Category: A bump in the Knight

Sunday serialisation – A Bump in the Knight, 11.1

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 eleven, part one

Over the following months, the working party had a number of meetings. Initially, there was a lot of ground-work to be done, setting out and agreeing on the locations, types and sizes of businesses they would go after, then looking into the possibilities for expanding the investment and services wings, including Kanene’s interior design business.

Eventually, the day came for the party to go out into the world and start putting some flesh onto the bare bones of their deliberations. They had previously agreed that wherever they went, the relevant Regional Manager should go with them. To ease them into their work, the first calls were made in India, accompanied by Danny Cho, and by K K Subramanium. This trip ultimately resulted in the acquisition by Knight Trading (India) of two import/export companies, one in Chennai and one in Mumbai. K K Subramanium was appointed CEO of Knight Trading (India), responsible to Danny Cho. At the same time, Max started looking into setting up franchises in India and Singapore for the newly formed Knight Global Investments. This was a longer-term project, though, that we didn’t see coming to fruition for a few years, at least.

After India, Sophie received, out of the blue, an invitation from Jason and Noelani Reeves on Honolulu to spend a holiday with them. They had obviously been keeping up with us, as the invitation was to Hannice, Sophie and David.

“There’s more,” Sophie said.

“What more could there be. We’ve been invited to spend a holiday on Honolulu. Isn’t that enough?”

“No, listen; it’s signed Jason, Nell and Jess. No more.”

“So is Jess a boy, a girl or a dog?”

“It would be unusual to sign a holiday invitation from a dog, wouldn’t it?”

“I know a lot of people include their pets in greetings card signatures.”

“I’ve seen that, too. But – holiday invitations?”

“I’ll call Jason to accept and start a conversation about dates.”

I dialled Jason’s phone.

“Jason; thanks for inviting us. We’d love to come and see you. Hopefully, purely for pleasure this time.”

“My thoughts, too, Hannice. Neolani was so taken by Sophie. She’s really excited at the thought of seeing you again, and we’d both like to meet your son David.”

“I don’t think he’ll complain at the prospect of an island holiday, either. One question, though.”

“I know what you’re going to ask. Who’s Jess?”

“How did you guess?”

“It’s the question I’d be asking in your shoes. Jess is our daughter; our only child. She’s just turned fifteen, and not terribly happy.”

“Why ever not? I would have thought a fifteen-year-old girl living with you and Noelani in that beautiful house of yours would have everything she needed for a happy life.”

“And so she has, my friend, with one single exception.”

“Which is?”

“Friends. Jess is a serious, studious girl in an environment where those qualities aren’t appreciated. I’ve been following some of the public statements coming out of your outfit, and it seems to me that your David is also serious and studious. I was hoping they might become friends.”

“David is serious and studious. He is also ambitious, career-wise, and had a clear picture of how he wants his life to move forward. He, too, has few real friends of his own age. Kids who befriend him at school do so mostly for what they think they might be able to get out of him; he’s smart, hard-working and, compared with many of his peers, shall we say financially secure.”

“And he goes to a regular day-school?”

“I was determined, as soon as he arrived, that there were three things I would never do to him: send him away to school, induct him into the business unless he asked me to, and send him out to run a region, again, unless he had specifically asked for it. I want him to go through life liking, respecting and trusting me.”

“When can you come?”

We arranged half a dozen possible dates, which I ran by Sophie and David. We finally settled on three weeks in June. I called Jason to confirm it and let Max and Henk know so we could plan the time out as far as the working group was concerned. I let the firm know officially through Emily’s current PA, who also acted as my gatekeeper.

It always amazed me how time could drag between deciding on holiday dates and destination, and the arrival of the chosen date.

Sunday serialisation – A Bump in the Knight, 10.3

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…

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 three

Seriously. Do you blame me for coming down hard on Parker? The man extorted half a million out of me, wheedled his way into my firm and onto the Board. And he would have got away with all that if he hadn’t tried to elbow me out of the firm. Whatever he had, whatever I had given him, would never have been enough. He’d always want more, or rather his blasted wife would have wanted more. Well, now he has nothing. No job, no future, and only whatever is left of the cash he took from me. What he took from my firm is now repaid. The trouble was, I now needed a new head of logistics. However, I was determined that before one is appointed, all the empire-building reassignments; company cars, executive travel etc; would go back to HR, where they belonged. And the next holder of the post would report to Henk, as Logistics is an operational department.

Now that I had the Board’s confidence again, I decided to test the waters with regard to Lindy and Tanja. They had proven themselves in their roles, and I really did want Max and Henk to spend more time in Head Office, and to join me in developing the group, both organically, and by acquisitions. I brought it up at the first Board meeting after the Stephen Parker débacle.

“It is my wish,” I told my fellow directors, “to grow the Knight Global Trading group’s turnover by one hundred per cent in the next five years.”

I dimmed the lights and started the presentation on my laptop, which was already connected to the projector.

“This first chart shows the distribution of turnover by region and by function within region. You will see that the fastest growth has been in Africa, this being driven mostly by the development of Max’s investment arm. Middle East and Asia is growing at a good rate, too, mainly due to the addition of the divisional office in Cochin, in India. There’s a lot of promise in that market, and I’m sure Danny can use it to more than double his revenue in two to three years.

