tagNovels and NovellasEleven Orphan Daughters Ch. 07

Eleven Orphan Daughters Ch. 07

bymangrove jack©

Glen decided that John was becoming an old prude. Lelani told him that her massage girls were unable to accept his request to go to his hotel room. She winked when she told that she could arrange for him to meet what she called local widows who were in need of extra money. "You should set yourself up with a place," He kissed her and slipped her some money to say thanks.

An opportunity arose much quicker than he thought. Jack was one of those old-fashioned farmers that were known as Jack-Of-All-Trades. He could turn his hand to anything. He loved old cars and scouted around the province looking for motors to restore.

He was excited when he discovered and old Citroen sedan that had been garaged by the French when they withdrew from the area in the fifties. It was covered in chicken shit, its upholstery ripped and torn. The old tires had disintegrated and the body was rusted but he bought it and dragged it back to the hotel. Mick eyed it with concern, "you can't keep that ugly old bomb here," he cried. "I don't want this place to look like a second hand car yard."

That night when Jack returned home Ly ended his depressed state. "My uncle has a shed near the markets he sells fuel and tires. He does not have much money and has always said if he had a partner, he could set up a proper garage and repair shop. He says there is an opening to sell new motor bikes. Let's go down and you can talk to him."

Jack soon realized that the uncle was not interested in restoring cars. "Ask him does he want a partner and if he does will he let the partner set up a workshop to repair cars and motor bikes." Jake said as they walked around the small shed. Ly asked and the uncle became excited talking fast and waving his hands.

"He says he would really like to sell his shed and retire. He talked about foreigners not being allowed to own small businesses." She blushed, "he says you should give me the money to buy him out. He said my brother knows the business he would work for you."

Jake rode his bike down to see John then doubled him back to the shed. "Mate I don't know these people like you. It is only a small block but it's in a good position right on the corner of the main road near the markets. It's not a lot of money by our standards."

"I like Ly; she is beautiful and so kind to me. We have a good thing going. I would rather just give her some money instead of buying her into a business. Can you check that I am not tying an albatross around her neck? What I really want you to do is check with the party people that we are not doing anything that will cause Ly any trouble."

John asked Ruby to make some checks. The next evening Ruby called to see them. "I think its good news," she said. "Ly can buy the property and business. She should disclose that the money is a gift from Jake and that Jake has no claim to ownership. If Jake wants a joint venture them there will be more paper work. It will take longer but it should be ok."

While they waited for approval Jake and Ly visited Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh city to buy gear for what Jake now called Ly's Garage. New machinery from China was very cheap as was motor bikes. Ly and Jake had their personal disagreement over Chinese products. Ly making it clear she wanted to deal only in Vietnamese goods. In the end, they signed an agreement with a local bike maker and petrol company to act as their agents in the village.

Ly's Brother told Jake to call him Arthur. He shook his head negatively when he looked at the shed. "No good he said, "Will steal must have locks." He was right even with locks some tires brought from Hanoi disappeared overnight.

Glen saw an opportunity. He told Jake and Ly someone has to live on the premises. "Clean up those rooms over the rear and I'll stay there overnight while I'm here. You can arrange for a worker to stay when I am away."

Jake knew why Glen wanted private rooms away from the family and made him pay to have the alterations and install security equipment. "We can't count on you to be watching all the time, I'm sure you will be fully occupied," he replied when Glen started to object.

Mr. Treet called at the feedlot and joined the workers for lunch. Charles reported that all farmers were now satisfied with the co-op and its management. "We would have had some problems without the co-op income that came from their half ownership of the cows but I can confidently say it won't look back.

We have more and more requests to join especially since we set up the co-op store and supply farming equipment and goods cheap to our members."

"We'll give it another six months," Mr. Treet said as he left. "I'll invite the Ministry to send some officers up to talk to you and check it out. If in six months time it is still working well with no hiccups the province may be interested in setting up a larger provincial government organization."

