Rhapsody of Death

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Chapter 24

Huai was driving Qian in the company limo to pick up Murakami, the CEO of one of Yin-Yang Electronics most important customers. This was the perfect opportunity for a private conversation he wanted to have with him which was impossible under the constraints of daily business activities in the office. He began cautiously to avoid a faux pas that might permanently close the door to any interaction with Qian. “In our current operations, we pay a lot of tax to the government right?”

“Yes, we pay a lot of taxes but we make a lot of profit. Taxes are just the cost of doing business. Our accountants already have identified the maximum deductions we can take in order to minimize the loss.”

“I have an uncle, one of my father’s best friends, who is now a legislator and I have heard them discuss about how much money it takes to campaign for an election. He mentioned that any contributions to a PAC are tax deductible and that many corporations take advantage of this to lower their ...”

Qian quickly grasped where he was going with this conversation. “I don’t want anything to do with politics! I just take care of business and pay the taxes without asking for trouble. Giving politicians money is like feeding a stray dog. You will never be rid of them!”

“You mean Yin-Yang doesn’t want to take on any government projects?”

Qian gave him an impatient glance at such a seemingly ridiculous question. “Of course we do but we haven’t been able to get any of our proposals accepted. Are you telling me that campaign contributions and getting government contract awards are related?”

“Of course they are related but not exactly directly. Elected legislators have a great deal of power just as do government officials. It wouldn’t do any harm for Yin-Yang to have a few friends in power when government project bids are being reviewed for vendor selection, right?” He quickly glanced over at Qian and didn’t notice any signs of objection so he proceeded with a bolder confidence. “The legislators approve the budget and when a government project gets released for bids from civilian contractors, who do you think will be the preferred vendors?”

Qian’s expression suddenly changed from indifference to genuine interest. “What kind of projects? How do you know so much about them? Does your uncle have control over some of them?”

“Various government departments always have several projects open for bids by civilian contractors each with billions of profit allocated into the budget. Even if you have to set up a special department and new assembly line to qualify as a bidding candidate, you still won’t lose any money. But, that’s just my opinion. I know I’m not that important to you but that doesn’t mean I can’t have a good idea. What are your thoughts about it?”

“That’s a good idea but I don’t know any of them or where to start looking for a connection.” He was surprised that a few minutes of conversation with this young man had changed his perspective about politicians and government business. “You know, I’ve always loathed the bureaucracy and never imagined that one day I would be considering a mutually beneficial collaboration with a government official. I guess I’ll have to change my attitude. After all, it doesn’t make any sense to hate someone you plan to invest in.”

“My uncle is congressman Yen Shao-Zhang, have you heard of him? When he found out I worked for Yin-Yang Electronics, he asked me if I thought you would meet with him. He knows our company is very successful and a leader in the industry. I can arrange for you to meet him but I think his office has already sent a letter of introduction requesting a private meeting. Do you recall if you have received it or not?”

“Ah ... come to think of it, I seem to recall such a letter.”

“Why don’t you call his office personally and invite him to lunch? I’m sure he would be more than agreeable to a meeting with you.”

Qian reflected on their conversation for a moment and was delighted to have found such an unexpected treasure in this new assistant. He chided himself for not giving Huai a chance to prove himself sooner and vowed that in the future he would integrate him into the team and give him more responsibility.

Stimulated by his inspirational talk with Huai, Qian decided to take action and proposed the purchase of a house in Taipei under the company name. His intent was to use it as a secluded retreat to entertain important guests and to conduct highly sensitive negotiations in absolute privacy. His justification of the purchase of the guest house as an excellent hedge against inflation camouflaged his real intentions.

Yang reviewed the proposal pretending to be surprised and even objected slightly to avoid any suspicion by Qian that he was being played; all the while confident that this was a direct result of Huai’s conversation with his partner. In the end, Yang agreed to the proposal insisting that access to the house be available only to himself and Qian. After the purchase had been completed, each partner got a set of keys to the house and a third set was given to Huai so he could take care of meeting preparations and routine house keeping and maintenance tasks.

