Category: A bump in the Knight

Sunday serialisation – A Bump in the Knight, 6.3

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 six, part three

I hadn’t taken anything with me to Amsterdam that could have interrupted our break. However, as soon as we got back, I found an email from Henk, telling me that the query was legitimate and that a registered letter was waiting for me in London. I emailed back and asked him to have it couriered to me the following day.

I opened the letter as soon as it arrived. It looked official; it had all the correct logos and stamps, as far as I could tell. The letter itself was less than helpful. It said that the formalities for the formation of the company, Knight Trading (India) Pvt Ltd, were ‘deficient in key respects relating to the certification of certain of the directors’ and that they needed a meeting with all directors present to regularise the registration. The letter gave a telephone number to be called in the event of any query. I didn’t call that number. I looked online for the telephone number of the specific regional office that had sent the letter, only to find that the office didn’t exist. Oh, there was an office in the same city with a similar name a similar address and a similar telephone number; similar, but not the same. I checked the time zones and found that we were at a reasonable time for me to phone the government office. At 11 am in the UK, it was 4.30pm in Cochin. Before calling them, I looked around various online forums that deal with the kind of business in India that we are into. There seemed to be a consensus that the person to speak to was a Mr Mistry in the Directorate of Industries and Commerce. I called the number given on the government website and asked to speak to the person responsible for registration of foreign-owned companies. I was put through to a Mr S R Mistry.

“Am I speaking to the person responsible for registration of foreign-owned companies?”

“Yes, I am the in-charge of that section. How may I help you, please?”

“Good afternoon, Sir. My name is Hannice Knight. I am the registered Chairman of Knight Trading (India) Pvt Ltd, recently registered in Kochi.”

“Yes, I recall the case. I completed all the formalities myself.”

“Mr Mistry. I have received a letter from someone claiming to be from the ‘Directorate of Commerce and Industry’. The letter says that he wants all the directors of my company to attend a meeting to discuss irregularities in the registration, claiming that the documentation is ‘deficient in key respects relating to the certification of certain of the directors’. It says the fee for this meeting is one lakh rupees, which must be paid before the meeting can take place.”

“Mr Knight; would you be able to scan the letter and email it to me, please?”

“Certainly, I’ll get onto it right away.”

“Thank you. I believe this is a scam. You are not the first company that has asked me about such a letter, but if I can get hold of one, I can have it fully investigated. I fear many people would have paid the fee asked and got nothing for it. Your company is properly registered, and it is authorised to trade in accordance with the Articles of Association deposited with us.”

“Thank you, Mr Mistry.”

“No, thank you, Mr Knight. I think we can finally catch these fraudsters.”

I immediately called Henk and relayed to him what had passed between Mr Mistry and me. He reacted with a mix of relief and disbelief.

“That’s a good result, Hannice,” he said, “but can you be sure that the person you were speaking to was legitimate?”

“I see what you’re thinking. It’s possible that the government website was hacked, is that it?”

“That’s exactly it. These are perilous times. How can one ever know whom to believe?”

“If this call was part of a scam, it was a very elaborate one. The woman who answered the phone used exactly the words on the website, and I deliberately didn’t ask for the department I wanted. Instead, I asked to be put through to the person responsible for registration of foreign-owned companies. She put me through to the man referenced on a number of forums as the man to deal with. I think it’s legit.”

“I’ll let Danny know; he can pass it on to Subramanium and Chandrasekheran. I’m sure they’ll be relieved to hear it. I’m sorry, Boss; the investigation you did I should have done before bothering you.”

“No problem, Henk. I’m glad it turned out okay, and especially that I didn’t make a pointless journey to India.”

When, later, I told Sophie and her parents about it, she felt the same way I did, but Eddie surprised me by saying, “Knew as much. Can’t trust Johnny foreigner, you know. Pull the wool over your eyes every time. Stick to your own kind, I say.”