Ly's garage was a surprise success. The equipment Jake had scrounged together made it one of the best equipped in the province. Ly conferred with Rose and arranged for the older boys at the orphanage to be bussed up to the garage on weekends. Glen and Austin joined Jake teaching practical motor maintenance.

A number of local men arrived each day to sit and watch Jake work on the vintage Citroen. When Jake experimented with a spray gun, one young man volunteered. He showed so much ability that Jake and Austin clubbed together and sent him down to Hanoi to train in the spray-painting booth at the government garage. Word went around that Jake would show locals how to use his equipment. The numbers dropping in grew until it became the hangout for local petrol heads.

The regular family meeting heard reports from the feedlot, the chicken farm the slaughter house-butchery and the Hotel. All were profitable, some more so than others.

Rose suggested a timetable to repay John some of his capital and a small investment in training for the older boys and girls at the orphanage. "They have nothing when they leave the orphanage. They end up on the street. We could use Ly's garage to train the boys to repair and maintain motor bikes. We would have to find something for the girls."

Austin returned the next day to speak to Rose and John. "Jack has set Ly up in business and I would like to do something for Anh. I have refurbished and extended her house and fitted it out with modern appliances. She is very good at embroidery. I wondered if we could set up a small shop to train the orphans and sell their work down in Hanoi or Ho Chi Minh."

Rose loved the idea. She worked with Austin and Anh setting up a place near Anh's house to train the girls from the orphanage. They traveled down to Hanoi and called on the tourist shops and the boutiques in Silk Street looking for an outlet for the products.

They returned disappointed and dejected. "We have to find and outlet," they told John. "We can't just keep producing things. If they don't sell the girls will lose interest and we will fail."

Shauna rang during the discussions and John told her about their plans to help train the older orphans. "Set up your own shop," she cried when he finished. "Call it the OP shop and advertise that the shop sells items made by provincial orphans. Promote the shop as a tourist attraction." She stopped for a moment. "This is woman's business. Let me talk to Rose and Anh."

"We should look for some truly local rural Vietnam embroidery designs. Tourists are looking for something different. Let's plan to make our own hand made embroidered Bedclothes, Doonas, tablecloths, towels and quality shirts for both women and men. Lets sell local art pictures pottery and anything else people produce up here."

"I know people do that now," she cried when they objected. "Our shop will be different. It will be the orphans shop and the designs and work will be local designs completely different to those shops in Silk Street. Those people who have fashion shows at your hotel from time to time should be asked to design some thing special for the orphanage."

She had them fired up in minutes. "Arrange to talk to provincial people responsible for welfare matters. See if we can meet with Mr. Treet and the Chairman. Their endorsement will be vital when we put the province's name on our products. I will drive up and join you. Tell Lelani I'm coming and book me a room at the hotel."

John watched and worried as Shauna worked with Rose. He need not have worried she laughed and joked as they went through the approval process. "Leave John to me," she argued when they suggested he be consulted. "He owes me one."

We don't need his money," she told Anh. "Hit Austin for the lot. He is loaded and he has never had a young beauty like you look after him so well." Anh blushed and nodded when Shauna and Lelani asked, "Is he any good in bed?"

With Shauna's drive the plan to open a shop selling provincial and orphanage products in Hanoi went ahead. "The shop can be a magnet for investment in the province," she told Mr. Treet and the Chairman when they met. "You should rent the place next door and subsidize Anh and her orphans to display goods produced up here in your province."

"Remember sex sells," she laughed. "Pick a good-looking young woman from the orphanage and send her and one of your officers around the foreign enterprises that are looking for investment in minerals timber dairy and power. Their job will be to tell them that you have a city base where they can learn about opportunities in your province. Work on the goodwill the orphan's enterprise will foster."

For the next few weeks, the family put their efforts into the training and developing of what they now called the Orphan Enterprises. Shauna insisted they make provision for long distance and tourist busses to stop at Ly's garage. "They have a place where bus drivers get commission for giving their passengers a toilet break on the way to Halong Bay. We could do it in a smaller fashion here."