Over time the house gradually transformed into to a private party house for Qian where government officials and other targets of financial interest came at his invitation, to relax and socialize. Of course they all appreciated the abundant supply of “haute cuisine” and top shelf liquor but the thing that attracted them the most was the collection of tall, slender, beautiful young women that swarmed around the guests and lavished their attention on them. Huai could not figure out how Qian was able to find so many nameless women that could easily pass for famous models.

Eventually, a group of the frequent partiers congealed into an exclusive clique composed of the most wealthy and powerful men in Taipei. Huai thought that in a way they were similar to the historical accounts of the Illuminati except that these men did not have any ambition to rule the world; just ambition to amass more wealth. They came to indulge in the finest food and drink and in the end exchange their power for money or pleasure. Millions of dollars of business transactions were conducted with the casual abandon of a charity gambling junket and everyone went home happy. The irony of it all struck Huai, thinking about how those with money pursued power and the powerful used it to gain more wealth; a never ending upward spiral.

In the greater scheme of all these machinations, Huai likened himself to a pimp peddling favors to the rich. He actually felt very well suited to the job although the title would be distasteful to some, and certainly not what his mother had in mind as he recalled her advice to him. “You are the smartest of your siblings and while our family is not wealthy, we will find a way for you to study in the US. If you study very hard, success will await you someday.”

He rationalized his current occupational activities somewhat with the thought that success comes in many different forms and any opportunity that presents itself must be grasped firmly. In ancient history, many heroes arose out of lowly heritage but once successful, nobody really cared about their past. That’s just the reality of social existence. He imagined himself one day possessing a level of achievement that would put these days behind him.

But for now, he was kept very busy managing Qian’s social schedule and making arrangements for his business events. Ever since his involvement with Congressman Yen and related government officials, Qian had become deeply enmeshed in campaign activities, business seminars and political social events. He rarely had an idle moment between early morning power breakfast meetings and hosting social events at his guest house well into the early hours of the next morning.

The time invested was not in vain as Yin-Yang Electronics had already been selected to receive government subsidies in the private sector manufacturing development program. And, tonight Qian hoped to ensconce his company more solidly in the government money supply chain by hosting the Ministry of Economic Affairs digital content development project meeting. But in order to do this he had to be introduced to the upper echelon ministry officials and he was relying on Zhang to attain this objective.

The lucrative potential of this contract was common knowledge among the major companies in Taiwan and in particular Guang Tong Electronics (Goowang Tawng), the company where Qian and Yang had worked together before they left to establish Yin-Yang Electronics. Winning this project would not only give them a boost in sales growth but also give them a commanding advantage in securing future government projects. They could not afford to let Guang Tong win this contract and threaten their future success. This was not only a matter of increased profits but also a case of survival.

For the politicians like Zhang, the success of this program was propaganda to convince the public that the elected officials were actually doing their jobs. But for the ministry officials it was only a matter of budget consumption and they didn’t really care who got the project contract award. They were primarily concerned with how much bribe money they could coerce out of the potential contractors and they had arrived at this particular party with extraordinarily high expectations.

The guests of honor were seated at three tables with Qian and Yang each at tables set up for mahjongg and one table for the women to gossip and chat about fashion. Qian always called two or three of his favorite women and have them spread the word to their friends so there was always a surplus of female company at these parties. Some came just for the food and others came to hob knob with the rich and powerful. The ones that didn’t have an interest in politics gathered around the third table and the others hovered around the men.

The situation at the mahjongg tables was different. Both Qian and Yang weren’t trying to win but instead tried to discarded tiles that they felt the other three players needed to complete a winning hand. And in the course of an evening’s play, the winnings were fairly well distributed amongst the guests. Of course, they all had a tacit understanding that this was thinly disguised bribery and expected to be fed handouts all the while pretending that their playing skills were the reason for the steadily growing piles of chips.

