Sunday serialisation – A Bump in the Knight, 2.4

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…

Beginning on 14 January 2018, I am publishing Knight & Deigh here as a serial; one part each Sunday.

A Bump in the Knight. Chapter two, part four

The following morning, I was distressed to find that Sophie had started suffering from a serious bout of morning sickness. I had read that it was not unusual in early pregnancy, but that its severity was variable between individuals. Poor Sophie wasn’t able to do anything before about 11 am. Max and I had arranged to meet Henk in my office, so I wasn’t able to be there for my wife in the way I would have liked. Kanene stayed with her throughout the morning, keeping Sophie’s mind off her troubles by talking incessantly about the bedroom remodelling. She also offered her some traditional remedies, most of which would fall under the heading of aromatherapy. Eventually, they settled on a mix of smells that seemed to ease Sophie’s symptoms a little.

Back in my office, Henk appeared, Tanja in tow, just before 10 am. Max and I went through our joint proposal in minute detail, presenting outline business plan, cash-flow projections, and what we understood or had been able to find out about the regulatory framework under which the operation would work. Probably the most experienced of us all, he having been involved in setting up the Singapore and Brazil offices, Henk homed in immediately on the key questions whose answers could fundamentally determine the success or failure of the venture. Of course, neither Max nor I could answer any of these questions, but we did have access to enough resources (and a tame Tanja to do the leg-work) to come to an understanding of the issues involved. We agreed to reconvene in the London office a week later, when we could conference Danny in, and also have Emily, Owen and Alex present to cover any HR, admin, marketing or PR issues that might arise.

While this was going on, Sophie and Kanene were busy talking to a few local building contractors, outlining their plans and soliciting estimates. Sadly, one firm declined to quote, on the basis that they foresaw personality conflicts between their personnel and ours. We knew they meant that they didn’t want to work with Kanene, and we suspected her provenance had something to do with it, but couldn’t prove anything. Two firms gave ‘this is not a job we want’ quotes, but we ended up with four competitive-looking offers. Once the six of us (Henk and Tanja were still with us. They wanted to try some of Kanene’s and Mrs Cooper’s fusion cooking) had talked through them, we concluded that they were all strong candidates, with budgets and delivery schedules in the right ballpark.

“Let me send these through to Owen, so his estate and facility managers can look at them and let us have their views,” I said.

“Is that necessary, darling?” Sophie asked, “Surely we can decide, between us.”

“We are happy with all of them as far as they go. What I want estates and facilities to tell us is if they have any experience with any of these firms that we may want to take into account.”

“You mean if they have let you down on a job?”

“In essence, yes. Also, whether they have a track record of delivering on time and to budget. I’d prefer not to use someone who has a history of over-promising—”

“And under-delivering. I take your point.”

“I can email them across now,” Tanja offered.

“They’re on paper, Tanja,” I said.

“Twenty-sixteen,” she replied, at which her boss admonished her not to speak to his boss like that.

“No, she’s right,” I said. “Do you have a scanner, then, Tanja?” Tanja reached into her bag and pulled out a device that looked like a kitchen foil dispenser. She pressed a button on the side of it, and fed the documents, one by one, into its rollers. There were no cables connecting it either to the mains or to her laptop. I looked at her quizzically.

“Bluetooth,” she offered.

I’d heard that word before. I looked across at Max, who had raised her eyebrows in an expression that seemed to suggest that she was impressed by whatever Tanja had said. Once the last sheet had gone through the rollers, Tanja started furiously tapping on her smartphone. Seconds later, it played a little tune.

“Okay, they’ve got them. They’ll let us know in less than an hour.”

Now it was my turn to be impressed. I looked at Henk. “Looks like we employ some pretty smart people,” I said.

“I’m surprised you could think otherwise,” he replied.

We went out for a stroll in the grounds for an hour, while waiting for the firm to get back to us. It was a splendid afternoon, bright and clear, if a little cold. In deference to my condition – I was still working daily to gain strength in my legs – we walked at a very gentle pace. I was delighted to see that Tanja and Kanene had hit it off, and were deep in conversation for the entire walk. They were speaking quietly, so I had no idea what they were talking about. I purposed to find out later. Without warning, Kanene broke off and rushed back to us. She stood in front of Sophie and said, “Excuse me, Mama, but Tanja has said she would like to meet Mrs Cooper. May I take her, please?”

“Of course,” Sophie said. Kanene rushed back to Tanja.

Before they could go anywhere, Henk shouted, “Tanja; phone!” Tanja ran to Henk, handed him her phone, then ran off to the kitchen with Kanene.

In Henk’s hand, Tanja’s phone rang. He looked at it, then pressed a button and raised the phone to his ear. After an assortment of yesses, goods, fines and uh-huhs, he finally said, “Thanks, Tom. Bye,” and cancelled the call.

“Well?” I asked.

“Of the four companies, one we have no experience with, two have done excellent work for us, on time and within budget; the fourth is, in Tom’s words, ‘up to the job’. That’s Tom-speak for ‘they’ll do, if you can’t find anyone better’. Based on what he says, it’s down to two.”

“How do you feel about that, Sophie?” I asked.

“I’ll look at it with Kanene later. There was one firm she really took to; not just because their man was disarmingly handsome, but because when she was explaining her vision to him, he genuinely seemed to be on her wavelength. If this firm is one of the two, I’d say we have a winner. If not, then Kanene and I will talk some more, if not this evening, then as soon as I feel up to it in the morning.”

We started to make our way back to the house. On arrival, we found that dinner was all but ready. Mrs Cooper, helped by Kanene and Tanja, had laid on what looked like a medieval banquet with, of course, African and Dutch influences.

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