for the first time that Mum was Auntie Jane, that Auntie Dot was, in fact, Mum, and that his father had perished in the war. Apart from anything else, this explained to George why his surname was Penrose, the same as Jan’s maiden name, instead of Trelawney, which was her married name. George took the news very stoically, declaring that this information would make no difference to his relationship with Mum/Jane, but would strengthen his already close kinship with Mum/Dot. He also said that it would be nice if he and Pauline could take their honeymoon in Clermont-Ferrand. This reduced Dot to tears, something nothing had done for many years.

When George and Pauline had a son in 1968, they named him David, after the father George had never known. David was a repeat of Dot; quick to learn and extraordinarily gifted. Dot was close to him as he was growing up, and encouraged, supported and coached him where she could.

Since retiring, Dot had lived an increasingly solitary life, her eyesight becoming ever weaker, her confidence ebbing with it. George and Pauline had both passed on, but David was a regular visitor and made sure that Dot had all the help that modern technology could give her and that she was comfortable using it.

She could have done with him this evening. She picked up the phone and held it to her ear.

“Hello?” she said, in a small, frail voice.

“Is that Mrs Dorothy Penrose?” asked the male voice on the other end of the line.

“Yes, it is. Who is this?”

“Mrs Penrose, I’m happy to talk to you. My name is Bertram Hambly-Smythe, and I work for Her Majesty the Queen in the anniversary office. I understand that one of my staff has been trying to call you, but left you uncertain about why they called, and I want to apologise for that.”

“What do you want of me?” Dot asked

“Your grandson, Doctor Sir David Penrose, contacted me and told me that you have your 100th birthday coming soon. It is my job to arrange the congratulations cards for Her Majesty to sign, and to send them out to people who reach the age of 100.”

“And that’s all? That’s what these other calls were about? They didn’t say that; they confused and frightened me. Oh, David is so kind; thank you.”

“But that’s not all, Mrs Penrose. Do you recall, in 1945, helping a young subaltern prepare for her maintenance test on an army ambulance?”

“Yes, I do. That was Princess Elizabeth, now our Queen, wasn’t it?”

“It was, and when Her Majesty learned of your 100th birthday this year, she remembered it, too. At Her Majesty’s request, I also dug out the records of your service during the war, and…”

“Not allowed to talk about that – official secrets,” she interrupted.

“I think it’s alright now, Mrs Penrose. That was a long time ago. Anyway, Her Majesty instructed me that your card should not be sent to you by post. I am to invite you, together with your grandson and his family for afternoon tea with Her Majesty, at which she will hand it to you in person. How does that sound?”

“That would be wonderful. When would it be? and… oh… I don’t know what to wear or anything.”

“Don’t worry, Mrs Penrose. My people will talk with your grandson to arrange everything.”

She peered at the old, fading wedding photograph on the table beside her. “David. Oh, David,” she said and wept quietly to herself, as joy and immense pride blended with the pain of decades of loss and loneliness.

 

GTI 2.2

Waist of Space, part one of the Unlikelihood series, followed Commanders Tarquin Stuart-Lane and Meredith Winstanley; hapless heroes of the Royal Space Regiment; who were sent on a mission to the Moon from which they were not expected to return. There they met with a group of aliens who had forged a living under the surface of the moon, and whose forbearswere testing a new kind of spacecraft.

In part two, FLATUS, our dynamic duo help the aliens (and the RSR) build their own multi-locatable craft. Will the ships be built and if so, will the drives work? What are the possible effects of having three such craft in space at one time? FLATUS — Fantastically Large Assembly for Travel at Unbelievable Speeds. The most unlikely spacecraft never built?

Part three follows the preparation and development of the Gap Travel Initiative (code named GTI) and the developing relationships among and between species, races and genders. Will humankind achieve the nirvana of limitless travel and if so, at what cost. Stick with Tarquin and Meredith as they navigate their route through an uncertain future.


GTI. Chapter two, scene two

“On our right,” Jason said as the two officers passed the galley entrance, “is what used to be the galley-staff sleeping quarters. They have been converted to house the SEP generator – behind heavy shielding, of course – and the small control room. That was really only needed during the build stage, but it’ll stay there, in case we ever need to do a manual shut-down.”

“What about starting it?”

“The ship’s computer starts it automatically, Andrea. According to the boffins, starting the main drive in zero gravity triggers the computer to start the SEP generator in passive mode.”

“Passive mode?”

“Yes. In passive mode, the generator’s running and converting matter, but not absorbing direct energy. That way, the ship is protected against any form of collision but not cloaked. I have voice control to activate and deactivate energy shielding.”

“Tell me. If matter shielding is active by default, how did I get in?”

“Good question. That’s where the boffins excelled themselves, if I may say. Three-factor authentication, they call it. The system recognises your transponder signature as a ‘friendly’, it then takes account of your approach pattern and speed and finally, it announces to me that a friendly vessel is approaching and prompts for my authority to let it through.”