Huai stood quietly in the background observing the party watching for any sign from Qian that his services were required to provide logistic support for the party activities. There was a brief silence and then a commotion after which simultaneous loud yells rang out.

“Ha, I won!”

“Shit, I lost again! Qian slammed his hands down on the table feigning disgust. “I shouldn’t have thrown the five tile. What if I had thrown the eight instead?”

The minister responded with glee. “Still the same result. I had the six and seven together ...” All at the table laughed loudly. “And this is my third deal so I get triple bonus points.”

“I’m jinxed today, I’m losing every hand. But the minister is really lucky. You have to buy everybody a drink later, and no excuses to leave early. How about you Yang?”

“Miserable! I’m the only one losing over here. Everybody knew what tiles I was waiting for and wouldn’t discard them.”

A young model suddenly spoke up as she seductively rubbed her body against the ministry chairman. “If it wasn’t for my good luck you wouldn’t win so much don’t you agree? How will you reward me?”

“As you wish, here’s your reward!” The chairman grasped her chin in his hand and gave her a hard kiss full on the lips while cupping his other hand around her breast.

She let out a loud shocked shriek. “That’s not the reward I meant!” She Held her temper but the expression on her face betrayed her anger. Everyone at the table ignored the indignant outburst from this gold digger and calmly shoved the tiles into the hopper of the automatic mahjongg dealer to build the four walls of tiles for a new round.

Qian stood up quickly and motioned for Huai to take his place at the table. “I have to make a trip to the head or I’ll piss my pants. Maybe Huai will bring me some luck.”

“I bet you forgot to wear your red briefs tonight and now you are going to the toilet to change into them for good luck. We will check when you return and if you have changed to red underwear you can’t play. That’s like cheating!” Everyone laughed so hard that it shook the table, almost dislodging the walls of tiles so precisely arranged by the mechanical dealer.

Huai sat down to play and understood what was expected of him. He had been watching Qian and Yang slyly losing all evening to give the guests the false sense that they were skilled players. Of course deep down, the guests really knew that this was one way to help them rationalize the fact that it was not really accepting a bribe.

But, from past experience, he knew that the money changing hands here was just chump change. The real deals were struck toward the end of the evening when most of the guests had left and only the serious players were left.

The party for the MOEA had paid off. A month later Yin-Yang Electronics was awarded the government contract for the Digital Development project and Qian shared his pleasure with Huai. “I really have to thank you for introducing me to Congressman Yen. He has been like a statue of the god of wealth to us!”

Hearing this praise, Huai knew he had achieved a high level of importance and trust with Qian and was pleased. He was now included in every government and private sector project review meeting and was often asked for his input to a solution for the dilemmas that arose in navigating the complex power structure of the government bureaucracy. He finally felt secure and optimistic about his future at Yin-Yang Electronics and in a way, owed his success to Yang Jin-Chen and assumed that he would always have the benefit of their alliance.

However, just about two years ago, there was an incident that allowed the self doubt of earlier years to creep back into his mind. He was on his way to purchasing when he ran into Yang introducing a new employee. That was the first time that he had seen Yin Shan-Wei. He was a tall thin young man with a contemporary hair style combed up in peaks that reminded him of a comic book character that had escaped into the real world. He walked softly with his head hung low, giving the impression of humility.

But, Huai sensed his true character. In his service as assistant to Qian he had a chance to observe many people and as a result, had a highly developed ability to sense a person’s character and could tell by Shan-Wei’s occasional furtive glances that he was actually trying to conceal his arrogance.

Huai was curious as to why this new comer, personally introduced by Yang, had the same surname as Qian but was assigned a position in Yang’s procurement department. If he were related to Qian, it seemed logical that he would be working on the development team. He knew instinctively that this was no ordinary situation but also sensed that this was not the time to press Yang for any information.