“I plan to form a working group, consisting of Max, Henk and myself. Our main job will be to deliver my vision for growth.”

“Aren’t they already pretty tied up with their regions?” Emily asked.

“That’s what I’m coming to next. I have been watching the newly appointed divisional managers in Europe and Africa, and it’s my view that these youngsters are ready for more responsibility.”

“Not RD already, surely?”

“Not yet, Emily. I have in mind to offer them Regional Manager status, still responsible to their RDs, but with greater geographic cover than at present. I don’t envisage Henk or Max relinquishing any of their directorships or control, but I do anticipate that they will delegate increasing and significant amounts of their day-to-day responsibilities to their new Regional Managers.”

Max spoke up. “I can’t speak for Henk, of course. For myself, though, much as I am sure that Lindy is ready for the most part, I wouldn’t expect to be handing over the reins of the investment arm just yet.”

“Nor would I expect you to, Max. I know how close you are to that, and how much it represents your personal vision. I do foresee you, though, leaving the running of it to Lindy, and involving him, with yourself, in the selection of beneficiaries and the disbursement of funds.”

“I’m fine with that.”

“Henk?”

“No; I’m fine with it, Hannice. Tanja is ready, and not only do I welcome the opportunity to be more proactive here, but I also look forward with relish to joining you and Max on the new working party you mentioned.”

“Fine. Anyone else?”

Hannice surveyed a sea of shaking heads.

“Do you need a vote, Owen?”

Owen Nicholls, Company Secretary, said, “I think the mood of the meeting is clear enough. You’ll report back regularly on progress?”

“Of course.”

“Then I declare your motion to form a Growth and Development working party, and to promote Lindisfarne Aldredge and Tanja Voorwinde to Regional Manager carried unanimously and adopted. So minuted.”

“Thank you, Owen.”

Once the meeting was over, I went back home and brought Sophie and David up to speed.

“Sophie,” I said, “How would you feel about joining me on the working party?”

“Why would you want me on it?”

“Well; you share my financial interest in the firm for one, you have an understanding of the business that’s up there with the rest of the team, and your steadiness will support Max in calming Henk’s and my impulsiveness.”

“You sure it’s not just because I’m a woman, and it would be politically advantageous to have equal numbers of men and women on the team?”

“If it were that, I’d have asked Emily or Alexandra.”

“Okay, I’ll believe you.”

David spoke up. “Can I say something?”

“Sure,” I said, “go ahead.”

“I finish school next year, and I’ve been thinking about what to do with my life. Well, you know that, ‘cause I’ve been talking to you both about it.”

“Go on.”

“At the moment, I think I’d like to join you in the business if you’ll have me.”

“Don’t you think it’s a bit early for that, David,” Sophie asked.

“No, I don’t. And I’ll tell you why. When I finish school, if I have the grades and results, I want to go to uni and study business.”

“And,” I said.

“And for my gap year, I’d like to spend some time with the firm; maybe overseas. Now, before you say anything, I do not want to get in the situation you did, working remotely for twenty years. I want to get some experience in my gap year—”

“And earn some money…”

“Of course; then, while I’m at uni, I’d like to spend some of my holidays in the regions, before looking for a post in Head Office after I graduate.”

“I wish your grandfather had given me choices like that. I don’t know what your mother thinks, but I’ll support you all the way with plans like those.”

“Thanks, Dad. Mum?”

“You know what I’m going to say, so well that there’s no point in saying it.”

“Thanks, Mum.”

“That’s all very well, Son,” I said, “but what has this to do with the working party?”

“I was kind of hoping I could sit in on some of the meetings and stuff. Not taking part, just as an observer.”

“I’ll agree to that on one condition…”

“Name it.”

“Okay, I’ll call it George.”

“Ha ha ha. What is the condition?”

“That you give an honest opinion, if – no, not if, when asked.”

“Deal.”

We shook hands.

Sunday serialisation – A Bump in the Knight, 10.2

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…

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 two

All UK-based directors were present, as well as Henk and Max. The Regional Directors were present via a Skype conference call.

As ranking officer, Henk was in the chair. Before he officially started the meeting, I had asked if we could allow John Cannon, an old friend of mine from Texas, to sit in as an observer.

“Before we start this afternoon’s meeting,” he announced, “Hannice has asked if a friend of his; an American novelist who is undertaking research for his next book; could listen in to our meeting and take a few notes. Do we have any objections?”

After a few murmurs and questions about objectivity, anonymity and privacy, all of which I answered to the Board’s apparent satisfaction, Henk was able to confirm that my pal could observe the proceedings but take no part in them. I called John in, explained the situation and showed him to the empty seat at the table.  He didn’t know it, and I certainly didn’t aim to tell him, but that was the seat that Sophie always used when she came to Board meetings. Though sad, it somehow felt good to have someone close to me, someone I respect, in that seat. 

“Y’all are very gracious, and I thank you,” John Cannon said.

