Sunday serialisation – Knight after Knight, 15.1

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 fifteen, part one.

Lindy and Roger hired a car and took themselves and the children on a driving tour around the country. Lindy was keen to show Roger Lindisfarne, the Holy Island after which he and his services business were named. I remained at Knight Towers, where I was able to spend a good amount of time with David and Jess, and their delightful daughter, Hannah – by this time well into her teens. In common with so many teen-aged girls, Hannah was occasionally, as her mother liked to put it, difficult. But only at home; not in public, and certainly not with her grandpa.

Some weeks later, during one of our evening chats, Jess asked me what I intended to do, now that my partner was no longer with me.

“I haven’t given that any thought, yet, Jess,” I said, “I suppose the business could go on, although I’m not at all sure if I want to be doing it on my own. Very often, and you’ll know this from your work with KGT, it really helps to have two heads attacking a problem. Sure, one person can do it alone, but that means the client is not getting the benefit of the full two-brain dynamic.”

“Can I run an idea past you, Dad?” David said.

“As long as you aren’t going to suggest I work for the firm.”

“No, not at all. Well, not exactly, anyway. There are a couple of ideas I’ve had. If you want to carry on working in Tanzania, we could maybe go through the other retired directors to see if any of them want to come on board with the project—”

“I don’t think so, David. Max’s passion for the people of the country, and particularly for those with albinism, was hers and hers alone. Of course, I was moved by some of the issues she attacked, but I always looked at the business as a problem-solving outfit and my concentration was always in the problem, not the people behind it. Without Max, the impetus won’t be there.”

“Fair enough; I get that. So here’s the other thing. I know that Henk Overbock is trying to establish himself as a kind of roving troubleshooter for business in the low countries but not getting as far as he’d like—”

“And you know this how?”

“I was talking to him last week. Tanja Voorwinde had run into him and said that she thought he looked … demotivated was the word she used. I’ve been trying to think of a way we could help him.”

“He’s a good man, Henk.”

“I know, Dad. That’s why we, Jess and I, wanted to do something. So, here’s what we’ve come up with. Ready?”

“Go on.”

“Our suggestion is that you wind up HanMax Consultants and return to the UK. You and Henk set up an independent partnership as business consultants with financial arrangements, accommodation and support services with us similar to what you and Max had with Lindy. Your first clients will be Knight Global Trading, who will engage you as roving trouble-shooters, firefighters if you like, who can fly in wherever there are seemingly intractable problems, sort them and fly out again.”

“That sounds like the sort of thing I used to use Max for,” I said, “I’m not sure it’s a job for an engineer and an administrator; too often it needs accountancy input, frequently of a forensic nature. That’s why Max was so useful to me.”

“I don’t see that as an issue, Dad. Whilst you are working for us, but only whilst you are working for us, we can second to you any resources you need. We have people of the right calibre – more than a few of them trained by Max herself. It’s also possible, if you wind up becoming our external internal auditors – if that makes sense – some of the secondments could become semi-permanent.”

“I see where you’re going with this. If I, well we – Henk and I – agree to this, and we end up with people working for us, or rather with us, whose employment contract is with you, would we be able to use them for other clients’ projects?”

“Let me mull that—” David started to say.

“Yes, of course you would,” Jess interrupted, “of course they would, wouldn’t they, David?”

“Of course, Jess; of course.”

“Yay – way to go, Mum!” Hannah cheered, from the other end of the room.

“How long have you been listening to us?” Jess asked her daughter.

“Long enough, Mum,” Hannah replied, “could Grandpa and this other man—”

“Henk Overbock,” David said.

“Yeah, him. Could they help me with my business studies, too?”

“Well,” David said with a grin, “I did suggest we use them for seemingly intractable problems. If you think you fit that category, then yes, they could.”

“I don’t think I’m a seemingly intractable problem, but to listen to you and Mum sometimes, I reckon you probably do.”