Once Shan-Wei had settled in he started making frequent visits to Huai’s office, pressing him for information about the product development team operations. It was highly unusual for employees from the production division to fraternize with personnel from development. There was a definite line of demarcation between the two divisions with the financial department forming a neutral zone as a buffer between them.

Not only were these visits distracting and annoying, but they made Huai feel unsure about his position as assistant to Qian. Finally, he decided it was time to get to the bottom of this issue so he picked up the phone and called Yang. “Hey boss, I wanted to verify my hunch that your new guy is related to Qian.”

“Indeed he is. He is Qian’s nephew. You’re pretty smart to figure that out on your own.” Yang smiled to himself but didn’t elaborate any further.

“Why didn’t you let me know in advance?”

“I hire a new employee in procurement and I have to notify you?” He was a little irritated, wondering what was eating at Huai enough to make him dare to talk to him in that tone.

“I didn’t mean to sound disrespectful, forgive my impertinence. But he comes over to my office almost every day pestering me with questions about project plans and product development and it has nothing to do with his responsibilities in procurement. I thought I should make you aware of the situation.”

“OK, thanks for the heads-up. I’ll keep my eye on the him.” Yang was hanging up the phone when he heard Huai shouting.

“Wait, I’m not finished yet! I still have more to say. Does Qian intend to have his nephew replace me as his personal assistant?”

“Oh, so that’s what you’re upset about. Don’t worry. He was hired as a favor to his brother. Neither of us wanted to do it but it was an unavoidable obligation.”

He recalled the day Qian came into his office extremely agitated and began pacing back and forth, his face flushed with frustration and asked, “Do you have any openings in your department? My brother called me and begged me to hire his son. He has just finished his military duty and hasn’t been able to find a job. I really can’t ignore him but I don’t want to deal with my brother so I told him to give you a call. This just bolsters my long held conviction that relationship is worst ship you can sail on.”

Shortly after their conversation, he had received a call from Yin Mo-Xiu requesting that his son be given employment at their company. Yang agreed only because he felt that by giving Qian’s nephew a job, he would have a chip he could cash in later. He imagined how insulted and angry Mo-Xiu must have been to have to call him to beg for a job for his son when his brother had the power to place him any where in the company.

Qian preempted Yang’s initial assignment of his nephew to the product repair department. “Shan-Wei studied economics at the university and product repair is not a good fit for him. I want him to work in your procurement department.”

Originally, he had not given Qian’s decision a second thought but after hearing Huai’s concerns, he now wondered if Qian was planning to have his nephew spy on him in retaliation for getting Huai involved in the product development activities. It seemed strange that Qian had put him into the only department in the production division that was related to financial operations.

He decided to call Huai and have him try to get more information out of Shan-Wei. “Huai, when Shan-Wei comes over to chat, instead of giving him information about product development, find out what he thinks about his job in procurement and if he thinks he can accept it.”

Huai sensed that Yang was implying some other action but wasn’t sure. “Boss, is there anything else I can do to get more information for you?”

“Well, I think that Shan-Wei really wants to be involved in the development side of the company because he knows that his uncle has the most power. I think he would do anything to impress his uncle to get transferred over to work in the core team, including spying on me. Keep your eyes peeled for any signs of unusual snooping and be careful to protect us.”

Huai was surprised when he glanced at his watch and realized he had been reminiscing for over an hour. Of course, now that Qian is dead, none of that really matters any more. Yang is the only boss I have; actually more than a boss because our futures are inextricably woven together. Now more than ever we must be vigilant and protect ourselves from the scheming of Shan-Wei.

He decided he had better go conduct a more thorough search for any recorded evidence related to the scandal in the paper. He tightly squeezed the keys he had been absent mindedly fiddling with during his reflections and went down to the street to catch a cab to Qian’s house.

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