Rhapsody of Death

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Chapter 25

When Lin left, Qian and Qu-Kai immediately proceeded to Qian’s apartment to wait for him to arrive. Qu-Kai was glad they didn’t have to suffer the tedium of having to tag along behind him again. His thought flashed back to the meeting of Ms. Liu and Mr. Lin down in the street where she had hastily handed over the folders then turned and hurried away into the night.

Lin had started out walking, presumably, to his apartment and he and Qian followed along. The arduous task of trailing a human was a great irritation to Qu-Kai and he knew if he didn’t find a way to counteract the boredom he would lose control. If only he had known for sure where Lin was headed, he and Qian could have simply whisked themselves away to wait for him there.

But since they were stuck for the time being, he decided to see if he could help solve some of the puzzle by asking Qian to tell him more about his company and how he came to be so wealthy. “How exactly did you form your company? Tell me more about it.”

“Well, before Yang Jin-Cheng (Young Gin-Tzung) and I left Guang Tong years ago to start up Yin-Yang Electronics, Yang was already the production general manager and I was in the core product planning staff; a working relationship that naturally formed the fundamental structure of our new company.

“When I was first hired to work at Guang Tong, I maneuvered to get as close as possible to the company’s core staff to determine their personalities, preferences, operating methods and role in the operating structure. I never paid much attention to my lower ranked colleagues and their desperate struggles to gain favor with the upper management. I just kept my thoughts to myself and quietly observed the company executives, taking note of who was powerful, who was popular and who made mistakes hoping, that one day I could replace them.

“By contrast, Yang was outgoing and made friends with anybody, but nobody knew for sure if he was a friend or if they were just a token bargaining chip for some future tactical strategy. I believed that truly sincere friendship could only be possible in a student setting at the university. Once employed, it only made sense to cultivate friendship based on need. My philosophy was that the only way to get something you want from someone is to determine what you need to give them in return for it and what it would cost you to give it.

“I was the only one in the product planning group that had a broad enough background in electronics to be able to successfully transition a prototype into mass production. Yang greatly appreciated that talent because it helped to make his production lines run more smoothly and increase factory output. Perhaps more importantly, I was an extremely effective liaison between the factory and the development team. Our working relationship grew steadily along with our friendship and we soon became close friends.

“One day over coffee, Yang brought up one of his pet peeves about the business operating methodology of the COO.”

Why can’t upper management understand that poor design costs the company money? They are only concerned about getting product out the door but the resulting high failure rate produces a large amount of RMA repair. And, the policy requiring the customer to pay return freight on RMAs is just passing the cost of our mistakes on to them. They don’t like it and I think eventually it will result in lost business.

I’ll pass your comments on to the team and suggest that we spend more money and time on the new product development instead of trying to repackage old technology that is already failing in the field.

“Over time, I became disenchanted with upper management and questioned why I should pursue rising to their ranks. Their business philosophies were so inept that there would be no future for me there. I decided it was time to start a new company and I approached Yang to see if he was interested in joining me. Yang thought it was a good idea but neither of us had any idea of where to start.

“Then, ironically, my assignment to attend an electronic product exposition, an event that I considered to be a boring boondoggle, turned out to be serendipitous for our future plans. As I was meandering through the aisles looking at the vendor’s displays, a Japanese salesman named Murakami, representing the Azumaen Corporation, caught my attention. He was having a conversation with a product representative, asking a lot of questions and discussing market trends in the industry. What I overheard intrigued me so I waited patiently, listening to all that Murakami had to say and as he turned to leave, I quickly chased after him, introduced myself and handed him a business card.”

I know that you are from Japan but your Mandarin is flawless. I’m impressed!

Thank you for the compliment. My mother worked as an executive assistant in Taipei before she married my father and relocated to Japan. So, I was fortunate enough to be raised in a bi-lingual home; a very useful skill in a multi-national company.

I observed you questioning a vendor at a product demonstration and I gather that you represent a company that is searching for new products to market.

A very astute and accurate observation on your part.

I think that Guang Tong has some products that you may be interested in and I would like to take you on a tour of our factory, if you have the time.

I’d love to take a look at your operations.

“I called Yang and he set up the tour which infuriated the marketing organization. They felt that the product development personnel had no business directly contacting any potential customers and accused me of taking bread out their mouths. The product planning management, on the other hand, was very pleased and made their appreciation known.

