As the private jet banks to line up for the final approach, Henry Hartford III watches the desolate landscape of the Kalahari slide past with a worried frown. Sure, Fanny told him about it. He saw pictures and video material on the area. But even from this height, the unforgiving nature of the terrain is all too evident. How can people live here? Where are the power lines, the roads? Not a single building in sight – is it possible?
It’s not that he had an easy life; his father made sure of that. Growing up in a wealthy home, his father said, is the worst thing that can happen to a child. To have servants at your beck and call, private tutors and every imaginable toy on the market, will result in a spoilt child with no ambition. Henry grew up amidst luxuries he could never enjoy. At the age of six his life in boarding school started. At first this didn’t bother him too much: he was used to making his own bed, cleaning up his room and washing dishes. As an only child, he thought all households had butlers and servants to look after the adults only. Now he realised his father was uncommonly harsh and unreasonably strict.
Life in the private school – before he was placed in Eaton later – was also punctuated by the frequent calls from his father to the headmaster to make sure little Henry was forced to excel. His essays had to be longer, his maths better than the rest, and his marks in the other subject had to top the class. The headmaster was an even more profound disciplinarian than Henry’s father. He also realised how dependent the school was on old Mister Hartford’s donations. He did exactly what was required of him: beatings, solitary confinement, food rationing – there was no limit to the pressure he applied on little Henry; the rich kid that wasn’t.
By then, Henry knew the rules, even if he didn’t understand them. While the other boys spent their afternoons playing, Henry sat in the library. When the rest went on outings, Henry studied. Over time he not only accepted the way he had to perform academically all the time – he embraced the idea. He’d show them! He’d prove how good he can be. Subconsciously the thought stuck: his father’s love and acceptance depended on his hard work.
In later years, his hard work paid off. At his eighteenth birthday, his father proudly embraced him and rewarded his excellent marks (top-of-the-class, as usual) with a Lamborghini Gallardo. The car was his to keep as long as he remained the best performer in the class. The vehicle became a symbol of his progress, but was rarely used – simply because retaining the car meant so many hours of studying. His father simply had supplied even more bars to keep him prisoner in his emotional jail.
When the jets taxis to a stop, Henry makes sure the captain understands his instructions. This flight never took place. You will not log it anywhere. And yes, the payment has already been made to the private account in Zurich.
It was the last of the money – his own private and very secret fund – he skimmed off the various transactions. Now, with barely a thousand pounds let, he will need a bit of a boost before he can start trading again. After all, did he not have spectacular success in the beginning? How could anybody have foreseen the global recession and how severe it would be?
Security at Upington airport isn’t the same as in Heathrow or JFK. The pilot had dropped him near some hangars with specific instructions. It was simply a matter of walking from jet to jet, looking for all the world like an interested spectator (maybe even a buyer) and then sauntering out with a haughty look. True to the New South Africa, the uniformed men at the gate were too busy discussing the performance of the national soccer squad to take notice of him.
After finishing his post-grad studies, his father finally accepted him as a son, a man, and even something useful. Henry worked the only way he knew: hard, long, relentless…and demanding results. He restructured departments and investments. Accountants and secretaries with less than the demanded stamina, were fired. Fresh-faced, eager graduates were sourced, paid well, and worked to a standstill. Henry became one of those men that are talked about in hushed tones, and he revelled in the new-found freedom the power of his position gave him. The disciplinarian father produced a disciplinarian son, and both were happy with the results.
The acquisition of the hotel chain was Henry’s idea. Forget about mister Blue-collar, he said. The wealthy demand proper holidays – pampered holidays – and they’re prepared to pay for it. The rich and the famous were individually targeted, bringing them to exotic locations where they were treated in style. Upgrade after upgrade of the facilities made sure the chain stayed ahead of the competition. This is when Henry needed extra capital – and this is when he started trading with ‘borrowed’ funds. Initially, when it went well, it seemed the perfect answer – make money by trading, invest in the hotels, watch the assets grow.
And then everything collapsed.
Almost overnight the world’s economy went into a nose-dive. Henry tried to recoup his losses, but the unstoppable down-hill slide prevented any of his efforts from achieving his goals.
And now…now he must have one last roll of the dice. He knows Fanny is in Rolbos, preparing the way for the advert-program, and she knows where the hidden treasure is. Gold is a commodity that is universally recognised. If what she said was true, this could be – must be – his chance to redeem himself.
Fanny… His lips curl downward when he thinks of her. Oh, it’s not that she’s unattractive or anything like that. It’s just she’s so…successful. And happy. She makes him feel like a wimp when she’s with him. Happy people make him nervous. Successful people causes jealousy.
The only reason he asked her to be a special friend, was because his father forced him into it – and how can he refuse his father? The merging of their various interests made a lot of sense, and that meant he had to court Fanny Featherbosom. He, the inept young man who never developed any social skills, now had to try and impress one of London’s most beautiful darlings.
At best, it was an impossible situation. But, like his father did with the Lamborghini, Fanny was the enviable prize for performing well – and like he almost never touched that steering wheel, he’ll simply do the same with Fanny. She is a rung in his ladder to achievement, that’s all. A badge to wear when he is forced to mix with the despicable socialites.
Money. That’s the only power worth fighting for.
Henry walks over to the taxi rank with determined strides. Yes, he’ll show them. All of them. Every damn single opinionated one of them. He, Henry Hartford III, will outperform them all once more.
Even if it’s the last thing he does…
Everywhere I turn, I hurt someone
But there’s nothing I can say to change
the things I’ve done
Of all the things I hid from you
I cannot hide the shame
And I pray someone, something will come
to take away the pain