Rose was over the moon about the orphan program. She invited Shauna to join the family at the hotel each evening so they all knew what she was doing. The nights were full of fun as Shauna in her crazy way took over the project and drove it with Rose.

Over night, the joy went out of the families company businesses. One after another, the big chicken buyers rang to cancel future orders. A strange bird flu virus had killed a number of people and the government authorities had ordered the mass destruction of millions of chickens.

Their stocks were to be destroyed and they could not put new birds back on their properties until given the all clear. Chicken was banned from restaurant menus even Kentucky fried chicken stores could not sell chicken. Eggs went off many Hotels' breakfast menus.

John reacted quickly when told that millions of chickens had been killed. "We will be next," he predicted. He contacted Mr. Treet. "Monica's chicken farms are the biggest employers in your province. We need to act quickly to disinfect or destroy any thing that may cause problems. Can you tell us what we must do to meet the highest hygiene standards?"

Mr. Treet could not help, so John went to Hanoi and met the WHO representatives. On his return, he told them they should empty each shed. "If we cannot sell them or transfer them then kill them he told an ashen faced family."

When they objected, he overruled them angrily. "Your bloody life and the life of your workers are more important than a few million Dong. Do as you bloody told or I will do it myself."

In the end, they killed about eight thousand chickens and destroyed two thousand eggs. They dug large pits and burnt the carcasses after reports of deaths in a family that had buried sick ducks and chickens.

The farm was hit hard financially; sales slumped while they waited for their buyers to be given an all clear. Everyone was affected, egg producers, food suppliers and transport operators. They all put off workers as the country killed over forty million birds. China killed nine million birds and threw up barriers in Yunan province to stop Vietnamese chicken exports as the virus hit ten Asian countries.

Each day Newspapers and radio stations reported new and frightening stories of how the bird flu virus had jumped to humans and people were sick and in some cases dying throughout the country. Hospitals started to test anyone entering hospital with respiratory infections. Workers at the farms started to panic as news of deaths spread amongst the community.

John realized that their families would be urging them to stay home. He called them together and asked Rose to talk to them He issued them with new gear and told them not to come to work if they were scared.

He paid government inspectors to visit the workplace. They were surprised to see workers wearing facemasks and gloves. Footbaths were placed at every door. Workers were forced to shower and change. Everyone had to wear rubber boots and walk through the troughs as they entered the day old chick pens. Workers wore overalls that were supplied free after being laundered each day on the farm.

When it was time for the government officials to report, Austin and Jake organized a free sausage sizzle and BBQ. "Let's have a bit of fun amongst all this gloom," Glen said as they invited workers and their families to join them in the grounds of the hotel.

The government officials reported to the hundreds that turned up that the farms were clear and safe for work. The celebrations continued into the night as John and Rose counted the costs.

Kim was angry. She told them that the virus had cost the family millions of Dong in lost business. "The hotel has suffered as has all the hotels in Hanoi. The downturn in tourism hurt our fresh meat business. We never had the virus up here. We spent all that money and killed all those chickens for nothing. We should demand compensation."

John tried to calm her down, "Claim compensation if you can but look on the bright side," he told her as he checked over the bills. "No one died on our farms or in our province. We have raised our hatchery to the highest possible international standards. It is one of a very few given the OK by the authorities."

"They haven't found an answer to the virus so it will come back again and again. Our customers who have had to kill all their birds will need new stock. That will mean very big orders. We will have to spend more money helping our fertilized egg suppliers to have their properties cleared. If we do that and maintain a clean record, we will be able to sell every chick we produce."

Despite John's optimism, the road to recovery was slow and painful. Ensuring workers wore their gloves and masks became more difficult when the news no longer reported deaths and hospitalization of victims. One or two rabble-rousers found it hard to get support because of the good wages and conditions. Just the same, they continued to try to stir up trouble.