Martha and Sophie shot him a look, then Sophie looked at me as if to say, “Don’t.”

I did.

“Eddie,” I said, “we have offices in ten countries on six continents, and I have to say that we have faced issues of honesty in all of them. However, by far the greatest risk to us, by organised criminals, is here, in the United Kingdom and in the United States; our own kind, as you call them. This incident in India pales into insignificance in relation to the vast number of similar scams we see every month in this country. Do I need to list them? Fake invoices for entry in a pan-European business directory, or a Europe-wide fax directory. Invoices for renewal of internet domain names which, if paid, would hand control of our internet presence to crooks. You want more?”

“No,” he said, his head hung in shame, “I get the picture.”

“I hope so, Eddie. I don’t want to get into an argument with you; I like you, you’re a good man, but that comment was sailing perilously close to racism, and I won’t stand for that in my house.”

“Anyone want a cup of tea?” Martha said, trying to lighten the mood. We all nodded assent. Martha got up and started walking toward the kitchen. She turned back and said, “Eddie; come and help me.”

“What help do you need to—”

“Come. And. Help. Me,” she said emphatically. Eddie got up and followed.

“I wish you hadn’t done that,” Sophie said.

“I wish I hadn’t had to,” I replied, “but I can’t let a comment like that go. I had in mind to take your parents with us to Tanzania and, yes, to India, too. But I can’t do that if there’s a risk that your father might upset the applecart by making inappropriate remarks in the hearing of people whose goodwill we need to cultivate. Apart from which—”

“I know, Hannice. I know, it’s just that—”

“He’s your father. I get that, and I respect him in so many ways. But, what’s been said has been said; I think he’s probably getting his whatsits chewed off by your mother right now. I’m not planning to take it any further, I won’t even ask for an apology. I’ve said my piece, and I think we all know where we stand. Okay?”

“Okay.”

Eddie and Martha came back with a tray of tea and biscuits. Martha looked hard and a little angry; Eddie had the look of a defeated man. I certainly didn’t plan on kicking him while he was down.

“Hannice, I owe you an apology,” he started.

“Water under the bridge, old chap,” I said, “water under the bridge.”

“See?” Martha said, “I told you he’d be a gentleman about it. Now, if you have such thoughts again, for goodness’ sake just keep them to yourself.”

“Yes dear.”

“Or better yet, don’t have such thoughts.”

“Yes dear.”

We drank our tea in silence. Once we’d finished, I turned to Eddie and said, “Would you like to see how I scan this letter and email it? You’ll be able to do the same with the kit you have at home. Unless you’ve done it already, of course, in which case there’s no need to see how I do it.”

“I know it can be done,” he said, “but I’ve never done it. Not yet, anyway. Do you scan it to Word?”

“You can,” I replied, “but I prefer to scan into a pdf document. Not everyone has the latest Word on their machine, but everyone can read pdf files.”

“Good point. Lead on, McDuff.”

And that’s how the situation was handled and defused.

Sunday serialisation – A Bump in the Knight, 6.2

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 six, part two

Sophie arrived back from Cyprus with Kanene. Kanene had wanted to go straight back to Dar, but there were no direct flights, and the best options, flying via Doha or Dubai, involved lengthy waits in the relevant airports. Much as she was becoming a well-travelled young woman, Kanene didn’t have the confidence to make extended transits through foreign airports. She told Sophie she was worried about the language; her own English, while near-fluent, did let her down occasionally, especially so in pressure situations. Sophie pointed out that English is always spoken in large international hub airports, but she was afraid that the airport workers wouldn’t understand her East African accent, or she would have trouble with their Middle Eastern or Asian accents. Sophie pointed out to her that she had managed on her way to London with a change of plane, but she said she hated it.

Once everyone had settled, we opened the discussion again.

“You do know that, if you fly from London, you will need to change planes somewhere: Doha, Dubai, Abu Dhabi or somewhere like that?” I said

“Yes, Bwana Knight, I know that, but it frightens me,” she replied.