“This meeting is now in session,” Henk said, “Item one: statement by Stephen Parker.”

The room descended into silence.

“Some of you may have got the impression,” he said.

“Start again,” Max said, looking at him over her glasses.

“Okay. I made some allegations that I believed to be true at the time—”

“And again,” Max said in her most steely tone.

“Very well, if I must.”

“Believe me, Mr Parker, you must.”

“I made some allegations concerning our Chairman, Mr Knight, allegations that may not have been totally—” he said at last.

“Don’t test me,” Max said.

“Allegations that may not have been entirely true.” He looked up and saw Max extracting some papers from her briefcase. Hurriedly, he corrected himself, “Allegations that were, in fact, totally unfounded. Better?” He looked at Max again. Max nodded. “I can offer no excuse and I apologise for that.” He paused and looked around the table. A wry grin appeared on his face. Wry, or smug? It was hard to tell.

“I suppose you are all expecting me to tender my resignation as a director now, aren’t you?” He asked as he looked around at six nodding heads around the table and another four on the screens. “Well,” he continued defiantly, “I will not.”

“You will not what, pray?” Henk asked him.

“I will not tender my resignation,” he said, “I won’t do it. Do you understand me? I won’t! I daren’t!” the veins on his forehead standing out and his face approaching the shade of a well-ripened aubergine.

“Then,” I said, with all the gravitas I could muster, “I move that Mr Stephen Parker be stripped of his directorship with immediate effect.”

“Seconded,” Max said, possibly more hastily and definitely more eagerly than protocol or even decency demanded.

“So you’re all turning against me now, are you?” Parker asked, “Funny, isn’t it? Until just now, you all thought the sun shone out of my nether regions. Look at yourselves now, though. Smug, self-satisfied bastards, like a pack of dogs surrounding a defenceless fox, all baying for the kill.”

“We did, Stephen, we thought you were high up there with the good guys,” Emily said, “right up until we found out that everything you had said was a lie; that what you said you were doing to safeguard the business and help Hannice turned out to be designed only to boost your own position, regardless of the cost to the business or to its Chairman and CEO.”

Before he could say another word, Owen, as Company Secretary, announced, “We have a motion before us. The proposal is that Mr Stephen Parker should be stripped of his directorship with immediate effect. This motion has been properly seconded. Can I now have a show of hands, please? All those in favour,” he counted, including his own, ten hands. “All those against?” Stephen Parker’s was the only hand raised.

Owen tapped the table with his pen (it was all he had) and announced, “I think the ayes have it; the ayes have it. Order,” then, aside, “I’ve always wanted to say that. I dreamed of being speaker of the House of Commons when I was a kid.” This last aside lightened the mood for everyone except the outgoing director. He then added, “I will draw up the relevant paperwork for your signatures by oh-nine-hundred tomorrow.”

Stephen Parker stood so quickly and so violently that he sent his chair skidding across the polished wood floor. He then stormed out of the room and slammed the door closed behind him.

At the head of the table, Henk stood, indicated that I should assume the chair and re-took his normal place at the table, shaking my hand as we passed.

As his final contribution to this mini-debate, Owen proposed a vote of confidence in my leadership. Henk and Max briefly argued about who was going to second it, but as she had put her name to the ousting motion, Max allowed Henk to second this one. The vote was nine in favour, none against and one abstention. Well, I couldn’t really vote on a confidence motion where I was the subject, could I?

I called the meeting to order and formally closed it. The regional directors signed off, those present adjourned to my office where I broke out the sherry.

During the conviviality that followed, aided rather than impaired by Spain’s finest, I took a call from Joe Green.

“Just had more info from the DNA chaps,” he said, “Thing is, old chap, it turns out that the science is still not absolute, but the lab suggests now that, and I’m quoting here, ‘although the results do not exclude the possibility that the two subjects may have the same biological father, the balance of probabilities points to a negative result’.”

“Excellent timing, Joe,” I said, “the chatter you can hear in the background is the Board celebrating having rid itself of Parker – and that bloody wife of his.”

“Really?”

“That’s right, I fired him.”

“I’m not going to ask how, but good for you!”

“Anyway, can you send Parker’s solicitor a copy of the latest statement from the lab, please? And tell them that I’m not planning to recover any of my money from him, conditional on there being no contact between their client and Knight Global Trading or any of its officers.”

“And if he does attempt to make contact?”

“If he or his wife try to contact me or any member of my family or any officer of this firm, I’ll sue him for every penny he’s taken from me, and that’s just for starters.”

“Restraining order?”

“Only if it becomes necessary, Joe.”

My friend approached me and asked if that was typical of how business meetings go in Great Britain.

“I certainly hope not, John. Firstly because the stress would be too much for us to bear, but mostly because we haven’t actually achieved anything yet.”

“You got rid of the bad guy,” John said.

“That’s true, but this was no typical Board meeting. Will you need to come back for our next one or do you have enough already?”

“Listen, Han,” he said (by the way, I hate it when he calls me that – I’m a business leader, not a Star Wars character with an overly-hirsute friend), “I got enough there to fill a book. I think I’ll take a rain check on the boring stuff.”

John Cannon left the building.