“I was excited about the potential of partnering with Azumaen and starting a new company with Yang. I wanted a chance for us to speak with Murakami alone outside of Guang Tong so I offered to treat him to dinner and then called Yang to let him know the plan.”

I’ve just invited Mr. Murakami to dine with us. What do think about taking him to the Moonlight Club?

Excellent choice! We can even use the boss’s credit card! I’ll meet you out front in five minutes and we can share a taxi to the club.

“Yang was familiar with the way the Japanese liked to conduct business. Discussing the details of a contract while relaxing in a club was considered to be very efficient multi-tasking.

“After we arrived at the club and were seated, several hostesses came to our table to entertain us. I recognized one of them in particular named Kaori whom I had met there previously. Her face had a typical oval Japanese shape and, similar to a geisha, her complexion was pale and her face expressionless. But she did know the strong points of her features and wore her long hair in a plaited coil on top of her head to reveal her soft slender neck. Her demeanor was totally opposite of the other girls in the club who wore bright make-up and were lively and talkative; almost to the point of being irritating.

“Perhaps it was this stark contrast that caught Murakami’s eye. I saw him gazing intently at her for a few seconds as if he were wondering how such a fragile soul could survive in this atmosphere. Even though Yang and I were laughing over jokes and flirting with the women, Murakami was so absorbed in pensive thought that at first he didn’t hear me speaking to him.”

So Mr. Murakami, are you interested in joining us in a lucrative business venture?

“I noticed that Murakami had a confused expression as if he had just awakened from a nap so I paused for a moment until I was sure that I had his attention.”

I think there is a product from a German company that will meet your company’s requirements. I have the design specifications with me if you would like to review them. They are the largest industrial computer company in Europe and design their own products. They ship the PCAs, chassis components and case molds to us in Taiwan for final assembly and international distribution. In less than a year they have gained an impressive market share and have built a strong reputation for performance and reliability but the wholesale cost is so high that the Japanese companies won’t buy it.

“As I continued talking, Murakami slowly began to show some interest in what I was saying.”

You’ve seen the Guang Tong’s production lines and testing labs and know we have the capability to produce a superior product. Why don’t we order a sample from Germany and then have Yang reproduce it after changing it enough to avoid patent infringement. If you can convince your company to market the product and give us a long term contract then we can start a new company. Once we are established, you have the choice of being a partner or we can agree to pay you a royalty fee on each order we ship. How about it?

“Now I had his full attention but his expression was not exactly what I was hoping for. He seemed incredulous and confused as to how he should respond. Then Yang stepped in and added his thoughts in an attempt to sway Murakami to seize the opportunity we were presenting to him. ”

Even if our scheme is not successful it won’t damage your reputation in the company. They will think you are really effective at marketing research if you return from only a three day trip to Taiwan having toured several factories, collected valuable information on product sources and made an agreement to get a product sample in as little time as two weeks time from now. This can only increase your value to the company!

“Yang’s short speech all but clinched the partnership. The look on Murakami’s face was now relaxed and I could see that in his mind he was thinking it was all but a done deal. Now all we had to do to make Ying-Yang Electronics a reality was to make sure we delivered a sample to Murakami at Azumaen Corporation with a superior design and a competitive price.

“We made good on our promise to deliver the sample and the rest is history. We established the new company and a large number of disgruntled employees jumped ship and came to work with us. For the most part we were essentially Guang Tong under new management. Once their management was on the verge of implosion and their production lines in disarray, they began losing customers to us at an ever increasing rate.

“The only thing they could do was to play on the sympathies of the remaining customers, claiming they had been betrayed by a group of unscrupulous employees that had joined the company to learn their secrets and then left to compete unfairly. This ploy managed to retain enough clientele to stabilize the company and avoid bankruptcy and closure. Although to some extent, the business of both companies was inextricably intertwined within the financial credit sector.

“With Murakami’s cooperation the Yin-Yang Electronics exploded into the market place and quickly emerged as a dominant force in the industry. We could barely keep up with the production orders from Azumaen and this became a golden time for Murakami. Not only did we pay him a 10% commission on all the orders he gave us but he was also elevated into a position of management in the core decision making group with a commensurate increase in salary.