Sophie’s face lit up. “I have an idea,” she said, “When I was looking for flights a while ago, I found that KLM fly from Amsterdam to Dar-es-Salaam with only a technical stop at either Arusha or Kilimanjaro.”

“What is ‘technical stop’?” Kanene asked.

“It’s usually for refuelling or to pick up or drop off passengers. You don’t normally get off the plane, but if you do, all the passengers are taken to a hall, where they stay until they are led back to the aircraft.”

“That sounds better, Mama.”

We finally agreed with her that flying via Amsterdam would be a good option.

“Still means you’ll have to change planes in Amsterdam,” I said.

“Not necessarily,” Sophie responded. “To give Kanene a new experience, and the rest of us a bit of a change of scenery, why don’t we all, Mum and Dad included, go to Amsterdam by train? It means a change of train in Brussels, but we’ll be dealing with that. We can then put Kanene on her flight at Schiphol – a non-stopper.”

“That sounds very nice, Mama. And if I do have to speak to people in Arusha or Kilimanjaro, they all speak my language – Swahili.”

“Okay,” I said. “Check that Eddie and Martha are on board; although they could stop here if they preferred. Let me know and I’ll have the tickets organised.”

Eddie and Martha were most certainly on board. “We’ve never travelled so much,” Martha said, “Before our Sophie married you, the only time we’d been away from the south of England was a trip to the Isle of Wight one summer, and that doesn’t really count as going out of the country, does it? Here we are gadding about in Cyprus, then Holland. What’ll be next?”

“Don’t hold your breath, Mum,” Sophie said, “but a trip to Tanzania isn’t out of the question.”

“Tanzania?” Eddie exclaimed. “Isn’t that in East Africa – safaris, lions, elephants and all that?”

“Sure is, Dad. What do you think?”

“Where do I sign?” he asked.

Oh, how we laughed.

We set off for Amsterdam just a few days later. It was difficult to tell who was the more excited: the relatively well-travelled Kanene, or Eddie and Martha who, until recently, had never left their country of birth – in fact leaving their county was something of a rarity. If the conversation was any indicator, it was most certainly Sophie’s parents who were more moved by the changing scenery. Passing through the tunnel was a new experience for all of us, although it would take a massive stretch of the imagination to call it exciting. The standard of food and service on the train was higher than I had expected it to be, and the whole trip was most pleasant.

Changing trains in Brussels proved to be as painless as we had hoped. Kanene hadn’t brought too much luggage; she prefers to travel light, and in any event, we have a full wardrobe for her at Knight Towers, clothing suitable for our climate, ready for her visits. As for the rest of us, we simply had a few overnight things. We had planned to spend a couple of nights in Amsterdam, mostly so Eddie and Martha could explore the city and see the sights. Sophie and I were no strangers to this place, and our plans mostly involved relaxing (me), shopping (Sophie), and taking in new sights and sounds (David). Kanene’s flight was due to leave Schiphol at 10.15am, arriving at Dar at 10.45pm. The departure time meant we had to get her to the airport by about 8 am, which I thought was a sensible enough time – I have often had to report to the airport earlier; on my first departure from India, with Sophie, the flight took off at about half past four; our driver picked us up from the hotel at half past midnight! On that basis, leaving our hotel just after seven was easy. We used the hotel shuttle to get us to the airport. I went with Kanene, leaving everyone else asleep. Once I had held her hand through check-in and as many of the formalities as I could, I waved her farewell and returned to the hotel by taxi. I arrived back at half past nine, just in time to join the rest for a late breakfast. Before leaving, I had engaged a guide to give Eddie and Martha a tour of the city on our first day there, which, judging from their animation at dinner, they thoroughly enjoyed.

Rather than eat in the hotel restaurant, because David was tired and a little tetchy with it, we had dinner delivered to our suite.

