Sunday serialisation – A Bump in the Knight, 4.3

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 four, part three

Around the conference table, we all listened in silence as Henk went through his proposal. At various points during his presentation, Henk looked at me for confirmation of what he was saying. At no point did I feel unable to nod approval.

“In conclusion,” he said at last, “there’s enough business in Cochin to support a satellite office of Danny’s now-renamed Middle East and Asia region. When that is established and paying its way, we’ll revisit the area on two fronts. Operationally, Mr Knight and I will be looking at other major Indian ports with a view to expanding our footprint in the world’s largest and fastest-growing democracy. Financially, Max will be looking at building on the success of Knight Investments and expanding it into other regions. Any questions?”

Danny stood up. “As I understand it, Henk, once this initial office is up and running, Mr Knight and yourself will be looking at expanding into other Indian ports.”

“That’s right, Danny.”

“My question is this. If this is happening in my region, should I not be involved in these investigations?”

“Of course, if you have the time, Danny. We just thought that two—”

“And you didn’t think to ask me?”

“That was wrong of us. Of course you’ll be involved.”

“Thank you. When you start your talks in Cochin, look up a Mr K K Subramanium. He is in a senior position with an import/export business in Cochin, with no hope of promotion because of the family connections of those around him. He cannot afford to start his own business, but will, I believe, be happy to be your top man there. He’s good, too. He comes with a sidekick, a Mr J R Chandrasekheran, who will follow him as deputy. Another first-class man.”

“Splendid, Danny. Are you making a note of these names, Tanja?”

“Yes, Henk. I’ve just googled them, and what Mr Cho says bears out.”

“Henk,” I said, “what have you learned about the regulatory framework in Kerala?”

“Still looking into that, Hannice. My initial impression is that we can be 100% foreign-owned as a limited liability company, private or public. Partnership is an available option, provided you can select the right local partner.”

“Couple of options there, Henk. You’ll recall that the outfit we were dealing with in Tanzania, TanzCap, failed the local test because it is 100% owned by Jont Capital (India). We could consider partnering with them.”

“Are you sure you’d want to get into bed with Della Jont?”

“Might soften her a bit. We did a number on her in Dar, and she doesn’t like us much for it, but perhaps this could be a sweetener. The other alternative, which I’ve been thinking about for a while, is franchising. Less risky for us financially, and as long as we keep a tight rein on how the Knight brand is portrayed…”

“You’ve not mentioned this to me,” Max complained.

“New idea, Max. Let’s talk later, eh?”

“Okay, thanks, everybody,” Henk said, “I think we’re agreed in principle. I’ll work with Hannice, Max and Danny to iron out the last few wrinkles and get a detailed proposal put together, which will go before the board within six weeks.”

Once the meeting had broken up, we all went to our separate rooms to prepare for dinner.

“Can I just make an observation, Hannice?” Sophie asked.

“Of course.”

“This baby is due in three weeks. When are you planning to go to India with Henk?”

“It won’t be until after the board meeting.”

“That’s in six weeks’ time.”

“That’s right.”

“David will be less than a month old at the time you plan to go away.”

“I could let Henk do it on his own; he’s perfectly capable, but I know he’d prefer I were with him.”

“I’m not saying you shouldn’t go.”

“What are you saying then?”

“You know the nanny’s room?”

“Yes.”

“Do you think I could ask my mother to come and help me for a while? She could stay in there.”

“What about your father?”

“He can manage on his own.”

“For how long?”

“Just a couple of months.”

“I don’t think that’s very fair on Eddie. Why not invite them both. They can use the apartment you used before we married.”

“Are you sure?”

“Of course. The apartment is on the internal phone system, too, so you’d be able to call if you needed help.”

“Is it covered by that CCTV system we saw?”

“No. Neither is this suite.”

“Then what’s that up there?” Sophie pointed to a sensor in the corner of the bedroom ceiling.

“Different device.”

“Really?”

“Do you want to come and see? This suite, your apartment and a couple of other sensitive areas are covered by dummy cameras that house smoke, carbon monoxide and heat sensors. There’s no video output because there’s no camera as such. They just lead to a panel of lights.”

“Okay, I’ll believe you.”

“So, what do you want to do?”

“About what?”

“About your mum. And dad?”

“I’ll call them after dinner and invite them both.”

“That’ll be nice. We didn’t see them for long at the wedding, and I don’t think I’ve ever spent more than half an hour with them at a time. It’ll be nice to have them here for a couple of months.”

“My only worry is that after a couple of months in Knight Towers, they won’t want to go back to their little terraced cottage.”

“Then they’ll just have to extend their stay, won’t they. Eddie and Martha have both been retired for a while, so there’s no real need for them to rush back.”

“But Dad has to see his doctor every few months.”

“Our doctor can deal with that. We have our own mini-hospital here, for goodness’ sake.”

We had a pleasant dinner with our guests. Everybody got on well, and if we were all watching Lindy and Tanja to find out what they’re up to, I don’t think they noticed. The conversation was relaxed and pleasant, and we agreed that we had achieved everything we had planned for the week in just one day. Henk was keen to get back to Holland, but everyone else, Tanja included, elected to stay at Knight Towers for the rest of the week.

Sophie phoned her parents and outlined what we were proposing for them. Her mum was, of course, over the moon at being asked to come and help her only child with her only grandchild. Her dad was looking forward to a period of living more luxuriously than usual. North Devon, where Eddie and Martha live, is only three hours away by road, so I offered to send Bly for them, rather than put them on public transport. I knew that the drive in a chauffeur-driven limo would go down well with Sophie’s dad.

When she passed that on, Sophie said, “Mum didn’t sound as impressed as Dad, but I could tell. Once in the Bentley, with Bly at the wheel, her inner snob will come out and she’ll go through the streets of Holsworthy with a practised royal wave that would put the Queen herself to shame.”

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