“Because of our great success, we were flooded with applications seeking employment in our company. But now more than ever I played my cards very close to the vest, so to speak, because even though someone starts out dedicated and sacrifices their personal life to succeed, there is always a possibility that in the future they will leave the company and use what they learned against you. For that reason, I had very stringent non-discloser and non-compete clauses written into the new employee agreement and refused employment to anyone that would not sign them.”

Qu-Kai was fascinated and quite impressed with all that he had heard so far and was also glad for the distraction. “Wow, you really have a good head for business. No wonder you were so successful!”

Suddenly Qian’s mood became sullen. “Yeah, well, I thought so too. But, in retrospect, I really fucked up by using my brother’s name as one of the share holders in the company.”

“Why did you have to use his name?”

“An LLC company only requires three founding share holders but, if you want to incorporate, you need to have a group of seven founding share holders. I assigned 30% to my name and 10% to each of my two brothers for a total of 50%. Yang assigned 20% to his name and split the other 30% between his father, wife and sister-in-law. I was named as Chairman and Yang the Executive Director and General Manager.

“In the three years following, our company grew rapidly and it seemed so good to be true that I often wondered what might happen to threaten our success. I had considered opposition from Yang out of greed or Guang Tong out of revenge but of all the scenarios, I had never imagined that the inclusion of my older brother in the founding share holders would come back to bite me in the ass.”

Qu-Kai could hardly wait to hear the details of the incident that Qian’s comment seemed to allude to. “Ah, I sense a bitter family feud. Tell me more!”

“One day when I returned to my office after a meeting, my brother’s wife, Qin-Yao, was waiting there with a brief case and appeared to have been waiting for quite a while. Even though she looked impatient to speak, she politely waited with a smile on her face until I spoke to her.”

Why are you here in my office? What do you want?

Your brother wanted me to come and discuss some important matters with you. I apologize for not calling in advance. Do you have time right now?

“I knew that what ever this bitch of a sister-in-law had to say wouldn’t be any good for me but I invited her to speak anyway.”

We were recently approached by several friends with a proposition to invest. They had some very good looking prospects but my husband said we should keep our investment in the family instead of making a profit for outsiders. We feel that if you use his name to establish the corporation, we should be allowed to share in the profits?

Big brother thinks he should have a stake in Yin-Yang?

The economy is struggling and you need capital to survive. Besides, since Yin Mo-Xiu is listed a 10% share owner, we should be able to share some profit. Here is a million...

“I tell you, I could no longer contain my anger. How could this bitch come here and try to dig her greedy claws into my successful company. She and my brother were told in the beginning that his name was only being used for the purpose of legalizing the corporation and had no implications regarding profit sharing.”

If he wants to talk about profit sharing let him come to see me. Why would he send you?

We consider ourselves to be the same and therefore can represent each other.

It’s not the same. Since he is listed as a share holder, a public official would have to deal with him personally. You have no power to do anything about this so get off your high horse. And besides, I don’t own controlling interest in the company. I have to respect the wishes of my partner.

Would you consider this request if Yang agrees?

Not a chance!

I didn’t think you would flatly refuse. In that case there is no point for us to be share holders in name.

If that’s the way you feel about it then I will discuss this with the accountants and have them come to your house to sign the release. If you have nothing else to say, I need to return to work.

I told my husband that you were such a miser that when you started to make a profit you wouldn’t do anything to help your brothers. Good thing Mo-Xiu didn’t come today! I can’t imagine how badly you would have humiliated him!

No worse than you have by taking over his financial affairs! Have you finished your bitching? This is my office and not your home. Who the hell do you think you are talking to? I’m not my brother and I don’t have to listen to this shit from you!

We’ll see about that!

“She grabbed the briefcase full of money and stormed out of the office. The employees in the hall were embarrassed to have overheard the argument and I felt a little guilty that I hadn’t closed the door earlier to prevent it. But I did go over to the door then and close it so I could think about this situation for a bit. Actually I was glad that my brother had not come, otherwise I might have given in to him through a momentary lapse of reasoning caused by kind-hearted feelings for him; especially because he had to put up with that bitch of a wife.

“I didn’t give much more thought to it, but about a month later Mo-Xiu and Qin-Yao showed up at my office accompanied by Yang. Qin-Yao was sitting silently and looked quite nervous. My brother spoke first.”

Qian, I apologize for letting my wife come alone to talk to you last time. I see now that it was a mistake. I know that unpleasant words were exchanged between you but please try to overlook her angry accusations. If you are looking for an accountant to remove my name from the roster of company share holders, please cancel it because there is no need for that.