I looked around at the family. David and Jess were successful business-people in their late thirties. They oozed confidence and a high level of sophistication. There was nothing I, or anyone else, could give to this pair that they didn’t already have. Great jobs, a great home, financial security, each other and, of course, the delightful Hannah. She, on the other hand, was a teenager. She was having to deal with a whole raft of pressures, some of which her parents had also faced and had worked their way through, although they weren’t the kinds of issues that her parents could simply fix for her or even really help her with. They had to do with the changes in her body, the rush of unfamiliar hormones and the feelings they generated, and the changes in the wiring of her brain. Yes, all of us had to go through those, but none of us had any help. Not real help, anyway. Our parents, or in my case the teachers at my school, offered sympathy and support, but we knew that there was no way they could fully understand what we were going through or comprehend the effect these changes were having on the way we saw ourselves, the way we viewed the world. It’s an exciting time, even if it doesn’t seem so whilst it’s happening. And it’s something that most of us forget the details of when we grow through it, no matter ho real, how pressing and how thoroughly unpleasant it seems at the time.

“If it means I get to spend more time with my beautiful grand-daughter,” I said, “you can count me in. Have you suggested it to Henk, yet?”

“Not yet,” David said, “we thought it best if we run it past you first.”

“Let me talk to him,” I said, “If it comes from you, he might see it as charity, and we know how he feels about that. If I tell him I’ve practically decided, but I can’t do it without him, he’ll think he’s helping me, rather than the other way around.”

I went through to David’s study, the one that used to be mine – you know, the one with the big screens all along one wall. I wondered how much David used the security and monitoring kit that we’d installed. It being early evening in England, I knew it would be mid-evening in Holland, an hour later than the UK, so I called Henk at his home number.

“Hello, old friend,” I said when he answered, “How’s it going?”

“Have you been talking to David?”

“Of course.”

“Then I imagine you know how things are for me.”

“I do, and I’m sorry. However, we may be in a position to help each other. Since Max died, I’m missing a partner in Tanzania—”

“If you want me to join you out there, I’m afraid I’d have to say no,” he said, “Nothing personal, Hannice, but I don’t think I could take living full-time in that climate these days. On top of which I know nothing about the place or its culture, apart from what I’ve heard from you and Max.”

I explained to him what David had suggested, including the staffing and financial aspects – well, there’s no point in being less than one hundred per cent open, if I want us to be partners, is there? He began to sound more interested as I went into it in detail.

“So what have you said?” he asked.

“I haven’t. Not yet, anyway. I’ve indicated provisionally that I’d be interested but haven’t given any commitment yet because I think I’d need a partner. I’ll tell you now; not to put any pressure on you, but just to be totally frank; if you’ll join me, I’ll do it, but I won’t do it alone. It’s not something that I feel I want to take on single-handedly.”

“But why me? There must be any number of suitably qualified people you could partner with.”

“There are, Henk. I could, right here and now, name at least half a dozen men and women who could rise to the challenge and make a good fist of it; you included. But of those people, there’s only one I’d be comfortable going into business with at this level, at this point in my life, and that’s you. What do you say, Henk? Two questions: one, are you up to it, and are you up for it?”

“Up to it? Yes, of course I am. I may be pretty ancient in years—”

“You’re not alone there.”

“But, according to my doctors, I’m in fine fettle and good for some time yet.”

“That’s great, Henk. I’m glad to say that my medics say the same thing about me. The question is, though, if you’re up to it, are you up for it?”

“You know what, Hannice? I think I may well be.”

“Good man! When can you come across to talk details with the boy?”

“Oh,” he said hesitantly, “let me check my diary.” He paused for some seconds and I could clearly hear pages being flicked. He came back on. “Tomorrow okay?” he asked with a barely suppressed chuckle.

“Text me the flight details and I’ll have Pepu pick you up at the airport,” I said, “unless you’re happy to trust me in the Jag.”

“Haven’t been in that one yet. Is it still the all-electric one?”

“The I-Pace? Yes. No point in changing it. It still works perfectly.”

“And you still love it?”

“I do. Trouble is, so does David, and I’ll have to get his permission to come and collect you in it.”

“You do? Why?”

“His car. If he needs it, he has first call.”

“Nah. Let him use the Bentley.” We both laughed at that.

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