The second day was shorter, as we had to get to Schiphol in time for our 6.50pm flight to Heathrow. After a leisurely breakfast, we lounged around in the hotel and took an easy stroll around the centre of Amsterdam, before returning to collect our bags and check out. Before we knew it, we were back on UK soil, and making our way home to Knight Towers.

Sunday serialisation – A Bump in the Knight, 6.1

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…

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

A Bump in the Knight. Chapter six, part one

The following week, Bly took Sophie, Kanene and Kate to Heathrow for their flight to Cyprus. Before leaving, Sophie made sure that her parents were fully up to speed with David’s feeding, changing and sleeping routines. I think she was expecting that I would be either too busy or too absent to deal with it all. I was determined it would be otherwise.

Two days after they’d gone, Henk was on the phone to me.

“Situation in Cochin, boss,” he said.

“What kind of situation?”

“Some kind of issue about the legality of the company. Something irregular about the way it was set up.”

“That sounds a bit suspect to me. Can’t you and Danny deal with it?”

“They say they need to see the man in charge, which they believe is you.”

“Who is ‘they’?”

“Don’t know exactly; some government agency.”

“Find out exactly. If this is a bona fide government enquiry, they will need to put it in writing, in English, and send it to me at the registered office of KGT. It is KGT that owns the majority shareholding, not Hannice Knight.”

“And if they say they want to see you in person, over there?”

“They can say so in their letter, in writing, in English, sent to me at the registered office of KGT. If they won’t do that, then it’s not legit. Report it to the police, the chamber of commerce, the interior ministry, or whoever deals with corporate cons.”

“Might be quicker and easier to go there, boss.”

“Not when my wife is in Cyprus and doesn’t believe I can be trusted to look after our son, because she’s convinced I’ll be dragged away on business. In writing, in English, sent to me at the registered office of KGT.”

“Understood. I’ll get onto it.”

“Thanks, Henk. Just for a couple of weeks, okay?”

When I spoke with Sophie that evening, I told her about that conversation.

“You could have gone,” she said, “that’s why we had Mum and Dad stay on while I’m over here.”

“I know, but it’s important for me to show you that I can put our family ahead of business. I employ a lot of good, talented, efficient and proficient people. I like to think they’re the best in the business, or at least as good as the best. I shouldn’t have to attend to every minor detail. That they expect me to is a hangover from Papa’s time; and remember what he said at the wedding: ‘The business can take over and ruin your relationship. I know that because I let it happen to me. Don’t let it happen to you,’ is what he said, and I damned well don’t intend to let it happen to us.”

“Thank you, Hannice. I was hoping you’d say something like that.”

The rest of the week was spectacularly uneventful. David spent a couple of afternoons with his doting grandparents. They told me that they took him to the zoo, although whether, at sixteen months, he was able really to appreciate it is a moot point; they took him to a supervised play area where, according to his ‘Nana’ and ‘Gamp’ as he had taken to calling them, he loved being pushed on the swings and even down the mini-slide. Now that David has started talking, although much of it is still gibberish, I had to insist to Eddie and Martha that we didn’t want him hearing any ‘baby-talk’. He had shown a surprising level of understanding of what we say (fortunately, he couldn’t spell yet, so didn’t know b-e-d meant the same as bed, and so didn’t react the same), and we didn’t want him to be confused – we didn’t want him to have to unlearn tootsies and learn toes, for instance. Eddie and Martha had, as far as I knew, taken it on board, and also copied our habit of talking to him a lot; giving him a running commentary of everything he should be able to hear, see or smell. Eddie was very good at reading to him, while Martha took delight in playing games with him, especially games that involved running or hiding. His favourite game was hide and seek, when Martha would secrete herself somewhere difficult for David to reach, then make small noises to indicate where she was. This was a recommended exercise to train him to use his ears, a useful skill if he ever finds himself in a dark place.