Yes, your brother and I only want to help you finance your business and had only the best of intentions...

I think that since we are here to conduct business, those not directly involved should not speak.

I agree with Qian. I think you should go home Qin-Yao.

“Qin-Yao was so pissed because she never got a chance to retort and, to tell you the truth, I felt pretty proud of my brother for ordering her around. It was usually the opposite. She really turned red with anger and as she reluctantly walked out the door glaring back over her shoulder, her arrogance and greed couldn’t have been more obvious. She is the kind of person that, no matter how bad a disagreement you have with her, as long as she thinks she can get something of value from you, she will swallow her pride and come back later all calmed down pretending nothing ever happened. Then she will try to take advantage of you in some devious way. I wished then that I could live the rest of my life never having to see her again. But, sadly, I didn’t have that luxury because my mother lived with them. Anyway, I digress. My brother started off the business negotiations with an offer.”

If you think a million is not enough for 10%, how much do you want for the shares?

I haven’t really considered it and it is difficult to come up with an answer on the spot.

I you are reluctant because of my wife, I pledge that I won’t let Qin-Yao meddle in our business.

I can’t decide on anything by myself. I don’t own the company. What do you think Yang?

“I glanced expectantly over at him hoping he would take my queue and come to the rescue with some support. But he was just sitting there content, silently listening to the conversation. I almost felt embarrassed to get him involved. Actually after I heard what he had to say, I was so pissed that I wish I had never asked for his opinion.”

If you agree to do it, I have no problem with that.

See, Yang is OK with it. What more do you need?

Brother, you do not understand our business. Why invest money in it? There is no guarantee of return on your investment and it puts a lot of pressure on me to be responsible if something happened and we lost our business.

I believe in your ability and I would rather invest it in your career than in some outsiders business. And mother also agrees that we should do it. If I make money in the future, I would consider any bonus to be your contribution toward mother’s living expenses.

OK, give me a chance to think it over.

“I was a little embarrassed about his mentioning my mother’s living expenses and it was getting harder to reject his request. That was until after my brother left and Yang told me what Qin-Yao had done.”

I have to let you know that Qin-Yao offered to sell me their 10% share so that I would have 60% controlling interest in the corporation.

I can’t believe that gold digging bitch actually had the nerve to approach you with such a ridiculous offer. So how did you reply to her proposal?

I told her that the shares were only nominal and had no monetary value so why would I pay her for nothing. Then she threatened to sell them to an outsider if I refused.

She really said that? I can’t believe that even she could be that obsessed with getting money! She better not try that or I’ll sue her!

I warned her that you would probably sue them and she just scoffed at me. She thinks that you wouldn’t dare to sue your brothers and bring disgrace to your family. Besides what could you prove anyway? That they were the legally named owners of the shares?

This woman is really vile; worse than I could have ever imagined. How the hell did I ever let myself get into such a position?

That’s not all. She made another attempt to bribe me by promising to be my ally against you in future share holder meetings. But of course, I want to assure you that I vehemently refused. After all we are equal partners and I would never betray that trust.

“That was the last straw for me. I was so enraged that I could hardly think. I just knew I had to do something but the only thing on my mind at that moment was killing my brother’s wife.”

By this time Qu-Kai was totally enraptured by the Qian’s story and pressed him to get to the end of it. “Well, I know you didn’t kill her because I saw her at their house. So, what did you do to resolve the problem?”

“Yang and I met with our accountant to calculate a share value and then we each gave 5% to them and split the buy-in.”

“How did that work for you?”

“It didn’t resolve anything. Now Qin-Yao had her foot in the door and continued trying to leverage more money out of the company. There’s no end with that woman!”

Qian was surprised that even though these events had happened so long ago that recalling them made him just as angry as if they were happening this moment. Suddenly he felt a burning in his chest that began to grow, surging upward into his head. As a human, rage had often caused his face to flush and the veins in his neck to bulge but he had never felt anything close to this. His face began to glow bright red like glowing embers in a fire.

Qu-Kai was worried about his friend because he hadn’t witnessed this before. “What’s going on Qian? Why does your body look like it’s on fire?”

Qian grasp his head in his hands and shouted angrily, “I don’t know. Something strange is happening to me!”

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