“And if you refused, or if you were indisposed and unable to grant permission?”

“If I denied you entry, I would expect you to cease your approach. We could then negotiate in the normal way.”

“And if I didn’t stop?”

“After three warnings, if you were to persist in approaching this vessel, the shield would do its job. In the unlikely and unwise event that you chose to fire projectile or energy weapons at the Sir Prijs, those weapons would be absorbed. If, on the other hand, I’m not available to grant permission for any reason, the XO comes into the picture. However, because Postlethwaite is such a nob, I’ve given the authority to my three most senior bridge officers on a two-out-of-three basis.”

“Sounds like you’ve thought it through well, Jason.”

“Thank you, Ma’am… er… Andrea. We’re here now,” Jason Strangename said. He keyed his code into the door pad and waited while the iris scanner did its thing and opened the door.

“What am I looking at?” Andrea asked as they walked into the small control room.

“I know nothing about the controls here except the big red button. That’s the emergency kill control.”

“And under what circumstances would you use that?”

“The system runs continuous integrity checks on itself. According to the boffins, it’ll tell me if and when I need to kill it. If you look through the window—”

“It’s not very clear, is it?”

“Ten centimetres of plexiglass. Something of a miracle we can see anything at all.”

“What’s that box in the middle of the floor? It looks vaguely familiar.”

“That’s it, Andrea. That is the SEP generator.”

“It’s tiny. How can something so small do such a big job?”

“Apparently, the makers use these 100mm fake mahogany cubes for practically everything. Can I ask you a frank question?”

“Of course. Whether I shall answer it is another matter.”

“Begging your pardon, but you seem to be unusually interested and unfazed by this technology. Most senior officers run a mile.”

“What’s the question?”

“How? Why?”

“Maybe my being a boffin has something to do with it, Jason.”

Jason Strangename blushed and muttered something about tea and his ready room.

“I beg your pardon, Commander,” Jason Strangename said once they’d seated themselves in the reclining easy chairs installed by his predecessor, the late (though not much lamented) Captain Rik van Winpell, his voice and the tint of his face betraying the level of his embarrassment, “I didn’t know you were a boffin. I’d heard tell of a civilian with the same surname, who was supposed to be the top man in maths, science and engineering. Would he be a relative of yours? Andromeda Smithson, I believe he was called.”

“Now it’s my turn to be embarrassed,” Andrea said, blushing oh, so prettily and casually touching Jason on the thigh, “I thought it was common knowledge. I played the part of a man and used the name Andromeda because no-one would take an attractive young woman scientist seriously. Once I’d been fully accepted by the people I respected most, I revealed my true identity – and here I am.”

“I can imagine Stuart-Lane’s response, when you came out, as it were, Ma’am,” Jason said with a chuckle.

“Putty in my hands, Captain,” Andrea replied with a wink, as she gave Jason’s thigh the briefest of squeezes before withdrawing her hand, “putty in my hands.”

“Speaking of which,” Jason blustered, “can you excuse me for a second? Nature calls.”

Jason ran off towards the door that was labelled ‘HEAD’ but which he always referred to as the boys’ room, returning a couple of minutes later looking more comfortable and composed.

“Better?” Andrea asked.

“Thank you, Ma’am,” he replied in a suitable official-sounding tone.

“So, Jason. What does a young, active, virile officer like you find to do all day in this enclosed environment?”

“In the absence of an effective XO, Andrea, you’d be surprised how busy a captain’s life can be. These tubs are minimally crewed and just about everyone aboard has more than one job. Much of what I do is tedious and repetitive, but I am always busy.”

“Well done, Jason. I owe you an apology. At the admiral’s suggestion, I have subjected you to a line of questioning and conduct that were designed to establish that we haven’t ended up with another van Winpell.”

“And?”

“Flying colours, Jason. The hand on the thigh and over-friendliness would have reduced van Winpell to a gibbering wreck—”

“Stuart-Lane too, I imagine—”

“Very much so. But the way you have conducted yourself causes me no concern.”

“One question…”

“Go on.”

“Can we revert to military protocol, please? I don’t believe that over-familiarity is conducive to good discipline.”

“And you’ve jumped another two places in my estimation.”

“Ma’am?”

“I intend to report to Vice Admiral Winstanley that Captain Jason Strangename of the Sir Prijs is an exemplary officer who can, in my estimation, handle a more substantive command.”

“My own DSV?”

“Too early to say, Captain, and much depends on how long it will take to replace you here. But I shall report favourably as soon as we get back. Before I do, though, I need to know one more thing: whom have you nominated your CFP?”

“CFP? I’m not familiar with the rank.”

“No problem. Take me home, Captain.”

Jason pressed a button on his intercom set and said, “Helm, best speed to earth.”