Monica finally had to threaten to fire anyone who broke the rules. "Your jobs and my business depend on us keeping a clean bill of health with the authorities. When our customers come to see what we have done, I want them to see you all in the clean clothes we have provided. Anyone who does not meet the dress standards is finished, no excuses just finished."

"More than twenty people have died so far in Vietnam," John told them. People just like you they all had access to birds, chickens and ducks. Kids are in hospital after their mothers have died. Just think what that means to their families. If you won't take precautions then leave. Go away we won't be responsible for you."

He read from a newspaper report. "It's called the H5N1 strain of the bird flu virus. This paper says that one hundred million birds have been killed in ten countries. They do not have an answer so it will return."

"We are not going to wait for that to happen. The new rules will apply to you all. The rules and dress are only there because we know if you do not take care when you work with birds, it could kill you and the ones you love. Don't worry about your jobs, worry about your lives and the lives of your family."

Day by day things improved. Jake and Austin went to egg suppliers and worked with them to meet the new guidelines. "It's bloody confusing," Jake said one night. "No one seems to really know what to do. All we can do is clean up the farms and help them get going again."

It was more than confusing. Even after they had started the incubators and were producing chickens. Hordes of inspectors flooded on to the farms and chicken sheds. They walked around for hours and left without making any determination or suggestions. It seemed no local wanted to make the hard call. Once again, Mr. Treet helped. The farm received the necessary clearances from Hanoi.

Glen created a little comic relief when two women who were apparently enjoying his favors had a fight in the marketplace. He was all apologies at the Hotel that night. "Don't give me a bloody lecture mate I can't help it. They're so beautiful; they do everything to please me." He leered at John, "and I really mean everything. They make me feel so good I just can't say no."

John who had lived with a family of beautiful Vietnamese women for nearly two years understood, "settle down," he cried. "No one is going to lecture you. All I ask is that you remember we are visitors here. No matter what you think, they don't love you for yourself. They love what you stand for, an escape from poverty an opportunity to live a better life."

"Be a bit bloody discreet. They live in a small village. You hurt them when you treat them like prostitutes and parade their infidelities for all to see. You are a bit of a shit when you show their family and friends that they are having sex for money."

He knew his advice was ignored. The women of the village had never experienced a moneyed playboy like Glen. He showered them with gifts for their homes and their families. He booked them in to the beauty salon. "Give them the full treatment," he said to Lelani with a boyish grin. "When you're finished I want you to buy them clothes from the best fashion shops in the country. I want every man they pass to look at them and whistle."

His fault was obvious to all. He was kind and gentle and treated them like queens. He could not help showing off each new woman he seduced. He loved to parade around the Hotel with a new woman on his arm.

It was only natural that he would create enemies. It came to a head one evening when Jack found him dazed a bleeding beside his burning bike. A gang of young men had attacked him. They warned him in broken English before they bashed him and set his bike on fire.

Jack came straight from the co-op clinic to report to the worried family, "Glen was lucky you have your own doctor. He could have died without early medical treatment. As it is Henri says he will take months to recover."

To the family's surprise, Kim visited him at the clinic and asked them to shift him to her room. She looked at Rose defiantly when he was carried into the house. "He's been silly and has paid a terrible price. We can't leave him down there when he needs help. I will look after him," she declared.

Each evening John joined Rose on the rooftop. The family taking it on themselves to ensure that they had quality time alone together. One evening she was very quiet and he knew she had something important to say. He only waited a few minutes before she spoke.

"Glen and one of the women who fought in the market have set up a Vietnamese two star guesthouse in an old building in the village." She looked worried as she went on. "Her husband was a small time Gangster he was murdered down near the port. The public security said it was over drugs."

"Their guesthouse has what I have heard you call a 'girlie Bar' in the basement. Men go there for sex. Women let the men maul them and charge then to have sex in the upstairs rooms. The woman who was attacked is a good woman called Orchid. Lelani introduced Glen to her and he has been sleeping with Orchid at her house when he is not down at the bar."

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